Okay, I'll admit it... every time I hear stories about bike commuters in the city, it fills me with pangs of jealousy, and some days I'll even descend into a mild (non-medical-grade) depression about the non-attainability of city commuting in the country.
The truth is, commuting in rural areas is a completely different affair than city commuting. It requires different equipment, different tactics, and a different mindset. Now, I haven't been commuting for decades, but as a native resident of one of the more culturally backwards areas on Earth, I've been witness to more than my share of rural miles. And as jealous as I am of the city, I think commuting in the country has its own appeal.
For those of you who brave the back roads and highways, I salute you. You can safely tune back into your routine of picking beer bottle glass from your tires, charging your headlight batteries, wiping roadkill off your downtube, and taking a stout swig of whatever it is that gives you the courage to ride the next day.
Those of you readers who live in the city* and commute there, I've decided to give you a brief glimpse into the life of a rural commuter. This is strictly anecdotal, but please remember, this is as accurate as I could make it without scaring the kids.
The Rural Commuter: Part Uno
The alarm screams for my attention. As I stumble to disarm it, I read the numbers "4:30" and cringe. I only went to bed a few hours ago, it seems like. But I've decided to ride today, so that meant I spent more than an hour last night preparing my clothes, picking slivers of glass from my bike's tires, patching tubes, checking the weather, carbo-loading, and compounding my sleep deprivation.
I get dressed in between bites of instant oatmeal. How many layers today? I lost count. Oh well, it'll be enough. Shouldn't be too cold, except there's a headwind... always the headwind... which means an extra 10 minutes to get to work. I briefly daydream about an electric assist bike, then I shake myself out of my stupor and chug down half a water bottle of water that's stale from last night.
I sigh and finish strapping and velcroing everything, and grab my bike. Holy cow, it weighs a ton. I open the front door and am greeted with a blast of near-freezing wind and 90% humidity. It feels like someone is siphoning the heat from your body with a freeze ray. I almost have second thoughts, but I'm already dressed, so I suck it up and drag the bike down the stairs, and then awkwardly try to close the door again without dropping the top-heavy bike on the ground.
Then I get on and ride. My body, still unsure about digesting the instant oatmeal, suddenly realizes I want it to exercise, so it kicks into ride mode. I can almost feel my legs smiling. It's going to be a good day.
I am serenaded by dozens of my neighbor's dogs as I proceed down my street towards the main highway. At least they're chained up... for the moment. I take note of who has left their trash cans halfway in the street again, looking for the telltale sparkle of glass in my headlight.
Turning onto the main highway, it's pretty quiet. But it's 2 miles of shoulderless, rippled, patchy road with a 40MPH speed limit. With a steady headwind. Legs are still fresh, so I settle into a comfy gear, and spin until I come up to a comfortable temperature.
It strikes me that out here in the country, it's quiet this early. I think it's even before God gets up. I marvel at how serene everything is, until my reflection is interrupted by the unmistakable sound of a huge diesel 4x4 truck with mud tires. Probably towing either a boat, or a trailer with ATV's or work equipment. For some unknown reason, drivers completely forget they're towing something when they pass a cyclist. I've almost been clipped by trailers more times than I can count, so I check my mirror to see how close they're passing.
With a rumble, the behemoth glides by uneventfully. Before I can release my breath, I notice there's another car right behind it... and also for some unknown reason, people passing assume that if the vehicle in front of them passed easily, they can too... without looking.
The second car squeezes by, a little closer than the truck. Then I notice there's a third... and the gap narrows even more as they pass. I notice the driver isn't even looking at the road. She's texting. In the early morning darkness, her phone makes the entire inside of her vehicle light up. I briefly entertain the idea of carrying bricks to throw at texting drivers, but my bike's already too heavy. If there were a car coming in the other lane, I would have nowhere to go. I briefly reminisce the time someone passed me without paying attention, and forced an oncoming car to run off the road.
Right. Back to the serene landscape...
I notice that since it's sugar cane harvesting season, and I live in the middle of farmland, the road is covered with mud and chunks of sugar cane. Normal traffic has compacted the mud into concrete-like speed bumps. For the next entire 2 miles. The farmers, instead of loading their harvesters onto trailers to move to the next field, just drive the tracked machines down the road illegally. So in between the potholes and chunks of mud are sections of asphalt that's ridged like a washboard.
I manage to make it to the end of the stretch of road, where it intersects another highway. A car comes up on me, maybe 30 yards from the stop sign. I'm rolling at 15MPH, but they've never seen anybody on a bike go faster than about 5MPH, so they assume they can pass before I get to the intersection. By the time I stop, the car has begun to pass, realized they couldn't, and stopped at the intersection beside me, in the oncoming lane. Just as I'm scanning for traffic, I notice there's a truck (with a trailer, of course) trying to turn onto the street the car and I are occupying. I can't cross the highway until the truck moves, and the truck can't move because the idiot driver next to me is blocking his turn.
I eventually ride around behind the truck and trailer, and let the drivers sort things out for themselves. By now my legs are warm, and I decide to fight the wind a bit. I bump the downtube shifter, grab another cog, and dig a little deeper for an extra MPH or two.
I pass the local airport. Somehow, the person across the street leaving for work has decided to let his dog out to poop in the yard. Without a leash. Because, what could possibly go wrong?
Before I even see the dog, I hear the owner's futile attempts to override thousands of years of nature and stop the dog by yelling. Here's a tip, dog owners: That never works. At this point, I don't even see the dog, but I can gauge its size by how fast the gait is. Yes, there's a science to this. I stand and start increasing my speed, and guess the dog is medium-sized. Probably a young lab, or worse, a pitbull. Now I'm regretting pushing a little earlier.
Small dogs and large dogs don't bother me. Small ones are fun to mess with, and large dogs are usually too lazy to chase for long. It's the medium ones that are the killers, cause those suckers can run, and they have enough stamina to chase you for quite a while. It's especially bad if they see you coming and get a head start. I put on the full afterburners and hope it's not a pitbull. After a few pulls, I risk a glance back. It's a mutt, and he's already flagging. Sweet. No need for the air horn.
My legs aren't happy with me, but once the dog breaks chase, I spin back down and let them recover. Now I'm sweating profusely. I hadn't planned on interval training when I layered up this morning. Only 8 more miles to go.
What strikes me the most about rural commuting is two things: How lonely it is, and how peaceful it is. Granted, both have exceptions, and both have pros and cons.
In cities, they have bike parades and bike festivals and bike lanes and bike racks and bike trails and bike commuters. Out here, there's none of that. It's a very solitary affair. You get lots of time alone inside your own head, because going anywhere useful requires hours of time. The nearest store is 45 (or 55 with a headwind) minutes away. Anywhere you ride, you have to be completely self-sufficient, or risk being stranded miles from nowhere.
This brings the rural commuter to the point where they have to very deliberately decide to commute. It's not a casual thing, you can't just easily jump on the bike and go somewhere. You choose to commute. You're not going to call your spouse to wake the kids and bail you out at 5:00 AM. At least, not if you want to stay married, or keep commuting. Self-sufficiency is key.
Sometimes it's lonely. Not seeing another cyclist for months, even years, makes you feel like you're all alone. Sometimes it's peaceful. You can ride for miles without hitting a traffic light or intersection. If you're very lucky, you might even ride for a few miles without any cars around. You might even spot wildlife... a particularly special treat.
It makes you feel alive. Like you're shouldering your burden for the world. You're doing your part to make Earth a less sucky place. Nothing else matters, just you and the bike. You just spin, and ride, and rack up the miles. And when you arrive where you're going, the thought crosses your mind: "What if I didn't stop?"
And that's when it hits me. Every trip is like a miniature cross-country tour. Except you get to sleep at home every night.
I wouldn't have it any other way.
*Footnote: If your town has bike paths/parades/racks/lanes or other commuter(s), then chances are you live in what's called a "City."
There are some days when I am fired up about Getting Things Done®. Then there are days when I'm exhausted and fighting a head cold, and I don't feel like doing anything. So what's a creative soul to do when you feel like yuck, and the inspiration just doesn't come?
For me, this comes as a struggle, because I've conditioned myself to think I can be creative on demand. Now, I know that's not the case. I can no more be creative on demand than I can control my involuntary reflexes. However, there's something to be said for just showing up. Chances are, you're not going to get anything written if you just stay in bed! But if you sit down at the word processor, at least there's a possibility.
Sometimes when you're not feeling creative, but you know you should be, you just have to take some medicine and show up to see what happens. Sometimes, you won't make much progress, but that's progress that wouldn't wouldn't have made at all if you hadn't tried. So in a way, you can be creative on demand. It just takes a little time.
I guess what I'm saying is, waiting on the Muse to speak is somewhat overrated. Sometimes the creative juices are there, and you just need to engage them to see what comes out.
If you've had a rough week/month/year of creative pursuits, don't fret. Just sit down at the word processor/digital audio workstation and just do something.
As I'm listening to Praise and Worship radio on Pandora, I've noticed a trend. It seems like what 90% of the songs are doing is re-hashing top songs from 3-5 years ago. In the secular music world, you don't have 5 artists doing the same song on the radio at the same time, do you? Is the Christian music market becoming so formulaic that all you have to do is cover a few songs, speed them up 15 BPM and add a strong drum track with a backbeat? Does that justify a new recording? Are they really doing anything different? To their credit, there are a few artists who are getting airplay that are playing original songs, not in the "Nashville Standard" sounding format.
It thrills my heart to hear people doing new music for God. As much as I like the standards (and a lot of the "new" standards) it shows much more skill, talent, and calling to produce new worship music that doesn't fit the Nashville radio formula.
Do yourselves a favor, listen to new groups like Starfield, Mali Music, and a slew of others. They are either 1. playing all new worship music, or 2. playing old and new, but with a very unique style.
After a while, even the "tried and true" worship albums get old. You can only listen to so many remakes of "Revelation Song" or "Open the Eyes of My Heart" or "In Christ Alone" or... you get the idea. Those songs are fantastic in their own rights, but let's be real. The original artists pretty much gave it everything they had, and you're not going to top that by trying to recreate that performance. If you're doing a concert somewhere, I can see playing a few songs that everybody knows. But releasing an album of "classics" from less than 10 years ago? No. You're not doing the original artists or songs justice. You know, at some point, Michael W. Smith was an unknown songwriter. He didn't start off with "Place in This World". Chris Tomlin had to sit down and come up with "Indescribable" on his own.
Heck, there are plenty of long-standing groups that don't re-hash songs. Guys like Steven Curtis Chapman. Even though he's from the Nashville area, his music never seems formulaic or stale. He's always writing new stuff, and to top it off, he's a phenomenal guitarist in his own right. Israel Houghton writes a lot of new music as well, and does it in a way that's very fresh. Groups like Salvador, Third Day, the O.C. Supertones, and Audio Adrenaline. They all do worship music (and other thematic music) that's fresh, well done, and unique. You're hopefully not going to hear weak re-hashes of "Holiness/Take My Life" on their albums (unless it's a live album).
It seems to me that almost everybody wants to copy Chris Tomlin, and rightly so. He's one of the most successful CCM artists in the last 10 years or so, even surpassing greats like Michael W. Smith. His band's sound and musical style is very close to U2, even down to the delay-drenched guitar riffs over soaring vocal refrains. The problem is, Chris Tomlin has already done Chris Tomlin (and, some would argue, so has U2). His "formula" (and even singing his exact songs) isn't going to work for every new artist that comes along.
And so, I want to end with two thoughts. First, I don't want to make it seem like all artists are wrong when the redo a Worship song. Usually it's not even their choice, most of that is decided by the record label (which is a whole other rant). But secondly, I want to encourage you, the listener (and those of you who play music, too) to not just re-hash your worship experience. God is so vast, so incredibly complex and unknowable, there's no reason to limit your worship of Him to the latest top 10 CCM hits. He is the ultimate in creativity, and as His creation (and followers), we are called to bring Him glory. Re-hashing music to "make it" in the industry isn't really doing God, or yourself, any favors.
This applies to writers, too. Don't feel like you ever have to write in a specific formula/genre to "fit in" to the market. Write what God has laid on your heart, and that's where you will find Him.
So, I decided to go on a bike ride this morning. It was extremely foggy... nothing I haven't dealt with before... but I'm also getting over a bad cold and I didn't want to push myself. Still, this is significant, because I haven't ridden my bike outside in about 2 months. I don't know why. I guess there's just so much going on with my personal life right now, I just haven't had time. We're in the process of trying to go gluten-free to diagnose digestive issues with our family. We're struggling with schooling our kids from home. I'm fighting to get enough sleep to actually be useful when I'm home, when my job is constantly asking me to spend more time working.
All things considered, we're doing pretty well despite these challenges. But cycling has just had to take a back burner until things get a little less crazy. I don't like this, but it's just the way it is.
I do want to get back to commuting by bike, even though the shortest route is out of commission for a year due to bridge construction. So right there, that's an extra 3 miles a day... not the best way to encourage me to get back on the bike.
My bike is pretty much is serious need of maintenance. It needs a new drive train, and a new rear tire. Needs new cables, a good cleaning, could use some barrel adjusters on the brakes too. I need to eventually replace the steel FSA headset and stem on it, they add about a pound each. Really could use to re-wrap the handlebars, too.
I won't even get into how much work I need to do with my music stuff, it's just coming along slowly. I still need to finish my pedal board and get it working, but even that is just a want... not a need.
What do I need? I don't know. I need rest. Felt good to get out on the bike this morning, though. Even with the fog, it was nice.
Anybody who knows about NaNoWriMo is now in the throes of writing feverishly, hoping to crank out the elusive 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
I've done it. It's not all it's cracked up to be. Cranking out 1,665 words a day takes me about 2 hours, give or take... and that doesn't include breaks. The real question is, do I have two hours a day to devote to writing a book that I might have to go back and re-write anyway?
Well, no, I don't have time to waste. And in the grand scheme of things, I have to stop and ask myself, "Self, do I really even need to write another book?" This is a question every writer should ask themselves, really. And sometimes, the answer might surprise you.
What it boils down to is, "Did God call me to write a book?" and if the answer is yes, then by all means, do what you have to do to write a book. Don't stop until it's finished! But if the answer is "I don't know" then you've got some thinking to do.
Why do we write? Is it because we enjoy it? Is it because we'd like to make money at it? Do we write just because somebody once told us "Hey, you're good at writing, you should write a book"? Or maybe, just maybe, it's your calling. Maybe it's what God has gifted you to do. You believe your story is going to change somebody's life, and maybe (probably) change yours in the writing process. But after years of doing things, I've realized (i.e. God has shown me) that just because you're good at something, doesn't mean God has called you to do that thing.
This will come as a shock to many. It was a shock to me when I realized it. "Why would God give me a talent if He didn't want me to use it?" That's also a valid question, one I've asked myself countless times. He does want you to use it! But the answer to how we use it lies in where your life is going, and what God has called you to do with your life overall. You see, "writing" as a verb isn't a calling. You can use writing to do something, to accomplish something for God. But the act of writing in itself isn't a calling. It's what you do with your writing that matters. And honestly, if God calls you to do something that requires writing, you don't have to be the best at it for God to use you. But you need to use your talents to do the will of God.
Just let that sink in for a minute, okay?
So where do we look for motivation? Why are we writing? The only way to know for sure is to seek out what God wants for your life, and make sure you're doing what God has put you here to do. How you accomplish that is up to you, but you need to find your motivation first. Only then, once you realize why you write, can you find writing freedom.
Are you ministering to people? Are you touching people's lives? Are you bringing truth to them? Are you filling a need with your writing that you feel God has told you to conquer? Then by all means, get writing! I believe God has given me a reason to write, and so I will do what I can.
(by the way, this post is 580 words!)
As I was doing yard work yesterday on my day off of work (yes, I do my own yard work) I realized after a while, after I had stopped, that I had done too much. Now, let's be honest here. I'm not that young any more, and I'm not in as great shape as I'd like to think. I'm pushing 40, and I've got more than one strike against me when it comes to physical limitations. But I'll admit it, I overworked myself.
How did I know I had done too much? Maybe it was that my hands were still numb and tingly 30 minutes after I was done. Maybe it was the fact that I fell asleep on the couch before the kids' bedtime routine even started. All I know is that one minute I'm working, and the next minute I'm flat on my back, wondering which truck hit me. Everything after that (and most of today, as well) has been a blur.
What happened is that I couldn't tell when I had reached my limit. As long as I could keep moving and working, then I must be okay, right? Until I stop (or am forced to stop) and realize just how much I overdid it. It's easy to see in hindsight, like most problems. I should know after all these years how far I can push myself without causing adverse physical effects, but I don't. I get so caught up with doing what I think needs to be done, I miss the signs, and next thing you know I've blown myself up.
Why don't we know when to stop? We change physically over time. Just because I could work in the heat for 8 hours when I was 20 doesn't mean I can do it when I'm 40. Just because something we did worked years ago doesn't mean it will still work like we remember. Sometimes our memories of something supersede our current circumstances, often to our own detriment. If I don't exercise daily, then my threshold for exercise slowly declines.
That sounds awfully familiar...
So what happens in our lives when we are "working" on something God set us out to do, but it's been a long time since we've checked in? What happens when God gives us a direction, and we run with it indefinitely? We stray off-course, we run on our own strength, and eventually we run out of steam and end up falling flat on our backs. Why does God allow us to do this? Why does He let us run ahead of our calling? Why does he allow us to plow ahead when it's clearly wrong? Perhaps it's so that we can, over time, learn to trust Him for directions. Not just long term, but on a daily basis.
As a hard worker, I'm conditioned to get my instructions and work on them until further notice. That works well for some jobs, but following God isn't a job: it's a calling. It's a lifestyle, it's an ongoing journey. If I don't listen to God daily, then my threshold for hearing God slowly declines. Next thing I know, I'm working away... headed completely in the wrong direction, and out of God's will.
And the scary part is, you can start off in the right direction and still go off track. How is that possible?? Because when God tells you which direction to go, he doesn't always (read: hardly ever) tell you the end destination. He just tells you how to get there, turn by turn, in a way that requires you to stop and ask Him for directions before every turn.
What happens when you ask someone for directions when traveling? You ask "How do I get to there?" and the person will say "Take a right here..." and if you take off right then and there, you'll start off going in the right direction. And you're going places! But after a while, you pass crossroad after crossroad, or you come to a fork in the road, and you keep on going straight without realizing the path turned. Because, by golly, you're going in the right direction.
What if you were trying to give directions to someone who wasn't familiar with the area at all? You probably couldn't use landmarks. What if most of the road signs were in disrepair? Any verbal directions you could give would be meaningless without a frame of reference... without them having been there before. It would require you riding with them, and telling them where to go, turn-by-turn. And where does God want to bring us? Usually, its a place we haven't been before.
So how does this tie into boundaries? Much like when I was cutting grass, if I plow ahead without listening to my body, I will find myself in trouble. If I drive on without slowing down to check my directions, I will end up away from where I want to be. I need to be able to go slow enough to see the street signs as they come up, or I will miss my turn. Guard rails are there to keep you from going where you're not supposed to go... but boundaries alone won't get you there. You need directions.
I need to be willing to hit my knees on a regular, daily basis and ask for direction. I may not get instructions on a daily basis, but if I forget to ask, I certainly won't. I need to pay attention to boundaries, and stay away from the edge of the road when it could lead to disaster.
Slow down. Listen to God. Pray. Read the Word. Don't be in a hurry, because God speaks in that still, small voice.
Know your boundaries, and ask for directions.
For the last year or so, I've been (slowly) working towards simplifying my life. This has been both educational, and very difficult. It's only when you realize how much modern America has strayed from it's self-sufficient roots that you begin to realize how radical Frugality is nowadays. Years ago, fixing your own car or canning your own home-grown produce was not just commonplace, it was expected. People sewed their own clothes, for goodness' sake! Shoes got repaired, not replaced. People rode bikes everywhere. It was unusual for a family to have more than one car, if they had one at all.
Today, life looks much different. On one hand, I'm totally repulsed by it. On the other hand, I've been raised in it long enough that I've adapted to it, and have come to expect things will be there when I want them. I'm used to getting whatever I want, whether or not I can afford it.
This is called Hedonic Adaptation. Basically, the idea is that despite America (or any other developed country) having more riches and amenities than any other time in the history of the human race, we're not really that much happier than people were hundreds of years ago.
What it boils down to is this: we quickly adapt to the level of comfort we are given, and over time, what was once "awesome" now becomes "ordinary" because well, everybody's got one. Nobody missed the iPhone 5 fifty years ago, because nobody knew what one was, and nobody cared. They didn't miss it. They didn't need it. People could still call their friends on the phone, and could still send them text messages (written on paper, but still...) but today, a smartphone is seen as a "necessity."
Let me tell you something! Smartphones are not necessary to be happy. Neither are cars, or TVs, or anything else you can think of. It's all in your state of mind. If you are a farmer from Central America, you might be happy with having a good crop, your health to work with, and a comfy place to call home. Not much else matters outside of that.
In America, we've lost sight of what happiness is, because companies are constantly telling us we need something new to be happy. A newer car will make you more successful. A newer house will make you more secure. A newer slimmer body will give you the spouse of your dreams. A newer _______ will make you feel _______ and so on, and so on. None of these things are required to make people happy. In our day and age, everybody wants to have it all. Everyone wants to drive an expensive car, live in a massive house, have an expensive wardrobe, and so on. But this reveals the error of our ways.
What is a car's purpose in the world? To carry you from point A to point B. Do you need an expensive car to do this? No. So why do expensive cars exist? Because people want them. People want the prestige and the status that goes along with driving a BMW. Never mind the fact that buying a new BMW will put you in debt over your head, and repairs on them cost you an arm and a leg. So is it the car that is costing you, or is it your ego that is costing you? Have you seen car ads? The companies know this! They're playing you. And we love every minute of it.
It's our egos. Instead of thinking a cheap reliable car is smart, we say "people will think I'm poor!" Instead of buying good clothes that will last and look good, we pay 400% markups for a stupid label on a shirt so people will think we're "cool."
Reality check: What you own doesn't make you cool. If you're an insufferable idiot with nice stuff, you're still an insufferable idiot. Buying nice things will not make people like you. People will like your stuff, and I guess for some people, they're okay with that. It's easier to buy a top-end BMW/Mercedes/Maserati/etc. on credit and let people think you're hard-working and intelligent, than to actually be hard-working and intelligent.
Don't think I'm picking on nice cars specifically, this applies to everything. Smartphones, houses, clothes, electronics, anything you can buy. When people waste money on expensive things that they don't need, it shows that they value other people's opinions of them more than they value themselves. They would rather put up appearances in the hopes that they can convince people to like them, instead of actually being likeable people.
And yes, I've done it. I'm not perfect. You didn't think I was pointing fingers without looking at my own life, did you? Far from it. I'd like to think my days of trying to impress people are over, though. I have better things to do with my time and money. My kids will never care what brand of watch I bought, or what kind of car I drove. My wife doesn't care if I have an authentic vintage guitar amp, or if I wear name brand clothes. My parents don't care if I live in a mobile home, as long as it meets our needs, isn't falling apart, or a safety hazard. And when I pay it off in a few years, I will be living in it free! You know how many people in America today can say they're 100% debt-free? Not many, let me tell you. But you know what? Most of them are happy.
Wouldn't you like to be happy.... really happy? News flash: You can't buy it. I'll just leave you with this quote from William Bennett: (I don't specifically support everything Bennett believes, but this particular morsel rings true)
"Happiness is like a cat, If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you; it will never come. But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you'll find it rubbing against your legs and jumping into your lap."
Sometimes, you just have to stop trying to be happy.
Where in life do we balance "being content" with "reaching for more"? Paul says in Phillipians 4:13 that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." He was referring to those who live in plenty, or live in poverty... this applies spiritually and physically. Sometimes we just need to be content with where we are, and understand that God will give us what we need, and get us through.
There are times, however, when being content with misery isn't going to work. You can say all you want about being humble, but God doesn't want us to be miserable, either. If there is more misery in your life than joy, there's a good reason for it... just not the reason you'd expect. The church today (little "c") has found success in promising people happiness and comfort. And yes, if happiness comes from physical comfort, then they're very good at making church members "happy." But Jesus never promised fame, fortune, or worldly success. Or happiness.
So if that's the case, where does our contentment, our peace, our joy come from? And what's the difference anyway? Well, our joy comes from God... not doing things for God, not learning about God, not talking about God. Joy comes from God Himself.
There is no formula. There isn't a "if X then Y" flowchart. The only way to have Joy is to be in the presence of God. And that looks different for everybody. You may feel closest to God when you pour through scripture. You might feel close to God when you're singing praises, or helping the poor, or painting a picture. But, it comes with common sense, too. You can't say "I feel closest to God when I'm downing a fifth of Vodka." Sorry, but what you're feeling isn't God... that's momentary happiness, maybe. Certainly not Joy, because the funny thing about Joy is that is doesn't wear off easily. If we spend time with God steadily, it doesn't wear off at all. And most importantly, Joy from God doesn't leave you feeling drained, worn out, or hung over.
When you get to the point where you're trying so hard to be close to God that you're worn out, you can pretty much bet you've left God behind. He's not in the maelstrom, he's not in the typhoon, he's not in the earthquake... God is that still, small voice, calling to you in your exhaustion and misery.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 - MSG
Every now and then, stuff breaks. That's shocking, I know, right? But it does. It might be your clothes dryer, your car, your TV, or who knows what. Sometimes you can fix these things, and sometimes you can't. But if you can take the time to learn how to fix things, it's worth the time invested! let me explain.
If you have, let's say a car, that snapped a timing belt. Well, the first thing you do is make sure it's the timing belt. Do you know how to check the timing belt on your car? Do you even know what a timing belt is? Time to learn. Go go Google and find out.
Then, you need to know if a timing belt something you can replace on your own. Sometimes a snapped timing belt will destroy an engine... sometimes it won't. It depends on whether the engine is an interference design or not. If it's not, then chances are there's no serious damage. Do some research and find out!
If your engine isn't an interference engine, and you know it's the timing belt that went out, then you're in luck! You can probably fix it yourself, for less than $50. It will just take some research, and about 5 hours or so. Chances are your car would be in the shop more than 5 hours, so overall, this isn't bad.
Yes, the photo in this post is me changing a timing belt. I already had the tools, but tools can be borrowed (usually for free from an auto parts store) and information can be learned. It's not that bad.
The real thing I want people (that means you, reader!) to understand is that it's not as hard to fix things as you'd think. Some people say "I don't have the mechanical aptitude to fix anything!" but I don't believe that. There are tons of articles and videos on the internet that can walk you through it, step-by-step. You can save thousands of dollars this way! I'm not trying to stiff mechanics and repairmen, but let's be honest, their time isn't cheap. Most repairs aren't that hard.
Don't be afraid to do some research on your problem to figure it out for yourself. The added bonus is, once you've learned how to fix something, that's a permanent skill! If you keep adding to your list of skills, eventually you will be confident enough to tackle jobs you never thought you could.
This is how I got started in frugal mechanics... out of necessity. Now I do it because I can, and the long-term benefits are well worth it!
What are some things you've accomplished that you never thought you could tackle?