Song I wrote during my 48 hour alone time in the wilderness

What I learned in the wilderness is that I have to die to myself and be renewed in my authentic identity in Christ.  That’s what’s beautiful about him… when you give up your ego, pride, self-righteousness — whatever you want to call it — you gain confidence because everyday you become a little bit more of the person God truly intended you to be.  The most beneficial thing you can truly do for yourself is to live for God’s will for your life.  When you do that suddenly it’s not so difficult and trivial to love other people.  Because you love God more than yourself and he loves other people just as much as he loves you.

I remember one of my biggest moments on the trip is when I went into the woods by myself and broke down crying with these words… “Take it God. Take it all. Take my pride. Take my anger. Take my own pathetic little story. I’m tired of living a seemingly purposeless life.  I want to live for a epic purpose. A glorious purpose. I want to live for a story that is better and purer and more righteous than my own.”

That’s what the lyrics in this song are about.  The title comes from 1 Corinthians 13:1.

The Most Excellent Way (Yeah Way) (Yahweh)

(verse 1)

well you spoke those things

and stabbed wounds in me

but it feels good to bleed

feels good to breath in what i need

humility has never felt so free

cuz i’ve been aching

for realer things

prayin’ that my pain would come alive

(chorus)

come alive in me

break me down like mercy knees

come and live in me

let me live in your reverie

yes i will sing

it feels good to bleed

for blood that’s not from me

(verse 2)

well i had this dream

the angels of spring

were blooming by the streams

a man on the street

just smiled at me

and started singing “It is Well”

well i lost myself

couldn’t think of anything else

all these years i thought my father died

(chorus)

he came alive to me

and lit me up like a cigarette chain

come and live in me

and set me free of my fearful ways

yes i will sing

it feels good to breath

for life that’s not from me

(bridge)

and i like to think you smiled as you folded up your clothes

and rolled away that stone

a pure and naked truth

shining sure fire proof

that from the womb all the way to the tomb

you’ve felt all my wounds

(chorus)

brothers come alive with me

we’ll march with peace in the saints army

come and live with me

we’ll laugh like we did in community

and we will sing

it feels good to be

in love that’s not with me

An Authentic Journal Entry From My 40-Day Adventure: Charlie’s Pond (Day 23)

Adventures With Schtick Jagger– Part II

This is an actual journal entry I wrote on one of my best days on the trip. What’s cool about this is normally when I write blog posts, I’m thinking about what other people are going to think of it.  When I wrote this I was only concerned with getting my soul right with God. I honestly never planned on showing anybody any of my journal entries (when you get to the paragraph where I use Jesus and the F-bomb in the same sentence that will be apparent!), but last week one of my instructors on the trip sent me an email to encourage me in my transition back into civilization.  She said in the email that we had been out of the wilderness for 23 days, then she reminded us of Day 23 of our trip and how beautiful it was… so then God nudged me to look up Day 23 in my journal and this is what it said:

23 Days in the wilderness and if there was a king-sized tempur pedic in front of me right now i wouldn’t go lay in it.  My spot on an island rock out in the middle of one of the worlds coziest ponds is better.  I am in sanctuary right now.  If I could I would be baptized here.  You’ve never seen such a perfect and peaceful wading pool.  It’s silly now to think how resort hotels try so hard– with so much time, money, and labor to capture what God created in a millisecond of a day, and he did it 1000 times better.

I think back to now to the nervous, worried, anxious wreck I was during summer session… and I smile.  I praise my Father!  Thank you Lord.  Thank you for letting me go my own way.  For straying as far away from you in six weeks as I could.  Now I know that the not working out, not going to church, excessive mess I was is something I never want to be again.  I want your everlasting peace that passes all understanding like I have now.  I want to be the MAN sitting on this rock in one of your most ruggedly elegant niches of the world.

Sitting here… writing… shirt off, tan on, barefoot with my feet barely dangling over the water, dipping my toes in when I get too warm.

You see this trip  adventure, like life, is cyclical in its trials and joys.  Every 4-6 days you have one where you remember, without a doubt, why your soul longed to be out here.  Why you signed that check to pay for the trip.  It’s so renewing you almost want to write another one.  I’m going on record now and saying this is one of the best days of my trip… actually it’s one of the best days of my life.

Instead of having 2 Leaders of the Days (LODs) today we switched to solo LODing… I was the leadoff hitter and by the grace of God I knocked it out of the park, 2nd deck, this ones gone, IT AIN’T COMIN BACK! I had us wake up at 6:45, which in this wilderness world is a late morning.  We had 3.5 miles to cover and 550 feet of elevetion gain.  Even w/ the curveball of Chris diarrearing in his trousers while we were packing up — ha! — (we left at 9:40 instead of 9:10), we made it to camp by 1:15, and could’ve made it by 12:45 if I would’ve known how close we were before our last pack off break.

Then something amazing happened which had nothing to do with my leadership skills: we found the perfect campsite and we haven’t had a real solid one in the Wind Rivers yet.  You should’ve seen the smiles of God’s faithfulness on Team Awesome’s faces… we were, as we like to say here, Jazzed!

Our campsite contains the following features: soft flat tent sites, a view, a kitchen close by, this bathing pool I’m sitting at, a tree for shade above our tent site, and close above the kitchen a 360 degree view of one of the most breathtaking places in the already breathtaking Wind River Mountains… this is where we will Worship… God’s natural chapel.

On top of that the mosquitos aren’t bad, the sun is shining, and we’re here for two nights.  In the name of Jesus, I say Fuck the Hilton! This is way sweeter.  I gotta run.  I will try and come back tonight and journal more (more midday poop was epic!), but right now I have to read God’s word… because I want too, how about that?

I’m back.

Let’s talk about one of the best poops of my life today… a 4.5 (scale of 1-5). It was right by Charlie’s Pond (yes I named it after myself… I’ve just always wanted to have one place in the world named after me… to get my Lewis and Clark on). Anyways… I had a view yet privacy, someone else had Stanley (our poop shovel) so I had to flip a rock and for some reason I worked on this one big ole sucker really buried in there.  It came out after 5 minutes or so and I can’t even describe how perfect my toilet was… it was God’s toilet.  It was honestly comfortable and I took a good 10-15 minutes on my dump.  That’s just something that doesn’t happen in the wilderness often.

It’s 11 pm as I’m writing right now and the human in me wishes I could videotape or write down how perfect I feel right now.  A part of my heart breaks for all the beautiful pictures that didn’t get taken today.  Like me right now… writing, sitting under a full moon with mountains all around me as 8 of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met sleep safely and peacefully below me.  But then God reminds me he’s got this all down on the Lifetape, he’s snapped every photo I haven’t and he took it from a heavenly angle with eternal clarity… and someday… I’ll get to watch this day with him and hug him and thank him… truly… for his Great Faithfulness.

The Most Excellent Way (40 Days in the Wilderness)

It’s been a little over 3 weeks since I got done with my 40 day backpacking trip.  The bulk of the trip was spent in the most remote place in the lower 48… the Wind River Mountains, located in Western Wyoming.  Maybe I’m biased, but I’d venture to say it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.

As I hiked around 120 total miles with my 50-80 pound pack, I pondered what my first blog back in civilization would look like.  I figured I’d write one within the first couple of days I got back.  But to be honest it’s been overwhelming and difficult bringing myself to do this.

It’s taken me awhile to even get a grasp of what happened to me in those 40 days and nights– climbing the mountain tops, wading the river streams, swimming the ice cold lakes and tromping through the meadows of wild flowers.  But then I realized it’s impossible to put the whole trip into one silly blog post.  I realized it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, I can just tell about what I learned in little bits… and thus begins the “Adventures with Schtick Jagger” blog series.

I don’t know how long it’s going to last or how many posts it will take for me to feel like I even began to put this trip into words, but my hope is that this will help me more fully process things and that maybe I’ll speak a little truth, wisdom and encouragement along the way for anyone who takes the time to read this stuff.

About the title “Adventures with Schtick Jagger” … Schtick Jagger was the name I gave to my walking stick I found the first day in the Wind Rivers.  I brought him back to civilization with me… he’s kind of like my trophy for completing the trip.  You see Schtick isn’t just a stick. He was with me (and helped me) during some of the biggest, hardest and most adventurous moments of my life.  But enough about my weird obsession with personifying things (those of you who know about my relationship with my car Malib know what I’m talking about), onto the proverbial meat and potatoes.

It’s been a combination of incredible and difficult being back in Pullman, (where I go to school at WSU) the last two weeks.  The trip was life changing for me, and yet all the sudden I was back to my old life.  It’s like I changed and Pullman stayed the same.  The confusion resulted in me not making the best decisions the last two weeks. None of them were terrible. A lot of them were actually really fun.

But a lot of little bad decisions might be even more toxic than one big fat mistake. You know when you make a big fat mistake. But little bad decisions are so subtle, and seemingly harmless, then all the sudden you turn around and you’re a million miles from the person you had the potential to be.

Anyways… two weeks of little bad decisions later and all the sudden I was becoming the person I was before the trip.  I started to ask myself “did I change at all or was it all just a romantic fling with the wilderness?”

But here’s the thing: I was doing all those old things and they didn’t feel right. There wasn’t absolute truth in them, not like the truth I experienced on my trip. And then yesterday at church I realized, that even though I had been back to some of my old ways the last two weeks, I had been fundamentally changed on that trip and didn’t care to keep going back to those old ways.

And a beautiful gush of peace pulsed through my veins like the simple, truthful purpose of a mountain stream.

I think I just needed a little time to get re-acclimated to the fast pace of American culture. Things were different out there in the wilderness. You were busy, but your schedule was simple: Wake up, cook/eat, pack, walk, eat, walk some more, setup camp, nap/read/pray, cook/eat, devotionals/worship, bed.

You didn’t have to spend so much time thinking about how you were going to spend your time.

The first time I turned on my phone when I got back, my head almost exploded. It was insane to think that I could talk to any of the people I care about in a moment, when for 40 days I only talked to the 8 people physically with me (and random strangers on the trail).  The phone can be a beautiful thing if we use it for that. I don’t know if my mothers voice ever sounded so beautiful as I had my first phone call in 40 days.

There are a lot of people who believe facebook, cell phones, the Internet are evil things.  I only believe they are if you use them the wrong way.  Sure cell-phones cause us to text when we should be listening to something important our friend is telling us about their lives.  But in my 15-minute walk home from class I have this device that lets me talk to anybody I love, and that’s 15 minutes where we can empathize with each other and build a deeper relationship with each other. The only thing that other person has to do once I call them is pickup the phone.

Because that’s the truth I learned on the trip: to pick up the phone. When you’re around 8 other people who are really trying to have an authentic relationship with God, you’re around 8 other people who are willing to have an authentic, depth filled relationship with you.  You’re around people who will answer your call when you really need someone to talk to because they know that you would do the same thing for them.

It was amazing to be around people of depth for 40 days. Incredible. 100% refreshing.  That’s why it’s been hard being back in civilization.  Not everyone is living with the same depth. The world seems superficial, and at times, since being back, I’ve just wanted to scream “Most of you people are idiots! You don’t get it. Your souls are empty because you’re only focused on what your body needs.”

That’s an arrogant and uncompassionate thing to say. People aren’t idiots. They’re broken and don’t know how to deal with it.  It’s simple and incredibly difficult all at once really… we need to help each other deal with it. This isn’t a new idea. It’s called love. Before the Apostle Paul writes his big speech in Corinthians 13 about love that we hear at weddings all the time, he says something that the preacher never includes at the altar… he starts off that big speech about love being patient and kind with maybe the most beautiful sentence I think has ever been written,

“And now I will show you the most excellent way.” Corinthians 13:1.

That most excellent way he’s talking about is love.

Call me mushy. Call me emo. Call me gay.  But we all know deep down that it’s true.  We can either choose to love ourselves or we can choose to love others.  The more we do the first, to worse off the world is.  The more we do the latter, the faster we’ll all be saying, “It is well. It is well with my soul.”

We choose against the most excellent way a lot of times because it’s less work to choose the normal way.  In my opinion, frankly, the “normal way”… is bullshit. For a lot of us, the normal way is American culture.

But just look where our culture has gotten us.

Earlier I said we were getting into the meat and potatoes of this blog, well this my friends, is the center of the steak. Keep in mind that I’m not a cynic, I’m a realist when I say “America sucks right now.”  We all know it, and the ones who get offended by that statement just don’t want to admit it because it’s too overwhelming for them to change their beliefs. But let’s just face it, we are in some deep crap.

Our economy is bad. Our politicians solve problems like a high school showdown between the nerds and the jocks. We are infected with greed.  When I hear people casually use the phrase “sex sells” …  UGH. Where is a bucket so I can throw up in it?

Sex is the most intimate things human beings do. You don’t sell it ya dumbasses (I’m talking to the people who do, not my readers). Because once you become comfortable with that phrase, greed has no limits in your culture.  If you’ll sell sex, you’ll sell anything. And that’s the problem with capitalism when you don’t emphasize moderation.  When your country wants to make everything bigger, stronger, faster, better all the time, you live a life that craves excess.

And there’s nothing excessive about Jesus Christ.  That’s why he’s the most influential human to ever live.  He was the perfect balance of justice and grace.  Whether you think the church is a bunch of hypocrites, bible thumpers and weirdos or not I’d encourage you just to study Jesus.  If your belief about Christians is what I just mentioned, I’m here to tell you I get why you believe that.  It’s because we aren’t Jesus.  If we were half of who Jesus was, I say with confidence I think the whole world would believe in him by now.  He’s has some mad charisma when you really look at him.  He’s that “most excellent way” Paul was talking about.

The reason Christianity has a bad rap in the secular world is because the secular world gets the impression that we think we’re better than they are.  Which isn’t necessarily sound logic because they are judging us the same way we judge them, so we’re all guilty of the same crime.  That’s our American culture again, always wanting to know whose better.

But you know what Christians? I don’t think they’re completely wrong about that impression.  And the responsibility has to start with us because we should know better that we aren’t better. Many of us (me included) are self-righteous and uncompassionate. “We” aren’t better than them.  Jesus is.  And when we think we’re high and mighty because we know this truth the world doesn’t know, we’re spitting right in his face.

It’s not like we discovered some big secret.  We were fortunate to have people in our lives that showed us Jesus.  None of us probably had any idea what we were doing when we got saved… we were probably kids and something about the phonetics of that name Jesus made you pee a little bit with an excitement you couldn’t describe so you said this prayer your mom helped you with (at least that’s how it happened for me).

But we are not better than the secular world. The only thing that separates us from them is that Holy Spirit who owns a house in our souls… for the secular world he can only rent an apartment.  So enough getting offended or sarcastic when we see some college kids drinking beer… what the hell do you think Jesus used at the last supper? It wasn’t grape juice like we like to pretend when we take communion. It was wine. Can anyone tell me why our (Christians) butt cheeks clinch up when we hear the word alcohol? Obviously the person we pray to didn’t have a problem with it in moderation.

Instead of judging them, what we should be thinking when we see college students drinking beer is “are their souls at peace? And if not how can I (the Christ in me) relate to them in a way that will help them find that peace?”

We have to stop choosing the normal way, the way that loves ourselves and what’s comfortable, and start choosing the most excellent way, the way that loves others and builds character.

People get overwhelmed by the obscurity of the bible often times, but you really have to read a lot of it to see that sometimes it’s simple and easy if we can just do what it says.  I believe Micah 6:8 is one of those passages.  “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  That my friends, is the simple meat and potatoes of life. That is some of the truth I learned on my 40 day backpacking trip. That… is the most excellent way.