Fear Of Whales

Archive for August, 2010

Freeeeeedom!

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Wallpaper-braveheart-32189752-1920-1080The lesson in church today was out of 1 Peter, and it began with a discussion question for the tables we were seated at “If you could be free from anything what would you want freedom from, What would that do?”

It was pretty clear where the pastor was headed bless his heart. We were all supposed to name silly things like freedom from weight gain, or punishment, or busyness, and then he was going to flip it on us and show that what we really need freedom from is our sin.

Would you like some milk with that colostrum?

Meanwhile we at the table were playing the small group game where we go in a circle and each say the same right answer in a different way so as not to make anyone feel like they already answered it because it’s a stupid obvious question. “Temptation” , no for me it’s “doubt” I’m saying “the flesh”…

But there’s actually something that’s really good here. I don’t know if it was by design or not, but this becomes really interesting when you leverage wish fulfillment.

If you could choose which would you rather have: Freedom from the responsibility to righteousness or freedom from sin nature?

If God approached you and said “Tell ya what, I’ll give you a free pass, You can love me while doing whatever the hell you want with no moral consequences, or if you’d rather, I’ll take away your old self so you won’t be tempted anymore” Which would you take?

Obviously the correct church answer is the sin nature but would you really rather have that? I for one think a very strong case could be made for the freedom from righteousness!

Knowing God, It’s better to love him and serve him then rebel against the world the way he made it, obviously. But if he was willing to give you a let you off the hook, and say “Don’t you wish I made it this way?” I might be tempted to say “yes I do!”

Put another way: If pleasing God was not an issue, would you rather live in sin or righteousness?

Sin really has it’s advantages!

I still pick righteousness.

I know, I’m sorry I’m landing with the right answer people. But I do really think that’s better. That virtue is it’s own reward if only I could get past this stinking flesh.

I believe that it is a more extravagant gift to free me from what I want than to give me what I want.

Do you believe that?

Don’t just rightanswer me and say you believe that because you’re supposed to, think about it for a sec, there’s more here than meets the eye.

You could have what you want, still worship God, still go to heaven, no guilt. Or you could die to the flesh. Do you want that?

Ok now here’s my next question. Do you think the world wants that?

I kind of think they do.

Written by RyanGaffney

August 31st, 2010 at 1:19 pm

The Car Accident Incident

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A strange thing happened the other night… I was out for a walk late at night, and I found that the intersection by my house was all blocked off in police tape because of an accident, walking by I could clearly see two cars involved, and a body in the street covered by a tarp, somebody had died. I walked by slowly, for once appreciating the opportunity to see how collisions are  handled  without holding up traffic, and noticed one of the parties involved was being questioned by the police with her family. I decided to continue with my walk, musing as I went about the fragility of life and the fact that at the moment this happened, I was less than a mile away telling jokes with my neighbors.

By the time I returned en route back to my house, one of the lanes had been cleared, most of the shrapnel had been cleaned up, and the family was sitting on a bench outside the police line, One woman who had clearly been driving, was bent over in tears. My heart went out to the woman and her family, she had killed a man that night, she knew it, and she obviously felt the full significance of that. I heard someone way “Well, they say we’re free to go” and the woman looked up from her tears and choked out the words “You mean, they’re not gonna put me in prison?” almost in unison the family responded “NO! You’re okay it was an accident, the police know that” As they tried to comfort her I quietly and politely walked by, or at least I tried to.

This is probably a good time to mention that I’m pretty skeptical as Christians go, I don’t do a lot based on emotion or tradition, I like facts and figures. This translates poorly into certain doctrines and certain spiritual experiences. For instance, I have never been “slain in the spirit”. I don’t speak in tongues, I hate it when people investigate first dates in terms of “God’s will for their life” and I have never, ever, felt supernatural pressure to talk to, pray for, or evangelize a stranger. Ever!…until the other night.

So God and I had this argument in my head that went something as follows. (if you’re reading and you’re not a Christian, The voice of God sounds to me much like a thought in my head. Sometimes I get the two confused, but in situations like this where I’m apparently thinking things I disagree with it’s easier to tell)

So In my head I said  “Boy I sure hope God puts some people in her life that can help her through her grief” and the idea arrived in my head that went something like “I just did”

This all happened very fast, and I’d love to say that at that moment I realized that it made no sense to be arguing with the almighty in my head and proceeded to make the right decision, but I didn’t have time to think that through before I retorted back “No I mean like a grief counselor or something, someone who’s an expert in this…” and almost as soon as the thought was formed it dawned on me…” You’re a Pastor”…

“Shoot, missed opportunity, I’m already passed them now”

“You could go back”

“I can’t go back, that’s awkward, that’s weird, this person does not need another stranger who…”

“What did you think you were on this walk for anyway?”

…Well now that shut me up. I don’t know, I had just felt the need to take a walk, It’s not normally my style to leave a social environment to go for a walk but sometimes you just need a walk, and now I’m here, and there was this accident and this woman needs someone to comfort her, and I’m arguing with myself that I need to go back and…Got it, I need to go back.

So I turned back towards them, the oldest son caught my eyes and I felt completely creepy, I was a total stranger, younger than anyone there, wearing  jean shorts and a cotton green sportcoat from a thrift store, walking towards them… barefoot…

“Hi… I’m so sorry to but my nose where it doesn’t belong, but… Is there anything I can do to help?….I’m a pastor, Can I pray for you?

The man didn’t pause “Yeah!” he said nodding “That’s okay ma?”

She looked up at me “Yes….I’m Jewish, but…”

I smiled, “That’s okay” I said waving my hand

The group gathered around in a circle there was about 8 of us, I put my hands on the backs of the women to either side of me, the driver was across from me, her name was Fran, and we all prayed together, a Christian pastor, a Jewish mother, certainty some people who hadn’t prayed in years if ever. It was a simple prayer, lasting no longer than a minute, I called on God as Father, to hold us closer in the wake of this tragedy, and to help us to live out our days in this fallen world, I prayed specifically for Fran to be filled with a sense of his love and forgiveness of her, that she’d know she is always loved and always accepted.

When the prayer was over she looked at me, holding back tears. “Thank you! Thank You….thank you.” and she gave me a hug and then headed to her car to go home.

As I left another woman approached me “You’re a pastor?…Where do you work.” I briefly explained and she said “I mean where can I find you? I’m a lost lamb, I need a church” So I have her my contact info to help her find a place locally.

And that’s the story, that’s it. No fire from heaven, no spirit descending like a dove, she didn’t accept Christ that night, she just prayed with me, and I think it helped.

Written by RyanGaffney

August 27th, 2010 at 1:16 pm

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Bread

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So I’ve been learning to bake this year, and in my experimentation I found to my great joy that bread is incredible when the 5tsp or so or butter is substituted for ½ cup of Bacon grease. Further proof of the idea that everything is better when you add bacon.

The whole baking experience has had me thinking about the Lord’s supper. What with all of the biblical references to bread and leavening that are beginning to make more and more sense now. I wondered if it might be a neat ministry to provide churches with fresh baked steamy loafs to use for communion on Sunday instead of the seemingly expensive store-bought loafs most churches now use, and when I made the bacon bread, I thought about how cool it would be to use that in the sacrament. I could just see the words of the invitation

“At this church we believe that the sprit of Christ is spiritually present within the bread and the cup, we also believe that the body of Christ is delicious so we made it with bacon! Any and all who have accepted Christ as their savior are invited to come forward and eat of this loaf and drink of this cup…”

Unfortunately I think this would probably offend some vegetarians who now wouldn’t partake, so most churches probably wouldn’t be interested. Which is okay, In fact after thinking about it for a bit I’m pretty sure the loaf is vegan as well. They probably don’t use eggs and use oil instead of butter… And that got me thinking…

Should Jesus’ body be vegetarian? Because if so I think it takes us down a slippery slope. If Jesus needs to be made without animal byproducts doesn’t it follow that he should also be low-carb, low-fat, sugar free, gluten free, fair-trade, organic and processed in a bakery that doesn’t contain peanuts? Because that sounds like some really horrible boring bread.

The question goes deeper than the bread of course. When we present Jesus the man at our churches, just what sort of Jesus are we allowed to present? Must we actually offer fourth an unaffiliated, politically uninterested, non-denominational Jesus. Does Jesus need to be depicted as androgynous, independent of ethnic origin and cultural influence, existing without socioeconomic status and secular opinion?

Might that just possibly create an object of worship as safe and bland as a horrible communion wafer?

But otherwise we run a risk that  is not to be scoffed at. That if we don’t, we create a quorum of people who will have no choice but to leave Jesus on the alter.

Thoughts?

Written by RyanGaffney

August 24th, 2010 at 1:11 pm

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CTR

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I finally found my CTR ring again. I’d taken it off for a shower nearly a year ago and thought it was gone forever. While I’m celebrating I thought I’d take some time to explain on the internet what so many people ask me “Why do you wear a CTR ring?”

For those that don’t know, it’s a Mormon invention (hence the controversy) CTR is something of the Latter Day Saints version of our protestant WWJD. It stands for Choose The Right, the implication of which is that in any choice you are offered, It is wise and in keeping with Christian holiness to consistently choose the most righteous option. Pretty simple

So why bother wearing the ring? Well I happen to love it, and I think the CTR concept is superior to WWJD in a number of ways. WWJD or What Would Jesus Do? Is an excellent question to ask, and the book that spawned the interest “In His Steps” by Charles Sheldon is absolutely foundation, but it has a few marked weaknesses is assuming:

1: That I actually know what it is Jesus would do in every situation. I get that I should strive to come to know but for the most part the prospect of determining whether or not Jesus would take an extra piece of cake is easier said than done.

2: That what Jesus would do is what I should (and can) do. The fact of the matter is that in some situations what Jesus would do is spit in the dirt to make mud, and rub the mud in your eyes until you can see again. That’s just not always going to work for me

3: (and this one is probably the worst) That there is only one right good Christian response, that being what Jesus would do. I don’t know if Jesus would ever play a video game but I certainly do, and think it’s often right of me to do so. What Paul did is dissimilar to what Jesus did in a number of ways and I think that’s to his credit, if he had stayed in Israel open air preaching we would all be suffering for it today.

CTR has none of these problems, and I find it particularly hospitable to my own personal understanding that when a choice is presented to me, I have not two options, but a plethora of different moral options all representing various degrees of nearness to or distance from the right, and my goal is to pick the rightmost one I can.

Written by RyanGaffney

August 21st, 2010 at 1:00 pm

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Colostrum

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Mona Lisa was a new mother

A friend of mine works in the Labor and Delivery ward at a local hospital. She’s loves working with babies and new mothers and being inundated with that whole experience (the kind of thing which would make me run for the hills) And through her, I’m able to get some information about the environment in the ward from a safe distance.

“I hate it when mothers are lazy” She’ll say “I know, I know, they’ve just been through labor but seriously! They’ll ring the buzzer and say like ‘The baby needs to be changed would you change her?’ ‘Yes, but you know, You can change her, It’s been a day now’ ‘I’m tired…’ uh hu… or they’ll say ‘She isn’t taking the breast milk she needs a bottle will you feed her?’ well no, she doesn’t need a bottle, you just… you need to try a little bit… It may not feel like anything’s coming out but your breasts will produce colostrum which is really nutritious, and you don’t need much because a babies stomach is like…”

She gestured with her hand indicating about the size of a pea, but I was already distracted.

“Colostwhat?”

“Colostrum, It’s like a pre-breast milk”

“A Pre-breast milk, that’s really nutrient filled but not substantial in any way?”

“Yes exactally”

“That’s perfect!”

“Perfect for what… For babies?”

“For another theological analogy!”

She rolled her eyes

Here’s the idea though, Most churches today, in the interest of not giving their congregation more than they can chew are offering sermon after sermon on Jesus’s death and resurrection, on forgiveness, the prodigal son, God as provider, Abiding in him… basically all sermons that i would sum up as saying essentially “No seriously, Jesus Loves you” And it’s great stuff and it’s true, and very central to the heart of faith, but let’s be honest, It’s lazy, and we do it because we as pastors are already familiar with those subjects and it won’t make anyone mad or cause any problems we might have to deal with.

And we justify our laziness by quoting Paul “For you require milk, and not solid food” 1 Corinthians 3:2

but if you read the parallel passage in Hebrews you will hear Paul’s definition of milk

Hebrews 6
1Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And God permitting, we will do so.

That’s what we call “meat” Ya’ll.

Laying the foundation of repentance for sin, that one we might have covered, but it hink there’s a lot more to it then we talk about. The subject is called Soterieology which deals with the nature and method according to which one is saved and we don’t normally say much about it other than “through God’s grace because of Jesus” Paul Just called the whole subject “Milk”

Faith in God: Once again we touch on it, but do you feel your church has equipped you the answer the question “what is faith?” of “what does it mean to have saving faith”

Instruction about baptisms: I don’t know about your church but mine has a six week adult education class for this

The laying on of hands: I have never in my life heard a pastor church willing to touch this one (outside the LDS)

The resurrection of the dead: This is the Eschatological Resurrection people, Not Christ’s Resurrection. We’re going to resurrect…seriously, If you can’t pronounce the word “Eschatological” in your head when you read it it’s probably because you’ve never heard in such a thing as the Eschatological Resurection.

Annnnd Eternal Judgement. Well that one the southern baptists have covered for all of us!

That’s MILK!

Meat is something else, Something more advanced and harder to chew that that. Which of course implies the question: If that’s Milk, What have we been preaching every sunday?

Colostrum

We have been preaching a very good very nutritious kind of nourishment that is designed to hold an infant Christian over for a couple days.

And most Christians I know have lived on the stuff for decades. They’re starving. They need meat, They’re adults, and yet half of our pastors are still choking on milk.

Lord come quickly

Written by RyanGaffney

August 18th, 2010 at 4:47 pm

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The New Athiests

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Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. Have made themselves famous with arguments against religion that center on the damage it does to society. For example:

“Christianity has been responsible for an untold number of travesties like the crusades and the inquisition, and even today it stands to hold up back from progression as a society. It must therefore be done away with.”

Usually these objections are answered by defending that Christianity is actually good for the world, or trying to convince the new atheist, that what matters is the evidence for an idea, not the morality of it’s adherents, both are arguments which are potentially good, but I want to try a new angle.

So I’m willing to grant for the sake of debate that Christians have, for many years used the message of the gospel to defend abhorrent acts before an ignorant population. and I’m even willing to grant that negative consequences for holding an idea can sometimes be an indicator of it’s falsehood (because no matter how demonstratibly convenient it is to keep the well and the outhouse next to one another, if people get sick we might want to try something else)

But what now?

The argument falls apart at implementation. Okay New Atheists, Good point, What do you want to do about it?

End Christianity?

That’s a horrible plan! It’ll never work! We just granted that Christians are horrible ignorant tenacious people What you think they’re just going to give up now?

Sam Harris seems to think Legislation would help, clearly he’s never been to China or read enough Christian history to know that the church always gets stronger and bolder under persecution.

So do we just whine about it and wish Christianity would go away?

I have a better plan.

The solution to Bad Christianity, Is Good Christianity.

Yes, Mr. Hitchens, It’s true that at one time the Bible was used to defend the practice of slavery. But the Bible was also used, to support abolition, and eventually the civil rights movement. Those same rednecks who would have renounced you as heathen if you suggested that it was civilly unjust to take an African as property, responded to the words of Paul in Galatians that in Christ there is no male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free.

And Yes, Mr. Dawkins there are right now an embarrassing number of professing Christians who are attempting to hold back scientific advancement and science education. Won’t you help us to see science and scientists not as our enemy, but as an essential part of Christianity? Because that task, unlike ending Christianity, is achievable.

Written by RyanGaffney

August 15th, 2010 at 4:13 am

One Last Camp Thought

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Okay, So I know the last 3 posts have been theologically light and about TLC, but trust me, you do not want 2 months full of updates about what it’s like to fund-raise. And this is the last one I promise.

After what must be over 50 camps, in at least 15 different settings, and having filled more roles than anyone I know from the church side, and the camp side, as a volunteer, a camper, and a professional. There’s very little that intimidates me about going to camp.

This is not my first Rodeo.

But although I’d have no trouble signing on to be the planner, director, speaker, disciplinarian, mascot, or janitor of a camp, there is one role that I will never fill. Thankfully I’m physically ineligible, but even if I weren’t, I’m too scared!

That role is Girls Counselor.

Now I’ve been a counselor.. Totally. I’ve been a counselor in a wheelchair, with the stomach flu, and hopping on one leg. No problem. But only for Boys.

Boys are easy. You send em, to camp, they go crazy, they can’t help but have fun, and learn, and grow, All I have to do is make sure they don’t die. And It’s not that hard, they’re small. When you set out to quiet down a boys cabin they will probably try to stay up half the night telling fart jokes, you try to stop them, but even if you don’t the problem solves itself on the second night of camp because they’re exhausted from the night prior.

The absolute worst case scenario in a boys cabin that I’ve never run into, but hear stories about from other counselors is when they show up for the morning meeting saying “Last night was horrible, my Boys tried to kill each other”

Sure, totally, it happens. But it’s not the end of the world, you separate them, they cool off, crisis averted.

What’s the Girls Counselor equivalent “My Girls tried to kill themselves

What the heck are you supposed to do about that???

And that’s not even a particularly bad night, from what I can tell this happens frequently.

I’ve also seen 13 year old girls develop image issues, and eating disorders at camp, fits of unbridled, uncontrollable emotion, self mutilation… Stuff way beyond my pay grade!

Inside a girls cabin.

The closest a boy will get to that is when he stops showering, and that can be solved two at a time with a garden hose.

I tip my hat to the brave souls in service to the cross who brave the dangers that lurk with in the Girls Cabins.

Written by RyanGaffney

August 13th, 2010 at 3:56 am

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Nerd Girls

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http://www.spyjournal.biz/files/Rebecca_TalkNerdyToMe.jpgAt camp I was able to offer a valuable lesson to someone who had never heard it before. I thought that if she hadn’t heard it then maybe ya’ll would benefit from it also, so here’s the story:

While sitting at the pool I heard Chris call out to another kid from the deck “Quit being such a nerd!” It caught my attention, so I asked for more details

“What’s wrong with being a nerd? I’m a nerd”

“Nobody likes nerds”

“Are you kidding me? everybody likes nerds, and I’ll tell you something else, nerds get the girls. Girls date the popular kids, they marry the nerds”

“What?”

“You ask any counselor here ‘Would you rather marry someone who was popular in high school, or a nerd?’ I bet you every one says they’d take the nerd”

“No Way!”

So we conducted a experiment, Women were interviewed by a number of different parties, and although we found many Jr. High girls of dissenting opinion we could not find a single woman volunteering who would not prefer to marry a nerd.

As the conversation progressed about nerds I could feel public opinion about my people swell in the pool area, Chris himself began to aspire to become a nerd, more interesting than that was the response of Paige, who had been listening nearby.

“Can Girls be nerds?” she said

“Oh absolutely girls can be nerds, and I’ll tell you what else, a nerd-girl can get any nerd-guy she wants”

“What do you mean?”

“Well when you’re young, the popular kids don’t like the nerds and they can’t get a date, but when it gets switched and women start wanting nerds, nerds don’t start wanting cheerleaders. A nerd might settle for a hot cheerleader, but he’d probably rather have someone cute and smart who plays video games”

This blew the minds of Chris and Paige, but I wonder how commonly understood this rule is in general.

Velma is the catch on Scooby Doo, not Daphne. The fact that Natalie Portman graduated Harvard is way hotter than that Scarlet Johansson posed nude for Vanity Fair. And I don’t know or care who Gucchi is but I do care who Soren Kirkeguard is and if you do too you are head and shoulders above any girl who keeps a dog in her purse when it comes to attractivness.

Written by RyanGaffney

August 12th, 2010 at 10:11 am

Teen Leadership Camp

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A photo of Camp Dixie Lake

I spent last weekend up at camp. I was volunteering with my old church for “Teen Leadership Camp” an extension/clone of “Royal Family Kids Camp” for Jr. High and High School Youth in the foster system.

The idea of both camps is to give underprivileged youngsters an opportunity to escape their rut for a few days into the mountains and experience the things so many normal kids take for granted. To receive attention and affirmation, and to be exposed to the love of God.

Mist TLC campers have Gone to Royal Family their whole lives, they know how it works, they know the rules, they know the story. None of us get paid, we’re Christians who choose to be at camp for one reason and one reason only, to love them. We’ve had to lay down some rules to prevent campers from killing each other, but if we had our way we’d never discipline anyone.

This leads to two distinct groups of campers. There’s the campers that love coming to camp every year and seek to develop relationships especially with the returning staff. They help to make the camp run smoother, help their fellow campers when they are in trouble and are excited to take on leadership positions. Often these campers know the rules better than the staff, and will remind newer staff when they are forgetting something.

Then there’s the campers who love coming to camp every year because they know there is no accountability. Honestly what are we going to do? We’re trained to avoid the word “no” whenever possible, and the whole reason we exist is to affirm and build up the kids, so if a camper chooses to spend the week picking fights and running away what are we going to do about it?

Compliment them on the one thing they did right all week is what.

No camper gets sent home, no camper gets dessert taken away, or is given trash duty, or KP. The more they misbehave the more we bend over to try to show compassion.

I think you see the metaphor

I’ve always objected to the homiletic practice of threatening hell to the complacent Christians. Of preaching against the idea of deathbed repentance with the danger of impending sudden death. I suspect those threats are empty. If you know god, if you asked Jesus to forgive you, if you’ve been adopted into the family of God, whether or not you do anything about it God will forgive you, He has to, Jesus died for you 1 John 1:9

It’s possible to be a Christian and suck at it.

But as long as you’re here, as long as you know the rules, you get that you’ve been brought here by a God that loves you and desires that none should perish, why not be one of the good ones? He has some leadership roles for you if you’re interested.

Written by RyanGaffney

August 10th, 2010 at 9:05 am

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Storage Unit

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Today I bought a storage unit so I could move out of the apartment I’ve been renting and make way for a new tenant. I’ll just couch surf for a couple of weeks until I’m ready to move to Kansas.

But moving into a storage unit required unpacking some of my old life that’s been in warm storage since the days when I had a real apartment. Little things, luxuries, things I haven’t needed in the year John’s been letting me stay with him, Like an alarm clock that’s not my cellphone and the pictures from my old kitchen, things that make it feel like home. And then random things like extra soap, stamps, the coin jar from that apartment still full of coins. All having been neatly waiting above my mothers garage for me to get a real place again.

It got me thinking about this crazy life of mine, that requires me on a semi-annual basis to move suddenly from the place I’d been calling home and transition.

Here I am looking at those pictures that were boxed up the last time I had to get out quickly, and still they’re not ready to come out, they’re going to storage until I get a trailer to move them to Kansas. Hopefully there I’ll get a nice big apartment, without roommates, and set everything up and relax completely into my home.

And it got me thinking “Am I too attached to material possessions?” Which is an annoying idea to come to mind as one backs all their belongings into a 5×5 cell. But seriously…

If I’m called to live life at a low income with limited dependability, Life not knowing where exactly I’ll live next year, then why do I keep accumulating possessions? Is that righteous?

Maybe I’m not supposed to settle down

Maybe My life in Kansas will be just as transitional, alumni house, to dorm room, maybe a too-small apartment while I get all the funding in…

Because Lord, If I’m called to live my life on an air mattress in the back of my truck with nothing but a change of clothes and a bible I am ready and willing, but you’ve got to let me know because if that’s the case then I really don’t need an Ionic Breeze Air Purifier.

Here’s to hoping for smoother traveling ahead!

Written by RyanGaffney

August 3rd, 2010 at 3:19 am

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