The four things I never, ever want to do again

Adventures are exhilarating and the adrenaline rushes can be memorable, but there are just a few things, let’s be honest, that we all would never do again.  I picked up a little life lesson from an old mentor of mine: “I’ll try anything once.”  I want to be the kind of person who tries new things (because honestly, I’m not that person, I have almost no curiosity to speak of).  I do things because I want to say I’ve done them and it’s more distasteful for me to be ignorant than for me to experience something I don’t end up enjoying.

So here’s my list of “never again’s”:

Eat balut

For those of you who don’t know, balut is a delicacy in Asia.  They are sold for pennies on the street and eaten as snacks.  It doesn’t taste as bad as it looks, but hard boiled, fertilized duck egg is just a hard thing to … well swallow.  The egg I tried had been fertilized for 21 days before it was prepared, the best ones are hard boiled at 18 days.  The additional days meant that the inside had a body cavity I couldn’t bite through, a small beak beginning to form and little feathers… yeah… never again.

Ride in an African bus for 22 hours

Friends, I know many of you have had worse, and longer, and more horrific experiences and I do not discount those, but for my personal experience, the hellish journey, the heat, the smell and the claustrophobia were just a once in a lifetime deal for me.  Twenty. Two. Hours.

Brush my teeth with Guatemalan tap water

Guatemala and I have a love/hate relationship.  I love Guatemala and Guatemala’s intestinal parasites love me.   Enough said.

Touch the floor in China

Sometimes you just stick with what you’re best at.  China does walls but not floors.  The country and culture (and food) have some incredible things to rave about…the hygiene and sanitation is not one of them (at least in the places I personally visited…grain of salt).  Squatty potty water should not be used to mop the carpet…the c.a.r.p.e.t.  But maybe that’s just me.

What else you got?  Anything you’d never do again?

The four coolest things made by humankind

I’ve been fortunate to see quite a few of humanity’s accomplishments in my travels. There are many that I’d like to add to that list but just haven’t made it there yet (I’m coming for you Pyramids of Giza…).

Machu Picchu, Peru

It’s not just an impressive structure, it’s an impressive structure built at 12,000 feet! The thought of having to get all of the materials up to that altitude is incredible. The llamas are pretty cool too (unless they’re alpacas…doh!)

The Great Wall of China

It’s the one man-made structure that can be seen from space. It’s not just long, but it did the job. Getting up and over would be impossible if defended by an army. Crazy idea but simple!

The Parthenon, Athens, Greece

Ever since I was little I was fascinated by the idea of Ancient Greece. The gods of Olympus, the legends and myths, the heroes and villains. They were all mesmerizing to me.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, France

So it may not compare in size to the other three, but Notre Dame was one of the coolest sites I’ve visited. To the casual viewer, it’s just another beautiful, old European church, but if you look closely, the detail in the construction and the stories that are told in every nook and cranny are awe-inspiring! I could have spent days in and around there!

What else you got folks? What other man-made structures or places have inspired you?

The four scariest things I’ve ever done

I liked this theme of cataloging my enterprises.  After seeing amazing sights in nature, I immediately started thinking about the moments of courage that I relished.  There is still an apprehension in hindsight about the moments of impending sheer irrational stupidity that I now call “courageous acts.”  But in any event, here they are:

Cliff Jumping in Manila, Philippines

I’m a fan of back flips, but the 40-45 foot plummet kept me definitively straight up and down for this one.  It’s strange the moment of truth that you hit when you’re about to jump.  The longer you wait, the worse it is.  I’m a fan of the “jump and deal with it” method.

Caving in southeast Tennessee

One of the coolest/strangest things I’ve done.  We went on a four hour caving excursion.  Took us several hundred feet underground.  We all had miner’s hats with lights and battery packs.  We reached the half way point in this huge cavern and all turned our lights off.  The guide explained that if you wave your hand in front of your face you THINK you can see your hand because your mind knows it’s there.  But the reality is that without light, your brain is just putting the pieces together, your eyes aren’t offering anything to the equation.  Crazy!

Skiing down a Black Diamond in North Carolina

I’m not a great skier but I believe that I have progressed in my skills over the times I’ve been skiing.  However, my first time looking down my first black diamond was genuinely terrifying.  Terror for me is preemptive regret.  Especially if there’s a chance I could get hurt, I have no problem throwing an internal temper tantrum about doing the thing I now absolutely don’t want to do.  And just for the record, totally biffed it on my first turn and lost a ski…but it wasn’t nearly as humiliated as riding the lift back down.

The “Big Swing” in Graskop, South Africa

It was not a bungee jump, but might as well have been.  Someone had died on it 4 months before we went (which makes the adventure that much more incredible).  4 seconds of free fall gives you time to scream, take a breath and scream again before you catch.  You fall off backwards and look up the waterfall as you plummet.  Takes your breath away.  Scary, but fun.

What you got?  I know some of you have swam with sharks, sky dived, and a host of other things.  What are some of your courageous moments?

The four most amazing things I’ve ever seen

I had a new experience last week that I have to add to my “done that” list.

I hope you keep a “done that” list. I used to be super irritated that I’d always win those games of “Never have I ever” because…well, I hadn’t done anything. That’s a really stupid game to win by the way…

But I can say with pride that I’ve made an effort to expand my horizons and have had some unbelievable experiences to date.

If you can’t already tell, I’m a compartmentalizer (don’t know if that’s a word…the dotted red underline just popped up). So this isn’t about all the amazing things I’ve done, this list is specifically things in nature. (Many of these pictures are borrowed, but you’ll just have to trust me: been there, done that.)

Top 4: here you go:

Snorkeling off the Two Mile Reef off the coast of Vilanculous, Mozambique

Seriously people, schools of “dory’s” and “marlin’s” but on steroids. The water was hazy the day we went both because a storm was coming but also because the reef stirs up all sorts of microscopic bacteria that feed and fuel the reef. I’ve never been so close to octopi, eels, schools of fish nearly half my size, 8-10 legged starfish and turtles. Mezmerizing…can’t even tell you.

Swimming in a Bio-luminescent Bay in Fajardo, Puerto Rico

Just happened last week. Take a close look at that picture. Those are people in the water. That light you see is the bacteria IN THE WATER. It glows when it’s moved. Fish swimming by look like streaks of lightning. I’ve never been in such a magical place before. Pictures can’t do it justice. You just gotta go.

The stars in Southern Africa

Light pollution is officially NOT overrated. When you are out in the middle of nowhere, and the moon is dark, the stars are more brilliant than you can possibly imagine. After spending two months in southern Africa, I could look up and literally get lost for hours considering how many stars there are, how bright and far away they exist and the fact that God created each one.

Rafting the Nile in Jinja, Uganda

Even our Scottish guide said that the Nile was the best rapids in the world. Seeing a class six rapid (which are so dangerous it’s illegal and unwise to even attempt rafting) was one of the most awe-inspiring experiences of my life. Sheer power thundering around you is a moment I’ll never forget.

I know many of you have had some unbelievable adventures as well. What are some sites/sounds/experiences in nature that have inspired or awed you? Pass it along!

How to be Insignificant

While there’s a wit to this series, I’ll admit, it’s actually kind of hard to write…

I’ve chosen particular topics that hit deep to the core of myself and the areas through which God has been walking with me to freedom.

I’m taking next week off of blogging while I travel. I hope to bring some new direction and inspiration when I return.

I was asked once “what’s so wrong with wanting a nice, stable, comfortable life? why can’t I just live my life, make money, buy a house, have a family and just be happy?”

It was an intriguing question.

My response was this: “what if that’s all some people have the potential for? what if other people had the potential to make a legitimate difference in the world… is it their responsibility, if they can, to do something that matters?”

And in that case…which type of person are you?

Living a life of insignificance is absolutely more comfortable than living a life with a contribution that matters. If you find yourself deficient in the “potential” category or simply don’t want to do any more work than what it takes to fulfill yourself in blissful hedonism, here are a few guidelines for you to stay passive, benched and insignificant.

1) Stand firmly in the conviction that ignorance is bliss. You’re responsible for what you’re aware of so a great way to live a distanced, insignificant life is to remain uneducated and unaware of the realities of the world. Don’t think about starving children, poverty-stricken areas, refugees from war-torn areas, displaced people from natural disasters, disease, death or even the simple ills of life like relational challenges or other people like yourself who are riddled with self-obsessed narcissism.

2) Keep a low opinion of your abilities, competencies and passions. If you don’t think you have anything to offer: YOU’RE PROBABLY RIGHT. Empowerment is a devastating blow to insignificance. Remember: perception is reality, if you BELIEVE you’re worthless, you’ll ACT like you’re worthless.

3) Pick a side. Apathy is for the indecisive. True insignificance is when you are aware but decide to stay firmly out of the game. Pack out your schedule with so many things that making any kind of selfless contribution would be out of the question. If you get really good at this, you’ll find “noble” things to distract you from these contributions such as working for a ministry (so you “put in your time” at work and can dismiss needs during your off hours).

4) Choose a life of voluntary poverty. Many do this to relate to those to whom they minister. When you lack resources, it will always be a challenge to be generous and you’ll often spend your time figuring out how to make money instead of being free to give your time to things that matter.

5) Justify living tight-fisted with your resources. Take all that wonderful advice you got growing up to save your money, plan for the future, make wise investments and manage your resources to the penny. Tithing, generosity and financially blessing others can still be your “first-fruits” without ever requiring sacrifice or compassion. The Good Samaritan was an anomaly and should be treated as merely an inspiring story (he was probably rich anyway).

6) Let your emotions to the decision making. If you get moved by that commercial on TV that says to feed the kids in Africa or save the abused puppies go ahead and give, but if the pitch doesn’t give you a warm fuzzy: your indifference is releasing you from participating.

7) Assume God’s got it taken care of. He’s in control and there are so many people out there doing good things (even humanitarians). Operate under the premise that God will make it undeniably clear when he has an assignment for you. Otherwise, stay passively out of the way until the opportunities come to you.

Leaving the world a better place than when we found it is an inspiring thought… but you can go your entire life surfing on the contributions made by others. As long as your life is comfy and pleasant you can die happy… right?

How to be codependent

Steven Covey talks about “The Maturity Continuum” which we all progress through in our journey to adulthood. It starts with a place of dependence (where we need others for literally everything in our lives…like children), to independence (I don’t need anyone), to the final stage which is interdependence. Interdependence says “I don’t need you, but my life is better because you’re in it.”

If that doesn’t work for you, you can always revert a few progressions and instead embrace a co-dependent (or fully dependent) lifestyle. The problem with interdependence is that it takes a lot of work to maintain the independence you’ve attained while starting to include other people back into your lives. Co-dependence is way easier because you can still desperately need people AND have them around you all the time. It will probably stall out your development as a person, but you’re guaranteed to never be rejected or alone.

Here are some steps toward functional co-dependence:

1) Go into ministry. There’s no better place I’ve found to find yourself co-dependent than to be in a place where people desperately need you. It’s a win/win because they need your help and you need their affirmation so you can co-depend on one another. When you venture into people’s lives and get past the barriers, the natural instinct is to protect your investment. Be ready to make sure people have kept your secrets and that they are always always willing and able to be sucked into more.

2) Keep your circle of friends small and exclusive. You can’t let things get out of your control. Since the world of a co-dependent person critically relies on loyalty, you need a firm line between those who have permission to access your life and those who don’t. Quality time is the key…and lots of it. If people have reasons to be elsewhere they won’t be with you.

3) Tell this small group things you’ve never told anyone before. Trust is the only way to manipulate grow the relationships around you. Make sure people outside the group know that you do this. Tell as many stories as possible about memories you made with the small group. The jealousy will help your group feel better about how exclusive tight knit you guys all are.

4) Be proactive. Always explain the disturbing amount of quality time you spend with these people as something healthy and be sure to use “community” as an excuse explanation for your behavior. People are going to think it’s odd so be ready to explain the joys of this co-dependency intimacy.

5) Deny deny deny. You’re always going to have dissenters. They’re probably right just jealous. Remember: YOU HAVE IT UNDER CONTROL. It feels so good to be accepted and included that it can’t possibly dysfunctional. People will try and give you feedback: DISREGARD it. They don’t understand and never will.

6) Operate with a worldview that believes God needs help. In Genesis God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. Use that reference to justify that you need more than just God’s love, acceptance and intimacy.

Codependency is like going through a maze and ending up at a dead end. You’re still in the maze and still moving but you’ll end up camping out at that dead end thinking you’ve finished the maze.

How to be a control freak

Continuing our cynical diatribe, if the “victim” mentality doesn’t work for you, you can always consider the alternative: being a control freak. Sometimes the victim thing doesn’t work because it actually stresses you out to feel so powerless (even if it does absolve you of having to work or make decisions). Being a control freak has the wonderful ability to fabricate a sense of significance and self-worth. Especially if you’ve been devalued, rejected or ignored in your past, being a control freak can help expose meet those deep, personal, vulnerable needs…at least enough to survive.

So here are your tips and tricks to being a successful C.F.:

1) Be afraid…like really afraid. All control is just a front for deep rooted anxiety. If you’re going to get the reigns of the relationships around you and orchestrate your environments to suit your own sense of safety and preference, you gotta start by stirring up some serious issues. It helps if you can project some of your past hurts and pains (rejection, being overlooked, abuse even) onto people around you. No one’s coming to make sure you don’t get hurt again so make your world work for you.

2) Always formulate and fight for your opinions convictions. You’re going to have to do some work, but always make sure you see the flaws in everyone and every scenario you encounter. Remember: no one’s ideas are ever as good as your own. Even if it’s genuinely impressive, it’s not as good as it could be. The second you settle is the second you lose your power. There’s nothing more threatening to a good control freak than losing their power.

3) Assume that people are always one statement away from rejecting you. Remember: you’re in control. People are flippant and emotional and are easily impressed by… well… more impressive people than you. You’ve got to give them a reason to stay loyal to you. You’ve got to keep the attention on yourself. People like to feel needed so need people. But don’t ever let them see what you really need (unconditional love), just make sure that they see their part in your drama (real or fabricated).

4) Speaking of unconditional love… Make sure that the roots of your worldview are never truly based in understanding or living as one who values unconditional love. Love can’t be real if there’s no way to lose it. People (and God) aren’t robots who are just living out what they’re programmed to do (love you). So make sure you are always EARNING their love and trust, that way you can always stay in control. Grace is unnecessary when you’re in control.

5) Go to extremes. Either get super clingy to a few select people who can never leave your side or float often from group to group constantly winning people over, becoming the center of their social universe, then leaving when they need you too much. Normal, casual, mutually beneficial relationships won’t work for you. It’s either all or nothing.

6) Assume that God’s staying distant for a reason. It might not have even occurred to us them that God’s even noticed our plight. He didn’t seem to be around when pain happened in the past and life was too lonely, out-of-control, or painful when He had His chance to intervene, so we’re content to make it work for ourselves. It can never be God’s fault (because He’s…well… God) so don’t blame Him, but don’t count on Him either.

7) Always talk about your latest life-changing epiphanies. As long as you’re “growing,” you’ll always steer people away from confronting how intimidating, manipulative or needy you might be.

Controlling your relationships and environments will give you a complex purpose. That’s what we all want: to matter. If you can get people to notice you, listen to you, change their minds because of you, fight for you and never cross you, you should find the safety you crave…just remember that it will need to be monitored and maintained 24/7.