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Finding Tiny

Since I was young, I was drawn to the idea of small living spaces. Forts, tents, campers, and cabins engrossed my internet searches. Though, I never thought to live in one permanently… until now.

Fast-forward to 2012. I started dating a girl that confesses to me that she’s never wanted the ‘white picket fence’ house. To her it represents chains to lock her in one location. Being buried alive. She also doesn’t want to get sucked into the ‘rent trap.’ Spending money she’d never see again on a place somebody else owns.

I married her.

While we were engaged I flew back to my parents’ place to go deer hunting with my family. In a bitter-sweet turn of events I got a sinus infection opening weekend. I was stuck on the couch in my parents place for four days.

Bored out of my mind scrolling through Facebook I had a friend post a trailer for TINY; the documentary about a couple that builds a tiny house (it’s on Netflix). I couldn’t find a way to watch the movie, but I did find a list of links on their website to other tiny house resources… I was hooked.

I called my fiance’, ordered tickets to a building conference, and downloaded all the free plans I could find.

Over the course of the next couple months I downloaded google SketchUp and started drawing out my own plans. She started scouring Pinterest for design ideas. We put together a budget and savings plan to begin work after our wedding the summer of 2014.

At the building conference we met tons of tiny enthusiasts, people interested in building, and a few that had already started. We were offered a DEEP discount on a trailer and plans so we switched and stretched our bank accounts around and saddled up.

Coincidentally, sitting down and actually paying for the trailer was a lot like getting engaged (and married!). I wasn’t nervous at all. In fact, I was confident; driven and focused. That is, until the moment arrives. Ask her the question, walk down the aisle, sign the dotted line…

I wish I could communicate the conversations and research it took to get where we are now in less than 500 words. It honestly, took four months of convincing, seemingly infinite hours of Pinterest, and the conference for my wife to agree that we should start now.

But here we are, over a year after I drew a chalk floor plan in my parents’ driveway, made my mom stand in it, and climbed the roof to take pictures. We currently have a subfloor and two walls up.

Don’t get me wrong; this has been stressful and defeating. People are not always kind or supportive. There will be setbacks. You will question your ability and possibly your sanity. But it is fun. It’s rewarding. It’s exhilarating. It’s worth it.

“What is the most resilient parasite? A bacteria? A virus? An intenstinal worm?” asks Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception, “An idea. Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate.”

If you’ve found yourself even mildly interested in tiny houses or tiny living, strap in and go for a ride. You won’t regret it.

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The Magic Bullet (Part 2)

Part one of this story can be found here.

…By the time I realized I had been blacklisted school had already started. I submitted an application to every district in the Houston area, but I couldn’t get an interview. Even with hundreds of vacancies around.

I couldn’t even get a part-time gig at restaurants or grocery stores.

Luckily I had saved most of my money from my semester of substituting and working at my Dad’s shop, but even that was gone by the end of September.

An unknown person paid three months of rent for me. The generosity of my parents and future inlaws kept food in my cupboard until my first paycheck.

While I was going through the process of filling out substitute paper work I received a phone call asking if I wanted a job teaching social studies… of course I did.

I interviewed with H.R. the next morning, the principal the day after, and by Monday the following week I was in a classroom.

I was driving an hour plus to work every day. I had to move closer to work, but it doubled my rent. I was teaching Texas history; outside of the Alamo and San Jacinto I knew nothing. Not to mention my classroom management hadn’t improved at ALL since my student teaching days. Though, I was employed and didn’t have move back in with my parents.

My girlfriend was happy. Probably because right before I got my job she showed up at my apartment and found me watching the Lord of the Rings in the dark with beer bottles covering every open table space in the apartment. It was a low point for me.

She graduated that December and the only full-time job she could get was on my side of town. We decided to move in together even though neither of our families were exactly excited about it. Financially, it was the only thing that made sense.

We both made it through the year and got engaged on her birthday over the summer.

My second year of teaching was INFINITELY better than the first, though still not perfect. My now fiance talked me into getting a puppy. We planned our dream wedding in Hawaii.

At the same time we got a puppy I stumbled upon tiny houses. It took six months of convincing (or maybe 30 minutes on pinterest) for her to approve the project.

This past summer we got married in Hawaii and bought a trailer to start building our future home.

We currently spend every weekday and some weekends (summers included) pouring ourselves out for our students and trying to become better teachers. We try to limit our spending on non-essentials so we have more to give away and use for traveling and visiting family. We are consolidating our possessions to fit in a 144 square foot home. We put household responsibilities on hold to spend more time with friends and family. We try to shop and eat ethically and responsibly. We are doing everything we can to be better people, to be happier people, and to give something back to the world that has given us so much.

The problem is that we aren’t always successful. We waste money. We waste time. We waste energy. We aren’t as good as we want to be. We’re selfish. We’re lazy. We can’t do it all, but we’re growing. We’re trying.

There is no magic bullet for what we are trying to do. My job brings stress and satisfaction. My salary brings safety and concern. My wife and dog bring joy and worry. My hobbies bring relief and conviction. Religion brings me guilt and peace.

Too much focus on any one area will lead to negative effects in others. Not enough focus on one area will lead to dissatisfaction in life. This is our story. This is my story. This is life in it’s most raw form. A beautiful struggle.

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The Magic Bullet (Part 1)

I’ve been a teacher for almost three years. In that short amount of time I’ve been to enough conferences to know that in education there is no “magic bullet.” There is no one thing that will make you the best teacher. You must work to improve yourself in a multitude of ways.

Life is similar.

There is no one thing that will make you a better person. There is no one thing that will make you happier. There is no one thing that will give your life meaning or improve it.

Job, money, family, hobbies, and religion all come up short on their own. To be happy and successful our lives need balance. In a world of limited time and resources this can be especially tough as people move through major life changes.

Over the last three years my life has changed more than it did in the first twenty-three combined. During the last three years I hit rock bottom and I’ve had some of my greatest triumphs. All the while I’ve been learning and growing.

Three years ago I moved from Hudson, WI to Houston, TX for student teaching.

It was the most physically and mentally demanding time in my life. There were moments I didn’t know if I would make it through. Every day was a battle to go back and do it again, but as they say, ‘If you can make it in Aldine you can make it anywhere.’

I kept working and I passed by the skin of my teeth.

It wasn’t pretty, but I made it through and was asked back as a long term substitute for the spring semester; so I packed up my ’96 corolla with everything I owned and moved into the spare bedroom of my cooperating teacher.

My classroom management was pathetic and my organization and planning was worse. Luckily, I had the support of some fantastic people and teachers that kept me going and continued to look out for me.

Then I made a mistake.

I allowed a student into my classroom that wasn’t on my roster. The student had a medical condition that I was unaware of that made it life threatening to be in my alternative P.E. class.

I was threatened with a lawsuit from the parents and fired a day later.

I decided to use the remaining month of the school year to work on my resume’ and get a jump on the next year’s job.

During the following summer I went back to Wisconsin to work at my Dad’s store and save up some money one last time. When I left Texas I had just started dating the daughter of one of my coworkers at the school.

She came to Wisconsin to visit that summer and I was offered a job at a brand new high school with state of the art facilities. Unfortunately, my teaching license hadn’t been approved by Texas Education Agency yet.

I moved back to Texas at the end of the summer with my Texas license in hand, only the job I had been offered was no longer on the table. I had a few more interviews, but never heard anything back. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had been blacklisted. One thousand miles from home without a job…

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A Lukewarm Writer

The title “lukewarm” comes from the Biblical passage in Revelation in which God prophesies to the Laodiceans that because they are neither hot nor cold they will be spit out of God’s mouth.

This imagery was a personal message for the Church in Laodicea because of their great aqueducts. In the time period it was common for one aqueduct to provide a city with hot water, while another would provide cool. The city of Laodicea, however, had an aqueduct that stretched for five miles; which, by the time the water reached the city it was neither hot nor cold… it was good for nothing.

With only one new post in the last 11 months, the lukewarm blog has been anything but hot.

I am confidently ok with that. I’ve spent a lot of time since 2011 blogging mostly spiritual and political commentary, sorting through ideas, and working to make sense of life.

In the last 11 months my life has changed by leaps and bounds. Effort and energy that was once driven into stoking a fire of thought and reason has been diverted into those thoughts lived in practice; sometimes successfully and other times not so much.

The fact that this blog ran cold was due to the heat being produced elsewhere.

Now I am writing again to chronicle and share my experiences. I consider it a practice in living a life of utility both internally and externally. I do it to challenge myself to be better than I was the day before and to maintain my sanity, but you’re more than welcome to join me.

As always, with much love,
A lukewarmdisciple

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Christ cannot be removed from Christmas…

This “movement” (if you can even call it that) is absolutely ridiculous.

First of all, Christians, you cannot take ‘Christ’ out of ‘Christmas.’ The word cannot be spelled without it. If you were to take ‘Christ’ out of ‘Christmas’ you would be left with mas. Coincidentally, mas means more in Spanish; which is exactly the amount of money we spend on ourselves, our friends, and our families rather than on the poor in the streets (something Christ advocated for).

I believe Jesus exact words were, “When you host a feast do not invite your friends or family or even your rich neighbors because they might invite you back and you will be repaid. Instead invite the poor, the homeless, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed.”

If you really want to keep Christ in Christmas, maybe you should do what he said and stop buying presents for your friends and families and wondering why the checkout counter at Target can’t just say “Merry Christmas.”

Also, if you are upset because December is a STRICTLY Christian season used for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ… think again. Scholars and historians agree that Jesus ACTUAL birth took place in our current spring time. The reason we celebrate his birth in December is because Constantine moved the date when he instituted Christianity as the national religion in order to cover up the holidays of other religions (even Christian groups agree on this point).

What is disgusting about this is that it is an instance of Christianity being married to government and society; something that Jesus was also an opponent of (albeit somewhat more subtly). This is the man who entered Jerusalem as a “King” riding an ass rather than a war horse. He let himself be crucified as a rebel leader and refused to acknowledge the power of both Herod and Pilot.

Christianity is a culturally subversive religion and thrives best when it is persecuted.

“Keep(ing) Christ in Christmas” is a poor attempt to create the image of persecution. Christians are NOT persecuted in the United States. For goodness sake, 76% of the country is a self described Christian.

The reason we say “Happy Holidays” is not to persecute Christians, but to build up, to acknowledge, and to respect other faiths. The hypocrisy of “Keep Christ in Christmas” is that we manufacture persecution of ourselves in order to ACTUALLY persecute other religions as well as non-religious folks.

We as Christians are acting as the opposite of Christ.

I will conclude with the statement that if we have the mindset that we need to “Keep Christ in Christmas” then we ourselves are taking him out. When we generate our own perceived slights and fight against it, we are ego-stroking. Celebrating Jesus is about humility and sacrifice on the behalf of others who cannot repay us.

If we wish to truly make Jesus the “reason for the season,” then we need to worry about our actions rather than someone else’s words.

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Guns are not the problem…

… but neither are they the solution.

What happened today in Connecticut is a tragedy. It is outrageous to believe that someone would go into an elementary school, of all places, and go through with massacring 27 people including 20 children.

While I agree with gun enthusiasts in saying that the gun was not the problem, I also agree with gun control advocates who argue that if guns were more restricted this would not have happened.

Either way, we cannot change it now. We can only look toward the future and decide what form of action we are going to take.

I think that the Obama administration’s comment about not being the time to discuss things is cowardly. If a bus had crashed and 20 school children were left dead we would want to know why. We would want to solve the problem, whatever that solution might be.

However, with how polarizing the second amendment debate is, no politician would touch that subject with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole (yes, that’s a Grinch reference, Merry Christmas).

This is where the American public, “We the people,” must voice our displeasure. Whether the preventative measure is to be taken against attitudes that cause people to go on such rampages or against the objects they use to release their emotions I am all for it; because I will not be satisfied with the preventable deaths of 27 people.

If Jesus was dissatisfied with the chopping off of one enemy’s ear, how much more outraged should I be at 27 lives being taken!

Guns are not the problem, but they certainly are not the solution.

Firearms are an offensive weapon meant for attacking. There is nothing defensive about them. A gun cannot shield you or repel an enemy’s advance. Any shadow of defense they possess is in their use for intimidation of injuring and killing an attacker. They have no power for healing or protecting in and of themselves.

Until we can further diagnose the internal problems that cause humans to use firearms in ways that they were used in Newtown, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary School today; I will be in support of more strict gun regulations.

My reasoning is something I try and communicate to my seventh graders all the time; that is, “We are in control of only our own actions. We cannot control someone else’s actions.”

Because I cannot control what other people will do with firearms, I will sacrifice my right to posses one in order to prevent further tragedies like this one.

If you disagree with me and would stand idly by while 27 people are brutally murdered by a man wielding two handguns today, then you must be willing to live with your choice for personal freedom over the lives of others.

The Bible talks of swords being beaten into plowshares. I dream of a day in which guns, bombs, and other weapons will be beaten into ships that will bring food to the hungry and drills that will unleash water for the thirsty. Our knives will become scalpels to repair the broken, axes and saw blades to harvest wood to build homes for the homeless, and syringes to cure the sick.

Guns are not necessary for our survival. When did our privilege to own one become more important than someone else’s inalienable right to life?

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Corporate Sin: Responding

Yesterday I wrote that there is no such thing as individual sin; that ALL sin is corporate in some sense.

Today I want to touch on how we respond to that.

First of all, I want to mention that how a majority of people currently address sin is in pointing it out in other people’s lives. One mantra is, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”

While it may be a theologically sound statement, we practice it all wrong. Christians use it as an excuse to say that they love someone, but refuse to show that love in an outward expression (through compassion). It also encourages us to look for the things NOT to love about other people rather than looking for things we SHOULD love about them. Let me say that this response of ours is wrong!

That cliched quip has also been spun into, “Love the sinner, hate your OWN sin.”

Personally I find this much more in line with the character of God.

While I cannot in good faith ask you to turn a blind eye to someone else’s sin, what I WILL remind you of is that you are not in control of someone else or their behavior. You ARE in control of yourself. If each person were to focus on making themselves better, then we would communally achieve our goals; like Nehemiah rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem (everyone did their part).

Thinking about the body metaphor from 1 Corinthians again…

If a hand is too concerned with where the feet should walk, then it will be too distracted to hand the glass of water to the thirsty person. And if the ear is too concerned with where the eye should be looking, it will miss the calls for help from the needy and oppressed.

When we become distracted by what other people are doing (or aren’t doing), then we become distracted from our OWN purposes and callings.

It’s Satan’s oldest trick to pit us against each other. Remember that Cain was so jealous of Abel’s offering he neglected to give a worthy offering himself. It goes both ways.

If I’m too worried that your offering isn’t good enough, then I neglect my own offering in some way.

The Church body all holds the same calling, to bring Heaven to earth, but we have all been given different functions in how to achieve this.

So maybe my foot stumbles, my hand works to catch the falling body; not to scold the foot. And maybe my eyes look on something unholy, my ears strain to hear the voice of God calling them back.

We do not convict each other through verbal abuse, but through practicing our function correctly because, “The best critique of something that is wrong is the practice of something better.”

Our response should never be to remove, expose, or humiliate weakness in our brothers and sisters, but to shield them and strengthen the body with the abilities given to us. This protects and makes room for the Spirit to work at strengthening the weaker members.

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