I Can Hear Your Voice

This is a song by Michael W Smith, from his ‘Worship Again’ album.  It’s been “stuck” in my head since early Sunday morning.

I Can Hear Your Voice

I’m in the river that flows from your throne
Water of Life
Water of Life
It Covers me and I breath again
Your love is breath to my soul

I can hear Your voice as You sing over me
It’s Your song of Hope breathing life into me
I can feel Your touch as I come close to You
And it heals my heart
You restore and renew

Not alright

It happened, the mask is crumbling, my charade is over; no one was buying it. I can no longer hide behind my intellectual verses, my personality, my responsibilities.  I’ve hinted to this many times in terms too vague for people to pick up on, but now it must be told.

Since June, and perhaps even further back, I’ve struggled with a shadow of depression.  I know it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, given all the things I’ve told you and the things I’ve done, but I often struggle to just get out of bed in the morning.  There are things that I used to enjoy that either don’t capture my interest anymore or I don’t ever do them anymore. I am prisoner to a demanding schedule I’ve created for myself in order to reach for a goal I’m not sure I have anymore. The life is being sucked out of me by things I thought I needed to do in order to be equipped to do what I thought I wanted to do.

The one thing I know I still enjoy is playing football, not coaching football necessarily, but playing it. The last time I did that was at a Cook family shindig this spring and before that it had been probably two and a half years. Again, because of the demands of school and work, I just haven’t had time to do that. I have a break from all that this weekend, but I can’t play football by myself like I play boardgames. Convincing siblings and relatives that they want to play is a task that is impossible for me; none share my enthusiasm for this sport.

In all of this, I struggle knowing that God has an abundant life in store for me and trusting that He provides that for me. It’s not that my faith has been shaken, but the feelings of insignificance, misdirection, and depression are hard to escape. They are the burden I ask that someone help me bear. They are the past I listen to all too often.  Despite the fronts I assault your perceptions with, I am just a boy, broken and isolated in my battle. I’m not alright; I’m broken inside.


As you will probably discover (if you haven’t already), I use uncommon words, metaphors, and word pairs that aren’t usually put together in order to create a distinct meaning, and then spend the next several sentences explaining how I arrived at those specific word groupings or defending my metaphor. It should be no surprise that I’m going to try that again here.

I wish that I had social stamina, the word grouping of the hour :) And here’s the anticipated expanation.  These two words have been used in various contexts, apart from the other, to mean many things.  “Social” almost always has to do with people or groups of people interacting on various levels and media. Direct verbal communication is the most commonly used medium for social interaction. But my curious word grouping wasn’t “social interaction”, was it?

Stamina refers to strength of physical constitution; power to endure disease, fatigue, privation, etc. (From www.dictionary.com)  It could be used instead of endurance, staying power, even will power.  Most people know of my endurance in running (I could run all day long) and my staying power in biking (I can bike for days), but honestly, the longer I run the more that endurance is about will power.

For example, early this summer, I went on a 9 mile run.  It was the longest run I had ever attempted up to that point.  It was a Tuesday, and people were watching “A Knight’s Tale” at the house.  We’d started it fairly late because supper didn’t get over until later.  I had decided the morning before that I was going to go on this 9 mile run.  Instead of ripping myself away from the movie and my friends to undertake this test of my physical endurance, I could have very easily just stayed where I was and tried it another night.  Granted, I wouldn’t have been ready for the 13+ mile run I attempted later that week, but I could’ve done nothing.  partly out of my integrity and partly by will power, I strapped in and set off.

In light of these observations for clarity, I want to again draw your attention to my peculiar word pair (Social Stamina). I think, by now, you understand what this means but let me expand it a little.  Almost a year and a half ago, I found myself quite isolated in a circle of friends I’d created for myself.  Things went on where I didn’t say more than the barest of bare minimum to anyone and spent weeks on end saying nothing at all.  While some of you might think that to be rather fun, take my word for it as a longtime introvert, it wasn’t healthy or safe.  It leaves time for the mind, or at least mine which is found to be active at all times to the chagrin of its possessor sometimes, to go places it really shouldn’t and I mean that in the most upright way possible.  An alternative world is all too easy to believe in instead of the real one, if one’s not involved in the real one.

At the beginning of this year, 2008, (actually much before that but then I was too comfortable in my chains to allow for this sort of growth) I was really challenged to get out and expand my social network as it were.  I have many friends that I’ve only met this year and longtime friendships only recently actually cultivated, but I still struggle at times engaging in this thing we call verbal communication.  It gets easier when the people talking actually have something to say, but often times I’m around people so long, they run out of things to say.  The absolute hardest thing for me to do is listen to people making noise for the sake of hearing themselves or just making noise.  This is when my social stamina, which has grown considerably this year, runs out and I find myself simply exhausted, physically and mentally.

To a certain degree, this happened after this weekend’s festivities.  My birthday on Friday started what I felt to be a four day celebration and a fifth day that is always hard for me to live through.  Not necessarily because I was the center of attention, but because I often made an effort in trying to develop this social stamina to at least command someone’s attention, (really anyone’s attention), I felt like I was involved in a lot of stuff Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and to a lesser degree Monday.   

I was certainly running on fumes by Sunday evening and had to go walking to force myself away from things. (Perhaps you have my answer, Rebekah, to whether or not you were right in guessing which one of my random facts was false?!)  By Monday, I was trying to turn my attention to the week of school, (here’s one of those plays on words that I should now be famous for saying: After my crazy Tuesday, I go into autopilot before I trip into fall break), though I still had a final celebration to make an appearance at before my evening bible study.  Then came Tuesday. :P Already exhausted in virtually every way one can be exhausted, I had a day in which I had to spend 12 hours on campus doing things I don’t particularly enjoy doing at a point in my life where my mind goes all over the place when it hasn’t a definite task to perform.  I really hate being tied to a specific place without the ability to write down my thoughts.  Too often, exhaustion that I know I should feel is in conflict with my thoughts that keep coming regardless of my physical condition or even my ability to order them sufficiently or will power to keep them in check.  I end with this observation of an obversation: Apparently, I wear my mind on my sleeve, but few actually tell me they can read it.

JA Menter

Isaiah 40

1 “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”
      Says your God.
       2 “ Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
      That her warfare is ended,
      That her iniquity is pardoned;
      For she has received from the LORD’s hand
      Double for all her sins.”
       3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

      “ Prepare the way of the LORD;
      Make straight in the desert
      A highway for our God.
       4 Every valley shall be exalted
      And every mountain and hill brought low;
      The crooked places shall be made straight
      And the rough places smooth;
       5 The glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
      And all flesh shall see it together;
      For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
       6 The voice said, “Cry out!”
      And he said, “What shall I cry?”

      “ All flesh is grass,
      And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
       7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
      Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
      Surely the people are grass.
       8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
      But the word of our God stands forever.”
       9 O Zion,
      You who bring good tidings,
      Get up into the high mountain;
      O Jerusalem,
      You who bring good tidings,
      Lift up your voice with strength,
      Lift it up, be not afraid;
      Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
       10 Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand,
      And His arm shall rule for Him;
      Behold, His reward is with Him,
      And His work before Him.
       11 He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
      He will gather the lambs with His arm,
      And carry them in His bosom,
      And gently lead those who are with young.
       12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
      Measured heaven with a span
      And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure?
      Weighed the mountains in scales
      And the hills in a balance?
       13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
      Or as His counselor has taught Him?
       14 With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him,
      And taught Him in the path of justice?
      Who taught Him knowledge,
      And showed Him the way of understanding?
       15 Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
      And are counted as the small dust on the scales;
      Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
       16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn,
      Nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering.
       17 All nations before Him are as nothing,
      And they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.
       18 To whom then will you liken God?
      Or what likeness will you compare to Him?
       19 The workman molds an image,
      The goldsmith overspreads it with gold,
      And the silversmith casts silver chains.
       20 Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution
      Chooses a tree that will not rot;
      He seeks for himself a skillful workman
      To prepare a carved image that will not totter.
       21 Have you not known?
      Have you not heard?
      Has it not been told you from the beginning?
      Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
       22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
      And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
      Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
      And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
       23 He brings the princes to nothing;
      He makes the judges of the earth useless.
       24 Scarcely shall they be planted,
      Scarcely shall they be sown,
      Scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth,
      When He will also blow on them,
      And they will wither,
      And the whirlwind will take them away like stubble.
       25 “ To whom then will you liken Me,
      Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One.
       26 Lift up your eyes on high,
      And see who has created these things,
      Who brings out their host by number;
      He calls them all by name,
      By the greatness of His might
      And the strength of His power;
      Not one is missing.
       27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
      And speak, O Israel:

      “ My way is hidden from the LORD,
      And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
       28 Have you not known?
      Have you not heard?
      The everlasting God, the LORD,
      The Creator of the ends of the earth,
      Neither faints nor is weary.
      His understanding is unsearchable.
       29 He gives power to the weak,
      And to those who have no might He increases strength.
       30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
      And the young men shall utterly fall,
       31 But those who wait on the LORD
      Shall renew their strength;
      They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
      They shall run and not be weary,
      They shall walk and not faint.


Apparently, I’m supposed to come up with 6 things that my readership might not know about me. This is hard since my readership knows me pretty well, but I’ll give it a shot. Some of these things will be false and to add a twist, you guys can guess which one is not true.

1.  I have gone on a long run at 2am

2.  I walked to the library this evening. (8:30pm Oct 12)

3.  I ran home in my street clothes with sandals carrying my cell phone in 16 minutes and change (2.5 miles)

4. I bike on average 65.25 miles every week.

5. This year is the first year since the Fellowship of the Ring premiered that I haven’t read all of Tolkien’s works annually.

6. I have read over 200 books on history.

JA Menter

“Writing with a broken pencil is pointless.”

Too Vague?

Several days ago, I had a dream that disturbed me greatly.  Even now, I can see the images vividly when I close my eyes.  Two figures, faceless and unidentifyable, huddle over an overturned barrel, wooden clubs in hand.  Like a camera angle in a movie, my point of view is up close on the dying grass where the huge barrel had been.  Coiled tightly in my entire vision is at least ten snakes, viporous and deadly.  The end of the baseball bat like clubs enter the frame, wheeling quickly.  I hear a grunt and thud as the blow lands and snakes fly into the air, their head crushed flat.  Another and another churn the ground like butter and send snakes and parts of snakes airborne.  One escapes the onslaught and slithers into the surrounding grass.  Club blows aimed wildly bruise the fescue until one finds its mark.  The loud cracking of vertebrae and lumber fills my ears and jars me awake.  I turn to my alarm clock which reads 4:47 in large lime green digits.  With a sigh, I realize that three hours earlier I’d tossed and turned with pre-test anxiety and knew that sleep time was effectively over.

As I lay there, I was reminded of a summer ten years ago when my cousin lived in Lincoln and we’d go catch minnows and tadpoles in the drainage ditch by my house.  One day, we found a snake lying dead on the ditch floor, rock gouges crushed into its body.  We found probably two more snakes that day, alive, and spent quite a while trying to catch them and bring them home.

Fast forward (or Rewind) to the last week of August.  At twilight, I went walking as I normally do. A snake slithered off the sidewalk in front of me. My mind went back to the events of the previous paragraph and I continued walking, without thinking too much of it.

Then two Tuesdays ago, I went on a walk after spenting all day on campus.  I had seen dead squirrels and grasshoppers almost every day for the past month, and had actually run over a squirrel on my bike perhaps two weeks before. I was watching the lightning but almost stepped on a dead snake. (see a trend here?) I watched the bugs crawl away from the carcass and went back to viewing the horizon. I like watching lightning and did so in the same spot for perhaps ten minutes. The very next day, I saw another dead snake along the bikepath on my way to campus. This pattern unnerved me and I was left wondering if there was a particular message in this.

JA Menter

So it begins!

*LotR: TT playing in background* “So it is before the hall of UNL the doom of my time will be decided!”

yep that’s right, I will spend and have spent almost every waking hour studying for the four tests and two papers I have to write this week. All this is in addition to the other obligations I have this week. Needless to say, I have only to survive Tuesday before I can perhaps finally have enough light to see the end of whatever this is that I’m in. But, for the sake of narative, let me chronicle what I must do this week.
First, the week starts on Sunday. Not a whole lot there, just church, which I get to do, and work in the servery for 4 hours. It wasn’t so bad, but I was quite bored out of my mind. The folks were doing stuff when I got home, so I joined them, having studied as much as I could for the test I had today.
Day 2, Monday: Go to my world history class, taking notes and trying to ignore the sound of the professor’s voice, which sounds like a bellow because she yells at an auditorium full of students instead of using a microphone. Next, I hang out in front of a student owned and operated coffee shop in the CBA building, reading my Bible and preparing for the Navigator bible study I lead. A quick glance at my notes from the past five weeks of Jewish History and I start my first test. I took 53 out of 50 minutes to complete my exam and I feel okay about it. It’s not going to get an A, I don’t think, because the time limit didn’t allow me to expound upon my points very well, but since I don’t know by what standard they will be graded, an essay that I think is only average for me may meet my professor’s expectations. Next, I biked home and ate before getting started on my coaching paper due tomorrow, reviewing my bible study preparation, and studying for one of my tests tomorrow. Lastly, of course, I bike back to campus to lead the Nav study.
Day 3, Tuesday: A date which will probably live in infamy, September 30th is when Ironman comes out on DVD. But I won’t be watching any movies Tuesday. My early class, food science, has an 85 question test planned (fun!?) then my coaching class has that paper I’ve been working on due. I possibly can take a break for lunch (or study) before my geography test at 2:00. I work as a floater ’til nine and will be much too exhausted and suffering from scrambled (or fried) brain.
Day 4, Wednesday: Nothing as yet is due wednesday, except that again I have another test on Friday whose studying has been put on hold because of everything else this week, and I have that other paper I need to read the material for still. The evening means Royal Rangers registration, which will be fun (In all seriousness), but perhaps will also tire me out.
Day 5, Thursday: normal class load except for the 2nd paper due and studying for world history test on friday. There is a chance some coaching asignment will try to sneak its way in there, as they seem to have the habit of doing. In the evening, worship practice happens, at which time would be a much needed renewal of strength.
Day 6, Friday: Essay test in world history which I’ve hopefully had a productive time studying for by then. Once I turn that blue book in to my TA, I could care less about what happens, because the guantlet of tests and assignments will be over. Halalujah! Jewish history lecture will be a nice change forom the tense moments of test taking, and I might enjoy it more than usual (if that’s even possible).
I would put in a word about God showing me something through this (which he has) and make this post just like my previous four, but I would only be repeating what I’ve already told most of you. The bottom line is I’m busy busy busy, but if I do find time I can take out to hang out with folks, I trust it will be refreshing and worth it for all.

JA Menter
Now back to studying! :p

Growing Pains

In less than three weeks, I will be twenty-two, but I feel old.  Before the older folk chime in with “No, you’re just a young thing!” let me explain. I have a reputation for being a very active youngster in his prime who goes on long runs and bikes everywhere. While this is true, I only bike because I must, and running seems to be a must as well, even though it really hurts most times.

Since I was in middle school, I’ve had pain in various areas of my body. In seventh grade, pain in my lower back and hamstrings kept me from participating in PE class, even though I thoroughly enjoy playing sports, running, etc. I had really weak ankles and twisted them almost every time I played pickup games with my siblings. These problems plagued me on into high school and when I played football at East, my ankles continued to bother me.  Over the course of lifting weights for football, my shoulders weakened and the joint is now only tentatively in its rightful place.  During track my senior year, I developed shin splints running hurdles and doing long jump, because I have a high arch and that puts added stress on my legs and knees, neither of which could really handle it.  Since I started my final growth spirt, my back has been unhappy at best.

When I coached track as a college freshman, I played soccer with Royal Rangers and injured my right big toe, the turf toe variety (Ie tearing ligaments that help your big toe balance your weight). Now, granted I’m not a weighty fellow, but because of my high arch, most of my weight and thus balance is on my big toes, so even today, I still feel a sharp sting of pain shooting up my leg when I walk, turn, or jog a certain way. For a reference on how long ago I injured it, I was 18 and a half.

Now, I’m sure you are wondering why I would chronicle all these aches and pains that I’ve experienced, and I assure you there is a point to all this (As there usually is when I blog). No, it’s not to complain or beg for sympathy or make an excuse for not helping out as often. Even in the midst of all this pain, I still was able to run no less than six miles at a time quite often this summer and continue to go on runs and bike to school. So why do I do it, if it hurts so much?

Running, I’ve found is the one way that allows me to take my mind off what’s going on in my life. This has some usefulness when I’m overwhelmed about things and stressing out, because when my mind is not on what’s going on in my life or the thoughts my introverted personality finds hard to communicate with the masses, it turns to my Creator and Lord.

Each run begins with the realization that I’m becoming overwhelmed by life, then I don the proper attire and start out. I tell God what I’m so stressed about and often find myself just praising Him for the beauty I see. If my focus weren’t on God, my legs would cause me to quit after a half mile, but instead I press on. The signals to stop are ignored as I’m completely invaded by Christ. You see, I’ve found that running helps me refocus and surrender my problems to God. Effective stress management, I believe, is not about relieving stress, but rather giving it up. Running is a time for me to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10), Note: the rest of that chapter is pretty sweet too.

So what is the thing(s) you do to take your mind off things that stress you?

JA Menter

Is there a point at which commonplace profundity becomes shallow?

Battle before breakfast

“I know a battle is a hard thing to face, especially before breakfast!”

You all have heard me say this and I wish I could claim credit for saying it first, but it actually was said by a famous, or I should say infamous, Greek general.  It was a speech he gave to his men before a battle that he later won.  Okay, enough of the charade!

I came across it last spring while playing a computer game with interactive battle sequenses.  I haven’t had time to play that game since I started my summer job right after the end of the spring semester, but the quote has stayed in my memory.

My life this summer has provided a lot of spiritual meaning to this otherwise laughable statement.  Life in Christ is both a journey and a struggle, a battle if you will.  just as breakfast starts off a day and gives strength to meet the challenges of the day, getting into the Word (spiritual food) early in the day helps prepare for the daily struggle.  In Jason’s sermon on Sunday, he discussed seeking the Lord early (Psalm 63:1; “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.”)

I have noticed the quote at the top to be true, that when I don’t get into the Word early in the morning, at breakfast time, the day doesn’t go as well and there is greater probability that I will become stressed out, discouraged, and fall out of the battle.  Many biblical figures can be used as examples of how this is true, but a prime example is Joshua.

I like Joshua, or Hoshea, not just because I share his name but for how his life has spoken to me.  A story outside the book of Joshua is in Exodus 33. Joshua, the protege of Moses, is seen lingering in the tent of meeting after Moses has met with God face to face and gone out to address the people.  I wonder what that was like and what God told him, but I would bet that it was along the lines of Joshua 1:5-9 and preparation for Joshua taking the mantle of leading the Israelites into the promised land.

Later in Joshua 5 before receiving the battle plan for conquering Jericho, Joshua is seen taking a step back and is met by the Commander of the Lord’s Armies. This can be contrasted with the defeat of the Israelites at Ai when the people didn’t consult God. This isn’t said specifically but if you read how God tells Joshua to do battle against them after the first defeat, it looks different than how the Israelites conducted the battle the first time. They tried to do battle before breakfast, if you will, and the people of Ai (try putting an -ian ending on that one :p) defeated them in battle. There are more examples in Israel’s history where the king didn’t consult God and was defeated, but though I won’t go into them, don’t just take my word for it.

“O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” Spiritual energy and vigor is tied to seeking God first (Matt 6:33 comes to mind here). The renewal that inevitably comes strengthens and contributes to the victory of the spiritual life lived out each and every day.

JA Menter

“Effective stress management is not about relieving stress but rather giving it up. ‘Be still and know that I am God!’ Psalm 46:10″

Stadium Ruckus

Last Saturday, I went to the Nebraska-New Mexico State football game. I biked on to campus about four hours early to run some errands and pick up my ticket, which I bought from my cousin for $21.  I watched the end of the California-Maryland game and most of the Virginia Tech game, more as a scouting venture than anything else. Six o’clock finally rolled around and I made my way to the student section of Memorial Stadium.

I had been to the spring game the past three year, since students can enter for free with their Ncard, but this clash of football programs was nothing like the shows the Spring games always are. The Huskers came out onto the field after their tradition-rich tunnel walk, which put chills down my spine, and the game started. The entire student section stood for the whole game and made noise during every defensive series.  The only time we sat down was during halftime and any timeouts that were called. I stood and shouted along with the rest of them and pretty much lost my already embattled voice midway through the second quarter.

At halftime, I tried to hail the Valentino’s pizza vendor so I could have a little supper before the rest of the game, but I couldn’t get any words to come out.  In the third quarter, I looked on screaming loudly as a defense grew up and stopped a potent offense that was camped in the red zone for way too long (bad calls, penalties etc).  The crowd, myself included, cheered louder than we’d ever cheered before during that goalline stand and the defense fed off of it, to be sure. 

The whole rest of the game, I stood and yelled, getting excited about what was happening on the field below me. I participated in a wave during one of the timeouts that traveled around the stadium five times and was only stopped by the resumption of play. We made noise down to the last play with two seconds left when the game was already well in hand because we supported our team.

As I was biking home from campus on Monday night, I thought more about what I had done and was challenged by it.  I made noise and was willing to risk losing my voice (something I would need in order to sing the next day) for a football game that really means little in the grand scheme of things, yet when I go out to walk and worship the Creator of all things, the One to whom all praise is due, I’m not bold enough to let people I meet along the way hear what I’m singing. Has the individuality and personal-ness of my relationship with God become an excuse to shrink back and only live my Christian life in a closet? As much as it is personal and between God and I, the world needs to see a God who is real and people bold enough to show Him to them.

JA Menter

“I know a battle is a hard thing to face, especially before breakfast!”