Tuesday, May 30, 2006

dirty adventures in fear (or large man under a car)

tonight i tried to do something i am not good at but for some reason i feel like i am supposed to be. i tried to fix my car.

now, my dad raised me to be comfortable under a motor vehicle and my brother and i spent many a day on the wet ground watching my dad fix something or other under one of our family cars. we had the buick station wagon, the gmc jimmy (which was my first car and even the mention of it brings back fond memories of reckless driving and spinning donuts on the beach), and my personal favorite, the 12 passenger ford econoline van. we spent the most time under the van, which always seem to run fine when you drove it, but somehow my dad was able to communicate with the van in a secret language that only he knew and would announce on flawless saturday mornings that my brother and i were going to help him drop the fuel tank...again. we would groan, he would threaten, and eventually we would all end up on our backs staring up at the vast complexity that is the underside of an automobile.

my dad is a good mechanic and my younger brother nick has inherited this gift. while i am not completely inept (i can work wonders on the printers at the office), i generally take my cars to get then worked on because i always end up calling my dad or my brother to come help me.

now, working under a van is not very cramped. it is like one of those 8 room tents you can buy at costco: even i can stand up underneath them. working under a van (i'm talking about a real van, the kind homeschoolers and polygamists drive, not one of those sissy minivans) is almost comfortable, especially if you are my dad. the men in my family are large, so we need a good amount of space to work with, preferrably cars with "you must be this tall to ride this ride" signs next to them on the car lot. i broke this rule when i got married and tonight the wisdom of my father once again shone bright.

well, i should back up a minute. i wasn't actually trying to work on a car i purchased, i was trying to work on a car i inherited when i got married. this particular gem is a 1997 dodge intrepid, white in color, and forever immortalized in the words of my grandmother as "a sporty car." well, about 2 weeks ago this sporty car decided not to start one day and had intermittently not started ever since. in that time i have casually asked friends to come check out my car problem and the consensus has been that i needed a new fuel filter. no problem, i say with a casual smile, while underneath my suave demeanor a sweat of van-like proportions begins to form on my inner forehead. a new fuel filter.

since i have gotten married i have felt more compelled to act manlike and take ownership of my lawn, my cars, and my trash cans. so far the jury is still out, but i think i am doing ok. so when this challenge arose, i decided that i would give it a decent go. today i picked up a fuel filter after work and then picked up a special tool for replacing fuel filters from my friend and former roomate dave. i got home, put on my man clothes and went out to prove my manhood below the intrepid.

as i was preparing to jack the car up with the tire jack, i wondered if my neighbor across the street was watching me. this neighbor seems to be the type of guy who could assemble an engine in about 15 minutes and casually uses words like "differential" and "axle." before i even began i was already worried about what the other guys were thinking about me. this tranlates in my life to many things: when i swing a bat, talk about my job, or mention my house projects. this insecurity leads me to think that if only i could swing a hammer better i would be that much more of a man. i counter with the argument (that i am having with myself) that i am providing for my family, making wise financial decisions and succeeding at my job. but tonight those arguments fade as i approach my crippled car, fuel filter in hand.

i successfully jack up the car to accomodate my body and immediately the memories of working with my dad spring to mind. while i never was that happy about working under the car, i don't remember feeling fear. as i pressed my face to the gravel of driveway and slid my bod underneath the frame of the car, a horrible thought possesses my brain: what will i do if the jack fails? the answer is "nothing." i would be able to do nothing but have my face crushed by this car that so ominously rests above me. and all of sudden i get dizzy and the pit of my stomach is seized with an urge to vomit the dinner i have not yet eaten.

i hastily squirmed my way out from under this hulking murder machine and gathered myself quickly. no big deal, be a man. and really, i wanted to do this. i wanted to walk inside the house and tell my wife that i was all done and the car was fine. i wanted to succeed and tell this story to my grandchildren one day and see their eyes light up. i became uncharacteristically stubborn and shoved my way back under the car and began my task. i was immediately dizzy and the sweat began to pour from every place on me while i clenched my teeth and fought with the foreign terrain.

in the end, i didn't fix it. i gave up when i tugged on the same hose for ten minutes and nothing happened. but when i came out from that cave of metal and dust, it wasn't because i was afraid or because i was stupid. it's because i made a decision to ask for help doing something that will probably baffle me until there are no more cars.

so tomorrow night my father will come to my house, we will jack up the car together and he will get the job done. he's no pro, so there will be grunting and an occasional outburst of angry language, but in the end he'll show me how it's done. and i'll sit on the ground and wonder why i never got this gift, this ability to make cars work the right way. i'm not sad or angry about it, just curious.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

monsters in the parking lot

about 5 or 6 years ago i started hearing about an evil scourge on the horizon, something that threatened the very existence of the life i knew. this monster ate everything in its path, a behemoth the knew no restraint. no, it wasn't wal-mart, it was...megachurches! dun-dun-DUN!

far from the trappings of city life (things like target, starbucks, and paper money are just now coming into the area) i had lived the blissful life of small neighborhood churches with pastors who often had a full-time normal job along with their shepherding responsibilities. but as i got older and started getting more involved in church life and practice, i heard about these giant churches who were "seeker-friendly." on the surface that didn't sound so bad, but i was soon taught that these churches had muliple people on staff, had more than one service per sunday, and worst of all, had watered-down doctrine. a local church began showing signs of megachurchness and were instantly shunned by most of the other churches. soon after this, these churches lost large numbers of their congregations to the laodicean beast and the tension was palpable. references to "that church" were met with rolling eyes and knowing remarks about "the true gospel."

things have simmered down now, but every now and then i hear about how evil megachurches are. it now appears that the emerging/emergent church will be the new target of the well-meaning-venom-spewing, but since we are rural, that won't really hit for a few more years.
there are lots of things about the megachurch mentality that bug me, but i don't think rick warren is the devil and i don't think having a coffee bar inside your church is the spiritual equivalent of lukewarm Christianity. today i saw something that summed up many of my thoughts on megachurches in a very somber, almost morose fashion that befits the issue. please don't cry as you see the evils of the megachurch:

click at your own peril

ht: foolish sage