Friday, December 26, 2008

Running to Win It

Paul wrote it best, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."

My life as a roughneck has officially come to an end!  Yesterday, Christmas, as soon as we arrived at work we were told that we would be leaving our hitch (seven days) at the end of the day.  Sunday was going to be my last day before I called it quits, but since we finished the well, and there wasn't anymore work for us, they went ahead and let us have the rest of the week off.  A real rarity in the oil-field normally, but not necessarily during this time of year when companies are trying to stay within budget at the end of the year.  

It was a huge relief, and at the same time a bit of sadness.  The relief came from knowing that I had accomplished a goal I set out to conquer 6 months ago, and the sadness was from the fact that I would be leaving this season and the people I had come to know as friends would return right back to work in about one week.  I felt and still feel like I'm abandoning my post.  I'm overwhelmed with sorrow at the thought that there won't be anyone to try to Love these men as Christ would have.  I failed so many times with these guys.  I was impatient at times, frustrated at times and just down right apathetic at times, but it didn't change the fact that I really do care about those men.  I care about their souls, and even though I didn't always win the race, I ran to win most of the time.  I'm not writing this as a consolation, as to say, "look at me...I wasn't always Godly, but at least I tried."  I simply want the reader to know that I care, and that it wasn't easy learning to carry The Message into a place I could barely pass on a compliment.  However, the fact that it wasn't easy, although discouraging, didn't keep me from pushing my way past emotional barriers to get a peek into the hearts of man.

What I saw was amazing...eye-opening...beautiful...and sad all at the same time.  You would think that me being a Christ follower, would have gone in there and just unloaded all the wisdom I "had" up to that point, but what I came out knowing is that I didn't really know anything about Loving who God calls us to Love. (Matthew 5:46-48)  Derek (mentioned in earlier blog) and Nate taught me so much about giving.  Everything they had, including their lunch, was mine.  They gave with no regard for themselves, money, or even my performance.  Nate would buy my an energy drink ($4) almost everyday without me even asking, or sometimes even wanting one.  I was flat out embarrassed at how giving these guys were, and there I was...the Christian learning from the Godless.

It's only been about 12 hours since my life as Roughneck came to an end, and I already feel the need to be nostalgic.  I know I'm going to miss the crew!  I can't help but to feel sad about my departure, but at the same time I feel a sense of relief.  I hope that in some way this blog has opened your eyes the way mine have been open over the past six months.  I hope that you, the reader, will try as I did to lose yourself in places you already live your life.  I hope that you will seek to find who Jesus was, and moreover, that you strive to live like He did.  He gave up the thrown to become poor, to Love the poor and to pray for those who persecuted Him.  He said, "Father, forgive them for the know not what they do."  "They" were taking his life when he uttered those words.  I've held grudges for years simply because someone called me a "bad" name.  Makes you wonder.  

I'll end with this...

Matt Chandler (Pastor, The Village Church), once said that "Christians" have taken the most precious, delicate, most beautiful message (The Gospel) in the entire universe and hi-jacked it!  It's taken me a couple of years to really take hold of the gravity of what he was trying to communicate, but I think it's come full circle.   We preach sin instead of Love-Condemnation instead of Grace.  To often we forget what sinners we were when Jesus rescued our souls, and in turn we condemn people with the same lives we were living just before He bathed us in His blood.  There's a whole hurting world out there waiting, hoping for something or Someone to come and instill hope.  Go!  Go Now!  Let yourself be used for the sake of the Kingdom!  


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Where's Relief?

It's cold here in West Texas this time of year.  Currently 36 degrees in town, but once we get to the ranch, it's usually about 10 degrees colder.  It's already begun to snow, and snow is only going to add frustrations to an already long an hectic work day.  I'm leaving in the next thirty minutes, jumping in the truck with the crew and headed about thirty miles south of town, onto the dirt road for about another thirty minutes, and then our "twelve" gets underway.  

Although this might seem like a bad deal for everybody, there are some people who will be relieved by the fact we are coming to work.  One day is composed of 24 hours, as I'm sure all of you very well know, and since we only work twelve, someone else (another crew) is needed to work the other twelve.  You see, the oil-field doesn't recognize holidays or sickness.  Well, not formally at least.  Just about two weeks ago, most of you enjoyed a day or two off with the family.  Had some time to eat, drink, and be merry, but for those of us on Rig 5 and many other rigs across West Texas, the only way we celebrated was through smiling at the extra eight hours earned for working on Thanksgiving.  So, to put it plainly the drilling never stops.  And that's why we work through the night, and the Daylights crew works through the day.  24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.  That's right we'll be working on Christmas!  All to say, that what we most look forward to, other than our days off, is at the end of our "twelve" when the other crew shows up for their shift and we get relieved of our duties for the at least the next twelve hours.  No matter what crew you're on, the one event that is sure to put a smile on anyone's face is "RELIEF".       

My relationship with Nate has been steadily growing, and although we have had one major falling out (3 mos. ago), I could have never imagined how much God would show me through my friendship with Nate.  My days are coming to an end (12 days exactly), and I know that my heart will be filled with a bit of sorrow.  I'm leaving this place and headed back to the comforts of friends and a warm place to study.  All of which I'm very thankful for, and all of which I anticipate with great joy.  My mind and my heart with still partially be with Rig 5, and I will forever wonder if the seeds of life were planted, but moreover, will there be harvesters enough for the harvest.  As my time wears down, I can see that my departure isn't something to be celebrated with my crew, but instead I'm trying to soak up as much as possible, drink as deeply as I can and open my eyes to what God would have my see.  But still the question remains...

Where's Relief?

I ask this, only partially as a rhetorical question, and the rest of it is left for you to comment about.  As long as I have known my step-father (dad), he has worked in the oil-field and most time on the rigs.  So my exposure to the oil-field runs deep.   It's always been a barren land, but it has never been bigger than it is now.  Which leaves me hurting, wondering and hoping that someone will notice these people.  Notice, that they are a different breed, but still worthy of God's GREAT gift.  I hear about mission opportunities all the time.  Some to other countries, inner cities and most to impoverished places.  However, I keep thinking that the industry that has consumed my family life and my life for the past six months need missionaries just the same.  I do understand that because of certain circumstances, typical missions style isn't really plausible.  Which kind of excites me in a way.  I have always believed that missionaries are a very necessary vessel for advancing the Gospel, but I have never been intrigued myself. I've always felt that my everyday life was a mission field, and every appointment a divine appointment.  When I was younger I thought I wanted to be a pastor of a church, but as I grew in my faith I realized a need for spreading the gospel in places that have access to churches, but to people who would never step foot in a church to seek God.  This lifestyles has brought about accountability, because I don't ever feel like my faith possess and "on/off switch".  No one's should, but I'm afraid sometimes it's easy to assimilate back into the ways of this world.  As I conclude the next two weeks on Rig 5, my prayer is that I will keep my eyes on the prize, maintain an eternal perspective and Love as I have never loved before. 

Not Worrying About Tomorrow, 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nope, Not Yet!

How about them Bears!  So, I played football and graduated from Baylor University, and just yesterday they "whoop"ed the aggies from atm. It was a good feeling for a guy who's mostly been on loosing football teams my entire life.  Funny thing is...not too sure I ever played because I had to win.  I simply loved playing the game of football because it allowed me to channel a whole lot of aggression I had as a kid, and then it turned out to be fun being able to hit people and to be praised for it. 

I grew up in West Texas (aka- Football Country), and playing football was a way of life for most boys in this area.  My dad played, my brother played, and my sisters loved being cheerleaders for their respective teams.  My dad and brother were my inspirations as far as football was concerned.  Always coaching me up on the do's and don't, but mostly do's!  My dad would always tell me about his days playing high school football.  He never mentioned any accolades, but always talked about his "war" stories as I refer to them in thought.  He would tell me how he never stopped playing until the referee had blown the whistle.  Even if that meant jumping on the "pile" well after the play was over.  He even dislocated his shoulder flying through air hitting the ground while diving at a player who had already been tackled.  He would always say, "Son, don't stop playing until that whistle blows."  So growing up I always played that way.  My freshman year I was penalized for blind siding the quarterback well after he had already handed the ball off.   I knew I wasn't going to make the play downfield on the ball carrier, so I did just what I had been taught to do; I nailed the guy.  My coaches argued with the refs on my behalf, but as they say, "what was done, was done!"  It didn't discourage me any, and I continued to play that way the rest of my football career. Last year against Colorado (CU), I did the same thing well after the play was over, and was again penalized.  My coach later told me that he glad at least someone was "hitting".  I never stopped playing until the whistle had been blown, and maybe sometimes a little after the whistle.  Seeing as how that is what I was taught, I was a little discouraged this week when I was confronted by Nate about my work ethic.

Earlier this week, I was thinking to myself about the joy I was going to have once I was done working in the oil-field.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm going to miss my co-workers, and the satisfaction of a hard days work, but I won't miss the work.  It's hard sometimes, and the days are long all the time.  I'm not sure whether I was so focused on it all ending, but I really started to drag my feet early in the week.  My new friend Nate noticed, and wasn't hesitant to let me know.  He made the comment, "Hey man, the whistle hadn't blown yet."  Boy, was he ever right.  If he only knew the battle that's been taking place for his soul.  And knowing that my time with him is coming to an end, it sure wasn't time to be dragging.  Thank you Nate, for keeping my accountable.  Your soul is worth so much to our God, and I want you to see His light in everything I do.  So, I'm sorry for wanting to call it quits a little early.  

I'll have you know, that the rest of the week, was straight business as far as work ethic was concerned, and at seven this morning we heard our whistle.  It was great to see the sun come up knowing that we are going to have a much needed seven day break from the daily grind.  Nate and I are going to have dinner later this week at Red Lobster.  It's going to be great to be able to spend some time with him outside of work.  Maybe we'll catch a movie too.  Who cares what we do; I'm just glad I was reminded that the whistle hasn't blown yet, and I can't stop fighting (praying) for his soul.  My hope for you (reader) is that you have been reminded of two things: 1-play until the whistle is blown & 2-Whether you eat, sleep or drink, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthian 10:31).  


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Show Me Father

So, now that you all know why it is that I decided to blog, and a little about my initial intentions for going to work in the oil-field, I can finally let you know how it played/ is still playing out.  

Day One working for O'Ryan was not a good day for me.  I arrived at seven in the morning at the location (a football field sized piece of earth, literally in the middle of nowhere West Texas).  I was excited about the people I'd meet and the chance I'd have to get to share the Gospel with others.  We were moving the rig to another "location" that day to start on drilling another well.  Each well is drilled to a depth of about 5,000 ft.  Well, at least the wells we drilled were.  They usually take about 2.5- 3 weeks to drill.  And when we're done, we take everything apart and move it somewhere else and repeat the process.  Moving the rig was the longest work load I'd ever had in my young life.  My first day we worked 15 hrs straight.  I hated my job that day, and seriously didn't think I was cut out for that kind of labor.  I found myself thinking, "I have a college degree!  What the heck am I doing out here?"  I thought mostly about quitting, and there was one point where I thought that I was for sure not going to return the next day.  The rig move lasted about three days, and at the end of every day I found myself thinking about quitting.  Somehow, I would find the will to make it out the next day to log another 12 hr day.  After the rig move I enjoyed seven days off, in which I mostly thought about how much I didn't want to be working in the oil-field.  I made close to one thousand dollars for three days of work, and that literally brought me back the next week.

You see, I knew God was with me, but I didn't yet have the heart for anyone but myself when I was working.  I couldn't see past my own self-pity to know that while I was there I was to share God's Love every second I could.  The next week I got to meet my crew (5 people including myself).  I immediately started thinking about which one of the guys I would start to build a relationship with.  We piled into the truck on our first day back from days off and I introduced myself to Nate, Randy, and Derek.  My uncle was our driver and our boss.  His name is Pete.  I started to ask the guys questions about where they were from, and about how long they had worked in the oil-field.  After we arrived at work I started talking to Randy a little more, and he just came right out and asked if I was a christian.  I told him I was, and he confessed to believing in Jesus as Savior.  I thought to myself, "This is the guy.  He's the one I'm supposed to Love while I was working out there."  We talked just a little while about our faith and he immediately made himself transparent.  We hit it off well, and although I got along with the other guys, I wanted to devote my conversations to Randy.  He was a big guy (6'4"), and old too (47).  I was so excited, because I knew that the oil-field was a barren land, and what do you know... first rattle out of the box and I had already met someone who shared the same faith.  

Randy and I talked about his life and my dreams.  He told me to continue on with my goals, and about how he wished he would have made better decisions when he was younger.  He also admitted to me his drug addiction, but how he had it mostly under control.  He admitted to using cocaine, but said that it was only every so often, and not daily.  He mentioned that as if there was no contradiction with the faith he has confessed to, and I was initially shocked at how desensitized he was to the use of drugs.  I would soon learn that cocaine and most other drugs were common in the oil-field, sometimes becoming a way of life.  I hadn't met one guy out there who hadn't done hard drugs (cocaine, etc.).  Most of them had served time in prison, some even for 10+ years.  I had never been in a workplace with such people, much less even known that many criminals.  It was looking as though it was going to be harder to start the ministry I had in mind.  I was discouraged, and coupling that with my hatred for the type of work I was doing, it was hard to find the desire to Love!  My prayer life consisted of, "Thank you God for getting my through the day" and "Show me how I can be used out here".  I felt as though I was in a land that I couldn't affect in a noticeable way.  I was in over my head.  But at least I had a "Christian" friend already, right?

Three days after we started work as a crew, Randy (my brother in Christ) quit in the middle of the night.  Our boss (not my uncle) had upset him and Randy felt belittled.  He sat in the truck the rest of the night while the rest of us worked through the pouring rain to get the rig ready to be moved yet again.  We all rode home in silence, and I watched my only friend until that point drive off, knowing more than likely I would never see him again.  The situation only got worse once I realized how a dark situation seemed to be loosing another light, no matter how insignificant.  I felt confused, but clung to the fact that God would still use me in this grim place.  

I learned as much as I could about rig work from the crew, and grew more with Derek (Our Chain Hand).  He was so very funny, always cracking jokes and laughing at my inexperience.  Derek and I began to grow closer, even asking each other about relationships and family.  One day while eating lunch a couple of the guys were making fun of the fact that I wanted to wait until engagement or marriage before I kissed again.  Derek asked me, "Are you a Christian or what?"  I said no!  And told him that I didn't like the negative connotation that went along with the term, but that I was in love with Jesus and believed that He lived, died and rose again, so that whoever believed would be saved (Romans 10:9).  He said that there was a time in his life in which he was drug free for eight months.  Devoted to his wife and kids, and how during that time he had never lived a better life.  He told me how he missed those days, and he went on about the church he attended in Amarillo that changed his life for a brief time.  He went on to tell me  how his life didn't stay that way for much longer, and how he was lured back into drug use and infidelity, and how he had now been away from his family for over a month.  I immediately thanked God in my heart, because I felt as though He had shown me that Derek was going to be the person I was to build up and learn to Love over the next 6 months.  After all, Nate and I were growing further apart as our personalities clashed a little too often.  

Over the next week I would learn more about Derek's life as he would learn about mine, and we shared many Godly moments, which I would later find had been insincere.  I started to try and get him plugged back into the church he had admitted changed his life.  One time I even brought my iPod with sermons I had downloaded from his church.  He was so excited, and for the next three days all the way to work (1hr commute), Derek would listen to his old Preacher speak.  He really did seem to be more contemplative during those days.  On the fourth day Derek didn't show up for work, and it wasn't long before he was fired and replaced.  I didn't understand how I had already, in only two weeks of work, seen two different people who I felt God had called me to, simply vacate the vicinity.  It was depressing, even more so than I already felt, and my relations with the only other crew member we dwindling.   I knew Nate was far from God, and he was still unashamedly using drugs.  I thought to myself, that God couldn't expect me to chase after his heart.  He was too far-gone I remember thinking.  

It was then that God opened my eyes, and only then did I really start to grow.  I saw more than ever my own depravity, and realized that if I was going to be as committed to advancing the gospel as I once thought I was, I was going to need a serious change of heart and perspective.  Over the next two months God grew my faith, and most of my blog from here on out will be about Nate.  We have had our ups and downs, but mostly I have learned that my idea of Love was flawed, and that God's Love is more than I could have ever imagined it could be.  Stayed tuned in, and my prayer is that you will see through my relationship with Nate that we are capable of growing closer to God when give so very much of ourselves.  


Monday, November 3, 2008

A Season to Remember

As I write this entry, I am sitting on my front porch listening to Brett Dennen's new Cd.  If you haven't heard of him, which you might not have, check out his stuff on iTunes.  

It's beautiful here in West Texas this time of year.  Currently 66 degrees, slightly breezy and not a cloud in the Big West Texas Sky.  The stars shine brighter in no place that I have been or heard of.  A few miles from town you can see the Milky Way in all its glory.  A truly breathtaking sight.  I would never want to capture any of this with a camera, because it would simply not serve this sight justice.  

The weather, circumstances and family and friends have made this a season to remember.  I think it's time I explain why I felt like my situation was "important" enough to blog about.  I'm can't lie about this, my reasons for choosing to work in the oil-field were primarily, but not strictly, that of selfish ambition.  At the end of June I had just been accepted to Baylor Law School for the Spring of 2009, returned home (Ft. Stockton, TX) from working at Kanakuk Kamps and was looking to fill the coming months with a job that would help alleviate some of the financial burden of attending law school.  I was just about to head back to Waco because I wasn't having any luck getting hired on in the oil-field when Pete (my uncle) called asking me if I wanted a job.  

I accepted knowing that I would be making more money than I had ever made in my life, however I wasn't quite sure how much.  Now, I'm not going to write about how much I'm getting paid, because that's just superfluous to my reason for blogging about this season in my life.  But I will say that it will be enough for housing for the next three years if all goes accordingly.  Another huge blessing I am so not very worthy of.  Since money was my primary reason for taking this job, I figured I'd mention it; but onto my secondary reason and moreover the reason that has now taken hold of my thoughts, actions and prayers.  

From the beginning of my time on O'Ryan Rig 5 until now, so many of my perspectives, and ultimately misconceptions, have dramatically evolved.  Even the way I think about and interact with my step-father has taken a 180 degree turn.  Life as I knew it has been rocked, and in so many positive ways.  My heart has not been broken like this in the past seven years that I have called myself a Jesus follower.  I have never cried because I wanted someone else to know God ever in my life, that is until recently.  Compassion has filled my heart, and almost a sense of self-loathing for the person I have transformed from over the past 4 months has crept in at times.  But nonetheless, I have never seen God in a clearer light, nor have I ever had more hope for someone I knew didn't know God.  I have never interceded as I have in the past couple of months, and through that time of prayer I have been humbled tremendously. 

I took  the job literally the second it was offered without having any thoughts about how I would carry out my faith in such a barren place.  As a matter of fact I was naive to how desperate for God the oil-field is, and also to how unprepared and unstable I was concerning my faith.  I learned real quick, however, the degree of my spiritual immaturity.  When you spend years of your life in a place that makes it easy to be a "Christian", the second you step into the real world you can't help but take one of two roads: 1 take on an elitist faith or 2 realize that you must be humbled  in order to Love like Jesus Loved.   I spent the first two weeks feeling sorry for myself, regretting my decision and missing the people I had been so close to at Baylor.  For the next two months I found myself feeling depressed, but still trying to learn what role I would play in carrying out the gospel.  More so, deciding how I was going to carry it out.  

It was all so overwhelming.  After a week of prayer and devoting myself to changing my perspective, my life as a roughneck took a turn for the best.  God softened my heart, opened my eyes just a little more and helped me to see the beauty in his people.  He has called me to live Love no matter the place or time, and that is where I find myself now.  I have chosen to blog about my experience in order that it might shed light on someone's faith, give hope for those who find themselves learning about a real faith and a real compassion for others.  As you read, know that I have asked God to enable us to live beyond ourselves.  May you seize the day in the name of the Creator.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Life as a Roughneck!

So, I decided to be cliche and start blogging, mostly about my experience on the Longfellow/ West Ranch just South of good 'ol Fort Stockton, TX. I am living back home with the rents, and have found myself working in the oil-fields of West Texas. A place I never saw myself; not in a million years would I have imagined I'd be back home and working as a Roughneck. Nonetheless, here I am.

I've been home since late June, and started in the oil-field in mid July. I was a week away from heading back to Waco to work at the world-renowned coffee shop, Common Grounds (CG), when my uncle Pete called and asked if I wanted a job working for O'Ryan Drilling. He didn't have a chance to finish, before I asked him what time he would be picking me up the next morning. I didn't care which company I was going to be working for, or what the hours were like. I only knew that being a Roughneck was the highest paying job I could attain without any experience. And everyone knows Law School isn't cheap! I figured I could stay a while in Fort Stockton, save some money by living at home and in no time I'd be out of here starting Law School at Baylor in the Spring. Well when you're working 12 hours days, time simply does not fly by. Instead it creeps along slowly, allowing you time to soak in the fact that you're doing one of the toughest jobs in America.

I hated my job for the first two weeks. I thought about quiting everyday, but somehow at the end of it, I would talk myself into one more. And now almost three months have gone by. I no longer think about quiting everyday, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind from time to time. I was so bitter at the beginning of this journey, mostly because I felt as though I should have been doing something with my education, instead of taking orders from someone with barely a high school education. The bitterness has worn off, and I have surely been humbled by my short time as a Roughneck.

I told myself that I would try to start a ministry during my time in the oil-field, and as soon as I arrived I realized how naive I was. The oil-field is a barren wasteland concerning God. A modern day Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). My faith has been tested, and my mediocre Christian life has been stripped of everything familiar and simple, and been replaced by life of prayer. I found it to be true; the fact that when we are weak God is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9) I have never been so challenged in my faith, as I have been in the past three months. Life has been so very different compared to the "Christian" life I live back at B.U.

I will elaborate more as the time goes on, but I have to work tonight, and sleep has become a way of life just as much as prayer and work are now. Until the next time, may you find yourself tested, and may your faith grow strong!