Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sometimes we get to do things we want. The rest of the time we do what we have to.

-Nick Rawson

Sometimes, we are in the rarified position where we get both. That's where I am this week. I am working on a new project with some awesome people in San Carlos, having the time of my life. I am so thankful.



Tuesday, May 24, 2011

National Bike to Work Day

Last Friday was National Bike to work day. Recently, I have been trying out bicycle commuting. I am ashamed to say that all of these years I have had so many great bikes, I have never made it a habit to ride to class or work. My attempts to do so have been spotty at best. When I was in college my rides to class were brief and back in Warrenton I lived less than a mile from my work, but I often drove to wherever I needed to be. My commute here is a little over 19 miles from my apartment door to work, so this has been a little bigger undertaking. The riding is a little bit more urban so it's slightly hectic as well. Right now, when I am in San Diego, I am riding to work once or twice a week. I am trying to build up to where I will be riding 3-4 times a week.

Friday was a great opportunity to reinforce the new habit I'm trying to form and also participate in a pretty neat event. The outcome was cool. There were considerably more riders out than there have been other days I have commuted on my bike. Additionally, local bike shops took part in the day. On my way to work, I saw four or five easy-ups sheltering bike shop employees. They were offering a place to rest for people that aren't used to being on a bike very long, neutral support for anyone that was having mechanical problems, and I think a couple even had some snacks. Finally, the auto traffic cut us a little more slack. To be honest, my overall experience with San Diego traffic has been pretty positive. No matter what though, you're going to occasionally come close to being hit by someone absent-mindedly making a left hand turn or opening their door after they've parallel parked. Having gay slurs screamed at you through a window as you snake your way through traffic in your spandex is also going to happen from time to time. I had no such issues on Friday. The normally fairly well-behaved San Diego drivers were even more conscientious toward those of us on our self-propelled two wheels. I got a few smiles and waves and encouragement. It was nice. I kinda wish every day was National Bike to Work Day.

I also got to wear one of my favorite preachy shirts on Bike to Work Day. That's right, no matter what kind of gas mileage your car gets, my bike's is literally infinitely better. So what if I used to make a habit of driving three quarters of a mile to work everyday? And so what if one of the reasons I'm riding to work now is that I can't afford to keep putting premium gas in my car that has a turbo engine and only gets 20 mpg? I already covered the fact that Californians are smug. Well, we're especially so when we ride our bikes to work.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

O. M. Freaking G.

Something awesome arrived at my office today. This is a sneak peak.

There is a story behind this that is tragic, but it ends with me taking delivery of something awesome (see above). More to come soon . . .

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

One Year

Admittedly, I've written a lot of retrospective/review type of pieces here, but I believe it's time for another one. Today marks the one year anniversary of my arrival at Amor Ministries. My journey actually began a couple of weeks earlier, when I left Warrenton, VA on April 29, 2010. When I made the decision to come out here and be a part of Amor as a year-long intern, I certainly thought that this year would shape me tremendously. Even with the extremely high hopes I had, my experience has proven to completely exceed any of my expectations. The following are some things that I did not anticipate getting out of this year that I am so thankful for.

A Job

I've covered this a number of times, but I came out to San Diego to become a year-long intern with no particular prospects for what I would be doing in the future. The only certainty I felt was the distinct unlikelihood that I would ever return to accounting or finance. The idea of participating in an internship to merely start over at the end of a year was pretty intimidating. I had no idea whether I would go back to school or whether God might provide something else through Amor. The quick connections I made with people at Amor and happiness I felt in my position made the uncertainty I was expecting even tougher to swallow. I made the decision to trust God in this time, but I still felt a bit of stress. Thankfully, it only took a few months before I was given the opportunity to interview for a full time position with Amor. I really cannot imagine that I should be anywhere else in the world right now. I am learning to serve and love God by serving and loving people at a level I would have previously thought myself incapable of reaching. My job has had a huge part in shaping the man I am and has solidified the fact that I have a heart for missions. I suspect I will be doing missions work for a long time to come and I am so excited about learning to do it better and better.


I have fallen into a really great group of people here that consistently humbles me. My friends constantly show that their greatest desires are to grow with God and serve each other. It seems that every other week we find some reason to get together and celebrate each other. Whether it be a birthday party, a new job, a going away party, a coming home party or something else, we are constantly celebrating God and each other. It kind of makes me think of the concept of jubilee. Just the other day, one of my coworkers was describing missions work and the desire to serve as being akin to those moments when you sit with friends and have no desire but to linger and make the night longer. Last night, I had the privilege of sitting at a table and enjoying dinner with some wonderful people and having the blessing of dreading the end of the night. As I think about those people I sat at that table with, I feel love, respect, adoration or some combination of those sentiments for every person there. I am also thankful for the role that they have all played in my life and the fact that they have helped make me an all around better human being to be around.

Learning To Be By Myself

It's strange that during a time when I have gotten to appreciate so much community I have learned a lot about being alone, but several things have conspired to teach me this lesson. First, was the end of an intimate relationship of nearly nine years. No matter how much or how little you share or how much or how little support you give and receive, there is a comfort of knowing that if nothing else, one person will always be there. I had that support, nearly uninterrupted from the age of eighteen until twenty-seven. While I appreciate all of the good that came of such a relationship, I was able to learn a lot by losing it. I now know that I don't have to share everything in my life with someone else in order to enjoy it. Sometimes the fact that God's given it to me is enough. Whether it be a beautiful, starry night, a sunset or a fleeting moment of revelation, there is a lot that can belong to just me and God. My job has also helped teach me this lesson. While I have worked with some of my best friends, I have also been forced to go into some pretty tough spots on my own. In these moments, I have learned a lot about the resolve and strength that I can lean on God to provide. This confidence and comfort is a marked difference from my cross country trip that I spent much of feeling disappointed and lonely despite awesome experiences. I just had a tough time fully appreciating them on my own. Now I know that I can experience joy by myself and with God. I know that in the future as I get to share more of these moments, the joy will be that much more grandiose, because I was able to fully feel it on my own.

Joy in Sadness

You don't have to be happy to be joyful. I've met some pretty large challenges this year and some pretty significant disappointments. I've left home, left my dog, lost relationships, dealt with my mother's sickness, broken bikes, worked hard to have expectations unmet and sometimes been alone. These disappointments have invariably left me unhappy to some degree. I have also been identified as a person who's emotional responses resemble spaghetti fare more than a waffle (I don't compartmentalize, I let everything get tangled together). Despite my initial and expansive emotional responses, I am able to find joy because I learned that each and everyone of these experiences is shaping me into a man more capable of following Christ and serving others. It is a very strange place to be able to feel sorrowful and joyful at the same time, but I have found it to be a very healthy place. When I am comfortable, I rarely grow. It's the times I have something to battle, something to find or something to accomplish that I learn.

Mumford & Sons

At least half a dozen people that are reading this are either rolling their eyes, throwing up on their keyboard, or both. That's fine, Mumford wasn't going to be a part of this post at all, but as I cued them up on my iphone while typing, it occurred to me that I never would have expected to find music that would mean this much to me this year, so they meet the criteria to be mentioned. Unfortunately, Mumford made it on the radio initially with a song that exhorted "I really f---ed it up this time, didn't I my dear‽" If you listen beyond these lyrics, these guys have a lot going on. Since I was introduced to them in earnest in October, they have been the soundtrack for my life. They consistently deal with faith, loss, grace and love in a very insightful manner. Over and over again, they manage to describe a redemptive, restorative, lasting love, one that my beliefs dictate comes from God. Their music is not in a hymnal and I don't know what their intent was when they wrote and recorded it, but I can truly worship to much of it. I will still see them live one day and it will be superawesomewonderfulradmagnificentincrediblefantastic. If you do not have Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons, buy it immediately and listen to it immediately after that. Don't listen to the song with the f-word though. This is a family friendly site and I will not support that.

A Tattoo


When I came out to San Diego, I left all of the people that knew me best. Those people have not been replaced, but a lot have been added to their numbers. I thought that it would take a long time until I met people that I could trust and be intimate with. Perhaps it was the challenges inherent in my move and the openness with which I shared them but I have several incredible people that really know me well who I can share anything with. The most recent lesson I have had to learn now is that although I can share anything with my friends and family, I shouldn't share everything. Regardless, reaching new levels of honesty, grace and accountability with those around me has been a really awesome gift.


I have learned a lot of different types of patience this year, but waiting on God is a good things. It seems he's always on time.

I am so thankful for the year I have had and that this experience is not over. At the beginning, this seemed like a sort of year long experiment that would probably change me, but possibly drop me right back where I was to begin with. Instead, the adventure continues. I get to remain with Amor and remain in San Diego. I can only pray that this coming year will be as formative as the one I just experienced.

Thanks for reading along with me so far. It's been great to share my experiences with everyone who keeps up with me here. I have received comments, e-mails, texts, phone calls and facebook messages from people I never would have expected thanks to the fact that I express myself through this medium. The heart of my desire to write this blog is all about this kind of communication. It's fun to be entertaining and it's nice to get things off my chest sometimes, but the fact that this is a vessel to share in mutual experiences and help each other through life is the best part. I'm getting a little more consistent in writing again, and given that, I would like to ask some favors of everyone that reads here.

1. Become a follower and leave comments. Most people have a google account and this is fairly easy to do with your account. Commenting is awesome. It lets me know you guys are reading and that you care and let's me talk to you directly via the blog.

2. If you think this thing is worth reading, tell some more people about it. I'd love to share my experiences with as many people as possible.

3. Link this site via facebook or any other networking tools you use. Again, I'd love to spread the word more.

4. Donate some money at www.amor.org. Two of our biggest needs are staff support and our equipment fund (we need some new vehicles and trailers). For staff support, make sure you get my name in the comments so that I can get lots of credit for all the people that will donate at my encouragement. If you'd like to donate to the equipment fund (this would be great, because we are getting a to point where we really need some newer, safer vehicles), shoot me an e-mail and let me know your interest. I'm not asking for a lot from anyone. Just think about how much this blog has been worth to you in the past year, if that's only a dime, then donate a dime.

5. Keep reading.

6. Pray for Amor, my family and me. That's really what this thing is all about. I came out here to be part of an incredible ministry. Please pray that we keep doing what we are doing according to God's will. My Mom is doing well right now, but things are always changing and she's still got a tough battle. I am a total work in progress and pray that I can just keep getting better for all the people around me. Thanks.

7. Watch these videos:



Friday, May 6, 2011

Wherein I Actually Man Up And Get This Tattoo I've Been Talking About

Since coming up with what I believed was an awesome idea for a tattoo and getting an image of what it would look like on me, the talk of actually getting it escalated. The thing is, talk often doesn't mean that much in my world because I do so much of it. Regardless, the idea was clearly gaining momentum in my head, but I was content to just talk about it for awhile. Of course, this could only go on for so long before someone eventually called me out on it.

My close friend, Kamar, had her golden birthday earlier this spring, but she had a desire to do something a little more extreme to commemorate the year. Something that came to mind for her was getting a tattoo. Once she heard me talking about my tattoo idea, she started to discuss us going to get our first tattoos together. I tried not returning her calls, text messages and e-mails concerning the matter, but eventually I had to acknowledge her existence. This was the catalyst that led to me eventually following through on all that talk I had been doing.

The day before Easter was the day everyone was planning to celebrate Kamar's birthday, and I had spoken to some friends and found a reputable tattoo parlor. We had a couple of hours available to us in the afternoon, so we went together to check it out. Full Disclosure: I really hadn't committed myself to getting the tattoo at all at this point. I had been told that this particular tattoo artist would be happy to do a mock up of the tattoo and let me walk around with it a little bit. Sort of see how it fit. In my mind, I was going to having him draw it on, walk out of the parlor and in all likelihood, back out. I would still save face, though, because we would have gone to the parlor and had the experience and actually gotten ink put on us, I just wouldn't have to make a life long commitment. The tattoo parlor was busy enough that they couldn't fit us in that day. Again, I saw an opportunity to back out. Unfortunately, the very friendly (and covered in ink) girl that worked the counter was happy to make us an appointment for the next day. While I considered what I was getting myself into, Kamar responded, "Awesome! Tomorrow's Easter! Resurrection Tats!" I did my best to feign the same level of excitement, but as I was handed an appointment card for the next afternoon, I had a sinking feeling that I would actually be getting a tattoo the next day.

I picked Kamar up the next morning still thinking that I wasn't going to actually get a tattoo. I still figured I could get away with simply having it drawn on and walking away, giving myself time to get used to the idea and decide if this was really something I wanted to do. When we arrived at the tattoo parlor, things started to change. Mark, the tattoo artist, was an exceedingly nice guy, but he prepared the needles at the same time he prepared our stencils. It seemed that by getting our designs stenciled on, we were already committing to the entire process.

For whatever reason, Kamar ended up going first. After taking a couple shots at placement, she had an inked out stencil of what would soon be an awesome tattoo. As she looked in the mirror and evaluated it, I affirmed that it looked great. She hesitated only briefly before deciding to make it permanent. Kamar sat in a chair and faced me, giving Mark room to work on her back. He informed her that he was about to start and in the following moments her facial expression did not change in the slightest. I was puzzled, as Mark was clearly digging a needle full of ink into Kamar's back, but she appeared to be in no pain whatsoever. Kamar was finished within ten or fifteen minutes and it was about to be my turn. She had quickly solidified her decision and taken the pain like a champ. I cursed her for her courage and decisiveness.

(This smile remained fixed on Kamar's face throughout the whole process. Never go to a tattoo parlor with the toughest woman you know, it makes you look bad.)

Now I was in a very tough spot. I had walked into the tattoo parlor uncertain the prior day and my condition had not changed by this morning. Kamar's tattoo looked great, but I was still not sure that I wanted to have something permanently put on my body. The problem was, I had made several fatal mistakes. First, I went to a tattoo parlor in my pastel aquamarine polo on Easter. Second, I had allowed a girl to go before me. Third, the girl I chose to go with is totally BA. Fourth, all of this had transpired in front of a very nice guy who tattoos people for a living and has a son who is a Hell's angel.

I had chosen the location for my hypothetical tattoo - the inside of my upper arm - and asked Mark to determine the size and exact placement. I had him stencil it on, then immediately texted a picture of it to my mother for confirmation. She argued with me about it, claiming that I should have it done in "nice" writing rather than her handwriting, while also inquiring about several aspects of my personal life, all in front of everyone in the tattoo parlor (Thankfully, mostly close friends at that point). When this stall had finished, I asked Mark a series of stupid questions to further delay the inevitable. Ultimately, I knew that I just had to man up and do it, so I laid down on the table and Mark got to work.

(This is the stencil that would become my tattoo. This is also the photo I sent my mother for confirmation.)

He told me he was getting started, but I didn't feel a thing. Within minutes, I could feel some pain, but it wasn't too bad. Of course I was talking with friends much of the time and laughed once or twice, shaking in such a manner that could possibly make a mess of the lines that would be on me for the rest of my life. Mark did a great job of not allowing me to screw the whole thing up. He finished up at the beginning of the phrase, in the area closest to my armpit, which did start to sting a bit.

(This is what it looks like when a nervous man with a receding hairline gets a tattoo. Please ignore the sweat stains on my shirt. Again, I was nervous.)

It was surreal to know that when he was finished I actually had a tattoo, in fact, it still is surreal. I looked at it for awhile and loved it. I am glad I didn't have an idea for a second tattoo, because as we walked out, I had the compulsion to walk right back in and get a second one.

(Finished product.)

The moments afterward were filled with a lot of excitement as Kamar and I enjoyed the fact that we had actually done what we had talked about. Since then, the excitement has quickly calmed down. For the most part, I don't really think about it. Sometimes when I am reminded that it is there I get really psyched. Occasionally, I go into a very brief but complete panic over the fact that I actually have something permanently inscribed on my body. When this happens, I am quickly comforted by it's meaning. I have a message for myself and others to see that will hold me accountable to my beliefs, remind me of my brokenness and the many blessings I did nothing to deserve, and hopefully be tribute to my mother.



Monday, May 2, 2011

The Makings of an Indelible Mark

A note from Clint: Yes, I've been a little bummed out by some recent happenings in my life. No, I am not actually depressed, despondent or demoralized (Could someone who was use alliteration so deftly?). Last week's post was purposefully dramatic and over the top. I appreciate those who checked up on me after that post. It was very thoughtful. That said, my post was not a cry for help, it was merely me making light of my own sensitive sensibilities. This post will be more positive.

A Long-existing, Unfulfilled Desire

As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted a tattoo and/or a piercing. Honestly, the desire for a piercing left me years ago, but my "need" for a tattoo has persisted. I think I've always been more fascinated with the idea of having a tattoo than anything else. It just seems like one of those things you need to do at some point. While I have claimed that I wanted one, I was never sure what it would be or where I would put it. These minor details, along with some other contributing factors are what always kept me from actually following through and getting one.

New Life

I dance around this concept quite often. The idea of becoming reborn or a different person is used pervasively in our culture and specifically within the context of my faith. As it relates to The Bible, this language is very rich, but I believe we have come to cheapen it in a lot of ways. Perhaps it is the fact that no matter how much we are reborn or improve, we still have glaring weaknesses that detract from the image of being "born again." I think another issue is that we wear these types of titles on our sleeves rather than letting our actions speak for the men and women we have become. Despite my hesitance to describe myself as such, the fact is that I have become a different creation in the past year. I still have glaring flaws: I suffer from inappropriate desires, I have a mouth that runs for days with plenty of awful stuff coming out of it, and I manage to be a poor witness to my beliefs on a regular basis. I am certainly a broken vessel. That said, I am the most willing vessel I have ever been. There have been numerous watershed moments within the past year that have shown me not how strong I am, but the strength of God's presence in my heart. At several points throughout the year, I thought it would be appropriate to commemorate my life changes and God's faithfulness through a tattoo. I also just thought it would be cool to finally get one. Ideas came and went. Verses, symbols and phrases were considered, but nothing had the staying power I needed to commit.

One Universal, Inescapable Truth

It occurred to me that if I was to have something permanently put on my body, I would want it to always be true. For this reason, I looked to The Bible and similar literature. When you commit yourself to this type of reading and studying, you begin to find a lot of truth. I fell in love with a lot of what I read, but then one book and phrase knocked me off my feet. As a gift for being one of his groomsmen, my brother, Jason, gave me a copy of Abba's Child by Brennan Manning. I was in a place where I had grown quite insecure and struggled with my flaws and value. The reading I did in this book helped to dispel many of the fears and insecurities with which I was wrestling by helping me come to terms with the true nature of God's love for me. One phrase Manning lifted from the novel "Diary of a Country Priest" struck me especially: Grace is Everywhere. I began to look at the past year and all I had learned and realized just how true this phrase was.

Grace is Everywhere

God and my loved ones have shown me a tremendous amount of Grace throughout my life, but specifically in the past year. God brought me, a broken creation, to a new place specifically to use me for His service. I dealt with a lot coming out here. I had to come to terms with a broken relationship and both forgive and be forgiven for it's failure. I felt grace as I made mistakes early on in my new job and my coworkers supported me. My friends and family showed me grace and support as I mourned my broken relationship and all I had left behind. I also learned to show grace to those around me. Despite all the poor decisions I had made, I have been given too many gifts to count in the last year. Before long, I found myself in a beautiful, new relationship. Within the context of this relationship, I felt a deep, intimate grace not only for my past transgressions, but for ones I made in the present as well. God's grace is perfect and everlasting and intangible. When a person alongside you can forgive the worst of who you are, it helps you get a better grasp on God's incomprehensible grace. I was also given the opportunity show some grace in this relationship. I felt that being able to exercise grace taught me even more about the nature of it. I learned from all the grace I gave and was given throughout the year, but a new depth of understanding came from being in an intimate relationship in which grace was so freely given and received. Through all this, I came to understand that for a man a broken as I am to be given the immense blessing I have, it must be true that grace is everywhere.

Another Meaning

I had also strongly considered getting a tattoo that would be a tribute to my mother. As I mulled over the idea of grace in my life and how thankful I am for it, I thought about the most quietly graceful person I know: My momma. In my mind, my momma's greatest testament to her faith is her service to others. She has raised four strong-willed boys, a couple of whom have a streak of being quite abrasive and at times troublesome. In addition, she's got a husband from whom her boys inherited some of these traits (My father is an incredible, sensitive, loving father and husband, but all of us Barnes men can be a huge pain.). Despite constant battles of will and just flat out battles in a house with five men, she has served and loved us unwaveringly, with a quiet dignity. I now look at the way she approaches coping with her sickness and see pure grace. Again, she does everything she has to with a quiet dignity and confidence that God's will is being done. I have heard her described by friends and relatives time and time again as graceful. Grace is also fittingly her middle name. I know that although they have been late to bloom, she is largely responsible for planting many of the seeds of service and grace in my heart. I pale in comparison to her, but I will always be able to, in some small part, carry her name and values with me. With this understanding, I know that Grace is everywhere I am.

As I thought about how to solidify the influence of my momma in this phrase, I recalled how much I always admired her beautiful handwriting growing up. Even through high school, she would write notes and put them in my bag lunch. While I acted embarrassed, I loved that she did it. Although it was a simple act, the thought of my momma's handwriting and memories such as these really exemplify the depth of her love for me. After a bit of thinking, I asked her to write "grace is everywhere" on a piece of paper, scan it and e-mail it to me. A close friend looked at the paper with me and wrote the phrase on my arm in her approximation of my mother's handwriting. It was a special moment to me and I loved it. Although I would waver over the permanent nature of the tattoo and the location would change, I think I made the decision then that I would get it.

This post was meant to be about my adventure of getting a tattoo, which wasn't really an adventure at all, it was just me going to a tattoo parlor. That said, those that know me well know that I can turn any benign story into an adventure, given some time to add in some over the top adjectives and hyperbole. That said, I am pleased that this post actually turned out to be a tribute to the past year and my mother. Tune in tomorrow or in the next couple days to read about how I can turn a very boring story about getting a tattoo into an adventure. It will include pictures.