Thursday, June 2, 2016

When God lets us watch Frozen

Everybody has days like this from time to time.
It's been amazing to see the parallel between my new life as a father of a toddler and the love the Father has for his children here on earth.

The thought came to me yesterday, as thoughts always do when I haven't the time to write. The last few months have been a blur of happiness, joy, fear, stress, contentment, diapers and love. I went from being a bachelor in a small city in Southern Oregon to being a family man living along the east side of the Seattle metro area.

My mornings are filled with Amelia as my wife (wife!) works, and I get to enjoy the many blessings — and hardships — of watching a two-year-old grow into a human.

Marie often reminds me that Amelia struggles with things because she's still learning to be a human, and while that idea has made sense to me, it bore a little extra weight when I compare it to my learning to be like Christ.

We as fallen humans are stubborn and hard-headed. It takes us a long time to learn to do something correctly, and even longer to break a bad habit.

God is unshakable, unmovable and constant. He's there for us when we fill our diapers at 5 a.m., and he makes sure we get a balanced diet while still enjoying the things we like to eat.

Sometimes when we're having a rough morning, he lets us watch Frozen and hold our precious green balloon.

There are the heartfelt hugs, the sleepy cuddles first thing in the morning and the tired reading of books just before naptime.

But most of all, God knows what we need even when we don't.

We might want to stay up and play in our room at night (and wave to the neighbors through the window), but God knows we'll be miserable tomorrow if we don't get our sleep. And as two-year-olds, it's impossible sometimes to see what is common sense to God.

Amelia might be set in her toddler ways, but eventually she learns that MommyDaddy have her best interests at heart. And the incredible thing is that God is far more steady and reliable with us than we are with her.

Here's to remembering that every time Amelia wants to wear her winter pajamas (I wear my jayas!) in the middle of a hot afternoon, or doesn't want to get out of the lake even though she's blue in the face. As much as I want her to trust me — the flawed, human me — God wants my trust that much more.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Another exercise in trust

Things today have been a little turmoil-ish.

I found out that my Jetta, in which I survived an incident with a drunk driver about two weeks ago, is likely to be deemed a total loss. Because of the way the vehicle was set up, this leaves me with no debt and no payments, but also no car.

That's a little scary to me.

But I also discovered that it's likely I will get money for "pain and suffering" and I will have medical expenses covered to get my back looked at. This is good.

I just don't know where God takes me from here. There are a bunch of big question marks looming in the coming months that I have yet to answer, and as much as I like to take things as they come, there are certain securities I like to have settled — my vehicle being one of them.

It's another exercise in trust and faith, I suppose.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Lord's many blessings

The last several weeks have been a wash, an outpouring of God's love and bold displays of his ability to care for me. I've been so busy lately that I haven't had time to reflect on the happenings of late, but my editor was gracious enough to give me the evening off (as a thank-you for working at 5 a.m.).

We're entitled to a little goofiness.
I've been battling bitterness these last few months, and it's been apparent that I need to learn how to keep those bitter thoughts at bay. Bitterness, like doubt, is a tiny seed when planted, but it quickly grows into an out-of-control weed.

Let me quickly lay out last week: Sund— you know what? Never mind. There's no sense in rehashing the reasons for me to be unhappy. I can just marvel that God has worked in my heart and mind to make me resilient to the bumps and bruises along the way. I'm safe, I'm warm, I'm fed and watered, and I'm loved. Period.

Christmas was a huge blessing. I saw my whole family together for the first time since June, and was able to introduce the newest member: my beloved best friend, with whom I look forward to a life of excitement and adventure. Marie has been an incredible revelation to me; someone I cherished in a platonic sense for years who worked her way into my heart and my future.

We were able to build a transcendent friendship  — one we were blissfully unaware would one day be more — and it shifted and blossomed into a relationship I can really take pride in.

She is one of many things God has given me recently that I haven't asked for. He wants to lavish on us, and that's been apparent. Everything from blessing me with safety in the wreck a few weeks ago (and giving me a slick rental for the Christmas road miles) to giving me a soft schedule this week as I look to adjust my daily life to more healthy habits.

I have plenty of things I want to accomplish in the next few months, and I'm sure I'll write further on those subjects individually, but it's exciting for the Lord to have re-awoken the ability for my heart and mind to DREAM once again. The prayers I have yet to ask have already been answered, and my time is free here and there for God to jump in and fill it with goodness.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tragédie à Paris

It dawned on me yesterday exactly how many times I've been working and touched by tragedy in the last several years.

As I sit here in the lobby of my old Starbucks and tap away, I clearly remember working the night of the shootings at Clackamas Town Center, and speaking with customers as they drove by the window in tears. I was at work shortly after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, and remember the chilled atmosphere amongst the customers.

Six months ago, a student at one of the high schools I covered was killed during the school day as she drove home from the local community college. I watched the students react in heartbreak over twitter throughout the day, and was part of the team covering the candlelight vigil that night.

I was on my way to the office on Oct. 10 when I learned about the shootings at Umpqua Community College — just 75 miles from where I live.

And just a few days ago, I sat trapped in the car, listening in horror as the terror in Paris unfolded.

It's really hard to pretend that sports matter on those days.

When Kerrigan Clark was killed, I struggled to return to work. When the students in Roseburg were murdered, I sat in a daze at my desk and listened to the chaos in the newsroom as we bent under the weight of what had happened a short distance away.

The town of Roseburg is still humbling to drive through. There are a handful of billboards along I-5, two of which carry Umpqua-related signs. One carries has large white letters on a black background, bearing the message, "UCC STRONG; we will prevail together."

It's hard to process all of this. The recent murders around the world (and that includes Beirut, in Syria, in Iraq...) are a powerful reminder as to who holds the title of prince on this hell-bent rock.

As often as I've been reminded of what matters in sports — the relationships, brotherhood, learning and growing, the emotion — I've also been drawn to do work that really matters. And not to waste time on things that aren't important.

My heart doesn't break for this lost world often enough. Asking the Lord to open my eyes to how much the earth needs redemption is a terrifying request, but if that's what it takes to motivate me out of my meaningless rut... so be it.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Chasing the self-motivated man

I've spent ample time over the last few weeks thinking about sources of motivation. Being closely connected to athletics, I find it amazing to watch a kid who is self-motivated.

I'm not that way, not really.

I've spent too much time focusing on being better than the next guy, and not enough time trying to be the best version of myself. And that's unfortunate, because those two things are rarely at the same level.

I'm a competitive person, by nature, and therein lies the reasoning for much of what I do. If somebody else plays a game well, I want to play it better. If someone else writes a story or wins an award, I want to write it better. I find myself wanting to sing better, to give gifts better.

For starters, it's a terribly selfish habit, but that's another blog post on humility. I know how I come off sometimes. It's coming.

The bottom line, though, is that I think I've forgotten how to compete with myself. My reason for pushing myself has been external — in my job, and in my personal life. It extends to music and relationships, and worms into my family relations, as well.

I think it's Envy-based, which is something I've written about before. Remember, self, thank the Lord for his blessings when Envy starts to creep in.

Being more grateful will be the first personal aspect, I think, and it's important to keep things in the right perspective. Our society looks at a self-motivated person as continually saying, 'I can, I can.' It should be more of an, 'I will.' One presents self-betterment as a possibility, and the other as a reality.

This upcoming holiday season is a big opportunity. It's a chance to be genuine, and I have a shot at examining what my goals are in how I relate to people. What matters more: my being better than the people I'm around, or that I do my best in whatever I do?

Should be an easy answer. I will.

Monday, November 2, 2015

To walk, to wake

Rather late this morning, I finally convinced myself to get out of bed and drug myself across the hallway to have a machine make me coffee.

A sandwich and copious doses of caffeine in my system, I returned to my sheets and was about to click through to one of my Netflix addictions and continue to waste away my day.

This has become a pattern, and one that's difficult to break. And a day in bed doesn't exactly mean a day of rest — rather, it usually ends at three or four in the morning when I get bored of Criminal Minds and decide to sleep until the process begins over again the next day.

It makes for a sleepy — literally and figuratively — life.

But today was different. Coffee still in hand, I pulled my office chair from my closet and began organizing my things. Dirty laundry went to wash, clean laundry went to drawers and I went to work cleaning my life up.

I trimmed the beard last night, for the first time in two months. I'm getting a haircut tomorrow, and the old, ripped clothes that have been stowing away in my closets for the last few years are being disposed of. My bed is made, the dishes are put away and the floor of my little room is clear of obstacles.

I found my collection of wool socks, and might have let out a little murmur of pleasure when I put them on for the first time this fall.

I'm hoping that, somewhere deep in my consciousness, I've decided to wake up.

Looking back, I wonder how many opportunities I've missed for fear of upsetting my lazy routine. The chance to be in shape, the chance at making the last few years a little less lonely by stepping out and embracing my community. The chance at a stronger walk based on unrelenting trust.

I'm still hiding behind a screen, but I've moved to Rogue Roasters. It helps to clear my head, and with a few of the cobwebs knocked away, I find myself frustrated at the lack of meaning and progress I sometimes see in life.

This blog is full of quick-fix ideas. I'll give up Facebook for a week, I'll have my phone off on Sundays, I promise to be more active, I'll be working on immediately acting on God's whisperings... there's a little bit of everything.

Three years later, what is different?

Habits are built and broken. Sins are contracted and eradicated. That's all part of the process, but the whole idea is the difference in my heart. I've long wondered when the Jesus-thing will just click and make sense. I've asked for a Damascus moment, but it seems not very many people get those -- and for good reason.

I think God wants me to choose that on my own. I've got to make the conscious choice to DO something with my life. To change, to grow, to love.

To walk, to wake.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Addicted to work

My desk actually looks a little like this.
Hello, everyone. My name is John, and I'm addicted to work.

That's what it feels like, anyway. Maybe it's time for a self-intervention.

These last two weeks have been crazy. Tuesday, I started early and worked late. Wednesday, I started really early and worked really late. Today, I had a 9:30 a.m. appointment over in Medford to have my car looked at... and I'll be working late. The weekend is full of work in Eugene and a visit to Portland.

The only upside is that I think I'll finally be able to get to a church on Sunday.

I'm reminded of a handful of conversations I've had over the years about personal boundaries to keep certain things safe. I do a great job of isolating myself emotionally and spiritually, but I'm poor at protecting my personal time and horribly inept at putting boundaries around the time I reserve -- or don't reserve -- for my walk.

This is a problem, and one I have no idea how to fix. As I've detailed before, most of Sunday is spent in a daze recovering from the week that was. On weekdays, I do my best to drag myself out of bed in the late morning/early afternoon, attempt to get some exercise and food in, shower and go to work around three. If I'm lucky, I get home before 2 a.m., and begin the process again.

That doesn't leave time for reflection, and it certainly feels like there isn't time for prayer or reading. And as I sit for the first of four hours at a little Starbucks (yaaaasss) in Medford, I can see three different groups of men gathered here on this Thursday morning and talking about the bible, their faith and accountability.

Three groups. Yes, Lord, I see your point.

But how do I handle it? In Scappoose, God pointed me toward a pastor and friend and we met up a handful of times in the months before I moved. But here in Southern Oregon, everything is fresh and new. I don't know anyone, and hardly have the energy to look.

Maybe things will get easier as I get more comfortable. Hopefully work will slow down once fall postseason schedules have run their courses.

Thankfully, God's plate is capable of holding an awful lot more than mine.