Monday, December 30, 2013

Finally, the Relationship Post

It's just as important to record the victories and lessons in live as it is the hard times. And it's not all the time (in fact, not often) that the hard times are big things. I've had some big things - my car, my house, my food.

Tonight, my melancholy mood has nothing to do with that. It's a matter of heart.

For those of you who know me well, you've heard the story of how I've entrusted my heart these past few years. It's a hard reality to look back and wonder whether to question my judgement, my trust in those around me, or my trust in my own heart, but now I'm at a funny crossroads.

I've made the choice to move past those things. They're behind me, and I've done my best to walk away and I'm ready to stop moving past and start moving on - I just struggle to know how.

A number of confusing thoughts have floated around my head for several months now. Can I trust myself to make a good choice in a relationship? Can I finally be at peace enough to step into something, should the opportunity present itself? Do I have a right to ask God for a relationship?

We'll start with the last one, as it's been the most prevalent as of late. The overwhelming worry is that I am somehow not ready - as in, not good enough yet - to ask for a relationship. Like I need to change first, or as though I have to be a better follower of Christ in order to 'deserve' such a blessing.

Some of the time, in my head, I know thoughts like that are fairly off base. I don't 'deserve' blessing at all, and there's nothing I can do to get there. My brain knows that, but my heart tends to forget. Right now, and fairly often, it's the heart that takes over and the tiny little voice in my head throws up it's hands (cause voices have hands) and wails in despair that it will never be good enough, or that I've wasted my time and the right person is past me.

It becomes more and more difficult to look at the people around me and watch as they happily pair up and get married. A number of close friends, many of whom I've been close with for several years, have gone that route, and I'm left feeling stagnant and guilty.

Guilty. It doesn't really make sense, right? I feel guilty for WANTING something so good. It's different than when I've discussed the topic before - not feeling good enough to ask God for things. This time, I feel badly because somewhere in my head, I feel as though asking God for a relationship is like saying He isn't enough relationship for me.

I wrestle with that almost daily. If God made me, it was He that instilled in me the heart for love, relationships, marriage, children... so I feel God's intent, and yet am overcome by the fear that it is somehow not right for me to want or ask for something that - as it appears - God made me for.

Maybe it's impatience, maybe change is just around the corner, but what I do know is that it's ok to ask. It's a habit that I need to get in to regardless of how I feel, and I need to break the foolish habit of feeling as though I need to change before asking God for things.

Help me with this, friends.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

JesusBux: Time is more than Money

Captioned "Jesus starts his workday."
It's funny how divine appointments tend to sneak up on us. 

Last night, I made the choice on a whim to go down to Starbucks and "work" for a while, as the internet at my apartment is on the fritz. And by "work" I mean look at some box scores and then sit on Facebook until the store closes - a simple time waster, just something to do before settling in. While my intent was lazy, God had other plans, and I wonder if my whim was not a whim but a whisper, just loud enough to be audible.

I met a man, also named John, that approached me and asked me about my plans for the next few years. I told him I wanted to move to a larger paper eventually, maybe a bi-weekly or a daily. You know, logical steps. No sense in getting ahead of myself.

To my surprise, he responded by asking me why I wasn't gaming for Sports Illustrated, and while at first I thought he was being a little sarcastic, eventually I realized he put stock in what he said. Literally. The man, who is a local business owner and "teacher" of millionaires, spent the next hour or so going over some basics of how to change your mindset from one of complacency how and reach for success.

His original thought was aimed at the business and professional side of things, but he mentioned Jesus, the bible and proverbs enough times during our conversation to get me thinking: How can I apply these things to my walk and my career at the same time?

Here are a few thoughts:

One of his strongest points was the value of time. Rich business owners, he said, would be better served to fly across the country in their corporate jet than fly commercial or drive, even though it might be far cheaper. The reason is that they know the value of their time. It's worth much more than the small amount of money people are willing to trade it for.

In my job, that means I need to be more intentional about how I use my time. Sure, I get paid a certain amount per hour, but the lessons I learn and the progress I make in my career are worth more than the measly salary I make, even though I may not reap the benefits right now. Making the most of each opportunity, going further on that story, taking the time to get better at interpreting stats or communicating a coaches thoughts - all those things are benefits on top of the money the newspaper pays me, and are things I have to choose to pursue. 

That same concept applies to my relationship with Christ. I tend to spend quite a bit of my free time in a mindless zone. The radio is on when I drive and when I sleep, and once I get home from work, I sit on the couch and watch netflix or head down to my favorite cafe to waste time online. All that time could and should be better spent, especially the 10 hours a week behind the wheel of my car. Those mindless things are the defaults I drift toward, and it's rare that I choose something different and actually engage of my own accord.

Just as I can spend my work hours focusing on making myself a better journalist instead of simply getting the work done, I can also make good use of the times where my mind would otherwise be floating useless, namely in the car and just before bed. I'll make an effort to pray for the first 15 minutes of my daily drive, and put away the phone in the minutes before I sleep - all part of an effort to be intentional with my time, whether toward my career or toward my Christ.

This is likely the first of several posts pertaining to my conversation with this man, a completely unexpected, but potentially groundbreaking hour. It's gotten me more excited for my future, and given me a better vision for how to accomplish the lofty goals I've set on the back burner for so long. More to come.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Big and Little

The shower is most often the place I do my best thinking. I swear, if I lived in that thing I'd be famous for my steely intellect and wisely worded memes, but there's a wrench in the setup - I do my writing at night.

So when I had a rather lovely discussion this morning with myself over the topic of asking for things (a re-hashing of my last post), I was worried I might forget everything I'd drummed up whilst under the water. Thankfully, the main point stuck with me.

Over the last few weeks, I've expressed some frustration about getting things. First, it was frustration surrounding my driving situation - my car died, and I needed a way to commute to work. Then it died again, and I wondered how I would be cared for, and lastly I summed up some thoughts around the idea that I am made worthy of God's presence and ear because of Christ's sacrifice.

This morning, though, I realized all that might have been avoided. The thought came up because of a different issue - one having to do with relationships - but it's applicable across the board: if you have a need, ASK.

Simple right? Yep. Well, in theory, but I don't for some reason. Part of it, as I've discussed previously, has to do with the lie that I'm not good enough to find the Lord's favor, but there's got to be something else.

"Naw, I don't NEED that," I tell myself. "I won't bother God with that, there are bigger things to deal with."

And while I see some validity to that (please help me decide which tooth to brush first), the idea of prayer without ceasing argues to the contrary, doesn't it? We're supposed to cast our cares and worries on him, and nowhere in that passage does it say cast the IMPORTANT cares on the Lord, and leave the little things to yourself.

I now have one of these, her name is Ava.
The problem seems to be that I don't believe Jesus when he says how watches over us. He tells us that he notices when the sparrow falls from the nest - how much more does he care for us? Toothpaste is fairly inconsequential, but many of the little things God actively wants to hear about. Even if it's not an actual request, having the conversation (communication is part of a basic friendship) is essential.
Lord, my day hasn't gone well so far. I need help to get through traffic today. Boy, that sunshine is beautiful, thank you for creating that. Make me a blessing today, in the little ways.

All those things seem fairly mundane, and by themselves they are. An honest, early-morning complaint. A request for patience in traffic and a thankful observance of a created thing - those are small, but put together and they start to carry weight. Once you get used to all the little things, it becomes FAR easier to ask for the big things.

It's about building the connection with something simple, so that when a difficult situation comes along, the Lord's help is the first place you turn. I've been better as of late about the little things, but I suppose I still need practice. As the last few weeks have shown, I still freak out for a while before settling down and turning to God as I should have to begin with.

And look how the Lord has responded! A job, a lovely apartment, another (dream) job, a helping hand and a new car to get me from place to place. What providence! Now it's my turn.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Poison-lips of Satan

Most people are under the impression that sin didn't exist before the fall. I disagree.

Sin, which is a "transgression against divine law," didn't simply come in to being when Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit. The concept is a little older than that. Satan sinned against God, as did half the angels.

"Fig leaves to hide from God, seems legit..."
Now what, then, did the fall change? As I see it, it was the introduction of guilt. and not guilt in that "you committed this act, therefore you are guilty," but guilt as it pertains to shame surrounding something you've done. I'd be willing to bet that the evil one isn't ashamed of his actions, but Adam and Eve showed they definitely were by attempting to hide from the Lord in the garden.

And as often as I look at their example and chuckle, I do the exact same thing. I have quite a few needs in life, as I've mentioned in the last few postings. I've had a fair amount of thought on why it is that I hesitate to ask the Lord's help in these things until the last minute, and I think I've settled on a few culprits.

I'm guilty. Yes, I know we all are, but I'm guilty. I feel that guilt, I'm ashamed. The weight of my past sins and current struggles weighs on me when I come before God to ask for help with my food, or my transportation, or my job.

Seconds before I pray, I think "I'm in no place to ask for anything, just look at what I did today."

It happens all the time, now that I'm conscious of it, and it's no different than how Adam and Eve tried to hide in the garden and covered themselves with fig leaves. I'm too ashamed to ask anything of the Lord because I don't perceive myself as worthy, and in some respects, I'm right to think so. As a broken vessel, I'm not worthy. I'm a sinful creature by nature, and I am no more worthy to step into God's presence as I am to tie the sandals on Jesus' feet.

But here's where I'm dead wrong. It's not ME that matters in this equation, and how selfish of me to think so. My perception is that I'm somehow in control of whether God will listen to my plea, and that isn't at all the case.

Consider this basic principle:

Jesus said that He is the way, the truth and the life. He said that no one can get to the Father except through him, and as a believer and a disciple of Christ, I have access to the Father because of the BLOOD of JESUS and not my actions. As such, my sinful nature, which is covered up by said blood, isn't enough to make me unworthy to bring my fears and concerns before the Lord.

Where does such an idea come from? What a poison! The power to convince me that I am too sinful, too broken or too lowly to converse with a God who even now expresses his (literal) undying and unbounded love for me -- it can only come from the mouth of the devil.

I cast you OUT, you poisoned-lips! You no longer have my ear, I am made worthy because of the cleansing blood of Jesus, and that is something you cannot take from me.

Lord, help me to remember this lesson. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Calming the Storm

I tend to worry quite a bit. The focus of that worry changes from time to time, but it's the same basic idea: my welfare. Where will I work, where will I live, what will I eat... what will I drive?

I've thought all of these things over the last year or so, and I'm slightly at a loss for what to do with them. It's natural, in many ways, to act like that. The disciples, for example, continually freaked out and looked for earthly solutions to their problems. When the 5,000 were hungry, they considered sending them to the town for food, but Jesus had other ideas. When they were caught up in the storm, they tried bailing the boat before simply giving up and waiting to die, but Jesus had better ideas.

And when Jesus was killed, the disciples ran and hid, but Jesus had something else up his sleeve.

In each of these instances, the disciples did exactly as I do - worry about their basic needs, and blow them out of proportion. The people are going to starve! We're all gonna drown! Jesus is dead, we're sitting ducks!

So yeah, it's a human thing to do. What I wrestle with is the balance between faith and ACTING on faith. I need things in life. I need a roof over my head, I need food to eat. To get those things I need a job, and to hold a job I need a car.

Here's the difficult part. By the grace of God, I've had a car to drive over these past few weeks, but that term is almost over. Now, do I sit and wait for another gift? Or do I run out and fight for something new?

The first option of being faithfully patient I often dismiss as being lazy. It's the idea of the man who is stranded on top of his house by flood waters and dies because he refuses to see that God sent a boat and a helicopter to safe him. I tend to see it as looking for a handout. I'm gonna lay here until somebody drops food into my mouth because I'm "trusting God" with my needs.

Running and fighting are equally taboo. Aren't we supposed to trust God with our needs? I'm reminded of the story of the two women, when one was content to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn, while the other rushed around preparing a meal. Even though she was working hard for the purpose of something good - making food for Jesus - she would have been better served (hah) to be at His feet. Even in the story of the disciples on the boat, Jesus rebukes them because they didn't simply trust that their safety was in the hands of the Almighty.

That's why I struggle with this idea. I see value in both schools of thought, and I see detriment in both schools of thought. Finding a good balance between the two is really hard for me. I look in to my (recent) past and see evidence of God's providence and trust that He will, in the end, provide for my needs. I know that. I just don't know how much of that journey I am supposed to shoulder.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Romans 8:28 - Blessings in Disguise


I never have been one to take a bright and cheery outlook on things. And it's not saying I shun optimism, it's simply the way my brain works.

I'm in store for another blessing in disguise.
My car died today. Again. Last week, the starter motor kicked the can, and this time, the rest of the car decided to call it quits on the way to church. On the way to CHURCH. I mean, come on, it's a good cause, right? And as I sat there amidst the angry motorists in the middle of the intersection, the words "Lord, please help my car work - I need to get to worship" were on repeat in my head.

It's been that way for a few weeks now. Lord, I need to get to work. Lord, I just need to get home, help me to get that far. Carry my car to that gas station down the road, I know they close in 10 minutes. THANK you JESUS *with a hand on the roof* for turning the motor over, for giving me a little extra fuel, for being my tailwind.

Now, I'm in a weird place. Part of me knows and understands the power of prayer. Obviously, it works and I've been blessed these past few weeks. The last time Samson (my car) died, it was in the parking lot of a dealership filled with ex-volvo employees who gathered around to help me out, gave me a killer deal, and had me back on the road the very next day. Last night, Samson sputtered into a gas station at 12:50 a.m., 10 miles from the next station with absolutely nothing in between.

But this morning, he died in an intersection on the way to church, and I'm conflicted. Even though I have experienced God's blessing first hand, I'm still disheartened. Not in the same way as when I lost Chester, my volvo sedan, but I still feel loss, regardless of whether Samson is fixed or not.

I also question why my "help me get to worship, Lord" prayer wasn't answered this time. A lesson in humility, maybe? I already drive a shuddering, smoking, gutless vehicle. I'm not particularly proud of it (sorry, Samson), so I wonder what there is to learn from this.

The only thing I have right now, I suppose, is a look at the past few years. I can't see a solution to this problem. I can throw myself at different ideas, but I have no way of knowing how they'll pan out. I know I need guidance, but the biggest thing here is faith.

Chester, my beloved, in front of my first apartment.
I look back at the things I've lost recently, and though they might have seemed difficult to stomach at the time, I can see the hand of God in hindsight. Moving out of my parent's house forced me on my feet. Losing the job at Haggen - I was laid off, mind you - opened up a position at Starbucks, where I met countless people and made some excellent friends. Starbucks, in turn, led to my driving past 1202 Jackson St., and when a sign went up in the window advertising it as available, I was blessed to snap it up.

The big one, though, was losing the contract with the NWAACC. Less than a week after moving in to my new apartment, I got a call from the league's executive director. They had made less money than expected at the basketball tournament, he said, and could no longer afford my position. As I wrote in a blog post at the time, I was devastated. How would I pay for gas? Rent? Food?

As it turns out, however, the vacancy on the writing side of my life couldn't have gone any better. A few weeks later, I ran in to an old teacher of mine, and the conversation led to my applying for a position at the Molalla Pioneer. That, in turn, got me an interview with the Spotlight, where I currently hold the Sports Editor position.

"See, John? See?" says the Lord. "Look how I care for you. Notice how I bless you in times of trial, take to heart that I am working in all things."

Alright. I will. Give me faith, Lord, to follow your lead in whatever bless'ed direction this takes me. Make me humble, and comfort me in my fear and sadness. Help me believe and wait on your blessing, and gift me with the patience to trust in your understanding of my future. And in all things, fill my heart with peace that I may forge ahead in confidence for your glory.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Search for Satisfaction

The file was titled PhiliOmnomnom. Appropriate.
It seems I spend most of my waking moments searching for satisfaction. As though having another chalupa, moving into a new place, getting a new car... getting a cat (who is currently attacking the keyboard, be proud of my typing skills) will suddenly solve my problems.

The thing is, and I continue to discover this over and over again, those problems won't go away due to some worldly solution. Though it may seem like progress is made by moving out of a house with bad memories or finding a girlfriend to stave off loneliness, those solutions don't work at all in the long run. Sure, filling your tummy, taking a bath, or holding hands with some young lovely might feel good for a time, but all it does is take your MIND off the fact that you are still as stuck as you were before.

And what is more, worldly solutions do more than abet procrastination, they actually promote the idea that it's working. Take the girlfriend idea for example.

You've a nice little apartment and a good job, but something is missing. At night you feel a crushing loneliness because you have no one sweet to talk with, and so those hours are spent in silence. To deal with this, you spend either spend your time reading or glued to a screen as an escape from your plight. Eventually, that doesn't hold up, you put your mind to meeting someone for the purpose of filling that void and you find somebody you like.

In this instance, the time you spend with this person is great. Your mind and heart are engaged, and you feel a part of something. But what happens if that situation goes away? If you didn't change in the process of the relationship, then it acted only as a band-aid, a cover-up for the underlying problem.

I got a cat (who needs a girlfriend), and in many ways, she falls into the same category as the last example. I got her because of my empty apartment, and even though she's always there (rather obnoxiously, as she chews on my sleeves), I still have to do my best to hide from moments of silence.
Unfortunately, this means the problem is still there and still rooted in my heart, in spite of the things - food, movies, friends, my cat - I throw at it.

All these things are coping mechanisms, and they're not all bad. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with having a cat (or a girlfriend, the two seem to be interchangeable), but how silly is it to rely on food or animals - or even a friend - to keep you happy? Everything fails, in time. My kitty scratches me. No matter how good your friendship is with someone, they're gonna let you down. Too many chalupas get you fat.

The ONLY way to be fulfilled is to accept that worldly things will never fill the God-shaped void in all of us. No matter how hard we try and how many things we stuff, the void will always empty the next day. The pursuit of Christ satisfies you, and yet leaves you hungry for more.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My fight with Facebook

     I've had a Facebook account for about five and a half years now. I built my profile just before going off to Bolivia in the late spring of 2008, and just after buying Djimii, my beloved djembe. My Facebook account is older than my oldest nephew Jonathan, and over the past five years it has been a platform for new friendships, the renewal of old relationships, and the construction of a much stronger and vaster network of contacts than I had in the past.
This little thing takes up the rest of my time.
     It's healthy, though, to take a step back once in a while.
     A typical day of mine begins with my phone ringing me awake. I stop the ringer (after 45 minutes or so) and check all the notifications I received while I slept. Once those are exhausted, I hop in the shower for a minute or two, and often check my phone the second I step out. I check it again after I'm dressed, and once or twice on the way to Starbucks before work.
     While waiting in line for my fancy latte, I might pull out the phone, but I'll certainly check it again at the first stop light I reach after leaving the cafe. and should it buzz or pop or jingle, back in my hand it goes.
     Wait, really?
     I haven't even gotten to work yet and I've looked at my phone - and especially Facebook - one, two, threeee.... seven times or more.
     For those of us who have smart phones, this habit becomes more or less part of our routine. Heck, I grew up without television and didn't have a phone until I was 21 years of age, and I still do it. For whatever reason, the need to be connected and immersed is desperate.
     Taking stock of my social media accounts - which I've noticed has become a twisted source of pride - I realize exactly how overwhelmed I've become, and something needs to change. I still want that tattoo I mentioned a few months back, but even a permanent marking isn't enough. It doesn't solve the problem.
     The issue, as I see it, is boundaries (thanks, Anna). If we - meaning I - fail to set boundaries, of course things like Facebook can overrun my life. It might sound like 'overrun' is a little bit of an exaggeration, but when it becomes difficult to ignore the little jingle or wait to check the flashing tab, there's a problem.
     I'm not sure how to solve it. I deactivated my Facebook for about a week so I could think about it's necessity, and I've settled on a few things.
Firstly, the Facebook app is staying off of my phone. That keeps me from constantly checking to see what new cat picture my friends have posted. Secondly, I know I need to look for something wholesome to take its place. Not another app, not Netflix (which is my downfall), but something productive and useful.
     Those options do nothing to fix the craving. They only bury the symptoms, and the dependence on connectivity will only continue to rot and fester unless I can put that want in a box and leave it there if need be. It has no power but what I give to it, and I've relinquished too much. That trend needs to be reigned in.
     I don't know what that looks like. I'll make excuses, I'm sure, but living a life where my relationships are built on face-to-face contact makes for a bright and desirable future, and it's that reality which I cling to.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Christ in Me

It is from an unusually emotional place that I finally return and continue to chronicle the events of the redemptive process.

This picture is because tumblr and wine. Don't judge.
These last few days have been an interesting challenge. An idol, long held with an iron fist, I finally left to the wind's devices and out of that has come a time of change and turmoil.

With a place in my internal hierarchy open, the struggle and goal is to place something positive into that hole - something that will create a base from which to move forward in every aspect of my life.

Part of that base is finally listening to the voice of reason, releasing my pride and giving ear to the heart of Christ. My life and my mind have for years been hamstrung by the lies of the evil one, and it's time to let the love of God replace those with his truth.

I'm not lazy, I'm not a coward. I don't shirk from tough situations. I am not the product of chance, simply put together by the way the chips fell.

But to take that even further, look at how each of those statements was phrased. It's about me. All about me, which is yet another lie I have allowed myself to believe.

Christ in me is not lazy. Christ in me is not a coward, and shrinks not from trying circumstances. I am not the product of mere happenstance, but of a longstanding gift of LOVE and the work of Christ in me.

There's a start. Yes, I have fallicies, but Christ in me does not. I no longer have need to hold on to the battles of the past - they are as far removed from me as the East is from the West. Because of Christ in me, I have the power to push past the things which have troubled me.

I am beginning to wonder if the very name of this blog speaks ill of what God's love does for those who accept it in it's fullness. The early idea was that I would write down my experiences so I could look back as the Lord took me from a broken, useless servant and made me into a bless'ed vessel, but could I be more wrong?

By accepting the love of Christ, are I not already blessed? Sanctification isn't taking something disheveled and transforming it by magic into something different. On the contrary. The redemptive process, in truth, is the walk of an already saved and beloved creature with his Creator, becoming ever more like the one whose Hands formed him from the beginning.

I would appreciate continued prayer on this matter, and for my dear brother in law Josh, who helped me to see a little light in this convoluted situation.

Note: For those who follow this blog and haven't heard from me personally (I deactivated my Facebook account, coinciding with the event I mention in the second graph), I will be moving to St. Helens, Oregon in the coming weeks. The move is to be closer to my job, which is based in Scappoose.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hebrews 10:24-25: Oil and Water

   
'Cause yeh get this when you search for "fellowship" nowadays.
     So often, I'll step back, take a look at myself and frustratingly decide to change things. This happens every few months, and I make a little progress each time before falling back to the status quo.
     That sucks. A lot.
     And what's more is that I can SEE the steps I take each time, and I usually have little to no idea what led me off track. It either changes each time, or it is simply that - time. Fervor fades as new challenges arise, and that is something that few people can escape. We all do this, whether it's coming home from summer camp, or simply returning to our lives after church on Sunday.
     That sucks too. Because if we all do it, then why don't we all work together to SOLVE it? Doesn't the good book have guidance on this? Oh wait, it does. Yeah.
     Chew on this:
"24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." - Hebrews 10:24-25
     On the surface, that's church, right? Pot-lucks and Sunday school and a camping trip in the summertime? Sure. That stuff is great, but it needs to be deeper than that. You can live for decades in a church and remain as stagnant as you were when you walked in the door.
     According to the author of Hebrews (maybe Paul, maybe not) we should spend time pondering ways to STIR UP our brethren in Christ, and rejoice in their good works and growth! That can be a little uncomfortable.
Wait, you guys eat this stuff? Ew. 
     Complacency, stagnancy, "the status quo," being comfortable - compare that with a bottle of salad dressing for a minute here. If left sitting, all of the good things settle to the bottom, leaving just the oil on the top. Unless you want tasteless oil poured on your greens, you first have to stir up the bottle so that it can be used.
     We too are like that. If I am walking in sin - knowingly or unknowingly - shake me! If I live next to you and am vague about my relationship with Christ, shake me! I don't WANT to be complacent and comfortable. I want to be surrounded and immersed with the positives, so that the whims of the evil one have no hold on me.
     You want to solve the periods in your life when your spiritual high falls by the wayside? THAT is how. Allow yourself to be shaken. ASK to be shaken, and in turn be willing to step out and do the same.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.

Sometimes, I feel the need to disconnect.
But I'll get to that later.
Being honest right off the bat, these last two months have been awesome on the job. Spiritually, I can't say the same. As much energy and vibrance as graces my new career, my walk with the Lord is equally stagnant. How can something so important and so rooted in my heart get put on pause? How can I drift so easily? Why is it so difficult to repent - again - and reinvigorate my relationship?

Ugh. I've been asking these things for some time now. About a month ago, I took an early morning walk up to a new, secret place and had an excellent time of reflection and prayer. During that time I asked God to be so SO present in my life, that He would be impossible to ignore. And oh, how He has answered that prayer in ways I couldn't imagine.

What the last few months have shown me, in reflection, is that no matter how far I run, no matter how hard I try to hide, I can never escape the love of God. Never. At every turn and in each passing moment, God's presence becomes so threaded into my day that I have to actively work to shut it out. It's a constant reminder - I'm here, I'm here... 

It makes it more powerful that the Lord chose to love me in the first place. I'm not a particularly patient person, and I can't speak much to how many chances I would give were the places switched. Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven. Endless, depthless, ceaseless forgiveness. I understand that a little better now. If God has been faithful to forgive my transgressions, then surely he will be faithful as we walk forward.

I want to focus on where to go next. That's my nature, to look ahead (I write previews for sporting events each week) and figure out what path to take and how to move on from here. This time, I think I'll leave that be. My head understands that I can't run, but does my heart know it? This morning we sang "Create in me a clean heart, O God." Yes, please. This one isn't any good.

I need to bask in this forgiveness, and let it sink in.

For, prone to wander, Lord, I feel it! Prone to leave the God I love! Take my heart, Lord take and seal it. Seal it for Thy throne above.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Sigh and Song of Solomon

Russet the she-kitten enjoys my shoulders immensely.
I've reminded myself of Solomon plenty of times over the past few months.

Maybe if I get my own place I'll find fulfillment. Once I get a job I really enjoy that makes me more money, I'll be happy. I just need to eat dinner, or take a long shower, or have a girlfriend or get a kitten (the two may be interchangeable) and I'll be out of the doldrums. The thing is, I've done all that stuff, minus the girlfriend bit, and I haven't suddenly been filled with joy and had all the paths in my life straitened out. Even with little Russet the kitten laying upside down and aggressively licking my elbow, life still doesn't make sense. There are still hardships and loneliness and difficult days and weeks and months.

You see, Solomon tried the same thing. He filled a palace with riches, was the smartest and most powerful man in the world, and had (count them) hundreds of wives. And just as Solomon discovered, none of that changes apart from the Lord. All of the things I listed for myself - and most of them are good things to want - will fade in time, leaving only the bare bones of whatever it was I started with.

Now is time for a much bigger step in the Redemptive Process. I tire of all the quick, temporary fixes to the aching in my heart. It's not about switching up my diet or adding a precious pet to my life, it's about reinventing my world view. It's about simply spending time with the Lord who created me and bonding my heart to his so that I won't stray as I do.

As for solutions, I'll pray and wait patiently. Several that immediately come to mind are obvious. More time in the word being the number one, as well as finding an older and wiser man of God that I can walk with and be accountable to in every facet of my life. Someone that is comfortable making me UNcomfortable, which I have been craving these past months especially.

It's time to break out of the routine. It's time to take off the bandaid and let the gaping wounds heal. It's time to step forward.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

This Next Stage - The Newsman

Welcome to Scappoose. The nearest Starbucks is 8 miles.
Many of you who follow me on Facebook already know about the blessing I received a week ago. To sum the last few days' events up in short, I was hired as the sports editor of the Spotlight, a small but successful weekly newspaper in Scappoose, Oregon. I'll be doing all of the writing, photography and design for the section - and yes, I'll make the hour commute from Oregon City five days a week.

With all the wildness that has ensued, it's been hard to wrap my mind around exactly what is happening. In some recent posts, I talked about an opportunity that it seemed God had placed in my hands to minister to the Parkrose area as well as the lessons learned from my missing out on the job with the Molalla Pioneer. Now in hindsight, I can see how some of those things line up to point me in the direction I'm going now.

The interview with the Pioneer gave me much more than valuable experience in a real interview situation, it served to show me that my skills were valued and validated my dream of becoming a journalist.  Especially when it was that very interview that ended up placing me in front of the publisher of the Spotlight, what proof that I was walking the right path!

With Starbucks, things aren't quite so clear. One of the reasons that I hesitated on the new job was because I wondered if the open door in Parkrose was the one I was supposed to take. While I can clearly see that my current situation is a total God-thing, I can't help but worry that I'm missing out on something that God presented to me. Though I can see that the transfer plans helped make leaving Starbucks easier, the timing of that presentation doesn't entirely make sense. In time, I suppose.

Time brings me to my last thought. This is a new city, a new job and new people. Where does the path of Christ lead me? As a journalist, I'll have the chance for a much larger voice than I do now, but how to use it? Something that I'll definitely mull over in the coming days before I start.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Earth Downs: How hard I fight

Lately, the strongest thought on my heart has been my constant battle against sin. It seems like every moment is spent thinking about how to battle the next temptation or how to rid my daily life of things that can drag me down. I pour energy into walking a spiritual tightrope, as though to reach the other side unscathed.

What I wonder is this: Is that fight a lack of trust in God? Let me break that down.

For years, and much more consciously over the last few months, sin has been a struggle. When one thing appears conquered, another springs up to take it's place. The arrows of the evil one come from every direction, and no matter what defense I put up, no matter how hard I fight,  they eventually break me down. That's the thing, though. What defense *I* put up. How hard *I* fight. Where is God in this? Are my personal battles evidence that I don't put trust in God to carry me through trials and temptations? Should I have to frantically cry for a savior every time the enemy approaches me?

All those things can be addressed in one swoop. Why not, as I have talked about in previous posts, make every attempt to fill my heart with love for the Lord? When I push and fight sin out of my life, all it does is create a vacuum  that has to be filled with SOMEthing. More often than not that space is filled with more of what I just finished clearing out. If I work to fill my heart, mind and soul with Christ, then there is no room for anything else!

The concept is simple. The application is simple. The first steps are usually simple. The hard part is the follow through. For those friends that read and support me in the redemptive process, feel free to check in - both to share your own experiences, and to hold my feet to the fire in my quest.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Neighborhood of Need

Starbucks at 122nd and Halsey
There are times when it feels as though God is silent, like the blessings and guidance are passive, and the words from God are from the Word. There are other times that God is bold and aggressive, speaking with clarity about a plan for his glory.

Tonight was one of those times.

A bit of background before we begin, I was asked to be part of a team to open up a new Starbucks store in NE Portland. I'll be leaving my store in downtown Oregon City for Oak Grove, where I will work for about a month before transferring to the new store in mid to late August. The store, which at the SE corner of the Parkrose neighborhood, is being planted as an experimental drive thru-walk up store with no cafe, and will be Starbucks' baby for the time being.

The intriguing thing about this opportunity is that it is an answer to prayer a long time in coming. Parkrose is traditionally a rough area, especially the northern end along Sandy Blvd and surrounding Parkrose High School, and is a part of the city that seems to get pushed under the rug in terms of outreach. That brings us to today's lightbulb moment.

For much of the time I've been with Starbucks, I've had the notion that I am to be instrumental in starting a Missional Community (or house church) made up of or including Starbucks Partners on mission to love a certain part of our city. Until a few weeks ago, I figured that place would be Oregon City, which is where I live and work. It wasn't until I was lazily scrolling through facebook and happened upon a post from Solid Rock, my church, about the launch of a new missional community in Lake Oswego that it dawned on me the door that was sitting wide open.

What better place to bring people together for the purpose of blessing and loving a neighborhood? And what better group of people than the young, vibrant individuals that work at Starbucks? My current store had four partners that all attended my church, how many more could be given this same calling? How fitting, that I am placed by my work into an area that needs God's hand that aligns so perfectly with the idea that had been placed on my heart years ago.

The mission still needs partners (literal, not just in the SBUX sense), a direction and ample amounts of prayer, but there IS a mission, and that in and of itself is the hand of God. Join me, if you would, in this quest - I don't leave for the new location for more than a month, but prayer support and ideas will be deeply appreciated as I make the first steps on this new Jesus-journey.

Apparently, it's supposed to look like this.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Part 1 - The Wordless Bracelet

Rainbows?!? I wore it here, too.
A few weeks back, I was digging through the things in my closet, and I came across an old craft I had made years ago at summer camp. It was a bracelet, one composed of a thin leather strand strung with five colored beads - a wordless book that tells the story of our salvation.

Black represents the darkness brought on by our wallowing in sin and death. Red stands for the blood of Christ and the sacrifice that was paid. White shines for the pure and unadulterated FREEDOM from sin and death. Green is the growth and maturity, the process of our sanctification. Gold, the final color, is the golden streets of the Heaven, at the side of the Lord.

A small trinket with a big story, for sure, and definite connections to my past, the tender years spent at camp and the shaping of my life that took place there. After sitting for a few moments to reminisce, I slipped the band around my wrist and tied it in place without much thought.

Ignore the order. I do it how it want.
That small, thoughtless action would follow me around for the next week and a half. The bracelet stayed on, bouncing through my runs in the morning, dodging splatters of coffee at work, adorning my wrist on stage - even soaking along with me in the shower. It might seem a little silly for me to make a big deal out of a strange attachment to the bracelet, but it's much more than a physical object in my eyes.

To me, it has begun to serve as a reminder - I am to be shackled to the feet of Christ not matter where I am and what situation I am a part of. My connection to Christ is a source of strength - both against sin, as well as to spur my growth in the sanctification process. While it stayed there, I found that I could walk away from just about any situation, especially while I was alone.

After it had been on for a time, the bracelet became loose, and I chose to take it off for whatever reason. It hasn't been back on since, something that I plan to change once I arrive at home, but that brings me to an interesting point. The bracelet, the little physical trinket, made me realize how important it is to me to have a physical reminder of Christ's presence, sacrifice, love and dedication to the purity of my heart.

I need more of this.

To be continued...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Matthew 6:25 - The Quandary of the Ill at Ease

Doesn't entirely apply to me, I just like the newspaper-lady.
As long as I have been conscious of such things, I have struggled with body image. Even as far back as the fourth grade, when our class went to the community pool in Canby, I was overly self aware. That's age nine - I've had 13 years during which to simmer on the subject.

To put it quite simply, I never see my body as being good enough. This part is too round, this bit jiggles too much, this isn't quite the right length... and ever since then, I've looked at others around me with jealousy. Why were THEY gifted with a faster metabolism? or a stronger drive to keep themselves in perfect shape? Or athletic ability at a younger age?

I actually grew the beard to hide the chin,
but came to love it all on it's own. :)
Then I went through a major transformation during my senior year. I lost a lot of weight and grew an inch or two, ending my high school career on a physical high note. Unfortunately, that added something new to my psychological issues - amidst all of the silent self-deprecation, there now is pride. Now, it's a constant comparison on both sides of the spectrum. A sneer for one person, and a jealous glare for the next.

I've thought this topic over for years, and I come up with the usual things. Oh, you look just fine. Oh, God made you that way and blessed you with the way you are, why throw that away? Oh, the way your body looks doesn't matter in the end, it's the heart. Oh, just stop complaining - there are worse things than having a little extra weight. Oh, yes. Yes, I've heard it all.

And every time I see one of those little images all over facebook that talk about how YOU have the POWER to be anything you WANT, YOU are BEAUTIFUL for who you ARE, YOU don't have to be any DIFFERENT... I see those and fume, because either they're worthless, or I'm worthless at them.

And at this point, I'm somewhat at a loss. I don't need people's compliments - that just feeds the ego side. I don't need people's weight loss tips - that's like asking a fat lady how many months along she is. I need to fix my psyche somehow, and that's not something that can be done by changing my body. That's much more difficult. It's not just about thinking positive thoughts, there are wounds to heal - both from others and myself.

For now, I suppose, I'll take this verse home and to bed, but I would appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat and drink, nor about your body, what you put on. Is life not more important than food, and the body more than clothing?" Matthew 6:25

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Genesis 41:38 - A Lesson Learn'ed


Different bible character, but I love the movie regardless.

Finally, progress! And not progress that I can simply dismiss as a natural progression over time - this is something that I can see!

Last week, I interviewed for a newspaper editor position, something that I didn't expect without first attaining my degree or at least working in the business. I felt confident leaving the interview, but received an email a few days later letting me know that I had been passed for the position (see previous post).

A few months ago, I would have melted down. I'd have been a mess for days, wallowing in my own perceived futility and sleepwalking through the rest of my mundane responsibilities. This time, however, things were different. After a few minutes of nursing my battered pride, I looked to LEARN something from my situation. The biggest lesson was that I need to make the most of what I have been given: namely, my job at Starbucks that I had chased after for so long.

In the last few months I've become disgruntled at where I work, both from the pressure of the high volume of customers and the realization that I need to have some sense of accomplishment in order to feel successful. That sense of accomplishment doesn't come from blowing through a line of customers' drinks, only to see another dozen lined up.

That said, Starbucks has been such a gift. Relatively speaking, I don't have much to complain about. I work in an air conditioned building serving coffee. I get plenty of free drinks, free pounds of coffee, and good health insurance in addition to having my bills paid. I've been able to afford a little apartment and I do much better than starving. I am able to afford my trip to San Francisco in a few weeks with money to spare... all things that I had forgotten because the work is hard sometimes, or I have to work a lot of hours.

In reality, this is a GIFT from GOD. My wanting of something more reeks of greed. That's not to say that wanting to step into sports journalism, where my pastime, passion and workplace run into one, but I need to take a lesson from Joseph and make a blessing out of wherever God places me. Joseph was thrown into slavery, and rose to take control of Potiphar's house with God's blessing. He was thrown in jail by Potiphar's hand, and rose to run the prison with God's blessing. He was left to rot by the advisers to Pharaoh, and rose to take command of the most powerful empire the world had ever seen - with God's blessing.

Now how measly does shining at Starbucks sound?

"So Pharaoh asked them 'Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?'" - Genesis 41:38

Friday, May 31, 2013

Psalm 37:5-7 - The Sting of Humility

I'll be honest and say that there are a lot of places in my life that I need to be humbled in. God has taken those places one by one and laid them bare: my home, my income, my car, my love life, my future... and now another idol: my career in journalism.

I recently applied for a position at a small community newspaper, the one in my home town of Molalla. In my eyes, I had everything to offer that the position called for. I am strong in my writing skills, I'm a solid photographer and I am good in design. I know what I'm doing when it comes to the area of sports journalism, and I take pride in that. I walked into the interview with a killer portfolio, dressed to impress, and walked out feeling as though I had rocked the socks off of the interview. Today, I received an email letting me know that I was not chosen.

Um, what? I thought this interview and job were a God thing, an open door that I was supposed to jump through. I thought that God had provided this - why the brief glimpse and then the let down?

Right now, I can't see that. Right now, I've just got to keep from putting my head back down and trodding on with my life in retail. Right now, I struggle with wanting to put myself out there just to be disappointed once more.

What I do know is how resounding my first thought was upon reading the email. What a humbling. Oh, what a painful humbling. A young, hot-shot journalist can't pick up a job at a tiny community newspaper? THAT is a God thing.

My lesson for the moment is this, though I'm shocked to the point of tears: my growth in the LORD outweighs anything I could ever do elsewhere. That is to be my focus.

"Depend on the Lord; trust him, and he will take care of you. Then your goodness will shine like the sun, and your fairness like the noonday sun. Wait and  trust the Lord. Don't be upset when others get rich or when someone else's plan succeeds." - Psalm 37:5-7

UPDATE:

I received a second email from the editor of the newspaper, letting me know that I was "top of the list" and a great candidate for the job, but lost out only because there were a few applicants that had more experience in an editor's position. How edifying is that! I have no degree, and no previous professional experience, yet I was a finalist in their search. Yet another blessing, and a reassurance from the Lord that I am headed in the right direction and that, in his time the Lord will move forward in the next step of his plan.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Psalm 51:10 - The Fight of the Futile

I have a beard-growing habit something horrible.
Bad habits suck. They really do. They suck away the motivation to change, they suck the energy needed to fight them, and they suck at the life of their host. They're parasites, really, and like strong addictions they are extremely difficult to kick.

In my case, I form habits extremely easily. I go the same way to work each day. I usually get the exact same drink from Starbucks each time. I shower in the same order every morning, and have to sleep with the radio on at night. Most of these are innocuous, but there are habits that aren't so harmless. Those are the ones that I spend my time battling against - the pride, the lies, the undertow of lust - and for this post, I wanted to record some thoughts about the war that rages on a daily basis. 

I'd much rather have him fight alongside.
The first thought is wonderment at how often I have my eyes downward, focused on each individual skirmish. My initial reaction, should I react at all, is to pull into a shell and think "no no no no" like a child that refuses to listen. While that might work here and there, I gain nothing from it in the long run. I don't really learn anything, and the battle begins anew the next time around from exactly the same place I started from. How much better off would I be if, when attacked and tempted, I lifted my eyes UPWARD and allowed the Lord to guide me? What if I allowed God to show me the entire war - the victories that were being won and the surge of the host of heaven! No more hunkering down and bracing myself, but instead looking to the Lord for deliverance. How then would each battle look? 

The second thought is that running from sin doesn't help either. If I drift in and out of drugs (which I don't, for the record), and decide to get clean, simply changing where I live or who I hang out with will only help for a short period of time. Eventually, whether it's with the same crowd or a brand new one, my sinful nature will find a way back into whatever I was doing beforehand. What is required (thanks Anna and Josh) isn't a change of scenery, it's a change of heart. If the heart remains the same, why should the body change it's habits? Cleaning the fridge of beer, throwing out the dirty magazines, deleting that person's number - it serves only as a bandaid for an open wound. It will last for a time, but bleed through. I need to be made new - heart, mind and soul - in order for those changes to take effect. 

Those two things, that we should look to the Lord for deliverance and for a rebuilding of our hearts, brings new depth to one of my favorite verses:

"Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit in me." - Psalm 51:10

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Revelation 3:16 - The Cry of the Complacent

Solid Rock Downtown - The place to be at 8 p.m. on Sunday evenings in Portland.

Last week at the church I attend on Sunday evenings, I made my way up to the prayer room that is provided for people who need prayer, have questions, or simply want somebody to talk with. I had several things on my mind, and made the trip as much for prayer as for the chance to talk my thoughts out with a brother in Christ.

It just so happened that I met with Mike, the downtown pastor at Solid Rock, the body that has become my home over the last two years. I laid out several of the things that were on my heart: I still hadn't called the woman who had given me a business card out of the blue at work (view previous posting for context), I had been dragging my feet on starting a missional community in an area that God had presented to me, and a few others. Each instance being a time that the Lord had opened a door that either I refused to walk through, or walked through slow and late.

Over the course of several minutes of open, honest conversation, Mike said that I should look and try to find the root of why I hesitated to jump through the doors and windows that God had wide open in front of me. Was it fear? Pride? Did I feel undeserving? Or was it something else?

I told Mike that I would think and pray on it (which I have done, but it needs more work), but that initially, I know that one of my most common tenancies is to simply keep the status quo - doing what is necessary to keep things the way they are, and nothing more. I'm motivated by desperation more often than not, and things don't happen until the last minute, or won't happen at all if I don't see them as essential.

They call me a hipster, sometimes.
In that respect, it is complacency and a fear of disturbing the peace that seems to halt my response to God's promptings. That, mixed with the pride of thinking that it was my hard work that got me my current coffee-job, was what has stopped me from calling that woman. Having to change my schedule, talk to people in new ways, or take on a new role is what has stopped me from contacting the Missional Communities ministry leader. I might, might get into something uncomfortable.

While this complacency is a habit that needs changing in all areas of my life, there isn't any waiting to change it in respects to God. My sister has promised to make my life difficult if I haven't called the woman by Friday, and Mike directed me to the man in charge of the ministry, but moving forward in this battle with complacency is still very much a battle that I don't know how to win.

For now, it's baby steps. I'll call that lady tomorrow morning, and I am about to draft an email to the pastor at my church, but it's a problem that I'll need help in solving. Thoughts?

"So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." - Revelation 3:16

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Proverbs 16:3 - Hiding from Omnipotence

Not much relevancy. Just... beard.
At church this morning, the preacher had an interesting point that I want to stick with me. He said that, should we wonder whether something is within God's will, see if we are comfortable asking for God's blessing. Obviously that doesn't always work, but it does force us to take the second and consider the motivations and consequences of things.

It's like asking permission from your parents to do something. If you feel like you have to change and twist the story of what you're about to do in order to make it sound ok and get approved, odds are you probably shouldn't be doing it. Or at least you'll get in trouble when you're found out.

Things work in a similar fashion with God. It's an extreme, but saying "Lord, please bless this robbery I'm about to attempt. May I not get shot and may I get away with loads of cash" makes so little sense it's ridiculous to ask. Instead, we ask God to provide money for us and just so happen to leave out that we plan on robbing the bank on the way home from church.

How to fix  that, then? It's our nature to hide our wrongdoings from God. Look at Adam and Eve - they ran and hid from God after they had sinned. Whether it's out of embarrassment or fear, we all do it. What is it that I need to change in order to reverse that habit?

I haven't put a whole lot of thought into the matter as of yet (part of my movement to blog in the moment), but initially, I think it's part of the sanctification process and an issue of trust. Hiding anything from anyone nearly always means that we're afraid of the reaction. Hiding a broken toy from mamma, concealing a stain in the carpet in a new apartment, hiding a little extra weight behind loose fitting clothing: it's all because the reaction might not be something we want.

Joseph followed after God, and he was made successful,
to God's glory. Also, his family kinda sucked.
It makes a little more sense to do that between humans, because not all humans are the same. They judge, they're unpredictable, some of us are downright mean spirited.

But God isn't.

The broken toy would get a timeout. The stain on the carpet would take money out of the security deposit, and the imperfect body depends on the person, but God isn't that way. Yes, there are consequences for our sins and our habits, but that doesn't change the fact that God LOVES us. That, coupled with the fact that God knows what we've done, what we continue to do, and where our hearts lie, takes away any and all reasons for dishonesty with God.

We'll have to deal with the consequences of what we do in this world, but being honest with God throughout the day and night, in constant conversation, goes a long ways toward preventing those mistakes that make us want to hide. In time, transparency (our mindset, at least) becomes the new norm, the new habit.

Today's life verse sums it up better than I could. Proverbs 16:3 says that if we put God in our heart and consult him on our plans, then our plans will be blessed. I'll most likely revisit this subject again, but for now I'll take this and treasure it:

"Turn to the Lord for help in everything you do, and you will be successful." - Proverbs 16:3 (ETRV)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Psalm 6:8 - The Voice of My Weeping

They had to cage me to shave me. That was definitely a low point.
I find it all to easy to ignore the issues that I struggle with or the problems that I've waded through and simply put them in a little box that has "solved" scribbled on the side. That is particularly easy because it's much more pleasant to remember the highs and the victories than it is to recall the low points that made each victory so sweet.

That means that I'll have to work at blogging in the present. Sure, it's good to look into the past, but it's also important to capture the feeling of the moment, as David often does in psalms. Some of the verses are nakedly honest, showing David's entire thought process.

Take Psalm 6, for example. David lays his heart out, displaying his fears, his tears, and his shortcomings. Then, as David often does, He turns his eyes to the Lord and takes hope. What an incredible example! It's ok to be bare-bones honest with God, He already knows your thoughts!

This honesty is definitely something that needs work in me, and there is no better time to start than the present.

About a month ago, basketball season was finishing for the athletic league that I worked for. Spring sports were on their way, and I was looking forward to another season, as well as a comfortable raise. I finally made a move on a precious little apartment. I'd be living cheaply, but it was something I could afford. Then, two days after signing the agreement, I was informed that my contract had run out two weeks previously, and that because of some serious money shortfalls, the league couldn't afford to keep me.

Much better.
I'm at work at my coffee shop with four hours left on my shift, I've lost my job and a major portion of my income, and I have an apartment I can't afford. It wasn't panic (close, but not quite) that set in, it was a deep and gripping fear and hints of doubt. Why would God give me a job and give me a raise, find me an apartment and then take it all away in an instant? Where would I live? What would I eat? I asked for nothing more than to finish my shift before I fell apart.

And not an hour later, I got my answer. A woman came up to the counter and, after taking her order, handed me a business card and told me to give her a call, that they might have a job in marketing and social media. I was speechless. I haven't called yet (I plan to), but I learned something invaluable that day. It's just as I posted on Facebook shortly after getting that fateful call: when the good Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.

What I'll take with me from that experience is this: Just like when Abram moved everything he owned far away from the home that he knew for a reason he didn't know, trusting that God would provide for him, when the Lord tell me to jump, I have to trust that His hands will be there to catch me. That is even if and especially if the landing isn't clear.

"Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping." - Psalm 6:8

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Proverbs 13:4 - The Soul of the Sluggard

Over the past several months, I've been wrestling with exactly HOW to trust God with things. Especially ever since I moved out of my parent's house, I've had to plan ahead for things, as my safety net wasn't quite the same as it always was. The thought that I struggled and struggle with, is how to trust while still planning for the future.

To illustrate this, I'll paint two extremes. The first is of a man who does absolutely nothing for himself and instead simply waits to be spoon fed. He doesn't look for a job. He just sits around thinking about jobs and praying for jobs, but doesn't bother to get up and submit any applications. Instead of going out and buying food, he waits for the neighbors down the street to come to his door and let him know that they were very sorry to bother him, but they bought more melons than their fridge could hold, and they needed to give one away. That's one side.

The other side is one that I think we (mostly me) fall in to. It's so easy to get in a rhythm of doing everything yourself that you forget to even bring God into the conversation. I do this all the time, spending hours perusing craigslist for things I am in desperate need of (examples: car, housing) and leave prayer on the back burner.

That is, until "desperate need" turns into me wringing my hands and worrying that I'll somehow be left penniless on the street. At that point, God becomes and option, and then comes the simple, honest and humble prayer of "Lord, I need this." and, no surprise, the Lord provides. I have a car, a home and a job and it is so obvious in hindsight (see my previous blog post on the subject) that I am blessed beyond belief, but how do I hold on to that in times of need?

The trouble is in finding a balance of those two extremes. Most of you have heard the joke in which there is a man trapped on the roof of his house with flood waters rising. He turns down a boat and a helicopter, would be rescuers, with the words "God will provide" and ends up drowning because he couldn't recognize the proverbial life raft that was being thrown to him.

Joseph: Pioneering
tie dye since 2000 BC.
I think that the best example of how to trust God with our well being is to look at Joseph's life. In spite of the troubles he faced, Joseph threw his shoulder to the wheel and put his heart into each opportunity that the Lord presented him with, and was blessed with success because of his hard work. He also had a heart for the Lord, and because of that, didn't have to worry about what was behind the bend, how he was going to move up in live, or where he was going to be placed, but instead did the absolute best with what he was given.

How then does that translate to me? In those desperately honest times, I've learned that God will come through at the right time, whether I think it's the right time or not. How much better off would I have been had I prayed like that from the beginning and continued about the same process with a watchful eye out for miracles and faith that I would be pointed in the right direction?

To have it written out nice and simply, (otherwise I'll have trouble remembering it) there are five things I need to continually practice. Firstly, being in constant conversation with God. That means that each care, each need and each worry, even though he knows them already, is passed to God's listening ear without bouncing around in my head. Secondly, working hard and being vigilant for opportunities that we are to be presented, as well as faith in God's faithfulness. Lastly, we (meaning me) should be constantly praising the Lord for the blessings of the past, the blessings he continues to bestow on us and the blessings that we will receive in the future because of his love and good grace.

"The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied." - Proverbs 13:4

Monday, March 11, 2013

Psalm 46:10 - Hindsight

When in the midst of this world's perils, it can often become easy to get mired on the trials we face each day, focused only on how hard things are in the moment and ignorant of the miracle of Christ's redemptive process in which we are enrolled. 

Now, that's not to say that we are not redeemed by Christ and signed by the blood of Jesus into the book of life, but though we are already saved, we are still surrounded by the sin we choose to participate in. The redemptive process, salvation, is nothing more or less than Christ's every day good work to make us more and more like the Father. 

For me especially, I get so buried in the mistakes I make and the bad habits I've formed that I lose sight of the progress that Christ has made in me. Then in times of quiet reflection, I look back at my life, at the things that have been reworked and rebuilt in my heart into something beautiful. That's when I most strongly see the hand of God, is in hindsight when I can see each miracle that He has worked in my past, each time that he has picked me up and carried me, and each blessing He has bestowed on me that I was oblivious to in the moment. 

That is why, in an effort to be more aware of His presence, I have decided to chronicle the redemptive process of God's salvation in my life and in my heart. Too many amazing works of His hands have been lost in my walk, and as time goes on I know that I will forget to love and praise God for how he molds, carries, and supports me. 

Today, it has been one of my favorite, and simplest verses that has been put on my heart, Psalm 46:10. I'll put down my phone, my headphones, my laptop (once I finish this post) and just take time to BE with the one who isn't finished loving me yet, in spite of and because He knows me inside and out.

"Be still and know that I am God" - Psalm 46:10