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.