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.