Page 2 of 2

Tying the Knot

I took a massive step yesterday. It actually turned out that taking the step wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be and will benefit me greatly into the future.

I tied the knot, specifically I perfected the Windsor knot with a tie. I tied every tie I own with the Windsor knot so it is one less thing I will have to do in the morning before work. I hope this doesn’t ruin the ties.

I know next to nothing about ties or dressing up or when a shirt crosses over into too wrinkled to be presentable. I normally wouldn’t wear a tie at all, but I’m just not sure wearing a full suit everyday as a chaplain is really helpful.

It’s actually quite fascinating how important aesthetic is when presenting yourself as a minister in a hospital. I only have theories because I have not started yet, but it makes total sense to me. I’m walking into someone’s hospital room at a vulnerable and sometimes scary time. It’s only natural that the person they want coming in to talk to them and pray for them looks like they made a natural effort to look “good” when they got up in the morning.

It reminds me of Jesus’ teaching were he tells his followers when you fast, wash your face. Don’t look miserable when ministering to God or people. Even if you are miserable at least try not to look like it. I think Jesus does this, because even though Jesus wasn’t gorgeous in a GQ sense he knew how to cast a good look.

Not to lessen the crucifixion but as Jesus is dying, mostly naked, bloody, dehydrated, he calls out to John another apostle and says, “take care of my mom.” What a good look on Jesus, admitting that in his present and future condition that responsibility would be better left to John.tying_the_knot_banner

I’m well aware that the title of this blog is typically indicative of marriage which is why I also will write about that as well. I’m halfway through the best marriage book I’ve read, “The Meaning of Marriage,” by Tim Keller. It’s been a great read honestly. I took about a 3 year hiatus from marriage books unless you count the Five Love Languages which I count as a love book and a learning about myself book.

I love the book for its vision of spiritual friendship and the goal of marriage to help make us ourselves and our spouse look more like Jesus. It’s simple in one way because that is really the Christian’s goal in everything, so Tim Keller: “I like your book but you’re not saying anything revolutionary or new. But I’ll give you credit, your reminder is revolutionary for me.”

I think the book has diagnosed and articulated what I’m looking for and what I’m aiming to be. It has been a nice reminder that there is no rush (I say that and have not even read the chapter on singleness).  Despite there being no rush, I think an urgency of desire can be healthy. It can make me the type of person that prays and makes pure and whole choices during my singleness.

But then again I think this entire move has an urgency of desire. I feel like during this week of no urgent responsibility has marked boldly, characteristics that I should not deny.  Here are some of the knots in my personality that I think cannot be untied:

  • I like and need people way too much to spend too much time alone. I get no energy from being alone for long periods of time.
  • I thrive in structure. I did not want to admit this about myself. Part of me feels like I want to be a writer who dictates their own schedule and keep his own deadlines, but it’s just not so. I’ve known I’m not a self-starter and I’m too artistic to really discipline myself. (This is why I seem to have multiple friends now checking in on my diet and fitness although my Mom says I’m doing just fine)
  • I like the water, I think I would like to go to the pool or ocean, everyday  if I have time.
  • I can spend a lot of money on entertainment and food, but I also am capable of spending no money on any of it. Hopefully, starting on Monday I make a few necessary cut backs (For example I spent money to get a bike fixed. I haven’t ridden a bike in at least 4 years, maybe 7, will I this year? Who knows?)
  • I love listening and talking one on one with people. I really can’t help myself. Sometimes I can do a group of 3 or 4 and still be engaged and love it but beyond that I lose focus.

That’s all for now. I will have too much to write about and think about next week when I start work.

Mommy and Dad (as you are in my phone) I Hope I get this Right

I’m so naïve. It didn’t take long. I wept for the first time today, and it wasn’t because I visited a church during an emotional service where they were saying goodbye to some people they really love, to send them to Burundi perhaps indefinitely. I didn’t weep because I was confronted with my own darkness, sin, and fears although that would not have surprised me.

IMG-0297

I broke because I am naïve and spent $26.00 on a signed copy of comedian Louie Anderson’s book “Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother but You Can Read Them Too.” Louie Anderson plays a mom, as a man, on the TV show Baskets, a show I have developed a strange affinity for the past few years. I bought the book hoping to laugh. Instead, I read the intro and bawled my eyes out (won’t say for how long).

Yet this shouldn’t surprise me or you because, it is commonly stated that often comedy is birthed from a place of pain. Being able to laugh at the tragic or the familiarly uncomfortable is what allows us to cope. In this book, Louie writes to his mother who is 25 years deceased to recount to her his successes and his regrets as expresses his desires to speak to his mother face to face.

This utterly broke me because it touched on a very raw and vulnerable area of my heart that I have battled with over the last 2 weeks: the leaving behind of those who have known me longest and the fear of losing time that could have been spent with them, spent searching their soul.

It became suddenly real during one of my recent visits to my grandma. After all she is 92 and while healthy, I feared moving now would leave me with less time with her or worse the last time with her. And it became suddenly more real a week out when my dad was quickly and suddenly diagnosed with leukemia and started chemo 2 days before my move.

This news and uncertainty kind of cast this fog or shadow over the move or more so just me. Rather than being able to adequately process it all, I tried to drown it all out or at least find relief because nothing seemed to make sense even if it all made sense. I felt absent in my mind. When decisions become uncertain for me, it’s easy to forget yourself, forget who God has called you to be and sadly forget the intimacy that comes from a relationship with God. I feel like I was underwater slowly forgetting all of it.

It’s easy to turn my back on God when I feel like He has become the author of my distress. And that lie and the forgetfulness that the Devil also exists and is a liar contributed to the fog I lingered in too long.

And while I’m exiting the fog or the darkness of my descent, I now, weep. I weep despite hearing from my parents and brother that they are proud, despite consistently trying to sink back into this place of trust that God will care for the things that I seemingly cannot. I weep because I know how time works and I know it can feel unforgiving or like something slipped through my fingers. And I weep because of my lack of access.

My love language is Quality Time, occupying space with the people I love is important to me, and the new distance is scary.  And the distance becomes scarier without guarantees. I can’t cut this deal with God where I promise I’ll do a good job so long as nothing changes at home. I mostly can’t promise that because I can’t promise to do a good job.

I also can’t just have access to friendships quickly like I had at home. There are so few people in my life, like the Lane’s or the Victor’s or the Andrew Millins that I can call and expect to hear back from or see quickly. There are so rare friends like the ADK squad or the Daniel’s that I rest in assurance that they have me in their prayers and thoughts.

And while my first fear is based on what I could miss at home, my second fear is based on what I could miss here. I’m so afraid to fail at this. I’m so afraid to find out that the first ministry position I was let go from now 7 years ago got it right, and I’m not cut out for vocational ministry. I’m afraid to lay behind things that I was good at and comfortable with only to find out I sabotage the things I feel called to.

I’m afraid of it because I feel like that success and failure is in my hands. And my hands are soft, except for callouses on my upper palms where I hold weights. I have soft hands for someone who worked on a farm and in construction yet doesn’t give a dime about how firm a handshake I have.

And while I very strongly believe my hands were called and created to minister to the hurting and the growing, I weep over the sense of my self-constructed inhibition. I weep over my doubts about God’s plan and that the only measurement of success  that matters in eternity is faithfulness to love and live as Christ.

And I’m also afraid to screw up my new relationships/friendships. I’m so concerned about giving an honest rendition of James/Jimmy Passaro that I often don’t know where to begin. Do I share too much? Did they see me lick my fingers while eating(thanks Dad)? Did I accidentally say something that offended someone? Am I too needy, too worried? Did I listen enough? Did I listen so much that I forgot to share? Am I still in a fog/ in a “wonder where I am” place?

I think what I realize as I read this book and as I look at me in the mirror is:  I am my parents. I learned my disposition and ticks and qualities from them, yet I still have this unique essence that hasn’t changed since childhood.

On Sunday I probably met 40 new people. I even went back to church at night at 4:30 to attend a going away pizza and ice cream party for people from the Church who I never met, only invited through a generic come one out from the pastor from the stage that morning.

Then I played soccer afterwards with more new people from 7-8:45. That is exactly what 4-6-year old Jimmy would have done. He would have just gone anywhere and I tried to meet as many people as possible until he found someone he just clicked with. He would have done this to try to forget the loudness sometime scariness of home.

IMG-0290

Back then it was the loudness and scariness of disunity, now it is the quietness and scariness of the potential loneliness. And that can be scarier unless our okay with yourself. If you have healthy self-worth and a perspective of your purpose, being alone is not so daunting. But if you question that and are alone that isolation can be destructive.

So for the next week until I start work, I have some good practice ahead of me. Learn to live alone while maintaining contact at home while trying to meet new friends without scaring people away and becoming too self-reflective about whether or not I am presentable or worth love from other new people.

God I hope I get this right.

 

 

Settling the Stages

IMG_0013I’ve been in Charleston for 3 full days settling in, meeting neighbors, sending my brother off back to New Jersey and tonight will be my first night sleeping in my new apartment alone (with Jesus).

It hasn’t occurred to me yet that I’ve moved. It partially feels like I’m staying at a hotel with all my stuff on a short vacation. I’m sure it will feel like it soon, maybe next week, maybe when I start my new job, maybe when its fall and doesn’t feel like a typical Northeast fall, which in the past few years I have grown to love.

I feel like this process will continue in stages. I’m anticipating the break down and crying while asking myself what have I done stage to come soon. We are all waiting for that one with bated breath, hoping it will produce some strong writing and insight. Maybe that’s just me.

I don’t know when that stage comes either, but I can tell you about the stage I’m at. It’s the writing late at night after eating fast food (Cookout) and wondering what I bought at Kohls that managed to cost $60.00 and why I bought it (candles, spatula, chocolate, tootbrush holder). I’m embarrassed for typing that.

I’m embarrassed for not bringing dining room chairs with me or a DVD player or a video game system. I’m embarrassed for leaving behind or misplacing fashionable articles of clothing. I’m embarrassed for being the only single dude, almost only dude walking around Kohl’s at 9 pm not having a clue what to buy.IMG_0220

Maybe scratch all the times I wrote embarrassed above and replace it with inadequate. It’s a reality God wants me in. I must be completely reliant on God, on the Holy Spirit as the source of my breath and my strength, as the one who settles me in.

The truth is I don’t want to be contented, I don’t want to be at rest within myself, or pleased with myself unless I am experience that sense truly from God the Father. I want to be right with the Father reconciled to the Father by the Son as a son.

I don’t want to feel like an idiot or foolish for spending $60.00 at Kohl’s but am willing to if he speaks to me in the process.

This moving process makes Moses’s life make so much more sense to me. God doesn’t give a hoot about my inadequacies. God does give a hoot about my sin versus spotlessness which is why God is willing to wipe those sins away through the blood of Christ. But God does care about our willingness to obey without excuse, without hindrance, without weight.

God cares deeply about my freedom through Jesus Christ to live a life of trust and love. I want both without measure and at any cost. I want it even if it leaves me utterly poor and destitute. I want it more than riches and praise. I want to be faithful, sacrificial, and marked by contentedness in Christ.

And I think part of that process is enduring the stages and meeting God in every moment along the way.

It’s settled. Let’s meet God in our moments before after and during  and even on this stage.

The Chasm Depth: A Metaphor Before I Move

I had this unction this year that God was doing something deep inside me, that we were digging into a depth we had yet to venture. And in that place I would find something I was not prepared to face until we got there.

I remember assuming that when we arrived at what God was digging at, I would find water. I expected a geyser to come out or at least a trickling of some sort.

But what I think I’ve found instead, is a chasm.

This bothers me. We had been digging and preparing a work, just to find a dark void. I was hoping that I would immediately see what I was getting when we reached the depth. I expected immediate overflowing, not darkness and new challenge.

I have felt that I am both experiencing and entering a season of abundance, which I warily declare, because outwardly it could look like I’m starting at a deficit.

But God is patient and generous and knew what I was getting myself into and has prepared me for this moment. He has prepared me for an accelerated depth. But why downward, why now-ward?

As quickly as I ask why, I remember that the past 3 years has taught me the why matters so little. More importantly than the why is the will. Will I follow if I know hardly anything?  I have repeatedly tried to say yes while struggling with all my own sin and burdens.

350px-Geyser_island

We dug and we prepared and I’m looking down and I feel with everything within me that God, the good Father would not ask me to jump to my death or to be deserted.

And then I felt this question pop into my head: “Do you want to jump or fall in?”

The undercurrent of that question that I heard was this: “Either way this is where you are going because this is what we have prepared for.”

Up until the past 2 weeks I have been eager for a lot of things. I have looked forward to moving, to starting a new work, to leave behind some things, to celebrate victories and growth, to conquer some sin and weakness; then I became very acquainted with something all too familiar.

894778_10101341418992459_477355515_o.jpg

With fear, more specifically the fear of not being able to guarantee the outcome of my choices. Without that guarantee I become tempted to resort back to familiar choices.

When you or I choose fear or sin, there is a part of us that knows even if that choice is bad or terrible, at least it is familiar and we can predict the outcome. Sin feels like death or disappointment which gives me some deceived solace that my failure is my own and in my control rather than left to chance. It feels better than failing while obeying, which might tempt me to blame God in anger.

This is a real temptation in the face of getting bad news about your father’s health or having to leave behind the potential for romance or missing your favorite friendships or job security.

For now though, I know that if I must go, I might as well jump.

And I might as well jump because I believe in a God who does miracles and wonders all the while clinging to the hope that what God has for me is better than me trying to hold tightly to my desire in these moments.

So I want to prophesy over myself and perhaps over you, a word. And the word is one word in Hebrew: The word is Tehom. It is a word that describes a large depth of water, specifically waters existing at a depth that is hard to reach. And from this depth, one of my favorite verses in the psalms exists.

Psalm 42:7:

“Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.”

It conjures up an image of an inverted waterfall pouring out of the earth to create a wave sweeping over us, but it is not wave of harm or destruction. It is a wave of love and song and joy.

This is the chasm depth I’m believing I’m jumping into.

After being in that depth, I could be carried out in a wave.

The word Tehom also is a symbol for creation in and of the world. This is the deep that darkness hovers over in Genesis  And from the deep creation begins to fill the void, as God speaks.

That is what I believe God is speaking over you: God and your creativity is filling the empty and dark spaces. It is part of God perfecting you through the sacrifice and work of Jesus. Darkness has no place to hover when the void is filled with God’s work.

Thank you reader/friend for stepping into this work with me.

*Note: Forgive me if the metaphor is too convoluted. I lean into unnecessary complexity too much on occasion.

Buckets of Lists

Normally, I would not say I am a list person. I have a few lists don’t get me wrong, but my lists don’t serve as motivators. I make lists passively. I put things down and feel if those things happen then great, but I will not grind to accomplish the list.

If I make a list that I feel like I am not even close to checking off, I will usually rationalize a way to feel satisfactory about my list, or I will just laugh at the list thinking it was a bit ambitious and beyond my threshold.

summer-bucket-list

I am simply a put things on paper person. I make Idea-Lists because I am an idealist. Practicalities hinder some people, but not me. I don’t make lists to achieve, I make lists to remember.

All this to say I’ve recently made a list of things I wanted to do before I left New Jersey. And the exercise has been exciting, even more exciting when you have a few people devoted to helping you check those things off. Even more exciting when they are people you love spending time with.

My blogs/reflections over the past several weeks are running a similar theme, sounding like a lot of the same. Maybe this blog always feels that way, who knows?

It’s about to again.

What I’ve found about the way I write lists is: they provide me with settings or activities for writing a story with people I adore (not worship, just to clarify).

And some of those stories I will tell and remember and cherish and others that don’t happen will fade.

I remember living with Brian and Nate and made a list of my daily schedule. It was when I was unemployed and ghost writing/writing my fiction story/interviewing church people. I made it as a joke to put on the fridge, basically to say, “I’m free and would love to spend time with you guys whenever.” Also, “I probably need motivation to be a productive human being.”

I kept that list until 2 months ago. I finally threw it away because as funny as it was, my life feels so full of purpose  with God that the list itself felt like a different person wrote it. The list became a reminder I no longer wanted to remember because I never want to return to that season of life. But also it was part of a story I cannot forget.

When the list became a motivator (which is why many people keep lists), I threw it away. Because for me motivation has always took residence in a deep within part. And when it starts to burn there, it takes a lot to quench that motivation.

On Bible Lists

In Scripture, people, places and things are often listed.  But infrequently if ever are someones future goals listed. The Apostle Paul had one goal. Preach the gospel everywhere but especially Rome. Jesus had a few goals but all pointed to the one of reconciling humanity to God through His death and resurrection.

Scripture reserved lists for the concrete, and on rare occasions, past accomplishments. Usually references to the past exclusively serve to direct our attention to a better future with God.

And that my friends is my dream, my goal, my ambition for myself and my hope for everyone I know and meet whether I can contribute or not. A better future with God is far superior than a future without him or a future trying to replace him with (warning a list):

  • political ideology
  • idolatrous relationships/romances/fantasies
  • celebrity aspiration
  • becoming a servant to opulence
  • hating yourself (not sure why I or we ever choose this)

The Final Item

Now I can only imagine what it is like because I’ve never actually checked every item off a list. At least a meaningful list. I make lists and check them off at work to make myself feel like I accomplish things.

I imagine what its like to have a list you really devote your time and attention to and the anticipation one feels when they are about to check off the last thing on it. I imagine that sense of accomplishment feels good but I would guess it can’t possibly last long.

And here in lies my problem and suggestion. Never end your list. Use a sense of creativity and discovery and decide to anticipate the what else rather than the end.

I think why I don’t use lists as goals or motivation is because I don’t actually want to reach a point of lethargy where I actually think I’m close to finishing. If there is a list of things I want to do with people I love, I discover I want more.

It’s why I love Heaven so much. The Final Item in Heaven is eternal adventure with the God I love and the saints that love God and one another well.

Why would anyone want that to end?

When You Get Long Notice

In August of 2013 my boss Jeff, gave me less than 2 weeks to decide if I wanted to move from our job in New Jersey to work on a natural gas pipeline project in Pennsylvania. After talking to everyone I knew, I moved. I lived in Jeff’s trailer on a pull out couch for 2 weeks, then found an apartment.

I made the transition because of the trust I had in my boss. I valued our relationship and enjoyed working for him more than the company we worked for. I also knew he would help me succeed in a position that was way over my head.

It was a quick transition. I only owned clothes and a car so there wasn’t much in a material sense to figure out. Despite this, I still found ways to make things in my life complex. (Stories for another time)

When I went to college I was accepted to JMU off the wait list in June, visited the school for the first time in July, and started in August. That was a relatively quick transition because I assumed I was going to Towson, in Maryland.

When I moved back to Jersey, that was also a quick transition which allowed me to work and live on a farm in Pennington.

1

I have chosen to live most of my life in such a way that long-term planning is either unnecessary or inconvenient. However, that does not correlate in my mind to not knowing what I want.

I normally am confident about what I want but often do not have a clue how to get to it, or I naively assume the way to get to it, will allow me to carve my own path.

And in that approach, I’ve found a lot of detours and unexpected stops while giving the appearance of wandering.

But I’ve also collected stories, which is what I value second only, to relationships.

I’ll give you a fact that will give you some insight: I will do just about anything that would not compromise my relationship with Jesus, if it means that I will acquire an intriguingly unique story.

When you understand this about me, I think, I become more relatable and easier to understand.

But what do I mean by an intriguingly unique story?

Here’s what I don’t mean: I don’t mean skydiving, I don’t mean adrenaline rushes, I don’t necessarily mean achievements although sometimes they coincide.

What I do mean is: I want this experience to shape me, I want who I’m with to tangibly make a positive difference in my character, in my heart. I want this experience to be something I carry internally and when I tell it, others feel it. I want them to feel like that story mattered even if it was ridiculous or seemed unnecessary.

And I mean: Jesus.

Jesus’ story is the opposite of most of my stories. He always had the long-game in mind. If there were stoppage time in His game, He would offer as much stoppage time as possible so as to extend an offer of salvation to as many as possible. Jesus’ story doesn’t end but is marked by specific moments that have humongous implications for the ones He loves.

Jesus’ story is simultaneously linear, yet not bound by time, it is interconnected while bringing people in, whom we would not expect. This is especially true in the Gospels. Jesus stops for people simply because they are people. And this is why I love Him.

This is why I want to be like Him. He is so generous in love, so secure in the love of his Father, God, that he can take an extended pause from his journey and goals to make the person in front of Him a part of the journey.

Jesus leaves a mark and makes every person better. So if you’ve ever met a Christian and thought, “Wow that person says they’re a Christian and is a miserable human being.” I would suggest imagining how much more destructive and  miserable that person would be without Jesus.

But Jesus’ mission and work while in part is instantaneous also has eternity in mind. The work being done is a long notice kind of work. It is also a work that he thoroughly enjoys.

Long-premium-600

On the Long Notice

This long notice kind of work has only recently started to make sense for me. Perhaps it’s due to my 7 months of anticipating a move in location and vocation is now 12 days away, and it feels more real.

It is only recently that I’m making sense of my journey, that I’m leaning in to what it looks like to engage in tangible ministry in the day-to-day. I am also recently learning to be okay with the length. Or rather I’m learning to be okay with time and process and flexibility. I’m reminded of why Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 starts with “Love is patient,” when he sets out to describe love.

Because love whether for yourself, for someone else, even for God requires adjusting over time to a process of choosing.

Even Jesus who gave us long notice that he would return for his bride the Church understood the value of our waiting. There is something in the process that increases our love. There is something in the anticipation that strengthens our resolve to press on.

Which is why I hopefully am becoming the type of person that trust God’s love in his seemingly long notice. I am in good hands; I don’t need to rush.

On Giving Long Notice

I gave my job 2 months notice which was more than enough time for my title and position. I gave that much notice as an exercise in trust, plus if they fired me I would have last-minute went to Italy with a few of my best friends. I also tried to give ample time to the people I would be leaving because this transition has always felt too real.

Although this week, after visiting my grandma, it became all too apparent. Time does not stop for me. I can request all the more time I want, but even with long notice as the moment approached to go, it continues to feel like there isn’t time enough.

In the same breadth, I have so much time. I have had time every night this week to go to a 2-hour worship service after work.

There is a lesson in giving long notice. When you give notice you extend an offer of your time, and you learn a lot about who you want to spend your time with.

And I think what happens when you begin to spend that time with those you give it to, you find out how much people value you and how much you value them.

For me… in this season… I have found riches.

What do I do with these blank pages?

makale-yaz-para-kazanIn 2010 I wrote to be funny, more specifically I wrote comedic fiction for a class to counterbalance writing my thesis on Islamic extremism in Southern Russia and what exactly that looked like.

But what I was most proud of is a story called the Cheesebringer, which was a dumb coming of age story about college graduate who landed a dream job delivering cheese. It was sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, poetry. A whole chapter takes place in a port-o-potty at a festival. It had a cliff-hanger ending. The sequel was going to be a rom-com called The Bridewinner but I was too heartbroken (heart shooken) to write “funny” by the time I finished.

What I normally do with blank pages is entertain myself, sometimes others, and if you have ever read this blog I try to write reflectively about how God rebuilds us and loves us into something beautiful. I usually fill my blank pages with things that inspire me from Scripture.

images

I also try fairly hard and hopefully, nobly, to live my life the way I hope I’m filling those same pages.

But I’m nearing a part of my story that God has warned me about. I’m 30 years old and I’m moving; I’m starting a career/season that in many ways I can’t prepare for the day-to-day. And I’m also in a tender-hearted place.

I’m about to say bye to so many people I love, so many people I love being able to see with regularity. I’m about to say hello to people I will grow to love and see with regularity. I’m about to try to love people I will meet for a moment and might watch them leave the next.

And it has dawned on me, heavily, painfully, that so many of these pages I don’t get to hold the pen for, most of these pages more so now than ever I am watching being written. Because to carry the metaphor to its authentic conclusion, I am the page.

I am having to trust, to relinquish my nervousness, to give my heart to Jesus and say, I don’t know it well enough, but you do, and you led me this direction, at this time, even though everything here and now is so so good.

Why do things get so good just before I’m about to go?

I ask this like it always happens this way. But it doesn’t. In fact, I never would have imagined that every month in 2018 would get better, but somehow it has for me. Not only has it gotten better, I’m often asking why I am going all the while knowing I’m called to go.

I’m aware that I’m not running away because I would never want to run away from this season of life. Yet, with these pages, though it has been building for 7 months, feels like, on one side of the open book is my life here in New Jerse, and without much of a transition, I will wind up on the next page in South Carolina.

Is that how every transition actually is? One day we just wake up and after all the preparation, we’re just in a new place and it was everything before and after that actually changed us.

Some of you I wish I could take with me. I wish you would pop into these pages as effortlessly and as enjoyably as I feel you do now. I wish our names or the pronouns that pertain to us would continually occupy the same sentences again and again day in and day out.

And maybe they will again soon.

For now, I’m blank. But God knows what to do with these pages.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1 John 3:2

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

 

A Time Before Certainty

Matthew 13:1-32

I worked on an organic farm for 4 seasons. It’s interesting how many factors go into having a fruitful crop: the seed, the soil, the sun, the water, the bugs. Some of these can be controlled. We can add water, we can spray pesticides (technically not in organic farming).

seedsow

Much of farming maintains a level of uncertainty in regard to how abundant a crop will be. One thing you can count on though is you will get what you plant. Another certainty is: it does not matter how abundant a crop is, if no one harvests it, no one gets anything.

“You reap what you sow,” is familiar sentiment in Scipture and as much I hate to admit it, in life it is often true. But it is just as true that we may also reap what someone else  sows.

I am both grieved and adulated at the concept of sowing and reaping. I am grieved because I know what I deserve in some areas of my life. I am adulated because of the goodness God allows me to reap despite my efforts. I am also perplexed as to why God would give us so much good.

Why does our Creator, who owes us nothing want good for us despite the bad we choose for ourselves? And how can I become more poor (desperate) in my posture to willingly receive good things?

Psalm 51:17 states:

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

This verse gives me an indication of what God looks for. He doesn’t want a puffed out chest or a lofty, knowledgeable mind that thinks it knows best. His utmost priority is not even my greatest talent. God’s desire on his way to death and resurrection and God’s desire today is my heart in its most vulnerable condition:

A heart when it is broken, a heart when it is sorry, a heart when it feels like it can’t love right, a heart that seems uncertain how to love, a heart that gets giddy at the sight of friends and significant others. God is so keenly and intimately close to this hidden organ. This unseen imagination is the place God chooses to meet us.

kids-hands-holding-plants-yolo-farm-to-fork-845x321

God meets us behind the doors of our skin, so when we step out into the world, the light of God’s Kingdom might shine forth through us.

I have a hope as I read Matthew 13 because I am reminded that as much as I am responsible for what I sow, I am also responsible for what I harvest. When the harvest comes, what will I choose to reap? Will I gather weeds or damaged fruit or will I gather what is best and what is abundant?

I can be forgetful of the seasons. I can be afraid of abundance and things working out well. (I know that’s weird). Which is why I am the type of person that is keenly aware that I need Jesus more (even if it is really only just as much) when things are going well than when things are bad.

But even when things are going well, things are seldom certain. That is the limbo of my life currently and for the next month, perhaps the next year… so much uncertainty. And for some that can be daunting, but I’ll be honest, this is where I thrive, or rather this where God thrives me and sustains me.

The best seasons of life have been the uncertain ones because my reliance and trust has been heavy on God, while a sense of urgency to obey is tangibly at hand. I am thankful.

I am thankful that I have a Father that sustains me and knows exactly what is happening even when I am not certain.

Saint Listener and Hearing Different

If you are looking for a good cry, I would suggest seeing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” the new Mr. Rogers documentary.

If you’ve been wanting to feel like you’re endeavor to love and to be a compassionate human being falls far short of perfection, I’d also suggest watching the movie.

What I found most amazing about the film itself, was how the director managed to make the movie feel like it was listening to me, as I watched. The movie feels like it wants to draw real identity out of the viewer while withholding judgment.

And through viewing the film, I felt both extremely inadequate yet aware of the essentials of feeling known in any given relationship.

main.jpg

The essential component is listening, it’s always been that. Waiting or giving pause before you give an answer or assuming I know better has consistently been more effective than rushing to a conclusion.

This also is my dilemma as of late. I’m afraid to listen to God because I’m afraid it will require much time only to lead to a painful answer. And as I am prone, I’d rather just take the pain than hear the answer. Because the answer or direction of God is  unchangeable whereas I have this enduring sense that I can get used to the pain.

But it is not the way of God to keep us in pain. It is not the way of God to extend our suffering unnecessarily. He would rather us joyful in loving obedience than wallow in unwarranted suffering.

Yet this is what humanity, as well as myself, frequently chooses. And more frequently, we choose this by assuming the worst in others without understanding them. We also assume the worst in ourselves without hearing God’s perspective on reconciliation and comfort. We are prone to ignore desperation and are hesitant to relieve another’s burden. We want people to get what they deserve before we actually know if they really deserve it.

Whereas Jesus wants to give what we don’t deserve even when we don’t realize how much we don’t deserve it. This is the whole point of the cross and the offer of resurrection life.

Live in light of the goodness and generosity of God.

But this burns us.

shutterstock_442888018

It’s unfamiliar to be in that bright. It’s both freeing yet scary to live that vulnerably. To live completely unshackled or unhindered is easy until we remember our own wounds. Then we succumb to  moments where we hear the wrong voices, the lies and perhaps even our own self-destructive opinions of ourselves.

And then this leads to our “lacking in confidence” choices or simply our indecision. We paralyze ourselves or harm ourselves or harm others and we spread the wounds rather than relieving them. Healing hands rush to the side but are cautious yet gentle to the touch.

Urgency can lead us to the who or what but patience must check us before we assume we know what the problem is. And this is my problem, slow to the who or what and then hasty to assume the problem.

I think the season and vocation I am entering into is both intentional and essential. I will be with people everyday who I will have no idea how to minister to, while trusting that Jesus has gone before me to minister to them already. I will just step into what He has already been doing.

Now to embrace that work in myself. Step into and agree to what God is already doing. I have known that God is at work in a place of depth I am unfamiliar with and because I am unfamiliar, I encounter more fear of the unknown and I’m tempted to fall back on the familiar. I hope God continues to be relentless in breaking through me because I know it is for my good.

Whether it is the difference in someone else or difference in yourself, in order to demonstrate love both to self and other, discovery is required. We must risk our time and presence in intimacy (not romantic, but sometimes necessary depending on the relationship) in order to have compassion and to enjoy the other.

The Gospel of Life: Believe

John 20: 24-31 – Let God Show Me

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A disciple, Thomas, states what it takes for him to believe. Jesus waits a week, then appears to Thomas even though all the other disciples told Thomas that they saw the Lord.

I don’t know if Thomas did not want to be left out or if he just could not wrap his mind around the resurrection. What I do know is Thomas did doubt. What I also know is Jesus quells doubt willingly and wants our faith.

Faith/belief is so essential to Jesus and so important to John in his gospel, that John paused before the concluding scene of his version of the story that he writes in verses 30-31 his intention for the book.

He writes, “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” I love what John sneaks into that sentence: by believing you will have life.

John cannot separate belief in Christ from life itself. And neither should we. Our lives and its quality, as it pertains to the value ascribed by Heaven, is indicative of how we relate to the Father, Son and Spirit.

And how we relate to the Father, Son and Spirit should cause us to value life. Our relationship with God works itself out by how we love others and what moves us to give that love.

What should give us pause, when thinking of life and love is what else we value, or perhaps, what we value most.

See Thomas could have asked for any other evidence, but He asked to see and handle Jesus. And though he asks with doubt, I believe he is asking for the right thing.

So often we ask, first, for the wrong things: more safety, more money, our neighbors green card, the right to harm ourselves others and the unborn, a change in our gender identification, free tuition.

Are they wrong, if they are asked for in a different order or just always wrong?

My answer: I have an opinion and with some of them I’m confident in what I believe, but moreover, I know who to ask. Ask God and ask to have revelation of the love and life of Christ.

Ask everyday!

Read Scripture. Read it and listen to it more than the news. Be willing to drastically conform your opinion not just through Scriptural text but also Scriptural context. Then pray with it and pray through difficult questions. Then practice to see if it works, see if your renewed mind is filling you with life and purpose and compassion.

Or don’t.

Be a troll on social media. Obsess with giving off the best impression of the moments in our lives through pictures and short video clips. Don’t ever give people who disagree with you the benefit of the doubt. Instead of lifting a finger to help the hurting, point the finger, and lecture them and the people trying to help them about why they don’t deserve it or why they don’t do enough. Buy tons of crap that goes out of style or stops working in 2 years. Extol people of terrible character because they “look good” and stay in the public eye.

Or…

Write blogs and watch cat videos at work. Search for autographed copies of books for the cheapest price possible. Read about wrestling rumors. Follow your crushes Instagram too eagerly while saying you don’t care. Worry about if you can afford to pay your bills 6 months from now. Sell useless things on Ebay, while buying $35 worth of lapel pins to display on your sun visor in your car. Forget your friends birthdays but remember the birthday of your favorite celebrity cat…etc…etc

What is the point of this post again?

Ask to see Jesus…

everyday, don’t get distracted.

And you’ll find life, real overflowing life as you follow Him.

I know it’s worth it, which is why I keep trying, asking, knocking.

 

Also…

Happy 7th Birthday Lil Bub!