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.

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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.

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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.

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).

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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.

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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.

The Gospel of Love: Fill the World with Stories

John 21: 15-25 – Word Feed

If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

The Gospel of John ends with the author telling us that Jesus did too many good things to contain in writing. Jesus, likewise, continues to do miraculous and amazing things through the Church by the Holy Spirit.

Despite this, we still die! (Awfully abrupt, yeah?)

The last words of Jesus in this Gospel are:

“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

It’s an odd way to end a story, no? Jesus talks to Peter after reconciling his soul; then Jesus alludes to the fact that Peter will be put to death in a fashion similar to himself. Peter then asks, presumably about what will happen to John, and Jesus uses this as a moment to illustrate the importance of following regardless of who else is along for the ride.

It kind of feels like John just wants to put himself in the final scene. But if that were the case, he wouldn’t obscure his name with the title, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

I believe John is trying to convince his reader, that whether we live or die and whether those around us live or die, the temporary nature of this life should not determine how we live it. We cannot control how long we live but we can control the how we live.

And how we live is laid out for us in the verses just prior to these final words in a very familiar interaction.

I will insert it here because I love it:

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

I will discuss it here because I am terrified by it.

The Fear of the Lord strikes me real here because in a series of questions and answers that address the topic of love and affection, Jesus ends the discussion by saying essentially:

“There will come a season of your life where you will lose complete control over what you want. You will follow me into death so that others might find life, and you will do it out of love.”

Jesus asks Peter about his love and then tells Peter he will die. The he says, “Follow me!”

But…

Peter couldn’t keep his mouth shut. But I think there is more to Peter than impulsiveness. I think Peter asks about John because it exposes a certain thread in Peter’s life in which he is constantly wrestling with.

I think Peter felt his devotion was dependent on who he surrounded himself with. I think Peter thought his story was not sustainable without those who followed Jesus with him.

I think that is why Peter is so adamant about declaring, “Even if all fall away, I will not,” yet he later denies. I think that is why Peter wants to be the only one to walk on water, yet falls. I think it is why Jesus tells him, he will be a rock and will be sifted by Satan. I think this is why Peter swings a sword at the servant to the high priest. I think Peter is at war with his devotion and is insecure about his desire to choose following Jesus when others aren’t immediately available to hold him accountable.

Which is why this is how it ends. A man, John, who we believe wrote this Gospel just prior or while exiled to an island as a lonely prisoner, writing about a friend, Peter, who church history tells us was crucified upside down talks to Jesus, the savior of the world, the only perfect one, have a conversation about how they will tell their story.

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And the how is demonstrated in the caring for the who.

“Feed my lambs.

Take care of my sheep.

Feed my sheep.”

In that grouping of lambs and sheep, we should also find ourselves. Self-care is equally as important as caring for others, until the time comes when we are no longer able to care for ourselves. Then our care for others comes from allowing others or God to care for us. And even from that place we are telling our love story.

Concluding Thoughts

In 35 blog entries, I’ve written through the Gospel of John. I’ve used 25,000 words. That’s almost 10,000 words more than the Gospel itself. My longest entry was 1,370 words from John 5 which was about mental illness. My website stats also have that entry as the most viewed of any of my posts surrounding the Gospel itself. One thing I’ve come to conclude is based on either the algorithms through Facebook or lack of interest, writing through the Gospels don’t get nearly as much attention as when I write about just about anything else. I’m not sure if it is the Scripture/Theological denseness or if it is just too hard to read something that feels repetitive. After all, there are hundreds of better articles written about Scripture. But I set out to write through this book and Ezekiel and by accident Jude over the course of 2 years.

I’m going to take a break from writing through books of the Bible for at least the rest of 2018. Meaning most of my writing will be reflective more than Scripture based. I may try to write more comedy again since that was more my wheelhouse at the end of college.

One major benefit from writing through the Gospel of John though, is I have fallen more in love with Jesus. I actually do feel like I understand Him better. I feel like I understand his movements and his desire for us more. I’ve also come to conclude He is more gentle than I knew. I’ve gotten the sense that more than anything, His desire is for me to keep following rather than wallowing. I’ve learned that freedom is found in telling an honest story. This is also the reason why I like the Gospel of John so much, I feel like I’m there.

So if you’ve read this far, thanks for being there/here to. I’m excited about your story that you fill the world with on your journey. Jesus is excited to be a part of it!