Breakers of the Fall

Between faith in God and family and friends I hope you have found that those combined are more than enough to break your fall if you find yourself falling. I’m so thankful for family during the holiday, the embrace of my friends and a church that feels like home. They all offer me such a strong love.

I’m sad to be at an airport getting ready to go to a place I’ve called home twice this weekend. I found it strange slipping up by calling Charleston home, especially since it at times it feels a place I associate with discomfort.

But it is my mind.

It’s all in my head. It’s the combination of feeling unable to be self-forgetful while simultaneously forgetting who I am becoming.

8011204798_e2ea712efe_b

I confuse grieving the loss of the familiar by losing the one tangible living being I brought with me… me. And when you begin to grieve for yourself, you’re falling.

I fall out of touch with a realty that, yes, I am responsible for myself, but I also have entrusted ownership of myself to God.

And God most assuredly is here now with me in the airport as well as waiting to encounter me at my apartment in Charleston.

God becomes the breaker of my fall during feelings of loneliness.

For now I am thankful, thankful for a Thanksgiving that I enjoyed with my family, thankful I saw my Dad doing better, saw my grandma consistent in her awareness, so many fun moments with friends packed into 3 days, free milkshakes with burgers, laughing while playing Loaded Questions, riding on the back of a motorcycles before eating Mexican, hearing the testimonies of God’s activity in the Church community, and the heart connections of feeling heard and assured of God’s plan in the process.

I’m thankful Jesus broke all our falls, I’m thankful for the access of his love that can meet us anymore in a variety of forms including discipline, refining and gifts. But Jesus also came to break us off from the things that make us fall, to catch us but also to stop us in our stumbling and guide us in our wandering.

Hebrews 12:1-“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance that race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

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.

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.

The Praying Gospel: Are you Curious?

John 17 – We are all 20-year old gypsy train wrecks

We made it this far. The last large exposition from Jesus in the Gospel of John is one long prayer. It is a prayer for glorification, a prayer for the disciples, and a prayer for contagious joy and complete unity among all who will believe in Jesus.

In short, He is praying for the fulfillment of all he set out to accomplish. I’m not sure logistically how this prayer was recorded in its fullness. It’s hard to believe that as Jesus prayed, John was scribbling this all down. Perhaps, God gave John a supernatural memory for this specific moment.

512201c4-012e-4eb3-83df-1b4c76e60230But I also imagine that this prayer or at least parts of it were common prayers of Jesus.

And I would propose that they were not prayers common of Jesus only from the past but are prayers Jesus prays now. Scripture tells us in Romans 8:34, that Jesus is alive and intercedes for us. Furthermore I believe Jesus enjoys this responsibility.

Can I share a story? It’s my blog; I suppose I don’t have to ask.

May 4th – 6th I was in Charleston, SC looking for a place to live. It was a somewhat fruitful trip in that regard, but the reality is, on paper, my future salary will barely cover my rent and car payment. For a season, I lived with a lot less on $700 a month for 6 months so I’m certain God will take care of it.

I’ve learned not to rely on paper which is funny because there was a time when I lived in the world of fiction and story-telling because I felt I could imagine a better reality than the one God was allowing me to live. I lived on paper so long as I was holding the pen and would not limit my imagination. I operated this way so I could be the author who chose what I was to suffer.

I wanted to choose what I would suffer so I wouldn’t be held accountable to what God was asking me to offer.

But as God is wont to, the story He is writing has been better. Other than apartment searching, bad sunburn, good Mexican food, and getting depressed by the lingering loneliness that often tries to color my life (that took a turn), Sunday morning I prepared to leave Charleston.

I had to be at the airport by noon, but ultimately decided to pop by church anyway. They had a free breakfast that I paid $20 for because I was hoping to get more out of my last couple hours than chocolate chip pancakes, some gross southern grits dish, coffee and juice.

I met two people, a guy named Kent who was helpful in connecting me with an elder and was genuinely enthusiastic. The second person I met a breakfast was a train-wreck who also was visiting the church.

61b078758262c17de81d4545e39d9389--vintage-photographs-vintage-photos

She told me she has visited 14 churches and hasn’t found one she liked. She also told me she moved from the Northwest to protest horse carriages. She also told me her best friend died the week prior in upstate New York. She also told me she travels to the Philippines often. Needless to say I listened, said its important to find community, and could not wait to lose her before service whilst questioning what of her story was true and why God manipulated my kindness to meet someone so exhausting on a day of rest.

If you subtract most everything from the tale of her life, I’ve been the 20 year-old gypsy girl at church because some older woman who cared invited her.

And I’ve probably exhausted strangers and friends with tales that I myself have struggled to find truth in. It wasn’t hard to see her wounds even if she was feeding me a spoonful of lies. Her story might have been better than the grits if it wasn’t so draining.

I said a prayer, sat in the back of the sanctuary and was hoping God would speak to me during worship since that was all I would be staying for.

One song, not a clue what it was and then they prayed for a pastor going on sabbatical for a month and invited someone to share a testimony.

The guy was introduced by the pastor as Ben. He shared for about a minute and my Spirit had this heightened sense of awareness. I liked the way he spoke and began to get pretty vulnerable.

Then one passing statement caught my intention. He said God called him to full-time ministry and joy filled my inner being. The sense of knowing I began to feel felt supernatural. Then a few sentences later he said God opened a door for him in the ministry of pastoral care as a hospital chaplain. He shared more about what God had brought him through while I squirmed in my chair filled with excitement.

He ended with the thought of: “Stay curious about what God is doing.”

I met Ben during communion, exchanged numbers after confirming we would be chaplain residents at the hospital together in August. I believe Jesus prayed for this. I also believe Jesus knew it would happen. I also believe it needed to happen.

As much as I’d like to say, taking a step of faith in the direction of my calling is easy, my resistant disposition has not done me too many favors. My introspection does more harm than good sometimes. The moments where I feel like God sees me helps me to say yes.

I need those moments to sustain me in through a transition still 3 months away.

I didn’t talk much about John 17 but I will leave us with this passage from it:

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” John 17:13