One Year After Graduating…

“Let us press on to know the Lord,” – Hosea 6:3

One year ago today, I graduated college. I got all dressed up in a shirt and tie, tossed my gown on, and desperately tried to make my cap fit just right. Those things are awkward hats. I know there are tiny labels saying “Front” or “Back” so you don’t get confused, but even when you wear it right, it just doesn’t fit well.

Me in my graduation gear...
Got the most expensive folder at school that day…

Life outside of college was even more awkward. For starters, I finally had a break after going 11 terms straight (two summers in a row with a few classes). And if that wasn’t enough, I still had to wrap my head around the fact that for the first time in 19 years, I didn’t have to go to school. The realization of my new-found freedom was thrilling. But yet terrifying.

It suddenly meant that I was truly on my own. I didn’t have any obligations – apart from my part-time job, which demanded two days of my week – to compel me to get out of bed before noon or to read a book or to even do my laundry. Everything was on my shoulders the moment I stepped off the platform with my U of O diploma in hand (or, rather, my diploma cover).

In this past year, I haven’t really done much. One thing I have started, though, is to run. A lot. When I first dusted off my old running shoes and jogged a couple blocks, I realized something very quickly: I miss high school P.E. Back then, I had P.E. every day – and during my senior year, I had it twice a day. We would run a little, do some push-ups, do some sit-ups, stretch, and play some sort of game on a daily basis. I never had to worry about keeping in shape because my P.E. classes were doing enough for me. But now, freshly out of school altogether, I have to keep myself in shape.

Running those first few times was exhausting – especially for an asthmatic like me. Eventually, though, half-miles turned into miles and miles turned into two miles all because I had made up my mind to keep at it – to keep going. All my life I had never run more than two or three miles at a time. So when I ran a little over five miles yesterday, I was little surprised.

“Try another lap,” I thought as I jogged along a loop on Pre’s Trail. “Go one more mile,” I thought again as I ran past where I usually stopped. After that last self-push, I ended up running nearly two miles more. When I looked down at my Nike+ SportsBand and saw that I had gone over five miles, I really couldn’t believe it.

Of course my SportsBand tracked almost a half of a mile more than what I had actually run, but still, I had run more than the distance of a 5k. As my Cross Training friends would say, I PR-ed. And it was all because I made up my mind to push myself – to test myself to see what I was capable of doing. I was truly surprised.

Over the past couple of weeks at Cross Training, school’s final days have constantly been in discussion. For some, it was their last term ever as an undergrad. For others, it was simply the last term of the school year. No matter what, though, everyone has been looking forward to this upcoming summer. Be it a vacation, a wedding, returning home, or just not having homework; someone has always had something to look forward to. While I love weddings and vacations, I can’t help but look at this summer not as a break from the norm, but rather an opportunity.

Last year I didn’t push myself. I made up my mind to ease into the normal life routine with jobs and paychecks and bills and groceries and blah, blah, blah. No doubt I like this routine; it’s predictable and therefore comfortable. But it’s also safe. Maybe even too safe. When I pushed myself to keep running those five miles, my body felt the best it has ever felt. Nothing hurt when I was done. And when I woke up this morning, I wasn’t sore. It truly was the greatest run I’ve had my entire life even if it wasn’t the fastest. My only question from last night and for this upcoming summer is: What would it be like if I pushed myself to know my God?

This goes beyond having more daily devotions, Bible studies, and church services. It’s about trusting God with the decisions I make – like maybe moving up to Portland. It’s about giving in to those moments of inspiration to write. It’s about exercising a little creativity for the moments I’m bored instead of finding something to pass the time with. It’s about venturing into the unfamiliar. It’s about meeting new people – people you might not normally hang out with. It’s about asking that girl out. It’s about believing that, when you follow God and love and live as Jesus did, nothing is impossible.

A week ago I went to First Baptist’s Wednesday night service, which was simply a video from the Sunday prior. In that message, Ben Cross evaluated goals First B had set in years past and talked about new goals they were setting for what lies ahead. All the talk of having a goal or a mission led me to wonder what would my own goal look like? Would it be all the things listed above? Or would it be something else entirely? This is where we come back to that “[pressing] on to know the Lord” business that Hosea was talking about.

God wants to help us set goals for the seasons ahead – both near and far. He wants us to seek His counsel in everything we do not because that’s the only way our dreams are ever going to come true, but because that’s the only way we’re ever going to surprise ourselves. And that’s the only way God’s going to show off His talent while we’re paying attention.

Since I no longer have the summer breaks I did when I was in school, it’s probably best to stop thinking of summer as a break. Instead, I’ll think of it as a season of opportunity. Will I take advantage of it by pushing myself beyond my known limitations or will I try to cruise through it? In my experience, cruising through life is only truly enjoyable when you’re doing something you thought you’d never do. Like running five miles.

Take advantage of this summer whether you’re graduating or not. Turn off the X-Box and get outside. Pray, read, and worship with friends. Do something that you didn’t think you’d ever do before.

God bless.

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Promising Perpetual Provision…

Reading through the first five books of the Bible has been tough. For one thing I’m a slow reader and for another, a lot of the stuff is kind of boring. Today’s reading, however, caught my attention.

I read through chapters 32 & 33 of Genesis, which is where Jacob meets his brother Esau after 20 years of separation. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Jacob had tricked his father, Isaac, into receiving the blessing that was supposed to be given to Esau. After Esau had found out, he became furious and Jacob didn’t want to deal with that (Esau was a beastly man – seriously) and so he booked it.

Jacob returns to where he grew up mostly because God told him to (31:3), but partially because Laban – the relative he was staying with – was kind of a jerk. Anyhow, Jacob knew that he would have to face Esau and so he sent a messenger ahead to let him know he was arriving. When the messenger came back and reported that Esau was on his way to meet him with 400 men, Jacob freaked.

In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, ‘If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape,’” (32:7-8). Jacob thought that his older brother was coming to kill him.

It makes me think of all the times I’ve reacted rashly because of fear, but yet was proven foolish in the end. Around this exact time three years ago, I was working at Mezza Luna – a New York style pizza place in downtown Eugene. I had worked at a pizza place back in Lincoln City all throughout high school and thought that a job like Mezza Luna wouldn’t be so different.

In practicality, it wasn’t. Most of the equipment was the same (ovens, pizza line coolers, etc.). But there was definitely something about the environment that upset me. Back home I worked with a  bunch of people my age who cared about working hard and well and yet having a good time with it all. Any pressure to do well with our work was practically non-existent. But at Mezza Luna, I felt as though my job depended upon doing every little thing as perfectly as possible.

Working from fear doesn’t usually produce the best quality of worker – at least not for me anyway. When I’m worried about what a particular manager or owner will think of the work I’m doing (even if it’s something as trivial as mopping the floor), I psyche myself out. I worry that whatever I’m doing won’t be good enough and ultimately sabotage myself. I botch whatever I’m working on because I’m terrified that I’ll get fired.

In a matter of one week of working at Mezza Luna, I wanted to leave. It wasn’t fun for me and I was a little sick of the restaurant industry. But yet I wanted to stay in Eugene that summer instead of going back home to Lincoln City, so I convinced myself time after time to stick it out. I thought God was just testing to see what I could put up with and for how long. When the 30-day review came, I was ready to tell the manager how I felt and hopefully find a way to keep going with it. If I just talk to him, I thought, then maybe things will start to ease up a bit…

As I was walking over to the restaurant, though, I thought it was a good idea to pray. I told God that if it came down to it, I’d just quit right there on the spot. I walked in, went to the office, and in about 3 minutes walked back out with my last paycheck ever from Mezza Luna. It was the happiest moment of that entire year.

Until I walked a block and realized I was unemployed. It was then that I, like Jacob, started to freak out. I was terrified of not being able to make ends meet here in Eugene because I didn’t have a job and so I decided to call an old boss at a golf course back in Lincoln City. I was only hoping for a part-time cart-kid job, but when I called him up, he offered me a full-time Pro Shop job.

As I’ve learned within the last couple of weeks, there is a lot of pressure to find a job after you graduate college. Friends, relatives, and acquaintances alike ask you the age-old question, “So what are you going to do now?” It adds up pretty quickly. Time and time again I’m tempted to freak out – I’m tempted to make another rash decision just in case my worst fears become reality. And yet what I must remember is exactly what Jacob needed to remember: God’s promise of provision.

After he had mad the fearfully-driven move to separate his traveling group, Jacob prayed to God, “…O Lord, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ … Save me,” (32:9-11a). What he didn’t realize until Esau embraced him in chapter 33 was that he had incidentally reminded himself that God did promise to be with Him and to provide for Him. You can imagine the joyful shock he experienced when the man he thought would kill him gave him a hug and kiss instead.

The amount of time elapsed between getting let go at Mezza Luna and being offered a full time job at Salishan’s Pro Shop was literally 10 minutes. It was a long ten minutes because I was seriously afraid of not being able to provide for myself. And in the midst of my fearful response (calling the old jobs back home), God surprised me with much more. He blew away my expectations of His provision. Will He do it again this time? Will He surprise me once more with a job that pays better than I want or need? Maybe. But the difference between now and the summer three years ago is that I must refresh myself in God’s promise of provision.

No matter what, He says, He will be with us and will always take care of us.

God bless.

My Senior Message…

When you’ve been in one place for a long time, you tend to have flashbacks every now and then. Most of mine in the past couple of days have been from freshman year – a time when I didn’t have the slightest worry in the world and had nothing figured out. I miss those days. No, I still don’t have much figured out for my life and I’m not really worrying too much about my future (key words: “too much”), but what I miss from those days is the constant presence of other people in my life.

There are still quite a few people in my life these days, but we’re mostly all busy and have our own schedules. Back in those days our schedules were wide open and often intertwined. Whether it was a dorm-hall hangout, CCF soccer pick-up game, or a trip to the movies with a few from both crowds, there was always something to do and people to hang out with. Of all my five years of college, I’m going to miss hanging out the most.

Ever since last Thursday night, I’ve been thinking of what I’d like to tell the people who are still in college. Back in the eighth grade we left our “wills” to various people in the grades behind us, which entailed dumb things like “To So-and-So I leave my locker and all my dirty gym socks,” or “To So-and-So I leave my unparalleled swagger.” But this isn’t what I had in mind here (although, if I had to leave something, I’d leave Brian Teague my enthusiasm for proper grammar – you need it buddy ;)).

No, what’s been on my mind since last week is a message. It’s been difficult to put to words and has several aspects to it, but one that I want to give to all those coming back to U of O, NCU, or LCC next year. It’s simple, easy to remember, and aligns perfectly with the words of Jesus: Invest in each other.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

What has gotten me through the difficult emotions in life, what has deepened my walk with the Lord, and what has propelled me to the point I’m at now has been not only the presence of other people, but the intentional love these people have shown and shared with me. Had Cross Training’s men’s group not discussed Blue Like Jazz in a relatable way, I may not have become so passionate about writing. Had my roommates in The Revolution not been so interested in my story, I might never have felt inclined to share it. And if the generations before me had not been so honest with me, I might never have been so honest with them – or even with myself.

In my doubting days, I wondered why a good God would let bad things happen to good people. I wondered where He was and what He was doing when thousands upon thousands were dying around the world. But then a couple friends would call me up just to see how I was doing, a pastor would text me about coffee the next day, and a roommate would walk in my room asking how things with God were going. As I sought a definite answer to the world’s pain, God was working on my own healing through the people around me. No, they weren’t perfect – none of us are – but that’s just it; they were so relentless in sharing this selfless love with me that I could see something within them propelling them forward when everything else seemed to be falling behind.

“Ekklesia” (ek-clay-see-uh) does not mean a church building or sanctuary; it means a gathering, an assembly, a congregation of people. Originally it was used to describe political gatherings or assemblies watching the great orators of ancient Greek culture. But the earliest Christians began to use it to describe their own meetings; gatherings of a Kingdom much greater than the world’s. In some cases risking their lives, they met up to pray with each other, learn about the Lord from each other, and share a meal with each other. They saw each other’s smiles and felt each other’s tears. Living out Christ’s commandment to love, they invested in each other.

And this is what I wish the groups behind me will do. No amount of private devotionals will bring you as close to God as the prayers and presence of others around you. You can’t operate as a full body if you’re just a hand or foot; you need the other parts attached to you if you want to function well. You need others to keep you sane.

There’s another aspect, though, to being an “Ekklesia.” A little over a year ago I described the church as a fleet of ships at sea – each ship representing the smaller congregations. The people on these ships, the crews, are needed in order to make the ship move forward. But yet they aren’t traveling in any random direction; there’s a purpose within each crew, an objective to carry out. Invest in each other, yes, but do something with each other.

Get outside, go places, meet new people, talk about life, talk about faith, talk about Jesus. My five years of college, despite my procrastination, have seen a lot of productivity. And yet, there was so much time wasted in front of the TV, on Facebook, and just lounging around being bored.

A parable in Matthew’s Gospel contains a tidbit of detail that I’ve always found indirectly convicting; “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too,’” 20:6-7. When I first considered that word “idle,” I felt as though Jesus was asking me that question: “Why are you wasting your life on Facebook, Twitter, watching TV, or just lounging around? There is work to be done!”

As the saying goes, you’re only young once. These college years of your life could be some of the most exciting and most memorable. Life was given to us not for the purpose of suffering and then dying; it was given to us to enjoy. Such joy, though, comes from the Lord, which is amplified in Christ-committed communities, which are sharpened and strengthened when focused on a goal – when seeking to work in Christ’s vineyard. Then and only then “work” loses its dread and instead grows intertwined with joy.

Paul’s Christian life was spent in prisons and under house arrest. As the Scriptures say, he was beaten and bruised regularly, but he always had someone with him investing in him and was always investing in others. And he was always focused on the prize at the finish line.

Write songs, sing songs, dance, write stories, share stories, live stories, and love each other through it all. Life is more than degrees, jobs, and careers. Life is Jesus. And Jesus is within you.

God bless.

School’s Out, Like Forever…

It’s over. I never have to sit through class – boring or exciting – again. And while I’d like to feel an overwhelming sense of joy and happiness, I don’t know what I feel right now. I’m glad to be done with required reading and busy-work assignments, but yet I’m a little nervous about what happens now. Plenty of people have reassured me that I’ll be fine and that I shouldn’t worry about those things and I believe them. But yet, I find that I’m a little hesitant to rush into the fog.

Many of my friends have a lot of stuff planned out for the next year. A few are getting married, others traveling around the world, and still others are simply moving around the state for their new jobs. What am I doing? I don’t know. You got any good ideas?

I have the tentative plan to hopefully move up to Portland at the end of this summer, but I don’t know what for. I have a few friends up there and I think there are probably more job opportunities – even if they are more competitive. But I have no compulsion to go up there. I have no deeper sense of purpose pulling me towards the PDX. Quite frankly, I don’t have much of a compulsion anywhere, really.

This is the heart of the nervous feeling; that for the first time in my life I have no set plan for a solid chunk of my future. When I graduated high school, U of O was on my schedule for the next four or five years. Why did I come here? To get a degree because everyone knows that once you get a degree, girls will date you and paychecks will rain on your lap. But now that I’m done with school and have absolutely no plans for my future (and of course no girlfriend or pile of paychecks), I’m a little lost.

Figuring out life last year or two years ago wasn’t so bad; I knew I had time to figure things out, so I didn’t sweat it as much. I enjoyed daydreaming about possibly being a professor and amazing all my students with ecstatic and inspiring lectures. Then it was becoming an author like Donald Miller and writing witty, comical, and yet deeply-moving stuff (and only getting paid about a dollar for it). Earlier this year it was entering into a seminary to become a pastor who passionately preached from his former pain and experience. And then this time last year, I imagined myself as a lawyer baffling the courtroom with my persuasive words. But now that it’s over – that the grace period for figuring out my future has passed – I’m terribly nervous.

As I’ve been saying throughout the past couple of months, I think God wants me to sweat this out a little bit. And as I said earlier, I believe what my friends and family tell me – that things will work themselves out and I’ll be fine. But the realization of it all has been setting in over the past couple of days and it’s by no means comfortable. Waves are swelling high over the sides of my ship and my emotions are getting tossed around by uncertainty. I’m finding it difficult not to cry out to Jesus to calm the storm; I know He’ll only ask me where my faith is. This is why I find it no mere coincidence that Psalm 31 happened to be the next chapter on my nightly reading.

For the past month, I’ve been reading a chapter of Proverbs in the morning and a Psalm every night. Last night, as this nervousness really began to stir up my anxieties, I read through the words of David and felt as though nearly every verse spoke exactly from how I’ve been feeling. My heart soaked up the entire Psalm, but what really struck home was verse 24. It’s so simple and straight-forward, but yet exactly what I needed.

“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!

That’s exactly the stage I’m in right now: waiting. I’m waiting to see what bread-crumb trail God is about to lead me down. I’m waiting to see what those bread crumbs look like. And I’m waiting to see what purpose God has for me. It won’t be black and white; God won’t email me about what it is. And like my Episcopalian friend, Peter once told me; I’ll have to live out the question rather than just ask it. But somewhere along the way – maybe not tomorrow or even this month – God will put something on my heart that will pull me towards a certain task, a certain people, a certain community, a certain city, state, or even country, and I’ll find out what I was supposed to do all along… because I’ll have already lived it.

Honestly, I think I’ve spent far too much time planning my own life based on the people I want to be with or the city I want to be in. I think I’ve done a lot of requesting in my prayers, but not much listening. He does not wait on me; I wait on Him. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man,” Proverbs 19:21 says, “but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” If Jesus to serve, then like good servants, we must wait for our Lord’s bidding. It might feel terrible, it might stir up all sorts of anxieties, but what it really does is test whether or not we’re actually listening for our Master’s voice – whether or not we hear Him when He calls.

“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand,” – Psalm 31:14-15a

Changing the Chapter…

Two weeks from today is my graduation. It’s both exciting and yet sad. I’m excited to be done with readings assignments, papers, midterms, and especially having to schedule group meetings. I’m not going to miss that aspect of college at all. But I am going to miss this season of life.

It’s been a long one for sure; five years with the last 11 terms (that’s right, eleven) being consecutive (fall of ’08 straight through spring of ’11 with no summer vacations – I was taking classes). I’m a little burnt out, to say the least. But throughout it all I’ve learned and experienced a way of approaching God that has permeated the ritualistic spiritual life I led in high school.

At the essence of it, it’s a heart-to-heart encounter with God. But it is something more than prayer, more than worship, more than sacraments, more than fellowship, and more than studying Scripture; it’s engaging the Spirit of God with one’s heart, mind, and soul by way of immersion. It’s being brought beneath the surface. This is the kind of spiritual life I’ve grown to live and love, and yet it’s one I’ve been thrust into during college.

I’m just sad the season’s over, like I was in my last round of competitive golf. My college-Christian life has become so comfortable and enjoyable that I almost don’t want to approach God any other way. And this is what I must bury in the next couple of weeks – this dependency on the college-kid platform. Just like the four seasons of the year, you can’t live in one season of life forever.

Accepting that fact has been hard. I’ve often found myself contemplating signing up for a full load of classes this fall just to stay at U of O. It’d be stupid on many levels – not the least of which financial. But especially on the spiritual, neglecting the next stage of life would be like trying to repeat high school; it won’t be long before you look like a complete fool, let alone looking scared of responsibility. Regardless of what others might say, I don’t enjoy looking foolish and scared.

And yet, also like my final round of competitive golf, what came next proved to be even better and plunge me deeper into the heart of God. It is this fact that I must remember as I receive my college diploma; as this chapter ends, a new one begins. There’ll be different characters in different settings with different conflicts to overcome. To withhold the page from turning would be to deprive myself of the adventures I will have – the adventures that God will lead me through.

Jesus, as Hebrews 12:2 says, is the Author of our faith. His paper is our hearts and His pen is our passions. His stories are only written when we exercise our talents and skills in the rhythm of the King who’s leading us home. Any life lived apart from Him is no longer His story, but our own. And when this happens, only tragedies are produced. Desperately trying to remain in my favorite chapter only gives me the power to write my won demise. There is no hope in my life; only in the Life that Christ has given me.

It may not sound like it, but not being the main character in this story is a wonderful thing. It means the one main character throughout it all is the unwavering God and not the wavering descendents of Adam. So no matter how different this next chapter will be God will still be there. If I want any comfort, any peace, and tranquility of soul, I must reside in Him and let Him reside in me.

God bless.

Wading Into the “Real World”…

Honestly, I’m not ready to enter the “real world.” I like procrastinating about papers, midterms, and projects. I like having the majority of my days to do whatever I really want to. And I enjoy taking on sideline studies that have nothing to do with my classes (i.e. my Christology investigation). I know for a fact that I’m going to miss the ridiculous amount of freedom that I have now. And yet, I believe I will love what the world has to offer.

Today was spent in front of my computer, updating my résumé. Actually, I did more than just update it; I completely revised it. I changed the structure, style, font, color, information – everything. If you were to hold both the old version and the new side by side, you would think they were written by different people. Metaphorically speaking, though, they kind of were.

My first résumé was written during my sophomore year of college. I wanted a job here in Eugene and knew that most places asked for résumés instead of just applications, so I sat down with my roommate Mohan and I cranked out a basic résumé that I think was good enough to get the job done. But I was 20 when I wrote that one; I’m 23 now. I was barely scratching the surface of my English major then; I’m done with it now. A Communication-Studies minor wasn’t even on my mind then; I’m finishing one up now. I’ve changed quite a bit since then, so I felt it was only appropriate that this new résumé reflect that change.

Beyond the look of it, though, I wanted to change the content. My problem with that, however, is that I haven’t really done much outside of school. I haven’t had an internship; I haven’t done much differently as far as jobs are concerned (I even went two full years without a job – even during the summers); and I haven’t been a part of a project outside of school assignments (like an ad team or something). Experience in anything beyond pizza or golf is lacking on my résumé. And yet I realized very quickly today that I was looking in the wrong direction.

School has been my experience – and relatively a broad one at that. I’ve taken English classes, creative writing classes, journalism classes, and religious studies classes. In each of these class styles, I’ve learned yet another element of writing. Just browsing through the archives on this blog (or just the categories) shows the diversity of subject and style I’ve developed over the past couple of years. I don’t know if potential employers really value this as genuine experience, but thinking about all of it isn’t really for them.

“Know thyself,” Socrates once said. Why? I don’t know why he had first penned that, but for me, knowing what I’ve learned and gone through during my college years has helped me refine who I am. And subsequently – and rather subconsciously – it’s helped me to see what I’m capable of.

I don’t know if I’ll get a job that I absolutely love for quite some time – if ever. But I do know that whatever job I do happen to get, I have a set of skills from my collegiate experiences specifically and life experiences more broadly that stands out (if only to myself) to say that I’m capable of putting up with it.

Two weeks ago I once again sat down with my Episcopalian-priest friend, Peter. This conversation was a little different than the one before, but it was great nonetheless. What he told me this time was incredibly valuable with my graduation right around the corner; instead of asking what you want to do, ask what you could do. Given a good look over what classes I’ve taken and what I’ve gained from them, I’d say I have a very good idea of what I could do. Now if only the jobs would open up!

Suffice it to say, I think I actually am ready to enter the “real world.” I’ve learned enough to attain a degree – and also how to tailor that degree to somehow make it attractive (practically impossible for an English major). Now all that seems left for me to do is to keep ready and wait. Opportunities will present themselves – God will provide them, but the question I face is if I’ll be ready to take advantage of them? I think I will soon find out.

God bless.

Prayerful Planning and Faithful Following

Milling through my mind this last week and a half has been thoughts about the future. I registered for the graduation ceremony this June, got my cap and gown, and just noticed tonight some of the final adjustments to my degree audit. It indicates that on the 13th of June – less than two months from today – I’ll have my degree and be done with college.

What separates this transition from the other life-altering transitions I’ve had in the past is that there isn’t anything planned for the fall. Earlier this year I had decided to earn the best grades possible and later to apply for admission at Western Seminary, but I’ve since changed my mind. It’s still something I want to pursue at some point in my life, but not for next year. I need a year off from school to live in the “real world.” I need to breathe.

But what will I do? That’s the question I have yet to answer and throughout the last few days, it’s been kind of worrying me. For the first time in nearly 17 years I won’t be in school; I won’t have the next grade waiting for me in the fall. For the first time since I’ve been living in Eugene I have no living plans for next year – not even an idea of who my roommates will be. Yes, that’s right, in about two and a half months I’ll be moving out of my apartment at Ducks Village and… God knows where I’ll be after that.

I have some ideas in mind; move down to San Antonio and live with my brother for a while, move up to Portland and pursue a job that utilizes my degree, or just stay here for a while and see what happens. But none of these stand out as the idea that God wants me to play out; they all seem to have an equal amount of possibility. Some nights I wonder if I’ll even have something planned by the time I move out of here.

What has always eluded me in my moments of anxiety (especially about the future) is the presence of God. I should rephrase; what has always eluded me in these moments is my lack of recognition of God’s presence. When I or any of us worry about tomorrow, we tend to overlook the God who is with us here today. This is the God whose Son taught us not to worry about tomorrow for, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble,” (Matt. 6:34). Granted, it’s a little different in my case because I kind of need to plan a little bit beyond tomorrow, but the focus here isn’t so much about careers and jobs as it is looking to God as our provider. What Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6 isn’t about how we’ll ask for our dream jobs and God will give them to us; it’s about how we’ll ask to be cared for and God will do it.

With the Masters tournament being last weekend and my roommate playing a lot of Tiger Woods ’08 for Xbox, I’ve been thinking a lot about golf. Coincidentally, I came across a verse that actually helped me when I golfed competitively back in high school: Proverbs 4:25; “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.”

You have no idea how applicable this is to golf.

First of all, the second-worst thing you can do on the golf course is dwell on the hazards between your ball and the hole. For instance, if I’m 155 yards away from the center of the green and there is either a bunker or pond (or both) 10 or 15 yards in front of the green, then my shot will have to carry at least 145 yards. Once I decide my yardage, my next move is to focus on the target area I want to hit – not the bunker or pond. If I were to do the right thing by making all my measurements and grabbing the right club but failing to focus on my target, I would waste all that measuring prior to my shot and probably wind up in that hazard.

Secondly, assuming I did focus on the target area instead of the hazards, then the final thing I need to make sure of is to hit that little white ball. “Let…your gaze be straight before you.” If I don’t make sure to swing well enough to strike that ball the way I intend to, then any distance-measuring will prove worthless. Once again, I’ll probably end up in that hazard or out of bounds (even worse).

As you can see, this one little verse did so much for my golf game. It kept my approach simple: acknowledge the hazards, focus on where you want the ball to go, and then focus on making a smooth swing to strike that ball as well as you can. In my final term of college, I’m beginning to revamp this three-step mentality in order to apply it to my distant tomorrows: acknowledge the difficulties, decide where I ultimately want to be in life, and then do the necessary steps in order to get there. And yet, even though this is a good mentality to have, I don’t think it’s quite it.

Solomon here isn’t talking about careers and jobs and résumés; he’s talking about following God. He’s talking about a lifestyle that exists within this world yet retains a focus beyond it. These Proverbs, these wise sayings of Solomon (and a few others), aren’t outlining seven simple steps to success; they’re guiding us through the process of forming Godly characters. Why? As Jesus says in Luke 13:24, because it’s a narrow gate. And since it’s a narrow gate, the verses following Proverbs 4:25 say, “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” Like the most important thing in golf is to hit that ball as best as you can, the most important thing in our walks with God is to diligently follow Him and His ways.

We talked about this at my men’s group on Thursday evening. Tony referenced the situation I’m in (graduation) and asked everyone how they’d deal with the questions I’m facing. One guy said exactly what I’m talking about here; focus on faithfully and prayerfully following God this day. Your career may end up being something completely opposite of what your degree is, but one thing is guaranteed: If you’re truly following God, you’re going to enjoy what you’re doing no matter what it is.

If there is a message I could give to myself, it’s simply this. I could write out all my potential-career options and see which ones are realistic and which ones aren’t (I’d refuse to cross out PGA Tour Pro), but God wants one simple thing: My attention, here and now. He knows what my heart desires: He wrote that in the script. But there are a few scenes of the play to act out in order to see those desires through. Or in golf terms, there a few holes to play (and a few shots to take) before seeing the final score.

God bless.