Leaving Well…

Something occurred to me on my way to work this morning: Exactly two months from now, I will be living in Portland attending my first week at George Fox Seminary.

Okay, technically classes don’t start until September 5th, but by September 2nd I’ll have moved up there and (hopefully) gotten settled in. I’ll be meeting new people on a daily basis and learning my new surroundings. My day to day routine will be completely different from what it is now, except for coffee. I will never cut coffee.

What I’ve been thinking about all day is how I intend to live these final two-ish months in Eugene. No, it isn’t like I’ll never be back, but I am leaving for at least a couple of years maybe longer. And the fact that I’m leaving for an extended period of time makes me focus on how well or not well I’m interacting with the people around me now. Essentially, I’m wondering what my exit strategy is.

“Exit strategy” is a term used to describe the plan for closing out military operations. For example, if President Obama were to lay out a plan for 10,000 troops to come home from Afghanistan or Iraq every month – that is an exit strategy (I have no idea what Obama’s exit strategy is or if he even has one; just making an example).

But it’s also used for when CEO’s or GM’s retire. They have exit strategies as to what they’d like to do with their final few months of influence within the company; ideally, these things would assist in setting up that company for success. How I’m using the term in reference to my current situation is something like this.

Currently, I don’t have one. I mean, there are some obvious things that need to happen; finding a place to live in Portland, packing up things here, and taking some time off of work to get moved out of my current apartment and into my new one. But those are just things that I have to do; they aren’t components to an overall strategy of how I’d like to live the day to day here in Eugene.

What I think are components to an overall strategy are things like hanging out with friends more often, being as efficient as possible at work, or helping my soon-to-be-former roommate find someone to replace me or find a new place to live altogether. Essentially, components to an exit strategy are basically intentional things I do between now and September that are in the effort to leave well.

Of course, these types of things (spending more time with family and friends, working well at my job, and helping people) are things I should always be doing. But when seasons of life change, so do relationships. Sometimes they’re strengthened, but sometimes they’re weakened. Maybe there was an argument right before someone moved away or one person did a selfish thing that negatively effected the other and it left a bitter taste to their relationship that they never sought to mend. What I think of, when it comes to an exit strategy, is doing things that not only end things on good terms, but strengthens the relationship so that it lasts.

Simply because I’m moving to a new location to study at a new school and meet new people and make new friends doesn’t mean that my current friendships aren’t valuable to me. It is this fact that drives my desire to leave well; to spend as much time as I can with my church family, to care for the people I work with, and simply to let those who’ve known me know that I care about them, even though I’ll be living two hours north.

The Apostle Paul is a great example of what it means to have a presence in someone else’s life while not being physically present. What I hope to do in this time of transition is make it possible to have a presence in someone’s life while not being physically there. It means showing someone you actually care about them by listening to them and showing compassion and empathy. It means doing kind things even if they aren’t needed. And it means, while I have the ability to do so, showing up whenever I can – because I won’t have as many opportunities to do so later.

What I really hope for in carrying out this exit strategy is to get a phone call late at night from somebody here in Eugene who, for whatever reason, hasn’t been able to get a hold of anyone else and they just need to talk to somebody. I want to be that person they talk to despite however many miles are between us.

Leaving well, in essence, is a greater focus on loving well.

God bless.

Listening to Rebukes…

Due to upcoming costs for seminary, living in Portland, poker, and maybe a new car, I got a second job working the grounds crew with the Eugene Emeralds (a minor league baseball affiliate of the San Diego Padres). How I got that job, though, wasn’t the easiest of processes and involved biting the bullet on a mistake I made.

I first applied to work in the merchandise department for the Ems, but wasn’t hired for the job. Despite a small kick to the pride, I was okay with it – even more so, now. But there was still the issue with gathering some extra funds for all the costs awaiting me this fall.

[Enter Tony Overstake]

Tony was one of the pastors at Calvary Fellowship before the head pastor resigned and the building was sold. He’s the current UO chaplain working through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes ministry. Ever since my freshman year of college, we’ve been meeting up as regularly as possible for a Bible study. On one particular meeting, he asked me if I wanted to come to his place the next day and pull some weeds. Seeing the opportunity to gather some funds, I said I would. So the next day I drove down to Creswell in my yard-work clothes.

I used to pull weeds as a kid living with my grandpa in Lincoln City. I hated it. I still hate it. But, as evidenced by the offer from Tony, what my grandpa put me through as a kid paid off, literally. Yet something happened toward the end of the day that I’m not exactly ashamed of, but I know I’m not proud of.

It was hot out that particular day. I can’t remember the exact temperature, but it was more than this coastal kid is used to. I was drinking a lot of water and doing my best to keep hydrated throughout the day – trying to work in the shade as much as possible. However, the last hour and a half had to be done directly in sunlight. And since the weeds were growing amongst the flowers (Tony’s flowers; not his wife’s), I was crouched low to the ground so I could get a better grip on the weeds. I have no idea how long I was crouched low, but when I went to stand up, I felt incredibly dizzy and actually fell over.

In that moment, I decided to call it. I had been working for about six hours and felt totally drained of energy, so I thought my dizziness was a sign I should call it a day. What I didn’t take into account was how there was only about ten minutes left of work. If I had taken a five minute break, gotten some water, and gone back at it for those ten minutes, I would have done a more respectable thing. Instead, I quit before the job was finished.

None of this had come to mind until Tony talked to me moments later. He was writing me a check for having worked, but he said something that stuck with me, “I’m just going to go ahead and say this, but I think you should have finished the job. I understand you were dizzy and it’s hot out, but it was only ten minutes worth of work. So this is just for future reference, but if you’re working for someone and trying to impress an employer, you might want to work through the difficulties.”

Believe me, I didn’t want to hear that. In fact, I drove home with a bitter taste in my mouth because I felt as though it wasn’t my fault that I stopped. And yet, I don’t think my bitter feeling was toward Tony or what he said; it was because he was right. Given a choice between comfort and finishing a job, I chose comfort. Sure, I was dizzy, but like I said above; I could have taken a five minute break (or less) and gone right back to work to finish out the project. Instead, I took that opportunity and chose to be comfortable rather than respectable.

No, I don’t think Tony respects me any less than what he did before I showed up to work that day. But he certainly doesn’t have any good reason to respect me more after that day. And that’s where I dropped the ball. I didn’t take advantage of an opportunity to work hard and work well for someone I respect. Yet it’s because I respect Tony that I was able to hear his honest and gentle rebuke (Two things I noticed about Tony’s words to me: 1. He could have said them in front of his wife and thereby embarrass me or 2. He could have said them right when I chose to call it a day with all the emotion he must have felt; he didn’t. He kept his cool and told me quietly).

A while ago I had written a post about Dutch Uncles and about how we need them and how we need to be them. Tony was the epitome of a Dutch Uncle that day; he was honest, yet constructive, telling me what I needed to hear so that I may do better the next time around. Little did I know that the next time around was that following Thursday when I went to my first day with the Ems grounds crew.

It was not an easy day. I was told the day before all the duties of the job, but was still nervous about putting them all into practice on my first day. When I showed up, I had expected to find another guy whom I was told was my coworker. He wasn’t there. And since the guy who hired me had another job working with the U of O athletic department, I knew he wasn’t going to be there for a little while.

All of the things the other guy was supposed to have done, since he shows up two hours before me, were now my responsibility and I had to learn on the fly. What Tony had told me the Saturday before was the driving force to my work ethic on that Thursday and every day thereafter.

My Saturday with Tony was chockfull of lessons from Proverbs; stuff about a wise man listening to a rebuke (3:11-12, 12:15, 19:20), how rebukes are meant to improve you (1:23, 29:1), how iron sharpens iron (27:17), keeping your cool when feeling emotional (29:11), walking with the wise (13:20), and not slacking off when on the job (18:9). If Tony had not said what he did, I might still have gotten the second job, but I know for sure I wouldn’t have had the same drive to work well and take advantage of an opportunity to impress an employer.

Listening to a rebuke is never easy. It hurts our pride and oftentimes makes us feel as though we’re incapable of doing things the right way. Yet it is precisely what Proverbs 3:11-12 says that urges us to listen when we’re corrected, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” God loves us enough to correct us when we mess up or not do as well as we should have. He does so because He’s re-creating us.

Ignoring your critics is often seen as a good thing. And maybe sometimes it is – like when the criticism is destructive and not ground in any good reason. But without someone telling us we’re doing it wrong, how will we know if we’re ever doing it right? Such a practice demands discernment to, like pulling weeds from flowers, sift the bad criticism from the good.

“[Be] quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” – James 1:19

Who knows? Listening to correction just might actually land you a job.

God bless.

Liking What Someone Else Likes…

Michael, my best friend and neighbor growing up, and I spent quite a few summers hanging out. Whether with our Legos on the stairs at his house or with our baseball bats and tennis balls having a home run derby in my grandpa’s backyard, we had a lot of fun times. Yet there was something Michael did early on in our friendship, something I was reminded of while reading Sheldon Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy. I know it was something he did because I was way too selfish to even think of it: he implemented a rule that we would always trade off in our activities. We took turns in doing what the other wanted to do.

Andrea and I taking a seat with the Valentes in Florida.
Andrea and I taking a seat with the Valentes in Florida (From left to right: Margrit, Andrea, Francesca, Amy, Michael, and me).

Once Michael and his family moved away, this rule had soon been forgotten. I did try to keep it going, but be it different friends or the teenage inclination to be independent (or at least attempt to be), it simply died away. I still did things that others wanted to do, but not nearly as often and without the conscious realization that it was someone else’s idea and not my own.

What Sheldon Vanauken points out in his description of his love for his wife (or as they described their love, “The Shining Barrier”) is something behind the rule Michael had implemented: the art and discipline of liking what someone else likes. Sheldon says, “Our thesis that if one of us liked something there must be something to like about it which the other could find was proved again and again,” by their constant practice of doing things together (38).

In very few words, Sheldon describes the remedy to the selfish nature: discerning precisely why the other likes something different – maybe even contrary – to what one likes. An example might be me liking the Oregon State Beavers – or at least trying to. Honestly, it wouldn’t be so difficult… until they played the Ducks. Then I’d be really hard-pressed to see what Beaver fans see when going against the Ducks. And yet, if I somehow manage to marry a Beaver believer, this is something I know I will want to do; I know that I’ll want to see what she sees so that I may know her better.

It changes the way I see things I do like, but also the things I do not like. Instead of demonizing it or mentally writing it out as irrelevant or beneath me, I’m now compelled to attempt to see the other side – to see what’s likable about it. Even after sifting over it and trying to see what someone else sees, I still might not like it. But at the very least, I’ll have a deeper understanding of what might be likable about it.

Thinking in this way makes it much easier to hang out with other people. It makes it much easier to, as Jesus says we should, love my neighbor as myself and treat them they way I want to be treated. Spending time to invest in the things others like to do is investing in them as people. For example, if a friend really loves going to concerts, it’d be investing in them to join them in going to a concert; not only would I be spending time hanging out with them, but I’d be learning what they like on a more experiential level. I’d see first hand what it is about concerts that gets them excited. And heck, maybe I’d start to enjoy it, too?

Learning to like what someone else likes isn’t reserved for married couples or couples in general; it’s a practical means of growing closer to a friend. One of the things Michael liked to do that I didn’t was go fishing – particularly with his dad. But there was at least one day where we all went fishing together. I recall spending most of the time on the playground nearby, but what I remember most clearly is seeing Michael sitting next to his dad, Eddie, as he taught Michael how to fish. For a kid without a father, getting to see those awesome moments of another’s life is an experience you can’t buy. I wouldn’t have seen that, though, if I did what I wanted to do and stayed home.

Me, Eddie, and Michael posing for a pic in Florida.
Me, Eddie, and Michael posing for a pic in Florida (yes, I still have that hat).

Honestly, much is risked in doing something that you’ve never done before. You’re vulnerable, out of your comfort zone, and at a bit of a loss on how to do whatever it is you’re about to do (like me and fishing). It requires humility and admitting that you don’t know something. But consider the alternative: if you stick to your guns and do your own thing, you’ll wind up entirely and completely alone and not in a good way. When God looked upon Adam in Genesis 2, He said it wasn’t good that he was alone. Sure, He then created a wife for Adam, but the ultimate truth is that it isn’t good for any of us to live our lives alone. We’ll have moments to ourselves and oftentimes find ourselves alone (I’m alone in my apartment as I write this), but we’ll still have people we care about and people who care about us. We’ll have close friends and family that will make us feel as though we weren’t alone even when we actually are.

Finally, I don’t think one ought to the things that someone else likes just to receive wisdom, knowledge, and experience. One ought to do what others like because one likes them and wants to show it. I went fishing with Michael and his dad not only because of the rule, but also because I liked hanging out with Michael. Despite all that was going on in my life at the time, hanging out with Michael and his family was one of the best parts of my childhood.

Love others as you want to be loved. If you like something, chances are they like something. Find out what it is and why it is they love it. In so doing not only will you love them as you want to be loved, but as God has already loved you.

God bless.

God’s Newsfeed…

A strange thought came to me earlier today. I was sitting at Subway eating my usual foot-long Black Forest ham on Italian herbs and cheese when I happened to notice a lady sitting across the restaurant from me staring out the window. She had finished her sandwich and was munching on a cookie while sipping her soda. Every thing about her suggested that she wasn’t in a hurry; she chewed slowly, sipped sparingly, and sighed heavily, almost as if she was bored. By all appearances, she was lonely. I wondered, if God had a Facebook account, would she be in His newsfeed?

Obviously she would be – more so because God doesn’t need Facebook to see what’s going on in everyone’s lives, but even if He did need Facebook, she’d show up in His newsfeed. Heck, He might even have it set up to be notified every time she posted something (a feature I found kind of pointless due to the fact that everyone I received notifications about popped up in my newsfeed). But God sees the good and the bad; popular and unpopular; and the befriended and lonely. And careless of popularity points or approval ratings, He loves each and every one of them.

Loving others like God has loved us, to put it mildly, is exceedingly difficult. Not only is it within our nature to be around people who make us feel good or accepted or validated, but our selfish, “independent,” American culture has trained us to instinctively care for ourselves before we care for others. It has taught us “out with the bad and in with the good” so that we just might attain that level of happiness we desperately pursue. And as evidenced with Facebook’s newsfeed settings (as confusing as they are), we’re able to pick and choose the people we care about and the lives we affect.

I really wish I had acted against my selfish tendencies at lunch today. I really wish I had sat down next to her to eat my sandwich and make some empty comment about the weather or allergies or whatever just so that she’d know I at least saw her. Jesus says in Matthew 25 that He’ll welcome God’s people for having visited people who were sick, estranged, or in prison, something kind of like sitting with someone who looked lonely and commenting about the weather. No, I’m not beating myself up for a missed opportunity; I’m saying it was missed opportunity because I want to get it right next time and every time after. I want be effective at loving others as God has loved me.

Sometimes I feel like a third-grader reading a book together with the rest of the class when the teacher asks for a volunteer and I’m simply avoiding eye-contact so I won’t have to read. But instead of the teacher asking for a volunteer, I am asking for a volunteer. And instead of reading a book, we’re helping people. And instead of avoiding the teacher’s eyes, I’m avoiding God’s eyes because I am asking who’ll feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the lonely, heal the sick, and so on and I can feel Him looking right at me. I don’t want to turn around because I’m afraid it will be me having to help.

In Mark 6:30-44, Jesus’ disciples seem a little upset that their rest was being disrupted by the thousands of people eager to hear Jesus teach. They told Him to send the crowds away so they could eat, but Jesus flips it around on His disciples: You give them something to eat,” (6:37). His disciples are dumbfounded and tell him no one could afford that much bread. All the while they forgot the Apostles were empowered to cast out demons and heal sick people – literally the same chapter. But I guess feeding people is more challenging than casting out demons…

My point is that we have a tendency to sit around and wait for someone else to reach out to the socially unfavorable while God is looking us in the eye saying, You go and do it.” And then we have the audacity to say, “But God, there’s no way I could reach them; I’d have to hang out with them and learn what they like and maybe even root for a sports team I hate. Clearly, you got the wrong guy.” All the while we, just like the disciples, ignore the power God has given us – a power that compelled Paul to say, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” (Phil. 4:13).

If it sounds like I’m a little frustrated with myself, I kind of am. I’ve been at this Christian thing for eleven years and I’m still making rookie mistakes. But like I said above, I’m not writing about my failures to beat myself up; I’m trying to get them right. Of all the things in the world that I could be good at, loving as God has loved me is the most important. As Paul says:

If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing,” – 1 Cor. 13:1-3

It’s all for nothing if you don’t love. And I don’t mean loving those who love you back or the popular, rich, and powerful. I’m talking about the ones no one else sees. We – those among us who proclaim Jesus as their everything – are the light of the world; therefore, we see everyone, not just the people we want to see.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” – John 1:5

May we take a lesson from Mark 6; that our lives are not about ourselves, but rather the people around us. And it need not be more complicated than asking someone how things are going or talking about the weather. Love ’em, for the love of God.

God bless.

How We Talk About God…

Have you ever wondered how you express yourself? More specifically, have you ever wondered how you’ve expressed your beliefs or faith? This thought came to mind while reading Rob Bell’s latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God. I know a lot of people have some issues with Rob Bell – his theology, demeanor, hair style, etc. – but that’s a different discussion for another time. A passage I read today discusses something that I’ve often thought about in the past and spent many a journal entry ranting over. It isn’t about what we believe or why we believe, but rather how we express that belief.

“Technical language has limits. It can describe some things very well, but in other situations, like love, it falls flat. It’s inadequate. It fails.” – 85

Bell asks a hypothetical question using a character named Sheila who had recently gotten engaged to a man named Simon. When asked about Simon, she begins to list his height, weight, what kind of car he drives, what his shoe size is, and that he’s also in a Tuesday night bowling league. What’s wrong with this picture, as Bell asks? The manner with which Sheila used to describe her fiancé didn’t really convey the message that he was her fiancé. She didn’t get excited when thinking about him; she simply listed facts. And yet everyone around her was expected to believe, somehow, that Simon was Sheila’s fiancé.

A question that came to mind while reading was, what if someone asked me to tell them about God? Would I, like Sheila, list off a bunch of doctrinal and dogmatic statements that describe how the Trinity works or why the particular denomination I’m a part of has the right view? If, as Bell points out, we claim to love God, shouldn’t our love for Him be evident in how we express Him? Instead of listing off all the Bible verses that describe God as Father, wouldn’t it be better for me to describe how He’s my Father?

Like Bell says, technical language is great for other things like giving a description of a suspect in a crime or trying to find the right part to fix your car. But when it comes to love, there’s a different language we ought to use to best convey that love. A couple posts ago, I talked about sincerity and how we sometimes have to fake it because being a sincere follower of Christ isn’t a part of our natural selves. But if were to utilize love – to embody Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 13 – then perhaps we’d find it much easier to be sincere with each other and with someone who doesn’t know about God.

Describing God by various doctrines and dogmas can be useful. But when someone asks us to describe Him, shouldn’t our first inclination be to describe Him in such a way that conveys our love for Him? In Bell’s example, shouldn’t Sheila’s first description about Simon be something about their love and how they were meant to be? In a Christian sub-culture that has so many denominations with their own various doctrinal statements, it’s so terribly easy to follow along and describe God in that technical language. But I agree with Bell; it falls short. It fails to convey the depth of love that God has for us and that we have for Him.

If you can find the time, take a few moments with God today. Recall what first drew you to Him. Remember the things He has done for you, but, more importantly, why He has done them for you. I think the answer to that will always be the same: because He loves you. God’s love for us is what changes our hearts; not our technical language. Therefore the manner in which we talk about Him ought to convey our true identity.

God bless.

The Real Problem With Coveting…

Tonight some friends from Emmaus Life and I discussed Psalm 73 and how earth with all its stuff isn’t our home. Several stories were shared about friends and extended family members having passed away with the beautiful mindset of going home – although they were literally on their deathbed, they knew full well they were going to Jesus. And as it often does, our focus on the world to come caused us to see this current world with much more clarity.

In this moment of clarity, something hit me about the act of coveting – of being jealous of what someone else has – and what’s really going on.

When I was a kid, my grandpa would buy me the same thing that he bought my older brother. On many of our old toys (now dispersed to various Goodwill locations) we had put our initials because if we didn’t we wouldn’t have known whose Lego guys were whose (even though there were two of every single one of them). If there were ever an item that my brother got and I didn’t (or vice versa), someone wouldn’t be fully happy. Well, at least I know I wouldn’t be happy – even if the of-equal-value item purchased for me was really awesome. In being taught a system of fairness, I also learned how to envy the possessions of others.

For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.

They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.

Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.

Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies.

They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.

They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.

Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them.

And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”

Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.

All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. – Psalm 73: 4-13

Coveting is sinful because we envy what someone else has, yes, but it is also sinful because we declare to God that we are not content with what He has given us. Look at what the Psalmist says in verses 12 and 13; “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.” He declares his entire walk with the Lord as worthless because he didn’t get what they had. What I see happening here, though, goes beyond discontent with God; it’s getting duped into thinking that we have to have riches, possessions, and every luxury we could ever think of.

Advertisements annoy me. No, it isn’t because many of them are really dumb, but rather because of how they make you feel. I mean sure, some are funny and utilize a lot of creativity, but what’s usually the goal? It’s to get you, the consumer, hooked – to their product, program, or ideology. They want you hooked in order to get your dollar some way, some how. Usually, they leave you to think that if you just had that nice car, that fancy nose trimmer, or that six-pack set of abs, you’d finally be happy – you’d finally be content. But what we oftentimes don’t realize is that we’re being taught to believe that we actually need those things. In reality, if we have God, we have all that we need. Heck, we have more than we need.

And by “more” I don’t mean we’ll suddenly have an insane amount of riches, possessions, and prestige. As we talked about tonight, having the “more” that God freely offers is beyond money, things, and images – it’s beyond time itself. It’s Ephesians 3:20-21 (thanks Jenn); “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” “More” is not limited to material items, but rather directed toward eternal items – our souls.

What happens if we don’t recognize that we got duped? If we believed that we had to have the things that the “wicked” people (as the Psalmist describes them) had? We see hints dropped in verses 4-5 and 10-11; “For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind…. Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. And they say, ‘How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?’” If we believe the first lie that we need things to satisfy us, then we’ll likely believe the second: That everyone has it better off than we do and that our God doesn’t get it. Our view of reality will be distorted. Instead of being ambassadors of peace in a chaotic world, we’ll be lost in the chaos of discontent with the rest.

“But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end,” Psalm 73:16-17

Only when the Psalmist sought God’s counsel on the matter did he see how he had been duped. Some of us may not have the tendency to turn to the Lord for guidance (unless of course, some crisis broke out), but like muscles, it gets stronger the more you use it. The more you make time to seek God for understanding, the deeper your understanding will grow. And what happens when it grows? As the Psalmist concludes: “But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works,’ – 28. We fear nothing and no one.

What do your possessions mean to you? Are they simply tools to be used to declare God to the people around you or are they what you place your contentment in? Are they evidence of God’s blessing or your accomplishments?

As the Psalmist did, perhaps we, too, should seek the Lord on the matter.

God bless.

Fall-ing In Love…

Aging leaves and apple cider have a way of stirring the hopeful-romantic in me. It’s something about cooler air, fewer daylight hours, and weekend football games that compel me to daydream more about kissing a girl in a beanie, scarf, and sweater. Maybe we’d be on a date trying to get to know one another or maybe we’d somehow found free time at the exact same hour and chose to spend it at the exact same place – together. Either way; my imagination is thrilled and enamored with the thought of touching her lips with mine.

Believe it or not, I try not to write about love (in the romantic sense) and marriage too often. This subject often stirs a great deal of impatience within me because tied closely with each daydream is a great, deep desire to have a wife of my own – to have a girl to hold. Like many things in life; the greater the desire, the greater the patience required.

Why am I writing about it now? For starters, I caught the garter at Ethan and Christine Holub’s wedding Saturday night. And secondly, sometimes I can’t stop thinking about something until I’ve written about it. Sometimes it’s bothersome like an alarm clock that doesn’t shut off until I push the right button. But yet at the same time, it’s a dream that I don’t want to end.

In many ways, I’m upset that I haven’t yet found a girl to begin a new life with. I mean I wouldn’t have to watch movies by myself anymore. And heck, I just might be able to keep my room clean longer than a day. But in many other ways, I’m glad I haven’t yet found her. I have more time to learn about and practice being the Godly man I wish to be. It’s like getting an extension on the due date for an essay; you have that much longer to get it right (or at least to get it done).

Of course, it’s much more detailed than that. I’m learning various levels of responsibility with my job, with my finances, and, most importantly, with my walk with God. I’ve learned the hard way that trying to push through life without prayer, fellowship, and studying the Scriptures is possible, but it numbs your soul. Your heart becomes calloused to the way you treat others or even think of others. You stop caring about the homeless who usually only ask for whatever you have to give. You start to ignore your friends’ problems and leave them to fend for themselves. And when God speaks to you, you start to ignore Him little by little.

No, I didn’t spend too long on this path. Most of my friends in Eugene are quite serious about their walks with God; even if I wanted to quit, they wouldn’t let me. But I did learn well enough that for the important things in life, like a relationship with Jesus, you have to make the time for it. It isn’t going to fall from the sky.

This fall is much different from last fall, or really any fall. This year I’ve become more of a believer not of God necessarily, but rather of the truths about Him. Yes, I realize this is a somewhat awkward statement, but hear me out. Believing in God is easy. Believing that God believes in me and wants to give me the desires of my heart isn’t.

Maybe it was something that happened in my early childhood or maybe I had my heart broken by that pretty girl in high school; whatever the initial cause may have been, I’ve had difficulty in believing that God wants good things for me. Scripture says it, yes, but it’s been difficult to believe. And then there was something said this morning in a conversation after church.

My friend Katie Conlon runs cross country for U of O as well as the steeplechase. She was telling another friend of mine, Candice Coffee, a story of when she was in high school. She and her family (or maybe just her dad – I can’t quite remember clearly) had come to Eugene to watch the Olympic Trials in ’08 and Katie participated in the “All-Comers Meet” which was held on one of the rest days for the trials athletes. One of her thoughts was, “I will never again have the opportunity to run on Hayward Field.” And now, as she said, she practices there every day. Candice replied with (something like), “That’s a perfect example of how God just wants to bless us with the desires of our heart.”

We love God because He first loved us. In the same way, we believe in God because He first believed in us. Why else would He even take the time to create humans with their own free will? If He had really known how much I’d screw up, He probably wouldn’t have created me. But He does know how many times I’ve screwed up – and how many more times I’ll screw up in the future. He simply chooses to give us the benefit of the doubt. God believes that we are capable of more than we will ever dream of.

One of my greatest desires for this life is to have a wife and if God truly wants to give me the desires of my heart, then it means I’ll find her at some point – maybe sometime soon (I did catch the garter) or maybe ten years from now. When it comes about doesn’t matter; what matters is that I believe God not only wants it for me, but believes I’m capable of handling it. He believes I’m capable of marrying – even when I disagree.

With as tough as being single through this past wedding has been, I think I can finally and honestly say that I’m content. Content with who I am now? No; content with where I am now; content with knowing that God is leading me along and isn’t going to leave me alone; and content with knowing that wherever I wind up in life, if I’m following God, I’ll be exactly the kind of man He wants me to be.

What am I to do in the meantime? I’ll keep praying, reading, and gathering with brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ll keep working my job. I’ll keep paying my bills. I’ll keep living every bit of this single life God has me living. I’ll keep dreaming of that chilly fall day when her lips touch mine. And maybe, just maybe, God will surprise me with a greater reality.

God bless.