Tag - prayer

Hide and Seek

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I  have a three-year old nephew named Blake, and he is the cutest thing alive.  I bet that all uncles say that about their nephews and nieces, but I personally think Blake would out-cute all other cute kids in any cuteness competition! Well, he and his family visited us this summer, and we spent our days going to the beach, swimming in the neighborhood pool, watching movies, and just spending quality time together.  And I truly enjoyed it so much, particularly since he’s of the age where he’s so much fun to play with – especially for a big kid like me.

One afternoon, we discovered that he absolutely loves playing hide-and-seek.  He loves it so much.  You should see his face light up when I ask him if he wants to play – it is the purest and most joyous expression I have ever seen!  I mean, he basically freaks out with excitement and he looks like he’s going to jump right out of his skin – it is hilarious!  I ask him if he wants to come find me, or if he wants me to come find him first.  Then, I remind him of the rules (“you have to close your eyes when you count to ten!”), and we go at it!

You should see his face light up when I ask him if he wants to play – it is the purest and most joyous expression I have ever seen!  I mean, he basically freaks out with excitement and he looks like he’s going to jump right out of his skin – it is hilarious!

Sometimes, our game starts off with Blake first searching for me.  I have to remember that he’s only three, so my hiding spots can’t be too difficult to uncover.  My favorite one is behind the hunter green curtains in my living room right by the TV and sectional couch (where the other family members are typically hanging out).  An adult could look over towards the sliding glass doors and see a Sameer-sized bulging outline in the drapery, or notice my toes peeking out from below, but Blake has to be guided a bit by others in the room who are not playing.  And after a few persuasive suggestions to check the curtains, Blake finds me, and I let out a dramatic wail in defeat, and he bursts out in laughter, screams, and runs away from me as I reach to grab him, hoist him over my shoulder, and tickle him to pieces.  I wish I didn’t have other responsibilities, because I seriously could play hide-and-seek all day with this wonderful boy bundle of cuteness.

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After Blake and my extended family left at the end of their vacation to drive back to Virginia, Rachel and I were chatting about hide-and-seek.  We reflected that our nephew definitely loved looking for me, and was thrilled when he succeeded in finding me.  However, it was clear that he actually preferred to be the one who found a secret spot to hide, and then wait to be found by me.  I mean, he was over-the-moon happy when I located him in his hiding spot – behind a door, under a blanket, between the wall and the couch.  You would think that he would be bummed out because I had technically “won” at that point, and maybe even get upset and throw a fit because he didn’t win.   But he wasn’t.  He was beyond elated when I found him.

Rachel and I thought there may be something instructive in this, and we didn’t want to miss it.  We wondered if maybe it was a picture of the heart of God, revealed by observing the heart of a child.  And so we tried to put words to the glimpse we had been given.  I remembered that “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out” (Prov 25:2), and really wanted to dive in deep and learn from this.  I think if we want to have a vibrant, living relationship with Him, we have to exert the effort to press in when something strikes us.  Otherwise, we’ll keep missing what He wants to show us and teach us, and wonder why we never (seem to) hear from Him.

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The first thing that came to mind was that everyone waits to be wanted, pursued, discovered.  You very well may agree with me.  Think about a girl who waits for a boy to come along to show her interest, care about what she hopes for and dreams about, and become captivated by all that makes her beautiful. Think about the athlete putting in hours and hours in the pool, or the gym, or on the track – hoping that a scout might come to one of his or her games and offer a scholarship or a shot in the big leagues.

Think about a girl who waits for a boy to come along to show her interest, care about what she hopes for and dreams about, and become captivated by all that makes her beautiful.

I believe God is the same way.  He waits to be wanted, pursued, discovered.  This isn’t because He needs us to find Him; His emotional health is not dependent on our choices.  Instead, He wants us to search for and chase after Him because He knows that there is no better discovery for us than Him.  His presence, peace, and perfect love are the absolute best things we can find.  The greatest treasure of all.

Second, God doesn’t make it an onerous burden for us to find Him.   You don’t need to exhaust yourself looking high and low.  He simply wants you to be “all in” in your search – looking with open eyes and an open heart.  He isn’t hiding from His creation for the sake of hiding, just to put us through the paces.  I think He’s just checking the state of your heart.  Once He knows you are committed, He’s happy to reveal Himself to you with relative ease.

Imagine if I was half-heartedly looking for Blake.  Instead of actively going around to each corner of each room searching, I decided to plop down on the couch and watch some football.  Maybe every few minutes I might yell out something like “Here I come, Blake!” or “I’m getting closer!” just to make him believe I’m still in earnest pursuit.  How awful would that be?  It’s so disingenuous, so wrong to fool a kid like that.

I can’t half-heartedly play hide-and-seek with my nephew, and I can’t half-heartedly seek out God and His ways and His love.  He knows our intentions and motivations better than we ourselves do.

Either I am in, or I am out – I can’t half-heartedly play hide-and-seek with my nephew, and I can’t half-heartedly seek out God and His ways and His love.  He knows our intentions and motivations better than we ourselves do.  I’ve experienced His love and insight in such powerful ways when I simply come to Him, knowing that nothing else can help me feel better, and that there are no answers to be found anywhere else.

The third thing that came to mind is that Blake wants the game to be about him, and not what he can do for me.  He wants me to pursue him for him alone, and not to get him to take a selfie with me, or go to sleep early in exchange for the playtime together, or for any other reason where I’m using him to accomplish a goal of mine.  It’s likely that as a three-year old, he’s not even thinking about that.  You and I as adults, though, definitely do because we’ve been burned in this capacity at one time or another.

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One of the saddest commentaries on the human condition is that we often want others not for who they are, but for what they can do for us – how they can make us feel, how they can improve our personal or professional life, how they can meet our needs.  And to be honest, you and I often pursue God for the very same reasons, and not simply for Himself.  I wish we would think a lot more about how this makes Him feel, and how this makes us seem – particularly because we’ve all been on the receiving end of this sort of exploitative and manipulative arrangement.  It’s such a horrible feeling to realize that someone else is interested in a romantic or platonic relationship not because they love your heart and love spending time with you, but because they want something from you.

It’s such a horrible feeling to realize that someone else is interested in a romantic or platonic relationship not because they love your heart and love spending time with you, but because they want something from you.

When I play hide-and-seek with Blake, he is the end goal.  Finding him, making him shriek with glee, bringing the biggest smile to his face, and showing him how much I care about him – that is my motivation, and there is no other.  This can be distilled even further: I do it because I love him, and this is the best way I know how to show him.  Obviously, with Blake I know I am going to find him in short order.  With God, sometimes it takes a while.  But there is a point to the patience and perseverance required – it’s not random and arbitrary.  He knows what He is doing:

  • the search has a purpose in building your faith;
  • the time it takes to search strips away the false pretenses and separates true seekers from the exploiters and manipulators; and,
  • the reward – for the comparatively few who make it their mission – is incomparably grand.

This is His way, and this is His economy.  He’s made it so plain to us: You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jer 29:13).  I mean, how much more clear do we need Him to be?  When playing hide-and-seek, I was searching for Blake with all of my heart, with no ulterior motives and solely because I love him.  Personally, I want to be pursued by others in the same way, and so do you.  And so does God.  Of anyone, He deserves that.  This pure, passionate pursuit of Him is the deepest and highest way in which I can demonstrate my love – and so I must.  Plus, as I mentioned, it is the best thing for us –  the absolute best way we can spend our days and our lives.  He receives glory (honor, renown, magnificence, beauty, distinction) from the hiding, and we can share in that glory through the seeking and finding.  I am convinced that nothing else in our lives can match that – without inevitably falling short.

Learning Lessons the First Time Around

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A handful of years ago, I realized that my brain works in this very linear and sequential fashion – which sounds good and healthy and all that, but actually is a bit dysfunctional when coupled with my always-doing-something personality. Basically, the way that I am wired is that I am always onto the next thing before I’m fully finished with the first thing because my mind just automatically and mechanically skips ahead to whatever needs to be done.

Case in point – I’m always leaving drawers or cabinets open after I get out a fork, or a spatula, or a mug, or a plate. It’s just that I think to myself…okay, I want cereal, so I fling open a pantry door and grab a bowl. But before even thinking to myself I should close that door, I have moved on to pulling open a drawer to grab a spoon. And before pushing in that drawer, I have moved onto grabbing the box of Special K Red Berries or Kashi Oat Flakes with Blueberry Clusters or Multigrain Cheerios (the three breakfast staples perpetually present in my home…soooooo yummy!!!!). And then I grab the milk from the refrigerator. So then my bride comes downstairs, and I’m enjoying my cereal in my recliner, but the kitchen looks messy because we’ve got two cabinet doors and one drawer wide open – and she has to come along and shut everything behind me. Which has got to be annoying after a while. It’s like, I’m a kid she needs to pick up after. ARGH. Thankfully, I always remember to close the fridge. Okay, I’ll be honest, the refrigerator door sort of closes on its own (whew!).

I’ve been thinking recently about learning the lessons that God wants to teach me. He’s always showing me something, and He’s always super patient with me – maybe even too patient (please don’t change, God, I just get stupid sometimes!). But it just takes me a while to really, truly “get” it and apply it to my life. And, apply it to my life not just once, but always. And sometimes, I do get it, but then it escapes me. Like those squishy and slippery water wiggler toys from my childhood. I can never really hold onto it, and I never really make it my “own.” It doesn’t get fully internalized. I apply it perhaps once, but then I lose it and – unfortunately (or fortunately, I guess) God has to show it to me again. And I’m great with Him being loving and patient and gently bringing around another teachable moment for me. But I wonder if the extent of my Christian life, then, is a series of fits and starts…a sputtering along, if you will…instead of really moving from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18)…and walking in the growth and maturity I know is there for me.

I fully believe I am set apart, and I fully believe that as the sons and daughters of God we can walk victoriously every day. And the years are going by and yes, I am making progress, and yes, I want to be incredibly gracious with myself, and content with the pace of the journey I am on…but I also want to be growth-minded. I don’t want to settle, especially when I know He lives in me and equips me to mount up with wings as eagles (Isaiah 40:31). And I want to dine on meat, and not just drink milk (Hebrews 5:12, 1 Corinthians 3:2). And I want Him to consider me as His friend, like he did Moses (Exodus 33:11) and Abraham (2 Chronicles 20:7), and a man after His own heart, like David (1 Samuel 13:14). That is what I aspire to.

And I believe that is there for all of us, if we can just learn the lessons the first time. Or the second time. Instead of the fifth or tenth or twentieth time. That way, we can move upward and onward to the next thing He wants to teach us, and rise up to steward the next thing He wants to entrust us with, instead of just floundering about or spinning in circles. I want to look back on my life and see a steady, continual, and clearly measurable trajectory of growth. And, I really believe that this better positions me for SO MUCH MORE that He has for me…that He has for His children…if we can “get” these lessons much earlier. And I just feel like this requires three things: 1) slowing down 2) presence and 3) intentionality.

And I just feel like this requires three things: 1) slowing down 2) presence and 3) intentionality.

If I could just stop moving so fast, and be more “in the moment”, and purposefully apply what I know to do when I am making a bowl of cereal, I’d pause after every step (slowing down!), feel the fullness of every moment (presence!), consider exactly what I need to do (intentionality!), and the kitchen would look great and put together before I settle into my recliner and with my breakfast. And I know this sounds laborious, but it’s only a few microseconds of responsibly thinking through my actions. Microseconds. I’ve just built a bad habit, and need to relearn a new one. And keep doing it until it sticks.

How does this apply to lessons God wants to teach me? So, for as long as I’ve been a Christian, I’ve been going to church, and the Pastor has tried to teach me something. Every week, he’s sought to do that. And apart from that, I’ve been reading books – on servant leadership, on emotional stability, on romantic relationships, on healthy boundaries, on pretty much everything. And I’ve been listening to podcasts (primarily sermons). For years. Not only that, but I’ve also gone to hear motivational speeches from men and women I respect and admire. I’ve read biographies and watched inspirational documentaries. I’ve soaked in numerous TED Talks. I’ve devoured tons of lists that pop up on in my Facebook news feed (The 5 Easiest Ways to Save Time, 8 Style Strategies for Advancing Your Career, 17 Things Every Man Should Try, etc. etc., ad nauseam). And I’ve done all of these things with the genuine, unadulterated desire to grow. To be better. To live better. To honor God more. But what I have found is that I am long on information, but short on application. The vast, vast majority of things I’ve wanted to learn and sought out to learn, and situated myself to learn, I haven’t actually made my own. I just haven’t. I haven’t fully internalized them, lived them out, made them a habit, and made them who I am. Perhaps I thought I had “got” it, and then quickly moved onto the next thing, which I then thought I “got,” freeing me up to move to the next thing. All the while, comparatively little was actually sinking in.

The vast, vast majority of things I’ve wanted to learn and sought out to learn, and situated myself to learn, I haven’t actually made my own. I just haven’t. I haven’t fully internalized them, lived them out, made them a habit, and made them who I am.

This is a crushing realization. Really. And yes, it’s easy to dismiss, and rationalize away, and not be so hard on ourselves. But this is what are bent to do all our lives…to just keep moving on to the next thing. And it’s so much surface, and so little depth. I don’t want to live that way anymore. I’ve spent decades doing so. DECADES.

Forget all of those other sources of learning for a moment – let’s just talk about church. We go to church to hear the Word of God, and consequently to be equipped, empowered, and encouraged to live life well. And the message each Sunday is so palatable, and relatable. Heck, they even provide bullet points for me to write down to make sure I definitely “get” it. It could be on really, truly loving my neighbor (or boss, or in-law, or spouse) as I love myself. It could be on taming the tongue to keep a small relational spark from turning into a fire. It could be on taking control of my thought life to keep from descending into pity, self-hatred, shame, or sloth). The bottom line is that if I’m going to church to hear truth and gain wisdom and receive counsel, I should 1) slow down 2) be present and 3) intentionally put those things into action in my life. Otherwise, seriously, why am I sitting in the pew in front of the pastor to learn again next week if I really didn’t “get” and “apply” what I learned last week? (This is not about the other benefits that church provides, like a community of believers to do life with, or an opportunity to serve – this is about learning lessons from God). We move through weeks and months and years like this. And the words we hear or read make us feel warm and fuzzy inside, and tickle our ears, and allow us to check off a mental “box” of sorts that we are doing what we think is the right thing to do, but are those words really effecting change in our lives? Are they really making a difference? Is my life and emotional state and relational environment actually, measurably better?

And the words we hear or read make us feel warm and fuzzy inside, and tickle our ears, and allow us to check off a mental “box” of sorts that we are doing what we think is the right thing to do, but are those words really effecting change in our lives?

Please don’t feel condemned as I’m saying all this. I am really just preaching to myself. I do not want to keep living like this. At the end of my life, it would be so much better for me to have really learned, applied, habitualized, and borne meaningful fruit from five sermons, books, TED talks, and top ten lists than from 50, or 500, or 5000 (when it’s all said and done).

Dear Lord, please help me increasingly learn what you want to teach me the first time around, so I can experience so much more and so much greater of what You have for me. Let even the writing of this blog (or the reading of it by others) not just be words that stay on the surface, but that actually take root. I want this and I need this. Amen.

(I’ll update this blog with the struggles and successes of my attempt to live this out in a couple of months. Stay tuned.)

The Summer Camp Mentality

Every summer, I go to summer camp. And I’ve been doing this for years. To be honest, things are a little different now that I am an adult in that I don’t go as a camper, but as a volunteer or counselor or leader or helper (depending on the camp). Back in the day, though, I loved going to camps every summer – with my church, with 4H, at the local college, for sports, for community plays – they were all amazing. And they still are, it’s just that I experience them differently now based on my point of reference.

I just got back from camp in the mountains of northwestern North Carolina, where I helped out teaching music to a bunch of great kids between the ages of 13 and 18. And I’ve been thinking about how much I love going away to serve at camp, and how much the students loving coming to camp. And I’ve been thinking about how everyone who went is pretty much bummed out when they have to return to their normal lives in the “real world.” And then I was wondering, why is life so great at camp, and is it possible to make life in our real world that great? And while I still am not sure of its practicality, here is what I’ve figured out:

1) Camp is awesome because you’re in a new environment. While camp days have their own routine, it is different from what you’ve done for the previous 51 weeks of the year. Breaking out of one’s routine is such a good thing, and so healthy, and – frankly – invigorating because new neural connections are being made (plasticity!), motivating you to seek out do more new things (which is fun and exciting – as life should be!). Plus, cool, novel things can happen at any moment (unpredictability = dopamine!). You could have a great conversation over lunch with someone you’ve never talked to before. You could excel at a group activity you’ve never heretofore tried. You could smile at a pretty girl who catches your eye, and she could smile back. All these things seem to happen so much more readily at camp.

You could have a great conversation over lunch with someone you’ve never talked to before. You could excel at a group activity you’ve never heretofore tried. You could smile at a pretty girl who catches your eye, and she could smile back.

2) Camp is awesome because you don’t have any normal responsibilities or stresses to deal with. Your parents aren’t fighting within earshot, you’re not worried about making money or having money at the moment, you don’t have to make your bed or clean your room or help with chores, you’re (hopefully) not dealing with drama from friends back home (if you are, put down your phone!), and you can just be you and do the things you love to do. Normal life isn’t like that. Normal life unfortunately involves doing a lot of things that admittedly are good for us, but that we kinda sorta wish we didn’t have to do.

3) Camp is awesome because, as a spiritual mentor once told me, geographical change leads to spiritual change. It feels like when you’re away, you’re much more primed to hear from God (in your heart, or through the words of others), or see Him at work in your life or the lives of those around you. And since normal distractions and responsibilities aren’t there, you can be more receptive and open to it. You don’t dismiss it as quickly, and move onto the next thing on your to-do list. You don’t rationalize it away, because there’s something almost magical…almost transcendent…about being away at camp – and there He seems and feels even more real and present than usual. Plus, camp days are full, and you’re exhausted most of the time because you’re either running around all day with various activities, or soaking up as much time with new friends as possible that sleep gets neglected. But when you’re wiped out, you are just more sensitive to His whisperings. To me, it’s like at camp, I get a whole lot closer to my heart. Or, put another way, it sort of gets bigger inside of me, it enlarges and I just feel it and its longings and desires and hopes and aches so much more deeply. And we believe the Holy Spirit lives within us, and so this “centering” helps me to be so much more nearer to Him.

To me, it’s like at camp, I get a whole lot closer to my heart. Or, put another way, it sort of gets bigger inside of me, it enlarges and I just feel it and its longings and desires and hopes and aches so much more deeply.

4) Camp is awesome because you don’t have to prove anything. Well, at least not as much as we feel like we have to prove in our normal lives. At camp, we can just be. We can just exist. We don’t need to be beautiful, or perfectly stable, or have it all together. We don’t need to excel academically. We don’t need to push and grind and try to make things happen. And we don’t need to hold our families together. We can just let life happen to us, and trust that everything will be fine around us. We can just believe that camp is going to be good and just live it out. I wish I could live every day of my normal life like that – not trying so hard to always be better, or always demonstrate that I am competent, or always be working towards the future, or always exhausting myself trying to do everything right.

I wish I could live every day of my normal life like that – not trying so hard to always be better, or always demonstrate that I am competent, or always be working towards the future, or always exhausting myself trying to do everything right.

Now that I’m back home, in my normal routine, and camp isn’t going to happen again until next summer – what do I do now? It was a mountaintop experience, as it always is each year, but I’m back on flatland and the euphoria has been replaced with a mixture of wistful resignation, contemplative sadness, and a hint of discouragement. But I don’t want to live in this place. And I know it is all about the attitude of my heart. I feel incredibly alive at camp – as do the rest of the counselors and helpers, and of course all of the kids. And I want to live fully alive not just at camp, but all the time. It reminds of me John 10:10, when Jesus says that He came to give life, and life to the FULL. I want life to the full, every single day.

So I’ve decided that I’m not going back to my normal routine, and that I’m going to shake it up a bit. While it’s easy and familiar and comfortable to do each day what I’ve always done, I’m trying to be more spontaneous and free instead of meticulously scheduling how I’m going to spend my morning, afternoon, and evening. I’m also going to intentionally try a lot more new things. For example, I haven’t blogged in 2+ years, but I’m giving that a whirl again starting with this blog entry. I’m starting new exercises as well to stay in shape. I’m experimenting with new ideas in my work. And I’m going to try to be much more intentional about believing for and seeking out unique moments and connections and experiences. They don’t have to be big in the eyes of others, or even worth sharing in an Instagram post – they just have to be different and new. I think that will help me.

I’m also going to make more time to do things I want to do simply for the well-being of my soul, even if they don’t contribute to the “bottom line” or improve my future. For me, this includes more writing, reading, travel, and handstands. I really want to do more handstands. And I’m going to not worry about things I can’t control just like I didn’t do at camp. At camp, I trusted Him to do all the things I couldn’t do – like take care of my family, and work in the background to provide opportunities that I was hoping for, because I wanted to spend all of my energy focusing on the people I was there to serve and because I believed He wanted me to do just that and not have my mind spinning in a hundred different directions. And He took care of everything. Nothing fell apart. Good things happened in my absence. I need to remember that God held my life in His hands while I was away, and He still holds my life in His hands now that I’m back. I really need to trust Him more, and not think that all of that stuff is solely on my shoulders. Much of it I can’t control anyway. I really should know that by now!

I need to remember that God held my life in His hands while I was away, and He still holds my life in His hands now that I’m back.

And finally, it’s going to be very hard for me to stop grinding so hard all the time, because I’m just so accomplishment-oriented. But when that is at an unhealthy level, I don’t really feel free. And I really want to feel free, like I do at camp. Oh man, it’s so freeing to feel FREE. It’s like the best feeling ever, it’s like, wow, this feels right, this feels like how life is SUPPOSED to be. And so I am going to be super mindful of when I start to get off-kilter (I definitely know when it’s happening), and take a gigantic step backwards when necessary. I do not need to prove anything to myself, or anyone else. I really do like what He’s making of me, and the way He is constantly shaping my heart. And I am fully secure in His love for me. And those two realizations are all I will ever need. The “summer camp mentality” – that’s what I’m going to call it. And I’m going to adopt it all year long.

Being Unstable and Double-Minded Because of Fear, Part 1

I have been thinking a lot recently about being unstable.  What seems to cause me to be unstable?  Well, it’s going back and forth on things in my mind.  So I’m not single-minded, I’m double-minded.  And I am realizing I hate being double-minded and I hate being unstable, because it feels like nothing is right and I’ve completely lost focus from what matters.  It’s like, I really want to be confident about who I am, and who I am becoming, and about what I want out of life, and who I want to be with, and what I want to do with my life, and how I want to matter.  I want to operate out of a center of truth, and assurance, and live from that fully.  I want to operate out of who God says I am, and do the things that God places on my heart for my present and future.

But life tends to get so complicated sometimes, with school stuff and work stuff and family stuff and relationship stuff and health stuff and gahhhhhh, so much more.  And we can’t control or predict anything, as much as we want to do all we can for everything to be easy and great and simple again.  Plus, I think and overthink way too much, and it gets me in trouble.  Because I lose focus, and everything gets cloudy, and I feel like there is a tornado swirling around both inside my head and outside all around me, and I just want to shrug my shoulders and throw my hands up in resignation and exhaustion.  And retreat to a fetal position in my bed.  Or on the floor.

Because I lose focus, and everything gets cloudy, and I feel like there is a tornado swirling around both inside my head and outside all around me, and I just want to shrug my shoulders and throw my hands up in resignation and exhaustion. 

This doesn’t happen often, but it happens sometimes.  That is my reality.

When I am unstable, I am a complete mess.  And I am no good to anyone.  In my work, my family, my relationships.  I feel like everything is futile and pointless, and I feel useless.  I know that these are just feelings, but as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

So I wanted to look up what God’s Word had to say about being unstable (as stemming from being double-minded).  This is what I found (provided within the appropriate context, which is always important):

James 1:6-8 – But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

From this, I get that those who are unstable and keep going back and forth about something (in this case, about what they are asking God for) are at the whim of nature, and feelings, and it’s just not really going to work out for them until they get to a point of stability.

When I am unstable, I am a complete mess.  And I am no good to anyone.  In my work, my family, my relationships.  I feel like everything is futile and pointless, and I feel useless.

Psalm 119:11-13 – Your statutes are my heritage forever;  they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees  to the very end. I hate double-minded people, but I love your law.

From this, I get that David is super excited about living as God has laid out how we should live…and he is steadfastly committed to listening to His instruction…and it really bothers him when he sees instability in others (and probably also in himself).

James 4:7-8 – Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

From this, I get that we need to keep submitting ourselves and our hearts and our wills to God…and tied right into that is resisting the devil and simultaneously stepping forward towards God.  Like, stiff-arming Satan while drawing near to God.  And, along with all of this getting back to good with God comes the actions of getting clean from sin *and* being done with instability and waffling back and forth on things.  I like that.  It’s a package.  You have to do it all together, or you miss out, and things are not going to be as great as they could be.

So, clearly, I really need to become more stable.  Mentally stable, emotionally stable, and of course, spiritually stable.  Overall.  But I am also thinking that we don’t get to that overall state of stability until we have resolved and settled in our heart certain things that we go back and forth about. And so I’ll talk about what I feel like I’m learning about that in my next entry…

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Goals and Dreams Poster for 2013

Every year, I try to make a Goals and Dreams poster just to force myself to articulate tangible things that I want and hope to work towards over the next twelve months.  It seriously helps me.

I first pray about a “theme” that God would want to give me for the new year – sort of a defining and encapsulating big picture that will regularly be relevant in interesting and transcendent ways.  Then I look for a key, representative bible verse that I can bring to mind during my year to assist me in staying focused, staying hopeful, and staying close to Him – the author of everything good and perfect.  Then, I make a list of my desires, and check to make sure they are honorable and not selfish or could somehow negatively affect someone else and their goals and dreams.  Finally, I search online for images that portray the various things I am shooting for, and attempt to build a somewhat good-looking collage to capture it all.

I thought it might be encouraging to others to share my 2013 poster on my blog. My theme this year is “The Year of Change” because I just believe that a lot of things are going to change.  Significantly.  Perhaps drastically.  And I know that many people say that when we turn the calendar, but I really, really believe it.  Like, I feel it deep in my bones.  It’s just time, and I don’t often have a ton of clarity about things, but this seems pretty clear to me.

My key verse is:

Isaiah 43:19 – “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert, and streams in the wasteland.”

I feel like God has been working a lot in the background, sight unseen.  I kind of wish He were a lot more visible in what He is doing on my behalf, because I get frustrated, and impatient, and struggle sometimes.  Like you too, perhaps.  But yeah, I believe He does work all things for good for those who believe (Romans 8:28), and I know that the essence of faith is being certain of what we do not see.

These are the things that are important to me right now, in 2013.  These are the things that I want, and are written on my heart, and make me come alive, and help me to stay close to my truest, best self.  They matter.  They inspire me.  They are beautiful squares in the patchwork quilt of life He is creating, and they will help represent who I want to be, and at the end of my life – who I wanted to be.

They are beautiful squares in the patchwork quilt of life He is creating, and they will help represent who I want to be, and at the end of my life – who I wanted to be.

Many of the images are self-explanatory, but I still want to explain their relevance.  Starting in the top left, we have a picture of a man cliff-jumping!  I’ve done this in Colorado, and it symbolizes how I need to be ready and willing to dive into the new things He is going to do.  It’ll be scary, and I am sure I will be freaked out, and change is rarely easy.  But I know I need to have this mentality.

I really want to put on an acoustic coffeehouse of sorts this year.  I’ve been taking guitar for four straight years now, and setting something up formally – like an event – will help me to practice hard, refine my skills, and get to a point where I can skillfully play 12-15 songs for others.

I want to go to India again this year, ideally on missions.  My family is from India.  My heart is for the people and poverty and injustice of India.  So very much.  We have been making a difference there, and I want to do more.

The next picture is of a valley in Aspen, Colorado.  I adore Colorado.

I want to swim more this year.  To get faster times in sprint triathlons, and because it’s great fitness.

Starting from the left again, I want to go back to Africa.  I love Africa.  I love the people and the culture and want to make a greater difference there.

I want to blog more.  Obviously 🙂

I want to continue serving the K-5th graders at church.  I love them, and I am excited every Sunday to see them and hang out with them and help teach them.

I believe God is a God who makes all things new.

I want to continue yoga and increase my flexibility and balance.

I want to be *constantly* grateful for various things every single day, and constantly have an attitude of heart that is humble and surrendered and just plain thankful for how much He does for me and my loved ones, and all that He protects me from and keeps me defended against.

I want to be constantly grateful for various things every single day, and constantly have an attitude of heart that is humble and surrendered and just plain thankful for how much He does for me and my loved ones, and all that He protects me from and keeps me defended against.

I want to tie up any remaining loose ends in my life.

And I want to care for “the least of these” as Jesus models for us.

The center image represents how I want to tell a great story with my life powerfully impacts others, and that God is calling me to do so in partnership with Him.  For example, one day I hope my writings make a real, measurable difference in someone else’s life.  So, yeah.  I want to tell a great story, which is only possible if I live a great story – which I am committed to do 🙂

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts and whether this inspires you to do the same!

The Crutches I’m Leaning On

Earlier this semester. my friend Lucas recently twisted his ankle badly while we were playing ultimate frisbee at school. I was pretty close to him when it happened, and we heard a loud pop and so we thought he had completely broken it. Thankfully, though, a visit to the ER revealed that he had a severe strain and would need to stay off of it for a few weeks. So, he was hobbling to and fro on crutches, and it got me thinking about the last time I was on crutches. I had also twisted my ankle playing basketball at school (our games get pretty intense, I guess!), and I thought it was going to be jacked up for months and months, but God healed it up relatively quickly. But while it was healing, I couldn’t do much of anything. And I couldn’t go anywhere without the crutches. Heck, I couldn’t even make it into the next room without them, unless I wanted to get down on all fours and attempt to crawl on the carpet while holding my injured foot high in the air. It was pretty crappy, and I lost any ability to be self-sufficient, but that was just how it was, and how it was going to be for a while until I healed. Until the situation got better. I just had to wait it out, and I had to rely on my crutches to keep going.

I am getting a lot of silence. Well, honestly, I’m not getting a lot of silence, I’m getting a lot of “Do you trust Me?” and “WAIT!”. But to me, if it’s not a “Yes,” it basically feels like silence.

Well, all of that got me reflecting on how I am definitely in a rough emotional season where I am crying out to God all the time to come through. In various ways, in pretty much every area (physical, professional, familial, social). To help me. To answer some life-changing prayers. To rescue me. To show up powerfully. And I am claiming verses like “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are blameless toward Him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9). And just believing with my entire heart that He will respond. But I am getting a lot of silence. Well, honestly, I’m not getting a lot of silence, I’m getting a lot of “Do you trust Me?” and “WAIT!”. But to me, if it’s not a “Yes,” it basically feels like silence.

Anyway. You’ve been there. Maybe you are there right now. It pretty much sucks. It’s not a fun place. Rather, it’s a very lonely place filled with miserable nights and sad songs and that deep ache down in the core of you that just comes up out of nowhere, and it happens so often that you’ve begun to become used to it. And it kind of helps to physiologically confirm your fears and doubts, and allows you to cope by embracing resignation for a while, because to keep on hoping right now is just too painful.

It’s a very lonely place filled with miserable nights and sad songs and that deep ache down in the core of you that just comes up out of nowhere, and it happens so often that you’ve begun to become used to it.

Qhile we wait on God and our hopes and dreams and His promises to be fulfilled, we are told to not really rely on any “crutches” to get us through life. You know, stuff we lean on to keep moving forward. We are told (and sometimes scolded) that God is to be our everything, and we shouldn’t need alcohol or drugs or sex or makeout sessions or raves or Internet pornography or video games or an excess of anything just to get us through. And maybe you don’t *need* any of those things. I mean, I don’t. Not that I don’t *want* to mess up sometimes. I do.

But I have been thinking a lot about this – I definitely still have “crutches” which I lean on in these long periods of silence and waiting. And we can talk for hours about how the Joy of the Lord is to be our strength, and we can point our eyes towards Eternity, and we can remind ourselves to buffet our body like Paul, and pummel our flesh, and deny our desires, and live sacrificially and selflessly, pouring ourselves out for others like Jesus did. Completely and utterly. But if I were honest with myself, I would say that I can’t do that. And then someone might say, well, you need to get out of the way, and let the Lord live through you – and then you can! And I would say in return, I am doing my best, but I am not Jesus, and I am not Paul. And they would say, but the same power that conquers the grave lives in you! And then I would just walk away. Because they just don’t get it. And I then I would go find someone else around who I can be real.

So I was thinking, what am I currently “using” just to get through – and are these things healthy? But, if they are not God and God alone, is anything healthy? And who decides and defines “healthy” anyway? shouldn’t these sorts of things be between you and Him anyway, and no one else? Okay. I keep going on and on, so let’s focus and get back to my current “crutches.” The things I am definitely leaning on, to cope during this season of silence. While I am waiting on Him, and crying out to Him to please answer my prayers, I have been:

doing yoga
learning guitar and practicing a LOT
reading a TON of books
doing a 18-month intensive biblical leadership course
going to boot camp and working on my fitness
playing sports with my amazing FAU friends
mentoring a high schooler
mentoring some guys at school
talking to my own mentors
writing a book
trying to impact many, many lives nationwide through my professional work
helping out my family with stuff
praying for the hopes and dreams of loved ones
being available for others

That’s pretty much it. The point in sharing that is not to get high-fives and “way to go’s” but to tell you that I have packed my days and nights to the brim so that it cuts down on the time I have to feel sad and bad about myself and my current situation. I lean on these activities to help me through life. I am completely and shamelessly using them to fill up the hours of my days so I am not bummed out all the time because of God’s current decision to hold back from me (which I know is ultimately for my good, but which – as I mentioned – is not fun at all). I am pretty sure that I do it to numb myself, to medicate myself, to anesthetize myself, to inure myself to the silence I am hearing and experiencing from God (and, honestly, from others which I’m sure is part of His plan).

I am pretty sure that I do it to numb myself, to medicate myself, to anesthetize myself, to inure myself to the silence I am hearing and experiencing from God.

Now, while doing all of those things on a weekly basis to just get through this current season of life, I am still spending time with Him in a variety of typical and nontypical ways. He is still my first priority, He has my heart, I love Him with all that I am, and I am honestly desperately seeking His face and His will for my life, and pursuing right living, and wanting to honor Him every moment of my life. I don’t have to prove my devotion to anyone around me. I know my heart, and He knows my heart.

That said, though, I know I am not currently experiencing the joy of my salvation. And I don’t really feel like I am living victoriously above my circumstances, at least emotionally. I’m doing all I should be doing, all I want to be doing, but if I can be real, I am in a deep valley, and I am struggling. And I want that to be okay. I often think of Job, and in his personal nightmare – when his entire world fell apart – God didn’t expect him to do anything to pull himself out of it. God didn’t ask him to pray more, or try to trust more, or read more Scripture, or die to his own desires more. Job was hanging on by a thread. But He was hanging on. And I think that’s all God wanted Him to do and needed Him to do. Sometimes, life gets just that hard, for absolutely everyone. And when that happens, all you can really do is lean on other things, and just hang on tight somehow to your faith in Him. And I want that to be enough.

I need these “crutches.” I do. I just do. And I don’t know how to make Him my everything any better or any more than I already am. And it just cannot be about me performing to a certain standard. Or being a certain way. It is not. I know that. I’ve been through enough to realize that nothing I do or not do can flip a switch to cause Him to move on my behalf. It just doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t work that way. Realizing that was so very liberating from my performance-based past, and now I realize He just wants me to do or not do because of my love for Him. That’s it. Nothing should motivate me apart from my desire to demonstrate my love for Him.

I’ve been through enough to realize that nothing I do or not do can flip a switch to cause Him to move on my behalf. It just doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t work that way.

So, the bottom line is and the truth is that I’m basically just enduring right now. I am basically just surviving life, and leaning on my crutches to keep me going forward. But I am trying to remind myself that the only thing that matters is that I keep hanging on, and keep doing it out of love. And that somehow, it is enough.

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