My Goals Poster for 2015

If you've known me for a while, you know that each year I try to put together a collage of sorts with images from the Web - which I call my Goals Poster.  It's just a visual depiction of the major things I want to do in my life that year, and it helps me to boldly put my hopes and dreams and ambitions "out there" instead of just keeping them in my head.  And if I ever find myself floundering, or wasting my days or weeks, I can come back to it for clarity and direction.  And I thought maybe some people might care to see it and hear why certain images were included.  And I know it's the middle of September, and I probably should have shared this in January, but I was on a long blogging hiatus.  And now that I'm back, I figure that it's as good a time as any!  So, let's get to it.... After praying about it, I felt like God wanted me to name 2015 as "The Year of New Beginnings."  I know it's sounds a bit cliché, but I was definitely entering a new season of my life this year since I was getting married in the summer.  And then I prayed about a verse that I could keep in the forefront of my mind throughout the year - a verse that I wanted to build my life upon.  And I was thinking that I really wanted to be in the Word so much more, since it has the daily wisdom that I desperately need.  And I was also thinking a lot about healing, and health, and physical restoration, and God's blessings in those areas.  And I stumbled upon this verse from Proverbs 4:20-22: My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one's whole body. And I was like - YES.  That is it.  That is perfection.  And that is what I want.  So I set it in place as the centerpiece scripture for my year. Okay, so moving clockwise from the top left, let's go over the pictures I selected.  First, the hands clasped in formal attire signify my wedding - which was unbelievably wonderful and could not have gone better (thank you God!).  Next, my family and I continue to care deeply about the clean water problem in India, and work to build wells there every year.  We have to keep doing that.  Their lives are as important as our own.  Third, I want to enjoy citrus fruits with my wife more often!  Just kidding.  Well, not really, but that photo is just there to remind me what a cutie she is, and how much I love her big blue eyes, and that I want to prioritize quality time with her this year - and not neglect her in the slightest (hopefully ever).  The guitar reminds me to keep up my practicing so I can keep getting better, and the keyboard/notepad/blog image is there to inspire me to keep writing.  I hoped to keep speaking at TEDx, and did again this year - so that was a goal accomplished and pretty awesome (even though writing and preparing a talk take tens and tens of hours!).
It's just a visual depiction of the major things I want to do in my life that year, and it helps me to boldly put my hopes and dreams and ambitions "out there" instead of just keeping them in my head.
The bottom right is a picture of the cliffs of Ireland - where Rachel and I initially wanted to honeymoon.  That did not work out this year, but I aim to take her as soon as I possibly can.  Continuing clockwise around the collage, the gallon jug is there to motivate me to drink more water than normal.  I would love to tell you I am pounding 64 ounces every day, but I can't say that.  I wish I was.  Some days, yes.  Most days, no.  I've gotten there probably around 40% for the year - and I am going to just try hard for the remainder of 2015 to do it more regularly.  It's hard.  Water is pretty boring.  You get it.  But I know it's good for me.  Okay - the penultimate picture represents my desire to swim more to improve my cardiovascular health.  However, I flat out have not done it this year.  I had all of these good intentions to do it, and before marriage we went to the lap pool a handful of times, and it was almost becoming a habit, but then we just stopped prioritizing it.  And now the weather is about to get cooler.  That's just how it goes.  I failed in making that goal happen, but it's okay, and I can always try again next year.  Finally, I really wanted to lift more for strength gains.  And I have stayed faithful with fitness, and going to the gym, and working out, but I'm not seeing more mass on me.  And I'm not throwing up heavier weights with more ease.  And that's okay too.  Maybe I need to mix up my routine more, or maybe I need to push myself harder.  It is important to me, and I aim to figure it out one of these days. That's it.  That what I set my mind to do back in early January of this year.  I'll create one for 2016 in a few months and share it with you all then.  If you end up making one for yourself, I would really love to see it and cheer you on as you work towards making your own dreams happen.  Keep me updated!!!

When You Want To Live a Great Story

Alright.  What did I learn from the Storyline conference, if I consider how I've been living my life thus far, and how I want to make sure it is a great story?  Well, the first thing I realized is that even though I am always asking God to come through for me with this or with that, and definitely sometimes getting bummed and frustrated with various things, I have so much to be thankful for.  The conflict I face isn't actually that awful if I take a step back from it and look at it objectively and unemotionally.  It does feel awful at times, but it truly isn't that tragic or devastating.  I really want to be more content; I really want to better learn the secret of being content in every situation (Phillippians 4:12).  I am making progress.  I have a long way to go. Secondly, in terms of my story, I am incredibly thankful to absolutely love what I do professionally (which is also a passion to me), to have significant influence in the lives of a handful of people around me, become grounded and invested in a church and local community where I believe I am affecting lives, to be very close to my parents who remain together and to my sister who I adore like none other, to pour into communities in India and Africa that I care about, and to do the things that make my heart come alive and keep me close to God.  And I feel like I've overcome a number of tremendous and painful obstacles, and that when the credits roll on my life, if everyone finally saw all of the facts and all of my heart, they would be definitely inspired and moved. That said, I guess what I wonder if there is something even bigger I can get swept up in.  Some massive, world-changing dream that truly will not be achieved in my lifetime but that I can spend my life doing.  I've done missions locally, nationally, and internationally, and for extended periods of time.  Each trip has meant so much to me.  But maybe there is some sort of a consistent, single-hearted, focused endeavor that I will be called and compelled to do.  Maybe it will be introduced to me by a friend.  Maybe it will be a passion in the heart of my wife, when that happens, and that will be one of the things we get to do together for the rest of our lives.  Maybe God will just give me something in a dream sometime soon.  I have no idea.  I am here, surrendered, and open to anything!!!
If a person’s life feels meaningless, it’s likely because they live in an existential vaccuum where their basic needs are met but they’ve yet to identify a noble cause to ignite their passions. ~ Donald Miller
Third, I continue to feel like I am meant to help others live great stories, specifically through encouragement manifested in intangible and tangible ways.  I feel like this is one of my gifts, and I feel like I am blessed to be a blessing (as they say).  I have been trying to do that more and more.  I want to pour myself out in doing this when God clearly puts someone in my life for that reason.  And He definitely makes it clear, so that's awesome.  And I want to do it for the rest of my life.  We believe that Love is the most powerful thing there is, and I know that I am uniquely created to demonstrate that love through symbolic and substantive encouragement.  Maybe this is a massive, world-changing dream - but one that occurs a person at a time.  I don't know.  Anyway, if you need help in this area, let's get together for coffee and talk it out!!!
You have never have less time on this earth as you do right now. ~ Louie Giglio
Finally, I am gripped by how quickly life flies by.  I was listening to a message by Louie Giglio yesterday, and he stated, "You have never have less time on this earth as you do right now."  This doesn't make me freak out or lose sleep or rush ahead of God's timing (although admittedly sometimes I really want to).  But it does imbue the attitudes I adopt and choices I make with a sense of urgency.  Again, we want our lives to matter.  And I don't want to waste these years on drama, or screwing around, or distracting myself with good but not great things, or being caught up in stuff that is meaningless, and purposeless, and temporarily gratifying - but ultimately so very unfulfilling.  I want to live from my heart, and I want to make an impact.  And I know I will.  So, yeah, that's where I'm at, and I would so love to hear your thoughts! Image source: https://flic.kr/p/9S7pPp

My Goals and Dreams Poster

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!

How Are You Getting Through Life?

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.
While 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. Image source: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B3kXla9CcAARWVU.jpg

Remember Me With Favor

One of my most favorite people in the entire Bible is Nehemiah.  He inspires me because of the way he lived and the way he thought about things, and the things that he said.  One of my most favorite things that he said dots the landscape of the book in which he is featured.  In fact, the very last words of this book - nestled between Ezra and Esther - are as follows: "Remember me with favor, O my God."  He asks the same thing of his Heavenly Father a handful of other times while he accomplishes his life's work - leading the exiled Israelites to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Perhaps on the surface, the request Nehemiah makes seems selfish, and perhaps even brims with entitlement.  We might wonder, is Nehemiah doing good things in his life because he wants rewards and blessings?  Is it right for him to vocalize such prayers?  Also, what is favor anyway?  Why does it matter so much to Nehemiah that he repeats it over and over again?  If you read the context around which he makes the statements, it seems he is in a desperate place...a place of full dependence on the Lord...knowing that without some sort of consistent protection and intervention by God, the things he is trying to do won't work out....  Favor from God seems to mean that He takes a special interest in a person...with Him treating that person with an uncommon kindness and generosity.  It seems to mean that God's blessings are on that person.  And Nehemiah recognizes that is essential to his success (on absolutely every level possible).  And he is brave enough to ask for it, and keep asking for it - as if his very life depended on it.
I am all about God's favor in my life.  I want Him to remember me with favor ALL the time, and I want to live a life that invites His favor.  I believe that God bestows it on His children in His infinite wisdom, and I also believe that we can live in a way that brings it about.
I am all about God's favor in my life.  I want Him to remember me with favor ALL the time, and I want to live a life that invites His favor.  I believe that God bestows it on His children in His infinite wisdom, and I also believe that we can live in a way that brings it about.  Luke 2:52 says that Jesus increased in favor with God and man - which to me means that we can actively participate in receiving favor from Him. Remember me with favor, O my God.  That is what I want, and that is what I believe He has done, and does, and will continue to do in my life.  And that is the reason behind the name of this blog.  I want to parse out this concept of favor through my postings, and share what I continue to learn about favor - through victories, failures, and everything in between. Image source: http://bit.ly/2w6mVkn