A Whole New Perspective

Okay, so I really should be finishing a paper right now, but I just had this crazy thought and couldn’t wait to share it.

I’m going to be honest and say that I’ve been really worried lately. I’m graduating one month from today, and I don’t currently have any job security. I’ve been freaking out a little bit about that, until I had a realization a few minutes ago.

I’ve heard over and over and over again that God has a plan. Heck, I’ve even been the one who’s told people that, and I totally believe it. God has called me to youth ministry, I’m doing my part to fulfill that call, and now I need to trust that He will provide. That’s the truth.

Sometimes though, I have a hard time really believing it. I know it’s true, but when I get an email from an HR office saying they’ve moved on with another candidate, doubt creeps in and I wonder how bills are going to get paid.

But then it hit me. An image, really. What if God is bouncing up and down with so much excitement right now because I’m about to find out a little more of His plan? What if something awesome is about to happen, and I’m taking away from God’s excitement by being worried?

Kinda puts the whole “don’t worry about tomorrow” verse in a whole new perspective.

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Love, pizza, and other significants

As a persistently single guy, there’s one thing that really bugs me every February, and that’s “Single Awareness Day.” However, it’s not the day itself that bothers me, it’s the nickname people have attributed to it.

Despite the fact that I’ve never had a date for Valentine’s Day (except for Pizza Hut), I actually look really forward to this season every year. It’s a time when we celebrate love, and I think that’s a pretty amazing idea to celebrate. After all, love is far more than just romance.

True love is the most awesome force in the world. It causes people to behave in ways they normally wouldn’t. It brings out the absolute, raw, untamed best in people. It’s what drives us.

To give love is to give all of yourself. It’s to share who you are — all of you — with someone else. Without a second of hesitation. With no conscious thought.

It’s who we are. We are made by the wild, crazy, love of God. Love is engrained in us. We are designed by, for, and to love.

Love is not an object. It can’t be sized, weighed, or timed. It’s a force. A wild, un-channeled, irrational phenomenon.

Many things claim to be love. They may offer things that — at times — may look like love. But only love is completely selfless, for true love is focused on someone other than yourself.

To have a day that celebrates love is, in my mind, a day worth celebrating. If you’re single, be happy for those who have a significant other to share the day with (and enjoy having a whole pizza to yourself). If you have a significant other, cherish your time together. This day is meant for all of us.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

A balancing act

“There are not three stages in spiritual life—worship, waiting and work. Some of us go in jumps like spiritual frogs, we jump from worship to waiting, and from waiting to work. God’s idea is that the three should go together. They were always together in the life of our Lord. He was unhasping and unresting. It is a discipline, we cannot get into it all at once.” –Oswald Chambers

We’re almost a week into 2015, and if you’re like me, you’re still wondering what to make your New Years resolution. My resolution this year is to write once a day for the entire month of January. You won’t see every day’s result because a lot of the writing will be brainstorming for LEGEND, my coffee break writing story. 

Why don’t I make my resolution for the entire year? Because I want to start out small. I tend to make giant leaps for goals that end up getting me discouraged when I don’t meet them.

The long-term plan is certainly to write every day for the whole year like my best friend Michael who, as of today, has just celebrated his 365th day of writing in a row (congrats, buddy!). But in order to do that, I need to keep things in balance and take small steps to cross the distance. Like Oswald Chambers said, I’ve been jumping around in different areas of my life—school, church, writing, etc.

In our fast-paced culture, we have a tendency to blitz through everything, trying to get everything done by jumping from one area to another. I wonder how different our daily lives would be if we began to see how it all connects. 

I will write every day in January because it fulfills my creative energy, which will help me perform better in my last semester of classes, which will prepare me for a career in youth ministry, which will fulfill God’s calling in my life…

So what about you? What’s your New Years resolution, and how will you be keeping it in balance?

What are you afraid of?

Guys, I can be a blockhead sometimes.

Just kidding. I’m a smart guy. I’m decently intelligent, and I can be fairly witty. But sometimes I can’t see what’s plainly in front of me. More specifically, sometimes I’m blind to how God is working in my life.

Let me give you some context. Like the vast majority of college students right now, I’m barely awake. I can’t think or see straight from lack of sleep and cramming for final exams, projects, and papers. And like many others, I’m battling the fear of not passing a class and graduating in May.

College in general has been a struggle for me in regards to time management and balancing responsibilities. Every semester I say I’m going to do better, and generally I have improved and matured. But in the last few weeks, as the semester comes to a close and graduation nears, fear has crept into my mind. It has been telling me that I either haven’t done my best or that my best won’t be good enough.

I believe fear is the absence of truth. When we’re afraid of something, it’s typically a fear of the unknown, which is perfect ground for the enemy to spread lies. To combat fear, we have to focus on the truth.

I won’t go into a lot of detail about myself, but the truth is there have been times when I should have been studying instead of socializing. That is the truth, and while I can’t change the past, I can improve in that area in the future. Even though that’s not on any syllabus, that’s still part of learning and growing.

More importantly, the truth is God can work in ways we can’t imagine in order for His will to be done. I was reminded of that the other day. Long story short, I had some work to do for a class, and it was going to be impossible for me to finish it on time. With stress, fear, and sheer exhaustion hanging over me, I felt like two and a half years of grad school (and a cosmic amount of student loans) were about to be completely wasted. Right before crawling into a corner to cry, though, I had this simple thought: God, you know what I need to do. It’s impossible, but help me do it.

You might be disappointed to know that the clouds did not part, an angelic choir did not ring the Hallelujah Chorus through the library, nor did my keyboard magically start typing away by itself.

But a miracle did happen. In the next three hours, I wrote over 1,600 words and finished my work two hours early.

Will all of that work mean I passed my class? I honestly don’t know yet. But it is a clear sign to me that when I put my focus on the Truth—that God has called me here in order to do His ministry, and if I’m willing to do the hard work while relying on Him—He will give me the strength, wisdom, and focus I need to accomplish His will.

Now it’s your turn: what are you afraid of, and how can you combat it with Truth?

Laziness vs rest

You scan the peaceful horizon. The sun sets over the lake, which is nestled between rolling highlands. A flock of birds shoots across the dusk sky, and you begin to hear crickets chirping in the distance. A fish playfully leaps from the water, and you watch an old turtle gently make his way into the reeds. No one is in sight. As the last ray of sunlight fades, you see the full moon reflect off the tranquil waves. Only one thing could make this beautiful scene better: for it to be the end of your stressful day.

The alarm pierces through your dream… blissful paradise replaced with monotonous reality. You lie there trying to convince yourself you can get out of bed. That you have the energy to pull off the sheets, sit up and shut the obnoxious alarm off. But that would only mean you’ve accepted today. Reality would win yet again. As long as you ignore it, you still have reign over paradise.

Somehow you find yourself dressed and heading out the door with a cup of coffee in hand. How did you get to this point? The routine of life has been ingrained into your mind so much that you barely even notice what you do. It’s 7 am on Monday morning, and you’ve got to be at work. You don’t have much choice, do you?

Why is life so monotonous? Somehow, we run our lives with such repetition that we lose sight of life itself. We busy ourselves with schedules and responsibilities, and eventually we crash and burn.

•  “But you, lazybones, when will you sleep? When will you wake up?” (Proverbs 6:9)

•  “Lazy people are soon poor, but hard workers get rich.” (Proverbs 10:4)

•  “Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave.” (Proverbs 12:24)

The book of Proverbs talks quite a bit about laziness. It’s very clear that laziness is a path of destruction. By absolutely no means am I arguing against that. However, I think that we have a tendency to equate laziness with rest.

•  “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

•  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

•  “God has told his people, ‘Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest.’ But they wouldn’t listen.” (Isaiah 28:12)

•  “Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, [and] he went up into the hills by himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:22-23)

•  “On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.” (Genesis 2:2-3)

The Bible is just as clear about finding rest as it is about not being lazy. That’s because there’s a difference. Laziness is consciously avoiding basic responsibilities and selfishly relying on others. Rest is consciously putting aside work to unselfishly rely on God.

At the time of writing this, I’m beyond stressed. My mind is maxed out with tasks and responsibilities. Being completely exhausted with so much left to do, I walk around campus, and I have to remember to do simple, basic things. Like, open a door before I walk through it.

Many of you know what I mean and feel a similar anxiety. This is a stressful time for all of us, even those of you not in school. Our lives get so busy that we forget simple things… like rest.

I’m encouraging you to take 10 minutes, right now, and go somewhere quiet. Grab a Bible and get somewhere away from distractions. Read Isaiah chapter 40. It’s not long, and mainly focus on verses 12-31. It was a reminder to the people of Israel after physical bondage, and it’s a reminder for us today to find rest in the right place.

God’s plan is not always easy. In fact, sometimes He leads us through trials and crucibles so that we remember to always depend on Him. But He has lead you to this place for such a time as this, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Finally, always remember that God made you and loves you more than you can comprehend. His love is consistent, ever-faithful, relentless, constantly-pursuing, lavish, unrestrained, furious and extravagant. Rest in His arms.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He’s done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, my dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received. Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:6-9)

If I could write you a Thanksgiving letter

In the spirit of the holiday, I want to thank you. If you’re reading this, then that means you took the time to read my thoughts, and I really appreciate that. I don’t write as often as I’d like, so it means a lot to me that you’re following my inconsistent writing.

So this post is about you, my reader. Thank you for supporting me and my dreams. Thank you for encouraging me to write, even when the quality and quantity is lacking. Thank you for allowing me to grow as a writer by being the first to read my art. Thank you for bringing out the best in me.

I have so much to be thankful for. At this moment, in this small corner of the internet, I want to thank you for reading. I wouldn’t be writing right now if it wasn’t for you.

What if…

Earlier today, I was working on my advanced youth ministry class, and I could not focus. If you know me at all, that probably doesn’t come as much of a shock to you. But I could tell something was holding me back. To be honest, it’s like I was afraid to write my paper.

A graduate paper is the culmination of what you’ve learned in a class. So what have I learned? By writing this paper for advanced youth ministry, I am proving that I know what I’m talking about. As the syllabus states, that I have deepened my understanding of, and broadened my praxis of, ministry-leadership in the context (and as the director of) a church youth camp summer experience.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t want that responsibility. What if I don’t know what I’m talking about? What if I still don’t know anything, even after all these classes and homework and studying and exegetical analyses? What if I can’t lead volunteers? What if I don’t relate to students?

What if I forget everything I teach students at camp? Like I’m doing right now…

I tend to forget why I’m called to ministry. You’d think being in seminary for over two years would constantly remind me, but as with anything, it’s easy to get caught in the motions of a day-to-day routine. But what do I teach over and over again to students? God wants nothing more in the entire universe than to have a relationship with you. There will be definitely be challenges in life, and questions will come up and we’ll wonder where God is. But God has promised that he will never leave us, and he will guide us through life if we let him.

It’s time for me to stop worrying about the “what ifs?” and start practicing what I preach by using the gifts God has given me.