This Post Is Not About Kim Kardashian

Turn on the news for 10 minutes, and chances are you’ll hear about a recent robbery, homicide, or update on Kim Kardashian. News just seems to gravitate towards gloom and despair, and it’s easy to believe this negative image of our world. 

However, our world is not as hopeless as it’s portrayed. When we love and serve each other, we spark a light of hope in this world. 

For the last week, I’ve been moving into a new house. While it’s next door to my old one, it has been an exhausting week. I’m humbled, though, by the tremendous help from my family and friends. My dad spent the week painting and cleaning my entire house, my mom and sister helped clean and move the kitchen, my friends helped move furniture, and my two-year-old nephew brought rocks from outside. I feel indebted to them, but I know they all did it out of love. I’m inspired to do the same and pass on the kindness to others around me. 

The media may show a small part of the world we live in, but they don’t represent everything. There is good in this world. Help spread it.

Maybe that’s what Jesus meant 2,000 years ago when he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Just a thought.

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My Life as an Ex-ninja

Nearly two months ago, I told you I would write one blog post per week and one story per month. I made it sound all good, and it was somewhat revolutionizing. Seven weeks later, I’ve written one original blog post, and I have not added any new stories to my library. I could come up with a whole series of excuses, but honestly, that’s all they are. Sure, I’ve been really busy with finishing my first year of school, and the last week has been stressful with moving into my new house. But I’ve also found time to do other things, like getting an embarrassingly insane number of star fruit on Fruit Ninja. If I have time to slash fruit like a dark knight, I have time to sucker punch a blog post once a week. 

We take time for what we value in our lives. The struggle is remembering what we value in the moments when the activity of lesser value is temporarily more appealing. Feeling like a boss as I get a 5-fruit mango combo is awesome for 60 seconds, and the game is over. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with mindless entertainment, the greater value is found in accomplishing what we are gifted to do. I owe myself more than digital fruit slashing. 

And I owe you reading material. 

I have a couple of weeks before my summer classes start, so writing will be my focus for the rest of this month. I will also be taking a break from mindless activities in order to focus my attention and energy on things I value more in the long run. The payoff for me will be making writing a habit, and the payoff for you will be a surprise on May 30th. 

What “mindless activities” are you needing to substitute for things of greater value? Share in a comment below. I look forward to reading your ideas.

My Happy Post

Does God want you to be happy? 

That’s a question that stumps some people. My first inclination is to say yes, absolutely. But then I stop and wonder… is God really concerned about our temporary emotions? 

I have to warn you, this post is not based on one specific passage of scripture or verse of the Bible. So take this for what it’s worth. This is my view on God and happiness at 6:00 on a Wednesday morning. And after I contemplate that question, I have to say yes, God wants us to be happy. 

God created everything, and it was originally created to be good. Unfortunately, sin has corrupted and distorted the goodness of this world. But as we learn how to live in a relationship with God, He shows us what is right and wrong, and I believe the things that are “right” in this world are the things that will make us truly happy. 

True, God always sees the big picture, and He may bring us through some tough and painful seasons. But I believe He “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him…” (I’m a seminary student… you had to know scripture was coming eventually.) 

God created you, and He knows and loves you better than anyone. He gave you gifts and talents… He knows what you enjoy, and He knows what ticks you off. So, why wouldn’t He want you to be happy?

What do you think? Does God want you to be happy?

Irish Coffee Break Writing

I was in the Apple Store yesterday, trying to decide between an iMac and a Mac mini for my next computer. Not that I’m even close to actually buying one, but I like to be informed for when I finally do in a few years. As I was drooling looking over my future purchase, an Apple specialist came by to see if I had any questions. She explained some of the technical differences between the two as well as the price differences. She asked what I would primarily be using the computer for, and I told her that I’m a writer. She then asked what kind of writing I do, and I have to say that stumped me a little. What DO I write about? How do I describe my content? Ramblings on life? Short devotions? What kind of writer am I? Novelist? Poet? Essayist? Screenwriter? I have a goal to publish a novel at some point in my life, but I’m not even sure what to write about (which is exactly what an editor looks for in a writer). 

I’ve titled this blog “Coffee Break Writing” because I always thought my writing style fits well with a coffeehouse atmosphere… short, thought-provoking stories that might be read on a coffee break. But when was the last time I actually wrote a short story? Writing one story every 12-18 months doesn’t exactly classify me as a writer (this is something else an editor is dying to hear). 

I would say I don’t have time to write, but that’s an excuse. We make time for the things we value, and while I honestly do keep busy, I should make time for writing if that’s what I want to do. Turning off the TV or waking up an hour earlier would be a good start. 

I would say I don’t know what to write about (as this post began), but that’s really just another excuse. Much like art and music, writing is an expression of the heart; instead of paint and notes, though, writers use words to describe what they’re feeling. So to say I don’t know what to write about is basically to say I don’t know what I’m feeling. 

I love telling stories, and from what I hear, you enjoy reading them. I really enjoy writing, but nothing in life worth having is going to come easy. I used to think I would write just when I had a new idea or when inspiration hit me. I’ve changed my mind. If I want to become a better writer, I’m going to have to work hard for it by writing more consistently. 

My new goal is to consistently write at least one blog post per week and one short story per month. I’m still not sure how inspiration for new material will come to me each week, but it will at least provide you with more consistent reading material on your coffee breaks. (That, or it’ll drive you to acquire a taste for Irish coffee.)

So that’s my promise to you. Now you have to do me a favor. As I’m exploring my writing style, I’d like to hear feedback from you. Let me know what you think. If you like a post or story, leave a comment. If you don’t like something, write a letter to 1600 Pennsylvania Av… I mean, let me know that, too. 

I’ll also try to start incorporating more questions in my posts to encourage feedback. So to start us off, what’s one of your goals you would like to achieve, and how are you getting there?

No More Picking Dandelions

If little league teaches you one thing, it’s to pay close attention to what’s going on around you. Picking dandelions in the outfield can be tempting because, let’s be honest, they’re weeds that look like flowers. The danger is, though, when you least expect it, when you’ve picked half a bouquet, you get hit smack dab in the head with a fly ball.

Love can be like little league. You can be minding your own business, picking your own bouquet of life, and when you least expect it, love hits you. Love doesn’t care where you’re at in the game of life. When it hits you, you’re left stunned and dazed, wondering why you were doing anything else but seeing it coming.

Don’t Worry, Be… Rested?

Is it just me, or can the spring season be a little crazy? It’s like our schedules become restless from the cold of winter, and they fill up before we even realize what’s happening. Deadlines, term papers, project proposals, rehearsals, and April 15th seem to all expect 100% of our time.

Three years ago, I wrote a devotional piece on these crazy seasons of life. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to take five minutes and read it. I hope it’ll help you like it helped me.

—– —– —–

You scan the peaceful horizon. The sun sets over the lake, which is nestled between rolling highlands. A flock of birds shoot 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 all of 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)

Human

Two and a half years ago, I found out I was going to be an uncle. I began to think about the complex process of how a new life is formed, and the miracle that happens over those nine months. My little nephew will be two in March, and this story is dedicated to him.

—–

What began as a gentle whisper soon turned into a mighty wind. Passing comets and planets, it shot across galaxies of stars. It was a perfectly formed jet-stream, and it was directed with a single purpose. Approaching the blue sphere, it swarmed around the earth as it began its descent. With amazing precision, it met the small embryo, where the hands of the Creator were knitting together the very fabric of a new life. The Breath of God met the child in a beautiful creation.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

You’re special, and God made you just the way you are. On one hand, these words can be really encouraging and uplifting. Sometimes, though, we find them hard to believe. When children tease each other to the point where jokes and truth seem to sound the same… when teenagers look at themselves in the mirror and wish they could just be “normal”… when young adults wonder why they can’t find real love… when older adults wonder how to make real love last.

“You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion.”

We wish and pray so hard to be different. The child wishes he could be as funny as “the class clown.” The teenager wishes she could have hair like the girl in algebra class. The young adult wishes he could be as successful as his best friend already is. The older adult wishes she could have as much patience with her kids as that other mom in her Sunday school class.

“You saw me before I was born. Every day was recorded in your book.”

We want to be well-liked. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, because God created us to be in community with others. What breaks His heart, though, is when the community rates each other. When one person is more popular than another, solely based on a characteristic or feature. Life has a way of pushing us into a mold. In order to fit in with society (and unfortunately sometimes our friends), we must look a certain way, act a certain way, or be a certain someone.

“How precious are your thoughts about me, God. They cannot be numbered!”

Forget everything you know and have learned. Listen to each word separately and let this idea rest new on your mind:

The Creator of the universe made you special and unique.

God formed everything about you. Every strength, weakness, personality, quirk and pet-peeve was crafted by Him. He designed everything from the hairs on your head to your beating heart. He gave you gifts and talents, and He can’t wait to show them to you.

“Search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

Because God knows you so well, He also knows the temptation to be someone you’re not. He loves you unconditionally and wants nothing more than to have a close relationship with you.

“Point out anything that offends you, and lead me down the path of eternal life.”

Rest in the arms of your Father. Hold the same hands that carved the mountains. Listen to the breath that commanded the stars into a brilliant existence. The same breath that gave you life.

“I love you. More than you can even understand.” -God

 

Building Your Cathedrals

Have you ever seen old, European architecture? Have you noticed how intricate it can be? Think of Westminster Abbey, the Eiffel tower, or the Sistine Chapel. When I traveled to Europe a few years ago, I had the chance to walk through several cathedrals, and I was amazed at the number of years (and sometimes decades) it took to build them. 

The last century has brought about some massive change to our society. One change is that technology has given us the chance to travel. This is a wonderful opportunity, but a dark side to mobility can be instability. We’re always on the move, and we don’t take the time to create long-lasting architecture.

Relationships can be like architecture. It takes a lot of work to fully invest in building relationships. It takes paying attention to detail and sacrificing time. But like the classic cathedrals of Europe, the result can be a beautiful creation that lasts a lifetime.

I’m not happy

I don’t like my job, I’m spending more money to go back to school, I’m barely able to pay bills, and it’s still winter. You could say that, simply put, I’m not happy right now.

On the other hand, I’m thankful I have a job, I’m working towards a career job, I’m able to pay my bills, and while I still hate winter, it makes me look forward to spring.

Trust me, I’m not fickle; I’m learning to be content. While there’s nothing wrong with being happy, it’s a temporary emotion. Happiness comes and goes. It’s reliant on circumstances. Being content, on the other hand, is dependent on following the will of God. It’s finding joy in the midst of struggles by having faith in His direction.

I’ll be honest, sometimes His will doesn’t make any sense to me. Sometimes I struggle with His leading. I know He has the best plan for me and I trust Him, but that doesn’t mean I understand Him.

And you know what? That’s ok. I don’t think we’re meant to understand Him; He only asks that we trust His direction. And he promises that His ways are the best (Jeremiah 29:11). Remembering this promise can bring joy even when you’re “unhappy.” So even though right now I’m not real happy with a few aspects of my life, I’m learning to be content with where I’m at.

(Except for winter. I’ll never be content with scraping ice off my car at 7:30 in the morning with subzero wind blasting my face off.)

Not Good Enough!

After losing in overtime, a college basketball coach posted one of his player’s statistics, which were some of the best in the conference. Someone replied by stating that the player also had a fairly low percentage of free throw shots and that it was unacceptable.

Our culture often dictates that anything less than perfection is not good enough. We tend to set unrealistic expectations for ourselves, and we beat ourselves up when we don’t meet those expectations. So what is the answer?

“I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him” (Romans 12:1).

It’s a matter of perspective: are we striving to be perfect by our own strength, or are we allowing God to perfect us? We are to worship God with everything we are and through everything we do. When we do this, we “can do everything with the help of Christ who gives us the strength we need” (Philippians 4:13). God gives us gifts, and He gives us the strength to use them. In return, He asks that we work hard (Proverbs 13:4), serve Him (Romans 12:11), and follow His direction (Joshua 1:8).

My first semester of seminary was a little rocky. I could have done better with budgeting time, and I therefore didn’t earn the grades I was capable of receiving. By learning from my mistakes last semester, I am inspired to discipline myself and worship God through studying and earning the best grades I can.

(Especially since I’m spending an unholy amount of money to go to the wonderful world of Anderson University.)