Thursday, September 2, 2010


I'm considering switching to wordpress.  Shhhh!

After visiting a few friends blogs on there, along with a few random ones, it seems to have a lot more versatility.  Also, their editing and design interface seems a lot more friendly, so far.

I'm open to hearing arguments either way.  Where do your loyalties lie, and why?

(see my first foray at

Sunday, August 29, 2010

something better, pt. 2

Noticed this in the bookstore today.  Timely.  (see previous post)

Creation gives us another such glimpse of God's glory.  I left out this example yesterday, but it's incredibly powerful.  It's just a slice of what's to come;  when our physical existence here on earth is redeemed, and we see Him face-to-face.

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what was made, so that men are without excuse." [Rom. 1:20]

Saturday, August 28, 2010

heaven on earth.

Do you ever feel really, really lucky to be alive?

Could be at that perfect concert, right before the band comes out.  The anticipation is thick, and you get just a brief second to feel grateful that you're there.

Could be the moment you realize just how much a friend means to you.  Maybe you haven't seen them in a long time, but you notice them do that one thing that only they do, and a flood of memories rushes back.  You get this happy, tickling feeling just remembering that you know them so well.

Have you ever been around a dog when a gust of wind blows by?  He'll stick his nose into the air, taking in all the fresh smells.  You can see it when he's hanging out the window of a moving car, too.  It's almost like he's trying to get the most out of that moment of life--not missing even a single scent.

We love these moments because they give us a tangible connection to something bigger than ourselves.  Whether we find it through a good pint, a good view, or a good conversation, we love this feeling of "living life to the full."  We're getting such a sweet taste of a better life.

I love Paul's prayer for the Ephesians, because he makes a request for this very fullness of life.  He doesn't want to manufacture this feeling through substance abuse or thrill-seeking, nor will he wait around for the next random moment to come his way.  He knows the Lord is the only source of true life, and responds accordingly.

"...that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."  [Eph. 3:19]

But how?  There's so much pain and hurt in the world, and if we're really honest with ourselves, we all contribute to the brokenness around us.  How possibly can we be filled with this fullness?

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me HAS eternal life and will not be condemned;  he HAS CROSSED over from death to life."  [Jn. 5:24]

Present tense.

Believing that Jesus is the son of God redeems your soul, and God lives within you in all His fullness.  You have eternal life at that moment.  Our time on earth will still feel the curse of sin, but that too will one day be redeemed. 

I'm broken, you're broken--hope in Jesus Christ is a hope in He who ordains all of those moments we love about life.  Not only that, but even more than we can ask or imagine. [Eph. 3:20]

So the next time you catch yourself saying "it's like heaven on earth!" you might be closer to the truth than you think.

I confess this to you.

I have been treating fund development as a "functional savior." 

This summer, as I raise funds to do college ministry with InterVarsity, my hope and prayer has been reaching the point of being "fully-funded."  Naturally, that term means I've raised my entire operating budget for next year.  The problem is that I've put this goal in such a place of prominence in my life, that it has often replaced my true hope found in Jesus.

I've even gone so far as to establish this as a "functional heaven"--a place or ideal which translates to paradise, peace, comfort, and completeness.  I've anticipated reaching my goal of being fully-funded and finding worth.  That disgusts me to read, typed-out here.  I'm not going to erase it now.  It's been embarrassingly true this week, and I want to face it.

Well then, how does one get to such a heaven?  By way of a Savior.  

This process of fund development has become the functional savior on which I've started to place all my hope, energy, satisfaction, and even identity.

Earlier in the summer, I was doing FD pretty well.  Humility to myself, trust upon the Lord, and wonder at His incoming provision--this embodied my FD process.  Deuteronomy ch. 8 was crucial in keeping my perspective grounded in the reality of my situation.  It's not: "my power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me" [v.17]  Not at all.  That verse comes in a passage that warns about forgetting God, and that's exactly what I've done.

Praise be to Him, for reeling me back in.

It was His word, not my own doing, that has called me into this place of contrast.  I see my own sinfulness against the truth of the great I AM, and that's not something we can see on our own, friends.  Here's how the Lord showed me.

"...apart from me you can do nothing." [Jn. 15:5b] 

I haven't been raising these funds.  I haven't been tuning people's hearts to have a vision and passion for my ministry.  The LORD has been at work.  I have only offered my best efforts of obedience to my calling, in faithfulness, and He is honoring those. 

All of the sudden, I feel like the little kid trying to help his dad cook breakfast.  I'm trying, probably even hurting his progress, but he's looking at me with love. [Jn. 10:21]

Since it was Scripture that brought me around--the true word of God--that's what I'm leaving with you.

"If you abide in me, and my word abides in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples."  [Jn. 15:7-8]

May you and I stay soaked in the word, and may the Lord be glorified by the fruit he bears through us.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"the stakes couldn't be higher"

Why do I want to do college ministry?  Where did this passion come from?  I'm not even going to answer this myself.  You get enough of my writing and rambling, so this morning you get to read someone else's words.  context: I was checking out the blog of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA and came across this excerpt in their most recent post.  They just purchased a new building within blocks of the University of Washington campus, and they're stoked.

See their vision.  Hear my passion.

(Excerpt from Mars Hill Church blog.  Read full article here)
This is Huge
The building will be home to our U-District Campus and is located mere blocks away from the University of Washington, one of the largest, most influential institutions on the West Coast.

Students come from around the globe to study at UW, representing over 100 countries. A permanent presence in the middle of this crossroad of cultures will allow us to take full advantage of the transitory nature of college life. We’re in a position to influence these kids for just a few short years before they go on to start families, build organizations, lead communities, and change the world.

When students graduate, they’re sent out to either build their own kingdom or live for Jesus’ name. A sense of urgency comes with the territory, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Monday, July 19, 2010

you're my boy, Paul.

I've been reading Romans over the past few days.  So far, it has mostly been Paul's discourse on the nature of humans (sin) and the nature of righteousness (through faith in Jesus' death & resurrection)  It's always good to rehearse these theological truths, but during chapter seven I started feeling pretty crappy about myself.  It resonates so deeply with me when I read words like those in verse 18 that say,  "I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out."  At this point in the letter, our hope in Jesus had already been explained multiple times, but here our sinful nature seem so powerful!

"What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?"  (7:24)

Exactly what I'm saying!  Whew--thanks, Paul.  I'm glad I wasn't the only one feeling crappy here.  But what do we do?  He continues,

"Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!"  (7:25)


The kind of "yes" when something is so relieving--so true!--that you feel like you could just fall down upon it with all of your weight, and find rest.  Reaching the shore after boating in a storm.  No more waves, no more insecurity, no more fear--just rock solid stability.  Immovability.  Breathing freely, deeply.

When I take a good, hard look at my sin, it's scary--but that's when the textbook knowledge about the Gospel becomes real.  I keep talking about wanting to "turn the corner," from dwelling in my sinfulness, toward grasping the Gospel deeply.  Paul is helping me get there.  Thanks be to God for using Paul to write these words, because they're finally making the long, hard voyage from my head to my heart.  I've known them, but now I'm knowing them.

"But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood..."
Romans 3:21-25


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Desperately wanting to be myself

It's so great to see old friends.  It's even better to know that I can be myself.

I get so caught up sometimes in trying to be the person that I assume people want me to be, that I miss out on a big fact of life:  people want you to be yourself.  That's what I want in other people, so why is it so hard for me to do it in my own life?

I remember back to my second semester of college, when this was a big struggle for me.  It was the end of my freshman year, and I was getting ready for a big transition (as if freshman year isn't transition enough).  I had been invited to work at a summer camp, and I was filled with a mix of nerves and huge excitement.  Four years removed, I can say that this was one of the best decisions I ever made, but at the time it was a big deal to make this commitment.

I'm from the mountains--this camp was on the coast.
I'm a people-person--I only knew one person working at this camp (I had only heard two people even mention it in my life).
I know nothing about boats--this was a sailing camp.

In the midst of all this, do you know what my biggest prayer was? I desperately wanted to be able to be myself.  I wasn't sure exactly what this looked like, but I felt like it was something along the lines of goofy, outgoing and confident.

I didn't find the answer that summer, and I still don't have it.  I can tell you that I've spent the past few months taking an honest look at myself, and I've come to a pretty stark conclusion.  I'm pretty bad, all-through, when left to my own nature.  It hasn't exactly been a healthy state of self-image during this time, but I feel like I'm finally turning the corner toward understanding and "getting" God's grace more and more each day.  It has been a real answer to prayer to experience it in different ways.  Basically, you and I naturally suck, but God loved us so much that He couldn't stand by without changing that fact.

This means that I'm accepting help, charity, welfare--but it's beautiful.  It's making me come alive, and it's so refreshing.  Amazing grace.  I'm starting to view that phrase as less and less of a cliche.  I pray for the day when you and I can humbly accept and rejoice in this truth together.

There's so much more that I want to write!  I've already written and erased twice as much that's written here, so this is probably a good place to stop.  As always, thanks for reading.  See you soon, friends--and hopefully as a humble, real version of myself :)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

stopping. smelling the roses.

Fund development can be approached in both healthy and unhealthy ways.  It's almost 6pm on Saturday here in Raleigh, and I just finished a bunch of emails to follow-up with people I've been contacting.  I was about to slam this laptop shut, jump back in my car, and then hustle up to a cookout with fellow staff from the area, but I need to take a quick second.

Or maybe a few seconds, but just long enough to remind myself of the mission.  Do you ever get like that--so engrossed in the work that you have to remind yourself what the bigger picture is?

So, perspective:  the phase of my job that I'm in right now requires that I spend time communicating with people my passion, and asking if they want to be a part of it with me.  Dude, that's awesome.

So, Patrick, before you hurriedly rattle off emails, phone calls, and coffee dates remind yourself what you're really doing.  Sharing your passion and letting God provide the resources to obey His calling, and then work for His kingdom on the College of Charleston.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


For those of you that were following along with the entries from ONS, sorry for bailing on my discipline to blog each day.  I don't feel bad about going this long without posting, but I do regret not taking the time to write from each day of the conference, even if it was just a little bit.  The truth is that so much happened--late nights, early mornings, and long sessions in between--that I shuddered at the idea of sitting down to think at the end of the day.

I don't really like that about myself.  I know that at the end of the day it's normal to feel tired, but often I just feel extra lazy.  Especially when I shirk something that I know to be so rewarding in the long run, such as journaling or blogging about life.  I'd like to try and discipline myself to blog a little more often, now, even just a few thoughts.

That said, I'll briefly tell you that I finished the third installment of Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia today.  Before Caitlin left for the beach a few weeks ago, I encouraged her to start reading the series as well, and just yesterday I found out that she's caught up to the third book already.  I was thus inspired to read some this morning, and was able to finish The Horse and His Boy just after morning coffee with her at Global Village.  And now I remember why I read the series so quickly the first time around.

For me, this is the book that really hooked me.  When I first read the series during my freshman year at State, I was so surprised by the turn taken by the adventures in this book.  I totally ate it up. As the opening line reads, "THIS IS A STORY OF AN ADVENTURE," it doesn't disappoint.  The story is set in a neighboring land to Narnia, but the geography, culture and religion couldn't be more different.  There's even some romantic tension that develops between the star-crossed main characters, which is always good to get me invested in a story :)

Looking forward, I might skip Prince Caspian in my series re-run.  I know that I soldiered through the second book on a count of purism, but I just re-read this fourth book before the recent adaptation was released on the silver screen.  It's not that I didn't enjoy the book, in fact I always remember it fondly as Andy's favorite.  It's just that I REALLY love The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, number five.  In case you haven't read it, it's a tale of the high seas--epic adventure with classic characters.  I don't remember exactly why I loved it so much, but I know that was before I even worked at Camp Don Lee and have hence developed a love for sailing.  I don't get to enjoy it all that often now that my three summers at camp have passed--it's not my kind of but I rarely pass up the chance when I get it. (This even worked its way out in Madison during ONS!  Courtney, Abby, Doug and I got to rent a small boat and really soak up the sun on a relaxing Sabbath day.  Well, mostly relaxing, haha.  I can tell you another time.)

Okay, I've convinced myself now to skip right to this book.  The only problem is that I just arrived in my mom's hometown of Lincolnton, NC, and I didn't have the presence of mind to grab it off Josh's shelf before I left Raleigh.  I'll be here for a few days doing fund development, and I could definitely get some good reading done.  I think an early morning trip to North State Books is in order.  It's the best used bookstore here in town, and it's right on the court square.  I'll be able to grab the book, snag a good cup of coffee a few doors down,  and then enjoy the beautiful NC summer weather!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

U-S-A!! U-S-A!! (ONS - Day 3)

This is so tense.  Yes, i know it's 2:45pm and the US-Algeria game is already over, but here at ONS we've gathered in the main room to watch a delayed broadcast.  It's still 0-0, with about 17 minutes left, and the tension is so thick in this room.
It took me a few minutes to figure out that picture.  Only 15 minutes left now.  I can't take much more.

I will say it has been a real treat to be so invested in the cup this year--a first for me.  It's been great to have a more global perspective for a few weeks, and I love the conversations I've had with people from other cultures on the mere premise of soccer.  And I love that I'm joining up with an organization, InterVarsity, that it so dedicated to pursuing justice and reconciliation on all levels, in the same way that soccer can seem to do.  Even if it's only once every four years.

Bradley free kick--gotta go!!

ONS - Day 2

It's almost time to head to bed, but I'm fighting my sleepy tendencies to share a little about the day.  I just finished walking down by the lakefront on a beautiful Madison evening.  After a full day of seminars on topics like InterVaristy's vision for the campus and how to tell stories well about God's transformational work through IV, we got to debrief the day with my small group, who I'm growing to love more with each session.  We sat in the aura of the Wisconsin state capital building, talked, prayed, swatted mosquitoes, and even kicked a soccer ball on the plush capital lawn!  (go USA tomorrow!!)

Yesterday was a little overwhelming.  I showed up late, as you can read from earlier, and I missed the whole check-in/mingle phase.  Thus, I walked right into the opening address and found my spot amongst 130+ people at my small group's table.  Surprisingly I was initially uncomfortable sitting in silence at a table with eight strangers.  I would normally relish this opportunity, but something was different within me.  As I listened to Keith set the tone for what is slated to be a transformational ten-day experience, my pride immediately reared back at the idea of vulnerability, change and growth.  I found myself trying to isolate myself, judge my small group members, and categorize my surroundings into understandable, familiar values.

It's amazing to see how the Lord can tear down even the strongest defenses we put up.

Very quickly I found comfort here.  We finally got to break off into our small group for discussion, and felt so relieved to find out that we hadn't done introductions yet.  From this initial sharing, I felt immediately warmer, and have not stopped growing in trust and love for the brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I'm sharing this conference.

Today I've come to realize where a lot of these feelings were coming from.  I'm entering into a career where I'll be depending directly on God for my financial provision, through the donations of friends, family and churches.  Now, it doesn't sound so bad when you put it like that, but can I just plainly tell you something?  It's scary.  This past week in community group we talked about letting go of control, and if you want a tangible example of this idea, try raising support.  I'm not even very far into the process yet, but I can already feel the effects starting to work on me. 

We've received so much wisdom today, I wish that I could share it all.  I'll just say that there are people here with innumerable years of fund development experience, collectively, and tonight a few of them shared from their personal fears and even failures associated with the process.  They also cast hope and vision through the beautiful moments in their fund development stories where the only thing they could do was praise God for His provision and goodness.  It's scary, but it's exciting.  

I'm excited to really depend on God.  How incredible would that be?  What would I even look like?
I'm excited to be free of the illusion that I've earned everything in my life.
I'm excited to have the opportunity to share my passion.
I'm excited to give people the chance to build something bigger than themselves.
I'm excited to see God transform lives--those on the campus, and those I get to meet with, who make the work on campus possible.

Although I'm overcoming many of the insecurities and myths that I've fallen into recently, I know that it will be a constant battle to keep these forces at bay once I get back home and hit the work again.  I will need so much prayer in this area, along with others.  I really can't do it on my own.  If you're down, let me know.  I'll keep you updated on how you can pray for me throughout this process.

I probably don't say it enough, but I want to be praying for you, too.  Whether you're at summer camp, one of my family members, studying abroad overseas, working a local summer job, or even here at ONS with me, let me know what's going on and how to pray for you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

ONS - Day 1

I pecked this out while flying into Madison, WI for a ten-day conference.  You've probably heard me mention it over the past few weeks (I've been pretty pumped):  it's InterVarsity's annual orientation for new staff (ONS).  Hopefully I'll have time to post more during the conference.  Right now is actually the end of our lunch break for Day 2.

Lake Michigan is really big.  I’m flying over it as I type this, on the third and final leg of my trip to Madison, WI.  Although I had a little anxiety when my first flight was cancelled from RDU, the day has been great--really.  This is by far the best seating arrangement I’ve ever had on a series of flights, the weather has been fair, and I found good company in my new friend, Jane, on our flight from DC to Chicago.  The only downer today was my own self-criticism and doubt.

After my flight was cancelled, I rebooked for a few hours later and was left with a lot of time to kill.  This was a recipe for time to relax before a busy travel day.   And I’ll mention that the RDU airport is one of my favorites--the new terminal, at least--so I was excited about a fun romp around the area.  All that said, it was a weird experience.  I was stuck between the indecision of napping, reading Scripture, watching the world cup, reading the Chronicles of Narnia.  Looking back, I feel like I spent the time well, but sometimes I just get down on myself, thinking I could've or should've been more productive.

All that said, I'm about to land in Madison, and I can't wait to see what the next ten days has in store.  Over the past few weeks I've been trying to take an honest look at my life, especially my relationships with others and my relationship with God.  Some of the conversations have been painfully revealing, some have been reaffirming, but all have been growthful.  I'm hoping and praying this will continue throughout ONS, and I look forward to sharing!  I hope and pray that all is well wherever you find yourself right now.  Cheers from Madison!

Posting this a day late, I can already attest that I'm experiencing through this conference more of this growth.  Will tell soon!

Monday, June 14, 2010


Today I start reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the second installment of C. S. Lewis' classic fantasy series.  The first book was a quick read, but it was great to go back and enjoy some parts that I had forgotten.  The first time I read The Magician's Nephew, I was so excited to read the entire series that I probably didn't give the first book quite the depth of read that it merits.  I had completely forgotten about the iconic scene of temptation at the climax of the plot.  In good allegorical form, it's complete with images of a mysterious garden, a sacred apple tree, and a character's test of faith.  I'll share with you one of my favorite parts, and one that I actually remembered from the first time around.  This is an excerpt from the scene where the two children, Digory and Polly (along with a few other characters) witness the founding of Narnia--a passage which serves as a beautiful, loose parallel to the creation story from Genesis.

 (We pick up this story in the middle of a dispute.  The characters have just stumbled into a darkness, presumably death itself.  The Witch says "This is an empty world.  This is Nothing."  The dispute is about which course of action is the best to follow next...)

"Hush!" said the Cabby.  They all listened.
In the darkness something was happening at last.  A voice had begun to sing.  It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming.  Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once.  Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them.  Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself.  There were no words.  There was hardly even a tune.  But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard.  It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it...
...Then two wonders happened at the same moment.  One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voice; more voices than you could possibly count.  They were in harmony with it, but far higher up the scale:  cold, tingling, silvery voices.  The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars.  They didn't come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening.  One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out--single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world.  There were no clouds.  The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time.  If you had seen and heard it, as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves which were singing, and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing.

There's a lot more to this passage that I've left out.  It takes up about two chapters, so I figure I'll leave more of the mystery for you to enjoy yourself.  I would recommend this book as a light summer read, even just for the enjoyment and imaginative picture of the passage I just sampled for you.  And if you're looking for an easy series to get wrapped-up in for a few weeks (or however long you like to make it) then start with this one.

As for me, I'm on to book number two.  It's the one that most are familiar with, and I was tempted to skip it.  My memory tells me that I really loved the third book, but this morning my purism got the best of me, and I decided to read through The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe despite my familiarity.  It shouldn't take too long, and normally a re-read proves to be pretty rewarding.  We'll see!

I can't resist.  Here are the final words of the founding of Narnia, spoken by Aslan the lion, revealed to be the source of "the First Voice, the deep one."

"Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake.  Love.  Think.  Speak.  Be walking trees.  Be talking beasts.  Be divine waters."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"what could a rabbit possibly be late for?"

Kaity and I are watching "Alice in Wonderland."  The old school, Disney version.  I can't wait for the Walrus and the Carpenter to come was always one of my favorite parts.

It's so nice to be home.  There's so much comfort and safety surrounding you.  What's different about this trip is that it's my first time being home since I've graduated.  I'm no longer a student.

What an exciting, volatile place to be.

I'm about to start paying my own cell phone bill.  My own rent.  One of the biggest blessings I've had over the past few years has been my dad's car, and he's going to sign over the title to me.  I'm going to have my own car--this is a first.  So many new things.  So much responsibility.

This is the departure point into my own life.   What's awesome is that although this life is mine to live, the impact, fingerprint, influence of so many people will be evident on how the next years unfold.  Although at times my life has seemed like the adventures Alice found on the other end of the rabbit's hole, I've always had a support net.  It was amazing to see many of these very people at church this morning.  After six months away from Waynesville, I was able to hug them and tell them about my path into college ministry, while presumably they remembered me as the timid, skinny ninth grader that they met nine years ago.

Six months from now, I'll be coming home after a semester spent doing full-time ministry with students at the College of Charleston.  In the meantime, I'll amuse myself with Disney movies.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


The first line of The Magician's Nephew, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia.  Here's the full first paragrah:

"THIS IS A STORY ABOUT SOMETHING that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child.  It is a very important story because it shows how all the comings and goings between our own world and the land of Narnia first began."

This series by C.S. Lewis first captivated me during my freshman year of college.  I'm really excited to say that today I start reading them again.  I can't wait to see again how Lewis paints images that reflect our relationship with the Father, this time with four more years of life experience.  I've learned a lot about myself, life, and God since then, but I also know that these books will activate part of my childlike imagination that sometimes I really miss using.  Some of you might scoff, wondering if I ever use anything other than a childlike imagination, but sometimes I just feel too grown-up for my own good.  I'm anticipating some fun, though stimulating summer reading.  Anyway, here goes.

PS - Join me in reading!  Especially if you've never read them before, or you have but it's been a long time--I'd love to talk about the books and about life with you.  I promise it will be fun.  If you really want to go old school with me, we can drink tea and smoke pipes as we read, paying homage to Clive Staples Lewis, himself.  (Austin, we can substitute coffee if that'll get you to read with me.  Or beer, for that matter!)

"You can never get a cup of tea large enough
or a book long enough to suit me."
 - C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

obedience. **(see footnote)

Not many people like that word.  Upon hearing it used, you may harken back to the days of your childhood and all of those silly rules your parents enforced.  Or, your first mental image may be the same as the first result from a google image search for "obedience"...

Either way, it's not exactly our favorite word, especially as Americans. But it's what God loves.

Sometimes when I think about God and hear other people talking about Him, there's a common view that you may be familiar with:  that the "Old Testament God" was all about rules and sacrifices, but the "New Testament God" is all about faith and the heart.  It's a pretty simple breakdown, but maybe too simple.  It seems to be a requirement that everything, even such weighty theological material, be categorized into bite-sized fragements for our society's fast-food consumption.  This accessibility has its merits, but sometimes this simplicity needs to be challenged.  For me, this bipolar, black-white view God was challenged today.

As I sat in Global Village, toward the end of an all-too-long computer binge, I was confronted* by a particular piece of Scripture that I'll share with you.  Colossians 3:16 says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly..."  Yes, it sounds so simple, but isn't that always the case?  After a few hours on the computer, and having not yet been in Scripture today, these words were incredibly convicting.  The illumination of my priorities was painfully life-giving.  I admit that I even reared back against the verse, not initially wanting to relinquish my perceived freedom.  I eventually packed up my bag and headed home to obediently spend some time in prayer and reading the Bible.  Looking back now, in light of the time I spent between then and now, I vocally stand behind the words of Psalm 19:7 "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul."  Before I get into my eureka moment from this evening (which is starting to seem much less pressing at this point), I'll ask one more question:
could you use a healthy dose of soul-reviving?
If you say no, I'd probably say you're lying.  No matter how good of a mood we may find ourselves in, or how blessed of a season we may be experiencing, I think we all yearn to have our souls be filled to the brim.  I'd say to you, follow the nudging of the Holy Spirit, the guidance of Scripture, and find a truer, fuller life on the other side--even when it doesn't look appetizing or as fun as say, facebook :)

OT God v. NT God.
Sacrifice/rules v.  Faith/heart issue.  What was this grand revelation I had?  Well, don't get too excited.  It was really more of a cool passage that I had never read before, that I'll share, and we'll be done (minus the extensive footnote--sorry about that one).

So, I've been reading in 1 Samuel this past week, and I'm at a part about halfway through, when Saul is chilling as the King and ruler of Israel.  God gives him another directive, via Samuel, to wipe out a people, the Amalekites, and all their possessions.  When God says "wipe them out," He means it.  Long story short, Samuel does what he thinks is holy, which doesn't happen to be the case.  Rather than completely wiping out the Amalekites, he kills them all but their king, plunders all the booty, and in true kingly fashion, takes the best of the best from the loot and sacrifices it to God.  Pretty good execution of the plan, eh?  God even got some pretty pimp sacrifices.

Well, it wasn't the plan.  That's the problem.  Let's hear from Samuel, after Saul starts showing off his victory bling:  "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." (1 Sam. 15:22)

This is when I got thrown for a loop.  I was thinking that Saul was good-to-go with all that sacrifice, but God actually pushed him to forgo those practices in obedience to His specific calling.  Today, we would call Saul's actions legalism--a staunch adherence to an established guideline, preculing discernment and following of the Holy Spirit.  In our culture of Christianity in the South, I would go so far as to call it a blind adherence.  Not only do we firmly stand behind our rules, but sometimes we even forget why they're around.  This is very dangerous.  That said, I'm not going to go into a discourse on legalism, but I'll suffice to say that the opposite--rampantly sinning under an "umbrella of grace"--is equally destructive.  We have to live in the awkward tension that happens when something doesn't fit into our neat boxes.  And we have boxes for everything.  In high school you could see the boxes all around throughout lunchroom, and we called them cliques.  Churches are the worst.  When we meet another Christian, within 30 seconds of questioning we can categorize them into their church denomination, worship preference, and most-frequented coffeeshop. 

Basically, we want to be able to immediately categorize any new experience, to where we understand it.  I'm so bad at this.  I wish everything in my life had a big underlined hyperlink to Wikipedia.  My life would be so much simpler, yet I would miss out on so much learning.  Real, messy learning--the kind that never gets erased.  Just ask my co-workers:  I read so much Wikipedia to pass the time, and I feel so good about my pursuits of knowledge, but I find myself re-reading articles because it's never a deep-seeded, learned experience.  Real, messy learning happens when you're in a cross-cultural setting, and you get yourself into a situation that you have no business being in.  Real, messy learning happens when you've wronged a loved one, and you can't take it back.  How do you even take a step forward?

Real, messy learning happens when you've disobeyed God's direct orders, and you have to pay.  That's not the same as whimsically reading a Wikipedia article about how God deals with sin.  You're living it.

Today I was reminded that we aren't supposed to box God in.  Who wants to worship something that you can take out of a drawer when it's time to go to church?  "Just a second, sweety, I have to put my religion on before we get in the car." No.  God is real, and He demands everything we have.  "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it..."

If we want to follow Jesus, the cost is our lives.  We have to give up our comfort, our boxes, our control over awkward situations, and our dignity.  The reward is a new life--a true, fuller, deeper life.

"...but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it." (Mk. 8:34-35)

I'm praying for all of us, that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  And to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus.  (Sounds pretty good, eh?  Paul's words - Eph. 2:14-21)

*Here I'll add a note about how exactly this verse came to "confront" me.  I was simply replying to some birthday love that I received on facebook, and the verse spontaneously popped into my head.  You know how?  Memorizing scripture.  It's legit, guys.  I mentioned this in a post on April 27th, and I'm glad to tell you today that it has worked for me.  If scripture memorization were a marketable product, call me Billy Mays.  After hearing the verse mentioned at church a few weeks ago, I made a point to intentionally repeat it to myself to the point of memory.  Now, I find myself being randomly assaulted by Scripture when I'm just trying to enjoy some free time, and not of my own doing.  It's what memorizing Scripture does to you, and it's incredible to see a personal discipline actually provide room for the Holy Spirit to work, even when you're not trying to.

**I started out writing inspired by Saul's disobedience in 1 Samuel 14-15, and my desire to box-in my religion just like he did.  I ended on a Gospel rant.  And I deleted a lot of stuff in between (you're welcome).  Thank you so much for reading--I really can't express how much it means to me, even if it's just a perceived audience.  The Lord is at work in my heart, especially when I read His word and live out the messes of life with His children, but you're helping me make sense of it all on here.  It's new to me, so I'm going to keep working on my editing, but every so often I'm afraid you'll have to endure one of these workings-out of my thoughts and heart.  Thanks again!

Monday, June 7, 2010

23 years.

What an incredible birthday.

- Serving alongside some amazing brothers and sisters at Vintage21 Church.
- Soaking up sweet summertime at the neighborhood pool with a handful of incredible friends.
- Grilling and chilling at the house with those same folks, and a few additions.
- Worshiping the one true God, back at Vintage21.
- Remembering my baptism into the death that Jesus died, and the true life I've found in Him.
- Walking around beautiful downtown Raleigh.
- And finally, back to the house to sit around, talk, laugh, and share life with loved ones.

I really don't understand how I can be so blessed.  And to imagine that all of these moments are mere glimpses of what will be.  Standing in God's presence, there will be no other response than to praise Him and his glory.  If we think we're worshiping now--just wait.  One of my new favorite images of this day:

When we arrive at eternity's shore, where death is just a memory and tears are no more, we'll enter in as the wedding bells ring--your bride will come together and we'll sing: "You're beautiful"
Phil Wickham, "Beautiful"

Go.  Look around and know you're blessed right now.  It's there, and yeah, sometimes it's really hard to see.  Let those glimpses remind you that there's a louder shout to come, that we have a more certain hope, and that our citizenship is in heaven. (Philippians 3:20)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

this was supposed to be a quick entry.

I have to share with you guys, but it has to be quick.

I'm sitting in Global Village again, imagine that, and there just seems to be so much going on inside of me--excitement, growth--that I want to share.  On the other hand, this blogging just simply isn't as important as the actual business going on inside of me.  So, it has to be quick, lest I waste time.

Last night, I was feeling really broken.  Simply put.  I came home from a busy day, and started to unravel the rat's nest of my life by talking to Josh for a while.  I am so blessed with the amazing people in my life.  Through this conversation, praying with Josh, some reading, and honestly, some tears, I came to the point of realizing just how much I live for myself.  I'm cocky, I love to spoil myself, I want attention, recognition, fame, popularity.  I've acknowledged this with my lips for quite some time now, but I think it's starting to make me sick to my stomach--this reality of my condition.

There's so much to say here, but I just want to share that this is an answer to a prayer I've been praying the past few weeks.

When I showed up at InterVarsity's summer conference about ten days ago, we were asked the question, "What gift does God want to give you this week?"  Let me quote my response, from the 3x5 card we were given to record our prayer:

"A humble perspective of:  God's holiness, my humanity, and a resulting desperate dependence on Him, through prayer, worship, trust, etc... poor in spirit."

This sounds all well and good, right?  I know what it means to be poor in spirit, but now I'm actually asking for it.  I've lived for myself for almost 23 years now, and I can't handle it.

Why the sudden excitement?  Why so much motivation to write on a Wednesday morning in the coffeeshop?  Well, C.S. Lewis has been preaching to me as I've been reading Mere Christianity over the past hour.  His words have been resonating so deeply and truthfully with the state of my condition, that a big excitement has been growing this morning.  In the wake of last night, my weakness, I cannot wait to finish this entry and to dig into the truth of God's story in Scripture.

Don't get me wrong, this excitement is not pointed at any efforts of mine to become more righteous, or to attain any qualities of a true Christian, such as a poor spirit.  I've put down the book for now, and I'm about to pick up the true word of God, the Bible, but I wanted to simply express my excitement while it was still fresh on my mind.  Let me leave you with one of the many passages from Mere Christianity that has spoken to my heart this morning, hoping that it can explain this position better than any of my own communication:

"He is misunderstanding what he is and what God is.  And he cannot get into the right relation until he has discovered the fact of our bankruptcy.  When I say 'discovered', I mean really discovered:  not simply said it parrot-fashion."

I'm sick of being a parrot.  I've sinned against you, my friends and family, by claiming so many things about myself, about God, and about my relationship with Him, all the while missing some of the depth of these statements.  I am nothing without God.  My most proud attempts at righteousness are called "dirty rags" in Isaiah.

As always, thank you.  Thanks for reading.  Thanks for your forgiveness of my parrot-talk about God.  Thanks for calling me out of my pride, and reminding me that I'm nothing.  Thanks for standing alongside me as we repent, bow, and worship the Almighty Father.

I love you, but you're not as important as God working in my life, so that's all the time I have for now.  I want to be someone that's in the business of letting God be everything that I am, everything that I need and everything that I boast in.  Pray this for me, as I pray the same for you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Simba, you have forgotten me..."

I guess nostalgia is just inevitable sometimes.

Among many other things, I love Global Village in the evening.  It's slow, calm, peaceful.  Being here this time of day reminds me of when I first found out about this lovely Raleigh coffeeshop.  It was my freshman year, and since I lived so far from here (west campus seemed miles away as a freshman) I wouldn't come by until the evenings, when I had a time to settle in for a while.  Although I only cam a few times--mostly to study, just before spring finals--I managed to get hooked.

And here I am, retreating again. Four years removed from my first visit, you can definitely life has changed.  Ugh, I hate cliches.   Someone cue Vitamin C.

Don't get me wrong, though--all of this nostalgia has been very real in my mind over the past few weeks.  I'm in the middle of planning a few parting words for InterVarsity this week, so I've gone through the joys and pains of looking back.  Although there isn't too much pain and the stories are mostly good, y'all know how I can ramble, so I'll spare you.  For now, at least.  Aside from the stories, though, I'm really interested in the feelings themselves that are associated with nostalgia.  They have this mysterious power that just amazes me.  In the same moment, I could remember two separate moments from the past year that would just rip my heart in opposite directions of emotion.  The overwhelming joy and love from fall break, for example, is immediately forgotten when the thought of a lonely night in fear and doubt comes back to my memory.

I've been thinking a whole lot about the idea of  "remembering" this school year.  It started last summer as I read through Exodus, and saw the Israelites fail to remember, time and again, who God was and what He had done.  Looking back to those Old Testament stories, it's so easy to wish that someone had just jerked them by the shoulders and reminded them of these things, and all would have been well.  Then, I allow God's word that moment of silence to sink in (if only I had kept reading!) and I realize that I am an Israelite by forgetting these very things in my own life.  Obviously I'm not an Israelite, but it looked better in bold than anything else I typed out.

Sometimes it feels so silly once you reach that moment of clarity.  How can we ever forget something, someone, so eternal?  I mean, if we go by His creation alone, we are literally surrounded by the proclamation of who He is.  Romans 1:20 says this exactly.  Nonetheless, we forget.  I forget. 

I've been trying out a few things to avoid this forgetfulness.  I guess you could call them disciplines.  The three things on which I've focused have actually helped me out a great deal, and maybe they can help you if you've found yourself in a similar place.  Actually, I'm pretty sure they'd help regardless.  1) memorizing scripture has been the single-most effective way to surround myself constantly with God's word.  It sounds archaic and Sunday school-ish, but I would really recommend this.  Start with Romans 1:20 and remind yourself that God created everything around you.  I'll even give it to you here so you don't have any excuse. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." 

So far, I haven't memorized a whole lot of verses, but that's when 2) putting scripture on the walls of my house  has been crucial.  Now to be honest, for me this seemed like a really girly thing to do at first.  That's really sexist, I know, but it just isn't part of the male gender stereotype to leave encouraging notes around the house.  That said, this simple thing has been so uplifting.  I don't care what you use, or where you put it, but give it a shot.  My roommates use mirror markers in their bathroom, which is pretty smart and perhaps indicting of a culture that looks at its reflection so often.  I personally use a sharpie on a piece of cardboard.  It's not fancy or artsy, but it's Truth.

Lastly, I've fought against my laziness to try and get back into 3) journaling.  I guess blogging counts toward that goal, too.  Lately I have just been so undisciplined about taking time to sit and think with my full attention toward God.  Even my prayers have been rushed and pretty shallow.  Making myself write has helped out a little bit in this regard, because it makes me get real about what I'm thinking.  Especially on here, with the chance of people actually reading those thoughts.

That said, thanks for making it this far in the post.  We're almost done, and please know that you've been a part of helping me remember who God is and what He's done.

Actually, I guess we're done now.  I'm finishing this post reaffirmed in the Truth, and that is such, such a fulfilling place to be.  I hope all's well for you.  And if you're in college, keep working hard--almost done!