Friday, July 25, 2014

Keep Going

About a month ago I ran from my house south of Old Town Alexandria, across the Wilson bridge, over to National Harbor. 11.6 miles. It was tough, long and worth it. I didn't set out that morning to run that far. But once I had gotten on the bridge I had set my mind to accomplish that goal of running to National Harbor. And I did. Ran out to the end of the dock, took a selfie, and ran back. I felt a sense of accomplishment that day. 

But here's the thing... I almost turned back after two miles. My coffee wasn't sitting as calmly as I would've liked and there was some mild cramping going on. I was honestly ready to turn back and call it good enough. I mean, four miles is nothing to sneeze at. It would've been respectable and completed a nice week of workouts. But I pushed myself to at least get a five mile run and like I said, once I hit the bridge, there was no turning back. 

Had I stopped I would've forfeited an accomplishment. (That most people have label as crazy. Those people aren't runners.) I think too often in life we fail to push through the pain or waiting. We give up too soon because it's too hard or too painful or too long. We live respectable lives, but miss out on the accomplishments that would mean more to us (and would make others call us crazy). And even when we've reached our goal, we have to keep going, keep pushing ourselves to what's next. I couldn't have just stopped running when I got to National Harbor. I had to push forward and make the run back. 

Don't quit. Keep "running"!

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Thursday, July 24, 2014

When God's Provision Doesn't Blow You Away

When you've been praying for something for a while, or maybe even not all that long, you hit various stages in the waiting for answer. Not quite the seven stages of grief, but I imagine there are certain emotions that overlap.

People speak into your life. "God has big plans for you." You believe it. You pray specifically, you pray vague prayers, you pray long prayers, desperate prayers, hopeless prayers. You go from knowing that God will act on your behalf to thinking God is not going to help you. I've had moments where I've felt so close to God and knew that he was on my side and would answer my request, to feeling like God did not have my back, to just having to put myself aside and trust God, even when I don't feel like it.

God is God and God is good and faithful, even in the little things. But what about when our expectations aren't met? What do you do when you're underwhelmed by the answers to prayers? How do we manage realistic expectations while maintaining the faith that God can do more than we ask or imagine, without being disappointed when he doesn't.

I prayed and prayed that God would open a door (and job) so I'd be able to ask Amanda to marry me by October of that year. Doors looked like God was making a way, and then they'd shut. Lots of silence, and then a door opened. A part-time job with no growth potential (that would ultimately only last just over a year). It was enough for me to realize that God had opened the door, right at the beginning of October. It wasn't what I would have chosen for a job at the time, but it was God's provision and it was just enough, and I was thankful.

With baby girl on the way super soon, I feel like it's crunch time again. I've done everything in my power to control my job situation and it's going to take a miracle from God, which is what God does. So the pressure should be off me, right? We all know that doesn't really work. I'm stressed and worried. My wonderful wife is not (at least not outwardly to me). I would like for God to show up in a huge way, whether that's an unexpected job, a new direction, or a salary that would allow Amanda to stay home with baby girl. We've planned for the reality that this might not happen and she'll have to go back to work. I want God to show off, but I also want to make sure my heart is prepared to give him praise and be thankful, even if I'm "disappointed" in the answer.

My brother's had a dream to be a youth pastor for at least a decade. This is a dream still unfulfilled. I think my brother's been treated pretty unfairly and cast aside in a lot of situations where I think he should have been the clear cut candidate to fill a position, or at least had a real fair shot and not just cast aside as a nuisance. My brother's been interviewed for another full-time position that has nothing to do with youth ministry. It would be a great opportunity that would allow him to move on into other areas of life and fulfill other dreams, but... It's not the desire of his heart. Is it a stepping stone into something new and exciting God has for him? Is it a distraction? Will he even get the job? I don't know, but I imagine, even in the excitement for an answer to a prayer, there will be a hint of disappointment and unfulfillment in there.

So how do we trust God to come through in a big way, but still be thankful and grateful when he comes through in a small or just enough way?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


I've always liked the Psalms. I've always felt like Psalms gave me permission to be honest with God and sometimes say "God, what the hell is going on? Don't you see all the sh!t that's happening around me?"I've also hated the Psalms, because I'm pretty sure Jesus is not ok with me asking the Father to send flaming arrows into the hearts of my enemies to wipe them off the face of the earth (Matthew 5:44). 

Reading through the Psalms the last week and a half has been refreshing. It's been like a reset button for my soul. 

It's the simple things that I need to be reminded of most. The things that we know are true but are in constant need of hearing and remembering because they're the easiest things to lose focus of, which is where I started. 

"I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you."(Psalms 2:7)

We are children of God. Sons and daughters. It's a duh moment, but it's the starting place. God loves us, as sons and daughters. My daughter hasn't been born yet, and I love her. I'm super excited for her to get here so I can show her how much I love her. She hasn't done anything yet, but she has my heart and my love, without question. And that's how God feels about me/us. He loves me. I don't have to do anything to ear his love. I have it because I'm his child. He just wants me to love him back. That's the starting place for me. God loves me, just because I'm his.

"The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer." (Psalm 6:9)

The desert is a hard place to live because it feels like God isn't hearing your cries and requests. You see the goodness and faithfulness of God happening around you and you believe that He is good and hears the prayers and cries of others... but not yours. Heck, you believe at times that God hears your cries for other people but not yourself. That God is faithful and will answer your prayers for other people, but you start to believe that maybe God is not on your side. And you lose hope...

It seems silly to believe that God will answer your prayers for others but when it comes to you(me) he has a target on your back and is holding out because he hates you. But after time you slowly drift into this place where you start to believe that. And you can see David cry out to God in a similar manner throughout the Psalms. But once you get to the place where you're a child of God and He loves you just because, the idea that's he's against you seems silly. That simple reminder changes your perspective and you get to a place where you believe that God is hearing your requests and setting you up to be rescued and will bring you out of the desert because...

"And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you." (Psalm 9:10)