This is me.

The ocean is one of the few things in all of the world that successfully make me feel small. I stand by the side of it and ponder for great lengths of time the idea that it stretches on further than I can see, while I stand tiny and finite by its side. Swimming in it is also an experience of knowing the ends of my strength. While I was learning to surf in Costa Rica, I realized that I was in the middle of a huge series of rolling waves. All with enough depth and power to destroy me at a moment’s notice.

It’s humbling really. The sheer majesty of it all. There are some things bigger and beyond my capacity to comprehend and when I take time to think about this fact I often find myself awed to a point of silence as I stand on the brink of my lack of understanding.

People are like this. After awhile you get to know a lot about them. You might even get so far that the shore where you left cannot be seen, but there’s always more to know. The knowledge that you can never fully understand the complexity of another human being (let alone the Lord) ought to strike us with awe and wonder.

I submit that the idea represented by this picture is how I want to live in the context of others. It’s a picture of a boy by the ocean. Baerfoot, damp, and small he represents much of what I hope to be in other people’s lives and especially those I know well. Someone who has been to the ocean of the other, experienced it, but still has the presence of mind to stare at it in wonder as a small boy beside something that is immeasurable, beautiful, and majestic.

http://beautyineverything.com/5392665622

Advertisements

The clock moves, but I’m surprised by how fast

I looked at the clock yesterday in an idle fashion and noted that work time had sped by. 8:30am had transformed into 3pm in short order. Sometimes things catch you by surprise. In my case, I’ve begun to realize that lately the things that catch me by surprise are the good things.

It’s strangely surprising when you leave work feeling like a whole human being, as opposed to one who has lost a piece of himself to the bitterness and hurt in the world. It’s surprising when you really appreciate the people you get to work with. It’s surprising (to me at least) that God chooses to bless me like this.

I guess that I should expect good things from God, but as of late I’m realizing that I should really be expecting great things from God. Those are the sorts of things He is in the habit of giving. I don’t think the Lord delivers mediocrity. It has been my experience that He does deliver challenging blessings, but never mediocre ones.

There are moments when I think I really don’t deserve the caliber of things that I am blessed by. I begin to sincerely wonder just what He is up to. I’m the chump who expected a stone from the Lord and received a mountain, only to question whether or not I really deserved a mountain. That doesn’t seem to be the point. I submit that it never was.

This reminds me of something that happened today. I was out for my 15 minute break and was walking outside a bit on campus when a man issued me a flyer which stated in bold print God loves you. While I had many a theological bone to pick with this man (who never said a word to me) and most of his pamphlet (it really lacked any sort of reasonable attempt at a complex exegesis of any passages it used, it treated the bible like a factsheet, and made me bitter on behalf of lots of other people who might be exposed to it)…in the midst of all these things there was that statement.

For all my frustrations with random pamphlet man and his literature, his pamphlet reminded me of something important. God’s love means that He acts on that. Love isn’t an arbitrary static thing. I can’t tell you I love you if I don’t show it. I can feel all the most lovely feelings in the world, but love is in large part based on what I do. So too with the Lord.

I’ve misunderstood the nature of that for too long. I’m beginining to see enough retrospect with 24 years to notice what it means to be loved by God. I’m starting to learn that this love is shown in and through relationships, healing, faithfulness, patience, and mercy.

This defies my standard desires to be my own judge. I often find myself running from this thing that is so hard to understand. I don’t get it. I don’t get why blessings come despite the fact that I don’t feel worthy of them. So, I usually run. Not anymore.

If this is a duel, I will gladly lose.

It seems that losing in this case implies actually winning. I choose to sit and be uncomfortable with the fact that God loves me more than I can imagine and has willed good things for me in the process that make me uncomfortable in how wonderful they are.

In the old west of my existence, the Lord and I meet on the street at high noon, He draws faster than me and I go down. Good. I’ve been waiting to allow myself to lose this battle for a long time.

oh no blogosphere, I didn’t go anywhere, I’ve just been busy

Day one of new job today.

It’s a weird thing when you go to work and enjoy what you do, who you work with, where you work, and don’t leave feeling emotionally drained at the end of the day. I got used to expect that life/work would be filled with frustration and exhaustion. While that is sometimes the case, it seems that the Lord has seen fit to bless me otherwise.

Things are going well. I have few complaints besides the fact that my room increasingly resembles the state of Kansas after the twister that sucked Dorothy into Oz. I’m trying to find a good rhythm in the midst of lots of change, and I note that almost immediately the old habit of heaping things on chairs has begun again.

I had gotten used to hours before any real work had to be done. Hours of time for sleep, prayer, reading scripture, and seeing people that matter to me. Now it seems that the amount of time I have in life has dramatically shrunk. My week has already compressed to the point where I can know more or less what every day consists of before it begins. This has happened to me before, and I know that in the midst of all this I shall need a day to just sit in my room, put things away, read a book, and go grocery shopping….I just am not entirely sure when this day is going to come. Maybe Saturday afternoon?

Conveniently, I decided to put my rosary in my car. Mobile praying is not what I love, but at least it’s functional. Apostle’s Creed in the morning? Oh yes indeed.

Your prayers for finding centeredness in Jesus would be appreciated.

Formal employment. Receiving blessings.

I am now formally employed at the University of Washington. I will be paid and receive benefits to work with people who seem delightful and to do a job that I look forward to doing.

This is the point where I’m not entirely sure what to do now. Obviously, I’ll be starting by going to work Monday. I’m discovering that blessings are hard for me to just sit with. I am so used to having to accomplish things and have bought into an idea at some point that there are things I “ought” to be doing…When the Lord gives you a great gift it becomes apparent that the things you were trying to accomplish were accomplished mostly by Him and that once you’ve received the gift you’re now a steward of it.

Being a steward of gifts is a challenging call. One that we all face. I’m coming to realize that it doesn’t mean that we’re always adopting a “manifest destiny” sort of approach to our stewardship. We don’t grab hold of more responsibility and life simply because we feel we deserve these things. I think that the Lord grants us each day so that we might learn to be stewards within the bounds of what is actually possible.

I get today to be a steward. I cannot by will or coercion force tomorrow into being. Surely certain things I do matter in a broader sense. Having a job still matters tomorrow for example. But I submit that my responsibility of stewardship lies in this moment now. What I choose to do NOW. I need to think of how this affects the future, but if my goal is faithful obedience to God it’s likely that the future will be well taken care of by my actions in the moment.

That said, I find one of the most challenging parts of stewardship to be relaxing and enjoying what I’ve been given in the moment. My first day of work will (God willing) come on Monday, but until then my task is to accept the feeling that this is now vacation and live it well.

It’s probably the last Friday I’ll have off work for some time and I’m grateful for that fact. Thanks for all the prayers and support. It worked.

He’s listening.

Real quick post. Life in pre-job land has suddenly sped up. No more lazy mornings or unfilled afternoons. I only have a few days of this left. Must make the most of it.

I realized recently that God is listening. Not only listening, but listening to me.

I suppose that I probably would have given you the correct theological answer at any given moment of “Why, of course He is. He always listens.” But until quite recently I didn’t notice the quiet presence of my own skepticism about that at the core of my thought process. I know He has listened before, but to what part of our dialogue? It seemed that key parts of my prayers had long gone unanswered without the Lord deciding to clue me in as to why…either that or I wasn’t really listening…highly possible.

In any case, in a recent turn of really astoundingly wonderful events including me finally getting a job–and one I really want–I realized that not only had God been listening the entire time, but He’d been listening to parts of me that I didn’t know were speaking. Things I’d forgotten or pushed aside in my own preoccupation with the business of life and dreams long gone are suddenly springing to life. Hopes are being fulfilled. The blessings of the Lord are manifold and wonderful.

I thought at some level (like any good American) that the lack of instant-gratification regarding my prayers must mean that God wasn’t listening. That because I prayed in hope and over the years found hope as more of a means of pain than of joy I should really just stop expecting anything. I was wrong.

I failed to think introspectively (shocking, I know) about why prayers didn’t materialize like Sam Flynn into the computerized world of Tron. One of many cliches that was quick to slap me in the face with a sudden sense of “OH…I get it now.” was this one:

God’s timing is not our timing.

Y’know…This is true. I’m glad I’m being listened to. It’s actually somewhat scary when you finally start receiving things you ask for. They’re real now. They’re not dreams, they’re not ideals, they are real life. Blessings cloaked in a God-given mystery. Blessings that indicate just how well the Lord knows who you are and the relentless nature of His blessings…it’s a bit intimidating to start to realize that God loves me enough to bless me with things I want and need and that also He won’t be stopped by me feeling inadequate, scared, or anxious.

He’s a listener. The sort that listens to things you never even spoke out loud. He suddenly responds, and then you start to get it. He was always listening.

 

 

MLK Day thoughts.

I find that on this particular day my thoughts drift to social responsibility, justice, and dreams had by a man who changed the course of American history. I think this is pretty standard for folks who live in the USA, especially those of us who are blessed (and sometimes cursed) by the fact that we live in Seattle.

There is a great element of fervor that comes with this day. People are given the opportunity to march (as I did last year in lieu of going to work) from Garfield High School to downtown as a part of a social justice march, facebook statuses reflect pithy MLK statements, and a large percentage of the work force gets a three day weekend. It would seem to the eyes of most that we are really honoring the memory of Dr.King and his legacy in America…but then again, I submit that the eyes of most miss hugely important contexts for this day.

The days of the civil rights movement were days of a unifying sense of commitment to fighting a particular sort of injustice by non-violent means. The movement sought to change the very fabric of American societal thought and legislation and to really give meaning to the idea of “freedom” that we so flippantly bandy about. Moreover, this was not just some idle group of people unified under a random banner of justice without a foundational reason as to why they were doing so. Dare I remind you that Dr.King was a Baptist minister? He was.

In my thoughts about this day I cannot help but relive the incredibly boring (and quite frankly useless) time I spent walking towards downtown from Garfield High School. The rally that happened before hand was a mediocre sort of way of attempting to convey meaning about the day. Standing outside the gym where the rally occurred there was a group of internet communists–really, I’m completely serious–shouting about how the new revolution was happening online. The content of the rally was more or less a multicultural celebration without context and the march that followed was characterized by the police clearing the way for the marchers, signs of every sort of political and social ideological perspective all yammering for thought space, and a really long boring walk thinking of the overwhelming sense of “Why does any of our participation in this day’s events matter at all?”

When I think about this memory I feel a little sick to my stomach.

As I mentioned before, Dr.King was a Christian minister. While I discussed this with my friends Mike and Ben the idea was broached that the original civil rights movement took place within the context of the concept/theological perspective that man is sinful. The gospel under-girded what the civil rights marchers of yore were marching about.

Have you read the “I have a dream” speech? You should. If anything will break your perspective of a the legacy of MLK being a weak, half-hearted, groundless march pointlessly traveling to downtown this speech will. The man talks of things that we so conveniently forget. He quotes the bible, he speaks of God in obviously Christian ways, and he does so with boldness. His view of justice and the need for it in society comes from the One who is outraged at injustice all the way through history and the biblical metanarrative.

As much as many Americans would desire to remove Dr.King from his context, this cannot be done while claiming that we celebrate his legacy in any sort of useful, functional, or beneficial fashion. The marching of Dr.King was an outpouring of his participation in the work of the Lord in his community, his country, and his life. This is why it was huge. This is why he made any sort of difference.

This is a bit more antagonistic than my usual blog posts, but I just get so tired of seeing inspirational quotes from MLK peppering my facebook feed (dare I say I even get tired of most of the facebook feed altogether?). People just throw around his quotes like we’re in a parade and the word of Dr.King are confetti to be idly thrown into the hysterical masses as the float of social justice rolls by.

Maybe there’s something to be said for idly inspiring people, but I desire that such inspiration comes from a context of knowing what you’re claiming when you quote someone. The legacy of Dr.King is a really a continuation of the work of the Risen Lord Jesus in and through the church that manifests itself in a movement seeking justice.

I wanted to point that out.

 

I’m soon to be employed.

Praise God. I got a call today. Official offer coming my way early next week. I am blessed by your prayers, the Lord’s faithfulness, and the tasty bacon-maple donut that I drove to Portland to get with friends.

You know it’s the Lord’s work when you’re the one selected out of 801 applicants.