A step into the past

Last weekend I visted old friends at my former university for sort of a fraternal get together. Brothers and sisters bonded under the three Greek letters CHI IOTA SIGMA came together to celebrate over 10 years of being part of what this university affectionately calls “social clubs.” I was telling someone while I was there that reunions like this are different than those of a class reunion in high school (or even college). What I found different (and even more enjoyable) is the fact that, unlike a class reunion which is usually only representative of one specific year in a persons life, this gathering brought with it faces before, during and after my time. I had seen how some things changed (faces, names, and even a few traditions), others didn’t (inside jokes and borderline inappropriate behavior still got a good laugh). I look at this diverse social palette and see much of my life that is represented in several others, as well as seeing the future of this club staring at me, telling me with a smiling face how great it’s been to be a part of. I saw the familiar faces of my pledge class there with their spouses and children, hearing how some had become exactly what they set out to do, and others opted for other occupational/life changes (one specifically prompted by a rigorous car cleaning several years after she graduated that led her to an unlikely job with the government). This reunion brought with it obvious flashbacks to my days in college and walking up the steps to my old student center, I couldn’t help but reflect for a moment the years I spent here, thinking that what I was learning was all there was to life, that college would make me exactly who I am today. I guess that’s true, in part, and though so much more of my story is continued in later post-college chapters, the four year story, accented with my involvement with XIS, brings just as much with it.

As part of this get together, an hour away from my home, I opted to stay local instead of driving back and forth. I guess, in truth, I just really like mid-grade hotels, and this was a great excuse to stay in one. I remember going on vacations, my brother and I would sit in the still-running car with my mom while my dad went and ‘took care of everything’ inside the lobby. It was so fascinating to me. I always wondered why it took so long (at least it felt like that to me) to get us ready move into our home away from home. As an adult, I kind of feel privileged to be able to walk into a curbside overnight spot and say “Yes I have a reservation” and do all of the things that make it official from giving my drivers license to filling out the little card, to getting my electronic key (although I miss the old school keys that would seem to get lost so much more often than these). The anticipation I got when we’d park the car and then walk up to our room with our boatload of luggage came back, and even after all of these years the hotel rooms still smell the same when you initially walk in, cold from the still running air conditioning, the halfway hard but smooth bed and sheets that you crash on immediately after putting your stuff down because its been such a long drive, and the Gideon bible being discretely placed in the drawer of the bedside table. Of course, hotels these days, even cheaper venues like the one I stayed in, have significantly upgraded. I took advantage of the high speed Internet, the microwave and refrigerator. I was even called by the front desk to make sure everything was in order. But of course I found comfort in using those things that were a part of my experiences growing up, including using the still-square plastic bucket at the never-ending ice machine (which still looks the same after so many years).

I felt a bit like I was stepping out of Narnia in coming back from that experience. It felt as though time had frozen for just over 24 hours and I got to relive experientially as well as mentally those days of both my youth and young adulthood, and while I enjoyed every moment of that time with friends old and new, I felt the reality of where my life is now settle itself back in as I drove steadily back home to life as I now know it.

…for I am finding out that love will kill and save me…

I wish that I could so poignantly wrap the thoughts and ideas that have been travelling through my brain and put them perfectly down on this digital piece of parchment. Alas, these are the ramblings of a ragamuffin.

Last month I celebrated my 30th birthday. Like most people, it brought with it reminiscing the past, reevaluating the present and embracing the future. It’s one of those ages that brings questions like, “What have I accomplished?” and “Where do I go from here?” This particular birthday could have been treated with flamboyance, complete with a themed event similar to a “This is your life” talk show, a re-creation of my favorite television series, or even a documentary film crossed between The Crocodile Hunter and The Blair Witch Project, all of which I so gratefully participated in to celebrate other friends’ chronological milestones. My wife asked what I wanted for this special occasion, and the more I thought, I realized that what I wanted was this: simplicity. So on January 23rd, I sat at the head of a long set of tables in a local restaurant, surrounded by people in my life with whom the word “significance” was attached, some whose friendships entered my world as recently as a few months, others who I have known for as long as five or six years. And as I looked over that long stretch of faces, some strangers to one another, I was completely overwhelmed with one truth: this is what love looks like. I saw my past, present and future smiling back at me, people with whom I have shared life with, who embraced some of my deepest struggles, successes and failures, and who see me as someone they consider a friend. These individuals painted a picture for me, showing just how important I was to them and their presence that night, along with several letters of encouragement that I will always keep close by caused my heart to be full. To be honored like that, loved in a way that absolutely spoke my love languages was a moment that will never leave me.

Growing a year older has also brought the realization that there really is a time that comes to “put away childish things,” as Paul so eloquently wrote in his letter to the Corinthians. I have begun to understand the significance of who I am in Christ, that it’s just not about having a quiet time or doing what it takes to get rid of the “guilties,” but rather an understanding that we are really more than we think we are, that because we are “a new creation” we have this ability to overcome the sin in our lives, to really live in an incredible freedom, clear from being ruled by self-esteem issues. Paul says in Romans that we are free in Christ, that we are not slaves to sin. As hard as it may be to swallow that, it really is the truth. Paul is telling us that we have no excuse to sit in our corners feeling sorry for ourselves and feeling like we aren’t worthy to be in the presence of God. It’s through Christ that we are able to do that. Starting in verse 12, Paul says, “…we are under obligation, NOT TO THE FLESH, to live according to the flesh, you must die. but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the things of the body, you will live.” This next part is key. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not receive a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption by which we cry out, ‘Abba Father’ (or in its basic form “DADDY DADDY.”)” As crazy as it seems, the sonship that we have with God is the same that Christ has, but it’s because of us being IN Christ that we are able to do so. And because we have that freedom, our approach to the throne, to God’s presence, should be looked at, not as a hat-in-hand, I’m guilty and I know it type of approach, but of the approach of a little child, able to sit and play at the Father’s feet and just enjoy being with Him. We have the ability to have the same relationship with God that Christ does. Verse 16 says, “….we are children of God, and FELLOW HEIRS WITH CHRIST, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

1 Corinthians 1:9 says “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Somehow the ‘fellowship’ that Paul talks about (Koinonia in greek, which means “common ground”) allows us the idea that we are equal with Christ in the eyes of the Lord. What does that mean? Well, we read through the first couple of chapters of Ephesians, and we see that being in fellowship with Christ to God allows us sonship and an inheritance and all these amazing things. But we also have the ability, as we read in John 15:10, to love each other in the same intense, pure, unconditional way that God loved Jesus and that Jesus loved us. He says later in John 17:23 “I in them and You in me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent me, and loved them even as you loved me.”
So what we have here is the ability to, not only love people like Christ loved us, but to represent who we are in Christ to bring glory to God. How does this play in today’s ‘practical’ world? We have confidence in who we are. We can love without limitation. It allows our relationships to be more vulnerable and safe and genuine. What I have come to understand about myself is that everything that makes up who you I am is ultimately defined in terms of God’s perspective and no one else. Hear that again. God’s perspective defines me.

There are days when I really do get that, days when I am spiritually “healthy.” I am confident, passionate, and understand how to love and be loved. Then there are days when I am completely vulnerable to even the slightest criticism. I could care less about the people around me, about anything really except myself, and I sort of ‘check out.’ It’s not healthy and it’s another part of this ‘growing up’ that I’m embracing, but I know the truth, and the matter of really believing what Paul says in his letters is the key to getting through those “unhealthy” periods. Understanding authentic love, represented around a table the night of my birthday or giving me a huge hug when I get home from work, reminds me that, not only can I receive it fully, but give it away with just as much passion abandon. After all, it’s how God CHOSE to love Christ and how he CHOSE to love his disciples. Surely being in Christ, I can love others that way. Maybe I just choose not to.

Love is a choice. I am grateful for those that have chosen to love me. I hope that the next 30 years will be a constant growing up in that truth, loving others the way He chose to love me, fueled by faith and driven by hope. “But the greatest of these is love.”

Reviews, Milestones and Where To Go From Here

As it’s been pretty much a year since my last blog entry, and at the request of both close friends and a deep need to begin writing again, here I sit, filled with thoughts of how to begin 2009 on a literary note.

2008 brought with it some incredible moments, National Highlights include:

• The sudden passing of Heath Ledger, a man who depicted the most realistic and frightening performance of pure evil on the big screen as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.”

• The election of our first African American President, Barack Obama, who many believe will be the saving grace this country needs in terms of change.

•The gradual to drastic downturn of our nation’s economy, which has turned Congress into “Daddy Warbucks” of sorts to major banks and auto dealerships around the country.

• And of course the SEC winning yet another national football championship. I will say that this year’s game was indeed one of the more entertaining to watch. Though my Fighting Tigers from LSU were not participants (they were busy beating the tar out of Georgia Tech), props to everyone involved.

Among the more personal moments, the biggest would have to be my marriage to my beautiful bride. We exchanged vows on August 2nd, 2008 and almost six months later things are still wonderful. The wedding and the reception were a lot of fun, albeit on the hottest day of the year, but everything really went smoothly and I think everyone had a great time. We spent our honeymoon in the bustling city of Chicago, being very touristy and whatnot. It was really a blast pending time with the woman I love more than anything in the city that I fell in love with six years ago. There are days when I really can’t believe I’m actually married, but I can honestly say that the transition to married life has been one of the easiest for me. It just makes sense.

Another moment came in the form of a text message I got back in July from a guy I hadn’t seen or talked to in 10 years, telling me he and his family were moving up north from the West Coast as part of a job transition. Over the next several weeks and months, he and I began to walk through his reconciliation with Christ in the midst of some really difficult marital problems going on in his life. Through those conversations and filling in the gaps of the last decade, our friendship has grown a lot closer and I have seen the manifestation of grace and hope in him. In spite of divorce being in the near future, (and its getting tougher the closer she gets to leaving with the kids) he has, as much as he knows how, allowed Christ to be the anchor by which he holds onto, as well as let me to be a part of the journey he’s on. I’m really encouraged by that.

So what does 2009 hold? Africa is on the horizon this summer, an experience I will get to enjoy for the first time with my beloved by my side. I am also in the final stretch of a 2 year project which ends in October, so occupationally there are some question marks. But in the midst of all of this, with the economy, job losses, marital struggles and uncertainty across the board, I have seen God be everything to His people. I have seen my relationship with him transition into one where I can confidently call myself one of His sons, and approach His throne, not with my head hanging and overwhelmed by guilt, but to just sit and play at His feet, to smile knowing that, as Psalm 73:28 says, His nearness is my good. There’s more in my mind and on my heart that I want to put out there, just need to get it all organized. But for now, I’m out.

LOVE-eling the playing field

Sometimes I think God decides to theme out certain times in our lives, not so we can be poetic and say how romantic of a God we serve (although this is true), but rather because we can be so knuckleheaded about learning something that we need it repeated in different ways over and over again.

I confess that this past month has brought with it an emptiness in my spirit. The holidays were good, experiencing extended family on extended road trips and quality time with the love of my life. I am looking forward to pursuing new relationships that have come from the various social gatherings I’ve hosted and participated in. But while those things were good, I neglected my first love, and I’m realizing that it has put me in yet another place of desperation for His presence. I haven’t pursued Him as I would like to and it’s left the desire to give life to others at a handicap because I haven’t had that much life to give.

Enter this week.

I began my journaling once again after a month separated from my last entry. I treat it as sort of a conversation piece with God (I almost wrote the word ‘peace’ in place of ‘piece’ and I’m realizing in this moment how either word could be valid). As I began writing, talking to Him through pen and paper, I began almost immediately to feel His presence over me, experiencing the ‘peace’ as I wrote of being close to Him once again. I don’t know if that’s something that can be understood by anyone who isn’t ‘in Christ’ as Paul says.

Tuesday night the Spirit continued to speak truth to me through His Word as well as through His Body. We read from both Acts 19:8-10 and Romans 14:13-17 and hashed through the idea of what the Kingdom of God was to us as well as through the idea that we must realize that we weren’t meant to change people or the culture around us. These ideas resonated with me because that day I got into a conversation with some co-workers about the role of our government on the people it governs. Through the talk of welfare, taxable income, personal responsibility, etc. the idea of God in all of that didn’t come up and I wondered how we could talk about the good an organization can do for people and not mention God, the creator of goodness. But His goodness is not all there is to Him. He is also sovereign. That night it clicked.

If I think of the Kingdom of God as being His authority, then what I see is that while the purpose of a government is to do what’s best for the people it governs and therefore serve their needs (albeit not everyone will be satisfied), the purpose of the authority, the Kingdom of God, is to bring glory to Himself, and through some supernatural act, simultaneously allow us to be satisfied in that as a Body by serving Him and serving others. It’s as if, as followers of Christ, we are under an authority that supersedes that which we vote on every four years. Those’s not to say that we shouldn’t obey laws put in front of us or discount the things that Congress has put in place for us to follow. But there is some freedom in knowing that man doesn’t necessarily have it right, and while a Democracy is doing what’s good for the majority of the people, the Lord is doing what is best for Himself as well as those who choose to follow Him. It’s His sovereignty that allows Him to put Himself first. It’s His love that invokes the second.

So how do we do that? How do we serve God without thinking that we have to change people and culture around us. I quote my friend Amy (roughly) : “Change comes when we love on people.”

That’s it? Love is what levels the playing field? Love is what supersedes fairness and unfairness? Wow. That may not be a new concept to the majority of people out there, but it hit me like a ton of bricks.

How does that look practically? How do I live that out? That question got answered almost 24 hours after I asked it.

The next night I went to a friend’s house where we are in a study of the book of Luke. Chapter 14 was all over me. In it Jesus tells three parables that, on the surface look completely different from each other, but as we read through, the theme of each began to answer my question. It resonated loudest at verse eleven: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

I’m realizing now, in this season of my life that God is asking a ton from me. More than anything He is demanding holiness from my life, not so I can be called a ‘good’ person, but that His life will resonate within mine, so that who I am at work, at home, with my future bride and with those that place their trust in me, will be filled with character defined by love. I guess you could say that I am imprisoned in His freedom. I can’t fix people, nor do I want to, but I also need to understand that the ‘investment’ that I give to people shouldn’t be fueled by the return on that investment. Can I have those meaningful relationships with people and just enjoy the love that unifies rather than making sure they are doing the right things spiritually? With love I think I can. And its only through the humbling of my life, doing things and saying things for the sake of His Glory and the benefit of those He loves that will exalt me, but that exaltation will mean nothing to me because his satisfaction will be all I need.

This quote was given to me last night over coffee with a friend of mine who shared with me that it had come across his e-desk a couple of times this week and he thought it relevant to where we both were. I guess you could call it a summary statement for the ‘theme’ going on in my world as of late.

We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don’t get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won’t solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home. – Jamie Tworkowski, To Write Love On Her Arms

Grace for God

A couple of months ago I got to go see my Atlanta Braves take on the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. On my way back I received a phone call from a good friend of mine who was on holiday with his family visiting friends in the cool crevices of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I asked him how he was enjoying himself and he replied with a chuckle and said “really well. Amanda (his wife) is out with some friends and I spent the whole day playing with Cole (his 2 year old son). We went to the toy store and I bought him a bunch of different toys to play with.” I asked him if he bought them for Cole because he had been good on the trip so far and he replied, “nope, I just wanted to buy him some toys.”

The theme of my life right now, the stuff motivating me at least, is not an uncommon factor among my generation. I want my life to matter. Sure as a child of God I can cliché my way through life saying, “Patrick, you do matter to God. He cares about you and loves you.” But the truth is, I don’t believe it sometimes. I struggle with reconciling a relationship with someone I can’t hug, can’t look at and can’t communicate with in a ‘regular’ way. How can I matter to someone who I don’t even know that well? Or do I?

I thought about my friend’s story, how as a dad he wanted to lavish his love upon his son, not because Cole did anything to earn those gifts, but because his dad wanted to make him smile, to make him happy.
And then I thought about my amazing girlfriend, who comes into my mind at least 14 times a day. I love her for a number of reasons, but somehow just knowing that isn’t enough. I want to tell her using the most expensive words I can find how beautiful she is and how she fulfills my life in ways no one else can. And I want every opportunity I can get to give her presents whether it’s a special occasion or not. I want to make her happy.

What if our relationship with God was like that? What if we didn’t try to please Him because we had to but rather because pleasing Him pleased us? Yes, his son’s sacrifice was the most ultimate gift He could give us and He should be worth it for that alone. But there was a time when God existed and He hadn’t made that sacrifice. When Jesus was doing his Son of God, Son of Man stuff for 33 years, his endgame was what we long for, to please His father, to make Him proud. And his satisfaction came from this.

I wonder how different our relationship with Him would be if we didn’t base it on how good or bad or long our quiet times were or because we struggle with knowing God’s will for our lives, but rather on how much we wanted to know more of the mysteries of who He is? Our relationship with Him shouldn’t be that different than the ones we have with each other. That mystery exists in every significant relationship we have. It’s what motivated me to pursue Krecia beyond a friendship, taking a risk and making myself vulnerable to whatever she may have said. Risk is part of the mystery. It’s what makes it adventurous. We are constantly learning more about each other and as a result enjoy the intimacy that comes with it. To hear her say I’m her best friend and that she trusts me is incredible. It makes me want to be more of those things for her.

Why does our relationship with God have to be so different? Maybe it’s because we can’t see/touch Him like a regular person. Maybe it’s because He’s God and His supernatural prowess is intimidating. I confess that these factors get in my way.

But maybe it’s because we don’t believe that we can have the kind of intimate, valuable and enjoyable relationship with Him that we do with others (perhaps because we haven’t experienced that with those close to us, but that’s a rabbit worth chasing another day). In my journey through life, I’m discovering that this is a lie from the Enemy.

If we believe that we were created by God, that we have a bit of His fingerprint embedded in each of us, it makes sense to pursue Him with nothing less than who we are. And we can do that in the ways in which we pursue each other. We can talk to Him, interact with Him and approach Him with the same value and confidence that we do with each other. We didn’t do anything to deserve God’s love. Why should our love for Him be any different?

Loving God because we want to? What a concept. Almost sounds like Grace 🙂

Canton, College Football, and Concert Obligations

Last weekend I spent Labor Day with my beautiful girlfriend in Sulpher Springs, Texas visiting some of the potential extended family. While most of it was spent doing your typical Labor Day weekend stuff (eating, swimming, eating some more), on one particular day I experienced the awe and wonder that was Canton, Texas, also called “first Mondays.” I had no idea what it was all about until I drove up to it. Call it a gigantic garage sale, the 10 mile Wal-Mart or the world’s only walk-in junk drawer. All I know is it’s the only place where you can get T-shirts, Playing Cards, Sunglasses and Samurai Swords and a ton of other stuff, all in one place. I was in materialistic awe. You need something? Canton’s got it. And I bought it more than likely (yes I did buy a samurai sword). Anyway, it should be considered one of the seven man-made wonders of the world and everyone should visit it at least once. Oh, and if you do go, don’t worry about eating before hand, as there are a ton of tastebud tingling samples of jellies, salsas and dips for your nutritional pleasure. That alone is worth going again.

One of the great things about September is that it not only marks the end of “the dog days of summer” as someone so eloquently penned, but as of last weekend, college football is officially underway, and with it comes the obligatory trash talk, Heisman hype, biased and unbiased team predictions and of course the potential for a great upset. This last weekend was no exception. My boys from the Bayou (LSU) put away their week one opponent in sound fashion and the Mountaineers of Division I-AA Appalachian State defeated the once 5th ranked Division 1-A Michigan Wolverines in one of the most amazing upsets in college football history. I am now officially hyped about the next five months, so much so that I have two scheduled appearances in Fayetteville (Kentucky vs Arkansas) and Oxford (LSU vs Ole Miss) this fall. Should be a great time. Geaux Tigers.

Recently I went to a concert in Conway where a guy named Dave Barnes was performing. If you don’t know who he is, you are a loser. Not really, but seriously if you don’t, you need to get on board. He’s got a jazzy pop feel to him, kind of like Jack Johnson and David Gray in a musical head on collision. Anyway, he’s a great artist as well as a hysterically funny entertainer (my friend Robyn said he did his first stand up routine in Nashville a couple of weeks ago). ANYWAY, after the concert it began to dawn on me that apparently artists must have an obligation to say three specific things anytime they perform, as I have noticed from the many concerts in my travelogue.

First, they must always check to see how everyone is doing. I don’t know why. I would think that anyone at the concert would by default be doing well. Why would they be out at a concert with loud music and screaming fans if they had a case of pneumonia or something? Secondly, if there are other artists performing at that particular venue, they have to give props to each one of them. Whether they are the scrub opener or the headliner, apparently there has to be some extra ego boosting that takes place whether they need it or not. And finally, recognition of the city/college has to be made known. I would imagine this is for no one elses benefit other than the artist performing, but there IS something cool when a celebrity says “it’s so great to be here in with you guys.” Makes ya feel like you are on their level. Maybe not.

Starting, Finishing, and Everything In Between

So it’s been quite a while since the last great ‘real’ blog entry. There’s the unwritten pressure of having to come up with something either funny, significant or both and I don’t want to be that guy.

So I got back from Africa almost 3 weeks ago and am just now getting to my ‘reentry’ letter. I apologize to those who will be getting it just now. Seems when I write something I consider significant, I’m like a crock-pot of sorts, wanting all of my ideas to sort of begin to bubble and curdle until I feel secure enough in my writing style to begin to scoop them out of my brain and put them on paper. Alas, it tends to take longer to do this, but I would rather sacrifice a bit more time to write something worth reading than to send you guys a, “Hey it was neat. We ate this. We didn’t see any Tigers and no, I did not see Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt.” So be prepared for the post to deliver something in a few days. I’ll also post it in my ‘updates’ section at http://shoelesspatch.visualofferings.com

I’ve started reading the Harry Potter books. Yes I know, it’s a bit late for that, but after watching the latest film and talking with my sis-in-law who is kind of a nut about ‘the boy who lived,’ I’ve decided to give it a go. Finished up the first one last night and have the rest on order from Barnes so I should begin my second HP fix in the next week or so. Incidentally, is there not something really gratifying when you turn that last page of a book knowing that a) you have finished it and b) there’s more to the story to look forward to?

Spent this last weekend in Ft. Worth with some friends and came up with a few great observations:

1). Road trips are excellent, but I am a firm believer that they are even better with both a nice rental car and a good road trip mix. I had both of these. There’s something about having good music and a car that you can have a little fun with that feels REALLY good.

2). I’m 28 years old, and I really believe that no matter how old I get, the excitement from walking up to a major theme park like Six Flags anticipating the rides, the food and the general experience from being there always makes me as excited as a 10 year old boy. I totally experienced that this weekend, if for only a few hours.

3). There are times when I think about the small things in life that make me happy. One is a bookstore in a downtown area. A few years ago it was the Borders in downtown Chicago. This weekend it was the Barnes and Noble in downtown Ft. Worth. I love being able to walk into a building where I can find out on paper virtually anything I want to know about anyone or anything, and plop down on the floor to do so without any weird looks from anyone. The other is my love for specific places to look forward to when I visit certain cities. Again, Chicago has the Art Institute, Michigan has Noodles and Company (a really fun pasta dive near the UofM campus) and in Ft. Worth it’s the Marble Slab Creamery in downtown. Of course my tastebuds race when I anticipate eating the cold soft goodness, but it’s the idea of knowing that this is the place where I get it. Sure I could get Marble Slab from anywhere almost, but that’s where I first had it, and its sort of a flashbulb memory for me, one that I look forward to revisiting any chance I am down there.

Sunday I went to the church service of the friends I had stayed with and the pastor talked about three questions God asks of us (not to be confused with the 10 questions that God won’t ask when we die as many of you probably have flooding across your email inbox in the past 10 years). He took his sermon from Mark 10:46-52 where Bartimaeus, a blind beggar wants to have his sight restored as Jesus says “What do you want me to do for you?” The pastor also mentioned two other questions that were crucial in this text, one being “What are you willing to do to get it?” and “What will you do after you receive it.” I got several things from this text, but one thing that stood out actually came near the end when he mentioned the story of a guy named William Borden, the heir to the Borden Milk company, who felt God’s calling to become a missionary to Muslin China. He is most famous for these words:

No reservations, No Retreats, No Regrets

Powerful words from a guy who could have played it safe and lived off of mom and dad’s wealth for the rest of his life. Instead he chose to follow Christ and, while dying of a fatal disease in his mid 20’s, Borden could boldly answer the questions that Christ asked of him. I wonder sometimes if I can live that way, with no reservations for Christ, no retreats into my old life, and no regrets in looking at my past. Would I be more than who I am right now? I don’t know. But I think it begins with these kinds of questions, the ones that Jesus asked Bartimaeus. What do I want Christ to do for me? What am I willing to do to get it? And what will I do once I do have it? Tough questions. I tend to get stuck on the first one, the direct one from scripture. I’m glad that I have a body of believers who struggle with these same things. It’s nice to have a ‘me too’ reaction when asking these questions. I guess we all do.

Rituals, Ramblings and Road Trips

Today is “hump” day. What a dumb name for Wednesday. I wonder who came up with that, if they thought they were cool when they thought of it and if they regret calling it that now that I have said what I did (doubtful). Why not use fun literary terms like “climax,” that way the rest of the days can get involved in the nickname game (Tuesday being rising action, Monday being exposition, etc).

I am distracted with life at the moment. The things I took from my ‘retreat’ to Michigan have been stirring in my mind and heart since I’ve gotten back, and I want to explore them more. Right now I think I’d just like to take a walk, read a book, anything to keep away from the dailies of Heritage life. I have a copy of 1984 (the book, not the year) in front of me, tempted to open it and sneak a read of a page or two in between PDF conversions and paginations of sorts.

I’ve decided that I really like strawberry Jell-o. I think i got a bad taste for it when I associated it with Chinese Buffets, but outside of that environment, my romance for it has budded once again.

Tonight will be my second trip to a softball game this week (not a lot compared to those that go every night like parents and really dedicated girlfriends) and I’m looking forward to it, not just for the enjoyment of supporting my friends/family, but to embrace the ritualistic acts of yelling various ballgame-esque remarks at the players as they make great catches, defensive plays and killer hits. I’m also looking forward to the obligatory Nachos, Coke and Sunflower Seeds that will fill my stomach in the hour or so that I will be there.

I love this time of year, and I think more than anything I love specific things that take place during certain times of the year. This weekend, I played catch with a friend of mine probably a good three or four times. I enjoy that anyway, but doing that during the time of year when its somewhat appropriate just heightens the enjoyment for me. The same applies to the fall when I toss around the football. So good.

My small vending machine business via my refrigerator and desk continues to go well (see previous posts for full explanation). One lady gets the same stuff out of it every day: Jello at 10am, yogurt at noon, and popcorn in the afternoon. Thank goodness for ritualistic folks :).

As of yesterday morning, I have planned three weekend road trips for the summer. I’m calling it “Park It!!! 2007” and in those three road trips I plan on visiting a Ballpark (Cardinals and Braves at Busch Stadium in St. Louis), a Theme Park (Six Flags over Texas in Arlington) and a Water Park (Nashville Shores in Nashville). Good times indeed.

Made for Nothing More, Nothing Less than His Amazing Grace

Recently i got the chance to visit with a guy who fronts an up and coming band from San Antonio called “Nothing More” and he talked about the fact that as much as he is enjoying what he’s doing, he didn’t want to be in this same place when he was thirty (doing local shows making small amounts of money). He said he’d love to do this for a living, but he also wants to be a family man eventually. He said, ‘that’s what I was made for.’

I think, like so many people, I wonder what my ‘purpose’ is. This guy had it figured out at 27. I was envious. But what I’m seeing in my life, especially as I am learning more about how to be like Jesus, is that I was made for something more. I admit that I am ‘homesick,’ longing for a place I’ve never seen, realizing that, as Caedmon’s Call once put it, “this world has nothing for me and this world has everything.”

I struggle (especially as of late) with materialism, with needing to have the latest and greatest. It’s what drives the world I live in and it frustrates me so much. But recently I’ve found comfort in the one place I should go to first, but usually make it my last resort: God’s Word. It says in Psalm 73:28 “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.” I’ve been sitting on that verse the past couple of weeks. The whole chapter encapsulates my thoughts as of late, but that verse says two things: There is nothing more satisfying than the nearness of God, and there is nothing less that I desire to do with my life as a result than to tell of how amazing He is. Nothing more. Nothing Less.

I am so overwhelmed with the constant amount of Grace He gives me. In spite of my disobedience, my laziness and the hundreds of other things that make up the jacked up life I call my own, God chooses to continue to use me, for His sake and, in the process, brings me satisfaction, peace and so many other things I don’t deserve. I guess that’s the essence of what Grace is. Amazing.

As Jon Shirley so eloquently put it, “You search the whole Earth just to tell me what I’m worth, to tell me what I’m worth to You. You say that I am a diamond in Your hand, a diamond in Your hand for You. Lord I am blown away, you would even speak my name, to tell me I’m the treasure of Your Heart. After all the things I’ve done to You, coming close and then pulling away from You, You’ve proved just what a faithful God You are. So thank You Jesus, for Your faithfulness. Thank You Jesus for Your Love.”

Thank You Jesus, for your faithfulness. Thank You Jesus for Your love……..Amazing Grace

Nothing More, baseball and a need to be recognized

Last night I challenged my circadian rhythms and went down to Sticky Fingers (a restaurant slash hotspot for up and coming bands) at around 11pm to hear a band from San Antonio called “Nothing More.” Their sound was one that I could appreciate (sort of a cross between Coldplay vocally and maybe some Creed-like guitar). But what really impressed me was the performance these guys put on. They not only had high energy, but made the whole set fun to watch, dropping into medleys of “Rapper’s Delight” and “Baby Got Back,” covering the popular Seal song “Kiss From a Rose” and even putting on a miniature STOMP routine, banging drums and cowbells, even going so far as to ‘play’ pots and pans strapped to one of their members. Needless to say, the sleep I lost was well worth the entertainment I gained for the 2 hours I was there. Check em out when you get the chance.


April 1 marked, not only one of the most feared ‘days’ in history (April Fools) but also one of the days I look forward to each Spring: Opening Day. Major League Baseball is upon us my friends and, though i know its not as popular as other sports, it brings with it a desire for Sunflower seeds, playing catch and road trips to ballgames (Atlanta @ St. Louis in August….GO BRAVES!!!!)

Reasons I love my job:
#37 – I can get $1000 worth of memory upgrades without hesitation approved from my boss (Her exact words: Money is no object if this is something you really need.) Awesome.
#38 – Each morning 5 of us (including my boss) have a free throw shootout with the nerf basketball goal set up in my area
#39 – The small refrigerator I own (called the Naughty Fridge) sits close by and houses soft drinks, Snack Paks and other various daytime hunger relief items that I sell for a small profit to combat the overpriced vending machines down the hallway (hows that for sticking it to “the man?”)

Being a guy who struggles with a need to be recognized, I was encouraged to see that there are others out there who seem to need it more than I do. YouTube featured something I hadn’t ever heard of and thought was a joke before i did some research on it. (YouTube in itself, while hilarious to watch and great for cheap advertising, seems to epitmize the need for folks to make themselves known). There is a competition in the called The Air Guitar World Championships. Thats right. Those of us who rocked it out as young kids in front of our bedroom mirrors when we were 12 can now take that talent and make money, become famous and even travel to Finland to take on the rest of the 13 years olds that never wanted to grow up. Too funny.

Here’s last years winner