thirty four

I am very much out of the habit of writing. Ideas swarm around my head but they rarely escape in any coherent pattern, only making sense within the walls of my own mind. I intended to write more last year, but it didn’t happen. This is my annual birthday post, which guarantees at least one post this year 🙂

This year, my word to chew on is courage. As with each word and each year, only God knows what this will mean for me in 2016, but by the end of each year I am always able to look back and see how fitting it was. Last year was wait which definitely proved to be an exercise in faith. Courage, I foresee, will be as well.

Courage isn’t something I generally think of until I’m aware that I’m lacking it. My heart is weak, my spirit is down, I’ve lost my nerve, I’m losing faith, I’m losing hope. This is my daily life. Am I going down the right path? Am I pursuing the right interests? Or am I just wasting my time? I become overwhelmed by the future—what I can’t see, what I don’t know, what I haven’t received yet. I quickly become discouraged which doesn’t lead to good things. I start to dwell on these things too long. In an effort to get going again—to see progress on my dreams, goals, life—temptations, or ‘quick fixes’ become more appealing. Before long, sin is born and the promises of God become distant and blurry.

Jesus knows. He knows we are prone to losing heart. He knows we do not possess the strength to do what we are called to do on our own. He knows, and he doesn’t condemn us, He encourages us.

He also prays for us.

“‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.’”
— Luke 22:31

I’ve got a lot of thoughts swimming around my head, and I hope to write them down soon. Feel free to hold me accountable 🙂

State of Things

I started a new job in July of 2015 moving from Houston back to my home town of Killeen. Essentially I went from being ‘a’ Web Developer at the University of Houston to being ‘the’ Web Developer at Texas A&M–Central Texas. While it is a much smaller university, my responsibilities have grown both in depth and breadth so it has been a great challenge for me, which I am enjoying.

I’ve also had  a few opportunities to preach at my church last year, the audio can be found here if you’re interested.

Wait for the Lord (Psalm 62)

Through the Sea (Psalm 77)

Other than that, I’ve still got a few really, really big things I’m praying and waiting for God on. Big, scary, life-changing hopes and dreams that only He could bring about. Hopefully I will be able to share more this year 🙂

 

And you’d say…

I know that this isn’t normal. That in a lot of ways maybe I’m not normal. And that “hanging out” with me would mean that you’re not normal.
But what if we had met at Starbucks? Columbus Coffee?
And I was just some guy that smiled at you and said Hi. And I had the guts to say something like:
“My name’s Paul. Can I buy you a coffee?”
And you’d probably say something like,
Umm, I’ve already got one, thanks though.
because we’d be in a coffee shop and what else would you be doing in a coffee shop.
So I’d have to come up with something else to say to salvage the conversation like
Uhh, yeah, I meant, uh… I mean, can I join you? Something real smooth like that.
And you’d say…

Thirty Three

I’ve never been good at answering the question “So, where are you from?” My standard reply includes a hesitation, followed by something like “Well, I’m kind of from Texas.”

Poor kid. Doesn’t even know where he’s from. (Bless his heart, *pat on the head*, etc.)

I grew up here, but I’m not at all from Texas. Texas was just one of a very (very) few locations my dad could be stationed because of his job at the time (another exciting story; ask me about it later). My dad is from Miami and my mom is from South Korea–a little place called Jochiwon in the Chungcheong province, yet she tells everyone ‘Seoul’ which isn’t even close, but you’ve heard of Seoul so it makes things easier.

I’ve been planted, uprooted, and replanted all my life; or so I thought.

A few years back, a friend of mine described me as a potted plant–rooted, yet portable–and the illustration stuck with me ever since. I had spent so much time fearing the idea getting ‘stuck’ somewhere; of being planted in the ground, never to move again for the next fifty years or so. While I’m completely ready to ‘settle down’ as in get married and start a family, I’m not quite so ready to commit to a geographic location (not completely true; I’d totally settle down in NZ).

Meyer Lemon Tree

My potted lemon tree. My parents bought me this tree in March when I moved to Houston.
This was taken in December just before harvest. Well worth the wait!

I’m not much of a gardener, but I love the idea of gardening. Planting a seed into the earth and watching it grow into something beautiful; all while being subject to the forces of nature as there is actually very little you can do to cause your little seed to grow.

I’m talking philosophy, not biology. We till the soil, sow seeds, water. When you’ve done everything you could for your newly planted garden, you just have to wait; it is out of your hands. There isn’t any way around it. But when all conditions are right, the seeds sprout.

It’s the waiting that I love.

It’s tension. I don’t enjoy the feeling of waiting, but I enjoy the results. Results that can be yielded no other way. They are genuine and cannot be faked.

My word, or theme for 2015 is ‘wait’. No where near as exciting as 2014’s ‘love’ at first glance, but, ‘wait’ means tension which is a precursor to action. ‘Wait’ is a finite period of time, even if it is months, years, decades. ‘Wait’ means those tomatoes, or lemons, or roses, or love will be sweeter, juicier, more beautiful if you let things unfold unhurriedly.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope” Psalm 130:5

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:14

Lessons in love

For the past several years, at the beginning of the year I try to ‘listen for’ a word to meditate on throughout the year; sort of like a theme. 2010 was ‘intentional’. 2011 was ‘hope’. 2012 was ‘obey’ (took me a month to accept that one). 2013 was ‘faith’. For 2014 it was ‘love’.

As a not-so-young, single guy, you better believe this caught my attention. ‘Now we’re getting somewhere!’ I thought. Maybe this would be the year?

Doesn’t look like it. Haha.

As 2014 draws to a close I can safely say that I have a whole new understanding of what it means to love; the lessons I learned wasn’t what I was expecting.

Love is Costly

Jesus told a rich, young ruler that he lacked one thing (Jesus; he needed Jesus). His prescription was to sell everything he had, give it to the poor and to follow Him (and he would have treasure in heaven). Everything?

Everything.

I’ve never sold everything I owned. I have sold/given away nearly everything I owned once and it was incredibly freeing. That moment when you realize you don’t have any keys because you have nothing to lock up. You start to see your stuff as just stuff and even your money as just money. I think that makes the early Church’s “and they had everything in common” a lot more possible when we look at it this way. We can focus less on whether to tithe before or after tax and just give to our brothers and sisters who are in need.

Love is Irrational

When it comes to the cost of love, it isn’t about math; it isn’t going to add up. Jesus told a story about a man who found a pearl of great price. This guy went home, sold everything he had so he could buy the land the pearl was on. He found a treasure and did whatever it took to get it. Love is a lot like that. It demands a great price.

I’ve done a lot of foolish things because I was in love. I’m still doing a lot of foolish things because I’m in love. I teeter back and forth on what would be ‘wise’ and I think I’ve got a faulty definition of wisdom. I confuse ‘wise’ and ‘rational’. I am not saying love is irrational, except when it is. There is no reason for the God of the universe to love me, and yet, He does.

Love is Demanding

You can’t ‘sometimes’ love someone; you either do or you don’t. How many times do I have to confess to God that I don’t love Him? I fail at love everyday. Every time I doubt Him my unbelief says “I don’t love you”. Love is demanding—it demands perfection.

Impossible?

Quite impossible. But anything less isn’t love. It’s an imitation intended to fool us into thinking we’re doing alright. Our standard for love is the love God has for his children. While we were still stuck in our sinful nature, His perfect love was shown to us by sending his Son to die on a cross to pay for our sins. The ‘reason for the season’ isn’t a cute, little baby born in a manger—His entrance into this world was the solution. The cause for this season we celebrate is our sin. Our ‘helpless estate’ as the hymnist so aptly put it:

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul!

God’s love for us is so deep, so wide; words fail to describe it. His love is unending. As another hymnist put it:

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
and were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
and every man, a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above,
would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
though stretched from sky to sky.”

Love Endures

When the excitement is gone. When the newness wears off. When your affections aren’t reciprocated. When any reasonable person would give up; walk out. When you just have to wait (and wait). Love endures.