Distance

They say “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” I think that’s true in a lot of situations. But I also think that “distance shows you who your true friends are.” A lot of people go through my head while thinking about this, but I’ll only talk about three.

Person A is a close friend from high school, who recently got out of a dating relationship, which ended pretty roughly. Even though we go to schools very close to each other, we haven’t seen each other very frequently. We had talked a few times about the end of the dating relationship, and I could tell that they were hurting pretty badly, but they didn’t want very much help from anyone. So when they asked if we could go to dinner to hang out, part of me was surprised. But it turned into one of the best experiences both they and I needed at that point in our friendship. They texted me later that night after dinner saying it was awesome to hang out again after a few months, and that we needed to hang out more often, “just like the old times.”

Person B is also a friend from high school. We used to be good friends, but they went to college out of state, and we’ve pretty much lost contact. We Facebook or text each other every few weeks, but it’s just not the same. They’ve moved on in a different direction, and while I’m very glad to see them happy, there are times where I wish we could still be friends. But I’m coming to realize that, at least for now, it’s better for us to not be such close friends.

Person C is, again, a close friend from high school. They also go to school out of state, but I’ve been able to go visit them a few times. We basically consider ourselves siblings. And even though we might not have talked to or texted each other in several weeks, we just pick up right where we left off. There’s never a dull moment when we’re together, whether we’re laughing about experiences from high school, or swapping stories from our time in college. They’re the kind of person that makes me miss high school.

College is weird like that, I guess. It weeds the true friends out from the group of just “friends.” But that’s healthy. (To be continued. Eventually.)

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 thoughts No Comments

Glory

Have you ever thought about something, but couldn’t quite put it into words to accurately describe it, then find someone else wrote about the exact same thing you were thinking about, and have it completely knock your socks off? I read this article about the Glory of God on the Mars Hill Church website this morning, and had that feeling. Take the time to read through the whole thing. It’s completely worth it.

The world around us sets the bar pretty low. People generally choose short-term instead of long-term. People choose happiness over faithfulness to God. So when someone comes along and raise the bar to a whole new level, people notice. Someone who chooses long-term joy instead of short-term happiness. Someone who chooses to glorify God instead of glorify self.

Jan Downs was one of those people. This story says it all.

Jan passed away this morning, but her legacy and example will continue to inspire people for many years to come. And while we are grieving her loss, we know that she is in a better place, with a fully healed body, and glorifying God in a whole new way.

Friday, August 6th, 2010 thoughts No Comments

Apologies

Apologies are amazing actions. (Alliteration unintended.) They’re incredibly hard to do, but their effects are life-changing. Being able to give someone a sincere, heartfelt apology requires a whole lot of strength, humility, and pridelessness (is that a word? I’m making it a word).

In today’s world, those attributes are completely foreign. It’s a dog eat dog, cover your own back, every man for himself world. Issues turn into problems, problems turn into arrests, arrests turn into not-guilty pleas, not-guilty pleas turn into trials, trials turn into jail time, and all because someone doesn’t want to ‘fess up and admit they were wrong. If they did, the whole thing would have been done and moved on from long ago. According to the world around us, you’ve gotta stand your ground, no matter if you’re really wrong. Admitting weakness and faults is bad.

It basically comes down to pride. Humans are prideful, selfish creatures. More often than not, we put ourselves and our interests above those around us, including our closest friends and family. We don’t think about how our actions are affecting others. And we’re all guilty of it.

For a few years now, I’ve been praying for a friend who got herself into a sticky situation. Her actions, decisions, and words were hurting her relationships with her family and close friends, even though she tried to convince herself otherwise. She and I are pretty similar people, in that it’s hard for us to recognize and admit when we need to apologize to someone. So we were talking the other day about this situation, and she told me she finally realized that she needed to apologize to everyone who was involved, including me. It meant a lot to me because she was being humble, admitting to me her weaknesses and faults, and saying she screwed up. It also meant a lot to me because her apology challenged me to think about who I needed to apologize to, and what for.

It’s not a matter of “if” we have anything we need to apologize to anyone to, it’s a matter of “what for”.

Apologies are one part of repentance. You can apologize for something, and not mean it. Repenting is apologizing for something, and truly meaning what you’re saying, promising you will change from your past ways. 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 says,

Yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

Tenth Avenue North has a song called “Healing Begins”, that applies well in this situation:

So you thought you had to keep this up
All the work that you do
So we think that you’re good
And you can’t believe it’s not enough
All the walls you built up
Are just glass on the outside

So let ‘em fall down
There’s freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We’re here now

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

Afraid to let your secrets out
Everything that you hide
Can come crashing through the door now
But too scared to face all your fear
So you hide but you find
That the shame won’t disappear

So let it fall down
There’s freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We’re here now
We’re here now, oh

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

Sparks will fly as grace collides
With the dark inside of us
So please don’t fight
This coming light
Let this blood come cover us
His blood can cover us

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

To Be Continued…

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 thoughts No Comments

Review: Sex Is Not The Problem, Lust Is

Sex Is Not The Problem, Lust IsJoshua Harris is an amazing author, preacher, and speaker. I first heard about him in one of my high school classes, and he has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I’ve heard a few of his sermons, so when I’m reading his book, I can hear his voice in my head reading to me. He has a very easy-to-read, conversational tone throughout all his books. And he address difficult, yet very prominent, topics with wisdom and clarity.

His previous books have centered around dating and relationships, but this one takes a step back, and focuses on a broader issue: lust. I’ve read a few books on the topic of sexual purity before, but this is the best one by far, for two simple reasons:

Harris’ basis is solely Scripture. Roughly 1/3 of my notes have a scripture reference after them. He even dedicates a whole chapter to specific verses that we can use to fight sin in the heat of the moment. Harris rightly says, “I need an authority greater than my own. I need the very words of God. Hand-to-hand combat with lust doesn’t work — I need the sword of the Spirit” (151).

He doesn’t use any graphic descriptions or imagery. I’ve been surprised by some other “Christian” books of how graphic some of the descriptions are. The book’s supposed to be about purity, but the book itself isn’t pure! That’s not the case with this one. Right in the preface, Harris describes the book as a “‘PG-rated’ book that would instill a love for holiness and a hatred for lust without dragging the reader’s imagination through the gutter” (12).

Another thing I appreciate (and he readily admits this) is the book isn’t meant to give a “quick fix” to the problem of lust, because he rightly states that the solution is different for everyone. But he does provide Bible-based principles that the reader can use to custom-tailor a plan to fight lust in their own life. He says the biggest thing is to memorize Scripture, to “hide it in your heart”, so that you can use it to fight temptation when it comes.

Final Word: Highly recommended to everyone. Very practical, relatively short, easy to read, but definitely one to think and ponder about.

Monday, August 2nd, 2010 reviews No Comments

Choices

If you’re a coffee person (or a straight-up addict like I am), think about what happens when you walk in to Starbucks. Personally, I have so many choices to make in a split-second: do I want a white mocha, or a drip coffee (Pike or bold)? Tall or grande? With whip? If it’s the afternoon, do I feel like a mocha frappuccino?

Turn right or left? Droid or iPhone? Get on Facebook for a “few minutes”, or keep reading my book? To tweet, or not to tweet? Our lives are dominated by choices. Then why do so many people make so many bad choices in their lives? I’ll rant about that in another post.

Several of my friends are getting ready to go off to another year at college, while I’m half-way through my summer. Hanging out with them and talking about our completely different experiences got me thinking about a few things.

The choices you make today will affect the rest of your lives — Somewhere on down the line, while applying for a job, I’ll probably tell someone about this blog. And somewhere on down the line, they’ll probably read through it (if that’s you, then hi!). Since it’s not that hard to associate this blog with me, the content that I publish on this blog will reflect a lot about my personality. And that’s why I don’t post a lot of junk on here.

My dad likes to say “watch your wake”. He loves boating (especially sailing), and he’s a great mentor, so it’s both a boating lesson and a life lesson. In boating, you want to keep your wake as straight and as calm as possible, not curvy or bumpy, so you don’t affect other boaters. In life, you need to watch how your actions are affecting others around you, and also yourself.

I’ve been through a few life-changing experiences, both incredibly bad and incredibly good, that have ingrained this lesson on my mind forever. As much as I’d like to believe it, “living one day at a time” should not be the ultimate goal. You should constantly evaluate what the long-term effects of making a particular choice on a particular day will have. If your conscience is even hinting that one day you might regret making that choice, it’s probably a good idea to turn the opposite way and run as fast as possible.

“Short-term pain for long-term gain” — I’ll use a self-deprecating example: my night-life is pretty much non-existent. Usually, my nights consist of maybe watching an episode or two on Hulu, going to bed at 10 or 11, then getting up the next morning at 5 or 6 am. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to hang out with some friends on the weekends. Yes, I’ll admit, it kinda sucks to know that other people are out having fun with friends while I’m sleeping. But I’ve got my eye locked on my goal, and the only way I’m going to make it there is to buckle down, do the hard work, and make the hard choices today, so that I can get to that goal in the future.

“Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future” — In his book “Father Fiction“, Donald Miller puts this another way: “We become like the people we hang out with” (114). One of my favorite high school teachers loved to say “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.”

Are your best friends non-Christians? Do you/they go out drinking and partying on a weekly basis? Are they on the “hook-up, shack-up, break-up” diet? Is that really who you want to become? Is that really what you want to be known for, as the person who always got in trouble in college? Pretty sure that doesn’t look good on a resume, or go well in an interview.

I only have a few friends at my college. I only call them friends because we’re Facebook friends. Sure, they’re fun to talk to and work with in class. But I would never hang out with them outside of class, because I see attributes in them that I don’t want to take on. I want to surround myself with people who are stronger in their walk with God than me, so that I can learn from them in my own spiritual walk. I want to surround myself with people who have a career and a skill-set like I want to have, so that I can figure out what I need to do to go into that career myself. I want to surround myself with friends who don’t tempt me to go past my moral boundaries, but encourage me to stay within them and help keep me accountable to them. I want to surround myself with people that I want to become like. Everyone else is just background noise.

One of my best friends retweeted this a while ago: “If you are not looking after your heart, you are not looking after your future!

I’ll be honest, I see so many teenagers and college students, both on campus and on Facebook, literally throwing their lives away. And I find it incredibly sad. Because ultimately, what they’re doing is turning away from and sinning against Jesus. That’s the main problem: their heart isn’t in the right place.

Jesus never said following Him would be easy; in fact, He said at times it would be hard. All day, every day, we are surrounded by temptations: to sin, or not to sin. But Jesus said that He would provide a way out of every temptation, so that we can not sin. Sure, it may not seem fun right now, but making the right choice (even if it’s hard) will pay off in the long run.

“If we’ve ever needed you, Lord it’s now.” -Casting Crowns

Monday, August 2nd, 2010 thoughts No Comments

Love

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)

I’m going to sum this up a little differently than most people do: Love hurts. Love is not easy at all. But, as a poet once said, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

I’ve had two girlfriends in my life so far. I’m very thankful for both relationships, as I’ve learned lots of things about myself and about others through them. But both of them ended up breaking up with me several months into the relationship, and both were not easy breakups at all.

Love hurts.

I’m still reeling from the effects of them.. As a result, it’s been hard for me to trust close friends, especially my friends who are of the female gender. It’s hard for me to look them in the eye, to give them a hug, to have deep conversations, to listen to their struggles and talk about mine, to be able to feel like myself around them. It’s hard for me to love them.

Love hurts. But, it’s worth it in the end.

So I keep moving forward. Learning from the past, but not dwelling on it. Picking up as many pieces of my broken heart, and putting them back together as best I can. Learning to live in the perfect love of God. Waiting to see where He leads me.

Sunday, August 1st, 2010 thoughts 1 Comment

Quality

Ran into an excellent post by Seth Godin from a few weeks back: http://bit.ly/bsVXE9

Then it hit me. In high school, when my friends and I didn’t exactly know what to write for a paper, we figured out ways to say a little piece of information in a lot of words. We called it “EBS”, or Educated B.S. It’s come in handy a few times, but it sucks, and I hate it.

One of my dad’s favorite sayings is “quality is better than quantity.” But I think we’ve all been conditioned (primarily through schooling) of the exact opposite: that quantity is better than quality. And that’s why I’ve been pushing myself to write long blog posts and long papers. I’m tired of being like that.

One example is people who pray ridiculously long prayers that, in the end, could have been summarized in one paragraph. (Need I say more? No.)

In person, I’ve always been a succinct, straight-shooting guy. For instance, I hate long voice-mails, and I don’t like it when people ramble on about unnecessary details when telling a story. Give me the facts, then get on with it.

So here’s to quality over quantity. Say what you want to say; but say it well, say it short, then get on with it.

Thursday, July 1st, 2010 thoughts No Comments

Monthly Monday Morning Musings – June

  • June 7: You know it’s a Monday morning when it feels like a Friday morning, because it’s your last day of school before summer vacation. (And you slept horribly last night.)
  • June 14: You know it’s a Monday morning when you plan your travel routes around the locations of the most accessible and least busy Starbucks.
  • June 21: You know it’s a Monday morning when the sound of vuvuzelas wake you up faster than coffee does.
  • June 28: You know it’s a Monday morning, and you haven’t had any coffee yet, when you’re happy the Dutch won because their jerseys are about the same color of your hair.
Monday, June 28th, 2010 mondays No Comments

Patience

One afternoon a few months ago, while walking home from the bus, I passed a guy walking down his driveway to get his garbage cans. So, in an attempt to be friendly, I said hello. He asked me how I was doing, to which I gave my standard, “Pretty good, you?” He responded with one of the most profound statements I have heard in a long time: “It’s gonna get better.”

I’ll be honest, my life sucks right now. I don’t really like college. I barely have any friends there. I still live with my parents. My church doesn’t have a college group, as I am the only college-age kid who didn’t go out-of-state. My friends from my “high school days” have changed in ways that make me not sure if I know them very well any more: of my three closest guy-friends, one went to college out-of-state, and two now have girlfriends; my two closest girl-friends both moved out-of-state for college, and we don’t talk very much any more. So I don’t really have any friends that I feel “close” to, like I did even one year ago. The weather’s not cooperating. My truck keeps coming up with new problems that I can’t fix. The list goes on.

One thing that guy’s simple statement taught me that afternoon is to accept that life sucks. But it also taught me to be confident and optimistic that better times are coming.

The only thing that’s keeping me going through this rough season of my life is the fact that there is something greater than this coming soon. But the tough part is being patient. Because who knows, it might come in the next season of my life, or it might not come until I die and go to heaven. But strangely, part of me is okay with that. For Christians, this life is the closest we’ll ever get to hell; for non-Christians, this life is the closest they’ll ever get to heaven.

Patience is a tough thing for me. In today’s world of high-speed internet, Facebook, Twitter, and Google, virtually everything is literally at our fingertips. (If UPS or FedEx offered “instant teleportation” as a shipping option, I’d take it.) I have to consciously slow myself down every once in a while, unplug, turn the phone on silent and leave it on my desk while I *gasp* go outside for a while. It’s sometimes hard for me to not speed-read through a book just so I can finish it, without letting the content sink in.

It’s one of my goals this summer to work on being more patient. It’s the fourth “Fruit of the Spirit“, so maybe that’s a clue that it should be a top priority.

Brandon Heath, in “Wait and See”, says

There is hope for me yet
Because God won’t forget
All the plans he’s made for me
I have to wait and see
He’s not finished with me yet

Yup, no doubt, my life really sucks right now. But I just have to be patient, because “it’s gonna get better.”

Thursday, June 10th, 2010 thoughts No Comments

Kids

Starbucks is where a good portion of my life is going to happen this summer. A friend and I are currently sitting here, working on our own laptops, because for whatever reason it’s easier for us to work on our own things while at Starbucks with each other. (Or at least it’s easier for me to work with other people around me.)

Maybe it’s because when I need a short break, I can just look up and people-watch. I love people-watching, I don’t know why. A guy just walked up to the semi-long-ish line with his 2-year-old son, who promptly captured the attention of the two ladies in front of him. No denying it, the kid’s a cutie…heck, he’s making me smile and laugh just watching him walk around the store, carrying his snack-pack with him.

I love kids. I’ve got 4 cousins under the age of 8 (I think), and I absolutely love hanging out with them, playing games with them, going to their T-Ball and Baseball games, giving them piggy-back rides, showing them how to shoot a Nerf Gun, and all the other things that kids do. And it got me thinking how kids have it a lot better than we do. They are some of the most honest human beings you will ever meet. They don’t worry about other people’s perceptions of them. They do what they want. They speak what’s on their mind. They dance in the aisles at church during worship songs.

They’re care-free. And I’m a little jealous about that.

I’m sitting here, avoiding the gaze of strangers in line, while trying to look at them enough so I can figure out if I know them or not. I wear my sunglasses almost all the time while outside so I can watch people without them knowing if I am or not. And if I’m not wearing my sunglasses and I walk past someone, I just look at the ground and walk on.

Kids have it good. They can stare at people all they want, and (normal) people will smile and wave and talk right back at them. Cuz they’re kids.

I was driving out of my neighborhood the other day, and an older, retired guy, walking slowly down the street with a cane,was smiling and waving at everyone who drove past him as if they were next-door neighbors. I drove past him, and he gave me this huge smile and an emphatic wave, so I couldn’t resist but smiling and waving back. I’ve never seen the guy, and I haven’t seen him since. But I wish more people were like him, because he gets something the rest of us don’t get.

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3 ESV)

Why can’t we be more like kids, show our true inner selves, and just live with it? Works for them…why doesn’t it work for us? (To be continued…)

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010 thoughts No Comments