Category Archives: Growing Up

Generations

We went to a fantastic fireworks display this year, and for once we had great seats.  Not only that, but just a couple cars down was a family with several little boys who really made the show for us.  When the first round of fireworks went off, I think the gasps and shrieks and look-at-thats lasted longer than the gold sparks drifting through the sky.  A few minutes later, after a gigantic blue explosion, one yelled, “Hey, it’s my favorite color!”  The highlight came later, though, when there was about a ten-second pause in the show and the entire parking lot was quiet.  Over the hush, one screamed, “Get with the fireworks already!”  We pretty much died laughing, but they were still going strong.  As the finale started to build, we heard one more shout, “Yeah, baby!”  Way to end your show, boys. 

We talked and laughed and oohed and ahhed.  We laughed at the little boys and thought about how different and simple and exciting things were when we were younger.  All of us “old” teenagers and twenty-somethings got a little bit nostalgic about being so little.  We had a grand time. 

Of course, I also did a little bit of people watching.  About halfway through the show, I noticed something about the couple sitting on the other side of us.  Thing is, they were watching us the same way we were watching those little boys.  We were the young people, carelessly enjoying ourselves. 

I was recently arguing with someone (actually, I had the same debate with several people) about which Superhero is the best embodiment of the American ideal. Yes, I’m a geek. The debate always seemed to come to a question of when rather than who. At a time in our history, Superman was the American dream realized. Later, Captain America was the perfect poster boy. Now, well, one guy argued it should be Iron Man and I sort of agree. Because America has changed, because America is changing, it’s hard to pin one down. America is not the same country it was, and that can be a little scary. Some things are the same, though. Each generation can look down on the next, seeing the same laughter and hope that they experienced when they were younger and think that, maybe, we’ll be okay.

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Forward Motion

So, I’ve found myself in a strange new chapter in my life–a chapter that comes without external goals and deadlines. I never realized growing how focused I was on moving forward. Getting to the end of the school year, to the end of high school, to the semester, to the end of college… each goal brought with it a sense of focus and purpose. Well, it’s been nearly a year since I finished college, and to be honest I’ve felt a bit lost.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a great time. I road-tripped across the country. I got in a bad car-wreck (not great, but a near-death experience is a legit life experience). I worked retail over the holidays (see previous qualification). I got a “grown-up job” that’s been an incredible roller coaster. With all that, there’s been not only a lack of focus, but a lack of time to notice it.

So here I am almost six months later. I’m really pretty settled in at work. As much as I’d have liked to move out, things at home are pretty steady. My life is actually a little boring. I’m doing the 8-5 thing. I sleep in on the weekends and play with my dog. I’ve stayed in one place long enough and gotten involved enough to actually want to go to weddings and graduations. And I feel a little bit uneasy.

Nervous energy is a good way to describe it. All through school my life was set on forward motion, moving higher and higher in my education. Suddenly, I feel like I’ve stalled. Well, it’s not as dramatic as stalling. It’s more like I slipped into neutral a little while ago and slowed to a stop without even noticing, only to look up and be shocked to discover that I wasn’t moving.

Everyone says that being in your twenties is about figuring out who you really are and who you want to be for the rest of your life. It’s a time of asking a lot of questions. Thing is, if you want the right answers, or answers that’ll be any good at all, you have to ask the right questions. And I honestly am not sure what questions to ask.

I guess I don’t really know where I was going with that and don’t have a nice conclusion. Like I said, I’m a bit lost. I feel like my life is seriously missing the forward motion it used to have, and I know in my head that I can set goals and keep learning and improving, but I guess I just don’t quite know how.


It’s Not the End

Abraham was told he would be the father of a great nation and then waited decades, watching as he and his wife aged until the fulfillment of that promise seemed impossible. David was anointed as king and spent years running for his life, even despairing and leaving the land of Israel. The disciples believed they had finally found the Messiah only to watch Him be brutally killed. Throughout the Bible and throughout history, great men of God have been given a vision and then have watched it die. But that’s not the end.

The son of promise was born to Abraham and gave rise to the nation of Israel. David was crowned the king of Israel and ruled well for many years. The disciples saw their resurrected Lord. God allowed it to become impossible for His promises and the vision He gave to come to pass. Impossible for man, but with God all things are possible. And when God left it so that only a miracle could answer the confused prayers of His people, none but Him could receive the glory for the promises being fulfilled.

So often in my life it seems like I’m running in circles. It seems like God says go, only to stop me and say to wait a little longer. It seems like I’m getting nowhere and nothing is happening to bring the promises He has given me into reality in my life. He’s promised to sanctify my life and make me like Him, and still every day I find myself falling to the same temptations. He’s promised to give me a loving, forgiving heart for His people, but there are still offenses I can’t bring myself to forgive. He’s promised me things about my future, yet year after year passes and I can’t see how any part of my life is moving toward those things.

But I know that He is faithful. I know that when He has spoken something, it will never fall fruitless. And I know that His timing is infinitely better than my own. It can be painful to see the impossibility of bringing His will to pass in my own life… but then how much sweeter it will be to see Him do it in a way far better than I could have ever imagined!


Sanctified Common Sense

“You can’t always expect a sign from heaven. Sometimes God leads in the most simple, natural ways. Sanctified common sense is one of the ways that God leads us most often. Take in the options. Think and pray them all through. Step out in faith. Often that’s the best any of us can do.”

I came across this in my file of quotes from classes, I’m not sure which of my teachers said it, but it seems to fit my life perfectly right now. It can be so easy to use “waiting on God” as an excuse to do nothing. Although there will be times when we are clearly called to wait, often what we need to do is simply step out in faith and trust God to guide those steps as we take them. Sanctified common sense can have much more to do with God’s will than we often give it credit for. It seems like every time I’ve just prayerfully started walking in a given direction, either everything has fallen into place or God has changed my path so naturally I hardly realized it was happening. It’s such a relief to know that if I simply trust Him with my future, He will guide and direct it.

A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9


Just an excerpt from the paper I’m working on today…

Philips Brooks said in the Yale Lectures that the preparation of the ministry must be nothing less than the making of a man. He said to prepare a man for ministry was not to teach him certain tricks and fill him with knowledge, but to knead and temper the man’s very nature until it was “of such a consistency and quality to be capable of transmission.” He even went so far as to say in one sermon that the great purpose of any life should be “the shaping of character by truth.” 

But what is character? It is the basis of reputation, the true man behind what people see and think. It can be described as who a man is not only in public, but when he is alone in the dark. True character is what Jesus described in the Beatitudes as He began the Sermon on the Mount, and what He demonstrated to perfection in His own life and ministry. Character is manifested in the beautiful qualities that the Apostle Paul described as the Fruit of the Spirit. It gives rise to integrity, to inner wholeness. A man of character is not guilty of hypocrisy, fooling others as to his nature and motives, or of duplicity, fooling himself. Character is Joseph going to prison for being honest and chaste. It is Moses giving up luxury as the prince of Egypt for the life of a Jewish prophet and a sacrificial leader of an ungrateful people. It is Jeremiah spending a lifetime pleading with Israel to repent while watching the nation die. It is Martin Luther declaring, “Here stand I. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”  This is character.

This kind of character demonstrates itself not only on the grand scale of public ministry, but in the hidden duties and services of everyday life. It is always willing to go the extra mile. It will not cut corners on a job that no one will inspect. It will give freely expecting no recompense or recognition. It is simply a life lived before God, seeking to please Him and Him alone in even the smallest of thoughts and actions, regardless of what others may say or do. True godly character of this nature is not built overnight. It takes time and is often a painful process involving the most hurtful experiences of life. It is developed through making God’s Word a part of our inner being, of meditating on it and obeying it wholeheartedly. It is built through faithfulness in worship and prayer. It is strengthened through suffering and weakness as we learn to depend on God’s grace to bring us through and to bring Him glory. This depth of character is a product of discipline and devotion, of courage and commitment.

Character can be compared to a grand and beautiful cathedral. It is slowly built, one stone at a time, following careful and specific guidelines. But it can be quietly destroyed, little by little, by hidden interior decay. Decay that can for a long time go unnoticed by those closest to us or even by ourselves, but is never unnoticed by God. The deterioration of godly character is always an inside job, possibly only as we allow ourselves to drift into sin and compromise. Character is built by the decisions we make. Life is built on character and every decision of daily life, however small or insignificant it may seem, is either placing another stone in the great structure of our character or whittling away at its support from the inside. This is why Proverbs 4:23 sternly warns, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”

 When character is damaged by neglect and ministry is broken, can it be restored? Not if the offender makes excuses instead of confessing and resists authority, seeking second and third and fourth opinions that please him better. But yes, if the offender will humbly confess. If he will turn from sin completely and willingly submit himself to the Potter and His tools as they reshape the vessel to be honorable again. May these offenders then be restored to a position of service in the ministry? Yes! If they have repented and been Biblically brought back into fellowship, they may serve again as humbled and careful ministers of God. Character is difficult to build, and often far more difficult to rebuild, but God is a God of restoration and second chances.


To Pursue Excellence in Writing

So… you can laugh at me if you’d like to. You can tell me I’m overestimating my own ability to use the English language. You can tell me the statists one how many people successfully make a living off of a certain career. It won’t change a thing. The truth is, I’m in love with words. I’m irresistibly drawn to a blank page. I obsess over pens and paper. And I often dream of being a real, published author some day.

I’ve spent hours just listening to people talk in an attempt to improve the dialogues I write. I give immense attention to the details of things, often thinking in full sentences describing in detail the world around me. I’ve sat down and read the dictionary, broadening my vocabulary and knowledge of the English language. I’ve read books upon books about writing techniques and styles. I’ve read classic literature, studying and practicing imitating the styles of great authors. And I’m sure I’m digging my own grave here, because you’re all reading this and wondering why my posts aren’t better written, but that’s beside the point. The fact is that I love writing. I want to write. And I’ve put at least some effort into improving my writing.

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with someone that I’ve been thinking about. One of the staff members here at school asked me if I had any idea what I was doing after graduating and I automatically answered no. But instead of dropping it then like most people do, he kept pushing. He wanted to know about any interests or talents I had. I mentioned that one thing I would love to do is write. He seemed to like that answer and started giving me all kinds of advice.

He talked about writing styles, about observing life, about reading classic literature. We talked about the preparation I’ve put myself through and encouraged me to continue in those things. Then he brought up ideas. We were in the library when we talked, and he took me to a shelf full of philosophy books. He told me that not all of the ideas written by these men were correct, but he’d read some of my homework and had talked to me enough that he thought I could discern what to accept and what to reject. He said one that it was in those books that I would find what could make or break my writing.

He explained to me that writing wasn’t just about the words. Yes, having a mastery of the English language is important. You need to know how to weave the words together to communicate your ideas in the clearest, most memorable and convincing way, but the words are just the framework and what matters is what the words are holding. What does your writing say? Does it strongly communicate themes that will resound with the hearts and lives of your readers? Are the truths communicated timeless and relevant?

I know it’s a rather elementary idea. I’ve heard people say countless times that what you say matters more than how you say it. But somehow, the way he put it challenged me to take a step back and look past the words of what I write… to look at what I am actually communicating, if what I’m saying is even worth the reader’s time. In my thinking and studying, I’ve been considering what I write in light of a few different verses…

It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed. Luke 1:3-4

Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel. Deuteronomy 31:19

I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 1 Corinthians 4:14

These things we write to you that your joy may be full. 1John 1:4

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:31

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8

So I guess I’m still thinking… thinking about how to write… thinking about why to write… thinking about what’s worth writing… and thinking I’m more in love with it than ever before.


Two Years Ago Today…

I have sort of an unusual testimony. I didn’t meet the person who in the most real way “lead me to the Lord” until I’d been saved for years. I was raised in a Christian home, and meant it with all my heart when I accepted Christ as a young child, but I had gotten off track. I was lost, hurting, confused, and had been convinced that the commitment I had made was not valid because there was something wrong with me. Then this friend came along. He somehow saw the real me past all my lies. He listened. He cared. Most of all, he wouldn’t let me push him away. Once he realized how much I was hurting underneath of everything, I was stuck with him. And so our friendship began, and slowly but surely, I began to change.

The best way I’ve found to describe it is that he was the first person to show me God’s love in a way that I could recognize. He stubbornly stuck by me and was always there through all the highs and lows… and there were significantly more lows than highs. And one day it all suddenly clicked. God decided it was time, He moved in my life, and things began to get better. And I was ready for it. God had used my friend to prepare my heart to receive His love again. I rededicated my life to God, and for the first time truly understood what I was getting myself into.

Isn’t it crazy to think about how things can have such a profound impact on people? When my friend met me, he saw a hurting girl who needed someone who would be there for her. What he didn’t realize was that he was the tool God as going to use to eventually lead me to rededicate my life to Him. All he was doing was living his life, and when someone came along who needed the love of God he was willing to pour out. And through the grace of God it literally changed my life.

It’s funny how little things lead to bigger and bigger things. I’m walking with God now and seeking His will for my life. I have incredible friends who come alongside me to encourage me in my walk. And I have one very special friend who was willing to reach out. Two years ago today, he saw a hurting, lonely girl and decided to try to help her. He didn’t let her run away when he started getting close. He was stubborn enough to get past all the masks and see the real person, and he was willing to see her for who she was and then point her back to who she could be in Christ.

Am I willing to reach out like that? Can I look past the surface and see who someone really is behind the smiling mask? And when the time comes, am I willing to step back and admit that I can’t change them, I can’t help them, I can’t heal them, and instead point them to the only One who can? I am a living example of what can happen when a Christian is willing to simply reach out and love and wait to see what comes of it, and I hope that God will allow many more examples of that can come out of my life.

Thank you, Jesus for bringing me back to Yourself, and thank you to my precious friend for being a willing instrument in His hand.