Saturday, January 2, 2010

Finding Mission

Lately I've been consumed by the way of life. The everyday flow of things. The moments we have, the interactions, the conversations, the time we spend. I am looking at how we live, the way I we are, the income, the lifestyle, the leisure, the activities, the busywork, and the comforts around us, and I feel a bit lost in it all. How about how I do life? As a follower of Christ I am torn over how to live out a life of service for Christ in contrast to these things. I know that the call is to love others as Christ would love them, but I find myself caught in the sludge of life's wants and needs. And to some degree, these things feel only self-serving. How is it that I live with almost every comfort of life at my disposal and people go hungry, are oppressed, and live in poverty and sickness? Or, how is it that I have been given so much yet seem incapable of bringing some kind of dramatic or significant change to those in need? How is it that I have time with family, freinds, and complete strangers, yet it seems difficult to bridge a gap where I can impact their lives in a real and tangible way. Deep down, my desire is to have conversations that will change them, stimulate their mind, open their eyes to something new, or at least cause them to think about what really matters. And I wish I was capable of giving more time, money, and energy as an advocate of those in need. When I think about Jesus, his life and his ministry, I am embarassed of myself. Here I am, at 30 years, and still searching for my purpose, place, mission, and vision. When I look back, it is hard not to feel that I have somehow wasted so many opportunities to do more.  I look around my life and can see physical worth, a house and things in it, cars in my driveway, a retirement account, and hopes for a more secure future. And the questions in my head roll on to: if only I made a little more money, if only I had a bigger savings, if only I had this, or that. Then things would be better. I've measured much of my life in the tangibles, the physical successes and  accomplishments I've made. But the kicker is that when I take account of the things that really matter in this life, I seem to come up short on what I have done. I am short on the things I am supposed to be offering to this life; to the things of God. I find myself at a loss with what I've been able to produce, in terms of how I lived for Christ. My side of the scale is light when I begin weighing in with the things God really values.

So, for whatever reason, these are the thoughts at hand. They are paradoxes that I cannot resolve and my best strategy for now is to continue seeking understanding and to listen to the empty spaces in my life. Only God can fill the voids. And prayer is still an voice that beckons me. I don't fully understand it but silence and free time scare me and right now all I can I hear is a voice telling me to wait. His truth is timeless and unending, but I still struggle to understand how his desires fit with where I am at in life. How does my busyness and the everyday become service and mission for God's purposes? Or more importantly how do my free time and quite time become my mission? For now I don't entirely know, but one day I hope to see more clearly than I do now.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

As for me and my household...

Over the past few months, my world has been opened to some different versions of the Christian faith. These are experiences with people who are walking a unique, but not altogether different, faith journey than I am entirely comfortable with. They are walking a path lined by an understanding of the Holy Spirit that includes things like healings, miracles, prophecies, visions, and heavenly languages. They use words like "supernaturnal", "signs" and "wonders" as though they things are everyday experiences. They are pressing in on intimacy with God. Things that I am not readily familiar with, however. Rather, my association with these things causes me to think of Jesus walking the earth in ancient Israel, or of some extreme religious group in the mountains. Regardless, the recent exposures to these things of the Spirit are bringing into question how I have compartmentalized and marginalized the Godly things that I don't entirely understand. I  believe that Jesus healed people and performed miracles, but that was a long time ago. And I can believe that the Holy Spirit exists today but I am unsure of how He is working in these radical ways. Honestly, I have difficulty believing in these things since I have yet to witness an amazing healing, vision, or prophecy. And for whatever reason, this part of my faith is being pushed upon and opened up. Questions are flying around in my mind and now I am curious. Who is this Holy Spirit, really? Who is this God? And what about these crazy things that Christ and his apostles said and did, and what does mean to me?

I've just finished a book by John Eldredge called Waking the Dead which speaks of being freed and awakened to what God has called us to.  There is much more to the book, but in it, Eldredge speaks of   of an existing war and that we all have a role to play in this war. And whether we see it or agree to it, we live in a world at war, spiritually. This war is seen in the metaphorical and physical. Things are not as they should be. We are surrounded by a constant barrage of attacks to anything truly good and pure; anything of God. We are surrounded by death, disease, hatred, greed, self-absorption, self-indulgence, poverty, famine, divorce, genocide, sexual indulgence and exploitation, lies, deceit, grudges, and arrogance. At some level, we all serve something other than God. We all carry a crutch that makes us weaker that we were meant to be and that holds us back. So many of us are imprisoned to a life dictated to us by the enemy. We honor contracts that control us. We make deals with the enemy of what to believe. And we believe what we are fed. Those imprisoned either don't know that they are locked, and pose no threat to the enemy (ignorance is bliss), some are in the process of escaping the prison, and some are free. But once we find freedom from the prison we must fight for our survival, the survival of those on the outside, and for those still in chains. Even though we know that in the end God wins, the enemy will wage war tooth and nail till the end and we must stay strong.  "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full" - John 10:10.

So, how do we stay free? How do we fight? What is the call?  What is the responsibility to fight? What is this life to the full stuff? How far do I press into God and His Spirit for guidance?  I feel that my life with the Lord includes great risk. If they killed John the Baptist, Jesus, and his disciples, then I am following in the footsteps of some poor odds. Jesus himself said that there would be persecution and hatred for following him. So how do we overcome? How do we fight a spiritual enemy for the heart and souls of one another?

I find prayer to be starting point for all things. Time with God. It is a place where I hope to fight for my heart and the heart of others in chains. For those who have bought into the lies of the enemy: That religion is a set of rules. That pornography is fulfilling. That loneliness is better than risking your heart. That money is king? That divorce is better than salvaging a battered marriage? That a lifetime of grudges and anger is better than forgiving and walking away from past mistakes. That serving the self is better than serving others. That pride is better that humility.  That money will fill the emptiness inside. That popularity and money are more important than morals and integrity.

My prayer is for the heart, that our hearts will be sustained through the storms of life.  For myself, that I would not turn my face away from God as I experience the evils in this life, such as men have a tendency to do. And I pray that this heart would be able to believe that God still heals miraculously. That there is a language beyond what is spoken on earth. That God is revealing Himself through mysteries such as visions and things to come. That words of prophecy and encouragement spoken over someone will hold an eternal power. And that God uses His people to carry out these things on earth. I trust that God has good in store for us and that we are His. I pray that I would forgive much just as I have been forgiven much. That my life would speak of the supernatural even when I don't quite understand. I want my faith and my belief in God to be defined by who God is, who Jesus is, who the Spirit is, and what the Bible says about it all. I refuse to allow the religious, the legalistics, the fakes, and the enemy to define for me who God is. "But as for me and my household,  we will serve the Lord" - Joshua 24:15

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Life

I look around and see people simply living their lives. They wake up each day, eat food, drink coffee, go to work, go shopping, raise kids, clean their houses, talk with friends, drive around in their cars... they live. I'd like to think that these things are all good, but I rather find them mundane and repetitive and somewhat empty. And I don't mean any disrespect to those people.  It's just that I find that I do all of that stuff and still find a deeper longing for something more. Something more motivating, something captivating, something to move me. And I can't think of a time that I haven't felt distant and tired from things in this life. It's like life is a set of pre-set movements that are routine and methodical. It's as though my life has been a set of decisions that were made because they were the things to do.

My hope is that this desire for more has some stake in being pure and essential. As though its a part of my humanity. I feel like these unsettled feelings are part of who I am and who I was meant to be. That there should be more to life. That we should not be simply settled into life's comforts. That we should be desiring more out of ourselves. And that life is not meant to serve our needs only. For instance, when I left college I remember feeling torn between two worlds: a college world that had allowed me to learn and grow, and that told me I could change the world ("change the culture, change the world"), and a real world that came with rent, car payments, health insurance, and having to find and keep a job. And in my quest for a job and being able to make ends meet, one of those worlds has slowly won out in my life. The real world has slowly taken over my desires to change the world. Looking back I think that I have tried to draw purpose and identity from the real world. This however, has been a mistake.

I have allowed a job to speak for me. A house to speak for me. What I drive to speak for me. Income to speak for me. Where I live to speak for me. A job to speak for me. A retirement plan to speak for me. Stuff to speak for me. Education to speak for me. How the house and yard looks to speak for me. Life's routine to speak for me. In part, I have sold out; or lost focus. I have allowed these things to speak for my life, when it should be me who speaks for me. My voice is my own and I think that I have forgotten who I am, whose I am, and who I was meant to be. And I'd like to think that I am much more than the routine I keep, the job I have, and the things I own.

Rather, I'd like to think that my love for others says something about me. That how I take care of my wife and kids and family and friends and strangers says something about me. That what I pray about says something about me. That my faith in God says something about me. That my ability to learn, repent, apologize, and accept my own weaknessness says something about me. That God is in control of this planet and my life says more about my life that I even understand. Ultimately, that being a child of God, a child of the King, speaks for me and calls me to something both amazing and frightening.

I still think that my purpose here is much more that I even understand and that I am destined for more than the day to day routine comforts. Jokingly, I have an ongoing struggle against society in becoming an old man who hand-waters his lawn in the middle of the day. Boring!!! Mostly, my aversion is in becoming mundane and simply losing the vitality and mission of life. That we have a greater purpose to carry than being normal and settling in. This year I turned 30 and when I look at the life of Jesus Christ and that he started his ministry at age 30, I get anxious. I yearn for more than a typical common life. I think of John the Baptist who preached, baptized, and paved the way for the Lord. I think of Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Billie Graham, Desmond Tutu, my professors, my pastors, and others who are living out a life that is focused and lived with Godly purposes. I desire to know that kind of vision. I desire to find my heart again and live life with vision, mission, emotion, and a deep love for God.

"Finally, our deepest fear of all... we will need to live from it. To admit we do have a new heart and a glory from God, to begin to let it unveiled and embrace it as true - that means the next thing God will do is ask us to live from it.  Come out of the boat. Take the throne. Be what he meant us to be"
- John Eldredge in Waking the Dead

Monday, May 18, 2009

Values and Economy

What is the worth of a profession? What brings the value to our work and our time? And is there is a way to reasonably judge a vocation? Is it the product, the service, and effect of the work? In these times of reduced economy, rising unemployment, and budget cutbacks, how does employment hold it's worth when all kinds of jobs are getting cut? How do our lives hold worth? Is life becoming only about the numbers; cost vs. benefit? And does a career, a job, a vocation get it's value simply by the culture or it's ability to stand the test of time?

I argue that in these uncertain times of cutbacks and layoffs that the value and worth of a profession is not held simply in it's ability to exist. Rather, our work, which is simply the use of our time, must be able to combine the value of the work being done along with the way in which the work is accomplished. And sometimes, even when the work is no longer needed the way in which we work will always be essential. Fundamentally, our value comes from God, and our work is an expression of God's value to us. How we use the time, brings value to the work. We are called to serve with our gifts and talents. It is the moral, ethics, and heart of the job that give it value. The worth of a job is the way in which it is done, not just that fact that it is. And I say all this knowing that our worth as humans stays the same regardless of what we do or what we make.

I've heard many arguments lately that plead the case of one's job as essential and necessary, especially in light of potential layoffs and reduced staffing levels. State, cities, companies, and businesses are struggling to survive. And generally the fight for one's job is a personal issue, as it should be in some cases. For hopefully our work is an expression of who we are, and a means to supporting and providing for ourselves; a basic human element. But these arguments often find their case by comparing themselves against other types of employment and this is a dangerous and subjective viewpoint. Comparing one job to another is difficult and subjective.

For instance how do you compare the job of a farmer with the job of a professional athlete. The values of these professions is not based simply on their necessity or what they provide to society. Whereas food is essential for life, sports are for fun and leisure. And the people who complain about the price of produce at the grocery store will also pay top dollar for courtside tickets. But what if you compared the contributions made by athletic associations to community programs with the community impact of local farmers. Career comparisons are difficult because most careers are not one sided, and life is not black and white. We can't simply say farmers are good and athletes are bad because of their necessity.

Career necessity is a societal issue but our lives should be lived on the dual plain of using our gifts and talents, alongside the additional purposes of we are on this earth: to serve and honor God. I used to think that some jobs were more valuable and that God judged carreers based on thier "Godliness". But I think that I have come to accept that how I use my time is more important and my motivation behind the work is most valuable. Service to others is a Biblical mandate. However, we are not called just to service but to a heart of service. My heart and my actions will be judged one day. Whom I am serve and how I serve is much more important that what I do. A life and career worth living can only be found by finding the heart of God.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The Christmas season always hits me with a mixture of emotions. This is a time filled with joy, laughter, and celebration, but is also filled with feelings of sorrow and regret. For me, this year is no exception as I find myself torn between two worlds, one of celebration and one of sadness.

There is something in the crisp winter air that floods me with a mixture of memories and emotions. I am taken back to the Christmas's of my youth, spent as a kid on the Northern California coast when all my family was together and my youngest aunt was still alive. I am taken back to my years growing up in the small town of Susanville, Ca, spent with my parents and sister opening presents on Christmas eve. I am taken back to learning about the death of my aunt and the tragedy of losing her far too early in her life. I am taken back to New York City and getting to experience Long Island with all of the lights and decorations and snow. Seeing that city from the Empire State building is very overwhelming. I am taken back to my college days and taking part in "Urban Plunge" where I spent my first week of Christmas break living on the streets of Seattle as a homeless student. Taking in a small view of homelessness from those who actually live on the streets was humbling and life changing for me and the two girls on my team. That experience is one I will never forget. And it would only be about 3 years later, just after the new year, that I learned one of those girls was struck by a car and taken to be with the Lord, while on her way to work. She was a recent college graduate and had just been married. She was another, taken far far too early in her life and I am grateful to have been her friend. I am taken back to spending 3 days of Christmas break to go visit a grandfather I barely knew. It was a growing time hearing his stories and seeing his picture and I tried to understand my heritage, where I had come from, and the man my dad had always talked about. It was a trip where I found part of myself and I saw myself in a man I barely knew. And though we didn't have a lot to say to each other I was grateful to get time with someone I had admired my whole life but who had been separated from me through divorce.

I am also taken back to a time when my wife and I met up in Lake Tahoe, just as friends. It was a wonderful and exciting time getting to know my wife, her sister (and her retarded boyfriend), her brother, and getting time on the slopes. We would be engaged a year later when I flew down to surprise her at the Marin headlands to propose. Two years later, we would be moving from Seattle to Orange County with no jobs or place to live, and with all of our stuff being hauled down south on in the back of a tractor trailer. What a crazy time of risk, adventure, and the unknown. In fact, on the morning we were leaving Seattle, our car freaked out and the alarm went crazy and we had to tow it to a auto shop and get it fixed. That mechanic was a godsend. It was a season of starting over, getting time with my wife's side of family, and putting up with her crazy uncle who believes himself to be a real life "king". I have yet to find his kingdom. Three years after that we would be moving to Fresno, a baby on the way, I would be starting a new career, and we both would be starting all over again. Last Christmas, we got to host both sets of our family in our house with our new baby girl. And this Christmas, we are still in Fresno, and my wife is pregnant again and we hopefully will have many more Christmases to come.

Christmas seems to have both a sense of magic and deceit. It is a time of wonder and anticipation where we seek out our families, share gifts, food and stories. However, in the midst of the fun are glimpses of things lost. I cannot smell the winter air or look at the Christmas lights without being reminded of the loss of loved ones and of those who who have lost much. I am reminded this year of the real Christmas story; it is a story of hope, love, and sorrow. It is overwhelming, to think that we all share in the gift of Jesus Christ as a child who was sent to redeem us all. As a father, I cannot imagine giving up or letting go of my baby girl to anyone or anything for any reason. It would destroy me to think about letting her go. I think that it is too big for me to understand the sorrow and pain that God bore in giving up his son to a dark and ruthless world as the ultimate gift. God's love is greater that I can imagine. And the challenge is to do as Christ commanded, to love as Christ loved. This season, I hope to love the homeless, the broken, the elderly, and those who need the love of Christ.

This Christmas, I hope the meaning and reflection of the true Christmas season is not lost nor forgotten.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fighting a Long Defeat

You have probably heard the phrase "garbage in, garbage out". Depending on the application and the context, this phrase will probably be appropriate. The phrase implies that what you put into something is what you are going to get out out it, assuming we all agree on the definition of garbage. On a bad day, you can apply this kind of outlook to people and view others as useful or wasteful. However, on a good day people have this amazing ability to help turn the ugly into the redeemed. For instance, Mother Theresa began a legacy for children living in the slums. And the leaders of organizations like World Vision, Compassion International, the Salvation Army, Prison Fellowship, and every Gospel Mission in the US are bringing hope to those in need. Everyday, people are taking up the causes of so-called "garbage" and are finding redemption for those who need it most.

For me, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I am challenged daily to find truth in the "garbage in - garbage out" perspective. While the voices of this world proclaim confidence in self, wealth, image, and popularity, I am called to a life of service, hope, love and truth. I am called to evaluate all things in light of a singular truth, not subjective post-modernism. This truth is God's truth. He loves us and desires us to know Him. In telling you this, I believe our time on this earth ought to represent a battle for truth and love rather than a resume of fleeting successes. What is truly important in this life, is what matters most.

Recently, I read an article titled "The Long Defeat" written by Sara Groves. She references life's true struggle stating that " "the long defeat" is not a pessimistic outlook, but rather a challenge to our culture's success-driven worldview. The difference between a cost-effective business model and the long defeat is that the conviction lies at the heart of the action, not the success of the action itself. There are many losing battles worth investing in, simply because winning is not the point".

Why do we fight, if not to win? We are called to fight for the lost, the poor, the orphaned, the widowed. We should seek to bring value to those that the world would view as worthless. We need care for those that are dying. To fight for wisdom and understanding in a world driven by alternative means. In this life it is essential to fight for our convictions and the leadings of our heart. We fight for what is right because we must and if we do not, then we have failed. In the Band of Brothers miniseries, that tells the story of a group of airborne solders during WWII, there is a title of one of episodes called "Why we fight". The episode brings purpose for the war as the US soldiers stumble upon a concentration camp with imprisoned Jews. If you have seen this series, words cannot describe what is captured on film when the soldiers free the prisoners from the concentration camp. Having never served in any branch of the military, I tread lightly in trying to explain the sacrifices of a soldier, but I can think of few things with as much value than giving your life for a person unknown, in hopes of a greater good. These are sacrifices to do what is right and is a call that we must recognize.

But how do you measure success to know how to live and fight for what is right? What does living rightly feel like? My answers at this point lay in the temperature of my heart and the actions of my life. Firstly, is the measurement of your heart. What is your heart's color and tenderness; it's humility, sensitivities, grace, strength, courage, mercy and openness? Secondly, is the measurement of the things we do, not in the sense of accomplishments but simple plain-jane actions. Things like how we spend our time, how we think, how we talk to others, what we read; what we do and react to.

Not all things are black and white in their comparisons, but many decisions give us opportunity to choose the right thing. And sometimes, the right thing will look awkward in the eyes of the world. Right doesn't always mean the most logical. In fact, these kinds of decisions seem foolish in the eyes of the world. For instance, not taking a job for the money but for it's purpose. Or volunteering time and money to a charity that helps the homeless or low-income, or at-risk youth, knowing that homelessness will never go away. How about parents who choose to raise a child that has physical or developmental disabilities. Serving in the military. Something for a higher purpose and calling. The outcome is not always the measurement we ought to live by. Sometimes, there is no outcome. Sometimes, it is simply service regardless of the profession. Many worthwhile causes exist without world-approved benchmarks. More important than popularity is our response, our reactions, our sacrifice. Rather, as Sara Groves writes so very well, "as it turns out, in each of these cases, what looks like defeat - what even sometimes ends in defeat - can only be judged in the light of eternity"

I believe that nothing is wasted outside of God's judgment. Our choices, our thoughts, our actions, and our time all carry eternal value. People matter most, and our call is to care for them all with love regardless of the end result. Our best efforts are all that we give.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Much of my adult life has been lived with regret. Constantly looking back at my choices, wondering if I made correct decisions and feeling unsure of myself. Throughout junior high, high school, college, and up until now I have struggled finding confidence in my decisions. Doubt has been a constant and I have hated this life of insecurity. It has been a cancer that has plagued my mind and my outlook. Things like courage and strength have been difficult for me to take hold of and embrace, and I have envied other people who exude unwaivering confidence. For so long I have wanted to be person who lives without fear and without hesitation. I have wanted to be someone bolder, better and smarter; someone that others would respect. But looking to others for validation comes with mixed reviews; while some people have said that I am smart, others have told me that I am worthless. Many voices and many opinions abound. Where is the truth? Where can I find meaning and understand in a life filled with regret, doubt and insecurities?

What is it that separates those with confidence from those with doubt? Those with strength from those with weakness? Those with freedom from those with burdens? Where is the line that shows the difference between those on each side of the fence, and what is IT that makes us so different from one another? Some are stronger, smarter, richer, and better than others. And why does it matter who is better. For me, my struggle has centered around being ashamed of myself and my lack of confidence. I have lived much of my life with the goal of trying to undue my personality and my doubts as though there was something inherently wrong with who I am at the core.

I have always feared the critic; their judgment and intimidation. I have feared the arrogance of others and the high esteem they hold for themselves. These people have shamed me and made me feel more than stupid on many occasions. Nothing is worse than feeling worthless and having someone tell you it's true. These fears are the fear of an opinion and of a person. My regrets have been tied to what others think, but I am learning that my worth, my person, and my life should not be dictated by another. Nor should it be dictated by my own opinion of myself. Selfish arrogance is no better than living in fear and doubt. Both outlooks miss the true mark of who we really are.

True life is not measured in better versus worse. It is not balanced by a majority opinion and a popular vote. All things are measured by a much higher perspective and value. Our value does not come from opinion. Our truest value can only be found in God. His value for us all is even, the rich, the poor, the strong, the weak, the normal, the addict, and the "christian" and the "sinner" (we all are sinners). God's perspective of us all is beyond human thinking. God can do what we cannot. In God's eye's we are not measured according to wealth, knowledge, and strength. Rather we are measured by the character of our hearts. Do we carry a heart that is in love with Jesus Christ as our Saviour. Is our heart one that serves, sacrifices for the good, gives to those in need? Does it forgive, hope and pray? At the end of the day, I will not allow the value of my life to be measured by regrets, doubts, and screw-ups. I will continue to make mistakes. I will continue to work with arrogant men. I will continue to have fears and doubts. But at the end of the day, I am a man that has found a new life, a life of forgiveness, freedom, and true value.