Saturday, May 9, 2015

Humility: Do you want to be well?

Here's the truth: some people are crazy. Here's a reason why: pride. Because of my job, I spend a large amount of time with people. I hear people talk all the time about how they want deeper relationships with people, with their family and with God. They'll say that they are honesty seeking God. They'll say they truly want to be healed or transformed. They'll say "God is changing me" and yet I see zero change in their lives. 

As a pastor and as a Christ-follower, it is my duty to disciple people. That means to help people become or understand how to become who Jesus would be if He were them. (The Spirit does the "become-ing") This process, although different with every person, requires me to do something uncomfortable: challenge people. In order for someone to grow, they must be challenged. This is uncomfortable, this is awkward, this is... well... challenging. 

I believe (this especially applies to Americans in the 21st century) that our pride has prohibited our ability to grow. The dream says, "You can be whoever you want to be. Build your life. You are the best person alive. You are the main character in this story." We are Americans so obviously we are the best. Social media is how we communicate now days and it gives us the unique ability to project something we aren't. We can use the best words, poses and filters so that the image people see is the most polished, perfect version of who we really are. This is why people will often say they want challenge but then realize that challenge means taking a look at the wrecked, broken person we really are, revealing that and stepping out of your comfort zone to change. Hiding behind our pride allows us to bury who we really are. This prohibits our ability to change or let God transform who we are. 

I have numerous people in my life that say they want God to heal them. They say that they want to be challenged and they say they want deeper, more fulfilling love in their lives. They ask me to challenge them so I do it. Their response goes one two ways typically. 1. They shut down. They don't actually know what it feels like to dive deeper or even take a look at the deep end of the pool. 2. They snap. They get defensive because they recognize that being challenged and diving deeper means stripping down to their undies and seeing who they really are in order to dive in. As Walk The Moon puts it " The real life love is under the mirror of the surface." The love that we want in our lives, the change we want God to do, becoming the person you were created to be is under the surface and it requires you to dive in head first in order to achieve it. Once again, the thing that stops this from happening is pride. We've become cozy and comfortable with where and who we are. Change means that we might have to shed some of the things we hold on to.

The Scriptures speak frequently about humility. "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."-James 4:10, "God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things- and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him." -1 Corinthians 1. "Sitting down, Jesus called the twelve and said, ' Anyone who wants to be first must be very last, and the servant of all.'" -Mark 9:35. There are dozens of verses and teachings against pride in the Bible. The religious leaders of Jesus time were known for their pride. They made others look bad so that they could appear to be better than they were. Jesus is constantly attacking them and pointing out that their pride will keep them from entering into the kingdom of God.

Jesus tells stories like the parable of the two sons (Matt 21) in which he tells the prideful religious leaders that the tax collectors and prostitutes (the very people they look down upon and judge) will enter into the Kingdom before them. Jesus heals a man who had been sick for 38 years. 38 years! Jesus first words to this guy is “Do you want to get well?” The man has been sick for THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS and Jesus’ first words are to ask him if he truly wants to be well.

Some of us (the people I’m writing this blog for.. which includes my self) do not want to get well. We know things aren’t well. We can sense and feel the brokenness in our lives. We ache with pain from a broken heart or the fears from our insecurities but at the end of the day, we don’t want to be well. Being well means acknowledging you are unwell. It means setting aside your pride and humbly saying, “I’ve tried to do things on my own and I’m just not good enough to make it happen. I need God.”

There are two questions that I try to ask the people in my life who say they want to dive deeper. “What is God saying to you?” and “What are you going to do about it?” It’s that second question that people get hung up on. I have a friend who has had their world rocked for years. They continually believe lies about themselves and lose their identity. They put themselves in compromising situations and as a result, they get hurt over and over again. They are extremely insecure, immature and broken because of it. They know this. They tell me on a regular basis that they’re seeking God and want to be healed. I’ll ask them “so what are you going to do about it?” and they immediately turn on defense mode and get angry with me for asking. I’m asking them to make the change that they say they want to see but their pride wont let them do it. She doesn’t want to be well because being well means letting go of the image we relentlessly project.

So, what is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? Will you let go of your pride, admit you can’t make it on your own and humbly submit to the only thing that can make you well? Or, will you hold on to who you are? Will you hold on to what’s comfortable? Will you continue to project a fake version of yourself so that people wont ever see the real thing? Do you want to be well?

I’ll end with this: what if humility is the point? What if being low and humble and vulnerable is the end goal? Being born and dying: these are the two biggest events in life. They’re also the messiest and least dignified. We come into this world and leave it naked, alone, vulnerable and with nothing. No filter, no perfect tweets, no make-up- none of that matters to us in those moments. Who we are, how cool or significant or relevant people thought we were, how well we hid our broken hearts does not matter. All that matters in those moments is who God is and what He says about us.

Be healed.

Friday, April 3, 2015

How long, Oh Lord? (Good Friday)

I woke up with a very heavy heart today. Pain and sorrow is everywhere. Praying for the Kenyan students murdered. Thinking of my grandmother who came to America through Ellis Island 85 years ago and is now on her deathbed. The pain and brokenness in my own life is overwhelming at times. At times it feels like this wont ever get better. All this pain and  today is the day we (christians) look back on the crucifixion of Jesus. Good Friday. Remembering the day the Son of God was brutally murdered. That's good! Right? 
It’s natural for me to disregard the cross as just another piece of a large story. In a way, I think we focus on crucifixion too much in the church. The story of the cross isn’t unique because of ‘crucifixion’. Hundreds, if not thousands of people were crucified throughout history. The story of the cross is unique for other reasons.
People often ask, “Why doesn’t God do something about the suffering and pain in the world?” The answer is that God already has. He did everything that needed to be done with Jesus’ death.
The cross is God’s way of relating to us. God came down to earth to experience suffering and pain like we do. To say “hey, I feel ya’” to everyone who has felt the curse of suffering or pain. The prophecies of Jesus spoke of how he would be a man that knew suffering and was familiar with sorrow.  Familiar with physical pain through the brutal death he endured. Familiar with a broken heart through having the very people he healed and preached to turn on him and shout “crucify him!”
Possibly the most personal and relatable aspect of Jesus death is his battle with fear and anxiety. The eyewitness accounts of Jesus in the garden before he’s arrested paint a picture of a man almost in physical shock over what’s about to happen. Jesus asks God multiple times “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” He tells his disciples “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” That is incredible. The Son of God came to earth and was overwhelmed to the point of death for us. How relatable is that? God knows pain, he knows loss, and he knows stress, fear and anxiety.
Still all these sorrows pale in comparison to the abandonment Jesus felt during his suffering and death. The scriptures point out that Christ was with God since before the formation of the world. Christ has a closer relationship with God than any of us can imagine. John 1:18 states that Jesus was so close with God that Jesus is “in the bosom of the Father”. That is an intimacy that we will never know and that is the relationship between Jesus and the Father.
When Jesus suffered and died, he took on all the shame, wrath, guilt and sorrow that should have been directed at us. He literally took on the weight of the world. God turned his face away and for a brief moment, God was not with him. That is suffering. That is pain. Spending all of history in the bosom of the Father and then being completely abandoned. This is why Jesus cries out a quote from Psalm 22 on the cross when he says “my God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” The hopelessness and emptiness of living in a world without God, the world we all deserved to live in, was put on Jesus and he endured it for all of us. That is suffering.
So when people ask “why doesn’t God do something about evil or suffering in the world?” think of this. Think of what Jesus felt when He was on the cross, calling out to God and hearing nothing. Think of the heartache and physical pain He suffered. Think of the shame and guilt and the weight of sin He suffered so that we wouldn’t have to. God has done the only thing that could have been done about suffering in the world. He suffered with us and conquered death so that it doesn’t have the final say. Our suffering in the present world isn’t the end. Death doesn’t have the final say.
“Everything sad is going to come untrue.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Abdication, Manipulation and Celebration

It's midnight, I'm exhausted and I should already be in bed but my mind is running and I can't seem to shake it. Must be a good time to blog. There's a whole lot of randomness on my mind right now so this could end up being a sloppy mess. Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about people lately and knowing when to let some go. This concept seemed foreign to me earlier this year. I used to believe that I'm called to love all people. I need to forgive, love and help all people I come in contact with. I felt this way because as a Christ follower, we are told to love one another and to forgive and to live at peace with one another. That's great. The world would look much different if we all lived by this mindset but what happens when a person you care about abuses that love? What if your investment never yields a return?

I've been reading Donald Miller's latest book and it's got me thinking about this a lot lately. I typically try to love people no matter what. Even if they have hurt me deeply. I like to believe that if Jesus can forgive me for all the thousands of times I've messed up then why shouldn't I forgive for the few times a person hurts me? So I've done that or tried to do that all my life. It's paid off in most circumstances and has typically led to stronger, healthier relationships with friends and family. Where I'm struggling is with those people in your life that don't want that. What do I do with a person who's goal is to manipulate me time and time again? What do I do with the person who only wants my love if it benefits them? What do I do with the person who doesn't want forgiveness? Or, the person who hurts me time and time again? You've tried to love them, help them, forgive them, care for them or befriend them and they just do not want that or even seem to care.

Is it wrong to let them go? Is it wrong to give up on people? I've come to a point with a friend where caring for them has started to hurt me. Not just hurt me, crush me. This person has manipulated me, hurt me, put me down, projected guilt on me and everything in between but I still find myself caring for them. So what do we do? Do we keep pursuing it? Do we keep investing even when we know we will get nothing in return besides more hurt and pain? I met recently with a friend I deeply respect and who's opinion I highly value. He encouraged me to let go and move on. He even encouraged me to force myself to focus on all the pain that person has caused me and use that to break away form this cancerous relationship. It left me wondering if that's really what God wants. Is God alright with me walking away from someone even if they've intentionally hurt you time and time again?

Jesus talks briefly in Luke 10 about going out to find people of peace. He says how some people will welcome you into your home and will accept your love for them while others will not receive you. Those are not the people you want to invest into and you should move on. (paraphrasing of course. Call it the PSV. Parker Sims Version) Now I'm not one for trying to make Scripture say more than it is but there's something about this idea that has stuck with me. Jesus himself did not heal everyone who he came in contact with. We see people like the rich young ruler who "went away sad" and Jesus let him go. Jesus didn't chase him down or continue to pursue him. He saw that the man wasn't interested in what Jesus was giving and Jesus let him go.

Titus 3:10 states "Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them." Even more, Jesus talks about throwing seed on soil in Matthew 13. Some lands on rocks, some lands on path and will be trampled and some lands in good soil.

People manipulate other people and that sucks. Donald Miller says there are 5 types of manipulators in the world. #1: The Scorekeeper- keeps a record of every favor done and every favor owed. #2: The Judge- uses a moral code, opinions or worse, the Bible to make you feel insignificant for not being on their side. #3: The False Hero- this person promises things they can't and don't want to deliver on just to manipulate and provide false hope. #4: The Fearmonger: as you can guess, uses fear and intimidation. They surround themselves with very submissive people. Lastly, The Flopper: constantly seeking sympathy, attention and/or making you feel responsible for their pain or circumstance. All these are lethal.

I'll end with this; my best friend (love you Matt) once told me "Go where you're celebrated, not tolerated" and it's stuck with me for years. Yeah we should love each other unconditionally. Yeah we should care for those in need. Yeah we should embrace people who are different than us but there comes a point where we need to stand up for ourselves. If you're being manipulated or abused it's OK to run away. It's alright to acknowledge that that specific person is not good to you. There comes a time where we and I need to walk (or run) away and avoid more pain.

See, I was justifying what this person did because I still cared for them and still wanted to help. I didn't realize that by still wanting to care and help I was causing more pain and damage to myself. Sure, we can invest in people who can't or wont love us back the same but in the end, go where your celebrated. Appreciate the people God has given you that do care and do love you. Embrace them and their warm love for you. This will allow your love to overflow instead of leaking through the cracks that manipulative person made. Don't let them grind you down. Go where you're celebrated, not tolerated.

p.s. I wrote this while listening to the soundtrack for Interstellar. It's pretty epic. Go check it out.

Free until they cut me down

Parker Sims


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014: Reflecitons, Revelations and Resolutions

It's hard to believe that tomorrow is the last day of the 2014. Another year full of unforeseen changes, a boost in gym memberships that will never be used, technological breakthroughs and tragedy. For me, the last few years have seemed to float on by. I still catch myself referencing events from 2011 like they were last year. With 2015 just a few days away, I've taken some time to step back and reflect on what 2014 actually meant for me.

It's funny how much I seem to overlook when thinking about the past 365 days. 2014 might have been one of the biggest if not the most monumental year of my life. I turned 22, (the same age my parents were when they got married) graduated college, got a full-time job in my field, broke up with a girl after a 2 year relationship, started a new relationship that was really incredible, got promoted, saw a few good friends get married, became an uncle again, got asked to be a groomsmen, said goodbye to my best friend as he packed up and moved 200 miles away, got broken up with and met some really great, new people. I went from college kid to graduate, unemployed to the ideal job, broke some one's heart and had my heart broken. 2014 was a huge year.

It's fascinating to reflect and see where you've come from. For me, it's all a perfect example of God speaking to the prophet Isaiah when he says " for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." I remember last January heading into my last semester of college and all the sleepless nights wondering what I would do with my life and where I would end up. I was constantly stressing over if I'd get a job outside of graduation and if I'd even like doing what I went to school for but trying to trust God through all of it. What happened? I got a job 45 minutes from Cincinnati with some awesome new people with freedom to do my job however I want at a good church. I remember all the time I spent worrying about the relationship I was in and wondering if I was really happy and there might be something better out there for me. Worrying that I might not be able to find a better person. What happened? I stepped out and met an amazing woman. That last relationship has  ended and I wont lie, it's been very painful because she is such a wonderful, beautiful girl. I learned that there is something better out there for you if you're willing to step out and follow God's lead. 

So it's the end of the year and I'm going through this gnarly break up. Losing someone you loved so deeply is never a pleasant experience. Investing so much and getting so vulnerable and "naked" (read previous blog. Vulnerability. Not actual nudity) with someone and having that go to waste is one of the worst feelings imaginable but its OK. I know it's OK because I can look back on 2014 and remember all the times I was at the end of my rope and on the verge of giving up. All the stressful, sad, lonely, fearful nights I spent worrying where I'll go, what I'll do, if I'll ever find another person, those were all taken care of in the most perfect way that I couldn't have managed on my own. 

All of this; my entire year, my entire life, the Christmas story itself. It's all an example and reminder that God does things differently. God's plans for us are so high above what we can comprehend. We thought we needed a warrior king to save us from slavery and God sent a little baby born in a stable in a tiny town in the armpit of the world who spoke love instead of manipulation and won the world over. So I'll admit it. This current place I'm in is rough. I haven't felt myself in weeks. This heartbreak has knocked me on my ass. It's alright though. I can't see it now but I'm learning something. God is using this to teach me and mold me and refine things in me to get me one step closer to being the person I was made to be. 

God's ways are above our own. Need an example? Think back to this time last year. December of 2013. Think about what you were wishing/hoping/praying/working/stressing for. Now take a look at your life and see how each of those things ended up. Maybe they are even worse than before. If that's the case, maybe your focus is off. Maybe you're focused on the wrong things and you're trying to be in control. So here's a fresh start. It's a new year. 2015 is another second chance to make it right. So whats my New Years Resolution? - To let go of control. To lean into this adventure that God has for me and to trust that His ways are above mine. I want to remember all God has done in the past and keep my eyes focused on Him. To constantly realign. To lose my life for Jesus only that it may be found. 2015 will be the year of humility for me. I am not my own. I can do nothing alone. I want nothing to do with living my life alone and away from God. I'm broken and fractured. I'm in pain. I'm angry. I'm bitter. I'm sad. Luckily, God is meeting us where we are and He is making all things new. He is not a God of broken things. He is the God of restoration and He is restoring me back to who He planned for me to be.

Cheers and Happy New Year!!!

p.s. Sorry for the extra typos. I'm doing this on my iPad at 1am and don't care enough to proof. Also, to those two girls I mentioned in this blog: I'm sorry if I offended you both. You are good people. 

-Parker Sims

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Lifeboat, Vulnerability and Nudity (Very long post. Hope you make it to the end)

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone is having a great day! My family isn't coming over till 4pm so I'm spending the morning cleaning and enjoying the day off work. I know  better things to do but I feel the need to write. The topic of vulnerability has really been on my mind lately. Being vulnerable seems to be a lost attribute in people these days. I've been thinking about this lately because of the Christmas season. 

I would make the assertion that people today say being open and vulnerable is a sign of weakness. If you let people into your life then they could hurt you or know too much about you so we put up walls and hide things behind doors with locks and keys to avoid the potential for pain or the fear that someone might actually find out how weird or different the real us really is. People say being vulnerable is being weak but I think that's just an excuse to cover up the real reason, which is fear. 

Christmas made me think about this because God is really a perfect example of how to be vulnerable. He made the earth and humans. He placed humans in this perfect, beautiful world and gave them free will. He said "I love you with all my heart." and by doing that, He gave all the power of His relationship over to us to respond. How did we respond to God opening up Himself to us? We ran away. We knew God loved us and we decided and still decide today to run away and be unfaithful. Talk about a broken heart! God created us to have a loving relationship with Him and we didn't want that and ran away. 

Anytime you tell someone you love them or anytime you let someone in to those deep, dark corners of your soul, you are taking a risk that they wont like what they find or they wont reciprocate that same love or vulnerability to you and that is a very scary, very sad pill to swallow. Jesus was born in straw poverty in the most vulnerable condition imaginable. No glory, no honor, no gold. He lived his life being open an vulnerable and loving to all people and how did they respond to that love? Some responded with love and devotion back but the majority still went on living their lives. They even voted to crucify Jesus in public. Jesus' entire life was vulnerable. He was constantly with the poor, the sinners, the broken and the rejected. Scripture says specifically that he wasn't good looking or desirable at al. He seems to be the complete opposite of what our culture values as "worthy" today. 

Maybe it's because he, being Jesus, knew that the things like beauty, wealth, prestige, desire, and money didn't actually matter. He recognized what Donald Miller calls the "lifeboat theory". We all tend to view life as being stranded on a lifeboat and one of us has to be thrown overboard so we spend our entire lives trying to prove our worth or value above others in the lifeboat. We compete and try to out-do the others so that we can win their approval and therefore get to stay in the lifeboat. Jesus saw this and saw that it's B.S. 

What if vulnerability and humility is the point? What if humility is the eye of the needle we all have to fit through? (Sidebar- It confuses me and makes me incredibly sad that you can know a person for a long time and let them into those deep, dark, ugly places of your soul only to find out that they have been hiding who they really are from you all along. It's crazy that people will convince you they're being real with you and loving you and be secretly hiding their entire identity from you. It sucks! It gives you a little glimpse into the crushing blow that God feels for us when we throw away His love and His affirmation to pursue something that wont last. Loving someone so deeply and having it go to waste is not fun. Telling someone you love them and being so vulnerable and open with them and giving that power over to them and then that person says "Nah. That's alright. You keep that. I don't want it because I don't want you to know who I really am" is one of the worst feelings imaginable and we've all done that to God.) 

That was a really long sidebar. Back to it! What if humility and vulnerability is the point? I'd like to believe we were made to be incredible vulnerable and open with each other and with God. The only want you can experience love at the level you want it is to be vulnerable. We all want that deep, pure, "I can be 100% myself and I will be safe" love. The love that only God can really offer. We all want affirmation and we all want people to clap for us and tell us we are worthy but the truth is, this acceptance and wholeness only comes from God. 

We've been searching for it since we first said no to God's open heart and invitation to love Him back. This is why Christmas has become about gifts. We give gifts to each other so that we can get gifts and feel better. We receive a gift, we think "OMG! Someone sees that I'm worth something! I'm worth as much as a new bike or a PS4 or a new necklace!" We get our worth from the stupid retail gifts we receive rather than the truth. The truth is, Jesus cared so much about YOU that He came into the world, lived the most vulnerable, humble life ever known and died for YOU. Christmas is the ultimate reminder of self worth. "I'm worth a new TV or set of golf clubs!" No, you are worth so much that the creator of the universe came and died so that He might have us back in His arms. Jesus would rather go to Hell than live without us. That is where our worth comes from.

So back to vulnerability and humility. If Jesus recognized the lies that culture tells us and he saw past the smoke and mirrors show that Satan markets as "the good life", then we should life how Jesus did right? If Jesus had some inside track on what was really behind all of this and what really mattered then it would be safe to think we should life the way he lived. It's clear that the world paints a lie because we all feel it. Nothing lasts. Even people let us down. There has to be something more because we are all constantly living to find it. So what if humility and vulnerability is it? Jesus lived the most humble, vulnerable life ever so why shouldn't we? He was real, he was raw, he wasn't afraid to dive into the ocean with people and explore those deep corners of our lives. He gave love without expecting love in return. He suffered and died in the most shameful, public, humiliating way possible so that you and I might accept his invitation to a relationship and then return that back to him. 

We have to get out of the lifeboat. We have to recognize that the things everyone is searching for: the affirmation, the love, the applause, the acceptance all comes down to our broken relationship with God. The only thing that can fill and sustain all these needs we have. So what does it look like to step out of the lifeboat of lies? Maybe it's being vulnerable. Maybe it's loving relentlessly and opening your lives to others the way God opens His to us? Maybe it's no more walls? Maybe it's being real? 

I'll end with this, and I know this has been a long one some thanks to all who have made it this far! Back in the Garden, when everything was how it was meant to be, Adam and Eve were naked. The writer of Genesis tells us many times "they were naked and unashamed". It's said so many times that it must be an important idea or theme. Adam and Eve were so vulnerable with their relationship with God and each other that they were completely naked and didn't even care. Our fear of vulnerability is the whole reason we even wear clothes. If beauty is just a false value for the lifeboat then there's no other reason we wear clothes. It's incredible to think of the possibility of having a relationship so vulnerable with God someday. Where we are naked and not ashamed. Wholly save wholly loved, wholly vulnerable, wholly affirmed, wholly accepted. Remember, our skin is more waterproof than gore-tex.

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's a trap! (counterfeit gods)

I'm about to be a little too vulnerable.

 I'm going through one of those incredibly terrifying times in life where it seems like almost nothing is certain. There have been a few unexpected changes and experiences over the last month or so that have put me in one of these stages where it feels like almost nothing is certain. I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday about her life and she let me know that she is also in one of these stages. She is working her way through college but has hit a point where she's completely unsure of what it is she really wants to do with her life. She says she doesn't even know what her life will look like in 6 months. I feel her pain.

Last time I felt like this was going into my last semester of college. Not knowing where you'll work or even if you'll be able to find a job. Not knowing where you'll live or where your friends will move and if they'll stay in contact or just fade out and become another "I used to know them back..." These times in life are some of the most difficult. Like I mentioned earlier, I am currently living in one of those phases and it has legitimately shook me. I am not myself. I spend the majority of my days focused on hypothetical scenarios and "what if" possibilities that might never happen. I've spent more time in prayer and in Scripture in the last month that I have in a very long time but I can't shake it.

I spend my mornings, nights and various hours in between crying out to God but I hear nothing. I'm trying to seek His kingdom first but it feels like I'm holding onto a broken plank of wood in the middle of the ocean. The swells knock me off my tiny plank and I go under and lose where I am. I swim back to the surface, find my plank and wrap my arms around it just seconds before another wave hits. Why can't I get out of this? Why am I sinking?

I heard someone talking today about counterfeit gods and the things in life we worship instead of God. He talked about how we can try all we want to grow closer to God and seek Him but we can't really get there until we repent and change our direction or our minds. I wont lie, I didn't pay much attention to all of this because my life is fine right? I'm clearly only seeking God! I'm seeking His kingdom first! Look! My life reflects that! Wait. I'm literally drowning.

The guy talking about all this said "Want to know if you worship something? Finish this sentence. 'If I just had _________ I would truly be happy." That is THE question isn't it? If I only had more money, that job, that dating relationship, a wife, kids, a better family, a better body, more friends, fame etc. The list could go on forever for all of us. It's kind of incredible and truly sad to look at all the things we think we need. It's also depressing to think of how easily we can get pulled in the wrong direction. We live in a counterfeit culture. Our culture (America) promises so many things that only God can deliver on. God promises all the things culture can't deliver on. I get distracted so easily. I see something I want and begin to make that what I worship and pretty soon I'm being tossed back and forth by waves. I'm alone in the middle of the ocean and I can't find my way out.

I have a goal I try to accomplish every day. I try to answer the questions "What is God saying?" and "What am I going to do about it" So clearly God has called me out on the idols of my life. My life over the past month is the result of worshiping them too. I don't want to be there. That place is Hell. It's almost comical to think about how blinded I am and how easily I get lost. How quickly I'll push God off and put something else on the throne of my life. It's like I know it too but I'll convince myself I'm alright. I tell myself I'm fine and tell myself it wont consume me but here I am once again.

So what is your idol? What do you worship? What do you need to be truly happy? Can that thing actually deliver on what it promises?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Snow, Sufjan and Second Chances

So I haven't blogged since August 5th. I took a weekend off which turned into a week off which turned into 3 months off. There hasn't been anything on my mind to blog about. It's kinda ironic because this past 3 months have been some the craziest, stressful months of my life. Anyways, back by popular demand, here's Fallen Timbers!

Today was the first legitimate snow of they season for the Cincinnati area. (Everyone on social media will let you know that) Here's something to know about me. I love snow. I wrote a blog back in the day about how people should stop using the word love so much because it loses its power. I love snow.The sight of snow immediatly takes me back to elementary school. The song "Hooray" by Minus the Bear captures the emotion that snow makes me feel. So I woke up, opened my phone and saw the dozens of pictures of snow covered streets and trees along with each person's personal opinions about snow. A lot of people seem to hate snow and that makes my heart hurt.

 I've always had this feeling that being surrounded by snow brings be closer to God. Something about snow and the winter season makes me extremely grateful for what God has blessed me with. Even if you don't like the cold, you have to acknowledge that snow is beautiful. After I got out of bed, I put on my Colombia gear, went outside and listened to Sufjan's christmas album as I shoveled the driveway. Just a side note, Sufjan Steven's Christmas albums are the best Christmas albums ever made as far as I'm concerned. If you've never given Sufjan a shot, you should try his Christmas albums.

Back to my day. I finished the driveway, put the shovel away and stood in my yard for a minute or two. Looking around at the other houses to make sure no one was around, I spread my arms out, took a deep breath and fell backwards into the snow and laid there for a good 20 minutes. I'm not sure I have ever felt closer to God than I did laying in the snow in that moment. I felt like He was right next to me. It' felt like God was laying beside me, eating snow and looking up at the falling flakes and whispering in my ear "This is all for you. You are safe, you are where you're supposed to be, I am with you."

Snow reminds me of the incredible childhood I was blessed with. Going sledding on hole 13 of Beckett Ridge with my family, friends and my dog Molly for hours and then walking back to the house for hot chocolate, a fire and Christmas movies are some of the greatest memories I have from my childhood. Back when life was simple and all I knew was the deep love of my family. Snow reminds me of how beautiful life can be and how much God has done for me.

Looking outside and seeing fresh blanket of untouched snow in my yard is just another reminder that God is a God of fresh starts and second chances. God takes this nasty, cold weather and gives us something so fresh and pure and beautiful and clean that's just for us to go play in and enjoy. Life gets crazy and I get lost. I focus on the wrong things, I stress about where I'm going and what I'm doing. My heart hardens and freezes up. Then I take a minute to "be still" and God comes once again and gives me a fresh start. He takes my bitter, frozen, hard heart and breaks it and turns it into a fresh field of snow. He whispers "I am with you" and all that love from when I was young comes back to me.

It snows every year and God blesses me more every year. I stress and worry every year and God brings snow and says to me "Hey I did this for you. There's nothing worth worrying about. Go have fun and be a kid again." I guess all this to say I am incredibly grateful and humbled when I stop and embrace the snow and remember all the incredible things God has done in my life. He gives and gives and gives and gives when I continually struggle and fall and mess up. He is faithful and forgivign and lavishes His love on us like a thick blanket of snow. He covers up all the pain with this beautiful love.

"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow." -Isaiah 1:18