Learning How to Love is a Neverending Story

First and Foremost, THANK YOU Joshua for your very kind words and constant encouragement and for your very generous donation to our efforts here. It makes such a difference for us – thank you, from our hearts to yours.

While I woke up this morning with a slightly achy back, I opened my eyes and smiled wide. I rolled off the partially deflated air mattress and stood up with a grunt, stretching and looking around at our mostly empty, but new home. I walked through the two bedroom apartment, my feet soft on the faux wood floor, noises echoing in empty rooms and a vaulted living room ceiling. From outside was clear sunshine and the sound of birds. I love the sound of birds, especially in the morning.

Perspective is so important. We are still several months behind on several accounts, have less than $200 to our name, I am still without a strong source of income, we have no microwave or pots and pans (grocery shopping becomes very interesting without those things), no internet, no cable, no furniture, barely any gas in the car…

Yet, I feel as if I have all I need. Why is that?

Perspective.

artax sinkingI had spent the last weekend feeling so great about everything. My wife just had a job offer, we got accepted into the community ministry we we’re hoping for, and I was 99% sure the job I interviewed and tested for was mine. So when I woke to a voicemail Tuesday morning learning that the job was not mine…my entire mood shifted. I didn’t want to be worried, I prayed for strength, I tried to focus on God and forget my concern, but it was not working. I was sinking.

My entire day was effected by it. I barely got any work done. I had no peace, no joy and it was just a waste of a day. It wasn’t until the next morning with a fresh start that I opened my journal to write down a few things. I began to realize that, actually, a lot of great stuff had happened the day before. My wife had started a job she likes, we got a new retail account for Hope Soap, we got an online order, and it was the first time I was getting to meet a Be An Acorn follower, in PERSON, to be an encourager and point of hope for someone else. I think it was my conversation with him that changed my outlook.

I think one of the reasons, if the not the number one reason, God was so pleased with Solomon’s response – asking for wisdom instead of wealth or long life – was because of Solomon’s focus. It’s also the reason I had a bad day when it was actually a good day. Focus, or said another way, perspective. I argue “Heads,” you argue “Tails.” We’re both talking about the same coin, just from two different angles. If Solomon would have asked for wealth or long life, the focus of those requests would have been himself. He asked for wisdom:

“Therefore give to your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3:9 NKJV)

His focus was towards others, towards the consideration of others. It was not love for himself, but love for others. When I realized that, it was like the veil came off and I remembered so much of what I’d forgotten. It was in that excitement that I wrote the previous blog, trying to capture in words what I was understanding. I think perhaps I did that in haste. So I understand a little more now when Jesus said:

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7)

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10)

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16 Emphasis mine)

neverending story falcorSuddenly, it’s dawning on me that all this miraculous provision and progress lately, I think,  is because not only have I been abiding in Him, seeking Him daily, but that the things I’ve prayed for, asked for, have been to communicate love or serve others in love, over myself. I have made loving others my priority. Worrying about the job, fear of not having money, paying bills, was honestly more of me thinking about myself than anything else.  Today, and I hope all the days following, my focus becomes how I can love others to the greatest of my ability, using whatever skills and talents I have to do so. This feeling, this awareness, is setting me free and I think maybe this is what God had in mind; we take care of the work he has for us, loving his children (each other) and he’ll take care of us. He is the Father. We are the children. Feels like freedom.

Categories: Blog, Commentary | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love > Knowledge

“Don’t tell yourself you can’t lean on someone else, because we all need saving sometimes.”

 

We all need saving sometimes.

I often have found myself making the same mistake over and over. The times I get it right I become aware of just how pervasive this mistake is all around me, not just in my own culture and community, but from what I can tell, in many cultures, many communities. It is the belief that we have to do it on our own, that absolute self-reliance and independence is the goal.

Independence from everything and everyone is not the goal.

I want to keep this short and sweet, so I’ll resist from getting on my soapbox about how our country has steadily, successfully accomplished independence for everyone, from everyone. We don’t know who our neighbors are, we attend a big church, but don’t know, really know, a single person there. We don’t connect at work, we come home, go straight inside and close the door. We have lost community. The finger I’m pointing is at a situation, not a person.

We, myself included, make this mistake of thinking the solutions to our lives exist in our minds. They do not. A voice backs us into a corner, assuring us that we just have to do this on our own, just have to figure it out for ourselves, that we just need to focus more, just need to think harder, work harder, beat our heads against the wall until we figure it out, how to fix something, change something.

If knowledge alone could bring joy and peace, then it would be logical to conclude that the happiest and most peaceful people on earth should be the most educated. There is nothing inherently wrong with the pursuit of academics. I love learning. The fault is created when we put our hope in it. Beyond knowledge, more than books, what we need are sincere relationships and genuine love that overflow, pour out in abundance to each other, because it was first poured into us in abundance.

Love > Knowledge.

Understanding how to use knowledge in accordance with love is wisdom. I believe God blessed Solomon so abundantly when he asked for wisdom over everything else because what Solomon was really doing was putting his concern for others, not himself, in top priority. (1 Kings 3) To and from the heart is where love lives, not as mathematical electromagnetic charges in the brain. Those charges are the result, not the cause. The heart trumps the brain. Reliance upon our own brain and ourselves is entirely circumstantial. Our joy and peace rely on us knowing what to do, on having the correct answer. While our reliance on the heart, which is a reliance on love, can result in joy and peace, as we can be comforted through love, regardless of our circumstances.

We need knowledge. Our mind needs to be renewed. But the thing that will do that is love. Love first, then knowledge.

How do you obtain knowledge? (Think about it a second)

How do you obtain love? (Think about that for a minute)

Love can only be found in a relationship, between at least 2 people. It has to be given and received. We need each other. We need to give to each other and we need to receive from each other. I think the receiving is the hardest part for most of us. We all love to give. It’s much harder to be the one in need, but always remember that you would never be able to give in the first place if someone else wasn’t receiving. To never be open or willing to receive would be hypocritical, saying that you’re allowed to give to others, but others aren’t allowed to give to you. Even our Father, Almighty Creator, who needs nothing from us, gives us free will so that we may choose to give him our love and trust. So, even God receives.

Regardless of what is happening around us, whether we know what to do or not, we can rest safely and securely in the arms of our Father, the one who loves us beyond our comprehension. We can put our trust in Him and not in ourselves, trusting that He will take care of us. When we just don’t know what to do, when we have no control of the circumstances…He does. Trusting in His love for us, we will be comforted, knowing that no matter what happens He has good plans for us.

Maybe that’s why so often, in my challenges and trials, I realize what the challenge really is… is trusting Him a little more, always being asked to stretch a little more, to step outside the comfort zone again. We must never stop growing. It’s that little bit of trust, even the smallest amount, that is like a tiny seed of faith, a mustard seed. It will keep growing and growing and growing…

Take heart friends. Reach out to our Father, give him your worries and fears and he will give you something greater in return.

 

Categories: Blog | Leave a comment

It All Started There

ChattahoocheeI was walking trails near the river within an apartment community here in Atlanta. It’s one of my most favorite places. I was pacing, praying, wondering what was next for us? I wanted to see the fruit of my faith, of such a long and unpredictable journey. I wanted to pray and believe and see. I kept reminding myself of what happened in Rosemary Beach, how foolish it was to think that I could find a rental within my price range in that place. What I needed to pay a month was what they charged for a few days. The market was saturated with vacation rentals thus drastically elevating the cost of living. But on that day I knew what I wanted, I wanted to live there in that fantastic place, and after reading so much about having faith for things prayed for I was going to believe that those things would really happen. If for one day, only one day, I was going to believe to a state of absolute delusion that God would answer my prayer.

He did.

That day was game-changer. Not only did I get offered a place that day, but on that very day I was also offered a promotion that would help me cover new costs. God is an abundant and generous giver.

So, walking those trails a few weeks ago I held onto Rosemary Beach. “God, let it be today. Let today be the day where it starts, when I look back on everything, let today be the very day that I point to and say it all started there.” I walked in circles around and around on those trails, trying to not look like a crazy person talking to themselves. Sometimes I think I need to just buy a bluetooth earpiece so people don’t get weirded out when they see this guy going on and on in the middle of the woods.

Not long after, pondering over my job search – not only not knowing where we were going to live, but also at a loss of how we would pay for everything, anything. Hope Soap sales are good, but not amazing enough to live off and we’re doing our best to reinvest profits instead of eating them – I had the thought pop into my head, seemingly from nowhere, that I should go and ask the property if they were hiring. I did. I shared with them that I didn’t really want to be a leasing agent, but I loved the community, it’s potential and the company. Maybe something that had to do with community events or something?

“Oh that’s the CARES Team, they plan our events.” She tells me where to look online for their job openings. I do. I don’t see anything about CARES Team openings. Then, I get a text from my wife, who knows nothing of the conversation I’ve just had.

“Our friend just told me we need to check out this awesome ministry called CARES Team.”

Pause.

I hear you loud and clear God. Too coincidental, especially when I don’t believe in coincidences anyway. I look into it. They place couples into apartment communities who are responsible for organizing events and taking care of the residents. Additionally, they also act as micro-church, being their for residents and evangelizing in a very relational, non-door knocking, handing out tracks, heartless kind of way and instead a more real, relational, people don’t care what you know unless they know that you care kind of way, the only way I do it. I’m not selling something, I’m introducing someone. Oh, and the apartment is basically free to us AND we get to do something we’re passionate about; love people. (Like 75% off rent)

We apply. A week goes by. Then we get an interview. Then they tell us how our home church needs to be within 10 miles of our placement. It was 26. We had only just started attending, but we really liked it. Another week goes by. We continue praying about everything and ultimately decide to look at other churches. We returned to Passion City, a place we’re familiar with and have been listening to Louie Giglio way back since the days of 7:22 at Northpoint Church. It’s the church I was attending when I made the sincere decision to follow Jesus. 5 minutes into service and I knew this was our church. After all, who says we can’t attend two places? Yes, we need to be really connected into one, but our, my big thing is that our churches need to be connected to each other anyway, instead of all this division.

We let them know of our change of churches. It changes things. We get an email, they’ve found a community they think we’d fit perfectly in! We keep reading the email… it’s the one we’ve been praying for, the one I was in when it all started! We couldn’t believe it, God gave us exactly what we asked for!

This believing thing works!!! And God is so awesome, so generous, so loving, so abundant.

To top it all off that very same day I had noticed one of the restaurants I wanted to work at had posted a now hiring ad. I went in to fill out an application and turn in my resume. The manager was on the phone. So I waited. He hands me an application and goes away while I fill it out. He returns with two copies of my resume and I see a weird look on his face. (I had sent one in when we first arrived in Atlanta, the place being in my top 5 places I wanted to work.) Turns out, he had been on the phone talking to someone associated with a restaurant group I use to work for, he was talking to this guy about needing to hire someone. He had someone in mind who had previously turned in a resume…me. So the reason I had to wait for him was because he was on the phone talking about ME! Even he said it was “intriguing.”

I’m more apt to use the word “orchestrated.” :)

God, you are so awesome. I love the way you work.

Cherry on top of this ridiculously awesome day…I wanted off on the weekends, no Saturdays, no Sundays. Getting this in the restaurant industry is a pretty rare thing, seeing as that is when they are busiest, but somehow it wasn’t a problem, no problem at all.

Thank you Father. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

May this be an encouragement for you all! And know that the story is really even bigger than what we’ve shared. We’ve been praying to start a ministry and have had no idea how it would start in the first place. We still the finances to move out stuff and get situated, actually a somewhat substantial amount. But He didn’t bring us this far for nothing, so I’ll keep fighting, keep believing, keep holding onto to the truth that He loves us so much and He truly does provide. Everything that has happened recently, how it happened, and who we’ve suddenly been connected to in the process…I’m really believing that day a few weeks ago really will be the day I look back to and say “It all started there.” Godspeed guys.

Categories: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Crazy Dreams in a Mad World

So what now God?

Do you feel stuck?

I did.

It must be what Neo (Matrix; Keanu Reeves) felt like. Looking around at the world surrounding me, how big the sky is, how the wind feels against me, the monotony of traffic and what seemed to be meaningless days, one after the other, like ants marching in circles. No purpose. Just a machine. Something inside, maybe so miniscule, so microscopic…but there…questions the status quo.

Is this it?

As if something inside feels unsatisfied, something doesn’t feel right. Something is missing. Shouldn’t there be more than this? This place, it’s like the Matrix, it looks real, it feels real, but something is off, something is missing. It is but a shadow of the truth.

Instead of red pill or blue pill I offer you a seed. One, small acorn.acorn in hand

Swallow it. It is the only way.

What you see now, this world that surrounds you, you’re right, something is off. Yes, there is something better, there is something you are not seeing and if you swallow the acorn, if the soil is good, you will begin to see…begin to feel, hear, sense a dimension you’ve only hoped and wondered about.

What was once only a question you will begin to see as the only answer.

If you accept what I offer, if you swallow this acorn and the soil within you is good, it will grow and it will help you see things, amazing things.

Mark 4:26-28 NIV

Jesus said “…A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.”

Ever been told something that surprised you, where your response was something along the line of “Wow, I never knew that!”? Whoever told you that just gave you something, we call it knowledge or awareness. The first time you heard about Jesus, the story of salvation, about this idea of getting into heaven, this belief, this concept was like someone giving you a tiny bit of knowledge or awareness. It’s like someone gave you a seed, whether it grows or not…well that’s another blog.

Feel free to share. When was the first time you heard about this Jesus thing?

Categories: Blog | Tags: | Leave a comment

Stronger than the Storm

We can see it forming in the distance, the clouds have grown darker, an eerie green hue about them and there, not as far as we would like, we see the clouds begin to swirl, we feel our heart rate increase and the funnel begins to take shape. We look around us, surveying our environment, aware of the coming destruction. You seek a place to hide, a place of refuge, you run to our neighbor’s house…they’ve locked the doors, they won’t let you in. You run to another neighbor’s house, they’ve done the same. You catch one looking between the blinds, the focus jumping back and forth between you and the coming onslaught. Your eyes beg for help. They don’t.

Your heart is breaking, being torn in the same way the empty fields now are. It’s suddenly very quiet and everything seems still, almost frozen. It seems the very world has stopped turning. The pain is real. Its depth is speechless. A trance has enclosed you. You stare, motionless, at nothing. The thoughts in your head are unorganized, almost formless, just the heartache.

Just the heartache.

twisterThe wind picks up and reminds you of the storm that is coming, a twister growing in size and immensity. Slowly, feeling every footstep you walk over to a steel pipe protruding from the ground, rounding over and returning back into it. You sit between the two pipes wrapping your arms and legs around one. The wind picks up speed. You can feel the dirt hitting your face, the sound of the wind across your ears getting louder and louder. You hear boards cracking, breaking off, varying whistles of the air whipping in and out and around everything surrounding you. The tears coming from the edge of your eyes are immediately blown away.

You hold tighter, but the wind is stronger than you. You legs have lost hold and with every ounce of strength you have you struggle to maintain grip around the steel pipe. You are in the very depths of the storm, it has lifted you from the ground and you hang upside down in mid-air, feeling your whole world has turned upside down, praying for the strength not to let go. Your crying comes out in moans and gasps, in between the grunts and screams of hanging on, but you don’t hear any of it, the wind is too loud, it overcomes your very voice. All you hear is the Voice inside, so quiet amidst such chaos. It is almost imperceptible. It is felt, sensed, more than it is heard.

And then it is over.

More tears.

The day is over. You stand in the darkness and look around. Houses that once stood are gone, trees are broken. The moon and stars are the only light and their peace now resides where once chaos reigned. The silence and stillness are sanctuary to you and gazing out across the torn land you see that you are not alone. There alighted in moonlight are a scattered few. You’re not ready to meet them or talk to them, but you will.

He will ground you and be your strength when all else seems in turmoil. We are never alone. Hold on, the dawn is coming.

Categories: Blog | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A little boy pulls weeds

He loves us more than we can comprehend. It’s like…

A little boy is outside in the backyard with his father. He loves his dad. He loves his dad because his dad loves him, in word and action. In that moment he decides that he wants to do something for his dad, some gesture of love. He looks around the yard not knowing what to do and he sees weeds growing in the gardens.

“Daddy, I’m going to pull weeds for you!”

The Father doesn’t say yes, but he doesn’t say no.

The little boy, not hearing no, runs to the dirt and begins pulling out the weeds one by one. It is not long until he starts to become frustrated. It’s then he feels the hot sun on his back, feels the thirst in his throat, and sees the little progress he’s made.

“Why do I have to do this?” He says under his breath. “I do not like this.”

But he loves his father and he doesn’t want to let him down. He doesn’t want to give up so he swallows the saliva in his mouth, wipes the sweat from his brow and keeps pulling weed after weed after weed. Not much longer his frustration returns and it has grown.

“I hate pulling weeds! I can’t stand this! That’s it!” he says standing up and throwing his handful of pulled plants on the ground. He doesn’t turn around to his father immediately, he’s realizing he can’t do it, he just can’t do it. He’s giving up. His head drops and he lets the guilt and shame fall on him. Slowly, without lifting his eyes, he goes to his father, who remains where he was before.

“I’m sorry.” The little boy says barely audible.

“It’s okay.” His father says.

“I just can’t do it.”

The Father lifts his sons chin to make eye contact. “It’s okay son. I never said you had to do that. That was your decision. I knew you wouldn’t like it.”

The boy, surprised by this, suddenly feels relieved, then angry. “If you knew I wouldn’t like it, then why didn’t you say something?! Why didn’t you stop me?!”

Calmly the Father responds, “Because I know who you are and I know sometimes you need to learn things on your own so you will remember them. Then, you will know who you are.”

(Wait, stop, go back and read that again. Slowly.)

“So…I’m not in trouble?” He asks with uncertainty.

“No, you are free to do pretty much whatever you’d like. If I want you for something or think you’re in danger I’ll tell you.”

The little boy as if announcing to himself says “I’m not in trouble, I’m free.” And with that hugs his father and runs off to play. He’s going to his Legos, his most favorite thing to do and thinking again on how much he loves his dad, decides that he’s going to build a house just for him.

I learned this recently. We are free. We are so free. Free from guilt and shame and carrying the baggage of decisions long gone. God is not only the God of our needs, he is the incredible, loving Father of our desires. Yes, sometimes we have to do things we don’t like and sometimes the only reason we’re in prison is because we won’t walk out. We don’t have to stay there. Freedom is right there, in Him, all we have to do is take that first step out.

Categories: Blog | Leave a comment

The Lighting of the Beacon

Some lessons costs more than others.

We finally succumbed and hit the road for the second part of our Hope Tour, spinning our wheels and procrastinating for a bit, then feeling the pressure build until we finally left and headed west. When we arrived in Arkansas friends of a friend welcomed us into their home with loving arms and we felt like family by the end of the night. The entire experience there was like a huge gift from God. The people, the connections, the new account, we even got our car fixed! (Minor suspension issue) It was incredible and the coincidences lined up so frequently and to such a degree that by the time we left we had the impression this was going to be just like our last tour, just with the blessings and favor from God jacked up to the next level.

So we weren’t ready for the change.

We thought we were headed to Texas for awhile. We weren’t. We weren’t ready for the three days of driving ahead of us. We weren’t ready when God said not to stop, but to keep driving. Nor were we ready for the message we were led to, a message that wrecked me in a wonderful way, that completely exposed a lie I was believing and then in its place left an abundance of joy and thanksgiving to God. (Here’s that awesome message) God is not only the God of our needs, he is the Father of our wants. He loves to bless us. I didn’t realize at the moment that he was teaching us something because we were going to be using our new education immediately.

We kept heading west, mile after mile until finally crossing into California. We were going to head to San Diego.

“No.”

So, we prayed. North. We went north. We went to Yosemite and I saw a sight grander than any I had seen before. Gods goodness was just pouring out on us. When the pull came to go to Redding, home of Bethel church and a place we hoped to visit on our trip, we shouted with joy and arrived there that night. The next day we went to the church, to a service, met amazing people and spent the day at the Alabaster House, a place for prayer, open 24 hours a day.

The problem: We were running out of money.

We did run out of money.

We had nowhere to stay. We prayed fervently. Gods goodness had become so apparent. I believed more than ever that not only could he provide, but he wanted to provide, so we kept fighting back the fear and holding onto faith that something would come through.

We slept in the front seats of our car that night.

There was so much confusion and every emotion ran through us like a hurricane; anger, sadness, hope, brokenness, shame, pride…

What happened?

When I awoke the next morning a thought was there waiting for me. By late afternoon as we sat at Starbucks, using a gift card to buy coffee, I realized my mistake. I saw a man holding a cardboard sign. He needed help. After the night before I had a new found soft spot for the hard-up. I told my wife I was going to give something to him. She dared me to give more. (She’s pretty amazing like that. She also knows I love a good dare.) So I did. I talked to him. And then, in my own tiny way, I did something I’d never done with a homeless person before…I related. Whole new ball game.

I had screamed to God for help, yet for many reasons, the desire to see a miracle, the pride in me, I had not reached out to any persons. The moment I opened up this one person came immediately to mind. I contacted them. There were no speeches, no reprimands, no judgement of any kind. What came was such an abundance of love and generosity that I found myself in tears in the middle of Starbucks. 3 nights at a nice hotel. $200 for meals. $250 for other expenses. I, a writer and often verbose interlocutor, was at a complete loss of words, utterly speechless. Lesson learned God. Thank you.

If rain was the goodness of God, then I was drowning in an ocean.

I can’t dream of creating this business, can’t dream of someday changing the whole system of capitalism into a platform for giving, expecting millions of people to be willing to receive if I myself would not be willing. Sometimes we give. Sometimes we receive. The glory of good exist in both places.

Someday, I hope in the very near future, to be back on the other side, but right now, I publicly state that we need help. Honestly and openly I am here reaching out to whomever would be willing to. On the right side of this blog is a ‘Donate’ button. It’s a hard thing for me to do and I think of my friend standing on the corner outside of Starbucks and wonder how hard it must be for him to do it day after day. There is a new fire in my soul for our mission. It’s become so much more personal to me now. The lesson was hard, but I thank God and give him praise for his good works in us.

Thank you to any who help, thank you for your prayers, thank you for your continued following. These things, large and small, mean much more than you know. God bless and Godspeed.

 

Categories: Blog | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 204 other followers