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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The End of The Beginning of The Beginning


I began this blog project in October of 2010, when my roommate Dan Stanley told me how much he loved blogging. So I tried it out. It was a good idea.

I cringe looking at those first posts, but then again I realize how much they are a testimony to the grace of God in taking me from utter foolishness to hopefully less-than-utter foolishness. I'm sure that in three years, I'll be looking at these current posts in the same way. I have so appreciated all of the feedback, comments, "likes," and retweets, and I hope that it keeps on keeping on!

...just at a new URL.

I say that this is the end of the beginning of the beginning because this blog site was the beginning of the beginning of the beginning of my writing career. Because I've been at it for a few years, I can't say I am still at the beginning of the beginning of the beginning. Now that I am closing this chapter, it only seems right to say that I am at the end of the beginning of the beginning.

I hope that makes sense. 

But it doesn't have to.

That's why I have a new site.

Check it out.


He is my hope. Please make Him yours.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Good News, Meet America

I don't like posting school assignments on my blog. If I did, I would be thought of as an ostentatious, pretentious Bible school student. I wouldn't be able to live with myself, knowing that the truth had been exposed. Oh well. My cover is now blown.

But seriously. This was a reflection on a reading from Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics for my doctrine class. I love how Bavinck writes in a way that 21st century American Christians can understand and currently relate to. The assignment for class was to either 1) seek to theologically answer a question from the reading, or 2) interact with the ideas in a way that would apply them to life today. Here is my attempt at modern-day application.


Bavinck begins this assigned reading by restating his conclusion from the previous chapter that all societies have an understanding of their need for redemption. In his hypothesis, societies that are more culturally advanced feel this need more deeply. I understood what he said to mean that the more easily a society has access to ease, comfort, and pleasure, and the more time a society has to pursue those things, the more clearly that society will understand that its self-salvation projects cannot save.

This premise begs the question, “Do lesser-developed cultures actually feel their need for reconciliation less?” Though anything stated in a short essay will result in gross overgeneralization, we can know that some of the most fruitful Gospel ministries seem to take place in parts of the world where the people have very limited technology and rudimentary amenities. Perhaps, all societies are aware of their need for reconciliation, but in different ways. All men know that God exists and are universally under condemnation (Romans 1:18-19); lesser developed cultures seem more “aware” of their need for reconciliation in that they have not delved the depths of depravity and are a more fertile soil for the Gospel to take root; advanced societies are “aware” in the sense that they have delved the depths of the insufficiency of depravity, but that “awareness” may or may not result in repentance.

One might then ask, “What about the advancement of a culture makes it feel this need so deeply?” To answer this question, one might survey the avenues by which an advanced culture seeks to satiate itself, thusly dry heaving on that which cannot satisfy. Three examples are 1) the obsession with athletics, 2) the pressure become more highly educated, and 3) the accessibility to pornography and all kinds of sexual indulgence.

America (and a large part of the West) places inordinate importance on the professional athlete. This seems to be indicative a culture that seeks to worship something or someone, and has the resources to make demigods of the physically exceptional. This idolatry is evident when an “A-list” athlete (or musician) makes a big mistake, and the civilized world gets extremely upset, as though someone they thought incapable of such a mistake has done the unthinkable. The worship of their god(dess) was shown for what it was. Unsatisfying.

The emphasis on education seems indicative of a culture that worships the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. While there are truly many brilliant secular minds who have discovered incredible complexities in the secular world, it is curious that almost every one of them seem solemn, sullen, and completely dissatisfied with their station in life.

The accessibility of sexual gratification, namely pornography, seems indicative of a culture that seeks to solve the problem of dissatisfaction with pleasure. What is interesting is that those who delve the depths of the dissatisfaction of sexual depravity actually experience not a decreased desire for sex, but a morbid increasing of a desire for that which is progressively more depraved.

I believe that these hunger pangs the West (in particular) experiences are great opportunities to present the satisfaction of Christ and His Gospel. Unlike athletes or musicians, there is the God-Man who will never make a mistake. He will never disappoint. His exceptionality is so much more worth our scrutiny than Kobe Bryant or John Mayer. Instead of pursuing education, we can tell the world that man will never know enough to extricate himself from the guilt of sin or discover enough scientific theories to escape our immanent death and judgment before a thrice-holy God. Instead of filling the body with sexual pleasure, we can preach the all-satisfying nature of the sacrifice of Christ. The favor of God rests upon us, because He sees His Son’s righteousness covering us. Sex numbs. Christ enlivens. Pleasure dulls the mind. The Gospel breathes life into the driest and most parched regions of the soul. We just need to proclaim the message.

In conclusion, some cultures may be have traveled further down the road of corruption than others. That is a statement of fact. However, no matter how far some society has progressed down that road, all are responsible before God for the separation between God and man. Furthermore, Christians are responsible to engage the culture where it stands, pointing out how hopeless and helpless every other-than-Gospel solution is in comparison to the sufficiency of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, for He alone gives life.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Maturing into Manhood: The Great Ones

Reformed theology has been proven time and again as a wonderful servant of the Church. A worldview that seeks to continually see the hand of God in all things for the furtherance of the Good can only aid in an ever-expanding view of the power and majesty of the God who, in an act of pure mercy and condescension, thought it right to redeem my life from the pit and rescue me from my headlong sprint towards eternal damnation.

As with all systematized ideologies, no matter how accurate of a picture of reality they present, Reformed theology can have particular aspects emphasized to the detriment of other parts--thus skewering one's understanding of the way that the world actually is. One such skewering occurs in the area of sanctification. For example, one might so love and embrace the doctrine of the sovereignty of God in the act of salvation, he or she might then misapply all-God-ness to the process of sanctification.

This misapplication would see the sovereignty and affect of God's work in the life of the believer in such a way that every single person is on level ground in relation to God. This is true from a positional sense--facedown at the foot of the cross, none are more mighty, none are more capable, none are more worthy than anyone else. However, on a horizontal level, there are incredible differences between persons.

I believe that the Lord saved me in the spring of 2008. At the point of my conversion, I was in no way any more worthy of salvation than the eighty-year-old brother who had been walking with the Lord for three of my lifetimes. However, I would be an fool to think that the depth, sincerity, and steadfastness of our faiths were very similar at all.

It is not as though this were the only subsection of Reformed theology (or any theology, for that matter) that must be smoothed out and broadened. Emphasizing one aspect of anything to the exclusion of its counterpart always leads to great misunderstandings in all other kinds of ways.

So, in speaking about "great men," there is an obstacle to overcome; Western culture has looked to public figures in any arena as the functional saviors of mankind. These are the men commonly called "great." If I were to use the term "great" in this  self-accomplished sense, then all lovers of God and defenders of truth should quickly point out that I am ascribing something to people who have ultimately done nothing to stand where they do. Such an accusation against me would be just.

However, I see immense value in labeling men and women as great insofar as God is recognized as having produced this "greatness." If God is one recognized as producing what is great in a man, the criteria for "greatness" is then much different than the criteria for some talented person who has attained some level of notoriety.

If God is the great-maker, His great man is one who He has caused to stand above others. He may or may not be known by many. He may or may not be financially wealthy. He may or may not have many skills, talents, or abilities. But God's great man is one who knows and is known by God. He is one whose time in prayer yields fruit. His intimate knowledge of his Father is evidenced by the insights he gains when basking in the Word; his advice and wisdom are the natural overflows from his time with his Friend. God's great man is rich in faith. He is not one who worries about tomorrow, because he has seen the provision of his Lord in the past; his present and future hope is grounded in past grace given him by his loving Dad. God's great man is a hard worker. Whether or not he is particularly gifted intellectually, physically, musically, or whatever the ability du jour so happens to be, he sees that God has given him a work to do, a will to obey, and a woman to love. For this man, joy isn't found by looking for the next shiny new toy, or the next thrill of life; joy is found in being satisfied in what the Lord has put before him each day, doing every single thing as for the Lord and not for men.

God's great man sees suffering as a good gift from a loving Father for the molding of him into the image of the Christ. Instead of hiding from suffering (extreme) or wallowing in it (extreme), he takes the affliction from God in stride; he knows that hard times will befall him. He knows that he will be bruised but not broken, struck down but not destroyed. This surety in the decree of God enables him to absorb an inhuman amount of difficulty, because he does not find his strength in his human will. His strength is otherworldly. It is a truly great strength.

Greatness is a high order. Greatness is not bestowed easily, and all human efforts to attain it are by nature self-defeating. If true greatness is seen only by a changed heart softened by God alone, no man can become truly great by putting on some great display. Because the truths of Reformed theology hold fast, there is no way that any one man can become great in himself. In fact, I would go so far to say that a prerequisite for becoming a great man is not caring about becoming "great" at all. However, that which makes a great man are simply the characteristics of a heart that has been loved and therefore loves its Savior.

What is the solution to a lack of greatness? Beg the Lord for the heart of a lion and the humility of a bug to pursue the life of a man in joyful submission to the real Man, the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

Deus Spes Nostra

Friday, December 14, 2012

Like Father, Like Son (or Daughter)

Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? 
He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? 
He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? 
He who teaches man knowledge—
the LORD—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.
(Psalm 94:8-11 ESV)

God speaks baby-talk to us. He uses word pictures that compute in our ant-like brians [sic]. For example, I have asked the question, "Does God have actual eyes, or should I understand phrases like 'the eyes of the Lord' as merely His way of connecting with our understanding of existence?"

I think Psalm 94 answers the question: we are fools if we do not believe that God's creation is a direct reflection of who He is and what He experiences.

Because this conclusion is inductive rather than deductive, I want to be careful to not claim things about Him that He does not claim about Himself; but as stated in verse 8, I don't want to be a fool and miss what He has done plainly and clearly. 

The argumentation utilized in this passage in fantastic: 1) God creates; 2) That which He has created is a reflection of His character; 3) We can look at creation and conclude things about Him by our faculties of observation. 

(verse 9) God did not randomly give humanity ears; He gave ears because He wanted us to know that He is a God who hears when we cry out to Him.
(verse 9) God did not randomly give humanity eyes; He gave eyes because He wanted us to know that He is a God who observes the thoughts and acts of mankind.
(verse 10) God did not randomly give humanity the ability to comprehend facts and internalize truth; He made us thought-filled beings because He is thought-filled. He is knowledge's author; He therefore has thoughts, and knows that ours in comparison to His are infinitely less stable.

I paused for a second, and tried to apply this logic to other characteristics of our post-first coming experience here on earth. Here's what I came up with:
  • God created smiles; therefore He is a God who knows how to be happy.
  • God created the heart; therefore He is a God who is well-acquainted with a full range of emotions, from rapturous enjoyment to core-wounding sadness.
  • God created the voice; therefore He is a God who is well-acquainted with the joy of music.
  • God created the taste buds; therefore He is a God who is well-acquainted with the delight of sweet things and the distaste of bitter things.
  • God created sex; therefore He is a God who is well-acquainted with relational intimacy and pleasure.
  • God created tears; therefore He is a God who knows how to cry.
  • God created arms; therefore He is a God who knows how to hug.
I am thankful for Psalm 94. I hope that my mind will continue to be trained in the skill of seeing the depth of the character and person of God in all of the things into which He has imbued Himself. 

To answer the question I posed at the top of the post, it seems like He created the functions of humanity to show us what He is like, just more colorfully than black (or red, depending on your Bible) words on a white page.

How I want to see this marvelously created universe a little more true to the colors with which the Master Painter has been pleased to use!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ruts as Footholds

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20 ESV)
Last winter in Minnesota spoiled me. If I remember correctly, we didn't get a snowstorm of more than, like, four inches. This past weekend was the first of likely many snowstorms that will descend upon this Minnesotan metropolis.

Snow is pretty. There's no way that I can deny the beauty of this frozen, sparkling white garment when it covers everything exposed to the elements. There is a supernatural stunning-ness that overwhelms a helpless man, woman, or child when eyes are opened to absorb a scene that is literally impossible for any human or technological device to accomplish (insert condescending comment about fake snow here). These storms are powerful witnesses of the God who can cover the universe in ice by thinking a thought.

I lay the last two paragraphs as foundation; snow and ice storms are displays of majesty. They are not the death knells which we car-driving humanity are so often tempted to see them as. But, as with anything majestic, there is a righteous fear of that which has the ability to annihilate. Tsunamis, volcanoes, and earthquakes are examples of such magnificent displays of the power of God. Though it is beautiful to watch them do their thing, we know that if something went wrong, we'd be dead.

Though wonderful, driving through this colorless magnificence can prove to be an exercise in self-inflicted anxiety and heart-wrenching terror--especially in the middle of the road at night.

During one of these last few snowy evenings, I was walking (slipping) home and saw an SUV that had gotten itself stuck. I wasn't able to see how it happened, but I assume that it was stopped at the stop sign and accelerated too fast to gain any traction on the road which was covered in a few inches of wet, compacted snow. The faster he gunned the engine, the faster his rear-left tire spun; and consequently, the more friction he applied to the ground directly underneath his tire. The heat from the friction was melting away a tire-sized spot on the ground which made the SUV's small movements even smaller and less effective.

By the time I reached the driver-side window, he had stopped trying to move the car and his friend was getting out on the other side to try to push. I got behind the car and attempted to help with the driver's friend. One of the problems was that I had my dress shoes on. I had less than no traction. I was more of a liability than an asset. Thankfully, the SUV was able to rock enough to partially slide out of the rut that it had created. Because the rut was a solid two to three inches deep, I took used it to my advantage. I dug my heel into the rut, and applied that leverage to drive the force of my push into the small foothold that I had found. For about four seconds, I was able to push with most of my energy as the SUV struggled and skidded before the tire finally caught something onto which it could grab, and was then freed from its limbo-bound state of going-nowhereness.

I walked away from the situation thinking one thing: "If that guy hadn't spent a few minutes spinning out, thereby creating a deeper hole for himself, I wouldn't have had the foothold to anchor my push to get him out."

It clicked. The Lord creates calamities (Is. 45:7). The Lord wills that His children suffer (1 Peter 4:19). The Spirit leads us into the desert to be tempted (Luke 4:1). Our God digs ruts for us to fall into, and furthermore, He uses those same ruts to bring us to places and see things that we could have never seen otherwise. He uses the ruts that endlessly frustrate us in order to show us how much greater He is. He shows us how much more there is to know of true reality. If that SUV hadn't created that rut for itself, I wouldn't have been able to push it off the ice. If the Lord didn't lead us through the ditches and gutters of life, we would be tempted to think and act on thoughts that do not represent the way that the world actually is.

No rut is the same. They all look different, and each teaches us different things about His mountain-crushing power and his life-redeeming mercy. I'm thankful that He grows in each of His children appreciation for and patience through the ruts. 

As with all things, some ruts run deeper than others--and nobody ever knows when our car will fall into (or create) one of them. However, what I can posit for certain is the truth stated in Genesis 50:20. It's not the case that the Lord takes a derailed train and rights its course before it totally flies off the tracks. In actuality, He sends the train into a skid to save it from destruction. He doesn't take a rut that happened accidentally and then miraculously make it useful. He wanted the rut to happen because the rut was the means of His plan to make everything turn out for good. For better. For best

I know that these are scary words. But it's been proven true in my life. I know things will get worse and life will continue with increasingly deep ditches, but I know that He's been faithful to manifest the surest footholds in my life in the form of the most jarring ruts.

I really don't get this God of mine. I don't understand why He does the things He does. I wouldn't have chosen my experience on earth to work like this. Then again, if I were God, I wouldn't be able to cause my children to bawl tears of thankfulness like He has done with me. 

Those tears have flowed most freely and thankfully in the lowest points of those ruts.

I get scared sometimes thinking about His literally un-understandable overwhelmingness. He's kinda like a snowstorm. 



Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving (2012)

I wrote a post like this last year, and wanted to do it again this year. This that post, I presented a defense for recognizing such people who the Lord has used to refresh my spirit. If you would like to see that defense, click here.

I will probably forget very important people to me, but these are the people that God has put on my heart to thank personally for serving me in the last year, so if I didn’t include you, I’m sorry!


Thank you Dan Bunker for all the 3AM texts message conversations. Thank you for all the opportunities you've given me to play around in your garage. Thank you for all the 10PM steak dinners. Thank you for just listening to me tell you how much I have no idea what's going on. I remember that one night, sitting in your rocking chair, when you suggested that I sign up for the full credit load this semester. The Lord used your speaking into my situation that night to really set my life on the trajectory that it is right now. I was so glad to know I could just hang out with you guys and wind down, get a new perspective on things, and tell stories about our "15" year old friend Shawn. I am not kidding you--I literally remember that night talking about those kids and I still will start laughing out loud. As I sit at McDonald's and write this, I am right now laughing at all the hysterical things that happened that day.
Me: Gabe, could you come help me throw this wood away?
Shawn: Gabe was actually going to play with me just now... buuttt...
Me: What was that?
Shawn: Gabe was actually going to play with me just now... buuttt...

Thank you Meredith Bunker for all the lunch breaks sitting at your counter, sharing my emotional struggles and your gracious ear and thoughtful responses. I was really glad to have access to your perspective through which I was able to better understand all the stuff that felt like a tornado swirling around me. The Lord was incredibly gracious to give me a second home at the 247. I know things aren't perfect. But the Lord really used you guys to protect me from many a dangerous thought. I am blessed in a way that I don't see many other twenty-year-olds by my relationship with y'all. I'm very thankful.

Thank you Dan Castine for your tender heart towards me this summer. The Lord has taught me much from watching your life and example. I am reminded of your kindness to me every day I turn on the ignition to transport myself to work. You have been faithful in praying for me and letting me know in very visible ways that you care about me. I am blessed to have men in my life like you. 

Thank you Eliot Delorme for being my ex-roommate. I want you to hear the emphasis on the "roommate" part and not so much on the "ex" part. I hope u is see it, if u no wut I be sayin, döh. The Lord has been so good to give me a brother like you who I can be a legitimate idiot with. Seriously. Our car rides are some of the most dumb and the most enjoyable times I've had since I've been here this semester. It is incredibly rare to find someone who I can have such great, deep conversations with and be so uplifted in my faith in the Lord and at the same time, have more fun with you than with almost anyone. The Lord is really good to me to give me you as a friend, especially one who takes up his crib back in tha 781 about 1.25 hours from my crib. Trust me. I do see were u is at döh.

Thank you Joey Ertsos for being my go to guy, especially this time last year. Man, we've come quite a long way. One of the reasons I loved the summer of 2012 in all the difficulty that it presented was our McDonald's hangout times. I've been really encouraged by your growth in humility and your devotion to the things of the Lord. It's been like basically fifteen weeks since our last McDonald's hangout and I still really miss it, bro. I can't wait to continue to see all that He does in your life as we continue to progress as friends and kindred spirits who long for His work in and through our lives. The Lord was really gracious and kind to give us that weekend in Maine back in 2010. I hope there are still many more years to come. 

Thank you Ryan Griffith for the professor, counselor, friend, and in many ways, big brother that you have been to me these almost three years. I can't explain to you the gratefulness I have for the Lord's providing hand and to you for your heart of grace towards me. I am blessed like few other men to have the unique friendship that we share. To be honest with you, I often feel like I get the good part of this friendship. I guess that's grace. For which I'm thankful.

Thank you Dale Gruber for being the buddy that every boy needs. You've seen the brokenness. You've seen the joy. You've been there for me when I've needed to skip Hebrew. You've shared the glory of Krezface Live at the Glastonbury with me. You've seen the bottom fall out. You've seen the Lord lift me up. You've seen the Lord sustain me. Even if we weren't such close friends, I would be thankful for you based on the sheer amount of time that we have walked together through the thick and thin. Call it selfish, but I'm glad I get a friend like you.

Thank you Matt Johnson for being the in-the-trenches brother I've so needed this semester. I love the parallel lessons that we are learning together. It's a unique thing to have hit it off so quickly and get as deep as we have in the really short time that we've had together. The Lord has been very gracious to me in giving me you as a housemate. I can't wait to look back at this season with you and marvel in His goodness to us in all the ways that we will be able to see so clearly at that time (I hope). I'm looking forward to the fight with you, brother.

Thank you Brad Kresge for all the couchside conversations as we tried to fool ourselves into thinking we were getting something done. I am incredibly glad that the Lord restored our friendship when He did, to the level that He did. I'll never forget our conversation somewhere in February (I think) when you preached the sovereignty of God to me like nobody had before. I regularly look back at that time and see how true your exhortation was. I am so grateful for the massive part that you have played in opening doors for the Lord to go to work in my life. Because of your friendship, I am not the man I used to be. 

Thank you Gabe Leake for being an example to me with your servant's heart. You joyfully see and meet needs. You take the opportunities to help your brothers and sisters without looking to be thanked. You get stuff done that couldn't be done without you and nobody knows. I love that about you. I look up to you in many ways. I am really thankful for that conversation when you pursued me and asked me how I was doing in some pretty specific ways because you care about my soul. The Lord is good to me to put brothers in my life like you. I pray for you and really want to see Him continue to make you a man who is continually known by selfless, others-loving service.

I thank the Lord for you Kevin McClure and the intensity with which He has used you to grow in the nurture and admonition of Him. Through you, the Lord has taught me a plethora of lessons. I find myself starting to act like you in many of the ways that you comport yourself around this basement. As you have said and I agree, I learn just as much if not more from your method than your message. I can count on one hand the men who the Lord has used in my life to grow me in my pursuit of Him and my love of the brethren in the way that He has used you to that end. I am so grateful to Him for that, and I am so thankful to you for not quenching the work and the conviction of the Spirit in your heart that would limit the grace flowing through you. We could get off on a discussion concerning the theology of the way that the Spirit uses willing and unwilling vessels, but we'll save that for some midnight conversation before you move out. 

Thank you Mark O'Neill for using the heart of encouragement with which the Lord has gifted you. I count myself very blessed to have a friend like you who both encourages and rebukes me like you do. You have been there since the days of our rides down Park Avenue on the way to class last semester as I would bemoan my one, two, and even sometimes three "problems" at a time (I'm sure you know what I mean), and you have listened so graciously, encouraging me and giving me the slap in the face that I needed then and still need so often nowadays. Thank you.

Thank you Kyle Schmitz for the countless hours at Maria's and all of the car rides and all of the free coffees that we have shared together. When I consider our friendship, I am surprised at the parallel nature of our lives. We have experienced many similar things at very similar times, and you have verbalized so many of my thoughts about these experiences in ways that I could not. I know we have shared mountained joys and valleyed sorrows, but the clarity that the Lord has given you in these times have served me in ways that I don't think you will ever know. I am so blessed to have a big brother like you care enough about my soul to keep up with me even when I don't call or text you for weeks at a time. I am very thankful.

Thank you Pastor Chris Smith for spending much of your summer thinking with and about me, pouring into me and giving me the myriad of opportunities to lead, which were really a lot of opportunities to fail. I've been telling people for months that, in a small but immensely important way, the Lord used my internship this summer to give me a real-life understanding of what life in ministry will be like. I know that I only dipped my toe in the water, but through your gracious servant's heart, I think that if the Lord wills, I will be only this much less surprised when I am faced with real life in ministry. I recognize the blessing that the Lord has bestowed on me in giving me the relationship with my pastor that I have. He is so good to me, and I hope that He continues to use you in the way that He has--as one of the primary grace ministers in my life. 

Thank you Dan Soukup for so many things; a blog post on this day will not suffice. But. Here's what I got. As far as I can see, you know me pretty much better than anyone here in MN by virtue of simply the amounts of time that we've been able to grow together. We have talked about everything and nothing time after time after time. We've shared boisterous laughter and we've shared deep sadness. The Lord was inordinately gracious to me in granting me a friend like you. I love having a guy who is as close to me as you are, and at the same time, having that guy be a man who I respect as much as I respect your direction in life and your heart for pursuing the Lord and serving your brothers and sisters. I don't say this tritely--I feel truly honored to be able to watch your life as closely as the Lord has granted me the ability to do so. 

Thank you Barb Waldemar for all the text messages asking to come talk to you in the middle of busy mornings. I know how much you have to do, and I know how "J" you are. Keeping those things that I know about you in mind, I am super grateful that you took as much time out of your days to talk with me and hear me out and give me open and honest feedback all those times when I felt so clouded--especially because I know that those were some of your busiest times. The Spirit poured care into my life, especially during that week when my eyes looked like zombie eyes. Thank you.

Thank you Jim Waldemar for being an amazing example of what a man should be like. Though the season of our interaction was short, I have a bragged on you to many a man about how blessed I was to learn from you. I will never forget the grace that you showed me that Sunday morning in the front room. I know I said it then, but I will again say that I have rarely been so amazed by the tact and care that the Lord displayed through you that day. I have often prayed that He would give me the ability to see as clearly as you did through that stretch of a couple weeks. I can say with a heart full of honesty that I would be honored to become a portion of the man that the Lord has made you to be. Thank you.

Thank you Whitney Waldemar for showing me who you are. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for loving Jesus more than anything. Thank you for not being afraid to say the hard words. Thank you for being a nearly unbelievable example of faithfulness to me over the last seven months. Thank you for letting me appropriate both some of your poetic and some of your prosaic words. Thank you for giving me the honor of having dated you.

--- Now the family ---

Thank you Matthew for being a fun little brother! It seems like it started last winter that we started to really start getting along, and I’m really thankful for that! It seems like it took forever, but we finally realized that we actually both like music. What a weird thought, huh? I really enjoyed sharing a room with you this summer, and am looking forward to it again in less than a month! As I look at other people my age, it’s not often that two siblings are really pretty close when they are six years apart, but I think that you and I are close, and I’m thankful for that. Even though we don’t talk very much at all, I look forward to screaming out Switchfoot songs on the top bunk in your room and just being dumb. But, I also love that we can have real conversations too—that seems rare to me, and I’m really thankful for it!

Thank you Philip for hanging out with me this summer! You probably know better than anyone how difficult it is for the three of us to, like, get along at like the same time. But this summer seems like it was the closest to that that we have ever had! I am really thankful that you and I were able to play on the same summer league team this year—I had such a blast! I remember when I was playing at Fellowship, planning for the day that you and I would be able to play on the same team, and it finally happened! …Except it’s only four years after we thought it would. I am also really thankful for the work that the Lord is doing in your life. As I get updates from mom and dad, I see that you are really doing your best at working through situations and wanting to be an honorable man through the process. I a thankful that the Lord has given me a brother like you.

Thank you Mom for the hours upon hours of praying for me. If there is one habit that I would like to steal from you, it’s your faithfulness in prayer. I like to hear stories of people who are what some have called “prayer warriors,” but I get to have an example like that in my mom. I am really blessed to be able to see your example from so close up. I am also really grateful in all the work that the Lord has done in our relationship. He has given so much grace from where things were when I was fifteen that I have absolutely no way of understanding it except by a divine intervention… oh wait. I am so grateful to have you as my mom, not some other person’s mom, who in all reality, would probably have appealed to the Old Covenant law to have me stoned like ten years ago for my rebellion. But He gives more grace, and I’m thankful for the place that He has us right now. He is very good, and I am very thankful.

Thank you Dad. Wow. It’s been quite a year. I’ve gained some close friends and I’ve lost some close friends, but you have neither come nor gone. You’ve simply stayed. You’ve listened to me babble on and on in excitement, you’ve heard me babble on and on in stress, and you’ve seen and heard me cry in some of the hardest of those times. I’m so thankful. I know some really godly men who love the Lord and want to be conformed to His image, but many of them don’t really have fathers who do what you do, serve like you serve, or love like you love. I’m so thankful that I get a father who loves the Lord and loves others like you do. I see two different kinds of fathers out there: 1) dad-father or 2) friend-father. I am so grateful that the Lord has somehow engineered our relationship to be a, what I would say is supernatural, mix of dad-father and friend-father, and you know when to wear each hat. I don’t know how you do it, but when I’m in need a friend, you’re a friend. And when I need a dad, you’re a dad.
I am so insanely blessed to have the ability to still be able to say, as a nigh-twenty-one-year-old in complete honesty, “My dad is cooler than yours.” Thank you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Maturing Into Manhood 4.0 - "Six More Times"

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
(Hebrews 11:6 ESV)
Some of the most valuable lessons that the Lord taught me concerning a faithful Christian life were taught to me during my senior year of public high school. One such lesson I affectionately remember as the discipline that I call "Six More Times."

This story begins before I officially began the school year at Alvirne High School. The assistant coach brought in a college friend who, back in the day, was an All-American Division III guard/forward. After the clinic, the head coach of my team approached him with an issue concerning our center, who was in need of some "conditioning" tips. I don't even remember this clinic instructor's name, but I'll always remember what he said:
"You know how you run wind sprints until you throw up? When I was training, I would do that. Then, I would do it six more times. When you're able to train your body to ignore signs of fatigue, you will be able to run at full speed all game and still be able to perform at a high level during the fourth quarter."
I didn't think much about that word of advice until about two months ago. When this life demands me to take seriously my role as a man created and commissioned by God, my response must be a joyful "yes!" in whatever position He has placed me.

I have been talking to my dad lately about the daily progression away from the clutches of boyhood and towards the glad acceptance of self-sacrifical responsibility, one of the primary marks of mature manhood. In these discussions, one thing to which he has often been returning is that he sees one major distinctive of boyhood as the desire for enjoyment in the easy (often, cheap) thrills of life. On the other hand, a maturing man is one who is characterized by a desire for enjoyment in the mundane things. My dad has been painting the picture of a man who seeks to be faithful in everyday tasks, works his heart out, and has a blast during the restful times. This man does not seek for enjoyment outside of his station of life; but rather, this man seeks for enjoyment inside his station of life.

I'm beginning to see the man-making process as a "Six More Times" kind of process. As men-in-training, we should be glad to see progress in our lives; but my dad advocates that a man is someone who sees his God-given task as a task that is regularly repeated, day after day after day. True acceptance of responsibility is not a one hit wonder.

What does this mean for daily life? It looks tedious and thankless. We do what we do because we are who we are. The purpose of kicking off the goads of boyhood is not to gain any particular reward. If nothing else, we do it knowing that we are becoming who the Lord made us to be.

If the standard or benchmark for enjoyment is as simple as showing up to work on time and washing the dishes faithfully, how much more will the really fun things be when the time is right for them to take place! I have also found a freedom in not always being in the middle of the whirlwind of excitement... because when I leave college and have to do normal person stuff for the next (if the Lord wills) sixty-ish years of life, there really won't be so many opportunities for that whirlwind anymore. Life gets dull. And that's ok.

Here's where Hebrews 11:6 comes in; doing the thanklessly right thing six more times will get exhausting. Sure, it's fun to think that steps in the right direction are happening, but when those steps continue to plod on mile after mile, day after day, faith will wane. That's why we (both men and women) must have faith, remembering that the Lord does reward those who seek Him!

Faith is not something we can manufacture. My Father is the only foreman of the faith factories. That's why we should be the most prayerful people on the earth--right theology demands a very low view of our effect on anything and a very high view of His effect on everything.

I think being a "Six More Times" kind of man is an intrinsically good thing; but, if I pursue it outside of devotion to my Creator, my desire will transmogrify into either arrogance in victory or depression in defeat--neither of which evidence the Spirit's work in our lives.

For all of us men-wannabes out there, we really, really need Him.