Saturday, February 27, 2010

These days are good for me

These kinds of days are so critical for Noelle and I. We were able to wake up without an alarm for the first time in a few weeks - we try to do it about once a week but with as much as we've had going on it just hasn't been possible. Then we watched one of our favorite TV shows (Lost) online with my laptop while lying in bed and sipping coffee. What has followed since was just a great day together. We need those days where we don't see many people and are just able to do as we please. To head up to Grass Valley and do some wine tasting, then decide to stop in at a fish and chips place just because we had the time and wanted a snack. And now to have her passed out on the couch with the TV on quietly as I've been flipping channels.

These are days I'm thankful to God for because these are days that, honestly, keep us going with all our responsibilities. We enjoy almost all of our work and/or ministry responsibilities (the two are usually mixed for us), but it's the brief times to pull away and do very little that we feel God reviving our spirits and strengthening us for another week of ministry ahead. Sometimes it's tough in the middle of a week to "pull back" and see how good God is to me - to be married to a wonderful woman, to be so deeply connected to a wonderful church body, to have my health, to be able to be getting slightly ahead in our finances, and so on. It's not that he's good because he gives me all these things... he's good because he's God, and that's it. Yet when I stop to "count my blessings" I see that goodness expressed in both big and little things alike. I want to develop a grateful spirit toward God whether I'm in the midst of great joy or even great despair. To know God is sovereign and rules over human history is (as I've heard it put by others) a warm blanket to my soul. So while we make plans for our future, we can continually hold them all up with open hands, asking God to lead and direct as he sees fit.

Just some thoughts

Monday, February 22, 2010

Some thoughts on my heart

I said something to one of my college students yesterday that has actually seemed to be more for me than it was for her. We were sort of updating the other people in our group as to where we felt we were in our relationship with God lately - how we were doing, where we were growing, where we know we need to grow, stuff like that. The inevitable thing that comes up almost every time I'm in a discussion like that is something about time management - not having enough time in the day to do all I need to do (or want to do) and still dig deeper into my relationship with God. But what I told the student wasn't anything brand new - it was just a simple fact: Every person actually has just as much time in their day as everyone else. What I meant to get across is that while we sometimes marvel at those much wiser than we are or more mature in their faith, we should not believe that they have some advantage of having "more time" than we do; they are most likely disciplined in their management of time and more willing to sacrifice some things than we are.

But here's the deal with all of that: I'm the same as my college student. I read stuff from saints of old or I know another Christian who is wiser than I am, and I tend to assume that it's just a matter of time before I get there. However, if I'm not making decisions in my day today that will help me draw closer to the Lord, why would I assume I'll be any closer in a few years? Why would I assume I'll just naturally be ready for that trial or hardship? When it comes down to it, I know that there is quite a bit in my life that holds me back from drawing closer to the Lord more regularly.

One of those things is my "addiction" (not literally... but sort of) to all things ESPN. I listen to ESPN in my car, I watch Sportscenter and many other shows on ESPN, and I check several times a day. I don't do this because I need to know who won the basketball games, or what some columnist thinks Lebron James will do after his contract expires this year... I do it because it's a habit (or addiction perhaps?). So I decided to give up all things ESPN for Lent - the period of time in the traditional church year between Ash Wednesday (last Wednesday) and Easter Sunday. And you know what? It hasn't been that difficult to give it up so far. Sure I'm still watching some of the Olympics and keep up a little bit so far on some other sites, but it's far less frequent - and I'm intentionally not turning the dial to ESPN or the channel to their stations.

Here's what I'm finding out: ESPN isn't the sole issue. Giving up one thing in order to spend more time with the Lord in the morning is good; but the issue is that my heart is inclined to just find something else to be distracted with! Other websites become more interesting, emails beckon me to be checked, and so on. I need the Holy Spirit to do a work in my heart so profound that I don't just stop one habit, but I prefer Jesus over all other things - communing with Him, loving Him, praising Him, bringing my concerns and requests to Him, and so on. This is what my heart needs and this is what I'm seeking from the Lord.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

When it all "hits the fan"

My wife loves working at the Roseville Health and Wellness Center. She's been there for about 3 years and has gained a great reputation there as the best personal (and athletic!) trainer in the area - she even got on the cover of "Style" magazine for being the best trainer around! Needless to say I'm very proud and very thankful to God for such a consistent job for Noelle that she loves and that helps us financially. The gym is a great place - it's friendly, it's clean, and there is a real strong sense of community there among members and employees. It seems like there's constantly some sort of team competition going on to see who can lose the most weight as a team, or the most body fat, or get a better heart rate, and so on. So when Roger, the beloved front desk man who works the early shift, died at the gym yesterday while exercising, it feels like everything (I'll avoid using the typical first word of the term) "hit the fan".

Roger was a believer in Jesus and for that we thank God. He was exercising after getting off work, and at that time of day it is extremely slow in the gym. Noelle had been leading a class in a room where music was playing and the blinds were shut, so she knew nothing until she got out and medics were trying to revive him. Apparently he died while doing routine exercises and was a man of good health with no apparent issues (he was in his 60's I believe).

All of this has got me and many others thinking about the reality of death. There is a pastor I really like listening to named Matt Chandler who is in his mid 30's and found out he has an aggressive form of brain cancer of which it is unlikely he lives even 5 more years. Click on this link to be taken to his sermon archive - I think you'll know why I like him so much after just one sermon. Anyways, the point in bringing him up right next to this story about Roger is that we have NO IDEA how long we have to live. All of us have an expiration date on our lives and we don't know when it is. Sometimes people like Chandler get a bit of a warning, and many others have no clue such as Roger and the hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti. It is a somber thought and this is a somber entry to my blog. But it is worth thinking about as Christians in terms of the Gospel and the time God gives us on earth.

Now, this could easily turn into a "do more for Jesus" thing, convincing you have ought to be doing more since you don't know how long you have. But if that's what it becomes then we've missed the boat. Having no idea how long we have to live should perhaps lead us to take action on some things we're putting off, acting as if we have X amount of years remaining. But what I believe it out to do is fill our hearts with gratitude for each day God gives us because we don't know when he is going to bring us Home to himself. I need to spend each morning praising God that he woke me up (no the alarm did not wake you up this morning, God did!) and gave me another day - a day which I am neither deserving of nor guaranteed that I will make it to the end. And each night (and in the middle of the day of course) I need to praise him again for a completed day, for the rest he gives me each night, and continually repent of the many ways in which I still rebel in sin against him and seek his grace.

This may be a bit of a ramble for me, but it was about time I wrote something :-)