Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I've always struggled with the idea of prayer.

I'm not entirely sure why.

I've fallen captive to this instant gratification society that we live in. I have a smart phone, I have FiOS, I have a laptop... everything around me is about speed. Send a tweet, post a status, check my email, watch a Youtube video.

What! I have to wait 10 seconds for this video to load? Ridiculous.

Being a product of this instant society--this always-on culture--I struggle with waiting.

When I pray, I want an instant response. I want to know that: a) God heard my prayer, and b) He's already acting on it. It's hard for me to wait. It's hard. I think this is what I struggle with most when it comes to prayer.

I'm so used to a world of notification. A buzz in my pocket, a pop-up on my screen, a little red 1 when I log in... When I pray, I don't always get that instant feedback. In fact, most times, I don't get any feedback at all.

However, that's not the important part. God notes that He hears prayer. He says so in His word... numerous times. For example, in Luke 11, Jesus is teaching on prayer. He says:
"And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." - Luke 11:9-10
In James 5, James writes about the "prayer of faith". He writes that the prayer of faith is powerful! He goes as far to say:
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. - James 5:16b
How awesome is that? And those are just two of the countless examples of God working through prayer. Rather than get caught up in instant gratification, I need to get caught up in truth. The truth is, God works through prayer. He hears prayer and He acts on it.

This doesn't insinuate that there are things God can't do if we don't pray. That would limit His sovereignty and omnipotence. That would be a false statement. God doesn't need us to pray. However, I certainly believe He wants us to. He wants us to pray according to His will. In 1 John 5:14, we can read:
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. - 1 John 5:14-15
That's the answer right there. I love those verses. I love how simple it is. I don't have to think back far to see how God has answered prayer in my life. It's not always fast, it's not always on my timing, but it happens...Prayer in alignment with God's will happens. That is awesome.

Monday, December 5, 2011


I'm reading a book.

It's called Man - The Dwelling Place of God by A.W. Tozer.

In this book, Tozer writes about the incredible fact that man is the dwelling place of God. How awesome is that? I've been blown away by the ideas that Tozer presents and the earnest heart that he writes with. He writes with passion, with energy, with a sincere desire that his reader reads.

In this book, he quotes a woman who lived in 14th century England by the name of the Lady Julian of Norwich. I've never been so struck by a quote from someone I've never heard of before. The quote reads:
"O God, please give me three wounds; the wound of contrition and the wound of compassion and the wound of longing after God. This I ask without condition."
Take a breath... there's a lot packed in those two short but poignant sentences.

The wound of contrition...
The wound of contrition... what exactly is that? In this context, it is a sense that I personally crucified Jesus. My sin was the reason he was nailed on the cross. My sin was the reason he suffered.

A wound of contrition is a presence of mind that recognizes our position before God. We were guilty. There's no flowery language. There's no maybe this maybe that. There's no if's and's or but's.

The beauty is we've been redeemed. We've been declared not guilty. Through repentance and faith, we have been set free. Romans 5:1 states: "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The gavel has been struck. The verdict is in. We are NOT GUILTY! However, a contrite spirit recognizes the grace associated with this verdict. I don't deserve it. I'm not entitled. I'm not worthy... yet, He makes it so.

The wound of compassion...
The wound of compassion is more straightforward; yet, is not easy in practice. Tozer writes, "The man who has this wound of compassion is a man who suffers along with other people."

I know for a fact that is not easy for me. I struggle with feelings. I struggle with emotions. I'm sure some of that is being a guy, but I think some of it is my human nature. Most days, my primary concern is me. It's sad, but it's true. Christ is the perfect example of compassion. He has been tempted. He knows what you're going through. He has every reason to not be compassionate though; yet, in His love for us, He chooses to be compassionate.

Do I suffer along with my coworkers? Do I suffer along with my housemates? With my parents? The guy on the street corner holding a cardboard sign asking for change?

Compassion is easy to understand. It is so hard to practice. It requires us to shift our perspective from inward to outward. It requires us to stop looking in and start looking out.

The wound of longing after God...
The idea of a wound expounds the idea of pain. To pray this is to ask for a pain, a discomfort, a hurting for God.

The idea of longing carries with it the idea of a perpetual journey. A heart that longs after God is a heart that is never content. It is never satisfied with the present situation. A heart that longs after God is a heart that seeks Him daily. Its sole (and soul) desire is to know God--to experience His presence--and to grow.

I struggle with longing after God. I too often find myself longing for knowledge. I love learning. I love studying. However, this love sometimes tries to replace my longing for God. I think I can satisfy this longing through study, through learning. I think that if I learn one more fact about God, I'll be satisfied... but to what end?

I need a wound in my heart that is lovesick for God. It doesn't want one more fact... it seeks to simply want God.

This simple prayer is bookended by perhaps a sentence that carries just as much meaning as the first.

"This I ask without condition."

Another way of saying this would be, "I don't care what it takes, God. I want this badly enough that I give you permission to use any means necessary." There's trust in this prayer. There is faith in this prayer.

I want this level of faith. I want this level of trust. I've started praying for three wounds. I have no doubt that God will come through. I'm ready.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Now I know what you're thinking... you came here expecting a post on Einstein's general theory of relativity. Sorry to disappoint, but we can save that for another time. This post; however, is one on the relativism of truth.

What is truth?

Is it absolute?

What makes a statement true?

Well, let's see... what is truth? Webster defines truth as: "the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality." Okay, that is acceptable. So to have truth, we need facts or reality to compare our statements against.

Is it absolute? Well, I think there are absolute truths. The sky is blue. That is a statement in accord with fact or reality. I can look at the sky and see blue (assuming it's not cloudy). When I drop an object, it will always fall. Another absolute truth that I can observe by picking up the pen on my desk and dropping it. Even if I drop it one million times, it will never once float in the air when I let go and hover miraculously. The truth of the matter is, it will always fall.

What makes a statement true? This one tends to be a little bit tricky. As Webster defined truth, we need fact or reality to compare this statement to. By looking at reality and gathering facts, we can assess statements as being truthful or false. For example, suppose I say to you, "The sun revolves around the earth." You could disprove this statement by showing me models of the solar system that prove the planets revolve the sun. You could explain to me how gravity works. You could show me other solar systems where planets are revolving their sun. In essence, you prove my statement false by looking at reality, gathering facts, and presenting them in a way that makes an indisputable, absolute truth.

Now, suppose I say to you, "Truth is relative." How would you respond?

But wait a second... haven't I just made an absolute truth statement? By saying truth is relative, I'm implying--absolutely-- that all truth is relative. It's a false argument. I disprove my own statement.

At my church this morning, we discussed truth as we begin our study in the Gospel of Luke. The culture we currently live in loves relative truth. We hate to think that someone else is wrong. We would hate to be looked at as intolerant. However... as we've just discovered, truth cannot be relative. There must be absolutes. There must be facts and statements about reality that are absolutely true.

Luke writes in his account of the Gospel:
"Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught." - Luke 1:1-4
Luke writes this account so that Theophilus, likely a Roman official, might have "certainty".

What am I certain of? Am I certain that if I drop my pen, it will fall to the ground? Am I certain that the sky is blue? Am I certain that Jesus' death paid the penalty of sin?

Sometimes it's easier to be more certain about some things than others. As we discussed earlier, I can always drop my pen and watch it fall. I can always peek out the window and marvel at the blue sky (not now though, it's dark). But how can I be certain that Christ is who he says he is?

Well, as a matter of fact, I can peek inside my Bible and see that indeed, Christ is who he says he is. I accept the Bible as truth because it is comprised of statements and facts in accordance with reality. Romans 3:23 states: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". That is an observable fact. I can look at the world and see sin. I can see that no person is perfect. I can see that each has fallen short.

Because the Bible is composed of absolute truth, this truth is absolute--in Romans 5:8 Paul writes, "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

I love truth... and that is a true statement.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Heartbreaker, you got the best of me...

Let's just get this out and on the table... I am terrible at keeping up with this. And yes, that is a Mariah Carey song reference in the title.

Okay, that aside... let's get down to business (to defeat the Huns).

My pastor posed the question at church on Sunday... "What does your heart weep for?"

I wish I could answer that. I feel like there's times I could list of tons of things and give a great answer, but most of the time (right now) I'm drawing blanks. What does my heart weep for? What breaks my heart? What keeps me up at night?

At the church I've started attending, Portico Arlington, we have been studying the book of Jonah. If you haven't read the book of Jonah, do it right now... pause the blog reading and read Jonah. It's 4 chapters of about 10 verses each but it is incredible! Shoot, even if you have read it, stop what you're doing and read it anyways--it is worth your time.

Anyways, that aside, we are studying Jonah and throughout this book, the reader is given a striking picture of Jonah's heart compared to God's heart. If two things were ever opposite, they would be Jonah's heart compared to God's heart. Long story short, the book ends with Jonah angry and sitting outside a city where he just witnessed 120,000 people repent and return to God.

Jonah's heart is weeping for his circumstances. He is mad about his situation. He is mad that God's grace extended to his enemies. He is mad that they didn't get what they deserved.

God's heart is weeping for the lost. He is weeping for Jonah's hard heart. He is weeping for the 120,000 people who repented of sin and put their faith in Him. He is rejoicing because they didn't get what they deserved.

What a stark contrast.

Isn't it so easy to sit back and look at Jonah with judgement? It's easy to sit back and say, "Man, if I were in his position, I would have been so much better!" or "I'm better than that! I would never be so self-centered."

Oh if only that were true.

Sadly it's not... I know I'm tragically self-centered. I wake up and the first thing I do is think about what I am going to wear to work. What am I going to look like? What am I going to eat for lunch? My whole world revolves around me! I'm just like Jonah! My heart weeps for my circumstances! "Ah, I got stuck in traffic today!" "Ah, my milk went bad and I couldn't have cereal for breakfast." "Ah, work was so busy!"

God's heart weeps for so much more than that. His heart weeps for the lost people I drive by as I commute to work. His heart weeps for my coworkers who don't know Him.

To zoom out and see the bigger picture--to step outside what my own eyes and heart focuses on--and turn my eyes on what God sees would be an incredible experience. I don't expect it to happen immediately (if it does, that is fine by me) but I expect it to happen. Each day, I want to focus less on myself and more or others. There's so much at stake... there's eternity at stake.

My heart should weep for that.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


My how the time flies.

I remembered the other day that I used to blog on the regular... so, I logged in and was shocked to see the last time I wrote anything was over a month ago!

What have I been doing?

Surprisingly, I would say I've been doing quite a lot.

I moved to a new city. I made new friends. I started a job. I got a paycheck. I bought groceries (more than once). I ate groceries... the list goes on!

In all seriousness, life has been very different, but in some ways strangely similar. I'm living in the "city" for the first time in my life. Say what you want, but a town of 40,000 is not a city. It's a town. Move to the metro region and you realize how many people there really are. However, I've had the amazing opportunity to live with three guys who love the Lord and push me to know him better every day. I've been checking out a church and getting involved there and that has been a blessing and a half. I've been working 40 hour weeks for the first time in many years.

Different, yet similar.

Maybe you're like me and you have all these ideas of what life is going to look like at some point in your future. You have a general picture of what you'll be doing, where you'll be living, who you'll know... but if there's one thing I've found is true, I really had no idea at all. Yes, there are things I did know, but on the whole, I could have never guessed what my life would be like.

The moral of the story is, don't settle. Don't assume that your picture of life to come is how it will be. Maybe you're super stoked about your future. Maybe you've got a sweet job lined up, some awesome roommates, a significant other you plan on marrying... don't settle. Maybe it's a different story. Maybe you're not that excited about your future. Maybe it's totally uncertain, you are moving to a whole new place, you don't have a job lined up, you're moving back home... don't settle.

The worst thing you can do is assume that what you think will happen is exactly how it will be. In my extremely limited years on this earth, I can tell you that it will be nothing like you think. God will blow you out of the water time and time again if you let Him. He will give you people to pour into and to be poured into by. He will give you a church (physical building and body of believers). He will provide for you--for you are his beloved.

I've lived in the "real world" now for about a month exactly. It's been hard at times, but man, it has been so good. God wants us to rely on him. When we do, we open up so many opportunities to let Him work. I don't think the verse goes: "Lean sometimes on your own understanding..."


It reads: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." (emphasis added)

I write this post for myself. Maybe you're going through something similar. Maybe you will be in a few years. Maybe you already have... but any way, Proverbs 3:5 holds true.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." - Proverbs 3:5

Friday, September 2, 2011

A citizen of some other place...

I realized the other day that I've been writing this blog for a while now and I've never explained the origin of the title.

A lot of you probably know (and if you don't, shame on you) that my favorite band is Thrice.

They're a post-hardcore/experimental/alternative rock group from California. Their lead, Dustin Kensrue is going to be the worship leader at Mars Hill Church - Orange County. However, they aren't exactly a "Christian" band as not all of the members are.

The thing I like most about their music is the lyrics that Dustin writes. He delves deep into faith and often takes a different perspective on certain things. For example, he's written a song called The Weight of Glory about the woman caught in adultery told from one of the Pharisee's point of view. He also wrote a song called Like Moths to Flame about Peter's denial of Jesus told from Peter's point of view. His ability to jump inside the minds of these people and write and sing the emotions they experienced is incredible.

So, the title of this blog, as you might have guessed, comes from one of Thrice's songs named In Exile.

The first verse of the song, Dustin sings:

I am an exile, a sojourner; A citizen of some other place.

And I thought, what better title? One of the biggest struggles I've faced in my faith is learning how to live a life surrounded by so much that is pushing me away from Christ. A lot of people like the phrase "in the world, but not of it" and while that somewhat describes it, I think there's more to it than that.

I've struggled with the idea of where my citizenship lies, where my true home is, where I really live. The thing I love so much about this song, is Dustin is almost singing my thoughts and questions.

As I set out on this grand adventure of writing a blog, I thought, what better title than one that describes who I really am. I hope that in writing this, you've learned a little bit more about who I am, about what I struggle with, and in turn, maybe... just maybe, you've overcome some struggles in your path.

I plan on writing this blog for a while, but it's fun to stop and reflect on where things all started.

As the chorus goes:
My heart is filled with songs of forever -
Of a city that endures, where all is made new.
I know I don't belong here; I'll never
Call this place my home, I'm just passing through.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shh... listen.

I had the wonderful privilege of being a program tech at the DC Metro Region's Committee/Leader Weekend at Rockbridge Alum Springs (what I like to call the DCMRCLW@RAS) last weekend.

As a program tech, I essentially made sure the slideshows were ready, the music was cued and loud, and the lights were on (or off) when needed.

The major bonus here is that I got to sit and listen to each talk the keynote speaker gave. Susan D. Hill was the speaker for the weekend and she spoke primarily about her experiences with hearing God's voice and how she'd learned to listen.

Pause the story for a second... I've been sporadically praying for the past couple months (maybe years) to learn how to hear the voice of God better. Odd, wouldn't you think? No, how about God.

Resume the story... As I sat in the tech booth and listened, I came face to face with the reality that God does speak to people. I'm not sure where I got the idea, but I assumed that nowadays he just didn't want to... or didn't need to... or something. I assumed that maybe God was just tired of talking after yelling at the Israelites for a few hundred years. It's funny how I'm so wrong sometimes.

Susan told story after story after story about how God had spoken to her through circumstances, through dreams, through conversations, through his word. In countless ways, God had reached out to her and captured her attention. He had spoken to her.

I think sometimes it's easy for me to write things off as false, untrue, or impossible when I haven't seen first hand. I'm so bound by my own experience that it's really hard for me to accept things in faith. I've read a lot of the Bible. I've read countless examples of God speaking to people. In fact, Friday before I left for Rockbridge, I read Exodus 34:6-7 in which God is meeting Moses FACE TO FACE and proclaiming truths about who the Lord is and what his character is like.

I read all these things and yet I still can't believe that God speaks to people. I sit in the tech booth at Rockbridge and listen to someone talk about times the Lord has reached out to them and spoken and I doubt. I think how weird this person is. I think of how strange they are... how bizarre this is. Scripture is overflowing with examples of the Lord speaking to people and yet when I have an opportunity to hear a person speak first hand, I don't accept it.

Thanks be to God that I was able to come to this weekend. I left a firm believer that God still speaks to people. I don't think I have it down just yet. I still struggle. I'm still learning how to listen. I don't expect to get it overnight.

Sunday morning as we were eating breakfast. One of the men at my table shared an experience he'd had hearing the voice of God just the day before. During the night session, he was drifting off to sleep during the speaker's message. During his short sleep, he had a dream his friend Mark was serenading him and as he approached him, he yelled, "WAKE UP!" He jolted awake, embarrassed that he'd fallen asleep. As he sat there listening, his favorite number, 1337, popped into his head and for some reason, he decided that he needed to look at the verse Mark 13:37.

(Here comes the crazy part.)

Mark 13:37 reads: "And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake."

Whoa. Now, if that isn't God speaking to him, I don't know what is.

God still speaks to people. I'm convinced he does. I don't think he's ever stopped speaking... I think we've stopped listening. I know I have. I am so distracted by my phone, Facebook, emails, Twitter, my new job, friends, my dog, EVERYTHING! I think the key is learning how to tune your ears, eyes, and heart to seeing, hearing, and perceiving God. He's everywhere--I just need to pay attention.

I just need to stay awake.

P.S. Susan D. Hill has a book called Closer Than Your Skin. I haven't read it yet, but I'm very excited to. If you're interested, check it out.

Friday, August 12, 2011


For reasons I can't really explain, time has always fascinated me.

What is time, really? Is it a sensation, a physical dimension, a human concept? I don't know, and I don't plan to dive into all the physics and debate, but nevertheless, I am fascinated by time.

What is an hour, I might ask... well, it's sixty minutes, you say. Okay then, well, what is a minute? It's sixty seconds, you answer. Correct, then, what is a second? Well, it is the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the Cesium-133 atom (Wikipedia).

Shew, okay, sorry about the physics, but it was bound to happen.

So what we're saying is, a second is the time it takes for an atom of Cesium to put off some radiation. But, that doesn't get to my original question: what is time?

Well, maybe if I can't define it, I can define how I use it, how I experience it. I use my "time" to do lots of things. I use a decent amount to sleep and to eat. I use some of it to socialize, I use some of it to write these blog posts.

So I can use time... does time have limits? Well of course it does. I have a finite amount of time. It started the day I was born (or at least when I was conscious that time existed) and it will end when I die. But, is this time really mine?

Now that's a good question.

The simple answer is no. This time is not mine. It's a gift. Well then, if it's a gift, who is it from? It's from God.

So if God owns my time and has given each second as a gift to me, why don't I live that way? Why don't I treat each breath, each passing hour, each new day, as a gift from the Lord?

Now that's a really good question.

The simple answer is, I'm sinful. I'm selfish. I'm prideful. I am so focused on myself. I care so little about others. I care so little about Christ. I live to serve myself. I live to serve my interests.

During my month at Saranac, we challenged our Work Crew kids to memorize Philippians 2:1-5 which (if I remember, and I should) says:
"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus"
If that isn't proof that the gospel is polar opposite to this world... Those five verses are the exact opposite of my reasons for why I don't treat each moment of time as a gift. If I truly lived out that charge Paul gives the Philippians, I would see each breath, each passing second as a gift from Christ. I would waste no time on myself but instead would give it all away.

My time at Saranac is over, but I earnestly hope that my time learning and living this passage is not. I have so little time, why waste another second?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Welcome back!

No, I didn't sell my computer and become a nomad... I don't know where that rumor came from. I am back though, back from perhaps the best month of my life.

I spent the month of July serving as a volunteer Work Crew Boss at Saranac Lake Younglife Camp in upstate New York. I was working in the kitchen in "the pits". The pits (if you are unfamiliar with Younglife lingo) is the dishwashing area. I had a team of 5 awesome high school kids who gave up an entire month of their summer to serve Christ in some of the dirtiest and nastiest ways.

It was an amazing experience. The thing that struck me most was the fact that roughly 40 high school kids gave up a month of their time to work for no pay to serve Christ. When I was their age, working that hard for that long would have seemed like a joke. I left this month with so much hope in the future. God is hard at work in the lives of high schoolers. He is capturing their hearts and using them for amazing, wonderful things.

Another thing that struck me was how prideful I am. I spent most of my days sweating in the kitchen scrubbing plates, bowls, sheet trays, and all other kinds of kitchenwares. I realized how hard it is for me to work in the background... to work with no recognition... to only be noticed when things are not done correctly. It was hard for me. I like to have attention, I like when I'm noticed. Most campers never knew my name. They probably didn't know what the "pits" was. But, in this, I learned how to surrender my pride and serve in humility.

I still can't get over how great this month was. Don't get me wrong, though, it was hard. I worked hard, physical labor, sometimes 14 hours a day, but in that hard, sometimes frustrating work, I found infinite opportunities to work for the glory of God. I'd read about Brother Lawrence about a week before I left for New York. He was a monk in the 1600s in a French monastery. He was stationed in the kitchen washing dishes and hated it, but by the end of his life, he was known for practicing the presence of God. He did anything and everything for the glory of God. He was so captivated with Christ that the world around him became so insignificant. He spent every second in commune with God. I strived for this during my month and often times fell far short, but it was a fun struggle.

Now that I'm home, I'm still trying to practice the presence of God. It's harder, I must admit. I am not surrounded by an awesome community, I'm not working directly for God's service, but all the chances are still there. I need to give glory to God in everything I say and do... even if it's simply writing this blog post.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


My pastor asked an extremely challenging question during his sermon on Sunday.

"Are you captivated by the person and work of Jesus?"

Honestly, my answer would be no. As much as I want to dance around it and say well yeah, I do this and I do that, I'd simply be fooling myself into believing a lie.

What does captivated mean anyway? How do I become captivated by someone? I love this definition from the Princeton WordNet Search: "beguiled: filled with wonder and delight."

So to be captivated by the person and work of Jesus I simply must be filled with wonder and delight, easy right? I wish.

I wish it were that easy. I think if it were, I wouldn't be writing this post, I'd be thinking about Jesus instead. However, it's not that easy, and here we are. I think it all starts with us coming to the realization that God is entirely and completely who He says He is. Once you begin to realize that everything God says about Himself is Truth (with a capital T) it's impossible to not be captivated.

The verse in Colossians becomes a possibility. "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." - Colossians 3:2. I can do this at times. When I really try hard, I can set my mind on God, on Jesus, on what He did, on who He is, but sadly, it often doesn't last long. I'm distracted by things of this world, by desires of the flesh.

However, when we are captivated by God, by Jesus, by what He did, by who He is, we can't help but set our minds on Him. And so, rather than fight the losing battle of trying to live out Colossians 3:2 on my own, I need to employ the power of the Holy Spirit in my life. I need my heart to be changed. I need my understanding to be deepened.

So this is where I find myself. I cannot do this on my own. I do know someone who can. I'm a witness to the power of God. I've seen the way my life has changed these last few years and so I should have no doubt He won't continue what He has already begun... He tells us: "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." - Philippians 1:6.

I'm going to pray every day that I will become captivated by the person and work of Jesus. Hold me accountable.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Dunamis - doo'nam'is: strength, power, ability; inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth.
My favorite lightning picture. Not from last night, sadly.

Last night, I had the awesome privilege of doing a little storm chasing. A severe thunderstorm watch was in effect for my town and so my friend Scott and I grabbed a camera and headed into the madness.

It didn't take long before we realized how wild this storm really was. We drove carefully through the gusting winds and driving rain until we reached a high point on the outskirts of a new housing development. This is one of my favorite locations to take pictures of storms because there are so few houses around that there is minimal light pollution.

As I attempted to dial in the settings on my camera (which if you're wondering is a low ISO, low f-stop, slow shutter speed), I quickly lost focus on taking some great pictures and focused more on the awesome power of the storm. Lightning was flashing all around, thunder was roaring through the sky, rain was crashing down in sheets, leaves and other light debris swirled around... I was filled with awe.

I fiddled with my camera and attempted to guess the right direction to shoot but continued to miss the biggest flashes. As frustrating as it was, I didn't need to capture it on film because I was capturing it with my eyes. Bolts of lightning would rip across the sky, sometimes so bright that it seemed as if it were noontime. Scott and I would yell in amazement to each other rhetorical questions, "Did you see that!?" How could we miss it?

I'm playing on a soccer team this summer in an adult soccer league. Our team name is Dunamis, which as defined above, means inherent power. I was reminded of the inherent power of nature last night as I fumbled with my camera attempting to capture its ferocity in digital form. I was reminded of the inherent power of God. How much more powerful must the Creator of lightning be? How much more awesome must He be?

Scott made the comment during a brief lull in the storm, "It's funny how today we see storms as so awesome and fun, but back in the day, people used to see them as the worst thing ever..." I think we can forget the power of nature when we aren't regularly subjected to it. I know that as I sit in an air conditioned room with a roof over my head and the blinds shut to keep out the blinding sun, it's easy to forget about nature. People all over the world are constantly being reminded that man cannot control nature. I read that there have been over 1100 tornadoes in the US just this year alone (here) I can't control that.

I think if we could grasp how powerful nature really is, we might begin to grasp how powerful the Creator really is. No one can create something more powerful than their own self. This Creator even has the power to control nature--see Mark 4. Imagine the power of God! I cannot comprehend...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Back to start...

About a week ago... I graduated college.

If you had asked me four years ago what I would be doing in four years, I probably would have said I'd be graduating. However, that might be the only thing I would guess correctly.

I just spent the past 3 days moving out of my house at JMU named Pride Rock. We have a strange tradition at JMU of naming houses. My seven other housemates and I decided on the name Pride Rock after months of debate. We wanted to pay homage to one of our favorite childhood movies, The Lion King, and a house of eight men should obviously be called Pride Rock. Seven of us have all lived together all 3 years that we have been there and we've had a different eighth roommate each year. I have been so blessed to live with those guys and while it hasn't always been easy, I have learned so much from each of them.

As we cleaned the house and moved out and said our good byes, I realized that I wasn't really saying good bye. As cliche as it sounds, I was more saying "see you later" to some of my new best friends. Some I will be living close to next year, some I won't be, but regardless, we all share the past 3 years of our lives in common.

I find myself in a strange position. I am in the process of coming to a close with what my life has been for the past 18 years. I have been an active member of the education system. For 18 years I have been in preschool, elementary, middle, high, and now undergraduate. As I graduate and move into the workforce, I leave behind my school years and begin my professional career.

It is strange to think that I'm really just beginning the majority of my life, God willing. It is really exciting to think about the ways God is going to use me in this new phase of life. I've never worked a full time job before. I've never had a career. There's a lot of things I've never done.

It's this unexpected future that I'm looking forward to. It's strange to think how little I know about my future and yet how certain I am that the Lord will provide all I need. In Matthew 6, Jesus talks about certainty in God's provision. He says to the crowd on the Mount of Beatitudes, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" (v 25). If I could completely grasp the love that God has for me, I think I would fully understand what Jesus is talking about here. He continues,

"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (v 26-34)

So simple, so true. I've read this passage a dozen times and each time I am newly convicted of my lack of faith. I want faith. I want faith like Elijah.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A story of losing...

I think back to my freshman year of college. I think way back... almost 4 years ago to when I was moving into my dorm in the heat of summer, I was meeting new friends, I was doing new things, I was a freshman in every sense of the word. I was a freshman in college. I was a freshman in life. I was a freshman in my walk with Christ.

I'd given my life to Christ back in high school. As a sophomore at a Younglife Fall Weekend at Rockbridge I laid on the cold grass and looked up at the stars and finally believed that God loved me. However, I was a slow flame. I went to campaigners, I went to club, yet I didn't really get it. I just didn't understand the Gospel completely.

Fast forward to college.

I came to JMU with the understanding that I was going to do two things. I was going to major in Integrated Science and Technology and I was going to be a Younglife leader. Check and check. End of story.

Well, not exactly.

As I went to Younglife Beyond which then morphed into Leadership Training, I began to realize how fresh I was in my faith. I didn't really know anything about God. I didn't really know anything about faith. I didn't really know much at all. Being in a position where I was unable to help myself, I was in the position God wanted me most--I was beginning to rely on him.

You see, in high school, I was comfortable. I was in a daily routine. I was in a couple clubs with my friends. I played high school golf. And that was essentially my life. It was predictable, it was structured, it was normal... I was in control.

When I got to college, I quickly began to realize that routine wasn't quite as routine. I began to realize that my worth doesn't come from me.

Fast forward to placements. I got placed on Team Elkton. Being from Harrisonburg, I knew at least one leader on every team... except Elkton. Being involved with Beyond and Leadership Training from the beginning, I knew almost every freshman... except the one placed with me (Ellie). I was thrown on a team I didn't know, at a school I didn't know, with another freshman I didn't know at a time where I was quickly learning I didn't know how to lead Younglife!

That was kinda scary.

To make things more fun, in July between freshman and sophomore year, I got a call from Bobby (the other guy leader at Elkton). He told me that he wasn't going to be able to go to camp in August (about 3 weeks away) and that I was going to go. To be honest, my first emotion wasn't excitement. It was fear.

You mean I'm going to camp with a group of guys I hardly know? You mean I am leading a cabin of guys by myself? You mean I have to take two twin brothers who fight constantly (yes, constantly) to camp? Yeah, definitely fear.

Fast forward to camp trip. I was forced (kicking and screaming) into a position where I was completely reliant on God to get me through that week at camp. I learned more about Christ than I think my guys learned. I needed that camp trip as badly as they did. I read a chapter of Philippians each day at camp and looking back through my first attempts at journaling, it is amazing some of the things I wrote. In reference to Philippians 3:8-9, I wrote, "[These verses] have so much power and devotion in them. Paul has discarded EVERYTHING as garbage so he can become one with Christ. I want this kind of devotion in my life and this is something I want to live for and strive for."

I needed to lose my life in order to gain it. I needed to count all things as a loss. I needed to discard all my wants as rubbish. I needed to lose.

Looking back now at how much I had changed from just a year before blows my mind.

I was slowly but surely beginning to realize that life isn't about gaining and achieving and winning... it's about losing.

Fast forward to sophomore year. I decided I was going to Israel. Talk about a step outside my comfort zone. I'd never been out of the country before besides, I don't think I'd ever been away from home for more than two weeks. As I looked back through my journal from sophomore year, I found it funny that on April 9th, my twentieth birthday, I wrote down the scripture that we were memorizing for our trip... Deuteronomy 6:4-9. The funny thing is, I now have part of that tattooed on my arm.

Anyways, God really began preparing me for this trip months before our plane even left Dulles. God was using my fear of the unknown and my anxiety about traveling to bring me closer to him. He was showing me how desperate my daily need for him is. It was one thing for me to hear a leadership talk about spending time in the word, but it wasn't until I felt that need that it became a real thing to me. He was preparing me for time where it all began, he was preparing me for time in Israel where I would learn so much more about my faith.

While in Israel, I learned so much. I learned history, I learned facts, I learned information, but most importantly, I learned about myself and I learned about Christ. I learned more about how I must lose my life.

A distinct memory I have was while we were serving at Bethlehem Bible College. Some people were pouring cement, some were cleaning off roofs, some were washing windows... I was dusting book shelves. To be completely honest, when I found out that was going to be my job for the day, I wasn't happy. My thought was, "I'm a strapping young man, why should I be kept indoors all day dusting off book shelves? Why can't I go do 'fun' things outside?" Ah, my pride. My inability to make myself less. My inability to lose. As I dusted shelves for hours and hours, I got to know the people (Joanna and Ginny) I was working along side very well and it was some of the best conversation I had on that trip.

That trip will stick with me for the rest of my life and I am so happy for you all who get to go in the next month! For those of you who don't get to go, please don't see it as a missed opportunity or that you are missing out. If there's one thing I've learned in my life it's that when I think I'm missing out, I'm usually getting something so much greater... which brings me to another story from the summer between sophomore and junior year.

After a brief time at home, I got asked by Goody to program tech for him at Northbay for two weeks. I figured any time spent with Goody was going to be awesome, so I quickly said yes. About five days later, I drove up to Baltimore and then on to Northbay with Goody and Mike. While tech-ing for them, I continued to learn about losing.

If you've program tech'ed before, you know that typically, nothing ever goes according to plan. If you haven't program tech'ed before I will tell you now: nothing ever goes according to plan. It is stressful but it pushed me into a deeper relationship with Christ. It forced me to surrender my plans to God and trust that his will was and is much higher than mine.

While teching, I was approached by Dave at Rockbridge and he told me to consider interning the next summer.

Fast forward to the next summer. I applied, and that flopped. I prayed hard about it, I pursued it, I jumped through all the hoops but... I didn't get the job. What seemed like the exact door the Lord wanted me to go through just slammed in my face. Granted... Dam got the job and I know he is way more qualified than me, so I guess I'll let it slide. Instead of interning at Rockbridge, I had the awesome opportunity to intern with a non-profit in Charlottesville called Least of These International.

It was super spur-of-the-moment but it ended up being wonderful. Once again, I found myself in a position where I needed to rely on the Lord. I all the sudden had a job in a city an hour from home. Amazingly, God provided me a place to stay (for free!) in Charlottesville with some Younglife guys in exchange for cleaning. It was during my stay there that I learned a lot about serving. A lot about making myself less. A lot about losing.

Once again, I was in a place where I was uncomfortable. It was in this, that I learned so much about the bond we share in Christ. I was able to connect with my new roommates on such deep levels because of the work Christ is doing in us. However, the biggest thing I learned was humility. When I agreed to clean their house in exchange for a free place to stay, I didn't know what I'd gotten myself into. Little did I know how messy this house really was.

At first I resented it. I was frustrated. I was angry that I could be so easily duped into agreeing to clean such a mess. In fact, in one room in the basement, as I was moving some boxes, I saw a rat run up the wall and into a hole. However... while I was cleaning and sweating and coughing up dust, I learned humility. I realized I was in a wonderful position to share Christ with the guys I lived with and so I took on a new attitude. Instead of being prideful (like I so badly wanted to be) I tried to be humble. I made it my goal to leave their house better than before I came. I learned that I needed to lose my life. I needed to lose my pride. I needed to take up my cross.

Fast forward to senior year. It's been a whirl-wind of a year. I encourage everyone to take it all in while you can. It's funny to joke about how fast the time goes by, but it really is true. The time has flown by.

To continue the theme of being thrown into situations where I had to rely on the Lord... I became team leader at Elkton. It was the logical progression. Ellie is the busiest person I know and to try to make her team leader would just be too much, thus, being the only other senior... ta-da. I didn't feel qualified to lead my team. I still don't. But, in it all, I've learned that to lead, you must serve. I've learned that the best leaders are the ones most deeply rooted in Christ.

Fast-forward to today. I am learning more and more about being uncomfortable. I'm about to move two hours away and start a real-life job. Not a fun summer job. A real life job. A job I will likely spend the next several years of my life at. I'm excited to see the way God continues to bring me to himself. I'm excited to continue surrendering my life to him.

I am excited to keep losing.

I have an index card taped to my ceiling right above my head that reads, "Win yourself to Christ today!" Every morning I try to remember to do that. I try to remember that I need to die to myself, take up my cross, and follow Christ. I need to lose my life... daily.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Life is not a check list...

I find it interesting how natural it is for me to unconsciously organize my day into a list of tasks to be completed and checked off.

6:30 AM - Wake up
7:15 AM - Go to middle school
9:05 AM - Environmental Hydrology
11:30 AM - Lunch
1:25 PM - Remote Sensing and GPS
2:30 PM - Ecological Sustainability
6:00 PM - Dinner

It's almost sad how easy it is for me to think through my day when I wake up, develop the list I need to do, and then begin working--one item at a time--until the list is done.

I don't think this is how it's supposed to be. I don't think life should be a check list.

I had a conversation recently about using a planner. As my friend mentioned that she couldn't live without a planner, I pridefully thought to myself, "I don't need a planner, I got all that up in my head."

I don't think there's anything wrong with using a planner. As a matter of fact, I don't think there's anything wrong with having a list of daily tasks. The problem enters when we no longer see individual tasks or events as what they really are--we instead see them as the next thing to do, the next thing to check off.

This is what I really struggle with. On my busiest days, I lie in bed just before getting on with the day and think through each event that is going to happen. I give myself time-frames to work in and I begin my day not focused on what I'm currently doing, but on what is next. How quickly can I finish what I'm on to get to what is next?

This, to me, is the tragedy.

I think it's good to have a vision of the future. Running blindly leads us into walls (figuratively and literally). I think it's good to have a plan. I think it's smart to be organized. Failing to plan is planning to fail as I've often heard. However, the key is this: how do I view my plan?

Do I view it as concrete? Do I view it as absolute? Do I view the individual tasks as check boxes? Do I focus more on the "next" than on the "current"?

I am trying to make a point of not viewing the things I have to do as things I have to do but as things I get to do. Every day is a gift, a new opportunity to serve the Lord. If this is the case, shouldn't I view everything I do as just that--a gift, an opportunity?


I've been praying to focus more on where I am rather than where I am going. I don't want to miss this. I recently had the opportunity to hear a friend share about her four years of school. She shared (paraphrased), "I was so caught up in feeling like I was missing out that I was missing out on what I was doing."

I don't have a lot of time left here at JMU. I want everything I do to be as special as if it were a gift... because, that's what it really is.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The desert...

The people who survive the sword will find favor in the desert.
I will build you up again. You will be rebuilt.
I am the painter making this mess a masterpiece.
I will rebuild you up again.

--Meridian by August Burns Red

More precisely, the words above come from the book of Jeremiah. Most precisely, the words above come from God.

I have been really blown away lately by God's hatred of sin. The book of Jeremiah tells of the destruction of Jerusalem because of their inequities. God used Jeremiah to give His people a chance at redemption. They rebelled again and again.

However, He didn't give up. He held fast to His promises. He didn't turn His back on His people.

He gave them a promise that if they survived the sword--that is, if they survived His judgment--they would find favor in the desert. The favor they would find is the grace of God. The picture of favor in the desert reminds me of the Exodus. All the Israelites had during that time was God. The only constant in their lives was the Pillar of Fire by night and the Pillar of Cloud by day.

The thing that has really blown me away the most throughout this book is the love that God still has for His people even after they defile Him, mock Him, ignore Him, and forsake Him. They make offerings to idols, they don't keep the commandments, they ignore the teachings of the prophets... the list goes on and on. The scariest thing, is they really aren't very different than me.

On a daily basis I don't give God what he requires. I am so ultimately thankful that when He looks at me He doesn't see my shortcomings. He sees Christ. He sees perfection. He sees righteousness.

All God asks is our repentance. He wants our sincere desire to give up our sin and to embrace His grace. It's so simple.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Don't go changing, trying to please me...

Well I effectively missed February. It's only 3 days shorter. I have no excuse. Bonus points if you can identify the song reference in the title.

Anyways, to update you, my loyal readers, with what I've been learning lately, I figured I would see if I couldn't muster up a little post action. So, without further ado, here goes.

I've been learning a lot about myself lately. I've learned more and more about my shortcomings. I am not perfect. I am so helplessly far from it. Anything I try to do will not be perfect because I am not perfect.

I am so thankful I am not perfect.

It puts me in a wonderful position. It puts me in the best place I could ever be. Being so imperfect puts me in the place where I am so desperately in need of a perfect savior. A.W. Tozer writes of God in his book The Pursuit of God:

"He is immutable, which means He has never changed and can never change in any smallest measure. To change He would need to go from better to worse or from worse to better. He cannot do either, for being perfect He cannot become more perfect, and if He were to become less perfect He would be less than God."

There is so much comfort in that. I am so thankful that God cannot change. I change daily. I change my mind, I change my motivation, I change my clothes, I change my facial hair style, I change my plans, I change nearly everything.

I am so thankful God does not change.

Malachi 3:6 says, "I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed."

That's it. That's all. That's what I need. That's all I need. God is not my first on a list of... He is my first and only.

Monday, January 31, 2011


I'm not sure what direction this post is going to take, so bear with me as I stumble my way through this.

I just finished reading the book of Revelation for the first time today. I had a strange, yet hard to define feeling come upon me as I finished the last chapter. I'm still not sure what that feeling was but it was something I haven't felt before. It was almost like seeing the future... like knowing what was to come. I guess that makes sense, trusting that the Bible is God's word does imply that the events outlined in Revelation are going to happen.

Maybe that is it, maybe that's what that bizarre feeling was... a feeling of foreknowledge. A feeling that I didn't know when these things were going to happen, I didn't know exactly what was going to happen, but I knew that it was going to happen. Strange feeling for sure.

Along the same lines, I think I experienced this feeling while at our Younglife Prayer Overnight over the past weekend. It's a pretty special time where about 900 Younglife leaders from all over the state of Virginia come together to fast and pray and worship. As about 900 of us were singing songs proclaiming God's glory, I stopped for a second and just listened to the thundering chorus around me. It was something awesome. It's not often I've had the privilege of worshiping in a room packed shoulder to shoulder with nearly a thousand fellow believers.

I think that was just a tiny glimpse of what John saw in Revelation 19. He writes, "After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out..."

900 people isn't really a great multitude but I will tell you it was something special. I hate how much the word awesome is overused but in the true sense of the word... it was something awesome.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mountains, walls, other large objects...

It's a good thing I'm reading a book because otherwise I don't think I'd have anything to write about.

Regardless, I'm still reading Too Busy Not To Pray by Bill Hybels which if you haven't read yet, you need to, it's that good. In one of his chapters, Hybels writes about God's ability to answer prayer. It's elementary. We pray, God hears, God answers... how hard is that?

Apparently, it's really hard.

I don't know about you anonymous reader, but I have a hard time praying for big things because I don't think God can do it. Maybe I don't verbalize that, maybe it's not even a conscious thought, but I think deep down I believe he can't do it.

Where do I get the idea that something is "too big" for God?

What kind of nonsense is that?

I was watching a program on the Science Channel the other night (yeah I know, I'm awesome) and it was an episode of Steven Hawking's Into The Universe. In this particular episode, they were discussing the vastness of the universe and how unimaginably big it is. While I was watching this, I began to think about how small I really am. I began to think about how small some of my problems really are.

I realized how big God really is.

Hybels writes a particular section on how we need to stop focusing on the mountains in our life. When I encounter an obstacle or a struggle, I often forget about God and focus on the problem. I stress out. I think about it 24/7. It's all I see. His encouragement is to step out of the shadow of the mountain and look at God. Look at how big he is. Look at how able he is.

When we focus on God, we believe that he is able to move that mountain. When we focus on the mountain, we believe that it will never move.

Another example of this is the famous Battle of Jericho (Joshua 6). Joshua is instructed by God to surround the city and blast the walls with trumpets for seven days. I for one would be pretty skeptical. I would see those huge stone walls and think, "Well, this is not going to work." Instead, Joshua saw God. He saw his ability to tear down those walls. He knew how big his God is.

In case you were wondering, "the observable universe is a sphere with a diameter of about 546,700,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles" (Wikipedia). That's pretty big.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Busy as a beaver...

I for one never understood that statement.

What makes a beaver busier than any other animal? I guess it's just alliteration that makes it so popular, but still, busy as a bee, busy as badger, busy as a black bird... there's other options.

Regardless of that pointless tangent, I write to say that I have been rather busy. You'd think with 3 weeks of no classes, no homework, no readings (required), and no projects I'd find some time to write a measly little blog post. And that my friend, is where you would be wrong.

I've visited friends, I've slept in till noon, I've played basketball, I've played Starcraft 2, I've watched movies, I've traveled, I've sat on the couch, and I've read.

The things I've read are what I'm most interested with sharing. I bought a Kindle with some of my Christmas money and then bought a couple books for it. The first one I bought is called Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels. I figured it would be the perfect book for me, a man who thinks he is always too busy, to read.

This book has been just what the doctor ordered. I'm only seven or so chapters in, but I've already made some pretty big life changes as far as my prayer life goes. I quickly realized how superficial I am when it comes to praying. It is so easy for me to do. I often just don't pray, but when I do, I often just breeze through it without much thought. This book has really opened my eyes to the power of (and need for) prayer.

Most days, I start off by praying something like, "Father, be with me today as I do... x, y, and z." How silly is that? God tells us multiple times in his Word that he is with us always. Hybels says to instead, try praying, "Father, make me aware of your presence..." How much more effective and necessary is that!?

This book is loaded with little bits of application that have already began to take root in my life. I'm excited to keep reading and keep learning how to become a better pray-er.

I encourage you, if you are looking for something to read, to read this book. I encourage you, if you are not looking for something to read, to read this book. It's no secret that prayer is a powerful tool that God has given us (just read Acts). Knowing how to use it effectively is the key.