Saturday, February 23, 2013

Consider the Grapes

So this is going to be somewhat of an explanation of the absence of anything on this blog. But I hope it's more of a reason than an excuse.
I have been restless. I am restless.
You see, I've graduated college and gotten a great internship at the camp that I have loved serving so much for the last 4(ish) years. I love the people I work with. I love the actual camp. I love the mission and purpose that it stands for. I love it. But I am restless.
I don't want to tip-toe through life, being so over-cautious that I never learn to run. Never learn to fly. Fearing fear itself is a tar pit that I never want to fall into, so I had somehow translated that to meaning that if I wasn't living some shiny exciting life every second of every day, I wasn't "living life to the fullest." But full of what? I don't know, stuff. You know, just like stuff......yea.
I got my butt kicked recently from the memory of a message my college chaplain gave the seniors when  I was a junior (you know it was good when I get convicted again from the memory of it). He explained that there's these times in our lives, like college, where although it's fun and exciting, we can grow to become unsatisfied with the present because we're waiting in such eager anticipation of the future. I couldn't agree more. We want to know so badly where we'll be, who we'll be with, and even what impact we'll make on the world around us. But for now, we're stuck. Right here in the present. Yay. We want the ends, but we don't want to work through the means. The means are long. The means are boring. The means are sitting in some political studies class that you don't freaking care about (too specific?), or tediously inputing camper profiles into a database (again, too specific?), or making that awkward small talk to break the ice into that meaningful conversation. We don't like the means, but we love the end. It's as if we're on an impossibly slow raft that's floating to a gorgeous shore that's too far to feel close. And we just sit there. Restless.
But this is a bad metaphor. It's a pessimistic metaphor. I leave better metaphors to better men; which leads me back to my college chaplain. When talking about those chapters in our lives that make us restless, that is those times when we are thinking too fondly of what is ahead, we neglect to see the value in the now. The metaphor he used was how wine is made. Buckle up, this is good stuff.
He explained that the most important part of the process of making wine is, well, the process. The looong process.
Consider the grapes. They were meticulously grown and nurtured; pruned, harvested, cleaned, and hand-picked (along with other processes of wine making that I have no idea about) to be the best possible grapes to make that yummy classy Merlot juice. Same is true for all the other ingredients. But if you just used grapes, even if they were the best grapes possible, you'd end up with some glorified fermented Juicy Juice (and this time actually made with 100% juice). The best wines come from the perfect mix of ingredients, and more importantly, the loooong time just sitting in a cold, dark, dank basement. Newly made bottles of wine, just sitting there. Restless.
But there's the kick - they're not just sitting there. They're getting better and better with each passing second, minute, and year. Only in that long, boring, tedious waiting do those fermented grapes become fine wine. The wine is spending all that time soaking in every ounce of flavor that it never could have had without that time. So I have to stop being restless, and start soaking it all in. There's so much to soak in. Consider the grapes. Consider the birds.
Wait what? Birds? Yea I pulled a cheap fast one on you.  Because Jesus had something to say about all this. I'm restless when I'm living in fear of the unknown future (that whole "fear" thing is for another post, stay tuned ha), and yet I think about it too much and freak myself out in my anxiousness. Just waiting for that shore... But Jesus said outright to not be anxious. "Consider the birds. They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, but yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" [Matthew 6:26-27] Dang. Suddenly feeling restless seems cheap, like a cop out. Why should I worry about my future, resulting in me neglecting my present, when I claim to serve the Author of time?
I told you I don't want to tip-toe through life. Shane Claiborne puts it this way, “All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance, just don't tiptoe.” So, sorry I've been tiptoeing. I've been restless. But now I consider the grapes. 

Fill me up. Let me soak it in. Amen. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

I have been on here for awhile. My bad. Seriously. I'll explain (or make excuses) later. I'm writing messages for some kids. The hardest part is trying to simplify things that are beyond me. But I try.

To know the Gospel is to hear the mystery of God; to pursue the mystery of God is to find love; to find love is to be free; to be free is to experience grace; to experience grace is to respond; to respond is to love back; to love back is to die to yourself; to die to yourself is to live for others; to live for others is to tell the Gospel with your life; to tell the Gospel with your life is to let the world hear it. So sit back. Listen. Just be ready to move.

I'll try to give you a good life to listen to.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Food for Thought

"People are not problems to be fixed, but mysteries to be honored and revered."
                 - Eugene Peterson. 


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

That is Soooo Cliche

Clichés are so yesterday. Yet it feels like everybody and their brother uses them and they never quite get to the point. We should choose our words more carefully; after all, it’s another thing that separates us from the animals. So grab life by the horns and learn to speak your mind! Hugs, not drugs! Carpe Diem!
            Now please excuse me as I wipe the barf off my keyboard because the amount of shameless clichés in that last paragraph made me a little sick. I’m willing to bet someone could give me the different etymologies behind each one, but it’s funny that just certain ones have stuck. Like, “in the nick of time.” Does anyone even know what that means? When you really stop to think about it, the very existence of clichés shows how lazy we can get with how we communicate and even think. They even seep into when we create something.
So you get countless songs about how when you’re sad it feels like rain or how when you’re overwhelmed you’re going to break free and fly or how someone can steal your heart or…seriously, go to your music library and count them. Now, they’ll still succeed at what they’re trying to communicate, but what about creativity/originality/showing that you put in genuine thought to what you’re saying? (Check out Michael Gungor’s blog on creativity in Christian music.) Would anyone ever just memorize a proposal speech they saw on a romantic movie in order to ask someone to marry them? Yikes, I hope not, but the more I think about it the more think that someone has probably done that. Weird, I almost barfed again.
            But I’m being facetious (shocker!) and I know why we use them and I probably drop a cliché or two daily. They’re a quick and easy way to communicate an otherwise expanded thought. Quick and easy. And everyone will understand what you really mean because everyone gets what you mean. No semantic arguments there. But then we really get lazy.
            Christians have our own clichés. Some of us even call it speaking “Christianese.” Cute. Go us.
            Here a few that we see way too often:
·      Ill pray for you = Good luck with that, I really got to get going.
·      Worship was great today = I had a good time
·      I’m good = My life is absolute chaos
·      I don’t mean to judge, but… = Buckle up, I’m about to judge someone
·      I told her I wouldn’t tell anyone but… = I told her that I wouldn’t tell anyone but I’m going to go ahead and gossip anyway.
·      I don’t have the gift for that/feel led to do that = I’m too afraid to ask for that gift so I’m not going to even try to see if I could do that.
What’s the worst part about the above Christianese comments? They’re all clichés built upon phrases that actually mean[t] something. Christ said that our “yes” should actually mean “yes” and our “no” should mean “no.” I think it’s pretty safe to say that He wants us to always mean what we say and live accordingly.
So please, by all means, speak some Christianese every day. Just make sure you mean it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Healthy Dose of Honesty

 I haven't written in awhile. I haven't felt challenged for awhile.
Or maybe I haven't been challenged anything for awhile. Or maybe I haven't been listening to God's challenges.
I haven't been completely myself lately. In fact, I've been looking around for me everywhere. I've felt...empty.

Paul, in an effort to encourage his brothers and sisters that made up the church in Ephesus, challenged them to be "filled with the fullness of God" at all times, but especially when they felt that needle inching closer to "E".
I can relate to that.
You see,  I've been praying to God, asking, no begging Him to fill me up. I've felt (relatively speaking) unfulfilled, unsatisfied, and de-energized since being back to school. It's not necessarily the school's fault, nor the classes, the people (especially the friends!), the lack of Chic-Fil-A's; it's me.
I've flicked some kind of mental (spiritual?) switch, both in my mind and my heart, that this last semester is this burden I must bear before I get back to living the way I want. Doing the things I want. Only daring to invest love in the people I want to invest in. Because hey, I'm almost out of here! Why would I invest time, energy, and love into people that I won't have to see anymore after a couple months of monotonous school work? Right? Yea, right. Nice, Jon.
I'm sure that's what the God of love wants.

Someone close to my heart showed me a message that Francis Chan had given at his church. Man, that guy. Talk about someone that God uses to encourage, but maybe more importantly for my case, convict the rest of us. He talked about how in times where we feel empty, instead of having an expectation that God will somehow change the situation because I am in some shape or form suffering from it, I should ask, no beg, no want nothing more than for God to change me. Who am I to question the God of everything ever's intentions for placing me where I am in life? I serve an intentional God. I serve a perfect God. Therefore, His intentions are perfect.
I want to feel challenged again. Because I want to discover, or merely see a glimpse, of how deep, how wide, and how INFINITE God's love is for me; how infinite His love, and how limitless His plans.
But it's easier said than done, isn't it?
Because this whole "feeling conviction and attaining a sense of purpose on a daily basis no matter the circumstances" is a work in progress. I'm not going to end this with some clever full-circle insight. I'll instead leave a link to Mr. Chan's sermon that has helped crack open my hardened heart.
Francis Chan

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

No Way But Up

    The only thing crazier for me to think about than how high, how difficult, and how perilous hiking Mount Everest is would be how crazy the men and women who have done it must have been. People don't say that some one climbed Everest, they say they conquered Everest. Over 220 people have died trying to reach the summit, and that's not exactly as peaceful as passing away in your sleep; it's a little closer to freezing to death and/or not being able to inhale the thin veil of oxygen in your deflated lungs. Fun times.
    So what's the point? Despite the unenviable death described above, almost 3,150 people have at least attempted the climb...what a bunch of morons. Have there been that many morons with an interest in rock climbing throughout history, or am I missing something? I think George Leigh Mallory, who climbed Everest in 1924 (before they had oxygen tanks and things) would say I'm missing something. He had this to say:
    "The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, 'What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?' and my answer must at once be, 'It is no use'. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It's no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life." Mr. Mallory was on to something. And Mr. Mallory died in his failed attempt to climb Everest in 1924. 
    A mountain can take your breath away with its beauty and grandeur, while all the while it can literally take your breath away. But I like to think that there is not one person to have reached its summit and regretted it, even if things were lost along the way. And stranger still, there are those who attempted it and failed but still regret nothing. If you're like me, love can seem like a similar endeavor.
    I have yet to reach love's summit. It hasn't worked out with the people that I've tried climbing it with in the past. I've gotten lost on the way up, I've run out of air, or I acted like it wasn't a dangerous climb at all only to get swept up the wind. But I don't regret those climbs. Not one bit. Because the view was still beautiful, and I'm actually closer with those people for trying. Because maybe we're not supposed to worry about reaching the summit. 
    Maybe God cares more about the climb. Maybe God wants us to have those moments where we hold each others' hand through the coldest wind or where a mere gaze from our partner is more sustaining than water. Maybe God wants us to share an adventure; and no one has ever had an adventure where there was nowhere to go. 
    Love seems dangerous. But that's the beauty of it; that I still want to climb, and that there's someone who would want to climb with me. Because I'm sure the view from the top is gorgeous, but it's the journey up that I hope takes my breath away -- one way or another.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


    So I just got home for the holidays, leaving one family to enjoy time with another. But what's strange is the family I left I had only known for a few way-too-short months. I love these people. It's a tremendously powerful thing to be as humbled, as loved, as moved as I have been by these brothers and sisters; my friends.
    Jesus said that we could move mountains with the faith of a mustard seed, which is only a little bigger than a strawberry seed. In these past months, I have come to know and love people that have the faith to dedicate their lives to a higher calling; one that is in no way certain and in every way adventurous. Imagine the faith of a person that is truly willing and ready to give their life to find it. Such a faith is probably a lot bigger than a mustard seed.
    Jesus also said to His disciples, in reference to His ministry and miracles on earth, that someday His followers would do things "greater than these." What?! Greater than the amazing stuff He did during his time here? I never got why He said such a thing. Then I met the people that would become the family I've been talking about. There is not one doubt in my mind that even one of my newest family members won't do something amazing with their lives. Because you see, each of them has found the beauty of giving their lives to something bigger; and perhaps it's because they have that faith of something bigger than a mustard seed. I don't know if any of them plan on moving a mountain, but with their faith, they can move hearts -- and I like to think it's the same business God's been in for years.
    So consider me moved. I love you and miss you all.