Archive for the 'Journal' Category

A semi-full plate

Two weeks ago, I didn’t have much on my plate beside looking for a job.  What a difference two weeks can make.

So, I moved.  Started a job @ Java Jones, which is going quite well.  But I also added a few more things to the mix.

A couple of weeks ago I started practicing with an eclectic folk/jazz band.  The groove is pretty tight, and my first gig with the new band is this weekend!  Stoked about that.

Also, I began volunteering with a San Diego-based non-profit called AWARE Recycling.  The idea behind AWARE is to set up a consistent stream of income to support other non-profits like Invisible Children, the ONE Campaign, BLOOD: Water Mission, and others.  AWARE picks up the recycling from clubs and businesses in San Diego.  In exchange for the CRV, the businesses get a tax write-off.  It’s the brainchild of some of my best friends, Vince and Nancy, along with an awesome dude named Chad.  You should definitely check it out.

The work is dirty and late.  So far, I’ve only done two midnight runs, which involve visiting the businesses with which we have contracts and picking up their glass bottles and other recyclables.  There are a bunch of broken bottles and a lot of foul smells in dark alleys.  But so far, it’s really cool being part of something so real.

That’s the update.  Anyway, my plate is quickly filling up. . . but I’m still trying to keep afloat on the whole reading-a-book-a-week thing.


Into the City

Wow, the last week has been busy.

If you’ve kept up with me recently, you know I have been praying for a job in downtown San Diego and for housing near downtown as well.  Why downtown?  Because downtown is the center of the hub of the fellowship of which I am a part.

Well, last week, God saw fit to provide a job in downtown and housing 1 mile from downtown within the period of about 48 hours.  On Wednesday, I landed a job at Java Jones, 1 of only 2 coffee shops in San Diego Country that serves only Certified Fair Trade and Organic coffee.  It’s a pretty cool place too.  They roast all their coffee in the same building.  On Friday, through the connection of a friend of a friend, I got the ‘ok’ to house sit at a place overlooking the airport and the harbor.

I moved in Saturday.

It’s been quick, and already, life is so different.

First of all, I’m on my own.  Which is not new for me, but it has been a while.  The last time I lived alone was my junior year in college- – 3 years ago.

Secondly, I’m cooking… without a microwave.   I can already tell I’m going to miss my sister’s great cooking (not to mention years of missing Mom’s cooking), but the cool thing is that I’m cooking for myself.  I’m no professional, but I find it soothing.

Thirdly, I might get fit.  I’m riding a bike, borrowed from my bro-in-law until I can afford one.  Work is 2.5 miles away and almost all downhill, which means that I can relax while trying not to get side swiped by morning traffic.  The downside, or upside depending on how you see it, is that the way home is all uphill.  The steepest part is poetically located right before I reach home.  This must be the only part of San Diego that seems more like the urban hills of San Francisco.  Today was my first time up the hill, and I won’t lie, I had to stop on the side of the road twice, panting hard for air.  Embarrassing.  Anyway, after a season of avoiding physical activity, this whole biking thing is going to be good for me.  (Plus, it saves me money on parking and gasoline)

Fourthly, the loss of distractions.  I like that at my place, I don’t have the internet.  I don’t have a TV.  I don’t have a radio… Although, I usually end up playing tunes through an old keyboard amp (I would die without music.)  It’s different than I have lived for a while I guess.  It’s great for reading, writing, playing songs, and being able to hear myself think.

Fifthly (is that a word?), I might be turning into a cat person.  I’m not quite sure yet, and the constant shedding is annoying, but Zeke and I are getting along pretty well.

So that’s the recently city life.  It’s fast paced and reflective, break neck and contemplative, high stress and relaxing; a bundle of contradictions.  That’s what’s been up.  I’ll be back this week with the book review of Chazown. . . and I just realized I haven’t even mentioned the band I’ve been practicing with… all in due time.



A pound of flesh

Last night I watched Seven Pounds, the somewhat recent film in which Will Smith’s character is stricken with a deep since of guilt about some untold event in his past.  As the movie progresses, it become clear that Ben Thomas (his character) is driven with such a desire to help others, to his own detriment, that he donates his eyes, bone marrow, kidney, liver, part of his lung, his beach house, and even commits suicide in order to give his healthy heart to the woman he loves.  Though unspoken, the implication is that he does these things in order to make up for the seven lives lost in his past during a head-on collision in which he was driving.

Now there are all kinds of parallels here.  His fiance was one of the lives lost in the car wreck.  So the movie portrays him indirectly “taking the life” of the woman he loved, and “giving his life” for the new woman that he loves.  There are a lot of redeeming qualities to the plot.  He feels the weight of his actions.  He feels the guilt of the situation.  And in order to relieve his dark conscience, he gives a total sacrifice of his own body so that others will know life in a deeper, more beautiful way.  He does some great things to help great people.  His eyes help a blind man see.  His house becomes the new home of a battered woman and her two kids.  And in the end, you are made to feel as though he is a man of great sacrifice.  Many redeeming qualities, and also a few things I noticed about our human nature.

We often find ourselves in Ben Thomas’ position.  Knowing we’ve done something wrong, wanting to make it right, not quite knowing how.  At some time or another, we all try to self-atone.  We try to make things better on our own.  We try to prove that we can pay the price for the wrongs we’ve done, that on our own we can make things right, make it better, make it acceptable to God and others.  But the story of the bible tells us this is not the case.  The wage of sin is death, and all have sinned, and more importantly all are sinners.  We’ve messed things up, we’ve marred the image of God that we were formed in far beyond recognition… far beyond our own ability to redeem.

In many Christian traditions, the wrath of God is empasized over his love.  The justice of God is empasized over his grace.  I grew up with a fear that God was waiting for me to mess up so that he could send me straight to hell.  I know of others with similar stories.  It led me to believe that I had to perform.  It led me to believe that my salvation depended on my performance of God’s rules, instead of his act of love for me on the Cross.  It let me to believe that everything was riding on whether or not I sinned, instead of whether or not he made a way.

But the good news is that when we had no way to pay for our sins, God acted on our behalf.  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the us.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only ours, but for the sins of the whole world.  He loves us!  He knew that we would sin.  He knew that we would try on our own to cover it up, or to make things right.  And he knew that the only way to make it right was through the Blood of Jesus on the Cross.  The truth is that when we could do nothing to help ourselves, he did everything to help us up, and to make us acceptable!  This is the story of redemption.

But are we Ben Thomas?  How often, though, have you found yourself still trying to self-atone?  Have you ever found yourself holding on to the guilt of a mistake, almost grieving it to prove to God that you’re sorry?  As if you will “feel guilty” enough to make up for the wrong?  As if there is a scale which you must tip in order to have God’s favor?  Have you ever found yourself going above and beyond to prove to your friends and family and co-workers that you are competent, that you can handle things, that you can measure up? (especially if these are people you have let down in the past).  Aren’t we always trying to prove ourselves to somebody?  Whether we’re proving ourselves to ourselves or to others, it’s because of a false belief.  It’s because of a lie that we hold on to so dearly.  It’s because of a belief that we can make things right.  Or that we should be perfect, so we will try our best to prove to others that this is the case.  It’s because we think that since God is perfect, he expects us to be sinless and perfect on our own.  (If you think I’m wrong, then ask yourself if God is surprised each time you fall into sin.)

Here is the truth:  God is gracious, so we don’t have to prove ourselves.  God knows we are imperfect.  He knows our fallen nature.  And out of love, he made a way that we could live above sin.  In Christ, he’s made us from from the guilt of sin and the power of sin.  So, the challenge for when we misstep is to rely on HIS GRACE instead of our own abilities (or should I say feeble attempts) to make things right.  God is gracious, so let’s rest in that.  God is gracious, so let’s show others grace.  God is gracious, so don’t work so hard trying to prove to him or to others that you’re perfect.  He knows you’re not, and we know you’re not.  After all, when we try to self-atone, what we’re really communicating is that we feel like we have sinned against our own image.  When I sin, have I sinned against “me and my image” or God and his image?

I know this is long, but it’s really only the beginning of what was happening in my heart as I watched.

But where sin increased, grace increased all the more – Rom 5:20

Back in Sunny D.

I’m back in San Diego and the price is right.  It was around mid 80’s and my friend said, “Man, it’s so hot.”  I tried my best to hold back that whole I’m-self-righteous-because-I-just-spent-my-summer-in-the hottest-place-on-earth attitude that I seem to get from time to time since being back in the states.  A little of it still showed up.


Anyway, just dropping a line to say I’m back and I’m stoked.  Tomorrow I’m going to blaze a trail through San Diego.  Wanted: a Job, a place to stay, and possibly another degree.  We’ll see.  Peace.

1 score and 4 years ago

Bible study members in Kibera

Bible study members in Kibera

1 score and 4 years ago…

I would have been almost one month old, with a body-fat percentage that would put a sumo to shame.  After all, I did pop out of the birth canal about 2 weeks late, all 11 pounds of me.  That’s right, you read right, 11 lbs.  I had blubber rolls on my forearms.  You should see the pictures.  But back to being one month old.  Ah, if I knew then what I know now.

I’m not even really sure what I mean by that, except for the fact that I’ve learned so much in the last 24 years.  We enter as a blank slate, or at least that’s what Aristotle said (tabula rasa).  Whatever we learn and experience in our time here is what we know and have experienced, and boy, I feel like I have been blessed to experience a lot.

In this vein of thinking, 2009 has been a landmark year for me thus far, just because I have had an overwhelming amount of new experiences.  I mean, before my travels this year, I had never fallen into poop, or had poop thrown on my shoe.  I had never shaken a leper’s hand, or hugged a Kenyan.  I had never spent an afternoon with orphans or preached to slum kids or played my guitar in a church building made of tin and sticks.  I had never shared the gospel with breastfeeding women, or met a kid named Kirk Franklin, or slept under the stars (and grazing camels) of the African bush, or drank 4 Redbulls in one night, or driven a scooter in the rainy streets of Delhi, or taken a man’s binoculars for looking at the girls on our team from his roof, or had one million of the other experiences I’ve had this year.

Wow.  I feel so blessed.  But the coolest thing is that God is teaching me.  And the thing I’ve learned is that he uses our life experiences to speak to us.  And I guess that the main point I’m trying to make is not, “Look at me and how much I’ve learned,” but rather the amazing thing that there’s always more to learn.  There is always more to God, always more of him he has to show us.

In a conversation with a friend today, she noted that some time ago she had an epiphany in prayer.  You know those times when everything seems to come in clear for a few moments before going back to the normal haze?  She said that the realization she had was that in spite of all the wonderful adjectives we have for God, (i.e. wonderful, merciful, amazing, loving, powerful), that there exist so many aspects of God that he could reveal himself to her in a way (in a particular adjective) that no person from Adam and Eve until the present day may have experienced him before.  What a neat thought to realize that God is SO BIG that he could reveal himself to you in a way quite unlike any other way that anyone else has experienced him in history.  Yes, nothing is new under the sun, but God is our infinite discovery, our endless adventure.  He is our Teacher and guide into the depths of the knowledge of God.  It’s an amazing thought.

It’s neat how you can learn something from every experience in your life, whether good or bad, success or failure.  And if you listen enough, you can hear God speaking to you through every situation.  And after 24 years, I’m learning to listen.

Lessons learn’ing’.. because it’s a process, you know

Howdy everyone-

So I’ve been back in Arkansas since last Thursday; back in the states since last Tuesday, and I’m so happy to be in America.  The first dinner I had in a restaraunt in Atlanta involved a bacon burger (because it’s illegal to eat beef in India) and the first meal I had in Mena was ribeye steak, for pretty much the same reason.  So, I’ve morphed in to somewhat of a carnivore over the last 10 days or so.  A couple of months of oatmeal, fruit, PB&J, rice, and veggies will do that to you.  To my surprise, I haven’t enjoyed one RedBull since being home.  I guess that’s more fun when you are playing Risk.

Anyway, my “re-entry” time has been so different from the last trip.  I came back from Kenya full and in many ways I came back from India empty.  Now there are a lot of reasons for this, one being my role as a leader on the last trip instead of just a participant as in Kenya.  Another being that, before 2009 I’ve never spent a full day out side of the U.S. of A., and now I’ve spend 5 months of this year overseas, without air conditioning, stoplights that are obeyed, or a constant flow of burgers.  So, I’m GLAD to be back here.  Because the traffic laws are actually enforced in our country, I can cross the street without having to look both ways the entire time, something I couldn’t do in India or Kenya; which brings to mind the time in India I stiff-armed a Honda. 

I think one of the biggest reasons I’m so fatigued is that God really used this trip to teach me a few lessons… lessons that I AM currently learning.  It’s not just bookwork, but it’s real life.  We serve a sovereign God, who is in control, but so often I go through each day believing that I’m in control.  Or I’ve even found myself acting like I believe I can control things better than God can.  And what is the fruit of such behavior?  Worry, fret, anxiety, etc.  I read a verse in Psalms that said “do not fret, it only leads to evil.”  God kinda slapped me on the face with that one.  Then on the last day of the India trip I got a note of encouragement from one of the students on the trip and it really spoke to me.  But there was one part that came as a harsh, but gentle?, slap on the face.  It said “control is the absence of humility.”  Guilty.  I’ve caught myself being prideful enough to thing that I have a better handle on things in my everyday life than the God who created the days in which I’m living. 

The truth is that God is Great, so we don’t have to be in control.  He is, and I can rest in that.  He uses the good and the bad.  He works all things together for our good.  And He knows what is good for us and the ways in which he is using our life events to shape us.  God is not as much concerned with our comfort as he is concerned with our character.  Who we are becoming is more important that how we feel during the process.  (Embrace the process– you’d think I would know this stuff.)

So that’s where I am.  I’m ended a great, but very stressful few months, and God is refilling me.  So I’m learning that lesson, along with a few others, that hopefully I’ll get a chance to share soon.  Anyway, that’s what’s going on. 

I’m in Arkansas for a few more weeks with a few events on my calendar before heading back to SD.  Speaking at Siloam Springs this Wednesday, my cousin’s birthday this weekend, then maybe some opportunities to play my songs for peeps up in NWA.  Mainly just seeking the Lord for what’s next… he’s Great… he’s in control.  And one thing I know I’ve learned is that I’ve never been happier than when I’m doing exactly what he wants me to!

Update Numero 3

Hello from Delhi-

It’s July and the trip is already half-way through.  It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in India for almost a month.  The last week had it’s own set of learning opportunities and experiences.  

The last week was the hottest it’s been and the coolest it’s been.  I think it was 47.7 C (I think that’s around 115 F) last weekend, but then it rained for a few days in a row, so it’s been cooler.  Ministries are going well.  Some new doors have opened up with our new translators who are more experienced.  So God has been working through that.  

Last week at the leper colony we visit, there was a death of someone from the colony.  We found out about it as we showed up, and some people with leprosy from other colonies had gathered as well.  Our team was asked to pray– we weren’t sure how to pray or what to pray for.  We gathered around the body of the elderly lady, her eyes open, figure covered with flowers.  Incense was burning to a Hindu god.  The situation was so solemn for us, because it reminded us of how lost this area of the world is.  Around 99% of the people here are not Christian… that’s 99% of over 1 billion people.  A girl from our ministry team volunteered to pray and she prayed with such a beautiful heart.  It was such a memorable moment.

I have enjoyed the opportunity to preach to the kids from the slums on Sundays.  I’ve preached twice so far.  Once about how Jesus is the Bread of Life, and once about how Jesus is the light of the world.  I’ve been told how important it is in preaching here to emphasize Jesus because the word “God” understandably doesn’t have the same connotation here as is does in our culture (because there is a god for everything here).  It’s been really refreshing to preach straight gospel to these children who are going back to Hindu households at the end of each meeting.  Praise the Lord for that.

Sunday night some of our team was together discussing the sermon on the mount.  I think it’s so important to discuss and wrestle with the meaning of scripture in the context of community.  We talked for a while and didn’t even make it through half of the beatitudes.  But something that came up in the discussion has really helped me through most of this week. 

We talked about what it means to be “poor in spirit,” and why Jesus says the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are “poor in spirit.”  One aspect of being poor in spirit is to be aware of my glaring, ever-present need for God… and to live in that need for God.  Not to just pick it up when things get tough.. let me share an entry from my journal this week.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Lord I need you.  I am aware of my need for you.  My need for you is ever before me… except not really in practice.  I usually find that I try my best to be self-sufficient.  Like the Copeland lyric, “you’d break your neck to keep your chin up.”  I try to make all the decisions and have most if not all the answers on my own.  But it always comes around to this… my need for You.  Thank you for the patience you have in dealing with me.   Thank you for taking the time to teach me that I need You… for everything. Not just for the things that are too difficult for me, but I need you in all things.  My life is one of utter dependence on your grace- whether I acknowledge that or not.  But God, how sweet it is to acknowledge my need for you.  And not simply acknowledge it, but live in the reality of it.  To stand in the reality of my need.. to live with the knowledge that I am insufficient and that you are the only Independent One.  To lean into you for the things I need, and to recognize the grace you give me just to make it through a “normal day.” My God I need you… and I say thank you for being enough, for being more than enough to meet that need.  You are a good Father who knows how to give good gifts, and you meet my need with more than I could ask for.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


As my responsibilities, the challenges in ministry, ministering to the team, and other things have grabbed for my attention, it’s just brought to light the truth that I need God.  And I’ve found this week that it’s so beautiful to rest in my need for Him, and to know that he meets my needs for Him.  So that’s where I’ve been with all that. 

I leave you with this.  The Scooty has continued to be a joy… but the other day, I was on a grocery run with a guy from the team when it began to rain.  We got drenched, and all the Indians were laughing at the sopping wet foreigners on the Scooty and in the market… but hey, it was like God-given air conditioning… and there’s no way I would pass that up.  

Once again, thank you for your prayers and encouragement.  May God bless you this week and may you rest in the reality that you need Him… even for the next breath you breath while reading this, you need him… and he’s providing for your need.  Until the next update- Peace!