I’m going to fill my jar.

Sometime late last year I saw a picture of on Facebook of gratitude jar. It was a pretty simple idea; just a glass jar filled with little slips of paper, each of those slips containing something worth being thankful for. I’ve never really done anything quite like that but writing down good things that happened for the sake of remembering seemed like something worth doing. So I went to Hobby Lobby and got my jar, 2015 was going to be the year that I would wake each day more aware of the blessings in my life.

And then as it does, life got in the way. Oh, I tossed in a few notes in here and there. And I was happy to not be able to see the bottom of the jar any longer. It that made me feel like I was really doing something good. Soon, I’d go a few days without putting anything into the jar. And then a few weeks. Something that seemed like a pretty good idea when I started now was just a nagging reminder every time I passed it. When I stopped filling my physical jar of gratitude, I think I also stopped filling my internal jar. And when that jar isn’t being filled, when I’m not living a life of gratitude, my attitude changes. I think the main goal of that Facebook post was to help approach each day from a grateful perspective. Through that lens, I can see that things aren’t always as bad as I think on the rough days and I can savor the good days even more. It reminds me of a quote I really like,  ‘It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy’.

And I guess I could finish the rest of this year at that same clip. Writing something down when it’s really awesome. The kind of thing I’d want to tell others about or just a personal moment worthy of fireworks, filling the jar with tweetable moments only. Or I could force myself to put pen to paper just to fulfill the commitment.  But neither of these ideas keep in line with the original ideal behind this. So I’m going to take a few moments to remind myself of a few things that should be in that jar. And maybe come out the other side with a better perspective.

First, I’m thankful for the church family I’m a part of. There have been a lot of changes in the last year at Christway but I’m blessed to be journeying with some pretty awesome people there. It wasn‘t that long ago that the idea of a bible study seemed like something I’d only find the time to make a good excuse not to attend. Now I spend time with guys who’re concerned not just with how work is or what I thought of the game, but honestly concerned with my spiritual growth.  Sunday lunches and being reminded to stay away from the pretzels have been pretty great with Rudy, Ryan, and Deli.

I’m also pretty lucky to have a few friends outside of my church family who’ve been great for me too. Countless rounds of both Catan and disc golf or just talking the latest sports headlines are how Cory, Peck, Jordan and Shawn and I spend leisure time. But it’s good to know that these are good dudes who are willing to lend a hand any time, whether I’m ready to say I need it or not.

I’m grateful for a family that has always loved me even when I wasn’t very lovable. 

I’m pretty blessed to be at a job that’s been steady for such a long time. I know a lot of places have had to downsize the work force and I’m thankful that I haven’t had even that threat. I’m not in a place of great wealth, but I can pay my bills.

For a little over a year now I’ve been lucky enough to be dating a wonderful woman. Amber is a great encourager and best friend. She builds me up and makes me feel cared for. She hopes great things for me and lets me know how I can show care better. She’s an incredible woman and I’m lucky to have her in my life.

Even just reading back through the few things I’ve gone over here put me in a better place. And that doesn’t begin to cover the things I should be thankful for. I think thankfulness flows into more thankfulness. I just need a reminder from time to time.

I’m sorry isn’t always easy, but always worth it

I sometimes find it fun to think about what kind of tattoo I would get if I ever decided to get one. If I had the real estate on my bicep, I think an eagle and a lion entangled in a lightsaber duel might make for a pretty sweet conversation piece. In all honesty though, there aren’t a lot of things I could envision myself feeling that ardently about forever. That’s a huge commitment. So I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon. If I did ever lose a bet or something and had to get one, maybe the idea bet would be getting ‘apologize’ some place I would constantly see it.

There are many reasons that being apologetic is the right thing. Earnestly seeking reconciliation makes things easier in the long run and eases things for healthier relationships. It’s this kind of attitude that helps us live in better harmony with ourselves, others, and God. I believe this is most clearly shown what God thinks of it biblically in the New Testament, Matthew 5:23-24. Reading that verse recently, God really hit me with the weight of that. Holding onto a disagreement or resentment, or just generally not getting something settled with someone else is pretty serious. He doesn’t even want us to approach Him before we address it! Man, if we’re called not to worry but to call out to our Father about everything, that means settling things is a big deal.

When Jesus illustrated his idea of forgiveness to Peter with the parable of the unforgiving unforgiving servant, he made it pretty clear that we should be up front about admitting our faults, that we should be forgiving of others as He has forgiven us. It’s selfish to think of ourselves worthy of that forgiveness but that others aren’t. And when it’s us who needs forgiveness? Well, we should approach humbly. God forgives willingly. When it comes to others we’ve wronged, that may not always be the case.

Sometimes coming to someone else to apologize isn’t because we think they’re completely right in the situation, it might just show that we value the relationship highly. In fact, most of the time culpability can be shared to some degree. In keeping a bitter heart towards someone over something, we fall into a line of thinking that is self damaging. I’ve heard it said many times that holding resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. You staying angry will likely not affect them and certainly won’t help you. Admitting to your fault may not lead to reconciliation. The other person may choose not to forgive you. That’s entirely up to them. But it’s up to them whether or not you care for that relationship by doing that. I need to make sure to swallow my pride and step up to apologize. Being apologetic looks better on me than my pride does.

Lastly, apologizing is good for us. Sometimes we’re not afforded the opportunity to apologize in person, sometimes not at all. But instead of clinging to the reasons why we justified our selfish actions in the first place, harboring a hard heart, we need to be introspective and find what we can change. And apologizing is nearly always the right first step. When things start to go wrong, I’m big on finding the next right step. Releasing our imaginary hold on things that we don’t actually control is always a good step. No, we may not be able to find the acceptance of forgiveness that we’re seeking. But we will always find a clearer conscience by doing it. A lighter load is a pretty sweet reward for doing the right thing anyway. It makes it easier to forgive someone else because we know the kind of humility it takes to approach with a an apologetic mindset. Maybe that is something worth getting a tattoo as a reminder.

The Best Is Yet To Come

Is it time for you to go already?

It feels like we were just getting to know each other.

Truth be told, I’m pretty fond of you. I hadn’t really told you or anyone else for that matter. But it’s true, since I’ve been with you, a lot of good things happened. We took small steps together, you and I. But big results almost always start with small steps. And I think some big stuff was there too, but you never really notice it until it’s in the rearview. While I was with you I really learned more about myself. I settled in being a better me. I didn’t try to be the me I knew when I was with others. I didn’t talk so much about trusting in God being in control. I just did it. I experienced the kind of growth that will help me so much in the future. I had fun with good friends and tried things I hadn’t done before. I went swing dancing. I had to reread that with a smile. And I wasn’t even the worst guy in the room. Most of all, with you I saw a glimpse of the direction I need to be heading. For that, I will always be grateful.

I guess I can’t let you leave without saying that everything with you was rainbows and sunshine. There were some rough times. I learned some things that left me feeling pretty sad. I felt disappointment with some of my own actions. I had probably my sickest day that I’ve ever had. My car has given me some trouble. So, it’s not like every day with you was amazing.

But even with all of that considered, the bad can’t take away from what you and I had. The one before you was where I saw myself being broken down, pieces being torn away. I had just been shell shocked. And the waves of pain and realization afterwards made me aware of the change taking place. I wouldn’t have ever wished it, but I needed to be torn down. I was full of a love for myself and my own ways. I was unteachable. And then I was destroyed. But while with you, I’ve been rebuilt. And it wasn’t by you. So I now don’t find my worth in how others view me or how I view myself. I will seek my value in how God loves me.

I guess that makes this parting easier than it would otherwise be. You were good to me. But there are better days to come. So today, our 365th together, will be our last. Tomorrow I start off a new relationship with 2015.

I think it’s gonna be a good year.

A Moment Redeemed is a Memory Cherished

I’m going to tell a story about a couple that I know through my job. A story that I’m only able to know through patience and listening. My job has frustrating times like any job but one of my favorite parts is the chance I get to connect with people. Unfortunately that can also be one of the worst parts of the job too. But I really cherish the times I can meet someone and help them towards a kitchen of their dreams. Even better is when the guests I’m helping are interesting and kind, I enjoy getting the chance to listen to bits of their story. The more I learn, the more I’m aware of how little I know. So I’m grateful for other perspectives on life. Continue reading “A Moment Redeemed is a Memory Cherished”

Do I Really Love You?

To be honest, I’m not really sure I know the answer.

It’s something that I wrestle with constantly. Love is somehow contained in a four letter word in the English language. But definitions, interpretations, and motivations give the concept a lot heavier feel than simply saying the word out loud.

I know I say an awful lot how often I loved others for how it made me feel. I expressed myself in a way that was very demonstrable. I liked knowing that others knew I showed off in big or creative ways. But does acknowledging that out loud keep me from living with that same prideful spirit? Do I really separate myself from my past or do I find a level of comfort of distancing myself from feelings that I still cling to?

I talk about how the revival of my soul has changed my entire outlook on the Bible. That meeting Jesus almost thirty years into life after growing up in church as drawn me to real change. And I know I don’t lie when I say that. But I wrestle with how that translates into how I serve those around me. I believe the greatest act of love to ever be displayed was God’s son Jesus taking my blame on the cross. Where does my service come into my story? While I don’t think that love is always that drastic, I believe that there is a personal cost to that kind of investment. Investing in another parts of myself. I wonder if what I have is true.

Do I love you enough to be truthful and still gentle?

Do I love you enough to hold you accountable? About how I let you treat me? To call you out when the spirit calls me to?

Do I love you past emotion? Am I a slave to circumstance or do I intentionally regard you with a heart that is patient, kind, gentle, and with self control?

Do I love you in a way that speaks encouraging words and inspires love towards others? If we disagree, do I still seek to do so peaceably? When I’m wrong, do I humbly seek forgiveness? Do I freely give it even when you don’t ask?

Do I love you enough to get out of my own way? Do try to take the time to see things from your perspective? Can I speak to you without thinking about what the situation can do for me?

Do I love you enough to let you go?

Do I provoke you in Godly works?

Do I stay put when you need it?

Do I give you room to grow?

Do I celebrate you? Do I realize that you’re fearfully and wonderfully made and do I let you know that I do?

I wonder if I really appreciate the God given chance to know you. The opportunity to see how exactly my life can serve, cherish, and compliment yours and not in what way your life can accentuate the details in mine.

I don’t look to ever have these questions fully answered. I think when I find myself prayerfully striving to find myself loving well in the story that God let me be a part of is where I’m growing into a man whose love is meaningful.

What Does Being a Friend Really Mean?

464.

That’s how many friends that Facebook would tell you that I have. I do know all of those people. Or at least most of them. I’d probably even approach more than half of them if I saw them on the street. Still, it’s a little bit awkward to see that number and wonder how many of those people I’ve talked to within even the past few months. Whatever that number actually is, it is higher than what it would’ve been before the start of the year. I’ve intentionally reached out to a few people every other week or so in an attempt to invest in souls around me. It has proven to be a good thing. I think I’ve got more out of the act than anyone who I’ve contacted. But does that make us closer? Friends at all? What does it mean to be a real friend? What does that take?

In my decade plus since high school (it’s really been that long?) I’ve certainly made several new friends. But the amount of people I no longer hang out with is a much larger number. I’ve been learning what it is that I need most in a friend. I’ve been learning the ways I lack. My interests have changed. But I don’t mourn the lessened quantity but celebrate the quality of the friendships that God has graced me with. And I’m grateful for a better perspective on how I should improve my friendship skills.

I’m a big fan of Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages. It’s a book that opened my eyes quite a bit both on how I loved and how I accepted it. I feel like I’m better at assuming love when someone close interacts with me in a way that doesn’t natively speak it to me. I love that the book is intended for many kinds of relationships and it’s helped me to realize that words of affirmation mean a great deal to me. For me, this is especially true in a romantic relationship. When it comes other friendships, I feel like being intentional is still important. Investing quality time is the expression I believe is the bedrock for most of these bonds. There are other ways to love on those close, but it’s impossible to initiate those methods without first spending time together.

Of course, it’s more than that. I loved the tweet I saw recently from pastor Sammy Rhodes, “True friends say hard things in gentle ways”. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” I find it frustrating how often I hear people talk about backing their friend no matter what path they choose. I think there’s a pretty distinct difference between being loving and accepting. I’m thankful for a friend that can help me see when I’m in the wrong. A real friendship will involve conflict. Healthy relationships are the ones that don’t seek to avoid conflict but to navigate towards a resolution respecting both individuals. Our human relationships help sharpen us for divine responsibilities. Seeing another as a soul loved by a great God makes it easier to see where we can forgive, encourage, and work with them.

The bible has a lot more to say on what it means to be a friend. Equipped with this, we can see who it is in life we should invest in as our true friends.

  • 1 Peter 4:8-10 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
  • John 15:12-14 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
  • Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
  • Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing
  • Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
  • 1 Peter 4:8-10 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace
  • Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

It even addresses what to avoid while looking for friends like in 1 Corinthians 15:33 and in Proverbs 22:24-27. It makes it pretty clear that we can fall into the same kind of destructive habits of those closest to us. Which we can reasonably assume that spending time with life giving people will encourage us into being life giving people. The word that keeps coming to mind as I read over these verses is service. I feel that one of the biggest parts of love is serving. Consistently building up, forgiving, encouraging, working together, rebuking, and walking in line with. God calls us to the kind of love that is intentional. Without consistently taking steps to be a voice of love in another’s life, even when that means being tough,  we’re losing out on the chance to be a true friend. Thank God for the true friends in my life.

What Am I Looking For?

At bible study last Thursday, my pastor asked me about the passage that we’d been reading. In John 1, Andrew and another disciple were with John as Jesus walked past them and John proclaimed Him to be the Lamb of God. The two immediately followed Jesus and He then turned to ask them what they were seeking. This was the question that my pastor asked me.  What was I seeking? I wasn’t able to answer the question. I wasn’t sure what I was even being asked at first. Continue reading “What Am I Looking For?”