ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

The chorus of the song “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” has been on repeat in my head (and my house) for the last week or so.  Mostly because Little Buddy came back from Sweden with two favorite songs: 10,000 Reasons and What Makes You Beautiful.  Both are adorable when sung by a four year old, but to be honest, 10,000 Reasons has a certain moment of tenderness when sung by a 4 year old boy at the beginning of his faith journey.
So for that reason, when the opening chords of this song were played this Sunday at church, a smile crept onto my face as I remembered the various sweet moments shared at home singing this song with Little Buddy.  But then the words of the first verse drew me in in a whole new way.
the sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
it’s time to sing your song again
whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
let me be singing when the evening comes

You see, I’m in a new season of life.  A season that requires me to get up a whole lot earlier than I would ever have imagined.  This new lifestyle is a choice that I made and will effect me this whole year.  I have to be up and out of the house by 6:30 almost every day (if not earlier).  And let’s just be honest, I am not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination.  Although, I am realizing slowly that these morning times have been the most tender, real parts of my days the last couple of weeks.  They have been the moments when I have felt most connected to God and have allowed me to start my day in a more collected put together way.  And for that I am very much thankful.
Life is lived in seasons.  This new season of mine is exciting for all the things that I get to do with my day.  I am truly living the dream over here and I finally feel like everything in my life is starting to feel aligned.  Today was my first day of having to leave super early and I thought for sure that I would be dragging by the time I got to work this afternoon, but on the contrary… I felt more blessed and thankful for my life than I have in a really long time.
So today I get to say that I truly lived out this verse in my life.  I was singing songs of praise to my King even after a long long day.

you can move everything

So I’ve been spending some time rereading Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller.  I’m in the middle of a chapter where their van breaks down (yet again) and they are searching for the much needed little piece of plastic to fix their shifter in order to continue their trip.  There stand Paul and Don, staring at two vans in a junkyard that are completely picked over, shells of what they used to be.  Paul turns to walk away from the vans, without looking for the piece.  Don mumbles that they should look, Paul says he doesn’t want to look and asks if Don wants to look.  Don’s response is, “I don’t want to look, I just want to stand here and live in this sliver of hope.”  
Sometimes we stand on the outside and look at what seems like a hopeless situation.  So hopeless that we just want to walk away without even trying.  It’s in those moments that I believe we are standing in a sliver of hope.  We want to just live in what “could be” and not be bothered to look and see what is actually there.  If we never look we can’t be disappointed.  We can dwell in the sliver of hope forever.  But when we step out and act from that sliver of hope, I believe it is in that moment that God honors our search and blesses us.
Not that those are the only kinds of situations that God honors and redeems, but that is definitely the kinds of situations where God shows up provides for those faithful enough to act on even a sliver of hope.

if this waiting lasts forever

I have a friend that for the purpose of this blog we’ll call Arkansas.  He’d understand why.  Anyway, he’s in youth ministry and there was a time in which we were in youth ministry together.  Then I went off to Seminary and he got his first full time gig as a youth pastor.  He’s starting seminary this fall and wrote this blog about why he is going to seminary.  As I read it, it resonated a lot with me.
It doesn’t surprise me that Arkansas and I have similar reasons for being in this thing called Seminary, or that we both struggle with the question of what we come out the other side with – a Masters, a better knowledge of all things biblical, a job (hopefully).  It also doesn’t surprise me that Arkansas found a way to articulate these things more eloquently before even taking his first class than I can even after two years.  He’s always had a way with words.
This morning I sat across te table from a woman in our congregation and got to hear all about her life.  We sat there and got to know each other over breakfast and unlimited refills.  It was a slow and easy conversation about the places God has entered and guided our lives.  After I left breakfast, I drove over to the church and caught up on some emails, chatted with my coworkers and helped to set up a worship station for service on Sunday.  As I drove away from church I thought to myself, this is what my life will look like from now on.
Ministry is a fickle creation.  It’s got it’s ups and downs like any other job.  I’m not trying to paint a romantic picture of it, it has it’s struggles.  And sometimes those struggles hurt more deeply than we could imagine.
But then there’s those moments when it’s all worth it.  When you get to sit across from someone and hear how God is working in their life.  You get to enter into life with people and dwell in the grace of God alongside of them.  It’s magical.
I was asked this morning if I had always planned on going to Seminary.  I did my usual laugh and “Oh, no.  I never planned on Seminary, in fact I planned on NOT going to Seminary.” Which made me realize, that without Seminary I would not be sitting across from this woman in this particular breakfast place.  I wouldn’t be the person who was sitting across from her.
I’m not saying that the girl that worked alongside Arkansas wasn’t good at ministry.  Or that the woman graduating from Seminary will be completely ready for anything ministry will throw towards her.  All I know is that this road of Seminary was a much needed detour in my life.  One that has and will continue to add color to the tapestry that God is creating from my life.

happy is the heart that still feels pain

I realize that I have done a lot of responding on this blog lately.  Responding to various quotes or passages that I’ve been reading lately.  But this quote that I found this morning on the MMQB requires a response, especially by me, especially because I am finishing my chaplaincy this week.  It just seems to be a timely insert into my life in so many ways.
This quote was Peter King’s Quote of the week in response to the terrible tragedy hitting the Eagles this week.  The Eagle’s head coach Andy Reid’s son was found Sunday morning in his campus dorm room where the Eagles are holding training camp.  This quote is from the Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie on Sunday afternoon.  I think it displays a kind of wisdom that comes from moments like these in life:

I’ve watched Andy [Reid] try so hard with his family over the years.  He cares so much about his family that it’s a hard one.  You see a man that really cares, and sometimes what happens happens in life, and, you know, as he and I discussed, it’s like life throws you curveballs.  The thing to do, and I’ve always felt this and I think Andy feels the same way, is you gain from loss, you gain from tragedy.  I always think that there’s no way today I would own an NFL team if I hadn’t lost my dad when I was nine and it was shocking.  It made me stronger.  There’s choices to be made when tragedy happens.  You can become stronger and even more focused and learn from it and treat life as a challenge, or you can bow down.  And Andy is somebody … He said to me, ‘I’m going to hit that curveball and hit it out of the park’ on the field and off the field.  That’s the message he wanted me to have.

While, as a Christian, I think that this quote is missing a few key aspects, I also recognize the truth found in these words.  Tragedy is exactly that .. tragic.  It’s not something we plan or expect.  It comes out of nowhere and gut checks us.  But it also is a defining moment in our lives.  We have to helps us to figure out the kind of person we have, the kind of faith we have and what that faith is in.
A few times this summer I’ve been placed in rooms with families dealing with tragedy, crying out to God and asking why.  Struggling for anything to hold on to, for something to be right in what feels like a world of wrong.  And I’ve found myself speechless in all these times.  Partially because I don’t know what to say, partially because what I want to say sounds so harsh in that moment – “The only way to get through it is to get through it.”
But honestly because the part of me that doesn’t know what to say is that in that moment in my life, it didn’t matter what anyone said to me.  It was wrong.  No matter what anyone who didn’t deeply know my heart said to me – it was wrong.  The shock of tragedy does that to us, it makes us draw close to those who know us best and try and deal.  To struggle through the mess of what just happened with people who are struggling alongside of us.  Not that the cards and prayers from others didn’t matter – they did and they always will.  But in that tragic moment the strength that I needed came from my family – good or bad.
And I think that moment changed me.  The shift that Jeffrey Lurie is talking about happened in me.  I wouldn’t be where I am today, be the person I am today without the tragedy of losing my dad.  And I think that the only thing we can do when someone we love is going through this terrible pain of tragedy is to love them through it.  To help then along that road to the choice of being stronger or bowing down.  To help them stop blaming and start asking how God is going to redeem this.  Because He will.  We will never be the same because God promises we will be made new.  Tragedy doesn’t leave God dumbfounded, it doesn’t mean He doesn’t see us any more – it just gives Him a new way to grow us into the people He is creating us to be.

I still need you and you still need me

“You know this feeling, don’t you?”  Something inside of me turned fierce.  “How you laugh that way.  Why you love us all.  This is what you live by, isn’t it?” … Pain and sorrow never end.  Nothing we do is enough.  It’s always been this way.  “But joy,” I whispered to Irwin.  “This joy.  It’s boundless too, and endless.  So hold on.  This isn’t theirs to knock out of you.  It’s not yours to lose.  It’s not mine either.  But it’s making the trip.  It’s coming.  So please.  Just hold on.”  – The Brothers K David James Duncan

I just finished this book.  I’m not going to give you too much context behind this quote but just know that it comes from a place in the book where the narrator (Kade) is sitting in the bathroom whispering a conversation to his brother Irwin.
One of my seminary friends suggested that I read this book at the beginning of the summer.  He leant it to me promising me that I would love it.  And I’ll be really honest … I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.  But I decided to give it a try and low and behold – I loved it.
While I’ve been reading, I have had several people ask me what the book is about.  I have a hard time responding.  Sometimes I say it’s about a family of boys and baseball.  Other times I just say it’s about baseball.  Still other times I say it’s a coming of age story set in the 60s in the midst of the Vietnam war.  Still other times I’ve said it’s about a family coming to terms with growing up and growing apart.  It wasn’t until I read the last words of the book that I realized just what the book was about –
It’s about life.  It’s about love, heartbreak, growing up, values, faith, family.  It’s about the life of a family.  A family with four boys, two girls and two parents.  A family with varying faith stories.  A family who fought and loved.
It’s a beautiful story of a family’s life.
You should probably run out and get yourself a copy and read it.  Although only if you like completely genuine stories that struggle through big life questions in one chapter and then make you spit water out your nose in the next because of the completely realistic brotherly fights.