Buy the Umbrella, Pack the Bag

Discipline. Sometimes it feels like this ten letter word should only have four letters. At least to me. A swear word. I have for a long time operated under the delusion that I am intrinsically good. Talented. Capable. Call it millennialism or naivete, whatever you will, I had it and unfortunately I’m still trying to let go of the dream.

I believe everyone has a few natural talents, things they just do well at, but for everything else there’s elbow grease and gumption. For a long time I would stay in my lane, stick to that which came readily to me. The problem I came to encounter were those things that I enjoyed that I was only moderately good at, or those things, those behaviors I ought to do, which I had to work at developing.

I could belabor all the habits, behaviors, skills, etc that I need to improve, but that’s not what this post endeavors to relay.

I haven’t written on this blog for a while now (four months) for two reasons. For the past couple of months I have been in a slump, feeling down and out. I wasn’t disciplined enough to sit down and write.

I have often thought that I can write passably well when I want to, that I can communicate my thoughts coherently and even to an extent with flourish. The problem with this presupposition arises when you examine the need for a want. You see, even the things I want to do, that I believe I can do well, I have to want to do in order to do them. Follow that?

I have to want to act. I have to want to write. I have to want to go to the gym. But I don’t always want what I want.

This is where discipline comes in to the picture. You see, discipline fills in the gaps. Discipline means committing what you said you would regardless of how you feel. You see why I might have an issue with this concept? If you’ve read my blog previously, or if you know me in person I can surmise that you know I am an emotive person, much like anyone. I am fickle in my feelings, flighty in my fancies, you get the idea. Just this morning I woke up, slept in an hour past the time I had planned on getting up just because I didn’t “feel” like getting up.

This isn’t a post about mental illness, I am wildly under educated in this field.

This is a post about discipline, routines. I don’t know where or when the change took place, and it probably was slow and gradual. I read a book. I heard a sermon. I read a quote. I had a good conversation. All of these moments led to a realization in two parts: I needed discipline, to do these things without the necessity of feeling “up to it”, and I needed to recommit myself to what God’s calling to me was on. The book “Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small” by Mark Batterson brought these ideas to a head. It gave me a realization that I wasn’t living like a man with faith, I wasn’t acting on the promise that God had given me, trusting Him with what He promised. He told me He was going to make it rain and I stopped building my boat.

You see that’s the thing with faith and discipline. They go hand in hand. “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it in different words, you cannot have faith without obedience and obedience stems from faith, we obey because we have faith. I can develop disciplines because I have faith that God will come through. I can work hard, not to accomplish my own dreams, not to accomplish what God has in store for my life, but rather to be prepared when it does come, to prepare my heart, to show how I trust Him that He is doing what He said He will do.

This past Sunday we heard a recorded message of Jentezen Franklin’s preaching from Hillsong Conference in Australia. His message revolved around the ancient near east tradition of measurement. He said they used Cubits, which is the measurement from the end of your middle finger to the nape of your elbow, or six hand-breadths. A hand breadth is pinky to index finger, basically the width of your palm. Franklin tells of how when God gives the measurements for the new temple he extends the original single cubits to a cubit and one handbreadth, seven handbreadths. He explains the cultural significance of six referring to the number of man and seven being God’s number. Simply put, Franklin indicated that God was telling the Israelites He was adding to what they could accomplish on their own. Six handbreadths was nice, but the seventh meant completion, what God could accomplish.

Pastor Franklin passionately iterated that God wants us to do our “six handbreadths” our “cubit’s worth”. He said that the cubit length seemed to draw on the part of the human that creates, that builds, that manufactures. A cubit is our contribution, but it takes the seventh to fulfill. The sermon then moved to the story of Elijah and his prayer for rain in the drought. 1 Kings 18 records Elijah as praying seven times before the glimmer of a cloud, but after each prayer he sent the attendant to look to the skies for rain. That means that six times the attendant saw clear skies. In verse 44, it describes the attendant running out a seventh time and seeing a cloud “no bigger than a man’s hand”; the promise fulfilled in God’s “seventh hand”.

This message solidified a lot of the fresh perspectives I had been feeling and seeing. A few weeks ago I began to plan for new disciplines. In order to plan, I sat down and thought through (and prayed through) all the promises God has placed on my life and then I began to plan my days and weeks around the idea, “If I was living in the fulfillment of God’s promises, how would my days and weeks look?” I’ve been reading more plays, I memorized a few new monologues. I’ve been waking up earlier to accommodate. One of my dreams is to travel to Ireland and Scotland on an extended trip, so I even sat down and planned my dream Celtic Road trip. Obviously it’s a process and not all days are a “success” but I think I am not a better trajectory.

Last week a potentially derailing thought wormed it’s way into my head. I prayed it out to God, “If I am doing all these disciplines to be ready, won’t it end up appearing to me and to others that I just got busy and made it happen.” I whined and asked Him to show up miraculously because otherwise I might think I accomplished it all. It seems petty in hindsight, and slightly manipulating, but I think at the core there was a genuine concern. God promptly reprimanded me and then a few days later boasted to me in the form of miraculous provision.

Last Friday evening I hung out with two friends with whom I used to lead a team at church. They gave me one of the best and most unexpected presents for my Birthday, a shadowbox decorated with pictures of Ireland and Scotland. I thought the gift an inspirational motivator, that the dream would happen, a holder for the end of the trip to fill with souvenirs. They said it could be that, but they intended it to hold the cash that would pay for the trip, a dream piggy bank. Not only did they create this wonderful gift but they planted the seed and told my friends about it. Others who saw their gift (who don’t know them) also felt inclined to give. I am nearly 20% raised on this dream trip. I did nothing, well I planned it and created a budget, I did a cubit’s worth. God showed up to reveal to me that when I step out in faith He’ll make me walk on waves.

“When you pray for rain, make sure you buy an umbrella” – Jentezen Franklin

I’m packing my bags.

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Grilled Cheese, PB& J, Starbucks Leftovers, and other assorted Miracles

“Give us this day our daily bread”

Growing up I thought this meant going to the pantry everyday to get a slice of bread for a Peanut Butter & Jelly or for that one year, Bologna. I eventually understood it to mean being content with what you have, asking for no more than what I needed, and you know what I didn’t yet realize how much I don’t need.

I haven’t written in a while and to be honest I was tired of writing about being strong in struggle, of having faith when circumstances didn’t look bright. I imagined the ones who read what I wrote began to grow as weary as me, tired of listening to me whine and follow up with some nugget that would keep me going.

I also didn’t feel as I had room to complain or be upset publicly. For one, God is good. Two He has brought me to New York, something I’ve wanted for a while. Three, He recently transferred me to the store I had wanted to be at for months.

I think I became further upset at how I couldn’t seem to rally my emotions to reflect all the good that was happening. I would have joy for fleeting moments, then something would remind me that struggle was looming. I’d here a message at church about being consistent until breakthrough and then I would see another bill. I’d hear about reminding yourself of what God is doing, and that would keep me content until Tuesday when tips didn’t get distributed so I’d shuffle my bank accounts to buy bread and eggs.

I changed my situation, I shaved with the hope of getting something. After three weeks of silence from my agents I messaged them and found out they never received the initial email with my new headshots. I immediately got an audition, that would’ve paid for my classes and my bills, but I got nervous and messed it up.

Needless to say, I’ve grown frustrated and bitter. Getting up was toil, going to bed a chore. I would inundate my time with distraction, books, movies, Netflix, internet, etc. I was avoiding God. I didn’t want Hid words of comfort, I wanted to hold onto my bitterness, my frustration, as if it were some sort of earned badge.

I think most of all I didn’t want his hope, it hurt to much to think of promised good when all I saw was disappointment. I felt as though because it hadn’t been answered in my time table He had somehow backed out of His promises. This is not a new feeling for me, and this is not a new thing God has worked on me. Trusting Him when it seems the light is going out.

I used to judge the Israelites so much when I read the story, I think I didn’t appreciate how decades passed for them in a matter of sentences. They walked for 40years waiting on promise because initially they thought God would require them to attain the land He promised to them with out Him giving them victory. These people who had just walked through the Red Sea, having been led there by a pillar of cloud (and fire), were so quick to whine that God abandoned them. They were so quick to doubt His ability to complete His promise, after witnessing miracle upon miracle in their Exodus.

Greg was so quick to lose faith after seeing God move him across the country, build up his ministry, provide job and opportunity after opportunity. Greg was so quick to miss the daily miracles before his eyes, because he was too busy looking at what he lacked.

For the past few weeks when God has been checking my heart and drawing me closer to Him (painful as it can feel, unwrapping hurt and tearing down barriers built up) He keeps telling me I need to write about the manna.

My daily bread.

The people who continually give to me. The random moments when a bill is taken care of, when a meal is covered. Those times when there’s just enough to make it until tomorrow. The job that allows for bread (figuratively and literally). The friends that care and motivate me. Daily bread is the sandwich bread for grilled cheese, it’s the tip money just in time for a meal with friends, it’s a roommates leftovers, the food at work that would get thrown out otherwise.

Daily bread goes stale so you can’t hold onto it afraid for what comes tomorrow. You have to trust that God will promise, even for the random extras that come. Meanwhile waiting for and appreciating your daily bread you look to the promise, proclaiming how good your God is for promising such good things.

A random side note God checked me with, If I neglect to tell people of the good that will come, the promised Good, it would be so easy to claim that I had something to do with it. If I tell everyone of what I cannot yet see how it will happen, if I look like a fool spewing the hope that God has given me, how great that day will be for those watching my life because then they can truly recognize and appreciate how Good God is. Then they will think perhaps that He is good and He is who He says He is, and seek to know Him.

And that is what it is all about in the end, right?

Faith or Foolishness

Wheres the line? How do you know if you’re making a decision or speaking something in faith or if you’re just being irresponsible? How do you know you’re not being naïve or just trying to avoid the difficult situation.
Well I suppose one indicator of faith is not ignoring or avoiding difficulty but knowing you have to go through it.

Recently I was asked in a hypothetical situation how you know to differentiate between faith and foolhardiness. The question arose when a group of friends had gathered together and were pondering life and the choices we make. As often is the case with young (mostly single) adults, the conversation about dating and relationships arose. Most of the group remarked how glad they were that they had not found the person with whom they would choose to make it work with yet. Most of the reasoning came that none of us felt prepared for that kind of responsibility or commitment and the sacrifices they require. We superciliously thought about the people we knew who had made this decision young and how at one point we were jealous of their bliss, but now looking on we could we the faulty points and the great struggles. It seemed to the caucus that to have these relationships with!d require the sacrifice of our aspirations. It was the general consensus that for a lot of people young marriage was a copoutof sticking it out for your dreams. That somehow, somewhere a person had to lose faith in their dreams or simply that it was base instincts that required the settling down and there was no forethought as to what it meant for the future.

How do we know? How do we ever know?

An idea, a question rose from this, how do we know if we’re making a decision in faith or in foolishness. Are we following simple passions and ignoring harsh realities or are we somehow seeing and believing for something above or beyond circumstances.

Two days ago I had my first audition under the banner of my agents. It was for a print add. I’d get money if I booked the job, but they’d triple it if they actually used the photos. I get money just for showing up and having my photo taken (if I get the job). Almost immediately afterward I spoke to my family about it. As part of the natural segues in family conversations, the topic of Christmas came up and whether I would be able to go home. Now I am honestly not sure how I’m going to pay for rent this month and flights are expensive, but if I landed this ad gig I would be able to do it. Which I followed up with the declaration of my intent to quit Starbucks, or at least step down from supervisor to shift.

Faith or foolishness? How do I know?

My sister seemed imoressed by my faith, I’m still trying to see it as that. Perhaps I’m too hard on myself. Yesterday I turned down the opportunity to move up in the company.

Faith or foolishness??

God helps those who help themselves. This is a lie. If I understand anything about Jesus, the whole concept is thatnno one is able to “help themselves”. But I’ve seen so many people just make whast appears to be an arbitrary decision and sometimes it seems to “pay off” and others it falls flat on its face. I’ve don’t both myself.

How do I know?
Based on my experience, the faith moments are those moments where I feel a tug, something I know I ought to do, but I have this internal struggle of knowing what I am will see to do, but this fear of what might happen if its not real. Those moment s, when I follow through are the ones I needed to trust God and He followed through.
“God is a God of peace and he wouldn’t put you in a place of confusion and anxiety”
This is true, He wouldn’t place me in a place of anxiety, but if I am an anxious person, anything out of my comfort zone will give me anxiety. The peace I have comes where it seems illogical and impossible but there is no other option to trust Him and He always comes through. It is the moments where I am over confident in my own skill sets that prove to not be the direction God wants.

Faith or foolishness?

For some they look the same, but I think the best litmus is the fruit that a decision bears.

What am I doing? Where am I going? How am I gonna make it through this? How will I weather this storm? I feel anxious? I feel worried? I feel afraid?

I suppose regardless I’m going to trust Him. I wonder what Caleb thought waiting 40 years to see the land He was promised to see? Did Abraam feel at ease and peaceful when he uprooted his family? When he was on that mountain with his only son?
There was once a man who was so anguished over a path in front of him he wept tears of blood as he begged God for a respite, but despite his anxiety, he stopped and said, “Not my will, but yours”.

Alright God, I’ve been uprooted and uprooted, you know my desires, I’m scared, this doesn’t feel great, there’s no appropriate plaque or throw pillow that describes this moment, but not my will, yours.