Searching

Go read John 1:1-28

Did you pick up on whats happening in the story?  The pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) had sent “preists and levites” to find John the Baptist and discover whether he was the Messiah, a prophet, or something else.  Apparently they’d heard about who he was and what he was doing, and they wanted to know more.

The insteresting thing to consider here was their intentions.  Why were they seeking him out?  Were they really interested in whether or not John was the messiah?  Did they want to follow him?  Did they want to kill him?

Now remember, they sent priests and levites.  These are people who would – theoretically – be able to interpret and identify if someone was the messiah, or a prophet, or something else.  Obviously many of them failed miserably with the Jesus thing.

But still, the pharisees sent trained people to find out if John was the messiah.  Assume for a second that it was a genuine search.  “Are you who we should follow?” they might of asked.

This is a question, whether we realize it or not, that we ask every day.  For most poeple in our culture it’s not really tied to a person (other than themselves perhaps) but to an idea.  “Is this was I should give my life to?”  “Is this what I need to live for?”  “Will this give me the things that I feel that I need in life?”  “Is that what I’ll find my identity in?”

We ask questions like that every day.  We’re searching.  Sometimes we don’t even realize it because we’ve already locked into what we think the answer is, but at some point we realize it’s like chasing a moving target.  And then we change our focus or direction.

I do it too.

And then Jesus shows up.

What if he is what you’re actually looking for?  What if he’s the answer to that constant reminder in the world that something’s wrong?  What if the target is right next to you, and it’s not going anywhere?

Would you do this?  Would you close your eyes for a second?  Well, read this first and then close your eyes.  Close your eyes and just ask Jesus to show himself.  That simple.  Then, today, tomorrow, this week, keep your eyes open.  Keep looking.  You never really know when he might show up.

Grass

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭40‬:‭8‬ ESV)

You and I have a life cycle. We are born, we live, and we die. Each life is like a quick blink on the landscape of eternity. But that blink is significant. It’s not pointless. It reverberates throughout eternity. Like Presson Phillips says, “And though the life of heathen calls to me, forever is a long time to be free”.  

The interesting thing about Isaiah 40:8 is the dichotomy found therein. On one hand, we are like grass, and that grass has a life cycle, and that life cycle is nothing as compared to the word of God. But on the other hand, the cycle of life that the grass lives is important, and it’s planted there for a specific purpose.

That got me thinking, as a gardening idiot, what is the life cycle of grass?  Here’s what I found:

Lifecycle of grass

– seed is planted/sprouts

– plant is established from seed

– flowering takes place

– seed shattering/scattering

– dormancy, stems grow parallel to the ground, forming a thick base that grows over other plants

– second growth peak, root development 

Is there any coincidence that the kingdom of God is often compared to plant life?  Is there any coincidence that the Gospel is often compared to plant life?

Both are “planted”. Both begin to “grow”. Both “flower” into something beautiful that’s meant for reproduction. Both are “scattered” or shared. Both grow “outward” in addition to upward. And both “dig deeper roots” if they are to flourish and become sustainable. 

The word of the Lord stands forever, and has no end to it. The grass fades, but while it’s here, it lives, breathes, spreads and takes root. It is hugely important. Perhaps the ecosystem couldn’t even live without. 

You and I are the grass. We’re not infinite the way God is, but while we’re here, we have a purpose. We have a life, and that life is meant to blossom and grow and reproduce. 

Where are you growing?  Where are you coming fully alive?  And, where are you reproducing?

I’m right here. 

“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭40‬:‭2‬ ESV)

The battle, over. 

Your failures, forgotten. 

Our suffering, complete. 

This is God’s prophetic cry to the city of Jerusalem.  This is God’s final declaration to you and to me.  This is his promise, not for an easy life, and not for the absence of broken hearts, but for a life comforted, joy-infused and made whole by the constant and elaborate presence of God. 

He’s coming. 

He’s here. 

He’s present. 

There may have been a time where you fought to win something from people in your life, like respect, acceptance or love. God has completed that battle on your behalf and you are treasured, welcomed and favored. 

There may have been a time where all of your quirks and defects were shaped by your bad choices and you haven’t yet let yourself off the hook.  God has tossed them to the side, so far that he no longer sees them and cannot remember them. You try to remind him of them and all he says is, “I see my Son in you, beautiful and perfect”.

There may have been a time where you were empty, lost, confused and alone. God has not asked you to come near to him, until he has first come near to you. He’s closer than the sunlight that touches your skin, and more present then the breath that fills your lungs. 

He has not abandoned you. He has not forgotten you. He is not far from you. He’s here. 

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”  (‭Psalm‬ ‭139‬:‭7-10‬ ESV)

Comfort

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭40‬:‭1‬ ESV)

God wants you to be comforted. 

This is not to say that God wants you to be comfortable. And,

This is not to say that God wants you to be happy. 

It is to say that God wants you to be comforted. 

When you are hurting, he wants to comfort you. When you are confused, he wants to comfort you. When you are feeling alone, he wants to comfort you. When you are sick, he wants to comfort you. When you’ve been abused, he wants to comfort you. When people don’t understand you, he wants to comfort you. When you’re reaping the rewards of your bad choices, he wants to comfort you. 

In fact, God’s comfort is most clearly felt, when we need it. I know, that’s very profound. But consider it in the light of James 1:2 – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”  Why should we consider these various trials as joyful?  Because it’s when we feel God’s comfort the most, and that brings great joy.

Honestly, I’ve struggled not just with this verse (James 1:2), but with the concept. I get the fact that discipline brings gain. I’ve experienced it in areas of health, excercise, education and as a professional. You do hard things and it makes you better. But when it seems like God is intentionally putting you through the ringer, it just doesn’t seem right. (I suppose it’s only ok for me to put myself through the ringer for what I deem as necessary for my growth, right?)

What’s helped me through the conceptual idea of joy through trial, however, is the experience of God’s comfort.

He hasn’t made me comfortable. 

He hasn’t made me happy. 

But he has comforted me.  And this gives me joy. 

Where do you feel God working on you?  What do you expect more from God – to be made comfortable, happy, or to be comforted when you’re in the thick of it?

How to interview well

Over the last year I’ve done a whole bunch of research on the art of the interview. Some of that was in reading just about anything I could get my hands on, and some of it was in, let’s say, “case studies”.  Listed below are some of the most beneficial concepts I’ve found when preparing for and executing an exceptional interview. 

1. Craft a memorable opening statement. Often, the question that interviewees fear the most is the first one where one of the interviewers ask, “Tell us about yourself”. It’s daunting because it’s somewhat ambiguous and it could lead to almost anything – and this is actually the benefit of it. This is the one moment where you, as the question answerer, get to steer the content of the conversation. It’s possible that the interviewers will never ask specific enough questions which will give you a chance to point out what your greatest strengths for the position are. Here is where you can get out ahead and tell them why you should have the job before they even ask. Don’t tell them what they already know from reading your resume. Tell them about your strengths, passions and expertise. 

2. Show fire in the eye. That is, show lots of positive enthusiasm for the job. This is easiest to do when you’re interviewing for jobs for which you have a great deal of positive enthusiasm, so you can help yourself and make this one really easy by applying only for jobs that you’d actually be good at, and enjoy. 

3. Relate previous experience. If you’re looking at a position that’s the same or similar to your current one, this is a no-brainier. But, if you’re like most people, and are looking at a job that’s either slightly or largely different than your current one, you’re going to need to pull experiences from your current or previous jobs and apply that experience to the prospective position in order to show that your past has prepared you for the job you’re now seeking to undertake.  These days, people seem to be interested in experience more than just about anything else. Spend plenty of time in advance deciding how you will demonstrate how you have the experience necessary to make a great fit for the job. 

4. Ask thoughtful questions. Most of the time, your interviewers will give you a chance to ask questions. Look at this as another question they’re asking of you, for which you need to prepare. When they ask if you have any questions, what they’re really asking is, “Have you given any quality thought to how you might succeed in this position”?  Don’t just ask about the timeline. Ask questions to show your expertise and ability to intelligently engage with the assignment. 

5.  Do your research. Look into the organization. What’s their mission statement?  What’s their history?  Their vision? Their culture? How do they define success?  Is there a book out there that they encourage all of their staff to read?  Read it. Also, if you can, try to find out about the interviewers. If you ask, they’ll usually tell you who will be interviewing you. Use your contacts, if you have them, or research skills to get a little background of your interviewers. 

6. Filter your social media posts. Guess what? If you’re on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., people are checking you out. Don’t say stupid or controversial stuff on these sites while you’re interviewing for a new job (or after you’re hired). They’re going to be interested to see how you’d represent them if you joined their staff. This is a pretty good way to find out. Filter. 

What else is there? What are some important concepts that you’ve found to help you interview well?

Growing weary

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” – Hebrews 12:3

Weariness is defined by my iPhone as, “extreme tiredness or fatigue,” and “the reluctance to see or experience any more of something”. 

When you grow weary of something, you don’t just get tired. You get tired of it. That’s an important distinction, because it identifies weariness as something more than a mere wanning of energy. Weariness is really more about resistance.  You move from being tired, to being tired of it, to resenting it, and eventually on to resisting, or fighting against it. 

I believe this to be the lesson when the writer of the book of Hebrews warns us to not grow weary. He’s not saying, “don’t get tired”. We’re going to get tired.  I’m tired.

A year ago my family and I moved from our beloved home in Florida to our previously beloved home in Texas. The mission: to start a new church.  It turns out, staring a new church is really tiring, even when you’re not doing it all by yourself. We knew it would be this way (macro level) but didn’t quite know it would be this way (micro level) – if that makes any sense. 

Honestly? I’m tired. Really tired. I’m tired of a lot of different little things, some of which are mere annoyances, and others are God’s gracious “training in righteousness” with a shiny neon target placed squarely over the center of my heart. And I’m really tired because of it. 

Wrong? No. 

Understandable? Heck yes. 

When I step into the puddle of wrong, is when I move from being tired, onto being resistant. I can’t say that I’m innocent of that. Shoot, I can’t even say that it’s been a while since it happened. But I can say that each time I go there, God lovingly calls me back, just like he does to you. 

That whole idea of of his mercies being new every morning have become rather tangible to me, and for that I’m grateful. 

Where in your life do you see tiredness slowly starting to become weariness, where you are allowing your heart to resist God’s training and the reformation of your heart?  Is your weariness pointing out something that maybe you think you need more than you really do? 

Better yet. Pray on it. 

A new direction

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you may have noticed times of consistent activity and times of brief silence. The last year has been neither of those. It’s been silent, but not all that brief. 

There’s a reason for that and it lies primarily in the very painful priming of my heart, soul, mind and strength – which I won’t get into now, but expect to do so over the next several months. 

Today, instead, I’d like to deploy something of a new direction for my musings here. In this next season the writings contained herein will fall into one of four categories. 

1 Unpack – this one is all about scripture. That is, the Bible. In these posts I’ll unpack what I understand the author to be saying in a timeless instruction to all of humanity.

2 Process – this one is essentially about emotional intelligence. I’ve worked, over the years, on strengthening my body, and my mind, but seldom on my emotions. This season of my life has me “feeling” like never before, and here, I intend to process some of it. 

3 Dream – dreaming isn’t just for kids. However, dreaming for grown ups isn’t about pretending. Instead it’s about learning how to live in the reality of hope. 

4 Reflect – reflection has been one of my most important tools of life. It’s why mistakes aren’t always bad things, as they provide some of life’s most potent growth and positive change. Specifically, Reflect is centered on learning from yesterday’s wins and losses. 

So if you’ve been gone for a while like I have, welcome back.  I hope the words of this wandering stranger can be a regular encouragement to you.  I hope that you’ll expect my thoughts to be sometimes well thought out, and other times works-in-progress, as I’d like to do more thinking out loud. Perhaps most of all, I hope what is said here will aid in a veiwpoint that have your eyes forever urged forward.  

Because the race isn’t over yet.