Axl Rose Was Right

Axl Rose Was Right

Actually, my pastor was right.

Never pray for patience, because when you do, God is more than happy to put you in situations where you need patience. Ever since Lee and I moved here to the Dominican Republic, I think I’ve prayed for patience on a daily basis. I know what you’re thinking, but you should know that living in the D.R. and being put in situations where you need patience are redundant.

So when I am in a jam where my head is about to explode, I think of two things. The first is another thing I learned at Relevant: Be the church. It’s a mantra that reminds me that regardless of the situation, I am called to be a reflection of God’s grace and love.

::whispering:: Be the church. Be the church. Be the church.

The second thing I think of is the chorus of perhaps my favorite Guns N’ Roses song called Patience. Although the song is about a relationship between a man and a woman, the lyrics of the chorus are applicable in any stressful, p.i.t.a. situation.

::singing in my head:: ♫ All we need is just a little patience. ♫

Today we completed some back to school shopping for some of the kids, and the scene inside the store we visited can be best described as chaotic. For reasons I can’t really explain (yet I understand because I grew up in Miami), the people here seem to be very impatient. Don’t get me wrong; Dominicans are sweet and friendly and inviting and generous, but they are absolutely not zen-like. Just spend a minute driving on the roads and you’ll understand.

So when there are nine people in line and there is only one person at the cash register, the vocal opinions start flying. Comments about how there should be other registers open abounded. People began looking to cut in line because they only had one item to buy. The atmosphere grew toxic quickly.

::singing in my head:: ♫ All we need is just a little patience. ♫

It’s important to note the store was not air-conditioned, the outside temperature was about 90 degrees, and it had just finished raining, so humidity was at a million percent. It was hot, sticky, crowded, noisy, the lady behind me was jabbing my ribs with her shopping basket, and there was a man in the corner that kept looking at me funny.

::singing in my head:: ♫ You and I just use a little patience. ♫

In looking at the lady working the register, you can see her counting the minutes in her head until closing time. She was being berated by customers, sometimes verbally, almost always visually. I stepped up to pay for my items, Axl Rose’s whistling still playing in my head.

I said hello and I wished her a good day. Startled, she looked up from her register as if in shock anyone would offer her a gesture of kindness. I smiled at her and she smiled back, I think more out of instinct than out of genuine reciprocation. We completed the transaction and I thanked her for her help. She looked at me and thanked me with her eyes. It was only a split second, but I can see it was a moment of relief she was able to experience before diving once again head first into the hornet’s nest.

::whispering:: Be the church.

Now I know this post smacks of humble-brag, but what I want to share is this: goodness begets goodness. In this particular case, patience begat kindness. For me, it became apparent all my prayers for patience were not for my benefit but rather for the benefit of others. All my hours in the proverbial furnace were not so I could appreciate the splendor of the refinement. They were so the woman at the register could have a tiny moment of joy in an otherwise joyless situation.

God does not work on us for our sake alone. God works on us for the betterment of His kingdom. And the thought of being an instrument for His glory is music to my ears.

 

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Real Talk

Real Talk

In this process that is transitioning to full-time mission work, things got a lot more real today.

It started this afternoon when Lee and I met with our realtor. Referred by my new boss, our realtor Jeff was very nice and we found him to be confident and personable. After we showed him around the house, we sat down to discuss the details of the house, what additional work needs to be done in order to list it, what the right price point is for the house (given various factors), and the expectations Lee and I should have in terms of timelines and processes.

The experience was informative and eye-opening. On some aspects, Lee and I were right on with what we thought the answer would be, and Jeff’s concurrence was reassuring. On other points, however, Lee and I were way off. So it was a bit of a learning experience, and one we can step through with confidence knowing Jeff has our best interests in mind.

A couple of hours later, we fielded a call from my aforementioned new boss and we discussed the missionary agreement the non-profit put together for us, as well as a possible option for living accommodations in the Dominican Republic. It was a constructive and informative conversation, and one that has brought us one step closer to the reality of becoming full-time missionaries.

After it was all said and done, I took a moment to process it all. Selling the house, moving out, finding an interim solution until we can move to Samaná, and figuring out all the logistics and timelines of actually getting to the D.R. For the first time since we thought about making the move into mission work with Advocates of Love, I felt the weight of this new reality bear down on me. For the first time, I had to take a deep breath and deliberately remind myself to trust God.

It’s not hard to trust God. It’s hard to remember to trust God. And for now, that is what I must do: remember to trust in Him. I know this is a process, and I know I cannot determine all the answers myself. Instead, I will pray for continued patience and wisdom, and I will lean on the words of Proverbs 16:9.


In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.

– Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)


One Step At A Time

One Step At A Time

The first marathon commemorated the run of the soldier Pheidippides who, according to legend, ran approximately 25 miles from a battlefield near the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians in 490 B.C.

I used to run. I used to love running. I hope to pick up running once again. However, getting into a routine of running takes discipline. Building up the necessary endurance to run a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, etc. requires discipline and a plan. For many, it also requires a support structure.

As an example, for me to get back into shape for running a 5K will require an aerobic base building routine that includes a run/walk plan. An acceptable first week of training is 20 to 30 minutes total of jogging/running/walking three times a week. By contrast, ultra-marathoners (those who run 100-mile events), have insane training regiments. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to be an ultra-marathoner (or regular marathoner for that matter). It takes time, it takes commitment, and it takes patience.

The same is true for being a Christ follower.

I admire those who’ve devoted a lifetime to serving God and sharing His glory with others. For me, the standard-bearer is John Piper. His site, Desiring God, is a fountain of learning and inspiration. I began my faith journey anew in the summer of 2009, and it’s such a blessing to be able to look back on the last eight and half years and recognize how much I’ve grown. I also look forward knowing I have a lifetime of growth yet to come.

I’ve also had conversations with others who are kicking the tires of faith or new to being in a relationship with Christ. I’ve been told they look at me as a model of what it means to be a Christian, and as flattering and humbling as that is, I remind them of how I still have a long way to go. Yet, I appreciate the comment, and I once again make the analogy to running. I am somewhere in the 5K to 10K stage of my spiritual activity, yet my eyes are set on the ultra-marathoning John Piper’s of the world, hoping I can one day come close to reaching those levels. By contrast, others find themselves on the couch, trepidatious about lacing up their Jesus shoes and starting a walk with Him.

What this all comes down to is that as we enter the season of resolutions and newfound resolve, I pray you give yourself the requisite patience and time to grow in your relationship with Christ. If you’re new to the faith, please know being a Christ follower is not easy. Accepting Jesus into your heart does not mean your life instantly becomes care-free. Instead, it means you can walk with confidence knowing God will provide.

The activation of the Holy Spirit within you is instant, but it will take years of spiritual and scriptural training to see the transformative change He provides. This means making reading the Word part of your plan. This means making service to others part of your plan. This means re-evaluating the priorities in your life. It’s a process – a sometimes grueling process – but one that yields rewards on both sides of eternity.

“He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 NLT


PostScript: I realized after having written this post I wrote basically the same post back in April of 2016. I try not to regurgitate material, and I apologize for the oversight.

Plan On It

I had to run some errands today.  We were out of some household items, so I was off to Sam’s Club this afternoon. Normally it’s not a big deal, but when you’re trekking the four miles from my house in New Tampa to the discount club in Wesley Chapel, the after-work traffic makes it a thirty-five minute event.

Patience. I need to work on my patience. 

As I walked into the store and flashed my membership card, I remembered the conversation my wife and I had about how we didn’t need to be carrying two memberships for discount clubs; one for Sam’s and one for BJ’s. I made a mental note to follow-up on that at later time.

sams

I grabbed what I needed and headed toward the checkout lanes, all in under ten minutes. This is the benefit of going sans spouse to the warehouse. I swiped my card at the terminal of the self-checkout aisle.

“Your membership expired on March 10. Would you like to renew now and complete your transaction?”

It seems I no longer had to worry about the membership club decision seeing as how God had already made the decision for me. I giggled as I meandered back to the shelves to return my items, thinking of how I now needed to stop by BJ’s. Thankfully, the nightmare, afternoon traffic on this side of town is only in one direction, and I would be travelling the opposite way.

I pull into BJ’s, blissfully unaware of my immediate surroundings, completely consumed by the music on my radio. As I get out of my car, I notice a man reaching into the back of his trunk. This is completely normal given people are often loading their vehicle after shopping at the store. Then I saw it. His rear tire was flat. He wasn’t loading groceries or goods, but rather unloading items from his trunk to get to his spare.

My first impulse was to say in my head, “Good luck, dude” and be on my way. I actually got about seven steps away from my car before the feelings in my heart consumed me. The Holy Spirit had initially whispered to me to help that man. Now He was screaming at me.

Obedience. I need to work on my obedience. 

In my class at Bible College, we recently had a discussion on how some young people feel we don’t need the Old Testament because we have the New Testament. What that view overlooks is the fact the Bible, all sixty-six books, is how God reveals Himself to us. Additional, the OT is about promises made while the NT is about promises kept.

For me, what I love about the Old Testament are the stories of the nation of Israel after they left Egypt. It’s a series of cyclical stories showing how Israel would lose patience with God, choose disobedience to God, face the consequences of their behavior, and repent of their sins to once again find favor with the Lord. Through it all God is with them. Yes, He is angered, and yes, His wrath is displayed. But so is His love and mercy and infinite patience.

OT

In a nutshell, the story of Israel wandering in the desert is the story of my life. Praise God for all He’s done. Lose patience with where I’m at. Falter in obedience to what He’s calling me to do. Stumble, fall, and accept the consequences of my behavior. Ask Him for forgiveness. Become redeemed once again in His eyes.

Sometimes I experience that cycle with small things; sitting in traffic, standing in line, etc. In my past I’ve experienced that cycle with the big things. It’s the reason I have an ex-wife and a period in my life that is marred with regrets.

Yet through it all, God was, is, and always will be with me. With each experience I build up my patience. With each opportunity, I display my obedience.

The man with the flat tire, his name is Joe. He was in his late sixties. He was very appreciative of me getting on the ground and situating his jack so we could change the tire and put on the spare. It was a blessing to be able to help him. It was the highlight of an otherwise mundane day. And it makes me smile to think that had my Sam’s club membership not expired, Joe would be on his on with that flat tire.

flat-tire

Don’t resist when the Holy Spirit compels you to do something. His plans are always greater than ours, and it’s through patience and obedience that we serve the Lord.

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.” Deuteronomy 28:1 NLT

Hiccup

I thought I was doing well with my month of discipline, and from a diet and ‘time with God’ perspective I have been. But today has been severely aggravating as I’ve spent over two hours collectively on the phone with Verizon technical support. My issue with my video service upgrade is still not resolved (even though we got to a point where we thought it was), and my frustration boiled over with the last tech support representative with whom I spoke.

Although I was not mean to that person, I was stern, the volume in my voice well above average, and my increasing loss of patience evident to the person on the other end of the line. The call ended – problem still not resolved, technician coming out on Tuesday – and my daughter called me out.

She called me out for letting the whole situation get to me. She called me out for not taking a breath and trying to relax through it all. She called me out for not handling the situation better (i.e. with more grace). Did I mention she’s only fifteen?

And she’s right. Through it all, not once did I think to slow down and pray. Not once did I remind myself it’s not the fault of the tech support rep that my video service isn’t working. All I could think of was the amount of money I pay per month for this t0 not be working, and how I was missing the Final Four. In that moment, I needed serenity, and I completely failed (and set a bad example in the process).

I came to my laptop to post my blog for tonight before heading out to the movies with the kids. The wallpaper on my laptop is this image from the TV show Firefly.

Serenity

It’s funny that for as often as I see it, or for how intentional I try to be, it’s so easy to lose sight of that reminder; find your serenity.

Yet another lesson to be learned on my part.

Just Work, Dadgummit

I am a tech geek. I love technology and all the wonderful and efficient things you can do with it.

I love technology … right up until the point it doesn’t work. I accept the occasional glitch and hiccup, but when A + B = C and you do A, then add B, and you get Z; that’s when I tend to lose my mind.

Enter my recent upgrade to FiOS Quantum, the premium level TV and Internet offering from Verizon. I’ve loved FiOS since it was launched, and for the most part the product has been great. With Quantum, my three separate DVR’s are replaced by one media server that has more than double the capacity than I previously had, and can record six programs at once. In addition, it makes every TV in the house operate the same (pause live TV, access DVR, etc.) Previously, the TV’s in my kids’ rooms had only standard set-top boxes.

So I receive the new hardware, set it all up, and ….. my Internet is working. A not-so-quick call to customer support and the problem is resolved. I move on to the media server setup and …. my premium channels aren’t working. Not that big of a deal, but still a problem that needs to be resolved. Back to customer support.

The resolution was Verizon sending me a new media server (it was a hardware issue). I unpackage the new device, connect it to my TV, and …… I run into another problem. Back to customer support.

By this point, I would normally be yelling and/or speaking very condescendingly to the poor soul on the other end of the line. My frustration is not with them, but rather with the fact the darn thing I expect to work isn’t working. I would also be reaching for a beer to help me calm down, with the bonus of having something to throw in case the issue goes really, really bad.

Frustrated

This behavior, however, does not align with my personal month of discipline. More importantly, this behavior does not align with my life as a Christ follower. That’s not to say Christians never get angry. Even Jesus went a little ape doodoo when he saw the temple turned into a marketplace.

But the lesson with my recent frustrations is patience. It’s also a reminder that God uses situations like this to mold us into better people. I’ve asked God to help make me a better man, and this is a trial He is using to do so. I am proud to say my conversations with each of the tech support representatives with whom I spoke were cordial and constructive. Well … I did end up hanging up on one rep who was, for lack of a better phrase, clueless. I look back on that, however, knowing I should have handled it better, and that it is all part of the learning and growing process.

You can’t walk a thousand miles and not have sore feet. You can’t get from here to there without some bumps along the way. The next time you feel you’re having a “poop has hit the fan” kinda day, ask yourself if perhaps God is challenging you to grow in that moment.

James said it best:

“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:2-5 (NIV)

via kushandwisdom.tumblr
via kushandwisdom.tumblr

In His Time

Five years ago last month, Lee and I moved into our current home. The result of us moving from one rental situation to another came after our friend Melissa read my blog post about the ordeal we had earlier in the year in trying to buy a house. She picked up the phone, called Lee, and asked, “What would it take for you guys to get into our house?” We immediately got out of our existing lease and into a rent-to-purchase agreement with our friends. Literally, as they were moving out, we were moving in.
In all the time we spent visiting Andy and Melissa at their home in the Cross Creek community in Tampa, Lee and I would drive home and fantasize out loud to each other, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could buy their house one day? If only we could afford to make that happen.”
Today was that day. It only took five years and a series of small miracles, but it’s a continued testament that God’s timing is perfect. He set us on a path to home ownership following a series of frustrating mishaps, disappointments, and our fair share of tears.
Sold
Our experience is simply a continued reminder: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6