Friday, November 6, 2009

Double-Up on Acacia Park Week

Wednesday was the last meeting of our Team Player class at church, and we had an outreach planned. Pizza and water at 6pm...and hope people come. We had about a dozen pizzas, and there were about 5 people at the park.

Plan B: A few guys in our group took a couple pizzas and went walking down the street, hoping to find someone to give the food to. Once they got back, we got directions from a guy named Aaron to a camp with a few people. So, our group caravaned there (after a few u-turns of the blind leading the blind) and indeed we did find a few people...3 to be exact.

Oh well, we left the remaining 6 or 7 pizzas with a guy who called him self "Tools" and his family. Hope they like leftovers.

But it was fine; it was a bit of an adventure, and neat to get out of my Acacia Park "comfort zone" and find others that need food/help too. It was also fun getting to share the whole experience with a larger group of people and talk to them about what it's been like for me.

Then tonight, despite past evidence, I had a silly urge to doubt and think I'm gonna end up wasting time/food. I got a couple dozen 6-inch subs from Subway (November special has them at $2 each) and showed up promptly at 5:30...with not a soul in sight. *sigh*...ok, maybe I drive around to where I know some camps are and try to distribute that way. But wait...what's this? Oh, a group of 20 people walking over from the other side of the park. DUH!

So I got to meet a few new people, and even a couple small children whose mother was happy to have something to feed them. And the married couple Marshall and Kallie making plans on how to get back to their tent. Drea is frustrated from having to find a different place to sleep every night. Will is very quiet and seems sad. Anthony hurt his knee. Aaron looked happy to see me again. Etc...

Always an adventure. Always a blessing. (For them and me) I love Friday nights!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Acacia Park Update

Whoops! No update for over 2 weeks....my bad.

So I'll give the skinny on what's been happening with the homeless ministry, and then maybe do a separate update about other stuff in my life.

So two weeks ago, the most memorable thing I took away from that visit was Dave.

I had gotten some Taco Bell, and brought Famous Dave leftovers from my previous workplace. When most of the food was gone, this guy who had been staying a little ways off moved in as the crowd cleared. Right away I could tell something was "off" with him. He was up on the stage, and just came by the food and sat down. His eyes were red and not pointing in the same direction, he had food (or something else?) on his face and in his beard, he had scabs and scratches all over, and his nails were over an inch long and black with dirt.

I used to have the inclination to avoid this kind of person. But as he sat there and started to look over what food was left, I noticed how even the other homeless folks moved away and gave sideways glances to him. I don't fully understand how or why, but God moved me to compassion, and I suddenly felt very interested and drew close to him. Now I know that I had to take anything he would say with a grain of salt. He might be confused, he might lie....but my approach is always one of understanding and wanting to be an ally and friend.

He told me his name was Dave, and he said he just knew he would hurt somebody tonight. !!! "Why do you say that?" I asked him. He looked around and said "Look at these f***ers...see how they act? They think they're all hard...they don't know hard. They're just acting.....whatever...." That is a distilled version of what he actually said. He was hard to understand sometimes, paused a lot and repeated what he said, and swore a lot. Over the course of the next 20 minutes or so, I learned that he had left Nashville a couple weeks ago where his girl is. I didn't get the full history, but a couple times he said "I love that whore....I don't know why, she's a b***h....I just love her." Ok. He said his parents were killed when he was 16 and he's been on the streets for the last 10 years. At certain points while talking I could tell he was tearing up even though his eyes were already pretty red.

The hardest part was watching him pick through food scraps. I had gotten chicken and a couple different salads, and had a bunch of apples. I tried offering the food to him, even to plate it up for him, and he would just shake his head and mumble, and fish around through the bones and crumbs. As I was getting ready to leave I asked if there was anything I could do for him, and he said not unless I could take him to Dallas, Texas.

So for all of that, I don't know how much, if any, good I did. The only thing I feel might have been of value was sitting next to him for 20 minutes, locking eyes with him, and talking/listening to him. I figured that was more than he got most of the time from most people and might help him feel human again. Even though he said that nobody has loved him since his parents died, I tried to tell him several times that I know God loves him. "I hope so....I doubt it, but I hope so...." he said. I leaned in and said "Trust me, I know for a fact that God DOES love you."

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Word of the Day is: Blessed

Wow. Just...wow.
I'm blessed in a lot of ways. After day one of the new job, I wanted to post this update because I've had such tremendous support and interest on Facebook, so I hope to answer most (if not all) of your questions here.

So here's the facts...
Jaxon Engineering & Maintenance is a small company that started in August by people that have actually been doing this kind of thing for years. "What do they do?" you ask...Understandably, I'm still getting to know the company myself, but here's my basic explanation for now:

Jaxon designs/builds/maintains (but I think mostly maintains) radar installations. The kind that look into space, and monitor national defense. We already have several contracts, with locations across the country, and a couple overseas. (One of the exciting things is that it looks like I will be traveling to some of the locations.)

My title is Human Resources & Security Director. So I handle all the HR stuff, and am starting the learning curve to become the company's FSO (Facility Security Officer) - which has to do with security clearances and things like that for defense contracts.

For the locals: our building is behind the huge USAA building at Research & Voyager...so I'm available for lunch in the North Academy area. ;)

It's also very cool to be working with some really great people. There's definitely a sense of a close community here, and several of the people are actually at Vanguard too.

I definitely have that "looking forward to work in the morning" feeling.
So here's to the exciting new adventure...and I'll try to get some photos tomorrow to post.

Thanks, God, for your awesome, unpredictable timing and predictable faithfulness!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cold Weekend!

Snow and ice hit CS this week!
(It took me at least a good 15 minutes to de-ice the Sub this morning)





Fortunately, it was relatively warm/dry Friday night when we went to Acacia Park. I was once again joined by my brother, and Tim, Bethanie, and Chad from church. I picked up 10 pizzas, and Tim and I joked about how we once again fell for the silly mind-game of "Uh-oh...we have too much food" to the 30-minutes later thought of "Uh-oh...we don't have enough food!"

Steve put out the word at work, and actually brought quite a few blankets and jackets. I wanted to make sure they could try and stay warm back at their camp, and planned to drive down and drop them off. I wasn't able to find it last night, so I went out this afternoon and found it. They have some tents and tarps set up among the trees right between Fountain Creek and the Greenway trail behind the Wal-mart by Cimarron & 8th St. (info for the locals)

I got their permission to take photos, so here's a photo tour:
From the south-side of Wal-mart there's a path that heads down to a tunnel going under the road:



This is the Greenway trail...


...only about a 5-minute walk till you see their spot through the trees:


Just a few feet away from the creek:


And I helped Matt, Lolo, and Fatboy get a nice fire going!:


After hanging out with them for a while, I mentioned that I was going to be at church tomorrow, and would see if I could get some help getting them some items they need. (tarps, rope, matches/lighters, firewood, hand-crank lamp, gloves, hats, scarves, blankets, jackets) Then came the highlight of my day/weekend: Matt again thanked me, and was really appreciative of my help, and said he'd like to go to church with me next week!

Woo-hoo! I know I need to take everything with a grain of salt, and not give up or be disappointed if he changes his mind by next week, but I see it as a step in the right direction, and I'm really excited.

I'm also excited about the "Idea" I referenced in my last post. After talking with Matt last night, he agreed to let me try to do some kind of informal documentary/interview type thing. I basically just want to have video of him telling his story (and maybe include a couple other people that are willing) to show to folks at Vanguard and hopefully get more help/involvement. I've been feeling a sense of urgency to do this soon, because Matt has stage 4 Hodgkins-Lymphoma, and might not be around much longer.

Ok, that's it for now. I'm going to enjoy some of Wendy's fabulous chicken tortilla soup, and reflect on how thankful & appreciative for hot, yummy soup, a warm home, and a warm, comfortable bed that I'm blessed with.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Unemployment is Fun!!

Wow….since my lay-off last Wednesday, I feel like I’ve been pretty darn busy and active. Guess I don’t fit the welfare stereotype of sitting at home collecting unemployment checks. Seeing the comments on Facebook alone is proof how covered in prayer we’ve been….we are so blessed to have so many friends/family thinking about and praying for us. I can honestly say that I have experienced nothing but peace and joy during this whole process. Thanks to our friends/family, and thanks, praise and worship to our Jehovah Jireh…our Provider.

I even forgot to do an update as to what happened with Acacia Park last week. As I was driving there, I was thinking about how every single visit has been different, so I had every reason to believe that it would again be a unique experience and I would encounter something unexpected.

So here’s what was different:
•Apparently, I arrived a few minutes after most of the “regulars” had cleared out
•I was disappointed at first, fearing the food would be wasted (silly Josh, you
should know better)
•I was pleased to get to spend time in conversation with Matt again (wheelchair)
•We were interrupted when cops started chasing one of Matt’s acquaintances down the
street on foot. (“Africa” apparently had swiped a laptop)

Of course, God still moved. I have faith that although I may not be seeing immediate results of “Kingdom impact” I know that we are ministering to people by providing physical needs with food/coats/scarves…and ministering to their souls by talking to them and (hopefully) making it clear that I’m interested in who they are and listening to them.

It was great to have my brother spend the evening with me side-by-side as well. And in my weekly conversations with Matt, I’m starting to get an Idea…I’ll expand on that as I flesh it out a bit.

As for the job situation…again, nothing but praises as we sit back in awe of God’s hand. I was officially laid off on Wednesday, 9/30. On Thursday, 10/01 I had an interview with Jaxon Engineering. It’s a newer company, owned/operated by the parents of friends from church (and other Vanguard people work there). Then on Monday, they call and ask if I can come in again on Tuesday to talk again for a little bit. Sure! At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, they say they will discuss it over the weekend and get back to me on Monday. Orrr….maybe less than 24 hours later they call and offer me the position!! Whaaa? How’d that happen?

Here are several key factors I see playing into this:
•The owners/CEO (as well as most employees) are believers
•I had a fantastic chat for a good 20 minutes or so with the CEO
•The position is a combination of HR/Security/Purchasing – they need someone who
has at least some experience/exposure with these (which I have), but more
importantly someone who is willing & able to be flexible (which I am)
•Timing: when I suddenly became available “conveniently” coincides with when the
company started feeling a need for someone in this capacity
•They hadn’t advertised the position; no other candidates – they just heard my name
and situation and wanted to “feel it out”
•X factor – the unknown variable that I will just attribute to God knowing & seeing
far more than any of us can.

Almost every day for weeks, I’ve been praying for wisdom and clarity in searching for a job, and especially when faced with a decision like this. I had another job possibility that I was getting ready to dive into if the Jaxon thing didn’t pan out. I was waffling a bit as to which way I should go, but then in my conversation during the 2nd interview, and when they called and made the offer, I felt like I got slammed in the face by a 2x4 made of wisdom & clarity. It was almost – dare I say it? – easy!

There is still plenty of uncharted water out there. On Monday I start my new job doing….umm, not sure exactly what. But I’m confident (and apparently so is Jaxon) that I’ll get it figured out and look forward to looking back at this a year from now and continue the marvel and praise at how God works in our lives.

My heart is so full, and I feel like I could ramble a bit more, but I’ll tie off this bleeder for now and come back. Heading out to Acacia Park again tomorrow night! (With no set expectations, of course)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Wheel...of...Fortune!!!

So, through a Craigslist ad, I was able to pick up 4 hours of work at the Double Eagle casino up in Cripple Creek. (4 hours today, 4 on Sunday - setup/tear-down) I didn't know what the event was until after agreeing to work. It's the Wheel of Fortune's traveling contestant search thing. They do a mini-version of the game show and stuff. I mostly moved boxes, unpacked stuff, help setup the heavy stuff on the stage.

I didn't get many pictures, but I'll try and get some on Sunday before tear-down.
It was beautiful today...here's a view from highway 67 looking down on Cripple Creek. (It was safe for me to take, cuz I was stopped by road construction workers)



Here's me and Cardboard Vanna:



Unpacking the categories for the game board:



And on the way back, I stopped at Jonie's Deli in Woodland Park for lunch, and had a very de-lish turkey melt.

Reap the rewards - I was given some Wheel schwag to keep.

(I had to do those last two photos as links, cuz blogger wouldn't upload anymore)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today was a good day!

In light of my current circumstances, it may seem counter-intuitive, but I have to say that I had a really good day today. I'm writing this at 11:30pm on Wednesday, Sept. 30 - the day I got laid off from my job. I wanted to post this earlier, but so much is going on. I could probably babble ad nauseum, but will try to do this in list form to keep it succinct.

* It was the end of a hard week of long-hours and lots of stress
* I had a great time this morning with the Lord, reading through Psalms
* Someone bought lunch for me again (two days in a row)
* Several people on-site and off, in person, in email, and on the phone had a lot of nice things to say to me
* I laughed often
* Throughout the day, I had a great amount of peace and calm
* I have (had!) such great bosses, who have pledged references, help, encouragement, etc. whenever I should need it
* I got to leave at 3:30
* Someone bought me dinner
* Set-up to run sound was eerily straight-forward and worked more easily than usual
* I was able to worship
* While taking communion, I was overwhelmed with a sense of God's love for me, and I felt nothing but gratitude, peace and joy
* I got to have a great time of conversation throughout the evening with a friend
* I got to chat with (and pray for) my brother whom I have been continuing to grow closer to
* I got to see my kids run up yelling "Daddy!" with smiles
* I got more ideas and vision for how to build this homeless ministry adventure
* I rec'd an incredibly generous gift from someone at church to help by food for the homeless, and for my family
* I rec'd wedding anniversary card & gift from my parents so Wendy & I can go on an anniversary date! (Bro is watching the kids!)
* A friend offered to take our kids overnight so Wendy and I can have time for just the two of us!
* I have a couple interviews and job leads lined up over the next week or so
* I have 8 hours of work this weekend doing setup/tear-down for a special event that will bring in some cash
* I'm excited about the all-day Prayer workshop on Saturday
* I get to sleep in tomorrow!
* I have so many things to be thankful for, that I'm having a hard time remembering/thinking of them all!!!

Can you see why it's impossible for me to be anxious, depressed, etc.? I've been in such a good mood today.

Thank you Lord for loving and providing for me and my family!!
=)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Acacia Park Saga: Week 3

Well, Saturday turned out to be pretty full/busy...so I'm just now getting to this after 9:00pm....

I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this point that God showed up again, right? It's also interesting that after doing this for 3 weeks now, each week God has provided and "shown up" in very different ways. Since last week there weren't any leftovers at work, Wendy offered to make taco fixings to take. And she also made about a dozen scarves. Do I know how to pick a good wife or what? =) (Ok, actually she picked me. Ok, actually God set us up.) It just so happened that there actually were some leftovers from work also. It was our last Friday lunch ever (KPSG - my company - officially ends next Wednesday), and it was a Southern spread: fried chicken, fried catfish, fried okra, collard greens, corn on the cob, cornbread, etc....

So between the leftovers from work, and the 60-ish tacos we had, I figured we would have more than enough food. Vanguard has started a new ministry called "Beyond Ourselves" focusing on homeless ministry and missions last week. Through it, I sent out an invite for people to join me; and 4 people did! So shoutout to Sarah, Josh, Dave, & Chad for coming out. (And luckily they brought drinks because I forgot those this week) Sarah & Josh said they were also going to pick up a couple pizzas, so I'm now worried that we have way too much food.

Wrong.

Word is starting to spread. A couple people I spoke with said that someone told them that there was food, and I saw many new faces that I hadn't seen the last couple of weeks. So it was a pretty decent crowd. (Read: 25-30) I was kind of surprised that the catfish and okra were big hits, not being a fan myself.

Aside from the logistics of the food, new people, etc....there were two main highlights for me.

1. Matt
There's a guy named Matt who I've seen all 3 times at Acacia Park, who is in a wheelchair. Last week he mentioned having 12 seizures and his heart stopping, so I was looking forward to talking to him again and finding out more about his story. Sarah, Josh and I got to hear some of it. He's 25. His first 12 years he was raised in France. He speaks 9 languages. His mother was raped and decided to keep him. She was murdered when he was 15, forcing him to take care of his little sister and brother. He was an assistant manager at KFC during high school and graduated at 16. His sister (who had cerebral palsy) was raped. After high school he played soccer semi-professionally in Sacramento and Boston. He did kick-boxing for 13 years, and was an MMA fighter for 3. The disease came on kind of fast and progressed through stages 1, 2, 3 and is now in stage 4 hodgkins-lymphoma. In 53 days (if he is still alive) he will officially be the person to have lived the longest with stage 4. He kind of seems to be a pillar at Acacia Park. Everyone looks out for him, and he tries to help everybody else. He's homeless. He's in high spirits and an incredibly nice guy.

He continued speaking with Sarah and Josh, but I didn't hear the rest of what he said, because....

2. Lee
As Matt was talking, one of the more "scroungy" homeless people I've seen at the park walked up, listened for a while, then asked if he could sit down next to me. I can't possibly describe with accuracy what transpired over the next 30 minutes - and I really wish I could have audio or video recording of stuff like this. But I'll try....

First - what we notice first: his appearance. Older (at least 50's or 60's). Skinny. Big, bushy, scraggly grey beard. Yellowish substance seeping from the corner of an eye. Both eyes pretty red and moist. Snot running into his moustache. Reeking of alcohol.

Let me pause and share what I reflected on later. My point in coming to Acacia Park isn't just about meeting the physical need of providing food. My hope has always been to build relationships. To find out what's going on in their lives, show them that I'm interested and care, and be genuine with them. Up until the last few months, I think I've always avoided social interactions with strangers in general, let alone homeless strangers, let alone a homeless stranger who looked and smelled like this. So what was surprising to me, was that I didn't have a reaction of revulsion. I didn't pull away or look around for an escape. I leaned in and thought, "This guy is why I'm here!"

That being said.....the first thing he says is how Mother Nature done him ugly. I chuckle a bit, and he continues saying that when he dies, that's the first thing he's going to do is ask Mother Nature why she done him ugly. I tell him, "You know, it won't be Mother Nature you're talking to after you die." He nods, and looks up "Him."

I can't recall word-for-word the whole conversation, but several times he says things like "Most people don't know this, but do you know what Jesus did, while He was on the cross?" "What?" I ask. "He smiled," Lee said. "He died for us. He loves us. I am the most worthless piece of s**t there ever was, but He loves me. I don't understand that." Woah. He tells me he was in prison for 37 years - not for nothin'. He says he lives in a box in an alley, and isn't worried about getting food or being too cold. He says when he goes to sleep tonight, Jesus will fill him up and keep him warm.

There was more than that, but alas: no recording + bad memory = that's all I got. Of course he also said he's a mean, ornery SOB who is 3-0 in fights in this park. And he said Jesus will help him find his next drink....so obviously I'm taking everything he said with a grain of salt. I'm not sure if he was plastered at the time, or dry and looking for his next fix. But for that half hour, his face was within inches of mine, he whispered "He loves us" many times, and teared up a few times (as did I). He put his arm around me, and I put mine around him. He called me "brother".

I still don't fully know what to make of my experience with Lee, but I feel like each time I go down to Acacia Park, God gives me deeper insight into how he sees people, and I hear that refrain from the song "Hosanna": "Break my heart for what breaks yours..."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

God Showed Up Again (Big Surprise!)

So since I was planning on going back to Acacia Park again, I was hoping for another good crop of leftovers at work. A friend from church, Tim, was bringing a few food items too (granola bars, fruit, etc.) but I was hoping to give them a full, hot meal. Steak, chicken, mashed potatoes, etc....should be good! Except there were zero leftovers this time! Uh-oh. A little disappointed, I'm resigned to the fact that the food items Tim is bringing will have to do. But not long after lunch, a lady in the office comes by and hands me $30, saying she hoped it would help since there weren't any leftovers.

Score! Silly Josh...how quickly and easily I was giving up. God intended on providing all along, just differently than how I expected. So I was totally stoked as i hit Albertson's after work and got enough chicken, potato salad, macaroni salad and water for about 20 people. While they were getting the chicken ready, I thought "why not talk to a manager and see if there's anything else they can help with?". So I talked to manager, Eric, and while he said they need a month in advance request through a charitable organization to do "official" donation-type stuff, he let me take 6 loaves of their day-old clearance bread.

I pulled up right next to where Tim had parked and at about 10 til 6:00 we were setting up dinner. No wait this time, I recognized many faces hanging around, and they converged on us before we had gotten anything set up. I said "Hi" to a couple guys walking up, calling them by name. They seem surprised that I remembered their names. Twisted M asks, "Are you here to give us food again?"
"I sure am," I reply.
"You rock!"
Smiles all around.

Not surprisingly, the goes pretty quickly, as there were probably a little over 20 people. There were several new faces from last week, so it was fun learning new names and hearing a little bit about their stories. Vaughn had a bad cold and a headache. Zac was planning on "camping out" at the America the Beautiful park for the night. Bo needs new shoes because the soles are falling off of his current ones. "Mouse" and his wife/girlfriend have 2 kids with them - a 3-year-old and a baby that looked about 6-8 months.

After the food is gone, conversation winds down, and some of the group move on, Tim and I take our leave....but I have one more stop.
Remember Mark from last week? He had told me where he lived - some efficiency apartment across the street from the park. And he had mentioned a few items that he and his wife needed. Tim had brought a couple bags of stuff for Mark. So I went and found Mark.

When I saw him in the lobby of the place, I called out his name, and he spun around surprised. He explained two reasons for his surprise.
1. Most people don't call him by Mark, but by one of his nicknames "Chaos" or "Devran". (??)
2. Most people who he tells where he lives, and say they'll stop by...never do.
He was very appreciative of the items, and I told him I hope to see him again soon.

I tell these things, not to give myself a pat on the back. How could I be "proud" of what "I did", when I had no clue what I was doing?!? Clearly, throughout the day I was again doubting if the trip would be worth it. I had no planned words, and only a vague plan of action.
All of the cool stuff that happened was God
1) telling me to remember that He is in control, and to have faith that He will "show up"
2) telling those I interacted with: "I haven't forgotten you."

Join me in praising such an awesome, generous, merciful, loving God!!
=)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Special Gifts

I discovered something very coincidental and emotional today.
I have two friends on Facebook who I'm sure don't know each other. Both have a son named Caleb whose birthday is today.
One is celebrating with joy their 4-year-old...the other is grieving their Caleb that would have been born today, but was lost before his first breath.

What are the odds of that? What is the proper response? Celebrate with one family, and grieve with the other, I guess
Romans 12:15 - Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

And so I remember what special gifts from God my children are.
Thank you, Lord, for such special blessings!



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lunch with Habakkuk

So today I felt like reading a minor prophet during lunch, and settled on Habakkuk. So here's what I picked up on...

The nation of Judah is about to get pounced on by the Babylonians in judgement for turning to idols. Habakkuk questions God, asking how long He will let evil go unpunished, and why he will use the wicked (Babylonians) to punish a more righteous people? This struck me as similar to the way Job spoke to God. These are men of the Bible who were considered righteous and apparently had a close relationship with God. Is this something we should hope to attain? A relationship with God that is so close and real that we can talk to him like a brother?

I like that God doesn't drop the hammer on Habakkuk as hard as he did with Job. Instead, he gently but firmly reminds Habakkuk that He will bring judgement in His own timing, and that we are to wait for it and live by faith and trust Him. At the end of His response to Habakkuk, God says, "the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him." God is Holy. He is in control. He rules. We are to be silent. Humility and reverence seem to be the proper frame of mind to keep.

Habakkuk responds with praise and worship and reverence. He ends by saying that regardless of circumstances, even when there is loss and seeming lack of provision, "Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation." (3:28)

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Night of Victories (Or "My Expectations = wrong!")

Sorry...this is a lengthy one. I've tried to make it a little more narrative so it's easier/more interesting to read.

So, until tonight, I've never had any experience with feeding the homeless. I suppose it's the typical mixture of lazy, selfish, scared, "waiting for the right opportunity" etc. But the paradigm shift that began in me at retreat is changing my philosophy from having good ideas and good intentions, to being a person of good actions. I've often (read: almost always) meant to do things like this, but never have. More and more now, when I feel a nudge from God about something, I try to act on it ASAP, instead of waiting till I have a plan, or think about it, or whatever. Acting in obedience instead of over-analyzing and procrastinating.

Anywho, so today at work, we had lunch catered from "On the Border" (Mexican food). After everyone had their fill, we still had only eaten half the food. Usually what ends up happening is a few people take some home, and whatever's left gets tossed. So as the afternoon wore on, I felt like it would be better if the leftovers could be given to someone who was hungry and needed it.

"Not this stuff."
"There's hardly any meat left...just rice and tortillas and chips"
"Wendy needs you at home"
"You've worked some long, hard hours this week....you deserve to just go home and rest"
"What if you can't find anyone?"
"What if someone 'corners' you on a God/life question, and you choke!? You'll make things worse!"

Etc....plenty of thoughts, questions, and doubts entered my mind before I even left work.

"Bite me. I'm doing it." Maybe not quite those words, but that's the answer I gave to my misgivings. As this pattern of behavior of acting immediately to the Lord's promptings becomes more common and comfortable, it gives me a resolve knowing that I'm just gonna do whatever I feel like He wants me to do, even if it doesn't makes sense or feel "comfortable."

A couple people at work noticed me taking ALL the leftovers, prompting questioning glances or comments.
VICTORY #1: The door is opened for me to share about Christ - why I'm doing this.

As I left work, I thought "Well....tortillas and rice with the little bit of meat that's left is ok, but they'd be better with cheese. And what about something to drink?" So I stopped at the store to get cheese and a flat of 2 dozen water bottles. When I got within a couple blocks of the park, I pulled over for some final preparations: reading a few verses of the Word, and praying that God would give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and words to say. I'm not the kind of person who likes going into something without a plan, but I decided to just trust that God would handle the details.
VICTORY #2: I consider this a victory, because already I sense that God is molding my character and teaching me how to let go of control of my life and learn to trust Him.



I pull up to the curb at Acacia Park. A friend from church who has experience with homeless ministry (shout out to Sarah!) had suggested I go there. It's surrounded by a high school, a YMCA, and several local businesses. I had heard it was a place many homeless frequented. As I get out and start getting my load of stuff ready, I glance around the park....ummm...hello? I had built up an expectation in my mind of dozens of homeless people milling about everywhere. I saw a couple of clusters of what looked like high school kids hanging out, and one or two other people by themself.

Re-enter the doubts:
"There's no homeless people here: FAIL!"
"You're too early, there won't be any until after dark."
"What are you gonna do with all that leftover food, genius?"



I carry everything over to the little outdoor amphitheater, and notice 2 people that sort of look "homeless?" (That feels like such a judgemental thing to say, but really how do I approach someone to offer them dinner unless I assume they're homeless?) I start by asking if they'd like a bottle of water, and the woman says no thanks, she's set (showing me her large bottle of whiskey). Then I realize: they have bottles of alcohol, a pizza, cell phones, and bicycles. Maybe not homeless.
VICTORY#3: How's that a victory? The woman says that was sweet of me to offer. Somehow, I feel encouraged and ok to keep going.

I've got everything lined up: all the trays with tortillas, taco shells, rice, beans, meat/veggies, bag of chips, and bottles of water.

It's 5:42.
I wait....and wait....6:00 rolls around. I've watched as different clusters of teens walk around talking to each other. A family walks through the park to their car. An older guy with a beard and a cammo jacket - maybe he's??....no he's not.

6:10
By now I've gone through my mental list of options a few times: maybe the homeless folks really don't show up until late at night?, do I take everything back to my car and try again tomorrow?, am I being impatient and need to wait longer?, do I need to walk up and down Nevada and Tejon to search for someone who "looks" homeless?

A couple minutes later a teen walks up.
"Hey, what's goin' on? You givin' out food or something?"
"Ya," I say, nodding; wondering if he's a local high school kid looking for a free meal, or what.
"Cool. I'm just waiting for somebody," he says walking towards a group of other teens.

Then a guy rides up on a bike at about the same time a crusty-looking guy with huge backpack complete with bedroll walks up. While they're talking to each other and rolling cigs, I tell myself what the heck, give it a shot, and walk up to them and ask if they'd like anything to eat or a bottle of water.

They do.
VICTORY #4: Finally...what feels like affirmation that the trip wasn't a waste.

I meet John, the guy on the bike. He's friendly and genuinely appreciative. The other guy is listening intently to his hand radio and doesn't seem like he wants to talk. As they start getting their food, the teen I spoke with before comes up, flanked by three or four others. A couple of them ask if they can have a water.

"Sure," I say. If they are high school kids who don't really need a free meal, it feels like a waste, but then again, I've only had two takers so far anyways, so why not?
Then a girl asks me if I work for a church. I tell her no, but I go to church.

"Awesome!" she exults giving me a high-five. "You're the first person who doesn't work for a church that's ever come down here!"
In my head: "Whaaaa?? That doesn't seem likely."
Out loud: "My pleasure."

She tells me her name is Skye. Then I meet Vaughn. Then Matt. Then DJ. Then Mike who goes by "Twisted M".

Then another girl asks if anyone has told the rest of the group that there's food. I see her indicate a group of people at the other end of the park that I had assumed were more high school students. Within minutes I'm surrounded by about 20 people queuing up for food.
VICTORY #5: Woah! I just had to wait a few minutes longer than I expected for things to "happen"!

Uh-oh.
10 minutes ago I was worried about what to do with all the leftover food I was going to have on my hands, now it doesn't look like it's nearly enough!

Skye has taken it upon herself to tell everyone, "Hey guys - Josh was nice enough to come down here and feed you all, so be sure to say 'thank you'!" And everyone is very polite and appreciative. A couple guys make it a point to thank me 2 or 3 times. Very appreciative.

I exchange comments with several of them, but most get a few bites to eat then walk off. A few stick around watching and waiting to see if they can get seconds. Pretty soon, it's all gone except for the huge bag of chips. Everything has happened so fast I almost forget to watch for the opportunity to talk to them, look for that open door to share Christ. (Side note: aside from feeding homeless, evangelism is the next thing I've never really done, or felt comfortable trying)

But then I strike up a conversation with Mark. He tells me a lot about what's going on with him, and also fills me in on the others. Most of the teens here either "camp out" "couch-hop" (staying at different friends' houses) or stay at shelters. He says that this kind of thing helps a lot. He tells me how most churches and other organizations have stopped coming to help out, seeming pretty disappointed/miffed about it. I'm trying to take everything with a grain of salt, not wanting to dismiss everything he's saying, but not everything he's saying quite jives.

At any rate, I find out he lives in an "efficiancy apartment" (which I've never heard of), and he and his wife are barely living on food stamps. He said he had spent all day today scrounging for change on the street corners nearby. He gives me his address and asks if I can find any household items or food for him that I can bring it by.
VICTORY #6: I connect with someone. I feel like it's the beginning of building relationship - which is the cornerstone of how Jesus did ministry (same for Vanguard)

6:45
I tell Mark I'll be thinking about and praying for him, and that I hope to see him next time I stop by.
I head back to my car.
That hour went by pretty quick, actually.
Wait.....I had fun!
Something I didn't expect: I want to hang out with these people more! As I drove home, I couldn't help but think "This could be my new hobby!"
VICTORY #7: I get a sense of the compassion Christ has for people. I feel fulfilled and changed - and I want more.

Such a long post, I know. Sorry...but my heart's pretty full right now, and I want to get my thoughts/feeling out while the fresh and undiluted. I'm excited about doing more of this, and I'm hoping I can find some ziploc bags, food containers, milk, other foodstuff to take to Mark soon.

Added to my prayer list: Mark, Skye, John, Twisted M, Vaughn, DJ, Matt, Adrian

Matthew 25: 34-40
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. 37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Friday, August 28, 2009

Interview, Schminterview

I wanted to pause in my Retreat posting to talk about my job interview yesterday before I find out the result. First of all, I was told to try and get there early, as it would probably take longer to get on base due to the welcome-home-troops stuff going on. My interview was at 10:00, so I got to the base right at about 9:00 - and was through the gate and parking by 9:05. Wha?! Oh well....so I'm super early, but didn't want to go in THAT early, so I sat in my car and read my Bible which I conveniently (and intentionally) had brought. It was a great way to steady any nerves...but then, come to think of it, I realized I wasn't nervous!

And when I walked into the office, I was about 10 minutes early and was able to hang/chat with the HR assistant there who I've been friends with these last couple years as we work on a lot of things together. She asked if I was nervous, and I was happy to answer "No." I think that has been one of the benefits of interviewing for jobs, is that the experience has boosted my confidence, despite the rejections.

It went really well, they said they had heard a lot of good things about me, and were planning on making a decision soon, so we'll see!

Experiencing God

Title = Not related to the book or study....just a short phrase that captures what the Men's Retreat weekend was in a nutshell.

This might be a long post, so maybe print it out and read on the train...or by the pool...or in bed...or whatever. Thus far, I feel like I have been pretty much an open book as far as what is going on in my head and in my heart in relation to life, God, etc. and intend to be just as transparent and vulnerable about this very special weekend. So take it all with a grain of salt, this is my (limited) perspective and not authoritative Truth. ;)

Leading up to the weekend, the major themes playing in my life's background have been 1) Prayer - how to do it; why I don't do it as often as I know I should; faith in believing it matters, etc. 2) Calling - there might be a variety of connotations of this word, but it's the one that speaks to me the most often, and basically is related to the question: What should I be doing with my life? I've often thought of this in a vocational sense (What job am I getting paid for?), but have widened it to include all areas of my life: family, church/ministry, etc.

I knew to expect that God would do something on retreat. I tentatively hoped for "answers" or at least a little more illumination on my path. Oddly, however, as we were driving up, checking in and heading off to the campfire, I felt slightly disconnected. Like I didn't feel any anticipation of something good happening, or at least a mild ambivalence. I was a little concerned by that, so as worship began, I asked God to soften & open my heart, to start being able to engage and "get my hands dirty" in the Spirit.

----------------

I'm sorry to do this...but I'm going to have to break this up into segments...otherwise, I may never get this posted, as the entirety is a bit over-whelming. I've been up since 4:00am this morning. That's the second time this week. It was fairly productive again, in the sense that I was able to connect and build in a relationship with a friend who was up at the same time, and started working on the "Cleansing" sheet that I will describe later.

I will give the utmost effort to completing the Retreat experience rundown over the next day or so, probably in manageable, small-ish chunks like this.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Who Needs Sleep?

That title is an homage by the song of the same name, by one of my favorite bands ever, BNL (Barenaked Ladies). The funny (not the ha-ha kind) thing is, is that I have a friend who had a few nights in a row of waking up in the middle of the night like this, and I wondered why and what that must have been like for him as he described it on his blog - and now I get to experience it.

I don't feel any physical affects really, other than a mild headache, but I definitely feel like I could not go to sleep right now if I tried. And this is pretty darn unusual for me, as I am a fairly heavy sleeper. Wendy often will ask if I know what happened in the night (kid-drama related, usually) and I rarely do.

Since it is so unusual, my next thought is that there must be a reason for it, right? So I ask God if there's a reason He woke me? Is there someone in urgent need of prayer right now? Is there something I should have done yesterday that you're getting me up to do now? Not sure I've heard an answer yet, but I decide to write this blog update and see what happens.

While I'm here, I can maybe start to tell you a little about what happened on retreat. I'm going to do a nut-and-bolts overview in this post, in an attempt to break up the whole retreat recap into bite-size, readable chunks. This is pretty general, so feel free to gloss over. I'll get into personal specifics in my next post.

We stayed at a place called Horn Creek. Very nice accommodations, great food, amazing rec center, etc.



The format for the retreat is this: Friday we arrive between 5-7 and get settled in. There's no dinner, but there are "heavy snacks." Then some worship, then one guy talks - usually testimony type stuff. Then rec time from 9-12. I know that sounds late for physical activity, but for 55 dudes, it's a great ice-breaker since we're meeting guys for the first time, and a great de-compressor, as it helps us all relax and have a little fun after the work week.

Saturday I start with a little walk in the woods and devotions before breakfast. Then we have a morning worship session, and then break out into our 3 "teams". There are 3 different 45-minute speakers in different places. So each team goes to one, then we rotate until we've heard all 3. Then lunch, then afternoon activity. This year it was a combination of Amazing Race-ish scavenger hunt/trivia game/using a compass type activity. It was really fun, but exhausting to basically be speed-hiking all over the grounds for a couple hours. After a freshen up time and dinner, we have evening worship, followed by what I call "open mic" time, which is an opportunity for any guy to share what's going on with him.

Then Sunday is devos, breakfast, worship, then the "God Stroll" - a semi-structured time alone with God. Lastly we have communion - which for most of us is the highlight of the weekend. The way we do it is that there are several loaves of bread and little communion cups of grape juice. The idea is to take a piece of bread and juice to a guy that you've seen grow over the weekend, or they've ministered to you somehow, or you need to confess something and ask for forgiveness, or something like that.

Usually that's it and we're done by 11-ish and get lunch on the way home, but this year they actually had lunch for us too, which was cool. I was home by 4:00 and spent the next 3 hours or so kind of non-stop talking to Wendy about it, through kid-managing, through dinner, etc.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Men's Retreat 2009

This is tough. I'm sure most of you can relate to the quandry of experiencing something so amazing, then trying to put it into words to try and share it with others. This is one of those times. It's been a little over 24 hours since getting home from the weekend, and I feel like at times I'm still reeling.

There are so many stories and epiphanies and insights and experiences that I wish I could convey what it felt like, and how they've impacted me. Alas...I waited till after 10pm tonight to start this, and I'm tired and need to go to bed.

I promise I will try to write more tomorrow.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stick To The Plan

I've always kind of noticed a pattern for me, but lately I've been think about it more intentionally and analyzing what it means.

Call it "Instinct" or "Intuition" or even just "Going with your gut"...however you try to label that ambiguous phenomenon, I feel like I've always had an above-average portion allotted to me. Might be that's why I'm good at remembering how to get somewhere. Might be that's why I seem to often make lane changes at just the right time. Might be related to discernment in people's character. But it goes beyond these things.

If I'm going to the store, I usually have a list or know the items I intend to purchase. My wife will attest to the fact that I notoriously end up grabbing a couple of "unplanned" items. Then I discover that either she had already purchased it, we don't really need it, or I regret it for some reason. I should have just stuck to the plan.

On a larger scale, I've hypothesized how this applies in other, more significant areas. Like when I was living in Denver and realized that I loved Wendy. I decided that I wanted to move back to California and marry her. There were a number of roadblocks and doubts, some tears and some sweat, but I stuck with the "Plan" and look how great that turned out!

Same thing when deciding to move out here to CO - roadblocks, doubts, etc....but I stuck with the plan that I knew was good, and again we've seen God's hand of blessing on us.

Now comes the self-chastisement. If I KNOW that sticking to a plan I know is good produces good results, why don't I always "stick to the plan"? In my walk with God, I know that reading His Word and praying to him on a regular basis is a good plan. But when I come up with a plan to help me do those things, I inevitably seem to fail...I alter or dismiss the plan. I remained convinced that it's a good plan, but I guess I remain unconvinced that it's worth my time and energy?

I vent my frustration (mostly at myself - though I admit I offered a smidge to God this morning in my prayer in which I used the phrase "What's the deal?") hoping to find some answers and inspiration at the men's retreat this weekend. If the last two men's retreats are any indication, I'm expecting God to do some big stuff. Should make for some good blog fodder next week! =)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Righteousness (Follow-up)

So this morning I came across this verse in Romans 8:10
"10But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness."

...and decided to pursue this line of thought after my questions yesterday about whether my prayers will amount to anything, or whether I am righteous "enough".

Silly, of course not! I, me, Josh is not righteous. But Christ is, and His spirit is in me. That's why when God looks on me He doesn't see sin and unfaithfulness, but rather He sees Christ.

But I have a responsibility to "wear" the righteousness:
Ephesians 6:10-18 describes putting on the armor of God, including the breastplate of righteousness.

2 Timothy 22 says we must "pursue righteousness"

So it's not something that just "happens", but rather something that requires me to be intentional about.

Baby steps....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Righteous vs. Wicked

I read some of Proverbs today, and reflecting on the contrasts it provides.
Primarily: Fool vs. wise man and Righteous vs. Wicked.

As I read through the descriptions of the "wicked" man, I feel fairly confident that that's not me! But does that mean since I'm not "wicked" therefore I am "righteous"? Is it one or the other? Can we be both? Is there somewhere in between.

This year I have been trying to focus on prayer. What is it? How do I do it? Is it effective? etc... A challenging thought for me has been found in James 5:16 - "The prayers of a righteous man accomplishes much" (other versions..."are powerful and effective")

I know that during our time on Earth, we never will "arrive" at completeness spiritually, but I feel like I've barely begun the journey, and question whether I am righteous (ever), whether my prayers are effective. Ironically, I know that they are, as I've clearly seen God's hand guiding my life, and have received answers to prayer, and have grown in my faith.

James 1:5-8 speaks to this as well:
5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

I admit that I sometimes buy into the lie and gnawing doubts. I hear the voice in my head "Maybe I shouldn't even bother praying. I'm not sure it's effective, and since I have doubts, that passage in James says nothing will happen because I'm double-minded."

I've been encouraged though by the men's leadership team at church to remember that I cannot improve myself. I cannot pull myself up by my own boot straps, and just get more faith. I have to ask God for that. Which means I have to pray.

So despite the lying whispers, the fears of failure, the foolish thinking of "Is my faith enough?", I am trying to persist in prayer.
God, enlarge my faith. Give me eyes to hear, and ears to hear what you would have me know of you.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Family Friday

Friday started out a little odd, but ended better.
At work, we usually have "Fellowship Friday" where we have lunch together. Yesterday, they had decided to just get ice cream cake for dessert. Cool. So I go out and get some lunch, walk into the HR area, and there's everyone eating lunch!...catered from Golden Corral. Oops, no one told me the plan change.

No worries though, I was content with the food I had, and still got some ice cream cake. The rest of the afternoon, work was off-an-on, busy-wise. It was going real slow for a couple hours until I got tasked with a bit of an overhaul project. No problem, I'm good at those, and was feeling a bit bored/restless. But once I'm mid-way through the project - boxes and files strewn all over the place - I get the word that we can go home early. I scramble to get stuff squared away and stowed away, but am definitely the last to leave.

Now, I'm not complaining...I'm observing: I don't think it's coincidence. When I was at WCHS, I was nearly always the last to leave, and often the only teacher working on evenings and weekends. Any time I've done a mission trip or volunteer-type activity, I've often found myself to be one of the last to "knock off". Even now with the sound job at church, I'm supposed to be the one to arm the alarm and lock up after rehearsals, so I'm again the last to leave.

What's weird is that I'm often self-conscious about how lazy I am. In my day I've spent many a weekend firmly planted on a couch playing video games or reading. But then sometimes it seems that I really work my tail off. So maybe I'm just all-on or all-off.

Jeez, did I digress or what!

Anywho, I still got home earlier and Wendy decided we could go out to eat. We went to Rockbottom (my first time). Afterwards, we walked over to the Summer Jam Sessions that were going on. Guess they're doing free music and vendor booths, etc. on Friday nights during the summer. We got some free/discounted stuff, but my favorite part was the two conversations I got to have.

First with Jon Elsberry from church, who I've had a few one-on-one talks about prayer, faith, etc. I really enjoy our conversations and am always encouraged to press on in my personal walk with God after a few minutes with him.

Second, I got to meet and chat with Wendy LaBree. She's a co-host for the morning show on KVOR 740 AM - the local conservative talk radio station. She sounds fun and nice on the air, and is even more so in person! She was a bit enamored with Cosette (duh - who isn't). She even gave a little eagle sculpture to Cosette, and gave us passes to the El Paso County Fair, so we'll probably hit that next weekend.

She also mentioned that they've been hiring a lot, and are still looking for people. That'd be cool to work at a radio station! Here's a picture of us Wendy took with my phone:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thank God! (Literally)

So there are basically 3 radio stations that I listen to:
1. KVOR (talk radio) - 80% of the time
2. KBIQ (Christian) - 15%
3. KCME (classical) - 5%

On my drive this morning, all three were on commercial breaks and I had a little ADD going, so I flipped to the local pop/rock station 99.9 (not sure what the call letters are) and it sounded like it might be some fun morning-jock tom-foolery. I think the hosts are John J, Rich, and Kerry...or something.

It turned out to be a bit of Jerry Springer-ish soap opera tom-foolery, but I'll admit I got a bit sucked in and left it on. (But it's ok, I'm extrapolating an important point at the end!)
A woman named Lisa was having them help find out if her husband was cheating. They had the host (Kerry) call the guy (Isaac) and say he won a dozen roses, who would he like to send them to? He started to tell her to write a note "Can't stop thinking about you" to some girl in his office, and his wife (Lisa) on the line jumped in saying, "What are you doing, Isaac? Why...?" *sobbing*

Busted. Another 10-15 minutes of "discussion" ensued between the husband, wife, radio hosts, and random people calling in...it was ugly.

My reaction (beyond the somewhat-entertained, similar to slowing down to check out a car accident) was the usual mixture of shaking my head "I don't get it" fare. When other people make horrible decisions that ruin their lives, it's easy to shake our heads and not understand how they couldn't see the danger/error.

I think about how lost people are without the big missing puzzle piece in their life: Christ. What kind of husband/father would I be if I hadn't made Christ the center pillar of my marriage? I have enough temptations/sins/failures as it is...I shudder to think how my life would be going apart from Christ.

I'm truly amazed when I hear of a decades-long, love-filled marriage of non-Christians. I know this may sound a bit over-simplified, but if you don't base a marriage on Christ, you're basing it on the person you are and the person you love, right? But how can a love established on sinful/flawed people result in anything but hurt, disappointment, bitterness, infidelity, etc?

So my extrapolation is this: thank the Lord for His love and mercy that have changed (and continue to change) my heart so that I can be a person who loves more than I would otherwise be capable. I'm grateful that Wendy and I have had almost 8 years of a wonderful marriage in which we are in this triune relationship that is stronger than if it was just the two of us.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

To Epiphany, or Not To Epiphany?

Ok, epiphany isn't actually a verb (but wouldn't it be cool if it was?).
I just liked the sound of the phrase as a couple more epiphanies have hit me recently. Though, perhaps I should stop throwing "epiphany" around so much...seems to lessen it's significance as a special event if I have one almost every week; but then again, maybe I'm just in a great season of growth.

As to whether I want more of these "revelations" or not, a new twist has been added. 99% of the time, it seems that when I have one of these experiences, it is very positive, affirming, full of hope and joy in the newly-gained knowledge and wisdom. The twist is, apparently an epiphany can reveal something dark, sad, evil, painful. Then I am tempted to wish I hadn't had the epiphany!

Which brings me to another touchy subject (for me, at least): do I blog about what I've recently realized? Thus far, I have been pretty open about my thoughts/experiences...even vulnerable. But there are a couple of subjects that I've not referenced here...and I'm not sure I want to. To me, that's a sign that these parts of my life are still tightly entwined with pain, fear, and/or shame. Heck, to admit that like I just did is vulnerable in and of itself, but doesn't hold a candle to the can of worms I'm toying with opening.

It's not that I feel threatened by my "followers". To my knowledge, I don't really have "enemies", and only friends and family (maybe 10 people) will even read this. I'm sure that if I start unfolding my heart and subjects that are difficult for me, if anyone were to leave a comment it would be comforting, affirming, encouraging, etc...even if some "tough love" type critique was thrown in, that'd be ok since it would be out of love.

Yet once the can of worms is open, and the cat is out of the bag, and the bus has left the station, etc...you can't undo it. Am I worried that people's view of me will be radically altered? Is there a limit to how much I should share in this "public diary"? (I'm not talking graphic, inappropriate stuff, just personal stuff) Perhaps it would be even more progress into my "journey" to rip off the bandaid and allow the discussion and healing begin.

So, this is a work-in-progress as I continue to digest and think about it. If you have thoughts/comments, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Good Friday

No...not THAT Good Friday, silly...

Today was a good day. Shall I regale you with my tale? Well, since you said please...

It started off (as most mornings do) with waking up; but the beauty of it was that I felt rested! I was in a wedding yesterday. (Groomsman for one of my accountability partners) and had a looong day - in the middle of a looong week - not getting home until about 11pm. I was a bit worried that I would be too tired for my interview, but was very grateful that God gave me the rest I needed.

Good Day Item #2: our company had the quarterly social/fun event: combat mini-golf. There were a few special rules for hitting opponents' balls, putting with your off-hand, etc. that helped your score - and I won! Admittedly, my competitive edge was simmering under the just-having-fun exterior. =) Couple with more golf experience than a majority of the others, I suppose I shouldn't brag too much about out-putting everyone else, but still, I had fun and won some cool foodstuffs from Alaska.

After the golf, I rushed back to work and quickly changed into my interview outfit. I realized that today is the first time I've worn a tie in a long time! I got to the address in plenty of time, to allow myself a few minutes to just sit in my car and get focused mentally, and pray, and psych myself up with positive/confident thoughts. I think while I was driving over I had a bit of nerves, but was pleasantly surprised that as I walked in, the nerves left and I felt very relaxed and at peace. I'm going to credit that to the prayers I know you guys sent up - Thanks!

By the way, the job is for an HR Generalist position at a national health care company. This would be a couple pay grades above what I'm at now - VERY good for us if I get it!

The interview lasted a little over an hour, and consisted mostly of her asking me a lot of questions about my HR experience and knowledge. There were a lot of the "what would you do in this scenario" type questions. As it went on, I found myself gaining even more confidence, and feeling more at ease. It was starting to feel like a good fit. She seemed pleased and - dare I say it - even impressed with my responses. There was even a "tricky" test when she had me read through a couple pages of a certain policy and then role-play with her as an employee needing to be counseled/disciplined for violating it. She said that I did better at that part than any of the other candidates.

After I asked her some questions I had, I ended by asking her if she would mind giving me some feedback as to what kind of feeling she had about me. She said that she really liked my communication skills and that what really "hit home" with her, was how I did on the role-playing test and the good questions I asked. I would be a good fit for this office.

But...

She said she was a little hesitant because I didn't have much "hands-on" experience. Meaning that because the majority of certain HR functions (approving FMLA, having the 1-on-1 counseling conversation, recruiting, etc.) I've handled the back-end, paperwork processing, rather than being the initial POC. So that puts me at a slight disadvantage there.

She said she will be making a recommendation to her boss, who will then do a final, phone interview (because he's out of state) by July 6. I'm hoping that I can use that opportunity to try and explain how that "disadvantage" isn't so bad, because I'm very confident that I can handle it; maybe even making the connection that I spent 4 years counseling, mentoring, and disciplining (sometimes in very difficult, tense situations) as a high school teacher.

At any rate, I walked out of the office, head held high (despite the light rain), feeling very good and smiling. I felt fulfilled, in that I knew I had the best interview I could have had, and was proud of how I handled myself. I also had a real sense that God (and many family/friends) were thinking of me at the time and I can only assume He gave me the peace, confidence, and words to say.

To end the day, we got a yummy Costco pizza, my brother came over to hang out, and he and I went to the pool/jacuzzi with my boy. My biggest smile of the day came when I stepped into the pool and held my hands out to help Connor in, and he randomly says: "You're the greatest!"
=)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thanks, Satan, for clues to knowing God!!

We all like to be on the winning team, right? I remember in grade school, when the lunch-time kickball game was getting started, I always hoped to get on David's team, cause he was really good and his team almost always won.

So when I'm reminded of the victory we get to share in with God, I feel strengthened and encouraged by that....and - I admit - I want to rub it in Ol' Scratch's face a bit. Today, Satan tried some of his old tricks to lead me away from God, that actually led to me gaining a deeper knowledge of Him, and connecting with my wife spiritually in a way I don't think I ever have before. (Oops! Not the plan, eh you old snake-in-the-grass?)

I woke up kind of early (about 2.5 hours before we had to leave for church) and puttered around on the computer, made breakfast, took care of the kids, etc. By the time Wendy was up and getting ready, I was starting to feel like not going to church. Back to bed? Do some reading? Play on computer? Etc....

But, Wendy and the kids were almost ready, so I got dressed and didn't feel rushed to get there on time. In fact, we were a bit late (walking in during first worship song), and I also decided to use the restroom, so I'm coming in toward the end of the 2nd song - not feeling like singing/worshipping one iota. Also leading into this time, there were a couple moments during the morning of tension/arguing between me and the wife, so I had a burr in my saddle as well.

Almost flippantly (but sincere enough) I told God in my heart, "I got nothin'. I don't feel like worshiping or praising you or talking to you or any of that kind of stuff. So if something's gonna happen this morning, I need you to do something to my heart. Soften it, break it, wake it up - something."

Well, I guess He did. Through focusing on a couple lines of lyrics, and through a very moving story told by the worship leader about some personal stuff with him, I started to "get there." And then the sermon about (surprise, surprise) fatherhood hit home too. And then the pastor encouraged/challenged us to take communion with our wife/family - especially if we've never done that before. (And I never had...)

Suffice it to say that it was a very emotional and intense experience for me. I prayed with Wendy as we knelt at the altar, racked with sobs, amazed by God's love, impassioned by His Spirit.

And my eyes were opened....I remembered several other moments like this. Spiritual milestones in which something significant happened in my walk with God; and they all shared one common denominator = I didn't want to go to church/chapel/devotions/mission trip that day.

Duh! Right? He may not be omniscient, but Satan is a cunning, smart, thinking-1,000's-of-moves-ahead opponent. He can see where it's leading when you are walking into an opportunity for something special to happen in your relationship with God. And he's going to try damn hard to make sure it doesn't happen!

So my conclusion is this: every time I have a plan or schedule to meet with God - be it church on Sunday, accountability group, Bible study, etc. - and I start feeling like I don't want to go, or external circumstances start making it difficult = that's as sure a sign as fireworks and sirens that the Enemy is trying to stop me from experiencing something miraculous with God.

Therefore, I look forward to the next time Mr. Mephisto tries to pummel me or block me or weigh my heart down. I can smile, rub my hands together, and say "Oh boy...I can't wait to see what God has in store today!" (Game, set, match - God wins)

James 1:2-4
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hiatus Interruptus

*le sigh*....apologies for long-time-no-blog, etc, etc, blah blah...(the usual)

I've had several moments over the last two weeks in which I've thought "Oh, I should blog that!"
But obviously, I didn't.

So now that I'm finally getting around to it, I have a few unconnected things to share, and will probably break them up into separate posts for you to read at your leisure.

Connections

I like finding connections, especially in movies/tv. So, here are some I've discovered recently. If you haven't seen these particular tv shows/movies you probably won't get it. If you have seen them, you probably already made these connections and are like, "Duh, Josh!"

Man in the Iron Mask - one of the king's advisors is Hugh Laurie from "House". Ha!
Full Metal Jacket - character "Animal Mother" is played by a young Adam Baldwin, star in two shows I very much love: "Firefly"-Jayne; "Chuck"-Casey
Krull - I had always heard about this movie, but had never seen it. Finally watched it last week, and was surprised to recognize more familiar faces: Liam Neeson, Freddie Jones (Thufir from "Dune"), Francesca Annis (Lady Jessica also from "Dune")

On a sadder "connection" note...upon watching Krull, I realized that it had an element in it that was very similar to an element in my novel that I thought was rather unique. Even though I honestly thought of it myself (and it is somewhat different), now I worry that people will think I lifted the idea from Krull. (And yes, I'm being intentionally vague)

I have been really fond of Netflix over the last couple of months - by using their "Watch Instantly" feature online, I've been able to catch up on quite a few movies on the list of "Ones I'd like to see sometime, but don't want to pay for rental or make time for" - notably, the three listed above.

Yet there's a catch....the slippery slope. Am I watching too many movies now? I'll discuss in the next post.

Monday, April 13, 2009

More Poems

I know I should talk more about what's goin' on with life...thoughts, experiences, etc.
But for now all you get is the last few poems for the PAD challenge. =)


4/9
For today's prompt, I want you write a poem about a memory. The memory can be good or bad. The memory can be a blend of several memories. I suppose it could even be a memory that you're not sure you remember correctly. Take your time finding a good one (or good ones).

"Trying To Remember"

What just happened?
Who am I?
My heart races as I
notice clues written on my arm
and my chest
and my leg.
I have no friends.
I have no life before
this moment.

Frantically, I search for a pen
to write down the name
of the person I just met.
Photographs seem to help,
but this one is scratched out.

Friend or foe?
I may never know.
I finally figure it out,
beyond all trace of doubt.
I kill my only friend.
My worst enemy in the end
is me.


4/10
For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem about Friday. Do you like Fridays? Despise Fridays? Of course, you can also write about something that happened on a Friday--or write an ode to Fridays. Or, as you know, I'm all for seeing you attack this from an angle I haven't thought of yet.

Friday
Free at last!
Escape from Reality
with friends and family.
PAH-TAY
with my family and friends.
An escape from Reality -
I feel free at last on
Friday

4/11
For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem about an object (or objects). Though you don't have to confine yourself to straight up description, I do want you to focus on object and/or make it a central piece of your poem.

Not terribly clever, but here's a cinquain about a favorite object at the center of many conversations lately.

Towering
statue of
Anubis. Is that
what it is? I'm
Lost

4/12
For today's prompt, I want you to take the phrase "So we decided to (blank)" and fill in the blank. Make that your title and write a poem. Some possibilities include "So we decided to plant a tree" or "So we decided to burn a hole in the sky."

"So we decided to run"

"Hah! They're nothing!" we scoffed.
Bravado and cocky confidence
swelled our heads.
Swagger and switchblades were
enough to earn fear and respect.
Six of us, only three of them - there was
no suspense here; we knew how it would end.
I began to speak,
to urge them to beat it...when the tall one
pulled out a gun.
So we decided to run.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Poem a Day Challenge

April is National Poetry Month, and a friend convinced me to participate in the Poem-A-Day Challenge. (Click the link to check it out)

Each day has a new "prompt", and you're allowed to write in any structure or style. Obviously, creativity and "thinking outside the box" is encouraged. Throughout the month I'll share my poems here every few days. Enjoy!


4/1
For today's prompt, I want you to write an origin poem. It can be the origin of a word, person, plant, idea, etc. Have fun with it.

We've been here before.
I'll go there again.
How did we become?
When did we begin?

It began "In the beginning..."
You've all heard it said.
You start when you're born,
But you don't end when you're dead.

He knew you before
He made Time or Space.
He knows each hair on your head
He cares for each line on your face.

How did He...?
Why did He...?
We may never fully know,
So just know Him, and be.


4/2
Today, I want you to write an outsider poem. You can be the outsider; someone else can be the outsider; or it can even be an animal or inanimate object that's the outsider. As usual, get creative with the prompt and don't be afraid to stretch the limits.

I feel an itch.
Is it those tiny creatures again?
Sigh. They are always
scampering and sliding and
pinching and biting.
Ack! What are they doing?
They are cutting large gashes
in my side. They're harvesting my
internal organs!! Such molestations
anger me, but alas, I have no lava to
hurl at them in retribution,
for I am only an old, grey mountain.


4/3
Take the phrase "The problem with (blank)" and replace the "(blank)" with a word or phrase. Make this the title of your poem and then write a poem to fit with or juxtapose against that title.

"The Problem With This Situation"

Whew! Made it home in the blizzard.
What's this? A flat!
Why now?
Who left that screw in the road?
Where is the jack? Ah...there...
Whoops! No spare!
Waaaaaa.....


4/4
For today’s prompt, I want you to pick an animal; make that animal the title of your poem; then, write a poem. You could be very general with your animal title (“Bees” or “Lion”) or specific (“Flipper” or “Lassie”).

"Animal"

Thump! Thump!
Crash! Crash!
Drive the beat,
then break and smash!

Beat! Beat!
Play! Play!
Keeping time
in a crazy way!

Chomp! Chomp!
Crunch! Crunch!
Tom-toms and snare
and hi-hat for lunch!

Sit! Sit!
Stay! Stay!
Dr. Teeth holds
Animal at bay!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Worship Is Dangerous

As I was driving in to work this morning, instead of my usual talk radio fare, I was listening to Fike & Dana's Make a Sound. I like when I feel like worshiping. There are many times when I worship out of obedience, or out of the knowledge that I'll be glad I did afterwards, but there's a different, special feeling of yearningto worship.

Anyways, as I was singing along with "Ascend to Heaven", there's a line that says:

"You are glorious and victorious, and you've welcomed us into your arms."

I was suddenly struck by the disparity of those two phrases.

1. God is the mighty, powerful, ruler of the universe (glorious/victorious)
2. God loves us dearly and wants to embrace and cherish us (welcomed us into your arms)

As I often do, I likened it to the whole King/medieval analogy.
Imagine a powerful, regal king holding court. He issues edicts, he pronounces judgements. He makes war and signs laws. He distributes wealth and manages the resources of the kingdom. Then, in the middle of all the "business", he stops everything and makes eye contact with you.
"Come here, my son," he says to you.
You look around sheepishly, knowing that he can't mean you because you aren't really his son.
"Me?" you ask.
As he nods with a smile, you start to make your way up the steps of the dais, approaching his throne with fear and awe.
Not waiting for you to go all the way, he rushes down the rest of the steps and meets you half-way, picking you up in a big bear hug.
"I love you. You are the most important thing to me in all of my kingdom."

In not so many words, that is the imagery and sense of God's love and presence I felt this morning as I drove. I had to stop singing as my throat closed and the tears came. I had to blink a lot so I could see the road and other cars....that's why worship is dangerous.

But even as I thought of that title (albeit, somewhat tongue-in-cheek), I realized there is more truth to it.

A while ago, our worship team covered a chapter in the book we were reading entitled, "Worship in Spiritual Warfare". When we worship, and arm ourselves with God's word, and are backed by His power (which we tap into through worship), we become dangerous to the enemy. I like that. =)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Miraculous Healing

I know it's been over a week since a post...I have things to share, I've just been busy/distracted. But I just HAD to share this. I feel it is so important that everyone I know hear this...I'm sending it out via every channel I can think of. It brought me to tears...my faith is so inspired by this.

I don't know the full story (if someone else does, please share!), but this is a pastor or Bible teacher who apparently had some health condition that affected his voice for a few years. Please, I beg you to listen to this. This is such a dramatic example....especially in the context of what he is teaching. Be patient and listen to the whole thing. IT IS WORTH IT!!!

1993 Sermon - Healing

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Paradigm Shift

I have experienced times in my life when I thought things in my life were humming along nicely and I thought I had things figured out. During these times, I've been much more resistant to change and new ideas. Then there have been (a very few) times in which I was genuinely humble, realizing how little I "know", how wrong and sinful I am, how much more I want to grow and learn. Then there have been times like....well...now. Ok, not "times"....this season I am in is absolutely unique. I've dubbed 2008 the "worship" story, and have already dubbed 2009 as the "prayer" story.

I really like this new attitude I've been developing...a mind and heart open to God's voice and hand. Feeling not only willing, but eager, to be radically changed by Him, to accept 180's in my thinking about life, theology, etc. Like with anything else that we learn to trust God with, it helps when you start to see a pattern of Him answering prayers and seeing His hand on your life. I think I'm building on that now. I've seen how He's opened my awareness of worship and fellowship, I'm excited to see how God is working in my marriage and Wendy and I grow closer as we start dog-paddling out into the turbulent waters of vulnerability. And now - YHWH strikes again!
(oops...so much for cutting down on preamble...sorry)

Of course I wanted to go to church this morning, but I'll admit that I stayed up till 1:30 Saturday night, and wasn't crazy about trying to get the kids going by myself. But I not only woke up on time, I even had time for a shower and breakfast! So off to church, and again...being honest...I didn't feel like singing or "getting into worship". But as the 2nd song started, I once again submitted to discipline and raised my hands, sang out loud, and asked God to meet me....BAM! That was quick!

We're singing "Mighty To Save", and as the chorus hits, the synapses start firing, fueled by the Holy Spirit:

Savior
He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever
Author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

I started thinking about how mighty God is...focusing on how powerful He is. And how I've never actually seen a mountain move. Is His power hypothetical? What does He do with His power? He saves. Somehow (and by "somehow", I mean by the leading of the Holy Spirit)...this leads me down the thought path I have traversed a gajillion times. The routine is so familiar and well-known to me, it's a stale, eye-rolling bother: I call it the roller-coaster effect. I've often chafed at the feeling of futility and spinning in circles that I've associated with my Christian walk. I have a "high" spiritual moment...close to God...promise to do better...this time it's different.......and then the next day my life feels like a hum-drum routine of sin, oops, sin, oops, sin, oops...etc. (Please note: I'm exaggerating a tad to highlight the point I'm making....not quite as bleak as I'm painting it)

Anyways, this often has led to feelings of angst, despondency, failure (as a man, Christian, husband, leader, etc.) "Why do I keep failing?" "What's the point?" ad nauseum...
Then during the chorus of "Mighty to Save" the 180 hit: It's not that I keep failing....it's that He keeps saving me. I felt a surge of power as I realized (something that I've always known): I'm on the winning team! Not the going-to-win-someday-in-the-future. The winning-right-now team. The world is full of sin, and Satan has a grip on many people...but those who are hid with Christ are slippery. He can't hold on to us. He knows that as soon as we leave this life, we are spending eternity in God's presence. All he can do is try to slow down our effectiveness in influencing others to accept Christ. Those "failures" I keep feeling the futility are merely the Enemy convincing me that his grip on me is tighter than God's.

But God is "mighty to save"...He is waaaaay more powerful than ol' snaggletooth. I start feeling victory. God is victorious, because Satan will never get the upper-hand. How frustrating for him, huh? The paradigm shift for me is the change in my thinking. Taking the focus off of my continuous "failures" and focus my gratitude and love toward God for being the "Author of my salvation." Forever.

Oops! Late Post

Sometimes when I get an idea for a blog post, I start writing things down in my Google docs, to post later. I found one from last Thursday that I guess I forgot to post. I know there was going to be more to it than this (esp. #3), but of course I can't remember now....oh well.

3/12/09
Fun Stuff

Ok, instead of a long post on one thought, here's a short group of random fun things...

(And yes, fun things in boring, structured list format)
1. This morning I tested myself out to see if I'm getting better yet: I jogged up the steps leading up to my work building. It's just two flights of 15-20 steps each, but for the last 3 weeks, just walking up them would often set me to coughing. I DID IT! No coughing. That made me happy and I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm really looking forward to getting back into running again.

2. Connor randomly wrote the following phrase on a piece of paper: luv me ugl sev [Translation: Love me, Uncle Steve (my brother)] =)

3. Right now I'm listening to, and really digging, Fike & Dana's CD. Love the words of the chorus:

Ascend to heaven my soul
Breathe in the love of the Lord
Let go of all of the shame and the fear of this world
Be known the glory of God
Behold Him seated above
And in the light of His face
Begin to worship!

Work Blessings

When I worked at a Christian high school, I was constantly among brothers and sisters in Christ; teachers, staff, students, administration. Every class and meeting started with prayer...it was awesome. Moving back into the "secular" world, I did feel a little loss there...like my faith was something being put in the box of "personal life" and I would have to don the "work life" hat to go to work. Part of this has been the slow process of growth and learning and maturing in my knowledge of what integrating my walk with Christ into all aspects of my life means. Obviously, the more I learn, the more I realize I've had a limited view of what that should look like.

But there has been a surprising, un-looked-for blessing during the past 6 months or so. I will couch this in a little ambiguity in the interest of speaking about someone without their permission, but suffice to say that there is an exec in the leadership at my company who has been an amazing inspiration to me. Soon after meeting him, I learned he was a Christian also. What a thrill! Then, he found out about my blog...said he liked it, and gave me the address of his blog. So we've been reading each others' blogs and, I think mutually, have been greatly blessed and inspired by each other.

Aside from the "warm fuzzy" kind of inspiration, the attitude he takes toward work issues and relationships, and how he seeks (and finds) Christ and Joy in all aspects of life (not just church and family, as I had relegated them) has been a challenge for me to attempt the same. I feel like my faith is maturing, and my knowledge of God is deepening. This is what the Word means by "iron sharpening iron"...but in a "secular" context, it is a blessing I didn't expect to find...making it all the more delightful!

I know there's a good chance he will see this post. My apologies sir, if this feels a tad over-done or awkward, but I have a feeling you won't take it that way. And as I've stated for everyone here, I've made the conscious decision to engage in this process as authentically and humbly as I can. My own journey is a joy to share, as it is a declaration of God's love for me (and all of us!) and glorifies him; as well as hopefully inspiring/edifying my readers.

I leave you with a sample of his latest post. C'mon...really, how awesome is it to have a boss that thinks like this?*:


"
We had a wonderful service at church today which started with the hymn, “How Great Thou Art”. I started smiling as we finished the first verse and chorus and moved into the second verse, because that says in a nutshell what I truly feel when I’m staring into or up on the mountains:

When through the woods and forest glades I wander,

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,

And see the brook and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee,

How great thou art, how great thou art.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee,

How great thou art, how great thou art.


As I listen to the song, look back over the pictures, and remember the incredible serenity I felt on the top of those hills, I can’t help but praise our Creator and thank Him for giving me that peace this weekend.
"

*Note: this is a very small sample; there is much more of depth and beauty and inspiration, but I feel I should get his permission before sharing more of his heart. =)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Great Distances

I felt it tonight. You know that feeling? When you are experiencing worship, and lyrics you've heard before take on new meaning. You get it. You decide to seek God in worship, and when He meets you...wow!

A couple posts ago I talked about prayer. As I think about concepts related to my faith and walk with God (prayer, worship, faith, etc.) sometimes I feel a Great Distance. A distance between me and a God so Holy, so beyond my capacity to understand that it feels like a separation. There's the distance I feel between us, and there's the distance between where I am now in my walk/knowledge and where I want to be.

As I said before, 2008 was huge for me in my knowledge and experience of worship. The distance grew smaller. Now, as I feel myself honing in on prayer and faith, I sense a great opportunity to make great strides again to close the gap I feel.

And I keep describing this sense of distance as something I am feeling, not something that exists. I'm not accepting it as fact. I was thinking tonight about how the concept we have of Jesus returning one day....it implies that he left. That he's not here now. That builds up this sense of a gap/distance between us. But we know that he is here, now, living in us. Present with us when we sleep and when we rise. The sense of distance is created by me ignoring him. By my lack of faith in not believing that if I speak to him he will answer. By not spending time with him.

My best friend, Brian, was my closest mate in college. My best man in my wedding. There's a connection at the heart-level that will never go away, regardless of time or distance. And yet, I don't feel very close to him right now because I'm in CO and he's in CA, and we have busy lives and only speak on the phone about once a month.

Tonight, during the mid-week service, my prayer went something like this:
"God, I want to know you. I want to worship and serve you. I want to feel connected to you. But I'm aware of a lack of motivation or desire or something to act on these desires. Help me to want to seek you. Help me to remember to pray. Help me to know what to pray. Help me to believe that my prayer actually matters to you and can affect my life and others."

In closing, I was really struck by the words in "At the Cross":

O Lord, you've searched me
You know my ways
Even when I fail you
I know you love me

Your Holy presence
Surrounding me
In every season
I know you love me

Lord, give me the faith to really believe that you love me, even as a filthy sinner who forgets to (or chooses not to) seek you.