Monday, October 7, 2013

Learning How to Walk, Again

How are you supposed to walk? It’s a simple question, with a short answer. You put one foot in front of the other, and move forward. That’s how you learn to walk when you’re born. As a child, we all crawl then slowly, with the help of others, pick ourselves up and move forward. We stand, awkwardly at first and then barrel forward believing we are invincible. But, we fall. We run into a table, overestimate our strength, or simply are just not ready. But, eventually we become more comfortable never looking back on the days of crawling, we’ve moved on if you will. I find grief to be a very similar experience; in times of grief in my life, and in the lives of others. We are shaken, hopelessly lost in times of uncertainty that we have no strength. We fall, and on the ground we forget a lot of what we knew. A lot of what we took for granted, which was so secure in our lives is now gone, and we start over. Trying to put one foot in front of the other.
Grief can make a lot of us act childish. We simply forget how to take care of ourselves, and we forget how to walk. Crawling, we long for the normalcy that was there, but has been taken from us ever so swiftly, and a lot of times without warning. We crawl, trying to poke around to feel things, anything that resembles a better time. But, a lot of times we fail miserably by ourselves. Sure, we can pick ourselves up and walk. But, we’ll run into something; a memory, a picture, or just a bad day. We’ll tell ourselves that we are okay, but in the silence of ourselves do we realize we need help. We forget who we are, and we forget how to walk.
Whatever it may be, grief rattles us. The death of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, a job, you name it anything that causes grief can and will humble us. It will make us forget how to walk. When learning how to walk, so many times someone helped us get on the right path. To pick us up off the ground, and raise us up to where we could walk. We would fall a few times, but eventually we got the hang of it. Grief causes us to move backwards, to go to a place where we never want to be. Grieving is a miserable process to do alone. Having others near, and where you can talk to, where others can lift you up is so important.
When life flips us upside down, and everything we’ve ever known is taken, remember there is always hope. That suffering, true suffering is one of the ways we can feel what Christ felt. Paul said it so well in 2 Corinthians talking about God, “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Life is not easy. Life is a lot of times not fun, but have hope for suffering, because it is temporary like most things here on earth. It’s hard learning to walk again. Learning to move forward is awkward, frustrating and a slow process. But, there is healing, just as there is freedom in learning to walk. One step at a time, one day at a time, moving forward and learning how to walk again.

I’ll close this with a great quote from Henri Nouwen:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

Peace and love, friends


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Do I belong?

Sometimes, life puts you in places where you know you belong.  Everything around you feels right.  In facts, the way you walk even feels better.  There’s a certain glow about you, because you’re where you’re where you’re supposed to be, right?  I have many times where I feel like that.  When I encounter a new group of friends, or walk through the doors of a future church home, but now I’m not sure.  I’m having one of my Africa moments.  I have them occasionally, and law school is bringing this one out.  An Africa moment, is where I want to quit everything in the states, move to Africa start an orphanage and teach kids about Jesus and accounting.  This weekend, was fantastic, getting away from law school for a bit, but the drive home felt different. 
I didn’t feel as I belonged on that particular road.  Every song I was listening to feel shallow and without purpose.  No matter how loud I sang the latest cover of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball, I didn’t feel better about coming back to reading case after case.  Maybe the excitement of law school from the first month is rubbing off, and I’m starting to see what my future holds for the next three years.  Or, maybe I’m learning something else?  My life has always been guided truly in never being comfortable.  Never having a traditional home and family, but I’ve always felt like God put me where I needed to be. 
Yes, there were times when I realized it right then, that God had put me somewhere I needed to be.  But, other times it took me years to realize why I was where, I was.  Maybe this is one of those times where I won’t know exactly what my purpose is, here.  I know you’re reading this and pouncing to let me know your thoughts.  “Joseph, you’re there to get a law degree, to further your education, so one day you can take care of your family.” 
I like reading the Bible, and one thing I love taking from it, is it never wants you to be comfortable.  So, I feel a bit of guilt and shame when I will have locked myself into nearly seven years of post-high school graduation.  Told God, “Hey, show me where to go, but make sure it’s where I choose to attend college/law school!”

“Hey God, make me a fisher of man, but please do it here in Lubbock, I have class here for a while.”

But, then I argue with myself,  “Joseph, you are where God has put you for a reason. “  Who’s reason?  Who’s plan?  Sure, I pray about where I am, but who put me here?  Yes, I believe I have good motives for wanting to go to law school, but did God pick me up and put me in a car and say, “Go to Lubbock, reading case after case, spotting issues for three years, and make a great attorney, and if you have time, tell some people about me.”

            So, as I drove home this weekend, as I approached the bright lights of Lubbock something just didn’t feel right.  A sense of belonging just wasn’t there.  What am I doing in life?  Who am I?  What does God want of me, and does he want me to stay here, in Lubbock?

            Don’t worry, I’ll be at my 8 a.m. I will not be dropping out of law school, but God makes me think.  He teaches me to never be comfortable, and for that I am thankful.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Love and Now

Love makes us all do crazy things.  We’ve heard it before, and yet we choose to be incapacitated over it.  The way we feel, our lives revolving around someone so wonderful, beautiful, and innocent of all wrongs our minds can’t picture anything wrong about them.  The two of us, the two of whoever comes to mind is something beautiful.  Love is simply beautiful.  There really is no other way to describe the feeling. 
Sure, there are a million words to describe how love really makes us feel, but in the end it’s beautiful and a lot of times we choose to be in it than out of it.  But, finding someone that is the key isn’t it.  So, many of my friends when we go back to church without a hand to hold, or a pretty face to introduce are always questioned about the non-existance of well…the one.  “Joseph, so good to see you, are you dating?” 
“Joseph, you look great, but you know what would look better?  A cute girl on your side?” 
“Well, are you not looking? Surely, there is one out there right now.”

I get those questions a lot.  But, why does love always have to be shared so exclusively and limited?  The thought that love can only exist, and that a person can only be whole when walking side by side is foreign to me.  Don’t mistake me, I hope to marry one day, find that girl who will handle my humor and bad eating habits, but now love is all around. 
I find I love a lot more when I’m single.  I know what you’re thinking… Wow, Joseph, keep this PG.  But, really, I love more freely when I’m single.  When I’m not committed exclusively to one person, there’s more to love.  When I’m driving down the road when I’m usually not rushing to see one specific person, and I’m free to stop to help someone.  When a conversation with a friend needs to last longer, and there’s no date to worry about being late to.  It’s easier to love.
I watched the Spectacular Now yesterday, and I must say it was moving.  A high school relationship between a popular guy and an unknown girl; the girl starting her first relationship, the guy picking up a rebound from his last.  Their love is so easy to poke at, the first feelings of love, as an onlooker you can’t help but shake your head as you know all too well how this will end.  But, really while their relationship is key to the plot, conflict, it’s all about living in the now.  As Sutter, the guy, puts it so well, “This right here, is beautiful, this is the youngest we are ever going to be, this is our time.  Live in the NOW.”  The now, the time that we are all experiencing together with all too different emotions and thoughts, but we are all hoping for one thing, love. You see, love is simply beautiful.  It gives us the power to move on from the past, hope for the future, and to live in the now.  The now is here, where love is needed from everyone around you.  Whether romantically, friendly, brotherly, you name it, love is needed all around.  Don’t get me wrong, romantic love, between two people is amazing, but don’t limit love exclusively to that.  In the Spectacular Now, love is learned simply by being present, realizing we can’t change the past, and can’t write our future’s in pen.  So, when love comes, well live in the now.  Be love wherever you go, and find someone loving as boldly as you. Yes, love is beautiful and when shared between the right two people it’s a force that in the moment cannot be stopped, it’s spectacular.  I’ll just let Robert Fulgam finish this out,

“We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.”

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Inside my 1L year: Why am I in law school?

            My first week of law school has come to a close and a sigh of relief and exhale can now commence. A lot of people around me, and myself have been saying,” We survived our first week of law school!”  It sounds neat to say.  I believe some people actually believed that during the first week a few 1L’s (1st year law students) would get sucked into a black hole in the library, or even worse open a contracts book and give up right there.  All of us, that I know of, have advanced past week one.  A week filled with staying at school from 7-5 reading and reading for Torts, Contracts, Civil Procedure, and Legal Practice. 
            Coming into law school I was in what I felt to be a good spot.  My summer, did not go as planned, but I ended up finishing it not at a law firm as intended, but at a summer camp where I really got back to who I was.  But I, and I’m sure a lot of kids my age, was questioning did I make the right choice in choosing law school.  I really wanted to go to seminary, to further my knowledge in the classroom in God’s word.  Challenging my faith with scripture, and deep questions that we all know as mere humans cannot answer.  But, as crazy as it sounds I believe I’m where I need to be. 
            An attorney during an orientation was talking about a story where he went to Target during his lunch break to grab a few things for the house.  He was dressed up in a suit, and an elderly woman stopped him and asked if the attorney was a preacher.  The woman added that she was in need of some prayers.  The attorney responded, “No mam, I’m a lawyer.”  To which the woman replied sympathetically, “Oh, you’re on the other team.”
            Stereotypes are there for a reason.  I’m hoping to break some stereotypes.  Ultimately, I believe that’s why I chose law.  My reasoning was quite simple, after all I was an accounting major.

            Go to seminary:     X  Minister     __ Attorney

            Go to law school:    X Minister     X Attorney

You, I, can be a minister in whatever context we want to be, or anywhere we end up.  Rick Lytle, Dean of ACU’s College of Business, said it best, “More people go to work than to church.” Another tidbit of wisdom I really enjoyed came from my Torts professor this past week when he was describing his career prior to teaching.  “Legal issues, after medical issues are some of the most serious troubles people will face.  You all will help these people one day.”

            Being a minister and an attorney is what I want to be.  Helping those going through difficult times, times of uncertainty, and showing empathy and compassion no matter where the conversation turns.  So, I’m here in law school to further my faith, to ask those questions about where is God’s love in legal battles, and broken up families, in crimes of hate, in disputes of contract, people need help.  So, I’m here in law school to learn about God in this world. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Journey

The summer of 2013 can be described simply by, the journey.  What started as a summer geared towards increasing my knowledge in the field of law with an internship at a firm in Downtown Dallas gave me a lesson in the field of love.  Being surrounded by such Godly men and women serving at camp was such a blessing.  Pouring out for kids and seeing others deal with children, conflict, and of course the trials of love and hate were very fulfilling.  But, it’s over.  The weeks of singing songs, playing silly games and opening up with kids and each other is over.  Sure, there will be some of us who keep up with each other, but the intense community that so many of us enjoyed is over for the time being. We all go our separate ways to our different colleges, jobs, and homes where the fever of camp will soon wind down.  The highs we all felt, emotionally and spiritually soon too will die down. 
Love is a tricky thing that I walk from time to time.  It’s easy to love at times and hard to accept.  A quote I love from a recent book I read says,
"The leap of faith always means loving without expecting to be loved in return, giving without wanting to receive, inviting without hoping to be invited, holding without asking to be held.”  Henri Nouwen

With camp, with kids, you learn to live this out.  To love on kids who no doubt will never be consistent with how they show their emotions to you.  But, even we, even myself, are all guilty of seeking so much in return for how we think we do.  If only we desired little, the truth to contentment.  In my relationships I want to be acknowledged, I want to be loved back, invited out to dinner, held with compassion when need be, but life is not about reciprocation.  Which, I fail at time after time.  Life and love is about loving without expectations.  Jesus did this so well time and again. 
            I’m so thankful that God doesn’t treat me the way I treat Him.  Shallow in my thoughts, hungry for my power, and eager for the light.  I want too much, and desire the wrong in my life at times.  At camp I was without my phone, TV, power and position, but I was with so much love.  I choose love anytime and all the time.  Community and friends who seek after God so much want the best not for themselves, but for those they are serving that is what camp is all about.  Taking a leap of faith to show kids who a lot a time are without love is what it’s all about.  Camp is singing silly songs, getting pied in the face, and dunking kids in the water, it is about showing kids community.  Community that invites to laugh, cry, and experience the joys of this life, while learning to cope from the struggles.  Life is always a journey.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Glorified Babysitting

One question I ask myself, usually when a group of rebellious teenagers have not listened to something I ask, is, “Am I just babysitting these kids?”  It’s a real struggle I find myself having at times.  After all, here at Camp of the Hills, and at every other camp I’ve worked at I’ve asked myself this question.  I know some parents when they drop off their kids say see ya and there is a week vacation for them.  I also know that for a lot of kids who come out to this camp this will be the first time they ever hear the name Jesus.  So, I and many other counselors treat camp with a type of reverence about what we are doing.  I’m also a type of guy who seeks to find meaning in nearly everything I do, which gets me thinking a lot, too much to say the least.  I believe and I know a lot of others do that we are participating in a ministry. 
But, what is it that I’m actually doing.  I play in the pool, dress up with jerseys and costumes, and tell stories, and exchange my favorite Adam Sandler quotes.  Then I realized that I do all those things, or used to that is, with my brothers.  I’m being a brother to these kids when they come here to camp.  Yes, brothers and sisters share a lot with each other, and a lot of those times are filled with shenanigans.  But, there is also something special about the love between siblings.  That you are comfortable around them, free to express love, free to joke, and free to look up to and respect.  As a camp counselor there are times when I feel as if there is no meaning to something that I may be doing at a certain time.  For example, when shaving cream is all over my face and Cheerios are being tossed on, I wonder, “Are these kids learning about Christ?”  I try too hard to find meaning in all I do.  Then I realize, I’m being a friend, mentor, brother in Christ to many kids who need that so much.  What is more important?  That I do everything in love, or that I force the name Jesus Christ into every conversation?  What is more important in life?  That I show you your sins or show you love?  We like to keep score in our lives.  How many people have you witnessed to?  How many times did you read the Bible to your campers?  How about, how much unconditional love did you show
So, when you are with kids and want to so ever bad for them to learn the name Jesus, please just love first.  Show grace when all they have ever seen is condemnation for petty actions.  Show love when all a kid might have seen is hate.  Show gentleness when all a kid might have seen is anger and resentment.  Last, please show Jesus through your actions, because that is what we are called to do. 

I am a camp counselor, I’m a child of God, a brother to all, and a kid trying to learn every step of the way.  I’m a camper learning every step of the way myself with the ultimate counselor in Jesus Christ. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

What I'm asking God this morning...

Questions I’m asking God…

When your son was up on that cross, how did you feel about the rest of the world?

If your grace surely is an ocean, how come so many don’t feel anything about you?

If I grew up in a land where your name is never preached, how would I come to know you?

Am I a Christian because of privilege where I grew up, because you knew I would follow you anywhere I was born?

Why do I feel so old, in a world that tells me I’m so young?

Am I doing more than just being a babysitter for these kids?

How come you created us all the same to be loved, but so different that we quarer

Why do I constantly find the need to compare myself to others?

When I ask you to show your love for me, why do you take so long to show it?

Why am I so ignorant to ignore your love?

How do I keep showing grace to others who failed so many time with addictive behaviors?

How do you keep showing grace to me when I fail so many times?

What does it mean to be a Christian attorney?

Will you show me how to keep my motives pure, to value people at all times in the field of law?

Why do we skip over the hard parts of the Bible?

Why do we fight over your words, and forget to just love people?

Do you want anyone to go to Hell?

If you’re so full of love why not send everyone to Heaven?

How can I reach more people?

Why did she give the ring back?

Why can’t people get past drugs?

When going to church, why does it feel so orderly and free of love?

If I want to open up, why does a church service seem like the last place I would ever do that at?

Are we doing things right?  Are we loving first, and asking questions last? 

Are we the father in the prodigal son, who opens his arms first and loves without asking questions?

Why can’t people see the power in your love?

Why can’t I see the power in your love at times?

What is my purpose here? 

Why did you give me such a good memory? 

Why did you give me such bad memories?

Why do you listen to me complain so much?

Why do you love us all so much?