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?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Returning Home

I’m traveling a lot these days it seems.  This summer has been filled with a lot of moving around, and my car is the best proof of this.  My trunk and back seat filled with clothes, books, essentials that I believe keep me alive that have no place to live.  This summer I have slept in a combination of over ten different rooms from an extended stay hotel where I witnessed prostitution to a cabin that has a swamp cooler.  Yes, my living arrangements have varied, but I really can’t complain.  In fact, I’ve enjoyed the moving around.    It’s taught me to be uncomfortable, which is something I don’t like.  The wandering around has made me do things that I’ve never done as well. 
This summer, I took a job in Dallas at a law firm that I thought would be story book.  The programs, the people they helped, but really I was just another intern in a large organization that didn’t have much for me to do.  Now, here’s what normal, people pleasing Joseph would have done.  Stayed, stuck it out.  But, I did something crazy in my story, I quit.  I left a job.  I said goodbye, and said hello to something new and spontaneous.  On a whim I left Dallas, packed up and moved to Marble Falls to work at a camp, that I truly didn’t know a lot about. 
The wandering has been good for me.  In fact, I’ve learned wandering has taught me how to come home.  There’s a painting, I truly love:  Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son, A painting of a Father holding a son returning from squandering his inheritance, received early, and an elder son looking on with uncertainty as to choose to embrace his younger brother.  I love the painting.  I tend to think of myself as the elder son.  I don’t party, I don’t run off late at night, sleep with women night after night, and I don’t blow money casually.  But, I am missing the picture when it comes to who I am.  Even I fail to see who I am.  I am the younger son.  I have been running all summer, my whole life in fact, running from who I am.  In this summer of transitions, from college, relationships, new jobs, etc.  I am constantly wandering looking for happiness and fulfillment from things that cannot truly give me contentment.  But, I know where to go.  I need to be running to my Father’s arms.  Truly looking for an embrace does not fade with achievements, looks, and a popularity contest.  As Henri Nouwen puts it so well, “I have fled the hands of blessing and run off to faraway places searching for love.”  God has given me much to delight in, mercy, compassion, love, and grace unparalleled and rivaled by none, yet I chase desires of the world. 
Again Nouwen states, “I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.”  I need to stop searching for things in people that we cannot truly produce.  It isn’t even about lowering expectations either, it’s about not making others your god.  Not making others a god in your mind, where he or she can satisfy your every need and desire, where they can disappoint you in every way possible.  Return son, return daughter where His mercies are new every morning. 
So, I’ve wandered this summer.  Drove a lot, packed and moved, and hit repeat several times.  I ended up at Camp of the Hills where kids from the inner city come and we love on them and give them Jesus.  My plans never involved this place, and the people I’ve had the privilege to work with have been a welcoming home.  This place has been a welcoming back to loving people, being with them, taking their luggage, both emotional and physical, bringing it in our cabin and welcoming it into our place.  The place we live with campers, both temporary, is a place for relationships to grow, form, and return our thoughts and all we have back to Jesus.  The one who taught us how to love.  When I return from camp and start law school, when kids go home after a week of camp we’ve learned to return to the Father of compassion.  Who knows our every scar, holds ever tear, and is desperately searching for our attention.  We have a God jealous for our attention, and so worthy of our affection.  

How I desire for your embrace, O Lord

Show me, a child to look to you more

Friday, July 5, 2013

Why I Love Despicable Me

I went to the dollar theatre to see Despicable Me for the third time; & I loved it even more this time!  First off it is hilarious and you laugh constantly throughout the movie.  2nd the story is awesome to me as well.  It pits Gru (the main character Steve Carell) and his yellow minions in an evil villain completion against Vector (the orange jumpsuit man) to see who can steal the biggest and baddest thing.  Gru comes up with a plan to steal the moon!  But, first he must get a shrink ray from Vector.  To get this Shrink Ray he adopts three girls who sell cookies to get inside of Vector’s layer and steal back the shrink ray.  The girls to Gru were just to help him get back the Shrink ray, but they end up changing his heart. 
Throughout the movie we see glimpses of how Gru was treated as a child and how his mother treated him.  She always discouraged him, never motivated him, and never showed affection or love.  So, when Gru gets these kids for his scheme he has no idea how to treat them or how to show affection.  But, the smallest of the kids, named Agnes, shows love and affection to Gru immediately and when this happens, Gru is bewildered, and has no idea how to return it.  That little girl kept on showing love and physical affection to her adopted dad and he finally understood what it meant to love and what goodness was.  The movie ends with Gru being a hero and saving the world,  All because of a little girls openness to love and show affection.  
In my life I haven’t had the best affection from my parents, just like Gru.  But, that doesn’t mean I can’t be a good dad, I’m motivated so much in life when I have kids to be the best dad I can be.  Agnes also shows it doesn’t matter how big you are physically, but how big your hearts it.  She changes a man’s life and shows him kindness he has never felt before.  I love this movie, because anyone can be a great dad, even if they didn’t have great parents, and no matter how big you are your heart can change anyone.  It’s all about how much effort we put into loving someone. Love is being able to let go of everything on the outside that hinders us, and show your true emotions and feeling from the inside.  Love is the true motivation in life…

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I was a kid last week, and it was needed

This past week, I went to Burton, Texas and spent a week at camp.  This isn’t going to be a post of the great things I saw God do, and all the platitudes that go along with it.  No, it was just a week at camp.  The camp I participated in is called:  Camp Star Trails.  Camp Star Trails is an overnight camp for Children's Cancer Hospital patients and their siblings ages 5-12.  It is not a faith based camp, simply a time for kids to be kids.  Going into the camp, I needed to be away from my internship.  I haven’t really been enjoying my work, the shady hotel I’m staying where I’ve seen drug deals, arrests, and you can only imagine the rest.  Breaking up is always hard to do as well, no matter how much you plan for it, it’s tough losing your companion.  So, to say camp was needed is an understatement.  I was ready to leave past the job, living, and girl problems, and just be with kids, and to be a kid as well.  That’s what I did, and that’s what I needed.  
So, I was a kid with everyone else.  I drank too much chocolate milk, sang karaoke, sang in the shower, ate way too much pudding and chicken fried steak, and probably had too much fun.  There’s also another thing I forgot how to do, and that was complain.  Mainly because of an example of one young man I had in my cabin.  I will call him Caleb.  Caleb was in a wheelchair and had no use of his lower body from his waist down.  He also had the biggest smile on out of anybody.  I got the chance to spend a lot of time with him, because he needed to be pushed a lot.  We would talk a lot about sports, movies, when the Astros would be good again, you get the idea.  Then we would talk about some of the hardships we were going through.  He would talk about how he hated being a burden on his family, because of his cancer, and the cost he knew it was putting on his family.  Then, I would formulate the things I wanted to say about how my heart hurt over a girl, that I didn’t like my job, I hated where I lived, but then my mind and thoughts simply changed, all because of pushing Caleb in a wheelchair for a week.  He made me ashamed to complain about anything, because of how strong he was to me.  There’s a quote I came to know by Wayne Dyer that goes like this, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  That’s what Caleb taught me this past week.  I changed my perspective here’s the before and after.  

Before:  My heart hurts over a girl, I don’t like my job, I hate where I live.

After:  Thank you for letting me feel and not be a robot, thank you for the opportunity to have a job, thank you Lord for giving a roof over my head and a functional deadbolt.

That sounds a lot better, and it really is all about changing the way you look at things.  You can spend your whole life asking what if, and thinking things would be better if you were just with that one person, or if you would be there, or that, but really you have to live in the moment.  In the circumstances you have been given, and make the most out of what you have.  Daydreaming is easy, fantasizing about what you can or could have been is dangerous. Live in the present, be a force of love now, whether it’s at a dead end job, or you’re finding a lonely stranger who is struggling to find happiness, remember lots of people are hurting.  We do better, when we confess and share with one another, at least it works for me.  Thanks Caleb for being strong and showing me that you can go anywhere you want to, no matter your physical limitations.  

As I end this post acting like a child it feels only right to leave you with some Dr. Seuss,

““Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I'm tired of comparing myself to you...

I graduate on Saturday and I’m still trying to let that feeling sink in.  There are many feelings going through me as I approach this day.  Many changes are going to happen, but I don’t quite know I feel in the present.  Isn’t change good?  After all, I did campaign with Mr. Obama on that exact word, change.  But, what does it mean?  Changing my surroundings, my comfort, my relationships, and exchanging them all for something completely new.  Even though, I know where I’m headed for possible three to four years, it doesn’t make the transition easier.
One of the things I haven’t enjoyed about this week is the exchanging of what you’re doing after graduation.  Not that I feel inadequate with my plans, but everyone is trying to top everyone in what they’re doing it feels like, and that’s not conversation I’ve enjoyed to say the least.  When one brags about getting a job, which is great do not get me wrong, it never stops there.  Well, what are you benefits?  Did you get a signing bonus?  Our lives are continually being motivated by choices, and it’s not really the choices we’ve made, but most of the time we are justifying what we do choose, by the options we pass up.  “Well I got into here and here, but I just wanted to go to X because of this.”
I’m tired of the one upping game, which I am a huge violator of.  If fact I’m the biggest violator of the one up game.  I just one upped myself talking about one upping.  It’s everywhere and the culture we are a part of does not only tolerate it, but encourages it.
Whatever you’re doing after graduation whether it’s living at home, going to live abroad, work at Ernst and Young go do it to the best of your ability. I hope you dream big, and don’t worry about what others think of you.  I hope you make change that most importantly you can believe in.  You see when I start comparing myself to what all my other colleagues are doing, my worth is not going to be worth anything.  My identity cannot be in beating others to the top of the pay scale, or leadership position. 

To quote Yann Martel in Life of Pie, “… I just want to love God.”

Dream and hope friends, dream and hope.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston and West

I watch it I feel it
Can’t escape it
I’m hurting every hour
Feeling pain for places I’ve never been

Boston and West I hurt for you all
Tragedy strikes, but life goes on
Even though people fall
Sympathy stops soon, no more calls from a phone

When the news stops, when the coverage is no more
The pain doesn’t stop, the pain grows more
Boston and West I hurt for you all
Please go slow, take time your wounds

Walk slowly with yourselves
The pain is here to stay
Like a brick in a pocket
Invite it here to stay

Bricks don’t go away
Pain doesn’t’ damper
Bricks don’t get lighter
You get stronger

It doesn’t get better
News gets worse
Tragedy strikes day after day
People forget the old and grieve the new

Bricks are multiplying
Hearts are declining
Pockets are getting heavier
But people are getting stronger

Boston and West I hurt for you all
News will stop covering,
Bricks won’t go away
Boston and West you are getting stronger

Monday, April 15, 2013

How He Loves

On a drive tonight, while listening to How He Loves I was reminded in times of crisis where hate always seems to be the first emotion to come out of me that he loves US.  Not just the kids who think we do the right things, but everyone.  Those who cause harm, those who seek peace, and those who have no clue. God loves US.  I have a hard time seeing evil in others.  I’m a big fan of giving people the benefit of the doubt, but when I see the terror that people can cause by using explosives purposefully to harm people I wonder, “Why does this person(s) even exist?”  I want to ask God where He is?  I don’t feel quite as bad questioning God when there are so many people involved.
For example, when I see CNN and Fox News agreeing about how bad an act is, and how so many people are injured.  I find it okay to ask God what’s up.  To ask Him, do you want to come down and intervene?  Want to come down and explain what happened?  When it’s just me hurting, I don’t feel like I demand that much attention that I can question God about what I’m going through.  I wonder what’s it like when someone who causes so much pain and destruction on earth faces God.  What that conversation is like?  Then, I worry about what He’s going to say to me for all of my wrongs.  Does it matter?  How will God’s grace effect our conversation one day?  Grace doesn't
 mean a clean memory, it means a clean soul. 
I realize defining God and putting Him into boxes of either saying He will or will not do one thing on another is quite dangerous.  After all, who can question His motives?  Surely, no one. 

So, where do we look when everyone is hurting?  I just keep looking up.  Yes, I’ll ask where He is but I know He’s right here.  He hasn't left us, He isn't going to leave us.  I think He hurts just as much as we do.  He feels when we feel.  How He Loves Us, Oh How He Loves Us.  Drown me in your grace Lord.  

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Some of what I learned at Abilene Chrisitan

College has come and is gone, well almost.  A lot of people have asked me well what have you learned in your four years in college, more specifically at Abilene Christian.  Well, let me tell you exactly what I’ve learned as a student either during the years of 18-22 just growing up, or what ACU truly taught me.  I won’t separate the two, I’ll let you do the hard work.  So, here it goes.  What I learned at ACU:

·         How to balance a balance sheet
·         How to speak to an audience of 1000’s
·         That there will be days, where God doesn’t seem to exist, and to be okay with that
·         How to love homosexuals
·         Girls will take my heart to all-time highs, and all-time lows
·         To sing the same 10 contemporary songs, over and over again
·         To ask God questions that I didn’t learn in church
·         There are some people who inspired me the best I can be
·         There are some people who could get lost and I’d be okay with that
·         That that last statement is not right
·         Money is not why I’m a business major
·         I want my passion to be shared with a person, not just my career
·         When I tell God I want to show Him, He will give me the opportunity
·         You can have as many titles as you want, but if you don’t value people it doesn’t matter who you are
·         How to make a budget of $90,000 each semester for over 60 student groups
·         Expense reports
·         Tax returns
·         All kinds of tax returns
·         How to tell really bad jokes
·         I don’t like marketing
·         I don’t like science
·         That when I pray, it’s not my kingdom
·         God is shared
·         How to sign a lease
·         How to buy an engagement ring
·         How to return an engagement ring
·         How to love and hate at the same time
·         How to rely on others
·         To be real
·         Be open about being a Democrat
·         To know and love God deeper and deeper each day and know I will never have all the answers

Those are some of the things I learned at ACU.  What have/did you learn during your college years?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

This Summer I Need Your Help

            As most of you all know I will be heading to law school in the coming fall.  I have not quite made my decision, but have narrowed my list considerably.  One of the areas of law I’m most passionate about is family law, and I am looking for ways to get experience before law school learning all about family law.  This summer I have the opportunity to do just that!  I’ll be interning at CitySquare with the Family Legal Action Works department.  Interning here will be an excellent way for me to truly learn if this is something I want to get into.  I truly believe I am being called to family law in a number of ways.  While I had other options as far as work this summer I decided to choose CitySquare because of the mission and its service to individuals.  Here are a few things I’ll be doing this summer: 

•         Courthouse runs, including
o   Filing pleadings with the clerks
o   Getting hearings set
o   Getting needed signatures – clerks, judges
•         Assisting families filling out applications
•         Serving subpoenas
•         Picking up and delivering court documents
•         Tracking down factual information to go on with cases and

   I will also get to go the courthouse to observe hearings and assist in cases in small cases.  Every hour I spend doing these things frees up CitySquare’s legal assistants for other matters, which in turn frees up attorneys to work on their cases.

While this is a great opportunity for me, CitySquare is a non-profit and this internship will be unpaid.  As a graduating college student heading into law school in the fall, I am taking a leap of faith in working for free, but I know the rewards will be much more than any paycheck could provide. I know God has something special planned for me this summer.  I have never done this before, but I’m asking you if you are able and comfortable to partner up and support my summer internship this year.  First, by simply praying for me to have discernment and open eyes during this experience to see if this is something I can do for the rest of my life.  Second, if you are able to give financially to my summer internship to help with living expenses such as rent, utilities, food, and transportation cost.  As I said earlier this is an unpaid internship, but I know God will provide, He’s always been faithful.  If you wish to give, anything helps!

If you wish to give financially there are two options. 

1)  You can go to my paypal fundraising account and donate at the below link.  It is entirely secure, and all money will go to me to help with my living expenses. 

2)  If you are uncomfortable giving online, you can mail a check to me at:

Joseph Austin
ACU Box 26505
Abilene, Texas 79699

The donation will not be tax deductible and currently CitySquare does not have a process for funds to be sent directly there and distributed to myself. If you can give at all that would be awesome, but even if you can’t I appreciate you for taking the time to read about my summer plans.  

Here is a description of CitySquare’s Legal Action Works center:

CitySquare’s Legal Action Works (LAW) Center provides comprehensive legal services to low-income families who could not otherwise afford legal representation to handle family crises.  Approximately 80% of our cases are family law; of this, over 33% involve domestic violence.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I don't care what I look like

What a week it has been.  Ill write more about it, but as I sit in the airport one experience has really been on my heart.  Nearly every day we worshipped with the Dream Center.  Many times it was at the Angeles Temple, others was in a basketball gym. Sounds like ACU, right? But, this wasn't like chapel at ACU.  When I arrived at ACU I could not get enough of chapel.  I loved every moment of it, the singing, the speakers, & all of my friends.  But, when next semester came, some of the speakers were the same & most of the songs were for sure.  This week we spent at the Dream Center was worship like I had never participated in.  Everyone stood, nearly everyone had hands raised, & everyone was there.  There, yes everyone attention was there.  Where it needed to be, focused on God.  Now, I understand many people don't feel comfortable with some worship styles suck as hand raising, etc, but the mindset if others in the room was something to admire.  Everyone in the room was up.  Dancing for The Lord, praying with a neighbor, on their knees praying.  No one cared what they looked like while praising.  I then thought, wow wouldn't it be awesome if we had worship every day,  I then realized we did.
  This isn't a post mean to bash ACU chapel, the songs, leaders, etc.  In fact, maybe I'm writing this here to motivate myself more than anything else.  The mind sight I approach chapel with seeing it as a chore, when I see my significant other.  Maybe, if I started seeing it as I did in the Dream Center, where I don't care how others see me worshipping, I don't care how I stand out if my arm rises.  If I start caring less about what the other people around me on their phones, doing their homework, & their conversation then maybe I would start being in another conversation from Heaven.  
 Maybe this week showed me what it looks when a bunch of broken people give up titles, & say God is all I need.  Who am I kidding, I say God is all I need, but how do I exemplify that in my life?  Sure, God I lost an engagement, haven't lived with my parents in 10 years, but it could be worse.  I want to keep seeking Him so much in my life.  I want to prove it to Him however I can.  That'll be my worship. I'm so glad God doesn't pay the same attention to me that I do to him.  Never forget your child, I'm here. Help my poor faith.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

One of those days...

Ever have a day where nothing goes right?  I had one today.  One of those days where you come back to the ground, and then lower.  Today was one where I really wanted to shake a fist at God.  Where I wanted to say, “Hey God aren’t I doing the right things?  Are not my motives pure?  Funny how my plans are not His plans.  I find it very easy to ask God a question when something goes wrong in my life, and very easy to never question Him when something goes right in my life.  When I’m in pain and hurting emotionally it’s easy to look up at the sky and say,”Hey God can’t you see I’m hurting? Can’t you see your child?
            But, when things are going well I often forget to ask God, “What have I done to deserve your favor?”  It’s much easier to praise God in the storm than to when the path is clear and easy to see.  When plans don’t go as well planned and life looks like a mystery I know God is calling out to me for His attention.  I’m so thankful that God doesn’t pay attention to me like I do to Him.  He loves me more than I deserve.  I worry so much about success in this world and hanging up multiple degrees on a wall that hardly anyone could care less about I forget why I’m on this earth.  I go to work and work hard, but what am I honestly doing for the Kingdom.  When I sit at my desk and distribute money, what am I really doing for the Lord? 
            When life gives you things that are unexpected, you begin to question everything you do.  I’m thankful that God doesn’t let me become comfortable in my life.  I never want to sit back and watch from the sidelines.  I don’t want to be comfortable, a cross on your back should not be comfortable.  I need you Lord, more than I ever have.  Mold me into your image, never be satisfied with me.  

Monday, February 25, 2013


Today I saw the movie Amour.  I promise there will be no spoiler here, but there is an elderly couple both fighting the effects of aging and one more than the other, much more.  Amour is French for the word love, and the movie is entirely in French, which means there were subtitles to read.  The movie was at times painstakingly slow, but for good reason.  This isn’t really a post about a movie, no but something very similar.  I was raised for the majority of my life by my Papa and Granny.  My Granny is no longer with us, but my Papa is still here with us.  Part of the story reminded me so much of what I saw.
The couple in the film is Anne and Georges.  Anne suffers multiple setbacks including two strokes, which leaves part of her paralyzed.  The film is no romantic comedy.  Rather it is slow and filled with moving scene after another that takes place all in one house.  There’s no flashy remembrance of young love, but just what it takes to survive the difficult process of aging, alone together.  I was reminded when talking with my good friend Brent of what so many relationships are like in their elder years.  We often see just flashes of their love, a quick snapshot, and we just quickly remark, “What a cute old couple.”  We neglect to realize all of the work and time it takes especially with the process of aging that goes into a relationship.  A spouse taking care of another dying spouse is something uncomfortable.  It’s not taking someone out on a walk to get a little rehab in.  It’s not cooking a four course meal to show your appreciation.  Taking care of a dying family member, not just spouse to spouse, is much more than just taking a walk.  Taking care of someone dying is forgetting about your life as you know it, and letter theirs be your number one priority.  It’s lifting them off the toilet, giving them a shower; it’s comforting and holding their hand when they do not realize where they are, because they are scared. 
Many times when faced with someone hurting in your family that is hard to take care of, it’s almost natural to just put them into hospice, or into nursing home.  But, in my family and in Amour that wasn't the case.  The easy route was not taken, and the work stays at the house.  This is nice, because your loved one(s) stay close to you, but you also see their decline and ultimately their death.  You watch their smile turn into a bland look that just sticks.  Their energy falls to where sleep is the only productive activity.  Then they’re gone. 
The grieving doesn't happen at the funereal, because it’s already happened.  The grieving begins when you see your loved one suffering.  When you see that he/she is no longer what they used to be.  I remember a few years ago when I was a pallbearer at my Granny’s funeral, I didn't shed many tears.  Yes I did cry, it doesn’t take much to make me cry regardless.  But, I truly didn’t grieve, and I felt weird not doing it.  It was because I had been grieving while she was sick, while she was in pain.  It broke my heart I was away at college when she was the worst.  But, at the funeral there was almost a peace about my heart, and that was because she was truly at rest. 

Save a place for me Granny.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I wish it would get better, smaller, distant, not near
I wait, and look both ways before crossing the street to make sure it is all clear
Before I feel again, I wait
It comes out of nowhere, unexpectedly and I try and act surprised when I see it 
I act curious and bewildered; surely this is not for me
Each time when it comes, it doesn’t come lighter, and more compact
No, it doesn’t remember that you have reconciled that memory
No, it doesn’t care that person is just a lost memory
It doesn’t care if you have a good day, or if you’re having a bad day

I ask it to go away I really do
I try not to bottle, but then it just comes out
I ask it for an appointment
I try to schedule a time to meet
I ask when it’s convenient
I try to accommodate when it might approach

My heart remembers it all
It is not gone, nor will it ever be
I’m who I am because of it all
He says one day you’ll know why, you will see
I’m tired of the questions and scared for the answers
I’m waiting for a day when these shoulders feel lighter
When I no longer have to answer the knock at the door
When I no longer have to say, baggage be no more

Monday, January 21, 2013

A little bit louder

It’s good to be writing again.  It’s good to be sharing again.  Growing up I was a quiet kid, and at times I still am.  As a quiet kid growing up in a southern Baptist congregation to moving to Leakey and attending a small Church of Christ, I didn’t say much.  I listened.  I didn’t have all the answers, and I sure didn’t have the right people to ask around me.  Each year, I get a little bit louder.  Not audibly, or in volume of my actual voice.  No, my beliefs got a little bit stronger.  My beliefs got a little bit louder.
 Today was one of the days I was loud.  Where I wanted to get on top of a building and scream “Let freedom ring!”  Of course that is all inspired by the great, late Dr. King.  The message of equality is well something that I’m all about.  Seeing Obama sworn in for his second term, marching across the MLK Bridge near downtown Abilene, and feeling the sense of what this nation has accomplished towards equality.  But, there is so much more that needs to be done.  I mentioned earlier I’m getting a little bit louder.  One of the things people know about me know, is that I’m a Democrat.  That was hard just to type out.  My three years at Abilene Christian I have well…been a closet Democrat for most of my time, and it’s because it’s hard to go against the norm.  It is hard to think differently from the majority in an area.  I wonder what it was like for MLK growing up, for those like him trying their best to support a noble cause. 
I posted earlier a section of Obama’s speech, “...for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."   Someone posted below, that I made them sad by posting this.  I know my viewpoints differ from so many in Texas, and if I offend you by them that is definitely not my point.  But, I hope you see the passion that those words evoke from me.  The love for people that I have, that when I post something you may not agree with, message me and ask.  Don’t assume I’m ignorant.  Assume you know as much about me as these two words, Joseph Austin.  Because what I am, and who I am today is so much more than a few words on a Facebook status.  I too have a dream.  I’m dream big every night.  When asked in the fourth grade what I wanted to be, I haven’t forgotten that.  When Obama said in his speech earlier,

“We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own. 

He was talking to me.  He was saying Joseph, time to get a little bit louder.