Tuesday, March 31, 2009

slowly but surely

I tried to publish a post from Colombia, but it didn't work out. I'm sure all my loyal followers were able to check up on my trip through Twitter... Anyway, I'm back.

One thing that I've been reflecting on recently is time. People say things like "give time, time" to explain that growth occurs over time, prayers are answered over time, and change happens over time. Personally, I'm no good at waiting. I'm task oriented; I like progress; I want results and want them soon. But recently I've been warming up to this concept of "God's timing."

We live life moment by moment. Other than when we're asleep, we experience life one second after the next. Never have I been able to jump ahead to the future to avoid conflict or to get results faster. I have no choice, I will continue at the same exact pace for the rest of my life. I need to slow down and take things as they come, not trying to avoid what's in front of me and not putting off things that must be done.

Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One bite at a time.

Monday, March 23, 2009

leaving on a jetplane

I'm heading to Bogotá tomorrow for five days to visit my in-laws, play a little golf, and re-celebrate my sister's wedding. (That first sentence took me a while to write. I first had to make sure "brother-in-law's" was the correct possessive form of a compound word. Then, after deciding not to use that word, I goggled "in-laws" to discover www.ihatemyinlaws.com. Wow.)

Anyway, I've always enjoyed flying and traveling and I'm really excited for this trip. In addition to doing fun stuff once I'm there, I'm genuinely looking forward to the traveling part(s). I've got a bunch of magazines and a few books that I'm hoping to knock off on the way. This is exciting to me because recently I've got a sort of renewed vigor for reading. Well, to be perfectly honest, I've got a brand new vigor for reading. Ever since summer reading back in sixth grade, I've abhorred to read.

Now that I've discovered I can choose the books I want to read and conveniently not choose the ones that look like a bore, my whole perspective on the exercise has changed. This reminds me of a question Rick Warren asked the presidential candidates back in the fall regarding positions on which they had reversed their opinion after a time. I've reversed my opinion on reading. It is a good way for me to learn new things, and it's also a fair reminder that I don't always see things clearly at first.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

pulse

After hearing a heavy message like the one from this weekend (week 5), it's a good idea for me to take a sort of mental, spiritual, and emotional pulse. What did that bring up for me? How did I react to the "bring it to light, bring it to Christ, and bring it to an end" points? What did I find myself wanting to do afterward?

Without processing information like this, I lose track of where I am and where I'm going.

Since this is an opportunity for me to sort of debrief, I'll volunteer that this was a tough weekend for me. I found my energy level a lot lower than usual, and coupled with that was a slightly negative attitude. My tendency is to ignore these things and try to "do better next time." Instead of pushing that stuff back down inside me, I'm going ask God to help me find the root of my attitude and my emotions.

None of this is accidental or irrelevant, and I just want to figure out what God's got to say about it all.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

what do i want?

As children we're taught the difference between "wants" and "needs." As we grow up, I think the line gets blurry as more things come within reach. The devil uses temptation to use the whole category of "things we don't have" against us.

First, it substitutes natural things we want with pleasurable things we can get. We all are designed to seek love and relationships, but temptation tells me I can have lust and fantasy, and I can have it now.

Second, it increases the amount of things we want. It says, "What you have is not enough. Look at everything else available! You want love? You can also have pleasure, and success, and money, and fun, and excitement..."

Third, it decreases the size of the world (and God) which confuses what it is we wanted in the first place. When I succumb to temptation, my world revolves around me and I am so focused on me that I forget that my original need was to love and be loved.

To these three things, I imagine God would say: I know all that you want and all that you need. What you have is enough, so trust me. I love you and I will provide for you. What you really desire is me, so you can have me. In fact, I've sent my only Son for you and I will never leave you.

Lord,
Let me see life through your eyes.
Help my neediness and discontent,
Reveal your truth and your way of life.
Amen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ceramics class

An art teacher gave his two classes very different assignments. The first class was to make the most perfect, beautiful ceramic vase, while the other was to make as many vases as possible. Quality vs. quantity. At the end of the week, the teacher reviewed everyone's efforts to find a shocking result. The second class, who had made dozens and dozens of vases, had also made the highest quality vases. The first spent the majority of their time carefully planning and preparing each vase and then studying and analyzing the results, but the second class, through trial and error, eventually found the right technique, the best plaster-t0-water ratio and proper baking time as they constructed vase after vase.

What's the lesson? I think there are many lessons in this story; it's one that I use often. Today for me, this story means that sometimes the best thing to do is chuck the vase you're so carefully crafting in the oven, crank a few out, and learn as you go. Failure is not the worst thing in the world. Never trying can be.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

tweet, tweet

So I just created a Twitter account; bpcrook is my name. I have been off the Facebook bandwagon for about a year now, and have enjoyed living clean, but I think it's time to bring some serious internet social networking back in my life.

It seems to me that you have to be a really compulsive, self-important, self-centered human being to be a good Twitter-er, so I'm pretty sure I'll be great at it. I've also added a gadget to this blog so you can follow me, direct message me, nudge me, and all sorts of sch-tweet stuff!

Monday, March 16, 2009

sleepless in seattle

Most Mondays I sleep late. Really late. After two full days of "weekend direction," I'm typically good for a solid ten to twelve hours of heaving snoozing. This morning however I woke up much earlier than usual (10am) to have coffee with a friend of mine. It wasn't anything special, but it did remind me that relationships happen in the margin.

For two people whose schedules couldn't conflict more perfectly, it's not always easy for us to find the time, and today was no exception. In fact, it sometimes takes small sacrifices to keep feeding our friendship, and I think that's why it's so easy for me to put off things like grabbing a cup of coffee. Small sacrifices are just that, they're tiny, bite sized, not a big deal.

If you want me to move a mountain, I'm there! But breakfast? Well, you know how I need that extra hour of sleep... Relationships happen in the margin. Even, or rather especially when it doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice, I need to be attentive to the opportunities I have to spend time with my friends and family.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

celebrations

Stopping to reflect is not one of my strong points. In fact, number one on my list of strengths according to "Strengths Finder 2.0" is Achiever. I wouldn't disagree with that assessment, and this played out very clearly yesterday afternoon.

I got distracted from reading on my day off and picked up a little thing called 'Tangoes' (a tangram game). Important to also note my third Strength Finder strength: Competition. I couldn't put the thing down! For hours I sat at the table doing puzzle after puzzle, and by the end of the day I had completed the whole deck, save for a handful of really difficult ones that were giving me a fit. After taking a break, I came back to tackle these remaining few. Within a minute or two, I finally figured out the last one! Triumph! Not exactly... My first thought was a negative one. "Now why was that so hard?" I said outloud.

Instead of celebrating the completion of a very challenging task, and one that I had enjoyed all afternoon, I criticized my own efforts. Let this be a lesson to me, and to all you task-oriented folk, to stop and celebrate the win. At the conclusion of things both big and small, it's healthy to pause and note a job well done.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

lucky

I'm staying at my aunt and uncle's house over the next few days to look after their dog, get the mail, etc. I wouldn't normally consider sojourning in Baltimore City a retreat, but for me, getting away from my usual surroundings and spending a little time in quiet will be nice. (I decided on giving up television, well watching TV alone, for Lent.)

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, for me it's been difficult to sit back and consider my past and its details. How many of my choices have been made without hesitating, without thinking twice? Hopefully the next few days will be filled with margin for me, and I'll be able to get a better idea of what my story looks, sounds, and feels like.

Tonight, I just thank God for his goodness and grace that allows me to feel safe and secure and for the freedom to think about these things.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

story time

I started a book today about how to become familiar with your "story." That is knowing your past and it's characters, scenes, settings, events, and so on that make up precisely who you are. Your life is your story.

It's kinda hard to think of our experiences as something that could be read like a novel, but I buy into it because I think there's value in knowing where you come from. Hear me out for a second:

When you read a book, you're able to learn more about the characters than the characters themselves. An onlooker can see when exactly the protagonist went wrong, where the crisis could have been avoided, and how the plot is likely to unfold. Consider that we are the protagonists of our own lives. How difficult it is to observe our own story while we are in the midst of living it.

This is some pretty heavy stuff... that is if you have the desire to look at your life as a type of living story. My one point for now is this--isn't it worthwhile to explore the details of my past so that I can have a better understanding of where exactly God is steering my life... my story? After all, he is the author.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

peanut gallery

Just figured out how to allow comments on my blog... Pretty fancy, I know.

You are all encouraged to let me know how I'm doing with this blogger thing, and more importantly share any of your thoughts and feelings on my posts.

accountability

Yesterday I talked about how well accountability works and how sometimes it's fun to see yourself grow. Today I'd like to share how it's not always so much fun.

Maybe you've experienced a time when you're trying really hard at something, and that 'something' is unnatural and uncomfortable and difficult, and maybe a little scary, but you're trying. Then after some time, you've been trying really hard to stay positive and continue pursuing your goal, and you start to get some results, and you feel like "Yeah, I'm really getting the hang of this. I can adversity and persevere!"

If you're with me, then great... Because that's where I was this afternoon. Then someone I'm accountable to came along and said, "You know, you've still got a lot of work to do." And that work is going to be hard and it's going to mean more suffering and more vulnerability, but you've got to do it if you want to get better results.

I read a blog entry a little while back that I think applies to today's experience for me. "Bad news will get you chewed out, but no news will get you fired." I felt like chewing somebody out for sure, but in the end, it's bad news like that which helps me grow... No news will ever help me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

first john

I'm reading the book of 1 John with some of the students I'm mentoring for confirmation this spring. This in itself speaks measures of how well accountability works, because I have little or no discipline and generally have a terrible time forming and breaking habits. Anyway, when I hear the same message from multiple sources in a short period of time, I stop to consider that God might be trying to get my attention.

In the last few days I've heard repeatedly that the love of others is something that overflows from us. Tom Corcoran said it today: it's as a reservoir that overflows with water because it has reached capacity and must flood in order to sustain. It jumped off the pages I read this evening, "While loving others comes from the overflow of loving ourselves" (Erwin McManus). And just now, "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

This is inspiriting language, but it's too easy for me to overlook one crucial detail. In order to overflow with love, I must first be filled with love. The only love that exists, exists because God loved first, and he loved so much that he created us. We are the fruit of God's boundless love, so we cannot love unless we too are full of love. So let us submit to his "perfect love" (verse 18) so that we may witness to it and that others may receive it as well.

How am I not letting God's love, and truth, into my life? What keeps me from his love that also keeps me from loving others?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

the precious present

I'm digging through some of my old CDs and uploading songs to my laptop. It's really wild how listening to most of these songs brings back so many vivid memories and events from my past, not to say all the feelings and emotions that I'm able to instantly recall as well. It's sort of like I've opened up some sort of musical time capsule.

I kept a journal in high school for a few months, and when I would reread my entries it would upset me. Maybe that's because I've always been hard on myself, maybe it's because high school was just a difficult time, or maybe it's because I was rarely happy with me, with being Brian.

Listening to these songs isn't painful or upsetting tonight. I'm able to look at how it was, how it changed, and how it is now with some acceptance. This post is starting to sound like a journal entry of its own, but if I have a point I think that it's this: all I have is right now. I'm free to agonize about the future and second-guess my past, but the only thing I really have is this moment. One benefit that comes with staying in the present is that it allows me to experience the presence of God. When I worry or regret I cannot say "yes" to God, but acknowledging God frees me from myself. Perfect love drives out fear.

Monday, March 2, 2009

man on fire

I read an article today about a man who is on fire for Christ. He's the pastor of a growing and somewhat controversial church in Seattle, WA. I'm choosing not to comment on the beliefs and theology of Mark Driscoll, but I hear his message and it's inspiring. He is uncompromising in his mission, and I'm listening because his mission is the same as mine... the Great Commission (check out Matthew 28:16-20).

Since the topic of evil has been on my mind of late, my thoughts keep coming back around to fear. The devil LOVES it when we're afraid, and he uses that fear to turn us away from God. How many different ways does fear manifest itself in my life? When I choose to argue and become resentful, or come up with reasons "why not," or declare "I need to pray about it"... are my motives always on target? Am I not just really afraid to be wrong sometimes, to take some risks, to act in faith?

Yeah, I am afraid. But I don't want to choose fear anymore. This world is not my eternal resting place. Jesus did not say, "I came to make you cozy," he came to save us and to send us out into the world. We are in this world but not of this world. My goal is to glorify God and to spread his glorious name! So enough with planning and careful stepping; bring on my Father's plan and his way of life. Rock my world!

Daddy,
I am broken;
help my unbelief.
Engulf my heart with your love,
and give me courage.
Amen.