a brief rant on making plans.

[mood: irritated, frustrated, perplexed]

 

I sort of give up.

Well, not really, but I’d like to.

If you follow my blog, you know that one of my greatest struggles of the last few months has been spending too much of my time alone. Since I moved to Lexington, I’ve tried to be much more deliberate about getting with people, having meals, having a drink at the local watering hole, going out, and – my personal favorite – having people over to my house.

But I’m bad at it.

A month or so ago, Godzilla (classic Godzilla) was playing at the Kentucky Theater, and I wanted to go see it, so I put the word out to my friends to see who wanted to join me. I invited upwards of 10 people. Two had confirmed.

None showed up.

One fell asleep, the other cancelled as I was on my way to the theater.

I’m not dissing my friends, I just have bad luck.

So I tried again – the USA were playing Ghana in the group stage of the World Cup, and I wanted to have people over to watch the game since I got cable for the sake of watching the World Cup. I again invited a bunch of people.

This time, I actually had a person or two, but it wasn’t what I imagined when I asked around.

There are other instances of my plans falling apart, but I won’t bore you with the details and I don’t want to make you think I’m putting down my friends.

I’m just frustrated, to be honest. I strive to live my life in more and more community with people and not to isolate myself, but it just seems easier not to even try, because time and time again people have a way of letting you down in different ways.

I guess this is all part of the practice, though. I have two options: quit or persevere. It comes down, really, to how important it is to me, and the reality is that it’s very important to me. Every time I have a good, long conversation with someone, I leave satisfied. Every time I spend a night alone, I’m unsatisfied.

 

Author’s note: this started as a much longer thing, but it ended up just being a quick little rant. onwards and upwards. it’ll be alright.

A glorious potential.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written ad nauseum about how much I love where I am – I’m in Lexington, I have a job I love doing things I love, I’m in community with awesome people, I’m making friends, I’m learning more and more about myself and other people, etc – but if I’m being honest, my biggest fear is that I’m on a precipice and I don’t even know it. That is to say, maybe everything is great right now, and maybe I’m completely satisfied, but what if something changed? What if, God forbid, I had to change jobs? What if something happened and I had to move back to Richmond or Berea (and again change jobs?)

I’m trying to be cautious that I’m not trusting in or hoping in external things – I’m hoping that I’m not only happy because of my job, or because of the city in which I live. But I also struggle with whether or not it’s okay to be happy because of those. Does that make sense? I want to extrapolate some set of principles to hold on to that will help me be happy no matter where I live or what I do. At the same time, however, I don’t want to fret over some hypotheticals (losing my job or moving) if that’s not in danger of happening. Anyway, at this point I’m simply ranting, so I need to move on to the point I’m getting to.

I’m excited.

Really, really excited.

So much has happened in the last few months – for starters, God has helped me heal completely from the failure of my most recent relationship. I think it was a matter of perspective – my former girlfriend came in to the coffee shop on a morning on which I was working and informed me that our friends were having their baby. In that moment, I realized that there are joys in life far greater than the pains we experience, and somehow that little act of kindness from her (informing me what was happening with my friends) coupled with the magnitude of what was happening (they’re having a baby!) helped me to put aside all of the pain, anger, and bitterness I had held on to.

But even better things have happened. I’ve been preaching every other week for seven weeks now. Pastor Tim and I are tag-teaming a sermon series in 1 Timothy, and it’s been such great practice for me in a lot of ways. First, it helps me to get in a rhythm of preaching. Instead of preaching in odd, one-off situations, I do it bi-weekly now, so I’m always thinking about what’s next. My mind is always on the next text. Second, it helps me learn to write more thoroughly. It’s in part due to the fact that everything in this book is related, but I am able to more clearly see (and think about) how the Bible connects with itself, how text can say different things but all be about the gospel, and how people can read/respond to things and how to spin your sermon to address those things. Third, I’ve learned how to tackle tough blocks of texts. I recently had to preach 1 Timothy 2:8-15, which is a dry block about men and women in the church – how men need to pray and women need to dress differently and stop trying to teach. I don’t even think it mentions the name of Jesus. But by the grace of God, I preached the gospel from it. I’ll plug it, too: http://bereafoursquare.com/listen or in iTunes under “River of Life Foursquare Church.” It was one of my favorite experiences. Fourth, my sermons are just getting longer. I used to have a knack to go short, but this is helping me expand my subject matter.

The third life update is the promotion I recently got at work. We restructured some stuff, and it opened up a couple of positions. I applied for the purchasing assistant job, which is in charge of cash handling, orders (coffee, cups, grocery runs, etc.) and increasing revenue. It’s more the job for me since I think my brain errs more on the side of being numbers-oriented. I like having stuff that makes sense and that I can measure. I like being able to streamline things and be as efficient as possible. I’m not far into the new job, but I enjoy it thoroughly thus far.

 

But the reason I write is not to simply update – I’m excited because I feel like there’s so much good stuff on the way, too.

If there’s anything God has taught me over the last few months, it’s how natural evangelism is. I wrote a blog post months ago on how I need to evangelize more, but specifically that I want to evangelize more. I’m seeing more and more that it’s a natural response to, when you hear good news, want to share it! I’m seeing more and more that the message is more important than the messenger. I’m seeing more and more that the remedy to every human condition (and THE human condition – sin) is the Gospel. Gospel, gospel, gospel. So that alleviates fear of evangelism to a degree because we see that, in some glorious, God-only-knows-how kind of way, the Gospel is the solution to everything. The gospel motivates me to preach and evangelize and the gospel does the work itself. If I preach the gospel, the Holy Spirit makes the “to-do list” for each individual listener.

My roommate and I started talking the other day about how much we would love to just have people over – to have conversations, to eat together, to study the Bible, to get out the guitar and sing some songs – and all of a sudden, God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “that’s church.”

There’s something in me that is just inexplicable, and so I can only assume it’s something God has birthed – to be in deeper community with people. To talk with people I know who love Jesus about our discipleship, and to talk to people who don’t know Jesus about – well, life, and of course Jesus! There’s this naturalness about discipleship that is becoming more and more evident – how I’ve made it something I reserve for church-facilitated contexts, when in reality, it happens naturally. I don’t mean we need to abandon church – church is pretty clearly God’s idea. But I’ve limited discipleship to a life group on a certain night of the week between the hours of such-and-such and such-and-such. I’ve limited preaching and celebration of the Gospel to Sunday mornings at 10:30, when it can (and well should) happen any other time, as well.

So what I’m starting to see open up is this glorious potential – that God is planting dreams and desires in me that I never had before to love people, to get my hands dirty with people, and that’s why I’m so in love with where I am right now. Everything just seems to be falling into place, and I want to spend the rest of my days loving Jesus by loving His people and loving Him with His people.

 

World Cup Predictions

I normally don’t use this blog for such…trivial matters, but I’m pretty caught up in the best thing to happen every four years: the World Cup. So I’m making my predictions for the group stage, knockout stage, quarterfinals, semifinals, final, Golden Boot, and Golden Glove.

Group Stage: (winner in bold, second place underlined)

Group A: Brazil, Cameroon, Croatia, Mexico

Group B: Australia, Chile, Netherlands/Holland, Spain

Group C: Colombia, Cote d’Ivore, Greece, Japan

Group D: Costa Rica, England, Italy, Uruguay

Group E: Ecuador, France, Honduras, Switzerland

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzgovina, Iran, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, Ghana, Portugal, United States

Group H: Algeria, Belgium, Russia, South Korea

 

Knockout Stage:

Brazil v Spain: Brazil

Cote d’Ivore v Uruguay: Cote d’Ivore

Chile v Croatia: Croatia

England v Colombia: England

Switzerland v Argentina: Switzerland

Germany v South Korea: Germany

Bosnia-Herzgovina v Ecuador: Bosnia-Herzgovina

Belgium v Portugal: Portugal

 

Quarter-Finals

Brazil v Cote D’Ivore: Brazil

Croatia v England: Croatia

Switzerland v Germany: Germany

Boznia-Herzgovina v Portugal: Portugal

 

Semi-Finals

Brazil v Germany: Brazil

Croatia v Portugal: Portugal

 

World Cup Final

Brazil v Portugal: Brazil

 

Golden Boot: Mario Mandzukic (Croatia)

Golden Glove: Manuel Neuer (Germany)

 

I’m going the dark-horse (ish) route with these picks. I think Germany will keep a few clean sheets thanks to Neuer (the defense isn’t fantastic) and I’m expecting Mandzukic to inspire Croatia to a semi-final run with something like 10 goals, leading the pack.

The Art of Friendship.

My job is very much a social one. I see hundreds of people per week – sometimes the same ones, and sometimes people I meet in one-off situations. Lots of them are regulars who I see daily if not twice [or thrice] every day. And I find myself talking about my “friends from the shop…” and that makes me really pause and think for a second.

See, I find that I let myself use that as an excuse that that’s as far as I’ll let the friendship go, but that’s starting to break my heart more and more. Here’s how I see it: the people I get to talk to at the shop are my friends, yes – but sometimes it feels surface-level, and I want to take them so much further. I want to hang out with people outside of the shop, and stop calling them “friends from the shop” and start calling them friends. (no quotations needed, ideally.)

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, really – ever since I moved up to Lexington, I’ve heard the Lord say that He wants me to take more time to invest in friendships. I’ve written in other posts about how much time I spend alone, and I want to get to a point at which I have enough friends to where, at any given time of day, I can shoot a call or text to someone to hang out – not because I want status and security, but because people weren’t meant to live alone, we were made to live in community with each other.

And not only that, but I’m also starting to learn [I’m learning late] just how many layers there are to people: what makes them tick, what they love, what they hate, what they’ve been through, where they’ve been, the list goes on and on. Stuff you can only really find out when you sit down for a meal or a drink with someone and give them your full attention, and that’s what I want to do. I’ve spent more time than I care to being a loner, spending time by myself, and not giving myself to other people. I think it’s time I start practicing the art of friendship.

Why I write.

I remember a Sunday last summer – at least I think it was summer, because we had two services at the church – when a children’s ministry teacher caught up with me between services and told me I had to preach longer in the second service. See, I had the privilege of preaching the second (I think) message in a sermon series we’d just started, and I have a way of being pretty…concise.

And then I stumbled upon my old blog, and I realized I’ve come a long way! Ha!

Here they are for your reading enjoyment. DISCLAIMER: I was young, I don’t agree with everything I wrote back then, and I laugh at them, so feel free to laugh at them yourself!

http://warriorjournal.blogspot.com/

http://jeffsterwrites.blogspot.com/

But I’ve been musing on this question of why I write, and so I’m treating the present post as a bit of a prompted, open-response type.

I started writing back when I was 18, I believe. I kept a journal because there was a lot in life I needed to process. I was young, working a job that someone else got me, trying to figure out whether or not I wanted to go to college, trying to decide what I wanted to do in life in general, but especially within the church. Sometimes it seemed like I was surrounded on one half by some people who wanted me to stay in a rut with them and hang out with them every second of every day, and on the other half by great men and women in the faith who saw it necessary to call me up to bigger and better things. I really needed some honesty.

I treated my journal initially as straight-up, one-on-one time with God. The journal was basically my prayer. Journaling, upon reflection, is where I started to believe I could really, really be honest with God and tell Him exactly what was on my mind, irrespective of whether or not I was right. Then, as I began to experience how freeing it is to be honest with God, I decided I’d take some of these thoughts (definitely not all) public and start a blog.

It’s so funny to read them – in some ways it breaks my heart, in some ways I’m encouraged and I realize that these were some very formative years, and in others I’m just forced to laugh. But regardless of my response, I realize that I’m glad I did it, because from 2008-present, I have a record of some of the things I’ve learned, some of the things I’ve been through, and I can see just how gracious God has been. It’s amazing, really.

So the first two reasons I write, to summarize, are to be honest with myself, God, and others, and to provide a record of what’s been going on, and it can subsequently serve as a testament to God’s grace.

Third is that, quite simply, I enjoy it. I enjoy the process of taking an idea, something I’ve been thinking for either months or maybe for a few minutes, and banging it out on the keyboard or in my journal. But that leads me into my fourth (and for now, final) reason:

I write for response.

Not selfishly, I’m not saying I write to get a rise out of people or that I write and depend on other people to read my blog. If nobody read it, I’d still do it. I love when I write something and someone comments and says they’d never thought of something that way; I love when I write and someone says it was helpful; I even love when someone says they disagree or if they have to correct my thinking; I love when I write and I find out that people have been reading because they’ll send me a message of encouragement or a message telling me how encouraged they were by something I wrote; and I love when someone simply tells me their thoughts were provoked. I’m good with all of that. I love writing, and I love people, and I love when writing has an impact on other people.

So I keep writing and keep writing.