oh, how sweet the sound – i know it saved, but is it changing a wretch like me? 

and oh, my God, how sweet is the sound – i once was blind but now i just look away


Jesus, You wrote us through Peter that we can (and should, and i reckon – in reading the text – are commanded to) cast all of our cares on You because You care for us. i think that, as i become older, i learn that there are more things to care about than i ever expected. i care about my schedule and the various commitments i’ve made; i care about whether or not i’m letting people down; i care about relaxing; i care about learning; i care about working; i care about spending time with my friends; i care about being able to use my gifts in ministry; i care about my family; i care about my financial situation; i care about my car; i care about my house; i care how much sleep i get; i care how much free time i get. i care about a lot – and sometimes i can’t tell if that’s just my personality or just the season of life i i am in. 

God, i care about a lot of things. 

i don’t understand what it looks like sometimes to trust You more. i feel like i’m in this constant battle for control – and i always lose but i keep fighting it, because i don’t know how to quit. i don’t know how to not care. i don’t know how to let go of this stuff most of the time. i don’t know how to go-go-go and keep my heart full of energy and compassion when i see the things i’m missing out on, when my schedule seems to throw me to and fro. i don’t know how to rest hard and disengage from the rest of the world when there’s always something to react to. whether it’s a news story or an event in my personal life, or an event in a close friend’s life, or an obligation — this habit of constantly responding is tiring me. 

and, Father – i know that these things are cyclical. i know that for every period of a month and a half when i am uncontrollably busy, i have a few months where it all calms down. i find myself frustrated with that cycle and its inherent imbalance. i find myself frustrated with how my fickle, imperfect, human, emotional heart responds to all the crazy. i find myself frustrated that – even after over a decade of following You – i still turn to old habits and ways of dealing with stress, instead of doing that thing you told me to do – cast it on You

so, Lord – i don’t know what it’ll look like for me to do that, to trust You that much, but i sure as sand want to. i want to give it all over to You – on one hand, because i see the mess that i make when i take matters into my own hands (i tend to get angry, selfish, frustrated and just create a disaster) but on the other hand, i want to give it to You because i trust in the beauty You’ll create out of it – the good that You’ll accomplish in me, through me, and to me.

help me trust. whatever that takes. however much dying that requires. 


there are, it seems (as there always seem to be) two types of people in the world: people who apologize for everything and people who apologize for nothing, and/or seem unaware that there’s anything to apologize for. the difference is that the latter group don’t realize their lack of humility until it smacks them in the face, and the former, well – the former feel like everything slaps them in the face.

all joking aside, it does seem like some folks in the world let everything bother them, while some let nothing bother them. i think both approaches are problematic, but i can only write about my experience in the former category.

this post is brought to you by a gauntlet schedule. i would love to tell you that it hasn’t phased me, that it hasn’t put a lot of strain on my body, my mind, my spirit, my relationships, etc – but it has. i’d love to tell you that in my busy brain, one thought doesn’t lead to another, but it always does – and it boils and builds and culminates in a day like today, when i am forced to take a few personal hours from work, come home, and write, because writing has always been the best way for me to process.

here’s the truth: almost every day in the year 2018, my schedule has been made for me, to some extent or another. i went on a family cruise in January, came home and have worked almost every single day since then. when i wasn’t working, i’ve had something to go to – a meeting, volunteering to help someone move, keeping up with other commitments i’ve signed up for – and i haven’t had a lot of time to relax a whole lot. i’ve barely read a book, i’ve barely written a blog. Bob Goff talks about quitting something every Thursday, and i see why now: if you start committing to a lot of things, your schedule will fill up, and it will fill up quicker than you would like it to, and you won’t have time to do the things you really like to do.

then, things start feeling like obligations. the joy gets sucked out of it (at least, if you’re not vigilant) as it becomes something you have to do and not something you like to do. and then you start spinning your wheels, just keeping up with the things you’ve committed to, and then you get to this point, where i admittedly find myself today:

why am i doing what i’m doing if it’s not getting me anywhere? 

i’ve asked myself this because, if you didn’t already know this about me, i’ve had quite a year — i quit my job of three and a half years back in June of 2017, and my life has started down another course. and lately, i’ve felt myself wondering if i know what that course really is. in the last two days especially, i’ve felt at a bit of a crossroads — thankfully, i’m down to two jobs, but when i begin to think about the future (which is a thing i do a lot) i begin to wonder which one will become a career. one is a feasible career, a standard, steady 9-5 type job in customer service, it pays well, and i know it’d take care of me in terms of benefits, compensation, etc. it’d be stressful some days but i’d be helping people and that’d be super. the other is a less feasible but more appealing career. my other job is at a church, and i’ve always wanted to work at a church. i feel called to be in ministry, but have always wondered if i’d be able to do that as a method of paying the bills. to me, that’d be the most incredible thing: to be able to do what i love and what i care deeply about, and for it to be a way for God to provide for my needs.

but that path is the one that feels like it has more road blocks.

it feels like a puzzle right now. it feels full of questions: when? will it be at this church, or at another one? what area of ministry can i get a job in? do i start attending the church and ingratiate myself, or just get hired on cold? where will this be geographically? would i be good enough? would the schedule be appealing? am i doing things now to prepare myself for it? 

this roadblock makes me feel one thing above all else:


i’ll tell you what kind of pressure: it’s the you’re-twenty-seven-and-you-don’t-have-a-full-time-job-or-clear-career-path? kind of pressure. it’s the i can’t believe you don’t have health insurance kind of pressure. the how dumb were you to crawl into credit card debt? pressure. the how ready are you for marriage? kind of pressure.

it makes me look at my life and question myself a lot, it makes me doubt myself a lot. it makes me think all the way back to high school at times and ask myself if i should have looked more seriously at colleges instead of taking a gap year. it makes me wonder if i lingered too long at the wrong job. makes me wonder if i’m lingering at the wrong job now. makes me ask how i use my time. tries to make me regret old relationships more than i already do. tries to make me regret in general.

tries to make me lament the story i’m living, and dread the story i’ll live in the future.

it is oh, so easy to compare, especially at age 27, the course of your life. especially when you come in close proximity with someone. (i’ve told my girlfriend i was going to cite her, so thankfully i’m allowed to use this to help make my point.) so, my girlfriend is all kinds of wonderful – she’s smart, wise, clever, kind, big-hearted. her life has followed a fairly logical pattern in that she is doing what she went to school for. she has a full-time job which provides benefits, good pay, a stable position, and a reliable schedule. (oh, and she’s a teacher, so she gets summers off.) i won’t lie to you, friends – it requires a lot of vigilance on my part to shut off thoughts of comparison. actually – i don’t really shut them off, but i don’t let them deter me like they did in the past. a few years ago, i dated a girl who was about the age i am now, and it really tore me to shreds on a daily basis that she worked full-time for a plastics company and i worked part time for a coffee shop. i put myself down a whole lot for that, and find traces of that thinking still seeping into my thoughtlife today.

thankfully for me, Ayla isn’t petty or shallow. thankfully for me, she’s got a big heart and is more concerned with my character than my checkbook. thankfully for me, she loves me a lot like God loves me, which has led me onto this realization:

we very often judge ourselves for things that God isn’t judging us for.

By that, i don’t just mean that we crucify ourselves for things Jesus was crucified for (which we do) but i am referring to how we view ourselves and others in terms of how put-together our lives are (or aren’t.)

it’s a lot like God tells Samuel when Samuel is looking for Israel’s king: man looks at what’s on the outside, but I look at what’s inside. 

reader, i hope that whoever you are and wherever you are, you can use that as salve on your heart when you need it. i hope that, if you’re like me and you feel a little disassembled, you feel full of questions and devoid of direction, you’re able to remember that God doesn’t care if your car is the newest model, or if your bank account has one or two or three or more zeroes, or what neighborhood you live in. (if you’re not like me, i apologize, because i do not feel currently equipped to describe how you may need to use that scriptural salve. i only hope that you do.)

let us not project onto God our own standards for success. let us instead adapt our definition to His: bearing fruit is what matters. being transformed into the image of Jesus is what matters. loving people is what matters.

seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (provisions like food, clothing, shelter) will be added to you.


this post is brought to you by (and on) the morning of what was supposed to be a day off – my first true, bona fide day off in weeks – but within two hours of waking up turned into a half work day with an errand or two to run before going in to work.

i’ll be the first to admit, i’m the worst at plans changing last minute. it always seems to hit me like a ton of bricks and my head can process it but my heart – that is, my emotional response – takes a while to follow. logic tells me that this is the chance for a few extra hours at work. that its a few extra bucks to go towards a trip my friends and i have been planning. that it’s a chance to be a team player and get more experience with my job. that it’s only a few hours and i still get the rest of my day to relax. logic continues with the truth that i finally got my registration renewed this morning, and that i still have an hour and a half before i have to go into work.

but my heart, oh, my heart – it is still pulsating like it got punched, because i was looking forward to relaxing, to not getting out of my PJs for a bit, to another cup of coffee, to camping out at a library for a couple of hours. silly, right?

i’ve always been like that with my time – or at least, i have been for a while. i think i’ve blogged about it a few times. changes in plans are hard for me because i never know when i’ll be able to get to what i had been looking forward to. my girlfriend and i have had this come up — i may have been looking forward to whatever we had planned (even if it was routine and simple and something we do often) and then when an alternate set of plans comes up (say, we get invited to something) then i am prone to feeling disappointed that whatever it was i was looking forward to isn’t happening – even if our new plans are good.

it harkens me back to this old idea of living open-handed…of not trying to control all of my circumstances, not making everything go my own way, but being able to roll with the punches and go with the flow. that’s a hard thing to do…especially when we live in a society in which so many things have to fit just right. i can’t tell if it’s a result of getting older, or if it’s cultural from living in another town to the one i lived in when i was growing up — but when i was younger, it seemed like if you couldn’t make plans on one night, you could bet that within two days, you’d have another available time. whether that’s coffee in the morning with a friend or going to see a movie or grabbing supper with someone – you’d be able to coordinate before long. but lately, it seems like everything has to be threaded like a needle into a schedule (i know i have written about this before.)

anyway – i’ve been circling in my head to determine what exactly this has to do with anything and while i hate to admit it, i think this is the part where i just reflect openly. i don’t necessarily have a point to make with this post. (dear reader: at some point in every post, i fight with myself as to whether or not the post exists to make a point, or to be an accessible thing to people, a well from which folks can drink if they need to, if it helps. i suppose this one is the latter.)

my life has been really interesting in the last 9-12 months. it was around this time last year when i felt this deep, deep desire to shake everything up – maybe like a game of boggle: some of the same words may exist, a lot of the same letters would surely show up, just maybe in a different spot or with different letters around them. at first i was considering moving out of state, even out of country. but the thing is, i like where i lived. i just needed a change in routine.

so, i quit my job. i went to Haiti for a week, i came back and was unemployed for a couple of months and spent a lot of time doing a podcast, reading books, riding my bike, writing, watching a ton of movies (and learning a new appreciation for the medium which remains to this day,) listening to podcasts, dogsitting, house-sitting, helping do landscaping, hanging out at the arboretum, playing tennis with a wonderful i now get to date, etc.

in the summer, i breathed. a lot. my life was so, so good. every day was an adventure. i felt free. when i talked to people, i felt a verve and a vigor for life – i was always asking people what was exciting about their life, and telling them what was exciting about mine. i did Good News Tuesday posts to really good effect, and lots of people told me they liked them. my therapist calls this my “summer of respite.” she’s right. it was perfect. i realize now that it was a unique opportunity that not a lot of people get, and i treasure it.

then i started working again. i took not one, but three positions – a cashier at a grocery store, a teller at a bank, and a worship leader for student ministries (i get paid to sing and play guitar and hang out with students. that’s ridiculous and amazing.) my life got pretty busy, and i won’t lie – my life got kind of…



i hate using that word, but it’s kind of true. my summer was like an exotic meal with all kinds of flavors, and with every bite, i noticed something different. my life in the fall became meat-and-potatoes – functional and tasty, but not all that…you know…exciting. i mean, i had plenty to do – within a month, i had two conferences/retreats i played at, i had training for one of my new jobs, and i was playing worship music every Wednesday and most Sundays. i started dating my girlfriend and time with her is absolutely superb.

and my life became routine…mostly, the routine i had hoped for.

but like a lot of things, it turns out that once i got it, it wasn’t exactly what i’d wanted it to be…it didn’t feel how i wanted it to feel. it’s taken me a long time and a couple sessions with my therapist to accept that — to accept that my life won’t be like it was in the summer again.

my life got busy.

three jobs – which isn’t the hardest thing in the world but also isn’t easy – a girlfriend, a mentee, a social group, a few hobbies that are impossible to multi-task (i’m thinking running, reading, writing, and movie-watching here) and before you know it, time just got sucked up, and i felt myself going with it.

i actually did begin to feel a little less like myself.

friends, family, readership – i was so stretched, have been so stretched, still feel a little stretched. it is not easy to fit everything in. to fit everyone in. there are people i go weeks without seeing, and it kills me just a little bit. it’s still not easy.

but, i can tell that things are coming around. Bob Goff tells us to quit something every Thursday. why Thursday? i can’t remember. can’t even remember the context of the quote. it’s just something my friends (who read Bob Goff) and i throw around to each other from time to time, rejoicing when we find something to quit.

so i rejoiced when i stepped down from one of my Sunday morning commitments, so that i could attend church like a normal person for a while and since i usually serve on Sunday nights for students.

i rejoiced when i quit one of my three jobs – the grocery store at which i worked the hardest and felt least supported and easily got paid the least (and liked the least, to be honest.) i rejoiced because now i am available to cover a shift here and there at the bank if needed, and if not needed, then i have a little more time to breathe, to meet folks for coffee, to write and read and enjoy time at home. i rejoice because i may have a day here and there when i’m not running somewhere every two hours.

i’ve rejoiced this weekend, when on Friday and Sunday nights, i got to be in someone’s house with a lot of people that i love a lot in them. i rejoiced last weekend when i got to play music for 682 middle schoolers and help create an atmosphere in which they could encounter God, just like i benefitted from when i was their age.

i’m rejoicing today because, even though i have to work for a couple hours, i still have the option of camping at Panera, biting into a cinnamon roll, and filling that cup of coffee over and over again, and camping out at my house to enjoy a movie.

i’m rejoicing because God always seems to provide, and while quitting a job was a bit of a financial risk, it provides a much-needed emotional release and respite, and allows me to focus more on the jobs that i enjoy the most, and give me a chance to see which one is more likely to be a career.


God is good. all of the time. even when He stretches us, like runners, to where it hurts a little but gets us ready to run the race.


January has come and gone, and this is the only entry i’m getting in this month.

worries me, but only a little.

i haven’t written very much over the last couple of months, and the worry in that for me is that i’m just being a busybody, that i’m just running from one thing to the next and not spending any time doing any good thinking. i haven’t sat at a coffee shop in a while. haven’t hashed out any good thoughts.

i don’t like the whole busybody thing…i’ve been giving a lot of thought to how darn quickly time can fill up, and how easy it is to fill it with…nothing at all. it’s not even like the summer when i was at least watching a lot of movies, reading a lot of books, and hanging out with a lot of people.

but i’m rooting for it to just be seasonal. this month has been vacation and retreat and small groups, and the last few months have been holidays and all kinds of crazy.

i recently quit one of my jobs, so i’m down to being a two-job man (perhaps i’ll write about this more in an entry soon?) and i’m hoping to see that bring about some ease and free up some time. hallelujah.

push. pull. yes. no.

friends, i come before you today to tell you, among many other things, that i believe i have – albeit unintentionally – egregiously misinterpreted one of Jesus’ statements in the gospels.

Jesus tells His followers that whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it. (see: Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24.)

it’s one of my favorite verses – i even put it on my facebook bio, piously defining myself by the pursuit of losing my life daily.

after some self-examination, i think i’ve found that i may look at it entirely the wrong way. i think i make too much of a command out of it, instead of a promise. i also think that i – again, unknowingly – read it more as, “you must first become positively miserable and be stretched in every direction to find your life in Christ.”


let me give you some context.

at the turn of this year, it seemed like something God was trying to do in my life was to drag me out of my comfort zone, but more specifically, to get me to use my time differently – to more intentionally use my time for others, instead of protecting my personal time. i had a job that was a little demanding in the sense that i could wake up at 6AM to a work text, and then i’d immediately go to work and put out fires, leaving me desperate for some relaxing time at home when i finished up. it kind of made sense that i’d protect my personal time – because i was terrible at balancing work and life. so, i rarely had people over, i rarely poured into friendships, i rarely went out and socialized – i was really focused on keeping hold of my time. i’d give it up when i was ready.

then, one day, i think a switch flipped, and as tends to happen with human beings, i swung to the other side of the spectrum. i felt like i had to say yes to everything and everyone – and i felt bad if i didn’t. i started mentoring a young man, i started making more friends and felt the need to spend time pouring into those friendships. so then i started marking up my calendar with appointments and evening activities, 6am coffee chats and 7pm meals, movie nights, date nights, parties and other social happenings, not to mention three jobs (which don’t even add up to a whole lot of hours, but seems overwhelming when looking at a planner.)

then i started looking at friendship as an obligation. i began looking at mentoring as an obligation. these things i wrote in my calendar were beginning to run my life, even though they began out of a genuine place of goodwill. my life was – well, to be honest, has been – filling up with “have to”s and not “get to”s. i obsessively made a list in the front of my 2018 planner of all of the things i need to get to on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, sitting there in black ink, my little idol. my idol of living a satisfactory, approvable life. my way of insuring that, if anyone doubted that i had priorities, they could look no further. “i write your name down in my planner, you are important to me.” my way of insuring that everyone knew i was living by that phrase – i’m seeking to lose my life, to give up my time, to invest in people.

but, if i can be honest with you (too late!) it’s not made me happy. and what’s worse – i haven’t even really been spending time with a ton of people! for a little while, i’d been meeting with a few guys on a multi-week basis, but that’s sputtered out over the holidays. and that’s kind of the point, actually – because in the back of my head, there’s this voice that says, “this is what you should be doing. you’re not ‘living intentionally.'” i don’t know about you, dear reader, but i live my life by a lot of (too many) shoulds and ought-tos. here are a few of mine:

“i should go to that social function.”

“i ought to make sure i make time for _____ this week.”

“i should visit my parents soon.”

“i should be better with money.”

“i ought to read my bible more.”

“i should do better at remembering who to pray for.”

over and over, time after time, day after day. these voices go back and forth, accusing and condemning and tilling the soil of guilt, uprooting the flowers of grace that are trying to bloom.

you know what just occurred to me upon thinking about that promise from Jesus?


who tries to lose something? i mean, seriously. apart from thinking to put a $20 bill in your jacket at the end of winter so you find it next fall, nobody sets up to lose their keys, their wallet, their cell phone, their starbucks gift card, their social security card. no, you try to find it, but you don’t have to try to lose.

i wonder if maybe we start to lose our lives when we pursue things that bring us deep joy. i don’t mean to sound hedonistic — but maybe if we focused more on letting the gospel run its course in our hearts, then we’d discover that, without even realizing, we’d lost our life for Jesus’ sake.

and maybe that means getting rid of some distractions. maybe that means discovering what’s acting as a misnomer for joy. you can laugh at me if you want, but – i’ve found that for me, that’s stuff like playing video games. i start and don’t want to be interrupted. i’ve actually experienced this time and again over the course of my life…sometimes it’s the things i intentionally seek to make me happy or provide respite from a stressful day – video games, movies, time in solitude, etc – that make me more miserable. it’s kind of like buying flowers for your girlfriend  because you’ve been a jerk and now you’re trying and manufacture a good feeling – it doesn’t work if you don’t come at it with a good heart.

i’m not really sure how to land the plane today. my therapist and i talked about this the other day – how life seems dictated by the shoulds and the ought tos and how that’s just a recipe for misery. we often come to resent what we ought to do. we resent the things that push us and pull us and stretch us in directions we don’t want to go (or aren’t ready to go.)

it reminds me of what the Bible says about letting your yes be yes and your no be no. (now, please, exercise discretion here, because sometimes obedience isn’t fun) don’t you think it’s better to say yes to things you actually want to say yes to? don’t you think it’s better to say no to things you don’t actually want to do? to be clear – i believe this criteria is best understood under the premise that the gospel transforms our want-tos – nevertheless, doesn’t that sound like a better life? a life not lived out of obligation and/or fear of what people think if you do/don’t do something? isn’t a friendship best built out of a genuine desire to know a person, instead of meeting a quota for friends?

may we be a people so transformed by the gospel that we say yes to the right things and no to the right things, all in the right heart. God, let us not be pushed and pulled by our calendars, but let us enter each relationship and activity with a full heart and a spirit motivated and animated by Yours. 



have you ever found yourself doing a little dance with God about something? i think of it like the “potty dance” – that little series of uncomfortable movements you do to try and make yourself not think about how badly you have to go to the bathroom, to distract your body from its primary urge in that moment.

let me tell you what this post is gonna be: this post, like a lot of others, is gonna be me being honest with you about some stuff. stuff i’m not sure if it’s better to talk about in private with a few trusted friends, or to just put it out there. (though, i am learning a degree of discretion, which is perhaps why i don’t write everything on this blog anymore…) leading up to this post, i’ve tried to write a few things in the last few weeks, but they all seem to amount to this summary: life is hard, there are elements of being alive that just suck, and i’m trying to figure out how to cope with that. i decided, instead of blogging all of those out, to go see a therapist, which i start soon.

but this feels like something to be shared, i reckon. i want to share it mostly because i know how lonely of a place Afraid is. that is, i know how lonely it is when you’re scared, especially when you’re not sure if anyone else would talk about it. so i’m not trying to imply that i’m worse off than you or better than you for talking about it, or anything like that, just aiming to shine a bit of a light in what can be a lonely place.

that “stuff” i mentioned a paragraph ago, i’m gonna name it: today i’m gonna talk about money. lately i’ve felt a little frustrated with the scope of what men talk about when they talk about struggles, because it seems pretty limited — it seems like most guys talk about their issues with porn and lust, or they may talk about how much they’re working and how tired they are. maybe that perception is wrong – maybe i just feel a little caged – but i can tell you here and now that my own thoughtlife comes under much heavier attack from artillery such as “you are irresponsible, unexciting, and self-centered because of how you use what little money you have” than it does from lighter ammunition like, “you’re a creep.” here it is: money is a much bigger struggle for me than pornography is.

in my own experience (and i do wish to stress that it is my experience, because i would hate to make a sweeping generalization on the impact of sin on different people) the roots of pornography and lust do not burrow as deeply into the ground of my heart as do the roots of greed, envy, and comparison. that is, i find that the gospel still has to chip away at the latter roots than it does the former.

i suppose i should address why i brought up the potty dance at the beginning of this entry (at risk of randomly using the word “potty” without reason) — this morning, i dubbed a term i’m calling the “paycheck squirm.” i’m referring to the mental gymnastics i do in the days leading up to a paycheck to convince myself it’s all going to be all right. for instance, one of my strategies is to not do a whole lot with my friends. one reason being because my self-esteem is at a low and i just do not feel fully up to it; another reason being that i can feel easily caught in a catch-22: if my friends suggest going out for a meal, or talk about something we should do together, a group activity that may cost a few extra bucks, then i feel trapped and conflicted — my preference is to do things with my friends, but i also like to do things i can afford. and, of course, that is no fun to admit: “hi friends, who i love dearly and would LOVE to sit around and watch a movie or play games with, i am not going to go do this thing with you, simply because it costs money.” (and, of course, thankfully, my friends are not the type who only ever want to do things that cost money. i think the number one reason i’m glad i’ve given up drinking is because it adds up so quickly, and i no longer feel that to be social, i have to spend $5-$10 every single time i go out.)

i’d like to revisit the first reason i listed above: my self-esteem is at a low. i think, if i’m really honest, that it’s all too easy for me to buy into a worldly perspective on money instead of a gospel perspective. that is, the worldly perspective says that money makes you powerful, money makes you flexible, money makes you interesting. so if that is your perspective on money, it stands to reason that your self-worth will ebb and flow with the balance of your bank account.

it’s that gospel perspective that still needs to sink in: that your (my) value isn’t directly linked to the amount of money you have. that you can be interesting, you can be fun, you can be generous, even when you don’t have a lot of money.

Paul talked about this in Philippians, and i believe that it’s his words – although i have seen, heard, and considered them time and time again, and am only now coming to circumstantially understand them – that give me the most pause, and the most hope and encouragement. He says, in 4:12, that he has learned to be content in all circumstances, how to be abased, and how to abound. i think it’s funny that he uses the word abased, because that’s a pretty nasty word. it’s kinda up there in harsh descriptions, kinda like when Isaiah says that our righteousness is like a filthy menstrual rag, or like when Paul considers everything he’s lost to gain Christ as dung. abased doesn’t just mean poor, it means brought low; it means being dragged through the mud a little bit. makes me wonder if Paul maybe had similar thoughts to what i’ve had. maybe he felt the pressure and the pain of not having a lot of give, when it seemed like someone’s needs could best be addressed through financial means. maybe he, like me, wasn’t always the best at receiving. (maybe he was, i don’t know.) point is, to be abased is not just to be grounded, it’s actually a little worse than that.

i’m encouraged by two specific parts of what Paul says here: first, the implication is that he has been both. that is, provision can be cyclical. at times, you can live with a lot, and at other times, you can live with a little. God, it seems, lets us go in seasons. second, the implication is that contentment can be learned. that you can learn to be okay in both seasons – that you, like Tim Keller encourages us to do, can not let success get to your head, and not let failure go to your heart.

there’s a lot i haven’t said. a lot of emotions felt in the moments when i have to turn things down, when i have to say no, or when i’ve let someone treat me to supper because it’s not smart for me to pay for it. but i’m sharing with you today just in case you can say, “hey, me too.” or if it needs said to you, when you’re in your moments of feeling like you don’t have a lot to offer the world, or to offer yourself, or to offer people you love, then i’ll say it to you: me too.

if that’s you, then my hope is twofold: one, i hope you (and i) can learn to steady our hearts while our resources ebb and flow; and two (and within number one,) i hope you (and i) can learn the value of the non-monetary things we have to offer: our time, our attention, our wisdom, our compassion, etc.


dry. (a pointless update.)

dear friends, readers, listeners.

i don’t think it’s half as hard to admit this kind of stuff now as it may have been in the past, but — i’ve felt real dry lately.

you know that feeling?

i guess by dry i mean worn out (when nothing’s really that hard) a little deflated, a little uninspired, a little off the pace. whatever “it” is, you’re just not feeling “it.”

my blog domain expired around my birthday, and i thought about renewing it then, but i haven’t even necessarily had anything to write about.

so, today i’m doing the best thing i know: writing about how there’s nothing to write about.

no, but really, i’ve come to this realization: i misuse my time. you might even say abuse it. in the past few weeks, i have been so unbelievably lazy — i’ve read maybe twenty pages of a book, haven’t written a lick, haven’t really spent a ton of time with other people.

what have i been doing? well, i’ve been running a lot (which is good for my body, specifically my breathing,) i’ve been watching a few movies (which is kinda nice, because i have this big, long list of films i’m trying to see) aaaaaand i’ve been playing obscene amounts of FIFA. like, OBSCENE. i won’t lie — it’s one of those things that borders on worrisome for me, because it’s such an easy go-to.

oh, and i’ve got the ball rolling to start seeing a counselor. i’ve always heard it’s probably good to see one whether you “need” it or not – and i’m realizing that it would very likely do me a lot of good. main reason being that there’s a whole heck of a lot that’s different in my life than was the case 365 days ago…

Dec. 10, 2016: had a dog.

Dec 10, 2017: rehomed the dog in December.

Dec 10, 2016: worked at A Cup of Common Wealth

Dec 10, 2017: work at Chase bank, Lucky’s Market, and Southland Christian Church.

Dec 10, 2016: had few close friends to hang out with consistently.

Dec 10, 2017: have a group of 3-5 guys i try to meet with regularly, and a mentee with whom i agreed to spend an hour every week.

Dec 10, 2016: single.

Dec 10, 2017: in a relationship.

Dec 10, 2016: lived in one house

Dec 10, 2017: live in another (can’t really give addresses, because internet.)

So – my life is good. Really, i’m very happy. but a lot has changed, and i feel like i’ve blogged about this a hundred times, and my phrase had always been something to the effect of, “more has changed in the last year (or two, or three, or four, or five, or now six) than did in the first 21.) and that’s still true. and i guess it’s tough when you’re the type who likes consistency, but i reckon that’s not really what your mid-to-late twenties are for, is it?


i began writing this morning at 6:30 in my dining room – our table is cluttered with various papers, books, a game, a poster, and some wilting flowers (i’m realizing that i leave more stuff around than i’d like to believe, given that everything but the latter two are mine…) it’s a funny thing, living with people – i’ve found myself bothered when other people leave their stuff out or don’t do their dishes but i seem to give myself a pass when i leave my own crap out (i reckon it’s an internal sense of peace knowing that i’ll get to it soon – and sometimes i seem to be the only one around the house, so i’m the only one for my own mess to bother)

it’s a little hypocritical, huh?

i’m finding more and more little flaws like that in myself – more and more little inconsistencies. small, unreconciled things, discrepancies in where i am and where i’d like to be. i’d like to wake up every morning at 6 and read, write, pray deep and well, be in a great mood when i go to work. instead, i toss and turn in bed until about 6:20 when i finally drag myself out and i might sit lazily on the couch staring at a few verses until i start to grasp them a little, and my mood kinda depends on whether or not i saw something on facebook that threw me off or if i see something around the house that bugs me, etc.

i’d like to be debt-free. i still buy Starbucks twice a week sometimes and eat out more than i should.

i’d like to sleep better. i stay up late playing FIFA or watching movies instead.

there are more of these examples, i’m convinced. the point is, i’m realizing that life sometimes – certain aspects of it – is/are kind of like going hiking or caving, and the first time you do the trail, you try to do it one way, and you realize it doesn’t work, or could have been a lot better. then the next time you do it, you try to figure out a better way. you repeat and repeat every time you hike the trail until you get it. sometimes this is the analogy for finding a job you like, going to a church you love, meeting friends, planning your weekly schedule, etc. i’m personally in a season where – i’m happy to say – i get the pleasure of dating a really wonderful woman, and i’m realizing (almost every day) mistakes i made in past relationships, particularly in the way i responded to them and the way i expected them to respond to me. i feel familiar emotions and realize that my response is up to me: instead of being angry, passive-aggressive, timid, manipulative Old Jeff, i have an opportunity to respond in a new way that i’d rather: with grace, with understanding, with patience. i’m sure i don’t always. but i have the chance.

the chance to be new.

it’s an everyday thing, actually, that chance to be new. i love the way that my pastor (pops) back home articulates it – he says that every day we wake up with a new, fresh bucket of grace and mercy next to our bed. mercy is new every morning. i’ve been praying that a lot for/over myself, thanking God for it, i’ve been praying that over my friends, that they’d wake up and step their foot right in that bucket, whether they knew it was there or not.

the chance to be new. the chance to write a different story.

that’s been my life over the last two years, and even more so this year. can i tell you a bit about it?

it’s been a big year, 26.

the biggest highlight has been involving myself in a group called TND. it’s a bunch of great folks my age, in my boat – twenties, out of undergrad, single, working a job (in most instances,) looking for friends, looking for people to stretch and challenge and grow them, loving Jesus and loving each other. that’s it. it’s amazing and i’ve gotten a few opportunities within it, including being asked to lead worship for a retreat by someone who didn’t even know that i sang (spoiler alert/twist: she’s my girlfriend now, so that’s cool.)

oh, speaking of leading worship, i got to reunite with my old band back home in September and play music down there for a men’s retreat, AND i got a job working at Southland Christian Church as a student ministries worship leader. it’s the coolest thing i’ve ever done – i get to do something i love and be compensated for it, alongside an unbelievable team of people. oh, and my friend and co-worker Jess (who is among the highlights of my year, because she is a rockstar and i got to sing with her a couple times and there’s something really amazing about singing with an amazing singer, go figure) asked me to do a special at the main campus, which was a whirlwind but so much fun and one of the coolest things i’ve ever done.

i left my job of three and a half years back in June to make some changes in my life. i wanted a more consistent schedule and i’ve largely gotten it, i balance three jobs but given that i’ve set myself hard rules of not working nights, it’s not as hard as it sounds. i miss my old job and the people there, but i also know i made the right call for the time in my life.

instead of reading just the 21 books i was aiming for this year, i ended up reading 27. just over one every two weeks. i’ll take that, given how chaotic the summer ended up being.

i’ve developed a hunger for reading more – both books and the Bible – inspired largely by Dr. Daniel Brown who, at the men’s retreat, said “i just read this thing a lot,” referring to his Bible. i just find myself wanting to take in more: more stories, more information – i still don’t retain it all, but i love taking it in. i also watched a ton of movies this year, as a foil to the book thing. i listen to Truth & Movies by TCO London, which is a great little pod which, if you let it, will expand your cinematic horizons rapidly and pointedly.


i’ve got to wrap this up because i’m about to go hiking – i guess here’s the big theme, though: being new. every day, there’s a chance to be new. i remember talking with my friend Sean and she shared this nugget she heard that over the course of seven years, every cell in your body has been replaced. you are never the same person you were then, and you’re not even the same person you were yesterday. i know i’m not. i hope you’re able to lean into that truth.


i am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6


i enjoyed a wonderful hike this past weekend with some of my closest friends, and during the hike, we got to thinking and talking about stuff like free will, predestination, and whether or not the future is set. i realize how pretentious that sounds – stuff like this really does just come up, though. it’s not like we all put on our old man caps, light up our pipes and say, “let’s ask big theological questions.”

no, it just happens. it just kinda goes in that direction. i think that we wonder a whole lot. i think we should. i wonder how much we can and/or will ever know, you know? there are some big questions out there. there are some crazy concepts out there. i mean, Christianity – heck, spirituality – is a little crazy. it’s a little vast, i’d say it’s impossible to grasp.

i think we’re misguided a bit when we say we know certain things…i mean, in our talk about free will, for example, one of us was #teamfreewill, one of us was #teamimnotreallysure, and i think both of us agreed that we’re #teamhowcanwebe? free will isn’t exactly something we can prove, you know? it may turn out that this whole time, we’ve been destined to take every step that we took and we just made ourselves feel better about it by saying that we had free will, but that’s just an illusion of control because we were destined to think that we had free will. (is your head spinning yet?)

i love conversations like that. i wrote a whole post about how i’m not sure the judgement of God is what we think it is. i think that healthy speculation is a form of worship – rattling the cage just a little bit of what you’ve always thought and always believed. i guess it reminds me a little bit of what it’s like when someone doesn’t know you really well and they try to give you a compliment or explain a bit of what you’re like, and you sit there and smile and think, “i think i can understand how they’d get that.” it’s flattering a bit, because they’re at least formulating some thoughts on you.

i wonder if God does that. i wonder if God’s favorite type of people (i know He doesn’t have favorite people) are the ones who aren’t really sure…who don’t write conclusively about Him – at least not about things that aren’t sure. this we know: God created the Heavens and the earth, God created us, God loves us, God sent Jesus, Jesus lived and died in our place and for our sins, He makes forgiveness accessible to all of us (because we’re a broken race and each daggum one of us needs forgiveness and grace) and He sent the Holy Spirit to live in us and tell us more about Himself. We’re pretty dang sure He’s coming back one of these days, and we’re pretty dang sure that He’s going to establish His kingdom on earth.

we don’t know: if Christians will be “taken to heaven” pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib; we don’t know exactly what predestination means, if we have free will, or if everyone’s supposed to speak in tongues or if no one is supposed to speak in tongues, or if purgatory is a thing or not, or if people who love Jesus and are already dead are already in heaven or are waiting on Him to come back, or if we’re supposed to be submerged or sprinkled or if we won’t get into heaven if we’re not baptized (actually, i’m of the mind that we do know that one,) we don’t know if what Paul said about women in 1 Timothy was prescriptive to Timothy’s church or descriptive of how the whole church should operate. we don’t know if hell is a literal physical place with literal, actual fire where people literally burn forever or if hell doesn’t actually exist and people just stop existing altogether when they die and don’t know Jesus. there’s a lot, lot, lot that we don’t know, and i think that it’s us pretending that we do that’s hurt a lot of folks. i think it’s a false sense of certainty about things that don’t really matter that pushes people away from the church, and i think we’d do well to let go of some of those things.


i think we’d do well to speculate – sometimes even wildly – and think a little bit harder about what God may be really like…try to get our minds around another square inch of He Who exists outside of time and space. i’m not saying that i shun good theology – on the contrary, i think we should major in majors and minor in minors. i think we should hold tight to the good stuff: we’re all messed up but God sure isn’t and He did everything He needed to do to accept us even though we’re messed up, and it cost Him a lot. that’s it in a nutshell. the rest of it: swing away, yeah? discuss it. go back and forth a bit. have some conversations. just don’t pretend you know anything.


[i don’t know if i’m writing this for anyone but myself. if anyone gleans from it, great, but consider this a self-indulgent disclaimer.]

i learned something about myself this past week. er…maybe i had it reaffirmed. again.

y’all – i’m a homebody. i can only say it that way. i’ve never been one for vacations, my graduation trip that i took lasted all of about six hours before i drove back home, i get antsy when i start thinking about hotels and going out for every meal and the fact that i won’t be in my own bed and won’t park in my carport and won’t wake up and brush my teeth in my bathroom, etc. i just do not travel well.

a week ago today,  i picked up a rental car and headed (with another teller from Danville) to Columbus, Ohio for training. they put you up in a hotel, pay for a couple of your meals, and let you run fake transactions all day so that when you get back to the branch, you are more comfortable with the system. it’s hands-on, non-consequential training. pretty cool.

well, start with the fact that we didn’t leave til 1pm. i’m a morning person. i’d rather get on the road sooner, because i don’t love killing half a day doing whatever. i ended up getting the rental car, having a PSL, playing video games for a bit, and just pacing antsily (weird, spell check tells me that’s not a word) until it came time to head over to pick up my fellow teller. we drove up and had a good conversation for strangers – we talked movies for about seventy miles and they told stories of their time in the Army, etc. we got up with no problems.

one of the reasons i don’t like traveling is because one, i’m frugal, and two, because i’m frugal, i feel there’s nothing to do when i travel. it doesn’t help that the majority of what i’d consider acceptable tourism is checking out coffee shops that are unique to the area, and the ones i wanted to see closed at 5 and 7, consecutively. we got out of teller training at 5 every day, so that ruled one out, and the other was a ‘twenty-minute’ drive, which i’d make after we went back to the hotel, got changed, got my stuff, and drove into downtown columbus at 5:45pm, so the drive would have been longer than twenty minutes. no cool coffee shop for me.

there were a myriad of restaurants around our hotel, but less than a mile away, there was a Chipotle Mexican Grill. people who know me know exactly where i ate every single night (esp. considering that work paid for meals.) it was actually really nice – i have always wanted a sense of routine, and i had it for these three days in Columbus: woke up, had Starbucks, drove to training, trained, had lunch (i ate pizza every day in the cafeteria, because it was familiar,) went back to the hotel, got Chipotle, watched baseball. every day was literally the same: a wonderful problem to have in my opinion, at least given the circumstances (traveling. i do not like traveling.)

we finished up on Thursday afternoon around 4pm, and drove back. we made the trip almost uninterrupted – got back into Lexington just after 8pm. one of my favorite friends picked me up from the rental car place, we went for a walk and had ice cream and great conversation, and then i went home. did a little laundry and went to bed because the next day was retreat.

retreat was in Harlan, KY, a lovely town about three hours away from here. let me go ahead and say this now: i’m gonna complain a little bit, and it’s not about retreat. really. truly. genuinely – retreat was amazing, and i realized upon coming home last night that i would have thoroughly regretted not going…so hopefully that’s clear. i loved spending the weekend with my friends.

that said, i was in a funk all weekend. thankfully, my ride and i waited until about noon to head down, so i had time to recover a bit, walk to the coffee shop, get my stuff ready for leading worship on Saturday night, finish my laundry, pack, etc. by noon, i felt as ready as i think i would. my friend that i rode down with was my myspace buddy in high school (it’s kind of a really cool story how we met and re-met ten years later, after all but disappearing from each other’s lives – but that’s another story) so we had really good talks and didn’t have a dull moment. we enjoyed the challenge of finding this little mountain road that would take us to the retreat spot.

the whole time, i was having a bit of an internal conversation – “jeff, you will engage this weekend. i don’t care if you’re tired, i don’t care if you’re a little disoriented. don’t use this traveling stuff as an excuse. be present, be with God, be with people.” so i did the best i knew how to engage. i got out of the car and immediately met four people i’d never met before, helped unload and unpack, and we toured the location once we got everything loaded up into the kitchen. i did the best i knew how.

friday night, as people started showing up and the dynamics multiplied, i started feeling a little better – i figured if i couldn’t go home, then maybe home would come to me. maybe i’d start to engage because it’s all about the people. a bunch of us talked late into the night, sat by a fire, played ping-pong, etc – had a good time. i went to bed around 1:45am, and had resolved to wake up at 5. i woke up at 5.

i woke up distracted and in a fog. i still didn’t feel right. i felt distracted, felt my head turned, felt disoriented. i didn’t understand. i guess maybe i still don’t. i went to the lodge, brewed the coffee (i fancied myself the Keeper of the Morning, Guardian of the Coffee For Those Who Awaken at the Wee Hours of the Day) and had time with God in the Bible and in my journal. i prayed/begged God that i’d be able to focus, be a little more attentive, that i wouldn’t make excuses for myself not to check out. i’d hoped that it was something spiritual, something i could pray for God to break, something i could fix with either prayer or cognitive-behavioural therapy.

i wrote a letter to my little brother, because he’s a worship leader, too – i wrote him (knowing i wouldn’t send it until i got back, because i couldn’t) about how i believe that God would be faithful to use me in my weird state and that sometimes the only songs we can bring are heart-broken ones, sometimes our hearts are malfunctional and let us down, but God doesn’t, and God cares about us showing up. i prayed at the end of the letter that it would encourage him one day when he’s leading worship and not feeling right.

i poured cup after cup of coffee, wrote a few more lines in my journal, stared listlessly ahead of me, waiting on God to talk, to say something that would make everything feel better.

skip ahead: He didn’t.

i spent Saturday in this half-funky state, thrilled to be around my friends, excited to lead worship, but, quite frankly, longing to be home. i like home.

Saturday was a fun day, we had a morning session with a great breakout group discussion, fun free time, played more ping-pong, we did a lot of good stuff that day. Saturday night rolled around, and i had the immense honor of leading worship, which was powerful and good, and i was more excited for that night than literally any time i’d led worship so far in my life, and God showed up and moved and spoke a lot to a lot of people, and man, my friends love Jesus and are good at singing, and it was unreal. i sweat more than any other time i’d led worship (perhaps there is a direct correlation between sweat level and excitement level?) we played all the songs we’d planned and then my good friend and co-leader Hannah popped a few more choruses and bridges out of her head and led us very well in even more worship. it was great.

but, guess what: i didn’t feel amazing yet. i got a lot of really kind compliments and i appreciated them a lot, but i still felt this funk, this half-hearted something-or-another, i couldn’t pin-point it, couldn’t identify it, didn’t want to admit that i just wanted to be at home.

see, i’ve always wanted to be the type of person who can jump from thing to thing. i’m not. i’m convinced of it now – i like buffer time, i like to be able to sit on my couch and breathe for a bit, i like for the schedule to be clear for a little bit so i can get my bearings.

saturday night, after worship, i grabbed my good friend Ben, a friend i consider a brick (see: bricks.) and i asked him to pray with me. i couldn’t shake this funk, and i wanted to. i told him i didn’t feel attentive or present. he told me i didn’t come off that way, that he thought i was doing a good job of engaging with people, and i thanked him, but then i realized something perhaps even worse than the reality of being in a funk: you can be in a funk and it doesn’t always look like that. on one hand, that’s a really good thing, because then you can still be yourself and engage with people, but on the other hand, it doesn’t feel like you’re being yourself, which is kind of the absolute worst. it means you’re not enjoying it as you go, it leaves you with this feeling that it could be so much better if you’d just get rid of the funk part.

i’ll skip ahead some more: this continued, uninterrupted, until i got home last night. really. i prayed and prayed and prayed some more and on Sunday morning (i slept in until 5:30 and dodged the bullet of anyone being up between 5-5:30, which, let’s be honest, was no one – because everyone was in bed at like 1am.) and at one point, i sensed God saying, “stop trying to talk. let your words be few.” you know, like that verse in Ecclesiastes? so i tried that. i tried being silent, i tried waiting for the word that God would say that would crush my funk and make me SuperChristian Jeff, shaking hands and laughing and being all “praise God!” but it never came. i was in a funk as i led worship Sunday morning, as we packed up, as we ate lunch, and as we drove home.

the first session on Saturday morning was about one part of a reflexive equation: that, according to Jesus, Love God = love yourself = love others, and you can interchange any parts of those because they are all important to being a functional, impactful, kingdom-bringing human. we can’t love one of two of those three options, they all matter. so, in the morning, he talked about loving ourselves. i’d heard about this idea a bit in the past, and knew that there was some weird stuff out there about self-love so i tread carefully, but listened and took in a lot of what he said. a big thing was self-care, which i appreciated. we went on about the day and it was around the time i got back to my house on Sunday night that i started to recall some more of what he’d said.

i felt so bad, so guilty, that i’d been in a funk. most people didn’t notice, but i confessed it to a close few, including one friend that i felt i’d treated especially differently than usual, and i really worried that i’d hurt them. i hated the thought that i could come home and suddenly be fine.

so, i took a walk and digested everything that had happened in the last week. i walked myself through the big parts of it, through what may have triggered this and that, and realized that i had had quite a week. i still don’t know if it needs to be an excuse or an explanation. because here’s the thing – i tried literally everything i knew to shake it off. i did what i felt the Lord prompted me to do, which is to ask for help, and had Ben pray for me on Saturday night. i felt better, but not entirely, not the way i’d hoped (i was hoping for a Spirit-filled crying session, cathartic and clarifying.)

maybe, just maybe, we’re human, i’m human. we have our comfort zones and nobody asked us to feel comfortable outside of our comfort zone, just to go. and i guess i did, and according to people, i did okay, and maybe that’s enough. maybe i can/should tell my ENFJ self that the F doesn’t always have to line up perfectly for life to be going in a good direction. maybe it’s not about emotional perfection – maybe it’s about obedience.

maybe i want to remove that maybe. maybe i’m attached to the word, though. here’s what i know: in this weekend, in this state i felt so bad about, i had multiple folks come up to me after worship and say thanks for a particular song choice, or for something the Holy Spirit had prompted me to say in/between a song; i had people write or say unbelievably encouraging things that i believe will steel and solidify my spirit in days to come; i was able to write notes to other men and invite them into further, deeper, better friendship, and i’m learning the reality of the line of one of the songs we sang this weekend:

i throw my weakness into Your greatness, this broken heart is all You want.