Neil - Changes and Growth

Growing and Discerning...After the Heart of God

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

90% of Life is Reacting to It

"10% of life is what happens to you; 90% of life is how we react to it. "

I heard this in a recent sermon my Chucky Chuck Swindoll, and it sounds so simple but it is true. Think about it - every decision we make in life is almost always the reaction of something that has happened around us. We are a reacting species - we react to what is around us. When we are small children, we don't have reflexes, because our neurosystems have not yet developed. As we get older, we learn to react to the environment around us - we cry when we're hungry, because we know we get food when we cry. We cry when we hurt ourselves, because we know our mommy will come make it all better. We put our hands in front of our face if somebody throws a ball at us.

We spend most of our lives reacting to things. Spirituality can be the same way. I keep writing about this idea of "training" our hearts and minds to do things for God - much like a neurosystem develops. How amazing would it be if we were trained to the point where Following the lord were as easy as our reflexes. Satan throws a wrench at us(temptation) - right now most of us sit there at study it, watch it get closer and closer, and sometimes let it hit us square on the nose, or block it with our hands at the last second. With the Holy Spirit as our guide, what if we just got out of the way? Doesn't that seem much easier? It would be so great to make such a move a natural way of avoiding temptation, wouldn't it? I was just thinking about those things.


The other night Laneyyy (My roommate) and I were talking about society today and how the breakdown in spirituality seems to be in the family. He talked about why, and I soon began to agree with him. What do we do now? As a society we take away quality time with our kids for technology and other things. Where do we eat dinner most of the time? in front of the TV. Instead of a mother teaching her daughter to do the dishes, and to be a good wife, and spend quality time with our kids, we show our kids how to put dishes in the dishwasher. We don't take our boys out back to show them how to chop wood to start a fire, we turn up the thermostat.

Him and I disagreed, though, that things were lost - we agreed that we weren't going to take our kids back to the primitive life, and shave using butcher knives and dig a well instead of having running water. I envision taking my kids to Baseball games(i'll have season tix of course, eventually the cubs in chicago hopefully, but I'll take the Pirates) - and spending time with them that way - just kicking back in the seats, feet up, (hot dogs and nachos galore in our hands of course), or taking them camping, and things such as this. Television does tend to break us away from these...not necessarily from the time we spend watching it, but by what is protrayed on TV. I have personally seen the Sarcasm play tenfold in my life, and I have to learn to control it. And yes...its weird coming from me...the man who loves television, and loves movies - in fact I may have seen as many or more movies than anybody my age.

I have also realized this - time with God matters. I prayed about something today...and I needed an immediate remedy to something that was on my heart...right before I was about to do something else...and without expecting it, it happened. Something VERY small, but I smiled and simply said "Thank you." - so even if you have 2 minutes and only 2 minutes to pray, use it. And give him the time he really wants later on.

The last picture is of PNC park, Pittsburgh. I've been to 10 Major league parks, and PNC is still the best - I went to 18 games there last season, and i was gone for 2 months on vacations!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

For all you valentine's day pessimists... a fun little quarky game. Check it out.

Valentine's Day and Saving $$

Ahhh...The big day...where couples can express their affection for each other, and those who aren't in relationships can show people that they care. First off - NO i don't have a valentine which may be why I'm writing this to begin with...but whatever. I for one, and this will be surprising to ANYBODY who knows me, am not a very big fan of Valentine's day. It is in the same category as New Year's Eve - it's a marketing Holiday. I don't thing Girl's get flattered even if they act it by getting things ON valentine's day - because they expect it. If you really want to show her you care, make November 4th Valentine's day. Or April 13th. Or August 26th. ANYDAY other than February 14th. It's a lose-lose from a guy's prospective. If you buy the girl things(when you're in a relationship) it is probably expected. And you are "off the hook." You can go above and beyond of course, which may pay off, but the problem is, how can you live up to that on her birthday? Or Christmas? You see my point. And if you don't do anything for her, you're obviously screwed. No doubt about it.

I am a sap, and you would not BELIEVE some of the things I have done for girls, so don't think I'm not willing to do things for people - I would put myself up there with all the classic romantics...I watch chickflicks all the time and own a copy of the complete works of William Shakespeare for crying out loud!

And yes, I am a single Christian man. In fact I am a single GODLY man, or at least I'm striving to be. And I'm happy. Sitting around my office today, seeing my co-workers plan out their evenings with the spouses, making reservations, picking out wine, definitely caught my attention. Of course I want that - but I don't have it, so I'm not gonna cry and mope about not having it. So when asked what I'm going to do this year for Valentine's Day - in the words of my roommate - I answer with a smile across my face:

"Well, I'm going to save a couple hundred bucks."

So, until I am able to take a girl out for Valentine's day, I'll spend my time showing my affection for God for some time this evening - and I'll enjoy that. For everybody else, good for you! I love seeing people doing things for each other - the same way I love seeing people allowing God to work through them. Valentine's day is about giving - we should be giving all the time, and not just to those we are in love with. So when I see all that love being swirled around, yes - its good to see.

I get lonely at times, and I'll probably get lonely sometime tonight. And I'll watch the "Date Night" movies on TBS and I'll be happy again. Man I'm a freaking woman i'm done talking. I'm a freakin' manly man. The cubs start soon! YEAA!! can't wait to watch a game of baseball and eat chili dogs and lift weights, (deep Voice, Home Improvement style) WA HA HA.

I wish for things at times - I think of the future at times. But I live in the present. This morning I prayed for today. Tomorrow I'll pray for tomorrow, and The next day I'll pray for that day. May I be open to doing the things I should be doing today - may I be open to doing the things I should be doing right now. May I do those things right now.

So before you become obsessed and mesmorized by "that special one"(and yes I want this too of course) read these song lyrics...and imagine God saying every one of these words to you. He wants us to need him. So need Him first. Pay attention to the last Stanza

"I want to be the face you see when you close your eyes
I want to be the touch you need every single night
I want to be your fantasyAnd be your reality
And everything between

I want you to need me
Like the air you breathe
I want you to feel me
In everything
I want you to see me
In your every dream
The way that I taste you feel you breathe you need you
I want you to need me
Like I need you
I want to be the eyes that look deep into your soul
I want to be the world to you
I just want it all
I want to be your deepest kiss
The answer to your every wish

I'm all you ever need
More than you could know
And I need you
To never never let me go
And I need to be deep inside your heart
I just want to be everywhere you are...."

- Celine Dion, I want you to need me

If we're not willing to be all of this to our creator, what makes us think we should or even can be any of these things to another human being?? We must first accept God's love, and make him our everything if we hope to love a wife the way we were meant to.

I'm going to write a love Letter this Valentine's Day - to God. Because I don't do it nearly enough. My whole life I used to just want to have a girl to have around, to tell I love, and to love me. And I still do...but I want something else more - I think we all do, if we look deep within ourselves...and I've found what that is.

[Picture is called "the eye of God"]

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Lamp at our Feet

In case you didn't know, if you know what the Pittsburgh Fellows program is(which I assume you do if you are reading this!) we were each paired up with a mentor at the beginning of the year. This past Friday I went over to my mentor's house. He(Ron Steele) and I sat down for dinner, in fact HE cooked pizza for myself, his wife and Toks, and we ate much like this nice japanese family in the Jap Pizza hut ad. After dinner, which was very good, the 2 of us sat down to chat while the girls went for their nightly 'walk.' Eventually we played a fun game called "Sequence," Which, of course, the men dominated...but before that...

Ron and I talked for a while about alot of good things, and I explained to him what was going on with my work, with my walk, and what I was thinking for the future. Ron is a very smart guy so it was good to hear his views on many of the things we talked about. I found myself talking alot about what I was thinking about doing next year, what I thought I would be doing, or want to do, or think I should be doing. Ron let me talk, then after I was finished he looked at me and simply asked:

"Have you thought that it might not be about what you want?"

I sat there for a second in silence, kind of cracked a smile, the way a child does after doing something he knows is wrong, and said back to him, "You're absolutely right." I began asking him all types of questions, such as what I should pray for, what he prays for, etc., and we eventually got a Bible out and began reading through some passages, and before we knew it an hour or so had went by. We ended up looking mainly at Proverbs and Psalms, and Ron pointed to one verse in particular - Psalm 119:105(the most numbers possible in a verse!), which says:

"Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path."

I had been asking Ron if I was praying for the right thing - because I find myself saying all the time, "Help me find what it is You want me to do with my life...Help me find your will," and I haven't necessarily become discouraged, but I definitely sometimes feel that I am praying for too much, or the wrong thing, etc., because I didn't feel I was making any progress. Then I read this verse. It makes much sense - and it is not taken out of contents...this is one of the "anonymous" psalms, and this particular verse is from the one entitled "Nun." God gives us his Word for a reason, so that we may better understand what it is He wants for our lives. Here it is written that the word is "A lamp to my feet, and a light for my path." The Message translates this verse as:

"By your words I can see where I'm going;
they throw a beam of light on my dark path."

We must look at the Word as a way of lighting the path, and not necessarily the end. Sort of like a flashlight aimed just in frong of our feet. God doesn't reveal to us where we're going to be in a year, 10 years, 50 years. He lights the path at our feet, so that we may be able to see the next turn in our path, or the next bump in our road. We must use this light as much as possible, and the more intimate we become involved in a relationship with him, the more effective that light will be. The second we turn that light off again in our lives, we are immediately left back in the dark, walking aimlessly towards goals and destinations that are not knowable, and not reachable.

Lots of us, well people my age at least, are at a time in our lives in which we are looking for discernment as to what our calling is. Would I like to know what mine is? Absolutely! It would make things MUCH easier for me, as far as deciding where I'll be and what I'll be doing five years from now, or even next year. But it would be no fun! How boring would the next five years be?? I LOVE that God gives us just a little taste of what is to come, because it makes every day we live exciting. If I am using him as a lamp, I'll never lose my way. I may not no exactly the path He is taking me on, but I know where I'm going to end up in the end, and I embrace the journey He will take me on serving as my lamp.

As far as my career and my calling? I'm 23 years old. If I'm selling newspapers next year, if I'm working where I am now, if I'm living in Kansas City or some place other than Pittsburgh, I'm fine with that, if it is where the lamp leads me. I'm 23 - I have plenty of time to figure out what God wants in my life. I could be doing 4 different things over the next few years, and making no money - or I could find out in 3 months God wants me to be something else. Either way I'm gonna love it and I'm going to do my best at it. Because I know were I'm headed in the end, and He knows where I'm headed in the near I am content.

In the mean time I'll keep trying to "bribe" him through prayer to let me know what it is He wants for me.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Next Step

When I think about the things I've made commitments to in my life, whether it be people, sports, or God, there are two questions that always have had the same answer, no matter what stage it is in the relationship:

1) Do I have a long way to go in this commitment?


2) Is there any limit to the amount of growth?

Absolutely not.

When I played soccer, well, when I played soccer ALOT, the off-season was always the hardest time - because there was little reward in the near future, as I was preparing for a season that could have been up to 8 months away. It was hard to stay motivated. And after a good season, or a good game, I had the tendency to think "How much more work will I have to do to get to the next level?" And in fact, I think there was a point in my running that I stopped pushing harder, stopped going further - and it showed. I reached a plateau, and by the time my Jr/Sr year rolled around I think I reached my peak, because I wasn't willing to do what was necessary to get to that next level, which is why I decided give competitive soccer up after college. And is also why I gained 15 pounds that winter - I just didn't freaking care anymore! =)

Friendships are like that too. There are certain friends(known to me as "friends for the road") that you may meet in college, or at work, or anywhere really, that just don't really stick. You may hang out all the time for a few months, or even a year or two (college)That never really connect with you past going out to the movies, or going to the town, or eating in the cafeteria, etc. Most people see friends from High school as that, Some people see friends from College as that. For me, It was college. Now I do have 4-5 friends from college that I stay close with, and I love them to death, and we may get to that next level, and probably willbut I haven't connected with them in the same ways I've connected with the people from my home, the great state of Kansas. The fact that there are 5 people from Kansas that I can pick up the phone and have an hour conversation(in fact I usually do with each of them once a week at least) and talk about absolutely nothing - I love that. Maybe its because I transferred schools, maybe its because that's when I did the most growth and we relate better, I don't know...but I havent lived in the same town with any of them for the past 4 years, and you would never know it. I'm going back to see 3 of them in a month, and the other two I spent time with over Christmas break(they don't live in Kansas anymore). It's not hard to talk to people that live around you, that you see alot, that you have physical encounters with - but when you are able to stay close to people simply by talking, and are still able to grow with each other, and learn more about each other, that is amazing.

The reason I relate friendships is because these relationships I have with these people brings us back to "taking it to the next step." With some people, you can't take it to the next step - which is fine - if we could take it to the next step with anyone, friendships wouldn't really mean anything - and I'd be married to Rachel McAdams, or Kate Bosworth, or...Okay I won't go there. But I'd trick either of them into getting to that next step. I'm a smooth talker. It's like in the great American Pie trilogy, when the one guy holds up, in every movie, and says: "To the next step!"(And, naturally of course, his friends make fun of him, as they should) - I love the next step, but im not about to be "that guy" and toast to it! These few people mean so much to me and I will never be able to explain or let them know how much of an impact on my life they have had - but I'll try.

But what about faith? Is it possible to reach plateaus in our faith? Is there a point where we "can't take it to the next step?"


Back to answering those 2 questions - Is there more work to do?


Is there a limit to the amount of work that can be done?

Absolutely not.

Even for a non-believer, think of the question, "Can I become a better person, or can a make an impact in this world," the questions can still be asked, and should be answered the same. We are in an athletic battle. We have to train, aiming for a prize that rewards us in times that we may not expect. We are in a friendship with a greater being, with God, with Jesus. We need to continually take it to the next level - its a "Stairway to Heaven" as Led Zeppelin put it - an endless staircase that always requires us to go to the next step - and not matter what, there is always a way to the next step. With our friendships, there may not be. But with God, there is.

What is our immediate reward? In Phillipians 4, Paul writes:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. "

Note the line I italicized. I'll say it again: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding. What does this mean? We are given a gift - a peace. A peace that we can't explain. A peace when I lay my head down at night that I will be taken care of when I wake up in the morning. A peace that when a parent dies they will be taken to heaven. A peace that I know if I wait and have faith in God, that I will find my calling and will have all my needs met. And indescribable peace. A peace that can be felt, and seen, but not explained.

So I'm going to always do whatever I have to do to get to the next step - in everything I do. I'll put my whole heart into it - and if I am not, I'll pray to find out what I need to be doing to get there. And in the mean time, I'll embrace Grace, as always, and live in this peace that is described in Phillipians 4. This last line is the same verse, from The Message translation:

"Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."

Let us all find what it means to have God displace our worry, and feel comforted.