What I’m Praying For

Hey friends, I just wanted to share a prayer with you that’s been on my heart lately.

It’s apparent, more than ever that there are a lot of problems going on in the world….in our own country.  The divisiveness is deep and love seems conditional at best.  Human nature is running it’s course, rearing it’s ugly head in the form of racism, hate, hostility, selfishness, pride…the list goes on and on.

In light of all of this, my prayer is for a revival to happen….revival in our communities, revival in our families, revival in our country and revival around the world.

That the hearts of those who trust Jesus would be emboldened to share the truth IN LOVE, NOT JUDGEMENT OR CONDEMNATION! 

That good, solid, life-changing conviction would guide us, stir us and awaken our souls to our own conditions and to the folks around us.

That BECAUSE of our hope in Jesus, our hearts would sloppily and unceasingly overflow with love, generosity and grace onto all those around us.

That our eyes and actions would be so beaming with love, bringing up Jesus isn’t even necessary….just His radiation of love through our actions would be enough to touch lives.

That folks who have condemned Jesus as false, would yearn to know Him as truth.

That stomachs would churn, restlessness would occur and the uneasy prodding of “maybe there’s something more” would infiltrate souls, minds and hearts…..leading to the discovery of truth, freedom, hope and peace that is only found in Jesus and His grace.

That those who wish evil on others would be brought to their knees, seek forgiveness and find the God who loves them.

The truth is that when things are dark, light shines even brighter.  May God light our lamps, strengthen our bones and embolden our spirits as we slog through the stinky, murky, slimy reality of evilness so prevalent in this world.

May our bland lives pop with flavor and may the God who created us all direct our steps.  Most of all, may we have the courage to follow His steps, which always lead to life and jaw-dropping change.  May we be the change that this world needs friends!

God Bless,

Paul

 

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Life Without Love = Meaningless

As I’ve grown older and reached the ripe age of 37, I’ve come to realize something:  LIFE ISN’T ABOUT WHAT WE DO, IT’S ABOUT HOW WELL WE LOVE.

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT)

This verse is huge for me.  It’s a great reminder of how much God values love and how he could give a rip about what we do if love isn’t the motivator or result.

You could be the most devout church goer in town, but if you treat others like crap Mon.-Sat., you’re pretty much wasting your time.  You could be the CEO of a huge corporation and rake in the cash, but if you’re a cheat and unfair, you’re pretty much wasting your time.  You could be super generous, devoting your time to volunteer, but if you’re not loving to others, you’re pretty much wasting your time.  You see, God isn’t interested in the same stuff that we’re interested in.  The trophies and status symbols that our culture values are garbage to him.  He’s interested in eternity.  He’s interested in life change.  He’s interested in our character.  He’s interested in us being light when all else is dark around us.  He’s interested in stuff that will last, not stuff that is temporary.

God has given us relationships such as family, neighbors, enemies and difficult people for a reason…..to learn what love is….what HIS love is.  I’ve come to grips with the fact that I will never fully understand the extent of God’s love or Jesus’s sacrifice.  I will never fully understand the grace given to me daily, when I totally don’t deserve it.  I DO understand one thing though….I’m grateful for it and BECAUSE I’m grateful for it, my natural desire is to SHARE it with others.  I want others to experience the same love that I’ve received.  I want folks to feel the rush of loving others because amidst that sharing of love, God is there, waiting with a glowing smile and a big ‘ol bag of life change with our name on it.  That’s the good stuff right there.

You know what though?  We don’t HAVE to love at all.  We are given the choice to be selfish or to be selfless because that’s what love is all about….choice.  Friends, I sure hope you CHOOSE love, you CHOOSE Jesus, you CHOOSE that solid peace that goes beyond all understanding.

At my funeral, I don’t want people to talk about how nice my yard was or what kind of car I drove or how many hours at the office I put in per week…..I want them to talk about how I loved.  I want them to talk about how I cared.  I want them to talk about my role as a husband and as a father and how I took that honor seriously.  I want them to talk about Jesus and how He reflected Himself through me, even it was just a little bit.

Here’s the thing, love can be intoxicating to receive and terrifying to give at times, I get it.  There’s risk involved, it’s true.  God wants us to love anyways because maybe, just maybe, your smile or handshake or good gesture could alter the path of someone’s life.  I think that’s definitely worth the risk, don’t you?  Go get ’em!

God Bless,

Paul

Well, It Happened….

My oldest son, Ben is 9, going on 14.  He’s growing up really fast, too fast actually.  The little things that we’ve always done are changing a bit as he grows older.  Good, normal changes, but changes nonetheless.

A few weeks ago, we were walking into church together and I went to grab his hand out of habit.  He politely held my hand briefly and then let go suddenly.  I asked him if he was embarrassed to hold my hand and he answered with a sheepish “kind of.”  I told him I understood, but inside, I knew that this was just the beginning of Ben’s different stages of independence.

For me, it’s a mixed bag of gratefulness and sadness.  I’m grateful that he’s confident enough to be his own person, not needing as much comfort or affection as when he was younger.  I’m sad because this is the end of a chapter.  My little-big boy requires a new kind of affection…..big kid affection consisting of fist bumps and “atta boys” vs. hand holding and other lovey dovey stuff.  Again, I’m glad that he’s growing up, but I was quickly reminded of how fast his childhood is flying by!

As parents, there is always the temptation to look ahead all the time, anticipating our kiddo’s future  or “next steps” while losing grip of the present.  We’ve all been there and while it’s normal, it can be distracting from all the good stuff going on right now.  Let’s not miss the good stuff friends.

In September, Ben will be 10 years old with 2 years left of elementary school.  Wow.  It’s hard to stomach that reality, it really is.  As a dad, the macho thing to do would be to beat my chest and say “that’s just life…only 8+ years until he’s 18 and out of the house!”  That’s not me though.  Instead, I find myself being sappy, sentimental and proud of the young man he’s becoming….feeling torn between wanting to freeze time and the desire to see him grow up to succeed in this world.

Being a parent hurts so good, it really does.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Love The Scab On My Forehead

This last weekend, my family took a trip to Kennewick, WA to visit some family.  We always enjoy packing up the family and taking a little road trip now and again.

My boys were most excited to stay in the hotel…..mainly because of the pool and breakfast.  They also look forward to the extra candy, video game time and soda at restaurants (I know, we’re pretty horrible parents)…I don’t blame them, that’s exciting stuff man!

After we finally arrived to the hotel, stretched our legs and headed up to our room, it was time to hit the water baby!  We threw on our trunks, anticipating some good fun!

After splashing around a little, things started to get serious.  Our Ninja Turtle inner tube suddenly became a Frisbee and my oldest looked like a shot put, being tossed through the air, landing with a dramatic splash and tons of “do it again dad!” pleas.  That’s fun stuff right there!

Next, it was dad’s turn to show off.  I decided to show Ben my under water back flip skills…..funny because it’s not even an awesome trick, ha!  So, I proceeded to flip around in 3ish feet of water and SMACK!, I hit my head on the bottom of the pool.  It actually was my forehead and part of my nose that took the brunt of my stupidity.  The “oh man, that’s gonna leave a mark” thought came to mind as I came to the surface.  “Hey Ben, do I have a red mark on my forehead?”  “Haha, yeah dad and it’s bleeding too!”  Thanks for the sympathy son.

So there you go, I had to attend a graduation party with a face that looked as though it got beat with a bar stool.  Awesome!

Really though, I don’t mind the little war scars created by having fun with my boys.  Here’s my point:  I would rather have a tooth knocked out or arm broken or eye blackened or forehead scraped vs. missing out on memories, sitting on the sidelines while my boys quickly become men.  Although I’m a scabby guy now, I look in the mirror and don’t see a scab on my face (ok, I guess I do, it’s hard to miss), I see a fun time and good laughs had by all.  That’s what life’s all about!  That’s what being a dad is all about!

So, bring on the scabs, scars or whatever!  I look forward to many more over the years…..hopefully small scars though, I’m getting old.

God Bless,

Paul

 

Dad Fail

A couple of weeks ago, my oldest son had a soccer game.  I’ve always loved watching him run around on the field, giving it full effort, working with his teammates, going for it.  To be honest, this last game didn’t really represent these things.  He wasn’t playing to his full potential and I could tell he was being timid out there.  As a dad, my competitive juices start flowing and I admit, it’s hard to be super positive after a game like that.

As we were walking back to the car, we recapped the game.  We talked about the challenges, set backs and some positive stuff as well.  I told him that he did great and that I was proud of him for getting out there and playing.  Then the dad-fail came….immediately after the compliment, I mentioned that he seemed a little tired, maybe intimidated and that he didn’t really seem to play like the kid I know.  Stupid mistake.

Soon after we got home, my son called me out.  With frustration in his voice, he told me that I had really discouraged him.  That I told him I was proud of him one second and then immediately went to something negative, deflating any encouragement given.  You know what, he was right, I messed up.

Sure, it’s ok to offer constructive criticism to our children, but at the proper time.  My timing was bad and I apologized.

What a great lesson for me to learn as a dad.  Sometimes, kids don’t need us to fix them or offer them advice.  Sometimes, they just  simply want to know that we’re proud of them.

God Bless,

Paul

Memories and Onions

A few days ago, my mom gave me a large stack of papers.  She had been cleaning out some closets in the house and came across a variety things from my past.  Things like report cards, notes, artwork, stories and other stuff like that.  I brought it home and spent some time soaking in my past and reviewing who I was and who I am now.  It was a pretty revealing time for me.

Something that I’ve realized as I grow older is that my memory sucks.  I remember some random, weird details about my past, but there are a lot of blank and fuzzy spaces left to be explored.  I tend to focus on the here and now, forgetting that I was once a little boy who was learning about life, navigating heartbreak, absorbing harassment from bullies and attempting to avoid the pain of my parent’s divorce.  I forget that the concrete pad and basketball hoop in my driveway acted as a safe counselor, providing a consistent outlet to release my emotions and imagine a successful future.  I forget about the great times spent with friends, the loving sacrifices of my single mom and my enthusiastic, always-cheering dad at basketball games.  I need to be intentional about remembering stuff like this because these experiences have added to the story of who I am.

To put it simply, I’m like an onion.  Onions are a common metaphor used for illustrating the complexity of our personalities and rightly so!  As you look at an onion, you basically just see the outer skin and it’s round shape.  Once you peel back the skin and slice it in half, you notice the many layers hidden inside.  Piece by piece, you can peel that vegetable down, eventually revealing it’s core.  My memory works like that.  I operate as a whole onion most of the time, forgetting that I have layers and depth and experiences that have molded me into the “onion” that I am!  It’s beautiful really.

Sure, not all of the layers hold awesome memories…in fact, some of them are quite depressing.  I found crappy report cards with “needs improvement” plastered all over them and “I’ll be sure to tell Ryan not to pick on Paul anymore” notes from school administrators…I also found drawings and cards negatively written by a sad, angry boy…..me.

There were many positive things too, like encouraging letters from my mom and redeeming “Paul is making great improvements” notes from teachers and other things that represented my growth and ability to change.  Man, God sure had His wide, heavy, protective, loving hands on my life.  He still does.  I’m Grateful for that.

We all have a story friends.  We all have fond memories mixed with not-so-fond memories.  We all are human, imperfectly stumbling our way through life, doing our best.  Let’s not be so hard on ourselves, on our past lives, on our times of “falling short.”

There’s something to be said for facing our own selves head on.  To frame the picture of our lives and proudly display it for all to see.  We are each a unique painting, colors creatively, chaotically, yet purposefully splatted on a canvas.  We’re not meant to be hidden or subdued or ashamedly slid under the bed….we’re meant to shine, mixing our colors with those around us.  I need to work on this more.

You see, I believe many of the memories that I’ve forgotten have been intentionally buried deep to avoid pain, not lost forever…maybe they’re resting on God’s lap…or sitting in a jar on His nightstand and He’s sitting there with a big fatherly smile, handing them back to me as He knows I can handle them….as He knows others can handle them….yeah, I’ll go with that.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

My Favorite Place On Earth

img_6064The beach is my favorite place in the world.  Not a tropical, warm beach, but the cold, damp, salty Oregon Beach.  Where the morning mist soaks, freezing water numbs and the weather changes faster than, than, well it just changes fast.  It’s a beautiful place full of charm, grit and beauty.  I could live there, truly.

I’ve asked myself many times why I love the beach so much and I think I’ve found the answer:  God seems to show up there for me.  I know He’s everywhere, whether I’m at the beach or not, but I notice Him there more.  With every crashing wave, every seagull chirp, every footprint in the sand, every whiff of ocean air, every seashell found, I’m reminded of God’s power, creativeness and attention to detail.

Folks always seem to be nice and relaxed there also.  It’s a great place to people watch.  Dogs are roaming the wide open space, families are creating memories and kids are getting sand everywhere….it’s beautiful.

I think we all need find a spot like this…somewhere to unwind and disconnect a bit.  The pace of our daily lives can be hard to maintain at times….endless shuffling and texting and calling and travelling and organizing and committing and helping and serving and…..stressing.  Taking time to refocus on what matter helps us be better people.  Period.

All of our “places” of rest are different.  For some it’s the mountains, while others prefer Disneyland or camping or a tropical island or a coffee shop or their own bedroom.  It doesn’t matter, just find it and hit the life-pause-button from time to time.  You’ll be glad you did.

What’s your favorite place to find solitude or rest?

God Bless,

Paul