Seasons

Photo Credit: Kristen Bennett Marble

I live in the beautiful state of Oregon and I seriously can’t imagine living anywhere else.  Us Oregonians get to experience 4 beautiful seasons, each of them providing a different form of beauty.  Somehow, God’s set things on a timer and without fail, the seasonal changes happen every year, guaranteed!  Pretty cool.

On a similar note, you ever notice that life takes us through different seasons?  By “seasons” I mean that there are good times, rough times, growing times, boring times, exciting times….you know, seasons.  Guaranteed seasons.

Honestly, sometimes I think it would be super cool if life were just one big ‘ol season, exclusively filled with the good times and exciting times….maybe we could leave out the rough times, growing times and boring times since those can be hard.  Yeah, that would be ideal, wouldn’t it?!

OR WOULD IT?!?!?! (cue the dramatic music that provokes deep thought and profound mystery)

Just hear me out on this.  Sure, we all love it when life is going well, when everyone’s healthy and when ideas are flowing like nacho cheese out of a convenience store dispenser….yuuummmmm.

BUT HEAR ME OUT ON SOMETHING.

What if those rough times, boring times and growing times actually produced some good stuff?  Maybe, in order to fully appreciate the good times, we need to be refined through the tougher times, thus creating character and a better perspective.  Maybe a possibility?  I think so.

Alright, I’m taking this to a personal level here…..I’ve been going through a “growing” season for a little while now.  Well, maybe it’s more of a “growing/exciting” season filled with possibilities and introspection.  God has really been teaching me about my character and providing awesome “opportunities” to grow……suuurrre, opportunities…..hey, thanks for the humbling “opportunities” to grow God 😫(sarcasm much?)

This process sucks because it can be uncomfortable.  GROWTH IS ALWAYS UNCOMFORTABLE.  Kind of like putting on a new pair of shoes….you gotta wear them and stretch them before the fit is right, before they work effectively.

BUT IT’S WORTH IT!!!

Hopefully, at the end of the rainbow is a pot of character and other good stuff contributing to me being a better man…..contributing to you being a better you.

So what season are you going through right now?  Do you feel like a buoy at sea, being knocked around in every direction by life’s “waves?”  Are you in the middle of a painful season that’s maybe filled with disappointment, failure and/or loss?  Are you thriving, feeling God’s blessings at every turn?  Wherever you land, I know you’re experiencing some kind of season, I’m sure of it.    How am I so sure?  Well, you’re human  like me, that’s how I know.

Do me a huge favor, will ya?!  As your seasons change (and they will), try to embrace whatever season you’re going through.  Hold on, enjoy, take a deep breath and know that you are being molded into someone even more amazing and beautiful than you already are!  Truly!

God’s got you, whether you believe He’s real or not.  Shoot, you may think I’m feeding you a big, fat, juicy line of bull right now and that’s ok too.  You’ll just have to take my word for it I guess.

Enjoy the ride friends, life is beautiful!

God Bless,

Paul

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Dirty Toilet Paper Picker Upper

Man, what an enticing name for a blog post, eh?!  Before you click away in disgust, let me explain this little morsel of goodness.

I work for a trucking company and we have a shop connected to our building.  Inside that shop is the men’s restroom.  As you can imagine, this restroom has tons of “character” and really invites one to enter and stay a while (sarcasm anybody?)

For some weird reason, I feel the need to do something really gross….get ready….I feel the need to pick up pieces of toilet paper that have fallen on the ground.  I know, it’s a strange deal….maybe I should even label it as a “calling”….ok, maybe that’s too dramatic.  It’s just a weird thing that I feel led to do because, well, I’m an odd dude I guess!

In fact, my fellow employees don’t even know that I do this.  So, if you’re reading this post, you’re welcome 🙂

I’m not really sure where this inkling comes from, but I might have a few ideas.  Maybe it’s like a workplace-pride kind of thing, maybe it’s a OCD thing, I don’t know.  With the risk of over-spiritualizing, I would like to pose a simple question:  “Is it possible that God calls us (me) to do quirky, simple things (such as picking up TP) because He wants to humble us, to test us or to bless others?  I would say that the answer is a resounding YES to all!!!  Sure, picking up TP isn’t a groundbreaking sacrifice or an incredible motivator for someone else, BUT it’s a response to what I feel God is calling me to do….it’s kind of humbling really and I think it might even make the Big Man smile a little.

So what’s your thing?  What seemingly “mundane” or “not-so-profound” thing are you being called or urged to do?  Maybe it’s being an encourager, maybe it’s opening the door for someone, maybe it’s mowing your neighbor’s lawn, maybe it’s making a phone call or sending a text, maybe it’s picking up a dog turd on the sidewalk (with a bag of course, not your hands…that would be gross), maybe it’s just smiling at someone at the grocery store.  I could go on and on and on.  The truth is we’re all awesome and we have much to offer.

It’s funny how, when we actually follow (or obey) that Still Small Voice, our outlook often becomes brighter.  God knows that when we’re only thinking about ourselves, the well dries up pretty quick.  He also knows that when we actually listen for Him AND respond to whatever task He places in front of us, that others will be blessed, thus filling our own cups to overflowing.  It’s a beautiful, simple, difficult-as-heck process.

So go “pick up some toilet paper” today!  You don’t really have to, you can leave that up to me if you want.  Just do me a favor and be aware of opportunities to respond, no matter how small the task.  Don’t wait for the “big” opportunities to present themselves.  It’s amazing when they happen, but honestly, God just wants people with tuned ears to His purposes, no matter how big or small.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

Why Random Moments Are Freaking Awesome!!!

I’m a pretty structured, safe guy most of the time.  There’s comfort in repetition, I admit.  It’s a boring way to live without some balance though.

I do have a random, adventurous side to me also and I’ve been trying to tap into this part of me lately.  In fact, I had a great opportunity to exercise this part of me a little while ago.

My family took a quick trip to the coast a couple of months ago.  We just love breathing the crisp air and being present with the waves crashing so close.  The weather was perfect…low 60’s and basically no wind…pretty darn rare for the Oregon coast!  It was fantastic!

On our first evening in Seaside, we headed off on our usual walk downtown.  It’s a simple tradition that we love….strolling by all of the cool houses, peaking inside as the lights illuminate different families bustling about.  There’s also a little wall that follows alongside the main concrete path leading downtown (also called the prom) and it runs parallel to the ocean, which also doubles as a balance beam for all of us to navigate and wobble on…pretty fun.

It was a picture-perfect night.  The sky was oddly clear and the number of stars was staggering!  Neither my wife nor my boys had ever been down on the sand when it was dark, so I randomly decided to change that…I quickly veered off onto a side path that led to the beach, hoping that they would follow….fortunately they did!  My poor family tends to humor my craziness, which I appreciate!

As we cautiously headed down the dark, grassy, lightless path to the beach, only the moon and stars (and the flashlight on our phones ) guided our way.   All that could be heard was the comforting rumble of crashing waves.  The only thing that we could see was the white, rolling tide, patiently ebbing and flowing onto the sand with confidence and consistency.

So, instead of walking further, we planted our butts on the soft sand, laid down and observed the bright, God-confetti in the sky.  It was a humbling, intoxicating feeling to stare at the wonder of God’s universe.  The unlimited swath of stars almost made me dizzy and the twinkles…oh man, the twinkles….like the sky was going to swallow us up in all it’s majesty!  It was one of those rare moments where time slowed down and I felt amazingly alive…..and small.  Grateful.

Here’s the thing, if we would have continued on our normal walk, we would have missed that amazing experience.  Sure, we would have still enjoyed ourselves like always, but I believe God’s invitation into something beautiful would have been missed.  I’m glad we accepted it.

I’m learning that it’s ok to veer off life’s path here and there (in a random, responsible kind of way).  In fact, sometimes the best stories are made off of that safe, consistent path.

It’s so easy to become a robot, mindlessly doing the same things day after day.  Tunnel vision can be routine’s best friend sometimes, causing us to look straight ahead, all the while, beautiful things are happening all around us.

Don’t get me wrong, routine is great for some people BUT allowing God room to work amidst the anticipation and uncertainty of new things often reaps great rewards.

You see that straight, clean path in front of you?  I challenge you to choose a different route, veering off in a direction that gives your stomach butterflies.  Even if it’s something small…text that friend, take the scenic drive home, buy someone a coffee, stop and actually smell the roses, go downtown and hug a homeless person, go explore that new trail, order an IPA instead of a Porter, share Jesus with somebody….whatever it is for you, GO DO IT!

I’m slowly learning something important: adventure = a flavorful story.  Every.  Single.  Time.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

Was it Perfect Timing or Luck?!

The family and I went for a walk the other evening.  It was a beautiful, clear night accompanied by the random smells of blooming flowers itching for spring to arrive.

It had been a while since we’d strolled through our neighborhood streets…one of those simple things that we’ve always enjoyed doing as a family.

As we rounded the corner, conversation rambling, the dog sniffing and me just being content, we noticed the silhouette of someone sitting on the curb of their walkway up ahead.  As we got closer, we discovered that it was our 88-year-old friend Susie, sitting in the dark, bucket of yard debris next to her.  We approached timidly, telling her who we were.  It was pretty dark, so we didn’t want to startle her.  She looked up with a half-confused / half-relieved look on her face.  She had been out doing yard work for a while and ended up getting tired or dizzy, so she sat down at some point.  Apparently, she couldn’t get up from where she was sitting…no phone to call anybody and nobody else around.  It was so sad to see.

We’ve been friends with Susie for years.  She’s kind of like a grandma to us, so we offered to help her up and walk her to her front door.  We discovered that her door was locked, but luckily, she left her garage open, so we made our way in that direction.  My son, Ben dumped her yard debris for her and all was well.  After some chit-chat, we all had a big hugfest, said our “I love you’s” and Susie was safely in her house…thank the good Lord!

I can’t help but think about how long Susie would have been sitting outside if we hadn’t walked by!  What a helpless feeling that would have been!

Now, please don’t think this story is meant to praise my family for stopping to help…..I would hope that any decent person would have done the same thing.  This story is about God and His perfect timing.  It’s about how He intervenes in the most practical ways amidst the most practical things.  It’s about the beauty of how God brings people together.  It’s about God providing my family an opportunity to love someone with actions, not just words.  It’s about the privilege we had as parents to teach our sons how to help someone in need, even if it meant sending our plans on a little detour.

God’s pretty tricky and clever regarding setting up divine opportunities to love.  My guess is that each of us encounter set ups like this all the time, we just don’t always have eyes to notice them.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own stuff and I get it, there’s a lot of stuff to get wrapped up in!

What I’ve noticed is that when I actually pray for opportunities to love, I often find them…but only if I’m actively looking, trying to be aware of what He’s doing.  Other times, I’m fuzzy and clouded, wrapped up in my own mess.  These are the times where that magic invitation just floats on by, untouched and ignored.

The cool part is that for every invitation from God that we reject, He sends us more and more and more opportunities to love.  He’s patient, waiting for us to accept.  Sometimes His timing leads to an obvious situation such as what we experienced with Susie.  Other times, we have to step out in courage, trusting that He’s got this.

The truth is that He doesn’t need our help loving people…He’s pretty good at it!  I tell you what though, He really wants us to be a part of what He’s doing because His love is absolutely inspiring!  He’s gracious enough to let us be a part of His story!  Would you be willing to be a part of it?  I mean that…would YOU be willing to ask God for opportunities to love?  You’re special and I know you have a lot to offer this world.

Do it.  I dare you.

His timing is perfect.  Always.

God Bless,

Paul

 

Happiness vs. Joy

We are all pretty different, aren’t we?!  From culture, to appearance, to preferences, to upbringings, to pretty much everything…our world is a melting pot of differences and I’m so happy about that!  I think this world would be pretty boring if we were all the same.

Although we all differ in many ways, we’re humans and our basic necessities are pretty similar.

In my humble opinion, one of the biggest commonalities that we all hold is this:  WE ALL WANT TO BE HAPPY.  I think this is the driving force behind much of what we pursue in life.  Our culture uses this emotion to entice us, motivate us and sway us into purchasing or experiencing the “newest and greatest” things in life.  We’re suckers for happiness, what can I say!

Along with our pursuit of happiness comes the consuming fickleness that we all fall subject to regarding life’s ups and downs.  We often allow outside circumstances to control our moods and ultimately, our happiness.  Whether it be money or relationships or health or yoga or success or whatever, we yearn to experience the peace or contentment that these things can bring.

There’s an inescapable truth here though…..life happens and situations change…..sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.  When the worst happens, our happiness is often flushed down the toilet, leaving us staring at the wall, wondering how we’re going to survive…..how we’re going to get those good feelings back.

I would like to pose a simple question:  Is it possible that, although happiness is a GOOD thing, that maybe it’s not the BEST thing?

Let me suggest a solution to this ever-changing happiness dilemma:  JOY.

Initially, you may be thinking that happiness and joy are the same thing….I beg to differ.  To put it simply, happiness is based on the external, while joy relies on the internal.

Here’s a definition that I feel outlines the differences perfectly:  “Joy is more consistent and is cultivated internally. It comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are and how you are, whereas happiness tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events.” -Psychologies

As humans sharing this planet, we lack joy friends.  You know, that unshakable calmness resting in our hearts that refuses to be let down by the negative around us.  That mysterious peace that holds us upright when the winds blow.  That counter-cultural, inward sunshine that radiates amidst conflict and turbulence.  That kind of joy.

On a personal level, my joy comes from Jesus.  The hope and perspective that He brings assures my soul that things are going to be alright.  The peace and joy that He provides far outweighs any cheeseburger or new car or money or success or good beer or anything.  The joy’s deep and although it can be influenced during my weak times, it never leaves….like a red coal festering under a burnt log, it’s hiding, waiting in anticipation for me to fan the flame….or for Jesus to fan the flame, I guess.

While those reading this may not share my same faith, that’s totally ok!  I love you and I encourage you to discover your joy.  Find that solid assurance of who you are.  Dig deep past the “stuff” and search your heart for ways to simplify, be content and smell the roses….like real roses, not those fake, plastic roses that collect dust over time.

The truth is, none of us are perfect, but we’re beautiful, really.  God desires for us to live freely, peacefully, gracefully and JOYFULLY….don’t settle for good (happiness), grasp for the best (joy).

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

Tomorrow’s Going to be a BAD DAY!!!

My oldest son Ben and I drove to get a pizza the other night for dinner.  I always love those one-on-one opportunities to get caught up a little on his thoughts and perspective on life.

Sometimes, he’ll offer a little more confidential, heartfelt info. during these times, which is awesome.

Amidst our conversation about random things, I asked him if he was excited to go to school the next day.  I already knew the answer to this question, but I wanted to hear the full run down.  His answer was definitely a “no” regarding looking forward to school.  He proceeded to make a list regarding why he was going to have a bad day.  It went something like this:

  1. I have to wake up and go to school
  2. I have to take a reading test
  3. I have to go to the dentist to get my braces fixed

There may have been a couple more things, but you get the point.  Tomorrow was going to be a BAD DAY!!!!!

I found this to be a great opportunity to explain something to him about life, perspective and choices.  Before tomorrow had even begun, Ben had decided that the next day would be crappy.  I mean, his challenges were kind of legit.  Who wants to take tests and go to the dentist anyway????!!!!  I totally get it!

BUT, I encouraged him to make tomorrow a good day DESPITE the obstacles in his way.  That life isn’t all about what happens to us, but how we REACT to the ups and downs….something like that.  I think he listened, because he stopped repeating the list of drudgery that tomorrow held.

We all fall into the trap of setting the tone for tomorrow before tomorrow even starts, don’t we?!  It’s pretty easy to do and it takes mind muscles to force those prophetic thoughts out of the way.

The truth is, we often think we have tomorrow figured out, but in reality, we’re just lucky to wake up breathing.

Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow and he also reminds us that we have no idea what tomorrow will bring…..heck, we don’t even know what the next few minutes will bring!  He’s pretty smart and I think I’ll follow His lead on this one.

It’s wise to be mindful regarding the possibilities and challenges of the days ahead, it’s true.  The gritty part comes when we have to make the choice of embracing those challenges vs. dreading them.  We so quickly forget that we can have peace, even in the midst of the most mundane, difficult moments.  Plus, our fears of tomorrow rarely hold water….in other words, situations often turn out better than what we predicted.

As a quick follow-up, the next day, I asked Ben how his day went.  Specifically, I asked Ben if he “made it a great day.”  His answer was pretty funny and he didn’t skip a beat….he said: “Oh, I forgot.”  So, trying not to smile and patting his head, I asked him if the day wasn’t quite as bad as he was expecting it to be.  He did say that it was better than he expected, so we’ll go with that.  Hey, it’s a start at least!

So, go get it friends.  Go grab tomorrow by the…..well, you know what I mean.

God Bless,

Paul

 

My Homeless Friend, Karen

I went for a fantastic run Saturday morning.  It was a crisp fall day, my breath steaming in front of me, leaves aimlessly floating through the air and fog lifting above the river.  One of those inspiring kind of days where I was left in awe of God’s provision and thankful for the breath in my lungs.  I’ve always appreciated moments like those.

As I made my way down the usual path, I had a little conversation with God.  Lately, a common question that I’ve been asking Him is “what’s next?”  In other words, I ask Him how I can be a part of what He’s doing.  It’s kind of a scary prayer because maybe, just maybe, He will actually answer that prayer by opening up an opportunity to love on somebody in an unexpected way.  Well, literally 2 minutes after I prayed that prayer, the opportunity presented itself.

To back things up a little, months ago, I met a gal named Karen.  She was homeless and I had a very cool conversation and experience with her.  Long story short, we chatted a bit, I gave her the sweatshirt that I was wearing, but I wanted to give more, so I sprinted home to get my family in hopes of grabbing a few things to give to her.  We loaded up the car with supplies and drove back down to the river in search for Karen and we eventually found her, having the chance to give her some food and blankets.  That was basically the end of the transaction…until this last Saturday! (FYI, you can read Part 1 of this story HERE)

As I was huffing and puffing, jogging along the river, guess who I saw?!  Karen!!!!  I couldn’t believe it!  As I passed her, I knew I had to say something, so I offered a simple, “hey Karen!”  She kind of looked around, half disheveled and shocked, probably wondering who this weird guy was and how the heck did I know her name!

I ran past her about 500 feet and then I felt the nudge to go talk to her, so I headed back towards her direction.

As I approached Karen, I asked her if she remembered me.  At first, she didn’t recall who I was, until I started explaining the day I gave her my sweatshirt and my family meeting her down by the river with food and blankets.  She actually remembered us and said that she thought about us often!  So cool.

Nothing much had changed in her life.  She did get the radio that she was looking for…she said she wanted one so she could listen to that “Christian radio.”  I thought that was neat.

Karen had some cans to return to Safeway, so I walked with her to the store and we had a great conversation…although it was a little disheartening.  We talked about church and how she doesn’t feel accepted there.  We talked about how folks turn the other direction, not wanting to associate with her.  We talked about what tree she slept under and if she used a tent or a tarp…stuff like that.  I appreciated her letting me tag along.

I asked her if she had plans for Thanksgiving and she didn’t have any….that made me sad.  As we continued to talk, I felt led to give her my phone number.  I told her to give me a call on Thanksgiving day and I would put a plate of food together for her and run it down to the river, where she was staying.  I made Karen promise that she would give me a call and she agreed.  I really hope she calls.

Here’s the deal, this story isn’t really about Karen and this story really isn’t about me.  It’s about God engineering circumstances in a miraculous way, allowing His love to be shared.  Karen and I just happened to be a part of His story on November 18th, 2017.

Life is full of opportunities to be a part of something greater.  Sometimes God just needs a warm, willing body to work with…somebody to accept His invitations into something greater than ourselves.  I’m certainly not perfect and I have missed out on many of His invitations in my life, but I accepted His invite the other day and I’m grateful for that.

It would be really cool if I got a call from Karen, it really would.  But, whatever happens, I have a feeling that I’ll be seeing her again soon, whether she likes it or not! 😁

God Bless,

Paul