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

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

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

 

Why Marriage Isn’t Just About Feelings

My wife and I just had our 14 year anniversary and I seriously can’t believe time has flown by the way that it has!

I mean seriously, we were just in high school, standing by the lockers while she felt my “swollen” muscles from weight class!  We were just sitting on that couch watching MTV videos while it snowed outside, eventually leading to me getting snowed-in at her house for the night!  We were just watching Titanic, me trying not to cry like a baby while she’s buying a lady a new bag of popcorn that had been kicked over by some punk kids!  Heck, we were just standing at the altar with butterflies in our stomachs, wondering how this “fairy tale” of a marriage would go!  It’s been a journey, full of turns, hills and off-road adventures.  It’s been perfectly imperfect and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Like any marriage, we’ve had our share of struggles.  I’ll spare you the details, but many of the arguments and slug fests have come from our differences, from our imperfections and from our pride.  Many times, feelings of love and affection just weren’t there.  In fact, we still encounter moments like that…I think we all do, no matter what kind of relationship we find ourselves in.

The issue with our culture is that we often view these “lack of good feelings” moments as abnormal or unhealthy.  Our instincts then tell us to run from the conflict in search of a recharge or a “solution” to fill the void….sometimes in a pretty unhealthy way.  We’re all guilty of it in one form or another.

The truth is that we’re all gluttons for good feelings, especially when it comes to marriage.  Maybe we just need to change our focus a bit from the importance of feelings to the importance of commitment.

Don’t get me wrong here…having periods in life where the good feelings flow is totally awesome!  We should all strive for moments of peace, joy and inspiration, especially within our marriages!  The issue is that a prolonged or permanent time in this good feeling-filled-blissful-state is unrealistic.  The mundane feelings that come with the day-to-day stuff can tend to dull life a bit and that’s totally NORMAL!!!

In reality, those calm waters will get hit with some wind, causing that boat to start rockin’ and often, we jump overboard and head for the shoreline vs. riding out the storm together.  We think that shoreline will provide peace and serenity when in reality, the same wind that was knocking your boat around is still blowing, just in a different spot and in a different way.  The grass isn’t always greener, in other words.

Marriage can be one of the most rewarding things in life and it can also be one of the most frustrating, challenging things in life.  How we view conflict and how we view each other amidst the conflict is so key to moving past the tough times.  It really does take effort though…daily, tough, roll up your sleeves effort.

I’m not a pro at marriage by any means and my list of mess ups is super long, but I know that every second of frustration and struggle has led to the beautiful, messy, perfectly imperfect union that my wife and I have today.  The credit goes to God and God alone.

Fight on friends, be the seasoning when things are bland, be the grace and peace when waters are choppy, be the comedy when things go haywire…just “be” and commit.

Feelings will come and go, but that person with morning breath each day is there to stay…wait, maybe not the most glamorous of endings…well, you get the point 😜.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

My 1st Pair of Jordan’s

As a kid, I loved shoes…I cherished them actually.  I’m really not sure why, but I did….they still remain a guilty pleasure, I admit 🙂

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so I never really had the good brands like Nike or Reebok.  I made due with LA Gear’s, Nucleus (an off brand from Fred Meyer or something) and other random shoes.  Regardless of the brand, I made sure they were always clean and looking fresh.

I finally bought my 1st pair of Nike’s with my own money around my Jr. High years.  It was a pretty big deal.  I remember sitting on the couch just holding them, staring at the neon green and purple detail, studying the Nike logo as if it was my passageway to “cool kid world.”

Although the Nike’s were cool, there was always “THE SHOE” that was unattainable to me…the shoe that only the rich kids wore…the shoe that offered only the most elite of status…AIR JORDANS!  Never, ever did I consider owning a pair of these.  In fact, even until recently, I had never considered this an option.  I’m a working adult who can afford a dang pair of nice shoes, but the thought stayed in my brain from childhood.  Funny how that works.

Well, several weeks ago, my dream came true.  I received my 1st pair of Jordan’s!!!!!  I know, it sounds silly to call it a “dream,” but there was a lot of significance to the moment that those beautiful shoes touched my hands.

First off, I didn’t purchase them myself, they were a gift from a very generous, thoughtful person (thanks Ray!).  We had a conversation in passing and before I knew it, I’m receiving a text saying that the shoes are in the mail!  I can’t imagine a more fantastic, humbling way to receive my first pair of Jordan’s.  Grateful for that.

Secondly, I learned something about myself through this shoe transaction.  Early in life, I had a limitation regarding buying this specific shoe due to a lack of money.  As I grew older, those limitations went away and I could afford the shoes, but internally, my perspective didn’t change.  The possibility of me buying those shoes never crossed my mind, even though I could afford them.  I find this to run pretty parallel with life…with my life.

You see, as a kid, I limited myself in many different ways.  I didn’t have much confidence and I was always worried about silly stuff.  There were dreams and possibilities out there that I didn’t even consider pursuing because, well, I was convinced that I “wasn’t good enough” or I “wasn’t smart enough” or I “wasn’t somebody who could achieve great things.”  The thoughts were totally illogical and I completely understand that now.  But those thoughts consumed me like fire or violent ocean waves or a super spicy burrito…yeah, more like a spicy burrito.  That line of thinking is hard to correct, but it CAN be corrected with intentionality and patience.

Only by God’s grace have I begun to change my patterns and perspective.  It’s taken a daily effort and a constant leaning into His grace.  This imperfect soul still tries to fall back into that old broken-in leather chair filled with self pity, defeat and old ways of thinking.  I prefer to keep looking forward though…it’s the only exciting place to look!

So friends, I urge you and I plead with you, DON’T LET YOUR PAST PATTERNS OF THINKING LIMIT YOUR PRESENT AND FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES! 

We are our own worst critics, it’s true.  So, I encourage you to find your own personal “Air Jordan” story.  Where have you been limiting yourself due to the past and what box do you need to climb out of to see God’s huge plan for your life?

On a side note, maybe I’ll be able to dunk now that I have a pair of Jordan’s…ooorrr maybe not 😉

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

Calling God “Bro”

The other morning, I was driving to work, observing the HUGE harvest moon in the sky and thanking God for my life.  My truck has always been my sanctuary…a safe place to vent, sing, laugh and pray to God out loud.  Yep, I’m that guy driving down the road looking all schizophrenic and goofy.  Gotta love it.

As I was chatting with God, something funny happened…I suddenly said something like, “I love you Bro!”  I caught myself and said out loud, “sorry God, I didn’t mean to call you Bro!”  Then I said, “wait, you ARE my bro AND my dad AND my friend AND my God!”  The truth is, He’s everything to me, so how I addressed Him was super fitting and I’m pretty sure He was cool with that.

Sometimes, it almost seems irreverent to address or approach God in a casual way, doesn’t it?!  Almost like He won’t converse with us if we don’t start the conversation with “Dear Lord of the universe” or “Dear God” or “Thou Father who art in heaven.”  I think that’s where we’ve got it wrong.

Please don’t misunderstand me…approaching God in a “formal” way is totally ok and I’m sure He respects that too.  I just think people make communication with our Savior too intimidating and too planned.

Here’s the thing, God ALREADY knows our hearts and intentions before we approach Him.  Because of this, I really believe that He wants us to chat with Him like a buddy, like somebody we can trust, like a dad.  He wants relationship and hates those stupid hoops that we so enjoy jumping through.  Seriously.

As a dad, I would hate it if my sons approached me formally all the time…talking to me like, “Dear father, I would like to discuss an issue pertaining to our relationship.”  I would so much rather they approach me like, “Hey dad, we need to talk because I’m super frustrated and mad right now!”  Now that’s genuine, truthful conversation and I think God wants us to approach him with the same honesty and candidness.  It’s a beautiful thing really.

So next time you’re praying, or soaking in His presence, I challenge you to just relax.  I challenge you to not worry about the “appropriate” way, time and place to talk to God.  I challenge you to unload your frustrations and fears on Him with abandon and truthfulness.  I’m pretty confident that he can handle anything that we toss His way!  He loves you, truly!

God Bless,

Paul