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

 

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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

 

 

 

How Us Parents are Hypocrites and Why it’s Ok!

The other night, I walked by my oldest son’s school and the playground that has provided so many memories for our family.  Nostalgia always creeps in about the experiences we’ve shared and how rapidly the future is approaching.  I’m a sap like that.

I started thinking about my boys and comparing their childhood to mine….what things I want to steer them TOWARDS and what things I want to steer them FROM.  As parents, I think it’s safe to say that we always want to protect our kiddos and provide them with a great childhood, far better than our own.  It’s a great goal to have.

Often, in pursuit of a great life for our kids, we provide boundaries, rules and discipline, hoping that these things point them in the right direction.  The “do this” and “don’t do that” list is long and boy, do we get frustrated at those little boogers when they goof up sometimes.  There is some comedy to the progression of life….us kids (you and me) becoming parents….shaking our heads as we enforce and guide our own children.  Here’s a simple truth:  AS PARENTS, WE’RE A BUNCH OF HYPOCRITES!  It’s true and you know what, it’s ok.  Let me explain.

A partial definition of hypocrisy is:  “The behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do.”  (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).  While this definition is in the present tense, you could also tweak the sentence to say; “The behavior of people who HAVE DONE things (us parents) that they tell other people not to do (our kids).” 

We definitely all fall into this finger-pointing, “I can do it, but you can’t” category at some point, don’t we?!  It’s just one of those pesky flaws that we possess as humans.  Being a parent really highlights this whole double standard thing.  I mean really, when was the last time we sternly told our kids to stop whining, or to share, or to have a better attitude about school or to clean their room or to talk nice about others….the list goes on and on.  We’ve all been there, sternly enforcing the same things over and over and over and over and over again it seems!  It’s easy to forget that we were young once, disobeying our parents, hitting our siblings, pulling some random kid’s hair out of their head (ok, maybe that was just me), crying on airplanes or in grocery stores, receiving glaring stares from old people and other judging parents.  Now we’re the old folks, glaring at those punk kids…how dare they do those things!  🙂

The positive note to this whole parental hypocrisy thing is this: ALTHOUGH WE’VE DONE SOME STUPID THINGS AS KIDS, OUR LIFE EXPERIENCES HAVE EQUIPPED US WITH THE KNOWLEDGE TO PROTECT AND TEACH OUR OWN CHILDREN.

This has gone on for generations and although hypocrisy is not a great character trait in most cases, it’s played a big role in successful parenting for centuries.

So, before we get pissed at the crying kid on the airplane (super annoying, right?), let’s remember that we were once that crying kid, causing a scene.  Those rug rats will someday grow up to be parents, full of hypocrisy, just like us, getting mad at their kids for the same things that they used to do as children!  God must be so proud, ha!

Happy parenting! 😉

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

Having a Bad Day? Do This!

Man, have you ever had one of those crappy days where things just don’t go well?  Imagine something with me for a second…you start off the day with a cold shower due to a broken water heater…you somehow find a way to burn your toast and spill your coffee at the exact same time…you stare at the bumper in front of you, stuck in traffic for what seems like days…you arrive at the office to find jelly on your shirt and toothpaste drippings on your pants…your co-workers are grumpy, you have a headache and it’s raining outside for the 3ooth day in a row.  You then arrive home to sick kids and mold on the leftover pizza that you were planning on eating for dinner…one of those “first-world-problem” kind of days.  Yeah, we’ve all been there to some extent and I understand.

For some of us, these days happen often.  In fact, some of us continually live under this big, dark rain cloud that drips negativity and pessimism….many of us are living with a condition called “perpetuallybadday syndrome.”  Ok, it’s not a real condition, but it should be!

Don’t worry, I have a solution for these stinky days!  It’s not a medication or a therapy class…it’s not a magic potion or a formula to follow…it’s people.  That’s it.  Let me explain.

TO PUT IT SIMPLY, LOVING AND HELPING OTHERS IS THE BEST THERAPY FOR A BAD DAY. 

It’s amazing what happens when we take the focus off of ourselves and place it on other people.  There’s something amazing about connection and meeting others in their struggles that brings about that organic, lively feeling of being human, of being used.  It’s almost like God created us to be in relationships, putting others first, huh, weird.

Really though, I want you to try this!  Offer a smile, a mocha, a hug, an email, a text or whatever you can do to make somebody’s day a little brighter today.  My guess is that at some point, it’ll make you smile.  My guess is that at some point, it’ll make you feel alive.  My guess is that at some point, it’ll make you forget about your troubles, if even for a moment.  Imagine if every day consisted of this challenge of pushing ourselves aside and placing others in the front of the line.  What a great outlet to life’s trip wires!

Something that I tell the kiddos on my soccer team as they’re dribbling down the field is this:  “LOOK UP!” or “KEEP YOUR EYES FORWARD!”  I think this can be applied to life as well.  As humans, a healthy dose of looking inward is ok, but if our eyes are always looking at ourselves, we tend to run into walls and swerve around opportunities.  Looking up allows us to see those around us and provides us an escape from ourselves.

So take heart friends, you don’t need to stay down in the dumps, even if you’ve started there.  Tomorrow presents good medicine for “perpetuallybadday syndrome”…..it’s called “todayIovercamemyselfandhelpedothers pain relief”….or something like that :).

I can’t wait to hear how it goes for you!

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

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