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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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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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 that 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