This is probably the most crazy series of events that has ever happened or will ever happen to me.

Before I get to the main part, I have to set the stage a little. My freshman year in college I came down with what the doctors thought was mono. Seems like a logical sickness to get your freshman year, and it was definitely going around on my residence hall floor. The only problem was that my symptoms lasted for about three months, instead of two to three weeks. Beyond fatigue, I developed odd symptoms like itchiness, yellow skin, yellow eyes, odd colored waste, dehydration, and elevated liver enzyme levels. The doctors did not prescribe any medicine, and more or less gave up after narrowing it down to what they thought was mono. I eventually got over being jaundice, through taking over the counter green tea extract pills and liver cleanse pills. However, for several years after I continued to quietly become sicker and weaker. It culminated to me getting gallstones while studying abroad in Doha, Qatar (kind of a major event in it of itself – check out my https://journeytoqatar.wordpress.com/ blog for more about my experience Qatar). I’ll never forget those three weeks in the hospital, hoping and praying that I would make it out alive. I wondered if the doctors even knew what they were doing, and why they were making me go through every medical test I had heard of (plus some). I was trying to keep my parents from having a conniption; and trying to have a positive attitude through it all because I felt like I was, in the midst of it all, pretty blessed. It was very difficult. My doctor explained to me that they thought I had what is called PSC, primary sclerosing cholangitis. For those that don’t have an advanced medical degree, this is a rare biliary autoimmune disease that corrodes your common bile duct so much that it causes blockage in your liver and GI tract. There is also no known cure, and the medical community is still unsure about the root cause. So here I am, 23 years old, stuck in a hospital room with 4 other unknown men from various places around the world (Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar from what I could gather), wondering if this was it for me; grappling for the first time seriously about my own mortality. It was a real thought. One that I’ll never forget, and one that has never really left my mind.

Fast forward a few years later. I still have the disease and it has progressed further. I made it out of Doha, Qatar alive, and I am sort of back to living a normal life. By this point I have had semi-frequent doctor visits, blood labs, and suffer through moderate symptoms on a day to day basis. I’ve become pretty well adjusted mentally to the prospects of dying or living out my days in suffering. I had accepted it as my lot, just part of the journey. In fact, I’m really not even bitter about it. It has taught me to appreciate life in a whole new way, and not take things for granted. I have been able to encourage others with my fight. Many of my friends are confused about it, and ask questions that I don’t even know how to answer. My parents are worried constantly about me, and rightfully so. I regret this in some ways, but I often undersell the true condition of my physical well-being so as to not alarm them more than necessary. I’ve learned to listen to my body and understand when things get to a level that needs serious medical attention. Even my dating life has been affected, in that I feel bad involving a significant other. To this point I’ve been consistently jaundice for about 2 years, most days I feel hungover most days (though I’m completely sober). I’m 27, and by the world’s standards, far too young to be going through all this.

At this point, I had just moved to Texas about a year earlier. It was a really good move for me personally and professionally. My first week in my new job, I came down with a cholangitis infection. This feels like intense sharp pain in the abdomen and feeling light headed. After finishing work, I drove myself to the emergency room, and they greeted me with a wheelchair, a hospital bed, and morphine. Lots of morphine. I was taken in an ambulance to a larger hospital in Dallas, where I met my now, gastroenterologist doctor. He seemed to know his stuff. He was a straight-shooter, but wasn’t too much of a jerk about the way he relayed heavy news. He had a sarcastic sense of humor too (bonus points). After a few follow up appointments with this doctor, I received news that my liver was in third stage cirrhosis, and I needed to pursue getting on the transplant list. This was a pretty big deal to me. To this point I was thinking maybe in my 30s or 40s, this might be the case. It was very bittersweet and hard to deal with. On one hand, great, a chance to improve my well-being; but for the most part I was in shock.

A few more hospital visits occurred and my condition continued to creep down a dark path. All the while I maintained an active lifestyle. I’ve tried to keep living on as if I was in normal condition. After my fall checkup, the doctor told me he was going to set everything up for me to get on the transplant list in Dallas. Within a month, in October 2016, I was back up to Dallas going through all the pre-transplant information sessions and lab work. I remember walking out of my information class and staring pensively out of an eighth floor window. I didn’t realize how intense this whole endeavor was going to be. I knew a transplant was major, but learning the details brings on a whole new perspective. I couldn’t help but shed a few tears, again wondering how much time I really had left on this earth. I received notice not long after that the board had reviewed my case and they were going to put me on the list. I didn’t realize it at the time, but with an 18 MELD score (not great but not super high), that was a significant blessing. By December, my liver levels improved and my MELD score dropped to 14. In my mind, I was cruising, improving.

Here’s where the story gets good.
On February 8th, 2017 I received a call from my transplant coordinator telling me that I needed to visit and get more lab work done. They need updated records on me to determine my MELD score. She told me that given my B positive blood type, I was surprisingly high on the list of potential donor recipients. This came as a shock to me. I had prepared very little for the transplant and told family and friends very little about what they needed to do to help me prepare. I had also only been on the list about three months. I freaked. I sobbed pretty much the rest of the day, and called few friends to vent. They all helped consul me, but I was still pretty shook up about the whole thing. To top it off, I was supposed to lead a group of college men in a Bible study at my apartment that night. It was our first night of the semester, and I knew there would be a few newcomers. The last thing I wanted to do was be a blubbering mess, and spill the beans that I might not be there to lead the next week (or next few months).

So the next morning I went in and got blood taken. Pretty routine thing. I went right back to work, and didn’t say much to anyone about it. I did talk to my direct supervisor, and mentioned in passing to my office mate that a lot was going on, but that was it. All the while, at this point I was mentally prepping for the scenario of me having to drop everything for 7-12 weeks and drive back to Dallas for a life altering surgery. Later that day I got a call from my transplant coordinator, and she told me I could be moved down on the list because more people had been hospitalized overnight. Part of me was relieved. This meant I might still get to go on vacation in New Zealand (terrible priorities right!?), and I could have more time to plan and prep everything. The scare however was strong enough that I knew I still needed to get things in gear and prepare just in case.

I called my team – my parents, my music pastor, and my boss. I gave them all detailed instructions on how to proceed should I get a call. I called and texted as many friends and loved ones I could think of in my frantic state of mind to tell them I loved them. I cried more, laughed, and prayed. I prepared my heart for the worst, and hoped for the best. I could hardly sleep at night though, so I would lay in bed and pray and plan and think about all the what if scenarios. I think I was planning in my dreams too. I wanted EVERYTHING to be taken care of, no stone unturned. Funny thing is, I didn’t have to do near as much for every detail to be taken care of.

That Friday night, I went out for Tex-Mex with a few friends, one of them being a girl I was particularly fond of. We laughed, cried, ate sopapillas, and mused about how grateful we were for each others friendship. By the time I got home, I was exhausted mentally and physically. It had been a long week at work and in my personal life, and I had cried far too many tears of sadness and joy. I fell asleep quickly and peacefully that night conservatively at 2:00 am.

I woke up in daze around 4:30 am and zombie walked to the restroom. Without boring you too much about my “bodily rhythms” and sleep patterns, I’ll just let you know that this was very uncommon. So as I stood above the toilet I heard faintly my phone buzzing on my bed. I wondered, “Who in the world is calling me at 4:30 am on a Saturday morning?” I quickly remembered that the transplant coordinators had told me that calls for a transplant could sometimes come in the middle of the night or the weekend. Double whammy! I stumbled over to my phone and dug my phone my phone frantically from underneath the covers. I saw that I had two missed calls and two missed voicemails. One pair was from an unknown number and the other was from my uncle. I listened to the unknown voicemail first and it was the hospital in Dallas telling me to call right back.

I called back and received word that I was a back up for a liver transplant. Apparently protocol was that they call me when I was a backup, so that I could my stuff in order. I took the news like a soldier going into battle. I instantly became laser focused. I called my uncle back, my parents, my boss, and my ride to the hospital within 20 minutes; then packed my things, cleaned my apartment, deposited a check, and put gas in car, all by 6:30 am. I was still waiting another call to let me know if I was next up to go in for surgery.

Side story: I had played some tunes for a daddy daughter dance the night before and I needed to return some sound equipment (I know, priorities) before leaving town. Problem was, the music shop I rented from didn’t open till 9:30 am. I called the store owner hoping to notify him of the situation, but all I got was his voicemail. I decided to try and drive to the shop and see if they were there early, but no luck. I drove to a nearby McDonalds, because I knew they had Wi-fi, and I could make calls and texts easily without overextending my data plan. As I pulled up a wayfaring gentleman walked up to my vehicle and asked me if I had any spare money. I quickly reacted, startled, explaining I didn’t have any cash on me. As he walked away I felt like God was tapping on my shoulder, and I knew I needed to do something. I thought, ‘Man, the least I could do is buy the guy a biscuit.’ I had few extra dollars from just depositing that check in my account. So I pulled around the drive-through and bought three biscuits, a coffee, and an apple pie. I drove down the street and found the man standing in front of a What-a-burger. I handed him a cup of coffee and bag with two sausage biscuits inside. I ate the apple pie and a separate bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit. I drove away thinking, “Alright, got that off my chest. You happy God?” It seemed like an uncomfortable inconvenience, but I still felt good about helping the man out. We exchanged the proverbial ‘God bless’ and head nod and went about our days. In a way I feel like God was testing me to see if I still cared about helping people in need, even when it wasn’t convenient for me.

I drove back and parked back at the McDonalds to eat my biscuit and get back to it.  Around 7:30 am I received another phone call from an unknown caller, and I picked up right away. It was my coordinator again, and this time she shared the news that I was ‘primary for the liver’. She asked how soon I could be in Dallas, and I roughly estimated about 11:00 am. I then called my ride, Kyle, back to share the news and let him know the game plan. I also punted the hope that I would be able to return the sound equipment that morning so I made arrangements with him to get that taken care of. The next four hours on my way to Dallas, are kind of a blur. I was constantly on the phone, giving people directions, saying ‘just-in-case’ goodbyes, and sharing awesome but scary news with loved ones. I cried a ton, laughed more, stayed even more laser focused, and yet kept my hopes at bay. I knew from the information sessions three months prior, that there was still a possibility that I could get to the hospital and not receive the transplant.

I’ll never forget talking on the phone with parents, as they were driving from Tennessee to Dallas. We prayed, talked over scenarios, strategized, and even spoke about what needed to be done if I didn’t survive the surgery. Talk about a hard conversation to have over the phone with your parents. Or their end, with your son or daughter. Not a dry in their car or mine (Kyle included). As the hospital came in site, Kyle told me to pause and take a moment to breathe and take it all in. It was so hard to do that in the moment, but I tried my very best. My mind was all over the place. At about 12:30 pm, we walked into the hospital about as casually as possible. I joked with him, “I wonder if anyone else just walks in and says, ‘Hi, I’m here for a liver transplant.’” As we checked in with the nurse on the 14th floor, the receptionist greeted us with a smile and a nearby room to prep for the OR, as calmly as a hotel receptionist might get you checked in.

Very quickly medical professionals followed me into the room taking blood, checking my vitals, doing all the things they have to do to make sure I was prepped for surgery. I had never seen a medical team operate so quickly. Very soon the first surgeon came in to share the game plan and tell me all the possible things that could go wrong. She shared that it was going to be a partial liver from a 22 year old with the same blood type. She also seemed confused when I told her this was the first time I was hearing details about it being a partial liver. Apparently that was a detail that should have been shared with me when I received the initial call. She shared that since I was young and relatively healthy pre-operation that I shouldn’t be too worried. While I was confused and a little worried (Who wouldn’t be!), I figured if this was my fate then so be it. Statistically I had a pretty good shot at survival, and I didn’t want to live any longer with the junky cirrhosed liver in my body. I knew the new liver would regenerate over time to become a full liver. She left and more nurses and techs followed in behind her preparing me for what was to come. I was pretty nervous about it all, and everything was starting to feel more real.

Then the main surgeon came in and shared more about the surgery. He shared more shocking news that fifteen people had passed on the liver they were about to partially put in my body – FIFTEEN PEOPLE! I was stunned. The probability of me being put on the transplant list with a now sixteen MELD score, called up for a liver that had passed on by fifteen people, only being on the list for three months, having a rare blood type, and about receive a liver from a donor that was six years younger than me was not only mathematically improbable, it was a miracle. This was planned, orchestrated. This had God’s fingerprints all over it. The surgeon, while equally stunned to be sharing this bit of news, shared that he was confident that I could survive this major surgery. While nervous, I was all the more ready to go considering the situation. Humorously, the surgeon described a liver transplant surgery to being like a party. To paraphrase his words, no one hosts a party thinking that everything will go as planned. When you host a party you expect for a drink to fall over, a lamp to bust, carpet to get spilled on, and maybe even the cops to show up, or worse. He explained that no one who can’t live with those risks should host a party. He said that the best approach is to manage the hurdles one by one and keep persevering. That’s a heck of an analogy for a transplant, but I all I could think of to respond with was “Let’s party!”. As he was about to leave, the surgeon mentioned that he had been in several consecutive surgeries (he estimated about 20 hours) and asked if he could take a break so he could go eat dinner with his kids. I was like “Dude! By all means!” He looked pretty exhausted, bordering on mad scientist. That fact didn’t ease my worries.

More techs and nurses came through to prep me for surgery that was now about four hours away. I sat in the hospital bed, still in my jeans, stunned. Kyle and his wife, Elizabeth, were there with me and we were dang near in tears over this news. Again…. God. I can’t tell you the amount of emotion I spilled in Kyle’s office a few months earlier talking about the possibility of this very day. At that time it was still a pipe dream.

At about 5:15 pm the surgeon came back in to let me know the surgery was officially a go. He then mentioned, with pause and shock, that I was now going to receive the full liver.

What?!?!

Is this real?

How in the…

God….why….

I sat there numb. But only for like 10 seconds. Kyle and Elizabeth audibly screamed out ‘What?!’

Reality set in and I hopped in the shower and soaped off with that smelly anti-bacterial stuff. I came out in my fresh hospital gown, and sat back in the bed awaiting to be rolled down to the OR. As I walked out, Kyle stayed back to let me know the nurses were out in the hall waiting for me and they had a surprise. As the two husky men maneuvered my hospital bed out of my room I noticed the nurses were in the hall ahead lined up with green and white pom poms. As we rolled through the cheered me on and wished me good luck in surgery. It was a pretty cheesy but touching moment. Again, not a dry eye in the house.

As they rolled me down the halls en route to the OR, I bowed my head and sobbed. This was the first time that I really let everything all set in. I prayed and asked God, begged God, to be with me.

In the waiting room outside the OR, I talked with my parents on the phone one more time. They were stuck in traffic about 20 minutes away, but I wasn’t able to see them before going under. That was pretty hard.

As I was rolled into the OR and got in position on the operating table I started to pray again. I felt like I was about to go out of a tunnel on my out into a football stadium. Everyone in the room was laser focused, prepping their equipment, and yelling out instructions. I laid there terrified and so again I prayed. I prayed one final time that God would be with me and take care of me. I told him I loved him no matter what happened.

You know how sometimes you can be in a room and someone you know walks in but you don’t have to see them to know they just entered the room. You feel their footsteps, hear their breathe, sense their presence. As I prayed that prayer I felt someone, that I can only describe as God, behind me. In that moment I was so comforted, and knew I was taken care of. That was the last thought I had before slipping into a deep anesthetic sleep.

I woke up in the ICU the next day, with wires and machines all hooked up to my body. I was pretty sore, but not as much as I thought I would be. I was on a lot of medication. I had survived! God had given me a new liver! Surgery was a success! Wow!!!

Over the next few weeks and months I have slowly improved, and my overall wellness has drastically improved. I’ve been able to share my story with lots of loved ones and unknown ones, and felt the presence of God very near in my life. Many have told me I am favored and blessed; and they are right in saying so.

The probability of all these events, is as I mentioned improbable at best. I’m not, like my doctor said, “a lucky son of a b****”. I am claimed. I am His. I have a purpose. I always have. I know that now more than ever before. I’ve experienced God’s divine mercies, and watch him orchestrate a scenario where there was no room for me to question whether or not it was Him. I am His. And I am so glad to be. My life has become a manifestation of Psalm 40, my favorite passage of scripture.

Psalm 40 (New Living Translation):

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,

and he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair,

out of the mud and the mire.

He set my feet on solid ground

and steadied me as I walked along.

He has given me a new song to sing,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see what he has done and be amazed.

They will put their trust in the Lord.

Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,

who have no confidence in the proud

or in those who worship idols.

O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.

Your plans for us are too numerous to list.

You have no equal.

If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,

I would never come to the end of them.

You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.

Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand[a]—

you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.

Then I said, “Look, I have come.

As is written about me in the Scriptures:

I take joy in doing your will, my God,

for your instructions are written on my heart.”

I have told all your people about your justice.

I have not been afraid to speak out,

as you, O Lord, well know.

I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart;

I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power.

I have told everyone in the great assembly

of your unfailing love and faithfulness.

Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me.

Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.

For troubles surround me—

too many to count!

My sins pile up so high

I can’t see my way out.

They outnumber the hairs on my head.

I have lost all courage.

Please, Lord, rescue me!

Come quickly, Lord, and help me.

May those who try to destroy me

be humiliated and put to shame.

May those who take delight in my trouble

be turned back in disgrace.

Let them be horrified by their shame,

for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now!”

But may all who search for you

be filled with joy and gladness in you.

May those who love your salvation

repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”

As for me, since I am poor and needy,

let the Lord keep me in his thoughts.

You are my helper and my savior.

O my God, do not delay.

Advertisements

Instead of a Show

Posted: August 30, 2012 in Jesus, Musician, Perspective

As some of you may know, I’m a musician who has sung a lot of songs about God, to God, and for God. Some of those publicly, and many times privately. Growing up in ‘church culture’ I’ve noticed a lot of nuances about the language we use to describe expressions and acts of our faith. One word that is commonly tossed around, and is often directly associated with music, is worship.

Since coming to college, I’ve thought about this topic a great deal. I’ve come to the conclusion that the majority of us in the 21st century American Church haven’t a clue what that word really means from a biblical perspective. Beyond finding a more accurate definition, I’ve pondered how that affects how I worship God. I’ll be honest; my whole perspective has been changed.

In short what I’ve learned is that there are a three main words that refer to worship in the Old Testament. One of them ‘aboda refers to temple worship such as offering sacrifices and keeping Jewish rituals. The word thusia also used referring to temple sacrifices, and Paul used it when refering to Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice for all the world’s sins (Ephesians 5:2). The other word used is shachac– which is the physical posture of bowing down, which symbolizes reverent fear, submission, and a commitment to obedience.

In koine Greek, they refer to ‘aboda as latreia. In the New Testament this word was sometimes portrayed in a negative sense, because the then Jewish leaders thought it to be an act of service to God to kill Christians.

In koine Greek, they refer to shachac as proskyneo, and it more or less means the same thing- bowing down, reverent obedience.

Paul, in the New Testament also uses the word leitourgia, which basically means an act of service or sacrifice to God, many times through helping other people (especially Christian brothers and sisters).

Here’s a few sources that explain all the language origins better than I could, and they are written by people who have done A LOT more research and formal study than I have:
http://www.xenos.org/essays/worship.htm
http://www.oocities.org/dcheddie/pdfs/Worship.pdf

Alright now that you have all that information, I’d like to share a bit about what our culture (21st century American church to be specific) tells us.

  • Worship happens on Sundays and Wednesdays, or any other day of the week, right before a sermon is preached.
  • Worship is a synonym for singing songs to and about God.
  • Worship is a genre of music.
  • Worship is confined to a time period and a place.
  • Worship is lead by a Worship Leader- a guy or girl on the church staff or volunteering who picks and leads the songs, often on a stage facing an audience (aka congregation).
  • A worship experience is best when the band is playing well together, there are dramatic but timely light shows coordinated with the songs, Powerpoint slides with the lyrics up on a big screen so you don’t have to memorize them all, and when the crowd is really getting into it (hand-raising, clapping, singing loudly, kneeling, lots of praying, maybe some tongue speaking and dancing if you’re of the Charismatic persuasion).

It doesn’t take a genius to notice the differences. Unfortunately, what I’ve gathered and learned from the Bible, and fellow Bible studiers, there’s a disconnect between what the Bible teaches and what Western Church culture reinforces. Worship in the Bible is clearly about honoring and glorifying God in words, deeds, actions, and thoughts. It is an all-encompassing spiritual posture of humility, acknowledging that we are nothing without God and that he is worthy of all praise and honor and adoration. While the 21st century Western culture does a good job of honoring God with words and lyrics, we do a poor job of honoring God with our thoughts, deeds, and actions (especially outside church walls). And maybe it’s not even about how ‘good a job’ we do, as much as it is about the condition and honesty of our hearts.

Don’t get me wrong. I love singing songs to and for God. And the Bible even says God delights when His children sing songs of praise to Him (Psalm 147). But I am deeply saddened by the extent in which we’ve sold ourselves short on experiencing and living a life of worship. I honestly feel that many of us are missing out on a part of the faith that is not only crucial and necessary, but life changing.

After about a year of staying off the music stage, I acted as the song leader for a local campus ministry at my college last night. It was really fun, and to be honest I was mentally all over the place trying to find my way to praising and thanking God for who He is and the amount of trials he’s brought me through recently. Afterwards, I was met with several congratulatory and encouraging comments- “Good job.” “Hey you did a great job tonight at worship.” “I really enjoyed your singing.” “You had an awesome presence up there.” While I realize everyone who said these things had the best and kindest intentions, I couldn’t help but feel extremely wrong and uncomfortable by these remarks. Like I was getting some kind of undeserved attention. After all if I was really up there to “lead worship”, wouldn’t we be more thankful to God for another opportunity to worship him, and not the singer? Heck I’m not even supposed to be the worship leader. According to the Bible that role belongs to the Holy Spirit. It’d be like someone thanking the grounds crew at an NFL game for the offense scoring so many touchdowns due to mowing the grass and painting the end zone correctly.

I’d like to get back to the heart of worship. And like the well-known Matt Redman song goes, it really is all about Jesus. Not about God fixing our problems. Not about the skill of the musicians and singers on stage. Not about the song choices. Not about an emotional reaction or connection to the event/show. Not about meeting at a specific time or place. It’s just about Jesus. It takes form in pausing to awe and fear and/or actively glorify Him (through service, sacrifice, reverence, prayer, adoration, etc.).

Can worship and praise happen through song? Yeah probably. But to be honest, I’d like to see a little more variation in how we (the church) worship God. The result of us continuing on this path, is believing in a counterfeit view of something God intended to be very authentic and life-changing.

So next time you see someone in emotional or physical need…worship God. Next time you get a moment to pause…worship God. Next time you see someone who is lonely and needs a friend that genuinely cares…worship God. Next time you pray…worship God. Next time you get the opportunity to encourage and hang out with other Jesus-believers…worship God. You don’t have to be in a church gathering setting, and you don’t have to have a musical instrument or a microphone, or even a singing voice to worship God. You just need your heart, which is coincidently the hardest thing to give.

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Jesus (Matthew 15:8-9)

Bacon, Cheese, and…

Posted: April 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

My mind is a heaping pile of stale scrambled eggs right now. I’m not even going to attempt to try to catch you up on everything that has happened in the last 5 months. Long story short, I moved back to Warrensburg, MO and I am pursuing a Master’s degree in College Student Personnel Administration. Melissa and I are still together (17 months). And life has thrown me a few curveballs (what’s new). The result is I am scrambling to find motivation, which really for me means I’ve lost some zeal.

The funny thing is, I have nothing to complain about. I’ve made plenty of new friends, due to a spring break trip to the Smokey Mountains and new classes. Speaking of, I love my classes and sometimes enjoy doing the work. Sometimes. I just got a new part-time job. My finances are manageable. I’ve even gotten the opportunity to be a part of a few humanitarian projects. I’ve even been praying and studying the Bible more recently; and just trying to be really honest with God since He usually is with me. I’m in the process of recording my debut EP. Yeah, everything externally is going “as planned”. But something inside just doesn’t seem right about this whole equation. I can’t put my finger on it, but something just feels off. For all you LOST nerds out there, it reminds me of the flash sideways alter-reality. lol That couldn’t be it though…I almost feel like something big is about to happen in my life. Like God is about ready to plant something in my life that causes me to adjust my life more in the direction of The Way. 

I guess I’m just in an awkward stage of life. I never thought I’d end up back in Warrensburg in GRAD SCHOOL. Of most the people I hang out with, I’m the oldest or one of the oldest. Shouldn’t I have it together by now?

I don’t have a clear enough mind to go off on a big tangent. I do however want to jot down some honest questions I’ve been wrestling with. Some of these are questions others have posed to me. And go!

Is it better to accomplish something big, or be a part of a big something? Is it really about the satisfaction you get from doing a good work? (Luke 17:7-10)

What does it look like to have a healthy relationship with another human? or God?

How do I keep myself from wasting so much time? What is worth my time? is it really my time?

Do I notice things that my peers aren’t noticing, or are they just pretending to not notice?

Is it better to ‘do’ or to ‘be’? can you ‘be’ without ‘doing’? I already know you can do without being. 

How important is it to have a group of friends to spend time with?

Can someone be too humble? Can there ever be enough diversity? Can you ever love someone too much?

What is the balance of just having care-free fun and spending quality time with someone?

How does one express passion for God and people, without being annoying or coming off judgmental? 

Can I ever help someone with pure, unselfish motives?

Am I really loving God with my life? I know what my friends say, but what would God say?

28 “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. 30Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.

31“Which of the two obeyed his father?”

They replied, “The first.”

Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do.  (Matthew 21:28-31)

I want to publicly confess. In my past, I have not been very consistent in obeying the commands of God (you know, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty). Can anybody relate? I read the following verses…

“If you love me, obey my commandments.” John 14:15

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.”  Matthew 7:21

….and I cringe. I think, ‘geez that doesn’t make me look like a Christ-centered believer. Are you trying to tell me something, God?’ Maybe there’s a little something within us all that can relate. It’s easy to accept the love and grace of Christ. Who doesn’t want to be loved? Who doesn’t want to be forgiven for their past? But when I think about the usual response to grace, I tremble with fear. Yes,  I shutter. It’s not uncommon for me to be on my face in tears begging for forgiveness for myself and my human brethren. It’s also not uncommon for me to read a passage out of the Bible, hear sound preaching & teaching, or even hear the Holy Spirit’s whispers; and reject applying it to my life because it makes me uncomfortable. It’s a constant internal battle between deciding to live out God’s wisdom or my own selfish desires.  See the problem?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

How about another example (I love illustrations)?  It’s like a gardener who is trying to clear the rocks around a dying plant. A few stones have limited the plant’s efforts for it’s roots to grow deeper. The gardener thus seeks to uncover and remove all the stones and surrounding weeds getting in the way. These stones are stubborn stones.
I was thinking about how much I don’t really show God how much I love Him. Though I strive to have a continual heart of worship (just being in awe and reverence to God’s presence all the time), I have noticed that I’m spiritually cripple. I’m like the little-leaguer who gets so excited about getting in the game and pleasing his coach, that he forgets to tie up his cleats before rushing out of the dugout, and consequently trips over his own feet upon chasing a simple pop fly.  I have a hard time walking with Christ without falling, without failing. I confess that I need rehab, and a lesson on spiritual preparation. The best way to train is by spending more quality time with God, reading about his loving and life-changing commandments.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. (James 1: 22-25)

Sorry blog-world for not giving a life update on how life has been post-graduation, or how some plans have changed. Those that know me, know what’s going on. You know about my triumphs, struggles, and continual posture of waiting. You are also the only likely ones to read this blog post lol.

I got a chance to meet this dude recently. Marcus (FLAME) is definitely servant of the Lord!

Dear Warrensburg,

Words cannot express the times I have had abiding here. I came to you a naive, confused, self-conscious 18-year-old kid who thought he had his adult life planned out perfectly. I came to you in chains- dragging along my religious, personal, and emotional baggage. It was here, that I gained the closest friends I’ve ever made. It was here that I learned to accept who I am, and be at peace with that.  It was here that the moral-system I upheld so zealously (and blindly) was continually challenged and transformed. It was here that I experienced some of my lowest points. It was here that I realized how utterly broken I was, so that I could accept the grace-rooted life of Jesus Christ. It was here that I laughed, cried, hugged people, ate, played music, sported like 8 different hair cuts, helped people, dated, started protest rallies, drank lots of coffee, philosophized, socialized, made a bazillion Taco Bell runs, and learned how to truly share life with people.

In the last four years there have been a number of people who’ve invested in me and spoke wisdom into my life. These people have had made a difference in my life by how they live and how they interact with others. (Disclaimer: none of these people are perfect, nor would they prefer to be put on any kind of pedestal).  Most notably Roger Brant, Sara Johnson, Mark Bliss, and Carson Conover.

Carson and Roger were one of the first few people I met here at UCM. Carson was a senior and a student leader at the BSU. Roger was the new campus minister at the BSU. (They knew each other before-hand). I always kinda looked up to Carson because he was a few years older than me. It was one of the first times I had met a young Christian who lived the Christian life with a non-judgemental, loving attitude everywhere he went. Not to mention he’s a pretty intelligent dude (though he tries to hide it with quirky humor). Carson, obviously didn’t stick around long because he graduated in 2008. I did however get the chance to hang out with him and chat a handful of times later down the line. Every one-on-one conversation we had was profoundly meaningful and surprisingly casual. This helped set a foundation for many other things to come.

Onto Roger…Roger is a very peculiar man, but one I’ve grown to love and respect. He’s got a lot of deep layers to him, that I’m not even going to begin to tackle. Roger is someone who has seen me from the day I was a freshman to the day I graduated. He saw how I changed, struggled, and grew. He was never someone who tried to spoon feed me all the right answers, but instead tried to ask the right questions. Roger helped me look at my faith seriously and honestly. He is no longer at the BSU, but instead the “leader dude” at Wayfare Church in the Warrensburg. This is another community I’ve gotten the joy of being a part of since Sophomore year (2009). I will dearly miss Roger, and his wisdom, quirky/sarcastic humor, and mandolin skills.

Sara Johnson was my Residence Hall Director/Boss in Fitzgerald Hall and Nickerson Hall, while I was a CA in those buildings. I can’t honestly say that I was always completely open with Sara (til the last month lol). But her humble, hard-working, optimistic characteristics were an inspiration for me. I admire her persevering faith. She taught me to “Choose my ‘tude” daily. She taught me to not overload myself, but to roll with my creative inspirations. She was always a great listener and always someone I viewed as a friend just as much as a boss.

And Mark Bliss…Oh Mark. Dude, I’m gonna miss you. Jam sessions. Waiting on you to show up somewhere. Sociology classes. Solving the universe’s problems inside Java Junction. Though you may not be the most organized person, you are definitely a friend I can count on to lend a helping hand (as long as I call you spontaneously and not ahead of time lol). I admire your heart and respect you like crazy man. Best of luck to you on whatever you end up doing in life.

…like I said there are a TON of other people who’ve invested in me, loved on me, and been a huge part of my life. Every year here (and almost every semester) has been different. It’s been a blast. So thank you to everyone else. It was the people at UCM that made my college experience special and memorable.

So long UCM! So long Warrensburg! I’m gonna miss you like crazy. Seriously.

Next time I return I’ll be Alum… Weird.

You ever hear that Jesus parable about the two men praying in the temple- one, a Pharisee, thanked God for how good himself is; and the other, a tax collector, beat his chest in shame crying out to God for mercy. Jesus went on to say that it was the tax collector, not the priest, who was justified before God. Check it out–>> Luke 18:9-14

Over the last 3 or 4 year I have really tried to have a humble posture and attitude within when approaching the throne of God in prayer. Honestly, it’s not hard when I start thinking about the brokeness in my life. Most of my prayers start with (or are completely) a mixture of thanking God and asking forgiveness. The following hymn comes to mind:

I will not boast in anything: no gifts, no power, nor wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ; His death and resurrection. “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us”

This part I am not ashamed of me, and is an attitude I will continue to live and strive for.

I however would like to pose an interesting twist or thought, based on something I occasionally recognize in myself. What about those times when I nonchalantly brag about “boasting in God”? As if to say I am better than the next person because I acknowledge the awesomeness of God (pst. even the demons do that- Matthew 8:28-31).

What about the times when I go through the motions  or ritualize a prayer intro? What about those times when I’m not honest with God? When I feed him half-hearted praises born out of frustration(s) and confusion.

We all do it to some extinct. Lately, I’ve been noticing it in the speech of my fellow friends and believers and in occasional moments in my prayer-life. If you are the type of person who wants to combat this form of pride, good luck. This a muddy water to travel through. On the one hand the person may be verbally boasting about God in the most elaborate and convincing way they can think of. On the other, the depths of their heart is revealed in the manner and body language they communicate. Sometimes it’s painfully obvious. For me, it’s pretty easy to tell when someone means what they say. I just see it in their eyes. I hear the passion in their voice. I note their humble smirk; their non-judgmental eyebrows.

Someone who boasts about how much they boast about God seems like the “teacher’s pet” version of Christians. They can say all the right things, and sweet talk the Teacher. But something about how they condescendingly interact with their classmates, makes the Teacher a little weary of trusting every drop of flattery they utter (though they may continue to get gold stars). I find it interesting that in elementary school, its can be cute when little kids suck up. However in college, professors hate it.

As we mature in our faith, we strive to become more humble and more reliant on what God puts on our hearts. Though it is good to lift up God’s name and worship His being, I challenge you (& myself) to make it more than just words. I hope it is a true reflection of your heart and mind.

Jesus said (in a number of different ways),

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me….you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.Mark 15:1-20

Here’s a few updates in my life right now. (for the 2 or 3 of you who actually read this lol)

  • I graduate from college in a few weeks. In case I haven’t previously mentioned it I’ll be getting a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. I also minored in Graphics. It feels good to be nearing this milestone.
  • I also just celebrated being with my girlfriend, Melissa, for 6 months. Which surprisingly marks the longest I’ve ever been with someone. She graduates next May (2012). She’s a pretty cool gal, and if I haven’t introduced you to her I’d be glad to do so. **Shameless plug she JUST started a new blog–> http://ananeo.wordpress.com (ananeo is the koine greek transliteration which roughly translates to, “to renew in the mind”).
  • Which brings on the most common question I get these days…What am I doing post-graduation career-wise? Well I’m not entirely sure. I’ve kinda realized that the things that make my heart pound are not necessarily things that will get the bills paid. For instance, I’ve developed a passion for helping people realize the truth about who God really is, exterior of the lies they’ve been told. And I’m not exactly feeling a sense that this is supposed to be through a paid-pastoral role. My experience shows that “I don’t need a three-piece suit to argue the truth” (Bret Dennen). I also don’t want to just start spitting out answers, as if to say I have it all figured out. I just need to follow Christ in my every day life and point to his big picture for wisdom.
  • I have a rough draft plan for the next year, based on the previous bullet point. I’d like to explain in the next couple paragraphs (bear with me).

Since coming back from El Salvador, and announcing to my friends and coworkers (in University Housing) that I would not be going into the Student Affairs profession or going to grad school in the fall;   I’ve been in a perpetual state of waiting for God to reveal the next step for me. Some days were harder than others, but in waiting I learned a number of lessons about who God is and how He is working on me.  I learned the true meaning of allowing God to unveil things to me in His perfect timing, and trusting that His timing is a lot better than mine. Specifically I realized that some things God has for me to accomplish for His Kingdom are better introduced when my heart is mature enough to receive them with courage and zeal, rather than fear and apathy. God knows that if anything is revealed to me too early I either tend to forget about it or tend to get too worked up about it. Along that same line of thinking, I also learned that God won’t reveal it all to me at once. It looks more like minute to minute, conversation to conversation. The more I think about God and the life He is teaching me to live, the more I am put in situations were I’m given the opportunity to live it. I could go on and on and on about many more things I have learned in the last semester about the nature of God.

So here’s my tentative plan for the next year. (I am careful to not set anything in stone, because I can hardly predict the next steps God has for me. I am also satisfied in knowing that He has the end in sight, and that if I follow Him I will finish the race.) The glorious plan is to move in with my parents in Lawrenceburg, TN for the summer. I’m working on getting a part-time summer job, so I can make a little money and save up for the fall. Sounds like a genius plan eh…

The next step is Nashville in August. I am currently job searching for 9-5ish jobs in the Nashville area, specifically in (but not limited to) graphic design. The goal is to start a job by August and save up enough money to eventually get my own little place. At night in Nashville (from 5pm-12am) I will try to network and play music anywhere I can. And that’s it. Get a job, and play music at night. Sounds so ingenious and original doesn’t it? Someone of you may be thinking, “Jordan, your just going to become another starving Nashville-bound musician. This doesn’t sound all that great.”

Well remember when I said that my motives for the next step were not entirely based on my career choice. Here’s how. God has been writing things on my heart rigorously for the past few months. In doing so, He’s placed people in my life to express these amazing epiphanies to (mainly to Melissa, I must admit). The rhythms of learning who God is and what He is about has made me more compassionate to the people I come in contact with and eager to share pieces of God’s love story with them. I’ve realized that I have a passion for the streets. For proclaiming truth in the way I live my life, in my words, and in the lyrics of my songs. I believe God is leading me to a city (possibly Nashville?) to help people see who God is and what He is doing. I’m not going there to become a famous musician. I’m not necessarily going there to start this big social movement that will mark me as a hero and a saint. I’m going there to love. I’m going there to be a friend. I’m going there to grow and to help others grow and/or join the journey of Christ; so that they too can experience the grace I have experienced which has changed my life and so many others.

To backtrack, there are also a few opportunities brewing for this summer, which explains why I’m gonna be in Lawrenceburg. I am planning on taking a second trip to El Salvador from June 18-24th. This time Melissa gets to come with me!! 😀 Also I might be helping out with a few events with my dad’s church family, New Prospect Baptist, like Youth Camp and Music Camp.

There a number of reasons behind this decision to which I’m not at total liberty revealing online (although I totally would in person). So for all you planners out there, this decision was not random or spontaneous. For once, I put a lot of patient thought behind my decisions. (Just ask Melissa…for real)

Anywho, that’s my post-graduate tentative plan. Nothing seemingly life-altering. Just the next step…and a step I can get excited about!