Monday, April 28, 2008

The One about Canada and Chicken Restaurants

*This was written in early January of 2007 after a Christmas time trip to Canada to go skiing. By the way, Canada is awesome because they sell their milk in a bag!*

So we went to Canada for a family trip. I was eager to go despite having to fly to get there. In Canada they have lemmings, and mounties, and milk in a bag. All the things that make a great country. We flew up to Philadelphia and then on to Montreal. The interesting thing is that once we got to Montreal, everything was in French. I figured wow, I like French. I took it 7 years ago in high school. I should be able to hang and understand people at least a little...then I tried to order a combo meal at a local restaurant. I was all suave in approaching the counter. In French I asked for a "number 8, please". I was like this is cake. Little did I know that the combo 8 came with the option of soup or cole slaw. Since I had ordered in French the lady behind the register took no pity on me in asking me in French(speed French if you ask me) which i preferred. I stared at her like a monkey doing a math problem. She obviously understanding that I was a tourist that had been in her country less than an hour took pity on me and spoke English(very well i might add)...I don't know if I've ever felt like such an outsider in my life. The whole week I had to decide was I going to look stupid speaking English or look stupid speaking French. That's a humbling feeling. To know that there is so much that you want to say but you are limited by how much you know. You want to communicate but you can't. It's incredibly frustrating.

God is amazingly awesome. We know that. After my french encounter I began to think. The language of God and the language of man is so incredibly different. I can't even begin to describe how i'm different than God. I mean that whole thing about me being a sinner is a good start. God is a perfect being. Unbelievably huge and magnificent. He is perfect without a single flaw. He is the creator of the universe. I am a sinner. I am one measily little person on a small planet in a remote neighborhood in the universe that God has made.(He made it by speaking no less). I sometimes feel that I a foreigner to God. I try to talk to him, and I utter some phrases that I know in his language. Lord, I beeseech thee. Thou thine heareth myeth prayers-eth.(king james in not actually God's language but a lot of people think so!) I feel so helpless sometimes when I talk to God, as if God could ever understand little me. But i'm reminded as I look through the Bible that God finds ways to communicate with us. Through prayer, we can talk to God in any language and He hears us and can even speak to us in the quietness of our hearts. God has talked through a burning bush and even the jawbone of a donkey. You see when that girl at the register finally spoke English to me it was a relief. I could finally get my chicken sandwhich(with soup not slaw). I finally got the nourishment that I needed. Likewise, when we stop and listen and trust in God, He will speak to us in a way that we can understand. He will speak to us so that we may be nourished on his word.

*The chicken sandwich was delicious as well. This is one of my favorite stories. *


Monday, April 21, 2008

The One about Rain

*this blog was written in 2006 during the annual summer drought that we had. Since it's been raining lately I thought I would re-post it for all to read*

So I was thinking about hearing God. What does that sound like? And then it hit me. What does God sound like? *Drop*

........I'll explain

In February, I bought a house. I moved in and began the wonderful world of home owning. It was an accomplishment to say the least. Well the first thing you learn when you own a house is that you are responsible with the upkeep of it. After all, one of my biggest concerns I've had since Feb was that I'd get a letter from all of my neighbors saying that the weeds in my yard were larger than the trees and that I'd have to move out due to the ugliness of my yard. For real, I actually have spent time worrying about that! It's sad, I know.

So it really hit me hard when there was dry weather for over a month. Do you know what happens to grass when it's dry for a month? It's turns brown, then white, and it cracks under your feet. I have to admit, i was now the owner of home with a dead crackly yard.....i was devastated.....*Drop*

That's the background....let me bring it back to current day. Yesterday was a tough day. Not a tough day like, someone hit your car and then you get home and someone else ate the last cupcake. It was a long day with a lot of work to do and not finishing it. My wife Mollie had the same day. So much to do. No relief in sight. Mollie had a grad school class last night and afterwards she needed to go back to her job in order to finish getting ready for teaching school. I agreed to pick up dinner and meet her there.

You ever have a long day like that? You are just tired and all you want to do is go home and go to bed. I was feeling that. I was thinking that. Sitting in the drive thru at Chick-Fil-A, and just wishing the day was over. I was next in line. My arm was already out the window in preparation of paying and grabbing my food. I looked out over the short pump mall and watched the lightning in the sky. If that didn't totally match how I was feeling. My frustration was beginning to overwhelm me, and I said it. I don't know why I said it but I did. maybe my thoughts were on the dead grass sitting in my front yards but I said it...OUT LOUD! in my car in the drive thru of Chick-Fil-A. "God let it rain." It hadn't rained all month. Countless storms had come and gone without rain. I didn't expect it to rain. But for some reason my plea was honest. I wanted God to make it rain. "God, let it rain."....*Drop*

I pulled my arm in the window and stared at the beaded drop of water now in the middle of it. It can't be. I stuck my head out of the window. The water must have blown off of the air conditioner on the roof. It couldn't be rain. I scanned the windshield for more water to be sure. Nothing. Seeds of doubt planted themselves in my heart. The lightning went on in the distance....That's what it was...air conditioning.........*Drop*....there it was...right in the middle of the window. This can't be....this can't be. I moved up and got my food and began to leave.....*Drop*........*Drop*.....*Drop*....*Drop**Drop**Drop**Drop**Drop**Drop**Drop*

It was raining. No air excuse for doubt....just rain. I drove to Godwin and by the time that I got there it was pouring. I wanted to jump out and dance in it...but it was lightning and my brain told me to find cover. Once I got to cover, i just turned around and watched it....

Here's what I thought....5 minutes ago I said one sentence to God. "Let it Rain." and within 5 seconds a raindrop hit my arm. It takes longer than 5 seconds for a rain drop to reach the ground. Could it be that that raindrop was meant for my arm? You are probably saying...Jon it was probably gonna rain anyways...and i know that it probably would have. But the fact that the line of storms traveled thousands of miles to short pump just in time for a rain drop to hit my arm 5 seconds after I pray for it really took hold of me.

Could it be a coincidence, sure, could it be God revealing something about the following moments I took time to pray and something was put on my heart..."I'll take care of you. " That's what God was saying to me...was it audible?? No. Do I know that it was God? Yes.

Before writing this post I was reminded of the verses in Mathew 6 (25-34) where Jesus talks about how God will take care of us no matter line stuck out to me...."If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"

You see God made the grass and he will take care of the grass with rain even though one day the grass is going to die anyways...How much more will God take care of us His beloved creation? That's awesome.

So in the end, this whole thing wasn't about rain watering grass, it was about God watering my soul. You see on days like yesterday, my soul becomes dry. I tend to not spend time with God because I feel that I don't have time. My soul becomes dry and crackly....But last night in the midst of a downpour, i realized that God is here to water my soul. He's here with a water that doesn't just quench thirst but so much more...

I guess i should end my story (which is 100% true), but i have a couple of questions for you.

1. Is your soul dried and crackly?

2. How is God speaking to you??

He is absolutely amazing!


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The problem with yard work.

Weeds are evil. Straight from Satan. There are a number of things that get me riled up. They include taxes, bad mexican food, fluffy things , and weeds. But lately it's been the weeds that have gotten to me. Here's why:

For all of you who don't have yards, weeds just spring out over night. There's no explaining it. You go to bed with perfectly clean flowerbed or yard and you wake up and it looks like you've abandoned your yard for months. It's so frustrating. The weeds in our yard picked the prime time to sprout. It was during a week where it rained part of everyday so that yard work wasn't an option. Then we went out of town for the weekend....the weeds grew and grew. Then they called their friends from my neighbors yard to come and grow. When we got back everything was covered. the flowerbeds, the yard, that area around the mailbox that is supposed to be decorative, everywhere.

So this past Sunday night I set out to begin to rid my yard of weeds. I worked for an hour and really put a dent in the amount of work that I have left to do. But as I weeded, I learned something. I hate weeds. Because the weeds were given so long to grow, they began to grow with the other plants. I was having trouble telling which one was which. Is this a flower or is this a weed? One of my wife's pansies (is that not a ridiculously stupid name for a plant?) just happened to be intertwined with some weeds. That poor pansy never saw it coming. Unfortunately I didn't see it either and so I ripped both of them out of the ground.

Weeding is never fun. It's somewhat easy if you catch the weed right as it's growing out of the soil. But if by chance you don't get to it and it grows for a week, it's much more diffecult to get it out without some sort of damage.

This goes the same for sin in our life. It creeps in out of no where. Often times we rationalize our way into sin. We tell ourselves that it's ok. It's not hurting anyone. The mexican food looks good here( ok maybe not that one). Sin creeps in and springs up overnight. If we address it immediately it's not hard to get rid of. It's simple to go to God and look for forgiveness.

It's different when we let sin grow into our lives. Sin becomes a part of us. Something that we live. Something that we live for. It happens to all of us. Pride. Anger. Jealousy. Lust. Selfishness. If we let those things continue to grow they become so intertwined in our lives that when we do finally decide to return to God it's much harder. We almost have to uproot the entire way that we live in order to get away from the sin that entangles us.

the problem with yard work is that it's hard. No one really likes to do it. You have to get your hands dirty and get on your hands and knees and dig. It's almost humbling in a way. If you are down on your hands and knees weeding in your yard and someone drives by it feels as if you are saying "Hey, don't mind me, I have a lot of crap in my yard!" Often we do the opposite in our lives. When people inquire about how we are doing we say things like "I'M GREAT! LIFE IS GREAT! " when in reality we have weeds growing everywhere.

My thought is this. Perhaps a little life maintenance is on order. I think it's time for us to take a look at our lives and start to do some weeding. What do you think?


Thursday, April 10, 2008

pins and needles

dang, while writing that last post, i had both feet, one hand, and my butt fall asleep. So currently I cannot stand, sit or lean against anything until they all wake up....

Understanding God

I doubt that I'll ever be able to....scratch that....I know I'll never be able to understand God. There are way too many complications and God is far too intricate to understand. And because of this fact, I simply sit in awe of where I am today....let me explain:

It was roughly 10 years ago. Somewhere around the end of my sophomore year. I remember going to school and not fitting in. I wasn't the "stand all by himself in the corner" not fitting in. I was more of the " I'm going to try to join every group and find where I fit in" not fitting in. I didn't have a base group of friends. I was also in the middle of a tough time with some depression and I desperately longed to belong to something. I wanted to feel as if I were a part of a group. Plus I wanted to be strikingly handsome.(which was difficult for someone with acne who parted their hair perfectly every morning)

I remember spiraling down this slide of depression and wanting to belong the whole time just feeling worse and worse about myself and life. It's weird to think about those things now. I remember that I wanted desperately for someone to just ask me what I was thinking or feeling. I would walk away from my small group of friends in the middle of a conversation. They would just look at me and try to laugh away my oddness. I was low.

I once got in trouble for having people over to my house while my parents were out of town. In fact my parents were out of town and my friend's parents were out of town. So we just did whatever we wanted. And we got caught. Which led to me being grounded for 2 months. I wasn't allowed anywhere except school, work, and church.

Enter God. Since church was the only non-painful place that I could go during my 2 months of punishment I went there as often as possible. I hung out with my youth pastor who talked to me about God and who God is and about me and who I was. And strangely I felt like I belonged there. I felt accepted. I could be myself and not worry about what brand names I wore and I could go knowing that they would accept me even with perfectly parted hair. I loved it. I had found my place at last.

But I was still struggling. Years of being down on myself and having a bad attitude at life left me in a fragile state. I couldn't be positive. My family situation wasn't the greatest (compared to my friends) and I still couldn't turn the corner on my life. I remember vaguely one night just crying out to God in complete frustration. I wanted to done with the crappiness of life. I wanted something more...Thinking back I probably said that prayer dozens of times...

And then one day it happened. It just happened. This is where I can't explain God. I can't even fathom why or how this happened. I woke up and everything changed. I remember the day clearly. It was early spring(you know when you are still really excited about wearing shorts). I woke up in a good mood which was weird but a nice surprise. I got ready and left for school. I remember hearing birds singing and I remember looking up at the blue sky and thinking; "This is stinkin amazing!" I hadn't noticed the world in a long time. I had been so down and depressed that I walked around, looking down. I never looked up! I never saw what God had created. I never saw the people around me. I never watched them and observed them. But now my eyes were opened. For the first time in my life I felt like I belonged to something and that something was God. All the circumstances of my life were the same. I still had family issues. I still didn't belong to a huge group of friends.

But my outlook has changed. There was hope. That's what it was. God had given me hope. Something to live for, to truly live for. And it came to me one morning when I woke up. I can't understand this. I can't understand how it completely changed my life. It picked me up and dropped me on my head (in a good way). But ever since then my life has been one heck of a roller coaster ride. Not always great. in fact sometimes life has been extremely crappy. but there has always been the hope that God has given me which makes life bearable in the hard times and unbelievable in the good times.

this has been a long one. thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I became a Christian and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.

Every once in a while I get to read a book. Correction; I read books every single day but every once in a while I'll finish a book. Over the past couple of days I've been reading a book called I became a Christian and all I got was this lousy t-shirt by Vince Antonucci. I must be honest, I picked it up because I thought the name of it was funny and I hate those t-shirts. I read through the first couple of chapters and liked the style of the writer so I picked it up.

The general premise is based on the comparison of a little girl whose family
goes to Florida without her. The author states that the little girl is still part of the family but she missed out on the adventure of the trip. Likewise there are people in the world who become Christians but they are still become unsatisfied with life. The author contends that they are like the little girl in that they are part of God's family but they are missing out on the adventure of truly following after God.

This isn't the deepest book on spiritual matters but it's not supposed to be. It's about looking at your life and figuring out if you are truly on the adventure of following God or are you simply wearing the t-shirt saying that you missed the adventure all together.

It's pretty funny although there are a lot of over the top jokes that make you roll your eyes. It's definitely worth reading and giving thought to where are we when it comes to joining God in his grand adventure...

talk to you later.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Absurdity of It All

I have a gift. That is to say that my wife and I share a gift. It's not something that we asked for and worked hard for but it is something that we have somehow obtained. Our gift is that somehow we are always around annoying people or annoying situations...perhaps you are thinking that maybe my wife and I are just easily annoyed...that may be so, or perhaps it could be that we are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Let me give a few examples of what I mean.

  1. We are usually near a crying baby in a restaurant. The nicer the restaurant the louder and closer the baby. Just think of how nice a dinner at The Melting Pot could be.
  2. At the movies we are always behind tall people and always in front of people who like to kick the seat.
  3. On airplanes we usually sit near a couple making out...apparently PDA rules don't apply in the air.
  4. We do usually get a waiter/waitress that is extremely odd. We once had one who would sneak around and then pop up at our table scaring the crap out of us. We had another who said that following "now that you've ordered you have to wait for your food." umm ya think? But we have countless stories of weird waitresses and waiters.
  5. When we get a hotel room we have gotten multiple rooms that "used" to be smoking rooms but now smell like the backseat of a chain smokers car.
  6. Anytime we go to a place that has a mascot(sports,red robin, etc.) the mascot always comes and tries to talk to Mollie.
  7. Anytime we recommend a restaurant to someone, the food/service/bathrooms are all terrible at once.
  8. Any number of other random things that would cause someone to question their sanity.
I don't mention these things because that have happened to us once or twice....these happen multiple times, every where we go. The weirdest part of it all is that we've actually grown accustomed to it. And now we think it's funny. It happened to us a couple of weeks ago. We were at a Wendy's with a couple of teenagers grabbing some dinner. One of the kids we were with went to the counter to get some barbecue sauce. He waited at the counter for someone to get him some sauce, and waited, and waited, and then waited some more. I decided to go up and get a refill and help my friend in his quest for barbecue sauce. When I got up to the counter some other guys were ordering and asked for barbecue sauce as well. So after their request I made our petition for barbecue sauce as well. the woman turned around grabbed two more sauces....Amazing! Our waiting has finally come to an end. We are overjoyed with the expectation of our barbecue sauce. She turns puts our sauce into the other guys bags and walked off. We were left standing there, no sauce no one to help us. My friend walked off beyond frustrated. I decided to get my refill on sprite. I asked for no ice so that I could get more sprite in my cup. The gentleman behind the counter still filled my cup up enough so that it would be full.....IF THERE WAS ICE IN IT! A full 2 inches remained in my cup. I got some sauce, took my cup and sat down. I laughed the entire way.

I'm sure that annoying stuff like this happens to everyone. I'm sure it might happen to you on an expensive date or when you are in a hurry or otherwise easily annoyed. The one thing that I've learned through the years is that these annoyances are really just petty. We can either let them overwhelm us or just laugh them away. So the next time you are sitting in a restaurant and the kid next to you start wailing like an air raid siren, just deal with it and laugh at the absurdity of it all and don't let it ruin your night. Let it happen enough times and you might just have some good stories to tell to your friends...