day 107: i am in falling in love with TedEd. great Ted Talk on the future of the classroom. 

day 70: a speech i got to give: my testimony.

today i had the opportunity to share pieces of my lifelong journey with Christ with a few of my classmates. i do not particularly love public speaking, but at the same time it is an area and ability that i would like to grow in. and as i learned in tonight’s soccer match, you can not get good at something unless you do it over and over again. at least that is what i have found in my own life.

anyways, i figured today i would just post the manuscript from that speech. in hindsight, there are changes i would make. and as a disclaimer, i had to condense the approx. 13 million minutes that i have been alive into approx. 6 mins. needless to say, there are elements of my story that i did not have time to share today. 

my [six minute] story:

"Being a Christian is easy. Following Christ is hard. 

This is a lesson that I have been learning ever since I was a boy. 

I was a good boy, in the sense that I never cussed at my brothers, i never lied to my teachers, and i rarely gave my parents any headaches. 

I went to church every Sunday, read my Bible every day, and prayed before all of my meals. 

I was a good boy. 

I grew up with Jesus. we were tight, and we were always looking out for each other. He kept me out of mischief and gave me a good name amongst my peers, and in return I honored him by helping my mom do the dishes and by telling my friends that I would pray for them.

but i was a Christian only because I was surrounded by Christianity. Because my parents were. 
  
the truth is, i was friends with Christ for selfish reasons; because He gave me street cred. 

i remember inviting Jesus into my heart nearly every week, just to be safe. what i had not realized in my younger years though was that, while i was praying for Him to come into my life -for my sake - Christ was inviting me into life with Him -for His sake. 

when i was eighteen years old i was visiting a friend’s church on a Sunday morning. during their service the Pastor invited everyone in the congregation to pray a specific prayer - “Father, break my heart for what breaks yours.” it sounded legit; like a prayer i ought to have prayed if i was supposed to be a Christian. so i prayed it. “Father, break my heart for what breaks yours.” i had no idea what that prayer would mean for my life over the course of the following year. 

the summer i turned nineteen,  my parent’s divorced, deserting one another, and disowning the Christ they claimed to follow - ouch. my heart was broken

one month later, my best friend was killed in a car accident - ouch. “what the heck God?”. my heart was broken

that fall, upon returning to college, i spent my weekends traveling to youth groups, playing music and hanging out with teens. it seemed that everywhere i went the Lord was putting into my path teens who were wrestling with the very things i was at the time journeying through. 

teens would often approach me with a request for prayer or advice. 

“Steve, will you pray for me. my parents are getting divorced.”

“Steve, my friend just died in a skiing accident and I’m just not sure where God is. will you pray for me?”

though my heart had been broken by the recent events in my own life - a broken family, and a buried friend - the Lord used that broken heart to speak His love into the broken hearts of these teens.

ten months later i found myself in the middle of a an Internally Displaced People’s camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo weeping over the living conditions forced upon people who did nothing to deserve the stench of poverty that surrounded them. my heart was broken.

i cried and i laughed as i sang songs about the love of Jesus with orphans and widows who had lost everything to their name as a result of a civil war. through my interactions with these beautiful Congolese refugees i was able to share my Christian journey with them, and they were able to share their Christian journeys with me. 

i began to realize in that year that my relationship with Christ was never meant to be personal; it was never intended that He and i live our relationship out privately, but that He and i use our relationship to bring hope and life to a world that suffers from hopelessness and lifelessness

a friend of mine recently reminded me that “Once a relationship becomes between two people it becomes unhealthy.” I believe the same goes with our relationships with Christ. Once it becomes solely about Him and i, it becomes unhealthy. 

if it had not been for the Christian brothers and sisters that i was surrounded by in that year, i’m not sure how firm my faith would be today. because of their graciousness with me as i wrestled with what it means for the Lord to be sovereign in the midst of heartache, my faith was made stronger. those peers reached out to me, just as Christ reached out to the lost in his day, and pointed me in the direction of the Father. 

God gave me - and gives us - a Christian community, and i believe through that community He saved me - and saves us. 

The Christianity i grew up in had merely served me. now the LORD was teaching me that His version of Christianity was much bigger than that. Being a Christian, as it turns out, is not about what we can get from Christ - a good rapport amongst our peers or stickers on our church’s attendance charts - instead, rather, being a Christian is about reaching out to those who are broken - realizing that we ourselves are broken - and sharing this Love and Hope that has been granted to us.

Sometimes, i have learned, following Christ entails having a broken heart. 

It is when our hearts are broken for the things that break His heart that the Lord invites us into the proclamation of a Kingdom where broken hearts are mended, and lives are made new.

Being a Christian is easy. Following Christ is hard. Sometimes, if we surrender it, the LORD will break our hearts. that’s the hard part. But the good news is that our broken hearts are not the end. The LORD, if we are willing, will use our brokenness for mending the brokenness around us. 

And not only does God gives us community to heal our broken hearts. God gives us broken hearts to heal our communities.

The truth is, my heart is still broken. and it breaks a little more every day as i get to know our Father more and more. but rather than focussing on my broken heart, i’m focussing on what the Lord want to do with it. 

though it’s a scary prayer at times, i’m still praying it every day - “Father, break my heart for what breaks yours.”


… and then i said 'thanks'  and accidentally gave a peace sign to the class - a sign of my nervousness i suppose….



day 61: embracing everyday opportunities.

which sounds better:

1) Every day I have to do homework.

                     or

2) Every day I get to do homework. 

i have been thinking through the differences between the two today. 

recently i read a blog about how a subtle shift in your vocabulary can have a significant impact on your overall attitude towards life. 

this afternoon i was looking ahead at all of the work i have to get done before the end of the semester and was feeling slightly overwhelmed, thinking “man, i have to do so much homework before april!”. 

then i was rebuked by the voice in my head that said “dude, you don’t HAVE to do anything. you GET to do homework!”

i got owned. 

then i got to thinking, what if i started embracing even the smallest things i have to do every day as opportunities rather than chores. 

what if instead of having to prepare a speech for friday i saw it as an opportunity - i get to share my testimony with my peers this week!

what if rather than having to spend every evening in the library i looked at my time doing research as an opportunity for intellectual growth and the development of study habits. 

the truth is, i do not have to do any homework. i mean. technically, i could choose to not do any of it. 

i do not even have to be at school. 

BUT, i get to do homework, and i have the opportunity to go to school (an opportunity that many people across the globe would give an arm and a leg for). 

i mean, i guess if i want to be a teacher then i do have to go to school. but, i do not have to be a teacher. i am choosing to work towards that goal. and if i am faithful and diligent in my studies now, then i will be equipped for teaching later.

i will GET to be a teacher. 

there are a million things that we do every day - from brushing out teeth, to making our beds, to eating our lunches, to going to work, to getting the groceries, to ___________ (you fill in the blank). what if, though, instead of having to do any of those things, we GOT to do them.

what if we realized that we have the opportunity to brush our teeth (i’ve talked to kids who have brushed with charcoal!), or to make our bed, or to have a job to support our families. 

what if we did not have to do anything?

what if, instead, we were presented with a million little opportunities every day that we GOT to do.

i bet if we made this shift in our vocabularies our attitudes would shift too. 

making this a personal goal these next couple of months.

pumped for the opportunities ahead! 

day 26: wide awake and birthday cake. 

Dr. Smith has been asking the students of his Old Testament class who their ‘spiritual heroes’ are; who the people are who have encouraged or inspired us in our journeys with Christ. 

there are a few people that come to mind, but today there is one person in specific. 

when i was seven years old i met a bro who over the course of the following twelve years would show me what it means to live faithfully and radically for Christ. 

his name was Matt. 

when i was fourteen Matt showed me that living for Christ could be as simple as hanging out with a homeless dude in a New York City subway station.

when i was sixteen Matt challenged me to live out my faith by pitching in to buy a pizza for some homeless guys in Charlotte.

when i was seventeen i watched Matt walk around some ancient buddhist temples in Cambodia for what must have been hours, sharing his faith with a buddhist monk out of pure love for the guy. 
 
when i was nineteen Matt and i exchanged our last words, ‘i love you!’. and i knew that he meant it, because Matt embodied love like no one else. 

today would have been his 25th birthday, and there is still reason to celebrate.

today in class Dr. Smith also said that we may never know the full impact of our lives when they are lived by faith (we were talking about Abraham). Matt’s life, lived by faith, continues to impact mine and many others.

so grateful for the honor of sharing so much of my life with this brother. what an inspiration!

happy b-day Matty B, this one’s for you: Futures

day 23: searching for bobby fischer. 

today was a great day of rest. 

and to top it off, had the joy of spending a couple of hours with Kendra watching a movie that has easily jumped up into my top five. if you haven’t seen ‘Searching for Bobby Fischer’ you need to. it’s a story about chess, children, parenting, and all the good stuff that goes with those three things. 

currently listening to: Israel Houghton

day 22: lessons from indoor soccer.

saturday nights are typically dedicated to indoor soccer football at a local church with a handful of students from Kingswood. 

i have learned, in going out to play on these nights, something about my soccer skills: i don’t really have any. there is a huge gap that i need to cross between head knowledge and practical application when it comes to soccer. though i enjoy playing, i’ve got a long way to go :). 

i have a friend who is pretty athletic, and quite skilled at soccer. he told me once that he loves to play with people that are better than him. his reasoning was simply that when we play with people who are more skilled than us, we learn how to play. when we see someone who can get the ball past every player on the field and score a goal in the process, we see what could be done and are challenged to improve our own playing. 

so tonight i lived in this thought. i made some pretty silly plays, but i chose to just keep playing, with hopes that the next time i had the ball i would learn and grow and improve the way that i play soccer. 

and then i started to wonder if this lesson can be applied in any other every day situation; like in my faith, for example. if i want to grow in my faith, maybe i should surround myself with people who can move mountains by their faith. or if i want to be more loving, maybe i should surround myself with people who make loving unconditionally look as natural as breathing. 

there was a Greek poet who once said that “bad company corrupts good character”. the apostle Paul quotes him in one of his letter (1 Corinthians 15). i wonder if the opposite could be true of that; that good company cleanses good character. i could be way off on these thoughts, but i think they’re somewhat legit. 

i think that whoever we hang around with, we eventually become. so i’m challenging myself to hang around people who ‘get it’; who know what it is to live for the King and the Kingdom, or who at least are striving for them; people who are loving, because i need to be more so. 

the sweet part is that for the next few year i will be surrounded by those people. praying that i don’t take that for granted. 

anyways, my attempt at articulating thoughts tonight. think it’s time i hit the hay! 

'night!

currently listening to: this awesome remix of Coldplay’s ‘Paradise’

Paradise by Coldplay (System Remix) by Dubstep.net


 

day 21: remember junior high?

tonight i had the privilege of heading into Saint John with a group of brothers and playing some music for a group of junior high boys; a WILD group of junior high boys.

we were the special guests at an all-nighter that was organized by a couple of different youth pastors in the region, and so for thirty minutes or so we did our thing - played some tunes and jumped around like the handful of twelve year olds who were hyped up on  energy drinks and hot chocolates. i met one kid who pumped eighteen peppermint shots into his cup of hot chocolate. oh the glory days of junior high…

the night was a success, though our time with the kids was short. they only came in just before we played, and peaced out as soon as we finished. 

apart from playing music though, had a blast getting to know the guys in the band a little more. there are some solid dudes roaming around this campus, and i have been so blessed to share in ministry with them tonight. 

here’s a pic of the venue. it was tight up there, but we had fun.

currently listening to: The City Harmonic (Aaron showed me these dudes on the ride home tonight. pretty legit!) 

day seventeen: dinner with Mrs. K.

something i absolutely love about Kingswood is the relationships that exist between students and professors. in a lot of ways they resemble friendships, only that there is an element of respect that your professors require of you that your friends maybe don’t. 

tonight Alan and i invited our History professory, Mrs. K, down to the caf for dinner and she took us up on the invititation. 

i set the goal last week that before the semester is over Mrs. K would eat dinner with us. we have a forty-five minute break in our class to grab a bite to eat. i invited her to the caf last week, but she declined. i was initially a little heartbroken, but i’m over it now. mostly.

so for forty minutes or so we probed Mrs. K with questions about her life, her job, and her faith. as an education student i was curious about what it is like for a christian to be a teacher in a public school. her thoughts were great. she said that while she’s not allowed to speak up about her faith, she can certainly live it out. she also said that her students notice that she is different, and often ask her questions about her life. that’s awesome. 

our commitment to Christ ought to be reflected in our commitment to all spheres of life - our jobs, our relationships, even our chores. people should notice that Christ has transformed us because our lives should look like they have been transformed. i think Mrs. K gets that, and i want a life like that too. 

came across a good thought over the weekend in a book i’m reading. check it:

"Being a Christian depends on a certain inner relatedness to the living Christ. Through this relatedness all other relationships of a man - to Go, to himself, to other people - are transformed." (quoted in ‘The Divine Conspiracy’)

it was great to be able to hear a bit of Mrs. K’s story tonight. i love that that even our professors have stories to tell with their lives. and i love that she was able to share this insight with me tonight. 

our relationship with Christ ought to affect our relationships with the world around us. if we are legit, our students will notice; and they will ask us questions. 

thanks for dinner, Professor!

"Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."  - 1 Peter 2:12

currently listening to: Porcelain Raft (great song!)

day fifteen: moving as He moves.

i have come to really love mornings on the weekends. they are a chance to wake up a little slower; a chance to not have to worry about rushing to class or catching breakfast before the cafeteria closes. 

i’ve been reading through the story of God and His people from the beginning of time these past few weeks, and thought that tonight i’d just spit a few thoughts from a passage in Numbers. this passage stood out to me this morning as i was getting a start on the day.

just love that we can read the Word and share our observations with one another. so, this is my attempt at doing that :). 

from Numbers…

"Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the LORD’s command they encamped, and at the LORD’s command they set out. They obeyed the LORD’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses. 
- Numbers 9:22-23 

from my thoughts…

the Israelites were tuned into the LORD daily. as He moved, they moved. 
there is no hint or evidence of hesitance in their following. they simply walked by faith, like those that went before them - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 
sometimes the LORD planted tem in one spot for a day; other times He had them rooted in one place for a year.
and as He moved, they moved.

"They obeyed the Lord’s order…"

 He had delivered them and their response was faithful obedience. moving as He moved.

making this my prayer as the days go by, that as He moves, i would move with Him.

i think i often look at the Israelites as a model of stubbornness, but today i am looking at their obedience and wanting to journey as they did.

in faithful obedience.  

 

currently listening to: "I Will Follow" by Chris Tomlin