Tuesday, July 17, 2018

7 things that are bugging me right now:

I have been posting about the things that I've been into lately, but I'm going to take a break from that and rant a bit about 7 things that are bugging me right now:

1. yogurt
not fro-yo- the kind that comes in a little plastic cup and has weird organisms living in it. why is it that when people eat it, they eat it super slow; and they look at the spoon while they are eating it; and they stick their tongue out really far when they eat it? its gross.

2. backwards parking
I get it. its easier to pull out of a parking space when your car is parked backwards. the thing that bugs me is the process that people to go through to park backwards. They drive into the parking lot, and at some point, they just stop. then they spin the wheel and back up. then they straighten the wheel and drive forward. then they back up. and pull forward. and back up. then they give you all kinds of attitude. people who do this also seem to be a little too into their car too. it slows everything down. 

3. dog people
again- I get it. I had lots of dogs growing up. dogs are cool. big dogs are. little dogs that need to be held constantly and can't be left alone in your house- are not cool. people who carry their dog around and make baby talk to it are not cool. people who bring their dog into supermarkets and restaurants and businesses- and then bark at employees when they ask if it is a service dog are not cool. 

4. pen-clickers.
what is it about a clicking pen that makes people want to click it 1000 times a minute? for about a week I ran into a pen-clicker at least once a day. they were making me crazy. I could not even hear what they were saying over the sound of their pen-clicking. I finally found all of the pens and hid them. 

5. beer people at the ballgame
or the concert- and stadium or arena event. first they go and get a beer and make everyone scoot their feet in. then they come back with their beer and make everyone scoot their feet in. this time they have like 3 beers all filled to the brim and spilling. why don't they put lids on beer? then they drink the beer and have to pee- so they creep out again. that pattern repeats itself like 8 times in a 3 hour game. the worst is when they have to stop a basketball game because someone spilled their beer on the court.

6. the phrase "and...GO!"
I see this on facebook a lot- people are like, "what is a good dentist in the area? aaand...GO!" like we are in a race to answer their question- or to be the first to answer their question- or that their question is really that important. what if you asked for advice and graciously said thank you?

6a. facebook birthday ungraciousness
facebook tells people when its your birthday- and then people wish you a happy birthday. you know its coming. then people go out of their way to post something on your facebook page- then what? what bugs me is when people do nothing. like they are clearly not grateful that someone wished them a happy birthday. or the next day they post something like, "wow thanks for ALL those birthday wishes! I wish that I could reply to ALL of them, but I'm SO busy, so I'll just post this little note."
come on.
if someone wishes you a happy birthday, say thank you. give that post a like. write something in response. if you don't want to, then take your birthday off of your profile; but don't be ungracious. 

7. the slow right-hand turn.
slow anything when I'm following a car makes me a little crazy, but the slow right hand turn can make me straight batty. this is when someone is driving down the street and they have to turn right- when you turn left, you usually have to wait for a break in the other side of traffic- but not when you turn right. some people will nearly stop their car in the middle of the road and creep their car to the right. why so slow?! are they afraid they will get up on 2 wheels like the dukes of hazard? I could do a whole post about driving habits that make me crazy, but this tops the list. I'm not a road-rage honker, but a few times I have been tempted to be!

God is love.

the bear zoo

I love bears. I think they are hilarious. I would love to go and give a big hug to a grizzly bear, but he would probably eat me. either way, I appreciate them. I was thinking the other night-

what is there was a bear-only zoo?

wouldn't that be great?
there could be separate spaces for grizzly bears, panda bears, black bears, koala bears, red-panda bears-

they could have a big could building full of snow for the polar bears to swim and play on the ice-

there could be mascots and photo ops with characters like yogi bear, kung fu panda, the care bears, the berenstain bears, and paddington bear.

there could be those bear-rides like at the fair. a bear-fair?

black bear diner could be a restaurant on site. 
what about dancing bears? what about a bear encounter where you could go and pet a bear? I would love that!

and there could be bear experts there- talking about bear conservation- it could be a home for rescued or injured bears. 

they could show bear-documentaries; and shame people who poach bears.

and you could have tea with a bear!

there could be bear merchandise- and a store with shirts and hats and souvenirs-
I might just take this idea to shark tank- feel free to steal this idea! just give me tickets to see the bears!

God is love.

Monday, June 25, 2018

reflections on the story of jonah:

last week I took some students out to camp, and the speaker spoke on the story of jonah. it reminded me again of how fascinating the story is. I found myself getting lost in my own thoughts, questions, and ideas about the story. it also left me with a few giggles because of how pouty jonah is, along with how sarcastic God is with jonah's attitude.

I wrote some similar thoughts years ago here.
I also made a fun diorama for my plant here

first- a recap of the story. jonah is a prophet. it is his job to give people God's message. God told jonah to preach against the great assyrian city of Ninevah- and in the first twist of the story, jonah refuses. he apparently hated the ninevites. there is historical speculation for why he hates them, but the bible doesn't spell it out. so- in an act of defiance, Jonah goes in the opposite direction of ninevah- far, far away to tarshsish. while he was sailing, there was a violent storm, and the sailors began to cry out to their gods searching for direction and help. their gods didn't answer. jonah knew what the problem was- he and his rebellion were the problem. so he tells the sailors to toss him into the ocean and they do- and the sea becomes calm. what happens next is straight of out my nightmares. he begins to sink to the bottom of the sea, and as he is sinking, he is swallowed by a "great fish." three days later, the fish vomits jonah onto dry ground and he eventually delivers his message to ninevah.

now for some questions, ideas and commentary:
our speaker did a great job of talking about running from God- and how we can't run from God and how He pursues us with loyal love. I agree with that, and love that about God; however, I don't think that is what is happening in this story. I think that God had a job for Jonah, and He was going to accomplish that job whether Jonah had a good attitude or not.

God was not chasing Jonah out of love for Jonah, but out of love for the Ninevites.
God loves the people we hate.
God loves despicable people.
God's love is bigger- much, much bigger than ours. it isn't based on merit, or deeds; its based on who HE is and what HE is like.
the speaker said that the hebrews didn't have a word for whale, so the fish might have been a whale. that may be true; but the hebrews had words for lots of ocean animals, and this animal was purposefully called a fish. let's just say it was a fish.

here are some questions about this fish: what kind of fish is big enough to swallow a grown man? what kind of fish has a body that can keep a man alive for 3 days without digesting him? this fish had air inside of him- enough for a man to breathe for 3 days without drowning. I think it was some kind of prehistoric/ mutant fish. it was one of a kind. in order for this fish to be big enough, it must have been very, very old- maybe 50 years old? if it was a whale it could have been much younger. either way, I believe that God made this fish specifically for preserving and transporting jonah- and that God created the fish years and years before jonah landed in the water. but the moment he fell in, the fish was ready for him- God had prepared it for that role years and years before it happened. and God brought the fish right to where jonah was.
while jonah was in the fish, he prayed and repented. the fish was more obedient to God than jonah was! the fish showed up to the exact right spot, at the exact right time, and then it vomited jonah onto a beach- right where God wanted it to.
our speaker talked about how the fish saved jonah from death and how Christ saves us who believe in Him. and again, that is true, but I dont think that is what is happening in the story. I think the fish is doing more to retrieve jonah than to rescue him. again- God sent the fish more out of love for the ninevites than out of love for jonah. I think that the fish served as a living submarine- transporting jonah from one place to another, and under water.

jonah thought he had out-smarted God. there was no way that God could bring him all the way from tarshish to ninevah before His wrath would be poured out on the city. but in reality, God was able to do something that had never been done before: he transported a man across the sea, under the water- like a modern day submarine. things that we think are impossible are nothing to God. I think that keeping jonah inside of a fish for three days was just part of God's disinterest in jonah's comfort.
jonah did go to the city. he gave a short, uninspired message and then left town. and then the entire city repented. we often think that God only uses us in the areas that we are passionate about. or in the areas that we are talented in. jonah had zero passion for ninevah, and he used zero skill in preaching to them; yet God used him mightily. we often say it- but this story illustrates it- its God's message- we just deliver it. God can use any skill level to reach people. He even uses bad attitudes to reach people. He works in spite of our weaknesses; in site of our attitudes, in spite of our lack of preparation; in spite of our prejudice and foolishness. 

after his message, jonah waited to see if God would destroy the city, but He did not; because the people had repented. and this made jonah furious.

he essentially says to God, "I knew You would do this! You are so loving, and so forgiving that it makes me angry!" Jonah didn't want to preach to ninevah, because he hated them, and he knew that if they just had the chance to hear God's message, that God would change their hearts and show mercy on them. 

He seemed to know God better than anyone- yet his knowledge didn't make him any more obedient or loving.

I love this conversation between God and Jonah on jonah 4:
Jonah shouts at God:  “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
(I feel like God must be up in heaven saying this to me on a daily basis. "are you sure you have a right to be upset with me/ this situation?")

"Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant.  But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered.  When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

(I think this is hilarious. who talks to God like this? and God is so gentle and gracious with him. in other parts of the bible, God thunders and those who rebel against Him- but here He is listening to jonah pout about a plant. He listenes to jonah talk about wanting to die, even though God has gone to great lengths to keep jonah alive.)

"But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
God says to jonah- "you're concerned about your plant- but I'm concerned about people.
get some perspective, kid."
that's a message that we all need to hear.
at the camp, the speaker asked the question, "what is YOUR ninevah? who are the people that you don't want to see given grace? what are the tasks you DON'T want to do? where are the places you DON'T want to go?" and his point was- the people that you hate are the people that God loves. and He may end up choosing YOU to be His ambassador to them.

in this day and age- wouldn't it be incredible if our modern day prophets went to love those they have claimed to hate?
if God calls, make sure you answer- otherwise you may end up seeing the inside of a fish.

God is love.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

volunteer values

I was talking with a youth worker yesterday, and he asked me about volunteers, and recruiting, and red-flags and I sort of just involuntarily spouted out a list of over-arching values that I have for student ministry volunteers, and volunteers in general- I have said these over and over to dozens of leaders- and I thought I should record them somewhere- 

1. every volunteer needs a job. 
if they don't have a job to do, then there is no reason for them to be at your meeting other than to watch you work. it makes me crazy when I see youth workers hold a meeting and insist on doing the welcome, the game, the songs, the message, the small group questions and the counseling - all themselves. and then they complain to me that they have no one to help them. every job that you can do can be given away to a volunteer- and they may even do it better than you. 

2. the best job that a volunteer can do is to care for a student.
that is the most rewarding part of ministry- and the most attractive. if you want a volunteer to stay with you, then give them the best and most rewarding jobs. if you get paid, then you should do the jobs that no one wants: setting up, tearing down, cleaning up, emails, receipts, administration. let the volunteers pray with kids and laugh with them- let them support the student when they are struggling. let them do the fun stuff- you do the boring stuff. ephesians 4:11 says, "Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up..." we think that our job is to do all of the fun things- but God has sent us to equip everyone else to do the ministry. 

3. anyone can serve.
we think that only a certain type of person can volunteer- a young, energetic, single person maybe. I have had volunteers that were young, and ones that were older- I have had leaders who were single and leaders who were married with kids- I have had leaders who were in college, and ones who had busy career. anyone can serve- as long as they love God and care about kids (and pass the background check). my youth pastor friend told me that so many people in his church were so busy- I said, "don't say no for them! let them say their own no! just make sure you ask." 
so when you're looking for a leader- ask anyone from your church- young or old, married or single, busy or not. 

4. parents make the best leaders.
conventional wisdom says, "kids want to be around cool, young, college-aged kids- not stuffy old parents." not true. parents make the best leaders- and here is why: parents come hard-wired with instincts. when a student is sad, a parent knows what to do. when they are injured, let the parent in there- they can make it better. when a student is misbehaving, let a parent handle it. they are experts. teachers are amazing volunteers, because they are comfortable with students and they are masters at managing the behavior of a group of students. 

5. there is no good reason for you not to value, recognize and thank your volunteers regularly.
these people voluntarily showed up to help you do your job to work with teenagers and you don't have time to say thank you? shame. that needs to be one of your highest priorities- and not just once in a while- on a weekly basis.

6. give a volunteer the tools they need to be successful.
do they need curriculum? get it to them early. do they need time to read it and pray through it? then get it to them very early. do they need food for their group? provide it. do they need a clean space to meet in? then clean it. do they need your support? then give it to them- before during, and after their meeting. do they need basic information like calendar dates, times of the meeting or contact info? then make sure that stuff is available to them as early as possible. 

a good volunteer is worth their weight in gold. when you find one- take care of them. thank them, recognize them, resource them and above all, listen to them.

God is love.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

10 things I'm into right now- may 2018

1. my rocks
I previously wrote about how I was carrying rocks in my pocket- I figured that I could send some rocks to some people I had never met. so I made a bunch of rocks, and now I leave them wherever I go. I hope that just the right person will find them and be encouraged by them. 

2. technology that helps me find things
I just got the tile key-chain for my keys. It helps me find my keys anywhere. I also discovered that my apple watch will make my phone ping so that I can find it when its lost. so helpful! I told a student about it and she responded, "you need that because YOU'RE OLD!" true; but this kid loses her phone at least once every time she is at church.
3. battlebots
we get fired up for this show- it has everything: action, technology, strategy, fire, explosions, collisions- its epic. if you're not familiar with it, teams build robots build to destroy each other. these robots are violent machines and when they clash, its awesome. 

4. forged in fire on the history channel
I'm not sure why I love this show, but I have seen every single episode. 4 blacksmiths take hunks of metal and put them into white hot forges, then they bang them with hammers, then they sharpen them into razor sharp, super-strong knives. these knives are tested by knife-making experts. the 2 finalists then have a week to recreate an iconic sword from history- which is also tested for strength and sharpness by knife making experts. its interesting, exciting, relaxing and educational all at once.

5. cinnamon taffy town salt water taffy
I love salt water taffy. taffy town is the best brand, and cinnamon is my favorite flavor right now. delicious.

6. my dremel
I just got one of these tools. you can do everything with them! you can cut, engrave, sharpen, sand- I was getting my haircut and one of the workers was calling a locksmith because she lost her key to the lock for her locker. I said, "do you need a lock cut? hold on- I've got my dremel in the car!" this is a great tool for wood working, or any kind of home improvement project.

7. rita's 
this place has italian ice, but the frozen custard is out of this world. they just put one in about a mile from my house. so good!

8. the toys that made us
this is a show on netflix that gives the history behind all of the 80's toys like star wars, gi joe, transformers, legos, he-man etc. they do an awesome job talking to all of the creators- I love learning about how things were created and the process behind them. I have seen every episode if this show, and I hope they make many more.

9. comedians in cars getting coffee
I'm a little late to the game on this- but this is a little 15 minute show with jerry seinfeld where he interviews comedians while they get coffee and drive exotic cars. its interesting to listen to these guys talk about hecklers, and getting a crowd's attention, and coming up with new material- sounds a lot like youth ministry! its super short, pretty funny, and fun to watch. some of the guests are funnier than others-

10. the marvel cinematic universe-
when I was a kid, me and my friends used to go to the comic book store once a week and buy the new comic books. then we would go and get a soda, read through one or two, and chat about how fascinating that superheroes are. I remember sitting next to my friends and pulling comic books out of our backpacks at school and having other students look at us like we were crazy. they were like, "what is THAT?" and we would sort of shyly explain comic books, and the stories and the plot lines. 

now- everyone knows those stories and characters- its like we finally won!

I love to talk with friends and students about the marvel movies- it feels like I'm in middle school all over again!

I love all of these things- they aren't for everyone- and they reveal how quirky I can be. they also reveal how little things in life can bring us joy. 

God is love.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

sacred space

I was meeting with a co-worker recently- he recommended that we meet at a coffee shop- I had never been to this one- and it was kind of out of the way. 

when I got there, he said, "thanks for meeting me here- I know its a little out of the way, but its such a special place for me and I wanted to share it with you. its sort of my sacred space."

he went on to tell me some of the memories that he has had there; he told me how he likes to read and think there; and to look out the windows out onto the amazing view that you can see from there. 

and I felt really honored that he would share this place with me- and I did my best to help create a new memory there and to be in the moment that had been created.

and it made me think- "do I have spaces like this?"
what about you? 
have you ever shared a space with someone? 
I know that I have- it almost feels liek you're letting them see some art that you created, or read your journal- you're putting yourself out there a bit-

here are some spaces that are sacred to me that I have shared with others:

1. malibu grill
if you know me then you know that this is a no brainer. I have often said, "if we haven't been to malibu grill together, then we probably aren't friends." harsh, but mostly true. 
this is one of my favorite places to go to really take a friendship to the next level. its a place where I feel comfortable. when I go, I introduce my friend to the workers, and recommend a meal. I share the many memories I have made there. I talk about my friend Ed who first introduced me to the grill. I always talk about the time that the place burned down and they BBQ-ed at my church so they could fulfill a catering job. I never regret the decision to share that space with a friend.

2. the great bear
this is one of my favorite places to meet and old friend or a new one. I love to share the famous CCC coffee and chocolate milkshake with them. I love to look out on downtown los gatos and talk about deep things with them. when you share a space with a friend, you hope they will like it, and everyone always does.

3. the los gatos creek trail
my tail is the 2 or 3 mile stretch between downtown los gatos and vasona lake. this is my cathedral. this is my outdoor temple. If you added up the miles I have walked on this trail it would be in the thousands. if you added up the time I have spent praying there, it would be measured in days, not hours. this is where I go to learn and quote bible verses, to have a serious phone call, and to get perspective on the things that I'm anxious about.

I share this place with others- but only sometimes. its a long walk, and it takes the right person to appreciate how special that place is.  

I have a lot of other places that are special to me: my church in modesto, cannery row, pinecrest lake, hume lake, santa cruz, disneyland- but these are my sacred spaces that I love to share with a friend.

what space is special to you? share them with a friend and let them into your mind and heart.

God is love.

the church fairy

I have worked at 3 churches- 2 big ones and now I work at a smaller one. 

I have discovered that the church fairy doesn't work at the small church.

when I worked at the big church, I would find myself in situations like this:

  • a bunch of boxes came in- now that they are empty, what should I do with them? I'll just leave them in the hallway- the church fairy will clean them for me. 
  • one of the chairs is broken- what should I do? I'll put it in the hallway with a sign on it that says "BROKEN." the church fairy will find it, and fix it, and return it- its like magic!
  • after the baptism service, there are a bunch of wet towels and robes- who will wash, them, dry them, fold them, and store them? the church fairy. every time. like clock work.
  • the trash can in my office is all full. but don't worry- the church fairy will empty it.
  • the 4th grade class spilled glitter EVERYWHERE. sorry church fairy!
  • I had a big meeting that required chairs and tables to be set up. when its all over I think to myself, "should I put these away? nah. church fairy's got it."
then I started working at the small church. at first I thought that their church fairy was a little slow. it took me awhile to figure it out, but now I realize- 
the church fairy is me. 

when I make a mess, I'm the one who cleans it up.
I was spoiled by the church fairy!

of course there isn't a real church fairy- it was always a dedicated team of custodians, maintenance workers and admin staff. I should have thanked them more!

if you work at a place that has workers like that, appreciate them! their work is invisible in the moment, but when its not there, you realize how much you took it for granted.

and while you're at it, go ahead and appreciate everyone else who helps you too.

God is love.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

reminds me of rob-

I have a little extra margin today, I thought I would share a list that has been in my head lately-

sometimes my friends message me and tell me that they saw something and it reminded them of me- its probably because I'm a creature of habit and do the same things 100 times over. either way, it blesses me to know that someone thought of me-

1. sour punch straws

I always have these when I'm with students. I would switch to a different candy, but these are a winner every time. even when I buy them at the store, the teenage or college aged checker sort of looks at them lovingly as they run them across the scanner. I've had a number of people say, "whenever I eat these, I think of being a student in your ministry." I did my first talk to children recently and I just had a box of them in my hand. you could have heard a pin drop. I used to have a gun that would shoot them out into a crowd of students. ironically, I've never had one. I'm not into sour stuff. 

2. malibu grill

I moved to san jose 17 years ago- I would guess that I have averaged one trip to malibu grill a week. 52 weeks times 17 years is 884 visits; times an average of about $20 a visit means that I have given this place over $17,000! that's insane. anyhow, I go there a lot. Jane and I have made many models of malibu grill for her toys and for my plant. I have often said, "if we have never been to the malibu grill together, then we probably aren't really friends." I have often had friends say, "Rob! I went to malibu and you weren't there!" I don't work there! but maybe I should be a shareholder or something. one time there was a big fire at the grill and they needed to finish a catering job- so they asked me if they could use the church kitchen. I made some calls and we got the green light. the next week the whole place smelled like malibu bbq. they said thank you by giving the church staff free bbq. I had praised God in church many times- but never like that!

3. mister rogers
I did not watch a lot of mister rogers as a kid- but I saw this clip, and it has travelled with me ever since. 

I have used it for training leaders, for training students before service trip, and in sermons. it embodies everything I want to be as a youth worker. I keep a photo of this scene in my wallet and on my desk. now my friends often share mr. rogers videos and quotes with me all the time- and it doesn't bother me one bit. 

4. monterey and otters

I have written a bunch about how much we love otters- I am an otter evangelist! I'm always sharing otter-stuff online. one of my favorite sermon serieses was called "keystone species" and it was all about the spiritual lessons that we can learn from otters. we got passes to the aquarium and go there at least once a month. we love to go on a rainy day- that's when the sea-life parties at the surface. I often have friends say, "I was in monterey and I expected to see you!" or they will send me otter videos- I don't mind- keep them coming!

5. U2
I have loved these guys since I was a teenager. I have seen them in concert many times. when I start chatting about their songs or their concerts, I don't know when to stop. I post a lot of their songs on my facebook page- they're the best. whenever there is news about them I'm often asked, "did you hear the news?" "did you get the new album?" "do you have tickets to the show?" and the answer is always yes. 

6. red vw beetles
I drove a red beetle for years. what a fun car! my friends often gave me miniature beetles, or said that they saw one and thought of me- dw drives it now- but I had lots of great memories in that car. I as often told that it smelled like crayons. I could never smell it, but I can now, now that I don't drive it as much. everyone thought there were crayons hiding under the seats, but that's just how vw upholstery smells. 

7. los gatos/ los gatos creek trail/ the great bear/ CCC's
I don't know anyone who loves the town of los gatos more than me. I love the history, the shopping, the atmosphere, the architecture. I love oak meadow park and vasona- I love the los gatos creek trail- I have written about both of those spots several times on this blog. I love the train at oak meadow park- and my favorite spot in downtown los gatos is the great bear coffee shop. and my favorite drink is their coffee-chocolate-cream milkshake, or the CCC. just like I said about malibu, "if we haven't had a CCC at the great bear, then we probably aren't really friends." my favorite way to welcome a friend into town or to recruit a volunteer is to take them to the bear. I often have friends share with me photos of their CCC's or picture of them at the bear. 

8. be awesome today

this is a phrase that I use to remind students to have good behavior- but it has turned into a kind of mantra. friends often share when they see something with the words "be awesome" on it. I often tell students- "you can be awesome anywhere- at your school, on your team at your house, and definitely at church; so be awesome today."

and I guess that's my message for myself and for you right now. wherever you are, whatever you're doing, whoever you're with:

be awesome today.

God is love.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

rocks in my pocket

awhile back I was having a tough week. I was anxious to say the least. I happened to be at my local bible bookstore, and I happened to notice their selection of religious gifts on the counter next to the register. a friend of mine used to call these things, "jesus-junk." I normally ignore these things, but I saw a glass stone with Matthew 28:20 on it, and on that particular day, that verse seemed to be very comforting to me- so I bought it  and kept it in my pocket. I kept it in my pocket for weeks. every time I put my hands in my pocket, I felt it, and I was reminded of Jesus' promise to be with me whatever I face. sometimes when I was feeling extra anxious, I would hold it, or read it, or just feel it in my hand. as you can see from the picture below, I practically wore the letters right off. 

later I found another rock at the bible store and kept it in my pocket- it reminded me to give those anxieties over to God- and of how much He cared for me in that moment. these rocks  served as physical memory cards- and sometimes I would quote the verse out loud while I was holding it.

I got other rocks- each one addressing my response to fear and anxiety- they helped me to coach myself whenever I was headed into a situation that I was unsure about-

I eventually developed a collection of these rocks, and was able to choose which one would go in my pocket depending on the bible verse that I needed for that day.

when I walked around, I could hear these verse-rocks clicking against my keys in my pockets- it reminded me how how the Israelites kept verses sewn into the corners of their clothes and tied around their wrists.

sometimes when I was in a tense situation, I would just put my hands in my pocket and I was reminded of the promises that God has given us in the bible to watch us, care for us, deliver us and redeem us; and it gave me perspective, and helped to settle my heart.

eventually, I bought all of their rocks! of all of the "jesus-junk" I had ever seen there, these were by far the most helpful. I started thinking of other verses that I would like to have in my pocket and I began to look online for the manufacturer of these rocks or of some way I could create my own.

I didn't see anything that was reasonable, so I just made my own with a sharpie. this was one that I kept in my pocket for a few weeks. I felt that I was being argumentative and defensive, so I just decided to stop talking so much- and listening more. 

this was the last rock that I made over that season. Its not a bible verse, just a saying, but I made it in hope that things would change and improve. there were days that I looked at this rock and didn't believe what I had written on it; it seemed to good to be true- but I kept it in my pocket nevertheless. 

well, I can thank God that this rock- and all of my rocks in my pocket were right. God had never left me- He cared for my anxieties- He sustained me- He delivered me from my fears- He was my lamp and my salvation, just like the Bible (and my rocks in my pocket) had promised. and all of these problems made their way into and out of my life, just like so many before them. 

now I have a box full of rocks- and I'm wondering what  I should do with them. maybe I will display them as some sort of tribute to God- old testament style. or maybe I can hand one to a friend who needs one of them more than I do right now. 

as I look back on this time, I can conclude that God is good, and His words are true; and this little practice can help calm your heart and focus it on the truths of the bible, which are eternal and bigger than our present circumstances.

God is love.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

rob's requirements

one last self-centered blog for awhile-

a lot of you guys know that earlier this year, my family and I went through a pretty big change: after working at the same place and doing the same job for 16 years, I started working at a new place and doing different jobs. during that transition I started thinking about my non-negotiables- in my mind I could only work in certain environments, doing certain jobs and with certain resources. and then I discovered that I wasn't going to write my own plans- and then I discovered a new list of non-negotiables. I learned what I really need as opposed to what I thought I needed. and I learned that when these things go away that I need to find them again or things will be a little (or a lot)  "off" in my life. here are some things that I have discovered that I need these days:

1. my family
if I don't get to see them and talk with them and feel connected to them, I'm all out of whack. I don't ever want to do a job that keeps me from them for extended amounts of time. there are people who are away from their families for long stretches of time- and I ache for them. I have some friends who have lost their family or their family members- and I can't imagine what that does to them. through this transition, I think I'm actually able to be around my family even more- and I'm grateful for that. 

2. solitude
everyone knows that I'm super-introverted- but its not that I'm shy- its that I'm at my best when I'm quiet and able to connect with my thoughts and in prayer. my new role allows me to drive a bit, and has flexibility where I can gather my thoughts and talk things through with God. when I get too busy, my time with God, my journal, and my bible-memory are the first things to get squeezed out. I'm pretty busy, but I'm still finding time for being quiet. 

3. students
I'v been working with kids since the early 90's. I didn't realize what a big part of my life that they were until they were gone. I left a student role and began working with children- there are some transferrable concepts, but it wasn't the same. a friend asked me to fill in for him at his student ministry and it lifted my spirit like crazy. I could barely sleep the night before I spoke for his group. I woke up extra early because I was filled with energy. thankfully, I'm working with students again and its slow going, but I am so grateful for the opportunity.

4. creativity
I've always been creative- in the past, I used creativity in my messages to students, but when I changed roles, my creative outlet went away. I started creating dioramas for my plant and I was energized when I had a new outlet for creativity. I discovered that if I don't have a work-outlet for creativity, that I need to create one for myself. there is something about it that feeds my heart, that energizes me and pushes me forward.

5. organization
when my environment gets cluttered and messy, I stop thinking straight. Over the last year, I have found myself working in my dining room, in coffee shops and bookstores. it frustrated me to not have a spot for files, supplies and notes. I learned that if my work-environment isn't organized, then its up to me to work extra-hard to get organized. thankfully- I'm in a spot that is quiet, organized and clean.

6. nature
I had the opportunity to work in a city that had no nature in it. no hills, no trees, no trails. I would have taken the job if I had to, but I'm glad that I didn't have to. my walks on my trails, under the canopy of trees, and along streams nourish my soul.

7. margin
I hate being rushed. I hate being too busy to listen or to help. I hate being too busy to get in a good night's sleep or to exercise. so many people in my community are commuting hours and hours every day.  they have to-do lists that will never get done- I'm grateful that right now, I'm not in that boat. I have a long to-do list, but its important to me to get it done as efficiently as possible so that I can have margin to do the things that are important to me. 

8. a difference
recently a mom sent me a photo of her kid's room- it had letter that I had written him pasted to the walls. she said, "you're the only one who says encouraging words to him. he gets discouraged every day at school." I clearly remember thinking to myself, "I'm making a difference in someone's life! how long has it been since I was able to make a difference?!" that note energized me so much and gave me a longing to help more and more people. 

9. friends
the hardest thing about my transition is that there are so many friends that I don't see much anymore. but there are several that have been intentional about staying connected- and when I see them it is so life-giving. it doesn't make sense that I'm introverted on one-hand and crave friendships on another, but it makes sense to me. though this transition, I have gained many, many new friends that are wonderful additions to my life. God has blessed me with incredible friends- and seeing them gives me so much joy. I have learned that moving across the country would be so traumatic for me; and I'm grateful that God made a way that I didn't have to. 

who knows? maybe I'll go through another big transition and discover that these things weren't as important to me as I thought. until then, I'm grateful that these things are in my life and I plan on enjoying them as long as I'm able. 

God is love.