Month: December 2011

Blessings Counted: Year 2011

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Today, I stumbled across something I wrote at the end of the year in 2009. I don’t remember the moment, but back then I must have had an impulse that led me to pull out a pen and pad and count my blessings for the year. For the first time since, here I go again:

2011 Blessings Counted

#1 Saved enough money to buy my first digital SLR camera, a Canon Rebel T1i. You might also hear me use the name “my girlfriend” when referring to it. It has been really great to have a nice piece of equipment for my longtime fascination with picture taking.

#2 Allowed an oral surgeon to rip two wisdom teeth from my head. Actually, the surgery and post procedure went well – no pain, no swelling. When I left the doctor’s office, of course, there was a beautiful woman at the elevator, since I was too drugged and bloody to do anything about it.

#3 Embarked on the literary journey of writing interview stories by way of this blog. This was yet another goal I had for many moons. Thankfully, I have been able to incorporate photography in the blog too – that was a secondary goal I had hoped for.

#4 Received a challenge to write a vision statement for my life. Though I never could have anticipated the amount of work this would require, I am incredibly grateful for the inspiration and no less committed to the exercise. There’s no way to express how interesting it is to see what comes out of the heart along the way with something like this. So far, I have written a long list of guiding values from which to derive my vision statement.

#5 Planned and executed the surprise celebration of a lifetime for a great friend. It was a hot one!

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Ten Things I’m Thankful For Tuesday

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1. Panda Express. For three years, I struggled to find decent Chinese food in Nashville. Panda Express was the restaurant of choice during a recent Guys’ Night, and it worked out for me.

2. The Golden Age of Hollywood. If you can’t resist the charm of films like White Christmas this time of year, you probably have some idea of what I mean here. I’m a big fan of the classic, classy nature of everything from the movie content, to the wardrobe, to the music of that era.

3. New beginnings. In this country, we have a lot of freedom to change things we wish were better in our lives. We can simply make a decision and then turn over a new leaf.

4. My kin. At Christmas, I remembered how blessed I am not to dread spending holidays with family.

5. January. It’s the month of my birth, and it’s just around corner! A few years ago, I accidentally started what is now a strange birthday tradition: the celebration lasts for 4 weeks instead of 24 hours.

All my life, I’ve been content to do nearly nothing for my birthday because it falls during the holiday season – a time when school is out and everyone is busy spending time with family. Nowadays, my birthday still takes a backseat to family time during the first week of January, but I’ve begun to utilize the rest of the month to get together with friends and make up for lost time. Silly, I know…but a fella has to do things for the kid inside once in a while.

6. Books. Ones about faith or financial wisdom are a hit with me, and I also like autobiographies. In the past, I have wished all bosses would build reading time into the workday.

7. Heat. Winter always makes me grateful simply to have a warm place indoors to sleep every night.

8. Graduate assistantships. These things make earning a master’s degree cost nothing. It worked for me once already, and I’ll definitely be looking for an assistantship if I decide to go back to school.

9. Pecans (in shell). This month, I had a random urge to return to an activity from my childhood: we country folk used to crack our own pecans while instantly enjoying the fruit of our labor. Lucky for me, Santa was kind enough to bring me a shiny new nutcracker and a heap of pecans.

10. Dr. Karen Starks. My mentor and college professor. To this day, she never seems to run out of good ideas.

During college, I didn’t always know I would go on to grad school; it’s funny to remember the day I learned that grad school was not optional for me in Dr. Starks’ mind.

What It Means To Be A Man Who Follows Jesus

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Hello, men.

Lately, I have had the sense God is beckoning me. There’s something He wants. To be frank (and simultaneously humbled), I believe He has a deep longing for relationship with me.

Even as I type the word “relationship”, it doesn’t express my meaning adequately. I’m sure I don’t know what words to use to make my meaning clear. When I speak of relationship with God, I’m not just talking about things like regular Bible study and prayer, though deep relationship involves those things.

I could compare God’s longing to something many people are familiar with – the idea of unmarried females strongly desiring to become married. Even the most love-starved woman has never yearned for the love of a man the way God longs for relationship with mankind. It seems unthinkable that Almighty God would regard man that way. Even in the Old Testament, men marveled, “What is man that You are mindful of him?” But the story of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit in the Bible illustrates the lengths to which God was willing to go to access the possibility of relationship with man.

And today, here I am with a growing awareness that in this hour of my life, He beckons me. He beckons me now like never before, and it is striking that He beckons me in gentleness and patience that are difficult to understand.

I stumbled across an old article written for men (college men, specifically), and I particularly enjoyed the section excerpted below. I understand that the part about becoming a theological man speaks to the way Christian males can utilize the Bible to learn how to approach relationships with fellow humans. But the author’s message also encouraged me by pointing out a radiant benefit of the Bible – one I don’t want to lose sight of: the scriptures should be seen and approached as a means to deepen relationship between Him and me.

Rise Up, O Men of God! What it means to be a man who follows Jesus

by Dave Collins

Christian men wrestle with very basic relational questions. Some of these questions live in our souls at the most existential level.

“Rise up, O men of God, have done with lesser things!” was a rousing hymn of commitment for men of a previous era. Today most Christian men I meet on campus don’t know this hymn; more importantly, they have a difficult time knowing what it means to be “men of God”—let alone what “rise up” might imply for their lives as students. Perhaps this is most evident as I watch IVCF men muddle through their relationships with parents, friends and romantic interests.

Our university world provides little or no social guidance (other than “be nice to people” kinds of statements), so Christian men wrestle with very basic relational questions. Some of these questions live in our souls at the most existential level (What does it mean to be a man and follow Jesus?) while some reside at a more practical level (What can I expect from my friends this weekend?). Add to these the ever present (and adrenaline charged!) romance questions (“Does she like me?” or “Should I ask her out?”) and most guys begin to get lost in a fog of emotions and spiritual concerns.

Without presuming to offer a complete road map, I want to offer a few suggestions to help you feel your way through the fog:

1. Become a theological man.

First things first: if we want to deal with the existential question, “What does it mean to be a man of God?” we must become men who pursue a deeper knowledge of God. Many men think of “theology” as merely an overly intellectual pastime for the socially deficient. For followers of Jesus, however, theology is a simple word to describe the application of heart and mind to the Scriptures in pursuit of God. We pursue the study of God to know him better, not just knowledge in the sense of facts (though facts about God are necessary to truly know him), but knowledge in the sense of deeply knowing our Creator. Knowing God leads to changed hearts and minds as we conform to his wishes, desires and commands. As a result, we experience his blessing and guidance in our relational needs.

If we are concerned about relationships in general, why not apply ourselves to the task of learning from the God who created relationships at the beginning? God presents himself in the Scriptures as the relational God who created men and women to be in relationship with him and each other. His paradigm for our relationships is demonstrated in the interrelationship of the persons of the Trinity (see John 13–17). The theological man mines the Scriptures for the gold of God’s relational wisdom. He also reads thought-provoking books for the wisdom that others have discovered.

I hope that the idea of “mining the Scriptures” is not new for you. However, I have been somewhat surprised in the past year with the lack of focus or direction many male InterVarsity students have expressed in their basic devotional life with their Creator. Quiet times are typically the “stick your index finger in the Bible and read what you find” sort, rather than a time of prayerfully considered study through a book or passages around an area where growth is needed. Serious scripture reading is seen only as something for the nerd who doesn’t have a better plan for his spare time rather than a vital activity for Christian growth.

If you want to grow in your wisdom about relationships, plan a month of quiet times that look at passages that deal with relationships. (For example: John 12–17, Ephesians 4–6; Galatians 5). Take some time each week to read from a theological work like Knowing God by J. I. Packer or The Cross of Christ by John Stott. When you begin to understand God’s love expressed through your adoption as his sons through the work of Christ on your behalf, you will begin to understand what it means to love others and how it is that you will need to live in relationships with those around you. If you are serious about desiring God’s best for your relationships, then train yourself to desire intimate knowledge of God. What are his ways, his workings, his deeds done in history, his plans for your future in glory?

via Rise Up, O Men of God! – Student Leadership Journal – InterVarsity.org.

Hymn For Men: Rise Up, O Men Of God!

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Christian men,
consider the lyric below as you listen to the sound of a chorus calling you to rise up.

Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Rise up, O men of God!
His kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.

Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task;
Rise up and make her great!

Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!

Ten Things I’m Thankful For Tuesday

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so I thought this week’s Tuesday post should be Ten Things I’m Thankful For At Christmas.

1. Behold the Lamb of God. The live, annual Christmas event created by Andrew Peterson.

2. Memories of great Christmases with the whole family at my grandmother’s house.

3. Homes decorated with Christmas lights. I was born out in the country, where families grew up piling in the car to drive all around looking at lights.

4. The two best Christmas gifts I ever received. I think they symbolize something I’ll be passionate about my whole life. One of the gifts was a little black radio with two cassette decks. I spent hours in front of that thing as a middle schooler. Back then, radio actually had real music on all the time.

The other gift was a larger CD player boom box. I got two CDs with it, one of which is still on the top 5 list of the greatest Christmas albums I’ve heard. It’s one of the top 5 Christmas albums you’ve ever heard too, believe me.

5. This quote: “There will never be scientific evidence to prove that a virgin gave birth to a baby.” A pastor once said this during a sermon in the autumn of the year, and as soon as I heard those words, I was filled with anticipation for Christmas. I guess in that moment, I realized I’m thankful that Christ transcends even science.

6. The music. I’m amazed at how enormous the body of Christmas literature is. So many great secular songs we all know and love, so many great sacred songs we all know and love.

7. Family traditions.

8. The smile on someone’s face when you exchange a sincere “Merry Christmas” with them. But I must say: for some reason, it hasn’t happened as frequently this year as in the past. In general, we seem to have lost some of the warmth of the season this year. I hope the change is only temporary.

9. The wholesome, goofy, simple, full-of-love, music-infused, beauty that has always characterized the coming together of my family.

10. Reminders of the real meaning of Christmas.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Self Portrait

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This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme is “Self Portrait”. I have a thing for photographing people while they’re snapping a picture; here’s a self portrait I made when I was supposed to be standing in line for food at my friend’s wedding reception.