I coached swimming all through high school and two years in college.  I loved it.  I always oversaw the 4-8 year olds.  And in California these practices aren’t just “make sure they don’t die” type of practices, but these kids can MOVE!  

In college, I started coaching for a new team.  And there were these twin girls that won me over really fast!  They would always somehow find a way to get put in my lane for the day.  And good night were they cute!  And they knew it!  And they knew I knew it!  So, needless to say they did whatever they wanted.  

Here’s what I loved about those two, still to this day they remember things that I did for them during the summer.  Still to this day, they remember exact words and things that I said to them before races, or while babysitting them.  These girls are like sponges!  I know this because this family is so great and still calls me from time to time.  I’ll get text messages from their mother with pictures of the girls on Christmas, their birthday, and big swim meets!  I have not been their coach for years now…but they still remember me, care about me, and honestly love me.  I am the most undeserving of that – but man, will I take it!

Fast forward, and a week ago Emmy Jo and I hear three beautiful words from our doctor… IT’S A GIRL.

If I was honest, I wanted a girl.  I wanted a girl REAL BAD!  Why?  I don’t know, it just was what my heart desired.  But as I am preparing for the daunting task ahead of me of being a dad to my sweet girl that I get to meet in four months, the weight of her life looms from time to time.  What is to come of her life?

If I’m being transparent, I am scared.  At times terrified.  And yes, because I’m a first time parent, but more because of the reality of where the world is now.  Whether you call yourself a Christian or not, no one can deny that there is something WRONG HERE.  There is so much division, hate, utter disregard for other people, and just evil now.  And yes its always been here.  But now, it is right in our faces!

I’ve noticed that my heart has gotten so sensitive over the past six months.  I truly believe it’s the Holy Spirit shaping me for my daughter.  But, my heart breaks for the reality of what women see, feel, and are impressed on by the world today.  I hate that for my daughter!  I hate that for my wife!  I hate that for all the girls that are involved in K-Life!  

My personality and bent is always “fix it”.  So immediately, my first thoughts go to how Emmy Jo and I will make SURE that our daughter will be protected from these things.  And if I think long enough about it, I get to this point where I’ve convinced myself that because of Emmy Jo’s gifting, and my gifting – we are going to beat the system.  Our daughter will not only be fine, but thrive!  And wow, what a scary place I found myself in this past week.

I never want to be at a place where I think that I, Garrett, have overcome the world.  What arrogance!  My best and worst quality is my confidence – and it got the worst of me this week.  And now I’m at a place in life where my sin affects TWO people now(wife and daughter).  

it’s funny how one word can completely not only change a sentence, but change a heart.  Change a heart, change a life – right?  

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

There is so much in those two sentences for me:

1.  “In this world you will have trouble”

This is promised throughout Scripture.  I don’t why I can so quickly get away from this.  Probably because I spend too much time on my own plans for my family life, and not enough time in God’s plan for my life in the Word.  But I can’t control, hide, shelter, and avoid the fact that myself, Emmy Jo, and our daughter are going to have trouble on this side of Heaven.  It’s a truth.  And I don’t like that.  I don’t want to believe it – but its so true. This truth can drive me to endless sleepless nights.  But, Jesus told me how to counter this truth…

2. “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.”

Peace.  What that heck!  I don’t meditate!  I hate quiet! How can me knowing that this world will bring me, my wife, and my child trouble bring me ANY SORT OF PEACE?  Therein lies the problem – I’m looking for peace in my situation, and in the world.  My peace, and ultimately my family’s peace is being sought after in the concept of “not having trouble”  Because, if we don’t have trouble, that will equate to happiness, joy, and ultimately comfort, right?  Jesus so brilliantly combated my thoughts with his sentences here and followed up peace with two powerful words: 

in me…

Scripture so eloquently states that IN CHRIST

I am faithful (Ephesians 1:1)

I am God’s child (John 1:12)

I have been justified (Romans 5:1)

I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)

I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)

I am a member of Christ’s Body (1 Corinthians 12:27)

The future peace of the Perkins family has so much less to do with me, Emmy Jo, and our daughter, and more to do with our belief, trust, and submitting to Jesus.  These promises are throughout Scripture.  These truths bring me peace!  They bring me joy!  I want these things for my daughter!  I love that these things have been promised to my wife!  There is a promise of struggle in this verse, but Jesus greater promise and ultimately remedy is always found IN HIM.

3. “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”

And this is the best news of it all!  My wife and I will not and cannot overcome the world.  There is too much ugliness, and evil here for us to just avoid all together.  We will fall and fall hard at times.  But Jesus tells us, instructs us, and probably commands us to TAKE HEART!  We are good, it’s going to be okay!  Why can I say that?  Because Jesus has overcome the world through the bloody means of the cross.  My wife and I know that.  We believe that – this is where our peace comes from.  It isn’t because I’m good, no but it’s because I’m bad and Jesus is PERFECT.  We cannot control our daughter life.  What we can do is this, proclaim like crazy that black and white truth to her from day one:

This world will not bring her joy, but only brokenness.  But Christ has offered a way to joy that surpasses everything this world has to offer – and it’s Him, and He’s worth it!  

I’m learning…I hate that I don’t have control of my daughters’ future.  But I love that I know who does!  That brings me peace.  Because if it were up to me, she’d run for the hills.  

Hadley Jo – you are and will always be loved by me, that’s a promise.  Here’s another promise: You are already more loved by Jesus!  

It’s a girl

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Calling to Christ, check…but now what?

“So, my calling has less to do with a thing, and more to do with my identity and contentment in Christ.  Okay…but now what?”

It’s funny, I always go back and read my blog posts 24 hours later.  This helps because right after I finish I just have ZERO desire to read it.  This is why I was a B student in my english classes.  I love writing.  I hate re-reading.  Anyone else despise having to read over your six page paper after you just spent all night writing all six pages?  No?  Just me…

Well, after reading and processing through what I was saying I realized something.  There is clarity and comfort in the fact that my calling is to Christ himself.  I find extreme freedom and comfort there.  The Holy Spirit truly has protected me from the anxiety of being overwhelmed by the future.

But there is still one problem, right?  We are all thinking it…

We still have to make a decision about our future!  I get it.  I feel you.

I think what I would say here is first and foremost, I understand.  If I was candid and honest(which if you know me is pretty easy), I feel like I’m at a point in my life where a lot needs to start happening.  I feel like I’m the GM(general manager) for the Bobcats(worst franchise in the NBA).  I got to start making moves towards building the legacy that I want…problem is I don’t know the right first move, and there are SO MANY THINGS THAT NEED TO GET DONE:

You probably feel this way too right? Got to get a wife/husband, need to apply for jobs, need to send out financial aid applications, need to move back to X, need to get experience for the next job.

Whatever happening to being okay with the process

Okay, this is coming from a place not of wisdom but simply opinion.  If you walk away from this blog and disagree with me and say “THAT’S SO WRONG”, GREAT.  You have that right – enjoy that freedom.  But, I seriously believe that there is nothing wrong with this concept:

Just walk.

Just walk.  Don’t run trying to beat everyone else to find out where and what you are doing.  There is something really beautiful about the process…I have seen it first hand.

You cannot sit here and tell me that God himself expects and mandates us to just NAIL it the first time.  There isn’t a character in the history of Scripture that was just killing it right away.  Look at Israel in the Old Testament – it was a freaking process to get them to bow and find their True North.  For Heaven’s sake, God had to resurrect himself for them to finally find it.  Why do you hold yourself to a higher standard of perfection and obligation then Peter and Paul did  toward themselves?  Or that God has on you for that matter.  I mean Paul had been faithfully following Jesus for years, and his response to individuals thinking he had figured it out was pretty blunt:

“Brothers, I do not consider myself taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead.  I press on toward the goal that God has called me Heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13-14

He’s forgetting what is behind.  That must mean that there was stuff he did & choices he made that didn’t point him to “it”.  Forgetting doesn’t mean he disregards it and slanders that as the “wrong” but it was part of his sanctification!  Those things are so necessary!

Just walk.

Here’s the deal.  You got a couple job offers?  Pick one.  Neither one of those hold any bearing on if you are more or less IN CHRIST because if you believe in Christ, you will be called Heavenward.  Just choose.  You have that liberty and gift of choosing.  Put a little more trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding you.  And if you make a decision not led by the Spirit, God will redeem it!  You think David the “man after God’s own heart” choosing to holler at Bathsheba was a decision being led by God.  Nope.  Did God redeem that?  Oh yeah! Led David back to his Father.

But what if one isn’t the right choice? Impossible.  It might not be where you are meant to dwell.  But you needed to choose that to learn that even amidst seasons of struggle; your call is to Christ so rejoice.  Don’t believe me, fine… Paul?

“I have lost things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.”-Philippians 3:8

Notice Paul said that I may GAIN Christ, present tense.  He wants more of Christ and receives more communion with God when the things of the world start to fail him.  Because they will.

You have no job offers?  Just move somewhere.  I suggest to where you have community, REAL COMMUNITY.  Not just your buddies that are fun.  Get plugged in to a church that will aid in your gaining more communion with Christ.  Just go.  Take a job, it doesn’t have to be in the career path you want to stay in.  Start somewhere and let the Holy Spirit work in your heart.

What if we put just as much worry, stress, focus, conversation, research on the internet, preparation we put towards the NEXT STEP in life toward striving to enjoy the Lord in whatever it is you are doing?  Just do something!  And then find a way to redeem whatever it is you are doing.  Because here’s the harsh truth people…

Most of us, God has us where we are and in the work places we are not for the job but for the lost and broken people that work alongside of us.  I think we get side tracked by the worldly task of doing our jobs well.  Don’t misread me- that’s important I believe that!  Christians should worker harder than everyone in their work place.  But that job well done is the means to what we have to offer(The Gospel) for the people we work with.  God is reconciling that place to himself. I think…okay I know, He wants and has called(oops there is that word) you to be a part of redeeming that place.

So, moral of the story.  I have no idea what I am going to do after my job here in Waco.  I don’t know if it’s full time pastoral ministry, starting a company, working three different part time jobs, corporate America, fill in the blank. I do know that my calling will not change in any of those avenues.  I do know that I am first mandated to lead my wife and soon to be child to the cross of Christ.  And I do know that God will continue to develop, shape, and mold me in to the man that He wants me to be.  I’m okay with waiting, it’s worth it.  He hasn’t messed up a thing in history… I trust the guy.

But I hope that wherever I go, I remember that my job is more about redemption and less about the bottom line; ministry or not. Redemption happens everywhere if Christ is involved.

Do you feel called?

What is your “calling” in life?  This calling is the one thing that will guide and motivate most of your academic, location of living, and career choices for a long time.  This is a big decision – to put it lightly.  I have always been extremely weary of this question; to be honest it actually drives me nuts sometimes.  Just the pressure that comes with that question:

What are you called to do?

I DON’T KNOW! (Are you thinking this too?)

I fight this question a lot.  I can imagine many of us do frequently.  College students, you are graduating soon and everyone is asking you that question; “So what do you feel called to do?  What career do you want?”  The reality that this next decision of where to go and what to do could set up the trajectory for the rest of your life.

Don’t panic, there’s a remedy.

High school student.  You got college coming up.  Where do you go to school?  Which place will be the “right” place that will set up you up for the calling on your life?  What major will you choose that will make life just right for you and your future spouse(oh gosh, pandora’s box…another day)

You too, calm down.  Keep reading.

I struggle with this too.  Some days I love ministry as a full-time job.  I mean come on, I get paid to read my bible, love and care for people, and share the greatest story ever told or will be told!  But am I called to ministry?  What’s after K-Life?  Do I go into pastoral ministry?  Am I called there?  It lines up with my giftings and strengths, people affirm me in the position, what’s stopping me.  

I don’t know….

But on other days, the things that get me most excited about my job is building something and making it more efficient.  I love the business side.  I love managing, leading and empowering people to be better at their jobs!  I like being creative on how to go about accomplishing our mission as an organization.  Maybe I’m called to the corporate world?  Would I truly represent Christ well in that environment?  Could I handle it? 

I DON’T KNOW!

Where is my calling?  What am I suppose to do with my life?  What about you?  Do you hear an audible voice from the Lord?  Not me.  Or maybe he’s spelling out S.E.M.I.N.A.R.Y in your cheerios(more like Lucky Charms) in the morning.  No?

Me neither…So what do we do? 

A while ago I started looking into this “calling” concept in Christian culture, and I decided to start at the source.  It’s funny, in the New Testament whenever it refers to calling almost always it is DIRECTLY connected with our calling AS believers (Romans 11:29, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Ephesians 1:18 & 4:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 2 Timothy 1:9, Hebrews 3:1, 2 Peter 1:10)  not our calling to specific tasks, occupations, or places. 

This is good news!  This is freeing!  This discovery was literally the Holy Spirit practically working out Romans 12:2-3 in my heart and mind, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  It was like the Holy Spirit was reshaping my framework of how to function.  Guys, there are VERY few people that have a specific calling on their lives that God reveals to them clear as day in one fail swoop.  I want to be clear, he can and does work that way sometimes (Moses, Abraham).  But by in large, he chooses to let us slow cook our way to things.  Look at Paul.  He literally spent like his entire lift studying, preparing and equipping himself to be a Pharisee, and all that was actually preparation for what God really had for him.  It wasn’t until he was saved TO CHRIST that he saw what He wanted of his life — All in all, it’s on God’s timing.  That’s His choice, He gets that choice, He’s God!

So here’s the deal, the patterns of this world say that you must and should know what you are “suppose” to do.  The patterns of the Christian culture says that calling is a lighting strike to our heart one day during a really great prayer with Hillsong blaring on our Ipod.  But really calling has less to do with what and where and how and everything to do with WHO….

You were called by Christ out of darkness in to light – Colossians 1:13

You were called from the slavery of sin, to slavery to righteousness – Romans 6

You were called TO be salt and light to the world – Matthew 5:13-16

You were called to represent Christ and bring his message—2 Corinthians 5:18-20

Think of it this way:  You were bound up in your own sinfulness before you were called to Christ.  You were a slave to your own free will.  The problem was that your will could do NOTHING but sin against a Holy and Perfect God.  You could not have chosen the right calling if your life depended on it—and your life does depend on it.  If it was up to you, you would never chose the right thing.  But, and that word is so sweet, God in a disturbing amount of mercy and grace called you back to himself.  He breathed life in to your lungs, and like he said to Lazarus when he was dead, he said “Come out!  Wake up!” And after your eyes opened, your heart started to beat for the first time, you walked.  And from that moment on, you will walk in confidence that you are fulfilling your calling.

He is in you(Ephesians 1:13).  He has bought you(2 Corinthians 5:21). And he will sustain you(Psalm 119:116).

You are called to God.  Because of him, you can now walk in obedience in whatever you do! 

  • So ministry, or corporate… I have been called to Christ and will walk with Him. 
  • Texas Tech or Baylor…. You have been called to repentance and belief in the Cross and you will be provided for because of it. 
  • Communications or Engineering…you have been called to represent Christ character and will because of the Living Spirit inside of you. 

What if we spent less time worrying about what, and more time focusing on who?  I pray that I will not lose sight of this.  My wife deserves to be led by a man who is fixated on his calling to the Person of Christ, not my personal vocation.  My future child deserves a father who will encourage them more in their call to Christ than their purpose to be the next big _______. 

There is freedom in this!  Hope you find it as much as I do. 

Tagged ,

Story

 

Alright, I love movies.  I am a huge fan of them.  There really aren’t many things that I like more than movies.  The concept of them is awesome.  It is all based on an idea of a story that one person made up and developed in their head – and over time it gets developed to the point where a lot of different people gather around this once concept to make this story come to life to move people.  I think if you asked directors the question about why they love making movies, most would say something along the lines that story moves people.

If they don’t they probably made Napoleon Dynamite or something.

I don’t know about you, but I love going to movies and getting swept into the story.  Story moves people.  Why is that?  The drama. The emotion. The pain. The relationships.  I can’t help it.  I’m such a sucker for it that I will finish bad TV shows simply to finish the STORY.  Right now I bet we can all think of that movie that did that for us the 1st time we saw it.  You walked away thinking, “my life is different now that I’ve watched that.”  Or maybe even, “Don’t turn on the lights because my face is swollen with tears.”  

For me, it’s a no brainer:  Les Miserables – cue agreeing nods of everyone reading.  

Now, believe me when I say that I have been caught up in the story of many movies before…like I said, I’m a sucker.  But never have I sat in a theater and literally felt the tension of this story and it moved me.  Moved me so much that I have probably been its biggest advocate since opening night.  Why that is, that’s a different blog post for a different day…my point though:

Story.  It moves us.  It’s what we long for.  What do I mean by that?  

Think about it, your whole life everything has evolved around story.  

Let’s start with the past.  

The assignments in school as a child. Before we went to bed, we needed the comfort of a story to comfort us to sleep. The games we played with our siblings making a fantasy that we are super heroes.  The high school basketball game of the 4th quarter last second shot – what makes that enticing?  

The story.

Think about the present.  Why do we dwell in the past?  Why does everyone always talk about, “what was”?  The story of it made a memory! Why do I desire so much to be back in college?  The memories of what we made.  Story.  What excites me most about thinking about my wife and what we have done so far in the past 20 months of marriage? The story it will tell.  

And the future.  Why do we create elaborate plans for anniversaries, and surprise parties, engagements etc?  For the story they WILL tell.  Why is it so much fun to dream?  The unknown of the possible outcome of our story is enticing…

We long for story.

I don’t know about you guys, but I know that my story has brokenness in it.  There are cracks for sure.  In the past I see the blemishes of my spottiness.  In the present I feel the overwhelming thoughts of ” If only I _____ “.  In the future I worry about the holes that might be there if I don’t take care of XYZ.  My story had, has and will be broken.

A while back I became gripped by another story.  One that isn’t even about me.  A story that has me moved to the point where I wasn’t just advocating to go see this story from a theater seat.  But I was moved to the point where I knew THIS story was the only way out of the continual hole that my own story left me in.  This story was one of victory, one of triumph, one of promised security, and one of hope.  There is scandal, anguish, pain, and a rescue, and a kept promise.  How appealing that is!

This story is not about me – but I was chosen to be casted for a role in it.  My role isn’t big, but I’ll take it because I believe in it.  It’s not possible to turn down a story this gripping!  I could try and eloquently explain the story, but this will be better: watch

It sounds crazy, but I mean this when I say I care more about the Story of God than I do my own story.  I can’t explain it.  But it’s freeing really.  Because I tried for years to put all the pieces together to make my story great.  If I just did or didn’t do enough things my story would complete me.  But I fell way short.  Still do.  But that’s why the Story of the Gospel filled that shortage.  I have been trying to cash checks in my hearts bank for years with my own man made checks – always returned void.  I pretended like they didn’t, but they did.  Luckily, the truth of the Gospel and the freedom it brings was buried in my heart, and that check cleared.

Story.  It grips us.  It will make us toss and turn.  It will keep us up at night.  Wake us up early in morning.  Drive us to do many things.  There are a lot of stories out there. Which ones grip you?  My hope is that this one does…my fear is that if you were honest it really doesn’t.  I can promise one thing – I know only one story that ends with joy… so let this story be the one you follow:

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Two Revelations

Can I be honest for a second?  There are a lot of things that I am pretty confident that I can at least do an OK job at.  For example, sports.  I have always been pretty coordinated, and if I work hard enough I can get pretty good at a particular sport.  Now don’t read this wrong, I’m not saying I am god’s gift to athletics, (although at one point in my life I did think this).  But, sports comes more naturally to me than other things.

There are also things that absolutely do not and will never come naturally to me.  Immediately, the first example that comes to my mind: math.  Oh man!  My mind does not work like this at all.  I have never been good at being able to piece together something to come up with a definitive answer EVERYTIME.  Not only am I not naturally good at math, I absolutely despise it.  Why do I despise it?  Because I’m bad at it.  And this is a common theme for things that I am bad at: If I cannot perform well, I will not like it.

Golf.  Hate playing it.  Horrible at it.

Painting, drawing, anything artistic.  Nope, no fun.

Handy man stuff, don’t even get me started.  Ask my wife, she’s better with a hammer than I am.

And this is the common theme for all things I see myself failing at….except for one thing.  This is relatively new to me, 17 months new to be exact.  Marriage.

Now before you roll your eyes and think, “oh vomit Garrett, stop fishing for compliments” finish the post, because this truth that I have learned is honestly SO freeing.

Emmy Jo and I have been married for 17 months now.  I cannot believe it has gone by this fast!  It has been the best year of my life hands down, no contest!  But there continues to be a theme with Emmy Jo and I that I think is pretty common.  There is a learning curve!  Like clock work about every 2-3 months we sit down and have to re-evaluate how we are doing.  And like clock work we learn that one or both of us at some point is being selfish, lazy, prideful, or not giving enough to make the person feel completely loved etc.  The list goes on.  This sucks to hear at first, especially from the one person in the world you want to impress and love.  And without fail we continue to find these things and areas where we let each other down.  Now one year in, this could sound depressing…and I agree with that, but luckily for us we both finish our conversations with each other and always conclude with the same 2 revelation:

1. We will always come up short in providing everything for each other 

Now as a man, I hate this.  I cannot stand it.  My greatest desire is to provide, love, and serve my wife so she will never hurt, feel insecure, or need anything!  But as Emmy Jo knows, I continually fall up short.

Same goes for Emmy Jo.  She will never be able to serve, love, encourage, and follow me perfectly(although she gets pretty dang close).

But isn’t marriage all about finding that compatible person that can give you everything?  That person that is too good to be true.  That person where you feel like nothing can mess with your Notebook like relationship.  Love conquers all, right? (I agree with that but not a love that comes from man)

If Emmy Jo and I have learned one thing in marriage it is this; the point of marriage is not about compatibility, but commitment.

Commitment.

I stood before God and man 17 months ago and made a promise to Emmy Jo.  I promised to love her like Jesus himself loves the Church.  Jesus laid his life down, even while his Church was still sinning against him (Romans 5:8).  Therefore, when Emmy Jo misses the mark of being the wife I expect, I have committed to her that I will lay down my pride, and desires for the sake of forgiving her the way Jesus showed me how to do so.  And Emmy Jo promised me the same thing.  Talk about freeing!  And man does this make me love her more!

Honestly, I’m learning that mine and Emmy Jo’s marriage is less about me and her being happy, comfortable, and “lovey dovey”, and it’s more about being a walking example of the Gospel.  I can work my tail off every day to be the perfect husband for Emmy Jo, and trust me I try really freaking hard.  And I still let her down.  But because of Emmy Jo’s covenant promise to me, I know that her love towards me is not measured by what I do and don’t do; but it was promised to me on the altar!  Praise God!

Emmy Jo can offer me this kind of love because she was given an example by Jesus a long time.  Jesus did the same for Emmy Jo and I.  He made us a promise that he would save us from ourselves.  He fulfilled that promise on the cross.  And by dying, he bought our freedom from sin, and gave us the gift of being able to love like Him.  All he asked is that we commit to him.

So really, Emmy Jo is simply revealing to me daily that I cannot and will not make it on my own.  But I need Jesus.  And I the same for her.

So, the revelations: We will always come up short in providing everything for each other.

Here’s the better revelation….

2. Christ came up victorious and fulfilled everything Emmy Jo and I need in himself on the cross.  (Galatians 2:20)

My marriage has already been won.

The dilemma

These past few weeks have been CRAZY!  I’m still getting back in to the groove of my weekly work schedule.  For anyone who is involved in ministry vocationally, you understand that beginning of the year is always BANANAS.

We are in the flow of things with K-Life and the past few weeks have consisted of interviewing college students to be potential leaders, organizing the year, placing new leaders, building training for these leaders, and starting up our entire ministry.  Last week, I went Monday-Friday 9am-4pm just doing interviews.  Thursday after interviews I ran to Books-a-million (my safe haven to hide and regroup) to prepare my talk for club that was going down in 3 hours(stop judging me).  Normally, I prepare the week before, but like I said earlier……

BANANAS.

We then ran club for junior high.  What a blast!  It was our first junior high specific club of the year.  It was so refreshing and needed to be standing in front of them and presenting them with the Gospel.  It’s dumb that this is my job…

#getbuckets

After club, because we have been moving at a million miles per hour, our staff spent some time regrouping and checking in with each other.  It was so needed, and so good, but so heavy.  We are both learning that our job is HUGE.  Right now currently within our ministry between our 125 college students and 280 kids, so much is going on!  Not only logistically, but in the lives of the people we are involved with…

We have people battling depression.  There are girls fallen captive to the lie that their physical reflection in the mirror isn’t good enough.  There are dudes that are convinced that their status here and now is better than the gift of Jesus himself.  There are families that abuse each other, and kids that are told every day by their parents that they have to “be better” at something.  And our jobs is to “feed this flock”?

Cue the wave of burden, inadequacy and worry.  Everything in my being and fiber automatically jumps to, “how will I fix this?”  Last night I was defeated.

It’s so easy to stop there…Luckily, I got to battle with Jesus over this.  He won, shocker!

For so long, I have gotten angry, and frustrated at the situations of men.  I would expect something more from everyone.  I didn’t get why these girls are so blind to the pain they are putting themselves through.  And why the heck were these guys so self-centered in their lifestyle?  Did they just not WANT to be okay?

Thanks to the conviction of the Holy Spirit through the Word, I’ve realized something…this all make sense.  Why do I expect we can fix ourselves?  This is the dilemma of the Gospel: “they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the images made to look like mortal men…God gave them over to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done.”- Romans 1

These are all just the symptoms of the state of our sickness: Sin.  We can’t fix it.  I, Garrett, will never be able to fix others bent to continue to “do what ought not to be done.”

Tonight, I sit up and am thankful.  I am thankful that the hero of our story didn’t leave us high and dry in the desert.  The moral of the story here isn’t “just be better!”  Because if we’ve learned one thing it’s that we can’t on our own.  The two greatest words just play over and over again in my head:

But God…

“…but God meant it as good, to save many people alive.” Genesis 50:20

But the Lord God turned the curse into blessing.” Deuteronomy 23:5

“and they condemn the innocent..But the Lord is my defense; and my God is the rock of my refuge.” Psalm 94:21-22

“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side has made him known.” John 1:18

But God, demonstrated his own love for us.  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” Romans 6:23

“For which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.  But God’s word is not chained.” 2 Timothy 2:9

I always can come back to that.  The state of people is broken, and marred, and there will never not be hurt on this side of Glory.   But I do know one thing: there is a solution.  There always has been.  And it’s the only solution.  The solution is found in the hands of a not just a brave man.  Not just a martyr.  Not just a bold prophet…. No but God himself.

So that’s why I can’t help but weekly proclaim the Gospel while I preach, and at small group, and during discipleship.  It’s the only solution.  But it wont “fix” the problem of sin, but it will continue to reconcile habitual sinners to the one thing that will claim them as His own: God.  Because here’s the deal, until I stop breathing I’ll still carry my old self; I can’t kick it.  It’s the badge I wear while I’m here.  But Praise GOD because I can diminish it now.  From here on out, I’ll fight for two things:

1. Image— I will fight to image the Creator, because that is why I’m here. “All things were created by him and FOR him.” Colossians 1:15

2. Identity–I will continue to fight that my identity lies in the imputed righteousness that was given to me freely through Calvary.  And I will fight to flee the identity I left in Tijuana, Mexico nine years ago after I chose Jesus.

It comes down to one question for believers: Do you believe that Jesus is better than that?  I want desperately to always answer that Yes.

He must increase, and I must decrease.

 

 

 

Numbers can lie…

Baseball is a game of failure.  If you are a sports fan, then you know this realization.  That’s why people who even love sports hate baseball.

If someone is up to bat 20 times, and they get a hit 8 of those times, they are playing at a level that is considered not only great but also historical.  That’s pretty ridiculous.

My first test of my college career was a little rough.  I got a 28/100.  Yes, that’s not a typo, 28%.  In baseball terms, that’s batting .280.  If I batted .280 in the MLB I’d be starting on some teams.  Too bad that’s now how it works with grading…

This year is my third year doing K-Life full-time.  It’s been incredible, brutal on my heart, but incredible.  Here is what I mean by that:

I have seen four groups of seniors in high school graduate and head off to college since I’ve been involved.  I have been the small group leader and spiritual mentor for 3 of these groups.  I have fallen in love with this year in a kid’s life.  I believe it’s crucial, and possibly one of the most important years in someone’s life—I am dead serious.

Senior year is the last time a kid has until he moves to set up the trajectory for possibly the rest of his/her life.  The reality is both scary and realistic.  The beliefs shaped this year truly do set you up for the long haul.  I’ve seen it first hand.

Like I said, 3 different small groups, the exact number to dudes that I’ve led is 23.  Now I want to talk about them as numbers just to paint a picture so you can see why I said my job at times is brutal on my heart:

Of the 23 that I have been around, the Gospel has radically changed 5 of them.  3 of those 5 were saved at K-Life.  That’s a 21% “success rate” to put it in numbers form.

That’s not even good by baseballs standards.

Of the other 18, I am still in communication with 2 of them.  Let me preface that by communication I mean I have talked to briefly and casually over the past three years.  The other 16, I literally have no idea where they stand, what they believe, and how they are.

5-23?  Really… That’s it Garrett.  That messes with me.

Everything in my flesh beats me up about this!  It would be so easy to stop there and close the book and say, “you’ve failed.”  And at times, I end days like that.

Then I hear what Jesus said to Peter on the water, “Where is your faith? Do you trust me?”

Praise God that he is not a God of numbers, or of statistics, and that His plan from the beginning to reconcile creation was so personal!  From the beginning he knew what he was doing, why have I made myself the hero?  I’m just in the credits at the end of this movie.  Jesus is the hero.

I continually put too much emphasis and expectations on myself.  If I continue to look through the lens of wins and loses, and not that Jesus already won, I will be crushed by lies.  My job is to present a new paradigm for these guys, the rest isn’t up to me!

Weight lifted!  Now I got direction of how to keep walking!

So because of the lens of the Holy Spirit, this is how I see Jesus’ ministry through me these past three year:

I have been chosen and given the incredible gift and job to present the good news of the Story of the Gospel to students.  And I will strive to do it faithfully and in accordance to the Scriptures.  Over the past 6 years of doing this in Waco, I have personally been a vessel to watch the Holy Spirit turn 5 dudes from death to life.  Jesus’ good news has penetrated, re-worked, and shifted the paradigm of 3 of these guys this past YEAR!  And I got to watch it happen.

Light always overcomes darkness.

Luckily, Jesus was perfect in his plan and knew that if it were up to me, I’d mess it up.  So I am clinging to his plan is perfect that he is reconciling everything back to Him, and I get to be apart of it.  I’ll take whatever glimpse of His glory I can get.

Let’s end with numbers shall we:

Jesus labored with 12.  He left it in the hands of 11(+1 Spirit of God, talk about unfair advantage).  Within weeks, there were over 3,000 that the Holy Spirit awoke to the Gospel.  And “praising God and enjoying the favor of all people the Lord added to their numbers daily those who were saved.”- Acts 2:47.

He’s sovereign. He has a plan.  And he’s perfect.  An above all else, He is good!  So I can’t worry about what if’s and uncertainty… because He is sure—So I will be find rest in that.

 

Leaving home…

Okay, I feel like Emmy Jo and I have kind of cheated the system.  And by kind of; we totally have.

For those of you who don’t know, teachers have it ROUGH.  They deal with a lot. They get under-paid.  They deal with kids all day who complain, cheat, steal, pick boogers, forget their homework, pee their pants and the list goes on.  They get up at the butt crack of dawn.  However, there is one glorious thing that they get to look forward to:

Summer vacation!

Because of the high volume of volunteers being college kids who are gone for the summer, my ministry takes a time-out as well during this time.  So that only means one thing for me as well:

Sumer VACATION!

Needless to say, Emmy Jo and I have taken full advantage of this time.  It has been glorious to say the least.  Now I write this post not to brag or boast, but seriously…. my summer was better than yours.

Sorry.

We have spent the past 8+ months living on completely different schedules.  When she gets home from work, I go back to work.  When she leaves for work, I am still asleep.  When she wants to go visit friends in Dallas, I have an event planned.  Our time to truly get to enjoy one another is near and far between.  First semester, after looking back we didn’t do a great job of fighting for that time.  Second semester was definitely better, but still was tough.  So summer time, we are soaking up every minute we get.

And it has been incredible.

We started off traveling to California for a week to be a part of my little sisters graduation.  This was also probably one of the last times I will be in the town where I grew up in.  My parents have moved to Austin, TX (yes!).  But what that means is, the house where I spent 2nd grade until now in will not be a part of our family memories anymore.

Weird.

Honestly, I didn’t think going home would have been a big deal.  The worst thing I thought was going to be not being able to eat at our local deli that literally has a sandwich named after my little brother we went there so much.  But I caught myself being incredibly nostalgic all week long.  For someone who loves change and new places and people, this was harder than I thought….

1. There are people in Moraga, CA that played a huge part in my maturity and becoming the man that I am still growing to be.  I realized after having breakfast with a mentor of mine that I will miss his voice and place in my life immensely.  Walking away from that breakfast was hard.

2. There is a family with 3 little kids that the Holy Spirit has created in my heart for.  Recent struggles and broken relationships within the family has broken my heart because I know these 3 little girls are hurting.  I feel like I am running out on them…

3. There are relationships that I feel like I jacked up.  I either “burnt bridges” because of different paths in life, or just lost contact out of neglect or laziness.  And that might be the hardest one to swallow.  I went many years without telling these people the good news of the Gospel, or even just that I truly appreciate them.

When will I go back there?  How will I know the next time I will get to have a conversation or be able to sit down with these people again in my life.  After three or four days of these questions filling my head, I realized these things:

1. Those people that played a huge role in my life I am extremely grateful for.  But I have an incredible new community of people that love and pour in to me.  With new places, new people come in to our lives. God was faithful.

2. I was given a letter from this family encouraging me and how grateful they were for the time we spent together.  They said it could not have come at a more important time in their lives.  I was shown that I served a specific purpose, and was used for good! God is in control.

3. Yes, I have made mistakes in how I have handled relationships, hardships, and struggles with people in the past.  But, looking at that in guilt in shame is not seeing that those sins were bought with blood long ago.  Jesus sustains.

This summer has been such a blessing.  Yes, because the travel.  And yes, because I got priceless time with my wife.  But most of all, because I was given more glimpses of the Truth preached in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Can’t beat community

One of my best friends got married a couple weeks back.  This was one of many weddings my wife and I will be attending this summer.  I had the honor of standing next to Joe as a groomsmen as well.  It’s been so cool to be on both sides of that situation.

What a gift.

Not only was it a treat to stand next to you Joe praying for him and watching him declare his love for Lisa(his bride).  I have some of the most incredible group of friends any one could ask for.  Not only that, I’m absolutely confident that we have more fun than any one else in the world.

We spent the entire weekend laughing, enjoying meals, and being reminded how important quality relationships are.  There really is nothing more life giving than a quality friendship.  I can’t really explain it.  The weekend just felt right.

I want to highlight some things that stood out to me this weekend, not because I want to just give you a glimpse into my life, but also because I truly believe that what I experienced this weekend is how we all should strive to live amidst our community.  It shouldn’t take a special occasion to do the things that we did..

1. We shared life with each other.  Not just successes, but FAILURES as well…

Most of the time when I talk to people, I feel this insecurity of the fact that I have to prove myself worthy of someones respect.  So I usually lead with what I’ve done GOOD.  Not with my boys.  I tend to lead with my failures.  Because I know that they will be received with love and my community will come along side of me.

2. Truth was spoken to each other…

Every wedding I’ve been to, it’s been about the bride and the groom.  It’s their day!  This was the same, however Joe(the groom) did something really cool.  Before we went out for the ceremony, he spent 10 minutes reading to each groomsmen a letter he wrote to them about why he chose us.  He spoke bold truth in to our lives about our identity and our character.

In another situation, one of my buds reminded me that I tend to take things on myself too much.  And some times that doesn’t show hard work or humility, but arrogance because I like to be in charge.  Wow!  Did that sting, yeah.  But it is SO true.  No one but him could have said that to me without me getting defensive.

3. Gathered together to enjoy TIME

I don’t know if it was going to school in Waco, or just the genetic make up of my community, but we don’t have to do much to make sure we are enjoying TIME with each other.  We have gotten very good over the years at making sure what we do is FUN and CHEAP.

After the wedding 10 of us went of to one of the houses and just SAT and enjoyed time with each other.  What did that consist of?  Only the finer things in life:

Super Smash Brothers. Watching Tyler and John Steen wrestle.  Brenna having pick her birthday dinner restaurant by Will building a Tournament with restaurants competing for her choice (side note BJ’s won….I’d like to note that Taco Bell made it to the Final Four.  Now you know why Brenna and I are friends).  And a lot of people making fun of A-Train!

We don’t need much to enjoy time with each other.  The key is simple: we are with each other.

I am thankful and stupid lucky that I get to claim the people I do as my community.  These people are going to be world changers.  We have business man in NY and soon to be doctors in Denver. We have top salesmen in Dallas and Fort Worth and we have soon to be physical therapists…. and the list goes on.  The best part about all those people is this…. every single one of them is passionate about Jesus and making Him known.

And there’s the kicker.  That’s why my community can’t be beat.

It’s even bigger than I thought

I’ve never in my life been extremely blown away by anything.  I honestly can say, there has only been a few moments where I have truly been speechless.  My mind raced with emotion, thoughts, and adrenaline to the point where I had to stop whatever I was doing:

1. My last high school baseball game ever played.  Cheesy and stupid, probably.  Nonetheless, I was speechless.  I remember getting dropped off by the team bus to our home field where our cars were parked.  I sat in the dug out with my best friend since 2nd grade and many other guys that I had shared a passion with for years… and it had all ended.  In that moment, I was blown away…

2. Walking alongside a high school guy wrestling with the concept of Jesus, salvation, the cross, and if it was all actually true.  And if it was why did it matter?  Seeing the Holy Spirit woo this young man to Himself over the course of a semester and it all coming to a boiling point one night with his closest friends and myself when he finally said, “I need Jesus, and I think he’s worth giving up everything else.”  Never in my life have I tangibly seen a transformation of the heart happen like that SO intentionally.  I was stunned and for a moment, speechless.

3. The second my best friend, and now wife, locked eyes with me as she walked down the aisle on our wedding day.  People always talk about their “tears of joy”, and I’ve never really bought that… but when I saw my wife walking to me, ready to commit to loving my jacked up self, I for the first time felt and experienced tears of joy… and in that moment, I was blown away.

4.  These past two days…..

This whole writing thing has been so good for me.  Not only blogging, but simply writing more on my own time.  My thoughts, analysis of things, and opinions.  It has helped me develop a stronger sense of foundation for where I find Truth and how I will apply it.  However, this week, I have been blown away by my small view of what the Gospel is, and how BIG it is.  Let me explain….

I’m reading the book of John right now, for personal devotion and study, but also because my ministry will be unpacking it next year.  I am also currently reading, Explicit Gospel, by Matt Chandler.  And as I expected, it’s tremendous.

Seriously, just pick it up and read it.

I have always loved and fallen passionately in love what the Gospel is to me personally, and the implications it has on my life, personally.  You can ask anyone that has watched or heard me preach at anything, to college kids, youth, or even peers.  Once I start talking about the state of our lives before Christ and where we are after Christ–I’m in my sweet spot.  Chandler in his book calls this part of the gospel the “gospel on the ground” view.  To him, this is only part of it.  And for me, it was as far as I ever got.

Silly me.  This story is even bigger than I thought…

Chandler spends about 50 pages in his book discussing the “gospel in the air”.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I have never in my life even processed through the eternal implications and reality of what was, is, and is coming to be of not only my personal life, but the entirety of Creation because of the cosmic cross of Jesus Christ.  By now, the only people reading this blog are people that know me and know that this is a place where I dialogue about Christ so here we go….

This is HUGE.  The cross didn’t just effect my sins, reconciling me to the cross, but it was the turning point of Christ redeeming the entirety of both the spiritual creation (souls) but also the physical creation (the world).  He created this for His glory, and he is making a spectacle out of it for HIS glory.(Isaiah 40:3-4)  This is where the term “mission” comes from.  Because we are actually a part of the most incredible STORY of all time, that is unfolding right in front of our eyes!

Okay, and this through me over the top.

What’s nuts is this….

This world is broken.  It’s fallen.  We see that from the beginning, but it’s not just MAN that’s fallen.  It’s the world itself.  That’s why there is so much natural disaster and chaos.  Scripture calls it “birthing pains”.  Everything we see, touch, smell, feel on this earth is not in its PUREST form.  That’s God’s job to reconcile those things back to himself one day.  So case and point…. the beautiful sunsets we see, the incredible mountain ranges we witness, THOSE ARE broken creation still.  He hasn’t even scratched the surface with what he can do.

Wait, what? Creation itself isn’t perfect yet?

No.  Things die.  Rose bushes need water.  Eventually the wither and fall from the vines.  Trees grow and grow and grow to eventually die.  All creation, like man, is broken and needs to be restored.  And one day it will….

As I have been reading these chapters… I truly and honestly was blown away.  Why did I think that my God didn’t have his hand in every little detail?  He is a meticulous God.  He is so massively and incredibly perfect in his plan that everything in the midst of all the chaos is leading up to make perfect sense.

That God created.  He sustained.  And he will reconcile the world back to its original and perfect status….

Reflecting His Glory.  Revealing His Kingdom.  And most of all….

His.