"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
Don't Be Tired
For starters, watch this speech by Jimmy Johnson, a three-time Super Bowl winning football coach.
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
Born out of Ashes
I've been silent for a while. I'm sure some of you have noticed. This was a calculated move on my part, believe it or not. Some things have happened which I won't fully expound on right now, but suffice it to say I experienced a pretty powerful disappointment sometime around the writing of my last piece, and since then I decided to stay away from the keyboard in order to take time and make sense of it all before rushing to spew my opinion. I'm very glad I didn't write anything during that time, it wouldn't have been particularly pretty. In any case, I now believe that I'm finally beginning to come back into the sunlight. It hasn't been easy, but in retrospect it has been a very productive time of introspection and honest self-assessment.
Today I stumbled across one of my earliest writings, which Brian was kind enough to post on his blog. It was those early writings which planted the seed for me to start this site, and I'm very grateful to him, and to God for giving me the inspiration and the vocabulary to convey it. Having re-read what I wrote, it's bizarre to think that those are my own words from several months ago, as they seem to have been prophetically written for just this situation by someone else. Winston Churchill once said, "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." Having experienced more than my fair share of disappointments in the last several months since I took up residence here in DC, I can authoritatively say that that statement is very nearly gospel.
When Jesus hung dead on the cross, it must have looked to all the world as though his message and his miraculous life had ended in failure. As his disciples sat sullenly in the upper room in the following days, I can't imagine there was much optimism in the room. Sometimes winning looks astonishingly similar to crushing defeat. Nevertheless, the human powers of perception are not the final authority on how a situation has actually turned out. Whether we see it or not, God's hand is at work at all times, in all situations, working for our good.
I intend to spend the next few weeks developing a few articles on this idea, and I'd like to explore in depth the story of Job, which I'm sure most of you know is quite an excellent case study in seemingly-pointless suffering which later worked out for Job's good and God's glory.
In the meantime, be encouraged that, as Benjamin Franklin succinctly said, "God governs in the affairs of men." As long as you're still breathing (or even if you've stopped, in the case of Lazarus), God's plan for your life is still at work. Sometimes things have to die in order to be reborn anew, and like a mythical Phoenix we must shake off the ashes of our former selves and take wing with the new form which God has reforged us into.
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
-2 Cor. 4:16-18
Waiting for Sunday
It's very rare that I manage to come up with two posts in the same week, let alone back-to-back. God gets the credit. I recently watched the following sermon by John Ortberg, and it resonated with me very deeply. We all go through periods of our life when disappointments and defeats blindside us. The worst part is not even the disappointment itself, but the brutal and unending waiting that comes afterwards. Nobody likes waiting in a hole. Joseph did it, Jonah did it, and Jesus himself did it, but somehow we're all surprised when life beats us down and leaves us helplessly awaiting some kind of breakthrough.
The video below was filmed at an Intervarsity leadership conference. If you're not familiar with IV, they're a fantastic college campus ministry which operates on almost every campus in the US. I've recently been offered the honor of being a guest-writer for their blog, and I'm told one of my articles will be published later this month.
In the meantime, please watch this sermon. It's almost 40 minutes, so I suggest pulling up a comfy chair.
EDIT: Looks like the video is having upload issues. You can find the original post here: http://2100.intervarsity.org/resources/john-ortberg-129-am-sc-14
Welcome the Pain
There was a brief and wonderful period in my life when I was part of the Navy Run Team while I was attending the Defense Language Institute back in 2008 and 2009. Our goal was to train for a quarterly race which was held by the school, where all four branches of the military would field their best team of eight runners to race against each other in a winner-take-all two mile race. It was by far the best physical shape I’ve ever been in in my life. It all started because I was attending a bible study along with the team captain, and over the course of our getting to know each other, he continually pressured me to come out and practice with the team. I politely rebuffed his initial invitation, telling him simply, “I’ll never be in good enough shape to compete with you guys.” He laughed and said, “the only way to get faster is to run more, dude.”
My first few practices were something of a disaster. Not only could I not complete the seemingly-easy drills which they took for granted, but I would go home every night in agonizing pain, wondering how in the world I could ever have been so foolish as to think myself able to keep up with guys who were running six-minute miles. Nevertheless, I kept showing up. As I continued coming to practice each afternoon and slaying myself with sprint drills, the faster guys started to come alongside me with words of encouragement. Eventually, my times got gradually quicker. I went from 1:30 on my quarter mile laps to 1:25, then eventually down to 1:20, and so on. At my peak, I was running about a seven-minute mile.
I recently had an excellent conversation with someone who posed the question to me, “Does God want me to be happy?” I had to think very carefully about my answer, and the more I pondered this question, the more I realized I had just been given my latest piece to write about. (Thank you, smart person!)
My first answer was naturally yes. There are numerous verses which support the fact that God loves you and wants good things for you (Psalm 84:11, James 1:17, Psalm 37:4, Matthew 7:11). Just this cursory sweep of scriptures tells me that God does indeed delight in seeing you happy. Nevertheless, I think we very often fall into the trap of thinking that “being happy” and “getting what I want” are exactly the same thing, when in fact they aren’t. We all want things which are very often contrary to our best interests. Like a loving parent who refuses to feed their child a steady diet of ice cream and candy, our heavenly Father is oftentimes forced to deny us the things we so earnestly desire, not because he’s vindictive or unhappy with our performance, but simply because he knows that’s not what’s actually best for you. Sometimes wanting what’s best for your child means saying “no” quite a bit.
Dad Came Running
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
I’ve written a couple times already on the subject of perseverance, because it’s a lesson God has taught me over and over in some of the most painful ways. One story about me that I’m not sure many of you know is that I struggled very hard to graduate from boot camp when I first joined the Navy. During the final week of training, right before graduation, one of the last evolutions we had to complete was our final PFA (Physical Fitness Assessment). It wasn't extraordinarily difficult, just two minutes of sit-ups, two minutes of push-ups, and a mile and a half run. The problem for me was that, in the weeks leading up to the PFA, I had begun to experience a dull aching in my left shin. Because we were required to run constantly during those eight weeks, often times in heavy boots, I had been placing a lot of strain on my legs. I would later discover that this ache was in fact a stress fracture in my tibia, but at the time I didn’t care, because I thought if I could just tough it out a few more days, I’d be graduating as a US Navy Sailor.
My first two posts
Originally hosted by my brother on his blog (before it went off the interwebs), these two posts were my first public attempt at sharing my personal life experiences.
I'm J.R., a US Navy veteran and Linguist. This blog is devoted to insights and experiences I've gained over the years.