Sunday, April 23, 2017

a living hope

My every need is met, more than adequately.
I am blessed. I know this.

But with risk of sounding like a pharmaceutical ad, depression doesn't discriminate. Depression doesn't care that I have a wonderful marriage, loving parents, amazing friends, and a fulfilling career. Depression certainly doesn't mind how difficult it can make it for me to go out into the world with knots in my stomach, a buzzing of doubts and insecurities cluttering my thoughts, a numbing pain in my heart, and a stiff aching body. Depression couldn't care less about the people depending on me to show up to work each day, or those who've invited me to share life with them.

But thankfully, depression doesn't get to decide my fate. Even when I've lost all sight of light, there is a Living Hope.

Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do."

This verse has a special place in my heart. Its a reminder that, in those times of feeling worthless, I was created with a purpose to share the love of Jesus.

ποίημα is the word used in the original Greek text of this verse to signify a piece of workmanship, like a sculpture or a ballad. In fact, the pronunciation of this word, poiēma, is the root for the English word "poem."

As someone with a passion for songwriting, this concept really resonates in me. Each song I've ever written feels like a piece of who I am; they come from my heart. To think of myself in these terms, as someone the Creator of the universe so lovingly crafted Himself, is a powerful and moving thought. Thats why I had this Greek word tattooed on my wrist a few years ago. I was in a dark place at the time, and struggling to see any sign of hope. When the day came to get this tattoo, I faltered a bit. But within minutes of questioning if this was a sentiment I wanted branded onto my body forever, I received a text from a very dear friend sharing this very same verse with me, "For we are God's handiwork..."

Recently, I've found myself in another valley. Depression has weaseled its way back into my life in a way I can't quite seem to shake this time. Months have passed in shadows, with the last couple weeks seeming to be the darkest I've met yet. Again, I know I'm blessed, but reminding myself of that somehow only leads to more shame and darkness. I worry the storm cloud over my head is beginning to wear upon those around me, and all those symptoms of the aforementioned pharmaceutical ad run rampant.

Fortunately, my focus was returned to this powerful verse, "For we are God's handiwork..." in the Orchard Community Church service this morning. I was reminded that I am made alive in God's mercy and grace, and that I've been given a life of purpose. These aren't things I'd forgotten; but a fire needing rekindled.

And although the waters may still remain rough for some time, I know I have a living hope.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

And in Him, I Am Alive

The sky turned dark. And rocks split open.

It must have felt as though all hope was lost when the earth itself trembled as Christ took His last breath.

But this was not a cry of despair. Instead, creation shouted in victory. Hope had won, and Love conquered death. Jesus, the son of God, rose from the grave.

Sin was overwhelmed by the ultimate sacrifice. Our ransom was paid in His blood.

The wage of sin is death, but by the grace of God, a promise of eternal life has been made. And the only payment due is surrender; reliance.

"Now this is eternal life - that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent." John 17:3

I should always live in gratitude of this, but today, Easter day, my heart wells over. Despite my pursuit of life amongst all that is dead, He has risen. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the truest source of life, and He has paid the ultimate price.

And in Him, I am alive.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Branches: Beautiful Things

Today marks the end of a chapter we've known as The Branches Church, and if just one picture says a thousand words, then this chapter has been something incredible. From snapshots of sermons and worship services to photographs of friends and family loving one another well, thousands of illustrations bring this story to life. 

Naturally, the end of something so lovely brings sadness; yet there is anticipation for the journey ahead. God is a good author, and just as this chapter has, the next will certainly be full of beautiful things. 

No words can express what a blessing it has been to be written into this story alongside such wonderful people, all by a sovereign God who draws us more near to Him page by page.

Sorting through these through these thousands of pictures has taken many hours of deliberation over the course of the last few weeks. Each one represents a memory so distinct; how can this rich season of life be captured in just a short montage? 

The answer is... it can't.  

More than just an abbreviated summary of the last six years, this 5 minute and 47 second video is a token of gratitude; an expression of deep thanksgiving to God for this chapter and all of the beautiful things He has included in it.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." -John 15:5

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Where Desperation Meets Compassion

The object of desire has immeasurable worth to someone living in despair. We can argue about the legitimacy of a need, perhaps discounting it as a want; but we cannot invalidate the intensity that it's felt with.

Desperation exceeds want; it gnaws a hole into a person, aching to be filled. Often, that gnawing and aching is accompanied by rash decisions and extreme behavior, all in attempt to appease the longing and to end the agony

Unfortunately, we don't always see the desperate man amidst his decisions. We can easily lose sight of his agony and draw our attention towards his antics. But when despair drives, compassion is key. 

The word itself, compassion, derives from the Latin compati, which more directly translates to "suffer with." And, yes, this vicarious suffering can become quite unpleasant at times; yet it remains a gift. These empathic moments, sharing an emotional experience with another human being, offer insight into how we might be of greater support in assisting them to carry their burden...

In fact, that is exactly what we've been called to do: 

"Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." - Galatians 6:2

"Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another..." - Colossians 3:12-13 

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." - Romans 12:15

God will not fail to equip you for what He has called you to do. 

Look through the antics and into the agony; beyond the decisions and into the despair. Allow God to open the eyes of your heart to see into that of another, as harrowing as it may be. Surrender your own desperation unto Christ, then testify to the freedom gained within that surrender in His compassion for you; the compassion you extend to others.

That is where desperation meets compassion; a place between suffering and surrender.

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." - Ephesians 4:2

Friday, March 4, 2016

snapshot 030414 1730PST

THIS is exactly why rushing to leave work at a decent hour just isn't worth it.

The allure of Friday got the best of me this afternoon...

But all I did was end up sitting bumper to bumper at a complete stop.

Hurry up and wait...

Sometimes, sticking around a little later gets you where you're going a little sooner. 


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

17; Its Something Beautiful

17 years.

Was it really that long ago that I asked her to be my girlfriend over the telephone?

All pimpled and anxious, crazy about this beautiful girl...

And that call was made from an old-school phone, by the way, not a cell. A black rotary with a busted dial, if I remember correctly...

A lot can happen in 17 years. In fact, it has. But some things don't change much. I'm a little less pimpled, about as equally anxious, and still totally crazy about that girl. And her? Still beautiful. I never could have imagined the kind of beauty she would bring into my life.

God has been so good to us; blessing the love we have for one another as we pursue Christ, side by side. Our shared faith and commitment have become a foundation that everything else is now built upon.

And it's something beautiful.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

snapshot 022816 1800 PST

Fresh air.

Perfect weather.

Good food.

Great company.

It's always hard to see the weekend slip away, but there's no better way to wrap it up than a stroll with my love followed by Greek food and The Walking Dead.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Joy, Revisited

February 26, 2008. I entered the blogosphere with musings of joy amidst unexpected circumstances. Now here I am, 2,092 posts and hundreds of graphic make-overs later, and I find myself in an eerily similar situation.

Eight years ago, I really stepped into it. I was ambitious and eager. I wouldn't say I have ever been one of those people who just don't know what they don't know, but I was certainly naive to the brutalities of a sharp learning curve.

I wasn't innately equipped for the task at hand. Managing the program and treatment of sexually maladaptive adolescents challenged me in a lot of different ways, but man, God sure did grow me. I received training and support, and I was completely surrounded by inspiring people. When I reflect on that time, names and faces flash through my mind of kids that were impacted by this incredible team of caring, dedicated professionals that I was blessed to join.

Those flashes of fond memories, they're like bursts of light. And with light, there are shadows; heart-wrenching stories, disappointments, endless worry. And defeat; lots of defeat.

But even still, joy.
So much joy.

God led me to a place of contentment. I could feel I was in the center of His will, and out of total desperation, I relied on Him. Hence, joy.

Now, fast forward through the years; a lot of light and many shadows. A couple thousand miles. Different jobs. New names and faces. Many new experiences with a variety of populations.

I am back to that place of being not-quite-equipped in my careerthat place of frequent defeat.

My newest job is a living, breathing thing made of lots of different pieces. Some fit better than others. A Frankenstein's monster, patched together in typical non-profit fashion. And I love it.

Over the years, I had forgotten about those brutalities of a sharp learning curve that I mentioned earlier, and the weight of such a great responsibility.

But man, God sure is growing me.

Once again, I find myself in a place where I'm receiving training and support, and I am completely surrounded by inspiring people. When I am mindful of the here and now, names and faces flash through my mind of kids that are currently being impacted by this incredible team of caring, dedicated professionals.

And there is joy.
So much joy.

I just needed to be reminded of it, and to recommit myself to seeking out that joy daily. To be reliant, to laugh when that's all there is to do, and to pray. And as I recommit myself to those things, I'm also going to try something else that was very beneficial for me eight years ago, and for several years following.

Writing. Sharing. Emoting. Creating.

It may or may not stick, but I'm okay with that. That's part of the process, and so is looking back. And that, despite my 16 months of absence, is exactly why I am not scrapping this space to start another.

Joy isn't a place. It's not a circumstance or series of favorable events. It's not a fresh start or a new beginning. 

Joy is a state of being, a mind-frame, a condition of the heart. It's the blessing of reliance and of spiritual surrender. It's found right in the center of God's will.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Some of the kids at work call me Chewbacca.
Others call me Thor.

I prefer Nathan, but those will work, too.

I started a new(ish) job about six weeks ago. Its with the same organization I've been with since moving to SoCal, but in a different capacity.

I orginally applied to be a program specialist (basically, a group home therapist) but they told me they wanted someone closer to being licensed (I have a long road to go before that happens).

So they told me they were creating a new position and had me in mind. I excitedly accepted an offer without so much as a job description, thankful to simply find a job so quickly out of grad school. The position itself is still taking shape, but so far I'm basically working as a crisis counselor in a school for troubled children, and as one might imagine, there's always plenty of fires to put out.

I'd like to work in a more clinical environment, practicing more therapeutic skills, but I'm grateful for my job.

And the nicknames are quite entertaining.

Friday, November 7, 2014

from the mouth of babes

"Who wouldn't want to !@$% an elf? They're sexy as hell!"
"Never piss off a dragon. They'll burn your ass."

And my personal favorite...

"When I start knocking people off, I won't kill you."

coming back... or not

It's been over six months since I've blogged. Since then, I've finished grad school, been to Hawaii, gotten a new job, and lived life.

I was going to write a big 'coming back' post, but I think I'll just leave it at that.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Salvation (Isaiah 12)

I've not written much lately, but here's a song I wrote a while back based on Isaiah 12.
It's been running through my head recently, so I thought I'd share:
God of mercy, God I praise,
turning your anger away
Humbly bearing consequence
to pay the price for my all sins 
A fountain flowing purest light,
a spring of life that won’t run dry
Oh, my portion, God on high,
in you my soul is satisfied 
My strength, my song, You have become my salvation
My strength, my song, You have become my salvation 
God almighty, hear my praise,
You have done such glorious things
All the earth will know Your name,
the thirsty soul will proclaim 
A fountain flowing purest light,
a spring of life that won’t run dry
Oh, my portion, God on high,
in you my soul is satisfied 
My strength, my song, You have become my salvation
My strength, my song, You have become my salvation

in that day...

You will say in that day:

“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.

“Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

how the heck!?!?

Skip ahead to 1:35 for the magic act, and be prepared to say, "How the heck!?!?"

Friday, April 18, 2014

If it were up to me

Dear sir,

There are certain rules, and each person must meet the right criterion before being admitted to receive our services, but I want you to know that if it were up to me, I wouldn't have turned you away the other night.

If it were up to me, I wouldn't have turned you away with just a puny looking PB&J and a cup of crackers. In fact, if were up to me, I wouldn't have turned you away at all.

If it were up to me, it'd be different.

Instead, we would've given you a bed, three meals a day, and some medical attention while you stabilized and spent a good week making calls and arrangements to find a place a little more permanent.

I know that measly bag of snacks couldn't have kept your stomach full for long, those phones call we made to local homeless shelters were pretty fruitless, and I know that those bus directions we looked up to downtown only led you to more familiar streets to sleep in.

You were so pleasant, despite the awful circumstances. I want you to know what an impact that had on me. Even as I sent you away into the streets, you were so respectful and somehow managed to express gratitude for what little we did offer you.

The whole experience moved me. You moved me. And it was powerful.

"Do everything in love." -1 Corinthians 16:14