Growing up, we develop in ourselves a set of values and expectations that govern how we feel an organization, club, or friendship should act. This is instilled in us from the year that we’re born, and especially when we enter into education.
We’re taught in school that good efforts get rewarded and praised, while bad efforts and bad behaviors get punished and reprimanded. Our parents are involved in every aspect of our education to ensure that we are able to perform at the highest level possible.
We’re taught in clubs that common interests and hobbies are what bring people together. Similarly, we learn that friendships often derive from these common interests and shared experiences.
We’re also inundated in our lives with constant entertainment. We pay hundreds of dollars to be entertained, and some of our culture’s biggest voices are entertainers (see Top Twitter Users - 3 music stars rank higher than our own President). We love good performances and idolize those that perform well, whether it’s music, sports, or theatre.
Then when we gather together on Sundays under a building no different from the ones that we’re in 5 days a week plus a wooden cross, we bring these deep, deep assumptions in with us.
We get disciplines and habits forced upon us and expect to perform.
We are discouraged when we can’t find anyone that is likeminded to us.
We sit in our comfortable chairs and expect to be entertained, and ask things like “Did you like the sermon?” like one would after a Lady Gaga Concert.
I’m realizing more and more that I have to re-think what I believe church to be, and unlearn the things that our culture has taught us.
When the entire world around us teaches us to live for ourselves, I need to constantly be reminded that Jesus calls me to die to myself.
Church is not a place to be judged based on what we do and what disciplines we partake in — we all have fallen short of the glory of God, and we are saved by Jesus’ good works, not our own. (Romans 3:23, Ephesians 2:8-9)
Church is not so much a place for people to find friends as it is a place for people to realize their family. (Romans 8:14-15)
Church is not a passive, lean-back entertainment experience — it is a fight, a struggle, a war against the powers and principalities of this world. (Ephesians 6:12)
Selfishness, greed, and indulgence are expected and encouraged in our culture, but I pray that these do not define the members of the Kingdom that God has made holy.
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” - Romans 12:1-2
This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to take the day off and drive with Deborah to go Color Hunting, which is a cool way to say we wanted to see colorful trees. I’m surprised more people don’t care much about it, because it’s just about the most fascinating thing I’ve seen in my year at New York so far.
It was surreal to see the trees slowly start to turn from entirely green to spots of yellow and red to entire forests full of color as we drove for two hours. This is the kind of view that I’ve dreamt about, and was definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in my life.
After speaking to some of the locals though, we realized that we had just missed peak color by a couple days. That started to get to me. Then we noticed that mostly everywhere else was not yet full color yet. That started to get to me.
And I found myself slightly dissatisfied at the beauty that was before me, which led to me feeling disgusted that I would be dissatisfied at the beauty that was before me.
It was then that I understood better what C.S. Lewis said in his famous quote:
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
I still feel like there’s a beauty that I haven’t yet seen, like a home that I haven’t yet come back to. I could see all that the world has to offer, and not feel at rest anywhere.
So while I live the rest of my days on this leased body, I’m going to remember what Jesus told His Disciples:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” -John 14:1-3
Yes, there will be a mansion with many rooms, roads made of precious jewels, and endless beauty, but God promises much more than that - He promises that we’ll be with Him. That’s the home that we should long for, that’s the place that we’ve all been missing, and even though we won’t experience its fullness until the other side of death, we can experience His presence now, today.
I live in Queens, NY, but I have a home that’s more beautiful than the Catskills.
I first started writing in my journal when I was about 11 years old. It was a Tare Panda journal, and I was pretty diligent in writing every day, and every day it was pretty much about girls and wondering if they liked me.
The reason why I am so glad that I wrote in the past is because I get a glimpse of who I was back then, and how much I’ve grown since then. I have an intimate view of how I thought and what I loved and hated. But if you wanted to know more about who I am today, the last thing I would do is give you my journal - I am not the same person who wrote in those journals 15 years ago.
When I read the bible, sometimes I forget how relevant it is to us today. The culture may have been drastically different, the language and styles may be ancient, but God has been the same since the beginning of time.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. -Hebrews 13:8
While one may understand in part who I am when reading journals no older than a few years, we have access to who God is today through the Bible.
The heart that cared for, protected, disciplined, and loved Israel is the same heart that loves us believers today (Romans 9:26).
The heart that delighted over Israel with love and singing delights over us today (Zephaniah 3:17, Romans 2:29).
The heart who, for the joy set before Him endured the cross, still deems that we’re worth the sacrifice of His perfect life today (Hebrews 12:2-3).
Our faith is utterly dependent on this truth. Our delight in reading the age-old bible comes from this truth. So why do we read the bible feeling that it’s outdated and irrelevant to us today?
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end.
Over two years of long distance will give you a love/hate relationship with the airport.
We loved the days anxiously waiting for the other to arrive.
We hated the nights driving away from the person we felt like we knew so well, yet didn’t really know.
For what was one of the first times, we were on the same plane together. After moving to New York, we finally came to the realization that our plane tickets could be bought together. We needed someone else to pick us up from the airport.
It was for this reason that I knew without a doubt I’d propose to Deborah at JFK. I made sure to incorporate some of the things that she loved the most - music, friends, family, and a little spontaneity.
Check out how it all went down!
It is not such an easy thing
When two people are far away
Like we were
And though I could call you at anytime
I wished the distance from our phone lines was nearer
Everytime you felt jetblue
you’d head southwest
and I’d be waiting there for you
and though we were apart we were
United in the heart but baby
Here we are now
At the runway of our lives
Waiting for us to take flight
Are you ready?
'Cause after three whole years have gone
Flying solo far too long
I’ve been thinking
No point in waiting
I’m just gonna say it now
If you’d asked me, you wouldn’t have gotten a decent answer. It was true - I honestly felt like my room wasn’t that messy, everything was just…convenient to access. I could say with 85% confidence where any single thing in my room was, or so I had hoped.
Then I had company come over. Out of nowhere I felt a shock of fear. They didn’t have to say anything - I knew immediately from the anxiety of having to show them my room. The door swung shut and I kept the guests in the living room, but Deborah caught on. Later that night I showed her my horrendous situation in shame, and the following day she helped me clean everything up.
Isn’t it strange how easily a situation can become more chaotic without us being aware of it? That’s how I feel with certain sins in my life. Habits that I thought were normal or even righteous were actually harmful and unloving when exposed to other people. Sometimes even reading the Word will convict me of a sinful habit, tendency, or attitude that I never knew of (my current conviction is Romans 12:10 - honor one another).
In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of the lost son. Here’s a young man who takes a huge portion of his father’s inheritance and lives the life. After some time though, he starts to realize that he’s run out of money and needed a job, especially with a famine coming.
”So he went and hired himself out to[a] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.” (Luke 15:15)
Was this the life that he was hoping for after taking his father’s money and bolting? Not at all! This situation became more chaotic without him knowing.
Sometimes, the Lord takes us to the troughs of animals so that we can “come to our senses” like it states in v. 17.
If it were up to me, I would much rather be accountable to the company of God-given community than be miserable in the company of pigs.
It’s March 25th, well into springtime, and we just had a snow flurry for the majority of the day in New York. As much as I love seeing the snow fall from the 25th floor of my Times Square building, I’m starting to sense the urgency for spring. On the streets, you can just sense that winter has extended its stay for far too long. After all, no matter how many days you’ve felt the bitter wind on your face, it’s never something you really get used to.
Looking forward, we see that winter isn’t the only season with its set of challenges.
After winter comes a time of new birth, and a time of fresh allergies.
After spring comes a time of sunny days, and a time of hot, humid nights.
After summer comes a time of vibrant color, and a time of school.
In one of the most poetic sections of scripture, the writer of Ecclesiastes 3 describes all of life in this way:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
The one thing that holds true to every season we experience is that they change. The trees will start a new life cycle, and so will our future families. The snow will eventually cease to fall, and so will our tears.
Read verse 1 again though: "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
It then struck me like a ton of bricks - while this may be true for us under heaven, it will not be true for us while in heaven. How do I know this?
The seasons may change, but Jesus never does.
Our feelings may come and go, but Jesus remains faithful.
What Jesus reveals to John in Revelation is astounding: at the end of the age, there will come a time when the seasons of life will be no more.
There will be a time when there is no time to weep, only laughter.
No time of war, only peace.
No time of killing, only healing.
No time of death, only everlasting, eternal, unending, unchanging, all-fulfilling, solely joyful, sinless, life!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold,the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” -Revelation 21:1-4
Oh, how I long for the day one hundred thousand years from now when I can look back at this beautifully written poem of wisdom in Ecclesiastes and find it to be incredibly outdated!
Honestly though, can you imagine a more irritating sound than a person banging away on a drumset with no desire to play it appropriately? It sounds horrendously loud, incessantly rude, and causes my hands to fill my ears with anything that can drown the sound out.
Yet on the flip side, is there anything more powerful and driving than an experienced drummer playing to the fullest of his passion and strength along with a band? It carries the band to levels of intensity it could never go without one.
It’s interesting that both are making the same sounds at around the same volume, yet one is painful, the other is powerful. One is annoying, the other is amazing.
I found examples of this kind of distinction in the bible in two different passages:
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” - 1 Corinthians 13:1
"Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!” - Psalm 150:5
Both are audibly the same, yet are used in completely different contexts. One is detestable, the other is delightful. One is woeful, the other is worshipful.
After much thought, I came to the conclusion that there was a difference - a huge one, but not one that can be heard - it’s about motivation.
There are people who hit cymbals just to be heard. These are the people that do things without being motivated by love like mentioned in 1 Corinthians. These are the people that pray out loud on the streets so that other people can recognize and acknowledge them. These are the people that boast about their knowledge to make them feel superior to others. Paul warns us against having this kind of attitude.
Then there are people who hit cymbals for a greater purpose. These are the people that see the value of playing in a part of a band. These are the people who want to hit cymbals as hard as they can to make God look good, not themselves. These are the people that are obviously motivated by something other than seeking attention and fame for themselves.
The crazy part? Even a talented musician can serve with the wrong intentions and be like white noise to God. Even a novice can play poorly out of a worshipful heart and be a sweet, sweet sound to God.
So I’m left with this reality check: What is my motivation in serving God today?
(The Circle of Fifths. Music is so mathematical and beautiful!)
While in many ways I don’t consider myself established enough to be a professional musician, I pride myself in my knowledge of music theory. With it, I can predict where songs are going, replicate them after they’ve been played once, and come up with fairly decent songs simply because I am so familiar with the structure of chords and melodies.
At the same time, mastering music theory does not mean that one will have a successful music career, or that everything you write will be a great song (I can definitely attest to that). Paul McCartney is famous for purposely not learning music theory, and he’s had some success in writing songs, I think.
The strange thing about utilizing music theory in songwriting is that I believe it has some disadvantages:
This isn’t the point of gaining knowledge! It’s better not to learn at all than to learn and be stuck with those three realities. What really should be happening is best said in James 1:22-25.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
Back in California, I was proud in my sense of direction. I always knew my frame of reference because I was accustomed to where the sun would set. It didn’t matter if I was in a remote area of California that I had never explored, I rarely ever felt like I didn’t even know which direction I was going.
In New York, my internal compass that was so finely tuned in California is now completely thrown off. Even after working here for two months, I have to think twice about which direction I’m going. My confidence in exploring uncharted land has dwindled to me becoming very dependent on Google Maps (which, by the way, has still caused more issues for me than Apple Maps).
While part of the reason this has happened is because I’m in new surroundings, I mostly blame the buildings and the weather. After all, how can I get accustomed to the sun when I’m constantly dwelling in the shadows of massive skyscrapers? How am I supposed to know where the sun is when it’s near-dark in the middle of the day?
Upon dwelling on my directional frustrations, I remembered that our spiritual lives definitely need a compass. This is what the psalmist is talking about in Psalm 119:
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
Being in a bustling, wild, and extravagant city like New York, I can honestly say that it’s easy to lose sight of what’s truly important. Luxuries surround my senses, joyous drinking and “nights to forget”, heightened sexuality (especially in certain parts of Times Square) - all these things serve as manmade distractions which block out the Son.
Then there are horrific tragedies like Hurricane Sandy and the Newton shooting (which was only about 60 miles from NYC) – abominable things that make it seem as though the Son was never there.
But just because I don’t see or feel the Son doesn’t mean that He’s not there. Just because other things are in the way does not negate His constant presence.
Jesus Christ, the true Son of God, has made it very apparent that “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
If Christ is my compass, then how can I ever be lost?
Whenever I am involved with someone learning guitar for the first time, I usually hear the following:
"Are my fingers supposed to hurt this much?"
To which I respond: "If your fingers aren’t bleeding, you’re alright." (although I’ve played til my fingers bled, and I thought it was hardXcore)
Then as the guitar gets put away and the fingers aren’t used as rigorously, a peculiar thing happens - Our fingers get healed without us knowing it. There is zero effort on our part on how this is accomplished, but a day or two later, our fingers are as tender and strong as they were before the strings were pressed.
Things start to change as the guitarist goes through this cycle over and over again.
Press in, feel the sting, be healed.
Press in, feel the sting, be healed.
Press in, feel the sting, be healed.
You can press in for longer. You feel the sting less. Your body doesn’t do anything to heal you, because of the thick skin you’ve developed on your fingers. You become calloused.
Our hearts work the exact same way. We may feel very remorseful for our sin at first, but end up back to pressing into sin again. It stings for awhile. By the grace of God we are lifted up and restored, only to press into sin again.
How many times are we to press into the strings of Satan and play his music?
How many times are we to feel the sting and not realize the thick skin that’s developing?
How many times are we to take advantage of the grace given to us in restoration?
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. -Ephesians 4:17-19
(A picture of Brooklynites waiting in line for a bus to get to work after Superstorm Sandy. Taken from this Buzzfeed post, which accurately portrays what I’m about to write about)
I’ll remember my first month in New York as the time we went through Superstorm Sandy. That week was truly the week that New York City was brought to its knees.
Houses were swept away. Over 100 lives taken. Parking lots turned into swimming pools. Millions were left without power (and many are still without power today).
That’s not all. Publicly, it looked even worse. Traffic lights were out, and there was little order in many of the streets in Queens.
People would park their cars on the street to wait in line for gas. Many waited upwards of 9 hours just to fill up their tank. We’re still going through shortages today.
I looked at the news and what was around me and felt like I was in a different country.
We are all at the mercy of nature. Specifically, we’re all at the mercy of God’s swift hand, who describes himself this way in Isaiah 45:
"I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things."
It’s scary to think of a God that is capable of calamity. But at the same time, why would I worship a god who was just as powerful as I was? It’s through these events that I now have a greater appreciation of what it really means to fear the Lord.
Oh, how easy it is to be reverent of a God whose power is limitless!
A couple days ago, my life radically changed. Finally, the clean sweep that I was anticipating the beginning of the year is happening. I found a job in New York, and I’m leaving my work here in LA. It’s not just any job though, it’s a job that looks to be a lot of fun, in a company that looks to be a lot of fun, in a city that looks to be tons of fun. Sometimes, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of undeserved blessing that I’ve gotten in my life. It’s simply not fair.
On the way home after hearing all the good news, a woman with a sign that read “homeless with no job” in one hand and a baby in another appeared on my passenger’s side window. I was surprising because I didn’t see her, but it brought out a peculiar reaction in me - I quickly dismissed her and drove away. The initial shock of her outward appearance startled me into ignoring her needs.
When I got home I realized the utter selfishness of my heart. Here I was, having just gotten an offer for a great job, and someone without a job asks for money to feed her child, and I ignore her needs.
The next day however, I was outside of my work building when I got approached by another stranger. Immediately I knew that this was God giving me another chance to give to a person in need. Not only did I get to give him some bus fare money, I was able to share the gospel with him. I asked him about the cross around his neck, and he didn’t know what the significance of it was.
I told him about how the cross was a torturing device used to suffer the most pain possible before death. I told him about Christ and how He unjustly endured the cross while being innocent, and how we should deserve something far worse, and yet are able to pass through death unscathed because of Jesus. There was nothing we could have done to receive salvation - Christ did it for us and He gives it to us as a gift.
Although I thought I was informing this man of the Gospel, I realized that I desperately needed to hear it again.
My job doesn’t give me any right standing before a holy God. My status or salary won’t mean a thing once I’m six feet under. Nothing I could ever do could ever amount to my own salvation - “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time." (2 Timothy 1:9)
I have nothing to boast in. Nothing to offer God.
Because rich or poor, we are all beggars.
A couple months ago, my mom got a brand new Hyundai Elantra. It’s sporty, sexy, has hot curves, drives well, and has the latest technology. I remember sitting at the dealer and marveling at 1) the fact that Hyundai has come so far in car making and 2) how ideal this car was for me - stylish yet cheap, has a good warranty and drives well.
I fantasized about getting it when my mom’s lease was over in 3 years, but then my car broke down and I needed to find a car quickly. Luckily, I was able to get a great deal on a Corolla in good condition. If nobody knew that my previous car had broken down, they probably wouldn’t have been able to tell - my previous car was a gray 2003 toyota corolla, and my new car is a gray 2005 toyota corolla.
However, it’s completely different to me! I don’t have to roll up my windows, manually lock doors, hear my UFO-like brake sounds, and worry that it’s going to break down in the middle of the desert because of its high mileage.
One thing I realized when I got the Corolla was how quickly attached I was to it. I had forgotten the incredible draw I had towards the Elantra and was very satisfied with my own, even though it was old, used, and not as nice. What happened?
From this, I learned in a small way the power of possession. While the attributes of my Corolla are in themselves good things, the reason why I came to love them was because it was mine, not because it had power windows. There’s an incredible bond that forms once that commitment is understood in the heart. The car is mine because I love it, and I love it because it’s mine. There is no greater way to express love than through this circular reasoning.
Maybe in a small way we can understand the greater power of possession that God has for His people. Throughout the Old Testament we see a relatively small group of people, Israel, constantly being pursued and sanctified by God. Why did God choose Israel to be His chosen people? Why did God choose you to be a part of His chosen people?
We find a fascinating answer in Deuteronomy 7:7-8, explaining why God chose Israel.
It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
God didn’t love us because of what we had to offer, God loved us because…He loved us! He chose us and made us to be a part of His covenant, and through that selection, He loved us. This is great news! Why?
It means that God doesn’t love us because of what we do. If He did, then He would cease to love us once we stopped doing those things! Instead, He loves us in spite of what we do. All our screw-ups, our hypocrisy, our blatant rebellion towards God - it’s a wondrous thing that He doesn’t love me because of who I am.
He loves me because of who He is. And that makes all the difference.
Reflecting back on Deborah’s stay in California, I realized a peculiar habit of my behavior.
I recall the day of her landing, June 18th. Her flight was at 6 PM, which was perfectly timed to be right after my work. But what a drag, right? I’d have to sit through an entire day at work while knowing that Deborah’s coming in just a few hours, yet unable to talk to her at all! How could I keep still and stay focused? How could I get any work done?
While I imagined that entire day to be torturous, it actually turned out to be very pleasant and productive. I was positive, not anxious. I was working hard, not slacking off.
Fast forward to the last weekend of her stay, July 7th. We had planned a trip to my college campus, a visit to the beautiful Getty Center, and even a bonfire (something she’s never been to at a beach). What a day, right? It was planned to be just us, with a bunch of beautiful places to explore, and all day to do it! How could I ask for anything more? How could this day get any better?
While I imagined that entire day to be awesome, it actually turned out to be kind of stressful. I was moody, not joyful. I was quiet, not fun.
As I was thinking about the similar but opposite outcomes of these two events, I realized very profoundly this truth: What you believe about tomorrow determines how you feel about today.
I should have acted very differently according to the situations I was in, but because I knew what was to come, it affected the attitude I had during those situations.
As christians, we too are affected by this truth. The way we perceive everything should be in light of what is to come. This is what I mean:
But in keeping with his promise
we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth,
the home of righteousness. -2 Peter3:13
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. -2 Corinthians 4:16-17
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you, and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
To him be the power forever and ever. Amen -1 Peter 5:10-11
We are constantly to look at life through these lenses. Why sulk in a second of misery when we have an eternity of joy to hope in? Why condemn God for our trials when we know that they’re actually preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison?
No, instead try to actually believe in the bible you read so that people will notice! When I think about how I would describe my feelings towards the future in heaven, I start to worry. Because as excited as I was to be with Deborah for three weeks, it pales in comparison to the promise of Christ for eternity.
Or at least it should.
"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groaninwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” -Romans 8:22-25
It all started with the longing to see stars. I told Deborah that Joshua Tree was one of the best stargazing places to be at. We headed off Saturday afternoon to get a glimpse of heaven when out of nowhere in the middle of an uphill, two lane highway with no shoulder, my car gave out. As I was pulling over to the side of the road, blocking one of the lanes, I saw a van begin to slow down right after me.
"Get in! It’s dangerous here. I’ll take you somewhere safe." A burly Apache man with no shirt on and a long ponytail beckoned us to get in. I hesitated for a moment, but knew he was sincere. After all, there were three young kids in the back.
He dropped us off at a gas station nearby, but he didn’t leave. I was already so grateful for his willingness to pull over for us, but he offered to buy us drinks at the mart. He noticed that I didn’t have triple A, so he let me use his card. After I called, he offered to take us to his place for drinks. He even knew a local mechanic who would be willing to take a look at the car, even though it was the weekend.
As I was taken aback by the kindness of this man, I nearly overlooked the finer details of this whole incident. Things like seeing a scrawny, young highway patrol officer with a badge named “R. Swanson”. Or visiting a neighbor’s house and seeing their three-legged tortoise. Or just the camaraderie of being in a small town and knowing everybody, even when you didn’t know everybody. Everything was beautiful.
When I got to spend time with his family, I realized how blessed Deborah and I were in our helpless situation. They invited us into their home. They offered to let us stay at their place as long as we needed. The pets were adorable. The young daughter even offered her Bieber-plastered room for us!
The best part of this whole trip? We still were able to see stars, we just were adopted into a family along the way. Proverbs 16:9 says, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." Life doesn’t always happen the way we expect it to, but I think it’s better like that.
This past weekend I experienced a story I’ve known for years come to life. It’s the parable of the Good Samaritan. I was the helpless man left on the side of the road, and he was not who I had expected to come and help. He didn’t just help a little bit, but went out of his way to ensure that I was able to get back on my feet again. When I told him how grateful I was for his charity, he said simply to “pass it on”. What a simple, yet challenging phrase!
For the sake of my newly adopted family, I urge you to pass it on.
Even if it’s an inconvenience.
Even if it costs a little.
Even if it’s a little risky.
It cost Jesus everything to display His love for us. The least we can do is pay it forward.
We love because he first loved us. -1 John 4:19
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. -Romans 13:8