Patience is Love

There’s this reminder on my phone that says, “Write: I can be patient with her because Jesus has always been patient with me”. I put this reminder back in November of 2013. And here I am nearly 10 months later finally getting around to that reminder.

At the time I wrote that, I thought I just needed to wait through the time my girlfriend was oversees teaching in Spain. I consistently prayed for her every single day that God will show her what He always wanted to show her. For the most part, I prayed those things because I thought it was the right thing to do—that she wanted a break through in live and mature with the Spirit in ways (I thought) I may already have. When I look back on it, I may have prayed that prayer with a bit of selfishness because I really wanted her to get to the same place in life that I am at so we can get married and live happily ever after.

Day after day we would talk. Day after day I would pray with and for her so that she would surrender her independence and look towards Him at the start of every day. The trials, tribulations, and hardships that I had to hear week after week broke my heart. More than a dozen times I wanted to book a ticket to Spain just to be there and help her out any way I could. I felt helpless. All I could do is pray (which I am remembering that prayer ought to be our first response and not our last).

I called onto God asking Him what I ought to do during this time. He repeated the same words even prior to her leaving. He tells me, “Be patient.” That is all. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s so funny. Despite all the good I can strive for, I still succumb to habit. I already wrote a story back in 2013 of what happens when I do not obey God’s commands. His commands are out of love. His commands are love. They are to be obeyed to protect us. But it’s so hard to follow especially when He tells us to wait for the things that we want most. (Oddly enough, when the one thing we want most is God, there’s no need to wait for that.)

During this time of growth and maturity not only in my girlfriend’s life but my own as well, I find myself putting on that clothes that looks like patience but I really am I trying to speed up the process in my own way. As if I said that God’s way isn’t good enough. His way isn’t fast enough. I can really do things faster. I’d like to say I still had all that right intentions, but that fallen human part of my self just wanted to move things along and take things back into my own hands.

I constantly repeated these words whenever I found myself not getting what I want when I wanted it: “I can be patient with her as God was patient with me”. These words came about in my daily spiritual walk with God when I wanted to strive to be more like Christ. It just hit me with a ton of bricks that God has been waiting for me all my life and I can do the same with her. And when she came back from Spain, I thought all the waiting was over. I thought we can continue to move on in life together through God.

Patience wasn’t exercised as it should have been. Our life through God wasn’t happening as we wanted it. God was there, but we weren’t doing things through Him. So now we find ourselves in a place where we mutually agreed that in order to get ourselves back on track with God we need to give each other up for an arbitrary number of weeks. When my friends ask about it, they wondered if we were on a “break”. I prefer not think of it that way. I like think more like we’re “fasting” the relationship. Every time I think about her (which is a lot), every time my heart aches because I’m apart from her (also a lot), I lift her up to God in prayer for protection and love. We both wanted this. We both want to meet each other again through God’s heart. And it is in God’s timing—His growth in us as we  are apart—that I believe it will happen.

And this goes back to love and patience. Somehow I find myself back in 1 Corinthians 13:4. I started to read—”Love is patient, love is kind”—stop! It felt like the Spirit stopped me before even finishing that verse. He tells me those are the two things I need to hold on to during this time of fasting. I cannot forget that love is both patient and kind. Yes, I find myself waiting yet again, but I also found my emotions flying back and forth. I remembered how she treated me the last week before we mutually made this decision. I could have harbored resentment. I could plan and plot what I ought to say the next time I see her about how I felt leading up to all of this. But doing this is childish. I shouldn’t be led by emotions because they are not constant. I no longer need to be controlled by my emotions. I am more mature now and I can put away these childish ways1.

I need to remember that love is first and foremost an action. I am not patient, I am to be patient. I am not kind, I am to be kind. I think I heard it from Tim Keller (and I’m sure there’s a passage about this somewhere) that when you start doing these things of love, you’ll become these things of love. This love is completely separate from the emotions I feel. It doesn’t negate the emotions, the emotion is real. But I can keep those emotions under the control of the constant and loving God.

I pray that we both grow through God during this time. There’s a God-shaped hole in my heart that needs to be filled with God alone. I try to fill it with the world—whether it’s new shiny things, a successful career, or intimate relationships. But I want the both of us to truly seek God and only allow Him to ever fill that hole in our hearts. I pray this in His Son’s Holy Name—Jesus Christ—amen!

  1. 1 Corinthians 13:11 []

Trust with Obedience

A new year is upon us, and it’s time for me to review what happened in 2013. Before I review 2013’s tangible goals, I wanted touch up on a few themes that I discovered for this year. At the end of 2012, I felt this pending sensation that something was going to happen in 2013. I know, I know, every year I say, “This year is going to be it!” But to see where I was in 2011 and 2012, things had to go up from there, right? Yes, it did in many amazing ways! But throughout the entire year, even though both halves were split with its own sub theme, I feel what God has been teaching (and continue to do so) is trust with obedience. I felt there was something deep down in my heart—a desire planted so long ago by the Creator Himself—to do amazing things. And even when I wanted to push those amazing things aside, what I felt that was so hidden but so wanted to be revealed was this desire to do what my Father does. To finally use my own free will that He granted to do me to give it up and to follow Him.

I may have jokingly first wrote about the tangible goal list for 2013, but I soon realized how awesome it could be to accomplish then quickly recognize despite of these things of this list are good, I want to make sure I do them to honor my Creator and do life according to His will. I want to do the same thing with the list for 2014. I do not to complete all of them, instead I hope each one I can accomplish according to His ways. And if He tells me that this is something that He does not want for me, that I may immediately obey and trust that His way is always better than mine.

With that aside, let’s dive into 2013’s tangible goals!

  1. Write a tangible goal list. Always start the year with a win!
  2. Launch twinwork.net. Even though it’s up, sadly I already want to redo it for one final time. It is complete for 2013, but it more or less made it back on the list for 2014.
  3. Create a photography/portfolio blog. Totally failed. The whole idea was to use the Twinwork platform I built for twinwork.net and create a portfolio blogging website for all of my photography. You know what’s even a bigger failure for me? I barely did any photography for the year.
  4. Learn 2 lead rifts in 3 keys on the guitar. I said a made an addendum during the first quarter update. I didn’t exactly learn to play lead, but I did increase my confidence in leading worship and just jamming with friends. Specifics aside, I think if my goal was to progress in music, I did just that, so I’m going to call this a win.
  5. Serve in at least one ministry at Newsong. More or less completed withing the first quarter of 2013 and it continued with the Muffin Ministry through the 2nd and 3rd quarters.
  6. Find and learn from at least one mentor. I couldn’t find one.  Pushed this goal to 2014.
  7. Find one person to mentor. I sort of found someone to mentor, but not really. Just like finding a mentor, this goal is also pushed to 2014.
  8. Post a story to singlethread.org once a month. Done! Though, there was one month that could be debatable. I did over 12 posts this year, so I’m calling it a win! I’m still planning on posting at least a story a month through 2014.
  9. Fly to Hawaii to see Joel (and Iron Man 3) to celebrate our 20th friendiversary. Totally happened! I even played on his worship team when I went out. We had so much fun!
  10. …And fly Joel out here to see Hillsong. This was also equally amazing. We ended up driving up north to visit a few friends… something very similar to what we did back in 2007. All too awesome!
  11. Build that new computer! Failed. I added this to 2014 for the sake of having it there, but it’s not a high priority. If God really wants me have this, He’ll deliver a way for it to happen 😉
  12. Buy that D800 & 105mm macro lens. Failed. I just didn’t shoot in 2013 and I honestly don’t believe I’ll be shooting much in 2014. I might pick up the 105mm macro lens if I somehow achieve all my financial goals for 2014, but this is no longer a priority. Chances are by the time I get back into photography, the D900 will be out. I can wait four years or so.
  13. Be her Adam for your Eve. I still have yet to write this story, but God definitely delivered on this goal when I least deserved it. This happened in the second half of the year and how He wrote this story for us was completely mind blowing. We’re still together, yet apart (she’s teaching in Spain during the 2013-2014 school year). Though, I can’t say she will be my life long partner, but she is definitely somebody special that I want to explore that question with.

So I was 8 for 13 for the year. God definitely did good. I trust in Him that He will top all of this in 2014. I already sense it’s going to be a different year, but I definitely want to see what He will do to stretch and grow me. I pray that I will always run to Him no matter what trials I find myself in.

Live an amazing life to always glorify God’s mighty name! Have a great 2014!

P.S. Just like last year, I’m kicking off 2014 alone, and I’m okay with that. I’m sure this will be a rare occurrence in the future.

Inward Growth

It was clear to me that 2013 was going to be split in quarters for me. It was pretty obvious when I chased the 13th tangible goal. The end of that story and the beginning of new one—to serve with utmost obedience and joy—started at the start of April. I found myself more involved with church—whether that be a small group (two, actually), a feeding ministry, our normal Young Adults group, a leadership group, a morning prayer team that met twice a week, or just serving communion on Sundays. I was doing a lot. I knew this would happen when I stuck to my decision to not say “no” to anyone who asks for help. I would definitely have to say that I have successfully crossed out tangible goal #5 because of that.

As tired as I was participating in all of these different groups and ministries as well as balancing a full time job, I knew burn out was just around the corner. Many of my own peers constantly reminded me of this. Burn out from ministry happened to me before1, and I knew at this rate it will happen again. But every single time I would pray about it—whether or not I should step back from one or two (or even most) ministries, every being of me told me that I am to endure it through at this time. I would not only endure, but I need to do so with a renewed joy and happiness from within. I am to always look to God for rest and the energy I needed. The energy I needed to keep going wasn’t mine, and I knew I could do what I was doing because He called me to do so. The things I did was out of love for my God—in complete obedience.  I just knew the end of this kind of participation—which I always referred to as my “outward growth” phase—was going to come again at the end of the September. I had this feeling when I took a co-leader position for Muffin Ministry.

But that time was always a bit arbitrary in my head. I knew there were a number of people that I met at Newsong that were going to leave. They were off to find new work. They were going to graduate school. Everyone called it a “new season” in life—in both individuals and community groups. I hoped that time would also be mine. During my time with God, I would always ask if this season is coming to an end, and if so what is the next season supposed to be like. I find myself seeing hints of “inward growth”. I didn’t quite understand what that was supposed to be. I didn’t understand why I would go back to that because I felt that’s what I was doing for the past two years before I came down to Irvine—self discovery and seeking out the uniqueness of who He’s made me to be.

It wasn’t until the third quarter when God blessed me with a very unexpected and beautiful relationship. It was nearing the end of that quarter what I knew He’s called me to. And honestly, it really solidified this idea after my girlfriend left for Spain.2

And really, this next season of my life—at least until mid-2014 if not longer—is centered around what Paul wrote to the Galatians:

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”

– The Apostle Paul, Galatians 5:16-26 NLT

My focus is the fruit of the Spirit. We do not grow the fruit. Only the Holy Spirit will grow the fruit. We are no different than a farmer preparing the land to allow God to do His good work in us to let us grow into the Christ-like being we were designed for. It is in that I am to put my focus and energy. And I can honestly say that things will get harder and harder as I get closer to where He wants me to be. This is not to say that when I am finished with this season I will be the Christian follower I sought out for. No. But I feel I will reach a new level of understanding of God’s love for me and drive and passion to love others.

And there’s one thing extremely important about growth in the Spirit. The fruit that Paul writes about is its singular form. The fruit of the Spirit is all these things Paul wrote about: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness, and self-control. It’s all these things that will grow together. The fruit concatenates all these things and the true work of the Holy Spirit in us will grow this fruit at once.

At the time of this writing, I find myself impatient. In my search to condition my patience, I cannot do so in a vacuum.  I have to take in the other entities Paul writes about as I gain more patience. I do not do these things on my own. I have to ask the Spirit to work in me. That I do so with the faithfulness He has called me to have. That I may have patience and act out of love, kindness, and gentleness. From that I have an authentic outwardly appearance of joy and goodness. And in that the Spirit continues to grow that I may have peace and complete self-control over the situation that God has placed me so I may grow and serve for His purpose.

It’s only been a month. Every week with every day brings something new to test my endurance. I am already growing weary. Just like I did before in the first three quarters of this year, I must look to God for rest and energy. With Him I can do all things.

  1. I graduated from APU with a BA in Christian Ministry. My last year I needed to be an intern at a church. I interned at my home church at WVCC in Northridge—which was a 100 mile round trip drive. I needed to be out there three times a week. I was so burnt out of doing ministry, I knew I didn’t have the passion or drive to become a professional minister. I backed down from the prospects of doing ministry full time ever since. It’s taken me close to 8 years to get back into any kind of ministry at a church. Burn out is seriously bad. []
  2. At the time of this writing, I still haven’t written this story. But in a nutshell, we did decide to do a long distance relationship. This is something I have never done before and am still scared how to this properly without being an idiot or just straight out losing her. She’ll be gone until next summer. []

What have I done?

What have I done to deserve this? Even though nothing has been determined, nothing has been decided between the two of us, the mere act—the dance between us is a blessing in itself. What makes me worthy of such a blessing? I am nothing without my God, but through Him I am more than I can imagine.

But the feeling I have for this wonderful daughter of Yours is something I longed but forgotten. It’s an unfolding mystery. It’s a story in writing. It’s an exploration of emotions. It’s a discovery of who we are—individually and together.

It brings me joy. It excites me in the morning. It keeps me sleepless at night. I look forward to every second and it pushes me to dream bigger—further out in the space we reside and the time we occupy.

And even though there is an inevitable end to it all, I am not worried and I am not concerned. I live for today and today alone. I wait on You, Lord, for my bread—in physical, mental, and spiritual nourishment. We live for today together, because today is a day you made and it is good.

Thank you for showing me “us” thus far. I’ll cherish every moment. I’ll hold onto every Word of Yours. I pray that I continue to obey your every command. We will live to honor You—to glorify Your name. All praise to You, our God.

In love with falling in love

I have this problem.  It might have occurred when I was younger.  Maybe I didn’t get enough hugs or something when I was a kid.  Growing up, I always had this yearning to “be with somebody”—to be loved (using the term loosely).  I just had to have a girlfriend of some sort going through school.  Of course, me being as dorky as I am, I wasn’t very popular with the ladies.  Not surprisingly, I wasn’t on any girl’s radar.  I did my best to be noticed, but my personality never allowed me to stand out.  I was shy and a daydreamer.  I planned my approach and hoped for the opportune time to execute said strategy.  Rarely did I ever go with my master plan.  Even when I did, it never panned out after its approach.  But still, I insisted to keep daydreaming about how everything ought to happen.

The problem with the whole daydreaming thing is that you have to make assumptions on how the other person would react to what you are doing.  This would generally work if you knew who the person well enough to predetermine her reaction, but I never knew who she was.  I daydreamed how she would react openly and accepting of my approach.  I’m essentially putting words I want to hear in her mouth.  Eventually one thing leads to another, and I win the girl, right?  No, not really.  But I kept reiterating this daydreaming process for the girl in elementary school, junior high, the girls in high school, local college, the one girl I followed to a university, the one I went to church with, and finally the girl that shares the same hobby.

When I reiterate this process for the new girl, I don’t really ever get to know her.  I’m essentially taking the girl—her features and mannerisms that attracts me—but wrapping the personality and character I expect and want of her.  That eventually leads to this infatuation where I become heartbroken when she doesn’t match to what I dreamed.  Pathetic, right?  I mean, this kind of emotional distress should be kept on the elementary playground.  Seriously, dude, grow up.

With that bit of background out of the way, I wanted to write about the approach on the newest girl that caught my attention.  Of course, like all girls of interest, she’s pretty (obviously).  She’s a gamer.  The fact that she’s really pretty and a gamer is what really caught my attention.  When I saw pictures with her and her (then) boyfriend, I had to step back and ask myself, “People looking this good really shouldn’t be playing World of Warcraft—they’re usually going out and doing cool things with other good looking people.”  Yeah… like that.  I’m keeping further details about her sparse for obvious reasons.

Despite the fact I am attractive to her and that we share a similar hobby, I honestly don’t think it would be wise of me to pressure on with a pursuit.  Maybe I finally grew up and recognize the mistakes of the past.  Maybe I’m supposed to discern a higher purpose that is in alignment with God’s will.  I honestly don’t know.  I do, believe, I received affirmation about what my approach ought to be after spending some time at the driving range with a friend of mine.

I haven’t seen Mark in awhile.  We occasionally run into each other at the same church service, but for the most part I wouldn’t see him because he’s busy with work.  One Sunday morning , we went out to the Glen Oaks golf course in Glendora.  I haven’t picked up a club since my golf class more than 5 years ago.  I brought Mark up to speed with the whole I-think-I’m-done-with-life-in-SoCal-and-I-want-to-move-back-to-Hawaii story.  He also felt that my next move is probably going to be away from California.  Even he thought Hawaii sounded like an advancing move.  By thew way, since Mark was a former World of Warcraft addict, I gave him our guild’s progression status and whatnot.  At that point I had to tell him about her.

I told Mark pretty much every personality trait that attracted me so much to her.  And in the end, he came out to remind me, “As great and fun as she may be, do you really see her as being your helper for God’s will in your life?”  (See Gen 2:20b ff)  No, I cannot.  Mark didn’t need to go into further detail because at that moment I remembered what Paul wrote in his second letter to the people of Corinth:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?  Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?  What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?  What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?  What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16, NIV)

Paul finishes by writing,

“Therefore come out from them and be separate, […] touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinithians, 6:17-18, NIV)

I associate that piece of scripture with marriage.  It’s pretty tough for me to associate it with all relationships just because I believe we’re called to make believers of all nations, and my method to sharing the gospel is by creating authentic relationships so that my friends (hopefully) will see the glory of God through me.  Anyway, if someone could give some insight what Paul meant by “yoked together” that would be awesome.  (Who knows, I might be completely off the mark on this one.)

With that in mind, that’s the reason I see her differently.  I’m not sure exactly what it is.

I need to remind myself so that I won’t repeat these bad daydreaming habits.   In the event I do fall into the same cycle, I must not forget that she can never be mine.  She belongs to God.