Prayer-Counsel

Last night, I was on the phone with a friend, and we were relating to each other ponderings of life that often occur when two pensive guys chat, or something. We got to talking about what it means to be led by the Spirit. Often, seeking this lifestyle can seem futile. A friend wrote in recent Facebook note/poem of “shamefully hearing my own aimless echo…” Prayer can feel like that. Futile and sheepishly hearing the echo of your own voice as you speak.

But who is Jesus? Or the Spirit for that matter? When I think of names that describe Christ, Emmanuel comes to mind. But I often forget another name. Wonderful Counselor. Yep.

What do counselors do? I learned this firsthand at Wheaton this past year. I had been harboring a lot of shame to the point where it had become unhealthy and I started meeting with this guy thru the Wheaton Counseling Center (which is free to students!) on a weekly basis. He was a good ol’ Texan named Sam Oldham and he would guide me through dozens of conversations and uncomfortable, yet necessary steps of the healing process. But the majority of the time, it wasn’t the wise words of Sam that helped me. He forced me to come to my own healing conclusions about my identity in Christ, and acknowledge my journey up to that point. And to do so OUT LOUD and take ownership of it. But yes, he did guide me to that point.

So what does this have to do with living by the Spirit? Well, since the Holy Spirit is of Christ (God), it follows that He is our Counselor too. The past few days I have developed a habit (that I think is God’s prompting) of praying out loud while driving somewhere. Anyone objectively viewing the situation might think my efforts are futile, that I’m merely blabbing whatever my train of thought happens to be. However doing this brings me a sense of peace and I’ve also had a sense that my prayers are being guided. So in a sense I’m coming to my own conclusions (which really are God’s) while praying out loud. No one watching a counseling session would say “Well duh, this counselor is no good because he’s guiding someone toward a statement that was obvious all along.” Articulating truths (most of the time, ones I ALREADY KNEW) in guided conversation was what brought me to peace and healing. Telling myself repeatedly “I’m ok, I’m ok” is futile. The mere fact that I had any sense of peace during this out loud praying shows me that another Counselor was at work, and that I wasn’t merely telling myself things that I wanted, or thought I needed to hear. The latter, I know from experience, doesn’t work.

How has the Lord been counseling you lately?


Desire

Desire and impatience can go hand in hand if you’re not careful. At least, this has been my experience. Hungry? Walk 10 yards to the cupboard and grab a snack. Sweet tooth? Hop in the car and grab a DQ blizzard. Bored? Hop on the internet and click through Stumbleupon. You don’t even have to think, a myriad of pages catered to your interests pop up in split seconds, and if you get bored one click can change that in moments.

I definitely have issues with impatience. When I desire something, I want it NOW, and usually that means if instant gratification is possible (especially if its something petty) I’m more likely to take ahold of that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some superficial guy who feels entitled to everything, but lately I’ve been thinking about the bigger implications of impatience, especially when it comes to what we desire.

Throughout the past few years, I’ve elevated social relationships to a very high level in life. Seeking community has been good, especially during tough times but I find myself questioning or creating social conflicts that are either blown out of proportion or nonexistent. Why wasn’t I aware of this social event? Why do I feel “overlooked” sometimes? Why am I single? How do I respond to all of this?

Here’s a thought. How we respond to the small things can carry over to how we respond to the big things. If we condition ourselves to instant gratification with the small things, of COURSE the bigger desires are gonna be that much harder to manage.

Compromise isn’t the answer either. How many of you have gotten cozy with your textbook on a couch, because you wanted to be “comfortable” during your long study period and ended up dozing off instead of being productive? I’ve done that a lot. Or how about this: When this yearning for intimacy (read: a significant other) emerges, do you go to God or do you seek out “godly advice” in this area? This isn’t to say the latter shouldn’t be done. Of course it should. In my experience though, seeking advice obsessively causes MORE meditation on the desire, which doesn’t really solve the problem. So what does?

God does. That seems like the Sunday school answer, and it is. But more and more, as I alluded to in my last post, God has been revealing to me “Ryan, I AM the adventure of life.” A life with God is what we are all seeking, whether we realize it or not. Without Him, I think I would feel like King Solomon in Ecclesiastes – “Everything is meaningless.” So, next time you get impatient, whether its to fulfill a craving for a dark chocolate Hershey bar or discontentment with your current relationships, ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you in your current situation, or show you how you might be able to help others along that path in that moment. This seems to be the greatest remedy.


Transcendence.

This past weekend has been one of the best I’ve had in a long while. Friday evening marked a long anticipated concert, featuring Anberlin and Switchfoot at the Newport Music Hall (a more complete concert review will go up at my music blog, Tuned Up! in the coming days). Long story short, the concert was unforgettable. The vibe in the room was like that of a big family, and I even gained a couple of new friends in the process (later confirmed on Facebook, of course). The music, especially during Switchfoot’s set just seemed to be so Christ-centered in spite of the lack of any direct references to His Name.

Following the conclusion of the show, my group experienced an encounter with Stephen Christian of Anberlin that resulted in hugs being exchanged, and then we caught Jon Foreman of Switchfoot giving an acoustic, bare bones aftershow to a small audience in the chill of that October eve. The ambience moved into a worshipful one, especially when Foreman played his well known solo piece, “Your Love Is Strong.”

Afterward, I was walking back to our meeting place with my friends Daniel and Paul from my young adult minstry group, talking about the evening. Daniel and I began talking about the existential crises of sorts we have been dealing with of sorts (Relevant has an excellent article on this phenomenon). We agreed that at this stage in life sometimes it was a struggle to just be optimistic in general, but really the weird feelings that come with this period can be hard to articulate. Switchfoot’s song themes address these existential conflicts a bunch, alluding to what is being revealed to be true to me more and more each day. How much I really need for God to be behind everything. God IS the adventure behind life. This is why we were created. God had no need for humanity, but where’s the adventure in a universe that’s void and without form?

As Paul, Daniel and I left our little concert bubble we were rudely awakened to the flawed nature of the world when we witnessed a fight on a street corner, between two women who looked like they were about to kill each other. This perfection that we scratched the surface with at the concert was contrasted in that moment with a situation that scratched the surface at why the world needed God to intervene for redemptive purposes.

My thought process continued the following evening at a fall gathering of my college/young adult group (Alive) near campus. My friend Pete and I walked over to a Speedway to grab some drinks, and waiting for Pete to make his purchase I noticed a homeless guy eyeing me. “Can I have 50 cents?” he asked sheepishly. I said “take a dollar, buy yourself a sandwich” to which he stammered, “Oh, Ok! I’m gonna go right over there…” before scampering off. After the party, as some of us were leaving we encountered a young, blue collar guy who was very eager to talk to us about the misadventures of his cat. I couldn’t help but wonder if we would form a friendship with him in the future, given the proximity to the Alive ministry house. As I drove home, I reflected on the good times combined with the opportunities to reach out. My friend Daniel from Alive once told me that when he gets antsy/anxious sometimes that means he needs to get out and serve. I’m beginning to think the same is true for those that go through these existential crises. At just the right time, God provides opportunities to take the focus off of ourselves. I am reminded of Romans 5, when Paul writes “You see, at just the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” in verse 6. If we can trust God to save us at just the right time, certainly we can trust Him with deliverance from doubts and anxiety at the right time if we allow Him to. When we make God the adventure, everything else seems to light up.


“Patience and Silence”

It’s been an interesting week. Work is speeding up, I’m getting new ideas about vocations, a lot of fun stuff has been going on, some past regrets have worried me a bit, and I’ve been thinking about the future a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been enjoying myself a lot. God has definitely been reaching out to me a lot to encourage me, and He has been answering prayers to reveal Himself in new ways (more on that in a later post). Basically my mind has been racing a lot this week.

Maybe you can relate. Its September, so you are likely in some transition period right now (I think the beginning of the year ought to be now, not January). New school year, or else getting used to getting used to the “real world” like me. The band My Epic does a phenomenal job communicating these feelings and God’s response to this in their song “Patience and Silence.” Here are the lyrics:

I’ve never had the spine I lead them to believe, the devil born in me feeds me lies.
He creeps into my mind and spreads confusion until I’m left with fear of what could be and doubt of what has been.

Truth be told, I’d rather not know, it’s so much easier to quit, it’s just so easy not to care.
Truth be told, I’d rather not go, I want to run away and never come back again.

If all the world should come against me, I’d like to think that I could stand, but I’m not always sure that they don’t have Your hand.

You’re the only one to fear, because You’re the only one who loves me as I am.
You alone are my Defender. You alone will be my Judge.

I just need to remember that time you told me…
You’re the only one to fear. (Patience…) You’re the only one who loves me as I am. (Silence…) And You alone are my Defender. (Patience…) You alone will be my Judge. (Silence…)

Peace be still. Peace be still.


Time to ramble

Blogging is a funny thing. I’m sitting here, thinking “Hey! I should update this thing” when I sit down and my mind goes blank. Well, it doesn’t really go blank. I COULD write about a lot of things. But I have to search for the thing that’s the most “real”, the most “worth sharing.” Kind of vain when you think about it.

So, before I go any further, keep me accountable in this if you read this. Feel free to leave a comment that might challenge me.

So moving on…dang, there’s that problem again. The truth is, my mind has been racing all day. I’m what people would call a pensive guy. I zone out a bunch. A lot of times when I’m speaking a sentence will come out awkwardly because I’ll change my mind mid-speech about how I want to phrase something.

One thing that will help in this is this project I’ve been working on at my job as an analyst at Fillmore Capital Partners. My father and his business partner have this little investment entity that they want to make into something. As of now, its a whole bunch of cash sitting around doing zilch. So, what I’m doing at work is basically a business application of the parable of the talents. Right now, we have all these resources that are sitting there doing nothing, that is until we find the proper investment vehicles and take action. So that’s my job. Take ideas and probe, summarize, probe some more, dig. Articulate my thoughts on a daily basis for feedback. I even got a stockbroker to help me bounce ideas around. So this project is one way to harness these racing thoughts into focus.

The neat thing is the more we succeed at this investment experimentation, the more resources we will have to invest. I think its the same way with the Lord. He’s saying “Look, if you’ll just trust me and let me use you the way you were meant to be I’ll reward you. But its not just for you to keep. It’s for you to invest again.” Repeat ad infinitum. I think in the age to come believers will still be learning and finding new ways to serve the Lord. And it will all be done joyfully, because we will be fulfilling our original purpose.


Wow.

I got this email from my online GMO penpal Richard from Kenya yesterday.

Subject: Wonderful Miracles
Dear Servant of God brother Ryan,

I thank God for the miracles and wonders that God did yesterday. I went to pray for a sick man who was sick with evil spirit and was talking in minus resting. God really helped him alot.
I also went in another family where both father and mother are witch craft. I talked the word of the Lord through the holy spirit and they were open and confessed that they had killed 17 people.They accepted God as their personal Savior. Thanks for your prayers of daily.May God bless you alot.
Continue to pray for this people to stand in the Lord and Satan to be ashamed.

Wow. Release from that kind of bondage really is a miracle.


Online outreach – don’t underestimate the possibilities

This past spring, I took an Evangelism class during my final semester at Wheaton College, a course taught by the much-loved Jerry Root, who sort of had a grandfatherly reputation among Wheaton students. The course required that we share our faith multiple times a week (to get us in the habit – this is something that should result naturally from being a follower of Christ) and one medium in which we did this was through Global Media Outreach.

Global Media Outreach functions as a network of websites answering basic questions about God and the Christian faith, that through search engine optimization pop up early in search engine results from seeker oriented questions, such as “Who is Jesus?” or “How can I become a Christian?” When seekers navigate to these websites, they have the option of filling out questionaires which are then emailed to online missionaries in the GMO network. These seekers can choose to identify themselves as one who just accepted Christ, one who wants to recommit their life to Christ, or a non-Christian that wants to learn more. An online, anonymous email correspondence then begins with the seeker and one of GMO’s online missionaries. Well, it isn’t completely anonymous – you can see each others’ first name, city, and country.

Early in the spring, a pastor from Kenya began writing me. He identified himself as Richard N and consistently asked me to pray for his church in Kenya, that God would provide needed equipment and also that they would be effective in reaching the lost. He then decided to send me weekly updates on the happenings of his church, and lets me know regularly that he and the congregation have been praying for me. In that time I have offered him a few prayer requests of my own, and I can say I’m confident this isn’t any kind of scam – I think he would have quit a long time ago if this were the case! Here’s a recent email I got from him through the GMO website (the English isn’t great, but you can get the gist of it):

Subject: Re: Re: greetings and love from iranda kisii-Kenya!!!!!!!!!
Hello in Christ brother Ryan.

With much greeting to you in Jesus name. Happy to hear from you again, we are finishing well our event on last week date 11 Sept 2011 Actual we will see the hand of God and marcials through our God, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in that event 10 new Souls are received Jesus in they lives!!!! please continue pray for them to grow spiritual day by day all over us here we are praying for as your School.and your Young ministry there.

Your brother Pastor Richard.

Cool eh? GMO for me has been a neat way to see direct impacts for Christ with minimal risk involved (but we shouldn’t be afraid of big risks either). I would encourage any believer with a heart for the lost to apply.