I hate that I need grace

Life can be so overwhelmingly humbling. When that happens, it seems as if bad news comes from every direction. It’s relentless. How much easier life would be if I were never in need of grace. Whether that’s God’s grace, or grace in human relationships.

One thing I have learned throughout my adult life as a Christian; God is not concerned with my comfort zone. That’s not to say He’s not interested in my comfort. It’s just that He doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He allows troubles to come into my life. Not because He hates me, but because He loves me.

If you’re a parent, how does it make you feel when your child(ren) approach you when they are hurting? Life is heavy and complicated. They take time to sit down with you, pour out their heart, and just take time to listen to you. God is no different. When life gets heavy and too much for me to bear, He wants me to come to Him. He wants me to pour it all out to Him.

The thing about grace is that you must be humble to receive it. If you have a sense of entitlement, you’re not going to receive it. Being self sufficient is great. It’s wonderful. But my life is meant to be Goddependent. Even when I have the means to get through any problem, He wants me to depend on Him. He wants me to seek Him. His wisdom. His direction. Even ways that seem right to me, He may have another plan.

One thing I have learned is that the presence of troubles does not mean the absence of Sometimes-the-Lord-calms-the-storm.-Sometimes-he-lets-the-storm-rage-and-calms-his-cihld.God’s love and favor. It doesn’t mean we’re doomed or cursed. God’s glory is revealed in us when we trust Him. When He enables and empowers us to survive beyond what we think our breaking point is, He is glorified. When we overcome, through His power and grace, He is magnified.

I want you to know I’m not writing this because I have attained this. Not even close. I’m writing this for myself. I don’t expect this is for anyone but me. I know the answers lie within me. I have to put them out there like this, as if I were giving advice and a pep talk to someone else.

I can’t do this on my own. I end at the water’s edge. God lives not only on the shore, but in the stormy waters. He is calling me to reach out trust Him. I am human. I am flawed. Where I end, He begins. I can get so much further when I rely on Him than being self sufficient.

How I love that I need grace.

 

Where there is doubt, believe

When I first began getting to know Sarah-Jane, we were sharing deep and simple things about ourselves. Among the simple things was sharing information like what kind of cars we drive. When she told me about her car, I have to admit, I couldn’t picture it. I had heard of the model, but what it looked like escaped me.

You have, no doubt, experienced this phenomenon. Now that the make and model of her car has entered my consciousness, I see hundreds of them.

Did they all of a sudden appear, or have they been there all along, unnoticed?

Of course, they were around me all the time.

As I enter into this new chapter of my life, in faith, the road has not yet shown itself to be smooth, simple, and as had been planned. I certainly didn’t expect simple, but I had a game plan factoring in the understanding there would be inevitable obstacles. Even as much as you think you have planned contingencies, faith can only be stretched when the obstacles are greater than your plans and abilities. And like the phenomenon I described above, it seems that everywhere I turn, I’m seeing God’s assurance to me in a variety of formats, even in unconventional ways.

This morning, I saw this cartoon on Facebook. It is amusing to see it illustrated this way, 1238709_10152286434268469_691967694_nbut when you’re looking up the hill at the course, it certainly doesn’t give you an entertaining feeling. As I sit here at my computer contemplating the day ahead and the road before me, it is critical that I not focus on the road, as much as my Navigator.

Here is what He tells me:

Deuteronomy 3:22
Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you.

 

Deuteronomy 31:8
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

 

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

 

Psalm 23:4
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

 

Isaiah 12:2
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.

 

Lamentations 3:25
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

 

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

 

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

As I was researching these amazing, comforting scriptures of hope and assurance, I came across one that, for whatever reason, stuck out above the others. There are times in our lives when things look so bleak, so discouraging, so fraught with challenge, that those who truly love us and have our best interest at heart, will look at the “signs” and try to speak logic to us. Their hearts and intentions are pure. But in Mark 5, we find the story of a desperate father of a dying 12 year old girl. He pleaded with Jesus to lay hands on her and heal her. While they were on their way, news had come that the daughter had died. Those around the father, trying to help him face reality, spoke logic to him. “Your daughter is dead.” They urged him not to bother Jesus about this any further. But then we see verse 26.

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Sure enough, as the chapter continues, Jesus spoke, and the girl was healed.

In the face of what seems lost, in the face of overwhelming obstacles, in the face of logic, remember His words:

Don’t be afraid; just believe.

 

 

 

I want a faith like that

This morning, I felt a certain urgency to receive a specific word from God. Some people read horoscopes, some seek encouragement and direction from fortune cookies. For me, when I “randomly” open my bible or teaching from a trusted source of godly wisdom, and the word I receive feels like it should have been preceded with the words, “Dear Corey”, I know God has simply been waiting for me to stop and listen.

This morning was one of those moments.

I took a moment to open up Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. Today’s installment was about a life of faith, specifically referencing the life of Abraham. In it, he said the following:

Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason—a life of knowing Him who calls us to go. Faith is rooted in the knowledge of a Person, and one of the biggest traps we fall into is the belief that if we have faith, God will surely lead us to success in the world.

I sure don’t consider myself to be anything like Abraham. However, I do feel like my life has Life-of-Faithbeen something of an odyssey that has required a certain measure of faith. Where my life is at this very moment is no exception.

The final sentence in the paragraph above is the fine print that causes us to reconsider such an endeavor. To me, the key word is “surely”. I don’t think Mr. Chambers is saying we will not have success. It’s that it is more important that we achieve success by God’s measure, not how our culture has defined it.

God is concerned with our success. He is invested in us. It is not His will that we are homeless and destitute “in Jesus’ name”. He is glorified in our lives when we are willing to let Him direct us, even if it means He takes us in a direction that contradicts our logic and comfort. He is glorified when we trust that He will see us through the challenges that confront us that are bigger than our ability to resolve. We trust Him when we know His strength and character. We experience his strength and character when we trust Him.

No matter how big my challenge, my God is bigger.

Releasing greater love through an uncomfortable conversation

Greetings from frigid New England. The drive from California to Rhode Island was, thankfully, smoother than I dared to hope. I had incredible weather all the way, and my nine year old car made it look easy. I even had a wonderful opportunity to spend the last night of my trip near Cleveland in the home of great friends I knew in San Jose.

So now, I’m here. Starting over in a new land. It’s exciting, and it’s quite an adventure.

The adjustments haven’t only been mine to make.

As our relationship transitions from cross country to cross town, Sarah and I are realizing that doing so isn’t as simple and smooth as one might think. It has been a wonderful, and sometimes awkward process of self-discovery. As much as you are mindful and prayerful about being realistic and not idealistic about long distance love, there are significant adjustments we must make as individuals, as well as a couple.

The other day, Sarah and I went on a day trip to Boston. It was a beautiful day, but there was black-couple-having-conversation-e1350829038851something of a dark cloud hanging over us. In fact, it had been lingering on and off for the better part of a week. As we got to the subway parking garage, we each knew we had to have an awkward conversation. One of us was holding on to an observation that wasn’t awful, but carried a lot of personal weight. It wasn’t a comfortable topic. There was a concern that discussing it could cause anger or hurt in the other, which neither of us would want to inflict on anyone, much less each other.

Finally, it was out in the open. It was awkward at first, but there was no anger or hurt. Throughout the next 20 minutes, we went from an initial state of angst, to sharing a variety of very personal quirks that we don’t necessarily broadcast to others. Healing had come. We were able to console and understand one another on a new, deeper level. We were even able to laugh and be ourselves.

The cloud was gone.

We ended up having a wonderful day and evening in Boston. We walked hand-in-hand throughout. We laughed, we took pictures, we dreamed, we explored.

We lived.

As I reflect upon that day in its entirety, I think about how much more than that, God loves it when He points out things in our lives that maybe no one knows about, or would have the courage, authority and sensitivity to discuss. God isn’t afraid of our reactions, as we flawed humans are. But when we receive His conviction, His word of correction, His rebuke, His tender words of admonition, and we embrace them, we achieve a new level of intimacy with Him. The roadblock that may have existed before is gone. Transparency leads to a greater depth of love and trust for God, just as it does in human relationships.

Human nature says to ignore difficult truths. Sweep it under the rug. Ignore it and it will go away. In truth, this is deception. A relationship of any kind cannot be healthy when there is deception at any level, to any degree. Where there is humility, there is no humiliation. Where there is transparency, there is intimacy. Whether in marriage or with God, we can only discover and live a life of trust and faith when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable in their presence, and receive the uncomfortable truth that leads to greater intimacy, and a healthier, deeper relationship.

Ch ch ch changes

In late August of 2008, I felt the winds of change coming. At the time, I was living in San Jose, California. I had been there for 12 years, and loved it. I was part of a wonderful church, very active in ministry there, had the most wonderful friends I’ve ever had, and lived in a world class city with so much to do and enjoy. David-Jakes-on-Change-2.jpg.scaled.1000-400x533

But I knew God was sending me off into a new direction. I could have stayed where I was and been happy. But I felt God was calling me to the Sacramento area, for reasons I didn’t know. All I knew was that in following His direction, I would grow and mature in ways I wouldn’t experience by staying comfortable in San Jose.

Not to rehash stuff I’ve written before, but for the benefit of those who may be new to Crossing Paths, my first six months in Sacramento were among the most difficult of my life. I had been laid off from three jobs in those six months. The third of which came the day after my mom’s funeral. I seriously questioned why God would take me from where I felt at home and useful, to a place that seemed to be kicking me out of everything I did.

Now, five and a half years later, the winds are blowing again. In what will be no surprise to many of you who have been following the events of the last six months of my life, I am moving to New England.

In my head, the plan was that, if I were to move, it would most likely be summer, at the earliest.

But God has His own plan.

After the early professional frustrations in Sacramento, I started my own business. Building a clientele was a very slow process. Through a series of connections made through my clients, I ended up landing an association with a firm with offices in 29 states, in 80 cities around the country. When I began toying with the idea of New England, I checked out their website. No offices in the New England area.

Then, in late January, one of the attorneys in the Sacramento office asked me where Sarah-Jane lives. I explained to her where she lives in relation to Boston, the largest and most widely-known city in the region. The attorney then said, “well, you know we’re opening an office in Boston, right?”

Uhhh, no, I didn’t.

After more than 20 years in business, this firm chose February 3, 2014 to open an office in Boston. I happened to know and have a good working relationship with THE right person in the company. The one who makes the decisions on vendors for their offices around the United States. So, with one phone call, I landed the Boston office.

Without a doubt, God’s favor and blessings are working together. I don’t expect things to be easy. And other than the phone call that secured the Boston office, nothing has been easy.

By the time this entry is posted, I will be on the road toward Boston. The drive will be some 3,000 miles, and over four days. The weather will probably be challenging. There is much I’m leaving in the rear view mirror. But much lies ahead. I have been on the road of faith before. The entire experience of getting from California to New England is a metaphor for life. I don’t know how to get there, specifically. I’ll have to rely on a source to guide me to my destination. There will likely be storms and obstacles along the way. After the first two hours or so, none of what I see will be familiar to me. I will have to be smart with decisions, but also exercise some blind faith.

I will try to post updates along the way. In the meantime, your prayers are greatly appreciated!

Proactive waiting

I know it has been several weeks since I’ve last posted anything. Soon, and in due time, you will understand why.

Suffice it to say, life has been a bit crazy in the past few weeks. I will explain more soon. In the meantime, know that things are good, and your prayers are greatly appreciated. I look forward to sharing with you what God has been doing. Heck, I look forward to seeing what God still has yet to do!

There are times when we thing that silence means nothing is happening. Maybe you’re in a period where it seems God is silent, and your life is in a holding pattern. Rest assured that God has His hard hat on, and is active in your life. It’s a good time to put your hard hat on, as well. When God begins to unveil what He’s been working on, the time you spent in preparation will help you take the next glorious steps.

Remain faithful. Remain diligent. Keep looking forward. This is what I call, “proactive waiting”. One day, God will begin to reveal things to you that will put your life in motion in an exciting way.

Stay tuned!

Balloons in times of crisis

Remember when we were kids…or for those of you with kids, maybe you did this. You would take a latex balloon and rub it against your head. The static cling would build up so the balloon would stick to walls, or if you held it close to your head, your hair would stand on end to touch the balloon.

I have a theory that relates this phenomenon to relationships. First, let’s start with the science.

Balloons_(static_electricity)

If you have two balloons and rub them each against your hair or fabric, the friction causes each of them to become negatively charged. When this happens, the balloons will not stick together. In fact, they will repel one another.

On the other hand, when only one of the balloons experiences the friction and is negatively charged, the balloon that has not been negatively charged will cling to the negatively charged balloon. They will be drawn toward one another, and stick together.

There are times in our relationships when one or the other is going through a difficult time. When two people are not fully committed, the friction in the one’s life will also create friction with the other. This will cause the two to drift, or even push each other apart.

However, where there is love and devotion, the one without the friction will draw close to the one with the problem. They will cling together. When you have a relationship that is healthy and strong, that friction will not push you apart, but bring you closer together. When one faces difficulty, or friction, the other will be drawn to them. They will actually become closer than they ever were before. It’s easy to get along and enjoy a bond when things are going well. But what happens when the friction happens?

While difficulties are not something we enjoy, we can embrace them because by virtue of the friction, the bond between us will only draw us closer together. The bond between us is strengthened. It’s critical to stick together. When we are so drawn and committed to the person in need, our devotion provides strength and empowers the one in crisis. As this happens, we will get through it together. Our relationship is forged. But if we push the other away or shut them out by not being open and honest, we create more friction with our attitude. We will repel one another.

How liberating and unifying it is when you can say to one another, “I will stick with you, I will walk with you through it all, no matter what.”

Sole mate

Several years ago, a couple from my church invited me to their home for dinner. They were friends, so naturally, I agreed to a nice, home cooked meal. During the course of the evening, the conversation turned to asking me about my, at that time, non-existent love life.

“What is it you’re looking for in a woman? Obviously, aside from her being a singer.”

They had assumed that since I was a singer, that this was some kind of “must have” for me. Not only was that not something I wanted or needed in a mate, I actually preferred that she wouldn’t be a singer. As much as I enjoyed singing, and it was a huge part of what I did, it wasn’t and isn’t who I am. It doesn’t define me. It wasn’t and isn’t some kind of foundation for a relationship.

All along, God was molding my desires. Not only what I do want and need, but what I don’t. 

Fast forward to present day.

In God’s infinite and undeniable wisdom, He has given me a woman who is precisely what I need for life. In short, her strengths are my weaknesses. At the same time, I have strengths in areas where she is somewhat vulnerable.

I have had conversations with single people about the topic of soul mates. Is there one person out there who is perfect for you? Is there more than one person who is perfect for you, and it’s just a matter of finding one?

I honestly do not know. What I do know is that I’m a month shy of my 49th birthday. I’ve never been married. I have had numerous relationships in my life, but obviously, we were not perfect for one another.

Perfect. There’s a word. You might be reading this and thinking, “well no wonder you’ve never gotten married. You’re as flawed as a marble boat. How can you expect to find perfection, never mind attract it?” Good question. I look at Facebook, and I see so many spouses touting their mates as “the most wonderful in the world”. Is that hyperbole? How can hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of spouses all over the world be “the best”? That’s impossible. There can only be one best. And by what standard is this measured?

The key is finding “perfect” for me. And I have. Obviously, we have each been in other relationships. We were fundamentally the same people we are today. But we have each experienced excruciating heartache, and we have each broken the hearts of others. But in each other, we have found ‘perfection’. I certainly am anything but perfect. Good grief. I am riddled with flaws. But I have qualities that make me the exact right fit for her life. And she has qualities of which I am in awe.Picture-Quote-about-Love

Speaking for myself, this is not to say that those from my past are bad people. They are not inferior in any way. It’s just that we weren’t right for one another. I have no bad feelings about those in my past. I wish them unbridled happiness. It’s simply that I have found the one who, from the very beginning, understood me in ways that others who have known me for years don’t get.

Whether there are 1 or 100 “soul mates” for me out there, I have found my sole mate. No one has ever spoken to my heart, mind and spirit as she does. No one has confronted my deepest fears, and filled me with the strength to face and overcome them. No one has ever seen me so vulnerable, and responded with even more love.

It’s been a long time. There have been many heartaches. Being patient has cost me some life experiences that I wish I could have had. But I’m so thankful that I didn’t settle for someone for whom I was not right, and who was not right for me. We are all better off with the way things are turning out. No regrets.

God saved his very best for last. Sarah-Jane is absolutely perfect. For me.

No greater love

A new movie was released over the weekend. It is one I am so eager to see, I’ll actually go alone if I have to. I’ve never gone to a movie alone before. The only other movie I was willing to do so for was The Passion of the Christ. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise to see the similarities in these two movies. The new one is Lone Survivor. Yes, one movie is about the sacrifice of Jesus for all mankind, and the second is the level of love and sacrifice of brothers in arms on the battlefield.

Most of us will never face situations where we will be called upon to lay down our lives for Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 8.20.53 PMsomeone else. John 15:13 tells us that there is no greater love than when we lay down our lives for our friends. Does this mean that we are doomed to a lesser love unless we’re facing a life and death situation?

Absolutely not.

It’s very likely that we are presented with this “no greater love” opportunity on a fairly regular basis. The simple application is when we love someone more than we love what we want for ourselves. As a man, as a steward over the heart, mind and body of a wonderful woman, it means that I show her I love her more than I love having my own way. It means showing her, not just telling her, that she is more important than my own desires. That she is worth any cost or sacrifice.

As a Christian, it frequently means making choices because I love God more than things that would damage my relationship with Him, or my reputation as a Christian.

As a friend and neighbor, it may mean that rather than spend a relaxing day or evening at home, or taking care of personal business, we make ourselves available to help or spend time with someone in need.

We are all blessed with opportunities to serve someone and something that is bigger than ourselves. By doing so, we put them, and ourselves, in proper perspective. In doing so, we bless others, and we experience and receive a greater depth of love in our own lives.

Today, demonstrate “no greater love” in some way, to someone.

Contentment

I must admit, I am not one who is easily content. It’s not that I’m so goal-oriented or anything like that. I’m not the guy with motivational quotes posted all over my home. It’s more like I’m just not easily or frequently satisfied.

I have been in New England since December 18. As I type this, I should be at the airport, waiting to board my flight back to California. Instead, I’m sitting in the kitchen at Sarah-Jane’s home, brain/heart-dumping into this post. A significant snow storm literally blew into the region yesterday and through the night, so I changed my flight to Monday.

As I sit here at the kitchen table, and as I’ve spent a relaxing morning and early afternoon with her and her boys, I find myself in an unfamiliar territory. No, not Rhode Island.

Contentment.

When I was showering this morning, which is often when and where I do my best thinking, a thought popped in my head. I often times get so caught up thinking about my past and the disappointments I’ve faced, and worry about how they might affect my future. But in doing so, I miss out on living in the moment. What I do in the moment, or what I miss out on by not doing, has much more of an impact on my destiny than worrying about what was, and how it might affect what will be.

be-in-the-moment_Snapseed

Even in the quietness of today, when we’re somewhat confined to the indoors due to the bitter cold outside, I find myself appreciating every detail of the moment. The future is going to be busy. The future is constructed by each current moment. Being so concerned with the enormity of what lies ahead can be overwhelming. But by taking in each moment, we allow ourselves, and God, to operate in our designed roles and abilities.

God is not bound by the limits of time. I am. I cannot live tomorrow today. He is already in tomorrow, in six months from now, in one hundred years from now. He knows the end from the beginning. Why am I worried or consumed by the past or the future? He will guide my steps. But my steps come in ‘the moment’. Thinking about what must be done tomorrow is good. Learning from the past, also good. Obsessing on it? Not so much.

Live in the moment. Enjoy it. Embrace it. Appreciate it. Maybe you’re not exactly where you need or want to be. I understand that. Believe me. Take this moment and do something with it.

The fact that you have ‘the moment’ is a blessing not to be wasted.