Open hands and empty pockets

Last month, I had the opportunity to get out of the hustle & bustle of the city and spend a few days on something called a contemplative monastic retreat. When I first heard about it, I thought I’d be sitting and.. “meditating” (aka for me.. sitting quietly, wondering what to do with myself) for 3 days straight – but it wasn’t that. There were times of teaching, discussion, prayer, and guided solitude. Basically, it was a time to slow down enough to actually deal with the reality that the huge God of the universe was looking right at me. And doing so with love, despite being fully aware of exactly who I am. Overwhelming really. Overall, it was a beautiful time. This blog post (plus a 100 more) will not do justice to how meaningful that time was. (But if you are curious, just reach out to me and let’s talk.)

So yeah, the teacher at the retreat talked about the idea of coming to God with utter honesty about your fears, needs, and all the ways where you are lacking. And in a sense.. being okay with it. Just sit in your emptiness and come to God. It’s an opportunity to trust Him to be enough – it’s an opportunity to express faith in Him.

This led to the thought that actually.. we should be concerned if we think everything’s under control and we think we’re fine. It’s a concerning spot to be in, because it means that we think we don’t need Him. We’ve got this life under control. That somehow, we’ve got this covered!

Yeah, that frightens me. I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we should be able to see how much life… is not in our control at all. It just takes one phone call for our lives to be shook. One doctor’s appointment. You hear some news then BOOM. We’re overwhelmed with just how dependent we really are for there to be a God out there.

This is something I’m learning now. My wife and I are expecting our first child later this year – this awesome baby boy who squirms and kicks most when we’re watching Postseason NBA basketball (that’s my boy!). And man, with this little guy on the way.. the stakes just get so much higher with everything. What do I really have – what can I really do to ensure that this boy enters the world healthy and strong? Read some books? Make sure Hazel doesn’t fall into the temptation of drinking soda or Starbucks? What do I have… really.

So while taking full responsibility as a husband to Hazel & as a future dad, doing all I can.. I still have to be honest: GOD, I NEED YOU! I’ve got nothing. But I’m hanging on to Him. Trusting Him. In reality, He’s all I’ve got. And He’s PLENTY enough. Trust Him with me.

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. – John 15

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5


Work in Progress

Last week a friend of mine posted a blog listing out 20 things he learned in his twentiesI was fortunate enough to be in the office when he was working on it, so it was cool going back and forth hearing the things he was working through. It’s a great read, so I’d encourage you to check it out (each item is short, direct & honest).

Seeing him process through it all has really caused me to wonder what I would put down if I were making a list of things I’ve learned. What have I learned… actually.. have I learned anything? Am I growing at all? Or am I just getting older.. letting the years pass by.

Early last year, I heard a friend share something really profound (and honestly terrifying). He said something like, “I’m afraid that one day I’ll wake up 50 years older.. and look back at a life where I did nothing.” This became an ongoing theme among our group of friends. The fear of coasting through life.. maintaining things instead of actually doing something.

So usually.. I hear this challenge and think, “Yeah, you’re right! Let’s get up and do something!” Like I need to go be a hero or fight some battle somewhere. My natural inclination is that “doing something” of significance = being a hero somehow. But, I don’t think that’s really how it is.

So, I’m still processing through how/if I’ve grown – but at least there’s one thing I can put down: God is THE hero, I’m not. And I can’t be even if I tried.

I’m realizing that the key question for me right now about this whole idea of growth, learning, “doing something” with my life, or whatever you want to call it – is this: Do I look more like Jesus?

And practically this means… is He my hero? Am I trying to be like Him? Am I following Him? Am I prioritizing intimacy with the Father like He did? Am I interacting with people like He does? Am I valuing people because who they are in God, or because of their status and how they benefit me? Am I responding to brokenness, rejection, disappointment, suffering and pain like Him? Are people experiencing glimpses of life, hope & love when they’re with me? Are they being challenged by realities of who God is and our need for Him? And so on…

No question we’ll have many MANY lessons to learn regardless of what stage of life we’re in, but for me, I’ll try to put this question at center stage for now:

How much do I look like Jesus?

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” Philippians 1:6

Still going!

Ah, coffee in the morning. It’s a beautiful thing. This is a photo from my desk earlier this week when I just got into the office.

It’s just been a little over a month now into this life and it overwhelms me to think of all that I’ve learned. Of course it’s nice to leave behind my old 1-hour driving commute to work, now I ride my bike for about a mile to get to the office (my bike = my friend AJ’s bike. THANKS for lending it to me). But yeah, immensely grateful for the opportunities in front of me. One thing’s become abundantly clear… I’ve barely scratched the surface of it all. So much to learn and do!

Exciting developments happening in Jersey City. Been very cool to hear about the new parks they’re developing in other parts of the city. Hazel and I realized how valuable parks would be for us – especially as we consider building our family. (whoa now) So hey, if you’re looking to move in the next few years, Jersey City’s worth a look (:
Boyd-Mcguiness Park on Kennedy BLVD
Resevoir3 in the Heights

Also, I was given the chance to preach a couple times at our church where I am interning. It’s been a really exciting series studying through Nehemiah – where we stay connected with God and dream with Him about restoring the brokenness around us.
What if: Fight October 5, 2014, Hoboken Grace @ Hamilton Park
What if: Dream September 14, 2014, Hoboken Grace @ Hamilton Park

One more thing!
I had a cool opportunity to share a bit about my story. They showed it during one of the Sunday services last month. It was cool to just look back at how I came to know God and to think through all that led me up to this point. I’m sure I’ll share more details here moving forward, but til then, check out this video!


Before the service started this past Sunday, I sat in the back row staring at the stage. All the different team members and volunteers were still buzzing around making sure that everything was ready. In a little over 30 minutes, the service would be starting.. then I’d be on that stage preaching for just the 3rd time at Hoboken Grace‘s Jersey City location. Always a weighty, intense, exciting experience to be the Sunday morning speaker. Yeah, I’d be the one on stage, but I honestly just want to take a backseat and see Him work. God always has something to say, and so I’m thankful when He lets me be the one with the microphone (Especially when it’s in Jersey City!).

Feel free to listen to it here.
Message: “Life Coach: Prayer
August 31, 2014 @ Hoboken Grace

Things just got real. 

An early morning bike-ride and I found myself sitting by the Hudson River reflecting on all that just happened. Finally did it. I left my full-time position in the I.T. department of a New York college. No more full-time salary or benefits for me. My wife Hazel and I realized it was time to make the jump. She’ll continue working at her job, but I’ll be working full-time as an intern for a local church. I have worked for a church in the past… but never full-time. Gonna be interesting for sure.

So September 2014, a one year plan starts where I will have three official titles:
.. Hoboken Grace Church Planting Intern
.. Redeemer City to City Fellow
.. North American Mission Board Church Planting Intern

All this for the sake of seeing a gospel movement spread throughout Jersey City .
I might be dreaming but hey…
What would this city look like if we realized who God really is and how passionate He is for us?
What if we got in step with His heart and mission?
What would our communities look like? Our schools? families? neighborhoods?

I invite you to join me on this journey as I explore Jersey City and pursue this dream!