Tonight, as I sat meditating on the mats during the end of Advanced Aikido class, I was strongly stricken by the fact that yes, I DO need to keep doing Aikido and yes, God DOES use it to teach me VERY greatly. Listening to the rain and focusing on His bigger presence in life, I realized that I was spending the first time sitting—just sitting and listening—that I had spent in a LONG time. Not only is it through Aikido that we have our early church prayer meditation program that allows me the committed time to sit and meditate in Christ like that, but my body also felt SO happy to be back to Aikido today (even though it will be very sore tomorrow due to jumping back in from 0 hours to 5 in one day due to our heavy Thursday class schedule). We have been on a 2 week break, and I have honestly even been enjoying having my evenings more free to get more work done on the wedding and house details—until I got back on the Aikido mats tonight. It was SO nice—beyond simple words nice—to be back on the mats and moving, learning to blend with others and move and work with others in community. God teaches me so much through Aikido, and it is good for me in so many ways. Thank God for interesting and unexpected providence! I never would have expected Him to teach me so much through a self-defensive Japanese martial art—nor did I know that there was a martial art founded on protecting our attackers as much as possible and blending with harmful energy to turn it positive. It is firmly founded in principles that, though the founder may or may not have known, were the same principles that Christ so heavily espoused in His earthly ministry. How cool is it that I now get to study Aikido and Christ together? :)
Thursday, July 25, 2013
This has been a very challenging couple of months to try and really trust God and His providence in the midst of extreme busy-ness and life fluctuations. It has also been a time of great successes in the ministry and great excitement and joy in life. Some of it is just that I am overly busy right now, and some of it is that I need to trust God to take care of the things that He promises to take care of in the Bible when we surrender them to Him; some of it, though, is that I am currently seeing in real life that the harvest is plentiful, and the workers are few, and that can be difficult to see when it affects real people whom I care about.
As to the busy-ness, life is currently full of some VERY excellent things for me—they are work intensive, but very exciting. For instance, I am right now in the middle of wedding planning along with my fiancé, Tella. We are getting married August 10th at 2:00 p.m. at North Oak Community Church, and if you would like to come (and you are reading this), you are invited! I apologize if you do not get an invitation in the mail and just get the invitation in this newsletter, but in this day of cell phones (and thus few addresses in the landline phone book), we just couldn’t find addresses for everyone whom we wanted to invite! As such, please do consider yourself invited if you are reading this newsletter and wish to come join us! We will have a reception following at the church with cake and punch until about 5:00 p.m. Though very time-intensive as far as planning goes, this busy-ness is extremely exciting.
In regards to very exciting but very busy things, I am also closing on a house July 30th. Since I must be fully out of the house I rent by the 31st, that leaves very little moving time, but we should be able to get it done! I’m knee-deep in everything that goes into buying a house for the first time in life (private party sell); I’m also trying to figure out how to work boxing and moving in with everything else. Again—it’s an EXCELLENT problem to have, but it is still time spent and financial craziness as money shifts accounts every which way and budgets are entirely re-designed. This is all hitting in the middle of the time that I usually go out and promote The Welcoming Event (formerly ‘Get Plugged In’) to the various churches and college ministries, and all of the usual ministry stuff is still going on or starting back up near the end of summer break. As such, it has honestly been almost overwhelming at times—especially if I focus on the immense lists of what I have to do. However, when I am able to ask God in prayer to help me step back and surrender my worries to Him in prayer (and then when I actually follow up and do so), I can look around and truly enjoy what is going on around me. This is a time of intense adventure and super-exciting new life experiences. I cannot wait to be married to Tella—she is such a blessing in my life, and we are both very excited to start off our new life together! I am also excited to have a new place to live, just her and me (and a renter downstairs, but that will be separated by doors). I intellectually understand that in less than 3 weeks I will go from living with just guys in a dirty, run-down house to living with my new wife in our own safe house, but it is such a huge change that I really can’t fully get it through my head until I am there!
In the midst of all of this, my bachelor party really helped highlight God’s providence in my life; while I was out with a bunch of good male friends and my dad shooting some targets in the country, I took a moment to look around and let the moment sink in. I was surrounded by real friends who were a blessing in my life, I was enjoying time with my dad, and I was enjoying a variety of excellent blessings all day. It struck me that God has answered (or is answering) all of my major prayers from my time in High School. Back then, I was always the ‘nice guy’ who everyone liked, but I had very
few if any close friends. It was easy to feel lonely, and some of my largest prayers were 1) that God would help me love Him more, 2) that He would provide a spouse for me, and 3) that I would one day have close friends. As I looked around at this group of guys, I realized that He had long been teaching me to love Him more—ever since the difficult step out to become an in-state missionary/ministry leader. He had also provided me with true friends along the way, and He even blessed me with a spouse who is beyond my words to describe (as far as how much of a blessing she is and how amazing of a woman she is). What a humbling and astounding thing! Though I often didn’t see Him answering my prayers when I was younger, and even at times wondered if He was answering my prayers, He was faithfully answering them even when I wasn’t listening or following well. What a sincerely amazing, loving God we serve. In truth, I feel blessed beyond my words’ ability to express it, and I really can’t pen down my emotions, gratefulness, or feelings of being inadequate to the blessing received (which, in the sense that none of us have ‘earned’ them, we all are, though His choice to love us makes us valuable enough and ‘adequate’ to receive them). This feeling is accompanied by an almost bashful joy that He would love me, and all of us so much. It is a truly blessed period of my life.
This is, however, certainly a rollercoaster time of highs and lows, for in the midst of such joy, I have also had to struggle with trusting Him in various fields. There was a time of uncertainty that the house would go through, which was very stressful; I had to spend substantial time praying it into His hands and trusting Him to take care of it either way. We also had to officially cancel the Mexico Mission Trip due to lack of attendance/sign-up. Though several have already committed to go next year and though this time ended up being truly needed for wedding planning and house-buying, it was still difficult to have to miss seeing the children and staff there for another year. Also, I started up The Gamers Guild next to the dojo (it is a card and board game shop). As I explained in the last newsletter, it costs a few extra hours each week but opens up MANY new fields to develop relationship and love people. This has been a pretty huge success—I see more new faces each day than I can truly get to know. This has been VERY encouraging; we have also had a few visits by local ministry leaders who came to hang out with us during Game Night and develop relationships. Unfortunately, due to how busy they are, they cannot regularly come at this time, and I see the truth to the fact that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. We are getting many more new faces in the door than we are getting believers who wish to come and get to know the life stories of those faces, develop relationships with them, love them, and live life with them. I truly pray to the Lord of the Harvest (as I request you do as well) to send more workers and to share His true nature with them (and with us, too)!
Anyway, this has been a crazy, rollercoaster couple of months, but I thank you for reading this newsletter and for praying for me and for us. PLEASE do keep us in your prayers; it is through His providence that so many amazing things—more than I could oversee myself—are all happening at once. Thank God for who He is, and thank you for your prayers and financial support in our ministry endeavors. Please pray for more baristas and/or people willing to step in and help lead and serve at Unite Game Night. Please pray for The Welcoming Event as I am promoting it among the churches and college ministries a bit later than usual. Please also pray for [alt] as we seek to put together a leadership team for it and to see how it may ultimately look this year. I am excited for what lies ahead, but I ask God to help me enjoy and ride in the now. May He bless us and help us all continue to see His hand, providence, and trustworthy nature in everything around us, and may He help us seek first His Kingdom (living in the Spirit, surrendering, and loving daily) in all that we do! Amen!
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Hey all--keep me and us in your prayers as I seek to put together a planning team for [alt] and as we prepare for the Welcoming Event when campus opens back up in August. This is my week to go out and invite churches and college ministries to attend! It's also time to go take care of a lot of ministry and life things, so prayers would be appreciated! IF ANY OF YOU WOULD LIKE TO HELP PLAN AND/OR COORDINATE [ALT], PLEASE CONTACT ME ASAP! We could sincerely use the help! :) (contact UniteEph4.firstname.lastname@example.org if interested)