The other day I was in church and the sermon focused on a particular passage in the Bible’s book of Acts. It was a pretty well known passage in Acts 2 that talks about the first Christians. After Jesus had ascended into heaven, the Spirit of God had empowered the first Christians to do miraculous things, and huge things were happening that caused the explosive growth of the number of believers. The passage goes like this. Continue reading
I come from a long line of talkers. My lineage is filled with teachers and preachers and others known for their speeches. The holiday dinner tables growing up were always a place where the noise never stopped, and if you wanted to get a word in edge-wise you had to jump in at any pause for breath. Of all my relatives, my mom can out talk anyone. I’ve had hour-long phone conversations with her where my only part was “hello…” and she took it from there.
Let’s just say the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. I’m a talker too. I’ve struggled with it my whole life. If they had an anonymous support group, which I suggest calling On-an-on-and-on-annon. I would weekly stand at the front saying, “My name is Ryan, and I’m a talkaholic.”
Here are just some of the videos that Peichi and I made in Asia. We made them mostly for our youth group in Texas. I hope you enjoy watching even close to as much as we did making them. Several places, crowds gathered as we made the videos and asked me afterward if I was someone famous. Of course, I am.
This definitely was not the best message I ever gave. Some people said that it really impacted them, and it does mark an important part of my life. If you have time, enjoy. Maybe God will move in your heart.
My monthly project is progressing, although slower than I expected. I think I need to babysit it more in order for it to happen.
I have taken to writing thank you cards once a week to a few people. I think it is funny that people almost always contact me back and thank me for sending them a “thank you.” I have flirted with the idea of sending out a thank you card for thanking them for thanking me. OK, I would never do that. When they call I think “Hey, you can thank me for sending you a ‘thank you.’ That erases the thank you.”
In reality, I am happy that they are calling. My mind just jumps around to funny semi-sarcastic thoughts all the time. I don’t do it because I am cynical or mean. My mind is always just entertaining itself in the background.
I have realized through this that thankfulness begets thankfulness. People read the card and their response is to say “thank you” for me thanking them. Mother Theresa once said “We don’t have to reach the whole world. If half the world was loving the other half, then everyone would be being loved.” I like that. If I can be the most thankful person I possibly can, then the people around me will be more thankful. If they are thankful, then the people around them are affected, and on down the line. Like a pebble in a pond, the ripples could reach the whole pool.
I want to reach the whole pond, but I really need to pay more attention to me being more thankful. After all, I am doing this because I get frustrated at how much we (me and most people around me) pay attention to the failures around them. Psychology calls it the Fundamental Accountability Error. Every schoolboy knows how it works. When a fly ball goes into right field and the fielder has to dive to catch it. He gets up and says “I am an awesome fielder.” If he misses the catch, it is “The sun was in my eyes.”
That kind of thinking is what causes us to have an entitlement mentality. This error makes us focus on others failures and what we deserve. It is the opposite of thankfulness. It is sin. Although I fall prey to this law of psychological tendency just as much as anyone else, I am trying to burn it out of me. That is part of my prayer. Please pray for me in this regard. –Ryan
Yesterday was my birthday. Typically, people enjoy their birthdays, I think. In recent years I have been increasingly becoming quite the birthday party-pooper. I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is that makes me feel so un-festive on October 1st. There could be a bunch of reasons, and perhaps many of them work together to make me a little bit gloomy and highly introspective. I feel a combination of wanting to huddle up in a ball behind the washer and dryer like some sickly cat, and wanting people to gather around me and make me feel loved. I endure it with a relatively normal look on my face. I do enjoy the love that people show me, for sure though.
One of the things I’ve dealt with over the last couple years is the knowledge that I’m not getting any younger. When I was younger I dreamed that I would accomplish all manner of amazing things. These weren’t just selfish ambitions, but godly Kingdom goals too. But now the older I get, I see people around me who are my role models, and I realize that by my age, they had already accomplished much more than I. Some of them are now even younger than I am. It is starting to feel like that moment in a football game where you realize that there just isn’t enough time to score the three touchdowns you need in order to win, even if you keep the other side from doing anything. You start to have those thoughts of forced turnovers and onside kicks, but you also really wonder if it is all possible. Yeah, I know that I’m being overly dramatic, but I already told you that I’m in that sort of mood. It is my birthday. Indulge me a little.
When I got home from Barnes and Noble, Peichi was waiting for me with some dinner and a mixed drink that she had made, and cupcakes she had just baked to top it all off. She is very good to me sometimes. I felt loved.
As I was eating, she pulled out a milk carton. I’m lactose intolerant, which means that I can only drink lactose-free milk that just happens to cost twice as much as regular milk. She showed me the expiration date, a day in late August, a whole month ago. I’m bad with those kinds of things. I’ll be in the grocery store and see something on sale, and thinking that my frugal spouse will be proud of me, I’ll buy two. The problem starts when I forget to actually eat or drink said product. I’ll put it in the fridge. It will slowly move to the back as I reach for other things and just put them in front. Two months later, she’ll pull out an expired milk carton, half full of milk, half full of a green ecosystem complete with Greenpeace activists demanding it be declared a protected environment.
I smiled nonchalantly and continued to eat. The date stared back at me, boring a hole in my forehead. As I ate, I realize that sometimes I feel a bit like that milk carton. I look back on my year and realize that some of who I am has just sat on the shelf. Some of my gifts have just not been used.
Just like that milk, I have an expiration date. We all do. It isn’t known, but it is definitely stamped on our foreheads in some ink we can’t see, but it is indelible. We are also filled up with gifts, dreams, passions, and all manner of good stuff. When we can’t use these in the way God intended, they just sit there and slosh around inside of us. I think that is why Proverbs 13:12 says “hope deferred makes the heart grow sick, but longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” I was meant for those hopes, gifts, and passions to be used for God and His kingdom.
I don’t believe that I’m sitting on the shelf, but as I sat on my birthday I realized that I have so much more to give. God put things in me that I want to be used for Him this year. I can’t put the blame for this on anyone but myself. The possibilities are endless, and ultimately any blame for my shelf-ishness (see I just made a ridiculous pun) is my own. But I know I don’t want things in me to sit on the shelf for another year turning green. I never know when time for me, just like it did for that milk, may have passed. -Ryan
Many of you know that I just recently finished going through the Bible cover-to-cover in 90 days. It was a challenge in many ways, but in another sense it was exciting and refreshing. I don’t think that reading so much scripture so fast is necessarily the best way to study always. I often counsel students to whom I minister to read it slowly, in bite-sized chunks, and think about it. I did learn different things than when I’d read the Bible through in a much longer period of time, though. Continue reading
I started out the day re-reading a section of Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. I tried to allow his section on Christian meditation to sink in as I ate lunch, and then headed out. It was a perfect day today, one of those Texas days that you just can’t waste. There were no sweeping Spring hailstorms, or silent freezes of winter, and the summer furnace had not been stoked yet. Outside, there was nothing but miles of blue sky and all of creation going through its April busywork. I went to the park.
As I turned off the car in the parking lot, I grabbed my Bible. I was looking for a passage in Philippians, but ended up reading 1 Thessalonians 5:5. “You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” I let that seep in, and I began to walk, meditating on being a son of light and day. Continue reading