Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: A (VERY SIGNIFICANT) Year in Review

Well, I think I'd have to say that this was one of the most significant years of my life. So what better way to end it than w/ a timeline of events to give thanks to God for all He's done? Bear w/ me as I don't have exact dates in mind, but here goes:


(Week one) - After having met a group of scientists a few months earlier (by a total act of GOD:) who work just up the road from where I live(d), I finally got in touch w/ one of them to see if we could meet and talk further (science stuff [of course]; there'd been [and still are] some ideas running through my mind, so I thought I should explore the possibilities). A few hours later, I got word that my grandfather (the food chemist, the one who set the seeds in place for the scientific inspiration I would end up having) had passed away somewhat unexpectedly. While meeting w/ the family at my aunt/uncle/cousins' in Cali and taking my turn to share what I remember about good ol' grampa, I recanted the conversation I had w/ him at 15 - about an idea I had for an invention - and how he challenged me to do something w/ it. Lo and behold, this tied in directly w/ the direction my life was starting to head, so I made it my promise to him before the family that I would take him up on his challenge.


- I started out the year knowing that I would be joining YWAM Coatesville at some point in the not-too-distant future, but I was thinking that would be somewhere around the end of the year. An interesting turn of events was set into play, however. I was attending a conference for the YWAM bases in the northeastern U.S. Just as I was about to leave, my friend, Metui (the base leader for YWAM Coatesville) called and asked me to pick up his guitar stand (he was already on his way home and realized he forgot it). "Just bring it to me next time you come to visit," he said. So a few weeks or so later, I thought to myself, "You know, I still haven't made it into Philly, just yet. I should visit there for a day just to check it out." I figured I'd stop by Coatesville on my way there to drop off the guitar stand, but what a surprise I was in for. "Yeah, so we're going to be starting staff training in April," Metui tells me. After talking for a while, we both realized that the pieces of the puzzle were likely falling into place...and so they did. Work gave me some scheduling flexibility, the budget fit just right, and as of April 1st, phase 1 of my transition to YWAM Coatesville was initiated (see first blog for details)


- I started thinking to myself, "You know, why should I wait another year to get started back up w/ college again? Why not get the ball rolling now?" As I started looking into my options, I suddenly realized something. "Wait a minute, I've been wanting to do journalism, but haven't really known where to go w/ it. I've been wanting to study science in college, but haven't really seen how it would fit in w/ the bigger picture. There is such a thing as a science journalist, though. Hmmmm....." Oh how magically the pieces of this puzzle have been falling together (you'll hear more details in blogs to come).

Looking back at everything, I'm so elated about having taken this next step forward in life. There've been a few times over the last month when I stopped to consider where things are at, now, and I said to myself, "You know, I really like this." I can hardly wait 'til things move forward a bit further, but for now, I'm just enjoying the ride as God is taking me along. So on that note, this year ahead for me is going to be all about venturing forward, trusting God w/ every step, being willing to take some risks, and just doing it. If only I could say how thrilled I am about that. So now that you've read all of this, how about you? What did 2009 mean to you and what will you do w/ the next year of your life? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts:) Oh, and one other thing.......

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!! :o)

First snow in Coatesville...sorta

Ok, if you're reading this, and you live anywhere in the Northeast U.S., you know that last week we got a huge pile of snow dumped over the entire region. For the record, it was my second time experiencing the outpouring of winter weather up here, but the first time doesn't really count much, not compared to this, that's for sure. So what was it like? Man, I haven't seen snow like this for nearly 14 years! It looked like there must've been a good 18 inches or so (some people in other parts of the region got somewhere around 2 ft. or more). I was in a house all by myself for most of the weekend, which made it a fun time to relax, watch movies, and just do wtvr (first time watching Knight's Tale, well worth it:o). I also enjoyed the feeling of being "trapped in". It added to the sense of adventure. Oh, and let's not forget that despite the fact that I am only 5 minutes outside the city of Coatesville, I live in a rather rural setting. I'm sure you can imagine the kind of cabin fever that came along w/ that (what's that tapping noise I hear outside?).

I was a little bummed that I didn't get to make it down to VA to see a friend of mine who was visiting from Colorado. All things considered, it was a pretty cool storm, one more thing making the experience of living here in PA something I can truly treasure. Alright, that's blog numero uno. It's December 31, and I've gotta leave for work in about a few hours. I'd better get cracking on the next one asap!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The self-imposed obligatory list of things I am thankful for...

What day is it, today? Is it Tuesday? Why, I believe a round of thanks would be in order. Don't you? Ah, Thanksgiving. Yes, it's that time of year again, the time when the people in the diet business lift up their hands and say, "God, thank You for this season of gluttony upon which the masses are about to embark, for yea, it is profitable to us whence cometh New Years,"...something like that. Anyway, so here are some things I am thankful for this year:

1. A new season in life.

Joining staff at YWAM Coatesville was certainly a surprise. I wasn't anticipating that this would happen until the end of the year, but God knows His timing. The way everything happened was quite the story, and despite all of the challenges that come w/ this journey, it has been truly fulfilling.

2. Deeper relationships

I think I'd say that I've almost always had friends who I consider to be very close. It was sure challenging to grow and develop a lot of those relationships while drudging through so many years of uncertainty before everything finalized w/ Coatesville, though. Now that the rhythm of life has solidfied a bit more, it's been great making new friends in the area, growing closer w/ them, and watching as the older friendships seem to be taking a whole new dynamic (a good one, that is, but for brevity's sake, I shan't elaborate).

3. Clarity concerning vision and direction for the future

It's been more than 7 & 1/2 years, now, since I started getting some very specific vision regarding the direction my life should be heading. However, this is the first time I can honestly say I've committed to something for the long-term (being in the Philadelphia area for at least the next 7 years, and most likely one or two other places in the Northeast for at least the next 16 years after that). Furthermore, though my main goals have remained intact, and I've hada sense of direction in the past about the steps I should be taking to get there, this is the first time I've found the steps which work AND that I'm truly happy with. (College and career goals, but I'll have to blog about that some other time.)

Well, that's a wrap, and I'm thankful that this blog is finished:) Happy Turkey Day to all!

Gardens of Eden

Thought I'd go ahead and throw another poem up on here. Let me know if you get anything out of it.


If we could go back
Back to the start
Where gardens of Eden
Grow deep in our heart
Would we be near
While so far apart,
Or as mere muddy mortals
Return to the earth?

Royals rage
As wars they wage
O'er gardens of Eden
Long torn from their hearts
The wisest sage
Inks another page
In hopes of a candle
A guide through the dark

But if we could return
To that which is lost
In strength, would we run
Or recoil at the cost?
While children laugh
And dance, and play
And dig their hands deep
In earth's muddy clay
Not minding to soil
Their dresses in dirt
For gardens of Eden
Grow deep in their heart

I wonder, should we cease
From our tireless toil
To pay a greater price
Than spilled blood and oil
And risk all we have
For what's already paid
Would we see we're all losers
In the games that we've played?

And if time would stand still
For a moment or two
To reflect on all that
We say and we do
Crossing deep seas
As their wide waters part
Would gardens of Eden
Return to our heart?

- Idou ego apostello humas hos probata en meso lukon ginesoe oun phronimoi hos oi opheis kai akeraioi hos ai peristerai

Saturday, October 31, 2009

As far as the I can see

I wrote this on my facebook page and thought I'd post it here, too. Hope you find it constructively meaningful.

Wait right here
And dig with me
To see as far
As the I can see
In earthen vessels
In dignity
Let's venture in this

Build a wall
So high, I can't see
Dig a well
So deep I can't reach
Find within
Then learn this virtue
That no man can teach

Do we fall
By night and by day
Only to go
Our separate way?
Try as we might
We wander in vain
By day and by night
O'er the open plain

ut to take the road
Less travelled by
With heart set on One
Much greater than I
To trust with assurance
Where I cannot see
And venture towards

I wonder the price
I wonder the cost
Is it worth it all
If all is lost?
And letting go
I do embrace
The sweetness of'
This divine grace
To hold in my hand
What I cannot touch
When everything else
Is nothing much

And love as I do
Empowered by
The Spirit of the One
Much greater than I
Trusting it all
Into His hand
Even when I
Don't understand

So holding on
I won't let go
'Til all will see
That they may know
The worth of this truth
Too weighty to bear
And upon His strength
I cast every care

"And all of the earth spoke one language; ... And the people said, 'Let's go build a city with a tower so high that it reaches the sky, and let's make a name for ourselves to keep us from being scattered over all the earth.' And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that they built, and He said, 'Look, the people have become one, sharing a common language, and this is what they're beginning to do. Now nothing can hold them back from doing whatever they imagine. Let's go mix up their language so that they won't be able to understand each other.' So the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth, and they left the building of the city unfinished." - Gen. 11:1,4-8

"So to keep me from being praised unworthily for all of the revelations I've received, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to beat me and keep me in my place. I prayed to God three times to have it taken away, but He said to me, 'My grace is enough for you, as My strength is perfected in weakness.' So I would much rather be known for my weaknesses, that the power of Messiah may rest upon me." 2 Cor. 12:7-9

"And I, brothers, when I came to you, I did not come to you with eloquent speech or wisdom as I bore to you the witness of God, because I determined to let nothing be known among you, except for Jesus the Messiah, and His sentence on death row." - 1 Cor. 2:1-2 (modern-day paraphrase)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New House. New Step. New Blog. Why Not?

So it's Tuesday and the month is winding down. That means I'd better get typing, here, if I want to keep to my "2-blogs-per-month-minimum" promise! So what's new? Well, I've been enjoying the phase of being a wandering nomad for about 7 months, though this is starting to settle down some. I began in April by spending half of each week up here in PA, and the other half down in Virginia (that's about a 3-hour drive between the two locations!), I moved up here completely in June, I moved into a friend's house in the beginning of September, and finally, as of yesterday, I moved into yet another home (fortunately, I'll be staying in this one for the next 6 months). I'm really liking this place already. It's just outside the little city of Coatesville, making it a nice place for some quiet time and contemplation. I have a room to myself (which further adds to the r&r element), there's a piano, and heck, it's even 10 minutes closer to northern VA (you know, a nice little convenience for whenever I might need to make the drive south).

So we moved in yesterday (me and another staff member), got ourselves adjusted to the new surroundings, and had dinner in the spacious kitchen w/ the others on staff and some guests who are visiting at the moment. I can only guess what the next 6 months will be like, but this just seems like the perfect place to spend my winter, right there in the middle of nature. We'll see how it all turns out.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Something of Beauty

I put this on my Myspace a while back, but I felt like posting it here, as well. This is a poem I wrote once while watching the sunset on Brighton Beach, the most beautiful spot in all of Brooklyn. Enjoy!

Something of Beauty

Joy and pain

Wrapped in the warmth

Of sunlit rain

In darkness falls

But skies all around

With heavenly light

Do resound

That at great cost

We pay this price

For hope does not come

Without sacrifice

And at what cost

But that we may treasure

The sacrifice

Of greatest measure

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bittersweet reflections (some thoughts from last Saturday)

I just got to see a bunch of the youth I used to work w/ some years ago. Truth be told, the term "youth" hardly applies any longer in the typical sense in which it's used. They were all so young, once, fresh in high school or still in middle school, but you blink, the time goes by, and before you know it, they're driving, graduating, moving on to college, and all those bittersweet etceteras you can think of. As I'm sure anyone can tell you a few years after having started in youth ministry, you look back and begin asking yourself, "Was it worth it? Did I make an impact on their lives? Did I really, really, really connect w/ them, or was it just fun while it lasted?"

So I arrived in Maryland, and I saw one of the girls who's now living in Israel and has been visiting for the summer, making sure to bring her a little going-away present (dark chocolate peanut M&M's, her favorite). She lights up and exclaims, "You didn't!" I shrug my shoulders and reply, "I did." We get to chat for a little while, and as I really listen to what she's saying, I know that God has had His hand on her life, and her heart is set towards him no matter what.

I look across the room, and there's one of the girls who joined the group some time after I started helping out. Barely out of high school, she's already showing some leadership initiative, spending time w/ the other youth and challenging them in their relationship w/ God. I'll never forget the time not long ago when she was sitting down w/ one of the older youth leaders, pouring her heart out about how much she really wanted to reach out to the needy in the local community. After talking for a little while, she put her hands down on the table and said, "Just...just let me! Just let me step out and do something! I understand that I'll probably make some mistakes, but God is bigger than that! I'm just so tired of waiting around for somebody to give me the thumbs up!"

I look up and see her brother approaching, who I also only got to spend so much (or so little) time w/, yet even his face lights up, surprised to see me. I see another one of the guys who I got to spend a lot of time w/ in the years past, and even though we didn't get to chat much during my visit, I know I've been seeing him grow spiritually as time's moved on. The same can be said for yet another guy who I didn't get to see b/c he no longer lives in the area, yet I logged on to my facebook and got a comment from him saying that he misses me.

"I thought you were a cool youth leader, Jimmy," one of the girls said as I was giving her a ride home. "You had some nice ideas, but I also remember how you were very sincere when you'd open up and speak to us from your heart. I really liked that." She, too, is moving on to do some incredible things w/ her life, admitting that the steps forward are downright scary at times, which is just teaching her to trust in God all the more.

It's easy to doubt oneself and get discouraged in life many times, and this can especially be the case in youth ministry. It's good to have a humble attitude about oneself, as well, constantly open to recognizing areas for growth. What good is it, though, if we confuse that w/ having a negative self-image. As one of the youth said, God is bigger than our mistakes. It was truly refreshing to have had this time last Saturday, to see how the youth have grown in so many ways, and what more can be said? It was such an awesome time getting to spend those years developing strong, lasting friendships w/ the other youth leaders, seeing how God is moving in their lives, as well. In times like these you look back on it all, and asking whether or not it was worth it, your heart gives out a resounding, "Yes!" I'm so thankful to God for the opportunity to have been a part of these (no longer) kids' lives.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"B'reisheet - Yehiyeh": In the Beginning was the Word...

Many are familiar w/ the opening part of the Gospel of John - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was w/ God, and the Word was God." Something really caught my attention about this as I was looking at a few passages of Scripture in the original Greek and Hebrew. By reading the opening words of this passage, one of the first things that pops into many people's heads is the story of creation ("In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." - Genesis 1:1). There's a word that keeps popping up in the original Hebrew as God is speaking forth creation - yehiyeh. It refers to a state of being, translated as "let there be" and "there was" (hence, if we were to translate the entire passage into English except for that word, it would look something like this - "And God said 'yehiyeh light,' and yehiyeh light).

Going back to the beginning of John, we understand this "word" as referring to Jesus ("and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us"). I don't want to get us off into some sort of weird, hyper-spiritual, meaningless mystical wandering after "deeper meaning" (i.e. I don't want this to be about anything other than Jesus as this is what the passage is talking about). However, I don't want to overlook the fact that there can be more meaning to something than what we see at face value, especially if it reveals to us something more about God's heart. It's interesting to note that it says that this word was w/ God "in the beginning", but it also says that the word "was God". Again, we understand this to be talking about Jesus, but here's something interesting to go along w/ that. This word, "yehiyeh", is conjugated another way which appears in Exodus 3 - eheyeh (as in "EHEYEH ASHER EHEYEH" ["I AM THAT I AM"]).

So you probably know that I've been doing a lot of reading up on quantum physics lately. I ran across something rather interesting about 2 months ago known as zero-point energy. It's kind of difficult for me to explain right now as I only know the cursory definition of it, but zero-point energy refers to the power that brought this world into existence. It exists all around us, nevertheless, we don't perceive it. It is mostly rested, and it would have been only by what's known as a "quantum fluctuation" that this power caused this world to be. It is my understanding that this energy exists as a product of some other dimension, as it seems to pop up mysteriously (hence it is known as the "phantom force" of energy). It's as if something from another dimension had to breathe everything into existence (which is interesting, b/c the Hebrew word that keeps appearing in creation seems to have an inhale/exhale sound to it).

There's more I could say, but I'll save it for later. For now, I close w/ this. There is power in that word. No, I don't mean that it's some kind of magical word that gives us special power if we say it, but what I'm saying is that there's something to be said about the findings of modern science, the appearance of this mysterious word, and God knows what else, all pointing to the power and authority of His holy name. So next time you walk outside and look up at the stars, next time you see the green grass growing in the bright shining sun, the waving trees, the crashing seas, or whatever it is in nature that brings you to your knees (<--he saith, as he attempts to wax poetic), you might want to keep in mind the awesome power behind it all.

"Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." - John 8:58

"As soon as He had said to them, "I AM", they went backward, and fell to the ground." - John 18:6

"O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth." - Psalm 8:9

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Current" reflections (deeper thoughts from the shallow shores)

Last Thursday, I got to visit Rehoboth beach w/ some friends of mine. Man does that bring back memories (I practically grew up on that beach, but that's another story). As soon as we got to the sands, I instantly fell prey to the forces of oceanic gravity, the riptides tugging at the depths of my heart.

"Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me." - Psalms 42:7

Being a person who's fascinated by the world of physics, all the intricate workings of God's creation, there's something about throwing myself into the wild unknown that I find utterly irresistible. Waves moving mercilessly in their predictibly unpredictible fashion, cresting and crashing all around so speedily that only a fool would turn his back for more than a few seconds. That is motion. That is force. That is acceleration.!!!!!!!

Reflecting upon the beauty of what I saw caused me to realize something. Navigating the currents of this massive body of water is not unlike swimming through the seas of life. You don't have control over much, you can only predict what will happen w/ limited accuracy, so you have to be ready for anything. Somehow people fail without fail to realize this, though. We spend so much of our time trying to control the currents, we will turn our backs on the waves only to get wiped out in a matter of seconds, and when we get caught in the undertoe, we react in fear by swimming directly against it, burning out so much energy, rather than going to the side to get out of its pull (metaphorically, that is...we spend so much time trying to secure a bunch of variables over which we have very little control, we kick our heels up when circumstances look fine on the surface only to get hit quickly w/ something we weren't expecting, and when this happens, we often let fear take over and react on impulse, rather than taking a moment to stop, breathe, and assess what we should do).

I've recently been thinking a lot about all the symbols and hints that God often leaves in Scripture, the meanings within meanings that He put there so that we would continually journey deeper w/ Him. What we encounter in nature I think speaks so powerfully of Who He is (creation pointing to the Creator, if you will). A particular passage in the opening of His story to mankind has really made an impression on me lately: "And God said, 'Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear,' and it was so." (Genesis 1:9) Ok, get ready to put on your learning cap, 'cuz I'm about to give you a Hebrew lesson, here. The word for "gathered" that appears in that passage is "kavah". Though it appears 49 times in the Old Testament, this is the only place where it is translated as "gathered". The definition of "kavah" isn't so easily understood by a cursory translation, here. We would think of the waters being "gathered" as a process of some outside force (or collection of forces) acting upon inanimate matter. "Kavah", however, is something far different from this. It refers to an act of waiting in hope or expectation (it's actually the same word that's used in that oft-quoted passage, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" [Isaiah 40:31]). It's as if the waters spoken of in Genesis 1:9 were acting of their own volition in obedience to the voice of the Lord, which is kind of interesting when you consider the term "living water" (and "living waters") as it appears a few times in Scripture (Jeremiah 2:13;17:13; Zechariah 14:8; John 4:10,11;7:38).

So let's consder this. We spend so much of our time, energy, and hope on the unpredictible waters of life. The story of creation tells us, however, that it wasn't God's expectation on the waters, but rather the waters' expecation on God. We spend so much of our time judging the waters by what we see on the surface, yet we stop short of considering the currents underneath. Then there are those of us who keep in mind that no matter how much we attempt to calculate the trajectories of our lives, so much of it is still based on variability. It's good to be wise, to consider our paths, and to plan accordingly. Nevertheless, many of our calculations end up getting swept away w/ the currents as the foundation of predictibility gives way underneath. We, however, don't have to be swept away w/ them, if we accept the fact that all of those calculations are just good pointers to help keep us moving forward, never to replace God as the solid ground beneath us. When we let go like this, all we have left is faith, and this is something truly, truly beautiful.

"Trust in the Lord w/ all your heart, and don't lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." - Proverbs 3:5,6

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Projects, hobbies, and other matters of the like

So what have I been up to since coming here to Coatesville? Good question (thought you'd never ask:) Well, I've had a few things in the works since the beginning of this year (some from even before then). There are about 6 ongoing writing projects, which include 3 sci-fi scripts, 1 suspense/thriller, 1 drama (inspired by a true story), and a fictional story that I'm writing as a book (not quite sure if I want to put that one to screen, yet). There's also a long-term research project that I'm working on (and I mean will probably consume the rest of my life and those of many others in the process) which deals w/ the history of developments in science (as well as other areas). To that end, I'm doing a lot of reading, including The Elements by Euclid, an in-depth biography of Albert Einstein, tons of books on physics, some on linguistics, one on church history, another on biblical history, and many, many more. There's more I could go into, but that's the gist of it (you'll get to hear about the other stuff in future blogs).

So life is keeping me pretty busy these days, but I'm glad I get to be busy doing the things I love. Well, I guess that's a wrap for now. See'ya next blog!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Transitioning to Philly: Phase two...ish...

Well, big news, big news. As of the second week of June, I transferred jobs and am in Coatesville full-time, now. So what's the new schedule looking like these days? Well.......

Mon. morn. - Wake up, get ready, man the reception desk
Mon. afternoon - staff meeting, other duties as assigned
Mon. evening - staff dinner
Mon. night - relax, unwind, go to bed
Tues. - Fri. - wake up, get ready, help out around the base (duties vary from one day to the next), eat lunch, read (or do some small chores), leave for work around 2, get back around 11
Fri. after work - help out 'til 2 at the curfew center (a program we started working w/ that helps facilitate the local curfew restriction for minors)
Sat. morn. - sleep in (YAAAAAAWN!)
Sat. afternoon - Bible study in Philly (
Sat. evening - Enjoy the day
Sat. night - Curfew center (10p.m. 'til 2a.m.)
Sun. morn. - sleep in (YAWN! YAWN! YAWN! YAWN! YAWN!)
Sun. (rest of the day) - chores and whatever else I have time for (hang out w/ staff, visit a local church, go to downtown Philly, etc.)

So the busyness remains, but it's nice not having to be constantly moving back and forth between here and the good ol' VA. I'm really liking it here, all things considered. Pennsylvania's such a beautiful state, and there's so much to explore. I'm looking forward to being here for the long-term.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Art of Gracefully Coming Undone, and the Beauty of Surrender (In Conclusion)

A friend of mine once said something that really made an impact on me: "Never trust a man who walks without a limp." This saying is so beautiful, if you understand the story from which it originates (it is one of my favorites).

In the 32nd chapter of Genesis (the first book in the Bible), the character Jacob is wrestling w/ an angel. Now this isn't your typical wrestling match that lasts a few minutes, maybe 5 at the most. No, this match lasts throughout the entire night! There's something interesting about the timing in which this took place, as well.

Earlier on in the story of Jacob's life, he took advantage of his brother, Esau, on two separate occasions. Now, this wasn't your typical, "Oh, Jacob charged a little extra interest on Esau's loan," kind of situation that we're talking about here. No. The first time, Esau was absolutely famished, so Jacob made a deal w/ him that he would give him some food in exchange for his birthright. "Fair is fair," one might say, though, as Esau did agree to this without hesitation ("I feel like I'm about to die. What good will my birthright do me?" - Gen. 25:32 [paraphrased]). The second time Jacob took advantage of Esau, however, he went right behind his back to do it. The longer version of the story is in Gen. 27:1-41, but to put it in short, Jacob went to his father, Isaac, pretending to be Esau so that he could get his brother's blessing (to put it in modern terms, he basically got Esau's portion of the will).

As you might imagine, Esau wasn't too happy about this (to put it more accurately, he wanted to kill Jacob, which would explain why Jacob took off running indefinitely). So, fast forward to where we left off. Genesis 32. Many years have passed since Jacob last saw his brother Esau, and he figured he would try to make amends w/ him. After Jacob sent his servants to Esau's home terrain w/ a message of reconciliation. The servants returned saying that Esau was coming to meet him...along w/ 400 other men. Needless to say, Jacob was rather terrified at this point. He sent away his servants and his family who carried all of his possessions w/ them, and we're left w/ the chilling, sobering words, "And Jacob was left alone," before the angelic visitor shows up for the showdown.

"(Do not) say in your heart, 'My power and the ability of my hand has gotten me this wealth. Remember the Lord your God, b/c He is the One Who gives you power to get wealth...," (Dt. 8:17-18)

Have you ever prided yourself in your abilities or your possessions? Have you ever stopped to consider that maybe you don't deserve half the credit you give yourself? As Jacob's wrestling match comes to an end, his competitor exclaims, "Let me go, already! The sun is about to rise!", but Jacob gives a resounding reply, "I will not let you go unless you bless me!" Why would Jacob ask for a blessing? He already got this from his father. What more could he ask for? A blessing from God, that's what. "No longer will your name be called Jacob, but Israel, b/c you have power like a prince w/ God and w/ men, and you have prevailed." (Gen. 32:28)

The heart of Jacob was nothing short of persistent, and he was blessed tremendously for this (as the Scripture goes, "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." [Mt. 11:12]). This blessing did not come without a cost, however, and a great one, at that. Verse 25 of this chapter tells us that the stranger with whom he was wrestling touched the hollow of his thigh and put it out of joint, and we already know that Jacob was all by himself. To put it in short, Jacob had to be stripped of anything and everything until there was nothing left but him (ok, maybe not every single thing; the text seems to indicate he still got to keep his clothes, thank God). Jacob received a blessing from on high that would give him a sense of his true destiny - one that no man (not even his father), could give him - but he had to come to the utter end of himself to get there (and even then, the story tells us that he was left w/ a limp, probably as a solemn reminder from God to help keep him in humility).

So my friend said, "Never trust a man who walks without a limp," which is to say, never trust someone who acts like they have it all together. We are all broken vessels reeling from the fall. Our human efforts, no matter how noble, no matter how accoladed, still fall so short of the holiness, the splendor, the awesome power of Who God is (need some more Scriptures to chew on there? Ok - Rom. 3:23, Phil. 3:4-8, and while you're at it, consider Ex. 33:17-23 in light of Dt. 34:10). This is the art of gracefully coming undone, and the beauty of surrender.

"Great, Jimmy, but what does that have to do w/ the last two blogs?" Glad to hear you say that. I thought you'd never ask:) Throughout life, it's been easy for me to try to hide behind a shell of talents and potential, to say things just the right way so that people would like me, but still keep them at a safe distance. God's been teaching me a lot, however, about what it means to truly let go. It's not easy. I'm not gonna lie. There are still plenty of times when I want to keep my walls up, when I get frustrated trying to explain myself, when I feel like there's a wellspring of thoughts, ideas, opinions, and emotions within that I just don't know how to let out, when I want nothing more than to walk off to some cabin in the woods and drown myself in reading books, writing poems, playing my guitar, coming up with theories, solving puzzles, and just be left the heck alone. However.......I've come to believe that God makes each of us different in ways that benefit one another (so that we can learn to appreciate what each of us has to offer), and that require one another (lest we get too heady and highminded in our own right, thinking that we can make it through life just fine on our own).

I was recently at a Bible study that lasted a few hours. It's hard to say that there was a central point of discussion, even though we were all reading from a very specific passage. It was more like the conversation took various twists and turns, each of them enriching us with truth, despite how unrelated the wanderings of discussion may have seemed. Somebody brought up the point that walking in biblical community means living life without our masks (to paraphrase). "This is one of the things Scripture is talking about when it says 'iron sharpens iron'" the leader of the discussion pointed out. It suddenly hit me - iron sharpening iron, refining as gold, circumcision - the pictures God uses in Scripture to teach us about growth are anything but comfortable. Yes, there is a "balm of Gilead" to be poured out, but sometimes we forget that this anesthetic is administered after the surgery is finished.

I am reminded of something I've been saying for years, now, that if there's nothing that you're willing to die for, there's nothing you truly live for (that is, if you don't have a purpose in life that means so much to you that you would rather die than give it up, then you're obviously gripped by the fear of death; as long as fear has you in its grip, you will not know the fullness of life). Well, if I've been saying for so long that death is nothing to be afraid of, what's a little growing pain back down from, then? I will grow, I will move on in life, I will continue to have my struggles b/c I'm not perfect, but that's ok. I will live in such a way that no matter how hard I trip over myself and fall, my hope remains in Someone greater than myself. I'm learning to walk w/ a limp.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Edward Scissorhands (The art of gracefully coming undone, and the beauty of surrender [Part 2])

"But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?" - Rom. 9:20(NIV)

Have you ever had any questions about why you were put on this earth? Of course you have. Who hasn't? It seems a common thread in humanity to wonder at some level or another about who we are, where we came from, and why we are here.

I finally got to watch the movie Edward Scissorhands last year (well after its release in 1990, the movie buff blushingly admits). You probably know a little bit about this film even if you haven't seen it, but to fill you in, Edward is the creation of an inventor who lives on a hill removed from civilization. The inventor unexpectedly dies, however, before he gets a chance to put the finishing touches on this creation of his.

In form and function, Edward is every bit human, but there's one problem...he's stuck w/ having scissors for hands. As you might imagine, Edward's transition into civilization turns out to be a rather difficult one. The people who receive him are very gracious and welcoming, but being someone who isn't exactly normal means that adjusting to life in their world certainly won't happen automatically.

The irony of Edward's story is simply this. His disability actually turns out to be a tremendous gift, one that normal people don't have. By being accustomed to having scissors in place of hands, he is able to make elegant ice sculptures, elaborate hedge trimmings, and stylish hairdos, all w/ quickness and ease. As a result, people take quite a liking to him. They find it easy to accept him in an impersonal way b/c of how he benefits them, but life starts getting awkward for him again when it gets down to the personal level. He reaches forth to give a girl a kiss and accidentally cuts her cheek. He gets nervous styling someones hair and ends up nicking her ear. Above all, he finds it difficult learning all the "do's" and "don't's" that everyone picks up intuitively. He is, by all definitions, an outsider, and there's nothing that can be done to change that.

I can relate w/ Edward's story in a lot of ways. For me, it's been both a source of great joy, but also of great pain. As I mentioned in my earlier post (Wolverine), I'd been told all my life that I do quite well in certain areas of gifting, but not so well in others. The problem I had, however, is that pretty much every time I sat down and underwent some sort of aptitude evaluation, the person reviewing the results would always seem to say, "I honestly don't know what to make of you. I can tell you essentially what's going on w/ you, but as for why, I'm totally at a loss. This is unlike anything I've ever seen."

We've all heard the saying, that people fear what they don't understand. Consider this, then. There I was, being told over and over again by people w/ their masters degrees, doctorates, years of practice, etc., that they couldn't figure me out (that is, they couldn't understand me). This is coming from the people who you probably think would have some kind of a clue. So imagine how much more this was the case w/ your average person off the street. I knew from a very young age that I was different from the crowd, that I'd pick up on a lot of things most people wouldn't, and miss a lot of things that they would see as being obvious. I learned how to maneuver the waters just the right way to be well-liked and accepted, but there was no ignoring the fact that beneath the apparently calm surface, there was a torrent of fear, depression, and anger that I would deal w/ during the harder times in life as I didn't really know how to communicate my thoughts and feelings all that well. I found myself feeling very isolated on the level of the heart, struggling not to hate myself for my perceived incompetencies, and struggling not to hate God for making me the way He did. At times, I was hanging onto my faith by only a thread, and a very slippery one, at that. How could I find an end to all this chaos?

Monday, May 4, 2009

So what can you expect now that this blog is up?

Well, I will be posting here regularly, but to be a little more specific, I intend to have an average of no less than two posts per month. More often than not, however, I should have at least one or two up each week, a goal which will be much more easily accomplished once I've fully transitioned into my new role, of course:) A quick heads up, btw. I started working on something this morning which is still in progress. I just got back from a staff retreat, and a lot happened which I'd like to share about. However, "I just got back from a staff retreat," = I got back late last night, slept in this morning, and only had a little bit of time to write anything before going to work (so I now have what we in the blog world refer to as a "saved draft":). Like I said in an earlier post, being an aspiring writer, I prefer to take what I do seriously, so I try to put a good amount of effort into most of what I write.

So keep your eyes peeled for what I come up w/ this weekend, b/c another thing you can expect is that for the time being, most of what I write will not be posted during the week. Hope life is finding you well as you read this.

Post Note - The blog that you see below (Wolverine) is actually the one I was saying to keep your eyes peeled for. For some reason, it shows the date of when I started writing it, not when I actually posted. In all honesty, I doubt anyone's even paying that much attention to all of this, but hey, just in case, thought I'd clear things up for ya:-)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Wolverine (The art of gracefully coming undone, and the beauty of surrender.[Part 1])

"An announcement. If man is made in the image of God, then God is deeply messed up." - Syriana

How easy is it to sweep the hurts of the past under a rug without even realizing it? I was at a retreat w/ the staff of YWAM Coatesville this past weekend. We had a man and a woman share w/ us about understanding who we are in God's economy of things and how easy it is to lose sight of that w/ all the wounds and distractions life throws our way.

Now before I say anything else, I just want to clarify that in light of what I'm about to say, it's pure coincidence that the new X-men movie came out around this time. The couple started sharing w/ us on Saturday morning, and by the time dinner rolled around, we had been given a lot to wrestle w/. So I found myself sitting on a couch later on talking rather informally w/ the woman, one of the girls on staff, and another guy who joined us for the weekend. As the conversation carried on, I started to share about how I could really relate w/ the character Wolverine when I used to watch the animated X-Men cartoon series as a child. There was a guy who had a lot of anger issues, and if you didn't know him any better, you'd think that he was just mean to the core. Much of it was stemming from the pain of being different from the crowd, though, and if you paid attention to some of his other behavioral aspects (such as the way he related w/ Jean, who was very much like a little sister to him), you could see that he had a very sensitive side, as well. To put it simply, he recognized innocence and beauty, and he knew that he had to protect it.

I had to deal a lot w/ the feeling of being "different" when I was a child. There are a lot of details to it, but to give you the long in short, I was told all my life that I have a lot of strong points in terms of gifts and talents, but that there are a lot of areas in which I fall well behind the crowd, too. I have to admit, the feeling of being out-of-sync w/ everyone else was just adding fuel to the fire for me, as I often felt very frustrated just trying to work w/ what I had (communication problems, difficulty focusing, etc.). It wasn't until I was about 9, however, that things really began to erupt, and it took about 2 years for me to really get a grip on myself. The sad thing I had to come to realize, however, is that as much as I felt all fine and good in my own right having that part of me that also recognized innocence and beauty and knew that I needed to protect it (such as when somebody wanted to pick on another person in class who was in some way disabled, dysfunctional, or socially awkward), my anger, if left unresolved, would turn me into just as much of a monster...if not worse.

Many years have passed since then, and like I said (in a different sort of metaphor) it's easy to forget about all that was lost in the fire once the flames have cooled down over time. I started to realize some of the deeper hurts that were soothed, but not healed. I have to admit that as I wander back down the paths of my past, it's easy to feel like life is just one endless maze of knots waiting to be untied.......but is there and end to all the hurts and confusion we often find? (More to come)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"So, Jimmy. Are you Jewish?"

I get that question a lot. I hear everything. "You look like you are." Really? Since when is having dark hair, Ashkenazic-ish complexion, and just overall good looks something that you rarely find in a non-Jew? (Ok, so I'm working on that last qualification, but still....) "But the way you think and talk, your gestures, your're Jewish!" All I'm gonna say is I've been around the culture long enough. "You seem to have a strong understanding of Yiddishkeit, though (Definition -" I'm sure you would, too, if you just read enough books and had enough conversations.

Look, the bottom line is simply this. No, I am not Jewish, and in my opinion, nothing I do will ever change that. Being Jewish is about being a bloodline descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, b/c it was w/ them that God established His covenant, thereby creating the children of Israel (Gen. 12:1-3; 17:19-21; 28:10-15; 32:28). Even if I were to make a full conversion to Judaism, adopting all of the practices, that doesn't change anything as far as I'm concerned. A Jew is a Jew b/c he is born a Jew, the same thing goes for a Gentile, and to say anything to the contrary would make God out to be a liar in my mind.

That having been said, I feel it's important for you to understand that I do believe in Yeshua(Jesus) as the Jewish Messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures, through faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel. Consider, if you were to visit someone's house w/ a friend of yours, who would be the most important person? More than likely you're going to say that nobody is more important than anybody else, and if you've said this, you've answered well. However, only one of these three people is the host, and is it not fair to say that you should honor this person? Likewise, there are many nations comprised of many individuals, all of whom are equally esteemed by God Almighty (II Chron. 19:7; Rom. 2:11). However, only one nation has been chosen to host us into the blessings of God, and no matter how many other guests we invite, the host is still the host. It only makes sense to me, then, that I should honor the host, the Jewish people, b/c in not doing so, not only am I showing disrespect to them, I'm acting in grievance against God.

So to answer your question one last time, no, I am not Jewish, but I am honored to be loved by the God of Israel through the redemption I've received from Him in the Messiah, Yeshua, and I feel so immeasurably indebted to let that be known amongst all peoples.

"Do not boast against the branches (the Jewish people). If you boast, remember, it isn't you that bears the root, but the root that bears you." - Rom. 11:18

If time is money, no wonder it's rarely free (The chaotic schedule that is.......)

So what does the average week in the life of Jimmy Ballenger look like these days? Well, I'll break it down for you as follows:

Sat. morn. - afternoon: Services/fellowship at KSS (

Sat. late afternoon - night: Work

Sun. morn. - afternoon: Errands, chill (a *little*)

Sun. late afternoon - night: Work

Mon.: Same as Sunday

Tuesday morn. - late afternoon: Work

Tuesday eve.: Come home, get dinner, throw my things together, drive up to PA

Tuesday night: Arrive in Coatesville, get settled in, go to bed

Wed. morn. - late afternoon: Staff lectures/helping out any way I can

Wed. eve. - night: Helping out w/ YWAM-Coatesville's Spanish ministry

Thurs. morn. - late afternoon: Helping out around the base, manning reception in the afternoon

Thurs. eve. - night: Work in fundraising

Fri. morn. - late afternoon: Same as Wed.

Fri. eve. - night: Same as Tues. (in reverse)

So that's what life's looking like for me pretty much these days. Despite how hectic that sounds, it's not that bad. I do get enough downtime here and there each week to relax and spend time w/ others (I do have to have time to eat, you know). I guess that's all there really is to say for now, then, so thanks again for taking the time to read:)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

So the adventure's begun (my journey back into YWAM)

Hola, shalom, and all that good stuff:) Well, it's been a while since I've posted any material online, and I thought now would be a good time for me to go w/ a site that's a little more blog-oriented (being a writer by trade, I prefer to take what I do seriously).

So what's new w/ me? Well, there's definitely a lot to catch up on, but I'll leave it w/ this for now. In case you haven't heard, I just got started back w/ YWAM (and in case you don't know what YWAM is, click here to find out more - If you know me at all, you're probably well aware that I have a major heart for New York City. I took quite a few trips to the area between spring '04 and fall '06 (living in Northern Virginia makes it easy to do things like that:). In the last few years, however, I started to realize that everything that drew me to NYC could be found in some fashion throughout much of the Northeast (namely the 8-hour stretch along the I-95 corridor from D.C. to Boston). This got me pretty excited, and it was only a short matter of time before God called me back into YWAM.

After taking some time to pray about where I should join, I felt like I should link up w/ a base in Coatesville, PA (about 3 hours from where I live). I've known the leader of YWAM-Coatesville for quite a few years, and it turns out we've both been getting a burden for Philadelphia (the only remaining major city in the northeastern U.S. in which there is no YWAM presence). Some time had passed, and the door eventually opened for me to join staff at the beginning of this month (how that happened is quite a story, too...but I suppose it's better left for another time:).

I'll have more to share about the ongoing details of my life in later posts, but I'll close w/ this. If you know about YWAM, you know that everybody who gets involved has to raise their own financial support (yes, even the founder, himself, does not receive a salary). I have a ways to go w/ this, so I am continuing w/ my current job during the first half of each week until I've raised enough funds to join on as a full-time staff member. Please do keep me in your prayers as it comes to mind, and if you would like to help me in this journey by supporting me financially, feel free to get a hold of me and let me know.

God bless, and thank you so much for taking the time to read.