The Cold Christmas Shoulder

Probably one of my favorite people in the Christmas story wasn’t even mentioned. They were more implied than they were identified.

Its the innkeeper. That mysteriously, almost mythical creature who gets an indirect passing glance in the Christmas story.  (Read Luke 2:7, but don’t blink or you’ll miss it.)

no roomThere is strong evidence that the “inn” was not an “inn” at all as we imagine it, but rather a “guest room”. Be that as it may, I like to imagine the chat that went on between Joseph and this shadowy “innkeeper”.

Joseph steps into the building, up to the counter, and rings the “ring bell for service” bell.

The innkeeper emerges from a back room with just a hint of egg salad perched on the corner of his mouth.

Innkeeper: “Can I help you?”

Joseph: “Yeah, I’d like to get a room if you have any.”

Innkeeper: “Sure thing. I got plenty of room. Thankfully I expanded in preparation for the crowds I knew the census would bring to town.”

Joseph: “Okay, great. My wife and I have been traveling all day and we’re dead on our feet. Ugh. We’re exhausted and those beds are going to feel so good. And the fact that she’s pregnant doesn’t help—”

Innkeeper (interrupting): “Wait. What?  Did you say she’s….pregnant?”

Joseph: “Yeah, so you might hear some blood-curdling screams coming from our room tonight. Don’t be alarmed. She’s just in labor and going to deliver a baby at any time. It’s fine though. I mean, the kid’s not mine but an angel told me who’s it is.”

Innkeeper: “You know what? Let me just check the computer again real quick… *clickclick-clickityclick*…. oh, you know what? I made a mistake. Turns out we DON’T have any rooms. Sorry.”

Joseph: “So, you don’t have any room for us?”

Innkeeper: “Nope. Sorry.  Next in line, please!”

Joseph: “Seriously, dude? Nothing? I got a very pregnant woman here and just like that you’re suddenly out of rooms?”

Innkeeper: “Yep. No room. You know what? There’s probably a crevice or a cave somewhere nearby. If you can shoo out the animals, you can probably make it work.”

Joseph: “That’s cold, dude.”


We treat Christmas like we treat a parade. We find our spot on the curb, we may even set up a chair to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, we wave at Jesus around Dec. 24th and 25th, and on the 26th we fold up our chair and head back to normal life.

And as we do, we are all innkeepers. We’re nondescript, non-committed bystanders who don’t have the time, space, energy, or interest in making room.

Now I know the whole humble stable thing was part of the plan, but each Christmas I can’t help but look at the clutteredness of my own heart and take stock of what I’ve allowed to take up time, space, and energy and in doing so crowding out the baby who’s birth is the centerpiece of time, space, and eternity.

Christmas is a good opportunity to take a look at the innkeeper and see if there are any remnants of that person lurking in my own heart.

The Launch

lift offI’ve recently been in several conversations and been swimming in my own thoughts about what I believe student ministry should be at its core. There are some differing views on this I’m sure, but after 22 years of full time student ministry (there is no other type, in fact) I’ve developed a conviction and now more than ever am committed to carrying it out.

We’re in the hiring season for our student ministry staff. Looking for that perfect fit of a new teammate that would join in what God is doing here in and through teenagers. I’ve spoken with several people and in many of those conversations have communicated my “philosophy” on effective student ministry. I’d invite you to share your thoughts–whatever they are–in the comment section below.

I grew up in Cape May New Jersey and graduated from Lower Cape May Regional High School in June of 1991. The school building was laid out with one main corridor that connected 4 separate halls, all running perpendicular to the main corridor. Think capital “E” with an extra horizontal line. But on those rare occasions when a fight would break out in any of those hallways, it would be milliseconds before news had spread to all the other hallways and if you were so inclined, you’d quickly make your way to said fight for some between-class entertainment. It always astounded me how quickly a crowd could gather. We are, by nature, spectators. We love the spectacle. Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd, am I right?

But simply because a crowd had formed in the hallway didn’t mean that anything good was happening. So I have long since let go of the notion that successful ministry is always equivalent to a big crowd. Should we be growing spiritually? Of course. Does that equal growing numerically? Sure it does. But when we go for the second and skip the first, we’re no different than the hallway brawl of my high school days. Over as quickly as it begins.

No, I’ve developed a different angle and if you’ll tolerate the analogy, I think that the better view of student ministry views each teen moving along toward graduation as if they were on a conveyor belt that can’t be turned off. As pastors, we have a limited amount of time for deep impact and during that time, much like a worker on an assembly line, we need to see to it that certain things are “bolted on” and that when that student reaches the end of their time in middle school and high school; at the end of that conveyor belt, we understand that they will be set on a launch pad and lift off into what God has next for them. So, I don’t view my ministry as supplying students with spectacles to look at or events to fill their calendar during their 7 year belt ride. Rather, I am convicted that God helping us, we are to do all we can through the power God gives us to see that these rockets are ready when their countdown reaches zero.

When a student walks that platform, takes that diploma and wraps up their high school career, I, along with others on my team, want to have…

  1. …shown them God’s love; without bias, without judgment, without condemnation, without condition. I would never want to have spoken what I have not lived.
  2. …given them an atmosphere of acceptance and affection. It is when we know we are loved and accepted as we are, where we are that we are no longer preoccupied with fake, shallow living. We are set free to love others as God loves us.
  3. …helped in teaching them the “hand-in-hand with Jesus” life. Not religion and its cumbersome activities that lead nowhere, but the daily life of walking with the Savior and reveling in knowing that He is for them, in them, and working through them.
  4. …equipped them to discover THAT God is, WHO God is, who THEY are in Christ, HOW God has gifted them, and WHAT God is leading them to be and do.
  5. …shown and shared with them how to pray, how to love, how to share their story, how to invite someone to Jesus, and how to hear and follow God’s leading.

(I recognize this is a minuscule thumbnail of a much larger conversation.)

What about you? What would you add to this list? What do you think is important to share/show before students reach the launch pad?


The Spiritual Reset.

resetThe working title of this one might very well end up as the actual title. There are several contenders.  I won’t share them, lest you hate this one. That way you won’t know what might have been. I wonder if I overthink blog titles.

I’m just back from a weekend away with my bride. We’ve spent the last few days in a seclusion of sorts. She found and rented a cabin in the middle of a gigantic piece of property in Bluefield, VA. It was–in a word–sublime. When we weren’t doing nothing (a.k.a getting our fill of HGTV since we don’t have cable at home), we were only doing things that recharged both of us. We both needed it and from all indications the long-planned weekend did all it was intended and then some.

When I have the chance to get away I always seem to become even MORE evaluative than the normal, everyday, over-evaluative version of myself. No joke, I’m constantly in an evaluative mindset personally, relationally, spiritually, and ministerially.  (Hmmm. Look at that. You can’t see it, but as I type this blog the words “relationally” and “ministerially” have red squiggly lines under them. My computer wants me to revisit them and correct the spelling. It’s as if they’re unrecognized. Am I using them incorrectly or does this computer not understand the vital importance of both of them?)

Okay, let’s forget that and move on. Seriously, Jerry. Let it go. *Deep breath.*  Okay.

So, as I evaluate where I am, who I am, how I’m doing, what I’m doing, and what the ministry I lead is (or isn’t) doing, I find myself looking for a way to pull up the anchor, hoist the main sail, and set a course for new waters.

If you’ve been in ministry for more than a year or if you ever find yourself spiritually waning for any number of reasons, I’d like to walk you through some of my thoughts on how to reset.

Before we do that, let me quickly make the differentiation between simple and easy. Much of what I’m sharing here is simple. All of it, actually. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy.

Okay, first you’re going to need quiet. And I say that as a self-proclaimed noise addict. I find constant noise comforting, probably because its the most convenient distraction from the hard work of silence. And by silence I don’t simply mean no noise, I mean distractionless, deep thought and sabbatical type of mental work. That might not sound super refreshing right off the bat, but do the work of quieting life and you’ll be rewarded with next-level thoughts. The way God puts it is: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10).  What this verse isn’t saying outright but is screaming nonetheless is that when we aren’t still, we don’t easily remember that He is God. And when I don’t declare in my life that God is God, then my default is to make myself (my own direction, ingenuity, ambition, or idea of success) the god in God’s place.  Big mistake.

Once you’re quiet, ask big questions. We all have big questions that we commonly suppress. We do this because we’ve bought that lie that the urgent trumps the important. We’ve thrown the most important questions in the trunk and put the daily grind of menial urgency in the driver’s seat. Is it any wonder that we drive a million miles an hour and still feel like we’ve gone nowhere? Big questions have a way of recalibrating us. You’d be wise to formulate (liberate really) your own big questions, but for grins and giggles I’m going to spill mine right here in no particular order:

  • Is who I am who I want to be?
  • Do I fully embrace the unconditional love of God shown through Jesus or do I still rely on any degree of religiosity or perform-based spirituality, therefore short-circuiting the lavish grace God wants to free me with?
  • In the ministry I lead, do I truly lead in a way that reflects a heart of following, humility, and servanthood?
  • What have I done in the past 3-6 months that I would label as ineffective, unhealthy, ambiguous, or misled?
  • And what have I done in the past 3-6 months that have grown me in the areas of intimacy, spiritual authenticity, ministry effectiveness, and personal testimony?
  • If I were my boss would I fire me and why?
  • If I were to imagine today as my first day at my job and I know the shortcomings of the last guy who got fired, what would I do differently in order to be more effective than he was?
  • Do my kids know me? Do they respect me? Do they like what they see? Will they want to emulate anything in my character in their own lives?
  • If every disciple of Jesus had my level of commitment to the grace of the gospel, what condition would the Kingdom be in?

Remember, I didn’t say “easy”, I said “simple”.  None of these questions are quantum physics level questions. But as I’ve sat here and rattled them off in short order, they each have a gut-punch quality to them. For me anyway.  You’ll likely need to get your own.

Next, as much as I hate to say it I need to confess my lack in adequate reading. An author I like a lot is a guy by the name of Jon Acuff. He’s currently blitzing through a list of books he lined up for 2017 and knocking them off like a madman. And while I fly through books like a—well…like a, I dunno. Like something slow. Man, if I had only read more books this year I would be able to fire off some analogous quip that just conveys my point.  The simple truth: Reading fuels my brain. And when my brain is running on empty, I know it.  Worse yet: YOU know it.

The next thing I think is necessary to reset is to go back in time. I’m not saying book a flight to Pennsylvania Dutch country (wait, are there airports in Pennsylvania Dutch country? That would seem odd and out-of-place.) And I’m not saying to regress into your past. Or maybe I am. Let’s dig in here for a sec. What is it in your past that you’ve left undone? What is it that’s eating at you because its undone? If there isn’t anything, these words are next to invisible. If there IS anything, these words are a brick wall that you’ve just hit.

What I really mean by “go back in time” is what the Bible (Jesus specifically) calls “first love” living. I mentioned that weekend away my wife and I just had. You know the one conclusion/agreement/commitment we both came away from that weekend with? “Kiss more.” We didn’t arrive at that for the obvious reasons, but rather because each kiss we share is a reset button that takes us back to what we need to remember in order to be in love and stay in love. Plus its fun.

I don’t think it would be responsible of me to talk about the need to “go back in time” and not address our full-blown addiction to mobile devices. I’m no front-porch-rocking-chair, get-off-my-lawn, fuddy-duddy either. But good Lord, are we addicted. You’ve seen it. Go anywhere there are people and watch. I’m fearful of what these small rectangles are doing to us for the long-haul. I’m not saying pitch your phone in the nearest body of water, but I am convicted that we are feigning connectedness while feeding isolation. We are giving ourselves poison disguised as medication. We are slowly handing the art of conversation–actual eye-to-eye verbal conversation–over to the shrine of counterfeit community. I know it’s 2017 and we’re global in our reach. I know that relationships look dramatically different than they did even 10-15 years ago. I know that many, especially young people will label me a codger and write me off. But by God if we don’t get a handle on our overuse of technology and using it as our pacifier, scorecard, and machine gun; and if we don’t temper it with self-control and common sense (remember that stuff?) I believe we’re headed to a land where no one knows how to human anymore.

Resetting our minds, hearts, and direction comes at a cost. For me it takes guts, it takes swagger (the good kind), it takes introspection, it takes releasing my own and others’ past opinions, and more than anything it takes a full reliance on the foundational truth that God is both unchanging and never not moving. I need His unchanging love because I’m going to fail or get prideful or drag my feet or let people down and that unchanging love will be the solid ground under me. And I need to know He’s never not moving because He has hardwired us to yearn. I’ll never stop grasping for the next handhold as I climb with Him. But by definition doing that means leaving what was right where it is. And resetting for what is to come.


Bonus: I sat and stewed for several minutes before clicking “publish” on this one. I just wasn’t sure if it was “done” or if it was going to help anyone.  Then I decided to let it fly as is. So, if you’ve read anything here that resonates or if you’ve got some of your own reset advice, I’d love to hear it. Email me and share. My email is on my contact page.


I’m writing these words from the floor of my bedroom in the middle of the night. For over two weeks now I’ve been in pain in the lower half of my back. I don’t walk normally, sit for long, or lay down without a fair amount of pain. A little while ago I was awakened by pain. It’s pain that got me to the floor where I am and have been. I’ve been doing stretches and exercises, trying to relieve the pain.

[Several minutes spent rolling, moving, laying face down….]

Yesterday I did what I thought I would never do. Out of sheer desperation I went to a chiropractor. I’ll spare you the awkward details, but left there in much the same condition as I went in. Except with less money in my account.

For the two previous nights before tonight, I’ve slept on the floor very near to where I am right now, trying to find some comfort. I’ve blamed my mattress, my shoes, my office chair, my diet, dehydration, and even my bowels as culprits for this pain. I hereby absolve and apologize to all of those things because all evidence of their alleged wrongdoing is circumstantial  and inconclusive. 


Pain. There are few words in our language so abhorred as this one. To say it is to wince, isn’t it? 

And man am I in it. 

But here’s the thing. Listen now. I’m not a victim. I’m a student. Pain is what I’m in, it’s not who I am. My experience doesn’t equal my identity. And call me crazy, but as I was writhing a while ago (still in the dead of night), I thought, “What am I learning?” Because if I’m going through this, I’m not going to be foolish enough to waste the experience on self pity and complaining. Yes sir, pain is a great teacher. And I’m all ears.

That Failing Feeling

This is not a cautionary tale. This is not some subversive or subconscious plea for affirmation or consolation. This is just me being gut-level honest. The kind of honest that I hope I always am, but this time with maybe a little more edge simply due to the visceral nature of my admission.

I’ve been in fulltime student ministry for nearly 22 years. And yet more often than not, I feel more like I’m failing than progressing.

There are a couple things that lean me toward that failing feeling. The first is outward. Its the sheer lack of visible evidence that ground is being gained. Most of what I see around me in students today is ambivalence and addiction in a myriad of distractions.

I know, I know. There’s nothing new under the Sun. I get it. But don’t write me off as some aged belly-acher just yet.

As a student ministry pastor, my fuel comes from the conviction that I’m called to be in student ministry. On days where I struggle to see light splitting through the fog, I rest on that conviction. You have to. Otherwise, its no wonder why student ministry has the revolving door it has. You step in, you’re used up, you crawl out. And round and round we go.

Another outward evidence I wrestle internally with is the fact that I can’t compete with the latest app.  What I mean is I can’t breakthrough the grip modern technology has on young people. And before you start with your tutorial on leveraging social platforms for Kingdom growth, I gotta say that I understand “how”, I just struggle with the “if”.  This is probably going to come across as double-speak, but I actually do use social media to a degree in the student ministry I lead. So, don’t think I’m over here sitting in my Cracker Barrel rocker next to my flannelgraph, shaking my fist at all you hipsters. Not at all.

And I also can’t compete with other ministries who are far more with-it than I. Those snappy filters, those high energy promos, those snapshots of your midweek with packed rooms, crazy cool lighting, polished flow, and apparent perfection in every direction. Of course I know we’re not in competition. I get that. I know you’re over there being you and I’m over here being me. But in the brutally comparative part of my gray matter, I wonder things that quietly chip away at my sense of certainty that I’m good enough. Or slick enough. Or organized enough. Or visionary enough. Or ______ enough.

These thoughts, and thoughts like them seem to inevitably lead me to a cerebral fence I seem to be standing inside of. And I wonder to myself: “Can I get there from here? Should I? Where is ‘there’, actually? What is it I’m pining for that I don’t sense I currently have?”

The answers don’t come easy, but those that do come straight from the gifts of experience God has given me over the many years I’ve been in student ministry. So, when I feel I’m failing, these are my go-to thoughts and truths that I fall into, stand on, and shout out. And typing them right now is likely going to be more therapeutic for me than you reading them will be for you.

First, I remember that I’m called.  By God, I’m called. I’ve given my entire “career” lifetime to meeting, leading, connecting with, relating to, influencing, welcoming, pushing, teaching, discipling, growing, equipping, listening to, laughing with, serving, praying for, encouraging, correcting, challenging, walking with, and loving students and their families. And for no other reason than that I believe with all I am that God told me to and He hasn’t yet told me not to.

The eternal is invisible. By definition, I can’t see most of the good God is doing. Because of my humanness, I’m tempted to forget what I can’t see. What I do see is teenagers absolutely drowning in information, completely addicted to a 3×5 screen; their window to fantasy, to hyper-connectedness, and an effective escape from their present surrounding, which often includes me.  Only history will be able to eventually show us the damage (or benefit) to how we currently live. But when that’s nearly all I can see, I’m prone to think that’s all there is. It isn’t.

Fruit is measured in seasons, not seconds.  I find that when I get that failing feeling I have lost sight of the long haul dividends of staying in one direction for the benefit of others. I can get a sinking feeling of non-progress when I forget to maintain an eternal perspective.

Drawing crowds doesn’t make disciples.  Now don’t think I’m against big crowds. The ministry I’m helping serve and lead is a larger-than-average student ministry. But I can’t convey to you how much I don’t care about that. Despite my tendency to gaze longingly at other student ministries that draw in crazy numbers, at the heart of it I don’t care.*  Jesus drew crowds, but never gave any indication that crowds were the point. I came to my current church nearly 13 years ago from a far smaller church. Honestly, there was a part of me that thought “Oooo, large church student ministry! It’s the big leagues now.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Do you want to know what I care about more than anything else in student ministry? That one teen. And that one. And that other one. And the one over there. The one in the middle of the sea of other teens, and the one who’s alone over in the corner. And that one that won’t ever even show up. My heart beats and breaks for students. All students. Especially that ONE.

(*I’ll save all my thoughts on why churches SHOULD be growing for another time.)

There’s one hand-crafted me.  Like many youth leaders who move about in the youth ministry stratosphere, I am tempted to compare myself with student ministry celebrities. But I’m confident in my heart that if we ever had the opportunity to sit down and speak face to face, I’d find that the pedestal I put them on is made up of my own insecurities, not their egos.  That being said, I also think we all have different skills sets, schedules, ambitions, giftedness, and visions. So, I’ll learn all I can from those who seem to do it better, but when all is said and done, we’re all on the same field on the same team working for the same outcome. So, being reminded that I’m made by God to be where I am and do what I’m doing isn’t about pride, its about humility. Because we’re ALL hand-crafted.

So, when I feel like I’m failing as a student ministry pastor, (or as a dad, as a friend, as a husband, as a child of God) I have to remember these things. But more than that, I need to rest. God, help me rest. Help me stop compulsively critiquing. Help me do away with thoughts of failure and overwhelm me with thoughts of freedom. Walk me past the wastefulness of comparative living and let me again find my identity in Jesus. Let me experience a renewed mind that is set on who You are, what You’ve said, and where You’re leading.

And as I do, I’ll pray the same for you.

Thinking of You

I’m gonna take a risk here. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing I’m not entirely unique in what I’m about to share. I’m going to do my best to let you inside my skull and get an idea of how my brain and thought life works.

I find myself most of the time thinking about you. Not just you, but people. Specific people, but really all people I know or have ever met. You do that too? Good. I don’t feel like such a weirdo, then. What a relief.

I’ll say right off the bat that a woman named Merritt occupies my thoughts the most. In fact, when I’m thinking about you, an event, an idea, a problem, or a joy I am also entertaining a thought about Merritt. Its just how it is. I’m captivated by her. What a woman I’ve found.

But I spend so much time thinking about people. And I can honestly say if we’ve ever met, I think about you. Not in a creepy way, but in different ways depending on that individual.

I think about the people I went to elementary school with. Every time I hear Van Halen’s “Jump” on the radio (arguably one the best songs you can hear on the radio), I think about Eric Slobodjian in my 6th grade class who one day played that song on the music room piano. And not just played it….he PLAYED it. ROCKED it. OWNED it.

I think about Mr. Deane, my favorite teacher. His creativity, his love of teaching, his love for learning, and his love for children; especially those who had the honor to be in his class.

I think about Todd Bienke (even wrote an entire blog post about him here), Alison Miller, Ricky Morse, and my best buddies Ben and Dave to name just a very few. I spend a lot of mental time in memories. Not too much, I’d say. But a lot.  Enough.

I think about people so much because I care deeply for you. I know, I know, I know. You got tons of people that care about you. But I just want to confess that I’m one of them. I think about that middle schooler who just–for whatever reason–hates the idea of God. I think about that gangly high school student who–for whatever reason–can’t seem to get an onramp onto the social scene. I think about the beautiful young lady who sees herself as unlovely and unlovable. And I don’t think these thoughts generically, I’m typing about the people I know and love and am thinking about.

I drive and look at the cars around me and I think about who these people are and where they’re going and what they’re thinking.  Is that crazy?

I think about people who have–for whatever reason–left the church I serve at. I think about the people right now who are around me in this coffee shop. I wonder what perspectives they have that I could learn from. I wonder what they find important. I wonder about their story just below their skin.

I think about those I’ve served with in the past. I think about my first intern, Wade. Did he stick with student ministry? Or in those first 2 years of fulltime ministry where he saw my first summer as a full time youth pastor, did he turn tail and run for a completely different direction in life? Or another intern, Chris Coakley. A youth pastor, husband, father, and now founder and director of “Grain of Hope“, an incredible organization that’s feeding hungry children and so much more.  I can’t believe he started off shadowing me in ministry, and where he is now and what he’s doing. I think about Tony Raker, the guy who picked me up from the train station in 1995, when I first arrived to interview for my first ministry position. I think he worked in the news industry and was somehow connected to the White House, so he was instantly impressive. He’d go on to prove to me that he’s a good friend. I think about Jerry Mounts and Scott Lowdermilk, my very first two volunteer youth leaders. Jerry owned his own refrigeration company and had a heart of solid gold and Scott was a diesel beast of a man who was in the Army Corps of Engineers. The definition of cool.  I remember one time he pulled up to a youth event at a local park on a Ducati.  In my youthful naiveté,  I didn’t use either one of those incredible guys and the amazing giftedness they brought to the team.

I think about the people in my future and my family’s future. I think about my daughters’ husbands. If you’re reading this, you might find it interesting that I anticipate that you’re currently loving Jesus and the thing that’s going to make your marriage to my daughter not just work, but blow your mind is that you continue to love Jesus. If you don’t, you can’t possibly love her like you love Him, as the Bible commands you to do.  But you already know that. That’s one of the things I like about you, actually. I think about my sons’ wives. If I may be so bold, ladies: You’re in for a treat.

I think future ministry opportunities. I suppose that the ministry I currently serve in could be the last one I ever serve in. I could drop dead doing what I’m currently doing. But if I don’t and there’s some other place God has for me, I think about who I’ll meet and what I’ll face and how I’ll handle it and what I’ll learn through it.

I think about people because I care so deeply about people. I care deeply about you. If we’ve ever met, you return to my thoughts on a regular basis. You can doubt it, but its true.

I think about if anyone is currently at odds with me and I don’t know it. I think about ways I have perhaps set someone off and they’re somewhere right now with that burr in the back of their mind. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t consider myself important enough to be preoccupied by, but I do believe I am a human that has impact. Hopefully good, positive impact. But I’m not an idiot and I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.

As I drove to this coffee shop today, it just struck me take time to write this blog post. I have no idea why and maybe its the worst one I’ve ever done. But maybe for someone out there who is or has been connected to my life–maybe they needed a reminder today that they’re thought of and because they’re thought of, they’re loved.  You’re loved.

Half. Full.

567269_starbucksThis past Christmas my wife suprised me with one of those Starbucks travel mugs that entitles me to go to Starbucks every day in January and get it filled up with a brewed coffee or hot tea.  To put it plainly, its a glorious gift to give someone who loves coffee.

So, naturally I typically haven’t let a day go by this month without stopping in, slamming that mug down on the counter and getting my fill. Needless to say, I’ll be sad to see January end.

I went in this morning and as I walked up to the counter, I thought to myself that the past two times I had gotten it filled up, I didn’t finish it. That’s horrifying, I know but I’m the king of setting coffee down and getting distracted by life only to return to a tepid coffee later.  So, I thought to myself I would only ask to have the mug only filled half way this time.

You should’ve seen the look on that barista’s face. His brain locked up. He literally froze for a couple seconds and finally uttered, “Are you sure?” The idea that someone would enter a Starbucks, have full rights to a full (rather large) travel mug brimming of that dark elixir, and yet ask for only half a cup had left him dumbfounded. I could see it in his eyes: “Why in the name of all that is good and caffeinated would you ever turn down this liquid crack?!? Why??? WHHHYYY????”  That’s what his eyes said. Word for word.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing.”  [Eph. 1:3]

We are lavished with spiritual blessings because of Jesus. We are overwhelmed with the goodness of God on a day to day—no—moment to moment basis. But often I only take a portion of God. I do this through small praying, weak faith, worry in the face of trials, and praise that far too attached to my mood. I take a mere sliver of God when I am entitled through Christ to “every spiritual blessing”!

So, God invites me to live hysterically free. And I choose to hold onto a few chains.

God invites me to cast my cares on Him. And I choose to question His strength.

God invites me to experience fully-engulfing peace. And I choose to worry.

God invites me to live forgiven. And I choose to quietly drag shame around.

Through that silly cup of coffee I had this morning, half full as it was, God reminded me that there is always so much more of Him than I am choosing to take. So much more to learn, so much more to know, so much more to enjoy.