Category Archives: One BIG Question

One Big Question/Seeking God/ Zach’s Take

Zach Writing (Finally):

First, I must apologize for being so late here. The question of the week turned into the question of the summer. Writing a blog post is deeply cathartic for me because it forces me to engage in some inner reflection. When you are not in constant communication with God, however, that inner reflection is never easy. Then again, what better way to draw close to God again than to return to my favorite spot and write about my favorite activity to seek God.

Here is a picture of a dock by my house. During the day this dock is a yuppie beach that makes me cringe. At night, however, it closes down and turns into a paradise of peace. I have always been one that connected to God by seeing the might of his creation, by being completely overwhelmed by his power in a way that shows me how truly insignificant I really am. I first met God at a summer camp on Lake Sammammish surrounded by a huge bonfire underneath the stars. I devoted my life to God during a weeklong backpacking trip through the Cascade Mountains. Ever since, every major life decision has been made through prayer at either the top of a mountain or at some perch overlooking a lake or Ocean. Somehow nature seems to be the only way to break me away from my own selfishness.

Now back to the dock. I used to come here at night whenever I needed to draw close to God. I would sit for hours watching the moonlight shine over the blackness of the water. A constant reminder and symbol of God’s influence on my own heart. It was the one place where I could quite my overactive brain for long enough to hear god’s voice. It was peace. It was security. It was direction. It was home.

I remember dropping to my knees in the sand and asking for forgiveness. I remember sitting on the fishing stools and simply listening for his voice. I remember climbing down the ladder steps so that my feet rested at the top of the water, wondering whether I had the faith to be able to step out and walk on water, yet never having the courage just to try and risk coming home soaking wet. Coming back, I realize how much I miss these moments. Now I need to find a new spot. One that I don’t only visit once a year.

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One Big Question / Seeking God / Jen’s Take

Our friend Jen has jumped in again with yet another great post.  Enjoy her work.  I’m sure it’ll push you to seek God more regularly and earnestly as well.
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jen posting:

Where is your favorite spot,

what is your favorite activity to seek God?

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When I think of this question I automatically think of my mornings with french-pressed coffee, a journal, a Bible, some other book that speaks spiritual wisdom to me, and a sleepy Jen curled up in a chair. Now truth be told, I wish every morning started off this way. Usually, it’s my scrambliness that gets the best of me in the morning, with just enough time to mutter “Good morning, Jesus,” before I realize I’ve overslept. Other preferred spots/activities include going on a walk by myself, especially evening walks when the weather is warm enough for me not to freeze and think bad thoughts about Chicago. Early morning walks are nice too–again with appropriate weather. I’m a sucker, or I should say my soul is a sucker for stillness and quiet. If you play your cards right in the mornings, even in a bustling city like Chicago, you can encounter just the right amount of peace, solace, and hopefully a bit of God.
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The extrovert in me, though, can’t spend all her time in solitude as a means for seeking God. About a month and a half ago, a friend of mine and I attended a Taize service, which is an ecumenical service of simple songs and liturgical prayers. The place was enchanting, yet simple–tall ceilings and stain glassed-windows, pristine, white furniture (if you can call it that–I guess I’m referring to the alter, lectern, etc.), and white candles galore. It was one of those majestic, older churches that makes your voice sound echo-ey. To top it off, the choir situated themselves in the back balcony. So you heard these angelic voices coming from somewhere “up there,” making you feel as though you’ve arrived at the pearly gates. In all seriousness, though, it was a stunning experience for the senses. The smells, the sights, the sounds, and your own participation alongside a group of “strangers” turned sisters and brothers. I cried. God was there.
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On a more intimate-friend level, I love seeking God with dear friends in a home, around a table of delicious food. Cooking together, laughing with one another, sharing the confusing and painful parts of life, then gathering to sing our joys, hurts, and exhaustion to God–if that is not a rich way to seek God, I don’t know what is! God’s love comes in the form of a friend’s cheeky smile, in a simple exchange that makes you feel known, and–a favorite of mine–a bear hug. And it comes in the form of all of us being still and quiet before God that God mysteriously gives us a keen sense that he is among us.
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Oh, and listening to Mumford and Sons is helpful too.

One Big Question / Seeking God / Bobby’s Take

bobby posting:

Adam did a great job getting us started last week with our One Big Question.  Now it’s my turn.  For those of you new to the idea, someone posts a question and it gets answered from the whole lot of us.  We also love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.  So…here’s this week’s question, followed by my response:

Where is your favorite spot,

what is your favorite activity to seek God?

I’m going to shoot it straight with you.  What I’m about to write here is stretching the question a bit.  I’ve turned it from where is my favorite way to seek God into what is my favorite way to be sought by God.  I know.  It’s cheap of me.  But to be honest, out of everything that my relationship with God encompasses, this really is my favorite part about it.  It’s real.  Personal.  And always exciting.

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Friday afternoon, I dropped off my wife for an overnight women’s prayer retreat.  I had the little guy for 24 hours on my own.  My one mission, keep him alive.

Step one:  keep him happy and occupied for an hour before bedtime comes rushing at us with eye-rubs and cranky tears.  We swung by the house, picked up our dog, and headed for the park.  It had been one of those days where we were in and out of the house a million times and kept having to tell Zeke that he couldn’t join us.  We promised him run-around time.  This was that time.  Let Abe go wild.  Release Zeke to go crazy.  I was about to be everyone’s favorite Dad.  Until we got to the park.  The one that I’ve never seen another soul at.  The one that I feel fine letting my dog loose at.  Not this time.  Not with soccer practices gone wild.  Folks everywhere.

With a toddler ready to get his feet on the ground and dog in the back itching for adventure, I needed to come up with somewhere to make this happen.  Fast.  I needed a miracle.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but when you stop and think about it, there’s just about nowhere that will allow you the freedom to just let your dog go and still be a safe environment for your son to run around endlessly.  I was stumped.

So I said a quick prayer.  Pulled up to the stoplight.  Couldn’t decide which blinker to turn on.  And went straight.  Straight into a little stretch of road that led me right to an empty elementary school parking lot and open field.  Paradise for the three of us.  Answered prayer, in the most beautiful way possible.  My God is my God.  He is personal.

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I realize that last story doesn’t do it for a lot of you.  It’s just some simple little circumstance that wasn’t really that big of a deal that somehow turned out all right.  But for me, it’s everything.  I always say love is in the little things and I believe it with all my heart.  Anyone can love big.  That kind of love is vague and intangible.  Incalculable even.  But little-thing-love is toilet-seat-down kind of love.  It’s practical and personal.  It constantly demands your attention and your affection.  It pulls at the best and worst of you.  Love in the little things tests your true character.

Will I empty the dishwasher?  Rub my wife’s feet?  Hold my tongue?

God’s leaving the dishwasher up to me, it seems.  And he’s certainly not passing out foot rubs…yet.  That’s what heaven’s all about.  I think Rob Bell wrote a book about that.  Maybe I’m wrong. But…God still ridiculously loves me in the little things.  And I love having eyes to see it.

I’ve made major decisions in my life:  where to go to college, when to propose, when to marry, where to begin my broadcasting career, whether or not to leave my broadcasting career for full-time ministry, buying a car, buying a house, deciding when to try to have a baby…in all those moments, God was certainly there.  But the God that shows up there, the one that gets the most airtime for just out everyone else, is not the God that leaves me shaking my head in wonder.  The God in the big things gives me the freedom to drive wherever I feel is best.  And I love that about Him.  But the God in the little things sends my car straight at the intersection, right down the road to an empty elementary school parking lot and open field.

That is the same God that leads me to the trash can to find my lost keys, that quietly speaks the name “Abraham” as I see the ultrasound of my boy, that leads me away from the drive-thru at a fried chicken restaurant in Kentucky to go back to the church I just came from and ask the guy named “Josh” I met there to come join us for dinner as well.  That’s the God that I love seeking.

Like Columbus stumbling upon America, I love getting myself in situations where I recklessly veer off from my plan into God’s party.  My waywardness sends me far one way only to be brought back by his constant creativity.  By His desire to woo me.  I must be frustrating for Him on a regular basis, but at least I give Him plenty of space and opportunity to work His magic.


One Big Question: seeking God

Adam posting:

“Then tell me what you love.”

“The absolute simplicity. That’s what I love. When you’re climbing your mind is clear and free from all confusions. You have focus. And suddenly the light becomes sharper, the sounds are richer and you’re filled with the deep, powerful presence of life.”

-Seven Years in Tibet

The big question this week is regarding each person’s favorite spot or favorite activity to seek God. My favorite activity is prayer. My favorite spot is at another person’s side. For me, nothing draws me closer to the presence of God than to pray fervently for a hurting friend.

I love writing. And I feel a deep sense of satisfaction after working with words. But, when I pray I understand the simplicity of our lives. I feel good and evil. I see the battle for a man’s soul taking place, and I am involved in the struggle. And that gives me a sense of purpose and fulfillment unlike anything else in the world.


One BIG Question / vol. 1 / Take 4

We’re pretty excited about what’s going on here at the blog today.  A friend of the VIA family is guest posting for us.  And let me tell you one wild detail about this person:  she’s not a he.  We were yearning for a female perspective.  By the grace of God, our dear friend, Jen McDonald, agreed to take on this little project with us.  A few things about her (from what I know):  1 / she’s a student of the Word.  2 / she likes soul music.  3 / she really wants someone to ask her to salsa with her on the dance floor.  Enough from us, let’s get to Jen.  Enjoy.

jen posting:

If your home caught on fire, what three objects (not people or pets!) would you put yourself in harm’s way to save?

The first object that I would put in myself in harm’s way to save is a small pillow that I’ve had since I was a baby. Somewhere along my early childhood I named this pillow, “almohada fría,” or cold pillow. For those of you who don’t know or are thrown off by my last name, I grew up speaking Spanish at home, as my parents emigrated from Guatemala. I mention this only because I didn’t know if people would be thrown off by a pillow with a Spanish name. Or maybe you didn’t think twice about that…Anyways, anyone who is close to me will know that if I go on extended trips, my cold pillow will be buried somewhere in my traveling bag. Almohada fría is pure comfort. And for whatever strange reason, it’s especially comforting when my pillow is cold. I love falling asleep to my cheek resting on my cold pillow! Despite it’s bedraggled look, this beloved pillow is at the top of my list of what I would put myself in harm’s way to save!

The last two things that I’ve thought about are my guitar and my journals. Certain books and my laptop were vying for these slots, but after thinking about it, I landed on these two items. Here is another “true confessions”: I’m a below average guitar player, if that makes any sense. I’m not terrible, but I’m not even that okay because there are certain chords my fingers refuse to play. I know – sad day for these small hands of mine. However, what I can play, typically in the privacy of my room and in smaller groups, I find deeply rewarding. My guitar truly is a prized possession because at any given moment, when I’m in the mood to make music, I can pick it up and explore where my voice and my strumming will take me.

Finally, losing my journals would be pretty devastating. I don’t really journal that often, but over the course of early high school years and on, as I’ve poured out my heart on and off again in written form, it would be a tragedy to lose a window into previous seasons of my life. As I find myself in the middle of a painful period, it has been a tremendously helpful resource to read through my journals and actually see on paper that I have changed and grown …and the realization that God hasn’t been a distant figure in the course of my life, especially in those raw moments when I’ve written a storm of thoughts or a pithy line of desperation.

So there you have it, VIA Chicago friends. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts!



One BIG Question / vol. 1 / House on Fire

This week, we’ll be jumping headfirst into a new series.  Four different writers will all answer One BIG Question.   We’d love for to you to even dive in and share your own thoughts on  your blog.  This week’s question is:

If your home caught on fire, what three objects (not people or pets!) would you put yourself in harm’s way to save?

Bobby’s take:

1 / My Dad’s Guitar

A / That is not my Dad in the photo.  It’s John Lennon.

B / My Dad really, really wishes it was my Dad in the photo.

You see, my old man was a Beatles nut.  I’d wake up every other weekend to hearing him thump out Paul McCartney’s bass lines.  I know all of them by heart now, whether I want to or not.  While I thought I hated hearing all of it at the time, I deeply appreciate now having so much of that music stored up in my soul.  It’s become a part of me.

When my Dad left this good Earth several years back, his Gibson J-160E acoustic guitar was left to me.  It was the same model Gibson handed the Beatles when they arrived in the States in 1964.  Play Beatles Rock Band, you’ll see my guitar.  Pretty cool, right?  Besides the fact that it plays beautifully and looks gorgeous, this guitar holds more sentimental weight than anything else I own.  It’s a part of my Father I’m still holding on to.  Very literally.  All the time.

I love the cracks.  The scratches.  The blemishes.  I love that I get to lead worship with this instrument.  The one that humbles me.  That reminds me of heartbreak.  That pushes me to hope.

For reasons I can’t even put to words, as much as I’ve tried, first and foremost, I’m grabbing this guitar.  No doubt about it.

 

2 / The Story of Us

It took me a minute to think of this one.  I knew the third item.  It came quickly and naturally.  But this one took some wandering around the house to figure out.  I passed our little camera that has taken so many perfect photos and videos of life with our son.  I passed my wife’s larger camera which has led to a side passion and pursuit for her away from home and work.  I passed the laptop which holds so many of our photos as a young family.  But then I passed this.

For Christmas in 2007, while we were still living in Hazard, Kentucky, I bought my wife a big leather bound photo album.  In it, I put together a chronological collection of our photos as a couple.  I wanted it to be The Story of Us.  I wanted Amy and I to be able to occasionally sit and reminisce about the times of old as we lived in the days of new.  I wanted our children to be able to thumb through it one day and see their parents in all their youthful glory.

Whenever we look at these photos, we’re humbled by the goodness of God, by the faithfulness of each other, by the joy felt by sharing a great, deep friendship.  And we’re humbled by love.  For each other’s love.

 

3 / Words of Affirmation

I’ve been planning a much longer, much more deserving post on this exact item for a couple months now.  This third item is, without a doubt, the greatest gift my wife has ever given me.  It’s as if she spoke all of my love languages in one singular item.  She nailed it.  The words on the front read, “for Bobby”.  I’m not sure a sentence has ever been truer.  This was just for me.  In every way.

For Christmas this past season, we both committed to making each other gifts instead of buying them.  I honestly thought I was going to win this contest.  I didn’t even think it was going to be close.  What?  It’s not a contest?  Whatever.  You see, I’d painted her a painting in honor of our 5-year anniversary trip to Ireland and made a 20-minute home-made video about our first year with Abe.  What could top that?

How about a book filled with 23 letters from 23 different men written straight to me?  Arrows aimed right for my heart and soul.  Men pouring into me with everything they could muster.  Iron sharpening iron with sparks and strength flying everywhere.  My best friends breathing life and passion.  My father-in-law sharing his blessing and gratitude.  My step-father putting down words on our 20 years together as father and son that I’d be longing to hear for years.

Once a day, for 23 days, I’d sit alone and read a letter written straight to me.  Men, from all walks of life, walking right up to me.  Putting their arms around me.  And telling me how much they cared about me.  Every man yearns for approval.  For solidarity.  For strength.

My wife knew that.  Because she knew me.  And that is why this was the greatest gift she’s ever given me.

So…what’s your three items?  Write it down.  Commit it to heart.  It’s a great exercise to help you see what you really value most.

Tomorrow, you’ll hear from someone else right here.  See you then.