Believe in someone.

 

05 Bank On Others-Believe In Them

I’ve been a recruiter in the travel RN world for just over two years. I have had a million highs and a million lows. I have laughed, cried and everything in-between. It isn’t an easy industry, but tonight, I love it more than I ever knew I could. Why?

Cuz this has been my hardest week as a recruiter in two years, and not one part of me wants to get out. 

That’s when you know you found the right field.

I admit, some of my frustration surrounding this week is connected to my own shortcomings, trust me I got a lot and  came face to face with them this week. But a lot of it is simply related to the reality of the way I am wired up. The way God made me. 

I’m hard wired to fight for the underdog… which isn’t always popular

I was created to advocate for the one who’s voice seems the smallest… which often looks silly

I am driven to love those who appear the least.. because their story matters, and I want to tell it. Even if NO ONE wants to hear it. 

And by the way, most people don’t. 

Ok, so let me back up and tell you why my heart is where it is at tonight. Yes. My heart pretty much sets the course of my thinking for better or worse. Sorry if you don’t understand. It’s me, and I am not here to apologize tonight, but to help you understand, if its something you are interested in. 

Three interactions I had tonight created the environment for this article to just kind of write itself..

The first was with a nurse named Krista… she is currently working in Minneapolis, MN, but recently left an assignment in Dallas, TX. She was trying to help a travel nurse friend tonight, as she battled the often treacherous waters of travel nursing, and asked for my advice. 

Her friend, who she cares about immensely and just wants to make sure is taken care of, reached out to her for advice. Sound familiar? Yeah we got that caring thing in common. Its hard. But it’s so worth it. Her friend isn’t being taken care of by her current recruiter, but barely has categories for what it’s like to feel taken care of. Enter Krista. I listened as every ounce of her wanted to tell her to run. Run from being taken advantage of. Run from Someone not seeing her value. Run from being under appreciated. But she didn’t cuz it’s not that simple. She listened gave her advice and moved forward. Friends, it’s hard to care. Don’t jump in those waters if you haven’t counted the cost. 

The second was with nurse who lost their most favorite grandpa today. She is supposed to start her next assignment on Monday and wants nothing more than to just be home with her family in this hard time. She is like the rock for her family, and carries that burden most of the time. She messaged me today, and said. 

“Jake, I want to be home with my family, but I am scared I might lose my job.”

Let that sink in… Do you worry about losing your income because your family is going through something hard and they need you present? Nah… but these nurses do. This is courage in a nutshell friends. 

The third was an interaction with a nurse named Riley (FYI, her name isn’t Riley, but I am protecting her and you’ll understand why soon). 

Riley is an amazing nurse. Normal, typical, maybe even a little basic? Sorry Riley, but you know it’s a little true. Riley is just a great person, who got caught in a really crappy situation. 

She is a nurse, who failed a drug test. Tested positive for Marijuana. And now has no job, or source of income locked down. Her life is in a state of confusion, and it is all hanging in this painful balance of bottom lines and reputations. Not where you want to be. 

Did I say Riley is a fabulous person and an amazing nurse? If my child was in the hospital I’d hope she was their nurse. 

Here’s the thing…

When you fail a drug test… no one cares who you are. The science supersedes it. Even though she tested negative the same week for her Masters degree in nursing school test. But never mind that, cuz even you the reader is already pretty convinced that “Riley,” is guilty. 

I have a point and I’m gonna get to it now. 

People deserve to be taken care of. To be believed in. Even if it seems crazy. 

Tonight as I was writing an email to all the powers that be at Atlas, I expressed my belief in this nurse and felt the realities of how it would probably be read. Jake, she failed a drug test, science doesn’t lie. Yeah… it does sometimes, and I don’t care. Science knows nothing of the human heart. 

I will forever be known as a guy who believes in people even when I shouldn’t (By the way, all the above mentioned 100% deserve to be believed in). But not everyone has earned the right to be believed in… Or have they?

See, I believe that people deserve to be believed in. All of them. No matter what they have done, or been through. Over businesses or bottom lines. Over sensibility or good judgment. People deserve to be believed in. 

In fact, I am not convinced there is a more powerful tool for change than belief. 

I hate being wrong, but if I am ever proven wrong I hope its because I believed in someone who didn’t earn it too much. I want that legacy. I want that reputation. That is something I am willing to go to my grave with. Something I am willing to be looked down on for. 

In my industry there are plenty of nurses working the system and just trying to get theirs. Those nurses have really messed up the industry, because most of them aren’t like that at all. Most are like Krista, Courtney and, “Riley.” Just doing their best to balance life, family and being a nurse. 

Can I say something? 

It is for you that I show up to work every day. It is for you that I believe this job is worth giving it all for. It is for you that I believe Atlas Medstaff exists. So keep doing your thing. 

For the rest of you… 

Find someone to believe in today. Someone that may not seem like they have earned it. Someone who deserves it, but isn’t popular, and someone that so deserves it that they have been so overlooked. Give it all for them. You won’t regret it. I don’t ever, even though I often feel misunderstood. 

Good night world. I hope you feel inspired to love deeper tonight. 

Life, travel nursing and doing what is “RIGHT.”

screen-shot-2015-03-22-at-6.39.16-am

July 27th, 2017…

It was the first day I stepped foot into the office of Atlas Medstaff as the newest member of the sales team.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

It was a whole new world for me. I had never worked in an office before. Heck, I hadn’t had a boss since my fry cutting days at In N Out Burger when I was a 16 year old kid just trying to earn some money to buy myself a car.

Seriously, I remember the day so well because of 4 words that I heard spoken to me by our president Steve Ryan, that would set the tone for my new career in a foreign field. I was sitting with Jamie and Diane talking over people management platforms and best practices for finding viable prospects, when Steve walked into the room and said these 4 words…

“Do the right thing.”

That’s it. That’s all he said. Just, “Do the right thing.”

For nurses, for co workers, for your friends and for your family.

You know what he didn’t say?

“Do the right thing for YOU.”

It has been a little over a year since that fateful day. I do not claim to know everything, in fact, I am fairly confident I have still barely scraped the surface of what there is to know about this new world I am living in, But…

What I do know is that it never pays to look out for your own interests at the expense of others.

I have spoken to a lot of people. On my side (agency), and on the nurses side. One conclusion haunts me. This entire industries foundation has the words,

“I just have to do what’s right for me,” etched into it’s mortar.

I hear it every day. From recruiters and account managers. From nurses, from hospital administration, HR, payroll, compliance, and the list goes on and on. It is not always spoken so plainly, but it is so often expressed in action, and in attitude.

Most of the time, this phrase is used to justify behavior that is clearly hurting someone else, but because that behavior makes life more comfortable for the person doing it, it is justified by this simple and difficult to argue with phrase…

“I just have to do what’s right for me.”

Sounds good right? Who could argue? Self care is a good thing isn’t it? If you don’t take care of you, how can you take care of others? While I don’t disagree with that sentiment, what is swirling in my head tonight is the toxic culture that is naturally built around an ideal that says, doing what is best for me is ok, no matter what the cost to someone else. Here’s my proposition tonight…

“If you have to use the phrase, “I just have to do what’s RIGHT FOR ME, to justify your actions, those actions may not be RIGHT, at all.”

Sorry if you have used that phrase recently. My goal is not to offend you, or push you away. If you know me at all, you know I love you. I just have this incessant desire to see people do things better. Especially people I care about.

When Steve Ryan said those words to me over a year ago today, I heard something different. I heard…

Do whats RIGHT, not because someone deserves it, but because it’s right.
Do what’s RIGHT, even if it isn’t profitable. (I have heard him say this before actually)
Do what’s right because because people matter more than money.
Do what’s right because at the end of the day, your integrity is all you have.

I have a friend in this industry that embodies for me what it means to do what is right, not because it benefits you, but because it is actually what is RIGHT.

This industry has chewed her up and spit her out. It has taken everything she has offered that is good and said it has no value. It has relegated her to the bench, even though she has more to offer in her pinky finger than most of the people that make it go.

Here’s the thing… she keeps doing what’s right, even when almost everyone else is doing what’s wrong.

She advocates for those who have no voice.
She helps, when she has nothing to gain.
She believes in people that have long since worn out their welcome.
She just seems to always do the RIGHT thing, and with nothing to benefit for herself.

In my short stint in this world I have become convinced of one thing. This industry, with all the money there is to make, on all sides, is spiraling toward it’s demise. The only ones keeping it afloat are the ones who are willing to acknowledge it’s not all about winning, or getting rich. Doing the right thing at times is going to mean sacrifice, loss, even hardship, but it is worth doing because people matter most, and a short second is our integrity as human beings.

I am crazy enough to believe that if we start choosing to do what’s right, instead of always doing whats right for “ME,” this industry would be a better place for everyone. probably even make everyone more money!

Regardless, my commitment is, to every day, wake up and do what’s RIGHT. Like Steve Ryan, my boss and president of Atlas Medstaff told me that fateful day.

Do. What. Is. Right.

Why caring matters

people-matter

Since my post a couple weeks ago, I have been stressing over what my next post would be. Well, I got inspired tonight, and it just kind of flowed out of me.

This one is raw, but its real… so enjoy…

This is an actual text conversation I had with one of the fantastic nurses I work with tonight…

Me: Hey, I appreciate you, I hope you know that.
Nurse: What did I do?
Me: Nothing!
Nurse: Umm, ok, now you are making me nervous, are you about to fire me?
Me: Stop
Nurse: Too much tequila? That’s it, you are drunk texting, hahaha.
Me: lol, Nah
Nurse: Wait, you’re not quitting are you?
Me: STOP!!!

 

I have been in this industry for just over one year, and every day I feel like I learn something new. I know and understand people, because I listen, but there is still so much about this world I still don’t know, and this conversation clued me into something that I had a feeling about, but didn’t fully understand until now.

We live in a world, and I work in an industry, where someone genuinely caring about someone else is more likely to raise a red flag than it is to make someone feel valuable.

What?! For Real?!

Go back up to the top and look again, read it again. What do you see? Maybe you see a funny text conversation, which it was, but if you look closer, you will see something else. If you read between the lines you will get a glimpse of what treating a human like a product does to that persons general approach to relationships.

My initial text to her was meant to convey that I care. That I value her. That the work she does is meaningful and appreciated. Words I said for the purpose of bringing a sense of pride and honor to this person were actually received as something else entirely. When I spoke value into her, all she could imagine, or see was that I had to have some kind of angle.

After all, it is difficult to imagine, especially when money is involved, that someone might just simply care. There has to be an agenda, something for them to gain. They must be after something right?

So I am calling it out… Something has to change…

Why? Cuz people matter. Actually they matter more than anything else in the entire world. Not just some people, or a certain kind of people. All of the people. Yeah, the ones you love and the ones you hate. The ones that deserve it and the ones that don’t. The ones that are asking for it, and the ones who seem to be indifferent.

At the end of the day, nothing in this life matters more than people, and each person holds intrinsic value. Whether you can see it, or not.

Another conversation I had today…

Me: Hey, funny story…
Nurse: Oh no, what did I do? (Haha, same as above right?)
Me: Nothing! I got an email today from a fake news source pretending to be Fox News. the headline said, “Donald Trump assassinated.” When I read it, I wasn’t nearly as upset as I should have been
Nurse: I am never one to wish any ill will on someone, but I get it
Me: Right?!

 

Now, if you know me, you know, I lose very little love on Donald Trump. Sorry if the political reference turned you off to listening to anything else I am saying right now, but let it go, Donald Trump will be ok.

What I am actually saying is that this conversation reveals that same brokenness in me. There are people that I believe hold more value than others. This in and of itself is the very essence of evil in this world. For Real.

When we choose to designate a level of value to a human based on what they have done, where they live, and what we infer about them because of that, we are opening a Pandora’s box that can only lead to hurt, pain, and insecurity.  In so doing we place ourselves in a position none of us have earned the right to be in. After all, who am I to think that I have the authority to tell one person who they are and that the way they live  life makes them less important than someone else?

As I progress in this job, and in the travel nurse industry, my hope is that I can tear down some of those walls that have been built up between nurses an recruiters. My hope is that I can show people there is actually another way. There are such thing as people who do what’s right, even if it costs them on the bottom line.

I am thankful to work for a company that not only supports me in this approach to business, but actually values it too. I am so thankful to have found a home where people matter most, because, I couldn’t do it any other way.

For those of you in my life who wonder if my sentiments are genuine, I hope you know and never forget that, I am striving daily to love people more than the day before. Why? Because I just don’t see anything else in this world worth living for.

I would like to believe that I made a difference in that nurses life tonight, if not beyond. Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t but I do know that the attempt was worth it, cuz I feel most alive when I am living for what matters most. People.

This Christmas, maybe choose to let down your guard… love someone that maybe doesn’t seem to deserve it in your eyes. Maybe choose to lay your agenda down for the sake of showing someone else they matter. It will go a long way in breathing life into this broken world. Or at the very least, in you. That in and of itself will be worth your time.

A new “old” beginning

 

7185.900.9c51c5f859

So, here I am.

I have wanted to write this post for over year, so, hence the “new/old,” sentiment in the title. To be honest, I have been scared of this one. So scared that it has taken me over a year to write it. I used to write all the time. Like, it was one of my outlets for stress. If you look through the posts from 2017 and earlier, you will see very quickly that I tend to word vomit when I write. By word vomit, I mean, writing has always been one of my avenues for expressing my disdain for the status quo, and my vision/dream for what could be.

It has been over a year since I last wrote, and I am still that guy.

Only now, I am in a whole new world.

If you need more insight into my old world, there is plenty of info on this site. But for the sake of time, i’m going to let you do your own research, and you should cuz it will give you more context for who I am, and why I am doing this. For now, I’m just going to say, buckle up, its about to get, well, continue to be, “REAL.”

I’m in the travel nursing industry now… if you don’t know what that is, let me summarize it as quickly as possible.

There is a nurse shortage in the US. So, as a result, agencies were born who’s soul purpose was finding nurses who would travel all over the country to fill the most urgent vacancies on units/floors nation wide.

ICU, ER, NICU, PICU, TELE, Medsurg, OR, PACU, L&D, Endo, IR, Cath Lab, CVOR, CVICU. These are all acronyms for different specialties in nursing that said hospitals are constantly in need of. My job is to find nurses to fill these needs, and send them to random locations all over the country to stand in the gap for some of the most hurting people, and families no one knows about.

I am a pastor, turned travel nurse recruiter.

Truth is, this job fits me better than any I ever imagined I’d find when I reached the point that I know my days as a vocational church pastor were over. Like it fits me so much I wake up every morning and ask myself how I got so lucky.

So in September of 2017 I hung up the only career i’ve ever been trained to do and started a new one in a world I didn’t even know existed, and you know what I learned right away?

Everything is broken. People are hurting everywhere you go. Everyone is looking for someone to listen. There is no such thing as an industry that isn’t geared toward preying on the week and lining the pockets of the strong. And that’s where I pick up my blog. I am sick, tired, and sick and tired… after only one year, of the amount of abuse, the lack of info, and the shear volume of misinformation floating around about what should be expected in my new world

So that’s what I’m gonna start writing about. The problems I see in the new industry I am in, and my humble opinions about the steps I think are necessary to change it. Here’s the thing. Though vocation has changed, my heart hasn’t. So you will see, and read so many things that sound exactly the same as what you read if you followed me from the conception of this blog. Here’s why…

My heart has always beat for people. The broken, the hurting, the wondering and wandering. The Lost and disenfranchised. The underdog.

In my new world, the people I interact with day in and day out. The ones I am responsible for, are exactly that. My hope is to empower, expose, educate, and advocate for the amazing friends I get to work with every day. The nurses that wake up every morning (or evening if you are a night shifter) and just sacrifice themselves for the sake of people in vulnerable places.

Here is why… I want us all to be better.

So, you ready to join me? Follow along… I will post about once a week. Sometimes more and sometimes less, cuz i don’t want to give you the impression that you know what to expect from me. Ha.

In the meantime. Thanks for following along on my continued journey. I hope you are encouraged, empowered and inspired, to be a better human.

The end of an era

LETTERS(2).png

My time is coming to an end.

As hard as this is for me to really connect with, it’s true. This church that I dreamed about, gave the best years of my life to, and sacrificed everything this world says is valuable for, is slipping though my fingers. Don’t misunderstand, it is not being taken from me, nor is it something I am losing, It is in fact, something I am willingly laying down for the sake of what matters most.

As of September, 2017, I will no longer be the pastor of Finding Life Church, because it is in fact what is best for Finding Life Church.

After 8 years, it is clear to me, that in order for this church that I have given blood, sweat and tears for to move into the next season of its development, I have to let it go, in spite of my natural instinct to hold on. If you are struggling to understand what I mean, imagine having a teenager that no longer seems to like you, but has fallen in love with some stupid kid that is promising so much but has the ability to come through with none of it.

This is how I feel if I am being totally honest.

Well, if you have ever loved something more than yourself, you understand what I am talking about and why I am making the decision that I am. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way you expect, the way you want. Sometimes, life just reminds you that none of it is about you.

Life is screaming that to me right now.

As hard as it has been to come to the conclusion that it is time to step away, never for a moment have I questioned whether or not it is right, it is good, it is the kingdom move to make.

And so here I am, giving up something that holds a place in my heart that is only rivaled by my wife and children, and doing it with great excitement and enthusiasm.

Why am I excited you ask?

Well, the only way to find that out is to show up at Finding Life Church, August 20th-Spetember 3rd. Those 3 weeks I will preach my last 3 sermons as the pastor. I plan to lay my heart out, and hopefully inspire this great community to only lean harder into what Jesus has called us to from day one.

I pray you join us. I pray you are inspired by what you hear. I pray these 3 weeks brings a level of commitment to this community that you never imagined you would have.

I pray Ephesians 3:20 (Look it up). Hope to see you then.

 

Just one more piece

229008_slider-istock_000017949870large1.jpg

It’s cold… it’s rainy… its Saturday. The kids are out with dad, and will be all day. The smell of freshly brewed coffee swirls about her nose as it fills her favorite mug, steam rising in the air at the same pace as the elation in her heart over the idea of a day to herself. Peace, quiet, freedom.

She wants to do something, but nothing too intense. The TV would shatter the serenity that rarely described the atmosphere around the house, and the exhaustion of a long hard week being a wife, mother, sister, daughter, student, house cleaner, schedule maker, Tudor, retailer, etc, etc, etc… means she would be snoring on the couch like a wild boar after a holiday feast in just a page or two.

She is tired, but energized

She goes to the closet, to see if anything sparks her imagination. She shuffles around the old board games, stacked high, and covered in dust looking for something she can do by herself, until she sees something.

A puzzle… 10,000 pieces…

“That’s a lot of pieces,” she thinks to herself…

“Not sure I have enough time to get it finished.” She pauses for a moment, and then quickly grabs the puzzle from the closet and heads back downstairs…

“I will just get it started and see how far I can get.”

Once downstairs she glances briefly at the front of the box, hoping to see what the puzzle looks like when finished, but due to its age, the picture has been rubbed off so that nothing is recognizable. She doesn’t think too much of it before opening the box, and pouring all 10,000 pieces out onto the table, saying to herself…

“A little mystery never hurt anyone.”

One by one, she turns each piece over so that all 10,000 pieces are right side up, waiting to be put together to reveal Whatever was on the front of that box at one point when it sat in its packaging at the store.

In almost no time at all she has all the edge pieces separated and put together. Although this job was not very difficult, and reveals very little about the finish product, it gives her a sense of accomplishment, and after pouring another cup of coffee, she presses on.

As she fishes for pieces that look similar in color, separating them on different sides of the table, all the while searching for pieces that fit together, her sense of excitement begins to fade, giving way to the realization of just how long this puzzle is going to take to put together.

“I have all day,” she thought, “I have already started putting pieces together so I might as well keep going.”

As the seconds, turn into minutes, and minutes turn into hours, her sense of excitement, begins to turn to anxiety.

“I have worked on this for so long already.
If I just quit now, no one would know I gave up.
I don’t want to be the kind of person that gives up.
I won’t give up… I just need a break.”

So she hops up, leaves the table and heads to the kitchen for a mid morning snack.

“I just need a little energy and a rest for my eyes, and I will be back in the groove.”

As she walks back to the table, she notices a cluster of pieces that all seem to have a mix of tan and green colors on them… She begins to group them together and what do you know, they all go together. Even more exciting than that, she sees something she recognizes.

“Its a hammock!!! There must be a hammock in this picture.” Immediately she begins speculating about the finished product,

“It must be an island scene, with crystal clear waters, palm trees and endless white sandy beaches.”

Pieces are going together, it’s fun… who knows, she might even get this thing finished at this pace.

But once again, as the minutes go by, the struggle returns… The pieces aren’t fitting as easily and she even wonders if she had forced some of the pieces together that she has already placed. To make matters worse, with every piece she finds, she becomes more and more convinced that what she thought was a hammock might actually be something else entirely.

She is frustrated.

“Did I waste my time?
will I ever finish this puzzle?
Is it too late to just put it away?
After this much time, shouldn’t I have some idea of what is happening in this puzzle?
I wonder if there is a piece missing?”

“Coffee, I just need more coffee,” She thinks to herself.”

As the hours role on, she is making progress here and there, but experiencing all kinds of emotions. She gets frustrated and then quickly reminds herself it just doesn’t matter that much. She tries to convince herself that she doesn’t really care about the finished product to try and relieve her frustration. She gets up, walks away, folds some clothes, comes back in, stares at the puzzle for a few moments, shakes her head, and walks away again. She can’t ring herself to give up on the puzzle, but also doesn’t want to look at it right now. The more she tries to distract herself, the more that unfinished card board nightmare begins to haunt her.

“Why did I even start that stupid thing to begin with,” she says to herself.

When she finally returns to the table, she takes a long hard look before sitting down and she notices that on the other side of the puzzle she has put a cluster of pieces together that she is certain she knows the identity of…

“Its definitely a setting sun.”

But on the others side it appears that she is putting together what looks like a glass of water sitting on a table indoors.

“How could those two things be in the same picture?
Did I do something wrong?
Is it possible that the puzzle maker wanted me to be confused at this point?
Why would he do that? Its mean, unfair, even cruel.”
“I have spent my entire day, the only day I have to myself putting together a puzzle that doesn’t even make any sense? What a waste of time!”

With that thought, she slams her fists down on the table, and the pieces go flying, scattering across the table, some even falling to the floor. She storms off, convinced she will never come back to it again…

“This is stupid.
Puzzles are stupid.
Puzzle makers are stupid and want to make me suffer.
I paid good money for this… the puzzle maker owes me a better experience than this…

Slowly but surely her anger turns to self doubt…

“maybe its me
maybe I am the problem
Am I too dumb to understand?
Did I do something wrong in the early stages that have made it impossible to understand?
If I can’t put a simple puzzle together, what is my worth anyway.”

She cries as she considers how much time and energy she has put into this puzzle. The day she has wasted. She stares at it through tear filled eyes, wondering if she will ever know what it is. She knows she has gone too far to stop and that feeling alone makes her feel like a slave. Guilt, obligation, frustration and doubt consume her thoughts as she sits, and stares.

“All I wanted was a day of freedom… I didn’t ask for this.” She mumbles to herself

After a few moments she thinks to herself…

“What am I doing… its just a puzzle, why am I letting this consume me. I don’’t care if I finish this puzzle, and neither does anyone else… I’m done… Im out of here. I don’t care at all… and she storms out of the house to do some shopping.

After two stores, a new pair of shoes and a hat, that will mostly likely turn out to be a mistake, as most hats are, she is feeling empowered. When she gets home, she walks into the kitchen, takes one look at it and thinks,

“Screw you puzzle, I have these new shoes to make me happy.”

it works… for a little while.

It doesn’t take long for memories of the puzzle to begin to haunt her. She knows she has this deep need to know whats in that puzzle. She knows she needs it to feel whole. Again, she pushes away her feelings, pours herself a glass of wine, and sits down to read a book.

She gets through one page, and realizes she doesn’t remember a single thing she read because her mind is consumed with the unfinished business that lies on the table only 10 feet away from her.
“Fine!”

she screams, and she goes back to the table and just starts forcing pieces together, but she knows it isn’t getting her any closer to the freedom she longs for. She pours another glass of wine, then another. She feels better, but deep down knows that she will not be satisfied until she knows whats in the puzzle. She feels helpless… she feels beaten, she feels broken. She knows there is only one thing that can change the way she is feeling…

She has to build the puzzle, one piece at a time. She has to choose to set aside her desire to see it done, and embrace the process of doing it. She has to enjoy the mystery, accept the confusion, and acknowledge that reality that freedom in her struggle, and moving toward clarity means she has to trust that some day, some way, it will make sense. She will see it. But the only way, is if she is willing to keep putting pieces together, even when she doesn’t understand. Even when it isn’t working….

She says to herself…

“Just one more piece.”

The second she says that. she feels a rush of freedom from her struggle, and a peace she has longed for since she put the last piece of the edge together.

“I don’t need to know what it is to enjoy putting pieces together,” she thought.

The truth is, when she first started, she wasn’t worried about the end. She was just in it to enjoy the ride. She was excited about the mystery and driven by the process.

“Just one more piece. All I have to do, is put together, one more piece. One. more. Piece. I can do that!” She thought.

Now, she could finally move forward…

It would take days, weeks, even months for her to get to the point where she could recognize anything… Every time she did, she celebrated, but she knew that more struggle was around the corner…

She recognized that on her own, she would probably struggle to finish, so periodically she would invite friends and family over to help. To point out things she didn’t naturally see, and help her put pieces together that she didn’t know she had. It was good, it was a process, it was her process. Some days were great, others were hard. At times she felt great about her progress, other days she wondered if she would ever know what the puzzle would end up looking like. But she kept on looking, she kept on putting pieces together. Just one more piece.

Then one day… as she was sweeping the floor around the table, out of the corner of her eyes, she saw a puzzle piece hiding behind the buffet that sat at the other end of the dining room. Slowly she walked over, and picked it up. She stared at it for a moment, and she began to cry… she knew what this piece was, she had agonized over it for weeks. It was a piece she has needed for a long time. She had searched and searched for this piece, and little did she know, the piece she was looking for was hiding…

With tear filled eyes, she walked over to the puzzle. She reached down, and placed the piece into an empty spot, right in the middle.

The moment it set in its place, she feels a rush of adrenaline. This one piece clarified everything. She immediately burst into tears. Tears of joy, of anger, of confusion and relief. It had been almost a year since she started that puzzle, and finally she knew what it was.

It wasn’t finished, no, far from it… but she knew what it was, and that gave her everything she knew she needed to keep putting the rest of it together. She knew she would continue to struggle at times, but she also knew that never again would she question the puzzle makers motives. Never again would she question whether or not it was worth it. Never again would she wonder if she was good enough smart enough or strong enough.

All because of one simple phrase…

“Just one more piece.”

__________________________________________________________________

Your faith journey is much like the story above. You don’t have to have it all together, you just have to be willing to keep putting it together. One piece at a time.

 

december 24

IMG_4631 2.jpg

Today my family and I spent the day in Norfolk, Nebraska. This is a small-ish community in the north east part of the state. My mom was born and raised on a dairy farm there. We had lunch, played bingo, a family tradition, and visited with extended family we don’t get to see too often. It was a wonderful day.

The highlight for sure, was visiting with my great, great Aunt Helen, who is currently living in a nursing home, and dealing with lots of health problems that come very natural to a woman who has lived as long as she has. My Aunt Helen is one of those people that just warms your soul. She is old, and doesn’t move well, if at all. She forgets things, and repeats herself often, but when she looks you in the eyes, you feel as though she is peering into your soul, warming you from the inside out.

About 10 years ago, my mom asked me for a favor. She said,

“Hey, Aunt Helen is flying in this afternoon, and I need someone to pick her up from the airport.”

Of course, I said yes, to helping my mom out, and went to the airport, picked her up, and drove home… I didn’t think a lot of it, other than that she was pleasant, and I enjoyed the stolen time with a relative I rarely got to see. She however was changed forever by our interaction. A few days later, my mom called me, and said,

“Jake, I don’t know what you did, but Aunt Helen won’t stop talking about you.”

Apparently she just kept saying,

“Oh, Jake, what an amazing young man.”

I am not telling this story to toot my own horn, I am getting somewhere…

Today, when we walked into the room, she looked at me, as though she had never met me before. I introduced her to my wife, and my kids, told them their ages, and she seemed thankful to have people visiting her, but clearly didn’t remember me.

Until she did.

I was sitting in a chair next to her, and she grabbed my hand, pulled me close, and said,

“Oh Jake…”

Her eyes lit up, she remembered me. She remembered me from our short interaction a decade ago.

She went on to tell me every detail of that day 10 years ago, when I picked her up from the airport, as if she was reminiscing with an old friend about that time she met a celebrity.

She grasped my hand tightly, she spoke softly, and she pulled me in close. She had a gleam in her eye that was so full of life, it was hard for me to believe I was speaking to a woman who’s days are coming to an end. It was surreal, it was even divine.

What really got me thinking, and the reason I am telling this story on day 24 of my Advent reflections is simple.

We are unaware of the impact we can have on the people around us. Just by caring.

advent gift #24…

The gift of impact…

One of the most powerful things about Jesus coming to earth, is that He planned to grow up, do some cool things, show us what it really looks like to be human, and then leave. What is most amazing about this, is that in His leaving, His desire was that you and I might become the vessels that would keep His life, His values, His gospel alive and transformational on this earth.

He chose you for impact.

He gave you His heart for people and longs to release you into a life of empowering others. He wants to use you to show the world how much HE loves them, to convey the value He holds for every human in a way that we all might accept it, and shift our course. He wants you to see every moment, every breath, every look and every action as an opportunity to pour the grace of Jesus into the life of the one we are face to face with in that moment.

Here’s the thing… like I was on that fateful day at the airport, we are often so oblivious to the impact, positive or negative, we can and do have on the people we interact with day in and day out. I didn’t know it, but just showing up, looking my Aunt Helen in the eyes, and showing her I loved her, when I didn’t really need to, changed her life. It gave her a memory that would carry her through long, hard days.  I didn’t know I was doing anything, so I really can’t take credit for anything here, but I do want you to see something profound from this story.

Every interaction you have, just might change someones life. It might be the memory that gets them through a really hard time. It might be the thing that reminds them of their worth when the rest of the world is telling them they are worthless. What you do matters. Because Jesus decided it should. The only question remaining is, what will you do with it…

Today, while in Aunt Helen’s room, after telling my wife she is the most beautiful woman she has ever seen, my son how handsome he is, and my daughters how precious they are, toward the end of our visit, she grabbed my hand and pulled me close. She pulled me closer than is comfortable for nearly any social interaction. Our foreheads are touching and her eyes are locked on mine (See the picture above). She whispers to me… “Oh Jake, will you pray for me…”

Of course I said yes, and did, but it wasn’t just any prayer. It was profound in my life. I don’t know if Aunt Helen knew it, but she was speaking worth into me. She was telling me that I am enough. She was telling me that I am a child of God, called for His purpose and positioned for impact.

Today, Aunt Helen was for me, a tangible expression of the Christmas Story, and its intended impact on the world.

Know this today… everything you do matters. You can be an agent of hope, life and transformation, or not, it is entirely up to you. But the best way to honor our Savior during the season of His birth is to live a life of impact that someone might remember 10 years from now.

I love you all… Merry Christmas… thanks for coming along with me on this journey….

december 23

present-wallpaper-4

Christmas got under way today in the Brower family. If you know my family well, it would come as no surprise that we opened Christmas presents at 1:33 in the afternoon, on December 23rd. We don’t do anything the way most families do. Our longest standing tradition is having Chili and cinnamon rolls on Christmas eve. Only, I can’t remember the last time we had Christmas Eve on December 24th. We are really bad at traditions, but we understand each other, so it works.

Anyway, we have gotten to the point that our family is too big for everyone to get everyone presents, so we draw names of all the kids so that we don’t have to take out a second mortgage every year in December. One of the names we drew this year was my niece Chloe. In keeping with the theme of Brower family Christmas’ we bought her three separate gifts, and only managed to get one wrapped and under the tree for her. We told her she had more, and we would get them to her later… who says that, seriously!? Apparently we do… I said to her as I was explaining, things,

“Hey, the silver lining here is, our gift is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Which lands me on at Advent gift #23

The gift of an infinite gift.

I know, it sounds a little outside of the box… stay with me.

The gifts that we give one another on a annual basis surrounding this holiday, are one and done. That is the nature of gifts. Once they are given, they can no longer be given any more. Sure, they can continue to make us happy, or add value to our lives, but the gift itself is expired. It has been given. It can no longer be given again.

That is the nature of a gift.

except one gift.

The Father’s gift. The one He gave so many Christmas’ ago, on the first Christmas ever.

The gift of Jesus Christ. The Messiah.

That gift changed everything… it took a world, destined for depravity, hell bent on destroying itself, and set it on a new course. It’s new course was one of restoration, redemption and reconciliation. The gift of Jesus gave the world a new identity, that would forever change the way it spun on its axis.

Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving.

Stay with me now. If Jesus had been a gift cut out of the mold of the kind we give on Christmas’ all around the world, it would have been a one time thing. If God had intended it to be a one time gift, He would have accomplished all of it’s intended purpose in the moment it was given. That’s one of the things that makes this gift so unique. It was given with the intended purpose of being a gift that we continue to receive for the rest of our lives.

Jesus came to begin a restoration process…
Jesus came to start the miracle of Redemption…
Jesus came to give us access to reconciliation with our creator…

Jesus didn’t put the world on auto pilot, He opened the door for a genuine experience of Himself.

This is outside of the way the human mind understands life, which is what makes it so hard for us to embrace. When we get a gift, we want it all now. We want it’s full potential to make our lives easier, and we don’t want to wait, we think we shouldn’t need to wait.

Yeah, God could have done that, but He didn’t, because this gift is not a thing, it is a person in that person comes the pathway to life, to grace, to hope. It is in relationship with Jesus that we find out what is worth living for. That we discover what we were designed for. This is the infinite gift of Christmas.

Because Jesus came to this earth…

We get to experience the process of God restoring all creation to its original created form.
We get to watch the beautiful story of redemption as it unfolds in our lives and others.
We get to discover the wild adventure of journeying toward the Holy one, experiencing the intimacy we were created to live in.

This is the gift that keeps on giving.

Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving.

The birth of the Christ child is an invitation calling us into this crazy adventure. No, it won’t transform you all at once. It won’t immediately wipe away your problems, or remove their consequences. That’s not what God wanted. If He did that, we wouldn’t see our need for that gift anymore.

No, instead this gift is beckoning you and I onto this journey… wanna accept it? Wanna start living into it? Wanna embrace it? It is what you were made for.

I pray Christmas 2016 would be the year you understand it, and step into it.

december 22

tumblr_m08489gltp1robtq6o1_500-1

I like malls.

I know, I know, that sounds completely nuts. Keep in mind, I never said I like shopping. What I love about malls is the volume and diversity of people you find their. Especially this time of year. Today, my wife and I were walking through the mall, scrambling to get some last minute stuff done before the big day, and I found myself thoroughly distracted by the people I saw. Black, white, Short, tall, fat, skinny, rich, poor, and everything in between. The mall, at Christmas time, is one of the few places in a community like Omaha where you can get a real taste of the diversity of this city, all in one place. And I love it.

As I was walking around, it reminded me of my second favorite line from my favorite Christmas song of all time. O Holy Night.

“Then He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.”

This song is just loaded with unreal truth… but this line sticks out to me for a number of reasons… which brings me to advent gift number 22…

The gift of value.

The coming of Jesus to this earth said a lot of things, but nothing more profound than what this line of this song is attempting to communicate.

Your life holds immense value.

Maybe you are a person who knows this about yourself. Or, maybe the idea that someone, anyone could value you at all, is nearly impossible for you to believe… especially not the artist who crafted the rocky mountains peaks with His own hands.

I am fairly certain that the God who orchestrated this holy night over 2,000 years ago would want nothing more at this time of year than for you to fully connect with and embrace the value your creator places on your life. If it wasn’t so, why would He have come for you? If you weren’t enough, why would He have bothered?

If He didn’t place an amazing amount of value on your life, why would he have given up what He did, to come find you?

Listen to these words, and consider them at the heart level. In spite of your failure, your shortcomings and your insecurities, this is what your maker feels for you. It comes from Psalm chapter 139…

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them, they outnumber the grains of sand!

This is His heart for you, and He would love nothing more than for you to experience it this Christmas. Not just experience it, but have it become what defines you, in all ways.

He came here to tell you. He came here to show you.

He did it all so that you might find your life and identity in it’s power. Just connect with this for a moment… As you have your Christmas meals, open your presents, enjoy your family and friends, the God of the universe is watching, and you know what He is thinking? He is thinking about how wonderful you are. He is thinking about how beautiful you are. He is thinking about how much life He has to offer you. He is thinking, “If only you would embrace the life I created you for, and step into it with all your heart.”

He knows you, wants you, loves you and values you. Not because you are perfect, but because you are His.

Let Him love you the way He longs to. Let Him empower you in a way that might give great honor to His birth, life and death. Let Him tell you of your immense value and worth.

This Christmas, let Him tell you, even show you, that you are enough.