Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Our staff eating together at our end-of-year staff dinner. Thank you to Drew Cleveland for letting me steal this picture (he doesn't know I stole it).

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul."
- Psalm 23:1-3
Have you ever been out of breath, and had the thought: "This walk to my mailbox sure is tough. I'm out of shape!"
Or have you ever had the opposite experience? I remember when I played basketball in high school, I could go jogging for several minutes before feeling out of breath. It's obviously much harder to get to that place in my old age, but I remember that feeling fondly.

Something I didn't realize until about 4 minutes ago is that it is very, very difficult to change your lungs' capacity for air. The reason we don't get out of breath when we exercise is that we are training our hearts to more efficiently pump blood (and oxygen) to our organs and muscles.

This reminds me a lot of our spiritual wellbeing. God has been bringing this quote from Psalm 23 to life for me a lot in the last few months:
"He refreshes my soul."
From what I've read and heard (I am far from a Hebrew scholar), the word for "soul" here- nephesh- is synonymous with someone's breath, passion, personhood, and being. God has been showing me that, while He gives us countless ways of finding rest and enjoyment in His Creation and in His people, He is ultimately the one who restores our being itself. Rikk Watts says: "Until such a time as we know the I Am, we can never truly be."

This summer, God has been refreshing and restoring my soul. My time working for FOCUS has been a time of constant transition- I moved houses 4 times in the first year, I've gone from a student to an apprentice to a senior staff member (transitioning between very different campuses each time), and in doing so, I've had the blessing of meeting and getting to know a lot of people. That being said, I've also learned to package my personality so I can get to know those people a lot more, and I've learned to share my sins, hopes, fears, and experiences with God with a lot more people. That grew me a lot, but it also meant that I became exhausted at a soul-level. This summer, God has refreshed the part of me that my capacity for healthy compassion, regret, hope, and sadness comes from. The sure-footed security of Jesus shows me that when we fully entrust ourselves to God- including our identity itself- He stewards our souls better than we ever could (we probably have more of a habit than we realize of out-sourcing the development of our personality and character to our surroundings).

Now, back to the whole exercise metaphor. I'm pondering- and perhaps you've pondered this too- what it looks like to get in better shape spiritually. To improve our ability to breathe God in when life gets hectic. As I've begun to have more responsibilities in the last few years, I've begun to have much more sympathy for the parent who struggles with their prayer life, and for the friend who works 80 hours a week and doesn't seem to have as many interests as my friends in college (go figure!). I'm realizing that as the treadmill of life speeds up, I'm going to have to be very purposeful in spiritual cardio so that the breaths I take of God refresh my soul the way they did when I was a junior in college who lived at home and worked 8 hours a week.

To my friends and donor-friends who are in the thick of life, just know that I have enormous respect for you, and God understands how difficult it is to grow in character and closeness with Him while your capacity is being tested. I also believe more than ever that God is in the business of refreshing souls, and that He can rebuild even the most burnt-out, "over it" person there is. I'm praying that you can be refreshed by God amidst the busyness of life.


In the interest of my time and yours, I'm going to lump my ministry updates in with my prayer requests this month.

  • Please pray for wisdom and receptiveness to God's voice for our staff and our students as we select and begin developing our student leaders for the upcoming school year. 
    • Our UTD staff are wrapping up the process of nailing down our core leaders for the upcoming school year. There's a good number of student leaders for the coming year (I think around 30 guy leaders?), and I'm excited about all of them.
  • Please pray for our students who don't have access to their FOCUS community throughout the summer.
    • A lot of our students move back home, graduate, or begin working full-time jobs during the summer, and it can be really difficult to find the stability, accountability, and spiritual food of community when they suddenly don't have the small groups and Bible-studies that they did the previous month.
  • Please pray for our summer FOCUS services to be impactful and meaningful to our students, and to point them to Jesus.
    • This summer, our Thursday Night Fellowship services are centered around the idea of being a lifelong disciple outside the college setting. That's such an important topic because college is a uniquely fertile environment for ministry and spiritual growth; it's a blessing to find that, and it's hard to leave it.