A Prayer.

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Scenes of You come rushing through

Oh Lord
You searched me and you know me
When I lie down and when I rise
You know my heart
You know my jealousy and my pride
My ingratitude and impatience
My lust and my greed
You hear my curses cast
On those You’ve called ‘Beloved’
You’ve seen both my faces
Even when they flash moments apart
You’ve seen me drunk and stupid
You’ve known me brash and foolish
You’ve tolerated, proud and haughty
And guarded my wanton heart

Still I am persuaded
That should I be alone on earth
The cross would be mine
That if mine were the only debt owed
Your blood would ever flow

Such love is too wonderful for me
That you would die for my freedom
Rise the victor
Defeat my captor
Stay as Advisor
To empower and lead
That we may be together again
Such love is too wonderful for me

Please change my heart to reflect
The selfless heart
The irresistible love
The unquenchable compassion
Of Your life in me.

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Reflections on Auld Lang Syne – 2014

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If you’d give me a chance, believe I can change

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

 

The year has been a whirlwind. I’ve made the most drastic changes in my life to date. Once again, I’ve lost friends and made friends. I’ve met a best friend and partner. I’ve moved a total of three times: to Portland, to Beaverton, and finally to settle in Hood River. I’ve driven 15,000 miles this year, sold or given away a slight majority of my possessions, quit two jobs and started two jobs. At the end of it, I’ve realized that there are really no “ends” in life, save one, and everything between no and then is just an opportunity for new beginnings. 

God has been faithful to me. In more ways than the obvious material ways, such as jobs, relationships, etc, but in the intangible ways. I’ve learned a great deal about myself, immeasurably more than there was to know. I’ve seen Jesus’ hands and feet in my friends and family (especially my girlfriend) who have been patient with me when I’m fickle, obstinate, hard-headed and flat out dumb. Above all this, I’m simultaneously humbled and encouraged to know that I am undone. It can be frustrating to know you’re not finished, especially when all your life you’ve tried to be perfect. It’s humbling, if not humiliating, to continuously screw up in relationships, either between myself and other humans or between myself and God. It’s humbling to know that despite all my insufficiencies, my failures, my not-good-enoughs, Jesus has not only refused to give up on me, but he actively pursues me. It’s a love I can’t begin to understand, and hope to learn to imitate.

I’m not one for resolutions. I generally see them as opportunities to be guilty a couple months into the year. Specific goals can be helpful, and easy to attain, but I don’t want to reach for one rung of an endless ladder and declare myself done just inches from the ground. But there are many things I hope to achieve and attain to this year.

I want to be a better me. I want to care about my health and exercise, not because I want to impress someone, but because I want to be healthy. I want to cultivate healthy relationships. I want to avoid toxic relationships. I want to pray more openly, I want to love more fully, I want to give more recklessly. I want to risk more. I want to trust more. I want to climb more trees. I want to get lost. I want to see every single moment as a sacred opportunity. I want to wade in waters of redemption, and rest knowing my sins are paid in full. I want to live a life that reflects the grace given to me. I want to know healing. I want to offer forgiveness and mercy. I want people to see Jesus, not because I go knocking on doors, thumping Bibles, or shoving religion down throats, but because His love is seeping from my pores. I want to be new from the inside out. I want to be the new creation that I know I am.

Nothing is wasted. God is working. You are a new creation. The old has gone. Behold; the new has come.

Happy New You. 

I have cast my anchor in the port of peace, knowing that past and present are in nail-pierced hands.

–Vally Of Vision

 

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What’s Up With Jakob? — Part Three

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Say it ain’t so

Part 1
Part 2

“Bar training” happened a couple days after I was hired — and it was a disaster. I immediately found out that the bar manager (whom they had hired for their new liquor expansion) had no idea that I had been hired by one of the other managers. And it wasn’t exactly training, so much as setting up the bar and creating drink recipes. This was three days before we were to be “open” for a benefit party for those who had joined the Kickstarter effort to fund the move. There was a lot of work to be done, and the bar manager proved to be utterly incompetent. I soon found out that though he had owned a bar in Mexico, he had never bartended before, nor did he drink alcohol. He had hired two female bartenders who also had no bartending experience. Yikes.

Though I was a little apprehensive, I slowly waded into the waters of giving him advice on how a bar should be, how recipes should taste, how presentation should be, and taught the bartenders some of the basics of bartending, including seemingly fundamental things like how to shake a martini. I arrived for bar training thinking I would be the one getting trained, and I ended up doing the training.

The next week or so was kind of a blur as we were rushing to put together the restaurant, the bar, get POS systems and recipes organized, all while still learning as much as I could about this new restaurant and its menu. The fundraiser came, and we were ready to go, but it quickly became apparent that our bar manager was getting in the way more than helping. I could spend over an hour talking about all the red flags that made me realize this manager was bad news, but the owners saw enough to let him go the day before our soft opening. We had a catering manager step in as an interim bar manager. She took over and did an awesome job of pricing, scheduling, organizing, and doing the grunt work that was needed as a manager.

ImageAs a show of appreciation for my leadership and endurance, she decided to make me lead bartender, which includes a $2 an hour raise and my choice of schedule. They give me the creative freedom to make drink specials, value my opinion on bar decisions, and trust me with the responsibility to own bar operations. If you know me, it’s basically my dream job, and I couldn’t be happier. We’ve been full every night since we opened two weeks ago, and I love every second.

So that’s me. I love this girl. I love this town. I love this job. This year has been amazing and full of changes, and while it’s in no way a “my life is complete” moment, I’m happy with the direction my life has taken. I’m blessed beyond measure. I’ll be sharing some more introspective thoughts on how things have felt in the past few months, but I wanted to give you a bit of an update on the details of what’s been happening. Thanks for your prayers and support.

And if you’re in Phoenix, come visit me ASAP.

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What’s Up With Jakob? — Part Two

If home is where the heart is, then my home is where you are

If home is where the heart is, then my home is where you are

Read Part 1

The morning comes when I’m supposed to move into the trailer. I wake up with dread. I really didn’t want to move into a trailer. It didn’t feel right, and I kind of panicked. I called the man who was going to rent me the trailer, asked him to give me a few days to get some things together, and I was going to keep looking for a better place, hoping for a miracle. Three days later, I found an online ad for a room for less money than the trailer, closer than the other house I was considering, and in an amazing neighborhood. I texted the number on the ad, and after a few messages back and forth, we realized we both worked at the same hotel – he in the restaurant, and I in banquets. I was benefitted by a mutual acquaintance who was kind enough to vouch for me, and he decided to offer me the room. A cozy room in a large house with three guys. It was a perfect stipulation with one minor caveat — no pets.

This is probably the hardest part of the story, but as the Fray said, sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same. I let my friend Ashley from the Cheesecake Factory adopt my dog Reese. Ashley was the one who watched Reese while we visited Phoenix, and she had taken care of her a few weekends while I was between jobs. When I looked at it objectively, I knew it was the mature decision. This transitory period of my life made it difficult to take care of a dog well. When Reese had too much energy, she was destructive, and couldn’t stay inside. Outside was no good either, because it was getting too cold. She needed to be with someone who wasn’t working all the time, or out and about. And when I saw how happy Reese looked one day when Ashley came to take her for a weekend, I knew it was the right match.

While all this was happening, still in the first week of December, I was looking for a second job in Hood River that would allow me to leave the Cheesecake Factory. Working in banquets was nice, but it wouldn’t allow me enough hours to survive. I wanted a serving or bartending job that would give me cash in hand, preferably at a place with an opportunity for growth. I found a place up in the ski area of Mt. Hood, at the Cooper Spur resort. The chef was looking for someone to help with the front of house operations, as they were expanding to breakfast service. It was about a half hour south of Hood River, up the mountain, through some icy and snowy passes. I was offered the job, and slept on it. The next day, I decided against it. It could be a promising position, but with winter weather becoming increasingly severe, I decided it would be too long of a drive and too much of a risk, not knowing if the restaurant would even survive, not to mention my inability to drive in icy conditions.

I talked my decision through with Kristen, as I tend to process verbally, and I realized I really wanted to work at this place called Solstice. I had sent my resume and cover letter over a month prior. She seemed a little surprised at my resolve, because I had contacted them so long ago with no response. But something in my heart felt like that would be my dream job. Sure enough, not even two days later, I got a call asking if I could interview! Awesome. I set up an interview for the following afternoon, nail the interview, met the owners, and I’m hired immediately.

Part 3

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What’s Up With Jakob? — Part One

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Oh the weather outside is weather

Let’s call this my belated Christmas letter.

There have once again been a plethora of changes in my life. I haven’t intentionally left my friends and family in my dark, but somewhere along the way I decided I like to wait until the dust settles on big changes. Now that the dust is starting to settle, let me give you a glimpse at where I am and where I’ve come from in the past few months.

I’ve been dating Kristen, an amazing young woman I met on eHarmony, for a few months now. She lives in Hood River, Oregon, which is about an hour and twenty minutes from my old place in Beaverton. It’s a small touristy town that is quiet in the winter and insane in the summer. It’s a prime spot for kite boarding, windsurfing, and various other water sports on the Columbia River. The winter sports still have their draw, as many will lodge here and drive up to Mt. Hood or Mt. Adams for skiing or snowboarding. It’s a lovely town, albeit a bit small, but warm and welcoming nonetheless.

After a couple months of driving back and forth once or twice a week, I decided it would be in the best interest of the relationship to try and move closer to her. So that’s exactly what I did. In early November I started looking for a job somewhere in the Columbia Gorge — the region east of Portland — to get at least a little closer to her.

As I was searching the online classifieds for help wanted posts, I found that the Best Western Plus Hotel was hiring for help in their banquets department. The convenient part of this opportunity was that it happened to be the same hotel where Kristen worked, so I already had an “in.” After a bit of Kristen bugging the banquets manager, I eventually got an interview two weeks before Thanksgiving. I was hired on the spot. Phase one complete.

ImageNow I needed to find a place to live. On the days I had to work at the hotel, Kristen and her mom were gracious enough to let me crash on their cot. This was not a long term solution. I was still working at the Cheesecake Factory, trying to balance two jobs an hour and a half between each other, which also wasn’t a long term solution. Around this time I found a surprising opportunity of a room for rent with a guy who lives about ten minutes south of Kristen, a bit up in the country, in a peaceful house. There were a few things not ideal – no washer or dryer, he smoked a ton of weed, and the house was a bit far from town, but the price was decent, so I decided to move in. I was all ready to go for the first of December, until a curveball came.

I was trying to communicate with this guy about details of the move-in around Thanksgiving time, but he seemed dodgy and flaky. He was slow to text back, and didn’t answer my phone calls. Turns out that his uncle was temporarily out of a house and needed a place to stay for a while. He told me that family came first, and he needed to help out his uncle, which I understood, but that threw a wrench in my plans. I was out of a place to stay. I thought I had gotten very lucky with this house, as rooms and houses are in high demand and low supply out in the Gorge, so now I’m screwed. He said to check in with him in a month if I was still looking, but I was out of luck for the time being.

I kept looking through the classifieds, looking for a room to share, and I found a man who was renting out his trailer for $400 a month. Honestly, it was crap. It was dirty, old, run down, and gross. But the price was right, and I needed a place to stay for real, because I was having someone sublease my apartment in Beaverton, moving in the first of December. I agree to move in to the trailer in a week’s time, staying at Kristen’s in the meantime.

Read Part 2

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Thoughts on letting go

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You came to my rescue

One of my favorite movies is “Fight Club.”

The story is great – it’s edgy, it’s different, it’s a little bit dark. I know a lot of Christians who just don’t get my obsession with it, or how I can sit through dozens of viewings. The reason that “Fight Club” has become my litmus test for whether a girl is marriage material is because I see an almost cultish religion or theology behind the story. Like a human relationship, you may not understand the first or second time you see it, but once you begin to understand the characters, their motivations and backstories, you slowly start to understand it.

My favorite quote from the movie comes after a moment of duress, and amidst the conflict, one character says to the other:

 “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

The movie presents a pseudo-theology; one I might avow, if only in a nihilistic world apart from the God made known in Jesus. While many facets of this so-called religion would never align with orthodox Christianity, I believe the quote above lies perfectly within a scriptural, Christian narrative.

Matthew 10:39

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (ESV)

This three-worded gospel is one I find throughout Fight Club as well as the Word of God:

Just. Let. Go.

This mantra has been my motivation far less than I should like, but has been the best advice I’ve ever received. In a world without deity, such as “Fight Club” it simply means ceasing to care what anyone thinks. Forget what anyone thinks of you. Forget social norms. Forget morals. In some ways, forget self-preservation — death holds no value, because you’re already nothing. This is well and good apart from any form of a godhead. And while it may be carefree, but it’s also deeply lamentable.

When we are told to “let go,” and thus relinquish anxieties and concerns that weigh us down, we don’t transcendentally receive some sort of miraculous absolution that makes life golden and perfect. The ambiguity of the phrase “let go” has been tritely overused by well-meaning Christians for so many years that it’s lost all potency. The question we’re faced with so often is simply “how?” You make it seem so easy! How can I just “let go” of the guilt, the shame, the anger, the frustration? Why do you expect me to? To whom am I letting go?

If, however, the object and recipient of our actions of release is a loving, benevolent character deserving our trust because of his ability to steward all things, then the interaction changes from a process of letting a balloon fly into the stratosphere, into something much more intentional and thus, immensely more reassuring.

We have such a steadfast guardian. We have a Father. Jesus calls Him “abba,” — our daddy. When we let go, we don’t just give it up haphazardly unto nothingness. We abdicate the things we would so tightly grasp unto One whom we believe belongs “the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever.” We “let go” to our loving Father who holds the universe and simultaneously counts the hairs on our head. We entrust our lives to the trustworthy.

I’m halfway tempted to get the phrase “let go” tattooed somewhere instantly visible because of my propensity to forget how painful it is to hold onto things that I should have given up a long time ago. There are past relationships that I wish I could manipulate to make things right. I still feel bitterness, hurt, sadness, or any of the wide array of negative emotions. There are things in my present life that stress me to no end – bills to pay, people to please, careers to advance. I look to the future and see a grey void filled with question marks that make me want to scream from fear and anxiety.

But I hear the voice of my Maker saying “let go.” He invites me to trust Him. Even if I have to let go time and time again, each time He says “Believe me. I’m in control. I can handle it.” Our God would not see us weighed down by these preoccupations, when the life He’s promised offers inordinately more freedom and security under His protection: joys we quickly forfeit when we grasp too tightly to our own ideals and presumptions, our hurts and hang ups, our manipulations and pandering.

After all, it’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.

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June

When you've given up the drink and those nasty cigarettes

When you’ve given up the drink and those nasty cigarettes

If you can’t let love go
Douse it with gasoline
Watch it burn and fade away
Then, you can be free

Light a match, and drink it in
’til no longer what it used to be
A faded, jaded memory
Just like you and me

Ashes make no grand puzzle
No hope to piece together this mess
The past is burnt and charred, my dear
I won’t let my future be a guess

So cheers to you – this is the end
A toast to what has been
When flame no longer dances on my face
I will be cold again

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Failure

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Why’d you sing hallelujah if it means nothin to ya

I’ve had my share of failure.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said the wrong thing, done the wrong thing, acted the wrong way, responded inappropriately, lashed out, fallen short, been humiliated, or otherwise not lived up to what was expected.

But I’ve learned.

I know the pithy sentiments about falling six times and getting up seven. They’re a dime a dozen. This isn’t one of those sentiments. This is a lesson learned painfully through heartbreak over a very long time. Take a glimpse into your recent “failures,” and take note of just one thing.

“What will I do next time?”

It’s a literal stupidity to repeat the same mistakes time and again. I would say that’s the saddest failure of all – a failure to learn. The future is what you make of it. Your failures will not define you. Your victory, however delayed, will be the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve learned, and you’ve overcome.

Wherever you are in life, don’t give up.
What will you do next time?

 

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a time to mourn

There is a season

There is a season

They say there’s a season for everything
One for mourning
Another for dancing
My heart feels like rejoicing has thrived
So selfishly self-serving
That my mourning is maligned

If I could take a solitary second
In the cold of the night
To say a prayer and mourn
With those without strength to cry

I mourn for the people who sleep hungry
The heart-broken, the depressed
Those who would rather never wake
Aching numbness in their chest

I mourn for the damaged, abused, neglected
Who put on plastic smiles to never be detected
For those who know neither mercy or grace
Indoctrinated judgements, cheap, in their place

I mourn for the babies who never had a chance
I mourn for the mothers who saw no other way
I mourn for the women, objectified by a glance
I mourn for the men, denounced for being gay

No use is a task force
To solve this condition
No government initiative
To cure your addiction

We can’t look at these objects that need to be
Fixed to eliminate our lives of nuisance
That’s useless, these aren’t symptoms
Or “demographics,” or “mission fields,” or “unreached”
They’re people.

Plain and simple.

They’re people who I’ve known
They’re people who I’ve loved
They’re rejected by the church
With a verse and shove

And I know my hands are dirty,
The blood is caked and thick
Now these people lost and lonely?
My own sin makes me sick

I guess if you’re still reading this diatribe
And you gain any impetus towards resolve
Or if you have a heart at all
Don’t make a list of bullet points
Or a to-do that can do
Nothing to absolve your hand in this
Neither justify yourself, with a shrug
No “That’s not me”
No “Not my place”
No “Not my problem.”

Instead, grab some tissues
Weep with a man well acquainted with grief
Who spread His arms wide
And died
For the mess we made and continually make
For the people He’s loved
That we’ve ignored
Or don’t call him “Lord”
If you snub His sheep

Thy Will be done on earth as His heaven
Get your hands dirty
Start loving

Amen.

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Reflections on Auld Lang Syne – 2013

But seas between us broad have roared

But seas between us broad have roared

I’m not even sure where to begin with my feelings on 2012. For starters, I never covered 2011, which I sorely regret. That was a fairly big year for me. I went through a counseling group called “Mending the Soul” which stirred up a lot of areas in my heart where I desperately needed healing . While I’m not sure if healing came during that year, it at least raised my awareness for the coming years so that I won’t let the same issues rise again.

My heart was broken in 2012. At least twice. It’s easy to utter cliché phrases, and harder to forgive and move on. I did a bit of both. I literally have no idea what’s ahead of me. But I know good things are ahead, tied in with my own maturation. This year I stopped depending on others to define me. I had an epiphany that made me realize that I’m created the way I am for a purpose, and no female, jurisdiction, or any other entity can take that from me. And I won’t let them. I’m figuring out the details of what this means. That’s still part of the journey. But I’m done compromising for that which is inherently “me.”

As of today, I’m no longer employed by Whitton Avenue Bible Church. The last three and a half years were tumultuous, filled with tears of joy, anger, and desperation. I learned so much from my time there, but I knew that it had an expiration date. I could (and probably will) write an entire article on my time there, so I’ll save that post for another day.

I’ve decided to move to Portland, Oregon this year.  I can’t think of anything that scares the bejesus out of me more. It’s an almost absolute unknown that is waiting for me. To be honest, I’m petrified. I know that everything will be all right, but I’ve never left Phoenix for an undetermined amount of time. Anything can happen. I hope it will. I hope I learn, I hope I grow, and I hope I advance at becoming “me.” By God’s grace, I know I will.

What else? I feel like in the past, I’ve listed my hopes for the next year. Screw that. Time really doesn’t care about your hopes and dreams. Life won’t be always great. It will also be hard. It will let you down. The choice you have to make is this: do you let it keep you down or do you persevere? Every person with breath in his lungs has this option before him. Carry on or give up? I believe in a God who is a giver of good things. I also believe that what I know now isn’t the end of knowledge. I believe that in the future, my temporary struggles will be made poignant and in no way unnecessary. By this belief, I know that I have purpose here and now, and nobody – NOBODY – can take it away from me.

Last New Years, I remember being sad. I was sad that my wishes and ambitions would never become a reality. This New Years I spent realizing that I control my reality. I can choose how to spend my self-esteem. I don’t have to leave it in the hands of those who come behind me, who hope to fulfill themselves in my shadows. I am loved. I am blessed. I am content on my own, without another.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy 2013 to you all. I pray that you realize the blessings in your life, and those blessings cause your life to overflow with gratitude.

See you in Portland.

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