Sunday, July 27, 2014

For Mom

I'm sitting in my office at church during the 8:45 service checking tweets, getting ready to teach next hour and listening to some Iron & Wine. I've got coffee, a Nature Valley breakfast bar, an office, a sweet computer, a job, money, a car, and incredible family and a beautiful girlfriend. I am #blessed. I'm reading through some tweets and seeing all these cliche Sunday morning "I'm at church" tweets from various friends. The one repeating thing that sticks out to me is the over-used, sarcastic hashtag of #blessed. 

I am blessed. We are all blessed. If you are reading this, you have a computer or smartphone. You are blessed. Yesterday was my mother's birthday (and my aunt's-twins). We are all lucky to have the moms that we have. Who else was there for us when we were sick? Who helped you get on the bus your first day of school? Who kissed our wounds when we got hurt and who made it all better? Moms are the best and are a blessing from God.

From the moment I entered this world and took my first breath, I was loved by my mother. My first cry was a joyful noise and music to her ears. She dedicated her entire life to caring for, loving, supporting, serving, and dying for her us kids. It's what moms are best at and it's what they're made for. No one else can comfort us and make us see the beauty inside of us like a mom can. We're embarrassed as kids when our moms are moms. We are embarrassed when they'd show up to our sporting events dressed in our colors with signs and posters and screaming our names. We got embarrassed when they'd try to hug us or kiss us around our friends. We'd try to run when they'd want to hold us. I was ungrateful and an idiot.

Life can suck. You all know that very well. Life leaves us broken, insecure, feeling worthless, angry, questioning, and depressed. Life knocks us down and isn't what we want it to be. It's out of control. All along, we have this woman cheering us on. Our mothers. They pick us up. They see the beauty in us. They push us towards our dreams. They love us. They look out for us. They lend an ear. They give advice. They bring us peace and they cherish us in a world that says we're worth nothing. That is unbelievable. How lucky am I to have such a person in my life?

No one soothes my soul like my mother does. On days where I'm questioning what I'm doing in my life or days when I'm angry, depressed, feeling like I don't belong and feeling like God is distant, my mother is there. Calling me. Texting me. Inviting me over for dinner to remind me that I am a priceless treasure. Telling me that I am special and unique. Reminding me that God has a tight grip on my life and holds me in His hand. Telling me once again that there is nothing I can do to let her down or make her or God love me any less. In my mother's eyes, I am an all-star. I know it's cheesy and childish but who else in your life sees you the way God made you and is more than willing to remind you of that?

So today's post is for my mom Paula. I can never tell you how much you do for me. Your words are a life raft when I'm sinking. They're water for when I thirst. They're a cool breeze on a hot day. Thank you for always loving me and for knowing that even though we make mistakes and mess it up, God still loves us. Thanks for being so strong. Thanks for raising me. 

We are blessed 

-Parker Sims

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Buttons, Factories and David Fincher

So last night I watched one of my favorite movies if not my absolute favorite movie of all time. Something about David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button strikes a chord deep in my soul. David Fincher deserves some sort of award for directing this film the way that he did. The short story which was originally written by F. Scott Fitzgerald is drastically different than the film. The only thing Fincher kept was the idea of a man being born old and getting younger as he gets older.

I'll try not to spoil it but for those who haven't seen it, the movie is about a man born with the body of a man on his way to the grave. Benjamin's body gets younger as he grows older and the whole film is the story of his life. It's a beautiful story of a man's life from the end of the first world war all the way through the 90's. I am a huge fan of historical films and this movie, although it's fiction, still shows what life was like for "the greatest generation" and it's beautiful.

For some unknown reason, that movie evokes deep, powerful emotions in my mind. I typically spend the next 12-24 hours in deep thought about life as a whole. No other movie does this for me. No other movie touches me in such a profound way. It's pretty remarkable that a motion picture that is only a few hours long can have such an impact on my life. It really goes to show what a good piece of art can do to the mind. I wish more directors set out to make films like this one.

This movie makes me think deeply about our lives and how incredible yet insignificant they are. This Ben Button guy, if he didn't have this impossible aging thing, was the definition of an average joe. There is nothing spectacular about his life and I think that's what resonates with me. Living down in the city, you see numerous abandoned buildings, factories and houses. Every day they're tearing one down to make room for something else. Demolition is a common thing in cities and people don't think twice about it because of how frequent it is and because demolition means new expansion and progress. I'm all for progress and new things but there's something unique about those old buildings.

These abandoned properties make me think of Benjamin Button and people like him. Let's take one factory for example. This is a place the employed hundreds if not thousands of men over the last 100 years or so. Masses of people spent 30 to 40 years working in factories every day. This is how they put food on the table and bought clothes for their kids. Their families were sustained by the men who worked for a living and made their money in these factories. Think about the abandoned houses that have been around for 125 years in cities all over America. These houses were the homes of numerous families. Those walls saw multiple generations be born, grow up, have families of their own, and die.

These buildings had some much significance to so many people for so many years and now they're forgotten, abandoned and/or destroyed. These factories, homes, schools, offices that provided income and a life for however many thousands of people now gone without a trace. Just like the people who worked and lived inside them. How many millions of people have there been in the world who lived ordinary but beautiful lives just like the story of Benjamin Button but have long since been forgotten? How many average Joe, middle class, hard working men and women lived beautiful, loving lives have now been forgotten and become insignificant? It's crazy to think about!

There will be a time in the next 100 years when you, your family, your friends, your home, the places your work, the restaurants you ate in and the streets you drove will be forgotten. Torn down, demolished and wiped away for the next generation. You will be forgotten. This all makes me consider what is important in life. Life is fragile and we only get one shot at it. There's only two ways to go from here. Are you living your life to be remembered? or are you living your life a day at a time? Are you building companies, factories, houses, monuments, reputations and legacies to that your name won't be forgotten as quickly or, are you appreciating the time you've been given and basking in the beauty and simplicity of life? Are you doing or are you living? Are you striving or are you worshiping?

Life comes and life goes. 100 years from now, the only thing that will matter is a person's relationship with God.

"For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again"- Benjamin Button

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Thoughts on Prayer

We took the youth group on a trip to Cedar Point this weekend so I've missed 3 days now. I know you've missed my blogs. I wish. I'm preaching tonight on prayer so I figure I'd share some thoughts here. I'm doing a 40 day prayer challenge right now on Draw The Circle by Mark Batterson and it's going pretty well. Prayer is something I've been trying to take more seriously lately.

I've found that most people pray. Even those who aren't sure there's a God. I mean, what do you have to lose? I guess praying can't hurt anything. It still surprises me how many people pray or claim to pray. I see people all the time on Facebook or twitter who post about something going on in their life.  It's funny how many people comment back saying that they will pray for them and that the situation is in their thoughts and prayers. These are the same people that will argue with me all day that there is no God and tell me I'm an idiot for being a Christian.Prayer seems to be something the world takes lightly. We pray when we're in a moment of crisis or before we eat a meal so that we can check that box and feel good about ourselves.

When we pray, we're talking to God. That is a huge deal.

The fact that we have the capability to pray is a privilege. Think about it for a minute. We get the privilege to speak to God. The God who created the universe and everything inside of it is willing to lend and ear to us. That is not something to take lightly. God. Yahweh. Who spoke to the planets and they spun. Who broke through the shackles of slaved ones. Who sustains all life... He wants to hear from us. If we all understood that, our prayer lives would look much different.

Well, some might say "God already knows what I'm thinking so why do I need to pray?" and that is a valid question. I think that mindset misses the point of prayer. God does know what we need and knows what we are thinking but why should He help us if we aren't willing to look to him for help? Prayer is an act of humility. When we pray, we say "God, I am not You. You are You. There are things I want and need (at least we think we need them) and I can't get there myself." We are telling God that we don't have the power to get keep our lives on track and that we don't know what is best for us. The goal of prayer should be to humbly realign our lives with God's will.

I believe God answers every prayer we pray. It might not be the answer we imagined or the answer we wanted but that's because we don't know what we need. God knows what we need and I guarantee  what we need doesn't look anything like what we think we need. We hesitate to pray boldly and expectantly because we don't truly believe God will answer our prayers or that He won't answer them the way we want. I can guarantee that God will not answer 100% of the prayers we do not pray. Pray boldly! We're praying to God so what is there to be afraid of? What would be too big our outrageous?

I'll end this blog with a quote from Mark Batterson's Draw the Circle. "Like a grandmaster who strategically positions chess pieces on a chessboard, God is always preparing us and positioning us for divine appointments. And prayer is the way we discern our next move. The plans of God are only revealed in the presence of God. We don't get our marching orders until we get on our knees! But if we hit our knees, God will take us places we never imagined going by paths we didn't even know existed."

Give it a shot.

Parker Sims


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Love (possibly part 1 of 2)

Today's word==> Love. What's it got to do, got to do wit it baby? (bae for you hip young teens) Hahah I couldn't resist. There are sooo many song lyrics I want to put in this post but I'll try to keep it strickly my random thoughts. Hmm. This is a tough one. Love is such a loaded word. I has such a profound meaning but it gets tossed around like any other word. For instance, on any given day I will say that I love many things. Chipotle, whatever song I'm listneing to, a movie someone talks about etc. I (we) say we love many things but do we really?

As most of you know, there are 4 loves. There is agape, which is the unconditional love that God has for His creation. This is the love a parent feels (or should feel) when they see their child for the first time. I am not a parent so I can't say this is 100% true but I know the feeling I had the first time I held my nephew. He'd been breathing on this planet for just a few minutes and I swore I'd give my life for that kid. I can only imagine the affection is even greater for a parent and their child. There is philia, which is brotherly, bromance, "I've got your back" type of love. This is the love I have for my siblings and closest friends. It's an incredible bond to share with someone. The third is eros, which is the sexual love shared between a husband and wife. Lasty, we have storge, which is affection with someone who was brought into your life by chance.

I say I love all of these things on a regualr basis but I don't unconditionally care for a burrito. I don't love a U2 song like I do my brother, I don't love a new movie like I do my girlfirend and I certainly don't love sunsets in an eros kind of way. This happens all the time in our world. We toss these holy words around like it's nothing and because of that, they lose their meaning and power.

Love is an incredible thing when you experience it. There's nothing like love. That moment when you first realize the weight of sin and how deep God's love truly is for you is perhaps the most powerful, life shattering (in a good way) feeling there is. That love- those are the occasions and feelings where we should use the word love. Shouldn't we only use the word love when we truly feel like all other words fall short when it comes to expressing the affections you have towards a person?

For those of you in a relationships where you've dropped the L-bomb. Remember what it was like to say that for the first time? Such a terrifying yet exciting, passionate moment. Terrifying beacuse of the courage it takes to let down all the walls of your soul and reach the ultimate point of vulnerability. You're putting all of your heart out there and hoping the other person doesn't desroy it. Exciting and passionate because of what it means. You're letting a person know that they mean more to you than most things in this world. You're expressing how much they truly mean to you and it's a wonderful place to be.

That is how we should view love. Love is a rare, beautiful, dangerous thing. Love isn't made. Love doesn't sell or pay but we buy and sell our love away. (Jon Foreman)

Here's a shout out to all the songs I can think of off the top of my head involving love: All you need is love, In the name of love, Love is dangerous, love isn't made, love is a verb, what's love got to do?, ordinary love, our love, whole lotta love, will you love me tomorrow, i cant stop loving you, love shack, baby love, crazy in love, pusher love girl, hello, i love you, love rollercoaster, crazy little thing called love, somebody to love, i wanna love you, love in this club.... :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

We Are All That We Are

I am a dreamer. I am a student. I am a disciple. I am a son. I am a brother. I am a friend. I am a lover. I am a kid. I am a warrior. I am insecure. I am afraid. I am rude. I am blunt. I am unapologetic. I am a graduate. I am a youth pastor. I am a Cincinnatian. I am an American. I am a stranger. I am immature. I am presistent. I am a musician. I am a flake. I am a gen Y. I am a man. I am a boy. I am passionate. I am lazy. I am a visionary. I am a procrastinator. I am a doubter. I am a child of the King.

We are all that we are. We can't change the past. We can't change the things that made us into who we are now. We let the mistakes we've made or the things we've let happen become our identity. We see our shortcomings and our failures above everthing else. We compare our darkest moments to others highlight reels. We tell ourselves we're broken. We convince ourselves we're used goods. We say we can't forgive. We say we can't love again. We say we'll never be the same. We say we can't change.

You are beautiful. You are loved. You are a daughter. You are a son. You are a father. You are a mother. You are a sister. You are a brother. You are precious. You are amazing. You are more than your mistakes. You are blameless. You are justified. You are sanctified. You are a perfect. You are pure. You are forever evolving. You are forever changing. You aren't the same person you were yesterday. You won't be yourself tomorrow. You have been bought. You have been ransomed. You have been paid for. You are a child of the King.

We've all been hurt. We've all been burned. Life isn't what we hoped it would be. Something happens that strips us of our innocence. Are you who you thought you'd become? When you were a child without a care in the world? Is this how you thought things would be? No. Not even close. You'd like to think that you were invincible. Weren't we all once? Before we felt lost for the first time? We are all broken. But that's not the end of our story.

We can be frogiven. We can be identified by more than just our mistakes. We can change. We can transform. We can draw closer. We can be heard. We can be cured of our doubting blood. We can be drained of the sins we love. We can let go of our disbelief. We can be made right. We can become children again. We can be who we are made to be again.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Nostalgia, West Chester and Growing Up

The word of the day is "home" so let's see where my mind goes with this! When I think of home I think of Cincinnati. More specifically, I think of West Chester, a suburb on the north side of Cincy. West Chester is not an exciting place to live at all. The most exciting and noteworthy thing we have in West Chester is IKEA. Other than that... nothing. A Friday night in West Chester or, the Dub-C as some might call it, would be going to a movie at the Rave (not owned by AMC but everyone knows it's still a Rave) and then going to eat at one of the dozens of chain resturaunts. (I prefer Dingle House Pub)

Aside from the lack of variety, I love West Chester and will always have a place for it in my heart. I lived at 5430 Fallen Timbers Dr. (this is why I named by blog Fallen Timbers btw.) for the first 21 years of my life. 21 of the 22 years I've been breathing were spent living in that house. It was a beautiful house with one of the coolest pools around. I was extremely fortunate to have lived in such a wonderful place. Even friends of mine would go on and one about how loving, peaceful and home-like my hosue always felt. The vast majority of my childhood memories took place at that address. My childhood was perfect. There is nothing I would have changed about it. So when I think of "the good old days" I think about that home.

I moved downtown to Price Hill for my 4 years in college and for the first time in my life, I was living away from home. During my freshman year, my parents split up and from that point on nothing was the same. I felt like everything I knew growing up was taken away from me and I wasn't ready to let it go. When things would get tough at school or dealing with the divorce, I would go back to West Chester and to the old Fallen Timbers to try and feel secure again and to be at home but nothing was ever the same. The streets that I once ruled as a teenager no longer had the glow and pride they once had. My home no longer felt warm and loving. West Chester became a town and 5430 Fallen Timbers became a house.

I became extremely nostalgic as a tired to hold on to that part of my life when things were still good but I couldn't make it work. I wanted more than anything to be back home and away from all crap that life in college had brought but I could never get back there.

There comes a time in our lives where we go home and everything feels different. It all looks the same but it definately doesn't feel the same. We think something there has changed but then we realize that the only thing that has really changed is us. Those places weren't home anymore becasue I wasn't the 18 year old, newly graduated, ready to conquer the world Parker Sims that I once was. I had built a new life in Cincinati while my old life was being torn down by my parents divorce.

So what is a home? I would say that a home is wherever you are most celebrated and loved in life. You can spend a lot of time somewhere and just be tolerated by the people around you. A home is where you are loved and where there are people that cherish you for you who are. West Chester was that for me until things with my parents started going down and I found a new group of people that celebrated me in Cincinnati. Now I'm graduated and going through a new time in life. I left a place that was my home for 4 years and I'm searching for my next one.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Goodnight, Travel Well

Hannah, Jordan and myself all decided today that we would take a random word and write our blogs around that word. The past two days we haven't been able to come up with a word but today Jordan said we should write on the word "travel". We thought it would be fun to see the different paths we all take with the same word.

I love to travel. I would love to travel much more than I have and I'm sure opportunities will come up in the future. I have been all over America, spent 10 days in the Dominican Republic, a week in Canada, Mexico and two trips with a group from college to Northern Ireland. Each place that I've visited have given me some really cool experiences. We live in a beautiful world. I've been to the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, the Redwood National Forrest, Yellowstone, the tops of the mountains of Breckenridge and Park City, and Giant's Causeway and the North Coast of Ireland. Their all incredibly beautiful in their own way.

I really enjoy seeing sights and connecting with God through creation and the beauty of nature but the thing that really makes traveling special and stick out to me is the people I travel with and the people you meet when traveling. Ireland is by far my favorite place I've been and it wasn't because of the rolling green hills or the massive cliffs. I fell in love with Ireland because of the people and the culture there. Such a kind, caring, fun and genuine group of people. The people there seem to be much more authentic and real than what you get here in the states.

The bond you make with the people you travel with and the stories you hear from complete strangers make most memories for me. Maybe that's why I go crazy on beach vacations. My mom and my sister are the type of people that could spend and entire week sitting on the beach and just napping or reading a book. That drives me insane! I want to be with people and experience the culture of wherever I am.

There is something so intriguing about seeing the diversity of life and how many different people there are in the world. I think traveling reminds me just how massive the world is and how many people there are in the world. It shows me how powerful God is to have made this beautiful earth.

Traveling shows me just how incredibly different people are and how much different their lives look than mine but that we are all part of the human race. We all have families, friends and lovers. We all struggle with loneliness, terrible jobs, stress, fear and anxiety. We are all searching. We all feel that void in our lives. A void we fill with money, sex, fame, status and pride but still leaves us wanting more. We all know deep down that there has to be something more out there. There has to be something more than what this world has to offer.

I'm glad I've found it.

Go out and travel! Meet someone you completely different than you and find out that we all aren't that much different!

Goodnight, Travel Well

Parker Sims