Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's a trap! (counterfeit gods)

I'm about to be a little too vulnerable.

 I'm going through one of those incredibly terrifying times in life where it seems like almost nothing is certain. There have been a few unexpected changes and experiences over the last month or so that have put me in one of these stages where it feels like almost nothing is certain. I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday about her life and she let me know that she is also in one of these stages. She is working her way through college but has hit a point where she's completely unsure of what it is she really wants to do with her life. She says she doesn't even know what her life will look like in 6 months. I feel her pain.

Last time I felt like this was going into my last semester of college. Not knowing where you'll work or even if you'll be able to find a job. Not knowing where you'll live or where your friends will move and if they'll stay in contact or just fade out and become another "I used to know them back..." These times in life are some of the most difficult. Like I mentioned earlier, I am currently living in one of those phases and it has legitimately shook me. I am not myself. I spend the majority of my days focused on hypothetical scenarios and "what if" possibilities that might never happen. I've spent more time in prayer and in Scripture in the last month that I have in a very long time but I can't shake it.

I spend my mornings, nights and various hours in between crying out to God but I hear nothing. I'm trying to seek His kingdom first but it feels like I'm holding onto a broken plank of wood in the middle of the ocean. The swells knock me off my tiny plank and I go under and lose where I am. I swim back to the surface, find my plank and wrap my arms around it just seconds before another wave hits. Why can't I get out of this? Why am I sinking?

I heard someone talking today about counterfeit gods and the things in life we worship instead of God. He talked about how we can try all we want to grow closer to God and seek Him but we can't really get there until we repent and change our direction or our minds. I wont lie, I didn't pay much attention to all of this because my life is fine right? I'm clearly only seeking God! I'm seeking His kingdom first! Look! My life reflects that! Wait. I'm literally drowning.

The guy talking about all this said "Want to know if you worship something? Finish this sentence. 'If I just had _________ I would truly be happy." That is THE question isn't it? If I only had more money, that job, that dating relationship, a wife, kids, a better family, a better body, more friends, fame etc. The list could go on forever for all of us. It's kind of incredible and truly sad to look at all the things we think we need. It's also depressing to think of how easily we can get pulled in the wrong direction. We live in a counterfeit culture. Our culture (America) promises so many things that only God can deliver on. God promises all the things culture can't deliver on. I get distracted so easily. I see something I want and begin to make that what I worship and pretty soon I'm being tossed back and forth by waves. I'm alone in the middle of the ocean and I can't find my way out.

I have a goal I try to accomplish every day. I try to answer the questions "What is God saying?" and "What am I going to do about it" So clearly God has called me out on the idols of my life. My life over the past month is the result of worshiping them too. I don't want to be there. That place is Hell. It's almost comical to think about how blinded I am and how easily I get lost. How quickly I'll push God off and put something else on the throne of my life. It's like I know it too but I'll convince myself I'm alright. I tell myself I'm fine and tell myself it wont consume me but here I am once again.

So what is your idol? What do you worship? What do you need to be truly happy? Can that thing actually deliver on what it promises?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Snow, Sufjan and Second Chances

So I haven't blogged since August 5th. I took a weekend off which turned into a week off which turned into 3 months off. There hasn't been anything on my mind to blog about. It's kinda ironic because this past 3 months have been some the craziest, stressful months of my life. Anyways, back by popular demand, here's Fallen Timbers!

Today was the first legitimate snow of they season for the Cincinnati area. (Everyone on social media will let you know that) Here's something to know about me. I love snow. I wrote a blog back in the day about how people should stop using the word love so much because it loses its power. I love snow.The sight of snow immediatly takes me back to elementary school. The song "Hooray" by Minus the Bear captures the emotion that snow makes me feel. So I woke up, opened my phone and saw the dozens of pictures of snow covered streets and trees along with each person's personal opinions about snow. A lot of people seem to hate snow and that makes my heart hurt.

 I've always had this feeling that being surrounded by snow brings be closer to God. Something about snow and the winter season makes me extremely grateful for what God has blessed me with. Even if you don't like the cold, you have to acknowledge that snow is beautiful. After I got out of bed, I put on my Colombia gear, went outside and listened to Sufjan's christmas album as I shoveled the driveway. Just a side note, Sufjan Steven's Christmas albums are the best Christmas albums ever made as far as I'm concerned. If you've never given Sufjan a shot, you should try his Christmas albums.

Back to my day. I finished the driveway, put the shovel away and stood in my yard for a minute or two. Looking around at the other houses to make sure no one was around, I spread my arms out, took a deep breath and fell backwards into the snow and laid there for a good 20 minutes. I'm not sure I have ever felt closer to God than I did laying in the snow in that moment. I felt like He was right next to me. It' felt like God was laying beside me, eating snow and looking up at the falling flakes and whispering in my ear "This is all for you. You are safe, you are where you're supposed to be, I am with you."

Snow reminds me of the incredible childhood I was blessed with. Going sledding on hole 13 of Beckett Ridge with my family, friends and my dog Molly for hours and then walking back to the house for hot chocolate, a fire and Christmas movies are some of the greatest memories I have from my childhood. Back when life was simple and all I knew was the deep love of my family. Snow reminds me of how beautiful life can be and how much God has done for me.

Looking outside and seeing fresh blanket of untouched snow in my yard is just another reminder that God is a God of fresh starts and second chances. God takes this nasty, cold weather and gives us something so fresh and pure and beautiful and clean that's just for us to go play in and enjoy. Life gets crazy and I get lost. I focus on the wrong things, I stress about where I'm going and what I'm doing. My heart hardens and freezes up. Then I take a minute to "be still" and God comes once again and gives me a fresh start. He takes my bitter, frozen, hard heart and breaks it and turns it into a fresh field of snow. He whispers "I am with you" and all that love from when I was young comes back to me.

It snows every year and God blesses me more every year. I stress and worry every year and God brings snow and says to me "Hey I did this for you. There's nothing worth worrying about. Go have fun and be a kid again." I guess all this to say I am incredibly grateful and humbled when I stop and embrace the snow and remember all the incredible things God has done in my life. He gives and gives and gives and gives when I continually struggle and fall and mess up. He is faithful and forgivign and lavishes His love on us like a thick blanket of snow. He covers up all the pain with this beautiful love.

"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow." -Isaiah 1:18

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Grass Doesn't Exist on the Other Side

Alright, I haven't blogged in 4 days. So much for that 30 day challenge! I feel like I've been too busy to blog and/or I haven't had anything to say. Since I'm so far behind, I've decided to put one out today. I'm currently reading a book on student ministry called Make Believe and it's really great. Most student ministry books all say the same thing and are a waste of time. If you've written a student ministry book then I'm sorry if I just offended you. Kind of.

In case you don't know me, I graduated college from Cincinnati Christian University this past May and have since taken a job as a student minister at a church south of Dayton. My entire summer has been a period of transition and adjusting to massive changes. I'm done with college and school all together after 16 straight years. I moved from downtown Cincinnati, where I've lived for 4 years, to the rural-suburbs of Cincinnati/Dayton. I went from a 900 square foot box in the ghetto to a half-million dollar estate in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city. The incredible friends I've made, lived near and experienced life with for the last 4 years have all graduated and dispersed to their jobs and new endeavors. I started a job that is unlike any other job I've ever had. I have no real deadlines. I have no checklists. I have no set schedule or to do lists. I am forced to be as productive as I want to be. I ended a relationship of 2 years and since started another.

My life has been nothing but change for the last 2 and a half months and it's been extremely exhausting. I've never suffered from anxiety in my life until May. I have questioned what I'm doing and where I'm going. I've doubted my decision to go to the college I went to and the major I chose. I'm not sure if I'll even be good at my career. I have thought about quitting and leaving. I've considered taking all my money and running till I run out. Change isn't fun. My generation (Y) doesn't like change.

I would venture to say that the reason myself and my peers hate change is because we aren't content. We're always searching for the latest and greatest. We want promotions and better jobs and paychecks than we currently have so we're always seeking something out there that's better. We think "the grass must be greener on the other side" but we all know it isn't. I tell myself that this period of change is my new reality and I need to escape it because there has to be something better out there. I (and maybe we?) see our current opportunities as stepping stones towards our next, bigger and better opportunities. I'm worried about the future because I can't see it. I can try to plan it and put things in place to assure our better futures but we really can't know what will happen.

What I can do is be content right now. I can stop trying to dictate my future (which I have no control over anyways) and I can appreciate where I am right now and live in this reality instead of trying to live in the next. The quote I found today said "Become great at what you're doing right now, and the future will take care of itself." What if I put less energy into my future and decided to live here and now? What if I channeled my focus towards the jobs and relationships I'm in right now and became the best _____ that I could be in this moment? Wouldn't more doors open for my future if I was content? Wouldn't more people notice who I am and what I can do if I was the best version of myself every day? I'm trying live in a world that is not yet created. I'm planning for a future that doesn't exist. I'm wasting my time.

Become great at what you're doing right now, and the future will take care of itself.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Love pt. 2 (What is wrong with me? Oh, it's love)

11 days ago I wrote a blog about love and what it might mean. It's a very broad, deep topic so I said I'd attempt a second part to it. Here it is. My previous blog on love took a look at the different words for love and what they all mean. Eros, agape, philia, and storge. These all represent a completely different type of love but love non the less. I also talked about how frequently the word "love" gets used. I made the assertion that love is too powerful to be throw around carelessly and that maybe our society is losing the real meaning of it. 

Love is very strange. Being in love is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Losing it, is one of the worst. Love makes enemies friends. It's irrational. It's crazy. It's whimsy. It does what it wants to. I'm not sure it is possible to contain and control. It's intoxicating and it's so powerful.

It's funny to think about the things people do for love. Some of the most rational, calculated people (like myself) will do outlandish, ridiculous things out of love. I'm in a relationship right now and it's wonderful. I've fallen in love with someone and it has completely changed my behavior and priorities. I fuel off of schedules and efficiency. I try to do things as practically as possible to save as much time and money as possible. Most the time. I try to drive as little as possible and eat as cheap as possible and spend as much time relaxing as possible.

So that is how I try to live my life. I try to save as much gas, time and money as I can. Then my girlfriend texts me and asks if I'd like to drive down to her house (an hour out of the way) after work to see her for a few hours. Now that is not efficient. I'll drive over 45 miles on top of my daily commute, I'll spend an extra $10 on gas, and I'll end up taking her out to dinner or to get ice cream. Without question. Without a second thought. Love makes us do crazy things. I'll find myself sending out tweets, facebook posts, instagrams and this very blog about how much I'm in love or how lucky I am or some other cheesy song lyrics etc. Something I would not do if I wasn't in love. Love is powerful, love is dangerous, love is funny.

Why does love have that affect (or is it effect?) on us? I'm sure not everyone shows love the way I do but I would say that if you are in love with a person, you go out of your way to do things you would call stupid or crazy from an outside perspective. Love changes us. It completely rearranges our priorities, schedules, wallets, watches, and lives. It's comical to think about honestly. My sister's fiancĂ© lives over 2 hours away from her. He will get off work at 11pm, get in his truck, and drive 2 and a half hours just to see her for a day or less. Because he is in love. 

People can judge and people can stand from the outside and throw stones and what people are doing for the ones they love. I would say that the ones judging and throwing those stones are the very people who have never been in love and/or are jealous. I don't know how you could have been in love at some point and then judge people when you see it. If you have really been young and in love then you know the whimsy it brings. You remember the feelings of joy and care free passion you have. People think doing things like I said earlier is crazy but isn't it love? Isn't love giving your life and the control of things over to the other person? Isn't it sacrificing your own priorities and wants to make the other person feel incredible?

So I guess all this is to say: if you're in love, don't let the _________ drag you down. You know how you feel and you know what's real. Live whimsy. Love extravagantly. Be bold. Be silly. Don't hold back! Be vulnerable and give your heart to someone else. Don't care what the people around you think. As Brand New puts it in one of their songs "they're just jealous cuz we're young and in love." If you are one of those people who hates seeing people and love and calls them foolish... well, be careful what you say. Heaven forbid you allow yourself to fall in love. You might find yourself doing the very things you said you'd never do.

I can't believe I just wrote this blog. That's not myself. I must be in love.

Parker Sims

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