A new job.

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Today, I start a new job. I’ve spent the past 6-ish years toiling in commercial real estate property accounting. I’m now moving into internal audit with one of the world’s largest logistics companies. I think it’s something I will enjoy, but only time will tell.

Why look for a new job? If you’re gainfully employed in this economy, why take that risk, and why put in that effort? It’s complicated. Mostly, though, it was that I didn’t enjoy my work, and I knew there were probably opportunities out there that I would enjoy. I don’t think I’m cut out for the never-ending monthly accounting cycle. Some people are, I’m sure.

There’s a fine line there. Work is work. It’s not supposed to always be easy and enjoyable (if ever). I’ve been greatly helped by Matt Perman and Gene Veith in thinking about this tension. My work is part of my vocation (which includes my family and church responsibilities). My role in my vocation (every aspect of it) is to serve God and serve man. This means that no matter what I do, from holding a Little Ceasar’s $5 sign to crafting the federal budget, I have the opportunity to serve and honor God and serve God’s creatures. All work can be holy and thus, all work can be satisfying and fulfilling. However, if my job matches my passions and strengths, I’m more likely to enjoy it, and I’m therefore in a better position to serve God and others. If I’m productive and doing excellent work, I’m doing a better service than if I were unmotivated and less productive.

So, it was with that desire, to find something more fitting for my strengths and desires, that I started looking for a new career opportunity.

This is a big, kind of scary step, for sure. Being the new guy right out of college wasn’t that bad. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Being the new guy 5 years removed is a little different. At my old job, I knew what I was doing. I knew the company well. I knew the processes, the nuances, my teammates. I got along with my team well (not always a given!). Everything was familiar. I’m leaving that now for a lot of unknown. Everything I’ve heard about the new company has been positive, but you never know until you’re in.

I think the uncertainty of it was one of the things that helped solidify my choice. I’ve been a Seth Godin fan for quite a while, and his book Linchpin was a revelation. One of the things that has stuck out to me most in his writing is how much fear holds us back. We don’t take the big steps we desperately want to because we’re afraid of failure. But failure isn’t bad. The vast majority of happy, successful people have failed at some point (usually big time failure). I could have settled for the familiar and continued in drudgery, or I could go try something else. I really think this will be a good fit, but even if it’s not, I don’t think I’d ever look back on this decision as a mistake.

One of the most common comments I’ve heard when people have left places I’ve worked goes something like this, “Good for you for getting out; Take me with you.” I didn’t want to look back after 20 years and think I stayed at a job I didn’t enjoy because it was too much work to “get out”. If you want out, take the initiative and see what else is out there. Don’t do anything rash, but don’t settle for less just because it’s easy. Things worth doing are rarely easy.

“…that the members may have the same care for one another…”

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I just read our church’s history that was written for her 50th anniversary. In the back were many testimonials from members and pastors, past and present, on what the church has meant to them. I found one especially encouraging. A mother recounts how her family and their mentally disabled child found care and support in their church community.

(names have been omitted)

———————————–
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

Audubon Park Baptist Church has also been our refuge and strength for many years. We have found love, friendship, a very special sharing and peace that could come only from the heart of God.
I have articles, poems and words of wisdom placed in my Bible along with the scripture to encourage and help me.
One of these poems is “Heaven’s Very Special Child.”
We have one of these – we have had him thirty-nine years. His name is R.
When R came to join the family, we were frustrated, frightened, and didn’t know how to accept him. God intervened. He had plans for R and his family. Through some very dear people, He led us to Kennedy Baptist Church [now Audubon].
We were still frightened, we didn’t know if a child that was different would be accepted. Not only were we accepted, we were loved and welcomed.
One of our sons made a profession of faith and was baptized. The other son, B Jr, B and I joined by letter and we became part of the church family.
I still had a problem. R would never be able to complete our circle. He wouldn’t be able to make a decision for Christ. My faith was still weak. God and the teachers and leaders performed a beautiful miracle. R accepted Jesus as his Savior and was baptized. He has learned sign language, is an usher and loves his Church.
The little boy that the doctor wanted to put in a home because he would probably never walk found love, acceptance, training, and refuge in Audubon Park Baptist Church.
This is why APBC means so much to me.
God is my refuge and strength. His Church is my refuge. I do not have to fear tomorrow because He has been with me today, and He has His hand on our beloved Church.
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The story brought to mind 1 Corinthians 12. What an awesome testimony of God’s church caring for God’s people.

    The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
1 Corinthians 12:21-26

DIY Pocket Square

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I'm boring :'(

Look at this pic of yours truly. That is a sweet J. Crew unstructured cotton blazer (with working cuffs) that I thrifted last week for $4. But what’s missing? Any guesses?

That’s right! A pocket square!

You see, a pocket square is on of those oft forgotten, yet really important pieces of menswear. It’s an avenue of expression, and it really puts a nice touch on your outfit. The essential square is a white linen one, like this one made by Kent Wang. They say that’s the first one to buy. Beyond that, the choices are endless. You can spend $200+ on a silk designer square if you want. Me? I have no money. What shall I do?

Improvise.

I happened to have an old dress shirt in my closet, unwearable because of some stains that somehow showed up after a wash. Why didn’t I throw it away? For a time such as this. Why not make my own pocket square?

stained shirt

This is a cheap-o cotton/poly shirt (it got the job done). The fabric is kind of thick and not fancy looking, so I thought it would go well with the unstructured jacket.

Step 1: Cut ‘er up. I cut that sucker into a ~11″ square. Pocket squares are typically 10-18″. You can make them whatever size you want, but when you cut the fabric, give yourself a half inch or so on each side for the hem. Since this fabric was thicker, I made it smaller. If you’re using silk, you can afford to make it pretty big without it being too bulky in your pocket.

All you have to do now is sew the hem! Easy!

uhhhh….

Not really.

I’ve never sewn before, and this was harder than I thought it would be. The instructions I was using said to roll the hem and stitch it. Maybe it was the fabric, but that was insanely hard to do, so I ended up folding. Silk might roll more easily. A couple hems turned out better than others. What I had the hardest time with was tying tiny knots with the thread, and getting that tiny knot to be in exactly the right spot.

After finishing one hem, do the opposite hem next.

two sides done

all sides done

Finally finished it. It took me probably 3 hours total. Yes, that’s ridiculous, but it’s the first time I’ve ever sewn anything. Next time, I’m sure it will go faster. Will there be a next time? I’m not sure. One blogger I read buys women’s silk scarves at thrift stores and makes pocket squares with them. I could see doing that if the fabric was something I was looking for. I will probably not make this a habit, but when new pocket squares are anywhere from $20-100+, making one for next to nothing is a great way to boost your wardrobe.

And now….PRESENTING….

THE POCKET SQUARE!!!!

A jacket with a square is a happy jacket.

If you want to read more about pocket squares, I suggest this post at the Art of Manliness.  If you want some examples of dudes rocking pocket squares the right way, check out this blog and this blog.

Henry Martyn on growing up

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Henry Martyn was the first Protestant missionary to Persia. He spent several years in India, then went to Persia in 1811. On his 30th birthday, en route to Persia, he wrote this. (Keep in mind that he’s just spent the last 5-6 years diligently laboring in translation and preaching.)

“February 18, anchored off Bombay. This day I finished the thirtieth year of my unprofitable life, the age at which David Brainerd finished his course. I am now at the age at which the Savior of men began his ministry, and at which John the Baptist called a nation to repentance. Hitherto I have made my youth and insignificance an excuse for sloth and imbecility, now let me have a character and act boldly for God.

He labored in Persia for a little over a year and died at the age of 31. His life was certainly not wasted in “sloth and imbecility”. His determination is inspiring.

Why Should the Fire Die?

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My family has been pursuing mission work for several years. It’s something that has always been in our plans, always on the horizon. I say “always”, but we did have many discussions when we were dating to get on the same page with it. When we were finally engaged, we knew that we were going to pursue it. We immediately began taking steps to prepare. We met with missionaries and mission organizations. We sought counsel from everyone we could. There was a clear desire in us to go, but we knew we had to be patient for the timing to be right. We could say with certainty that with what we knew and the responsibility we felt, we couldn’t not go (or at least do everything in our power to go).

In time, that fire has dwindled. Somewhere in the past six months, that eager waiting has turned into uncertainty. Is this really what we’re supposed to do? Isn’t our work here worth staying for? Where do we best fit? We’ve always tried to approach life as if we weren’t going. We can’t just sit on our hands and wait for the opportunity to come to us. We resolved to be plugged in at our church, serve the local refugee community, and try to love our neighbors. And that’s what we’ve done. The Lord brought us to a new neighborhood near the university. He’s brought us to a church around the corner from our house where we can serve alongside a like-minded pastor. We’re involved with a refugee ministry weekly. Suddenly, life at home has become much more desirable and purposeful.

We (myself, really) started to put off our application for the missions organization we’ve been involved with. The work is all on our plate to do now. We have a lot of writing to do, and I’ve got some weight to lose. The motivation to get those things done just disappeared. I had always taken the approach of doing everything I could to proceed with the application process, and trust the Lord to open up the opportunities. Now, I find myself not wanting to do the work to finish. What happened? Was this God pulling us back some, or was it me being a moron?

As I was pondering this, a question came to mind. What changed? Just a couple of years ago we both felt that we had to do everything we could to go. The thought of 6,000+ unreached, unengaged people groups weighed on us. That hasn’t significantly changed. The proportion of believers in America versus the proportion is the darkest places was nauseating. That hasn’t significantly changed. The Biblical call to preach Christ where he has not been named resonated in our hearts. The Bible certainly hasn’t changed. So what changed? Our circumstances certainly did. We’d moved to a new house and a new church. But I wouldn’t think those would cause this numbing. What else could it be?

The answer was pretty unsettling. I had let the passion for missions fade in my own heart and in my wife’s heart. Fire has to be stoked. You have to inject some oxygen to feed the flames and keep it going. You have to nurture your passion or it will die. I had failed to do that. Now, here we are actually thinking about staying! I knew right away that this was the problem, and I knew exactly how it happened.

Somewhere around the middle of last year, I found myself growing comfortable, slipping into a routine. My joy and love for the Lord was fading some. (I think this is a pretty normal thing for believers, so it’s not necessarily alarming. How you respond is what counts.) I was going through the motions, but was emotionally and spiritually unengaged. Eventually, this led to missing more quiet times, not leading in family worship times, and not leading my wife spiritually. My joy faded more and more. Yes, 2011 had it’s share of difficulties, but I wasn’t really putting up a fight.

I sought counsel from many people about this, pastors and friends. Of all of the advice given, one constant was this: Practice the means of grace in faith that God will one day restore joy and passion. Read your Bible and pray, especially when you don’t want to. Continue in fellowship with other believers, especially when you don’t want to. Sing with the congregation. Actively listen to your pastor’s sermon. God works in us through these things. If, in my complacency, I give these things up, I shouldn’t be surprised that this lull continues. I ought to seek God, and in fact my seeking is fruit of my believing.

So, the answer to my lack of joy was clear (above), but what about this dying flame of missionary zeal? How do you stoke that? (The two are related, obviously. If I’m not finding joy in the Lord, I’ll likely not be zealous about missions.) I thought back to what had fanned the flame in years past, and there were several answers there. I came up with five, in no particular order.

Read the Bible - Studying Acts, Romans, certain Psalms, and many other passages has always increased my zeal for God’s glory among the nations. Our God is a missionary God and this is a missionary Book.

Read about missionaries - There is certainly some romanticizing of the great historical missionaries. We can’t all be Brainerds or Judsons or Elliots. But I’ve always found great encouragement and inspiration in reading about these great saints. Hearing about what they gave up to give themselves to a lost people is incredibly stirring.

Pray for God’s fame among the nations - We can pray for missionaries, for people groups, for governments.

Pray for God to send us out - Jesus commanded us to pray for God to send workers out. I’ve always found in the past that praying to be one of those workers fed my desire to be one.

Listen to sermons/lectures and read books on missions - Certain preachers and writers have inspired us greatly to pursue missions, but we’ve fallen out of practice of reading/listening together.

Ultimately, I don’t know whether we’ll stay or go, but I’m not content to let my spiritual (or physical) laziness be the reason we stay. I have resolved to devote time to these disciplines and to lead my wife in them. May God help me, and may he rekindle in us the desire to spread his glory among those who have never heard. Would you pray for us to that end?

 

Bonus: A few resources on missions that have most impacted me.
“Doing Missions When Dying is Gain”, John Piper (sermon)
“Holy Ambition: To Preach Where Christ Has Not Been Named”, Piper (sermon)
Let the Nations Be Glad, Piper (book)
To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson, Courtney Anderson (book)

Style inspiration: Nigel Cabourn tweed

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What you are about to behold, is the most awesomest coat I think I’ve ever seen. The good news: It’s on sale. The bad news: It’s still around $1,000. I have approximately zero chance of ever owning this coat, but it sho is purdy.

If you’re loaded, you can purchase it here: http://www.coggles.com/item/Nigel-Cabourn/1940S-DB-Brown-Harris-Tweed-Jacket/9B1G

NIGEL CABOURN

1940’S DB Brown Harris Tweed Jacket

Nigel Cabourn – mens 1940’s inspired double-breasted jacket in brown Harris Tweed. The jacket comes with a slight peak lapel, stand pocket three flap closure hip pockets, tan leather elbow patches and a double rear vent. Internally the jacket is cotton lined with a single chest pocket and hang loop.

Wardrobe…

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Part of my journey toward manliness includes dressing more manly, and less…um…boyish. I wear business casual stuff at work (boring!), and usually a t-shirt or polo and jeans whenever I’m not at work. Is there anything wrong with that? No. But, I’m starting to see that I need to give clothes a little more credit. Impressions, especially first impressions, are pretty important, and your clothes, your style, do influence people’s impressions of you. Being well-dressed will also help boost your own confidence. (For more reasons why being well-dressed matters, read this article.)

How you dress says something about who you are. “So, who am I?” thought I. I know what I am not. I am not a college student. I’m not a wanna-be rock star. I’m not a young father trying to hold onto cool by dressing like a college student or wanna-be rock star. (Yes, I have a pair of Toms, but I won them fair and square in a my-shoes-are-so-old… contest). Nor am I a suburbanite soccer dad who wears Dockers or dad jeans and those trail shoes and sweater vests all the time. I’m not manly (or bearded) enough to be a lumberjack. I’m not an urbanite. I’m not this or this or this or this.  So, I know what I don’t like and what kinds of things don’t “fit”, and I have a few ideas about what I do like and what may “fit”, but I think this is going to be an evolving thing. My “style” will evolve over time.

I started reading about clothes. What is men’s style about? How can you build a wardrobe with clothes to match all occassions? I know that I want to buy quality clothes, not just fill my closet with cheap junk that will fall apart in a year or two. Style Forum, Art of Manliness, and A Tailored Suit have been very helpful in learning the whys/hows of style, and what makes a quality shirt, or pant, or shoe. Building a comprehensive, quality wardrobe is going to take some time.

It’s also going to take some money. Quality and quantity come at a price. Money is tight ’round here (just like everywhere else), so it’s really out of the question to do all of this at once. I’ve decided to take the long-view. They say that to build a complete wardrobe instantly would cost over $5,000, but if you spread it out over 5-10 years and take advantage of sales, you can save a ton and possibly bring it down to $2k-ish. If I buy quality items that will last 20+ years, that seems like a worthy investment. There’s also a wild card that can save me a LOT of money: thrift stores. In Memphis, you can find pants for $5, sport coats for $8, and suits for $15. If you’re patient and know what to look for, you can find some nice stuff for dirt cheap (really, there’s a whole blog about it).

I feel prepared for this step, but I think having the patience to slowly build is going to be difficult. I’ll take you along this part of the journey, posting updates about things I’ve bought (or haven’t bought) and why.

If you want to know more about how you can build your wardrobe, I found this article to be extremely helpful.

“If God were your Father, you would love me…”

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My Bible reading plan has me meditating on John 8 right now. Jesus’ words in v 31-59 have struck me afresh…and hard, too.

In John 8:12-30, Jesus is teaching the people, and in v 30 it says, “As he was saying these things, many believed in him.” In v 31, it continues, “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him…” Jesus goes on from v 31-59 to absolutely blast the people for disbelief, not being children of God, not receiving his teaching, and lying about their position with God. It all ends with (surprise!) an attempted stoning. Seems….harsh, no?

Remember Matthew 13, the Parable of the Sower? Jesus says that some, when they hear the Word, believe and persevere. Some hear and do not believe at all. Finally, some hear and believe for a moment, then the “cares of the world” choke out that belief and they fall away (v 22). In John 8:31, Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” Clearly, these who believed did not “abide” in his teaching. They received Jesus as a prophet or teacher, maybe, but not as the Messiah. Their belief was only skin deep. We would expect Jesus to be patient and understanding, and try to bring them along to a deeper belief. Instead, he rips into their disbelief with some seriously scathing remarks.

I encourage you to go read the entire passage. I just want to quote some of the things he says, and ask you, is this the Jesus you love? Can you call yourself a child of God? I am amazed at Jesus’ boldness, and amazed that anyone could read that and say, “He was a great teacher, but nothing more.” He must have been insane if he weren’t the Christ!

(from v 41-47)
They said to him…”We have one Father – even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here…Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires…Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
(from v 53-59)
[The Jews said] “Are you greater than our father Abraham…And the prophets…Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him…

I hope you hear his words.

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