… because I might change my mind.

faith

NaBloPoMo 2010 Day 29 — Waiting

Our church is celebrating the advent season this month. With that comes a four-part series each week. Yesterday’s message centered around Waiting for God. (Not the British comedy series.)

There were several points that struck me in this first message. But one stuck out more than the others.
That point is one that shouldn’t really shock me or you. Waiting for God can be frustrating. I don’t think anyone’s ever yelled out “WELL, DUH!!” in church, but it felt really appropriate yesterday, and I was tempted to be the first one.
The key the that fact though is it’s impetus. The waiting is frustrating because we want control. Let’s face it. We’re control freaks. I know I am. If you don’t think I am, ask Jen. (Ask our Scotland leadership team! They’ll tell you. Ha!) It’s not a revelation that I like to be in control, and that’s why I get frustrated or even discouraged while we’re waiting for the Lord to show us the next step in this journey.
I like to control the means and the ends. That’s where the frustration comes in. Because I know what I need. What we need. I live this life. I must know. I know what I can do. What I’m trained for. What jives with my personality. So, of course, I know best.
Wrong.
I only know what I can see. And some of what I can “see” for me and for us is distorted by my fears. Looking through the lens of fear is debilitating. The lens of fear is myopic. Fear says there is only one way forward. Fear says don’t try that because you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Fear says you can’t do that. Fear lies.
What I want to cling to as we wait is that I can trust the Lord to have our best interests at heart, and that He knows what is best for us and that what is best for us may not be what we think is best for us.
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NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 26 — Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving Day is all but done. We had a good one, but a long one as usual. Made it to the gym this morning to work off 500+ calories to credit my gastronomic account for later. Made my oatmeal chocolate chips cookies as is our custom. They turned out well. (For those who care, I start with the Nestle Toll House recipe and add additional sugar, brown sugar and flour to make it a drier mix, plus the oatmeal to add a notion of healthiness.)

My youngest sister (Nicole) and her husband (Jonathan) came over to the house for dinner. Jonathan cooked the turkey at our house. Turned out very good. We made a ham because I’m not that fond of turkey. The ham was nice and will make some great sandwiches for the next several days — maybe even a western omelet if I’m feeling particularly adventurous one morning. Nicole made her favorite side dish: green bean casserole. Jonathan also made his mom’s dressing which was a solid compliment to the proteins on the table (That’s how they refer to the meat selections on Top Chef. Nothing is “fish” or “pork” or “beef.” They’re all “proteins.”). K-Man was his finicky self. He had a bite of ham, a bite of green bean casserole, a bite of dressing. He did eat a heaping portion of baked sweet potato though. With how much energy that kid uses throughout the day, it is a wonder he doesn’t collapse from lack of fuel given his bird-like eating habits. Of course, he was all over the chocolate chips cookies. And they do have oatmeal in them, so he’s fine.
I guess I can’t write a “Thanksgiving” post without the obligatory “I’m thankfuls.” So here goes.
This has been quite a year for us. There is much to be thankful for. I am thankful for:
— My family. For Jen who has encouraged me throughout the year as we work to get the law practice off the ground. For Kee who has regularly reminded me why I want to be at home more to see him grow and develop and live his life. Our parents who have supported our decision to make more time for our family.
— My friends. Who have listened to me for hours as I wade through the rough waters of starting a business. Who have challenged me to be a better husband, father, friend, and person, including the friends I’ve made in Scotland over the last two summers.
— My Lord. This year has been one of constant reliance on my Lord. I’ve been given a lot of talents, but that doesn’t always translate into huge success. But we’ve always had what we need. Not always at the time we would’ve preferred it, but when we had to have it. I’m thankful for the relationship that I have with Jesus because it adds a covering of peace when the winds of anxiety are blowing all around.
— Freedom. The sacrifices made by military veterans and those in uniform today serving all over the world to defend our democracy. We can have blogs like this and write about just about anything because of the freedom those men and women fight to maintain.
— Many otherwise mundane things. Tivo — the ability to freeze television is nothing short of miraculous. My laptop — the freedom to do work on my computer at a coffee shop, the lake, the library, or Scotland makes life a lot easier. 24-hour fitness centers — the freedom to work-out at any hour — even when I can’t sleep in the middle of the night. Costco — because it wouldn’t be right not to be appreciative of a place that sells stamps, tires, baby wipes, half-gallons of salsa, and cheese cakes the size of a stop sign all under the same roof!
There are a multitude of other things — serious and humorous — for which I am thankful. And they all remind me that I am incapable of living this life on my own. Never stop reminding me of that.

Meanwhile, 6 months later …

Things have progressed over the last 6 months. It’s been up and down. I spent some time decompressing from 9+ years of firm life. Jen and I took a trip to St. Pete in February for a few days. I helped coach a little league team in Sandy Springs this spring with a former colleague at my old firm. That was something that I had wanted to do for a while and just had not had time to do. It was a lot of fun working with those 10-, 11-, and 12-year-olds. We did well too. Finished the regular season 21-3 and then swept the league’s “World Series” to cap off the 23-3 season with 2 trophies. I am planning to help out again next year, so it will be fun to watch the 10’s and 11’s become 11’s and 12’s and see how they progress.

On the work front, I spent some time looking at other opportunities, but nothing materialized. So we made the decision to strike out on our own. I’ve opened Pinto Law Office, LLCconveniently located on the first floor — of our house! It’s taken a while for things to get moving in the right direction, but June was a good month for us from a billings standpoint. Now I just need for those clients to pay me. I am primarily doing the same things I was doing before: Labor and Employment Law mostly representing employers. I am open to representing employees as well who have employment issues. I have helped a couple of clients recently with some internal investigations they wanted conducted regarding harassment allegations and potential disciplinary decisions. Feel free to refer business owners, HR managers, and individuals who you may know who need some labor and employment advice. The website isn’t up yet, but I hope to have it finished soon.
July brings another trip to Scotland. This year, Jen is joining the team for our trip over to provide a youth camp for a church outside Glasgow. I am helping co-lead the team this year because last year’s leader moved to Nashville. I am also speaking during the morning sessions, so I have been trying to finalize those talks over the last few weeks. I have a new-found respect for pastors who prepare messages on a weekly basis. Jen is a little uneasy (understatement) about leaving K-Man behind on this trip, but she knows he’ll be fine staying with Grammy while we’re gone. She’s stopped counting the days until we leave; now she’s counting down the days until we return. If you want to follow along with our Scotland trip, there is a website set up where we’ll be providing updates and photos HERE.
One of the things about launching out on our own and giving up a regular paycheck is the uncertainty of it all. It has been, and will continue to be, a constant test of faith. I give it up and take it back all the time. We are learning. But it is hard. Jen has been incredible in her support of this decision. She lived through the years at the firm — which were not all bad — but it wore me down. I was, at times, not a very likable person. (I know, you’re all shocked to hear that! But it’s very true.) Jen endured a lot through that. I owe her. So I sometimes feel bad that after enduring the past 9+ years, she now has to walk through this present mess and the stresses that come with this. But I think, despite all the uncertainty, that she and I are supporting each other very well. Because with the uncertainty comes the freedom to make our own schedule and for me to be around in the middle of the day to do some things with Kee that I hadn’t made time for before. So keep us in your prayers as we walk this walk and see the Lord’s faithfulness shine.

Change

I don’t generally get into New Year’s resolutions. Not that I have anything against resolutions or people who make them every year. I think we need goals. I think we need things to keep us moving in a positive direction.

For 2009, I don’t really have a resolution per se. But I am in a different position than I was in at the beginning of 2008. It’s a different position than I was in on the last day of 2008 for that matter.

I left my position with the law firm at the end of the year. It was a long time coming. I have been tired of law firm life for a couple of years. I knew it. The firm knew it. But we both tried to make it work thinking that a switch might flip and bring me back to the fold — so to speak. Alas, that switch was stuck in the off position.

We’ve known this situation was coming for a couple of months. The firm and I worked out the transition back in mid-October. If I may, I have to thank my firm for its patience with my efforts to figure out what I wanted to do and its efforts to help me find something that better fit my personality and my desire not to sacrifice my family for my career. I only worked at one firm after law school, and I wouldn’t have wanted to work at another one. But for all the great things about that place, it just wasn’t right for me. Eventually.

There was a time when I thought I’d be there for 30 years. I loved working 60-70 hours a week and the perks that came with it. I loved being everyone’s go-to guy. Being the guy everyone knew they could call at or before 7:00 a.m. in an emergency. Being the guy who could be counted on to work 40 hours in a weekend to get a project done. Being a guy who could pull an all-nighter to get that last-minute brief written.

But all that came at the cost of less time for Jen. Less time for friends. Less time for family. Eventually, people stopped asking me to do things because they assumed I was working anyway. Who could blame them? Often when I was able to make it to things, I was either still thinking about work or too freakin‘ tired from work to be present. Even after I’d stopped working weekends, people still assumed I was working all the time.

Part of me got caught up in the idea that I should do my job with excellence, and that that meant I had to be at everyone’s beck and call. And that meant I had to not be around for everything else that I “said” was important to me.

Even before K-Man came along, I knew I needed to review what I was doing compared to what I said was important to me. I knew things had to change. I tried to step back a little. I tried to commit to less. I tried to work fewer hours. But the firm needed to see performance. Law firms measure performance by the number of billable hours an attorney completes. I understand why. That’s the economics of a law firm. I get why that is important to a law firm. But it’s a crappy way to live. That drum beat never stops.

So it was time to quit pretending. It was time to go.

I don’t know what is next, but I am enjoying exploring my options. I am looking at opportunities to work in-house as an attorney for a corporation. But I am also looking at things outside the legal world. I want to make the most of this opportunity to find something that fits me and fits what we need as a family. That may sound easy, but it’s not. We are doing a lot of praying. And we are trusting the Lord to show us what’s next.


What is holding you back?

What is holding you back?

I was talking to someone today, and this question came up. My problem is that the answer to that question has so many layers. I tend to overanalyze things. The phrase “paralysis by analysis” comes to mind to a certain extent. But that doesn’t completely capture it. Some of what holds me back goes back to what I shared on Sunday. I tend to see obstacles and rather than take a shot at something different, I stick with what I know — warts and all — because there’s a certain comfort in the known.

Now if I was talking to someone else who was thinking about what was holding them back, I would be encouraging them not to let doubts about the unknown prevent them from taking a chance on something that may better suit them. So why can’t I give myself the same permission? Or why won’t I give myself the same permission?

What holds you back?


Tomorrow

I heard a good message this morning at church. David was talking about worry. I think most people worry about something from time to time. Some worry more than others, but we all worry about stuff at some point. I’ve heard messages about worry and specifically about the passage in Matthew 6:25 that David talked about today. This wasn’t one of David’s messages that opens a new perspective on the Word for me (but there have been a few of those). But it was a perfect message for where I am at the moment. I don’t really want to share all of the details of that just yet, but suffice it to say, I could identify with the other people in the room today who identified themselves as “worriers.”

Here’s what I heard about worry today (that takes David off the hook if I screw up the paraphrase of his message). The Lord knows that we are prone to worry. But he wants us to know that he wants to take those burdens from us. He provides. He wants to provide. What that provision looks like for me or you or your friend or your co-worker or your classmate or your neighbor is different. But he knows what would work best, and he wants to provide. That doesn’t mean we can just sit around and wait for that provision. We have our part to play. We have to work. Or we have to go to school. Or both. Maybe we have to pray. Maybe we need to ask for help. Maybe in verbalizing what it is that is worrying us we are admitting that it is bigger than us, and we need the Lord’s help.

So why don’t we take advantage of the Lord’s desire to help? Well, if you’re like me, you probably don’t have faith that the Lord really will help you. I’m not saying I don’t believe the Lord can help me. I do. I do because I’ve seen it before. In my own life. So if I’ve seen it before, why do I continue to doubt that he’d do it again? Why is my faith so ephemeral? (David didn’t answer this question today, but it got me asking myself that question.)

I don’t know the complete answer to that question, but saying that “I am just human” is a trite cop out. I know that I am way too self-reliant. I spend too much energy thinking about (read: “worry about”) all the negative ends that could be reached instead of doing what I can do and trusting that the Lord will provide what I/we need.

David shared a couple of images today. One was God with a closed fist and us prying it open to get him to open his hands to us. That is the picture many of us have about making our requests to God when those things we worry about come to the surface. We think we have to convince God to open up to us. In fact, he’s sitting there with his hands open already to give us what we need. If we’ll ask. Without the faith that he can and will provide for us, we don’t bother. How much faith is enough? A mustard seed’s worth. (David’s second image)

David actually had mustard seeds for us to hold to get a visual for the passage in Matthew 17:20 where Jesus commented to his disciples that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could move a mountain. I don’t know if I have that much faith, but I have enough to loosen my grip on the things that I cling too tightly.

So what I’m trying to do is hold onto a Matthew 6:34 perspective: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”


Being in the world …

Switchfoot participated in the Music Builds Tour with Third Day, Robert Randolph and Jars of Clay for a 23-city coast-to-coast from August to mid-October. In December, they have 9 dates opening for 3 Doors Down — a band that you will never hear on one of those mind-numbing, sugary-sweet, same-20-songs-in-the-rotation, Christian music radio stations.

I just think that is cool.