The Ways of Hide and Seek

My heart racing as I ran down the hallway, I begged God, and everyone around the house to just give me a little whimper, a whistle, something, to let me know I was close. Frantically opening every door and cabinet, ripping all of the sheets off lived-in beds, I began to lose hope of ever finding anyone.

I crumbled to the floor, desperate, defeated.  Just as I had began to lose hope and started developing a foraging and hunting strategy for my five year old self to survive, I heard a slight tapping downstairs.

This was either one of my family members, our poodle Princess, or a terrifying ghoul, but at this point I was willing to welcome any other being of existence with open arms. I got up off the floor in my misery and began walking gently on tipped toes, creeping along the hallway and looking back and forth intently for the culprit of the taps.

The taps would happen intermittently. Surprisingly enough every time I would begin losing hope that I would never find my family again, they would start up lightly and gently, quietly reminding me not to give up hope.

The taps became louder as I got closer to the basement, so I rushed towards them! Just as I rounded the corner a hand zoomed around and wrapped me up.  I was lifted into the air and a low, but welcome voice growled happily “Got ya!!” There I was in my father’s arms giggling away the fear that had filled me, safe and overjoyed.

There are times in my life when I have the exact same feeling as I did playing the seeker. Lost. Alone. Hopelessness and helplessness permeating through the unknown. Knocking down every door I can find, frantically searching for even the smallest shreds of clarity or guidance.

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Unknowingness has a way of debilitating me. It wraps around me whispering lies that become all too true in my head. It creates noise and an alternate reality that is easily available and believable to me.  It paralyzes me from moving forward. I easily give up.

While this is happening God has never given up and will never give up on me. He gently taps against the walls of my heart, patiently waiting for me to tune in and listen.

Am I truly listening for Him, or am I caught up in the present circumstances, so focused on the fear and what is happening around me that I am deaf to the whisper of the spirit?

Psalms 46:10 states, “Be still and know that I am God.” God is with me just as my father was during hide and seek. My ability to hear Him is correlated to my stillness. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It is accessible, always.

This day may we still ourselves long enough to hear the whisper and have the courage to follow it. May we find the Father and allow Him to wrap his arms around us tight. In His arms we are safe. We are secure. We are full of joy.

 

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Who am I?

I remember the sweat dribbling from my forehead down onto my quivering lip as I stared straight into the face of a giant beast they called a defensive tackle. He was at least 4 and three quarters my size and I could tell he loved the taste of a small fourth graders blood.

Football players at line of scrimmage ready to snap football

I’m no football expert but I still have no idea why the coach decided to put a boy with the stature of Frodo Baggins on the offensive line across from the bloodthirsty, orc-sized humans on defense. What’s even more confusing is that I continued to listen to everyone around me, line up right of center, and get squashed on every play.

I enjoyed watching football with my dad and listening to him and my cousins talk about it relentlessly, but the truth is I had no business being on the football field. I wasn’t fast enough for running back, I was too scared of getting hit to be a quarterback, I had a 40 yard dash time reminiscent of a soaking wet sloth, and if I mustered all the strength I had, I might have been able to topple over a newborn calf, but nothing close to a living, breathing football player.

What I did love was reading and listening to music, spending hours practicing piano and writing stories of animals and people defeating dark forces. I would wake up before dawn and sneak into the kitchen to make a mouth watering concoction of whatever I could find in the cabinets, and then I would spend the rest of my day following people around talking their ear off about the most recent game I was playing or the plot points of my new favorite book.

So why on earth did I want to quit doing everything I loved to get repeatedly pounded into the ground?

I wanted to belong.

We moved to a small rural town in Oklahoma when I was eight and I was afraid the people who surrounded me wouldn’t accept me for the person that I was. So I became what I thought they wanted me to be.

I decided to choose “safety and comfort” in the the acceptance of those around me because I was afraid. I was afraid I would have no friends, or that if people saw the real and quirky me they would laugh and walk away.

Choosing the path of conformity seemed like the best option at the time but it was often at the cost of true belonging in God and who He created me to be.

There is a whisper (the Holy Spirit) inside of each us that speaks to our soul, that encourages us, that speaks to the good of who God created us to be.  When we choose to listen to this, to pursue this, to believe the whisper, it leads us to freedom, and living through it we can accomplish great things.

In competition with that whisper though, there is a mind numbing shout. That shout says things like “you will never be good enough unless you are like them.” “You won’t be accepted if you do this, so go and do that.” “You need to be this,  you should have done that” …. and the list goes on and on.

Shame lives in the words need and should. Shame lives in the thoughts and feelings of “not enough.” It feeds off fear and insecurity.

Shame has no place in the whisper. In fact, the more intently we listen to the whisper the quieter the shouts become. Shame does not thrive when we live out of a place of belonging, and it ceases to exist when we live out of the belonging that comes from being a child of the Living God.

I am so glad that I don’t have to continue to line up on a football field I have no business being at to find my belonging.

It has taken my whole life to realize that I don’t have to keep pretending to be something I’m not. God created me to be Joseph Hoffman and no one else.

There are good days and there are a lot of bad days. It’s so much easier to listen to the shouts then it is to truly hear and listen to the whisper.

The truth is God is overjoyed at who he created me to be and loves me for me. And the same goes for all of us.

Ephesians 2:10(NRSV) says this” 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

What would happen if we chose to believe that God not only loves us but He likes us?  He is in love with what he created. Not just us at our best but in all of the goofiness and awkwardness, the falls, the triumphs and especially in the ugly crying.

I believe that we live our best lives when we truly see ourselves how God sees us, which is loved, redeemed, beautiful and belonging.

This week may we choose to listen to the whisper, and walk in the confidence that we are children of the living God.

 

 

Jump anyway

There I was, sopping wet and shivering, standing 15 feet suspended in the air looking down at a blue expanse that seemingly spelled my doom. Clutching the sides of the death trap I tried to steady my breathing and not curl up into fetal position.

What was it about this water in front of me that called me to jump, and what was this other terrifying sensation that insisted that I do nothing of the sort?

Exhilaration followed by paralyzing fear and then followed by a decision I had to make. Jump and discover the unknown, or climb back down to the safety of solid ground and certainty.

I hate to admit it but I have made the decision to climb back down those steps more times than I can count. Each time carrying a burden of shame and regret back down with me.

But man, I remember when I finally took that leap. Air flew through my air, the world raced past me as an  exhilarating sound escaped my lungs, and then the splash!  Ice cold water enveloped me for a second like a great big hug and then I rose up out of the water, feeling free and finding myself rushing back to the stairs to experience it all again.

 

Freedom. Exhilaration. Awe. Bewilderment.

It was all waiting for me at the end of the jump and I absolutely loved it.

That summer I spent hundreds of hours racing back up that rickety ladder to experience the joy of the jump over and over again. Summer faded into autumn, and the seasons took their course, taking the memories of those feelings with them.

The next summer I climbed up the ladder again, I saw the water welcoming me back, and I dove with a giant grin on my face, just to have the surface greet me with the loudest sound and the most painful belly flop that pool had ever seen. This did not feel like freedom, and exhilaration: this felt like betrayal.

And just like that, all of the joy that I had expereienced the previous summer, all of the the fun memories, were wiped away from my memory with one resounding SPLAT!

All I could seem to believe about that water then was that it was unforgiving and cold and frigid. Fear became an unwelcomed guest and the terror at the top of the diving board appeared once more.

 

The times that I’ve experienced the pain of a belly flop when jumping off that platform make the next jump harder if not paralyzing. It’s much easier for me to climb back down the ladder into comfort and certainty instead of experiencing that pain again.

It’s the same with life isn’t it?

It can look like a lot of different things.  A new relationship, a job opportunity, a move, etc.. It starts with excitement and endless possibilites, but sometimes something  happens and I leave the situation feeling hurt, betrayed and a lot of the times angry at God for the outcome. These times or situations feel like full belly flops and they hurt.

This has translated into my life as the fear of failure, fear of the unknown, and anxiety about outcomes I can’t control, forgetting about the amazing things that I have experienced and the times that I have felt abundant joy and God’s prescence in my life.

Has anyone else been there?

John 10:10 Says the thief comes to kill, steal and destroy.  Fear is a thief. Fear will do anything it can to keep me on the sidelines, at the top of the ladder looking down, or paralyzed from making any decisions. It will remind of the pain and all of the things that could go wrong. It wants to keep from doing anything, especially jumping, trusting.

Yesterday I was having coffee with a friend and he reminded me of something.

God is at the end of each jump regardless of the outcome. He celebrates with me in the triumphs and will be there to comfort me in the flops. The water is cool and refreshing and filled with His love and His strength.

To experience this I must jump.

Jumping is scary, especially when all we can remember or feel beforehand is the time we were met with a jarring landing instead of a welcome embrace.

God’s challenge to us is to jump anyway.

Joshua 1:9 ” Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” 

John10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

This week may we jump and experience God’s love in a new and profound way. May we live this life we have been given to the full.

 

The Lego-tastrophe

Proverbs 25:4 “Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel..”

IMG_9160There are days when cleaning can be fun, carefree, and filled with plenty of dancing and sing alongs; the other day, however, the lego table decided it should go otherwise. As I was wiping down the gameroom, my hand ran across something that caused me to pause my Moana soundtrack singalong and stare down in sheer horror.

I’ll spare you the graphic details, but it did involve layers of grime, hair, and fluids mostly associated with allergies and flu-season and kids that don’t know what the purpose of a kleenex is.

What once was a lego paradise gleaming with creativity and bright colors became a land bogged down by months of build up. To clarify, the lego table was completely sanitary and still functional. It gets sprayed down with disinfectant every week, and hazards are removed so that kids can have an awesome time building and creating every weekend. The issue is what lay beneath: things that build up overtime and tend to cause problems when they are not taken care of intermittenly or regulary.

This is not a thesis on how to ensure a clean play area in the elementary room (everyone does an incredible job of creating an excellent, safe, and clean environment for our kids). Instead, it reminded me of what Ben taught on last week, and something that happens in my life all of the time.

Hiding.

Isolation, neglect, and fear of failure (or of what people might think) lead me to shove a lot of things in my life under the proverbial rug. When fear, shame, doubt, insecurity, sin, you-name-it, go undealt with for a long period of time, they can cause all the other areas in my life to lose their shine. I feel myself slowing down and becoming frustrated with all sorts of minor things until it usually blows up in my face, or until I have the courage to step out of hiding and face whatever it is.

Last week Ben said this: “Forgiveness starts when you step into faith. But healing starts when you step out of your hiding place.”

Confession is a spiritual discipline, and one that I am terrible at. What if we as a team reguraly took inventory of our lives, confessed what isn’t working,  prayed for one another, and moved forward in the strenghth that Christ gives us? That is such an amazing picture of wholeness and community.

James 15:16 Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. 

What is one thing in your life that you would love for Jesus to heal? 

What is one step you can take towards healing this week?

Ephesians 3:14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Love you all!

See you this weekend!

JosephIMG_9311

The Doughnut Intervention

If you have known me for very long, you probably know at least one thing about me. I am obsessed with doughnuts. Not just the plain jane kind of doughnuts, but all kinds. I love variations of doughnuts, and experimenting with different sugars and fillings and toppings, and I could go on and on but I’ll save you the time. If you are imagining me as Homer Simpson right now, I would have to say that is minorly correct.

It all started when my grandma brought me an apple fritter from a local doughnut shop when I was about two years old. I fell in love. Both my dad and my grandpa were pastors so I have had my fair share of Sunday School confections over the years.

I remember the first time I ever had a hot and fresh Krispy Kreme doughnut fresh off of the line. It was life changing as a middle schooler living in the middle-of-nowhere-Oklahoma, and several years later it would play a major part in my life.

In August of 2012, at the beginnning of my senior year of college, we discovered that my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. A tumor began to grow at an astromical rate and the doctors decided to attack it aggressively through intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. To say this was devastating is an understatement. I was confused and angry and overwhelmed by the fact that this could happen to someone that I loved so dearly. She didn’t deserve this. She was so impactful in her community as a teacher, a mom, and a pastor’s wife. She moved to Oklahoma City for treatment, so I began making the hour drive a few times a week to see her and sit with her through her treatment.

During this time, I discovered that there was Krispy Kreme right next door to the treatment facility and, conveniently, on my way back home to college. It started out innocently enough – I would stop by on my way home and grab a free hot and fresh doughnut, and sometimes buy a few for my cousins and roommates back home.  One day I saw that they began running a buy one dozen get one dozen free special.

How could I pass on such a great deal?! Before long, I began binge eat a dozen on my drive home, and return with a dozen doughnuts for my friends, family, to share. They were happy and thought I was so thoughtful. I was happy(or at least something other than sad) from the sugary numbness that came with binge eating this addictive confection. Over the course of two months, I gained thirty pounds, began to isolate myself, and leaned into the numbing habit more and more.

I came home one night, sporting my signature box of doughnuts, to my best friend and cousins sitting on the couch with a serious look on their faces. They literally had a doughnut intervention with me.  At first, I thought this was absolutely ludicrous, but as we began to talk, and I started to share how I was really feeling, something started to happen. I began to feel, and to cry, and to let everything go that I had been holding on to and numbing for so long. God used these people in my life to bring healing and change. I felt a huge burden lifted and no longer felt alone.

I tell this story for two reasons. 1. Looking back on the fact that I had to have a doughnut intervention is really funny. 2. I am so thankful that I had people in my life that could be completely honest with me and had the best intentions for me. That moment in my life reminds me of what the church looks like, and what Keala and I want the vision of the 3-5th grade room to be.  A safe and nurturing place for kids and leaders that are walking alongside them. A place where we can pray together, laugh together, and grow together, and when the moment arises, maybe even hold sugary interventions for one another.

We are starting this blog, The Doughnut Diaries, as a medium to share what God is teaching us through this ministry, in our personal lives, and to allow everyone to be open and grow together.

My prayer is that through this and serving on weekends together, God builds an amazing community that supports one another and causes an incredible impact for the Kingdom. See you soon!

With love,

Joseph