Radiant Beams

christmas_candle

That is the candle I lit at our church’s Christmas service this year.  Since our church takes the last Sunday in December off every year this was a time to reflect on 2013 as we ended our last time in church for 2013.

As we sang the song Silent Night, the pastor invited any of us who wanted to, to come to the front and light a candle representing that God did something significant in your life this year.

Maybe God intervened in a way in your life this year that was unexpected.  We’d love for you to light a candle as we sing and celebrate with you and others.”

Thankfully in moments when I am a bit frozen and afraid to draw attention to myself, my wife has the intuitiveness to lead.  She leaned over and whispered, “You want to go get a candle with me?”

Tears.

Silent Night is only 3 verses long, so we didn’t have an hour to meditate on 2013.  But the year flashed before my eyes as candles were lit all over the room.

If I wrote a lengthy book I wouldn’t be able to adequately describe 2013.

But graciously, God showed up in the Avera’s lives in Atlanta in ways that were incredibly unexpected and totally ridiculous.

 

“God, do you think I’m annoying?”

“No.  I’ve never thought that.  I’ve never grown tired of being close to you.”

“God, can you be my mother?”

“My grace is sufficient enough that I don’t have to be confined to only the role of Dad.  I can meet you where you are.  And I’m willing to open my arms to you and reveal my love for you in whatever way you most need at the moment.  My answer is yes.  I can be your Dad, Brother, and even your Mom”.

 

Those reading this will never be able to fully understand why we asked those questions last year.  Definitely won’t be able to understand the answers and the depth to them in the way that we were able to.

And that is ok.

As the third verse of Silent Night was sang and we held our candles I openly cried (mini-shoulder heaving occurred).  And it felt so good.

Because I was still holding onto my wife’s hand.

And Jesus was still holding onto us.

And the three of us were crying and thanking each other for the love that was shared between us in such an intimate way in 2013.

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Believe

I’m in the 3rd week of a 12 week course and I’m subjecting myself to something, at this point, I’m not so sure I’m ready for.  Problem is, I’d never be ready for it.  Brittany is in week 7 or 8 of this course as well.

The class is called Inner Healing and it is associated with No Longer Bound, the program that my cousin, Adam, has recently graduated from.

There are a ton of things to say about this class.  And I probably won’t write much of anything about it.  You’d have to be there.  And I don’t really care to share.

It is incredibly emotional and honest.  And I’m not used to that at all.

One of the goals is that by the end of the class I would be able to feel:

Pain/Love

in real time.  in a way that I currently do not.  and more so than I ever have.

 

On our first night we discussed an idea that has kind of overwhelmed my thought process.  The idea is this:

You always do what you believe.

 

Like, the drug addict uses drugs because he/she believes that the drug use is better than the alternative.  They might say, “well, I believe that it would be better to face my pain than to use drugs and steal from my family.”

But that is a lie.

We always do what we believe.

And in that case, the addict believes that drug use/abuse is a better option than anything else.

No matter what my lips profess to “believe”, the truth is that I always do what I believe.

And as I begin to dive into my actions and evaluate my lack of reactions, I begin to discover what I actually believe about life/myself/God.

And the more honest I get, the more I see that what I say I believe is often times a lie to cover up what my life’s work has shown that I, indeed, actually do believe.

So here goes another 9 weeks or so for me.

And I’m not ready for it.

 

Grandmama

gmama

 

Tonight I spent some time grieving the death of Grandmama.

I’m not sure where it came from.  I think it was because I was setting out to write a post about “grieving” in general.  We just got back from an incredible trip we went on with incredible people, and there is now a time of grieving the fact that that trip is over.

I realized I hadn’t written a blog post since Grandmama’s death.  Not a real one anyways.

Maybe it is because she commented on every blog I ever wrote.  Not usually on the website, but in a private email or text or phone call to me the next day.

Maybe I just couldn’t bring myself to stare that truth in the eyes until now.

I could write about a lot of things related to her.

Her brownies were out of control. And I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

How many other people would go to their Grandma’s house to watch a football game and be outcheered by her?

Her undeniable love for little children that was evident by the fact that she kept every scrap piece of everything if it could possibly one day be made into something to use to teach a children’s Sunday School lesson.

Her refrigerator in the house and the one in the garage always full of at least 3 different kinds of soda.  One time I asked her about the stockpile of cans that never fell below 30+.  “They aren’t for me.  They are for whoever comes over here.  You want one to take with you?”

Instead of rambling on, I’ll share with you her last email to me.  After every blog I posted she would always send me an email about it or call me to chat with me about it on the phone.

No matter what the situation was, Grandmama always placed great value on my life.  She always was encouraging towards me.  Literally, always.  I can’t say that about anyone else.  Meaning, there were multiple times she went out of her way to say/write something uplifting to me that was totally unnecessary.  Here is the last written thing I got from her:

 

Your “Journey” is really awesome, and thrilled my heart with your singing.  I dont know if I ever told you how much your singing has touched my heart.  I’ve shed many tears not just with your singing, but the words that came out of your mouth.  God’s songs have always been a huge part of my life, and I’ve shed many tears over them.  Sometimes it’s in worship service, sometimes riding along in the car, sometimes while working around the house, and sometimes just sitting quietly and listening to what He wanted me to hear.  I know you will use the talent God gave you in His timing, but in the meantime He wants us to Psalm 46:10.
I am so thankful to God that He gave you to me, a wonderful grandson in so many ways.  I am so thankful that you love our Lord and truly want to live your life for Him and do whatever He leads you to do.  

I love you and Brittany more than I can put in words.
Grandmama

 

 

Pretty Please

In less than 1 month Brittany and I are heading to San Salvador, El Salvador to take part in a mission trip that will benefit the organization La Casa de mi Padre.  It is a children’s home and we will be spending a week there to help further construction on the growing campus as well as love on some kids who could probably use it.

Brittany and I will be headed there, along with another married couple, to lead a group of 18 high school students from the church that we attend in a life changing experience.

I’d love for you to keep up with us by visiting our Trip Blog:

http://www.elsalvador1.com

As of the time of this post I still need at least 50 people/families to donate $20.

I could really use some help.

I am incredibly appreciative of those of you that have already helped out financially as well as offering encouragement to us.  If you wouldn’t mind passing on this link to spread that word, that would be baller.

If you think it would be possible to donate $20ish within the next couple of weeks, please visit my page and pass it along…

https://globalx.managedmissions.com/MyTrip/jasonavera1

You’re the bomb. Dot com.

Keep up with our blog page July 6-13 and get day by day updates on everything.

-Jason

5 things learned in 5 years

Over the weekend Brittany and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary.  We saw the Broadway show Sister Act at the Fox Theatre and stayed at a hotel in downtown ATL.

It was awesome.  Figured I’d jot a few things down.

5 things I’ve learned in 5 years of marriage:

1. Being married is either one of the best things, or it is one of the worst things.  There really isn’t much middle ground.  People either constantly “joke” about how much they hate their wife/husband, or they never joke about it.  I can’t imagine painting Brittany in a negative light to someone at my job who doesn’t know her.  Even Especially for the sake of a laugh.  I honestly think my wife is awesome.  And I have no problem telling people that.  Even if they don’t believe me b/c of their own experiences with marriage or their parent’s marriage.

2. The most influential person in my life is Brittany.  Even though I love to read/listen to great communicators/artists, none of those people have the influence on my life that Brittany does.  Every week at church we hear a sermon and pretty much every week I think “that was one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard.”  And yet I’ve learned more about Jesus through the relational interaction with my spouse than the best sermon I’ve ever heard.  I can listen to people talk about the love of God and yes, it is moving to me.  But only 1 human has to live with and be in a relationship with all of the junk that I bring to the table day after day.  And knowing full well I don’t measure up, she continues to accept me and love me for real.  Great acceptance leads to great influence. And Brittany is far more influential in my life than any famous person ever could be.

3. How I define success.  Before I was married I wasn’t really sure of what I thought “success” was.  I thought it was something like “being a good person”.  But now I’ve come to better understand what success really looks like for me personally.  For Jason Avera success is defined by how much the people who are closest to me…love me.  That if you know me the best/most, you love me the best/most.  It is a real and measurable way for me to measure success/failure in my life.  Brittany knows me better than anyone else on the planet does.  She has a clear view of who I am.  All the strengths and all of the failures that make up me.  And with that in mind, she loves me better than anyone else on the planet.  In the same way my kids will one day know far more about me than anyone else will.  And if they don’t love me more than people outside our home, than that will be 100% my fault.  Not theirs.  Brittany loves me deeply.  Not simply an emotional feeling.  But day after day continues to show me that she loves me.  I am incredibly successful.

4. I’m selfish.  Marriage isn’t nearly as “hard” as people in my life led me to believe beforehand.  I’m kind of bummed at the wrap that it got.  Hanging out with my wife on the couch all day isn’t hard.  It is quite enjoyable.  We have gone though several difficult situations since we have been married, but I’ve never mistaken that for our relationship being difficult.  The only time that things are tough is when I come to understand how selfish I can be and I’m not getting what I want.  Being married kind of forces you to see the depths of who you are.  And if you don’t want to honestly look at who you are, then I’m sure that marriage could be a battle royale.  But if, from time to time, you are willing to own up to being selfish and decide to be a little more selfless…than things are pretty great.

5. Jesus is my only legitimate option for complete fulfillment.  If I place that burden on Brittany, she will never measure up.  Because Brittany was not intended to provide me with a peace that transcends all understanding.  On occasion, we can wrap our clenched fists around something other than Jesus and try to wring out of that thing/person the joy/peace/acceptance/love/fulfillment that they were never intended to bring to us.  Being married can make you do this to your spouse more often than any other person/thing.  And in doing so, you strangle that relationship to the point of near death.  And it isn’t even the other person’s fault.

Hebrews 12

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus (not your spouse/parents/boss/children/siblings/friends), the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Saturday

This was something I wrote 3 years ago on an old blog.  It still resonates in my heart.

——————

As I sit here at the end of a great Easter weekend I can’t help but think about Saturday.

We have Good Friday.

We have Easter Sunday.

And then there is the in between.

For those that knew and loved the human Jesus…. for those that were his friends….his parents…his disciples…Saturday was real.

They hadn’t made it to Sunday yet.

For those people, Saturday was full of many things:

confusion.

doubt.

anger.

tears.

brokenness.

wonder.

anxiety.

and the list goes on and on.

Those closest to Jesus had to be trying to piece together all of his words dealing with his end.  It wasn’t spelled out so clearly for them.  Jesus didn’t exactly say: “Ok, here is the plan.  In a few days I am going to be arrested, beaten severely, executed, publicly mocked and scorned.  You need to know that I’m going to be crucified and I am fine with that.  It is all a part of the plan.  Please don’t worry too much.  You see, two days later on Sunday I’m going to do another miracle and God is going to allow me to come back to life.  So don’t worry too much on Friday when I die.  It is just what needs to go down so that I can finish what I started.  Lets all meet in the parking lot of the new Publix on Sunday and I’ll give you a little advice on how to carry things on because I’m going to have to head back up to heaven after that.”

It didn’t go down like that.

They actually met at Winn-Dixie.

But seriously, this is the closest Jesus came to telling them straight forward what was going to happen:

17Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 18“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

Then the story changes subjects and they had to be thinking, “um….what was that?”

So Saturday arrives and they are sifting through their thoughts.

can’t believe he is dead.

They had been with this man, this deity, for quite a while.  They had heard all of his stories and lessons and parables and answers.  They had watched him do things that they had never seen anyone do.  He had talked about living forever.  In their minds they thought that the Messiah was going to help them overthrow the Roman government.  He was their King.

More personally, he was their friend.

and he was dead.

They doubted him, because they were human and had just witnessed a tragedy.  The bible only mentions 1 disciple at the death scene.  Along with a few others, the one that they called “Savior” died nearly alone.  Most of them had escaped probably with the fear that something similar would happen to them.  We know that Simon Peter told people he didn’t know Jesus.  I’m sure he wasn’t the only one.

They had memories of him.  He had spoken things that they could never forget.  Even if they recalled what he said about the Son of Man being crucified and raised the third day… the pain was overwhelming.

And so was the fear.  Fear for themselves.  Fear for their lives.  Fear that they had just wasted their lives the last few years and severed relationships for this man.  Fear that they had left their jobs to follow this person and become homeless for a while and now he was dead and they must have looked like fools…

Our lives as followers of Jesus take place entirely in this idea of Saturday.

We are confused.  We are full of doubt.  We wrestle with these things year in and year out until the day that we die.  We know the stories of Jesus.  He has said things that we cannot forget.  We know that he talked about “preparing a place for us”.  We know he said that he was coming back again at some point.  But we are afraid at the same time.  If this isn’t real we have been wasting a lot of our lives.  We have seen traces of him.  But we haven’t put our hands in his wounds.

We have been left by Jesus with hope.  But there are certain points in our Saturday that are so real and so painful and so frustrating that it is hard to hold on to that hope.  Life is so real.  And we don’t know exactly how Sunday is going to play out.  And on occasion we probably wonder if it will.

I think of Sunday and try to wonder what it was like when each close friend and family member of Jesus saw him alive.  In an instant all of their fears were relieved. The hope was no longer hope.  It was definite.  And it was validated by the only one who can replace hope with a reality that is much better.

That Sunday must have been so wonderful.  So beautiful.  And just as real as Saturday was.

For us, Sunday is coming.  Hope will be definite.  Our entire lives will be validated and all of our fears will be relieved.

Saturday has worn us down so much.

But in an instant Sunday will make us forget about Saturday.