My Life is NOT My Own

My Life is NOT My Own

Life.

This word has been presented to me year after year by platform after platform. I’ve been told it’s found in letting go and I’ve struggled with the thought of my life being out of my control, my life not being my own. This notion has always been in my mind because of repetition in teaching and songs, written in my poems, but never being written on my hear in more then dry erase on a white board.

Since a young age, I lived for the spotlight. Being the youngest, being told go away, you’re too young or not yet were sucker punches that to me then, didn’t make sense. When your identity is in being along, being alone doesn’t leave much identity in the mix.

As grew up, where acceptance lacked, I gained in grit, and a determination to find a way to be known by the likes of anyone willing to notice. With each step into a new year, I tied myself to a new tactic, from sports like baseball and gymnastics to humor and wow factor. I pursued women, lust and pornography to try and fill the empty feeling my shallow friendships and rejection from the last girl couldn’t fill within me.

This lead my into a hatred of myself and my own body, my own mind and identity. My christianity was my life in the light, my vice in conventions and retreats, but it was my shame in the evenings and in the deleted history from my phone screen, but no matter how hard I’ve tried to delete that history, the memories and shame would never delete.

My comfort soon came to me in routine. This routine was comfortable, like being in a prison cell. The routine creates normality, but not because it becomes better, but because there is survival in the numbing, but no, no there is not living. I would start out the week with a community, broken, yet free, spotted with others like me. I would fill my mind with words and quotations, to later fill my schedule with anything that would give me my fix, pick any from above, whatever one I could get. If it was the word of God, I’d meditate on it, to later forget, and be filled with loneliness again, to turn to another vice much more destructive.

See, religion is all fine and dandy, and in the scripture, there are rules that have helped frame me into a moral human being, but without Christ Jesus, those were just words. Words that cut me open and showed me how dirty I really was inside. But oh how life is different on this day!

FLASH BACK: 2014, filled with pain, emptiness, and a glimmer of hope.

FASTFORWARD: 2015,  a year of thanksgiving, renewed life through Jesus Christ, realizing not just everyone else, but I was loved and adopted by my creator, nothing inside could change that he is love and he is light. I became a friend with my savior.

FASTFORWAR: 2016, the pain and emptiness had not been dealt with in full back from 2014, and struggles came and went, and complacency was my reality, but not my intent. Perseverance and self control were in the development stages, as I re-indulged myself in some of the sin I claimed freedom from just a year prior, as I re-applied shame and condemnation daily, like that old Coppertone sunscreen. It went on thick, but the more I rubbed it to try and hide it, it sunk deeper in to the pores of my being.

FASTFORWARD: 2017, a year starting with not wanting any friendship with complacency, not just interested in intimacy with my creator and king, but desiring to give him everything.

NOW: My identity in him is the only thing I’ve ever found to be satisfying, and as I give away my life, I find myself so alive, a truth that only God knows why, but he promises it to all who are willing to give Him their hears. Now when I start to fall into thoughts or actions of lust, personal condemnation, self pity, or identity in people and things, I come back to Jesus quicker then ever, with surrender. I know where life is, I’ve known where life is, but I now confess it with my mouth AND believe it in my heart; Jesus Christ is Lord!

I am not only saved, but set free. If you can’t say the same, I challenge you to join me.

Small Beginnings: Big Dreams

Small Beginnings: Big Dreams

I was always asked as a child what I wanted to be when grew up. I never really knew what to answer. As I grew up, I became a little better at convincing myself and others that I knew what I would “become”. I got older and I took on child acting jobs and became more confident in my acting and singing skills through various avenues. What I have now learned, after changing my perspective of plumbing from a backup plan for acting, to a career, taking on almost four years of working and schooling, I’ve found myself even less sure of “what I will become” then ever.

This, for me, is not something that causes anxiety, like it might many people who grow up in this society where “becoming something” has grown to hold more weight then true joy and engaging in a job and life that is purposeful, involving ones passions and gifting. I won’t say this has always been something I haven’t worried about, but what I’ve been engaging in lately is not full of standardized testing or college courses I don’t care about or things to tailor me towards a path I have no clue if I will be going into, yet I’m always learning.

I hold many interests in which I’ve expressed on my blog, from hiking, to biking, to barbering, to bee keeping, to music, to plumbing (my only job I actually make money at.) and it is such a hard thing for me to sit here and say confidently “I’m a plumber” and leave it at that and it’s even harder for me to blame I will be plumbing for my job for the rest of my life. Each one of these interests honestly have stretched me in so many different directions, I don’t know howdy life runs so smoothly other then the sovereignty and grace of God.

I say all of that to say this: I may look like I know where I’m going and you might not feel like you have a clue, but the truth is we’re all on the same page. None of us know what tomorrow may bring. None of us are made for un-fulfillment. None of us were made to be stuck in a rut.

We were created for greatness! we were created to be fulfilled and to fulfill others through the one who fulfills us. We were created to be creative and to drive positive change, and sometimes even rediscover old simplicities. If you’re reading this, you have purpose. Pursue your passions and as you do so, you’ll find what is important and not to you. Always keep learning in whatever avenue you can, and most importantly, give your passions and gifting to Jesus. Let him take them and make them beautiful in you for his own glory. Either way though, there is no point  in feeling stuck. If you’re going to school, or if it requires schooling to pursue your dreams, go for it! If it takes a call to help with summer help or it takes eight years of school, go after it! Don’t throw away your other dreams though; you might need them down the line; we all have to start somewhere.

 

More Than Just a Kids’ Song: Jesus Loves You

More Than Just a Kids’ Song: Jesus Loves You

If you grew up in the US and ever went to a VBS or Sunday school class, you definitely know at least the beginning of the song “Jesus Loves Me”. If you now doubt the claims made in this song or possibly never really believed them, I can totally relate. At one point, I thought, “who cares if the Bible tells me. I want to know for more reason then a book telling me.”

Over the years, I thought about the lyrics to this song a criticized it:

Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong
Yes Jesus loves me
Oh, yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so
As I think into my life though, I begin to see beyond just love because my Bible “telling me so.” I know that to some, the Bible doesn’t hold much weight, but you can relate to wanting to know something that’s real.
Why does Jesus love you and me?
Where this question can start being looked at is you. You know yourself probably much better then I know you, but I do know, that throughout your life, there have been times where, if you’ve given credit where it’s due or not, Jesus has given you second chances, displayed his beauty to you through his creation, and has given you oppertunities to recognize him and even has given you the invitation to have him as your good father, your sacrifice and savior, your pilot and even your best friend! Now, like I said, you know you, and I know me, and if I look into my life, I do not see a deserving candidate for such an offer. I actually see the opposite: I see a selfish, impulsive human that tries his best to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, but fails every day at it.
When we take a look into our own lives and focus ourselves on the goodness of God, and even look into other’s lives that have lived faithfully to his words and commandments, we see him keep his word and our focus begins to shift. Focusing on the question “why do bad things happen to good people?” and blaming God for actions humanity consciously makes is counter productive to our own growth, because He’s letting us make our own decisions, something I see as incredibly gracious instead of making us into robots or striking us down when we make mistakes. He even allows bad things to happen to us to draw us closer to his side and even provides peace in the process. Every time, it is worth it when it’s done by the side of Jesus. There are countless testimonies that attest to this truth. Contact me if you would like to hear firsthand from cancer survivors, X-drug addicts, dealers and smugglers, X porn addicts, people who have conquered depression or even people that are going through those struggles as we speak.
Moses told the Israelites this as they were going into the land God had promised to them:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV

We read on and hear of God’s faithfulness and the ways He was with them, and still protects them to this day. And for us today, Jesus promised this to those who love him:
15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:15-17 ESV
Jesus has given his spirit to anyone willing to receive him and love him. So as I look at Jesus’ faithfulness and accept his love for me, may I no longer wonder if he loves me and why there’s tension or un-fulfillment when I’m trying so hard, but may I ponder the following questions:
Do I love Jesus?
Am I willing to let his love into my life and give him an opportunity to change my life?
If we only know because the Bible tells us so, and if it is true, isn’t it worth giving him a chance at our heart? I have and I would encourage your “YES” more than anything in this world!

Graduation: That Teacher Liked Me?

Graduation: That Teacher Liked Me?

Being graduation season, it makes me think of some of the student teacher relationships I had in high school. I returned to my school this year to partake in the graduation of a student from The Oak, our youth group. Seeing teachers is always one of the cool things, because they’re still in the same sort of season of life for the most part, while I’ve been in the transitioning years into life, but then you see those certain teachers. You might not all relate to this, but I was a handful for a lot of teachers. Some of them still look at me like, “PLEASE don’t come over here” and I don’t blame them one bit for how I was as a freshman. What surprising to me is the teachers that I think should be doing that that are the most encouraging and positive about their high school experience with me. One teacher this year, one teacher said to my mom something along the lines of, You’ve done really well at raising these two boys (my twin and I). they’re really good boys.

I thought about this thing that most teachers, or at least all of the good ones, are there because they love students and want to see them succeed. As kids, we might be a pain in their classes or just goofy or whatever we might have been that we wish we hadn’t been like, but those teachers weren’t looking for the worst in us! They saw through our immaturity and saw into our potential. What an amazing thing.

My thoughts never just are content with one revelation, but are always looking for parallels and then people have excellent qualities I admire, I never want to just leave      a moment, saying, “that’s a really awesome quality” but I’m wanting to see how I can attain that quality. 

So I was brought to this thought about our Creator: sometimes, I feel super bummed when I make mistakes, especially concerning things that I know contradict the character of God and things that go agents what I know satisfies and agents my own dreams, but if God really is good and is for us, then he’s doing just what those teachers have done, but with even more integrity, love and perfection. He sees past our immaturity in him and he sees into not just our potential, but what he’s created us for! He knows and wants us to be in full realization and relationship with him, but he doesn’t look at us according to right now. He looks at our life, from before conception to eternity, and he loves us.

This really encourages me in two ways, to seek him and to separate myself from anything that gets in-between him and me. It also motivates me to try my best, if it’s in my family, my work, my church, my school or any of the in-betweens, to not first judge, then try and be positive in hopes of making up lost ground, but to change my focus toward having eyes like some of my high school teachers, and eyes like Jesus, who didn’t accept compromise, but saw into who they are becoming or have the qualities of becoming, if people would only recognize them and encourage them in love!

See through the problems into the potential.

 

The Unknown: The Safest Place to Be

The Unknown: The Safest Place to Be

Picture this: you, your biggest dream in life. Your most perfect, comfortable, safe and fun version of life. STOP! Don’t keep reading until you’ve thought this through. OK, now I’ll fill you in on mine so we can track together:

Me, a beautiful, Godly wife, a few children at some point, hopefully at least one being adopted. For my job/ministry, I would be an entrepreneur, helping businesses get started with a foundation of Christ to impact communities with honesty and generosity. I would also own a music venue, and possibly also a barber shop. I would have good teams and managers and live in community and sharing my house with anyone who needs to use it for events, quick stay, rehab, or whatever thing is most needed at this moment.

So, now maybe mine is simpler or more specific then yours, but what I’m getting at is we all have dreams and plans, but something else that might seem all the more present in our lives then our dreams are surprises that devastate us. We’ve all had either family or pets pass away out of nowhere, disease come in to our own or a loved one’s body, lost jobs, friends, or significant others. We’ve found ourself free from a struggle, To have it come back with a vengeance, be it addiction or dependence. If one or all of these things have happened to you or something just as devastating, you know it always comes at a time where it catches you off guard and you are forced to deal with it.

I was talking to a good friend, named Steve today and he was telling me about the ups and downs in his life, through high points of plenty to his wife getting cancer, where his faith and finances had been and still are being tested, years after the treatment and healing from the Lord. Also, I watching a production of the Broadway musical, Civil War performed by the Servant Stage Company in Lancaster and there was so much death, so much sadness, and brokenness and young love separated by war and just ounces of lead. From it came resulting freedom for some, changes in struggles for others, and tears that could possibly fill the hundreds of thousands of graves dug once the war had ended. (shameless plug, this company  is amazing, performing professional caliber theatre at the price of “pay as you will”. Google them and check out a show next Sunday or at a future show!)

All of these circumstances and yours, the unexpected that came at times that life couldn’t have gotten any better or couldn’t have gotten any worse, there was that moment:

That moment, where you can’t tall if you’re dreaming or awake. That moment might be filled with silence, just trying to process if it’s real life, and sometimes weeping, because there’s pain or loss, or confusion, and you don’t even know how to process what has happened yet.

This is the most critical moment, because it brings you to the edge of a cliff with a blazing fire to your back. You must jump into the fog, the unknown. What do you do? Who can you turn to?  Put yourself into this picture, label your cliff and your fire and last of all, where is your hope?

I’ve often tried to put my hope in people, medicine, myself, lust, and different habits or addictions, but each time, I found myself jumping toward them, hoping they would catch me. spoiler alert, they never lasted, but acted as a false security, like a net with a hole and the strings loosely tied together, but not mended to take my weight.

The one who caught me every time, even if I wasn’t looking for him to, is Jesus Christ. If you don’t know him more than just his name, it sounds crazy, but I’m sure he’s caught you plenty of times and didn’t even mention it. When we’re not relying on him for our strength, he might allow a couple bumps and bruises, but he cares for us.

The thing is, though, I don’t want to have to go through any more pain then necessary, naturally. The best way I’ve found, and this is from personal experience and several hundreds of others experiences I’ve personally heard first hand accounts from, that the best option to take at the edge of this cliff, is to enter the unknown, with confidence of the goodness of God. Engulfing oneself in prayer and seeking a deeper, personal relationship with Jesus and leaving all anxiety and fear at the edge of the cliff to be burned up, because no amount of worry will add a single day to your life.

The unknown is the safest place to be because it brings us to two options: jump in fear, or jump in faith.

How will you jump?

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:31-34

Adoption: Unfiltered Love

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m sure we all see someone act a certain way, or do a specific thing that just irks us.
One time, back in high school (I say that because it makes me sound grown up, or maybe convince someone I’m old enough to take advice from) in my public speaking class, our teacher assigned us a project to voice our pet peeve. It quickly turned into a tiring of rants, ranging from “chewing gum like a cow” to “mouth breathing” and always ending in a long line of driving annoyances. My point being, it’s usually not that hard for us to think of these things, because they are those few things that trigger us without too much warning, yet much consequence, either with an outward explosion that effects everyone, or an inward explosion that only effects the eyebrows and possibly the trajectory of the edges of a once present smile. 

But to bring it back in, I heard a a poem and it spoke about the struggles of anxiety. Now, I wouldn’t consider this to be a pet peeve by any means, but it does fit in the category for me of something I don’t handle well. I know it’s very well an issue that plages plenty of lives around the earth, but from the outside looking in, it’s really hard for me to understand or sympathize because my understanding doesn’t compute with the needs/patience it requires to be the best person for someone who suffers with anxiety. 

I said all that to set a backdrop for this thought that went through my head:

“I could never see myself being able to marry someone who as severe anxiety,” to be followed by another thought, “I hope I don’t have any kids who suffer from anxiety” to be lead by another line of thought, “well, if it’s addressed while they’re young, hopefully it won’t be as bad when they get older” to “but what if I adopt like I’ve said I want to do?”

This question struck me, and I didn’t have any answer, as if the other answers to the previous questions were really very good, but I thought about this concept, while I was warming the water to get in the shower. Adoption is really an amazingly hard, and amazingly amazing thing! Taking a child in that has had possibly no prior personal experience or maybe even recollection of seeing a good family, much less feeling loved by someone who is choosing you. Not just someone who wanted a kid, but someone who wanted YOU. 

Having recently gone through some personal self-condemning and feeling absent and unworthy of God, I couldn’t help think about the statement that he has adopted us into his family. Knowing all of our junk, all of our dirt, and and all of our downfalls, He doesn’t look at our weakness, but speaks life into our strengths. He sees our potential. Honestly, the other day when I first had this thought didn’t change me that much, but as it marinates in my mind, it gets juicier and more flavorful, because no matter how much I get myself down, Jesus is always there, encouraging and lifting me up out of a feeling of darkness. 

This motivates me even deeper to love children and even adults who haven’t ever experienced love in action toward them. 

Because I am loved, I love. 

But I Don’t, But I Will.

I want to fall in love with you, 

But I can’t, but I will. 

I long to really know you,
More then just your name and a few things about you.

I want to give you all of me

But I don’t, but I will.
How can I make me love you? 

You first loved me, but what does that mean?

I can’t leave you, I know you’re who I want and you fill all my dreams. 
But the rain always comes on the worst of days, 

and I feel that each time I escape, 

like a dog, I’m returning to eat my vomit.

I take peace and stomp on it.
Though I find myself running in circles, I’m running none the less.

And I’m not running on a track. Each time I run forward, I make it a little farther then the last.

On each turn back, when I’m bummed I even gave in, I don’t return as far as I did in the past.

This cycle is a process I know I don’t want to live in, but with each look back forward, 
To Love, Himself, my longing grows longer and my endurance grows stronger. 
It’s a love I’ve decided I won’t give up on.

It’s a love I will keep trying for,

A love that’s been died for.
I want to fall in love with you,

But I can’t, but I will. 

I long to really know you,

More then just your name and a few things about you.

I want to give you all of me

But I don’t, but I will.