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!

Life Vest Ocean (A Short Story)

Life Vest Ocean (A Short Story)

I’m drowning in an ocean of life vests, trying to ignore them. But I relent. I’m searching for one that will work best and hold fast, but for God’s sake, or really my own, I need to just grab one!

The more options I have, the more I want to push back, trying to swim away taking on mouthfuls of salty water and eyes full of the foamy sea, as I stray, growing weary.

I feel so lonely, so lowly and un holy. I feel so un whole.

Instinctively, in my pain and pending death, I grab ahold of a lifejacket, not worrying the size, not taking notice to the warnings or weight ratings, for just hope it will preserve my life. As I throw it on, I start sinking, but as I paddle my feet, I manage to stay afloat.

I grab the next one in sight, and it keeps my head above water, yet is far too tight. I’m sticking with it until I see another one and grab it. This one is tattered and worn, ripped, clasps broken, yet stories untold could reach the depths of this ocean of the countless accounts of saving it has done.

But what floats in the distance is beyond comprehension or reason. After jumping ship and drifting out to sea, my captain had not stopped pitching me vests. He wouldn’t give up on me yet.

Although shame himself could have singlehandedly thrown me out into that vast blue, he chose to convince me to do it myself, concluding I did not even deserve to be. Why I listened after the offer of full forgiveness from the captain, I can not answer, but I listened to the lie that the price must be paid with my soul, even though the caption himself had paid the price in full.

And as I stare at this ocean of life vests, peering through, I see a life boat. A boat I know I do not deserve, and a boat I long for. Not just for the boat, but it’s contents as well! My captain himself left the rest for me. Still in the distance, I am left to decide: Stay here floating, temporarily servicing, alone and dying; or will I board the boat of safety, on top of the roaring sea and all of it’s creatures of malice, instead of in it, thriving, forgiven, united, and alive…

The answer seems simple, yet I hold back. What will it take for me to recieve the fullness of my captain’s saving?

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

Losing Control (Poem)

Losing Control (Poem)

I’m falling for the longing of a life of no control.
Of a life that’s void of restraints, and free of tolls.
These stations do nothing but slow down my bones.

Life is made to be taken by the horns, but when the bull is coming head on, I used to run.
Either option, to stay or run seems worthless, but no reasoning will stop the bulls from coming, so I will stop running and start fighting.

I’m falling for that longing of a life of no control.
Of a life I’ve given everything over to the creator of my soul.
And the desire rings on louder then a Rotary phone.

Life is made to be flown like a kite, and when negativity comes by, it can stand on by because I’m far lighter, soaring high up in the sky and I won’t even bat an eye or let my joy subside, because I know my worth and know the lies I won’t and can’t let in.

As I fall deeper for that longing of a life of no control,
Of that life that takes gain and pain and morning all in full.
There is a time for every season and a lesson closer still.

Life is made for tears like oceans, when new life comes, or long life fades or love begins or money flies away, the tears from plenty and tears from little surely flow; although, there’s no question each tear will dry or be wiped away. Yet, before the tears are gone, may I not loose sight of the joy in each aching strain and the lesson learned in the waiting.

life is not made for control, so as the jellyfish is pulled by the current, may I embrace the flow of life, but may I propel myself toward truth. Jesus commanded the seas for his frightened and doubting disciples, so I’m sure he’ll direct me on to him.

Exposure: First Performances

Exposure: First Performances

Music is one of the most influential and most widely partaken in arts of history. For me, I’ve always been around and involved in music my entire life. Music is found in virtually every culture, if not every culture, and it doesn’t fail to move us humans; even the hardest of hearts.

Being in my family, I’ve had a bunch of first performances on stage. from silly skits at my grandparents house, performing fan favorites and classics like The Road Kill Cooking Show and plenty of others, to Sight and Sound Theater, where my first show ever, my wig fell off in front of the entire audience of roughly 2,000 people. I’ve been in school musicals and National Fine Arts (a church competition) to just performing at my church in various ways. There are definitely stories to tell, but this one felt different.

I started writing poetry and songs in my junior year in high school, and I had shared my music and poems with others before, but I got to share an original of mine and accompanied my brother, Stephen on a cover at a girl from our youth group’s event to raise money for her missions trip, and I had this overwhelming feeling: I wouldn’t mind doing this. Like, if it was my career, even just for a season, I would feel at home; because that stage felt like home. It wasn’t really because of the stage itself, or the audience in particular or the atmosphere, although it was nice, but it was sitting on my cajon drum, next to my brother, playing music.

This first performance was followed not but a few weeks later, performing a song with my friends at a dinner theatre. A song Luke Cassidy and I wrote together for our band that has, of now, only performed one song at one venue, but it also felt like home. We performed the song “Flesh and Blood” (really the only song we’ve finished so far together) that is really one of the most vulnerable songs I’ve personally written exposing my insecurities, but sharing them in my favorite art form with some of my favorite people was liberating.

Theres just something about the first time we do something, and theres something even more amazing about realizing as you’re doing it for the first time that its something you want to be involved in for the rest of your life! your thing might not be music or writing or mountain biking, or bee keeping, or anything I’m into, but it might be painting or skateboarding or swimming or math or any other sports, or counseling, or welding. Whatever it may be…

GO FOR IT!

Do it with everything in you. don’t let stats or money or time in your way. Stats might always be agents you, but theres always a percentage that succeeds. You be in that. You’ll never have enough money, so budget and work your butt off! My friend, Andrew always says, “do things you don’t want to do so you can do the things you want to do!” As for time, it is always passing by, and what I have to say for time is you don’t have time to keep talking about doing the things you love. You do have time to do them, but it priority time!

It’s always a balance, and the best way to balance out my advice in the previous paragraph is in two words: Love. Pray.

Loving,  and in turn, serving others will never bring you down, because love never fails! (Check out 1 Corinthians 13. It talks all about it.) And God is always rooting for you to succeed and through desiring him and taking pressure off yourself to make things happen, follow him as he leads you, as your pursuing your dreams. Your biggest dreams are only a fraction of the plans God has for you, if you’re following him right now or not. Through giving him control, you will enter the most thrilling times in your life filled with joy, hardships, pain and peace, but the best part is the hardships and pain will come and go, but they and peace will last through it all.

 

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.