Are we sure we understand the concept of "big things for Christ"?Read More
Once upon a time, I found Jesus. More accurately, He found me. After spending a really long time not knowing how much I need Him, I finally saw myself for who I was, and I called out to Him in response to His call to me. That was almost seven years ago. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew that I didn't love, not truly. I knew that in order to love, I needed to accept His. I needed to really believe He loved me. So I did. My whole paradigm changed that day.
That doesn't mean anything else changed. I was already on a trajectory away from Him. I was on a road I didn't belong on. As an excellent Wavorly song says, "Turning around was never so hard til I found us far apart." At that point, I was really far away, heading further, and had no idea which way to turn. Imagine yourself lost on a dark night with a broken light and a broken compass, and nothing but two ears and a voice guiding you home. Even better: imagine yourself in the Millennium Falcon, crashing toward Starkiller Base, unable to pull up, not knowing the defector storm trooper was a janitor and new nothing about blowing the place up.
I had no idea what was in store. I really didn't. I knew things would be difficult, but I had no clue of the depth of it. I don't remember being as bombarded with temptations and heartaches as when I started following Christ. Yet I don't know that I've seen more personal growth happen in me than when I started following Christ.
I'm not going to blather on about all the things that happened between 2009 and 2013. If you've read my blog before, you know. If you want to know, read it.
In one respect, I'm glad for how far I've come, but it hasn't been without cost. That cost has been my ability to care.
I don't care.
Those are three words no one wants to hear. "I don't care" is giving up. On what? Anything.
Have you been told that before? It hurts, doesn't it? Knowing that you're not seen, not heard, invisible, inconsequential.
I hate that about me, which is great because that means all hope is not lost. But right now, that's a problem. The whole reason I decided to follow Jesus was so I could love, not so I could withhold love in apathy.
I'm not sure entirely how I figured it out, but I suddenly noticed lately how much of what has been happening in my life indicates that I don't really care.
The stagnancy of my romantic relationships?
Because I didn't care about anything beyond the moment, escaping the rest of my life.
My lack of reading scriptures or praying in a meaningful way?
Because I didn't care about anything beyond the moment, escaping the rest of my life.
My isolation from people I claim to care for?
Because I didn't care about anything but my own problems.
My inability to focus long enough to do successful studio takes?
Because I didn't care about them as much as I care about the things distracting me.
My inability to loosen up?
Because I don't care enough about living healthily enough to stop obsessing over the things I want.
Because I don't care about much else than what I want.
Why I don't try hard enough to change any of this?
Because I don't care to keep failing or hurting, which is, by default, keeping anything good from coming of anything I'm going through.
I don't want to run away from my issues, but I also don't want to run into a worse place. Another song, by Linkin Park this time, says, "Sometimes I think of letting go and never looking back, and never moving forward so there'd never be a past."
Relatable? Too much.
Good way to live? Not ever.
The irony of the whole thing is that we tend to stop caring because of the weight that caring becomes. But to stop caring means your heart has to stop working, and if your heart stops working, you really can't go anywhere. You collapse. You stay where you are. You die.
When you stop caring, you are dead. And it definitely feels the part. At least pain lets you know you're alive, even though it means you're fighting to stay that way. When joy happens, you know you're alive and free.
That's what I think is so powerful about the "joy of salvation" that people talk about. Not only are you alive, not only are you free, but you are now set on a path of becoming more like Christ until His coming, when everything corruptible in us will be replaced with something incorruptible, and we enter eternal life and eternal freedom, where all darkness ends and the light only grows, extending into every corner of creation. It's unstoppable. It's unstoppable good, unstoppable beauty, unstoppable life.
That's something that's actually worth caring about. When we lose sight of that, it's not hard to stop caring about things, especially the more we know about evil and hurt.
I guess that's what I've been missing. With something lasting to care about, whatever else is valuable to us, whatever else brings joy, although temporary, finally gains its true meaning. We finally have a reason to care about it.
A reason to care about him.
About anyone, anything.
But without context to something eternal, how can anything temporary have meaning?
"Our light affliction, which only lasts for a moment, is working toward an eternal glory that far outweighs anything else. That's why we look not on the things that can be seen, but the things that cannot be seen. Why? Because the things we can see are temporary, but the things we cannot see are eternal." --Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 paraphrase mine)
We're about to close the first half of our crowdfunding campaign! If you haven't heard, I'm making a record with some amazing musicians and friends, and we're raising money for gear. When you pre-order the record for just $10, you'll get an instant download of one of the singles, "Find You In The Light." We're currently at 12% of our goal, which is amazing! When we first launched this campaign, I was as nervous as ever. Correction: I am nervous! But the response so far has been great, both in feedback about our music and in the generosity of friends and family. We've raised $580 of the $5000 we're shooting for to make this the best record it can possibly be. We actually crossed that 10% mark by the end of week 2!
As awesome as that is, we've hit a pretty big slump since then.
We have barely over a month left to go, so if you can help by preordering our record "Love And Fear," picking one of our perk packages (including anything from downloads to signed CDs, to t-shirts, posters, and microphones), sharing the campaign on social media, and most importantly praying that God will make a way for this to happen and that His will would be done.
As much as we love making music and having fun, though, this is our ministry above all else. We want to reach a world that is afraid by offering them the love of Jesus Christ. We're just looking for the means to do that the best way we know how. :)
ALSO, here's some exciting news! A fantastic friend of mine asked to interview me about the new record. She has an amazing devotional account on Instagram, so head over there and check out @shinejesus_ for some excellent words from the Father, and watch out for the interview, coming soon!
Thanks for all of your support! :)
I've always struggled with risks. I think everyone does, though maybe not as much as others. If I know that there is something to be lost, I don't want to. Don't we all? Whether we acknowledge it consciously or not, we realize that we contain infinite value, endowed upon us by Jesus. We also experience fear when we're confronted with the possibility of loss. Everyone's looks different. Some people are afraid to take risks on career ventures. Others hate the idea of moving away and facing the unknown in that respect. My issue is with relationships, specifically the dating kind.
I'm not the only who has been hurt. I'm not the only one who has been scared. I'm not the only one who gets tripped up on words or will altogether avoid words when nothing seems sufficient enough to make enduring the fear worthwhile.
Unfortunately, inaction, in my case, has led to much, much more pain than action. You know, at least if you get shot down, you know you can change direction. And there can be a lot of reasons for being shot down other than it being, you know, your fault, something you did, something you are, heck, how you look.
But wait! How can you experience pain if you don't take a risk?
I'll tell you.
You see, it's equally as big a risk, if not bigger, to assume that something bad could come from your action, as it is to assume that something good could come from your inaction. I say this not to perpetuate the "follow your heart" mentality that has led modern day culture into a morally relativistic decadence, but holding back what's inside of you because you're afraid you might get hurt is like holding onto fire. You don't get used to it the more you hold it: you simply burn what's left of you the longer you hold it.
You're not protecting your heart by not telling people how you feel. You're actually poisoning it. You can always get back up from rejection, but you can't move past a choice you never made. I've avoided making a lot of those choices, and none of them have made living with the regret of what I might have missed any easier. I can think of a few instances in the not-so-distant past when I could have just told a person how much I cared for them, or let them see more of my real self, let go and just had fun with amazing people, but I didn't. I treated my insecurities as though they were for my benefit, like they could save me from being broken.
In reality, all I did was break myself before I let anyone else get to me.
What really eats at me is that every time, at least for the past several years, I've told myself I would stop avoiding what's inside of me, quit copping out of making the choices that I had to make. "This time" I'll say how I feel. After all, that's all I can do, right? After all, I have no control over what she does with that knowledge, right? And I haven't actually lost anything more than an idea, because until the feelings go both ways, I'm not actually "in love" with a person, right? And it's their problem if they can't get over the fact I might have feelings for them, even if I can get over them myself, right? So knowing all of that should make opening up easier, right?
I haven't. Not once.
Even as I speak these things, I realize I'm just finding more reasons to blame myself, as a dear mentor and friend recently put forth to me. And she was right. I'm not doing this for my own good, at least not anymore. Just the habit of repressing the person that God made you to be, even if you don't acknowledge that you're actually doing that, leads to the belief that God doesn't want good things for you, that you are beyond His love, His grace, a second chance, and that you might not even have any value at all.
Guess what. It's a lie. Your very existence, not to mention the whole truth and message of the gospel, is proof of that.
We all torment ourselves over something, but if it isn't making you a better person, it's not worth it. Whatever you're tormenting yourself over--and it doesn't have to be fear of rejection--isn't worth your time, your breath, your life, if it is a barricade preventing you from growing into the person God made you to be in Christ.
Easier said than done, right?
It's a good thing we have a powerful God going before us. Just trust that. Trust Him. Take a risk. Even if it doesn't turn out the way you wanted it to, let Him carry you to the place He wants you to be, and trust that this place will be a beautiful one.
I once asked someone if they thought I could make it as a musician. They told me they believed God could do big things with me. At the time, I thought they were just avoiding the question because they knew that I already knew that to be true. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength," said Paul the apostle. See, I was saying, "I know God can do big things with me, but can I make it?" But my career success was never really the point of my life, was it?
I was asking an impossible question, and the wrong one, at that. Sure, I have some tricks up my sleeve, but who put them there, and what are they really worth if Jesus isn't directing them? They're just tricks, sleight of hand to get applause. A sentence doesn't have room for both our potential and God's. We will always rely on one or the other, and one will always run dry while the other will not.
Lately, I have a hard time waking up with my alarm. I ended up skipping my thyroid medication, making less-tasty coffee, and forgetting things on my way out the door--all of this simply to make it to work on time. It kills me that I do this to myself. I mean, this is insignificant stuff! Well, maybe except the meds part.
It's the little things that get under my skin when I'm dealing with myself. I tend not to sweat the bigger stuff because I tend to think I can handle it. "Think." I am mistaken. Little stuff piles up easily and becomes a big ordeal if left unchecked, ignored. In arrogance and ignorance, it's easy for me to say, "It's nothing. I can deal with it later." This, however, is not the case, and learning this fact can be humiliating to oneself.
In times like that, have you ever been guilty of using the statement, "I guess God is just keeping me humble"? Maybe it's not those words exactly, but do you know the attitude? Something happens in your life that doesn't go the way you planned it (meticulously or casually), and you become upset. That's not wrong, right? I'm sure most people mean well when they say that.
But really, isn't it generally with a hint of disdain? "God, why did you let this or that happen?" as though we know better than He. Isn't this an indication of hurt pride rather than humility? We reap the consequences of our actions.
It's supposedly a great "Christian" thing to pray for humility, right? In a sense, that acknowledges that, yes, I have pride, but it also presents us with a problem. What is it we think we have to be proud of?
We seek reasons to stand alone, be independent, and often times we do this in arrogance, without even realizing it. Do we not daily need the Lord? Is it not better to every moment pray that He be glorified, and pray this in honesty, rather than fall and be hurt along with our ego? God will take care of you! You don't have to go through life by your own strength. Though we must be responsible for ourselves, the Lord is our strength to be responsible.
It can be humiliating to fail, a crippling to the Achilles heel of our pride. It can even make a person hate himself. But that isn't what God wants for us. True humility is found somewhere between our arrogance and self-deprecation. Not everything is rosy, but not everything is bleak, either. You may live well one day yet be a complete mess the next. No, you are not bipolar, nor are you a failure. You are human. If God is who He says He is, He will do His part. Whether or not we humble ourselves and surrender to that, and follow Him, is completely up to us.
We say that nobody is perfect, and that applies to us, right? Okay. Good. What about others? Do they have to be perfect, unlike us? Are they held to a higher standard by the Lord than we are, are we better than they, or is our perception of equality severely skewed?
I'm by no means saying that we shouldn't fight sin in the name of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that we should try to encourage others to do the same, and be there with them when their sin doesn't cause us to sin ourselves. That would be a lie, and one of the worst. I'm saying that we ought to closely watch our reactions to others who are in sin confessing theirs to us in confidence, and let that be a check against our own.
You have to be sincere about what your truth is before you can sincerely change your own to the one that is truly... well, you get the point.
The included video is fan-made, from the film X-Men: First Class. I thought it to be particularly relevant. If you've watched the movie, you know the setup. If you haven't, watch it. It's worth renting/purchase in my own opinion. The scene I'm dropping you into shows you Erik (aka Magneto) drowning in an attempt to take revenge on the people who wronged him and his family as a child. Because he held onto their submarine with such determination to sink it, he couldn't hold himself above water. That's when Charles Xavier (aka Professor X) tries to reach out to him telepathically (oh, wait, this movie is about mutants, which I didn't mention). The phrase he used that always jumped out at me was, "Calm your mind."
Revenge meant so much to him that he was willing to die to administer it. To Charles, however, the life of this complete stranger meant more. Somewhere along the way today, I realized how well this scene represents this passage in the Bible. Matthew 16:24-27 has this to say to all of us: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.'"
Magneto was willing to die for a revenge that would never have brought him peace in his life. In relating that scene to these words of Jesus, I realize that there are things that without thinking I sometimes seek out in life with a level of precedence that may not bode very well for my soul. I don't say that we should never seek out things in life, but the real question is whether or not they can save us and whether or not they will bring us the truest definition of peace like what Jesus can bring when we follow Him with priority above all else. After all, just like with Erik, that moment of revenge (or whatever good or bad thing you desire) would have only been for a moment. He thought he was alone, and so do we many time, but we are not alone. Jesus goes before us.
Do you think you're alone? Have you been hunting for things that cannot truly bring you peace? What are you willing to risk/lose to acquire those things? What is it that makes it difficult to "calm your mind"?
(CLICK HERE to jump directly to the scene, or watch the full video below.)
Being the first issue of Entering Rest, I want start it well. I don't have much to say, and that's good. When you find yourself deprived of rest, the last thing you want to do is keep up the chatter and clamour... or is it really?
I've found that most times I've found myself unable to sleep or nap is this haunting feeling of unfinished business, some item I've left unattended, a task I've left undone. It seems almost appropriate that this year has basically been the year of re-s. I've been rebuilding relationships, reevaluating the way I'm going about my career, revisiting old memories that I've ignores, rethinking how my faith works, even remodeled two entire rooms (actually mostly done by our contractor). At the end of the day, though, doesn't something always feel unfinished? Doesn't it make your body cringe and twist?
While this feeling of restlessness can be powerful, I want you to think about this one thing: no matter where you are, you aren't where you were. Even if everything isn't how you want it to be, take comfort in the fact that you're getting there. Jesus is always at work changing something about you to be more like Him. Sometimes that means you work hard. Sometimes it means you don't get it all done. It can mean realizing some things are out of your control, or that you've done all you can, or that change doesn't all happen overnight, or that we are not gods and cannot expect everything to work out perfectly anyway.
Everyone wants something to change, and the best place to witness that change is at the center of the storm, the place of calm where God is. He is constant, and in His presence, you will witness revolution happen around you and in you. It may be slow or sudden, and it may clear or cloudy, but you won't miss it.
When a seed finally receives enough warmth and water, it can finally start growing, but when it does, it always grows in two directions. It grows shoots and roots. The little stem pops out from the ground, beneath a surface that appears only one-sided.
While we admire the outward beauty and fragility, the leaves absorbing the sunlight and the carbon dioxide in the air, beneath the surface, a whole different world is springing -- or maybe digging would be a better word -- to life. Beneath the surface, from the same seed, have sprouted roots, and even though they remain unseen by the surface world, they serve a purpose much... hehehe... deeper than we know.
Roots are dirty and damp, taking in nutrients from dead plants and wildlife, all through the medium of water. Aside from that water, roots, essentially are mingled in death. Depth and darkness are it's home. You're probably thinking, "Wow, this is getting gloomy." Well, it kind of is. Turn back now if you don't like gloom, but I promise you that something good will come of it.
Roots can be fibrous, branching out every which way beneath the ground. They can be fibrous, one massive root burrowing directly downward to find the best possible source of water. They can be bulbous or tuborous, like a potato or an onion, with tiny roots feeding one massive root-ish thing. How does that relate to spiritual growth? Well, do you learn things by tapping into one main source of wisdom, or do you have a diverse, complex social system from which you attain life? From where do you gain your depth, and what is that depth feeding? Are you a potato, whose depth fosters a centralized depth? Are you taproot that looks for one super deep source of knowledge? Are you fibrous, finding wisdom in the little things, the diverse things, a little bit closer to the surface yet not foreign to the concept of depth?
Taking things a little further, how does this depth show? What do people see? How do you breathe? How do you let the byproducts of your growth out? Eventually, growth will force old things out. Eventually, nutrients and old, damaged, decayed parts go away to be broken down, recycled into the dirt, back into their primary building blocks, yet again to be used as nutrients for new, growing beings. The same goes for us. As our minds expand, old ideas are expelled from our minds, ideas we now see didn't work as well as we initially thought, ideas that weren't built to last, behaviors that could not be maintained.
It's okay if you aren't the most outgoing person, or if the span of your growth doesn't always breach the surface like an oak tree. Maybe you show up more like grass, something small, but nonetheless valuable. People will recognize that, and people who know what growth looks like will be able to see if your growth is being hindered by some external force. Maybe the dirt is eroding beneath you, or maybe you're not seeing enough sunlight. Maybe the brighter side of life hasn't met your eyes as often as would be condusive to your growth, to your thriving in life, and that isn't always up to you. Not always can the plant be blamed for the ground in which it was sown.
In the very end the reason for all of this interaction between different parts of this social-spiritual biosphere we're in is this: grow up, and make more -- or it might be appropriate to say this: "Be fruitful, and multiply." I'm taking that phrase way out of context, but think about it! Jesus compared our spiritual lives so many times to something agricultural, in one specific instance, seeds. Not only He, but David the king, made mention of someone following the paths of righteousness being "like a tree planted by the rivers of water, which brings forth his fruit in his season." So what is this "fruit," and how do we bring it forth?