The day-to-day stress of life can sometimes be enough to crush boulders. Between finances, politics, loved ones, planning for the future, and reflecting on the past, the pressure of daily life is sickening. I know that I’ve had moments where sometimes I threw in the towel and said I’d try again tomorrow. Somewhere in the world, a college student is re-watching the Office with three papers due in the morning.Continue reading “Tree Rooted by Living Waters”
Sometimes you have to do something you’ve never done to get an outcome you’ve never had. What’s not working? What have you been doing? How badly you want things to change? If what you’ve been doing hasn’t improved anything, what does it say about you if you keep continuing down the same road? How badly do you want that future you dream about? Are you willing to change it all?
Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.Matthew 12:33 (niv)
For years, I was dead on my feet. I was hollow inside because nothing seemed substantial or real. I was so afraid that one day, at any moment, a strong gust of wind would blow me away and no one would know the difference. I held on tight to people that paid me any attention. I dug deep into performance as my only redeemable quality. I clung to the fleeting moments of celebration or congratulatory fodder because that kept my fire burning. I was a dimly glowing ember in the midst of the storm called life. I couldn’t cling on to nothing forever.
I searched for people that valued me. I chased women. I comforted “friends” to make them feel good. I avoided moments of discomfort with hard truths. I numbed my pain with alcohol or whatever other things I could conjure up to make me forget about the void instead of taking a look in the mirror and facing it. I, like many of the people around me, was miserable. Every day was monotonous and listless. The love I sought never filled the whole in my chests. No matter what I tried to fill it with, nothing would change. I tried to feel real, tangible, and permanent did nothing. I continued being terrified of the wind.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV)
My turning point was looking towards God. For the first time, in as long as I could remember, I felt like I didn’t have to do everything on my own. I either trusted God to make it happen or I didn’t, but I got comfortable accepting the things that were out of my control. What seemed to be even more soothing was shifting God from this All-Powerful Being making rules in the sky, to a Father knowing more than I do, and trusting Him more than myself that He knows what’s best for me. The more I trusted, the more the Father showed me that it was alright trusting Him. The wounds on my heart healed. My desire to prove my existence ceased. The weight lifted.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30 (niv)
As I was shifting from just looking at my Lord to communicating with my Father. He initially started off by giving me relief. I received relief from the anxiety, depression, fear, chaotic thinking, and oppression. Then, patience, clarity, joy, peace, and love started to color how I looked at myself and then the world. I became hungry for more of God because if this is just the beginning, what more could He have in store for me?
But in this hunger came a cost. Every time I would go back to my old ways, I would feel the weigh of my old issues. I would get depressed after nights out drinking. I would feel anxious about interactions with women. I would be fearful for my livelihood looking at the success of others. My mind would run rampant as I shifted between all of these. God was giving me a choice. I could stay where I am and wallow in the emptiness I felt. Or continue to chase this zest and let him teach me about life.
By wisdom a house is built,Proverbs 24:3-4 (NIV)
and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures
My pastor said that he doesn’t believe in the saying about bringing a horse to water and not being able to make him drink. He said that it all depends on how thirsty you are. If you refuse to drink or eat, it’s because you still have or believe you still have choices.
I didn’t know how thirsty I was. This was the first time I had water in a long time and I didn’t want to go back to before. I was standing at a fork in the road. I had two choices. Go deeper and seek out the life that God wants me to have. Or, continue doing it my own way, by my own power, and reap the consequences.
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may liveDeuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)
I talked about how Joseph chose to stick close to God and avoided committing the same sins his ancestors committed in Sins of the Father but that leaves us focusing on the negatives of the pasts instead of the Blessings of the Future. The breaking the cycles of the past has relatively little to do with them or you, it has to do with the Father and making a choice. A choice to change and wait for the benefits of the future.
I have so many thoughts about what Jesus meant about the narrow gate but for now I’m going to cut this short before it goes on too long. Next week is going to be a hard share for me but I want to be vulnerable with you all. Next post is about my battle with Lust. Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Turn Your Brightness Up!
There is something about the Blood of Jesus Christ. The power that it involves and how we interact with that knowledge that changes our entire world.
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.Luke 19:10 (NIV)
It’s been about three years since I went to Los Angeles searching for purpose and reason after the death of my grandmother. I was welcomed by family that never met me before that enveloped me with an unconditional love that could only come from Father God. It extended beyond them knowing me, beyond family, beyond a shared history, all the way into gifting me love that I felt empty without.
My family’s love left me thirsty for more. I spent the next year reading my Bible from Genesis to Revelations, looking for some sort of grounding principle in the world. I desperately desired a meaning, history, or identity. I felt disconnected from the lives everyone lived in and was just clinging on so that I wouldn’t fade away into the night.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,Jeremiah 17:7-8 (niv)
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
I didn’t hate myself, but I didn’t believe I deserved anything either. I shrunk myself in regards to the wishes and desires of others around me. I let my feelings and emotions, that swayed in a moments notice, control my being. I internalized the voices of doubt, loathing, and regret until they drowned me in my own sorrow. I was wading in toxic sludge, hopeless, just waiting for it all to give out.
While in this dark place, a tiny voice resonated with my soul. It attracted my mind with a search for answers of things misconstrued and lost in time. It resonated with the hope in my heart for something better, not just for me but, for the world. It healed my soul, helping me remove all of the weights left from the pain I held on to for so long. It reinvigorated my spirit, revitalizing my dreams, and bringing hope where there was none. It gave me faith, something to trust in when I couldn’t even trust myself. Finally, it brought love where the was none.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 13:13 (niv)
That great light in the distance gave me hope for something better. It recharged my battery, causing my to go from treading water to furiously dragging and pulling my lifeless body to shore. I could not let that light go out. I had no choice but to keep getting closer, inch by inch and step by step. It was so lonely and dark here, but there appeared to be light, life, and warmth elsewhere.
I became hungry for more. The warmth of the love I felt of a Father constantly chasing His children named Israel made me desire it for myself. I envied Moses talking to God like a friend. I wanted the Lord to know I had a heart after God too, like David. I wanted Jesus to not weep for me but smile. I could not stay in the pool of desperation any longer. The waves occasionally would push me further back and wash over my head but in my eyes, the light only beckoned me more.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)
The moment I reached the shores, I cried. I cried and cried. I felt so helpless, so hopeless, for such a long time. I was lost, alone, and dead inside. So, when I joined a church and someone handed me a towel, I barely knew what to do. They held me in the ever-flowing streams of life as I peeled away dirt, muck, and grime that felt like it seeped into my very soul. I felt stained. I felt like I would never get clean, but my Father came in, hugged me, and told His servants to bring me new clothes. He was the light the entire time and I just wanted to bask in His glow. But, He told me there is more to do.
“There are others, lost, drowning in the same sorrow as you. Believing that there is no other alternative than living life listless, dead inside. But, that’s not true. You made it out. You made it to the other side and all I want you to do is keep a lookout. Shine your light as bright as you can to everyone that can see. Call and beckon them to come this way. If they come, usher them into safety, and I will take care of them from there.”
So, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll Shine On.
Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heaven.Matthew 5:16 (KJV)
I just wanted to write something slightly different in reflection of the change my life has seen over the last three years. I am the same same but different. I’ve been cleaned up, invigorated, and revitalized. For those reasons alone, I must continue to share my life. Keep me in your prayers as I keep you in mine. Any comments, questions, or thoughts, leave them below.
Turn Your Brightness Up!
My first post of this year, Working the Land, ended up setting the pace for many areas of my life. I haven’t talked about the prophetic here yet, but I didn’t even comprehend some of the things that were spoken over my own life by me. I didn’t grasp how deep God wanted me to go.Continue reading “Digging Deep”
In Self Love Defined, I stated that love was defined by 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. This is an adequate definition of love, but it’s an internal love, focused on characteristics that exemplify love in the world. However, the love defined let out how it looks in action. Verses 4-8 talk in-depth about the characteristics of being friendly, humble, patient, kind, meek, polite, modest, forgiving, calm, benevolent, and good. I can be all of those things, but that doesn’t mean I love.
I can act polite but deep inside I can hate every moment of it. I can say I forgive but inside my heart is a rock, frozen in time due to a mishap long gone. I can outwardly show every characteristic of Jesus Christ, but inside still be unhappy, sorrowful, and paranoid. Actions don’t always align with words.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Love is authentic. A lot of people believe, “Fake it until you make it” but that’s a dangerous lie. You cannot fake love. How many people have lied to themselves every morning when they wake up saying that they are happy and still go to bed depressed each night? How many people have done the mystical math to convince themselves of a perfect relationship or marriage and it rings hollow to everyone they know? We can post pictures of wonderful self-love but eventually, the varnish quickly fades away.
Love requires a recognition of God’s truth to thrive and be genuine. Your love will eventually fail if it is based on falsehoods. Even self-affirmations require an acknowledgment that the negative thoughts you had about yourself were lies. Affirmations are nothing more than confirmations of God’s truth. Eventually, you realize that God’s love doesn’t actually involve you more than existing. Nothing you can say or do will change God’s love and that is the same for others. So, what examples of God’s love do we have?
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.Ruth 1:16-17
Ruth gives an amazing example of love. In this scene, Ruth is responding to her “former” mother-in-law’s attempt to send her away to her home country to find a new husband after both of their husbands died. Oprah, Naomi’s other daughter-in-law, already went back home. Ruth refuses to leave Naomi. Realistically, Ruth has no ties to Naomi at this point, but Ruth is a shining example of loyalty here. Ruth shows an intrinsic bond with someone to share in their life, good and bad. Nothing in this talked about benefits or what each other would get out of it. In fact, Naomi tried to send Ruth away so she could get married again and find happiness. Ruth remained steadfast.
True love for others is the ability to share in life with someone else. It’s not just sympathy or even empathy. You are not just putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. You are accepting that you will never understand everything a person is going through or their situation, but valuing their existence. You see that there is a continuous connectedness between you and each person you meet. You choose to honor. You see their value in existing because God loves them like He loves you.
Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart…Acts 2:46
Eventually, you’ll see that there is no separation between people. Sharing time, energy, and things with others is just getting to know another part of the human experience. Caring for others becomes like caring for yourself. Loving others becomes loving yourself. Blessings flowing to your neighbor are blessings for your, regardless of reaped benefits on your part. Loving others is learning to love yourself. There is no difference.
What are some ways that you have learned to love others? What is one moment that you can think of that people shared unselfish love with you? Let me know in the comments below.
Turn Your Brightness Up!
When I was younger, I often feared God from the Old Testament Bible stories. In The Ten Commandments Moses climbed up the mountain to receive knowledge from God and people were so unruly that Moses broke tablets and lightning came down from the sky. Rivers split to protect and to destroy. As a child, I was so scared to do anything because God would punish me for my bad behavior.
I often freak out because I didn’t even understand the “rules”, where they came from, and what they meant. As a six-year-old, what does it even mean to covet someone’s wife? I got the not kill or steal part, but I had no clue what a Sabbath was. This left me afraid of doing anything against the Bible. I was always afraid if I curse or that bubble gum I took from Granny’s candy dish was going to have me catch on fire the next time I walked in church.
Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not strengthen his force, neither shall the mighty deliver himself.Amos 2:14-16
Thankfully, I never needed to wear fire resistant underwear because of flammable pants, my nose never grew, and my eyes never got stuck that way. I believed that if I didn’t specifically do the Ten, I could do other things. I told half-truths or omitted things instead of lies. I never dishonored my parents, so I must be honoring/respecting them. Similar things to get around not making God mad and whatever the church told me to not do, I avoided for the most part. But there was still a fear of mean God, punishing me for something one day.
But since then, I’ve realized that God no longer punishes you for your misdeeds immediately with fire and brimstone, but he allows the consequences to come naturally. You may not get set on fire for lying but people distrusting you and having to lie to cover up a lie is your punishment. I always wished someone explained it simply instead of complex language and one day I found Romans.
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”Romans 13:9
For many years of my life, I thought that if I loved, cared for, and did for others, I was successful. I loved others so hard, that when it was time for me to recharge my own battery, I was empty. I was loving other people so that I could love myself and found out I was attracting people who didn’t love me at all. I was empty and not getting poured into. In fact, I didn’t even know what love looked like.
A hidden truth behind “Love your neighbor as yourself” is figuring out a true reason why you shouldn’t commit adultery, murder, theft, or the act of coveting. You must value and love yourself so much, that anything less than the best is almost dirty to you. I shouldn’t want your girlfriend because I should want someone who is solely desiring me romantically. I shouldn’t want to steal from someone because the fruits of my labor are too sweet to deny my own gratification and rob someone of their fruit. This is a fine love but it is a passive, self-contained, and ultimately a self-serving love.
Something was missing and I spent days thinking about how there was a dissonance between me only focusing on loving myself, and not infringing on others that left me feeling dirty. If I just didn’t do harm and treated myself well, is that truly God’s love?
I figured out what was missing from the version of love that I was building. Come back and find out how it all pieces together tomorrow.
Turn Your Brightness Up!