It’s Messy

Take a look around and you’ll see it’s spotless

Everything in its desired place; the epitome of cleanliness

Nothing you see happened by chance and not a speck of dirt in sight

Everything looks perfect because no one lives there

It’s not a home, it’s a house

A structure overflowing with beauty, devoid of life

A place everyone is invited to admire but no one is allowed to inhabit

A beautiful coffin is what we’ll call that

You see him or her and it seems the sun always shines on them

All the pieces of their life fall correctly into place on the first try

Never a tear shed, never a dream crushed, never a promise broken

All their days are perfectly balanced with planning and spontaneity

But that’s not their reality, it’s their facade

An intelligently decorated wall encapsulating a hurting heart

A life everyone is allowed to aspire to but no one is allowed to accomplish

A lonely fortress is what we’ll call that

The bravest warrior and it seems every battle they fight is triumphed magnificently

Every bit of success is preceded by a struggle they knew they could conquer

In no way was surrender ever an option or failure ever a possibility

Every bit of strife they endured is equally met with boldness and assurance

That’s not really a soldier, it’s a martyr

A celebrated hero who is willing to die for their pride

An self-proclaimed god that everyone is allowed to worship but never needs to be rescued

A person so afraid to live in peace, they’d rather die in war is what we’ll call that

Life is messy and to truly live it requires a filter, not a wall, not an open door

It requires letting in people and experiences that will leave a stain

It requires caring more about the guest than the residue

It requires embracing the bad days and not idolizing the good

It requires sacrificing for relationship rather than shielding for reputation

It requires getting knocked down and missing the mark

It requires seeing failure as a chapter in your book rather than its title

Life is messy and it requires a person, not a purist, a role model, or a character

It’s ok to be that person

I Come Packin’

Another update except this one is a lot less sowing and a lot more reaping. You know, the kind that actually makes someone feel good :) I know the last few posts have been about the stretch, but I’m happy to report on the flexibility that’s followed.

On April 17 I posted a blog that I was very hesitant (and am still a little sick about) to share.  It was about how I’d lost many battles to sexual purity without the physical deed itself.  Basically, I now have a better understanding that physical purity means little when you’ve mentally been drowning in filth. For years in walking with Christ, it’s been the one thing that would always be locked up in the “Do Not Touch, God” part of my life. It’s hard to really explain why exactly, but I guess I always felt like I’d need that sin to get by again at some point in my life. I didn’t want to let it go in fear of not having it replaced.

After posting nothing super amazing happened right away; I experienced internal freedom by public confession and honestly, that was more than enough for me. It wasn’t until May 14th that I was confronted with it again by a loved one, the only loved one I’d literally prayed wouldn’t read it, for fear of it shattering the image they had of me. An unexpected phone call came that night and I had one of the most open and honest conversations I think I’ve ever had with this person and about my freaking struggles with sexual purity! Really weird and tt wasn’t even awkward, at least for me. During the conversation I remember thinking, “Shouldn’t this be going differently? Like worse maybe?” But it was a great conversation…. still sounds so odd saying that.

That’s just the first thing.

Next up that same night, literally minutes after that conversation, I ran into a friend and I was so thrown off by the encounter I’d just had that I told her about it. I wasn’t really trying to confess any deep hidden secrets, really I was just in desperate need to talk it out so I could properly process it. But then she felt lead to share her heart. SHE confessed something that had been weighing on her for what she says was too long.  (Did I mention that I was her Bible study leader for years? No?) Anyway, that was more than enough to prove that whole “God works in mysterious ways” thing.

But then…!

Last night, in just hanging out with a friend, I started to feel the impression “Tell her” and I was like, “Seriously, God? We’re not done with this whole thing?” And a response, a little more faint, said “Nope, we’re just getting started. You should get used to this.” So basically that was a enough to give me heart palpitations and the statement was so loaded and I didn’t want to step on that landmine so I just told her. Once again there was no effortless transition or anything.  In fact, I think I somewhat awkwardly shouted, “God wants me to tell you something” which is bad enough and I promise that’s not usually how I operate.

Enough about me: with this particular confession to this person, it also carried a confession of a lie, so needless to say, it was not something I was excited to do. However, I can say it was easier than every other time before. With each revival of admittance, it’s carried more weight. The testimony comes packing; with more God, I’m guessing.

Anyway, in response, she told me that she’d been withholding something from a loved one and that she wanted to come clean, but was worried about them looking at her differently.  I tried to encourage her to air it all out hoping that the outcome of my experience would encourage her. I guess it did because earlier today she told me she had the talk she was avoiding and disclosed everything. Not sure what the outcome was and I don’t need to know, just the fact that she was encouraged enough to take the chance means everything.

I posted 1 month ago. God let is simmer and for the most part I forgot. Then “all of a sudden, within less than a week all of this has happened. Are you processing this? If God had given me even a glimpse of what that post would initiate in my relationships, I would have quickly, selfishly, and disobediently said no.  I’m not even gonna lie. But in doing something that freed me and sharing it honestly with others, not attempting to look good but to glorify, I have witnessed the redeeming, restoring power of testimony. And let me be completely honest.  Not matter how much you like my writing, I promise the verbal communication is not as smooth so there is no denying that the only reason it’s made an impact is God. It’s about giving all of your story over for the glory of God. Not every response is going to be positive, I’m sure, but if this is what testimony can do, I have a feeling I’m going to get a lot of practice retelling my part in God’s story.

The Gory Behind the Glory

More and more I’m starting to understand the impact of being vulnerable, for others as well as myself. I’ve always had a mask of vulnerability which is really weird when you think about it. I master in confessing struggles without totally putting myself out there. Anyway, now with actually letting things go, it’s more freeing and pleasantly humbling than I imagined. After my last post I didn’t really expect to do another not so funny blooper reel of my walk, but today it was pretty obvious part deaux was necessary. Proof?

1. My quote for the day was “We each need to make peace with our own memories. We have all done things that make us flinch. – Surya Das”

2. This morning I had this rush of temptation smack me in the face. It latched on to past bad decisions, invited me in to partake again, and when I didn’t it decided to shame me for what I’d already done.

3. The podcast I listened to on the way to work was about how saying “Me too” can build people up better than “You should…”

4. My devotional for today was about shame and guilt.

So yes, I’m not going to fight the facts, this is my aim today. I have to say that while I have many things in my past I should not have done, I don’t have a lot of guilt for the actions themselves. I’ve made peace with them. They’re not my thorn. Mine are the opportunities I missed out on in doing the things I should not have done.  The blessings I’ll never know I avoided by choosing pleasure over purpose. That regret plagues me when I let it settle over me.

I see the things God is doing through me now and how he’s using those things to help others and then I start to wonder how many people I missed. Where would I be if I’d stayed in his will? How many people did I lead the opposite way in my wandering? Those are the things that hurt me, the guilt, shame and regret of what could have been. That’s the gory.

But hold on because here comes the glory.  When those times come, God is teaching me to battle those thoughts with the simple thought “and God still stuck with me anyway.” That when I knew I was hurting myself and others, God said “I’m not going anywhere”. He was there the whole time. When I realized just how much he saw me do I feel so hurt that he had to see that. He doesn’t just know, he saw, HE WAS THERE. My past is my gory, his unwillingness to stay with me when it was my present and my testimony now is HIS glory.

It’s not the things I did and made it out of that make my story worth it, it’s that he uses it all to point to his character.  I lived out my testimony and I own it.  What good is it if I leave out all the embarrassing things? That only (falsely) point so how good I am, but I’m not. I’m not the hero of my story. All this “save your own life, be your own savior” crap will only make you smile while you drown. I am embarrassed about the decisions I’ve made because I knew better, but I’m not going to be held back by them.  The best platform I have to glorify God is to stand alive by the grave I was laying dead in. My gory is being used for God’s glory.

Grunt Work

I’ve been waiting for inspiration to post, but lately it’s mostly been a host of necessary frustration. My intentions are usually to speak from victories. To testify when I past the test. To share my storm story when I’m sitting under the rainbow, but when I wait for that, sometimes the best things get lost in translation. When I wait for the win, I get so lost in the cheer that I can’t clearly remember the grunt. So here’s the present process prior to the predictable payoff (all those p’s weren’t intentional, but they’re awesome):

On a normal day in my current walk I wake up disheartened. I’m uninterested and frustrated. I go about my routine of prayer, bible reading and a sermon as I get ready before work, you know, doing what they say and spending time with God first. But usually I go on feeling like I’m always running on an almost empty tank. Very honestly, most of my prayers consist of me confessing to God how much I don’t much care for what I’m doing and how I’m tempted to do something mindless instead.

BUT while I don’t feel like I’m in a good place, that I am growing and progressing in my relationship with Christ, I know I am. I know that right now I wholeheartedly can’t sense much change.  Each day is no longer filled with little nuggets of God’s goodness to keep me going. Before it was so easy, like I was sliding down into God’s arms (super cheesy I know, but just work with me). Now it’s like I’m trekking up the mountain.

The first step in my pattern of wandering has always been right at this very moment. Not when I’m in a storm or when I’m drowning in blessing, but when I’m bored. When I read my Bible and I don’t “get it”. When I hear a sermon and it’s good, but it’s not “for me”. When the worship song doesn’t give me chills it used to. When I pray and my mind starts wandering or I have to stop and ask myself if I mean what I’m saying because it doesn’t feel like it.

I try to be honest and tell God I’m really not in the mood to do the things that I know I should be doing, but (so far/usually) I do them anyway. And though it doesn’t counteract my somewhat apathetic attitude, I feel proud of myself, because I’m doing what I didn’t do before, sticking with it. Usually I would have quit by now. I would have stopped walking and willingly let myself become distracted.  But not this time.  This time I’m reaching and attempting to break the pattern.

Galatians 6:9 NIV

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

This is my focus right now. I’m trying to live the first part of this verse knowing that if I do, I will be living the second. I’ve forfeited too many blessings in the past because I was not persistent. I have to remember not my pattern of becoming disillusioned and giving up, but of God’s pattern in repeating this process.  He’s repeated it so much in my walk that I’m JUST NOW starting to wonder what’s on the other side of this. I’ve read this story, walked this path, heard this speech many times, but I’ve never stuck around to see how it ended. Whatever it is, God has been trying to show it to me for years, but I’ve always abandoned the gift because of the grunt. I pray now that God will be with me and prod me along the way to overcome my stubbornness so I can make it to the other side this time around.

Building My Faith Ft. My Friend, An Atheist

So, very recently I’ve started communicating with a wonderful person who identifies himself as an atheist.  First and foremost, I thank him and I thank God that he has been open to conversation, not set on debate or making me change my mind about my beliefs. There’s been a common understanding that we can ask each other questions without the agenda of converting one another and there’s been a sincerity that is scarce among people of all faiths.

I think hearing that I’ve reached out to someone who is of a different faith specifically to talk about our beliefs makes many people uneasy.  I understand why, but at the same time I really don’t.  My intention is to learn, to understand, to connect, to create relationships.  I mean, isn’t that the great commission of what I claim to believe?  I wanted to burst my bubble that’s overcrowded with Christian community and to venture into the world that’s overflowing with people who do not think, see, feel, believe, what I feel.  The world that God is still in as well.  I wanted to really be where God is, where we wants us to go.

I’ve reached out in the past with good and bad experiences, nevertheless, coming back with life lessons that I would never have learned had I stayed in my comfort zone.  I’ve willed myself to be led into this relationship where I have to stretch. Where I have to actually activate my faith. Where I let God show me that he’s not scared of doubt, opposition, or disbelief.  If I have faith in God as much as I say I do when I’m saying “amen” in church, then he will take me far beyond bible study, quiet time, church service, worship songs, and everything else about my faith that feels good.

My God lives outside of my pleasure, outside of my preferences and he’s asking me to follow.  I’ve taken what I thought was a small step of faith and in that, God has catapulted me into a fruitful and genuine friendship that in many ways, is more transparent than many other relationships I have.  Basically, I have to ask myself, “How much faith do I really have in Christ if I’m afraid to be confronted with anything outside of it?”

Let God be God. He works through relationship, with us and through us.  He’s not nervous, or anxious, or secretive, or embarrassed.  That’s all you, boo. He can answer those hard questions, and take you to those unattainable places if you let him.  It’s as simple and as complicated as any relationship.

My God is not exclusive and not discriminating and little by little, with every ‘yes’ I’m willing to give, he’s willing to overshadow my apprehension with his goodness.  My experience so far has been one that’s overwhelming and uncomfortable as it is exhilarating and edifying.  Please just take a chance and step out.  Without putting limitations on what a “good” outcome looks like.  Let God show you what he can do when you don’t give him restrictions.

This is how it starts

That first yes seems so difficult, overflowing with expectation and apprehension. But it’s that first yes that started it all.

It’s that first yes that covers and leads the way for all other yeses to follow. That “Yes, Lord” that charges through the army of “I can’t”, “How?”, “But…”, “Do I have to?” and “Later”.

The yes that initially stands alone, but recruits many others as it barrels along. That only absorbs courage and conviction as the army swells into “Whatever you want, God”, “Pick me”, “Where you go, I go”.

The “Yes, Lord” that was once whimpered in weakness and humility now yells at the top of it’s lung a battle cry of agreement. And it’s that yes that will clear a path for every affirmation.

It’s that first yes that not only opens doors, but creates them where there were none. Though the strength of it will be tested, that yes is the key God used when to unlocked his yeses.

So you want to know where to start? Do you really or are you just curious? There’s no reason to be frightened, but every reason to be overwhelmed. With a sincere and willing heart, mind and will, say yes.

There are no prerequisites.  All other questions will be answered when and if necessary.  The yeses will not always be triumphant. Sometimes they will be small, but nonetheless, it’s a yes.

And this is how it starts…

Staleness Stability

Because of my personality, I’ve always been known as a picture of stability

A blessing in the foundation, but a twist of sin in hesitation

A lifetime of being Barnabas to multiple Pauls, bold in encouragement but faith so small

Rambunctious fan screaming your name, you could count on my support at every game

Now I hear the front line calling my own, to buy in and make His name known

Though, a life like that comes with little guarantee and that’s not really like me

Truthfully that’s probably the objective, that security is rarely effective

Being set apart isn’t just for the Christian elite, a soul on fire finally starting to feel the heat

Such joy seeing people go deeper and higher, not thinking that was something I’d acquire

But today I have no ceiling and no floor, yet I have been given so much more

Ask me where I’m going but I have no clue, this level is so raw and so new

No a plan but all is going exactly as it should; seems the ambiguity is doing me some good

Stability is comfortable but stale; now out of prison since my God posted bail