Thursday, January 5, 2017

Do You Know Your Influence?

Have you ever contemplated to impact you can have on someone's life?

Over the many years I have played and coached sports, it's become clearer and clearer that coaches have an amazing opportunity and access to make, break, encourage, etc. the trajectory and course of their players' lives.

I've played for countless coaches, having played sports basically my entire life. Some of them encouraged me and made me feel invincible. Some of them broke me to the core of my being, at least that's what it felt like. Some of them told me I wouldn't make it, that I would never be good enough.

The words, "You won't survive the next level," rang in my ears for many years. They had the power to motivate me, as I worked to prove that coach wrong, and the power to cripple me, as I came into agreement with them.

Well where does all of this power come from? There's an old saying that says "Stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." Well I call that a flat out lie. Words matter. There's life and death in the power of the tongue [Proverbs 18:21]. Like I mentioned earlier, the words, "You won't survive at the next level," are what stuck with, motivated, and crippled me. It wasn't whether or not I got enough playing time, but what was spoken.

Think about what people have spoken over you in your life and how that has shaped and impacted what you've done or how you've thought about yourself or others around you. Have they influenced you?

Go with me on this... Wars don't just happen, right? They are declared.

     Declare [v.] - say something in a solemn and emphatic manner.

You could say that's extreme but holocausts don't just happen. Slavery doesn't just happen. Divorce. Bad reputations. And so on. All of these things don't just magically happen one day. There are ideas planted by statements made from people voicing or declaring their opinions. With our words we have the power to define perceived worth.

Why do I say all of this?

In our day in age and with everything that's going on in the world, in America, and the social media age, it seems like we could all stand to take a step back and take inventory of the words we're using and what we're saying.

Words seem to find themselves just these images on a page that we can throw around without consequences now that we all have access to our own personal platforms via social media. When we don't have to look at the reaction on people's faces, it gets a lot easier to say whatever we want.

What I mostly want to challenge us with today is these two questions:

  1. Are we speaking life or are we speaking death?
  2. Do we know our influence? 
We all have influence whether we think we do or not. I pray we take inventory of this influence and commit, to the best of our abilities, to only bring positive influence and speak life in all that we do.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Have You Ever Just Sat And Stared at Your Skin?

Have you ever just sat and stared at your skin?

It's fascinating stuff.
It's the largest organ in our bodies.
It regenerates itself.
It's the most "flaky" organ in our bodies.
It's also seemingly the most deadly organ in our bodies.

I don't know the stats but too many people have died because of the color of their skin.

And for what?

I'll never understand the motivation. I'll never understand the plight. I'll never understand most of it.

Have you ever sat and just stared at your skin?

The different wrinkles. Spots. Scars.
It's the organ that most readily shows age. Battle wounds. What life has brought you to and through.
It gets dry. It gets ashy. It gets oily. It gets burnt.
Some try everything to make it darker. Some try everything to not let it get darker.
We paint it. We pick at it. We cover it up. We show it off.

Everyone has it.

Yet every society has used the shade of our skin to divide and define a person's worth.

I understand how this has happened because I see the depravity of man, but, at the same time, I'll never understand it because I understand that we're all made in the image of God. Black skin reflects God just as much as my white skin.

I recently sat down with one of my Black friends and asked her the same question, "Have you ever just sat and stared at your skin?" And this is what she had to say,

"Yes, I’ve stared at my skin.
As I look at my skin, I sometimes don’t know where to begin.

Skin is so superficial, yet so sacred.
Yet, it masterfully points to our Creator.
It’s darkness hides scars, but has failed to hide the scar of shame that’s become a norm.
When I behold my skin, I see burden, responsibility, and beauty.
I have wrestled with questions, of 'Why God?'

Why should I be made to feel as less than?
Why should I shoulder the weight of oppression or continued micro aggressions?
Why should I fight harder just to be seen as an equal?

I remain perplexed by my Black skin.
It’s richness of hue is absolutely stunning.
This perplexity of beauty and burden I am willing to bear.
Because my skin is not for my glory, but for God alone.

If it causes me to love and trust God in a greater way; I will bear it.
If it causes me to see the imago dei (image of God) in others; I will bear it.
If it causes me to reconcile with my neighbor; I will bear it.
If it causes me to remain on my knees until change comes; I will bear it.
If it allows me to empathize with the marginalized; I will bear it.

I will bear it.

I don’t believe skin color was created to divide us. I believe it reflects beauty as God sees it.

Real beauty exudes harmony.

Yes, I’ve sat and stared at my skin, but I have also stared at your skin, my White friend.
In both I see beauty.
I see you.
You are beautiful.
Thank you for seeing me."

Her words are so beautiful. I'm so thankful to have friends who look different, think differently, and come from different backgrounds than I. I see you, friends. I stand with you. I pray for you.

We need a revelation of Jesus now more than ever.
We can't have true justice without Him.
We can't truly love one another without Him.

I pray that we would see each other's skin and the pain and fear that may be harbored and that we would take the time to bear it with one another. 

Have you ever just sat and stared at your skin?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Ocean Thoughts

All our lives we're looking for love.
We look for it from our parents first.
They created us so they must love us. 
Especially our fathers. 
If they aren't there then we tend to look to others.
...we look to bottles.
...we look to needles. 
...we look to...
anything but Jesus. 

To what end?
Can they save us?
Can they love us? 
It might feel like love but what may feel like love can be disguised as death.
If we look to our parents first for love because they made us then why do we so quickly turn away from the Creator? 
Do we really understand love?
It doesn't seem like it. 
Can we really understand love?
Jesus died for us. 
Gave up His life for us. 
If the greatest love is that one should lay down his life for his friend, then there's no greater love than found in Him. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Reasons to Not Lose Hope

As I watch the news and read articles about recent events regarding racial tensions, terrorism, shootings, I can't help but think of a few things...

I wish sin never entered the world.

I wish humanity would love one another unconditionally.

I wish it didn't feel so hopeless at times.

It's hard to watch the news and see the brokenness that plagues society, that plagues our hearts.

BUT there are reasons not to lose hope:

Jesus came to Earth and lived the sinless life.

     God didn't give up on us even though we turned our backs on Him. He still came in pursuit of us. He has so much love for us that He humbled Himself to the point of denying His divinity and came to Earth as Jesus. There is plenty of historical evidence that a man name Jesus of Nazareth lived during the first century outside of the Bible, but the Bible includes four eyewitness accounts of His life on Earth and His sinlessness. He even experienced everything we'll experience on this Earth yet remained sinless. He can empathize with us. But that's not all...

Jesus died the death we deserve.

     He has so much love for us that He humbled Himself to the point of death. That death is something we deserve because of our disobedience and sinful hearts. Jesus' death is even something historically documented as fact outside of the Bible. But that's still not all...

Jesus resurrected and redeemed us from the separation our sin creates.

     He overcame that death and resurrected, conquering sin and death once and for all. He created a bridge between God and man that we might experience everlasting life and intimate relationship with our Creator once again, as He originally intended. Jesus' body missing from the tomb is something also documented outside of the Bible.

If the story presented in the Bible is true, which I believe it is, and Jesus is who He said He is and did what is recounted numerous times, then...

Why not believe in a great Creator who loves you?

Why not believe in a God who can empathize with your weaknesses?

Why not believe in the greatest miracle of all times?

Why not believe in the greatest news ever told?

What is there to lose except maybe your pride? Your chains? Your strongholds? Everything that holds you back from being a loving, fulfilled, complete creation?

Did we create the world? Did we set everything into motion? Do we hold all of eternity together with perfect precision? No. And how could all of this intricate universe come from nothing? Wouldn't we still see things randomly appear if that were the case? Why is it a fact that everything that comes into existence now has to be created if that wasn't the case for everything in the beginning?

So why do we think we can decide what's right and what's wrong? What's God and what's not? That it's somehow relative? Truth can't be relative. It just can't. If truth is relative, when one "truth" says another "truth" is a lie, which one is true? Logically, they can't both be. There has to be absolute truth.

We have to start from somewhere. The question is, where? Where are we going to base our moral truth, our moral compass, and source of truth? In people, who have very little control over anything, or in an all-powerful, loving Creator, who knows everything intimately, controls everything, and made everything to be exactly as it is?

The hope isn't in ourselves but in God and allowing Him, and partnering with Him, to restore His creation. It is there that we find harmony, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. If you think about it, aren't these the things we long for in everything that's wrong with society? But what are those? We find this list in Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We can't find them or foster them or cultivate them without God.

So I ask you this question, are you truly in search of truth or just arguments that will validate your own opinions?

Don't take my word for it. Get out a Bible. Do some research. Have conversations with people who believe differently than you. Let the search for truth be a never-ending quest.

And just because it may feel hopeless at times, doesn't mean there is none. Because... there's always Hope.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Life's Little Messes

I can remember a time I was sitting in Starbucks listening to a father interact with his daughter at the table next to me. It made me think: what must it look like for God to interact with us as our Father. I think about this a lot when I observe children with their parents.

When the pair sat down at the table, he helped her up onto the booth chair and tucked her into place with the table.

He gave her a muffin he bought her and asked her if she wanted some water. Upon her request, he promptly retrieved the water for her.

As the pair sat, the father spent time on his phone but also asked his daughter what she had learned at school that day.

He listened intently to the sorrows a 5 year old may face in a day at kindergarten.

After the two had enjoyed some time together, the daughter spilled her water on herself and was immediately very upset. She cried and said everything was ruined.

The father comforted her and reassured her that it was ok. She cried harder as she felt that her clothes were ruined but the father continued to sweetly clean her up and tell her it was no big deal.

As I ponder back through this series of events, I think, how many times have I sat before God crying because I think everything is ruined but He continues to reassure me, it's ok, my beloved. Why does it take so much for us to understand that God is a good, loving Father?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

What is Love?

I've been in love.
A few times.

Am I married? No.

Am I in a relationship? No.

I'm thankful that doesn't mean there's something terribly wrong with me.

I've been in a 4.5 year relationship and a 4.5 month relationship both of which could have led to marriage and were both moving in that direction. I essentially ended both of them. Why? They weren't right. Was it hard? Extremely. A couple of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

Those of us who are single and wanting to get married one day often look back at these attempts and see them as a failure. We assume we did something wrong or if they had just done x, y, or z right, we would have been "successful." That's because we some times only see that marriage equals success.

I will admit that those were some of my first thoughts.

None of those relationships were "failures" but lessons learned on the adventure that is life.

It's fun to look back with hindsight and see how silly you were or how blinded you were but also see just how much you've grown.

God has been taking me on a journey to discover more about love and how skewed my vision was. Do I have all of the answers? No. But to start, God took me to 1 John chapter 4, mostly verses 7 through 14:

"7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world." (NASB)

Based on this passage, what is love? Love can be defined as three things:

1. God is love.

God is love not in the simple way that we think about love. God is love in a way that is unfathomable, incomprehensible, and indescribable. God's nature. His essence. His will. His works are primarily love, unconditional love. This love is shown and manifested through the Gospel.

2. Love is the Gospel.

The gospel is the good news that God became man in Jesus Christ. He lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died, in our place. Three days later, He rose from the dead, proving that He is the Son of God, and offering the gift of salvation for all who repent and believe in the gospel.

God sent His Son to save us from the death we deserve because of our rebellion as sinners. He took our place, purchasing our freedom that we may know God and love Him. How do we know God and grow in our relationship with Him?

3. Love is intimacy. 

As Christians, we are given the Holy Spirit to be our helper and our counselor (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit is God abiding in us that we may know Him intimately. It is through this intimacy that love is perfected. Why is it that it takes God's love being in us for it to be perfected? 

Here's where I think it gets real interesting. It is through this intimacy and the fruit of the Spirit that we see evidence of God. The first fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22 is...? Love! Coincidence? I don't think so. In 1 John 4:7-14, John is talking about God being love and that love being manifested in the sacrifice made my Jesus on the cross for our sins, the Gospel.

(Side note: In 1 Corinthians 13, love is also defined. Verse 4 starts, "Love is patient; love is kind..." There's two more fruit of the Spirit right there!)

What does the Christian faith start with? When do you actually become a Christian? It is when someone repents and believes Jesus is the Son of God, lived the life we should have lived, died the death we should have died and three days later rose from the dead. Essentially, the Christian faith starts with the Gospel. If love is the Gospel, then wouldn't it just have to make sense that the first fruit of the Spirit is love? Because once you understand the Gospel, you begin to understand love.  

If you haven't caught on, this post isn't really about my love life. I think what we can do with a passage like this is help spread the news of what love truly is. The Gospel. Especially with what we see happening around us in the world today with race issues, ISIS/terrorism, gender confusion, homosexuality, abortion, and so on. Too many people are being shot, killed, or mutilated out of an inaccurate and unhealthy view of what love is.

We can become fearful, defensive, offensive, reactive, passive, aggressive, etc. but what about becoming loving? Joyful? Peaceful? Patient? Kind? Good? Faithful? Self-controlled? How do we love one another if we don't know what that truly means because we don't know what love really is?

God is love. Love is the Gospel. Love is intimacy.

Let's talk about the Good News and spread a little love around instead of hate. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

God Knows What We Need

I love mornings/days when I have time to myself to just sit and listen to music and let it sink into my soul.

This morning I've had the You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music Spotify playlist playing on my phone. No one is home so I can just sing out to my heart's desire. Don't get me wrong, I'll still sing when others are around, but there's just something about being alone and letting go, unashamed of the notes your hitting (or not hitting). I have a cold so my voice is struggling, but that's the beauty of headphones, especially noise canceling ones, they drown out your voice.

Music is the primary way through which I connect with God. I'm thankful He's not worried about what my voice sounds like. I'm thankful He's just listening to my heart and that He hears it more clearly than anyone else. I get tears of joy just thinking about it. To know someone knows you so deeply and intimately and still loves you all the same is mind blowing. This is why I love creating this safe space in which I can pour out my heart to God through music. Whether I am singing my heart out or just letting the lyrics sink in, both are therapeutic and healing to my heart and spirit.

God knows what we need; He knows what we want. He promises that when we rest in him, He will give us the desires of our heart. Who better to rely on than the one who created that heart and knows inside and out what it needs? I feel like God's prompting me to ask you what you are trying to hide from Him inside your heart? What are you holding onto? Take some time to sit in silence and let Him speak. It's such a sweet process to surrender everything and allow God to fill that space with His love, grace, mercy, and tenderness.

This is a word to myself as well as anyone to ventures to read this. We could all use more quiet time, alone with God, to search our souls and rid ourselves of what hinders us from truly knowing God. We are more wicked and flawed than we dared believe and more loved and affirmed than we ever dared hope. It's the beautiful message of the gospel. We're so messed up, but God loves us so much, He saved us from death. Step into His presence today. Step into the freedom He's offering. Step out as a new creation. You're beautiful. You're loved. You're exactly who He made you to be. May your day be favored and my your heart be stirred.