This past weekend was one of the biggest in my life. I was in charge of planning what’s known as, Live Up weekend, which is a weekend retreat where students come and be together for two full days. It’s awesome, but man is it daunting. In the planning phases with my co-event head, Rachel, we became super stressed and needed God to really bring it all together. He did. He came through ten-fold. The weekend saw over a hundred and forty students go deeper in their walk with Christ and begin having an authentic faith. It was awesome. An awe-inspiring moment in the life of our youth ministry. One of my favorite moments during the event, was when a local edm producer played a show for us on Friday night. Neon Feather was an absolute blast, but the concert did something unique, something that was intentionally planned. It started a party, and God loves a good party.
One of the most impactful things that has happened in my life, was when my middle school youth pastor, Marshall, brought me into his office and told me I was a unique kid that was going to do great things. After that he brought me with him to a low-income school on the south side of Greensboro. The school was filled with kids who came from broken homes, newly immigrated to America, and were in a rough side of town. We set up a mini carnival for them, playing games and handing out candy. The smiles from the kids gave me a hope for the future. I was an awkward middle schooler who loved comic books and had anger issues. I was given a chance to reach out to young kids who needed help, they needed the love of Christ. I was able to give that to them in the form of fun childish games. I felt like I wasn’t going to amount to anything, but Marshall empowered my dream to be a hero to others like I read in those comic books. Marshall spoke life into me.
It’s here! Christmas time is among us (Though for many of you it began as soon as your Jack-o-lantern went out). I really love this season, not simply for all the cold air and the smell of cinnamon that seemingly is everywhere (how does that even happen?). I love it because it’s a season of caring, at least for me it always has been. Christmas has never been a specific day for me. My family was in Wisconsin so we would celebrate several Christmas days, but what I learned is that Christmas is so much more than the day (or about a creepy man who reverse robs you), it was about giving back. Reaching out and being intentional with others. I really love giving gifts, not big expensive and crazy things, simply things that are meaningful. Last year though, my mom executed this perfectly. She gave my dad, sister, my brother-in-law, Danielle, and myself gifts that really spoke to me. They weren’t insane or wild, simply intentional gifts that poured into us. That got me thinking about this Christmas season, and what I want to do this month. I want to talk about intentionality. I want to talk about being purposeful with the people around us, because we are called to love our neighbors.
It’s finally that time! Thanksgiving week is upon us (unless you read this early here!). Hopefully this means that you are enjoying the time and not stressing out, but let’s be real you probably are. Distant relatives might be coming over and that stresses you out. Maybe you have been stuck making the food (get some of the lazy ones to help out, yo!). You may be super anxious about the political debates that may happen. You might be killing yourself trying to have the Norman Rockwell image of thanksgiving dinner. Hold up. This doesn’t really sound like a “holiday,” it seems kinda like a nightmare. I want to pull the plug on the idea of having a picture-perfect Thanksgiving. Even though you may see tons of Instagram pictures of a feast, you don’t see the picture of the dishes to make the meal, the family arguments before and after the picture was taken. You don’t see the bathroom struggle later, the baby throw up on a tired mom, or the awkward comment that uncle four times removed made about you name it. I want to cut through the fake-ness, I want to look at what thanksgiving should be all about, and I want to look at the power of family.
Confession time, I absolutely love the band Paramore. In middle school the album, “Riot!” and “All We Know Is Falling,” were on repeat often for me during school. Now, I do listen to music that isn’t targeted for angsty teens, but I always have fun listening to Paramore. In 2013, there was a song they put out on their self-titled album, called “Ain’t it Fun.” (I promise this is going somewhere) it basically starts by saying “Isn’t it fun how crazy and scary life is?” It then goes on with the idea that there are a million people in the world, so you can do it. I think that’s what fun does, it gives us a chance to get out of our own heads and worries and enjoy what God has around us. In this month of November, you are probably seeing many posts about what people are thankful for, and one of the things I’m thankful for is fun. I think it’s vital for not only our mental health, but spiritual health. You see fun is a blessing, one that God has given us to live in freedom.
“So encourage each other and build each other up.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Ahh yes, the November weather has finally come! At least sort of here in North Carolina. I love this month, I love October, but I really like the themes that surround November. Thanksgiving time is here, which means many blogs about things we are thankful for, but one of the things I want to do is talk about ways to treat those in our lives. Family is big to me, not just biological, but my friends; brothers and sisters in Christ. One of my favorite memories about November and thanksgiving is that each year, my family would open up our home to people who couldn’t make it home or may have not had family. It was always awesome to me, but I’ll save my thoughts on that for later (no spoilers). I think so often we talk about what we’re thankful for, but sometimes don’t always show it. Talk is great, but God gives us actions to live out faith. Today I want to talk about something that many of us don’t do nearly as much as we need to, because we all need it desperately. We need to be an encourager.
Well it’s finally here. Today is the Monday before Halloween (Unless of course you are reading this early here!). The kids will walk around your neighborhood in the costumes they are proud of, candy will be consumed in vast quantities, and many laughs after frights will be had. My family loved Halloween, at my old church the kids had a fall festival my mom put on and I would work hard on a costume with my dad. Things like, a guy in a shower, a laundry basket, or garbage bag (all were real, and all were epic). The past week has been kinda crazy. My life has started going a million miles an hour, and stress has started to build. I’m stepping into new roles, and balancing several things on my plate. On a Tuesday I had a rough day. I struggle with anxiety, fears put in my head that tell me I’m not doing enough or that I’m not good enough. On Tuesday I had a pretty rough anxiety attack, the whole day my mind was constantly racing, worrying about my role and place in the world, I was afraid that I wasn’t doing all that I should, I was worried that people hated me, and I was afraid of countless scenarios that aren’t even possible. It didn’t make sense, but it makes sense now. I had fear in my heart, doing all it could to convince me I wasn’t who God made me to be.
But fear is from the devil, and the devil is a stupid liar.
I have an old disposable camera. I found it, and started playing around with it. I took pictures on a road trip and when the pictures were developed, they had a great yellow tint due to the expired film. The camera was easily opened, so I got the idea to re-load the disposable camera. While this isn’t the point of a disposable, I had to give it a shot. I watched how-to videos and with my girlfriend, we tried it. I got about half way and stopped as the YouTube tutorial guy mentioned that you need a dark room or else the film would be exposed. Whoops! I had exposed a good bit of the film in the process, so when the pictures were finished developed, they had red where light had polluted the film. It got me thinking though, film works by exposing in a flash to capture the image wanted. In order to get the shot, you have to expose the darkness to the light. This has gotten me thinking, and it fits in well with our topic on fear.
My favorite part about the October season is to look at the way b-movie tropes can actually teach us to grow closer in our relationship to Christ. Say whaaat? Yeah that’s right, God moves in many ways, and I often see spiritual truths in movies and b-movies. It’s like, part of my blog. One of my favorite b-movies of all time is George Romero’s, “Night of the Living Dead.” Fun fact, b-movies is an old-school film term that referred to the movie that played after the a-movie at old Nickelodeons. You just got a mini history lesson. Now we see it as meaning a “bad” movie, but often it was a lower budget film. George Romero made the movie that created the modern zombie film genre today. You know, the hordes of mindless creatures that eat people and turn them into another member of their mindless feasting (yuck!). What happens in every zombie flick is the horde of monsters continues to grow and as our survivors fall, the heroes begin to lose heart. They become overwhelmed by the horde, falling to their fears one by one. Their fears overcome them, and the same is true for many of you.
“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.”
The most common commandment throughout the bible is do not be afraid. Said another way, do not fear and its variations are used over and over again throughout scripture. This month begins a season of spookiness, and one of my favorite things I do on this blog is look at themes from b-movies and monster flicks and highlight the biblical truth found in these concepts. I promise I’m not sacrilegious, but I think biblical truths can be highlighted through this season. The biggest theme through this Halloween season is fear, and fear is from Satan. Plan simple, boom, we’re done. Not really. Fear is from Satan, and we know this, but why then do we feel fear? We feel fear because we choose to not listen to the most common commandment in scripture, we choose to rely on our own power and forget to be firm in a God who loves us. When we choose independence, we choose the enemy. We are not created to be independent, we are called sons and daughters made in the image of God, so therefore, we are called to fear not. Today I want to talk about an experience I had going to a haunted woods and what God tells us about trusting him, because fear is from the enemy and nothing good comes from anything other than God.