Recently, I’ve been scared. There’s lots of scary stuff going on in my life. End of the semester stress, graduating this year, starting a job to fund raise for a future career of ministry, and simply wanting to do what God has called me for. I’ve been scared, but God is bigger than my fears. This past week had many cool moments occur. I learned that I had the chance to speak at our high school ministry, I had a great conversation with my campus pastor, and I had a chance to pray over people in our city. That’s the moment where it happened, where a simple thing hit me in my moment of feeling weak. Prayer. One of those basic things we have in our walk with Christ. So simple, yet often I overlook the importance of prayer. In my season of fear I have been praying a lot, asking for a sign (some kind of neon lights in the sky to point me) I have been wanting all the answers to my life immediately. God doesn’t work on my schedule. Aww man! But it would be so much nicer, I mean, I know what’s best for me! That’s my human side, and it’s many of your reactions too, well maybe you don’t whine, but you get the idea. In all of my fear, I am choosing to pray, because when I choose to humble myself, then the Lord works.
“So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.”
Everything is rooted in one thing. Our roots formulate our ideas, our passions, and our desires for the future. Each of us has our foundation built on something. So what are you rooted in? What drives you, pushes you forward, causes you to think about it all the time? I think many of us want to have our roots growing in the presence of God, but we fear actually giving up control. So our roots stay in our own power. Sure for a time they seem to be growing well, but eventually we will find that we become dead inside. We put on our good face and try to make it on our own, but once we have a chance to be alone we feel the hurt rush in. We feel weak because we are weak; our foundation is rooted in the wrong source. I’ve been thinking about this because before I can go and do anything I need to make sure my roots are growing in the right place. I think about this because I never want to feel dead again, I never want to rest on my own power because my strength is weak. I’ve been thinking about this because I had remembered the time I had Lawrence the cactus.
This past weekend was fantastic. I had a chance to be involved with our children’s ministry event called FX (family experience). I was able to help re-write the script and help with the production, but I was also able to be in different aspects of the night itself. From the many costume changes I went through to the getting out of breath from being a wacky game show host, I loved every aspect of it. The feeling after that night was hard to describe, but the best way I can quantify it was that it felt like home. The feeling of being home is a feeling that you are in a place where you belong. It’s a sense of peace and comfort, where you can feel safe and secure. It’s the feeling I get in the presence of God. I think that’s a beautiful thing. We feel at home when we enter into our passions because God has given us these passions, and he calls us homeward.
“He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’
What does it look like to truly follow Christ? I think so many times for us we wonder if what we are doing is the right thing, if we are allowed to do or say different types of things, or if we can associate with certain people. We need to stop. We need to break free of the mindset that faith is a set of rules. Faith with Christ is a relationship, an authentic relationship shared with the creator of all things. It’s so easy in the church world mindset that we have to follow a certain list of rules in order to be allowed in the club. Following Christ is not about earning enough gold stars to go to heaven, it’s about a relationship of love with the king of kings. This can be difficult. We live in a modern age where following Christ can be pushed to the side. We have endless entertainment and can post pictures of our bible on Instagram without ever actually reading it. The crazy thing is, this has been a struggle since Jesus came onto the scene. No they didn’t have hours of shows to stream on Netflix or some Jesus and coffee aesthetic to keep up with on Instagram. What they had was the core of the struggle, what does it look like to truly follow Christ?
This past week I went bicycling on the Virginia Creeper trail. It was a blast of a day trip. I woke up at six, carpooled with Danielle at seven, and then spent the day riding up to the trail. We arrived at a cute little bike shop and road up the winding path with an old bus driver who told us all about his grandchildren and great grandchildren. The drive took about a half hour, then we began our trek down. The weather had fooled us, so we were a bit colder, causing us to layer up and for me to use Danielle’s extra socks as gloves (Hey, I mean whatever works, right?). We road our bikes in the cold and stopped a few times to warm up our frigid toes. We survived on Fig Newton’s (the only restaurant on the path was closed) and luckily only had my chain pop off once. It was a long journey, which took us around three-ish hours as opposed to the half our ride up, but the journey was worth it. I think the same is true in our own lives. God gives us desires and passions in our hearts to do amazing things, but the journey can often seem to be never ending, but there is a purpose in our journey. The long journey is worth the wait because God shapes who we are in moments of wandering.
I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression over the past few months. I’ve been so afraid of the future and the path I will take over the next months after school. The stress of trying to finish well but not have a clear direction after this season scares me, it makes me feel like I am failing at my purpose. All I desire is to write words that will inspire others and serve the next generation in ministry, but the path is so unclear and that’s what makes it so difficult. That’s the reason I need Christ more than ever. It’s the reason we all need Christ more than ever. This past week I was worshiping with my brothers and sisters and received prayer of encouragement for this struggle I’ve been facing. After this I prayed with Matt the artist. I call him this because he truly thinks in abstract ways like an artist, and we prayed together in an abstract way. We prayed to look for the moment of origin for anxiety, and when I found it, he asked me to now put God in that situation. Everything changed. You see, Matt the artist helped me understand that I can’t go about things on my own, my foundation needs to be focused on my savior. Our focus needs to be on the foundation of our life.
Culture is all around us. We are exposed to each of our cultures on a daily basis; the messages and ideas are thrown at us constantly, and we don’t even pick up on all of it. It’s so ingrained in each of us that these messages don’t even phase us anymore, things become normal. In our normalcy we become numb. I bring up this idea of culture because I study culture at my university. I am a communication studies major (not communications, you’d lose a hand if you said that to any of the professors), and in this field I am able to look at how messages are communicated to each other, and culture comes from this communication. A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication. Culture influences us, culture changes the way we think and culture has us accept things that they are normal, but we are weird. When you become weird, you can never go back to being normal.
“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
Life can be really tough. We go through many trials and things we don’t understand, and if we’re honest, it’s hard to see the silver lining in everything. I know for me this is a hard concept to grasp. God tells us in scripture that he will use all things, but that idea of “all things” isn’t always the most joyful of times in our lives. I love that quote above from Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, because it is a picture of how God uses the tough times in our lives. You see life is full of blessings and good times, but it is equally filled with turmoil. The word turmoil means a state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty. I think many times in our lives we are filled with disturbance, confusion, and uncertainty. Yet in all of it we can have triumph in the turmoil, because our God has already conquered the world, so we can stand strong through it all.
We have all been made unique. Each of us have talents and skills that are unlike anyone else. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. All of us are made in the image of God and each of us are individuals. Over the past few weeks I’ve been writing about being weird, how following after Christ truly sets us apart from the world. That makes us weird. It’s weird to pursue a relationship with an incredible creator, it’s weird to show love to everyone because of the love shown to us, and it’s weird to serve others in an authentic way. This is a passion of mine, to tell everyone just how special they are, and just how important their role is in the kingdom. Today I want to speak to you on a deep level, I want to tell you something that is very important in your walk with Christ. You are super.
Ahh yes. Love is in the air, the Valentine season is upon us. This time of year is always fantastic in my family. My parents were married on Valentine’s Day and each year my dad gives my mom a decorated heart shaped box, our house is filled with them and it’s a beautiful sight to see. This time of year is great but it asks a question, what is love? (*cue the song “what is love” by Haddaway). We talk about love and loving things, but what does it mean to have a real love? Last week we uncovered the fact that we all have potential weirdness inside of us, meaning that we are in the family of Christ and that means we have been set apart. Part of being weird is an understanding of what real love is and what that looks like. The best part is, we don’t have to wonder what real love is. In children’s ministry we have been looking at love and our memory verse encapsulates what real love is. In the NIRV (one of the most down to earth bible translations) 1 John 4:10 says, “Here is what love is. It is not that we loved God. It is that he loved us and sent his Son to give his life to pay for our sins.” Real love is Christ dying for us.