Culture has a hard time listening. Every day we have messages bombarding us from all over the place. We are glued to our phones, checking notifications and refreshing apps to see what everyone is doing. The TV is typically just on, endlessly playing Netflix. It just gets tough. With all the noise in our lives, we rarely have quiet moments. Even now, as I write this, I find myself looking at my phone. It’s so frustrating, it’s time to stop and learn to listen. I laugh at myself sometimes. Okay, a lot of times, because I tend to do silly things. I’ll get sucked into a TV show that isn’t even that good and then know waaay too much about it (Shouts out to Vampire Diaries and its’ nonsense). I also do things that are a bit more ridiculous. I’m in a season of some unknowns and having to trust God, and many times I find myself saying, “I just can’t hear God.” The truth is, and this truth is the same for you as well, I’m not allowing myself time to listen.
One of my favorite classes I took in college was an art appreciation course. When completing your degree, you have to take a certain number of fine arts courses at UNCG, so I took this class and ended up loving it. There was a bit of history, but the main focus of the class was seeing what makes art, art. That’s a super overarching topic, and one that I won’t focus on today. What I want to talk about is a piece that I discovered while researching a project. Modern artist, Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen took mirror shards and covered a series of mannequins with the pieces. Then, she shone light on the mannequins, creating a light affect similar to a disco ball. I just remember thinking how cool that was, and recently, remembered this again and feeling the Holy Spirit nudge me. My life has been wild the past few months, with incredible moments but with it the fear of the unknown creeping in. In conversations with friends of mine, this feeling is not something I share alone. I think even you may be walking through some very real unknowns, feeling like you aren’t sure what’s next. These fears are tools from the enemy that then cause us to doubt ourselves. We begin to feel like failures, worry about past mistakes, and compare ourselves to those who seem perfect around us. We end up feeling broken. Shattered people who feel like they can’t be anything in a sea of people. The Holy Spirit nudges me sometimes in my moments where I feel week, reminding me of promises and truth in scripture. The thing he reminded me of right now, was of those sculptures, a broken masterpiece.
I saw a really cool shirt at Target. My wife and I love to walk around Target, it’s a pretty simple date night (You just have to make a pact not to buy anything before walking in), and now that we have a nephew, we like to check out the kids’ section. Kids today have awesome style options to choose from, but in the girl area there was a shirt that simply said, “Kindness is cool.” What an awesome shirt! It’s kinda crazy to see shirts like that when we live in a culture in America that isn’t very kind. We get angry, often at things that aren’t that big of a deal, and we turn on each other. Normal people who go completely crazy, kind of like the stories that will inevitably come out of this coming Black Friday, or from being a secret werewolf. Okay, yes, that last comment makes no sense, but if you’ve ever played the card game, “One Night Werewolf,” you know just how not kind people can become. The game is played in complicated rules, but it boils down to two werewolves have to convince everyone else they aren’t and get some poor innocent players killed. I love this game, because immediately everyone tries to prove they aren’t the bad guy and throw everyone else under the bus. I highly recommend it for your next game night. What I’m trying to say in all of this, is we have gone far away from being kind, because we are all trying to appear better, and that often means putting someone else down to do it. We gotta change that; it’s what Jesus called us to.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”
This past week I went to Asheville with a close friend of mine. It was a small excursion for a couple of days, a much-needed time away to recharge and get away for just a moment. We walked around downtown searching for a taco shop (I mean, it was taco Tuesday), poked around some comic shops and other art stores. It was awesome, I have a hard time simply relaxing and not working on something. I am always working, if not at my jobs, it’s my writing or some other project. The idea of rest is something difficult for me because I have always had to work in order to get where I need to be. It was a blast to have no agenda, to look at books, and find some Fantastic Four back issues I’ve been searching for (issues 347-349, yo!). We then decided to take a small drive on the Blue Ridge and see some mountains.
The title of this blog comes from a song by one of my favorite artists, Julien Baker. My close friend Daniel turned me onto her music, and it came just at the right time of my life. You see, this past year has been a season of unknowns. Lots of questions and self-doubt keep creeping in, causing me to grow more and more anxious. I ask myself, where do I fit in this world? What’s my place? What’s my purpose? I have these questions swirl because one moment, I feel like God is calling me to a certain area, and the next it feels like I can’t win. It’s hard being a graduate, everyone wants young fresh ideas, but want someone with years of experience under their belt. Not to mention the stereotypes that are perpetrated about millennials, things like we don’t work hard (except for the fact that many of us have two or three part time jobs to survive…*sips tea*). It’s easy to then translate these unwinnable odds as marks against myself, that I’m not good enough, but the truth is; we are called and we are gifted.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Anger is my go-to reaction. I struggled with self-control for most of my childhood. It felt like there was always this deep ball of rage inside of me that was ready to explode at the drop of a hat. I relate very much to that of the Marvel hero, The Incredible Hulk, mild mannered Bruce Banner, but as soon as something makes him angry, he turns into a green rage monster. Yeah, that was basically how I felt (and sometimes still feel). Big or little, it didn’t matter what it was, I got angry at people. Now, I wasn’t getting into fist fights with people, mainly just not-so-great words yelled. I would hold these grudges against people, I never wanted to let go, I never wanted to forgive. Maybe it was spite, the thought that they would see my grudge and stop what they had done horribly wrong. I directed this rage at my family which would hurt our relationships, I directed the anger at my bullies in hopes that I could one day get back at them, and I directed bitterness towards anyone else who wanted to get close. What I learned in my un-forgiveness was that I had chained myself and created a prison for myself.
My friend Rachel gave me a film camera the other day. She knew I was wanting to get into film photography and blessed me that day. I love taking pictures. It captures a memory, freezes a moment in time, and creates a reflection of life. I wanted to take a moment here and reflect, to look at my life and the things God has been showing me. Life has been moving in a flash recently. New job, new opportunities, and new fears that come with that. I guess that’s true with any calling, the closer you are to stepping into God’s plan, Satan tries his hardest to stop you. I’ve been feeling that a lot, the push back. The voices in my head telling me I can’t do it. Feeling inadequate and looked over by the people around me. It sucks. There’s no better way of saying it, but it also causes me to focus on the only one who truly loves and calls me. The one who opens the doors and tells me I can do it. The one who called me for more.
“I give you a new command. Love one another. You must love one another, just as I have loved you. If you love one another, everyone will know you are my disciples.”
There’s been a lot of bad stuff recently. If you pay attention to the news, it can seem like there isn’t much hope in the world. Last week there was a shooting in Florida where seventeen students lost their lives. Seventeen students with potential. Seventeen children made in the image of God. My heart breaks. I tried to think about what I would do if seventeen of my students’ lives were taken, I can’t even fully comprehend the hurt and pain. We live in a time where each day it seems like more devastation happens. Our world is broken, we are so far from God and we are a lost people. I remember an Easter afternoon where I received a message that my friend and one of my brothers from small group took his own life, the pain and hurt that ran deep. I still remember the pain of having my dad tell me that a family member was addicted to drugs and alcohol, the shock and confusion of how that was even possible. In all the brokenness, it can be hard to understand why all this happens, the truth is, we need God. We need a relationship with a mighty savior that loved us so much. I’m not writing a post about how to change the past or change what has happened, I wanted to write about how we go forward. We move forward, together, and love one another.
“The message I give you waits for the time I have appointed. It speaks about what is going to happen. And all of it will come true. It might take a while. But wait for it. You can be sure it will come. It will happen when I want it to.”
I dream a lot. My mind often wanders about things I want to achieve in life, things that I feel a burning in my soul to accomplish. As a kid, I loved going outside to play. I would create vast worlds in my mind a live out a series of stories and adventures. Sometimes it was being a superhero or Jedi having to face great odds, a villain bent on destroying all of existence. Other times I would be a knight or samurai, a part of an army keeping the land safe. I dreamed awake, creating ideas and solving issue of the world. As I grew up, I continued to dream, talking about the future and the things that I was going to accomplish and save the world from. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received, was from a girl named Ellen in high school. She told me she wanted to join my group project in science because I was always dreaming and creating things. As I’ve grown in my walk with Christ, my dreams have shifted. I used to want to be a screenwriter making movies with beautiful stories, I wanted to create stories that spoke to the core of others and impacted them, but the Holy Spirit had more in store. The Holy Spirit shifted my mind, it was hard and my flesh didn’t know how to handle it, but my eyes were opened. God made me this way, not to be a screen writer, but a pastor. A mentor, someone who empowers others; a dreamer for a kingdom minded world. God made me a dreamer, and the truth is, he wants us all to dream bigger.
This past summer has been absolutely wild. I’ve finished school, gone to an amazing camp with Kids, been able to serve on a mission trip, and had God give me a vision for my city. Not only that, but more opportunities are coming up over the next few months. I have been able to truly feel the fullness of God’s faith in me. I’ve been looking back and am being blown away at how God has been faithful to me in my life. My church is in a season of prayer called, 21 days of prayer. We are able to come together and pray each morning at 6 am so we can encounter God and pray over our lives. During this time, God has brought this one word up over and over again in my heart, faithful. Not just faithful, but faithFULL. Yes, I know that isn’t how you spell it, but I accidentally misspelled in my journal (don’t judge, we all fall short). As I looked over it, it made me realize the truth in that, I am full in faith because God has continually shown up and radically altered my life in the most incredible ways. God uses me, even when I fear that I’ll never be used, God never gives up on me. The thing is, God never gives up on you either.