This past week was the opening of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World, and it was a glorious day. Though, it started quite early, I needed to be there at three in the morning. That meant, in order for me not to be stressed, I had to be up at one. Of course, the excitement kept me from sleeping, and then once I was finally asleep, it was time again to get moving. In a groggy state I grabbed my phone from the charger. Now, if you have to go to bed at six-ish the previous night, you don’t turn down the brightness. As I looked at my phone, in a dark room, my phone lit up like the sun and burned my eyes till they were on fire.
It was rough.
Now, I may be exaggerating, but it’s amazing how such a small light can light up and entire room (and possibly blind you).
One of the funniest parts about living in Orlando and working for Disney, is the fact that in the parks it is now full on fall. My dear Danielle and I were chuckling at the fact that the Jack-o-Lanterns are out and the fall leaves are on display, in 90 plus degree Florida weather. I love the changing of the seasons, it always comes just at the right moment. It makes me think about life, and I feel like we all go through seasons. Some seasons are better than others, think about some of your favorite times of year. I love the crisp fall air and the general color of orange all around. There’s just something about watching a spooky cartoon and eating candy that makes me jump back to memories in my mind. We go through great moments in our lives, moments that we cherish and remember forever. Then, there are the seasons of hardship. While I don’t hate summer, I think about the time I was burned terribly during a summer camping trip with the Boy Scouts. I always shudder slightly when I prepare to go to the beach in summer, because of the pain that happened in the past.
The interesting thing that I’ve noticed about seasons, is that in both the positive and negative moments, good comes from both.
Have you ever been in a season of new? The past year of Danielle and I’s life has been filled with new. Since we got married last September, we thought it would be great to do all the things. From moving to job changes and doing life together, it’s been a wild journey. Everything is new, and new often means that fear begins to creep in. This is a perfect concoction for anxiety, isn’t anxiety just the best? I’ve talked about it on here before, but I’ve dealt with anxiety for a long time. The hard part was is that I was never really open about that fact, I tried to put on a face that I had it all put together, but the truth was, inside I was letting fear rule me. There were situations in high school that made me feel like if I didn’t have it all figured out I wasn’t enough. That led into college where everyone seemed smarter than me, and I would feel inferior to ask for help. I had been in a church job where if I wasn’t “cool” enough or got enough attention, I was seen as someone who wasn’t cut out for ministry or that I didn’t have enough “woo.”
I don’t say this to gain sympathy from you, reader. I simply talk about this because there was a moment during that college phase that helped me realize that the root of anxiety is fear, and fear is a punk.
I really love people. Everyone has a unique story, because all of us are unique. I love meeting new people and I really love when people can get together and have fun. I am loving my new job, and I really love every person I’ve had a chance to meet. We are all experiencing a new massive opening, so all of us are having to figure out the details and rely on each other to get it all done. I am loving every second of it, and love being able to encourage the people around me. I’ve been in environments that are completely opposite to what I’m experiencing now. In both work and outside of work, people can quickly become judgmental and start drawing lines in the sand of people they just do not like. We begin having this mindset of making those we don’t always like or get along with, become this idea of the “other.” This is just a concept that occurs when we begin to de-humanize others around us. We take stereotypes and turn them to the extremes. I think as of recent, we have seen the escalation of this idea. By the time of writing this, there was another mass shooting, and the driver behind the murder was hatred of other people. Now, I’m not saying that everyone who has ever acted on or believed a stereotype of someone else will commit a murder of that scale, what I want to talk about is the importance of empathy. There is just a general lack of empathy that I’ve noticed, and I’m sure you have too.
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
– Habakkuk 3:17-18
When we think of worship, most of the time our minds immediately go to singing on a Sunday morning. I mean church services are often referred to as worship services, there is a worship team and a worship leader, but today, I’d like to move away from this common idea. I’ve talked about worship from that perspective here before, but I want to talk about worship that we all possess. You may not be a singer, but you are fully capable of worship. When I look at worship, I think it’s better to see worship as a lifestyle, not just a Sunday morning state of mind (or an occasional mid-week service that happen). We’ve turned the concept of worship to no be a lifestyle but a “thing” we have to do. This often happens in the routine of our relationship with God. Read the bible. Check. Pray. Check. Listen to Hillsong on the way to work. Check. Listen to a church podcast on the way home (mainly to help the blood boiling anger of rush hour traffic, Orlando I4 what’s up). Check.
The thing is, worship was never meant to be a part of our checklist, it was supposed to be a state of being.
You are awake today and that means you should be living a worship lifestyle.
I wanted to write about rejection. Last week I wrote about how we don’t have to have it all figured out, and this week is the part two that goes along with that idea. Not a direct sequel, but still related. Think of last week being Alien and this week being Aliens, both related but you don’t need to see both to understand. Okay, weird tangent; I wanted to write about rejection. You see, there have been a lot of no’s in my life. I use the word wanted, because I wasn’t in a good mental state thinking about it. I had just gotten another rejection from another job. My story has had many times of rejection. From high school being rejected by teachers who thought I was dumb. There was a day in my senior year where I received three letters from three different colleges telling me I didn’t get in. I remember being alone in my room and screaming at the top of my lungs, why? In college, I had an internship where I wasn’t able to do what I thought was best. At my church job, I wasn’t given a chance compared to others. I have been rejected, but the truth is, I cannot live in the belief that I am rejected.
I wanted to write about rejection, but then my wife reminded me of what I truly am.
We are now about two weeks into the month of May, and it’s mental! May is mental health awareness month, shining a light on mental health and allowing for those who haven’t opened up a chance to know that there is always hope. That’s why I love this month. For a long time, especially in the Christian community, mental health hasn’t been talked about. Not only has it not really been talked about, but many times it has been seen as a weakness, something that makes you less than those around you. It’s tragic because we have lived and treated others in this lie that Satan has convinced us of. We get in the mindset that we have to be perfect, that in order to follow Christ, we have to have no flaws. The truth is, if we believe this, we will live our lives believing that we are never enough, but the power of the gospel is that Jesus says all we need is to walk with him. Jesus doesn’t want perfect people, because he knows people aren’t perfect. All Jesus asks of us is to follow him, and he’ll help us sort out the rest.
The same is true with mental health.
Just like every other part of our lives, we need to trust in Jesus. Trust in our creator who designed us with a purpose and loved us so much he sent his son to die on a cross and take our sins, and then raise again to defeat death.
One of the biggest trends that is in the current forefront of culture is the idea of understanding yourself. We take tests, read books, listen to TED Talks all about looking at the “self” and revolving your life around what makes you tick. I know I’ve done many of these tests and listened to books. We have Strength Finders which gives you your top personality traits, for example mine are responsibility, strategic, developer, restorative, and individualization (So, like, please hire me). Then there’s the Myers Briggs test (INFJ, woot woot), there are tons of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) tests, and the current trend in the Enneagram (I’ve yet to take one). All of these tests to help us know, us. Why then do we struggle with finding our personal value? I think it’s a combo of self-doubt and words that have been spoken over us. One of the most annoying things I’ve had to deal with is the question of “what do you want to do?” My answer, and it’s always been my answer, is that I just want to be in full time ministry. Yet, over and over, people who have asked this of me, “forget,” or like to remind me just how hard ministry is. Like, yeah, I know how hard it is, my parents have been hurt in staffing positions twice now, and even myself have dealt with rejection. That’s the way I think about responding in my shower talks, you know, the conversations you wish you would have but it only comes out in the shower. What really happens is I get frustrated and then internalize the lack of care I think people should have.
I begin to forget my true worth.
Over and over we take tests to know how unique we are, but a simple conversation can have us doubt our worth and calling.
I love powerful storytelling. I’m a big fan of books and movies because of the stories they can tell. I love stories, but I also really love true stories. Not so much history, but stories of people who have overcome and made something incredible. I’ve recently been reading a lot more, and it’s so interesting to see people’s stories and how they choose to press on even when things get tough. That’s one of the best parts about the bible for me. In Christian culture, people seem to have this idea of being perfect or fitting a standard, but that’s simply not true. Last week I wrote about how God designed each of us, but sometimes it can feel like we aren’t living up to how we were designed. I feel this way a lot, you feel like you have been made for a purpose, but that I don’t add up to what I’ve been called to. I look at my brokenness and don’t see how I can be used. The fear of rejection or that I’m not good enough give me anxiety and I question how God can use me. In these moments, I have to be reminded of true stories in scripture. One of my favorite parts in the bible, is found in the book of Hebrews. Written by an unknown author (so I’ll use she/her pronouns), she writes a section known as the “by faith” section. In this part she describes people in the old testament that chose to live by faith and listen to God. They didn’t have the Holy Spirit or the sacrifice of Jesus, they simply did what they were asked. The crazy part is, each of these people she writes about are broken people. They all had their individual struggles and dealt with crazy situations, but in all of it, one thing remains true of them and remains true for you.
Despite our brokenness, God says that we are loved.
The day is finally here! It’s Christmas Eve, hopefully you have all your gifts ready to go, and if not, I wish you luck with the chaos that will be happening today. Christmas is always such a magical time, there is so much going on and it can be easy to grow distracted with all the cooking, family gatherings, and making sure you’ve got the perfect gift for that person who is always so hard to shop for. Christmas can also be a challenging season. With emphasis on family and being joyful for what you have, this can be very difficult for some to cope with loss, heartache and fear of the unknown. For me personally, this Christmas has been a time of fun and uncertainty mixed together as the new year has many unknowns. So, what do we do? What can we do is we find ourselves busy and uncertain all at the same time as having to put on a happy face? I think the key is actually simple, just difficult to fully accept and believe. I say this, because it is something that I have to accept and navigate as well. This isn’t me saying, “this will change your life in a few easy steps,” really, it’s the beginning of how to grow and mature in your life. We have been called to humble ourselves and love others; in other words, we are called to be the light.