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’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of passion recently. Passion is an intense desire, something that almost cannot be controlled. It’s something that drives you, moves you, and causes you to fight for it daily. Events in my life have made me evaluate what I am truly passionate about; it has caused to me look at the why behind who I am. As a Christ follower, I am called to something greater. Passion and calling go hand in hand. Each of us have a calling, each of us have been created with a powerful purpose. There is no one like you, you are an original, a masterpiece created in the image of a savior. Take a moment and think about what drives you. What makes you excited during the day, what do you cling to in the midst of hardship, what could you never go another day without pursuing? I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of passion recently.
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.
The Wolf Man. One of the classic Universal Pictures monsters, a man with a curse, every full moon, he transforms into a werewolf. Howling at the moon and out for blood, a battle he fights to regain control of his poor mind. This is a trope in horror fiction, the Jekyll and Hyde concept, normal person fighting a raging monster inside. This month I’ve been looking at old tropes from horror and looking at how God has used them to teach me, and in turn, teach you. This week, I wanted to talk about something very personal to me, something that I’ve alluded to in the past and on this blog, but never fully talked about. Today I want to talk about it. I want to talk about the creature that tries to control me. One that has tried to hold me back. It’s not a wolf bite; I want to talk about my battle with anxiety.
As we continue our series of lessons from horror, I want to look at something important that we don’t take nearly as serious. Mental health is something that is becoming more and more of a conversation, and that’s a good thing. There has been a stigma surrounding it for so long, people being afraid to open up that there seems to be something off, people like me. For a long time, I have struggled with anxiety, and haven’t always felt able to talk. My family and wife are the ones who have helped me be open and able to talk. They are safe people. This is a term that many have heard when it comes to mental health, find safe people to be open with. It can be hard to find these safe people, but we need to realize that having community is so vital, no matter what you may be going through. The sad thing is, many of us choose poorly. We choose negative influences over the positives, because we have an enemy working against us. This is a topic I talk about with students and kids about, because negative influences can lead us into some dark spots. God has designed us for community, so find a safe one.
Worship is powerful. It’s a tool that we have to enter the spiritual realm with praise. I know that kinda sounds like a science fiction/ superhero plot, but the reality, it’s the truth. One of the most powerful parts of our walk is worship, not because we gain something from it, but because we give praise to our creator. Many Christians like the idea of prosperity gospel, where when we enter a relationship with God, he gives us everything we desire. The problem is, this is a false belief. When we enter a relationship with Christ, the desires of things on this earth are meaningless and lead us to desire gifts over our savior. The true power of the gospel is that we have a God who died for us to set us free, so that we could come to him in relationship and spend an eternity with him. Blessings come from an outpouring of our pursuit of Christ alone. What does that have to do with worship? Well worship is often misunderstood. That’s why I like talking about worship, because I’m not a worship leader and can sing alright, worship leaders are great, but can get lost in their passions. I want to talk about what worship is and what it does, because in order to know how to worship, we have to understand God’s heart for it.
I want to talk about something that makes the punk/rebel kid in me not want to talk about. The idea of submission is something that is important for all of us, something that truly allows us to lead others in the full potential we have. Before I go further, when I use the term submit or submission, I am not going to be talking about letting someone else take advantage or manipulate you. If you are being manipulated or someone is abusing power over you, that it not biblical or right in any way (I will provide resources at the end if you are in any danger. You are worth loving). When I talk about this term, I am meaning the way we can understand that there are authorities in our life that have been placed in authority for a reason. This is something that I have been learning in my current season of life, being able to submit to the authority above me. The reason why this is so important, as leaders and followers of Christ, is because God has given us spiritual authority to follow and he is our ultimate authority. When we contradict or go against the authorities he has given, we end up hurting ourselves. In 1 Peter, there is a moment in chapter 2 that speaks to this idea of submission. I definitely recommend that you read it, but I want to focus on one key verse. I Peter 2:17 says, “Show proper respect to everyone. Love the family of believers. Have respect for God. Honor the emperor.”
After the past month, God has really been moving. Much has happened. It was a season of prayer and fasting at my church, wedding planning is continually underway, my jobs were busy and productive; a lot happened. In seasons of busyness, it can be easy for me to lose track of what’s important. I tend to focus on getting the details accomplished only to miss the things God has for me in the midst of the tasks. With the season of fasting, I cut out any non-worship music, and that helped me in more ways than make sense. I always listen to music. It helps me focus and I love new creative endeavors that artists take, but sometimes, it can become a distraction. Many times, I don’t enjoy the quiet moments, but over the fast, I realized that we have to quiet the noise around us, in order to let God, have a chance to speak.
One of the craziest things from high school that I remember was how heavy my backpack was. I know, very small detail to highlight, but it was the worst. Yeah, we had lockers, but when it came time for homework and studying, you needed all those hefty textbooks. Random musing, I know, but sometimes I feel like I can walk around like I’m carrying a weight on my back. If you ever had a heavy backpack or had to carry something heavy for an extended period of time, you know how hard it can become as time goes on. I want to take a look at something simple today, a basic truth about a relationship with God. Our God has died for us, we are bought and paid for by the blood of the lamb. So why do we continue to walk around with burdens on our backs? It’s time to take off our burdens and remember that we don’t have to earn our way to a relationship with out creator.
I love failure. Now I don’t love the feelings that come with it, the rejection, the pain, the heartache; but I love failure. It’s something that I’ve experienced a lot of throughout my life. In high school I failed Spanish class. It was a humiliating moment, I had to repeat the class and every day sat in with students who were younger than me. It was a humbling moment, I felt like a screw up, but God taught me perseverance. I applied to colleges, and every school I applied to declined or waitlisted me. I remember sitting on the floor screaming out until my voice went hoarse. Failure hurts, but failure is good. We don’t learn the oven is truly hot until we touch it by accident. Failure is the greatest tool, because failure allows us to re-think what was done. One of my favorite quotes is by writer, Grant Morrison:
“It’s good to mess up! Sometimes when you mess up, you find new things and new ways to work.”