I think everyone has significant moments in their life. Moments that have shaped us and made us who we are, and often, these are not too happy of memories. It’s such a tragedy that our lives encounter terrible heartache, yet it’s how we grow and mature. It’s almost Thanksgiving, and while most of the time we are focused on family and delicious foods, I think it’s important during this time to look back at the moments that have shaped us. What you’ll find, and it’s something that I myself have found, is that these key moments, good and bad, have shaped us into a stronger person than we once were. I titled this post the way I did because I think living a life full of thanks, allows us to have deep joy and love well.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
There’s a special feeling that comes when someone treats you in an incredibly kind way. This past week I was able to attend a talent show where my friend was going to be singing. Normally, I wouldn’t be able to get in since it was for the Disney College Program people, but my friend put me as a VIP. That’s not a normal thing I get very often, so when I was able to get in, get a lanyard and sit in the front row, my whole attitude felt very positive. I got to gush over my friend, Shanden, and his incredible voice and encourage him. After, I started thinking, I began to think about what Jesus said when he talked about how to treat others. The “golden rule” is well known, but not always followed. When we look at the life of Jesus, we see a man who chose to treat others like VIPs, treating others with love and encouragement. We are called to follow the example that Jesus set, so that means, we need to start treating others like the very important people they are.
I love jumping into the pool. There are different kinds of people, those who gradually ease their way in, those who test the water before deciding to go in or not, and then there’s me, diving in like a hooligan. My thought process is, if it’s cold, might as well get used to it quick and have fun while doing it than nothing. I hate long buildups. Danielle and I recently went on a roller coaster, it spun you all around, was really tall, and very very fast. My dearest Danielle loves adrenaline, and I enjoy roller coasters, the thing is, the waiting kills me. The lines always crawl and, in my head, I build it up to be worse than I know it is. What if I die? No one has ever died before, but what if I’m the sucker who kicks the bucket this time? What if my glasses fly off? I know physics literally says that they will stay on my head because of the force, but what if I defy physics? I have the best time when I just jump into it, and not allow room to worry.
My favorite quote from the great theologian and philosopher, Lemony Snicket, is, “Do the scary thing first, and get scared later.”
I think we need to live like this in all things, especially as we step into our calling.
I tend to freak out. Especially when it comes to anything technology related. The WIFI takes a second to refresh? I immediately think the router is dead and we are now going to have to be like 1800’s farmers. Admit it, you do it too. Maybe it’s not with tech, but maybe traffic is a bit too slow. Maybe you have to walk behind someone taking their sweet time in Target. Whatever it is, we have the tendency to freak out. A lot of times it’s due to our lack of patience, but what I’ve been learning recently is that impatience is only a small piece.
The biggest reason we freak out is that we have a lack of control.
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.
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.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
During this season of prayer and fasting, our church holds a morning prayer time throughout the week. One morning as we began worship, I saw a man take his seat. The thing I noticed about the man, was that he was shadow boxing as he got to his seat. It’s a small thing, something that can be easily disregarded, but that picture stuck with me. So, I prayed into that picture, asked God what he was trying to say to me. Then it clicked. Prayer is often looked at like a small part of our walk with Christ, that it’s an asking of God to get the things we want. This is so wrong, prayer is not small, prayer is not to be overlooked, prayer is communication with the creator of the universe.
What a wild season it has been so far. I’ve started doing these journey updates, a kind of informal blog about what has been happening in my life with a mixture of what God has been speaking during my changing seasons. My current season has been wild. I got engaged, and that has been just a powerful blessing. We are not only engaged, but we wanted a quick engagement, and we are getting married in September! We are so excited, and things are coming together. Sometimes it can be hard to enjoy this season fully because we are so busy. Not so much with wedding planning, but with life. Life has a way of going all wild and crazy, it becomes difficult to keep my head above it all. This season has been filled with a lot of stressors. Many things keep flying at me and it’s hard to block all of it. I feel like Batman running through a gauntlet of rogues, just trying to make it through to be the hero a city desperately needs. Stress has become a norm in my life, and I’m not a huge fan of that. Sure, one could say that it “builds character” or “just hold on,” but it doesn’t lessen the frustration. I’ve been struggling with it a lot, but this season has also taught me to have trust. A deep, meaningful trust in my savior.
Some of my favorite descriptions of words, phrases, and grammar come from Lemony Snicket. I gushed about his books a couple weeks ago, so check it out if you haven’t. One of the descriptions he talks of is the saying, “in the belly of the beast.” It speaks of a figurative feeling one gets when in the middle of an unfortunate circumstance, but in scripture, there is a literal event where one particular individual is in, “the belly of the beast.” Jonah was a man who God called for a great mission, but he trusted his own power and not God’s. Because of this, he believed he could not accomplish it, so he ran. Isn’t that a perfect picture of what we do in our own lives? I’m a victim of it, we have a situation we think we can’t overcome, so we run, we retreat from the promise on the other side of facing great peril. The truth is, we rely too much on our own strength when we should be trusting God. We have a God who created the universe and loves us. You’re right thinking you can’t get through it, but God can. No matter what you’re facing, God can. The calling that looks too big? God can. The mountain in your life? God can. When it feels like the world is against you and there is no hope? God can. We can learn much from Jonah, we can learn how to act in the belly of the beast.
“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.