Good Mornings

Today is a Good Morning. It started with waking up at 5:00AM to make sure I could meet with a friend of mine at 6:30AM for breakfast and coffee – two of my favorite things – one on one time with a bro and delicious, bottomless mugs of Ethiopian blend coffee.

I don’t know why I don’t do this more often – wake up and get after it. Force myself out of bed for the benefit of the rest of the world, as well as myself. By waking up I took the time to invest on an emotional, mental, and spiritual level with another person and I’ve jump-started the rest of my day. I’m awake, alert, and ready to go long before I have to be clocked in at work and ready to go.

There’s a reason why you feel better on the mornings that you just get out of bed versus the days you snooze the alarm over and over again.

Today is also a Good Morning because it’s Good Friday. Today, we remember the day that Jesus sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane in the early hours of morning due to the anxiety of knowing what was to come that evening. Betrayal. Pain. Death.

And yet, we have the luxury of knowing that Sunday brings freedom from death because Christ escaped the grave and overcame death so that we don’t have to. By His blood, our sins are paid for, our righteousness has been bought at a price and all who have faith and repent can be saved. Incredible.

It’s interesting to think about the fact that our Savior, Himself, had to experience betrayal of a friend. The betrayal of a loved one or friends can sting and cut you down, the pain seeming to linger for a heart’s eternity. But there is hope – there is a Sunday for that. By experiencing the true love of Christ and His forgiveness over our own sin and darkness, we can be granted the strength and opportunity to forgive and release others of their transgressions to us.

I think the greatest example I’ve witnessed of this is my beautiful wife and the times I’ve hurt her with the words I’ve said or the actions I’ve taken. But something has always set her apart from anyone else I’ve given my heart in the past, she has always been capable of forgiveness. She’s always been filled with the Spirit, capable of a love deeper, more passionate, and more loyal than any I’d experienced before. It was because of this that my heart was drawn back to Jesus back in 2015 and because of this that I made her my bride in 2017. And it’s because of God’s redeeming work in my heart and in my life that I’m capable of loving her with that same kind of love in 2018 and beyond.

Perhaps you’ve been following along in our Psalms Study and you’ve seen the weekly tidbits of wisdom gathered from the Scriptures and I’ll do what I can to continue that at my writing leisure. But I felt today was the perfect opportunity to remind everyone that they can have a Good Morning too. The love of Jesus is available to you – you just have to make yourself available to it. And that’s the hardest part, isn’t it? (Because what if…he doesn’t come through this time, he doesn’t answer your first prayer, he forgets what you’ve been through…)

It’s worth the unknown, because He’s never left me hanging. In my moments of need, I’ve allowed myself to become anxious and worried time and again and it’s never added a minute to my life just as promised in Scripture – but somehow, someway, He always comes through for me. Let Him do the same for you.

Let this morning be the first of many Good Mornings.

good morning coffee

Psalm Study Week 2 (Psalms 8-14)

Here we are two weeks into the study of Psalms and I can already feel the Lord stirring my heart. It’s so cool to see how God’s Word is living and active, useful for teaching, rebuking, and training in discipline. I’ll follow the same format as last time, highlighting my favorite verses from each chapter and sharing my thoughts along the way.

  • Psalm 8:5 “You have made them (mankind) a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Parenthesis added for context.)
    • As Allie and I discussed this chapter, this verse struck us as awe-inspiring and left us with questions – like, what is the heaven hierarchy? What are angels, really? And while I’ve learned a great deal growing up about these kinds of things I did not want to pretend that I really knew the answer so we’ve prayed and asked God to help us learn more about the topic as we go along. But really what is cool about this passage is how we’re only a little lower than the angels like Gabriel and the Lord has chosen us to be holy and blameless in His sight (Ephesians 1:4), and crowned us with glory and honor.
  • Psalm 9:9 “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
    • This is truer than true. I think of all the times I’ve found myself in a burdensome time and it’s as if my heart’s gravitational pull is prayer. The sad reality is that this is often the only time many of us choose to pray. A plane strikes the Twin Towers and suddenly we are a nation of prayer again. Kids are senselessly slaughtered in an elementary school and we pray. He’s designed us in His image and our default is to run back to Him for comfort in times for calamity. I’m so grateful the Lord is my refuge and my strength, my stronghold in times of trouble. I think I’d also like to get to a point in my spiritual walk where the Lord is with me always and I’m in constant communion with Him.
  • Psalm 10:1,4 “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?… In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
    • These two verses are not exactly correlated but they both really stick out to me. Verse 1 reverberates an honest question that I feel we have all asked God at one time or another. We’re in the valley and we’ve been praying and crying through our depression and hardship for days and God seems nowhere to be found. Where, Lord? Where have you gone? Is the question of our hearts – the honest, heartfelt plea. I read a blog earlier this week by Hannah Brencher that went as far to say that the valleys of life are where we do the most growing. And often she’s found the trial passes once she’s had the strength to stand up and start walking again. Far too often we just sit frozen in fear and expect God to take the pain away – but what would we learn from that? A good father disciplines his children. Verse 4 just seems like a good reminder for all of us – when we allow pride to overtake us, there is no room in our thoughts for God. Are you consumed by the Lord’s love for others, or are you so enamored with yourself that you’re deaf to His gentle whispers calling you home?
  • Psalm 11:6-7 “On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.
    • Now I’m sure you’ve heard the idea of righteous anger. Right here, we see where that natural anger comes from. Created in His image, we can’t help but clench our fists when there is wrongdoing in the world. For some reason I find this verse encouraging. All men will be called to account for their wrongdoing in the end and on the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur on their heads. The upright, on the other hand, will see his face. Sign me up.
  • Psalm 12:1-2 “Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race. Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts.
    • Are we sure David didn’t sneak back into modern-times via time-machine and write this passage for the modern-day? Gracious Savior, come quick. Right? It’s just so disheartening to see all of the hatred and deception in the world, the lying, stealing, and cheating to get whatever you want. It burdens my heart to know I’ve taken part in it myself a few times along the way. I’m thankful for the Lord’s grace and His redemptive work in my life. I’m also thankful for David’s writing here as it relates to my present-day outlook on life as I read the news, surf my Facebook newsfeed, etc. “Lord, so few are faithful, so few say genuinely nice things and actually mean them without having some form of deception in their hearts.”
  • Psalm 13:2 “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
    • In the moment, it seems like the enemy will remain triumphant over us. In that pit of despair. The good news is his diminished victory over us won’t last forever – it’s only a minor victory of a particular battle. Light wins the war that wages within. This is another reminder that I can pray honestly to God. “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?”
  • Psalm 14:5 “But there they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous.
    • “They” is referencing the wicked, those who have trampled on the oppressed and ignored God’s calling back Home. I interpret a tone of “there they go again – surprised by the fact they feel empty and lifeless…” And the Lord’s heart is that it should be no surprise you feel dead inside when you’ve accept Death’s lies avoided Life’s truths. I’m comforted to know He is present with the righteous at heart.

Well friends, that wraps things up for this morning. I’ve gotta get myself to work. I hope you’re enjoying following along. Read Psalm 15 today and tune in next week for the third installment of our Psalm Study.

2

 

Darkness Better Run And Hide

I’m not sure that I could pinpoint the exact moment when I became more aware of the world spiritually but I’m aware now. As I write this, I feel like the crazed lunatic that I used to judge thinking, “They must be some sort of weird charismatic Christian for believing in spiritual warfare, and that they’re ‘under attack’.” But as someone who’s been going through a sort of spiritual renaissance for the last couple years – with a sober mind and heart, I can tell you that there are forces at work beyond what the eye can see.

Allie and I watched a documentary last night on Hulu about the Menendez Brothers. It was a horrific account of their trial for murdering their own parents and the defense was set up around the fact that one of the sons had been sexually abused by the father. On Facebook earlier, I came across post after post filled with hate and despair in relation to homosexuality, gun-control, and the immorality of others and the dark pain it’s left behind.

As I watched, read, and took in these stories and accounts from others it was almost as if I was being smothered – my chest felt heavier, the world seemed grey (even though yesterday was relatively beautiful), and hope seemed light-years away. A pen could drop and we’d hear it, the faint sighs of our shallow, defeated breaths filling the living room. It was then I realized that we had to pray.

We turned to God and asked Him to be protect us from this darkness, to send his angels to watch over us, to heal our hearts in the areas that they’ve been broken, and to help us to live lives filled with joy and victory – that our season of feeling stretched, exhausted, and smothered would be taken from us. Then we had conversations with some other friends and heard about the heaviness in their lives and the demons were back, ready to whisper lies in our ears that it was only a matter of time before our hearts and souls would be crushed by darkness too.

My wife shared with me this morning that she couldn’t sleep very well last night. Kept awake 1-3AM with the spirit of fear and darkness bearing down on her. And in a text-message she just shared with me, “I kept praying and singing worship songs in my head last night while I was awake to try and combat it.” After insisting she wake me up in the future so I can sing, pray, and cry with her, I told her that’s probably one of the most attractive things she’s ever told me about herself. She’s a fiercely beautiful woman with such a strong heart, refusing to give in to darkness no matter what comes our way.

She’s supportive of my writing and gets excited when I share my heart with the world; she prays for me when I ask her to and even when I don’t; she does the silly things I ask her to do like make homemade granola and she doesn’t complain about it. When I met Allie in October, 2015 I was lost to the ways of this world – womanizing, drinking too much, and had given up on Jesus if we’re being honest. I tell her often that she’s always been Jesus in the flesh for me. She’s called me back home. My heart has been softened to His love again and she’d attest to the heart and life change that has occurred since. Now, when I encourage, pray for, and write letters/blogs I am a different man, one that is heavily influenced by the Lord.

As I study Psalms and see David’s heart – open, honest, vulnerable, outspoken, fearful and fearless in the same breath (Week 2 of our study will be published tomorrow or Wednesday, FYI) I cannot help but see myself. David had some appalling weaknesses and a volatile spirit and yet he writes 150 chapters of the Bible with his own pen and is credited as the man after God’s heart.

Genuinely pursuing a relationship with God was never promised to be easy, but it’s the most powerful relationship in the universe. Marriage was never meant to be easy, but it’s the most rewarding relationship you’ll ever have – and it’s designed as a mirror image of what our Father in Heaven’s love is like for us. People are broken and come from hurtful backgrounds – they have hurts, hangups, and habits that were designed to be healed in a loving community but that’s made difficult when society thrashes back with hate, judgement, and vengeance. And start genuinely pursuing God and you better believe a legion of demons will be heading your way. Satan hates when someone else is revived by the Light. We must call on the Lord and FIGHT BACK. We cannot simply shrink back into the corner of the room and allow darkness to consume us. We must sing, cry, dance, shout, and declare victory over darkness. It has no place here! Satan has no authority over me or you or anyone else – unless we give it to Him.

The words we speak over ourselves are powerful. The Lord brought the world into existence with his words and He’s created us in His image. More often than not, we prophecy our own demise. “I’m fat” and so we stay fat. “I’m broke” and so we stay broke. “I have an addictive personality” and so we stay addicted. What if we broke that cycle and said, “I’m a fighter” and so we fought. “I’m handsome” and so we embraced our positive physical attributes and worked on our weaknesses. “I’m rich” and so we spent more time thinking about what we have, rather than what we don’t – and no longer consumed by a spirit of lack, ended up with more than we could have asked for or imagined.

Stop allowing Satan to use your own words against you. Make amends. Apologize, forgive, and move forward. We can consume our minds with our history or we can became an active part of His Story.

I am redeemed, recovered, renewed. I am bold, confident, awakened. I am alive, well, and strong. I am honest, integral, and through with running from God.

I am a man after God’s heart. A man in pursuit of his wife alone. I called to ministry and to writing – to encouraging without relent.

Satan hates me and will continue to send his deceptive, horrific, dark, deadly lies my way and I will fight him. And in Jesus, I will win.

“I have good news,” I told Allie, “I’ve read the Bible and Light wins. Darkness better run and hide.”

run and hide

Psalms Study: Intro/Week 1

About a week ago I challenged my friends on Facebook, posing the question when was the last time they actually read their Bibles? Really read it – not just looking for the supporting verse to help them win an argument with their least favorite relative. But rather, for the sake of relationship with God and learning from His Word, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. It’s something I haven’t done for a long time.

It’s so easy to find excuses and reasons why I don’t have the time to read. But I was challenged earlier in the month by a friend of mine that said, “Instead of saying we don’t have the time for something, we should say ‘that’s not really a priority for me right now.'” I was astonished at the simplicity of his statement that yet packed a powerful punch of wisdom within it. How often have we told someone we don’t have time for a certain activity, when really we just don’t want to do it? And I realized…it was true. Reading the Bible wasn’t a priority for me. I’d grown far from it and had been relying on my own strength, my own wisdom, to make it through. I’m sure you can guess how the rest of the story goes – me, by myself, is not enough. There’s something missing. Some ingredient of grace that is left desired.

That ingredient is the Sunday school answer, “Jesus.” But it’s packaged in the form of the gracious wisdom provided for all Christians within the living and active Word of God, The Bible. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

So Allie (my wife, if you’re new to the blog) and myself decided that we’d start simple. We’re going to read one Psalm each day. The chapters in Psalms are only a handful of verses long and packed with wisdom. Not to mention, David’s style of writing is so eerily similar to my own heartbeat – very up and praise-filled and then very down and heartbroken, filled with deep angst. It’s the perfect mix of daily, applicable wisdom and the soft relation of understanding that comes from listening to and empathizing with another’s laments.

Today marks the 7th day of our study, so this morning I read Psalm 7. For the next few months I’d like to attempt my hand at writing weekly and sharing what I learned from that week’s 7 chapters. Since this is the introduction, I’ll keep it simple and share my favorite verse from each chapter and what I learned from it. It’d be awesome to hear your feedback and what you’re learning from your own, personal study of Psalms if you’re joining in and following along as I know several friends and family are.

  • Psalm 1:1-2 “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lordand who meditates on his law day and night.
    • This passage really called for me to consider my own heart and whether or not I ensure that I am not in step with the wicked of this world. I think about how easy it is to fall into gossip mode or to partake in activities that are really to no one’s benefit. And instead of participating in gossip and slander, what if I were filling my heart with the Word of God and meditating on it day and night? How would I change? How much brighter would I make the lives of the others with the Light shining within me?
  • Psalm 2:11 “Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.
    • What happened to the felt-board Jesus? He was playing with sheep and telling the children to come to him. And yet here we are told to celebrate his rule with trembling and serve the Lord with fear? Conflicting messages to hear, especially for someone that’s not versed in reading and understanding the Bible. Growing up in the church, my understanding of passages like this is that it’s a reverent fear, such as respect for the Lord. An example would be that when I consider the depravity of my sin and how I’ve avoided listening to God calling me home for so long, it can leave me lying awake at night in fear of his wrath for my sin. The good news? The New Testament hadn’t been written yet when Psalms was written. And in there, we learn that Jesus died for our sins and has blessed us with eternal life in Him if we’ll accept His gift called Grace, and I’m been writing about Embracing God’s Grace for almost a decade now.
  • Psalm 3:5, 8 “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.
    • I think it’s interesting to consider how the Lord gives us strength each day. I’m able to take a breath right now and breathe in the sweet air because God has allowed me to. That’s amazing! My life “is but a breath” and yet I have to take so many of those individual breaths in order to stay alive. From the Lord also comes deliverance, and boy how I needed that many times this week. Deliverance from myself – my shortcomings and my own self-pity. Deliverance from the hands of the enemy and his way of twisting my perception of the world and feeding me lies that I’m not enough. Anyone else relate?
  • Psalm 4:2 “How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?” 
    • You can sense the weariness of God’s patience. Reminds me of when Allie or myself have told Harvey “no – off!” until we are blue in the face and yet he’s still jumping on the counter and trying to lick where the food had been resting a moment ago. It’s a good question though – how long will we turn his glory into shame and how long will we love lies more than the truth? I heard it said by one of the men in my inner-circle, “How long do we want to wait until we allow God to redeem the situation?”
  • Psalm 5:9 “Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies.
    • David is writing about his enemies here, led by the evil one, Satan. I think it’s so important that we remember just how deadly the lies of Satan are. They literally and figuratively lead to the grave. James 3 teaches about the powerful nature of our words and how they can steer the direction of our lives just as a small rudder steers a large ship. It’s important to consider the words that we allow to impact our hearts – are they lies that lead to the grave, or truth that leads to further life?
  • Psalm 6:2-3 “Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?
    • If David, “the man after God’s own heart” can feel this way, then surely it’s okay for me to feel it. And if I feel it, then I can’t be the only one. Sometimes it’s just good to read something that you can relate to. Winters bring on a dark season of depression for me. And spiritual warfare has intensified as I’ve done the hard work of breaking sin cycles in my life. Evil is angry because it’s losing its foothold in my heart and life and the more of myself I turn over to Jesus, the more authority I gain from Heaven to send the demons running back to Hell where they came from. And sometimes, we’re weary and faint and wonder, “For the Love, God! When? When will we have rest?” It’s a valid question and it’s okay to ask it.
  • Psalm 7:10 “My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.
    • Captain America had his shield. It protected him from the bullets of opposition forces and could be used as a weapon, itself, on occasion. Having weapons in our tool-belt like Scripture memory and the Holy Spirit on our side are good, but sometimes we are going to need to defend ourselves. How awesome is it that God, Himself, is our shield?

That does it for this week’s blog! It’s far longer than the rest of the series will likely be. A solid portion of this one is the set-up introducing what I’d like to do with it. Please feel free to join us in our Psalms study. Tomorrow we will be reading Psalm 8! Also feel free to follow, comment, and share. Blessed be just one part of a much larger body. May the Lord our God bring Heaven here for us now.

bible

Threes

I’ve heard it said that life comes in threes. Perhaps another way you’ve heard it is that when it rains it pours. And I think there is some truth to all of those old sayings. Sometimes we will hit a season where everything is falling into place and we feel unstoppable – you get the promotion, money starts stacking up in the bank account, you lose 15 lbs from sweating it out over the summer, and your marriage is as passionate and exciting as it was when you started dating. Then, out of nowhere, the tides of life change on you. That “promotion” comes with more responsibility than you were bargaining for, medical expenses come out of nowhere and drain up your savings, and it starts to feel as if you’re just going through the motions in all of your relationships…and you gain those 15 lbs back, and then some.

The tide has very much been going in the latter direction for me lately and it’s been a rather humbling season. I came across a verse recently that I thought fit someone else’s life quite well, only to discuss it with a mentor of mine and find myself convicted mid-sentence that it also applied to me. “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” (Proverbs 26:11-12)

“Easy there, Justin – don’t let your righteous anger convince you that you’re king of the universe because you’re right this one time.” said the Holy Spirit.

As a man, I like to fix things. I’ve never been very good with my hands in terms of fixing a broken washer or appliance. I typically call 1-800-DADDY (or Tyler, since he lives with us) and they handle those situations. But I’ve always had a knack for being a peacemaker, counselor, and encourager – and when shit hits the fan in my family and in my social circles, I usually am one of the first ones to receive a phone call or text about it. My default reaction is to attempt to manage, persuade, and ensure that my best solution for success is executed. The problem with that is that people can’t be managed and just because you’ve learned certain lessons in life already doesn’t mean they’re ready to learn them right now too.

“Everyone has to find their own way. They surrender different pieces of their lives to God at different times. When I see you and others struggling for freedom and struggling for the light, I want to come in with my shotgun and blast some holes in the roof so the light can get in. But that’s not my place. I can’t do that. But when you (and the others in your life) are able to find the key and open the door, I’ll be there with arms open wide, and so will Jesus.”

You see – you and I just weren’t designed to carry that burden all by ourselves. And as my social sphere has been going through a heavy dose of drama over the last week or two, I’ve found myself desperately wanting to fix everything, to manage the situation, and I’ve looked at my own heart and seen everything that needs fixing and I’ve tried to do it all on my own.

But the thing is, I can’t do it. Not by myself. I’ve got to let Jesus back in, and I’ve got to enlist the help of a counselor along the way. (Quick side note – Allie and I have been participating in marriage counseling over the last few months and it’s easily the best thing we’ve ever done for our relationship. There’s no shame in admitting you may need a little extra help. We’re laying the foundation for a LIFETIME together right now, and that’s hard work when you’re two strong-willed individuals with varying ideas and backgrounds. Do yourself a favor and give counseling a try. It’s worth the monetary sacrifice.)

Speaking of three – I’ve got a quick story for you that has to be shared related to financial sacrifice. We found ourselves in a place where finances weren’t going as well as we wanted them to. I had a bit of a heart-scare and Allie and I both needed a few rounds of doctor’s appointments and testing around the same time and our bank account was starting to get punished for it. Out of a fear of scarcity and a lack of faith in God to provide I found myself avoiding tithing. “I’ll tithe later, when we’re a little better off.” I said to myself and avoided discussing the situation with Allie. Well, it was coming to the end of a qualification period in my sales career and I was feeling particularly convicted as I hadn’t sold anything for a week. I needed to sell just 3 within a week and I couldn’t do it. Nothing. Zilch. I was thinking, staying at work until about 8:30 (way past when I was supposed to go home), and I realized that I wasn’t trusting God. I took myself off the Ups List, sat down, pulled out my phone and back tithed the last 3 weeks that I’d been avoiding it (a rather large sum for an already depleted account). The next day, I sold 3 cars. 1, 2, 3. I barely broke a sweat. Everything just sort of fell into place. I’d decided that morning I was just going to trust God and go with the flow and sure enough – He came through and provided for another season of privilege and increased commission.

God is good. We just have to trust him. Why do we make that so hard?

3

Race Against The Battery

I was just meeting with a friend for coffee and talking with him about his pursuit of becoming a better writer. It reminded me of a time when I blogged far more regularly. I would participate in a thing called “Five Minute Friday” – where there would be a topic and you’d have five minutes of writing, without editing or worrying too much about your thoughts – you wrote about the selected topic and shared them with the world.

There’s something fun about not holding back. Scared of not measuring up to what readers may expect, I will frequently discount my voice and shy away from sharing what I have to say. So this morning it’s a race against my MacBook’s battery (because I forgot the charger and probably won’t have any free time to finish writing later). Let’s see what we can do with 12% – I mean, 11%….

Life is kind of a race against the battery – isn’t it? You wake up fully charged most of the time and some days you didn’t sleep that well – you forgot to plug yourself into the bed early enough and wake up at 50% and you’re like, “Welp – today is gonna be fun.” And then even on a normal day, by the time lunch rolls around you’re running near 50% or less, just wondering how you’re going to get through the remaining 8 hours.

As I sit here in Black Dog, that’s kind of how I feel about my life right now. Lots of variables and unknowns in life currently and lots of dreams and things being prayed for, and having pursuits of becoming healthier – exercising more and eating right – but then the subzero temperatures hit and the fridge runs out of fruits and vegetables and you find yourself digging into a greasy burger and beer at Johnny’s after work.

Conserving battery life – time-management, money management, stress management, crisis response are all a part of this wild journey that we call life. And at every turn seems to be a reminder that we need to get better at more than one of these areas. And it’s overwhelming if you let it be.

I frequently look at all the areas I need to improve in and want to curse myself out. “You should have x-amount saved for retirement, and you should have a house, and you should be 50 lbs lighter, and able to lift y-amount of pounds, and your sales should be so much better, and you should be reading the Bible every day, continuing recovery homework, and writing your book – you should be doing all of these things, every day.” It’s as if I’m looking down on myself and lecturing myself into a comatose state. “I guess this is it – I’ve failed. I’ll never make it.”

8% left…

And that’s how I feel. 8% left. Stuck in the same patterns, plugging into the same old, crappy sources for strength.

And then it hits me. God loves us so much that he’s offered us Living Water! And those that have tasted it should thirst no more! And here I am, in a “thirsty” culture that lusts and covets everything – allowing myself to be poisoned to the point of death. And my Lord and Savior is saying, “Here – come and drink! Let the children come to me.” And it’s in those moments where you’re on the floor in tears and feeling helpless and hopeless like a little child that we can truly remember what faith is, what it’s like to realize we need something, someone, some God – because we will NEVER be enough, on our own.

The self-help industry and all of it’s nooks and crannies wants you to believe that you ARE enough and that you WILL get better, and maybe you will get better. But at the end of the day, if your heart doesn’t change, you’re not going to remain changed – because you’ll always be yourself. The only one capable of changing your heart is God. And that seems to be what we all run from the most. Allowing ourselves to feel exposed and vulnerable and ready to listen to the Living God, like a child experiences when they’ve messed up and their parents are rebuking them. But not for the sake of rebuking them and making them feel awful – for the sake of their personal development and growth, that they wouldn’t grow up to become that type of person.

6% left…

What if we remembered we were offered eternal life, living water, a source of strength and substance that doesn’t know limits. Never runs out. Never needs to be recharged. What if our dreams were no longer limited by fear, resources, and other’s opinions? What if our current state didn’t have to determine our future?

What if we cashed in on God’s promises? You have a better plan for my future? Cha-Ching! Show me! You have a hope and I’m fearfully and wonderfully made? Cha-Ching! Show me! Show me, Lord – how I am desirable, beautiful, handsome, and made to do good works.

What if….

Battery is gone. Gotta go for now. Be blessed.

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What I Learned In 2017

Since 2013 I’ve been writing a summation of lessons learned over the course of the year. My wife jokingly said that people were counting on it, so whether people read it or not I suppose it’s worth writing – so humor me and her and stick around for this year’s golden-nuggets of wisdom.

First off – I should probably be writing a book because you learn so much in the first year of marriage that it’s not even funny. I’ve learned more about myself in this last year than I ever have before. Previously, it seemed to take me years to learn varying lessons of maturity but when you get married, the necessity of growing up and becoming a man accelerates. It’s an incubator for growth.

In pop-culture and even in an episode of Glee that Allie and I watched last night, it seems to be “okay” to lie in marriage. In fact, it’s often encouraged as if it were the only way around certain things. After all, “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her” – until it does. What I’ve learned over this last year is that even lying by omission is lying. It’s been to own my mistakes, like the fact I went over budget that week rather than pretending like nothing happened. And the sooner I own up to my sin, past, shortcomings, and flaws, the sooner Allie forgives me and the sooner the Lord can work in my life to help me overcome these obstacles.

I’ve heard it said many times that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and it’s never rung truer than with budgeting and establishing a household together. Open communication about gender roles and expectations are a necessity to avoid the awkward tension of unexpressed expectations that lead to conflict. Often, a fight could be avoided altogether if we had simply taken the time to talk about our feelings in the moment rather than holding our feelings in and allowing time to pass and our hearts to begrudge one another. Thankfully, over the last few months we’ve learned the way to overcome this flaw is to call for occasional time-outs and admit that there is conflict/tension/disagreement and talk it out. Trying to avoid the elephant in the room never eliminates the elephant, no matter how badly we wish it would.

Speaking of elephants – how about sex! Yep, I went there. I cannot express the freedom there is being with my wife and knowing I’m loved wholeheartedly despite all of my brokenness. Unfortunately, the world’s view of sex is just so skewed. It’d probably take a whole other blog post or book to dispel all of the false doctrine my young mind encountered in college and as a young adult. But what I’ll tell you is this – there is a reason the Bible calls for sex to be something saved for marriage. Whether it be pornography, promiscuous “friendships” or “innocent” flirting, every aspect of your heart, soul, and body that you give to another prior to marriage will haunt you. And remember that honesty thing…it’s better to bare my soul to the beautiful woman that has chosen to stand by my side for the rest of her life than to attempt hiding the skeletons in the caverns of my heart. After all, there’s nothing more healing than the light, no love greater than an honest, warm, covered by the grace of God embrace from another that simply refuses to give up on you.

Along with getting married in 2017, I became Papa Meyer to our Puppy-Bear, Harvey. You’ve probably seen him light up social-media with his cute expressions and seen our frustrated posts about him destroying our property and creating stress in our home. Prior to Harverford (his legal name), I’d never known what it was like to own a dog. It’s interesting the bond you start to form with the young guy. I guess you could say that we’re pals now. But good Lord can he make me angry. I’m still getting the hang of being a puppy-daddy but Allie seems to think I’m doing a great job and that’s what matters.

Professionally, I’ve seen myself excel in a career in Sales. The key to my success has been refocusing on my relationship with God and trusting that He will provide. It’s ironic how when I’m not worried about the money, I perform exceptionally. And when I’m too focused on the numbers, I have a bad week because I’m trying too hard. It’s a constant battle between trying to be the best and remembering to find the right work-life balance. When we get to heaven, he’s not going to care how many cars I sold – he’s going to care about how many lives I embraced with his grace.

Last but not least I was meeting with my Men’s Group on Saturday morning at 7AM as I do nearly every week and I found myself giving this piece of advice to a brother in Christ in the room. “Pause, and love yourself.” Ironically, I think I’m the person that needs this advice the most. I’m an all-in or all-out kind of guy. In college, I was either getting an A or barely scraping by with a C. That sort of hot-and-cold perfectionism, emotionally charged intellectual has always been a yo-yo of existence and rarely do I find myself doing just that – pausing. Pausing to love, myself.

2017 taught me a lot. It taught me that one of the greatest things about marriage is losing yourself and finding someone else. Finding the man that you’d buried deep beneath the pain and hurt and insecurity and calling him out to be the husband for the beautiful bride. It taught me to take nothing for granted and that wealth must be earned. It taught me that God’s grace can overcome absolutely anything, even if I’m too scared to surrender it. And it’s taught me that true freedom is a truly surrendered heart to His will.

That’s all I have for now! Looking forward to all there is to learn in 2018.

2017