A Moment Of Inspiration

“I’m going to write a book,” one of my friends said. “Oh yeah – why?” I asked. “Writing is one of my biggest opportunities, so I figured, why not write a book?” The individual I speak of is someone who puts his mind to something and goes after it without over-analyzing everything. Sure – it can have its setbacks and disadvantages but I admire the tenacity and the faith in oneself to get the job done, learn well from mistakes, and develop into a more holistic individual over time.

I found myself inspired by the courage and thought that it was worth sharing with the world. Because my initial impulse was, “Well then, I guess I could too!”

I struggle with sharing moments of inspiration or declaring that I will do something because then I know there is a chance that I may not. I may not make it to the gym; I may not write the book; I may not read the twenty books I’d like to read in 2020. It’s true, I may not. But then…I also might.

To paraphrase one of my favorite authors Bob Goff, “Quit waiting around for a plan (vision, purpose, details sent down from a stork from the Lord as to how to do the very best thing with your life) and start loving everybody, always.” (Everybody, Always is a ridiculously well-written, thoughtful and thought-provoking book by the way, and I strongly recommend adding it to this year’s reading list.) What is it about us that deems we must have everything mapped out by the time we are 25? Enough money in the bank to retire by 35? And what makes us believe we can do all of these things without a big, powerful, incredible God?

We refuse to rest, sleep, and eat healthy, balanced meals with our families for the sake of hustling hard to earn a good living to not really live at all. As Jefferson Bethke writes in “To Hell With The Hustle” – #TeamNoSleep is not for me. Cultivating a life that has a steady, purposeful rhythm that dances to the beat of rest and sabbath is not something easily acquired. And yet it’s from that spirit of steady, slow, patient, relationship that Jesus walks. I’m betting it’s at that pace that we will hear his voice as well.

And if Jesus always walks, then what makes us think that we have to run everywhere and do everything and accomplish it all before we go to bed tonight? “If I leave that one thing unfinished today, then that’s the end of my success. I didn’t follow-through with my goals today, so I guess I will never accomplish them.” What a twisted sort of thing to prophecy over oneself. Yet our words do truly display our hearts, don’t they? O the doubt, the cynicism, skepticism, and inner battling that must occur in the heart to make progress.

How can God accomplish His great resurrecting work within our hearts if we cannot sit still long enough for him to operate? Just as quickly as we’ve been “put under” (think anesthesiologist) by the spirit of worship in Church, we return to the cauldron of entertainment in the living-room or the many tasks to be accomplished at home. Rarely allowing the time necessary for the truth to sink deep; for the silence to shake us up a bit. To hear the voice of God again.

Hiding behind the curtain of evening’s out, movies, video-games, workaholic natures, and perfectionism, we evade the Lord’s call. To go out and love everybody, always. Everybody…including ourselves. Whom we could love all the more if we believed in the power of Christ long enough to admit that we have dreams, goals, aspirations, and inspirations.

Today, I’m inspired. Tomorrow, I may not be. And that doesn’t make me any less human. In fact, I’ll be stronger, better, faster for wrestling and resting with those moments of inspiration than if I had just let them pass by in a wave of apathy and I guess I’ll catch-on to that lesson next time.

So if you’re taking the time to read this today, you have time to love someone. That’s the plan. Go and do it. Be encouraging. Shine a light. Give them a hug. And be inspired.

And then chase after your dreams, goals, and aspirations. Don’t be afraid of them. God placed the fire in your heart for a reason. The world needs the light and warmth within.

Treasure

When will my head stop ringing,

The whispers stop stinging?

Painful onslaught of self-doubt;

Is my net-worth in my network?

Is my value in my values?

Chase the dollars, make the money;

You’ll find happiness again when it’s sunny.

Winters cold breath extinguished the fire;

Maybe it was Satan again being a liar?

Either way – I’m dormant;

What’s my purpose and my mission?

Somewhere in the chaos I lost my vision.

This heart is still itching;

Pen ready, heart heavy.

I’ve gotta run from it or through it,

More effort or I’m gonna lose it.

And yet that doesn’t seem like the answer,

Isn’t “trying to be better” how we got here?

Never satisfied with being, always becoming.

Yet Jesus always walked, and my minds always running.

Lord, meet me in this quiet place.

Still the waters, show your face.

I find comfort in Psalms;

In David’s up-down rhythm.

I’m not alone and you’re still on the throne.

Hear my cries and heal my mind,

Open my eyes where I’m blind.

This day I give to you, my King.

I may not feel like it, but I’ll still sing.

Great is your faithfulness,

Your love endures forever!

I’ll hold onto you, my anchor, my treasure.

Loving Others Well

I wrote a letter to a friend in jail today. Never quite thought I’d write that sentence. But I did and it was probably a good and healthy thing for the both of us that I chose to do that with some of my free-time this afternoon.

I remember a time in my life where I wouldn’t have had the strength to do such a thing. To reach out to and love on the ostracized or to understand the world from the perspective of another, but that’s something I’ve yearned to change about myself. It’s easy to judge others from the outside, but it’s much more difficult if we actually get to know those around us. Having conversations with different people at work or church or in any social setting has a stretching affect on the heart. You’ll feel uncomfortable at first but before you know it, you’re caring about someone that you typically wouldn’t.

This gentlemen wasn’t my enemy – but did you know that we’re called to love even our enemies as Christians? That’s a hard pill for me to swallow. If you’re a Facebook Friend of mine you’ve seen me quoting Bob Goff’s “Everybody, Always” fairly frequently over the last month or two. What a phenomenal book about loving our stranger and enemy – if you haven’t read it yet, you should. Goff’s love for his enemies has led to witch-doctors sharing the Gospel to their fellow inmates in prison…with Goff in the audience…and he’s the one that put them there (as an attorney)!

You know what makes an ass out of you and me? When we ASS-u-me things…

All puns aside, we do a huge disservice to ourselves and to others when we assume we know the whole story about other people’s lives. Until you’ve given them a chance to share their perspective and journey and asked them about their heart, where they’ve been and where they’re going, you really have no insight into who they are.

Why do we do that? Judge people before we know the whole story. It’s one of the first things we try to train out of good salespeople. Never assume a customer’s situation…always discover what they want and need, then make a recommendation based on what you’ve learned.

We’ve all heard the stories of someone deciding to ask a young lady if they were pregnant, when really they’d just been enjoying the Fall Weather’s pumpkin-spiced lattes and coffee-cake like I have this afternoon. You don’t know people you haven’t actually had a conversation or shared a meal with.

The moral of the story is we cannot know where people are going if we are unaware of where they’ve come from. And even that won’t tell us the whole story.

If people judged you solely off of your past, would you enjoy seeing the trajectory that they displayed on a white-board for you? Probably not.

Keeping God’s Grace on the table, like a bowl of sugar with a big spoon in it can really help sweeten one’s vision for the future. There’s always hope in Christ. Recovery from addiction, reconciliation for relationships, development of a healthier individual with better habits and weekly rituals; these are all possibilities that we as Christians should be able to pray for, speak over, and believe for another person.

We should be reminding people of the grace and love we see in them. Pinning them with medals of excellence for who they’re becoming.

If God were writing you a letter right now, he wouldn’t tell you who you’ve been, he’d tell you who you are. But he’d have permission to do that because he knew us first.

Our words have power. Created in His image, our words can give life and take it. Do you breathe life into the sails of others ships? Or when you encounter others, do you shipwreck them with a powerful storm of assumptions? Do you encourage them with who they’re becoming or shame them with who they’ve been?

You’ll build strong, deep, faithful, loyal friendships if you take the time to love others well and choose to breathe life into their sails even if their ship isn’t sea-worthy today. You’ll be better off for it, as will they. We’ve all had bad hair-days after all (I just got a haircut that I don’t really love…a little too short for my liking). So it’s probably time we stop thinking we have our life more pulled together than anyone else.

Learning With You,

Justin

letters

Beginning, Middle, End.

My wife says I’m an introspective person. I think she’s right – I spend a lot of time looking into myself and wondering what’s there.

Introspection has its purposes. It’s good to know what you’re made of, where you’ve come from, and where you’d like to go. But at some point, you have to stop looking in the rear-view mirror and start living. The Justin of yesteryear is certainly not the Justin of today and even if he comes back and visits for a day or two every now and then, it’s not the end of the world. Living in a shame-pit of self-hate for poor decisions made just isn’t the right head-space to live your life out of.

My counselor and I have been working through some of this lately. At some point the motivation for life-change can no longer be the fear of doing something wrong or the shame of who you’ve been, but rather the desire to better oneself and become something even better. No one thinks Patrick Mahomes is crazy for wanting to win the Super Bowl this year – we all think that’s a great idea. Build on the success of last year to become better this year.

I think we all make things too complicated – or maybe it’s just me – but I’m betting I’m not the only one. We care too much about what others may think, or what church we go to (or associate ourselves with), or how many people liked our photo. We wonder if what we’re doing is really making a difference or if we are enough for our friends and families. Wasting away all of the energy we have worrying, rather than living. (Obviously, some of this can be related to mental-health as I’m working through in my own life. However, some of it is thought-patterns and neural pathways that have convinced us this is our truth.)

Most of my life I have lived with this idea that I needed to be something. The “goal” of becoming a published author or speaker or a ministry of my own one day. Or perhaps that I needed to be the very best salesman. Maybe I needed to own my own coffee-shop, built it into a successful empire of franchises and retire in the mountains somewhere.

But what if where I’m at is where I need to be? And what if the way we walk through the valley is more important than the mountain-top? I’m confident that one day I’ll “arrive” and discover what I’m made of, what God has called me to, and what I ought to build a legacy around. But the end of the story is only as good as the beginning and middle allow for it to be – there isn’t a climax without the build-up and thickening of the plot and some challenges along the way. Bill Gate’s success wouldn’t be as exciting without knowing Microsoft really started in someone’s garage before it exploded into Silicon Valley.

My favorite books to read are the ones written by storytellers. Bob Goff’s “Everybody Always: Becoming Love In A World Full Of Setbacks & Difficult People” is a follow-up to his incredibly popular “Love Does” and I find myself enthralled by the stories within. What makes Goff so unique is that he just loves people. They don’t have to love him back or do something right or text him back within 5 minutes of him texting them. When asked what church he goes to, his answer is “our church” – because when you’re becoming more like Jesus and loving people the way he did you don’t need all the labels, name-tags, and license-plate brackets and bumper-stickers. After all, people won’t remember that you wore matching t-shirts and participated in a Missions Trip for a week. But they will remember that you visited them in the hospital, wrote them in jail, paid for their coffee when they couldn’t afford it, and answered the phone when it was inconvenient at the time.

Love doesn’t sit on the bench or wait for the right play-call. Love jumps into action now without “praying about it” first.

I want to live more of my life in this way. I want to love people like I’m made of it. “Every time we go to church and point fingers at each other, we betray Jesus with another kiss. At “our” church, we go there to meet Him, not critique each other.”

“Talk behind each other’s backs constantly. Just talk about the right stuff. Talk about Jesus. Talk about grace. Talk about love and acceptance. People don’t grow where they are informed; they grow where they’re loved and accepted. Talk about who people are becoming and who you see them turning into.” (Bob Goff, Everybody Always)

My goal this week is to worry about the future less and be present more. Loving the person right in front of me is more important than worrying about how people will talk about me at my funeral in 80 years.

If all I’m ever living for is the future, then I’ll probably never get there.

But I bet if I live for today, tomorrow will probably still come. If it’s God’s will for me to get there, then I’m sure He’ll find a way. I don’t have to know the end of my story to keep writing the beginning and living, loving, and being in the middle…

beginning middle end

 

Lost Along The Way

It’s so easy to get lost along the way. I bet that’s why God places so many reminders in Scripture that he has our best plans in mind, that he is watching out for our hearts and lives with all of these “rules and regulations.”

It’s so easy to get discouraged and to give up, to let pain have the final say.

It’s so easy to decide that since you’ve failed a few times that means you are now a failure and will never measure up to anything.

I saw a quote recently that went something like, “The Enemy cannot take your oil (anointing) but if he can convince you it’s not worth anything, then he ends up stealing it’s power.” How many times have you and I been convinced that our gifts are meaningless?

How many times have I had words on my lips or ready for the keyboard and left them unsaid or avoided typing them, fearing they lacked significance?

A world filled with pain…and there is hope – yet, I am afraid to admit that I have it.

Someone asked me this week – “Justin, why are you always so positive?” I was honestly kind of shocked by the question. I thought I’d been kind of a bummer the last few weeks wrestling through the murky, suffocating waters of depression. I thought a moment about my answer and then I said, “I guess, despite all of my shortcomings, I know Jesus and he’s my hope.” The gentlemen said, “I figured that’d be your answer – me too – well, I just want to let you know it makes a huge difference and that your impact is felt here…” and then he walked away.

What a wonder…making an influence even at my weakest. Brings new meaning to the biblical idea that he can make me strong in my weakest areas. He lifts up the humble and humbles the proud. If only we grasped that concept.

You, my friend, are not a failure if you are not on a high in life right now. If you’re not where you want to be, you don’t have to stay there. And admitting that you’re struggling is the first step to recovery in any situation. Simply accepting the status-quo will get you the status-quo. If you want change, you need to be the change – and you need to surround yourself with people that are going that direction and are going to take you there with them.

“Who are your change-agents?” Dr. Henry Cloud asks in “Necessary Endings” (what a great book, by the way). We all have those 2 or 3 people in our lives that challenge us and push us to the next level. Chances are if you’re in a season of stagnancy, you’ve been avoiding the coffee-dates and gym-sessions with them for a little while now. You know they’ll call you to something greater and that means you’ll have to give up the old “comfortable” situation that you don’t want to admit you love.

When someone is in sin and they “can’t seem to get out of it” – it’s really not THAT complicated. They have fallen in love with the sin – the lust, the greed, the anger – it has become their comfort zone – that is where they would prefer to live.

If that’s you, I pray that you’d find those 2-3 people to pull you out of the backwards slide and into the light. There is hope in the daylight. Hunkered down in your own loneliness, isolation, and the darkness of night with your bottle of tequila, browser filled with porn, contact-list full of affairs, pantry filled with Oreo’s, books filled with delusion, and mind addicted to sadness…there is no hope. What a terrible, sad, horrendous place to be.

You will be amazed what that one phone-call has the power to do. You will be amazed what cracking open the dusty Bible on your book-shelf can do for your heart. You will be awestruck and shocked at how integrity and honesty, while it may hurt a little at first, will become your building blocks for success and that even little white lies will start to make you sick to your stomach, because they just aren’t worth it anymore.

Friends, you may have gotten lost along the way, but you do not have to stay there. Where you are today does not determine where you will be tomorrow.

Call the “change-agent” in your life and admit where you are weak, they will make you strong.

Say the prayer that you are afraid to pray and He will answer.

Share your fears and struggles with your wife and she will love you.

Set goals for yourself and celebrate your success, even if you only hit the 50% mark the first time. At least you started growing again.

Jesus told the parable of the shepherd that would leave the 99 sheep to save the 1 that got lost. The prodigal son squandered all of his father’s wealth and was still welcomed with open arms and celebrated for his return to the Kingdom.

How much more will he pursue your heart? How much larger a feast for the lost, hurting heart that discontinues their pity-fest and pursues freedom in Christ’s name?

He’s left the 99 to come find me…I’m confident He will rescue you, too.

Call, and he will answer. Knock, and the door will be opened.

compass

 

What Everyone (And No One) Is Talking About – Guest Writer

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. This week my wife was feeling a stirring in her heart to share some of her own thoughts on issues that we are both passionate about. I’m super proud of her boldness and ability to articulate from an honest, compassionate, heartfelt standpoint on a controversial issue that continues to be such a joked-about, casual, pop-culture reference. Maybe we aren’t the ideal problem-solvers, but perhaps her and I can get the conversation started. Without further delay, I introduce you to my beautiful bride, Allie Meyer, and her writing in the form of a guest-blog post.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what’s a video worth? Video is pictures frame-by-frame that flash by so fast, they appear they’re actually moving. So, does that make a video worth ten thousand words or even a million words? Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth nothing at all. When the things that you’re seeing and watching can cause you to stumble, is it worth it?

There is a topic that has been looming around in my head lately and it’s a topic that simultaneously is both never talked about and always talked about is pornography. It’s a topic that people freely joke about with friends or is alluded to on the radio but yet also is kept in secret and like a skeleton in our closets. I suppose it’s also a topic that rarely gets any air time with parents talking to their children or people reaching out to ask for help when they feel like they’re trapped in it or it’s consuming them.

I grew up in a Christian home, but I also went to a public high school. I of course had the uncomfortable “birds and bees” talk at home and the “how to not get STD’s” talk at school. But a topic that wasn’t ever discussed in either of those was porn and the complications that it can add to your life. The stress it can add to your relationships. The shame, depression, and anxiety it causes to your overall well-being, and not to mention, the isolation it will eventually produce.

Now let me set this straight: I’ve honestly never struggled with any of these things nor have I ever sought out any type of pornographic content. I have however, been subjected to Hollywood’s decision to include some kind of sexual content in every movie. That’s not necessarily porn, but in the end, was it necessary? (This is a whole other post, but a good point nonetheless.) I digress…

So needless to say, porn wasn’t something that ever crossed my mind. It wasn’t until someone close to me opened up about their addiction to it and their struggles that I ever really understood what it was. Here it is – a billion-dollar industry in our world, and I literally had little idea it existed or what it even consisted of. In the moment I played it off as though I knew what they were talking about, but deep down I felt so naïve and like this was a foreign place they were talking about. Unfortunately, it’s something that I’ve gathered more knowledge about and learned why this addiction is so rampant in our world. It’s rampant because it’s so readily accessible by literally anyone. Think about how easy it is to search things on YouTube, or how hashtags have changed the way you browse social media. Teenagers can have unlimited access to content that they shouldn’t with just a click of a button. This causes there to be millions and millions of people out there consumed by lust and this addiction, but likely there are also millions who are naïve like I was.

Why is that?

I think it all goes back to awareness. It never was mentioned growing up. Not at home, school, church, etc. All of my friends could have been struggling with it for that matter and I could have never known. I think that we, as not just Christian people, not just one political party, not as one gender; we just as people need to talk and do something about it. What that something is I don’t know, but we can’t continue to allow people to fall into this trap of lies and loneliness.  How can we as humans rally together to create awareness and support those who are struggling, those who are directly affected by it, and those who haven’t been exposed but can be spared the turmoil and heartache?

I believe that personally my heart is drawn to those who are just bystanders. The people who are spouses of addicts. The people whose relationships are fragile because their partner used to struggle with it. The kids who might learn what porn is from some jokes shared at school and never hear what terrible things that this new addiction could lead to. I feel led to find ways to be a listening ear to those who feel they can’t trust their spouse as well as be an advocate for those who might not know what problems it can cause until they’re in deep.

I often pray for those struggling and ask God why can’t he do something about it. But I feel like God is asking me “What can you do about it?”. So here I sit, not a writer of any sort asking you to help me find ways to bring attention to a topic that has been in the dark for far too long and how to bring it into the light. With the dark being such a lonely place, the only way out is through relationships and Jesus. We ALL have to be vulnerable if we ever want to beat this thing head on. When we bring things into the light others can be praying and guiding you. Let’s unite together to leave those movies worth no words in the darkness, and bring all people into the light.

Vulnerability

How Christmas Influences My Perspective Today

You know that feeling where you simply cannot shake the conviction of the Holy Spirit? I’m convinced of my salvation in Christ Jesus because the Holy Spirit dwells within and draws me toward repentance. I may be stubborn and not repent right away but that often leads to literal, physical sickness for me. Christ within me cannot stand sin, but my flesh loves it. I know what Paul means when he wrote “I know the good I ought to do and yet don’t do it” – something along those lines.

I’ve been thinking about some life situations recently, along with my own sin faults over the last few years of my adult life, and one passage in particular keeps coming to mind.

Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It’s a humbling reality to realize that even as a “good Christian” and someone who has been in good standing most of my life, even I have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I think this is why it can be so dangerous to allow ourselves to develop a moral superiority complex toward others. “Well at least I’m not an alcoholic…” or “at least I’m not as gluttonous and obese as they are,” or “at least I haven’t killed anyone.” I’m not an alcoholic, but I have certainly been drunk and that is sin. I am not morbidly obese but I am overweight and have an impulse control problem. And I haven’t killed anyone but I have had hatred and bitterness in my heart toward others, and Jesus says that hatred in our hearts towards a brother is the same as murder.

That’s some rather heavy stuff. I found myself sulking in that reality, that heaviness and dread of my own folly and lack of righteousness. I found myself humbled and wishing that it were not so.

The good news is that verse 23 of Romans 3 is followed by a comma, actually, not a period as portrayed above. Here is what follows in verse 24 – “And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

I was thinking about things like depression and addiction and these pitfalls that even the best of people fall into sometimes, and it made me think of a world without hope. I saw a post on Facebook the other day about depression and how inescapable it can be “I know I will be fine but I don’t feel fine.” We should not willingly allow ourselves to be led to the slaughter to sin, but if you find yourself there this morning and realize your own capacity to mess up, then that is the first step toward freedom. The next is realizing that no matter how f’d up you may think you are, ALL are justified FREELY by HIS GRACE through the redemption that came by Christ JESUS! (Read that again.)

If that isn’t a reason to celebrate Christmas, then I don’t know what it is!

This morning, I’d like to remind all of us that conviction does not have to lead to shame and guilt. In fact, if our brains are trained to go that way, it’s because we’re listening to the whispers of the devil rather than the still, small voice of Almighty God.

The Father’s voice sounds a lot different. Conviction can lead to repentance, which can immediately lead to full restoration. Think Prodigal Son. Wasted His entire inheritance and the Father still celebrates his return home, throwing a party which requires even further financial sacrifice on his part. We simply cannot outrun or out-sin the love of God. We can always come Home. “Let the children come to me.”

I think about my love for my wife. I do not love her because she loves me. I love her because I choose to and because I’ve made a covenant to do so every day for the rest of my life. But I am also motivated and encouraged to new levels of love as I witness her beauty, spiritual growth, and acts of service and kindness toward me – they are a sort of motivating force behind my love toward her and becoming increasingly less selfish so that we may both benefit.

My prayer for us all would be that conviction would lead to repentance which would lead to full restoration, and that we would be quicker to live a righteous life out of a deep love for God. A love that we have learned from Him, that is encouraged and strengthened by His love for us. And that we would choose Him daily.

If you’re having a hard time doing that, maybe you’re simply not looking for Him in your life anymore. When I find myself having a hard time loving Allie, it’s because I’ve gotten lazy in noticing all she is and all she does and the way she loves. We have to be intentional with what we fix our eyes on. If I fix my eyes on a woman, then I am bound to lust after her and be led away to sin. But if I fix my eyes on Christ, then I am bound to be led toward holiness, a cleansing of my sins and a deeper understanding of who He is and why I’m loved.

From that discovery and outpouring and life with eyes fixed on Christ, I can love others because I’ve learned what Love is from the Creator Himself.

You get the point.

Stop thinking you’re better than…Be quicker to admit your faults…Admit your failures don’t claim them as your identity. Fix your eyes back on Jesus and let Him remind you who you really are. Then live and love out of that reality.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

BUT…

Christmas happened.

Jesus came. Freedom is ours for the taking.

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