Decisions, Decisions (2 Years Sober)

There comes a time in everyone’s lives where they have to make a decision. To pursue a promotion, to marry the girl, to hit the gym more, to find a new church, to invest more in family, to drink less, or maybe even…to stop looking at porn. Some decisions are easier than others, but nevertheless it is the man that has the courage to make the decision and see it through that is brave. Not the one that excuses himself from trying on the basis of habit, indifference, and lack of thought-out trajectory. For every man will be held accountable for the lives they have lived, even if they have not really lived at all.

Brave isn’t exactly an adjective that my friends would have used to describe me growing up. It’s probably not one many would use to describe me now, but perhaps that is because they don’t know my whole story. I’d argue I’m far braver than I’ve ever been (even though I still let out a yelp when I see a spider crossing the bedroom floor in our apartment while I’m stretching). Thanks to Brene Brown’s “The Gifts Of Imperfection” and “Daring Greatly”, Doug Weis’ “Steps To Freedom”, Steven Furtick’s “Unqualified”, Mark Batterson’s “Chase The Lion” and a community of men at my church committed to pursuing purity and excellence in all they do, I have found myself more vulnerable, known, and loved than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I admit when I’m scared. I call my wife when I’ve messed up. I openly cry on the phone with other men and seek the Lord in prayer for their redemption and for mine. I scheduled a meeting with a pastor I respect about pursuing a dream and found myself humbled. Is it a dream or is it a whim – is it the pure love for the process or the glamour of the end-result?

“Embrace the process,” they said as I entered a 12-Step program in the late Fall of 2016 to wage war against a battle that had ravaged my soul for probably as many years. 12 steps for the 12+ years that I’d allowed my heart, mind, soul, and body to be pillaged by the enemy. Allowing him to plant seeds of doubt and insecurity all throughout. I was worthless, a monster, mean, unlovable, ugly, needy – that’s what satan told me I was anyways. And I believed him. I believed him far more than I believed I was worth loving.

I hated the process. The process was hard. The flashbacks were painful. The spiritual warfare was uncomfortable and terrifying. I wanted freedom and the enemy didn’t want me to have it. He’d convince me to tell half-truths; that social-media like Snapchat and Instagram wasn’t “that bad” – that some stories were better left untold. The process taught me that all of this was untrue. Not only untrue but that it made things all the more painful. But it was also, just part of the process.

Addiction is such a painful thing. I have so much empathy for anyone else that’s ever struggled with a sex addiction, drug addiction, alcoholism, or whatever it is that you may struggle with. Mommy issues. Daddy issues. Insecurity issues. Money problems. Power struggles. These all sound like generalizations and lazy attempts to relate, but I just have so much love for anyone that struggles with anything.

Did I mention that I hated the process? I wanted to be free from the addiction – to stop searching for content that created the high I was looking for. I wanted to stop hiding behind humor and the escapism of other things. Looking back on my struggles, I see where I struggled the most was ownership and the lie that I was always a victim. “I’m impulsive and a creature of habit” I told myself, so somehow that made it “okay” if I slipped up every now and then.

I remember two “turning-points” throughout my experience with addiction-recovery. One came when I had to confess my social-media relapse to my wife. I’d been following accounts I should’t have been for reasons that I knew were wrong. Owning this mistake and recognizing that some restrictions (like deleting Instagram/Snapchat) were healthy for my development. I no longer look at them as a punishment for wrongs done but more like wearing my seat-belt every day when I’m driving – it’s just safer that way. The other turning point was the completion of Steps 4 (Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves) and Step 5 (Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human-being the exact nature of our wrongs). Up to that point in my life I don’t think I’d ever been more honest with myself. It is so easy to see the mistakes other people make and ridicule them but it is far harder to hold yourself to a similar standard. Even more difficult when you allow yourself to remember the wrongs you’ve committed and instead of hiding them away or numbing the pain with a drink or a movie, you write them down on paper to ask God for forgiveness and to share them with someone else. The man I chose to share my Step 5 with quickly become a member of my inner-circle. I trust him, I love him, I respect him; that level of vulnerability and strength gave birth to a friendship I’m very thankful for.

It was around the point that the friendship blossomed and that I admitted to myself and to Jesus just how much I needed Jesus to change my heart and my life that everything changed. I told my wife everything – even the “not-that-bad” social-media stuff. I deleted the accounts (or started wearing my seat-belt every day, so to speak). And I decided to walk in integrity and truth the rest of the days of my life. I’m honest to a fault. So honest it hurts; but I’m my whole self, all the time, and I’m no longer hiding my heart behind a screen. No longer suffocating under the weight of “being found out”- no longer living in the constant, continuous fear of satan’s whisper.

I am known and loved. I am faithful and supported. I am uniquely gifted and outrageously normal in the same breath. I am humbled and observant. Ready and cautious.

I am also just days away from 2 years of sobriety, by God’s immense power and grace.

I am more alive than I ever was; freer than I ever thought I was while “living in freedom” to the whims of the flesh.

I am truly free. All because I decided; to do something, to go somewhere, to talk to the friend, to ask for help.

We will all face the day where we need to make a decision. Will you have the courage? Will you be brave enough to make it? I’m praying it’ll be a little easier for you, because I was brave enough to tell you I had to do it too.

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#TheWedding

Let’s start from the beginning. My best-friend and I have been married for a little over a week now. Today is our 10th day of a covenant relationship that has blessed us and our communities deeply already.

To those of you that came as far as Western Kansas, Nebraska, backwoods Arkansas, and even Florida to spend a few hours on Saturday with us, we want to Thank You. Having all of you there as witnesses to our commitment to one another really blessed the hearts of both of us. It was your presence, personality, and depth with which you invested in your interactions with us that had my bride and I reflecting on how the wedding had “been a dream.” That my bride’s “dream-wedding” occurred and managed to stay mostly within budget leaves me forever thankful to her gracious parents generous investments, my parents support, and everyone that came. (But enough thank you note material, those will be written in due time.)

Allow me to reflect on the day and summon some of those deeper emotions real quick. If that’s not your thing, then feel free to pass on this blog and the next few to come. It’ll be mostly reflection, emotional processing, and a sort of self-awareness tool for me. But if you dig transparency, authenticity, and like to learn from other’s lives, then keep an eye on me over the next few months. I forecast some serious growth.

It’s 5:30PM and my nerves have hit an all-time high. I run to the restroom to take a nervous poop (hey – you’ve been there too) and then make my way downstairs toward the front. As I do, of course I run into people I know. “Ya nervous? How ya feeling?” I barely acknowledge them as I’m 100% inside my own mind at this point and I break free from the crowd and hide myself in a closet next to the stage that controls all the lights. Bryce’s wife had brought McDonald’s Frappe’s for us and I sipped on the sugary, frozen coffee to ensure I had enough blood-sugar to not faint on stage. About as soon as I calmed myself and steeled my nerves, the pastor walks in and prays over me. Then Joseph (my best man) and I take the stage with the pastor. I stand toward the front and look forward. All is silent. The music starts playing and the bridal party starts proceeding forward.

6:05PM – My bride makes her way down the grand staircase. The audience rises. My heart jumps into my throat like an Olympic high-jumper. My heart starts beating fast with adrenaline as everything finally feels real. (Leading up to this moment, I kept speaking of how surreal everything felt. As if it were too good to be true. But now. Now, it was true. It was real. It was happening. There she was. And she was beautiful!)

6:07PM – My bride is toward the front and I meet her father down at the bottom, along with our marrying pastor. The pastor starts saying some things but I’m barely paying attention. I’ve locked eyes with Allie as if we’re seeing each other for the first time. A few tears that refuse to be contained make their way into my eyes and threaten to stream down my cheeks but then I’m back in the spotlight as Robert (Bob) Robitaille, her father, places Allie’s hand into mine and I escort her up on stage with me and the pastor.

I’ll be honest – from that point forward, I barely paid attention to Pastor Tom. Great guy. Great message. It was actually one that in hindsight we will have to get the notes to, as he was talking about getting to build a home together and how much hope, faith, and love we could fill it with if we so choose. He spoke of our ministry being one of reconciliation, which is something I feel God has placed on my heart and burdened it with and something that feels as if it just isn’t going to go anywhere so I might as well make a move with it.

What I do instinctively remember is reading my vows to Allie. I printed them off because I’d tried the whole impromptu words during emotional times thing before (with the proposal) and I’d been nearly mute – speechless in the moment. In fact, as my brother Tyler recalls, the words didn’t actually come until I started praying and dancing with her outside after she said, “Yes!” It hadn’t taken my words to win her over, just the simple action of getting on one knee. That’s all she needed to know my heart was ready. Whoops – I got sidetracked! The proposal was awesome. (Go back and read #TheProposal if you haven’t already.) I promised to always love her and to kiss her good morning and good night. I spoke of hope and of never joking, teasing, or threatening divorce. I threw in a joke about how I’d watch all the Christmas movies she wanted and then I told her that we’d tear down the walls in our hearts that keep us from true intimacy. Most importantly, I promised to always take our burdens to the cross. And friends, I have never prayed more in my life than I have in the first 10 days of our marriage. I need Him. She needs Him. We need Him.

Allie teased that it was hard to follow-up a writer and then proceeded to do so in heart-melting fashion. She roasted me a bit about my sorority girl coffee-order (but we all knew that was coming) and then spoke of how she’d always love me, build me up, and care for me. She has, and she will. I don’t doubt that for a minute.

The pastor wrapped things up and let us kiss each other. A shiny new ring on both of our ring-fingers. Hearts full. Eyes filled with joyful tears. We half-walked, half-sprinted, half-danced (I typically leave the math to her as you can tell) down the aisle and back up the stairs.

The rest of the evening proved to be just as powerful. As friend after friend and family member after family member spoke kindly of both of us as individuals and the hope and power they felt resonated in our marriage. Two conversations I remember in particular was one where a slightly older married couple that I’ve always looked up to mentioned they were super proud of us for including not allowing divorce to be an option in our wedding vows and that we promised not to joke about it. They thought that was a major problem in a lot of relationships. It was empowering to hear those words of affirmation and reassured us that it was a good and necessary move in guarding our words. And the last was a friend and former coworker from my teenage years spoke of how she had been in tears when she told her husband about the hope and Christ-like story of grace and redemption that can be found in our relationship. Which was heartwarming, as it confirmed the prophetic nature of my heart’s desire for us to be a message of reconciliation to others.

The day was so good. And this has already gotten long. So I’ll cut this short and title it, “#TheWedding” or something. There’ll be a post titled “10 Days” to follow, where I chronicle all I’ve learned in just 10 days.

#ManAndWifeMeyersForLife

Sincerely,

The Groom

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I Decided

I decided it would be a disservice to my own heart if I didn’t go ahead and write the day before I got married. It’s how I’m wired. It’s how I share with the world. And I firmly believe every story is meant to be told. There’s always something to learn from someone else’s. So here’s mine.

I decided. Life is made up of a series of decisions. Some lead to pain and death and others lead to joy and life. Some seem mundane and others seem exciting. But we’re always making decisions, second-by-second, day-by-day, decision-after-decision. We do not have be the sum of our past mistakes, but who we are today is the sum total of our decisions up to that point in time. I’m in debt because I chose to spend money before I’d acquired or saved it. I’m overweight because I don’t pay enough attention to the caloric intake of my diet or exercise enough. And on the positive spectrum, I’ve got amazing friends because I’ve always invested heavily in those relationships. And I’m about to marry Allie tomorrow because I decided that she was worth the cost of my singleness.

And so I decided to ask her to marry me on October 21st, 2016. After tomorrow, it’ll probably be rated as the second most nerve-wrecking moment of my life. Standing on a stage in front of 200 people and trying to read my vows without crying or cracking a cheesy joke to lighten my inner anxiety while sweating in a tux will quickly take first place. But that moment on October 21st, a little over three months ago, was terrifying. But I’d decided it was worth risking rejection. I’d decided that while singleness and “freedom” had been fun and I’d enjoyed a lot of juvenile liberties, that I was ready to move forward.

Tomorrow, I’ll decide to confirm that reality in my heart. I’ll show up ready to commit the rest of my life to a woman I’ve only known 1 year, 3 months, and so many days. She’s worth it, because Jesus loves me that way – without reserve, without doubt, without ever holding back or retreating. I’ll say, “I do” because I know she’ll do the same. Because I’ve seen her lean into God and into community in my ugliest moments in order to overcome and to forgive. And because she’s awakened my heart to the man I’m meant to be. Because she looks me in the eye in such a way that the part of my heart that constantly seeks others approval is slowing dying, because it can just rest right there, in her gaze. Because I can wholly be myself with her. Quirky jokes, ridiculous humor, high energy, abundant joy, turbulent depression, anxiety, fear, a bleeding heart sometimes, a foggy grey others. She accepts and loves all of me. Not only will she let me walk alongside her with all of my baggage but she helps lighten the load. She picks up one of the bags and says, “Let me have this one. You can’t carry that load by yourself.”

Tomorrow, I’ll decide that no matter what happens from that day forward, I’ll always pursue her heart and always love her. I’ll never give up. In the words of an evangelist from time past, “No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.”

I’m all in. I’ve decided.

With Love & Gratefulness,

Justin Meyer

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American Culture And Growth In Christ Because You’re Worth It.

My inner circle knows that I’m in a period of hyper spiritual growth and maturing as a man right now as I prepare for upcoming chapters in my life. Out with the old, in the with the new; a whole lot of prayer and a whole lot of hard, emotional, painful work to get there.

Things worth pursuing always come at a cost.

Our culture hasn’t done a great job of teaching us to count the cost. I don’t think Donald Trump ever learned to count the cost of his inflammatory remarks toward woman. And I don’t believe that Hillary Clinton fully considered the ramifications of Benghazi and deleting e-mails to attempt avoiding accountability. (I do not endorse either candidate for the record, but I’ll leave my political leanings at that for now.) The thing I’m getting at, is if our two “best” Republican and Democratic candidates for Presidential office of the United States of America are two full-grown “adults” that lie, steal, and quarrel like elementary students on the playground, then I think it’s a sad reflection on the social landscape of America.

We’ve fallen victim to selfishness. Pursuing whatever is best for us in the moment, without considering the cost – unaware of the rewards, consequences, monetary debt inflammation, and other ramifications our decisions would cause. Behaving like children and quarreling more with one another than discussing, investing, and serving alongside one another to truly build a better America. We’re more focused on who’s “worse than us” than we are on improving ourselves to build a better future for everyone – because we all have an impact on this world, whether we want that responsibility or not.

And if this is a reflection of our national leadership and our political landscapes and if I’m currently fighting the backlash of a couple decades of not taking responsibility for my actions, then perhaps you are, too.

So where do you start? Where do you go when you realize it’s time to grow up and you can’t get out of this one? There’s no one to pass the blame onto this time, except for your own shortcomings (whether those be laziness, greed, pride, addiction, hatred and bitterness that poison your heart, and the like).

You tell someone.

Trump is Trump because he thinks he doesn’t need anyone. He is his own king and he has all this “wealth” and can do whatever he wants, so it makes him a ‘man’. Clinton is Clinton because her husband betrayed her (and many, many other things we all just don’t know – she is definitely more than her husband’s actions) and she’s grown cold-hearted and calculated, doing whatever it takes, in scandal after scandal, to get what she wants. She doesn’t need her husband. She doesn’t need anyone.

Wrong. Absolutely wrong.

We all need someone. We all need accountability and community. You will fall. And if there’s no one by your side to pick you up and get you back in the fight for freedom and Kingdom work, then you’ll stay there in the pit of your own despair and begin to build your home there, because you think you’re just not good enough for something better than the present sum of your past sins.

Wrong again.

You are absolutely created and destined for something greater than that. Heirs to the throne and absolutely powerful to overcome, heal, prophecy, and bring forth incredible revivals, if you will only submit your lives to Christ. (Another area we often fail to count the costs of…You can have power and gifts and be alive in the Spirit, but you’ve gotta put your own pride and ‘glory’ and doing it all ‘on your own’ to death first, before it can happen.)

So take the first step and call someone. “Hey [their name here], it’s [your name] – I’m done doing it all on my own. I’ve tried and tried and fought and fought. I’ve ran away long enough. It’s left me in a dark, tired, lifeless, and absolutely spent place. I need Jesus. I need closer friendships and community. I need the church and you to pray with and walk with me through this life, so that growth can occur.”

I’m praying that when you make that phone-call, you’re met with open arms and someone that wants to come by your side and help you live the life you’re absolutely capable of living. You just don’t know it yet. That’s okay. You’ve spent a long time believing the lie that you weren’t worth it anyways.

I promise you are.

In Christ,

Justin

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You’re Needed

You are needed. A lie the devil will spoon feed us to the point of our hearts dormancy is that we’re not necessary, or don’t play an important role – that we’re not making a difference. You’re always making a difference – it might not be a very positive difference this week, but you’re making a difference, and someone needs you.

The reality is there’s not a whole lot of time on this earth and we’ve got to stop wasting it. My younger siblings need time with me, as I often play the role of confidant and counselor as they navigate relationship issues, within the family and outside of it. My company needs me to give my full attention to the customer I’m on the phone with at the time to provide the best possible care to them, so it makes the utmost impact on our brand. My girlfriend needs my listening ear and for me to be a judgement-free zone, a source of encouragement and wisdom – she needs my actions to back up my words, and my priorities to be clear and laid out. I’ve got to lead. My friends needs my letters and phone-calls and goofy laughter. I’m needed.

You are, too. You’re so needed.

I’ve said for a while now that I believe one of the deepest human needs, at a heart-level, is for someone to actually see us. The level of intimacy with a close friend or romantic relationship where they look into your eyes and can silently say “I see you” with their eyes in such a way that you know nothing is hidden. No hidden agenda; no lies covering up blemishes; the kind of love that can see me in athletic shorts and a t-shirt, all sweaty and gross from working out, overcoming major life setbacks, and still say, “I love that guy.” That’s Allie, my family, and my friends. I need them. When I’ve fallen down again, they’re willing to help me back up and say, “We can do this.”

Notice that powerful word “we”. They’re invested. They have part-ownership in the relationship and the outcome. I was never made or designed to go it alone, nor were they.

I refer to my lifelong, closest friends – the ones that are in my inner circle – as the #DreamTeam. Why? Because we’re a team. When one of us is really struggling, despite any differences in political/religious/lifestyle ideologies, we will all come running to each other’s aid. We’re in it to win it, together. I will love those men until the day Jesus says “it is finished” with their lives. And they know it, too. There’s no getting rid of Justin Meyer when he decides he’s gonna love you.

I have a heart for those of you that are on social-media these days talking about how you’re going it alone; how you don’t need anyone, etc. “F’ these people and these people, because blank-and-blank.” I’m so sorry that people have hurt you. But friend, you’re going to need others. Lay down your pride and let the drawbridge down. People need access to your castle and past the moat of your conditional love. They need you now, just as you are. And then they need you to wake up and work to build character that’s even greater than what you started with.

You’re needed, but you need others too. Stay isolated no more. And for the love of peaceful relationships, stay humble. We’re just one piece of a much larger puzzle. Plug yourself in.

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The Power of Habit & Belief

A lot of what we do is based on a belief or a lack thereof. For example, I do NOT believe it’s possible to give up caffeine, so why would I try? Well, I’m American. So I’ll stick to my coffee, but soda is bad-news-bears, so it probably needs to go. But I’ve yet to give up my Diet Mountain Dews because I don’t believe the habit is possible to break. Without belief, it simply won’t happen.

I’m reading a book written by Charles Duhigg that takes a look at The Power Of Habit. And wow, is it powerful. Our brains quickly program themselves to make tasks easy. I think of my present job where I work with fairly technical mechanical and electric products – when I first started, I was terrified and clueless and asked a million questions; it took me forever to figure out which direction to turn a screw-driver, or where the cam should be positioned, etc. Now, it’s all muscle-memory. In fact, my primary issue is that I’ve become so good at what I do on the technical side, that I go into a habitual robot-mode and sometimes forget to empathize with the customer.

Habits – whether it’s the daily Starbucks (was guilty for a while, but I’m pulling away from that one, because if you do the math…that’s one of the reasons I’m still poor) or the afternoon run – all have a trigger. If we pay attention to the triggers, then we can replace the routines as long as they lead to similar rewards. My daily Starbucks was triggered by my automatic drive-thru orientation. I’d get to the intersection by Bass Pro and fly right by the turn I should take to work, because my brain was screaming, “Coffee!” But little did it know there was free coffee waiting for me at the office that would provide the same reward: wakefulness. It’s taking some time, but gradually over the last several weeks I’ve noticed that I don’t have to think as much or be as deliberate about turning right at that intersection now and heading straight into work.

When it comes to stress or anxiety, perhaps your first response is, “Which place has the best Happy Hour this evening?” I’ve been there and occasionally have the same pitfall. But I’ve discovered that I can replace my stress routine with running, which happens to be a little easier on the waistline and a whole lot better for me. So I leave work, where it’s fairly high-stress due to the nature of customer-service and I get home. I can help myself to a double-serving of my Mom’s delicious cooking or I can lace up my new running-shoes and hit the pavement for a few miles. The new routine delivers the same reward – the stress melts and is replaced with euphoria but instead of carbs or alcohol, it’s endorphins delivered by exercise, that delivers the punch needed to extinguish the stress.

Learning about habits and how they work has been fascinating and I’m only halfway through the book, but I wanted to share what I’ve been learning. I’d highly suggest picking up a copy for yourself and reading through it. However, there is one thing left to cover…

It turns out researchers have studied habits and how to replace old ones with new ones for decades. Time and again, they’ve managed to take smokers away from their cigarettes and alcholics away from their bottles and overeaters away from that second slice of pie. However, in high-stress situations, they’ll almost always fall back to their old habit.

“One group of researchers at the Alcohol Research Group in California, for instance, noticed a pattern in interviews. Over and over again, alcoholics said the same thing: Identifying cues and choosing new routines is important, but without another ingredient, the new habits never fully took hold. The secret, the alcoholics said, was God.”

If I were to continue quoting, you’d learn that researchers hated the explanation but decided to study it anyways. It turns out the belief in something higher gave them the resolve to follow through, even when traumatic or high-stress situations arose in their lives.

“If we keep the same cue and the same reward, a new routine can be inserted. But that’s not enough. For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. And most often, that believe only emerges with the help of a group.”

Just as much as belief, they needed community. I can’t imagine a better group than the local church. But in any case, the secrets to better habits aren’t that secret. It would appear it all boils down to belief and community.

And I’ve discovered the first step is prayer. Asking God to help me with my unbelief.

SOURCES

Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York: Random House, 2012. Print.

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13 Lessons From 2013

1) Grace is free; discipleship is not. Grace is an undeserved, unmerited, non-refundable, priceless GIFT. It’s that moment when you’ve wronged a friend, and they never mention it again. More importantly, it’s Jesus dying on a cross, so you could have a relationship with His Father when He conquered death three days later. It is your sins being washed white as snow. Guys, snow is the whitest white I’ve ever seen, so God has really washed us clean! Get excited about that. Think back to the first time you found salvation, or encountered the love of God in a Christ-like community. Discipleship – following Jesus – will cost you everything. Therefore, consider for yourself the cost, and ask yourself, is it worth it?

2) The heart is the center, but your private-life and actions taken are truly a reflection of it. This last point may be a tad wordy, so allow me to elaborate slightly. The heart is the center. It is what God cares about most. He would rather have your heart, than have you read your Bible at the same time everyday. He would rather have your heart – your whole heart – than just a week on that mission’s trip to Mexico. Your heart matters. We cannot, for one second, though, think that our actions (as we walk in ‘freedom’ – and don’t get me wrong, we are free) are separate from our hearts. When we choose to skip church, it is because our heart is not all there – we do not want to go. When we choose sin – to give into lustful desires, for example – we are choosing that over obedient worship and protection of our hearts. You never “just do” anything – whether we want to consider it or not, we make purposeful decisions to either live obediently, or to not. You and me are not excused from the consequences of our actions. Our lack of due-diligence WILL catch up to us.

3) Homosexuality is not worse than any other sin, but it is not to be ‘accepted’. Please do not just breeze over this one, or stop reading because this sort of point makes your stomach churn with its controversial nature. Phil Robertson made some coarse remarks regarding homosexuality and the world went ablaze with their own viewpoint on the issue. Here’s the bottom-line. Homosexuality is sin. BUT, so is alcoholism, the love of money, not caring for the widows and orphans, slander, jealousy/envy, premarital sex of any kind, and much more. Remember the Bible story where they want to stone a woman for committing adultery? “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” is what Jesus said. (John 8:7) Which of you, my friends, is without sin? Shall we then cast stones at one another? We cannot accept the sin in our own lives, just as we cannot accept/endorse the sin of homosexuality in others. Regardless of what it is, repent of your sins, and find life.

4) Humility, while difficult, is fruitful. Learning to own up to your mistakes and shortcomings is a new kind of freedom. You are who you are, so you learn how to work with what you have, and what you have is not perfect. That’s okay, because you (hopefully) serve a God that is, and that will redeem your heart, soul, mind, and body, one step at a time. You will fail, but with His help, you will also succeed. Setting aside your pride, arrogance, and American “I got this on my own” mentality will lead to a much greater peace than you thought possible.

5) Praying with faith moves mountains. The stubborn nature of your heart is a mountain that can be moved. Your coworkers that refuse to believe in God are mountains that can be moved. That sin-habit you cannot seem to conquer on your own is a mountain that can be moved. Your prayers move mountains, so why are we not praying? More importantly, where is our faith? I’m there with you. This is something I definitely need to work on.

6) Slander is not profitable. It does, however, produce grief. Speaking poorly of others may seem like the thing to do. Trust me, I know. It is super easy to get caught up in the day-to-day gossip with coworkers and friends, and to find yourself pointing out the negative, or frustrating traits of your confidants. It is simply never profitable. There is no good that can come from that. There is only grief, as you may very well hurt another, or find yourself being hurt. Because trust me, if they’re talking ill of others around you, then they’re probably talking poorly of you, too.

7) Hard work is required. I mentioned earlier that prayer is important, and that we should be spending more time doing it, as it moves mountains. That is true. It is also true that we cannot simply sit around and do nothing. It takes diligent effort – to the point of sweating it out sometimes. If you want to lose weight, save more, or get that promotion, you have to work for it. The sooner you’re willing to work, the sooner you can reap the rewards.

8) Apathy spreads rapidly. “I don’t care” and “whatever” come to mind as phrases that are overused by myself and our culture. When we fail to care about one thing, it usually leads to not caring about other things quickly. If I am careless with my prayer life, then it is likely that my time in the Word will decline as well. Look at your own life. What is it that you have decided to “not care” about anymore, or to be apathetic towards. It is almost guaranteed to have spread elsewhere. Rid yourself of this mindset. It’s poisonous. Godly men and women are not apathetic and cowardly, but courageous conquerors.

9) Beautiful women are everywhere; Godly women are diamonds. I’m just speaking from the perspective of a Christian bachelor (for lack of better terminology), but no matter where you are, there will always be beautiful women. Starbucks has them. McDonalds has them. Walmart has them. They’re everywhere, I tell ya – everywhere. A Christ-like woman (that you obviously, also find attractive) is a diamond in the rough. Cherish her, pursue her, and marry her. One per Godly man. And “no funny business” as an old, wise man might say.

10) Your qualifications are not always what qualify you. I’ve yet to be offered a job because of my qualifications, or credentials. The jobs I’ve been offered professionally, and the positions of leaderships I’ve had within collegiate-ministries/churches were not given to me based on my qualifications, but because someone saw that potential I had, and wanted to develop it further. When I was hired at La Quinta, my boss told me the reason she hired me was because of how I interacted with the guests that were waiting in line ahead of me the day I came to pick up an application. It was my willingness to put myself out there that led to the job-offer, not my pursuit of a degree in Communications (or Hospitality Management, if that had been the case).

11) A loving community is something to be cherished and sought after. Ichthus and Rev79 were gems in Manhattan, Kansas. So many loving people with the spirit, and it was something I took for granted before moving home to Olathe, and having to find another spirit-filled, Bible believing church where I could plug myself into. And when I began to become lazy about it (not attend service, or sign up for classes/bible-studies), I found myself miserably lonely, depressed, and my faith drier than a saltine-cracker without soup. Seriously people, we need each other. If you have a friend that is a Christian, but that is isolating themselves from the church – go beat down their doors and drag them in with ya. May sound extreme, but it’s what Jake had to do a few times in college, and I’m grateful for it. And if you’re that person, then stop it. Stop being silly, and go to church. You’re fooling yourself if you think you can do it on your own.

12) We need to read our Bibles more. Guys, it’s God’s WORD. It’s HIS WORD! Seriously, it’s His Word. And we believe in Him, so shouldn’t we want to know Him? I cannot tell you the number of times that someone has outwitted me with Scripture (that was outside of the Christian circle). It’s pretty ridiculous when an outspoken guy like me that has grown up in the church for years, knows less about the Bible than someone outside of the faith. Other books are good, but the Bible is best. Trust me, I love the other books. I read as many of them as you probably do, or more. But we never graduate from the basics. We must constantly remind ourselves of the Gospel, and eat of the wisdom found in His Word. Everything else comes second to that. (P.S. This is something I also need to work on. Notice my use of the pronoun “we”.)

13) Giving is far more rewarding than receiving. You can waste your life away building up your own personal kingdom, or you can give it all away for the sake of the Gospel. The latter option provides you with unspeakable joy, peace, and purpose. The other option leaves you thirsty for more, more, and more – always anxious, and always uncertain. Every time I try to build up riches for myself, I find myself unsatisfied. Every time I give to others, I find myself very content. It goes against everything in us (at first), but when we lead our hearts with our deliberate, purposeful, obedient actions of sacrifice, our hearts begin to enjoy it. It’s almost addicting. You’ll be surprised.

The Communication Gap

Today, we live in a world that is infinitely connected, yet farther away from one another than ever before. I have missionary friends in India that I can video-chat with via a variety of platforms, yet we find it difficult to communicate honestly, heart-sensitive issues with close friends, family, or coworkers, in a face-to-face, interpersonal setting.

Why is that?

It seems the majority of my peers would rather text than talk on the phone. Enduring the occasional ‘awkward’ silence and carrying on a conversation have become complex, laborious tasks that we would much rather avoid, if at all possible. And if we have to endure such a hardship, they better by golly know that we love them.

This mindset baffles me. There are many reasons behind the veil of communicative safety that we place ourselves behind, and I get it, to some degree. As an apt conversationalist, with a primarily extroverted personality, it is much easier for me to talk to anyone I want to, and much more difficult for others. I’m aware of that. I’m also aware of the ways in which I will often attempt to separate myself from any concrete connection to the words I speak, for fear they will not be fully accepted, or taken seriously. An example of this would be discounting a rather bold statement with nervous laughter afterward, or saying something along the lines of, “that’s JUST my opinion, anyways.”

Is this an acceptable and healthy way for us to live and interact with one another?

I argue that, “No, it is not.” There is nothing safe about trapping all of your innermost worries, burdens, desires, aspirations, dreams, crushes, and the like. Precautions should be taken to protect your heart. Absolutely. However, I believe that we are in an era that must call the twentysomethings and older to a higher standard of boldness in communication. After all, we are adults, and there is no reason to behave as passive-aggressive children anymore.

So, how do we bridge this communication gap that permeates the deepest levels of our culture?

If I were to have to choose between a bite-your-lip-and-keep-it-all-in communication style or a just-say-it mentality, I would choose to just-say-it, every time. Sure, it’s messy. Sure, you’ll say something stupid. Sure, someone might get hurt. Yes, you’ll make mistakes. But guess what? You’ll be living! You’ll have actual, meaningful relationships with actual, real people that probably actually care about you, because they’re still taking the time to talk to you, aren’t they? And we’ve already discussed just how difficult that is.

A just-say-it culture would be entirely different from the passive communicative setting we currently have ourselves used to. It would call for men to honestly state their feelings in relationships with the opposite-sex; it would require a bolder scope of dialogue; it would mean a lot more communicating, and a reciprocal level of increased community. Suddenly, an increasingly isolated, lonely, confused generation would be pressed closer together, because they’d be going deeper with one another.

I don’t think people should be so afraid to be themselves. One of America’s most revered freedoms is the ability to express oneself through the freedom of speech. Are we really free if constantly pressured to avoid entire honesty due to exterior pressures like the government or interior pressures like family, the church, and work? I’m an advocate of being yourself. Opposition to this idea would say that this encourages bad-behavior through word and deed, because that sort of freedom can lead to rebellion. My counterargument is simply that people will always do what they want to do; I simply think it is time we say what we want to say, and learn to productively, lovingly, and humbly deal with the consequences. Whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’, at least we will be brave, rather than cowardice, living rather than dead, and in communication rather than isolation.

But, these are “just my thoughts” (remember what I said earlier?), what are yours?

Brief Thoughts on Loneliness

satan wants us to believe we are alone – we’re not. If anything, Christ is always with us – we simply ignore Him far too often.

The (sometimes) lonely state-of-the-church is caused by a host of factors – one of them being it’s ‘safer’ to gridlock our hearts – or so we think. Our pride prefers not to be subject to spiritual authority, our sinful hearts prefer not to be exposed, and our impatience prefers not to invest in relationships that have the potential to fail (because so many others have) and that take time to cultivate.

We NEED each other, though, and as much as our egos hate the idea of dependency upon another, or even upon God, we must grapple with that reality, bury our pride in the grave, and truly dig into Christ and community.

Jesus called 12 Disciples together, not one. You can’t “cowboy”, or “lone-ranger” your way thru Christianity. You can try, but it’s not the real deal – it’s not “The Church”.

Real church is real people really digging into each other’s lives and hearts – that means conquering the messy sides of people (their pasts, their current sin-struggles, their broken/confused hearts, etc.), bringing it to God, and letting Him heal! And doing it all with joy found in Christ and hope only found in the promise of an eternal Kingdom that is to come – free from suffering.

Outside, Looking In: A Short-Story

He was at it again. The crazy street-preacher simply couldn’t keep his mouth shut. “The fire of Hell will rain down on you! REPENT! REPENT!” he shouted. A few interested onlookers watched as his “message” continued, while I managed to squeeze myself through the throngs of people in the city square. Rush-hour it was, and on time as usual, was the man who couldn’t stop preaching.

What was it that drove him to proclaim so boldly what he thought to be truth? Christianity was one of those things that was difficult to understand; so many versions, so many rules that could either bend, snap, or vanquish altogether. Heck, from the conversations he had managed with a few of his “believing” friends, it sounded like they didn’t even know what they were talking about.

What were they talking about?

It stumped his mind for hours. The endless tweets and status-updates about righteous living, conferences every so often that they would come back from “on fire for the LORD” only to fizzle out a few days later to be found in their same old hypocritical habits. At least he stood for what he stood for; the 3 G’s; Girls, Guns, and Grub. The women he slept with, or attempted to anyways, the guns he shot, and the food he ate made up who he was, in his eyes.

From a young age, he had heard his Mom say, “you are what you eat, which was true for Alex, a doughy, full-bodied young lad, who just so happened to eat a lot of pizza and drink a lot of beer. His nickname was “The Tank” and everyone in the neighborhood would cheer him on at the local bar during chugging-contests, because the kid could PUT. IT. AWAY. Goodnight to anyone who tried to beat him at his favorite sport, drinking.

Walking home now, Alex came up to the spot on the hill where the local church was gathering for “First Fridays”, the Friday evening Bible Study where young Christians spent the first Friday of every month together reading Scripture and praying. But who on Earth went to church on Friday night? Didn’t they know that was for Sundays and the rest of the week was for living, especially Friday night!

Tonight was different, though, he had nowhere to be. No parties to attend, girls to seduce, or movie to watch in his ‘bachelor-pad’ apartment. And curiosity was getting the best of him.

Sitting down at a bench across the street from the church, he sat down to people-watch. Outside, looking in, he had the perfect vantage point.

One thing was certain, the girls were sure cute, for Christians. What does that even mean, he thought to himself, surprised at his own confused thinking. For Christians? Alright, they were attractive, period.

But what made them so special? What was it about the men within this church that kept them at least attempting to seek out purity and mentor relationships, or what did they call it–discipleship?

The service was obviously about to start, as the line of people entering was dwindling down and the doors were about to close. Contemplating his options for the evening, he realized it couldn’t hurt to at least check into this so-called, “community”, and to see what they were truly all about. Rising up from the bench and taking the few awkward steps across the street toward the greeters, Alex made his way into the church…

What would Alex (a fictional-character, by the way) have been invited into if it had been your church? How welcoming are you to outsiders? It’s incredibly easy to become wrapped up in the communities we already have. Sometimes, an opportunity to reach out to an outsider is at hand, and we just have absolutely no idea. I sure hope that Alex would not have been ignored, no matter how many questions, or how much “baggage” he may have brought into the situation. Because let’s be honest, you were Alex at one point, in your own way, and so was I.

In the same light, what if the story goes differently, as it often does, and Alex decides to continue onward in life without ever visiting a church? What are you, The Church, doing to reach out to him, meet him where he’s at, and let him know that he is undoubtedly loved, despite [insert everything here]…?

Consider this a simple reminder for you, for me, for everyone to continually seek out way to be others-oriented in the way we “do ministry”. Dealing with personal struggles is certainly important, but please do not forget the outsider, the foreigner, the stranger. One day it was you and one day it may very well be you again. Be gracious, inviting, and loving hosts.