Relying On Him

It was one of those weeks where you never really catch up on sleep – and just when you think the drama has come to an end, there’s a new twist and turn. From family drama to challenging professional interactions, arguments over nothing caused by irritability, and life-changing, deep conversations. From a margarita infused laugh fest to sober tears and lots of pain, there was all of it.

I’m not sure why but whenever life enters that spectrum where success suddenly doesn’t seem to matter all that much, interesting things happen. You’re at work – but you’re not really at work. You’re in the car driving, but your thoughts are taken back to your own memories of pain. You make it home safe, but you’re not sure how.

This week a family member made the strong, challenging decision to break off an emotionally abusive relationship and I couldn’t be more proud. But it’s hard to break away from something that we’ve become used to.

In a way, “love” can become as addictive as a drug, the dopamine that had been released during close times together creates a spiritual tie of sorts. It binds us closer, creates that need for closeness; and that’s one of the many reasons it hurts so much to break a relationship off.

The light that is at the other end of the tunnel is worth it though. I remember the time in my life where I was in a relationship where the other individual wasn’t all-in, but I was – it hurt a great deal to end the relationship one fateful May evening. But what I didn’t know is that just a little while later – on an October evening, I’d meet a woman that would love me wholeheartedly, forgive quickly, and encourage and champion growth together. It was no longer the endless, perpetual cycle of stagnancy; I made financial gains, spiritual gains, and relational gains. “He makes all things new.” Even you. And even me.

My heart has been overwhelmed with the pain of others recently. Thinking about all of the addictions that some wrestle with and that I’ve had to overcome personally. Allowing myself to feel the pain my family-member is going through. Spending valuable time on my phone outside talking brothers off the ledge.

It’s times like these that make me wonder – how does anybody do it that doesn’t know Jesus?

I mean, seriously. How?

Several times over the last week, when someone has overstepped their bounds and interfered with my life and I’ve wanted to lash out in anger, I had to rely on strength that was not my own – it was His.

Several times over the last week, when someone was feeling the same pain that I’ve experienced in the past, I had to rely on strength that was not my own – it was His.

Several times over the last year, as a brother in Christ confesses their battle with purity, and I’ve done the hard thing of giving them tough, Gospel inspired love, calling them to repent and then lovingly embracing them – I’ve had to rely on strength that was not my own – it was His.

So when you ask, how does the eldest of five, newly married, constantly busy, “rock-star-legend” (according to my wife) retail salesmen manage to keep it together (most of the time)? The answer is, I am His. My strength is His. I rely on Him.

I know Jesus, and I want you to know Him too. He saved my life, saved my marriage, gave me hope, and rose again – giving every sunrise new mercies.

There’s a new beginning each day. And we get to live with that hope, because of Him.

I’m praying for you, dear friend, as you’ve taken the time to read this – praying that you would know Him too.

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An Idea Guy

I’ve always been an idea guy. “I’ve got an idea,” is something I’ve never been afraid to say. And I always live life with an “it never hurts to ask” philosophy which has led to a lot of free stuff and good business partnerships at work. But I’ve noticed a shift in my mental perspective lately as I’ve considered my “ideas.” It’s alright to have great ideas, but why is it that a lot of my ideas just remain ideas?

Since the age of about 15 years old when I first started writing and occasionally being given the opportunity to teach Sunday School I’ve had this “idea” that I might be called into ministry someday – or at the very least that my gift with written words might take me somewhere. Our ideas are powerful. And when we share them with others, they become driving forces for positive change, most of the time.

I’ve gotten weak and scared with my ideas, though. I don’t like to share them with anybody anymore because what if I’m wrong – or what if I’m right? What if people find me out and discover that I’m not all that I was cracked up to be? So I take a wild heart – one that was never meant to be caged and I lock it away in the recesses of safety; somewhere deep within myself so that I’m not in danger of failing. The problem with this logic is that you’ll never finish a race you don’t have the guts to start running in the first place.

It’s just like when you have an idea to lose weight or an idea to cut back on unhealthy habits. It’s a great idea, but if you keep it to yourself and don’t put a plan in action the idea is weak. It’s not going to get you anywhere.

Actions are powerful. Plans are healthy. My flesh hates that. My sinful nature is passive, stagnant, and does not particularly enjoy putting forth great amounts of effort.

But what I’ve discovered is that if you start small, it adds up quick. A little kindness goes a long way. Even if you don’t change your diet, hitting the weight bench a few times a week leaves me more confident and sculpted. Allowing myself to be expressive, even when it’s not edited or “good” is powerful. Sharing my feelings with my soon-to-be-bride leads to deeper intimacy, a kind of closeness that leaves her feeling safe and me feeling loved just as I am, even if I want to be better.

So let’s stop being afraid to share our ideas. Let’s bring our hearts and energy together and pursue something. Let’s lean on the collective wisdom and strength of others occasionally. You are not perfect and neither is anyone else. We are all stronger together.

So yes – I’m an idea guy. But I want to become one of resolve and actions, too.

What about you?

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Alive Again, Flame.

I’ve struggled with doubt in my faith-relationship with Jesus for the last couple years if we’re being honest. There has been too much heart-ache, too many struggles, and a lot of slumps that I just wasn’t capable of pulling myself out of.

It’s weird though, because it was “safer” for me to do everything I could to fight for “normalcy” in my thought-life. Yet I found myself laying awake at night, scared of God. Sure – a righteous man fears the Lord. But my fear was that I wasn’t living righteously and that I’d be found guilty. I wasn’t living as a new creation; I didn’t believe in God’s ability to heal my heart and change my life.

Eventually, that crept its way into my relationship. I was found guilty and wanted. And yet somehow God’s love came rushing my way and around every corner I began to see His healing power and hand at work. Calling me back into His loving embrace, despite myself.

Step by step, day by day, week by week – God left little breadcrumbs that trailed back to His Kingdom, calling my heart to awaken and develop an affection for His Word and for His people again. I found my heart aching for others and my spirit suddenly “aware” of other’s hurts. My prophetic heart being beckoned back to life almost overnight. The Holy Spirit by my side whispering words of wisdom and conviction as necessary.

Daily encounters of the miraculous in the simplest of things. Running into a friend from the church I grew up in and getting plugged into a group of guys at my parent’s church that hold each other accountable to living above reproach. “Ironically” encountering a message on love at a church Allie and I have been going to that left us both convicted, encouraged, and ready to walk in God’s grace within our relationship, professional lives, and as individuals with our friends and family.

Moments of healing and joy within both of our hearts that could only have occurred if God were behind it. As if His protection was with us. Early success in a new career and in an industry I have no prior experience in, as if God wanted to remind me that He would provide even when I lacked technical knowledge – my God-ordained personality and “Flame”-infused charisma would take up the slack and provide an overall great experience that left customers surprised, in a very good way.

Areas of my heart that had felt dormant and bleak were now flooded with powerful emotions. Desire for redemption. A heart that burned with passion. An inability to resist joy and its contagious affect on anyone I encounter.

But it’s also brought on a lot of pain. We live in a dark world and we all make crazy, stupid mistakes. The world acts surprised when even the most righteous fall. As if they’re no longer capable of good and should be thrown into the waste-basket with the rest of the sinners of this world. If God looked at us this way, we’d all be groveling in the dump, awaiting our descent into Hell.

But Grace is bigger than that. And love has a way of breaking all the rules we set for it. And those whose hearts have been touched by the Living God know a love that goes far deeper than the sitcoms today that simply focus on eros (love focused on sexual passion) and philautia (love of oneself/self-acceptance) and ludus (a playful, flirtatious form of love). We know Agape love. The kind of Love that God has for us, DESPITE. Despite all our transgressions and as many times we’ve run from Him, God is still in pursuit of our hearts, still seeking us out, still willing to send His Son to the Cross on our behalf. Simply so He can stay in relationship with us.

When that kind of love – Agape Love – infiltrates our relationships, the world has a hard time understanding us. We’re aliens to them – foreigners – because we’re not abiding by the guidelines and regulations everyone else would have us live by. Someone hurts us and instead of retreating, we press in and fight harder for them. Someone grows cold and distant and instead of running to another source of warmth, we sit in the cold and pray that God sends His Spirit to amend the relationship. Someone walks through the desert of uncertainty and depression and the other refuses to let their love and joy run out for you.

A kind of love that expects nothing in return. One that floods despite drought. A miraculous kind of love.

I’ve been touched by that kind of love over the last couple weeks, reminded that God isn’t going anywhere, and it’s totally changing my life. I don’t have to perform anymore. I can just be. When I fall, I can get back up. He isn’t going to leave me behind.

I can struggle and have frank conversations with brothers and sisters in Christ and they can understand. Strangely enough, my vulnerability in my times of weakness only encourages them to be realer with me and its forging deeper relationships. The deep-seated heart-desire of everyone in this world that is tired of fickle friendships focused on chasing the moment and enjoying the good times, but that totally lack depth. There are people in our lives that leave us exhausted and discouraged and there are ones that breathe life and strength into us – these friends typically know Jesus. The main thing that sets them apart is their desire to help you fight your demons while allowing you to help them fight theirs as well.

This week, I’m praying for the relationships of my readers. That in your lives you’d be challenged to be real with those you love. And that the love God has for you would end up rocking your world in unexpected ways. It could potentially derail what you originally thought “the plan” was, but it’ll set your life on a much better, brighter, Love-ordained course.

Alive Again,

Flame.

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The D-Word: Doubt

Lacking inspiration for whatever reason this morning, I posted on some social-media outlets asking for a topic to write about. The first topic given to me was “Doubt.” So here we go, friends. I’m going to talk with you about The D-Word: Doubt.

Doubt is a Christian cuss-word. Let’s face it. And because it’s a “cuss-word” we do everything we have to do to distance ourselves form its reality. I’m not really doubting, I’m “discovering myself.”  I’m not isolated, I just “need some room to breathe.” You get the idea. It’s easier to “take a break” from community than it is to press in and power through the numbness of mixed emotions.

I’ve seen doubt rear its head in my life numerous times. It doesn’t always have to do with faith, although thats where it originates. When we doubt God, we doubt His promises and there is therefore now no nope. Praise Jesus that’s a lie.

I can doubt that I have the ability to overcome – to overcome health and fitness issues, to overcome dependencies, to overcome the character-flaws of being selfish as the oldest of 5 that’s always found a way to get what he wants.

I can doubt that other’s love me. I can doubt that they have my best interest in mind. Once I begin to doubt like this, I begin to doubt my lovability. What if I’m not likable enough? What if they see me, exposed, for what I am, and I’m not enough? What if I don’t measure up?

And then, I’ll begin to doubt myself. I’m not really as strong as some have told me I am. I’m not really creative and confident and outgoing. I could never find a way to legitimately better myself. I’m stuck. Incapable. Lacking. (All lies. I’m taking you inside my mind – trying to relate- flush out the toxins of doubt and present them to you for what they are. They’re poisons straight from the underworld, designed to stop us in our trucks – to make us ineffective witnesses – to bring Black Death to our souls.)

Where The D-Word starts to take place is in our hearts. At some point, someone wounded us. They saw us for what we were and decided that we were not enough. A parent decided that we disappointed them. A friend chose to seek their flesh’s desire and put a woman before us. A woman decided we weren’t wild enough at heart. And we forgot that Jesus died on the Cross for us, because He wanted to save us. Coming not to condemn the world, but to save it. We forgot that He found us worthy and lovely, DESPITE. Despite our ugly sinfulness and predisposition to chase desire without considering consequence.

The reality is we’ve all struggled with doubt and we’re all going to. You are not alone, dear friend. You are not unworthy. You are strong, valiant, a fighter – you are still alive. There is still hope. You can still persevere. If you are not engaged, you can re-engage. If you are not winning, you can. Just means you’ll have to train.

But it’s not about training harder or being better. It’s about trusting. It’s about being. It’s about recognizing who you are – what you lack and what you have – taking a deep breath, going to God and saying, “Without you, I have nothing. Please fill in my gaps. Please give me the strength to overcome today. Please teach me to love her. Show me how to put the collective before the individual. Rid me of darkness and fill me with Light. Teach me to trust you tonight.”

Right There With You,

Justin Meyer

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I Won’t Give Up

I’m in a rough spot. Basically starting over. If you want to learn more about my present situation then definitely feel free to give me a call or send me a message.

It’s been incredibly tempting to throw in the towel and run off. Amazing how when the going gets tough, our first reaction is to run – whether that to be to entertainment, alcohol, drugs, sex, or any other form of counterfeit affection – anything that will make us feel loved. I’m happy to say that I haven’t given up – that I haven’t run.

Instead, I’ve pressed in harder. I’ve gained weight and lost sleep. I’ve laid awake stressed at night, eaten a little too much sweet and salty, but I haven’t given up. I haven’t stopped working. I haven’t gotten lazy. I haven’t thrown in the towel. I’ve stayed strong. Stayed the course. Continued to find a way to see the blessings the Lord gives me each day.

I’m a blessed man with an incredible network. You wouldn’t believe the amount of potential opportunities and doors that have suddenly swung open in the aftermath of a couple doors shutting in my face (honestly, by God’s grace). It would have been easy to pack my bags and run. It would have been easy to throw in the towel. But I’ve kept working, kept hoping, kept persevering.

I will not give up. I will persevere.

I’ve found someone worth loving. I know a God worth living for. I have friends willing to go out of their way for me. I have a woman that believes I have the potential to be successful in absolutely anything I set my mind to.

Today, I find myself praying for you, the reader. I know that some of you may not be as fortunate as me – to have that sort of safety-net and community. A family that’s willing to bear some of your financial burden, friends that are willing to meet with you and discuss potential opportunities, a church that continues to pray for you even though you’re considering other church communities; people that refuse to let you give up on yourself, because they haven’t given up on you.

I find myself praying that you’ll know Him. That you’ll come to meet the Savior. The Provider of my strength and resilience. Yes – I’ve stressed myself silly and worried myself into sickness. Yes – I’ve slept poorly and eaten terribly. No – I will not be left in the cold. No – I will not completely fail. No – I will not be left empty-handed.

He’s a good, good father. He saw me estranged and beaten and giving up and He ensured I found a way out. He will provide. I pray you know Him. I pray He meets you where you’re at too.

It’s a struggle. To believe in something you cannot see. To feel something you sometimes are too numb to feel. Life is never easy.

The beautiful, eloquent speeches that some are capable of presenting (whether politician or pastor) are not an accurate depiction of life. But Jesus is an accurate depiction of love. And love is real. It overcomes. It forgives. It forgets your misdirections and gives you another chance – again and again – never giving up – always persevering.

You are the captain of your ship and I the captain of mine. The only one responsible for it’s successful passage through the treacherous waters of life, yourself (and the God you do or do not believe in). Only you can sink the ship.

I’m refusing to sink mine.

I’m a fan of words. A fan of pep-talks. I’ve asked for prayer and encouragement, but I’ve decided its necessary to preach to myself. So here it is. I’m believing. I’m achieving. I’m fighting. And I won’t give up.

Right There With You,

Justin Meyer

Calling All Men To Call One Another

Heart-to-hearts among guys are not something that happen by accident very often. To get guys to bare their souls to one another is like trying to pull teeth sometimes – bloody, painful, and there’s rarely a “justified” reason for it. I’m forever grateful for the men in my life that have made it their mission to find and connect with my heart. To the few brave souls that have dug in deep, formed ties, and will always care about the man I am – you guys are the reason I’m still here standing, fighting to love and know Jesus more. It’s because of you and our mutual faith that depression has never truly threatened to smother the Flame within my soul.

The problem is that guys just don’t really, actually talk to one another. Not usually, anyways. Think of your coworkers. You see each other every day. You all mutually are tired and frustrated with the day, the weather, your favorite sports teams – maybe you even take a moment to vent about something relationally trivial. But do you really know your coworkers? The people you spend the majority of your week with. When was the last time you had a legitimate conversation with them and found out what troubled their heart and soul? Do you know what their thoughts on eternity are?

I think one of the chief desires within a man’s heart is to connect. Thankfully, the Lord has found it best for us to not be alone – and so we pair off with beautiful, strong, Christ-like women and they love and cherish and encourage and pray and fight for us. But at the end of the day, it’s not enough. It’s an exhausting battle. They couldn’t possibly be the only source of strength. Our only resting place. Our only source of wisdom. Putting a woman (0r a man, for you women) in the place of God is idolatry (a fancy word for regarding something else as higher than God). It’s as if despite the Cross, despite the Gospel, and despite the fact that Holy Spirit is still forcing your heart to wrestle day and night between Light and Darkness, we don’t believe God truly desires good for us, so we run to another outlet.

A side effect of growing up and these pairing offs is that for whatever reason we stop investing our time and resources in our guy friends. It’s too tiresome to schedule anything – everyone is always busy. We decide it’s not worth the fight, or the energy. And yet deep down, one of the deeper desires we have is to really connect with a brother. Someone that has been there or is there – someone that can simply share in the hardships of life. Even someone that we can call with the good news that something went right!

I simply refuse to let my friends slide off the face of the earth. They may hate me for it somedays. But once it reaches the point of a month or two of not seeing them, I’m to the point of threatening to knock on their door (and they know I will). But we have to see each other. We have to invest in one another’s lives. Aside from your significant other, the men you surround yourself with will make or break the man you are. Their apathy will lead to your apathy if you choose the wrong ones. And their passion for Scripture will lead to your piqued interest and renewed commitment to understanding the God you’ve “worshiped” since 1st Grade.You can glean wisdom from their mistakes and they can glean wisdom from yours. Growing together is a beautiful, hard, far too undervalued thing in life.

So this week, I’m calling all men to call one another. Pick up the phone and call one of the guys you grew up with, or someone you’ve always respected. Call “just because” – ask how they’re doing, if you can pray for them and see when the next time is you’re going to hit the gym or coffee-shop, or see the latest comedian/band with them.

Men, we can’t be so afraid to share our hearts. If your friends are anything like me, they can see right through that thin layer of crap you put up as your front anyways. They know when you’re lying, when you’re in sin and stiff-arming community to let evil stay a night or two longer. They can see when joy’s returned and when life’s been too hard. More often than not, they want to be there for you as much as you want to be there for them. We’re just bad at vocalizing it.

So, I dare you. Share your heart and see what happens. Ask for help. Ask for prayer. Invite them over to process the things you’d like to improve on and ask them to share their stories of how they overcome their own obstacles. We’re much better off together. A kingdom won’t stand long if it’s army is a bunch of lone-rangers. We need to be increasingly united, more prone to forgiveness than bitterness, and more ready to listen than to shove our own opinion down someone else’s throat (more often than not, uninvited).

Call your friend. Call your brother. Call your Dad. And call on the men that used to raise you up in the Spirit as a young rascal on the Little League baseball team. Love them because you know that God loves you. Love them not for what they can do for you, but simply for who they are. Believe in Christ’s ability to redeem even the darkest hearts. It’s going to cost you your time and sometimes your patience. But it’s worth the cost. A man rich in relationships is never truly poor – his heart is overflowing with life, hope, and faith that redemption can come for any man – because other men believe it can come for him.

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#NoFilter – Love Yourself

Let’s talk about filters. I can’t remember the last time I posted a picture on Instagram or Snapchat or any form of social-media that didn’t have a filter. I thought about this as Allie and I were having a good time with different filters on Snapchat in Starbucks. It was all innocent fun, but I had this thought about filters just then. It’s interesting that we don’t necessarily want to see the #NoFilter version of ourselves. Not that we don’t. But just that we don’t necessarily want to face it, if that makes sense?

I think we do similar forms of filtering on Twitter and Facebook. Perhaps we tweet about that jerk-face that cut us off in traffic on Twitter haphazardly and then find ourselves deleting it later and replacing it with a Bible verse about unconditional love later that afternoon. Because we don’t want to be seen as an angry person. So we post on Facebook when we graduate from college or get that next promotion, but (unless you’re me) avoid being publicly downcast. Or perhaps on more relatable terms – we become recluses from society when we’ve gained that extra five pounds or are wrestling with depression. We’d rather people just saw us during the triumphs.

But what would the #NoFilter version of ourselves look like? Let’s take body-image out of the equation. You look the way you dream of yourself looking. You’re now officially Ryan Gosling or Rachel McAdams. What would the #NoFilter version of our hearts look like? Our personalities? Our personas? Our internal conversations and dialogue?

“Don’t play yourself,” DJ Khaled says all the time on his Snapchat. I don’t think DJ Khaled is any sort of life-advice guru per se – I just find his posts to be hilarious. But he’s got a point here. I think we play ourselves too much. We filter ourselves to the point that we’re not even sure who we are.

Who are we really?

So you’re the partier on Saturday, the worshiper on Sunday morning, in debauchery on Sunday night, in F-This mode on Monday, and an overcoming go-getter on Tuesday. So, which one is it? Who are you really?

Isn’t that what everyone wants to know? Isn’t it irritating when people are one thing one moment and another the next? Don’t you sort of want to punch the mirror when you’re that person? (Everyone’s been there, too. Don’t say, “That’s not me.”)

I hate the back-and-forth, figuring-ourselves-out, wondering-what-to-do version of ourselves. I’m a perfectionist. I want the “this is it” finished product, right here, right now, yesterday.

But what if we took the filters off? And we faced the mirror of our minds? What if we took the time to write down our emotions and feelings and endure them? You see – I like to run. Not really. I hate physically running. But metaphorically, I love to run. It’s easier to run and keep moving and go onto the next thing than to focus on the now.

#NoFilter – It’s easier to run from God than it is to sit there and listen to him. You know those moments where it’s suddenly too quiet? You’re sitting there in your bedroom, or conversation with your loved ones has died down, and suddenly you can feel the Spirit (or your conscious – whatever you want to call it) speaking to you. It’s saying gentle things. Little reminders. “Hey man, maybe you shouldn’t have brushed your sister’s request off like it was nothing.” “Yeah, yeah, okay Jesus, I get it.” And then you just move on. It’d be an interesting world to start listening to that voice. An even more interesting world to not run from it. Miraculous, if we invited it in.

Typically, I start feeling those gentle nudges. My brain and soul kicking into a highly engaged state, and it scares me. Crap – what’s God going to ask of me this time? I’d rather not find out. I reach for my headphones, play some Ben Rector, and immediately surf the nothingness of Facebook-Land trying to find a distraction from the obvious call. “Sorry God, I don’t have any reception here tonight. Maybe another time.” And then I place my phone on Do Not Disturb and go to sleep.

So, what would happen if we listened?

#NoFilter – I find faith to be hard to find sometimes. It’s not always easily accessible. But I feel hopeless without it. God has to be real. There has to be power in prayer. I’ve seen people healed, abundant provision occur, spirits overcome, darkness turned to light. But when you’re coming from a place of hurt and skepticism it’s incredibly difficult to step back out there into that circle of trust, to be in relationship with Jesus again.

To wrap things up – let’s drop the filters. And for the love of God, the Church, His people, and others – let’s love ourselves a little bit more. Grace is not just for others. Grace is for you and me. And sometimes, we have to extend it to ourselves. You may have failed, but you are not a failure. You may have fallen, but you are not incapable of getting back up. You may have been angry, but you are not “just an angry person.”

Love God. Love Others. And for the benefit of everyone involved, Love Yourself.

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