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

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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.

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Grace Over Grave

The world will crush your bones,

Dry up your spirit.

It will promise pleasure, but you’re still thirsty.

I’ve got the truth – but you won’t hear it.

Too busy getting stuff done,

That you forgot about the Son.

But hey, me too, so I guess it’s fine.

We can just say “hey, your sin is more than mine.”

Compare our righteousness to others,

“Ha! If you only knew my brothers…” we say.

Brush the judgment day off our shoulders,

Feel abandoned this side of heaven,

Go out looking for attention, getting “bolder.”

Only to learn that this world’s colder.

So we numb the pain with something fake,

If it feels like love, then it must be it,

Besides, the loneliness of this world is too much to take,

So even if I settle, so be it.

And that’s the lie that you believe,

A lie so well-spoken by deception,

That it seems to bring about relief,

But don’t be surprised, then, at pain’s reception.

Because it will arrive.

And choke what you thought was thriving,

Then you’ll look back for hope,

And realizing it’s not there, as your relationship with it is what you were depriving.

Living in “liberty” but a captive,

Free from “the law” but shackled to regrets.

Hope came to set you free.

Hope has a name.

Hope hasn’t given up on you or me.

Hope has no desire to leave you in shame.

So the next fool’s gold that catches your heart’s attention,

Do as my wife (the teacher) would and send it to detention.

And work on your retention of love over hate,

Grace over Grave.

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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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Psalm Study Week 3 (Psalms 15-21)

Sometimes life takes over and you fall behind on your writing. What matters is that I’m trying to become more consistent and disciplined with it – right? Here is “Week 3” and what I learned along the way. I’ll also do what I can to write Week 4 in the next couple days so we can all be caught back up!

  • Psalm 15:1-2 “Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart.
    • The last year or two I’ve been a part of a group of men that hold each other accountable to living holy and blameless lives, protecting their marriages from scandal, and doing the hard work of cleaning their hearts from the inside out. You may have heard it said, the Lord is not concerned with whitewashed tombs but he is concerned with the heart – and that’s what my message (and blog) has always been about. You may have it all together on the outside – that’s wonderful. But when was the last time you opened up your heart and really dug to the root of your weaknesses? Can you really, confidently pray to the Lord and ask Him to examine your heart, for it is blameless?
  • Psalm 16:8-9 “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.

    (The bullet list formatting wouldn’t work beyond this point in the blog for whatever reason. I’ll have to come back and edit later on, but the show must go on!)

    What I found to be so important in Psalm 16: 8-9 was how David’s focus could not be shaken. But placing his eyes on the Lord, his lot was secure. Because his heart is glad and his tongue sings praise, his body also will rest secure. I could go for some of that rest. Come, Lord – show me what that kind of rest and peace looks like.

    Psalm 17:3 “Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.”

    Can the same be said of my heart? Can the Lord look into my heart and see that I have planned no evil – that I have not uttered a slander against a brother or a sister? And what about you, dear friend? O that we may experience this sort of holiness!

    Psalm 18:37-39 “I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed. I crushed them so that they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet. You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me.

    What an excellent battle-cry! What a testament to the confidence we should have in the Lord. Just makes you want to go workout in the gym and prepare yourself for battle against evil. Death has no sting and we’ve got the power of God before us. Earlier in the chapter, David is writing and describing the majestic power of the Lord and how he has rescued him from deep waters. The imagery is beautiful, powerful, and descriptive and I’d encourage you to go back and read it when you have the time. What an awesome God we serve.

    Psalm 19:11 “By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

    “Them” is referring to the instructions of the Lord found in Scripture. I think this is an excellent reminder of our need to be in the Word daily, meditating on it day and night, as it instructs the heart and leads us toward great reward.

    Psalm 20:6 “Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.

    Who doesn’t like #winning? May the Spirit call you out of deep waters and anoint you and your ministries. May He send His angels to deliver us in times of battle and may our shouts be shouts of victory and not wails of defeat.

    Psalm 21:7 “For the king trusts in the Lordthrough the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.

    Recording artist Thi’sl writes of Christian men being kings. Royalty in the eyes of God, heirs to the throne. A king that trusts in the King Of Kings will not be shaken. I want to be like that when I grow up!

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Darkness Better Run And Hide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

run and hide

Untitled: A Poem Rooted In Hope

It’s hard to compose myself,
Can’t wrap up my heart and put it on a shelf.
Not meant to idle on the title,
This is just the recital.

But I need a revival,
To feel the tidal wave,
Of God’s blessing because I’m not a slave,
To death anymore, but to righteousness.
To feel the drive inside my chest.
Wake up today and get dressed,
With purpose and to fix this mess.

The world we’ve all been creating,
By evading the complications,
Not on “many sides” but all sides.
Guilt ridden hearts because we were just witnesses,
“innocent” by neutrality, but avoiding the reality
That we’re all to blame,
It’s such a shame.

I should love my neighbor and not be scared,
If they dress or act different, what’s the difference?

Our hearts were all designed the same,
Created in His image and then named,
Children of God and sons of righteousness,
And then evil comes and entices us.

Greed plants seeds that bear their fruit,
Just not the kind that represented You.

Hearts plagued with a need for connection,
Yet when we come to their intersection,
We turn away toward isolation.
It’s “safe” there and we can remain stationed.
Is is stationed or stationary?

Stagnancy that prevents growth and brings about cults,
Because if they think what we think, then there’s no need to really think.
On the brink of insanity,
By removing that essential aspect of our humanity.

Turning deaf ears to one another,
Because we’ve already tuned out the mutter
Of a trigger-happy President and news-anchor resonance.

It’s time for a discussion,
Like the NFL and their concussions,
We’ll only circle back to where we’ve been,
If we don’t take the time to listen to then…

The past whispers hope for reconciliation,
A grassroots of the good parts of this nation.

While the Gospel brings hope and grace,
And I’d love to see more of that in hate’s place.

It starts with you and it starts with me,
Asking God on bended knee,

“Bless the stars and stripes with unity.
And with my friends and family, will you be with thee?”

Because if we all remain neutral and individualistic,
Then we’ll never be a community.

And truthfully, we’ll never be the church.

Tidal Waves

Life tends to come in waves. I imagine a seashore where the tide has just come in and you feel overwhelmed by all of the love and blessings and then all of the sudden the tide goes back out deeper into sea, and the sand in your heart dries out just as quickly as it was soaked with wetness.

That picture has been painted in my head the last night or two and I wanted to take a minute to write it out because I think there’s someone somewhere reading this that can relate – and understands what I’m referring to.

It’s easy to be joyful and filled with a sense of contentment when the tide comes in. Friends visit from out-of-town, a financial blessing is poured out your way, your life-partner and you are on fire with passion for one another – and then just as quickly as life was getting good, it gets hard again. Unexpected bills make their way into your home through the mail, you realize you and your friends may once again be growing apart, and your life-partner and yourself are both wrestling through your own internal emotional and mental wars, unable to be as lovingly supported as you were when the tide was coming in.

I can’t help but think that I’ve begun to miss something in my ‘old age’ and lack of community. That joy that simply refuses to die. The one that once killed found a way to come back to life just three days later.

Something intriguing about the resurrection of Jesus is that He didn’t come back right away. He didn’t die on the cross and then come back the very next day with a proclamation of “Told you, suckers!” He lets His community mourn, He allows them to feel pain – to realize the realness of life and the lack thereof in some situations. I wonder why He did that? Was it to show us that sometimes you just have to suffer? That even after a few days of loneliness and confusion there’s bound to be a clearing of the clouds moment where the sun starts to shine through again?

Every day I learn more and more about my desperate need for a Savior. Without a “Jesus” to hold onto and place my hope and faith in, then I have nothing. Life will always be hard. My weaknesses will always remain weaknesses and my friendships will always fade into the busyness of business-as-usual. But with Jesus, with a believe that someone died on the cross for my sins and has given me that same ability to overcome death and to overcome darkness – with that indescribable power at my praying knee’s discretion – my weaknesses can become strengths, my relationships can be restored, and business can take a chill pill because in the end, the heart is what matters.

My wife said something profound this week as we were laying in bed and sharing our hearts. (I love snuggle time. There’s no safer place than in bed next to each other just pouring out our hearts and crying and laughing and encouraging and praying together. It’s the safest, happiest fortress in all the land, and I love it and I love her.) So I’m laying there talking about how I really want to make a difference in the world but I often don’t believe I’ll ever make a lasting impact – I’ll never actually become a writer or teacher and I’ll never actually leave all this extra weight behind in the dust, and I’ll never end up working Monday-Friday, etc. etc. (I have a tendency to try and take on and conquer the entire world in a day – and as you can imagine that’s impossible.) And here’s what my beautiful wife says to me – “Justin…you don’t have to make a difference in the world, you just have to make a difference in your world.”

Those of you that consider yourselves to be part of “my world” – would you say that I am making a difference? If not, how can I be better utilized as a prayer warrior and brother in Christ fighting beside you?

Friends that are fighting through their post-grad years and mid-to-late twenties – how have you purposefully invested in community while not diminishing time alone with your spouse and the pursuit of your dreams?

I know there’s not one “answer” but I’m ready to listen to a few suggestions.

Walking with you, friends. Let’s remember that progress is progress and if we have not Hope then we have nothing at all. Don’t let anyone steal that from you today.

tidal wave

Intimidated

I’m sitting here and finding myself intimidated by writing my vows. Crazy to think that a hundred words – the word-limit that Allie and I have set will ‘define’ the love we have for each other. How can one tell a story so beautiful in just 100 words? How can I promise and pray enough good will of heart over our marriage?

She’s scared that I’ll “outdo” her, since I’m “a writer.” I doubt it. All it takes is a few kind words and that smile of hers to make me melt like ice-cream on a hot summer day. Consider me soft-serve already as I consider how anxious I’ll be that day just to finally say, “I do” and party with some of my closest friends and family.

The day is fast approaching. But Allie and I have not lost sight of the fact that this is simply a day. An evening of epic proportions, of course. One that we will remember for a lifetime. But also one that will pass by in the blink of an eye. Our marriage will not be defined by 100 words, or one evening of dancing, drinking, and laughing with friends.

It’ll be defined by the way we love each other day in and day out. How I’ll clean the bathrooms and how she’ll surprise me with coffee at work. How we’ll be fighting and know when to call a time-out and just kiss and promise one another that we love the other and are going to press through.

“I’ll always be there for you,” would sum up the state of my heart and my continuous promise to the woman that’s captured my heart.

I’m sure this state of “lovey-dovey” winsomeness will not always be about and we’ve faced our share of rough-and-tough “disagreements” (that’s what people call ‘fights’ to make themselves feel better about it). But I’m also positive that love does not have to be as dark as some have promised us it will be.

We’ve noticed a selfishness within both of our hearts and a need for humility. I hate being wrong, but I’m learning to hate being right just as much – there is no prize for the winner of an argument. There is only one wrestling with their own pride and one left feeling as if their heart was not valued.

I’ve found myself perplexed at the power of prayer. A few deep breaths, a hug, and then taking a few moments to pray over one another has a way of bringing us back – as if we were on a sports team in a huddle, receiving a pep talk from the Coach. Only our Coach is God.

And so I’m intimidated. Intimidated of how much bigger our love is than myself. Already catching visions and dreams of what God could potentially use our relationship for, the healing power it could bring, the Spirit that dwells within, the wounds to be healed, the walls to be torn down, the cities to travel to, and the stories to tell. Our story is so much bigger than myself. And I’m a pretty big guy. But I feel small.

If David can conquer Goliath, in Christ. Then WE can conquer life, in Christ.

So marriage and love will never be summed up in a matter of words. Their currency will always be measured in actions – the only true measure of a heart.

I’ve never encountered a more kind and beautiful heart than hers. It brings warm, joyous tears, as I consider how much Light she brings into the darkness. Pair that with a heart as wild and fierce as mine and you have an unstoppable force, unwilling to be broken, persevering to the very end with one goal in mind: Share the love of Christ.

Intimidated no more am I by a mere string of words etched out on notebook paper. Intimidated more so by all the work that is to be done and that I am not enough. But praise be to God that he sent me a Helper! And that His Spirit’s desire is to set us both free.

It’s come to my attention that some have found a sort of compelling nature about our relationship – a sense of hope, perhaps. We’re just a couple learning more about love each day. What you’ve found compelling about us is that every day we’re learning to surrender more and more of our hearts, and more and more aspects of our relationship to Christ.

The old Sunday school answer rings true here. “Jesus” is our answer. He can be yours, too.

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What I Learned In 2016

In the event that you’ve been sleeping under a rock or maybe you’ve taken a social-media hiatus, I’m getting married in 2017! Not that far into it either – February 4th, 2017 cannot get here soon enough. (Actually, it can. There’s still a few things to accomplish before then.)

As you can imagine, it’s been a season of immense personal growth. A time to face many fears, analyze a lot of hearty spiritual issues, career changes, and much more.

In 2016, I fell in love with a beautiful woman named Allie. We met October 21st, 2015 and a few short months after that I was gazing in her eyes at Kanza Hall and promising to marry her. “My friends would kill me,” I said, as she blushed and smiled wide, “if they knew I’d already confessed my love for you so soon.” But I’ve always loved hard and loved fast so I’m sure they weren’t terribly surprised.

As a man that’s lived the bachelor life (as hard as that may be to believe), I can honestly tell you that “settling down” and preparing myself for a covenant relationship with the woman I love has been one of the greatest blessings of my entire life. There’s a reason there are so many “rules” in the Bible. It’s because they’re designed to give you life, and true freedom. I’ve tasted what is good, and Jesus is. And He has been foundational in holding a relationship as precious and valuable as Allie and I’s together. I’m astonished at how powerful grace and love are, when they’re originally from a source as powerful as God, Himself.

2016 also provided the opportunity for a career change. After a solid year of being absolutely miserable in a call-center that had terrible leadership and no respect for the talents of their own people, I was given the opportunity to enter into Sales. It’s led to the development of a skill-set I didn’t even know that I had and I’m absolutely loving it. Hard work pays off and sometimes you just have to put yourself out there. My lifelong philosophy of “it never hurts to ask” pays off as well, since I’m not afraid to question the objections that customers throw my way.

Personally, in 2016, I’ve come to terms with my own heart and its desire for transparency, depth, genuine connections, and true life change. Culturally, the church has often decided that it’s best to put a Band-Aid on wounds and pretend that everything is okay. But it’s not. Pain is meant to be felt. Prayers are meant to be said. Conversations are designed to occur. Nothing worth having has ever come easy.

Lust and all the struggles that Christian Men face in a hyper-sexualized world has been a battle that I’ve had to face head on in order to prepare for marriage and thanks to the guys at Freedom KC, I’ve managed to pursue freedom in that area of my life. I’m far from perfect, but it’s an excellent feeling no longer having to walk in shame. Because where there is Light, darkness cannot be also.

This year has provided me with the opportunity to understand that no one person is perfect. They never will be. There are issues and struggles and aches and bruises that we simply will not comprehend unless we genuinely care enough to take the time to understand them. Just like you (yes – you), my initial response to broken people is to ignore them, write them off, or be frustrated with their naivety. But that’s not what Jesus did.

I’ve watched a country stray from its roots and witnessed two terrible primary candidates take the stage against each other in an onslaught of character-battles rather than facing the issues. I’ve seen ISIS terrorize the world. I’ve seen Liberals think that they’re always right and Conservatives ignoring them, when we should all be listening to each other. I’ve witnessed the devastating affects of addiction on relationships and families. And throughout all of the aforementioned, I still chose to hope.

But why? How? Where is the hope in a world filled with so much darkness?

I understand – and I have close friends who would totally agree with you. But I’ve chosen for my own sanity to not give up hope – that God has to be real and He continually answers the promises He’s made to us. He is a faithful and loving Father and in the end, the fights you face for freedom in your own life will be worth it because you’ll hear “well done, my good and faithful servant.” And you won’t have to live the rest of your life out in bleak dismay and unnecessary fear.

2016 taught me that I still believe in Christ as my Lord and Savior. That I need the Church. It’s taught me that Allie and I are #BetterTogether. Strong and intelligent separate but far stronger and emotionally intelligent together. That at the age of 26, it’s beyond time to move out and start your own life. That being afraid of change does no good, as change is always necessary for growth. That my growing pains do not make me a failure.

That last part struck me just now – actually. I want you to take that into 2017 with you, too. Your growing pains – shortcomings, weak moments where you give into impulse – do NOT make you a failure. You may have hit a speed-bump on the road to success but you have yet to fail – you have yet to disqualify yourself from the race.

Here’s to 2017! To marrying the most beautiful, warm, kindhearted, forgiving, intelligent, and goofy woman I could ever hope and dream of. To God continuing to break through the glass ceiling of my own expectations. To continued success in Sales and other ventures. To a renewed faith and desire for community. To two families becoming one.

Best Wishes,

Justin Meyer

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