No Pain, No Gain (Like You Haven’t Heard That Before)

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that one of the connecting points for many lasting friendships in the world is the endurance of pain, together. There I was sharing a margarita with a friend I hadn’t seen in several months and the conversation drifted to the tougher moments in life and how he could relate to x-y-z and I could relate to a-b-c. Perhaps that’s too simplistic a view, but being the sinful humans we are, we’ve all been hurt and we all have hurt, others. It’s our nature to be selfish, inflict pain, and to find ourselves in the crucible of sanctification, given the choice of asking for forgiveness and saying “F*** them, they’re not worth it.” We’ve all been guilty of choosing the latter at some point in life, but it’s never led anywhere fruitful. Bitterness and hatred is only serving yourself the poisoned wine, rather than giving it to your enemy. You’d be better off attempting to kill them with kindness, wouldn’t you?

Anyways – back to my point – in a world of filtered photos, edited texts, and Facebook posts that are a highlight reel of life…we need that one person to share that one painful story of rejection, anger, pain, hatred, betrayal, longing, addiction, abuse, etc. – and that’s all it takes – and then there’s an iconic moment in every redeeming friendship – a “me too – I’ve been there as well.”

I talked with a coworker about depression this week. Opening up about my need for counseling, I found myself given the opportunity to minister to his soul and providing him with helpful options that I’ve utilized for my own personal growth and journey towards freedom from the hatred and loathing of self.

All it took was an opening up, and a “hey, me too man.”

So I guess all of that is to say, you can filter your pictures and keep your Facebook as clean and crisp as you want, but my life is about to get as real as it gets.

I’ve spent enough of my time worrying about reputation, status, money, and what other people think about me, but as long as God says “well done, my good and faithful servant” and my wife is excited to see and kiss me when I get home, then I’ve lived life well. The rest doesn’t matter and it always works out in the end.

It’s amazing how much time we spend chasing peace and perfection, and some of the most peaceful, perfect, love-filled moments are those that are spent being honest and broken, and allowing love and grace to cover over them.

Tim Keller writes of a czar who adopted a son. The adopted son had squandered his wealth and was contemplating suicide due to his recklessness… (sounds like the Prodigal Son in a way)

“Because he couldn’t cover his gambling debts, he began to embezzle from his regiments funds. One night he was sitting in the tent looking at the books and he realized that his embezzlement was about to be discovered. He could hide it no longer from the accountants. He sat drinking heavily and prepared to kill himself. He had the revolver by his side and he took a few more drinks to strengthen his resolve for the suicide. But the drink was too potent and he passed out on the table.

That night the czar was doing what he often did. Disguised as a simple soldier, he was walking through the camp and the ranks, trying to assess the morale of his army, hearing what he could hear. He walked into his foster son’s tent and saw him slumped over the book. He read the book and realized what he had done and what he was about to do.

When the young man awoke hours later, to his surprise the revolver was gone. Then he saw a letter by his hand. To his shock, it was a promissory note, “I, the czar, will pay the full amount from my own personal funds to make up the difference found in this book.” And it was sealed with the czar’s personal seal. The czar had seen the young man’s sin clearly, the full dimensions of what he had done. But he had covered and paid for the sin personally.”

The crazy part is that Jesus does this for you and me, daily. We constantly squander the wealth and the gifts that He’s provided us with. We hurt our wonderful parents with our insensitivity to their wisdom, we hurt our spouse with our stubbornness to their pleas for wiser behavior and moral conduct, we disappoint our elders as they prod us toward holiness, and we discourage our brothers with our apathy – yet Jesus PAID our debt. He said, “I see what you’ve done and I know it fully. The price has been paid. Now come back home.”

I think my life’s calling is to call other’s home. I see what you’ve done – I’ve done some stupid shit too. Now let me pay the price for you, so that you can come back home. You don’t belong in the underworld anymore. Let me provide you with some clean linens and prepare a guest-room for you. You’re an esteemed guest, a high ranking official, and adopted heir to the King – grace and peace and love covers over you.

So friends, come home. Stop running. Stop hiding. Stop chasing success. Stop searching for happiness at the bottom of the bottle or at the sound of any empty pill bottle. Stop clicking through videos and images of women that don’t belong to you (I shouldn’t even look at my wife that way). Stop shopping until you drop. Stop buying friendships with your money. Stop connecting with others through your self-loathing.

Just stop.

You were worth it. You are worth it.

So worth it that he paid your debt in full and covered you in the finest clothes. “What we should say to each other on our wedding day is, ‘As great as you look today, someday you will stand with me before God in such beauty that it will make these clothes look like rags.” (Tim Keller, “The Meaning Of Marriage”)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our slight momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

no pain no gain

The MVP Of Marriage Thus Far

As you may already know, 12 hours ago I found myself waking up to the sound of my wife’s screams. The kind that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and your adrenaline immediately start to pump. Probably just reaching a deep sleep cycle, it took me a minute to come to out of the fog, and realize the screams were coming from Allie, take my CPAP mask off, and run to her aid.

She’d collapsed on the floor after trying to get out of bed to stretch due to the discomfort being caused by the sciatica she was experiencing. From what I understand (and I don’t understand it very well yet), that means there are some pinched nerves near where her spine and butt meet that can cause a great deal of discomfort. Pinched nerves and muscle spasms are not a good thing. To my dismay she’s been uncomfortable and in tears for the last 3 weeks and I’ve stood there helplessly trying to figure out what to do. Chiropractic and massage therapist visits brought only temporary relief and in some cases only worsened things. And then it all came to a head last night when she literally could not get up from a fetal position. Trying to stretch things out for about 40 minutes. Me, laying on the floor next to her and trying to comfort her through the pain until I realized it was time to call for an ambulance…

My beautiful wife is fast asleep on the couch now, tuckered out from waking up in unbearable pain, being rolled in a chair down the stairs because she couldn’t walk, shot up with narcotics and now on heavy doses of pain-killers. Allie is such a strong, brave woman and I hate seeing her in this much pain. I also hate knowing there’s nothing I can do about it but help her get up and stay home for the next few days (since I had a vacation scheduled already anyways) to ensure she’s staying healthy.

Would I love to be in Vegas with my coworkers? Of course. But I’d love to stay here with her way more. I wouldn’t have nearly as much fun without her anyways. Something I think we both realized today is that one of the most valuable aspects of marriage is having someone there when you need them. I can’t imagine life without her. Vegas will always be there waiting for us in Nevada and sometime we can go when we’re both healthy. What’s valuable now is that regardless of whether I’m in Shawnee, KS or Las Vegas, NV I get to spend a few days with my best-friend and do what I can to encourage her weary heart.

I love you, babe.

Welcoming your prayers,

Justin Meyer

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.

alive-again

Renewed Life

O God, why must I be so hateful?

Destroyed by grief; debatin’ salvation

My heart is sinful and contrite

Wouldn’t recognize it in the darkness of night

My Light has been snuffed

Music no longer buffed.

Ya see, I’m chasin’ affection

But when it’s given, I’m deflectin’

Weazy (and many others) loves and encourages

But Satan’s here and discourages.

Have you ever been “the righteous one”

People believin’ you shine like The Son

But stunned and confused when ya run

From freedom freely given under the guise of fun?

Holy Spirit, reign in my heart, enlighten me

I thirst for when Father shall delight in me.

Shall I squander my inheritance,

And forget my heart’s heritage?

That You made it, You made me,

So why doesn’t Your love fully persuade me?

You see, I sit here brewin’

Not fully trustin’ the pot You’re stewin’.

O but God there’s no turnin’ back!

Andy Mineo is right; sin is whack!

Father, I give You permission

Whip my soul into submission

Illegitimate children are not disciplined

But I’m your son and should’ve listened!

Holy Spirit, renew this depraved mind

Capture lies, open my eyes, I’m blind!

Without You, I’m dead! With You, I’m ALIVE!!!

Give us our daily bread that our hearts may thrive!

Let’s return the old me to the grave,

You can free me from being depraved.

Shackles removed…party begins, a heavenly rave

To Your mission, righteousness, and glory, I’ll gladly be a slave!

My soul was dead and buried but then comes resurrection!

Let joy overflow as You give our hearts direction!

No longer subject to The Accuser’s painful strife,

I thank You so much Father, for renewed life.

The Soldier’s Call

Words can pierce the heart by aggression

Holding back the pain; our confession.

Keeping the smile on and the blue eyes bright

Wouldn’t ever want tears to see the light.

Because if you’re not strong; you’re weak,

No longer somethin’ the world will seek.

Some think you’re on a winning-streak

Reality is your soul’s grown meak.

They tell ya to dress it up; put on a bandage.

Do they even realize there’s permanent-damage?

Sure, the blood’s gone; you’ve been washed clean,

But the scar’s still there and your heart’s a crime-scene.

Evidence collected and suspect on trial;

Regardless of the “justice”; robbed of your smile.

You’re tormented by the Evil that dwells within

Satan’s waitin’ at the door seducin’ ya back to sin.

“You’re worthless, nothing, ugly, unfit,” he hisses

Somehow convinces you that you’re on trial in front of witnesses

But just before you thrown in the towel and say “I’m done,”

Jesus runs in and claims YOU as His son!…

“Lucifer…AWAY from him at once!” Christ thunders…

“Child, you’re worth my life, beautiful, and called to duty!”/ Satan shudders.

Words spoken by The Light extinguish darkness

Suddenly Satan’s been revealed as heartless.

Unable to be in the presence of Holiness

He slithers back to the dark hole-of-his.

Then God says,

“Son, I’ll win the War but your battle rages on,

Keep your eyes on me and meditate on my word

As you continue persevering, you’ll become bright as the Son

Darkness will be forced to flee from the light of the Sword!

My spirit dwells in your heart; keeping you upright

Now onward young soldier, you’ve been called to fight!”

Heartbreak’s Redemption

I wrote this poem toward the beginning of the academic year and haven’t yet published it for the blogging world and/or peers who perhaps do not follow my Facebook page as frequently as I post things. Many of us are burdened with broken hearts, but I assure you that there is redemption; “Heartbreak’s Redemption”:

You start cursing and hating

While your heart starts debatin’

With your friends ya start tradin’

Stories of men you’re hatin’

 

Da boys have done it again

Slept with other women for the ‘win’…

But they lost you! And your hearts crushed.

Ya still remember when he made ya blush

The physicality was sorta rushed

He kept your heart’s shame hushed.

 

Do you know if you keep it bottled,

Then one day unquenchable rage will follow?

 

Your hearts been betrayed,

Mind and soul dismayed.

“Am I too unattractive…

Is that why he was distracted?”

 

Your heart wants to be accepted

But once again ya feel rejected.

 

Trampled under arrogance…

They’ll receive their inheritance…

 

Shall their lives remain unchanged

And their loveless heart’s lust inflamed,

Then there’s no doubt in my mind

That Hell’s fire will swallow them from behind!

 

God’s wrath won’t satisfy

Nor will it rectify

The you that was dropped…

In a relationship that was stopped

At a pin-drop/ tick tock

 

Time’s running out to keep your attention

I’m aware this creates a lotta tension.

 

So here’s the truth…

 

You’re shattered.

The words he said never mattered

Used you and your battered

Your heart’s garments tattered.

 

But haven’t you heard?

I know it’s absurd!

Your Father died for you!

He created and adores you!

 

Knows your heart best

So please sit down and rest

Take the burdens on your chest

And place them at Jesus’ feet!

He’ll protect your heart with His fleet!

 

His vessels abound

And ready to surround

Your heart with undying love

Bought by Christ’s blood.

 

Walk towards His light…

And watch your dark days turn bright.

Well I hope that you were able to find the message within and that your heart’s were touched by the beautiful truth that there is redemption to be found in Christ’s love for us. I also pray and hope that this artistic way of demonstrating God’s unfathomable love for us will truly penetrate your hearts to the core and that you will consider allowing Him the chance to turn your dark days bright. Blessings friends!

Pain

Life is easy. No one sheds a tear or has self-image issues. There isn’t any hurt or bitterness, right? Actually, that couldn’t be more WRONG! One is blessed with certain gifts when they have a relationship with Christ as their Lord and Savior. Some are gifted with evangelism; a heart that is driven by sharing the Gospel with the lost and bringing new brothers and sisters into the Kingdom of God. Others are gifted with understanding and relating to others. I believe one of my gifts is being able to understand others and lately a side effect of that has been empathy. In plain English that means I am well aware of what others are feeling, whether it is joy, sadness, fear, etc. The sad truth though is that as I’ve looked into the eyes of my friends, coworkers, and strangers, and as I’ve heard their stories the emotional quality that is most common is pain and sorrow.

 

This simple truth is plaguing my heart right now. If pain is so common and if sorrow and feelings of emptiness trouble so many of us then why do many of us pretend that everything is alright? American culture has taught us that we must have everything together. To appear broken and contrite is to lose your dignity and any chance of finding success, right? Well, that is certainly what the world has taught us.

 

Friends, I want to plea with you to change your heart on this. We do NOT have it all together, nor do we have to pretend that this world is all sunshine and rainbows. The reality is that the grass is not always greener on the other side and unfortunately there is never a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. (Sorry if I just broke the hearts of some of you who believe in fairy-tales) Real people who have real relationships and are going through real life WILL experience pain. So, with this in mind, let’s have a conversation on being hurt and broken…

 

A primary example of this that almost everyone can relate to would be the pain one feels when their parents tell them that they are disappointed in them. Within the mere seconds that those words leave the lips of one’s Mom or Dad, the heart of the child is immediately ripped to pieces. I don’t care how tough you are or how callused your heart is toward hurtful words; few words will hurt you more than these.

 

On a deeper level though; pain is more often brought to us by the terrible things that others have done to or against us. There was that one kid in elementary school that would just not let you have a good day. When I was in the third grade, I was diagnosed with Scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) and in order to correct it an orthopedic doctor prescribed a back-brace. From that day on, I was known by many of my peers as “Brace Boy”. And at the age of 21, I still have that seared into my memory. There are some days when my 8 year old sister comes home from school in tears. When I ask her what’s wrong, she explains through sobs that one of her peers told her that her dress was ugly and made her look fat…My sister is EIGHT! As the older brother and having the protective nature that I do; one can imagine how I wanted to react in that situation. With fists clenched, I reassured Brianna that she was incredibly gorgeous and created in God’s image and that she couldn’t ever be more beautiful than she already is.

 

I’ve been reading Mark Driscoll’s book, “Death by Love”, which is essentially a series of letters that Pastor Mark has written to various members of his congregation. There are FEW books that have ever elicited an emotional response from me as much as this one has. Turning the pages through the various situations some of them have been in has literally made me cry. Hearing how some of these women have been forced into sexual relationships with men they didn’t want to. Learning of the prideful arrogance of some men; reading about how a woman was unfaithful to her husband during their engagement and then didn’t tell him until after they were married. All of these stories are filled to the brim with pain. But that’s real life…

 

As I’ve studied these stories and as I’ve looked at my own life; the root of at least 80% of the pain I’ve been through is caused by sin. Sin that I’ve either committed personally or sin that others have done against me.

 

Brothers…Sisters….Friends, please turn from sin! There are so many of you that claim to be believers, yet your private life is filled to the brim with sin. Some of you spend so much time making yourself appear righteous and holy on the outside by doing all of the right things, reading all of the right books, but on the inside your heart is filled with sin! Maybe that sin is adultery of the heart. Maybe it is pride. Perhaps you hate your brother and therefore are guilty of murder but regardless your heart is sinful!

 

 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:25-28)

 

As this passage in Matthew makes crystal clear; the way that one appears on the outside is not important. It is the heart God concerns Himself with and by the heart you will be righteously judged one day. One of the most humbling realizations I’ve made is that the honest truth is that we either love sin or love God. You simply cannot love both, nor can you serve two masters.

 

This is certainly heavy stuff. It should be of no surprise if this sort of conversation makes you weak to your stomach or elicits an emotional response. In fact, my prayer as I write this is that many of you are driven to tears of repentance. I pray that the Holy Spirit convicts and reminds you of the injustice you’ve done against others and the heartbreak you’ve caused them. And I pray that the message of the Gospel and the healing that it brings is able to rebuild your hearts; that God will change hearts of stone to hearts of flesh as Ezekiel 11:19 states.

 

Family, I love you very much and am deeply aware of the real pain and suffering you are going through. I assure you that the only thing you have to hold onto is Jesus Christ. His unconditional love, overwhelming grace, and underserved mercy is the only thing that will bring your heart and spirit true healing. Only God has the power to change hearts. So pray that he changes yours my friends. I desire nothing more than to see your hearts radically transformed by the message of Jesus Christ and to one day walk with you and rejoice in the streets of Heaven. My heart simply cannot bear the thought of a single one of you being devoured by the fire of Hell. However, I love you too much to not remind you that if you do not turn from your sin and if you choose to live in disobedience to the LORD, then you WILL be subject to the righteous wrath of God.

 

Sincerely,

Justin Meyer