4/4/2020 – Coronavirus Thoughts & Blue Moon

I don’t know if you can relate to this or not, but I have a very hard time being myself. I’m always worried about what other people are thinking about me, whether or not I’m a “disappointment” to them. Dave Hollis set me straight today in The Power of Positive Summit when he said that he hates to burst our bubble but people aren’t thinking about you, they’re thinking about themselves.

I wonder if anyone else needs to come to this realization to bet set free from the expectations of others. I just cracked open a Blue Moon because it sounded good. Sure, it’s 3:42 PM on a Saturday afternoon and sure, I’d typically be at work right now. But there’s a pandemic and everyone’s coping in their own way, trying their best to survive and to find their mental-health “zen” so to speak. A new normal in an age that will most definitely not be normal. The truth is the last couple weeks I’ve barely found the strength to get out of bed, let alone write a blog post or apply for temporary work or summon up the courage to return to my sales job. But I woke up this morning, ate a healthy breakfast, read a few chapters of the Bible, spent quality time with my wife, and walked the dog briefly – and that’s enough. I don’t have to be any idealized version of myself because that’s all crap anyways. “I can be any me that I want to be today,” a friend of mine told me this week.

The truth is, I’m not perfect. Like you, I’ve eaten my fair share of quarantine snacks and became enthralled with the viral Facebook Group “Quarantine Beer Chugs” (while I’ve recently left the group to fill my mind with more life-giving content…it did provide a slice of escapism and entertainment for a few days in the midst of inner chaos…perhaps the appeal was the chaos; that people were just giving in to it). My wife and I have become obsessed with some whole-wheat banana muffins with pecans in them and we’ve eaten one probably every day to the point that I’m sure my swimsuit selfie in a few months will bring a whole new definition to muffin-top. But you know what? I don’t care.

I stepped on the scale earlier this week and with the realization that I could die at any given day (this has always been true, but all the more real in a season of panic and chaos surrounding the coronavirus) and suddenly the numbers glaring back at me didn’t seem to matter all that much. “Here lies Justin, 6’3”, 260 lbs.” Because in the end, that’s what matters….not! What will matter is the many laughs, intentional Bible Studies, and thought-provoking, heart-changing conversations that have occurred with friends and family as we have wrestled through this chapter in our lives, together.

I’ve even caught myself questioning my own salvation. Would a man that believes in the power of Jesus Christ to rise from the grave and overcome sin be so terrified of a virus that can suck the life out of a person in a matter of weeks, if not days? While at this point in time, I won’t provide some long-winded, well-thought-out version of the answer, I think I came to the conclusion that yes, it was okay. Jesus sweated blood when he knew his time was imminent. And even he asked the Lord to take this cup from Him.

I believe Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died a sinner’s death, and rose again to pay the ultimate price for our sins so that I could have eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. O death, where is your sting? (In this season, that almost seems like a dare to type those words…but really, where is death’s sting if Jesus paid the price and rescued us?)

I don’t know about you, but I’m in debt. Lots of it. And to think that Jesus has paid off all my sin’s debt just baffles my mind. I’m still waiting for Navient to just pay off all my student-loan debt. For now, I’ll take President Trump’s coronavirus relief package of forbearance to defer those payments for later, when I’m making money again.

I am so thankful for my friends, family, and my faith in this season. If it weren’t for Jesus and my truly becoming “a new creation” I would have bounded right back into addiction. I wouldn’t have wrestled and fought and cried and struggled. I would have given in to the darkness and given up. But I haven’t done any of those things, and that is enough. Because God is enough, and every day I get to make the decision of whether or not I will trust in Him.

You can make that same decision too – will you trust him or not? I’ll tell you what – the days that I choose the former go much smoother than the days I choose the latter.

My heart breaks for those that are going through all of this without a Savior they can turn to and to the ones that only choose to surrender their life to Him once in a Blue Moon. Like a good father, he waits on us to call for him while walking towards the door to our hearts and never away from it.

2019-coronavirus blue-moon-24oz-can

Start Loving Others

The most common thread in the advice I’ve received on writing is to start. Don’t get so caught up in mapping out your thought-process and attempting to steer things the direction you want to go. Just do it.

I think there’s a lot of truth there and I’ve seen it play out in many areas of my life. Love someone? Just tell them and then prove it by showing them they’re the most important person in your world. Ready to lose weight? Then put down the bread and get out of bed, sleepyhead (had to throw a cheesy rhyme in there somewhere).

Meeting with a childhood friend of mine was encouraging this morning. There are some friendships that you have in life that just never die. Perhaps they fall asleep for a long hibernation but once back together your hearts can pick up right where you left off and this guy is that kind of friend. Some people have the gift of making whoever they’re with in the moment feel like the most important person in the world; I think it’s because he’s allowed his heart to become like Christ and he genuinely loves everyone.

That’s something to aspire to – isn’t it? Loving everyone. That’s so, so hard. Think of the difficult coworker that just rubs you the wrong way – you really do not even want to try to establish a relationship with this individual but perhaps that’s sheer laziness on your part. After all, everyone’s deepest desire to be known – to be connected. All their pushing and shoving and stiff-arming is likely fueled by a distrust of others because of others that have hurt them. What difference a little genuine love could make in their life.

I think of the times I was hurting inside the most. In these life-chapters I had frequently bullied friends and family into a corner and told (not asked) them to stay out of my life. Isolation is the companion of the fool that goes his own way, because community requires accountability. It was in these isolated, depressed, anger filled moments that some of my best friends in life took the time to draw me out – to get me to share my feelings and make myself vulnerable again. Only then, in the light, could I be healed.

So today, I challenge you and I challenge me, to start loving others. It’ll likely be one of the more emotionally taxing things you do today but it will also probably be the most rewarding. And who knows – it could build a relationship between you and the other that could pay off dividends in the future. Because chances are, you aren’t the easiest person to love either.

start loving others

Thoughts On Boundaries

A few days ago I started reading Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, “Boundaries.” As an external processor, I figured it’d be beneficial to share what I’m learning and thinking about in regards to boundaries in an open blog post. Plus, I’m sure it could spark some good conversations as well so feel free to comment with your thoughts and feelings on the issue.

Growing up in a rigidly conservative home, I was surprised at the “freedom” I found while in school. There was a whole new world of (mostly sinful) possibilities out there and now I had to make the right-or-wrong decisions for myself. My faith could no longer be my parents and my decisions could no longer be made just because they said so. There’s a lot of things that college didn’t teach me, but one thing it teaches everyone is to think for themselves.

Using my own brain and learning by trial-and-many-errors, I’ve discovered there is a REASON there are “rules” and/or boundaries listed in Scripture. As I’ve shared many times before, there is no escaping the Kingdom Economy of reaping what you sow. Sow good and reap good. Sow bad and reap bad. It’s humorous how we are often surprised when we go to harvest the crop of our hearts and find so many weeds – but then when looking back realize we spent no times in the fields pulling those weeds. We didn’t do the hard work to ensure we had a good harvest.

One of the topics discussed thus far in the book is word boundaries. The concept of letting your yes be yes and your no be no – biblical, Christian, and logically sound, it’s perplexing that this seems to be such a difficult concept for us to grasp. We often find ways to displace the responsibility of our decisions onto others – “He told me to do it,” or “If I hadn’t, then I would have lost their friendship.” So we “passively comply, but inwardly resent” – doing something for the sake of “serving someone” but not actually having a desire to serve, or at least not serve in that certain capacity. And all it would have taken is a simple, “No.” Saying “no” would have set the boundary that you were not willing to accept that certain responsibility – it would not make you a bad person, and for emotionally healthy individuals, should not terminate the friendship.

Another concept from the book that I’ve found particularly encouraging is that we can’t always make ourselves responsible for the well-being of others. The book gives the example of a drug-addicted son who, over time, has managed to get kicked out of a number schools. The parents come to see Dr. Cloud and ask him what they should do about their problem-child. “We’ve spent lots of money and do everything we can to get him into a better school but nothing ever changes. Dr. Cloud’s response catches them by surprise. “What if he’s not the problem and you are?” By continually making his problems yours, he’s never had to actually learned from his mistakes – because he’s never had to suffer the consequences. Setting the boundary that his results are his to own frees the parents from the burden of “making their kid succeed” – leaving them free to play the role of friend and counselor, without the heavy baggage of taking on their son’s problem as if it were their own burden to bear.

It’s hard, though. To separate others burdens from your own to and to know when to let others in and when to keep them out – when to say yes and when to say no. When to set boundaries and when to rewrite the provinces and territories of our hearts.

Marriage has placed me in a position to sort of rewrite my boundaries. I get to decide what I do and do not do, whose advice I consider and who’s I disregard, and at the end of the day, who I am is the sum of my decisions and their consequences up to that point. I cannot escape the reality of my own heart, nor can you.

Now for the fun part – what are your thoughts on boundaries? What have you learned by setting certain limits and property-lines in your life and hearts? Any takeaways you care to share? Feel free to do so – I enjoy learning alongside you.

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Thinking Power

The last few months I’ve been increasingly fascinated with habits – our natural autopilot states.  When was the last time you actually concentrated on tying your shoes? When you go to your favorite restaurant or bar, do you end up ordering the same thing almost every time? Do you brush your teeth first thing when you wake up, or after you’ve showered? These are all habits, and we probably do the exact same thing 90% of the time.

Charles Duhigg has spent years researching and writing about habits in his book, The Power of Habit, and now I’m reading “Smarter. Better. Faster.” – a book that examines productivity – basically, an extension of our habits. How do we harness our energy effectively? Do we take care of the important e-mails all in one consecutive swoop? Or do we break them up into smaller, more digestible chunks? The annoying thing about habits is that what works for someone in terms of overcoming them might not work for you.

My friend and I were chatting earlier in the week and discussing emotions. When we’re feeling angry, depressed, anxious, scared, worried, aggressive, passionate, and a plethora of other excitable emotions, it’s as if we don’t cognitively have control. Our emotions take control. It’s not even necessarily autopilot; we end up on an emotionally defined path that we sometimes don’t feel we have the say in where things are going or where we’ll end up.

As I’ve been reading in Duhigg’s new book, I’ve discovered that the main problem is we’re not often actually thinking. Our days are often so similar that we don’t have to engage ourselves that much in terms of using our minds, so our bodies and brains establish thought-patterns that for the most part, keep us alive, but maybe don’t better us a whole heck of a lot. For example, I may have arrived safe at work yesterday. But I honestly don’t remember making conscious decisions on the drive there. I just sort of arrived, in a tired, grey fog of, “I need coffee NOW.” I automatically reacted to other cars on the road and traffic signals and I obeyed all of the laws, but I wasn’t engaged.

Successful people are engaged. They force themselves to constantly think. They’re always visualizing things – always creating new mental models for what may occur.

Back in the day – about two decades ago, when I started playing baseball and my former STL Cardinal father was coaching me – he’d say, “visualize the ball – imagine the sound of the bat making contact and think about how fast you’re going to run.” For the record, I wasn’t a power hitter and I couldn’t run very fast, but I could throw. So they stuck me out in Right Field and eventually when I had some hand-eye coordination, Third Base. (Side note – Allie loves Mike Moustakas from the Kansas City Royals and he’s a third-basemen, so I guess we’re like the perfect fit or something?!?!) Sometimes they let me pitch, but that’s another story (they called me “Wild Thing” – and I wasn’t a partier…so…you get the point). All of that is to say, my Dad knew the importance of me creating mental models, “visualizing the ball” meant actively engaging the ball, thinking about where it was going to go and where my bat would go after it at, led to me getting a lot more hits than if I had swung aimlessly all those years.

The bottom line is that we have to have the courage to ask ourselves, “Why?” Why are we doing what we’re doing? Why are we dating the woman of our dreams? Why are we hanging out with friends that rarely make an effort to get back to us? When we ask ourselves these “why” questions, we’re thinking, and when we’re thinking, we’re more successful. “Why” does so-and-so need an immediate reply and “why” is this project so important? “Why” are we on an exercising program instead of a regular at our favorite bar or ordering mochas at our favorite coffee-shop? “Why” are we believers instead of doubters? “Why” is our glass half-full instead of half-empty?

These “why” questions make all the difference.

They engage us to the degree that our thoughts can influence our actions, and our immediately defined emotional paths no longer have control of ourselves. I believe this is why we hate accountability. Aside from the fact that we’re prideful beings and dislike being questioned, we don’t like the extra cognitive processes that come into effect when someone questions our natural path, because that means extra thinking, extra time, and more potentially disruptive emotions taking place.

So, why are you who you are? And what do you believe in?

What difference do you want to make? Why are you going to put the effort into making a difference? Why is it worth the sacrifice?

Why is your life worth living? Why do you make a difference?

“Why” makes all the difference. “Why” defines who we are and who we’re becoming. “Why” leads to love and longterm relationships and “why” leads to breaking off from disruptive patterns and inconsequential relationships. “Why” leads to life and “why” leads to death.

So, why?

Why is your heart still beating? And why are you taking the time to read my wandering thoughts? Why am I worth your time? And why does that beautiful blonde girl still love me despite my lack of defined path? Why has all the answers, yet why has all the trouble.

Why is worth it. Life is hard. All it’s questions and all it’s lack – yet we have the ability to change it all. We just have to think, a little bit more.

Right there with you,
Justin “Wild Thing” Meyer

Mind Games

The heart is an astounding entity. It’s difficult to describe love, yet man will never cease to write, read, watch, and pursue its story.

Just as powerful, is the mind. Our internal dialogue holds a greater amount of force over us than we realize.

Over the course of the last couple weeks, I have been quietly taking a step back and analyzing my thought-patterns and heart-state. In Leadership Studies (at Kansas State University), we would refer to this as “getting up on the balcony” – taking a moment to get to a higher vantage point to examine, and consider, what is. You’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process, if you give it a try.

Here’s what I’m learning about myself and mankind’s general thought-process…

We inevitably have trained thought-patterns. If your coworkers are negative, then you are twice as likely to be negative as well, because your brain begins to connect-the-dots and look for things you’re dissatisfied/frustrated with as well. If every time you see a mirror and look into it with the question, “What’s wrong with my appearance today?” then you are bound to walk away unhappy. The problem is perpetuated if you live in America, because mirrors are everywhere. And if every time you see a mirror, you’re going to ridicule yourself, you’re going to be very, very hurt (and the crazy thing is – you’re the one hurting you – no one else, in most cases, has even contributed to the negative-perception).

The mind is malicious sometimes. America’s culture has trained the mind to judge quickly. “She’s hot. She’s not. Ehhhh, maybe if her face wasn’t so square.” Guys make snap-judgments about other guys at the gym, ALL THE TIME, too. “He’s a gym-rat, so all he’ll wanna talk about is protein-shakes and the latest trendy workout.” And my favorite, “Well, at least I’m in better shape than him…”

Here’s the good news – we have the power to redirect our thought-patterns.

I like to go on walks occasionally. It gets me away from the constant hum of the television and the busy chatter of a very full, lively house, so that I can actually take some time to think. Last night, as I walked through my neighborhood, I began to think… My thoughts started off in downcast state – considering my inability to reach goals, varying flaws, uncertainties, etc. It was overwhelming me. Then, I remembered that I had made the decision to redirect my thoughts – to bring out the internal traffic-police and send every thought in a healthier direction.

So I began to pray. I lifted up my concerns and anxieties to the LORD, leaving them there. I’m candid and honest when I pray. There is no point in using big, fancy words, or in trying to appear holy and content, because God already knows me. He’s well-aware of my heart and just wants me to share all of it with Him. So I did. All of it. I laid it all out there – honest, concise, rebellious, and needy – He took me as I was and loved me still.

Something beautiful began to happen as I gave my anxiety to God. I found the strength to find things in life that I appreciated, and suddenly, my heart was overflowing with gratitude and joy. I prayed for, and thanked the LORD, for my deep friendships with guys like Brad, Bryce, Joey, and Jake. I found myself thankful for the strength to fight depression, despite its’ rather persistent grasp on my heart sometimes.

And then the tears came. I cried good, healthy, heart-felt tears. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Lord.” – over and over again. It was beautiful, and suddenly, even if just for a moment, there was peace.

You can fight the mind-games that occur within. You can choose to not climb the mountain of despair and to rather climb the mountain of joy.

As you look for the positive, more positive things inevitably pop up – your mind starts connecting-the-dots in a positive direction. “Wow, I find myself appreciative of coworkers that go out of their way to assist me, today. And PRAISE THE LORD FOR COFFEE. And for friends. And for hugs. And for family. And for that customer that insisted on letting my boss know I’m ‘awesome’. Hey, life’s not so bad…”

The world could use a little more gratitude and a little less cynicism.

It’s a mind-game, really.

Spiritual warfare often occurs within your head – darkness wants you to plunge into the pit of despair, while the Father of Lights waits for you to reach the edge of the ring and tag Him into the fight for you. I’m amazed at how often satan manages to persuade me to box myself. I’m in the metaphorical boxing-ring, taking jab-after-jab – only to realize that my fists are the ones striking my face.

But we can fight back. Better yet, God can fight for us.

We train our bodies to become healthy and fit. We train our diets to keep from becoming sick or too skinny/overweight. It’s time we consider how to train our minds – to be ready for battle. Like the Hunger Games, the Mind Games are a death-match between light and dark – good and evil – man versus himself and his opposition. But we can form an alliance with God. We don’t have to fight alone.

During World War II, no one country would have stood a chance against Germany and the Axis Powers on their own – the Allied Forces won, because they had allies. We need allies, too. It’s okay to bring Jesus in. In fact, it’s basically 100% necessary. And it’s HEALTHY, even a sign of maturity, to bring others into the ring with you.

I believe men can find strength in tears shed – in vulnerable openness with each other, letting the light shine. When that happens, joy floods in and dethrones despair. When you turn on the light in a dark room, does darkness remain?

Let darkness rule no longer. Bright in the Light. Fight.

His Kingdom Come,
Justin

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Ramblings on Manhood

The title says it all – I am going to “think out loud” and piece together what I have been learning over the last month. None of this is edited and primed for a book, but that is the beauty of a blog. Disclaimer stated, allow me to forge forward.

Let’s talk.

There is an absence of realness within the realm of men. Big ideas and vision come forth and words of wisdom are spoken, but little action is taken, and even fewer relationships built around truth. It is easier for guys to gather and watch football games and to avoid getting into one another’s lives. Trust me, I can watch a Chief’s game with the best of them, and when the NFL season comes around again, I’ll find a way to be in Arrowhead at least once this coming year. However, there simply has to be more to man-to-man relationships than beer, food, and sports. And I do appreciate all of those things.

What are the roadblocks that keep men from connecting?

I’ll lead by example. Here are some of the things that keep me from true fellowship (at times):

I am fearful. While transparent most of the time, it is difficult to get to a deeper level with others at times. If you know all of me – all of my insecurities, sin hiccups, and desires/dreams, then you may think I’m crazy. There are few that I would like to trust with all of that. Not to mention, it is much easier to remain commander-in-chief of myself – to be the only one that knows all of my secrets.

I think men operate this way, a lot. In order to save-face, we avoid showing our face. Yes, you see us at church, and sure, we showed up to the Men’s Retreat, but we slip out the back-door right afterward and awkwardly avoid putting our phone-number on the list of contacts, because that would mean that someone might get to know who we actually are – and there’s a chance they may not like that. In other words – On the altar of reputation, we sacrifice relationship – putting discipleship to death.

This should not be. We need each other. There need to be those people in our lives that know our crap, so they can get down in the trenches with us, clean us up, and get a group together to lift us up out of the pit with prayer. 

Which brings me to my next discovery. We have unwittingly bred a generation of passive men. In the spirit of not hurting anyone, or ruffling anyone’s feathers, we’ve emasculated manly strength, and invited authentic manhood into silent exile. However, in the spirit of truth and redeeming the lifeblood of The Church, it is time to call the men back out – to heal, restore, and utilize their strength. You cannot (or at least shouldn’t) tame a lion, but you can appreciate its strength. A champion horse is only champion when it’s gone thru the hard work of training to win the race.

We need strong men in the church – not ones that will manipulate and coerce, but ones that are willing to boldly speak truth into the lives of others, take the time necessary to sacrificially love and disciple others, and use their resources/strength to serve. This is no small task. It requires training. It will take time, prayer, study, relationships, and lots and lots of practice. Because, let’s face it – this is something that does not come naturally.

I believe this requires a great deal of love.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.” (C.S. Lewis)

Being vulnerable is hard. It leaves you open and available, and leaves the possibility of being hurt wide-open. It’s much easier to stay hidden – for no one to know us. Isolation is safer (in our eyes), because at least no one can stab us in the back. The problem with this theory is that satan loves the isolated – they make extremely easy targets for depression, doubt, fear, and others dark clouds that ultimately lead to one’s faith being snuffed. Therefore, isolation is not safer, wiser, or best – it is in fact the absolute worst idea ever. Do NOT become isolated. The walls you build to “protect” yourself do just the opposite – they hurt you, sometimes leading to spiritual suicide.

Friends, we must love. We must embrace vulnerability and find ourselves stronger in the LORD for it. If we submit to the LORD and find our identity secured in Him, then serving and following others will no longer be considered a loss of ourselves, but rather, an act of worship – offering our bodies as living sacrifices for a Holy God.

Men younger than you (spiritually or physically) need your leadership, but you must also lay aside your pride and seek out someone older as a mentor – someone to whom you will allow some spiritual-authority in your life. A leader that is not also being led should not be trusted – for his pride will be his downfall, and his lack of accountability a snake waiting to strike his heel.

I am not an expert. I am still a young man seeking out a mentor of my own – getting plugged in and looking for faithful younger men to lead. I’m still learning. But these are some of the thoughts the Lord has placed on my heart, and I wanted to share them.

The Call to Follow: Revisited

You can’t live for Jesus, until you stop living for you.follow me

I think that’s the hardest aspect of the call to follow Christ. It’s the hardest lesson you learn as you “grow up”, too. In marriage, someday, I can’t be married to simply serve the needs of myself – it’s not about that – it’s about giving of myself. That’s the opposite of modern-day culture. “Take for yourself” – “store up for yourself” – are the messages you see.

You will rarely be given the advice to “die to yourself,” or to “focus more on others”, instead. Because we’ve made it all about us. And guys, I want it to be all about me. It’s so hard to say, “Okay Jesus, you can really have it all.”

And I think once we discontinue making being a Christian within The Church such a trivial, lackluster, mundane, sit-in-a-pew-and-pretend-I have-it-all-together thing, we can finally begin to grapple with the reality of our hearts, and to admit our desperate need for Jesus. Our need for Jesus to open our eyes, heal our hearts, and empower us to overcome all of that aforementioned fleshly desire and the darkness that presently rules the world.

Let’s be honest, people. Really honest. Stop pretending. Some days, you and I want to be on the throne, but let’s remember – remember the emptiness of that ‘power’ – of rebellion – and a misconstrued idea of ‘freedom’. We were not free then. We were imprisoned. Our desires and controlled and manipulated us. They took up all of our free time and twisted God-given gifts and talents into new ways of deceiving others into the same darkness.

So the next time you want to be king, remember why it is you first gave your life to The King. Then, let’s do the world a favor, the church a favor, and ourselves a favor, and live like it. Let’s live for Jesus. Let’s die to ourselves.

Instead of worrying about who’s following you on Twitter, or liking your posts on Facebook (and trust me – I’m guilty as charged and preaching so much to myself right now), let’s focus more on who we’re following. If you’re following Jesus, then it’s not about you anymore. It’s not about me. It’s all about Him. And that’s a very, very good thing.