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

Man Crush Monday

There he was, the dream version of myself in human form sitting to my left. A middle-aged gentleman obviously in early retirement, wealthy to the point of millions most likely but my interest wasn’t necessarily in the money although you could tell he had some from the stories he told. After spending years in law enforcement, he had become a motivational speaker and through his speaking realized he needed to write a book and share his stories with the world. I thought about asking for his phone-number or his business card, or trying to give him the link to my blog but in the moment it felt like I’d be trying too hard so I just listened.

He talked about his favorite things to do in retirement were playing racquetball and joining a few gun clubs. I probably should have said, “I’ll try and keep up with you on the racquetball court,” but despite his age, he’d probably whoop me.

So what’s the point of me sharing this story? I feel I was just encouraged by meeting someone that had done it. It wasn’t as if the money appeared in his bank account overnight and it wasn’t as if he was an immediate success. From what it sounded like, he had made cold calls to various sources in order to self-promote and sell his own books and services. But he put in the work and received the pay off over time.

When asked what book I was wanting to write, I quickly quipped that it’d be awesome to compile a book of my previously written poetry and he suggested adding illustrations to them to make it more consumer friendly which I thought was an excellent idea. Unfortunately, I shied away from sharing that I was currently working on writing a book on addiction recovery and my own faith journey but that’s okay – I just felt revitalized to start writing again. Something he said was, “You just have to do it. Sit down and write and write and write – don’t worry about the editing until you’re nearly done and then go back and spend twice as much time editing it.” It’s always been the starting that is the hardest part. Like getting out of bed and making the bed in the morning. Like choosing to jog. The hardest part isn’t finishing a mile, it’s the first two blocks and trying to get some cold, tired legs to move again.

With writing, it’s eliminating the self doubt and the worrying what others will think, because who cares? They’re either going to read it or they’re not going to. Really, I’m doing it for myself anyways, as part of my own healing process and journey to freedom from addiction to counterfeit affections, freedom from the obsession with other’s opinions, freedom from bending to other’s expectations. It’s about letting others behind the veil, eliminating a second self cloaked in lies of omission to provide safe haven for the second self. Dying to the old and giving birth to the new.

In the end, that’s what life is all about. And it’s always the heart of the matter that matters the most.

So today as you read this, where is your heart? What dreams are you not pursuing and what excuses are keeping you from their pursuit? Gather up those excuses and take them out with the trash tomorrow morning. They don’t belong in your life anymore.

The Fear Of Starting

I’m 27 and so far in life I’ve rarely gotten past just starting. What do I mean?  That I’ve started a book but haven’t made it past Chapter 2 and have sort of given up on the idea. I mean that I’ve initiated a weight loss challenge within my family, gone at it hard for a few days and then sidelined myself with the excuse of “busy” and “tired” and “discouraged.” And now my wife and I are considering starting up a business of our own and I can already feel the fear and anxiety creeping in.

At what point do we tell fear it has no place here? No place in my heart or mind or ideas or my home. That it doesn’t belong. It’s not allowed to take over my creativity and passion or subdue my talents with the lure of addictions that are simply a coping mechanism for its presence or ensnare me in apathy, a pretending that one doesn’t care when really they “don’t care” because they care too much (about what others will think). How does one tell fear that you will now harness it and use it as fuel? If I fear financial destruction, then I will write up a plan. If I fear heart conditions, then I will exercise regularly and eat less brownies (although the ones we whipped up this week were DELICIOUS). If I fear vulnerability, then I will find others that are being vulnerable and we will encourage one another in our authenticity.

Faith over fear, so to speak. If God created us and made us in His image, then are we not designed to be creators ourselves? If I’ve always been socially adaptable and energized by crowds of like-minded individuals and unafraid of those who challenge me with differing ideas, then what do I have to fear? What can someone’s objection or challenge do but strengthen my resolve or help me find a better solution?

Why do we settle? Will I be able to forgive myself if I decline us the opportunity to do something together and different and exciting simply because we had little faith? What can I do to increase my faith but to pray and try and discuss? All of which, if even they lead to failure, will only lead to more discipline and success in other areas.

Too often we allow ourselves to believe that if we cannot run a mile now, then we never will and we might as well not try. I’ve tried that mentality and it’s gotten me nowhere.

It’s time to shake things up, rattle some cages, and do the hard work of continuing the projects I’ve started. I may not finish, but why give up before you’ve even started? And why not test yourself to see if you can run even further than you thought? Why not increase the weight and see if you’ve actually got what it takes to lift it?

We just might surprise ourselves.

(Share your stories of overcoming the fear of failure and how you’ve bettering yourselves, as writers, entrepreneurs, wives/husbands and so on. How do you continue to fuel the fire for growth and throw off the old self of self-doubt, apathy, and killing ideas before they’ve even had a chance to take shape?)

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The Rebellion – Against Sin

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you.” – Hebrews 12:3-5

Is there any greater battle than the one that wages within our hearts and souls? Armed Forces go into battle and give their lives, sometimes the cost of freedom. I’m forever grateful for their sacrifice so that I can sit here comfortably in a coffee-shop and express my heart and opinions on the issues. But I think there’s a battlefront that we seldom pay attention to. It’s the war that wages on for our souls – the one that claims Heaven or Hell, Life or Death, Pure Love & Joy or minimal pleasure in the moment.

I expressed in a previous social-media post that I hate sin. Scripture clearly states that the “wage of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a) and I have learned the hard way, time and again, that we cannot outrun the Kingdom Economy of reaping what we sow. But we still try – don’t we? Thinking that we are cunning and witty, we chase our own satisfaction to the point of exhaustion, realizing that it only makes us thirsty for more. But more of what? Because does anything outside of God’s will ever truly satisfy? So we find ourselves thirsting for emptiness, even if that’s not what we label it at the time. Because at the end of the day, after the contact high of that substance, person, or simply the thrill of rebellion, we realize there are places in our heart left untouched.

Our mind wanders back to the truth that we miss intimacy and closeness with God and with the Church – with people that truly know us. The depths of our hearts – yes, even the scary, dark places. This kind of intimacy does not run from conflict and does not try to retreat when things get tough. This kind of intimacy stays close and presses through. It fights to victory without worry of defeat.

But we don’t think we deserve that anymore. We couldn’t possibly. Why would God and His Church still embrace us as we are? How could our story be redeemed. By chasing counterfeit affections, we’d said “Hey God, you’re not actually good enough to satisfy and provide for my needs on a spiritual, emotional, and physical level. I do not actually believe…”

You find yourself quite sobered when that thought makes its way across the platform of your brain. Laying there in bed, staring at the ceiling in the dark, unable to sleep – “Do I really believe? Is Jesus enough for me?”

He wasn’t when we sinned. He simply wasn’t.

I hate sin.

This is where things get messy. Because we’ve sinned, we decide that we’re not good enough for redemption. We are not good enough for His Love.

So we run.

We run away from home. Away from Heaven and toward the gates of Hell. Because we’ve allowed the enemy to seduce and trick us into thinking it’s the only option so we might as well enjoy it. (What a crafty liar…)

Friends, you have not yet outrun the love of God. He’s in constant pursuit of your affection. We feel miles away from Him at times. But if we just turn around, we’ll realize He’s right there ready to take us back and restore us to our proper destiny as heirs to the throne. The bloodline of redemption. True freedom found in submission to King Jesus’ will. Ironic that it’s found in abiding by the rules, just like our parents tried to lovingly teach us.

So you may be experiencing a great deal of pain. You may be pressing through a lot of heartache. Your world as you know it may be crumbling down. It’s possible that the Lord is disciplining you. A father disciplines the child he loves. He loves us where we’re at, but he won’t let us stay there. I’d react the same way if my *future* son were in trouble.

I hate sin, because it just isn’t worth it. Anything that promises satisfaction but is outside of God’s will for our lives will absolutely never satisfy. I hate sin because it doesn’t just affect me. Like a rock being tossed into a pond, there are ripple-effects that touch the whole pond and not just where you threw it originally. The sin of pastors has crippled churches. The sins of mothers and fathers have caused another generation of the family bloodline to pick up on their life-killing habits and love-avoidant hearts. The sins of sons and daughters have left parents feeling shamed and disheartened.

But do not lose heart! Do not be dismayed. You are not yet beyond recovery. You have not yet surpassed God’s loving will to see your life restored.

In your fight against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. Stop giving up and start giving in to God’s overwhelming love and power to overcome.

It’s Tuesday – let’s rebel against sin and fight for love at all costs.

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Edge Of My Seat

There’s a lot going on in life right now that has me at the edge of my seat. There’s so many possibilities, so many dreams, and so many obstacles. I’m constantly wondering how it is I’ll overcome these obstacles, chase these dreams, and open the abundant possibilities.

This is just the beginning and there’s much more to come in life. Many surprises just over the horizon. Lots to look forward to. Lots to embrace in the now. And yet, somehow, I find myself constantly revisiting the past or being frustrated with what I’ve earned for the present.

Discouraged by things I cannot control (anymore).

I think this is the way that the Enemy loves for us to be. Running in circles, chasing our own tail. Think about it with me for a moment. You find those one or two annoying things about yourself and then you chase that part of yourself all around the room, until you bite your own ass or pass out from sheer exhaustion.

I can stew about reaching my heaviest weight yet again and having to start over, or I can get back in a rhythm of 5:45am workouts with Allie by my side, and stop ordering drinks and fried food out. Speaking of – is that not true love right there? Talk about camaraderie and friendship with the woman you love. I’m lucky to have someone willing to do that with me in hopes of bettering each other.

When learning my new job in Sales, I can focus on all of my screw-ups – the moments where I said the wrong thing or shut-down and failed to overcome objections, or I can use it at as a learning opportunity, put my best foot forward, get up, and try again. One leads to needing to find a new profession and the other leads to the potential for wealth and a career.

One step at a time. Speaking of steps – most of us began our “growth” journey as a human-being by crawling and then WALKING. Our parents went NUTS when we took our first steps. “Babe! Babe! Get the camera! Justin is walking!” You wouldn’t see my Mom or Dad doing that now. No one is cheering for me as I walk down the rows of cars at Carmax, trying to find Nissan Rogue’s yet again (popular car by the way). But back then, it was everything. It’s where it all began.

Sometimes it’s good to go back to where it all started. Walking. One step at a time. If you were standing on a walking-path and constantly turned around and looking back, you’d never make any progress. You’d just turn your head around in circles like an owl and at the end of the day you’d wonder why your feathers had turned so grey and bleak – why you hadn’t moved anywhere or done anything. That’s the monotonous mindset that can be brought about by pessimism and trying to be the next great American Cynic.

There’s more to life than the past. And we are more than the current sum of our mistakes.

As my love-life increases and as my relationship deepens, I find myself increasingly perplexed at the sheer power that love has. It truly can cover over a multitude of sins. The adaptability, perseverance, and hopeful energy that is present when someone chooses again and again to love you is insane. And even the greatest examples of love are just meant to be a mirrored image of God’s love for us. (I’ll be honest – that’s hard for me to grasp and lots of days I don’t live as if I believe that. But I know it’s true.) They’re not even as good as the real thing. And our loves are pretty damn great.

Lord, help us to love ourselves more because you love us. Help us to love others, because you’ve told us to love even our enemies. Help us to raise ourselves out of the pit of despair so that we can make a difference in the world and bring others into the Light as well, rather than hiding in the shadows of our past and allowing darkness to have its day.

You’ll have your weak moments tomorrow. The times where you want to break down crying or you’ll find your fists bunching up as your heart-rate races. Emotions don’t have to have the final say though and neither does your past. Let’s fight, together, for a brighter future. Let’s learn to walk again.

I’m at the edge of my seat to see what God ends up doing through you.

Right There With You,

Justin Meyer

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P.S. To those dedicated readers, I’m sorry I’ve been off-the-grid the last couple weeks. Lots on mind and lots going on in life. I just haven’t gotten to it. I’ll try to keep up with this the best I can! Please feel free to comment or share – or to hit me up anytime! 

Writing/Blogging Advice

I’ve recently been approached by a few people to share my thoughts on how to get started as a writer – whether it be a blog, poetry, or writing as a guest columnist of sorts. I wasn’t sure I was the right person to ask, but then remembered I’ve been writing as a hobby just for fun, on behalf of church’s, and now I do some writing for my company as well. So – why the heck not get some writing tips from yours truly?

There are basically two keys to writing – reading lots and lots of books and then, writing. “Just do it.” For real though. (Might as well stop reading now and start journaling.)

Since high school I’ve probably read a couple hundred books “just for fun” – my friends called me a nerd and made fun of me as I walked across campus with a book open. I learned in college that it wasn’t helping me meet the ladies so I finally toned it down a smidgen. But you could still easily find me in Starbucks, reading the latest James Patterson novel or Francis Chan’s latest Biblical wisdom.

It’s my obsession with a good story. I’ve always envied my friend Jake’s charisma and ability to captivate a room of 20 or so people with a well-told childhood tale. He tells just the right amount of detail to place you in the same room as him, drops the punch-line at the right moment so that it makes you wonder if you’re going to end up peeing your pants, and oops – you already have! (Kidding…maybe…but seriously – you’ll never belly-laugh harder than when he starts telling stories!)

A good writer’s main aim is to tell a good story – to bring others into the story with them. You want them to feel your pain, to rise with you and overcome the dark times in life, to fight the treacherous dragon and rescue the beautiful princess, to confront the terrifying realities of prejudice, obscured rhetoric, and many other big-word, hot-button topics.

I write very conversationally. My readers should feel like they’re sitting in the room with me, or like I’ve granted them access inside my soul. I want the experience to be intimate and personal and I want them to walk away changed and confronted. I don’t want them to ever leave feeling the same. As a natural leader and former student of persuasion and rhetoric, I want to pull and shift the audience in a particular direction – while also leaving room for their own beliefs to be added to the conversation. Because after all, you’re not going to change the world with more confrontation, but we could all understand each other a little better if we spent more time in conversation. And part of conversation, is having your own ideas… (Turn the TV off and do some thinking for crying out loud!)

Honestly, as an up-and-coming author, the hardest thing about writing is just getting started. You can say that you want to write a book or start a blog or express yourself more artistically until you’re blue in the face, but until you actually sit down and do the hard work of beginning, you’ll never make an impact.

As a perfectionist, it’s my fear of failure that’ll hold me back. It’s what has kept me from pursuing my dream of writing a book for so long. If I write it and no one publishes it, then what will have been the point? And I’ve decided that if I can’t do it for myself, then I shouldn’t do it for anyone. So I’m doing it for myself, because it is what I want to do. It’s what I NEED to do. It’s what I’ve needed to do since I was 16 years old.

You have to get beyond the desire to please others. You have to NEED to write. You have to have decided that your voice is worth hearing. And then you have to share it and hold nothing back. No one wants halfheartedness, just like no one wants someone who is “kind of a friend.” You’re either a writer or you’re not. The only person that gets to decide that is yourself. Don’t let “the world” and “publishers” and “circumstances” define you.

Honestly, you just have to get started. You just have to do it. Stop worrying so much about layouts and fonts and topics and just find creative ways to share what’s on your heart. Because in the end, that’s what matters the most.

#NoFilter – Love Yourself

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

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

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

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

Who are we really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what would happen if we listened?

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

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

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

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