Already Accepted

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Maya Angelou once quipped,” I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

If there’s one thing we all want to feel in this world- it’s acceptance and love. I think growing up without a father figure in the home- I’d often try to find the missing love from my dad in other people or things. I still have a habit of doing this, but I am slowly realizing that Jesus is the only one who can take the broken pieces and mend them back together into something beautiful. He has a way of filling emptiness with wholeness. This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop missing or loving my dad any less, it simply means that on nights like tonight when all I want is a hug from my dad- I have to run to my Heavenly Father for the intimacy I crave.

I really do miss my dad sometimes. Missing him comes in waves. I find myself wandering what it would be like to have a whole family unit. However, I’m glad he’s in an infinitely better place than I am. I’m glad to have known that he loved me. I’m thankful for the time we had together. I’m thankful that this world isn’t my home, but only a small window into the eternity that awaits.

I’m 22 years old now. Soon I will be 23. I will blink and then one day I’ll be 46 and my life will be halfway over. Will I be constantly searching for the approval of other people, or will I set my hope and assurance in the anchor of salvation? Jesus takes us as he finds us, but he never leaves us as we were. The process of sanctification is a lengthy one, but I’m so glad that it’s filled with both grace and forgiveness.

CS Lewis once wrote,” To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” I thank God for that truth. I thank God that I’m fully forgiven, fully loved, and an heir to a kingdom that will never be shaken.

What Love Does

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1 Corinthians 13;

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is Patient, Love is Kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

For when I was a child, I thought like a child, reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put my childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in the mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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I’ve been thinking and meditating on this verse recently. It hits home for me. Too often we like to think of love as a series of transactions. “Well, if I get you this, than you can get me this. Then will we be even.”

The thing is, love doesn’t work like that. As a follower of Jesus, I can’t pick and choose who I want to love more or less. Yes, obviously, some people are harder to love than others. However, it is those people who are the hardest to love that are the most in need of the love Jesus provides.

I will be listening to the voicemails my dad left me seven years ago soon. I hate he’s not here. I hate it with a hate that could consume me if I let it. But I don’t let it, because I know and will be able to hear in his voice how much he loves and continues to. He’s not here anymore. There’s nothing I can do to change that fact. I spent a lot of time and nights crying out to God, a mixture of sadness, anger, and pain. However, it is when I started to let His love step-in for my earthly father’s absence that I started to truly be free.

Let’s be honest here, my generation, and yes I’m talking about myself here as well, has twisted the meaning of love and boiled it down to a series of mere transactions. Hookups? Sure. It’s only one night. I’ll move on and she will too. But then you leave and you’re still left wondering why you did that. It doesn’t do anything to fill the deep desire we all have to be fully known and fully loved.

At Carolina, there’s such a twisted notion of love and romance. Ladies, romance and love isn’t some dude in a fraternity house handing you a beer and telling you that he likes you. We use the word love like it’s some sort of magical fairy dust that we can sprinkle on top of everything that will make everything better. Love does make things better. Love transforms lives and people for the better. However, we must go to the source of love: God. I’m not talking about some man in the sky with wings who grants wishes on a whim: I’m talking about Jesus. He lived the life you and I couldn’t so that we could live ours in complete and total freedom.

I walk through a lot of brokenness on the way to class each day. I hear the music at night, smell the weed, and look at the girls. They are all beautiful. I just wonder how many nights they go through that without anyone ever telling them their true worth or value. How many are objectified, treated as mere objects to simply gain pleasure out of, and then tossed to the side.

That isn’t love. That’s lust. We grow up watching Cinderella and Snow White and then we get to high school and college and realize that things like that don’t really exist anymore. Well, the thing is, they could, but I struggle to see how any real and lasting relationship can be forged over alcohol, weed, and sex. Those things are all used for placebos to satisfy a desire that only Jesus can. You can hold out on Him and decry Christianity as nonsense and a list of mere rules you have to follow, or, as C.S. Lewis wrote,

“It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, then I first begin to have a real personality of my own…There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given yourself to Him you will not have a real self…But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away ‘blindly’ so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality…

“The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His)…It will come when you are looking for Him. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes, every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being and you will find eternal life.

Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in that long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else…”

What are you holding back?

To The Suicidal Teen Being Bullied Online

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I’m in the process of reposting some of my old blog posts from The Mighty. This one was written 3 years ago and can be found by following the link under the “About Me” section of the site. I’m reposting this one in particular due to a burden placed on my heart. Where I’m living now, I see a bunch of girls seemingly always in groups and always seemingly striving for perfection. There’s no such thing as perfection. There’s only your character. Part of me knows deep down this culture of perfection and unrealistic expectations only leads to more hurt and depression. As soon as we forget the labels and start realizing that everyone is a human being with a unique and valuable perspective, maybe then we can come to a place of true forgiveness and grace. I know for a long time I thought that if I only dressed, acted, or behaved a certain way maybe then I would finally be accepted. The truth is, your acceptance doesn’t come from anyone or anything.

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I want to preface this note by saying I know exactly where you’re coming from. I understand your pain, all of the nights spent alone wondering if it’s even worth it anymore. On the outside, everything may seem fine, but on the inside?

On the inside, you’re hurting.

On the inside, you feel as if you’re merely going through the motions, and with each day that passes, you wish there was something more. You wish that somehow, the endless array of hallways you navigate through each day could disappear and with them, all of your naysayers and doubters too.

It didn’t all used to be like this though. You remember a day where you could care less what anybody thought about you. You remember a day when you were just you, and all your friends loved you for who you are. Those days are seemingly over now. The playground you used to interact with other kids on is now replaced with Facebook and Twitter.

In this “always on” world, words can be posted in a millisecond. Words that have power, words that mean something. These words get played over and over in your head. Soon enough, you start believing them.

I have a message for you though, friend. Never believe what anybody says about you. I get it. Their words hurt. They feel like stab wounds. Every time you remember them, you start to accept them as truth. The truth is though, their words couldn’t be further away from the truth. Don’t you understand? Their words are meaningless, written from the keyboard of a coward.

Their words could never adequately describe you, your intellect or your true character. You are beautiful and loved. I believe you were created by a God who made you for a specific purpose, and for exactly the time you are in now. You are wanted. You are treasured. You are needed. Anyone or anything that makes you believe otherwise is just plain wrong. The naysayers and doubters will always try their best to define you and to make you believe what they are saying about you is truth.

However, know that none of it is. Know that beneath all of the tweets and mean rhetoric, lies a person too, a person who is hurting, just like you. It is a person trying to mask their own insecurities, by attacking you. One day, when you make it past the hallways and into the real world, you’ll realize just how insecure those people were. Their voices will shrink and become silenced. They will be left to criticize while you’re changing the world.

Until then, realize that no 140-character tweet or mean message could possibly define you. Realize that your best days truly are ahead of you. These days are long and hard, but they will get better. Until then, keep pressing forward. It gets better, I promise.

The Weight of Brokenness

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I moved this past year from an on-campus dorm to an apartment. It’s nice. Nice amenities. Nice location, but somehow I look at the niceness of this place in comparison to the brokenness that is surrounding me and start to wonder a simple, yet seemingly profound question: How would this environment change if people knew the true source of love? Now, I see parties with girls going into houses and I wonder- what will they encounter there? Would I feel 100% at ease if it was my daughter going into those houses? Probably not. Paradoxically, in a search for more belonging and meaning they encounter more hurt. This, of course, is because true meaning and love can only come from knowing the source of that meaning and love. The world is full of placebos and false-promises. Just do this and you’ll be satisfied! Just try this and you’ll belong.

Friend, there is only one person in which you can achieve your full-identity and self-worth in.

His name is Jesus. The Jesus who knew you before you were born. The Jesus who still knows you inside and out. He knows you’re not perfect. He knows you’ll never be perfect. You don’t have to be. He lived the life that you and I could never had lived- all so that we could be set free from our sins and past vices.

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“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.””
‭‭John‬ ‭4:13-26‬ ‭ESV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/59/jhn.4.13-26.esv

Come to The River- Housefires

The Prodigal Son (Searching, But Not Quite There).

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This is the second part in a series I’m starting on my blog. I hope this insight into my walk with the LORD will prove valuable and insightful. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

I remember when I first stepped foot on campus at Carolina as a student. It was last year, and as a transfer student in particular, I was thrilled to get my first taste of real college life. No more community college. Not that I hated Wake Tech at all, but I just found the social scene to be lacking. I had only been through the 10th grade in high school before medically withdrawing and earning a GED, so the very fact that I even got into Carolina was nothing short of a miracle.

I soon forgot about this miracle, however. I joined a Christian organization on campus and loved going to Bible study and the people I met there. I loved the genuine conversations I’d have with the new connections I made on campus late at night. I loved all of it. But, there was still a large part of me that hadn’t given into Jesus. I had plenty of head knowledge of God’s word from growing up in church. However, it never really sank into the depths of my heart. I would go out, meet girls, and feel a rush of excitement and optimism. I felt I belonged here. I do belong here. But, you see, the problem lies in the fact that I used other people and emotions to try and find a sense of belonging. The girls would come and go. It’d be an exhilarating rush of emotions- only to end up at the end heartbroken and wondering what I did wrong.

This was millennial life, I would sheepishly tell myself. No real commitments. Just one night stands. Swipe right. Swipe left. They’re just faces. It was all a game. She’s hot, she’s not. Slowly, I’d use this logic to devalue and place women in a bubble. It’s OK. I’m a guy. I mean, this is what everyone else is doing, right? Emotions and the other person be damned- as long as it was “fun” and consensual. It’s just sex. It’s not like it’s cocaine or heroine. After all, sex is natural, right? Sure it is. In fact, God made sex. To try and shame sex and to describe it in a way that makes it taboo does a disservice to God. The problem is this- sex was designed specifically for those in marriage. Now, this isn’t a popular opinion.

The argument against this goes something like this, “Well, if two people love each other and are in a consensual relationship, what’s wrong with expressing that love sexually?”

I won’t go into the Christian viewpoint in-depth regarding this yet, but I will say I think each one of us knows in the depths of our souls that sex isn’t merely some cavalier thing that a lot of people, particularly in my generation, treat it as.

Needless to say, I was enjoying myself at UNC, but I always felt like there had to be something more. I mean, seriously? This is it? This is what everybody raves about in college? Drinking and girls? Maybe I’m just doing it wrong. Nope. I was sick of myself. I was tired of the letdowns. The confusion. The mixed emotions. This isn’t as fun as it was all made out to be. I once heard a pastor say, “Sin gets an A for marketing and an F for results.” Yep, I had fallen for the marketing trick. The beauty, however, is there’s a key to your heart that is no gimmick or letdown. He doesn’t promise a life full of leisure or pleasure, but He does promise an unconditional and unwavering love. A love that only He can provide. He is, after all, the maker of you and me. Who would know us better than the one who created us?

Continue reading “The Prodigal Son (Searching, But Not Quite There).”