Value

In a world that wants to keep you consuming, there is a laundry list of things determined to mark your value just shy of perfection while simultaneously offering some kind of wonder product to help you reach your ultimate self worth. I bet you can hear the announcements, or even visualize the ads, 

You’re one workout program away from your dreambody!

Just start using this beauty product and you’ll be a completely new person!

Invest with this bank and you will be worth so much more in the future!

We live in a society and culture that dangles their crafted idea of perfection in front of our noses all in hopes that we keep dishing out cash to them in a pursuit of more self value. It’s exhausting. But the problem is even deeper than a societal problem. It is rooted in the context of our families and friends, and even our own hearts. We want to be valued. We want to be worth something to someone, anyone. So the question becomes, 

Where does your value come from, and is it a sustainable and sufficient source?

You can’t let other things determine your value. No stranger, partner, coworker, friend, or even family member should. No occupation or circumstance, good or bad, such as mental health issues, diseases/physical ailments, job titles, diplomas/certificates, or location should either. All these things are labels. You can let them sink deep and become a part of your identity, but ultimately, you must decide where your value comes from. A say this hesitantly, however, as our culture has absorbed this idea and corrupted it. I hear things like, “You, and only you, get to decide your value. It’s been twisted so that instead of you deciding where your value comes from it’s being pushed that you must cultivate your own value. This is the trap I see most people fall into nowadays, busting their butt and doing everything on their own power to create self worth. If your bar of peak self value is still the one crafted by society you will always fall short and still feel unsatisfied, and the whole thing becomes as draining as chasing external factors to determine your value. Our culture has shaped our heart to associate our “best self” with perfection, and as long as our heart views our self worth in this light we will be disappointed and weary. The truth is, you will never be able to produce enough self value and worth to fulfill that desire you feel. 

But GOOD NEWS!

The way society is set up and how we find our value reminds me a lot of the overarching story of the bible but missing the main guy: Jesus. Most people outside the faith don’t realize this, but a big theme of most of the bible is that we just can’t live up to the bar of perfection that God has set. And just like our society we see this standard of perfection throughout the 10 commandments, the law, and most of the Old Testament, that God seems to be holding over us. But one of the main points of all this is to realize that we can’t do this on our own. 

Romans 3:20

20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

And becoming conscious of our sins, really means understanding we don’t make the cut which is stated just a few verses past the previous one. 

Romans 3:23

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

But unlike our society, we aren’t left here. This isn’t the end of the story. Between Romans 3:20 and Romans 3:23 we read:

Romans 3:21-22

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

You see, God sets the bar of value high but through His grace He sent His son Jesus to bring that bar to us, so that we don’t have to run the rat race chasing perfection and wearing ourselves out. Now we can rest and finally look around us and enjoy the present. We can understand that by listening and following Jesus we don’t have the pressure of pursuing value or trying to cultivate it on our own. He helps us see that we don’t need to be perfect for God to want us. We just need to be humble enough to admit that we can’t do it on our own, and give up control. Where we fall short, Jesus makes up the difference. 

So place your value in the hands of an all knowing and all loving God, who says you are His, you are loved, and that you are worth the price of His son’s life. He wouldn’t pay that price, and do all the work if He didn’t want you. When this kind of unearned value takes root in your heart it changes the way you live. Surround yourself with people who see you like God does, people who will remind you of your value when you yourself can’t see it. Pursue a passion and do work that serves as an avenue to tangibly create or express the value God has placed in you. The paradox is that in realizing you are broken, you become perfect in the eyes of the One who really counts. So continue to walk in humility and with a humble heart with Jesus, and He will lead you through a life full of potential and purpose, a life overflowing with a value we didn’t pay for, all while glorifying the One who did. 

Luminescent Followers

Be weird.

That’s what I heard from God. 

Thanks God…

But what I think He was truly saying was to be myself.

2 Corinthians 4:6 

6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Being genuine means being transparent to the light within our hearts…that was never our own light to begin with.

Matthew 5:16

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Transparency means allowing more light to pass through. It means opening ourselves up to God’s light, His love, and allowing our heart to reflect that love back out to others.

Ephesians 5:8

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

Living this way means living as a child of the light. We can’t do that by faking vulnerability or hiding our true self but only by being genuine, by cranking up the dimmer switch we’ve placed on who we are. 

Luke 8:16 

16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.

Don’t be ashamed of who you are. Embrace it. Put yourself out there, for all to see, so that the light placed in your heart by the Lord can remind others of the light in themselves. 

Be weird. 

A Positive Note in a Dark Time

I know someone needs to hear this today. Things will get better. Have peace knowing that the story’s end has already been solidified through Jesus. In understanding that peace open yourself up to participation in the here and now. Use this time to dream and scheme up ways to love, and when things get better, put those dreams into action.

From Bob Goff’s Devotional: Live in Grace, Walk in Love

Thanks Bob Goff for the inspiring and uplifting words in a time of confusion and fear.

As always, much love.

Thoughts on the Heart 3

My heart is a gift to God.

With Corona Virus running rampant throughout the world, people are scared. Covid 19 is devastating families and placing fear in people’s hearts, and a lot of us are asking what we can do. 

Man, everyday God is doing things in my heart. It is amazing following him. Every day he breaks my heart for others which leads to humility and makes me more humble. BUT HE DOESN’T LEAVE ME THERE. He fills it back up with passion and compassion which inspires me to help and care for others, and to savor every moment I have here on earth and the people I get to share those moments with. He fills my heart so full with identity in Him that I can’t help but overflow with joy and peace and be reminded of how blessed I am.

With everything going on, I pray that we can give our hearts to our creator because I promise you He will treat it for what it is, a gift. I pray that if you don’t believe in God that you give him a chance now. God is so present in the midst of suffering and chaos. His arms are open for you, always. I pray that we take our hurting hearts during this time and give them to God. I pray that we take our full hearts and use them to help our families, communities, and the world during this time. Don’t let your hearts be filled with fear but with peace that God’s got us and is using what the enemy intended for evil to bring people into His love, which is bigger than any fear or obstacle we will ever face, Covid 19 included. 

Gosh man, my heart. It aches for those hurting, yet is full from God’s gracious love. I am open to God using me to help however He wants during this time. Maybe He will use these words to bring peace into some people’s hearts. I am praying for you all. I pray that you don’t think your role is unimportant in stopping Covid 19. Distancing yourself may seem like a small act, but it’s a huge act of love to your neighbors right now. 

Events like this sometimes help us to see the important things in life; family, love, identity. God can be all those things and more for you if you let Him. Spend this time with family, helping how you can, and consider gifting your heart to God. You don’t need to wrap it and place a bow on it or wait for it to be in better shape or until it’s in worse shape, hand it over to Him now and see what He does with it. 

I give my heart as a gift to God and He returns it to me more full than when I sent it.

God is a gift to my heart. 

PACE

Accessing the Kingdom

In this post I want to continue the conversation of what it looks like to live a life at the pace of Jesus. Last time, I left you with the verse Matthew 6:25-34, the section titled in scripture Do Not Worry, and today I would like to dive more into what this verse has to say about hurry. 

Here is that piece of scripture again,

Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.                                                                                                                               

In verses 25-27, Jesus tells us not to worry. Worry causes us to hurry because it gives us a feeling that something is wrong, and that we must fix it. We start to dread the future when we worry and because of that we have no peace in our present. Jesus tells us not to worry about our life and not to worry about our body. Throughout the Gospel, there are many instances where Jesus tells us not to be so concerned with food and drink because He can feed us in ways that satisfy us on a spiritual level. He provides when He feeds the five thousand and He provides when He rains down bread for the people because He knows what we need. But beyond that, our Lord feeds us on a spiritual level.

John 4:14 (NIV)

14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

So, do not worry about what you will eat or drink because God will provide. Instead, focus on drinking from the eternal well, nourish your spirit by drawing close to the Lord, and He will fill you in deep ways.

Next, Jesus draws a parallel to nature. This is important because not only does it serve to show us how God provides for nature, so He will of course provide for us, but it also shows how in-tune Jesus is with nature. He often retreats into the mountains to be alone with the Lord. Jesus is consistently looking at the beauty that God has placed Him in, looking to nature to draw wisdom and life. Jesus lives and teaches at a pace that is slow enough to appreciate these things, to reflect on them, and see God in them. Lastly, in verse 27, Jesus points out how worrying only takes away from our time. It wastes our time just like hurry, and just like sin, that wants to see our time here on earth squandered. 

In verses 28-32, Jesus focuses on clothing, and again looks to nature to inspire and teach us. He says the flowers do not “labor or spin” which is exactly what we do when we worry, when we get into a hurry; We work harder and move less, spinning out and tiring ourselves. The flowers are a creation of God, but with no free will to choose and no consciousness, so they have no choice but to be what God intended them to be. Can you imagine if we lived our life like that? Finding our beauty simply in what God intended us to be, in the identity He has written on our hearts. But because our God does not create robots and has given us free will, and because sin has entered the world, we clothe ourselves. Clothing in the scriptural sense is not jackets, pants, and shirts but are all the ways we try and hide our insecurities, all the ways we try and fit in. Clothing here means how we present ourselves to the world, and this often reflects how we view ourselves. We feel ashamed about things so we cover up our identity. We want to be who the world says we should be instead of who the Lord wants us to be so we mask ourselves. We can never fully feel accomplished in all this so we are constantly in a hurry, stressed that someone might see our true selves. 

But if we can slow down enough to draw close to our Savior, to come back to who He says we are and who He wants us to be, our life would not be misspent trying to be someone we’re not. Our life would become deeper, richer, slower. We will find that the only clothing we need is the armor of God.

Ephesians 6:10-17 (NIV)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.                                                                                                                                                        

When we deny clothing ourselves to please the world around us and hide things, and instead dress in this way, in the armor of God, we will remember all that God calls us to, all the ways He protects us, and ultimately, how much He loves us. 

In verses 33-34, we get the answer to how to end worry, and ultimately hurry, in life. To address hurry in our life we must “seek first his kingdom and righteousness.” But what exactly is His kingdom and His righteousness? Jesus answers this for us.

Luke 17:20-21 (NIV)

20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”                                                                                                                                                      

The coming of the kingdom of God is not an event, the kingdom itself is not a location, the kingdom of God is in our midst. I truly believe that this means that we are in the kingdom right here, right now. The kingdom is the people around us and our environment. The kingdom is community. And how do we seek first this kingdom? Well, by being present. By engaging with Jesus in ourselves and finding Jesus in the people and things that make up our atmosphere.  By being present with the kingdom, embracing it, we begin to discover God’s righteousness. 

Romans 14:17 (NIV)

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit                                                                                                                                                     

Righteousness looks like being right with the Lord, with the people around us, and with our atmosphere. Doing that will bring peace to our lives, and that peace will bring deeply rooted joy. So, looking back to Matthew 6, when we seek first His kingdom, when we are present, “all of these things will be given to [us].” Jesus concludes in Matthew 6:34 by again telling us to not live worrying about the future, when we have enough in today to address. 

My prayer for you is that you focus on Jesus in your present and that you begin to access the kingdom of God. You are already in it, you just need to embrace it. Living in the kingdom is a beautiful thing. It is extremely challenging, but it is something that I am working towards, and it looks a lot like trying to slow down and walk with Jesus in every moment, letting Him be at the forefront of my thoughts and actions. In Acts 4 there is a beautiful example of what living in the kingdom looks like. When we access the kingdom by being present we begin to live in the kind of community that our Savior has called us to; a community where the Gospel is not about a building, or about singing certain songs. It is not merely something you experience in your head, no, it is about Jesus and people. Living in the kingdom affects your heart, your actions, and your thoughts. Wealth is redefined. Being present with Jesus releases us from the control of our possessions because it reminds us that the love of God, the freedom and forgiveness from sin, is worth more than all that. So I pray, lean into the present, into the kingdom and let God not just be in your heart, but the king and ruler of it so that you may be right with Him and others, so that you may live in peace, and so that you may experience joy. 

 

Catching Up with God

Today I will leave you with a short message, but I think that it is worth sharing. I have recently arrived in London for a study abroad program, and it has been amazing! I will definitely talk more about London and my experiences here as my adventure in the city continues to unfold. But first I want to talk about something else that happened this morning. I have been here for about 5 days and things have been extremely busy. Even a few days before I left for London things were hectic. Between the planning, the packing, the checking, and the rechecking there has been A LOT of things going on! This morning was the first time I didn’t have to be anywhere or worry about anything and so I decided to go workout at a park. Early in the morning on my walk there, it crossed my mind that I hadn’t said a word to God in a long time. Immediately I started talking to God, catching him up on things, and then listening to what he had to say. It is very hard to describe the joy, peace, and assurance that floods you when you engage in conversation with God. It’s like I had all these things I was trying to keep organized, worries cluttering my brain, and thoughts clouded with concern, and it all got wiped clean and I remembered how good life is when God is involved. The main thing I felt like God was reminding me in that moment, is that sometimes all we need to do is catch up with Him to be reminded how amazing the life He’s got planned for us is, and to remember how blessed we are. So once I got to the park I sat on a bench and just reflected on the amazing experience I just had. I realized that one of the best things you can do with your time, is give it to God. We all get busy and it is so easy to shrink into a tiny, compressed ball of stress and anxiety worrying about things with our minds racing and before you know it, you are sucked into this tiny little orbit called your world. Where it is impossible to think more than a few hours ahead and everything else around you becomes a cloudy blur. It is in those moments that reaching out to God is so crucial. Sometimes all it takes is a quick conversation. But when you do that, I can guarantee that it will set you up for an amazing day. You will begin to see outside your little bubble. If you do it consistently, I can also assure you that He will fill your life with so many real experiences. He will place people in your life, and take you places, and give you the most fulfilling life you could ever imagine. He is a God that wants us to be with others. In the times you’re by yourself and you feel lonely, or even small, He can make those moments where you feel rested and recover instead. Once you commit your life to Him, He will never lead you away from these things. However, it gets hard to see His work and appreciate it if you don’t check in occasionally. So my prayer for you, even if you’ve never tried talking to Him before, is that you just start talking. Whenever you are ready just catch up with Him, because He is ready for a conversation with you, ready to love you, and if you let Him, ready to lead you through an unbelievably fulfilling life.

***

Side Note: In my pursuit for a good photo for this post I find a website to an amazing post, with the perfect picture, by C D Swanson. He talks about things similar to what I shared in this post and he poses through his writing the idea of meeting God on a bench and the theoretical conversation that you would have with Him. It is definitely worth it to check it out and give it a read. Here is the link: https://www.cdswanson.com/?p=973

 

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

 

This is an essay I wrote this year that really gets to the core of what I want to do with my life. In simple terms, I want to be a storyteller. There are so many avenues that can be followed when pursuing storytelling, and I don’t necessarily mind how I end up working as a one. What I really care about is what makes a storyteller. The motives of great storytellers and the characteristics and values they have are amazing, genuine and rooted in what I believe to be some of the most important things in life. Being a storyteller means so much more than people know, and in this essay, I want to explain to you what it means to me.

~

Hi, my name is Chad Campbell-Gonzalez and I would like to share with you how I figured out I want to be a storyteller. Growing up, I loved writing. In elementary school when I was asked what I want to do I said become a writer. There was something about writing that drew me in. I think at the time it was the limitless expression that writing offered. Blank pages were like blank stories, empty worlds, and untraversed universes, waiting to be explored by my imagination and my pen. Each word I wrote added to this thing I was creating that came from inside me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was falling in love with creativity.

Creativity is a critical aspect of storytelling, and it is so fascinating and unique. Getting to express myself through words and imagery is powerful. It’s personal. Creativity is like the key to a door that opens up a world of adventures in self-exploration and understanding. Through it, we try and better grasp who we think we are and, in the process, gain a greater appreciation for those around us. That’s why, although unique and definitely a self-journey, creativity is also a voyage of all people and an adventure that leads to building community.

As I grew older, middle school and high school weren’t environments where creative writing was prioritized. It was still there but you really had to search to find it. All that given, I drifted away from writing and pursued what I thought would make my family and those around me proud. I wanted to be someone important and powerful. I wanted a job that was hard to achieve and when I accomplished it, people would be impressed. I wanted to be everything except what my heart wanted me to be. And so I pursued those things. All through high school and through the beginning part of my college career I had myself convinced that was what I wanted. Over that span a few things happened that, at the time I didn’t know, but were slowly turning me back towards my passion for storytelling.

I found Jesus on May 30, 2015, my sophomore year of high school. My experience with Him has shown me how important people are, and most importantly how important love is. Love is one of the most powerful things on the planet, and it wasn’t until I started following Jesus that I really took a look at my heart and the love that was in my life. I was going through some family issues, as we all are, but I starting to really think about what it means to love and how to do it and I was able to start working through some of those things. Then my journey with understanding love grew even more in my senior year of high school when I read the book “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver. I could see him exploring ideas on love and trying to understand what it meant to him and I thought to myself, I want to do that! Carver helped me see how writing helps a writer work through and wrestle with confusing things in their life, and lets others see what they take away from it.

So, with these things in mind and my passion for writing starting to spark back up I decided to take a writing class at the University of Washington. It was amazing. Writing again I could feel the creative cogs in my head creak back into life. I felt like a kid again. I felt like me. I was able to start unpacking and working on things in my life that hurt me, confused me and I was able to express and share all the things that healed me and uplifted me. It was like all of these huge realizations flooded me and I was able to hear my heart again. I came to realize that being a storyteller means wanting to understand and love yourself, and more importantly, sharing what you discover with others so that they can learn, grow and be reminded that they aren’t alone in their struggles. I began to really appreciate the personal therapy session I received every time I put the ink on the page or my fingers on the keys. Being a storyteller means creating and it means listening. It involves getting out in your communities and sharing experiences. It means helping each other see their best self and get the most out of life. Being a storyteller means loving people, and that’s what I want to do with my life.

The Truth about Affirmation

Affirmation is a powerful thing. However, I think our mindsets are a little off on what true affirmation looks like in life, and I think that it is very important to understand what it really is. Through this post I want to share with you three stories of recent affirmation in my own life and then explain the truth about affirmation.

1

I work at a restaurant as an assistant server, more or less a busboy, and I love my job. I get to serve people and most of the time that is behind the scenes, doing things that nobody knows. It is only human to want to be recognized and acknowledged for the work that you do. Sometimes, it was extremely difficult to convince myself to keep working so hard for what seemed like no reason. So one night I was working with a server I had never worked with before, and I was battling with feeling like I was unnoticed, unimportant. But I decided to keep up my spirit and keep doing my work. In the middle of the shift she comes up to me and says, “Do you love Jesus?” I smiled and told her I do, and I asked her why she asked me or how she knew, and she told me, “Because you are really happy and really kind.”

2

One night after I had just finished up meeting with some people, I was walking down the sidewalk on my way home. I passed by this place called “WOW” which serves bubble tea and other drinks, and something just came over me to go buy two drinks for people in my house. I went in and the place was empty except for two girls who were waiting for their drinks to be made. I walked up to the counter and ordered the two drinks. As, I was standing there I noticed the two girls look at me and then giggle and whisper to each other. This went on for a little and then eventually one of the girls came up and explained how they weren’t trying to be rude, but they thought I looked a lot like this guy from a show they watched. I laughed and ended up talking with them for a while and explained how I just felt a random urge to come in and buy drinks for my friends. The other girl noticed my bible and started asking me questions about my faith, and I got talk to her about Jesus. Afterwards, they gave me a hug and told me to “keep doing good things.” I got my drinks and headed out.

3

I was in a waiting room, hanging out before an appointment and I noticed that the room was pretty empty. It was just the receptionist and me. This thought crossed my mind to start a conversation with the her. It was early in the morning though and I didn’t really feel like talking but I decided I should. We started talking about random things, mostly small talk, and I had actually thought the conversation was over but then she asked me more about my life. We talked for a few more minutes and then she paused and said, “What did you do to end up going in the right direction?” and I laughed because I hardly feel like I know where I am going. But I got to explain to her that my faith has led me to where I am, and I definitely don’t know if it’s the “right” direction but I love the path that I have been on ever since I started following Jesus. She scrunched up her mouth and looked up over my shoulder, somewhere into the distance, and after a moment looked back at me and told me thank you.

I think that it is very easy to let our focus turn to pursuing gratitude and affirmation in life. But what we need to do is focus on Jesus, because when you do that you won’t even care about being affirmed by the world because you are affirmed by the God of the world who sees every second of work you have put in. Affirmation from the Lord will leave you feeling encouraged and inspired and through that you will give into others selflessly and without concern for your own acknowledgement. Also, when you pursue Jesus and let him affirm you it becomes so much more evident all the little ways we are affirmed each day. We have come to believe that affirmation must be a big event that will leave us in awe, but the truth is affirmation is in the smiles that we see from others, the simple and sincere words they share, and the small acts of kindness people do for us. In the stories I shared it wasn’t until I was really doing things for others, without my own desires leading me, that people said something. It wasn’t by my own strength or desires to do something and try and be acknowledge, but a prompting from the holy spirit that led me to affirmation. When I step out of my own way and let Jesus lead, people see that and respond. I also think that it is important to consider that these are what I would call “big” moments of affirmation. You have to realize that these happened after years of following Jesus. They don’t happen every day, but the small things do. If you let your thoughts become focused on being affirmed in huge ways and spend your time and energy living for those moments, you will always end the day feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled. The truth about affirmation is it’s simple, effortless, and everywhere if you focus on Jesus.

*Image is called Picture My Thoughts by Myra Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God Willing

 

What do you do when all your plans fall apart? When the world you know is flipped upside down and everything changes? Everyone goes through a season like this, most likely multiple times through out life. I am writing to address why I believe we find ourselves in these situations, and how we can get through them and be thankful for them.

I was recently listening to the song “Looking for a Savior” by United Pursuit when I got the idea for this post. At the time, I was going through a hard period. A lot was changing, and that can be scary at times. I am still going through everything, but I am proud to say that each day things are getting better as this season comes to an end and a new one begins. Looking back though, I wish I would have known how to handle things better. I wanted to understand how I ended up at that place and why it was so hard. One line from the song stuck out to me: “When our plans become the casualties of getting through the day.” This entire song speaks to the struggle of finding peace and comfort in all the wrong things. However, I feel this line addresses the root of the problem. It is so easy to idolize things, even things that aren’t tangible. In fact, these things are probably the biggest cause of idolization and they are also the most unnoticed at times. For me, I always thought that only real things could be idolized. For example, a person in my life, an object, a book, my family, etc. All these things can be idols but the ones that I really struggle with and that I see others struggle with is ideas, careers, plans, etc. We put so much value on the things we want, even if they are good and pure they are still idols. I have always wanted to be married, become a father, and have a family. These are good things to look forward to and be hopeful about, however, I began to focus only on that. I got up each day with the mindset of getting to that place in my life. My actions were dictated on if they would help me get what I wanted. Pretty soon, my pursuit of these things veered me off course from God’s plan for me. That is why I love the quote from the song. Our plans, even if they are small and seemingly harmless, can be a casualty if they get us out of bed and drive us through our day. If you only pursue these things they will lead to that place of pain, struggle, and sorrow. It’s so easy to justify these things too, because they are great things to look forward to in life. I don’t want you to get it twisted. I am not saying don’t pursue a family, time with friends, love, a career.  What I am saying is that they should supplemented with your pursuit of Jesus. He should be our driving force and what determines our actions each day. In the bible app plan, “Finding God in The Hard Places” by Ashley Abercrombie she puts it this way, “We’re all just walking each other home to Jesus.” I love this because if we consider each day in terms of this quote we keep our focus on getting to Jesus. Also, we are “walking each other” which gives room for relationships. Whether that is through a family, hanging out with friends, or being involved in a career, they are on the path to Jesus, so we don’t need to pursue them individually. When we chase our own desires without Jesus they will inevitably fall apart, and we end up in those terrible and hard seasons.

Getting caught up in our plans is unavoidable. So instead of trying to elude these hard times, we should learn how to make them easier to handle. One thing that helps me get through them is keeping in mind that it is a period of realignment with Jesus and his plans for me. When our plans fall apart, that can sometimes be just what we need to see where we are and the true intentions of our heart. It is very reassuring to me during this time because I know that I am growing closer to Jesus and refocusing myself, and my direction, on Him. Another thing that helps me during times of hardship is reminding myself of the truths of God. He is a good father that has the best intentions for you in mind. He knows your heart and what you want. You can rest easy in the fact that when things don’t go the way you planned, that the heavenly father has something even better in store for you. The plans we make are not set in stone, no matter how much we want them to be. I think this quote from James says it best:

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”

James 4:13-15

So, I ask that you still chase your dreams and goals but keep Jesus at the center of it all. When you let God take control of your life you are relieved of the pressure of trying to do things and get places on your own. Know that the Lord is not a reckless father. He will guide you and lead you to what you need, which may not always be what you think you want. We can be thankful for these seasons because even if we can’t see it at the moment, God is leading us in a good direction.

I hope this has helped or encouraged you if you are struggling. I want you to know that you aren’t alone in what you are feeling. Life can take unexpected turns at the most inconvenient times and leave us confused and alone. But remember, you aren’t alone when you follow Jesus and good things are coming. If you want to hear more encouraging words on the same topic, then check out my friend Tristan Epperson’s blog. I have linked it below, along with a link to the bible app plan, and the song. I hope you all have a great day!

IMPORTANT!!!

Before you leave I would like to ask for your thoughts and prayers for the Carr Fire happening in Northern California. I also urge you if possible to donate and help. There are more things than just money that can be donated. I have linked a website down below that explains more on what’s going on and ways you can help. Also, I have included links to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Thank you so much.

“Hope Through Heartbreak” by Tristan Epperson: https://tristanepperson.com/2018/07/24/hope-through-heartbreak/

“Finding God in the Hard Places” by Ashley Abercrombie: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/3137-finding-god-in-the-hard-places

“Looking For A Savior” by United Pursuit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4YhvfN4_Vk

How you can help: https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/2018/07/29/carr-fire-northern-california-help-victims/859636002/

The American Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation?cid=donation&med=cpc&source=google&scode=RSG00000E017&gclid=CjwKCAjw7vraBRBbEiwA4WBOn_LUB8OD179drHUfOnr_uNw4id7CdE3Jl-eIppJYRV_NSBUx2gyYfRoCG1AQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CNOXn6aiyNwCFZwGrQYdQ_IDfw

The Salvation Army: https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/

The Other Side of Silence

grayscale photo of tree and grass field

I wrote this essay this last year in college. It is my first attempt at a collage essay. For those of you who may not know, a collage essay is formed by bits and pieces of information in a poetic form that answer tough, deep questions. This prompt asked the question who I am and why I write. It is a daunting task trying to put into words who you are. I feel you can never really fully explain who you are. What makes you, you, is always changing and evolving. All the memories and experiences that shape you aren’t always the big events in your live. Sometimes, it is the small ones that impact us the most. In this essay I try to touch on the big things, and the little things.

 

The Other Side of Silence

 

Silence.

I’m afraid of letting people down.

I’m afraid being alone. That’s what I tell myself but I’m actually afraid of losing people.

The emptiness left in people by tragedy.

The depression hidden behind smiles.

The world became hollow and eerie.

The shell of a perfect world formed through youthful and innocent eyes started to crack and reveal all the evil and loss that were scratching at the surface. I found out that everybody, even the people I suspected the least, had horrible things happen to them or had done horrible things themselves.

Growing up.

“He wanted to see his son, but it scared him to think that Charlie would no longer be a boy but had become a man without a father in his life.” ̴ B. Harrison

I want to tell stories about that moment when you realize your parents are just people. They make mistakes too.

I want to tell stories about what it means to be a man.

I remember drinking beer, tattoos, facial hair, fighting, and sex.

What are we not talking about?

Heritage.

I am a white male. I have privileges that I don’t deserve and power I can’t control. I don’t know the extent of my power. I didn’t ask for this. I try to exercise caution with my responsibility.

My relationship to power tastes like cake, like free sweets.

Brothers. Three boys in one room. Depression and anxiety and sexual ambition are out of control. I am the oldest. I must lead and guide. Perfection is my aim; Academically, physically, and more discreetly, emotionally.

I remember sex made you cool.

Family reunions in San Antonio. The sun made my shoulders brown and the humidity made my dad and step mom upset. As kids, my brothers, cousins and I would all play games, swim, talk to distant relatives we didn’t remember, and eat. There was always so much food, and the food was huge. Everything was bigger in Texas. Spanish words mixed with guitar strums, laughter, checker pieces clicking on wood, and forks scraping plates. Everyone was always hungry for more, they just didn’t know what.

Tall fir trees enclosed my grandparents’ house in Littlerock, Washington. Inside their house dusty knick-knacks and family pictures were everywhere. I loved the old smell and how everything was worn-in. I loved the fireplace, the warmth. All along the driveway, the bushes had conquered junk cars my grandpa had scrapped for parts, and the shrubs had taken over the old trails that used to wind through the trunks of trees. A small creek trickled off to the side. I could always faintly hear birds chirping some where high up in the branches and I loved the sweet melody the wind played through the dancing trees. It was a quiet hum that let me know I was home.

Love.

My father wasn’t there but I still learned to love.

I’m afraid of becoming my father.

“A Father to the Fatherless” ̴ Psalm 68:5

My grandma showed me how around campfires in the middle of nowhere, and through jokes at all the wrong times.

My grandpa taught me how to love through greasy fingers working in his shop and playing catch until the mosquitoes became unbearable.

My cousins taught me down by the river in Texas. They showed me how to love through smiles with our toes in the water when the sun sank low and made the whole world orange.

My first girlfriend taught me how to love. She showed me a world I didn’t know existed outside of movies and novels. She also showed me how imperfect and messy it all is.

And when things fell apart with her my friends showed me how to love by getting me out of bed and taking me on adventures.

But my mom, she taught me the most. She showed me how to love simply by being there when no one else was. By caring and loving me when it seemed like no one else did.

It is a strong word if you choose to let it be. Hate is just another four-letter word like love. They only have value when we give them value, and I can’t help myself.

I fell into some bad habits and the wrong crowd for a part of my life. I developed my own silence. But I was rescued by Jesus.

This is me.

The Other Side.

There is value in listening. Whether you’re listening to a family member for the hundredth time, or a stranger for the first, the fact that you are listening and engaged with another person is important. It’s important for learning and growing.

I want to tell stories that change people’s perspective and way of thinking. I want them to know they aren’t alone in their struggles.

Above all else I want to tell stories that get people to find their voice and break their silence.

I remember how it used to be, and I envision how it could be.

My aesthetic is messy and complicated.

My aesthetic is voice.

The path is through listening and revealing our own unique and ugly stories.

The tragedies and loses bloom inside those that keep them in and slowly squeeze out their life and restrict their voice. So, the silence grows. I believe that things could be different.