You will lose everything.

This is what happens to those who live for the moment,
    who only look out for themselves:
Death herds them like sheep straight to hell;
    they disappear down the gullet of the grave;
They waste away to nothing—
    nothing left but a marker in a cemetery.
But me? God snatches me from the clutch of death,
    he reaches down and grabs me.

So don’t be impressed with those who get rich
    and pile up fame and fortune.
They can’t take it with them;
    fame and fortune all get left behind.
Just when they think they’ve arrived
    and folks praise them because they’ve made good,
They enter the family burial plot
    where they’ll never see sunshine again.

We aren’t immortal. We don’t last long.
    Like our dogs, we age and weaken. And die. -Psalm 49:13-20, MSG

This hit me like a ton of bricks tonight. The stark, harsh reality that living for ourselves and worrying about our day-to-day lives only ends in a death where we take nothing we’ve accrued with us. We don’t take our achievements, our property, our stuff–no, none of it follows us to the grave. Someone else gets it all, until they die too and another someone gets that someone’s stuff that used to be yours.

We keep nothing. Everything from our talents to our trucks to our toes is swept away with time like dust in the wind.

But me? God snatches me from the clutch of death,
    he reaches down and grabs me. (v.15)

This verse here however, gives us a beacon of light in the darkness of our selfishness. God saves us from ourselves while we’re trying to fight to stay alive on our own, and turns us away from foolish self-centered living. He offers us rest for our weary souls in the wake of our many burdens.

 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30, ESV

We see scripture telling us very blatantly throughout its texts to trust God above ourselves. There are many passages that display this, but I feel it prevalent to share these two in particular:

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. – Proverbs 19:21, ESV

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV

So, in God we have rest and peace. We have direction and our burdens are made light. In ourselves, we have only death and the loss of all we hold dear, and for some, eternal separation in Hell from God. Why then do we choose to cling to our stuff, our people, or anything for that matter? It can only be called insanity, especially for those who claim Christ as their Lord.

Especially for well… me.

I have a really hard time trusting God. I have a life wrought with anxiety and fear of people and circumstances, and I assume trying to follow God often will only make me more anxious. However, I can trace back to God’s word, and even the experiences I’ve had with God in my life and say that living this way is nothing but foolish and quite literally insane.

I can trace back to the passages like the ones written above, or back to when I was moments from failing a class or losing all will to live, and proclaim that the Lord delivers me every time from the brink of death, even when I’m the last person on the planet that deserves it.

Walking closely in faith with Jesus has and will always prove better than living in our own “wisdom” and for our own desires.

Water and Steak VS Soda and Brownies

So, full disclosure, I have a horrible sense about eating healthy. I snack a lot; soda, coffee, and sugary treats abound. I maybe have one or two legitimate meals a day that have semi-specific times. I almost never eat breakfast on top of that. In sum, I just don’t eat that well at all and I have a lot of junk in my life that I could do with a lot less of–or even with it just gone altogether.

Now, obviously this isn’t going to be all about healthy eating habits. But I am going to talk about habits and what we put in ourselves.

I heard a lot at a church I used to attend that the physical represents the spiritual. What you see in your reality may be indicative of what’s taking place (or not taking place) in the spiritual realm around you. So, what do I mean? Here’s an example from my own life:

I almost never drink water. I’m quick to consume Coke, Sprite, or the like in large amounts, or other sweet things like sugared-up tea and coffee, or even milk. But water? I almost never go for it. I also snack a lot on random food and seem to almost resent having a set apart time where I eat.

So there’s the physical. Now, the spiritual:

I almost never spend time with God. I’m quick to spend my time just loafing around online doing various things like Facebook or Youtube or other things like that, or playing video games or watching Netflix or Hulu or surfing anime on Crunchyroll. I go for all these things very quickly and almost consider them an integral part of my day-to-day. But time with God? It doesn’t hardly happen unless there’s some stressful situation or I’m just devoid of peace and realize just how thirsty I am for his presence.

See the similarity?

Now, I don’t mean to be overly spiritual and to say that principle of physical represents spiritual always works. War is constantly waged in the heavenlies, but I don’t know exactly how much you can say is caused by the unseen.

That said, my point is this: I know that water is what really quenches my thirst. I know that I’d rather have a tender, juicy steak over a warm brownie. However, knowing the delight of those things is easily interrupted by the immediate satisfaction of the sweetness of soda and the moist chocolateyness of a brownie if it’s available. It’s easy to get hooked on the sweet stuff and to start to forget how good that water and steak is, and how good it is for me by comparison.

I remember, I know how wonderful it is to abide in the Lord. I know what it’s like to be walking with him, to soak in his word and to serve him. I know that he is what truly sates the needs I have in my soul more so than any material thing I know or any recreational activity I go to. But my spiritual diet doesn’t show that. What I consume every day shows that I’ve forgotten the delight of the Lord, and more so, that I’d prefer the material over the eternal (and don’t we all, sometimes!).

The thing with a bad diet in any context is that after awhile, you start to get sick. You start to see that you really would be better off if you drank more water or stopped eating sweets so much. In time, when sin has ripped you to shreds and life just seems more and more devoid of purpose, you remember just how sweet it was to dwell in the presence of God.

It’s in that moment that you and I have a decision to make. We must not only remember what and Who truly satisfies us, but we must make a change and pursue that true satisfaction over sweet (and at times carbonated) lies.

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.” – John 4:14, ESV

You might be killing your children.

Parents. You are well-meaning. You love your children, you want to protect them from this big, evil world we live in. You want to keep them safe from corruption and keep them on the straight and narrow.

And you are killing them.

I’m going to offer some thoughts here, and I pray you hear them with all the love and concern in the world, and I do hope as best as I can to speak this in such a manner worthy of your attention.

You have your beautiful baby boy or girl, and you want the absolute best for them. You want them to know God (some of you), you want them to be happy, and you want them to live set-apart from anything that appears to have the power to harm your child in any way.

Some of your children like things you don’t understand. Some of them are doing things that make absolutely no sense to you, and it’s scary. They have a secret part of their life that suddenly comes to light, and you have no idea what to do.

And some of you? Some of you do everything in your power to snuff it out.

Your kids want to be artists. They have online friends or are interested in online gaming. They want to do theatre or tattoos. They want to do something like ultimate frisbee or (insert random alternative sport here) instead of say, basketball or football, or maybe they just don’t want to do sports at all.

And you’re scared. You raise your voice, you tell them no, and then you take it away.

You strip your child of the very things their heart longs for… because you’re scared.

My heart can hardly take it. Why? It isn’t simply because a kid can’t do what they want and that they should be allowed to simply because they want to. No, that isn’t it at all, and I’m not trying to say that your fears aren’t real. I know you’re scared of what will happen if you let them loose to do certain things, whatever your reasons are.

But please–I say almost at the brink of tears–listen to why my heart is rent at this.

Your children are being forced to live even deeper secret lives. They can’t and won’t stop loving what they love. If anything, when a love is put under pressure, its passion is tested. If your children love what they love passionately enough, they will rebel. They will lash out.

And mark my words–you will lose them. You won’t have a son or daughter to love, because they will want nothing to do with you.

This is real. This is a problem, and I’m begging you to do something different. I’m begging for a more excellent way.

Alright, crying now.

Take the time to understand your children.

Just take the time.

Listen to them. Let them speak. Let yourself wrestle and pray through what you don’t understand. Let your children know that they -have- you. That you’re on their side and that you want nothing more than to be their advocate. In this world, more than being kept safe, or kept from what you don’t understand…

They need your love and support. They need parents that will battle through the unknown instead of sticking to what is known and safe.

Because safe? For some of you, safe means the ruination of everything–it means forcing your children into secrecy and resentment, and eventually, losing the chance to love them like you were trying to all along.

Don’t lose your children to fear.

Love them. For the love of all that is righteous and holy, LOVE them.

Quick Fixes and Loneliness (Or Similar Ramblings)

So, I recently had a really heavy conversation with my best friend. The point was made (by me), that I never seek my friend out to do stuff with him, but that he always comes to me, usually in his worst moments of late. I complained that I lately only ever see the sadness he carries, and seldom ever see him happy, which has become difficult to cope with.

Returning to the point I just made, however, I never seek him out when I otherwise know that he’s doing fairly well, much less take initiative to plan activities with him. I could go much deeper into the subject of that conversation, but that’s not actually what I want to write about right this minute. I’m sort of in a haze from staying up all night, so bear with me rambling for a bit.

I sat by my window after sitting in front of my laptop for over 5 hours (I’ll try not to think about that too hard), pondering why it seems like my friends always have to come to me, and how often (especially lately) I turn down their invitations to spend time with them. Why have I been so opposed to that in the past? Do I value solitude that much? Do I just love being alone all of the time?

Of course I don’t. Nobody wants to be alone.

We do some really, really stupid things when we’re lonely. It’s one of the most deadly things someone can feel in excess. I’ve seen people spiral into depression, sexual promiscuity, and have heard tales spun of people even killing themselves over feeling too alone. So, why then, I wondered this morning, do I seem to opt to be alone so often? Surely, I thought, it isn’t just because of some sort of chemical imbalance from not taking basic care of myself.

And it donned on me–holy crap–that’s exactly what it is.

“Wanna hang out?”

“Nah, I’m too tired.”

“Wanna go get food?”

Won’t even answer the text because I’m taking a 3 hour siesta in my dorm room. Would probably be a little more okay if I didn’t do that every other day.

I live in a world of immediacy. Most of what I do is done because I feel like it. When I say that, I don’t mean to criticize the idea of doing whatever you feel like doing, but when what you feel like doing all the time overrides what you know you WOULD do if your perceived needs were met (ex. being awake and alert enough to want to seek out company), there has to be some sort of problem.

When you’re lonely, tired, depressed, but avoid companionship because you aren’t meeting your basic needs, you aren’t living the way you actually want to.

I haven’t been living the way that I actually want to… and I want to fix it.

I’m sorry: An apology to the persecuted

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that I pretend you don’t exist, that since I can’t see you or know your name, I act as though your suffering isn’t real.

While I sit comfortably in my environment-controlled domicile, you hide away, praying for another hour of life while you are relentlessly pursued and yet somehow legitimately thanking God that you are still alive at all. I sit and watch Netflix while you tell your children to quiet down and stop crying, because if they get too loud you’ll all get taken away.

And I don’t pray for you. I don’t even realize you exist most of the time. But you do exist–you have a name, you have a face; your children do too. One day I’ll have to come face to face with you. More than that, I’ll have to come face to face with the one who made you, because he made me too. His son gave His life away for both of us, and it cost you far more than it ever did me.

What will I say to our Father? What will I say to you, brother? What excuse will I have, sister? One day I’ll know your name, I’ll see your face–and your children’s faces too. I’ll see the faces of the people who never once graced my thoughts (much less my prayers), and see that when I heard on the news that they beheaded you, shot you, tortured you… that happened to real people. That happened to you.

When the day of the Lord comes, what will I have to say to you?

Will all I have is “I’m sorry”?

Coming Out Again

Spiritual Friendship

Earlier this week I was talking briefly online with a friend who’s still in the middle of the process of coming out to family and friends. It’s been a few years since I was in his shoes, and hearing him describe both the newfound freedom and the emotional exhaustion of coming out took me back to those moments of my own life.

I think, for instance, of sitting with a friend at her kitchen table late one night. I’d come upstairs from my basement apartment to where she and her husband lived on the third floor of the house, having decided this would be the night I confided in her, dear friend that she was. And even though I counted on it going well, and even though I’d had the same conversation with other friends a half dozen times in the previous weeks, I still felt jittery. Imagine knowing you…

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Remembering the promise

Needless to say the blog post from 4 AM this morning has provoked a lot of thought. I sat and thought about the ins and outs of how quickly I get burnt out on different things, and I landed on certain things that I’ve either stopped doing altogether or things I simply haven’t ever done, thinking them to be a waste of time.

I haven’t consistently prayed for anyone in a long time, and I don’t think I’ve ever gone out of my way to open up a conversation about the Gospel–and I certainly haven’t made any disciples.

I began to rant at God about this, even at some points cursing out of frustration. I sat and bemoaned friends of mine who are militant atheists that I’ve prayed off and on for for years, people that seem like they will never be saved. I see those people and the thought of committing to pray for them or believing that they’ll come to Christ just seems stupid to me. I transitioned then to the fact that I don’t share the Gospel much at all, and after ranting I said this, and everything came to a screeching halt:

“I would rather someone burn in Hell for all eternity than for someone to put me through Hell on earth for an hour or to make me feel like I was in Hell for a day.”

Everything stops.

I apologized to God for cursing in my prayer, and I just sat there and tried to listen. I had run out of words. In the silence, I remembered a moment in my fiance’s church, a moment of worship, where I felt that Jesus was so close to me that I swore I could feel his warmth next to me, as though he had leaned down next to me to place his hand on my back.

It was in the remembrance of that that I felt God saying “I’m this close to you all the time.

To which I said, “But, how could you bare to be this close to me? After all I’ve done, after my doubts and how unwilling I am to do anything?”

More echoes in my mind. “Nothing can separate.

I didn’t know what to say. Jesus is telling me, if I’m not crazy and crying for no reason at this point, that he’s never left my side and that nothing can separate me from him (Romans 8 by the way, in case someone wants to fact-check my theology). I continued to sit and listen. I was getting very emotional at this point, so what I heard past that was almost a blur, but in the cacophony of my own thoughts, I heard Him say “Stop trying to do everything on your own.”

I almost shouted, in a heap of tears, “What else am I supposed to do?!”

I sobbed loudly, and in the midst of my sobbing, I heard Him speak still, “Trust me.

I had nothing to say then. All I could do was cry, and I did so for a few minutes. Either I was just hearing random things in my mind that I was saying was God and crying over nothing, or God was stepping in and talking to me. I tried to piece everything together, and then responded to what I had heard:

“Okay, so… I’m always looking for someone to tell me what to do. There’s a lot of things I won’t do because I feel like things aren’t going to be okay. I stop praying because I don’t think things will be okay. I don’t tell people about You because I don’t think it’ll be okay. That I don’t think I’ll be okay…”

My eyes well up with tears, and I cry to God, “Daddy, if you’re always with me, are you going to take care of me? If you’re never going to leave, can I trust that I’ll be okay?”

I fall face-forward on my bed and just wail. It hit me like a ton of bricks–God never leaves or forsakes us. Never leaves or forsakes me in spite of who I am and everything I do. He takes care of me, more than anyone else ever has or could hope to. I can rest in that. I know I can–in fact it could be said that I’ve always known.

But I’m so quick to forget.

Hebrews 2 gives us a warning: We must pay more careful attention to what we have heard.

We have heard that Jesus came to die in our place. We have heard that he conquered our sin, died our death, and delivered us from Hell. We have heard that while we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us. We have heard that nothing in Heaven or Earth, that nothing in all of creation can separate us from Him.

We’ve heard that Jesus saves us and is always with us–and believe me, we must pay more careful attention to what we’ve heard… because I sure as heck know personally I’m lost without knowing that.

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