Category Archives: Uncategorized

Black Lives Matter

It’s with a heavy and exhausted heart that I lay in bed tonight. At the beginning of this week, we celebrated our country’s independence. Tomorrow is Friday and we are mourning the loss of over 6 individuals. We’ve lost #PhilandoCastile, #AltonSterling, #dylannoble, and at this time 5 members of the #DPD. In the morning that number might be higher. We are living in very unique times right now. If you follow me on Twitter I’ve been reeling all night at what’s happening. History is being written as we share hashtags on social media. We’re sitting in the wake of a new wave of civil rights. Our country is at war with itself. My mind is blown and my heart is aching. Whether it’s cops killing men, or men killing cops, or Donald Trump supporters hitting protestors, or Anti-Trump protestors jumping people leaving Trump Conventions, or an unstable man opening fire on a club full of people, we are destroying ourselves. 

The Black Lives Matter protest that was taking place in downtown Dallas this evening was a peaceful protest; cops stood and posed for photos with protestors and respected their right to peacefully protest in the street. That’s because Black Lives Matter is not a violent or anti-police movement. I had the opportunity to hear the leader of BLM speak this past semester at Texas State and I loved what she had to say. Saying Black Lives Matter does NOT mean that white lives, cop lives, or any other lives don’t matter. It’s saying that, yes, all lives DO matter, but at this time, it’s black lives that are being persecuted. We’ve seen it time after time over the past few years especially. Institutionalized racism exists and to say it doesn’t is willful ignorance. But more than all of that, we have to realize that this is not just a problem for communities of PoC. It’s a problem for me as a brown man. It’s a problem for America. When a man can walk in to a church and shoot up a room full of people, or a deranged person can walk into a theatre and kill several people and both can walk out unscathed but a man of color reaches for his wallet after being told to do so and is shot in front of his girlfriend and a child, we have to admit that there is a problem. When a college student rapes a woman and media prints his swim time, but a man is murdered and the media prints his criminal record, we have to admit that there is a problem. And problems can’t be solved until we admit, accept, and begin to plan how we can move forward. It is not our place to tell members of the black community that what they’re experiencing isn’t real. It’s not our place to tell them that all lives matter. Because the way it looks to them is that their lives dont matter as much as their white counterparts. 

But I still believe it goes deeper than that. Because I don’t think that all cops are racist killers. And I don’t think that all black men and women are criminals. Just like I don’t believe that all Muslims are terrorists, or all Christians are like the members of Westboro Baptist Church. I believe that the number of cops willing to risk their lives to save mine outnumber the amount of cops who are walking around with a huge chip on their shoulder. Ending someone’s life should be the last resort. It’s become so easy to shoot people. We’ve stopped placing value on the lives of others when this many people are murdered in one single week for senseless reasons. We’ve got to stop being quiet. We’ve got to stand up and speak out against violence and injustice and spread love and acceptance and understanding and sympathy. It’s so easy to send out that tweet that says “Lord please come back only you can fix this world” but what steps are we taking to help? Are we listening to our black brothers and sisters and being sympathetic to their pain? Are we telling people in the LGBT community that they are loved and valued? Are we being respectful of police officers while also holding them to a higher standard? Are we being proactive and putting a stop to the spread of misinformation and instead replacing that with the spread of truth?  

We need to be a people of prayer AND action. You absolutely cannot pray and remain indifferent towards an issue in the same way you don’t pray for a new job and then not fill out job applications. God can’t move unless the Body is willing to move and more and more I am seeing a Body too scared to offend or ruffle feathers to move. 

So yes, black lives matter. 

And so do cop lives.

And white lives.

And your lives and my lives. 

The officers of Dallas shouldn’t have died. 

Philando Castile shouldn’t have died. 

All of those men and women in Florida shouldn’t have died. 

But the world isn’t going to change until we do. 

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Walls Part I

I did a simple google search.

“What is the purpose of walls?”

I came up with the following result:

 

Q: What is the purpose of walls? It can be seen as an obstacle. Why do we build them, again?

A: Control. With a wall you can control many things, like inside climate control (temperature, humidity, speed of the air, materials in suspension, etc), you can restrict the movement of animals (keep out the tigers) as well as persons.
Control is not undesirable. 

I’ve been doing a lot of talking about walls. Last blog post, I talked about a brick wall, and how I had run in to one. I talked about how brick walls are there for us to climb over, run through, break down.

This post is somewhat along that same vein.

Please bear with me – this post is going to be written mostly through metaphor. I’m going to create a visualization that I’ve been having over the past few weeks. If you don’t understand it, please try. If you still can’t, I’m sorry but it’s near impossible for me to describe this in any other way.

I’ve titled it Walls Part I because I hope at some point to return to this topic with a different outlook. Something brighter – a resolution, possibly.

I’ve realized that this brick wall I’ve run in to may be my own creation. For years, I’ve been busy building them. Walls and facades with strategically placed windows that peek in to perfectly staged spaces immortalized in time through my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook feeds.

I decided a long time ago that I wanted my life to look a certain way. I wanted to break through stereotypes and destroy the cookie cutter ideas of what I was supposed to be and what my life was supposed to look like. I built a world around me. Over time, things have changed. Buildings and monuments I created for myself have been torn down and reconstructed into different things as my beliefs, morals, and standards have shifted.

Some people have been granted access to the inside of these walls. They’ve been allowed to walk around and peer through the windows into those perfectly staged rooms. Others have even unlocked doors, opened closets, dug around and found some of the things I thought I had swept into a corner forever. Some of these people did it with permission and coaxing, much like when you’re luring a dirty, scared stray from its hiding spot. Others used brute force, kicking through doors and plowing over roadblocks and barriers.

But like most worlds, this one has layers. While the streets on the outer layer are nice and clean, and the buildings have some grime that are visible with a little exploring, the upkeep is phenomenal. However, the further you go, the dirtier it gets.

The inner city is full of a lot of ugly stuff. Things I’ve hidden behind even higher walls.

Corruption. Secrets. Pollution. Hunger. Struggle. Fear.

This area is constantly consumed by floods of insecurity and tornados of anxiety that rip through and tear the place apart. Droughts of loneliness settle in and make the place arid, the air hard to breathe. Most of the time, I live in this place alone. I try to repair and rebuild on my own. Often, this is futile.

Today, I looked at a picture from a year ago and thought, “Wow, I don’t know any of those people any more.”

That’s why the walls that guard this inner place are built so high and reinforced in steel and blood, concrete and bone. I don’t trust that if I let people in this place, that they’ll stay. Most of them haven’t even stuck around and all they’ve seen is the facades.

I hope that soon I can start to work on demolishing these walls. Brick by brick, stone by stone, with the help of others, I can open the gates and let the things that live here run free and bask in the light of love and healing that shines through the outer parts of this world I’ve constructed. They deserve that as much as the perfectly staged rooms.

I hope that the period of me looking back at photos from a year ago and saying, “I don’t know those people any more” is coming to an end.

Today was not a good day for me. The storms ravaged those inner walls. I’ve been holding a lot of things in.

Here’s to opening the gates someday.

Circumstances: How God & Satan Both Use Situations to Speak to Us

It’s been a crazy few weeks to say the least. Ive been dealing with a whirlwind of different things. Whether it be hardships for my family, issues in my work and personal life, or my relationship with those around me and in my life, it’s been interesting. All of this stacked on top of the 16 hours of school I’m taking, I’ve become exhausted.

With that being said, life is great. Things are going incredibly well. Academically this is probably the best I’ve done in school ever. I’m working just enough hours at work to make it through each week and not end up overworked and exhausted. I’m surrounded by the greatest people I’ve ever known who encourage and inspire me through words and actions daily.

My life is dang near perfect.

Which was why, when three weeks ago, I got some weird news I was kind of blindsided. It wasn’t something I expected or anticipated and it put me and some of those around me in a crazy sticky situations. However, it was in this mess that I became familiar with a new concept to me.

God and Satan have a way of using situations in our lives to speak to us. Both of them have a way of influencing our lives and filling us with different thoughts and conclusions. Any time I get stressed out or start feelings things heavily, Satan knows I’m at my most vulnerable. It’s easy for me to live in the Spirit and have strong faith in God’s plan for my life when things are going easy. However, when things get messy, I easily experience doubt or fear. I believe this to be partially because of my anxiety and my struggles with depression, but I’ve also learned that God and Satan have very different voices.

I visited The Austin Stone a few weeks ago during this tumultuous time and they gave a sermon on the Meekness of God. It was through this that I learned that more often than not, the voice of God comes quietly. The Lord speaks in love and He wants us to focus in on Him and really listen for His word when we’re experiencing tough things.

Satan, however, is quite the opposite. He’s loud and proud, and he comes in to destroy. He wants to tear down everything we’ve built up through the Lord. He desires to destroy our community and the relationships we have with the people who encourage and inspire us. Because of this, when Satan sparks fear and negativity in our lives, it’s so much easier to hear that. Instead, I believe it’s important to sit down and analyze these moments, which is what I did.

I sat down and decided what feelings and thoughts I was experience were valid and which ones were Satan wreaking havoc. I felt each and every emotion and said, “this is valid. I have a right to feel this way and have this question, and so I will confront it head on,” or ,”This is not valid. This is Satan directly seeking to destroy something.”

It was through this process that I ultimately decided to not let Satan win in my lifetime. I will not let him destroy my friendships or rip apart my community. Every time division is created in God’s followers, Satan rejoices. Every time someone says the wrong thing (And trust me, they will – God uses imperfect people for his perfect mission) and we react in an equally wrong way, his goals is achieved.

It’s our responsibility as Christ followers and as a community to exhibit grace and to focus in on God when we’re moving through bad times so that we can hear His gentle word. Satan can not win, even in the hardest times.

 

 

Mental Regrowth: Moving On After A Disaster

Last week, on July 27th, I celebrated being exactly one year clean of self-harm.

I’m not exactly sure when this habit turned into an addiction. Self-harm has been a problem for me since I was a sophomore in high school. I’ve done my research on the topic, and the scientific side of this addiction is pretty easy to explain. When our bodies experience pain, our brain releases endorphins that calm us down and block out pain. This is why when we are injured traumatically, our bodies go into shock and we can’t feel the pain. Self-harm works in the same way, only on a smaller scale. Anytime I cut myself, I was having an anxiety attack. When I did this, my brain released endorphins to calm my body down. After I was finished cutting, I could breathe again. I would lay down in bed and have a handle on my emotions and what was going on. The emotional side of self-harm isn’t as clear cut or easy to explain. In a lot of ways, I was seeking control. I’ve never truly been able to control my emotions and when I feel out of control in circumstances I tend to panic. This panic would lead to anxiety attacks and I began to believe the only way I could calm down was to self-harm.

My cutting started out small. Tiny little scrapes across my arms. It was something I kept hidden, and didn’t want anyone to know about. I wasn’t doing it for attention or pity. I had no intentions of killing myself. It was just a way for me to cope with my anxieties. Over time it progressively got worse and worse – more cuts, bigger razors. I tried to stop on many occasions, but I would always relapse. I use the word relapse because for me cutting is much like an addiction to a drug – it’s an easy way to handle life when things get tough.

The last time I cut was a disaster. I was in an incredibly vulnerable state. I was dealing with a broken heart and it was worse than I could’ve ever imagined. I was unaware of just how bad it had gotten, and I made a mistake. I went too deep. It was late at night, and I ended up having to wake my parents up. As I stood there in a tear soaked, bloody, snotty mess, my parents did what parents do best – they loved me. My dad cleaned up my cuts while my mom told me what I was experiencing wasn’t love, because love doesn’t make you hurt yourself. She also told me that this bad habit had to stop, and that if it didn’t, I might end up killing myself.

That night was like a wildfire in my life. It started with me and spread out to not just my family but also my close friends, one of whom had to pick me up that night and help me before I woke up my parents. While I talked to my parents, she threw away all of my razors. Her and her family have supported me endlessly and I could never be more thankful to them. So, to the Praters, thank you so much.

Over the past year, what that wildfire touched has slowly been experiencing regrowth. The Grace of God has touched my life in so many ways. I’ve experienced true love – love from family and friends and the love of God. Love that doesn’t make me want to hurt myself, because it never runs out. I am not completely over self-harm. There are still days where it’s hard not to pick up a razor. But on those hard days, I turn to my awesome family, my amazing friends, and my loving Father in Heaven. Without those three things, the regrowth I’ve experienced in a year wouldn’t be possible.

I’m excited to see where I am in another 6 months, and even more excited to see where I am in another year.

After a forest burns down, regrowth is gradual but eventually, the trees grow back, the wildlife returns, and it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful, but there is still marks left behind by the fires of the past.

Much like that forest, I will always have those marks. Both physically and mentally. But now, looking at them, they’re just as beautiful as the rest of the forest. They’re a part of my story, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Why Is My Love A Sin?

I don’t think that I ever officially “came out.” But let’s just get that out of the way.

I’m gay.

I never made an event out of coming out because it was never really a big deal to me.  It’s something that has always been a part of me. All my life I’ve seen people who have come out and allow that to become their identifier. It’s almost as if every time they introduce themselves to people, they say, “Hi, I’m ____ and I’m gay.” I never wanted to become that person. Yes, I am gay. It’s a part of me, but it’s not who I am. I am also a student, a photographer, a friend, a child, and most importantly a Son of God.

Like I said, coming out was never really a big deal for me. When my friends started asking when I got into high school, instead of saying “no” I just started saying “yeah.” Most of them had an idea already, so when I told them I was, they just shrugged and we went along with our business. However it wasn’t always that easy. I definitely encountered opposition. As a freshman in high school, I had someone in my youth group message me on Facebook. They told me there was no way I could serve God and live as a homosexual, but they weren’t loving about it. They condemned me and made me feel worthless. I was 14. When I moved I was bullied pretty bad and I ended up having to transfer schools because of it. A few people stood up for me, but for the most part people ignored what happened until I was gone. I don’t blame any of these people, though. I grew up in the same culture they did; small West Texas towns aren’t always the most welcoming places. I knew and I still know the stigma that comes with being gay, defending people who are gay, so on and so forth.

All of these things along with moving from my hometown catapulted me into a very dark place. I stopped having a desire to go to church or build a relationship with God. I became depressed to the core and started drinking, partying, and self-harming to mask all of the pain I was feeling. For years, I lived life with my middle finger in the air and a bottle in the other hand. Along with partying, I was dating the wrong people and I encountered heart break after heart break. I never dealt with my pain and instead put my happiness in the people I was seeing, and when that ended, I relied on the alcohol to keep me going.

Finally, I left where I was. I got dumped and cut myself for the last time on July 27th of 2014. 20 days later, I packed up my things and drove 8 hours south to my new home. It’s been almost a year that I’ve been clean of self-harm. That problem is a whole different blog post, but I will say briefly that it is not easy. To this day I still battle with that addiction, and I believe that I always will. When I moved here, I wasn’t attending church but soon enough I felt a yearning for God. I found a new home in a church called Eikon, and shortly after I was baptized and involved in host team, a tribe (small groups) and trying my best to be a living example of Christ. You can read about how I found Eikon and the beginning of my journey here.

But I need to get to the heart of this post. I guess the honest reason I’m writing this is because it’s been a hot topic lately. With marriage equality being passed by SCOTUS, almost everyone has an opinion, and almost everyone is voicing that. Very loudly. Although there are some pretty hateful posts popping up from both sides, I’ve also come across some truly genuine posts that exhibit God’s love and have made me so happy to be a Christian. It’s rare to find someone who stands for love instead of condemning when things like this happen. Kelly Matlock, one of the pastors at my church, said something amazing two Sundays ago. In the Word it says

“By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35 (NIV)

She explained that we won’t be known by what we condemn. People already know what we stand for. They need to know that we love. Which brings me to my big question.

Why is my love a sin? Why is my love sometimes seen as the biggest sin? That’s how it feels, anyway. I don’t have the answer. I wish I did. I understand why homosexuality is viewed as negatively as it is. There is a very specific culture around being gay. From gay bars to pride parades, being gay can often become over sexualized and lustful. However, that occurs in heterosexual culture as well. Strip clubs, the hook up culture of my generation, the pornography industry; these things are just as sinful as the lustful culture of homosexuality. But that is not love. And as a Christian, that is not what I’m after in a relationship.

Months ago one of my friends sat down and talked with me. They asked if I still identified as a homosexual, and explained that in their eyes we’re all born with tendencies towards sin. Some are born with at tendency towards alcohol, some towards drugs, others towards lust, and, in my case, born with a tendency toward homosexuality. Sin lies in whether or not we give in to those tendencies. Is that true? I’m not sure, but it makes a lot of sense. I do know, however, that I never made the choice to be gay. You may disagree with me on that, and that is your decision. But I’ll tell you – I would never in a million years choose this. I would never choose all that has come with being gay; isolation, depression, guilt, just to list a few. When I was not even a teenager, I would lay in bed at night and cry, praying to wake up normal. I hated myself. If I could wake up tomorrow with an attraction to women, I would take that in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I can’t. As hard as I try or have tried in the past, I’m just not attracted to women.

So where does that leave me in my walk with Christ and the things I’m looking for in a relationship? I’m not exactly sure. It’s hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. On one side, there is what the Bible and everyone is saying – Gay is wrong. No if, ands, or buts about it. And on the other side, there are articles, historians, experts of the Word saying that there may be some wiggle room – the Bible was written in a very different culture where homosexual relationships were occurring between adults and children. Things were different. They weren’t in love. They were committing lustful sins. I’ve talk to so many people about it, but the thought at the forefront of my mind is that I would hate to take the word of man over the Word of God. that would be the biggest mistake I’ve ever made.

As of right now, I’m not dating. I’ve been single for almost a year. I decided when my friend talked to me that if God brought someone into my life and I felt like it was right, that I wouldn’t shut it down. But now that I’m a Christian, I have a whole new set of standards. I need someone who is involved in Church, grounded in their Faith, and wants nothing but to honor the Lord with a relationship. If I was straight, I would be seeking the exact same thing. I’ve come to the realization that I may never find someone like that. And if that is the case, well then that’s fine.

As far as how I view homosexuality – the Bible says a man lying with a man in the same way he lies with a woman is wrong. It also says a lot of other things are wrong. I had a friend tell me last week that the biggest problem they have with understanding homosexuality as a sin is that every single sin has a negative effect on the people around them. Stealing, murdering, lying, getting drunk – they all have the potential to hurt others. But a real relationship based on love and aiming to honor the Lord, even when between two men or two women, doesn’t have any negative effect on anyone. It doesn’t hurt anyone emotionally or physically if there is no type of abuse within the relationship. So I don’t 100% know how I feel about it. I don’t know if I ever will. All I know is that I love the Lord, and if I do ever get into a relationship I will do all that I can to honor God with and through that person.

Living Example

Living your life for Christ is an amazing experience. It’s been the most exciting journey I’ve ever been on. Since turning 20 and finding my way back to the Church, I’ve never been happier. I see God working in all areas of my life, and when I stand back and really observe what’s changed and how far I’ve come, I get an overwhelming sense of peace.

It’s the greatest experience, and I really want everyone to experience it. To keep this feeling to myself would not only be selfish but also against God’s word. I’ve been reflecting on all the ways I can share my journey – my testimony, this blog, inviting people to church with me. However, I know not everyone is open to listening, and not everyone wants to hear the Word. Lately I’ve decided the best way for me to share the changes God has made in my life is simply by action and living my life in a way that would honor God.

I still talk about my faith any chance I get. Sometimes I find myself rambling and I just can’t shut up about it, which in and of itself is such a feat. Beforehand, I would never talk about my relationship with God. I would tell people it was a “private relationship” and that I didn’t feel the need to “explain it” to anyone. But in all reality, I didn’t answer any questions or talk about my faith for two reasons. For one, I was scared. I didn’t have a relationship with God. I constantly go back to all the times my mom would ask me, “If you were to die today, do you know that you are going to heaven?” Of course, I would say yes, but I wasn’t actually sure, and that scared me. Now I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that when my day comes I will be rejoicing with the Lord in Heaven.

The second reason I didn’t talk about my faith was because I was not living for God. I didn’t and still do not think it’s acceptable for us to spread the word of God if we’re not living for him. To a nonbeliever or even a new believer, it may hinder their walk. If someone sees that we’re a Christian, but there’s no change in our life, then why would they feel they needed God? For that, they could just live their life in a reckless manner and sleep in on Sundays.

Living your life for God isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Some sundays, I would love to roll over and go back to sleep. But I get out of bed and go to church, and I always feel amazing during and after service. It’s a great way to start my week, and I look forward to it all week. Sometimes it’s not easy seeing all of my friends getting dressed and going out to parties while I stay at home. For a very long time, I was going out and getting drunk and high with all my friends and posting it all over social media for the world to see. I had an awful mouth and I didn’t care who saw or heard.

Now I know I have a lot of people keeping me accountable, watching my actions, and I want more than anything to be a living example and positive influence in everyone’s lives around me. And while some days it is hard to be a Christian, I believe that if God is really in our lives, it becomes a very rewarding journey. It becomes easy to give up things that aren’t honorable because they’re only holding us back. When our lives begin to revolve around God, the things that aren’t good for us are replaced by things that are. There’s so much love in my life that I don’t feel the need to be in an altered state of mind or be hateful to people around me. I want simply to love people the way God would have me love them, and do great things.

It’s when we live our lives in this way that we can impact people who don’t necessarily want to talk. We become living examples of love and light and eventually, people will look at us and think, “I want what they’re having.” At least, that’s the goal.

I know I’ve got a long way to go – I feel my journey is never over and there will always be room for improvement and change. But I know that whatever I come to, God will carry me through it and make an example out of me. I hope the people around me see the change that has been made inside of me, and even if I only affect oner person, I’ve done what I’ve been called to do.

“And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.” – Titus 2:7

To Those I Have Hurt, & Those That Have Hurt Me

Sunday evening, at my small group meeting, we talked about love. We covered many different verses and had a lot of in-depth conversation. We talked about what it meant to truly love others, how we can express love, and ways we can begin to work on loving those we consider enemies. Small group is one of my favorite things at Eikon because it provides for us a time to spend with people our age. It develops more close-knit relationships and it always seems that everyone has something important to add. We’re all able to talk about different things and discover new thoughts and really support each other.

Our conversations got me thinking. Love is really something that I’ve struggled with, especially over the past year. I mean, I of course love my friends and my family. I have a completely unconditional love for them. I would go great lengths for any one of my friends or family members. But that’s easy. It’s not challenging to love my friends or my family (most of the time). What is challenging, however, is loving those people who just aren’t easy to love. Whether it be the co-worker who just really gets on your nerves, that child that acts out almost all of the time, or that person that likes to talk about you behind your back. But those are exactly the people God calls us to love.

I know throughout my life, I’ve done a lot of damage. I have not always been the nicest person. I have not always expressed God’s love in the way that I should. I became a bitter person and I took that out on those around me, but that’s really no excuse. So to those that I’ve hurt in the past – I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I didn’t show you the love I needed to. I hope that you can forgive me and see that I’m a better person now than I ever have been.

And while I have come a long way, I know that I’ve also got a long way to go. I am by no means perfect; none of us are. If we were perfect we wouldn’t need Jesus. I catch myself very often being hateful, or just downright rude. Someone brought up in small group that even if we’re not being ugly to a person, we may not be doing God’s work by just being neutral. We have to go that extra mile to express love to them, even when it’s inconvenient.

We also discussed loving our enemies. Well, let me tell you something – if loving people in general is something I struggle with, loving enemies is something even worse. I have a habit of completely and totally cutting people out of my life when they hurt me. It’s not a good habit to have, but it has always protected me. I’ve done a lot of that this past year. But I know that I now need to love these people. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you’ve cut someone out of your life because they are just bad people for you, then I’m not, by any means, saying invite these people back into your life. Because I won’t. But that doesn’t mean that we have to harbor hate for these people. Harboring hate does not good for you, and it does not harm to them. It’s like the late Nelson Mandela once said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” In the long run, you are the one who ends up bitter. So to those who have hurt me in the past, I forgive you. I love you the way God would want me to love you, and I don’t hold any grudges against you. It’s easy to say, but once you really forgive someone, I believe life gets a lot easier. Instead of constantly thinking about a person and how they’ve done us wrong, we can focus on other things like our family, our work, and just enjoying life.

So here’s to a hate-free year, full of loving our neighbors and our enemies even when it’s not exactly easy or convenient.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:8

PS – I’ve moved my blog, as you can pretty clearly see. This is a much easier site to use, plus you can leave comments and feedback, which I would love to see. Thanks for reading, guys. (: 

(featured image from The Worship Project )

The Law of Attraction

The law of attraction is the name given to the belief that “like attracts like” and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results. This belief is based upon the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from “pure energy”, and the belief that like energy attracts like energy. One example used by a proponent of the law of attraction is that if a person opened an envelope expecting to see a bill, then the law of attraction would “confirm” those thoughts and contain a bill when opened. A person who decided to instead expect a cheque might, under the same law, find a cheque instead of a bill.” – Wikipedia

As I was driving around yesterday, this idea kept popping into my head. I can’t even really remember where I heard “The Law of Attraction.” Now this idea is a little far fetched – to think we can simply create a check or a bill or any object just by thinking it is a little crazy. But as I got to thinking, I began to think that we could take the principal of this idea and apply it to our lives in many ways.

Last week, after I informed my mom on my decision to rededicate my life to Christ through baptism, she told me that as I began this walk, God would bring the right people into my life. That same night, I received a text message from an old friend that I had a falling out with a long time ago. This friend apologized for our messy past, and let me know that if I ever had any questions or needed any help, I could contact him. In the same way that “like attracts like” in the idea of The Law of Attraction, I believe that God attracts positive influences into your life once you make the conscious decision to change. I’m learning that God is not going to make me do this on my own. He’s going to attract great people and opportunities in my life that will further me in my walk.

On the same token, if we fill our lives with negative people and influences, we can only expect to have negative outcomes. While I’ve had great friends my entire life, I’ve often filled my life with negative things in attempt to make myself happy. For a very long time I was consumed by partying and alcohol. These were all temporary highs. I was only happy for a little bit, and in the end I was left feeling desolate and helpless. It was a dangerous cycle of temporary highs and devastating lows. Until I began to let God back into my life, these things didn’t change. But when I did let him in, it was amazing how quickly things turned around. I no longer had the desire to party or get drunk. It lost its appeal.

Last night at Tribes, we talked about the fruit of the spirit. The two we touched on most were joy and self-control. These are two very hard areas in my life. I find myself so stressed out and busy, I rarely have time to feel joy. Sometimes, we just need to slow down and really take things in. We touched on the idea that, if we feel hope and joy in our soul, we’re going to express that through the things we say and do. Again, like in The Law of Attraction, if we wake up thinking positive thoughts and spending time in the Word and with God, I believe this can effect our entire day. For anyone that knows me, you know I am NOT a morning person. I usually wake up grumpy, roll over and try to go back to sleep, and end up in bed until the last minute. Then I’m left running around, stressed and trying to get out of the door. Today, instead of doing that, I woke up and spent about half an hour with God. I didn’t even get out of bed, I just opened my blinds and let the sun in and read a few passages from my Bible and said a prayer. As a result, I had a much better morning than I usually do. I was able to get dressed and have breakfast before heading out the door (and I also did really well on my exam!).

I’m challenging my self this week to take the principal of The Law of Attraction and apply it to my walk. If I think positive, act positive, then I’ll most likely have a positive outcome. If I slow down and take time to experience the joy God has filled my life with, I’ll be much happier as a whole. If I live a positive lifestyle, then good, positive people who will walk beside me in this journey will be attracted in to my life. I know that God will help me sift out the negative influences and things that I no longer need to hold on to; things that in the end are only going to drag me down.

“Walk with the wise to become wise, for the companion of fools suffers harm. – Proverbs 13:20

Also, I would like to thank any and every person who helped my mom and brother and cousin come up to San Marcos this past weekend to be there for my baptism. It means the world to me; you’ve all been amazing blessings in mine and my family’s lives. 

The Journey Begins

Ever since I was a baby, I’ve been involved in church. I can’t remember a time when it felt normal to not be in church. I was baptized at a very young age, and until I was a freshman in high school, I remember being on fire for Jesus. At one point, I remember being a church camp and thinking, “Wow, I want to be in this environment forever.” At the time I had wanted to be a worship leader because music has always been a huge part of my life.
It was at this time that I began to experience opposition from others in my youth group. Things were being said to me like, “You think you can do this certain thing, and still serve God? You think you’re worthy?” Of course, I am a sinner and I am not worthy of God, but these were people who were supposed to be supporting me and instead they were singling me out, condemning me, and making me feel downright awful. It was at this time I started to shy away from God and the Church. Then, my family unexpectedly packed up and moved 2 hours away from my hometown. I experienced a lot of pain in this new place; bullying, depression, and an overall rough experience. I began to turn even further away from God, not having the desire to attend church or even believe in God any longer. This went on for years, until I graduated high school and moved back to my hometown.
When I moved home, I was excited to start attending my hometown church, the church I did so much growing up in and got to really know God. However, I soon learned it wasn’t going to be what I thought it was. I no longer felt welcome there. People from my hometown and that church had an opinion about me, and it wasn’t particularly nice. I felt ostracized in church and it was distracting for my worship. While there were a few families who welcomed me with open arms, they were far and few in between.
As life usually goes, I experienced more hurt and pain in this town. Not particularly from the Church, just from things that come in life; lost friendships, damaged relationships, etc. I found a new church to attend and this is where the fire was lit. I finally felt welcomed at a place of worship and I was able to focus solely on God and what he was speaking to me. I attended this church for a few months before I relocated to San Marcos for college.

When I moved here, I was looking for a church but not very diligently. I finally began to get frustrated and learned that I was not a person that could stay away from church for very long. It just didn’t feel normal to not be in church on a sunday morning, and I felt God pulling on my heartstrings. So one saturday night at 3 AM, I did a google search for churches in the area and happened upon a website for a church named Eikon. I decided to visit not expecting what was about to happen.

From the moment I pulled into the parking lot, I felt welcomed. The worship was spectacular, and the series they happened to be doing directly related to my life. After my second sunday there, I knew it was my new church home. Why would God have me wait so long to find a church, and then provide me with the perfect series relative to my life at this very important time? It was not coincidence or chance – God’s timing is forever perfect. Last Sunday, the lesson was beautiful and it spoke directly to me. It was a very emotional service for me, and by the end of the service I had made a decision to let God back into my life. I had spent the past 5 or 6 years running in the complete opposite direction, telling God I didn’t need Him, that I could handle what was going on in my life. It was time for me to let God in, give Him full control of my life, and fix the brokenness inside of me. I told Him that I trusted Him fully with my life and the direction He would lead me in.

Next sunday, I will make this decision public by being baptized and rededicating my life. I can already feel The Lord making changes in my life, and I’m so excited for what’s to come in the future. Thank you to everyone who has been in constant prayer for me over the past few years. It has obviously paid off.

God’s timing is forever perfect. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares The Lord, “plans to prosper you & not to harm you, plans to give you hope & a future.”