Grace

Thy Rod and Thy staff comfort me. I literally paused when I read those words. For some reason they were never truly profound until I read them a few days ago. I have begun a new journey, I do not know if I want to call this a resolution, seeing as that particular word is fraught with failure. This journey is to read Psalm 23 every morning.  I may end up switching it every month, and try to memorize the verse or chapter I am reading. Anyways, I digress. I first read the 23rd Psalm, and when I read, “your rod and your staff- they comfort me.” I had an epiphany.

I find it a little cliché that David compares God to a shepherd; while that is just me hearing that comparison over and over again, I find a new sense of complete and whole love through that comparison. When we think of a rod and a staff being used by a shepherd most of us equate that to the man standing with a wooden hooked staff in the meadow with sheep. I think we tend to, quite easily, forget that when the shepherd moves his sheep to a better feeding ground, he uses that staff to guide them to it. Some sheep are less resistant to go right away and then the man uses his tool to pull the stubborn sheep along with him. This doesn’t necessarily hurt the sheep, but it does correct its ways. I believe God does that all the time to those who proclaim him as Lord and yet do not follow along with his teachings. These people are the stubborn sheep. God uses his tool to grab us by the neck, and he pulls hard. I am one of those sheep. I have been supplanted in my spot, firm. I did not want to be moved, because change is scary. But it is also a freeing feeling. Grace is what we get in this. God is still going to give us an undeserved love. No matter how long we sit, holding onto our past life God is still going to be with us and will always try to pull us to greener pastures.

I have been struggling with the idea of grace. Why would an all-powerful, amazing Creator want to give me undeserved grace? I am such a screw up. I have sinned more often than I care to admit, and yet grace is still there. This idea of the gift of grace baffles me. That is the problem with grace; grace is so simplistic, yet we, as humans, overcomplicate things. For grace to be grace we cannot expect it, but at the same time we cannot say no to it. Grace is given freely, because someone, mainly God, loves us so much. So when you have the opportunity to accept grace, go ahead and accept it. It does no good to deny it. Denying forgiveness is hard on anybody. You keep living in your guilt and you do not allow grace to take its full effect. Are you willing to let your sin consume you fully or are you going to accept the free gift of grace and allow our Shepherd to love you and show you how to live the best life you possibly could? 

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Suffer

Today is a day of pain, hurt, and prayer. I awoke this morning to a mom of one of my students statuses, saying how she doesn’t understand who could do this, and how to help her child feel more comfortable about going to school. I began searching to see what had happened; that is when I scrolled down and saw the news about the Newton, Connecticut shooting.

Words cannot describe. Those 18 small children, who had nothing to do with the shooter other than being in his mother’s classroom, are now dead. Their families full of pain and grief. While, I do not have kids of my own, nor do I have any younger siblings, cousins, or anything of the sort. But that does not lessen the pain I feel from this tragedy. I have been a wreck of emotions. Tears have been flowing and it is hard for me to focus on other things.

The first comments I read after finding out about this massacre are about gun advocacy and gun control. People spewing how if there were guns allowed for every citizen we would be a safer country, or how if we just regulated guns, we’d be a safer country. I can see both sides, though my political background would lean me towards the former. However at this moment I say we should stop thinking like that and instead give our hearts up to the families who lost a child or family member today.

We need to stop politicizing tragedies to make our political platform look better. If we just stopped and thought for a second about these families, maybe said a prayer of thanks for our families, we could truly start changing the world. Are you willing to stop pushing your politics to just sit and suffer with the families? Or are you going to be heartless and continually buy into the political machine? Your choice.

Its All in the Past

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Don’t you wish that you could go back, relive a part of your life that you feel you messed up? It would be great, wouldn it? You would have the knowledge that you wished you had when you were making those tough choices. Or you found out some very important things and just wanted to try to change it. Our lives are written in blood. We cannot go back, we cannot erase it, there is no miraculous laundry cure to this stain we have on our past. Once we give into the notion that we want to change things in the past, we begin down a very dangerous road; a road that fills our heads with “what ifs” and longing to change something about ourselves. I, like most people, fell into this trap. I want to be young again, to go up to the same challenges and make different choices. My life would be perfect.

One such time of my life I wanted so badly to erase from my life, was a year and a half relationship with a young girl. I loved her. A part of me will always care for her, because she was my first real love. The relationship was nice in the beginning. I was hanging out with her, quite a bit. I was over at her house all the time, her parents, graciously, allowed me to spend the night in a spare bedroom at their house. Those days were fun, but as I had more fun, the more I changed, and the change was not good.

I have always been an angry fellow; just ask the doctors who delivered me from my mom’s womb. I am extremely passionate about everything. That means when I get angry, I am really angry. While I have done a lot to learn to control this, most of that probably happened after the relationship. I brought my broken self into that relationship and it ended up hurting. I began to be very suspicious of everything. A little word could send me off the handle. I was not living my life according to God. I had the false sense of security. The relationship began to crumble about 8 months in, I saw it, but ignorantly pushed it aside. I was blindly in love therefore I chose to ignore the problems and I would not listen to anyone who tried to, what I would describe at the time as, “break us up”. With retrospect, I am older and wiser now, I see exactly what they were trying to warn me about.

My ultimate wish-list to change something that happened to me would have that relationship on top. I say would have, because with reconsideration I realized, that those decisions made me who I am today, and while it ain’t perfect, it is just right for me. Our past may be written in blood, but it is by Jesus’ blood and that is what gives me hope, the fact that I have a Lord who loves me so much that he’d die so that his blood could be etched over my past. When I stand before God, he may play back my life, he may ask me questions, and he may show me everything I did wrong and why it was wrong, and I will have to be judged by that, but because of Jesus, I am saved. Because of Jesus, I have no need to worry about my past, I have no want to change it and I have no need to change it either.

Are you being a pastor?

Are you a pastor? Some of you reading this post may think, “Nope, that’s the guy who talks at church on Sundays.” Yes, you are right. Through the church we have looked to one man as a pastor, one man as a youth pastor, and one as a children’s ministry pastor. There are so many countless examples I could post on here.

I think we do not understand what it is that a pastor truly does. A good friend once told me that we are all pastors. That took me by surprise. How can we all be a pastor? I began asking these questions. I don’t have a degree, I took barely enough school for a minor, and I am in theater. Then I truly understood. We are called to help usher God into people’s lives. A pastor is not just a spiritual leader for this mass congregation. A pastor is not the face of a church. A pastor is someone who takes the time to listen to a person’s problems and help that person through that. So I ask again, are you a pastor?

As Christians, we are meant to lead others to our King. We are meant to pastor people to the glory. This doesn’t just mean getting them saved, but rather having a personal relationship and helping those you saved. It seems today, in churches, we want everyone to get involved and to be saved, but no one is taking the time to invest in the average church-goers life. We hold these powerful services, which gain many children to the family of God, but do we invest personally in their lives? I argue no. We usually ask someone to pray a prayer and they will be saved, hoping they will get connected somewhere with someone. I will be the first to admit, I don’t always want to help those new Christians. But we are meant to. We are a family, and we had better start acting like one. I am being serious. Pastors do not even invest personal time with members of their congregation. There are the “select” few. But is that influencing the church? Doesn’t that hurt your feelings when your church’s pastor takes time out of his day to hang out with someone who is not you?  This is why we each should treat ourselves like pastors. Now I am not saying each one of us is called to the pulpit on Sunday mornings, rather I am getting at the fact that we need people to influence and invest in our fellow attendee’s life.

I challenge you to do that this week. I challenge you to pastor someone, to help them better their relationship with Christ. Do not pick someone, who you know already talks to someone else, find someone who is new and talk to them. Invest in their life. Do not try to recruit them to your really nice Bible study, or the church softball team. Just be that friendly face they can talk to on Sunday morning.

Censorship: You’re doing it wrong

I have lost my confidence. I was thinking back to a time when I was not as self-conscious as I am now; it is not too far back, actually. I was 17 years old; everything seemed so easy back then: relationships, family, school, jobs, etc. As I grew up and went to college I found things becoming much more difficult.

Everybody, I believe, is self-aware; however, I do believe self-awareness is a muscle; it needs to learn to be flexed and stretched every now and again. I remember back when I started middle school, I was super short. I always had been. The rigorous activity in gymnastics, like constant jumping and landing hard on your feet compacted my bones and caused you to be short. I just did not grow because of that. Due to my shortness kids began making fun of me. I mean it was ruthless, I actually still have not told too many people about what was said, I do not even know if my own parents know. Anyways, I became self-aware because a few pricks were terrible at school and decided to bully me because it gave them a sense of accomplishment, that they could get laughter or be accepted. This new found self-awareness threw me for a loop. It was hard to grasp who I was, and though I remedied the situation by attending a charter program, and I began doing the one thing a creative person should never do. I began to censor myself.

Censoring yourself can be very useful, like withholding words such as, “When is the baby due?” or “How is your Uncle doing?” only after realizing that the woman was just fat and the uncle has been dead for a few months. You probably thought you shouldn’t say anything, but your judgment got ahead of you and you went for it. That is an idea of correct censorship. I believe to live life to the fullest and to truly be happy is to stop having these unreal expectations that you can censor yourself, and to stop censoring yourself. I am still trying to figure this out. Honestly, it is a lot harder than one would think. A good friend of mine has been encouraging me to stay the way I am. By that he means, I tend to say random off handed comments that, with a dirty mind, can be taken the wrong way. With men we always joke about things like that. Any guy who says he doesn’t is lying, I digress. What I am saying is that I am very innocent of thought. I should not censor that, however because of my newfound self-awareness, I am very self-conscious about everything. So I try to change myself. That is not good. No one should ever try to change themselves because they are a certain way. God made you the way he made you.

Recently I have noticed that I have been censoring my feelings for people, for a girl, particularly. This girl is super pretty and I have become very self-conscious around her. I like her and yet, I get worried that she doesn’t feel the same way about me. However, I HAVE NOT TOLD HER HOW I FEEL. How can I expect her to respond if she likes me or not if I have not mentioned the fact that I like her? This is what I mean.

I pose the question, is censoring yourself the best way to get the desire of your heart?

Boundaries, Pt. 1

Being a young adult, and especially being introverted I have discovered the importance, and the NEED, to have healthy boundaries with people. Now many do not understand what boundaries are. In this nation, to me it seems, we have no idea how to have boundaries. People willy-nilly tell each other their deepest most personal secrets, or we like to flaunt our past mistakes; at one point in time, I know I did. There is a freeing sense with no boundaries. The problem is like a zoo with no boundaries, with no cages or no rules. Would you like to be in that predicament, letting every thought, every off handed comment, every single detail about you being out in the open for friends and loved ones to see?

Are Kids Growing Up too Fast, Part 2

Last week I posed the question, are kids growing up too fast? I am sure many of you have reasons, and this is the continuation.

I think many people have begged the question over the ages. I bet the generation before mine thought the same thing and so on and so forth. I think there is such a pressure for kids to grow up way too fast in this day and age. When a 13 year old is having sexual problems I didn’t have until I was 19, there is a serious problem there. So what is the issue? Why are they exceeding every other generation in areas like sex, drugs, alcohol, and language? Are the parents to blame?

Let’s focus on the parent thing for a second. I believe this could be part of the problem. More people becoming parents are starting that journey at such a young age. Shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, while they don’t glorify sex and motherhood, have had an influence on the youth of America. These children are becoming mothers at much younger ages before, albeit the Biblical times people were married off at that young; that was their culture. In this day and age those who have sex and/or a baby before they are 18 are considered skanky or slutty. It is just how it is. Yet we are moving away from that current trend. And these children becoming mothers, those who decide to keep the baby, are losing their childhood and thus cause problems with their parenting. While they may be trying to be the best parent they can be, sometimes, your best is not good enough.

Another point on parenting would be that there is not enough of it in this day and age. We have become a nation of working parents, dumping our children off on some poor college student or day care and expect these people to rear our children in the way that we want them to be. I have found that this leads to disconnect between the parent and their child. The child then acts out and loathes the parent, because they were never there. This forces a child to grow up physically too fast without the emotional side catching up. Many people in this day and age are emotionally immature with the bravado of being older than they actually are. I know this especially because I was one of the kids who grew up physically rather than emotionally.

Where do you feel you fit into this spectrum? Were you more emotionally mature or physically mature? How do you fix that? And how do we help future generations to feel as if they don’t need to grow up so fast.