Design 

A year ago I had no idea what I was doing. I was thrown into an opportunity that I had no formal training in and not getting trained in something for me was hard. I like guidelines, I like bullet points to what I need to achieve to do well in a role or project. But there was no bullet points, no checkboxes. I literally just had to be me. But it was hard because I see so many flaws in myself that the idea of being me was scary. So last year I did my job and interacted when I had to or if they they needed help. It was very hard for me to be me in front of them so I put on a facade and I tried not to let them see the broken me inside because I was afraid they’d find out how I really felt, fake. 
But this year, God moved mountains in my life. I’ve learned to embrace my flaws as who God designed me as. I’m not perfect, I never will be. I have a tendency to tell myself, “If I only talked more maybe people would like more. If I wasn’t so awkward maybe people would invite more to things and I’d have more friends. If I wasn’t so big maybe then I’d win a guy over. If I lost weight maybe then I’ll love myself.” I could go on, the criteria I put on myself to be able to accept myself is not God ordained, it’s pure evil. I could never obtain it. I’m seeking perfection when God says ‘no, you weren’t designed to be perfect. You weren’t designed not to have flaws, you weren’t designed to get everything right the first time. You were designed to love and to care for others. You were designed to teach others about my Son. You were designed to lead the way for young believers. You were designed to be you. But do you trust me enough to let me use the person I designed you to be? Or do you want to try to constantly aim for something you never hit and live a life we’re all you see are failures because the criteria of perfection is too high to be obtained?’

Don’t live a life of failure. Live of life full of grace and love. One of the hardest things for me is allowing myself to have grace, I’m the hardest person on myself, but there’s freedom found in it. Be who God designed you to be and allow him to mold you to be exactly who he made you to be. Trust in him. 

God’s Grace is Sufficient

Part of me doesn’t want to write this. Then another part tells me, I really need to and then I battle with why do I need to, no one needs to know…

I take this struggle and I mask it. I don’t want people to see because I’m ashamed of who it makes me or rather who I classify myself as with it.

Lately, I’ve been in, still am, in a deep depression. I have no motivation, ambition, willpower, love of my jobs or life, confidence, or anything. When I’m in this I tend to believe silence is better than talking. So I isolate.  

In isolation negative thoughts  over power any good. They dictate my value and my worth. I have sat in tears. I’ve laid in bed barely being able to move. Yet I refuse to let anyone close enough to know what’s going on. Then I convince myself no one cares. Yet I refuse to open my mouth. I refuse to let anyone inside. I refuse to show my weak side.

I think I can deal with it. I think I can make it on my own.  It’s like I’m in a pit but it’s too tall to get out without help, but yet I keep jumping attempting to reach the top to get out and I just exhaust myself. So with every failed attempt I just isolate into the corner of the pit more and more. I beat myself up calling myself a failure and worthless even though I will always fail by myself.

2 Corinthians 12:1-10 talks about Paul’s thorn in his side. After Paul begging the Lord to remove it, the Lord said “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (v. 9a) It goes on to Paul’s response of acceptance, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (v. 9b)

You see I can jump and jump and get nowhere. I can exude all my energy on my own effort. I can allow myself to accept my failures, my inabilities, my feelings. I can pretend this depression is not there. I can pretend that this thorn in my side by covering it up and masking it. But the Lord doesn’t want that. The Lord wants me to uncover it, to face it so that His grace can cover it.

Paul talks about boasting in weakness, why? Because like the Lord said, “my power is made perfect in weakness” meaning that I will never be cured of depression, regardless of medication, it will always be a battle, the thorn will always be there. But the question in the end is what is stronger? The Lord’s grace or my depression?  If I battle depression with the Lord, I am strong but if I battle with myself and isolate myself, I am weak. 

We are not meant to do life alone. We are not meant to battle things alone. We are not meant to isolate ourselves. Yet we all do it from time to time. 

The Lord is with us. God doesn’t abandon His children nor does He forsake them. We all have battles of different kinds. We all have thorns in the side. But we shouldn’t bask in it and just accept it. The enemy is sneaky and conniving. He will use your battles to keep you away from God. So don’t be silent. Don’t keep everyone out. Allow others in. Allow God in. Allow God to cover you with grace. Allow God to give you strength in your weakness.

Depression is real and it’s hard. If you battle it, seek help from others. Seek counseling. Seek medical help. You are not weak because you can’t battle it alone. You are strong because you admit where you are weak. 

Vulnerability: God Moments

So recently I’ve battled the question, “Where’s God?”. I didn’t feel him. I longed for a glimpse and connection but I didn’t have it. I read the Word of God but the words just felt like words in a book. Sermons were just someone talking. My bible study was just painful rectorial questions asked over and over again. Prayers just seemed empty.

So I pondered if God forsake me even though according to scripture I knew he wouldn’t. I pondered if I could hold on to the daily routine I had that felt worthless and useless. I pondered my faith, my devotion, my life to Christ. I pondered it all. God was so silent.

But the more I dug into what was wrong I realized it was me. I was the problem. I wasn’t vulnerable, I wasn’t letting people in anymore. I closed the doors on myself. I put my walls backup and I checked out mentally and spiritually. I didn’t let people see me struggle, depressed, anxious, or stressed. I showed up and got the job done and left.

The other day I sat down and I wrote out how I was feeling…and then I began a part of where I began to make excuses to just leave Baltimore and start my life over, at that very moment someone walked through the door. And then later as I continued to write, the youth program weighed on my heart.  

Over this past week, I got to witness this teen girl accept Christ into her heart and life. Then on youth night that same girl pull me aside and tell me her life story and her struggles. Where I  opened up abour my story. Then it was lunch with this girl and more in depth conversation about what’s she’s going through and talk about Jesus. 

All this time I see myself in this girl. I see my struggles I went through at her age. I see the struggles I still face today through this girl. 

Late tonight she reached out to me again. She asked if hiding her feelings was okay. I began to tell her the truths of what Jesus says and I told her my testimony in that area. God is present. God is listening. As I wrote out my response to her, God was reminding me of his truths, of His love, of His plans and purpose for my life. He was pouring this on to me so I could pour it out to her.

My purpose in my life is to be a vessel. To show people the love of Jesus, the love of God , to show them a redeemer, a savior. To show them that they are not alone in this life. 

God gave me a story to share. I didn’t go through my life for just my sake. I went through it for moments like I’ve had this past week and for future moments I have yet to see.

Nailing the Nail in Deeper

It’s Easter time so it’s time for bunnies, eggs, and candy, but most importantly it’s time for Jesus.
It’s time to celebrate his resurrection from the dead. It’s time to celebrate the victory of all victories, the victory of death itself. But he had to die first. 

He had endure torture, he didn’t deserve. He had to endure pain like no other pain. Those nails had to pierce through his flesh and bones. 

So many of us stop Christianity there. We stop and we want the resurrection but we don’t want to face the killing of Jesus head on. We don’t want to face what Jesus actually died for.

He died for our transgressions. He died for our sins. He died so we wouldn’t have to. He died for you and he died for me. But the problem is every time we walk that path of flesh and we give into that sin we are nailing the nail in deeper. 

Every time we put a little pride behind our speech, every time we are a little bitter to that co worker, we are nailing the nail in deeper, crushing him, killing him little by little. 

Some of you maybe thinking “But that’s what grace is for”. Yes, but it neglects that fact that you hang Jesus every time you sin. It neglects the fact that God doesn’t call us to live in sin. He doesn’t say “it’s okay to sin now”. He calls us out of sin. He calls us to glorify him, we can’t do that if we are sitting there trying to pull Jesus off the cross before he even died because all we want is the end result of forgiveness.

Jesus bleed out to heal us. He can’t heal us if we don’t give him all of us because if there is still a part of you in this world, then there is still a chance for infection, for the enemy and sin to engulf  over your life. Which means every day is a battle. Which means that some days you will nail the nails in deeper, but you cannot sit there and keep nailing it in, you need to take a step back and examine yourself to see what part of your flesh you have to give over to Jesus.

Forgiveness 

The other day an unexpected thing happened. One of my closest friends through high school and college contacted me. 

I had put her in a category of “not worth trying” and “I’ve been hurt far too many times”, but this time after two years of hardly any communication seemed different. There was urgency behind it. There was purpose.

She knew me when I didn’t know Christ. Shortly after she invited me to church and I began to get involved and walk with the Lord, our friendship diminished. God set our paths apart from each other, regardless of how much hurt in the moment, God had a plan. 

His plan was for us to meet again at a coffee shop years later. We sat together like old times laughing with each other. But this time we had a meeting with a purpose. The topic, forgiveness. As the memories began rushing back, as things were mentioned, the hurt never did and for that I am thankful. But the moment, “I’m sorry” peirced the lips of an old friend, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. A weight I didn’t know I was carrying. The beauty is it didn’t matter what she said , it didn’t matter if she mentioned every little detail because I knew she had a genuine heart. I got a chance to let her know that not only that I forgave her but I got to ask forgiveness as well. It was an amazing moment, a freeing moment.

We all go around life carrying burdens, stresses, regrets, resentments, and just plan unforgiveness. But God doesn’t call us to hold on to them. He calls us to give them over to Him. When we don’t let him handle them it can bury us. It can have us turn towards to our old ways, our addictions, something that just makes us feel better in the moment.

Our friendship was pruned, so we could build it back up in Christ. I am excited to see if God decides to have it blossom again. If not, I am thankful for it leading to me Christ. I am thankful for a friend who never gave up on me. 

Forgiveness is freedom.

The Mission

Imagine what life would be like without the device you are holding. What would life look like?

What would this life look like without social media?

What would life look like if weren’t trying to get that perfect shot?

Sadly, we will never know. Social media is a way of life. It’s not a fad but a way for us to “connect”, or brag about our lives to other people. It’s a way for us to share our views and hide behind a screen. It’s one of the ways we can spread the Gospel. It’s one way we can share the good news of Jesus. Yet, we would rather share an inappropriate post, take a selfie, and/or share our opinions about fad topics or politics.

Now let’s image life with social media, but with every person who calls themselves Christian, sharing and reflecting Jesus in their post, actions, and interactions. How would social media be different, sure you may get some blocked people for being that “crazy Christian”, but for the four or more other people who may have been having a bad day who read your post, maybe you planted a seed or watered one.  Maybe you made their life just a tad bit better because they saw something in you, the Light. 

This may never happen. But imagine what God could do through us if we all aligned with his mission and lived it out personally, socially, and corporately. If we lived out God’s will and not our own. If we aligned our hearts with God everyday, not just when it’s convenient or when there’s someone else to see you do it.

Reflect God in your everyday life. Let the light weave through your posts. Because it is only then when people learn about new life in Christ, it’s where they learn that there is a God who loves them unconditionally, it’s where they learn that they are not alone in this world, it’s where they learn who Jesus is and what he died for.

Love your neighbor… even if you don’t always agree.

Shackles 

We all know that God breaks out chains, right? He frees from everything, because this world isn’t out home. He frees from our past because we are no long bond to it. We no longer have to let our past and our failures depict who we are. He claims us as His sons and daughters. 

But how many of us rush back to put the shackles back on ourselves? You can say none, but think about that addiction to whatever you have or had, let be food, alcohol, porn, drugs, anything. At first when God opened your heart, you realized it was wrong so you gave it up and you stayed away. But how long did it last?

A year? A day? Maybe even 5 or 10 years? And then that moment of temptation hits at the moment where you are stressed and down and you give in just that once.  You feel guilty, sinful, and comepltely unforgiveable in that moment. But then you remind yourself God will forgive me because He already has. You convince yourself you’re okay and it won’t happen again. THEN the next time of giving into temptation came a little sooner than last time, and the pattern just keeps going.

The thing is we do it ourselves. We put the shackles of sin back in our lives. We let that temptation dictate our moves instead of God. We let our own sinful self get in the way of true freedom from God.  But the thing is the shackles aren’t locked, we can walk away at any moment but we don’t and they will just keep getting tighter and tighter the more we give in to our addiction and temptation.

But what if we instead of turning away from God to hide our sin nature in times of stress, depression, and worry, what if we turn towards to God? Temptation will always happen, but instead of giving in, open your bible. Instead of giving in call someone. Instead of giving in pray. 

Your mind is powerful. If you create a system in to battle temptation that comes in front you, you will combat it. But you have to be willing to not only give it up for now, but completely. You have to be willing to talk about that darkness of temptation to other people. You have to be willing to walk away from the shackles of sin and not look back. If you don’t you will hold yourself captive there. 

Don’t be held captive in chains that were broken once. Find yourself a path to get out, because God already created it for you, you just have to find the right one.