Baltimore’s Hope

Baltimore, you hurt my soul. The one thing I have learned over these past few months is that it doesn’t cost a thing to make a difference in someone’s life. It doesn’t cost a thing to tell someone you are cheering for them. It doesn’t cost a thing to tell someone you believe in them. It doesn’t cost a thing to tell someone there is hope. It doesn’t cost a thing to tell someone about the love God has for them. It doesn’t cost a thing to pray for or with them. But we don’t.
 
We don’t go out in the inner city and tell those kids we are there for them. We don’t go out and tell those kids who had no choice in the situation they are in to tell them there is hope. We don’t go out and encourage them and show them the love God has for them. We don’t do it. Why?
 
We believe it’s someone else’s job. God appointed special people for it. But let me tell you, do you know how much Baltimore would be different if we put down our pride and took up our cross and followed him into where he cries out? If we laid down our lives to better those around us.
 
There are lost people everywhere, all around us. But my heart breaks for those kids in the city most of them are unaware what they are even going through. Their normal is our nightmare. Yet we expect their outcome to be the same as ours.
 
You have no idea what they go through. I haven’t even gotten past the surface and all I want to do is cry out to God and ask why. There is hope. We are the hope. We are the ones God called to love this city. Love cannot be poured out if it is not poured in. We can make a difference. You can make a difference.
 
I love my church because we have a ministry in East Baltimore. We have the light of Jesus shinning. But they can’t change the city by themselves. They can’t share the gospel with every kid in the city. But He doesn’t just call his church to his kids, he calls you and me to give hope and to show love to these kids. He calls all of us. If we all put the plow to the ground we can give hope and show love to these kids and start to show them a better a future just by taking time out of our schedule, embracing them and encouraging them. 

The Seed

2006. My first true freshman year of college. I was at High Point University. A university I never actually applied to because we couldn’t afford to pay the application fee. But I got the letter anyway.

Anyway, it was my first time being away from family. My first time I felt true “freedom”. I went into college as political science major, my dream at the time was to be lawyer. So since I knew I would stressed out, I decided to do the thing that would ease anxiety and stress, sing. I joined a group called University Singers at my college. We would sing at events and one time we event went to NYC to sing at a church. It was an unforgettable experience. I’ve never had experienced anything like that before.

In University Singers was this amazing young woman, Stephanie. There was something different about her. She was handicapped but she didn’t let it stop her. She shared her faith with me when I didn’t want to hear it. In my mind the only thing I could think about was “I wonder what I’m doing on Friday night? Whose having a party?” I didn’t care at the time what she was saying but my soul cared because it longed to be like hers. It envied her.

That year I was almost suspended from school because I was caught drinking and completely wasted throwing up in women’s bathroom in my dorm. And It wasn’t the first time. I talked my way out of the suspension and a large fine by getting community service and a minimal fine. But even through that Stephanie never gave up on me, I would tell her what I did and she didn’t care. She loved me through it. Something different.

My glimmer of light and hope shattered suddenly. Stephanie passed away unexpectedly. I can’t say it shattered my world because I was more focused on me and my fleshly desires. But it opened my eyes. The school did a dedication to her so the University Singers got up and sang a few of her favorite songs. I Can Only Imagine was one of them. This song resinated in my soul and every time I heard it, I cried. I had no real idea of what the song was about but my soul cried for it.

I transferred schools that year because I wanted to be “comfortable” next to friends. So I transferred schools to Lynchburg College. My flesh took over full fledge and hatred for Christianity began to stir up inside of me. I would debate it until my face was blue. I had all the answers. I would mock it. I would be mean to anyone who believed in it. I was an unpleasant person.

There were times I would listen to the songs we song at her dedication because it took to a place I couldn’t let go of. These songs were her light shinning through. They were hope. But I hid them from everyone. I didn’t want to be a “softy” or a hypocrite. So I only would put it on when I was completely stressed to the max.

6 years after the seed was planted, I found Jesus. That hope they sing about was found. My soul that holding on to those words was home. I felt alive for the first time.

Life happens but it’s what you take away that’s important. People come and people go. But there are people who you might only see for a very short moments that will end up changing your life forever.

Love like Jesus. Live with your faith in your sleeve. Never give up hope. And always listen to the spirit inside of you. We are chosen, sons and daughters of a living God. This world is not our home. Our father has a place for us in heaven…. I can only imagine.

Picture of the Past

So tonight I can across a picture with my niece and me. I was watching her and then taking her to church the next day. However, behind the facade of my goofy face was a terribly hung over broken woman.

What my niece didn’t know is that the night before I went to celebrate my friends birthday. But I just kept drinking. I didn’t see a limit. I paid for it. I blacked out. People who “knew” me saw a side of me they hadn’t seen… but wait a few months prior they did. You see I did the same thing a few months earlier at a party. I was drinking and drinking and just not caring about me or anyone else. It was my escape from the darkness I was living in. It was my “high”.

The night with my niece hurt me. I could not offer the love, support, or even fun times. I couldn’t keep anything down. My insides and head were throbbing in pain. I was defeated.

The next day was church and my niece was so excited! I put on a happy face and we went. I never felt more like a lair or failure that day. Anytime someone would try to ask questions, I simply deflected them and just try to push through for my niece.

Later that night, after saying goodbye to my niece, I fell to my knees and I wept. I was still in pain, hungover, and broken. I remember screaming out to God in frustration because I was reliving my life before I got saved. I was moving backwards in faith of what felt like deliberately, because part of it was in my hands of control or at least I thought it was.

God changed my heart that night on those knees. He turned me around and covered me. He took those burdens, that shame from me and put it on himself. I surrendered that night to who I was and to be molded into who God designed me to be. That was three years ago today.

Alcohol was my drug of choice it was one of my secret sins that I didn’t want people to know about so it’s actually one of the hardest to talk about. Where I didn’t drink much, when I did it was ugly and nasty. I used to tell myself I drink because it makes me comfortable in my own skin or it allows me to be “me” because there is no filter. Let me tell you those are all lies the enemy tells you to convince you to have one more drink because the more we numb ourselves the more we focus on this world and our flesh. So I was never “me”, I was the ugly version of me because I was closer to the enemies mouth than my ear was to God’s voice.

Alcoholism is real. Drug addiction is real. Luckily there is help and hope. God states he will never abandon you nor forsake you. He has and will always love you. You are his Son or daughter. He cares for you. There is hope found in Jesus. He died so that you might live.

Redeemed Life

We are called to lived a redeemed life not a condemned life. 

Yet so many of us live inside ourselves and in our own little world. We start thinking God forgot about us, that God isn’t for us, that God doesn’t care about us. 

We begin to idolize this world and everything in it including ourselves. We put our needs and wants above others. We begin to think we are more important than everyone around us. We start knowingly sinning again and instead of immediately reprenting and turning away we begin to to tell ourselves “It’s okay, Jesus will forgive me.” It becomes a cycle.

When we do this, we will feel abandoned by God. We will feel like God isn’t for us. We begin to rely on ourselves and our “feelings” to define the relationship with God. We allow our earthly standards define the word “relationship”.

We can’t define it. It is way above our understanding. God has been our sideline since the beginning of time. He has been cheering us on since before our name was ever mentioned. God didn’t leave us. God didn’t abandon us. God is for us and will never be against us. Through every hill and every valley he is there. He is with us every step we take and every breathe breathed. 

So if we sit here and live as if we are of this world than we will live a condemned life. We will live like there is no hope, no light, no freedom. We will live as if Jesus never walked this earth and died for us. We will live for ourselves. 

But God calls us out of bondage, guilt, and shame. He calls us to follow him, so that we live our lives for him not for ourselves. We are to be the light, and tell people about the hope and love found in Jesus. We are to showcase Jesus and put him on display. We are to live a redeemed life because Jesus redeemed us. 

God will never abandon his children, even if you feel as though he has. God will forever love us even more than we can ever love him. Live as though Jesus is alive and active because he is, He lives in us. 

Dwelling in the Past 

20 years ago my life was altered. It was shattered into tiny pieces, some getting lost along the way. My Poppop died 20 years ago after a battle with leukemia.

I remember where I was when I heard the news, alone. I was downstairs trying to hold it together. I swollowed the sadness and held it in, even though I wanted to just run away or even die myself.  My life was ruined. I was only 10 years old. 
You see I walked the journey with him. I held his hand has he fought the cancer. I went to most doctor visits and always was there with him in and out of the hospital. If no one was allowed to go, I was the exception. Yet, I couldn’t save him. I couldn’t fight it for him as much as I wanted to. 

I saw every up when the cancer would go into remission and he acted like himself again. I got so hopeful every time. And every time I would be heartbroken when I saw him getting worse. I remember being so angry at God for not healing him. 

I saw every low when his flesh became so pale, his skin so cold. I remember seeing the look on his face when he knew we would never see each other again. I remember that last hug he gave. I didn’t want to let go. 

Poppop died a few days after I last saw him. We were taken out of town to see other family. Honestly, it probably was on purpose so we didn’t see him die literally before our eyes. 

I still remember thinking his death was my fault. I took the blame and shame onto myself. “If only I…” just kept repeating in my head even though I knew I couldn’t stop the cancer.

Today I went back to a place where he underwent his cancer treatments. It was a very freeing experience. I wasn’t there for mourning, I wasn’t there to have the memories flood. I was there for a friend. I was there because it’s where God brought her to undergo observation and where God ultimately led me to. It’s no coincidence that God brought me back to where I lost myself over 20 yeas ago.  

God always has a plan, even if the outcome isn’t in our best interest. My Poppop might have died. I might have lost myself in that and defined myself by that, but it makes me no less of the person I am today because of that.  

I wouldn’t be who I am if I never went through the storm. So I can sit here and try to say a part of me died that day but really it was God ultimately using that to define my path and my story.  God’s not done with me. He’s not done with you. 

Meeting you at the point

In Genesis 22, Abraham was to sacrifice his son after God told him to do so. But the beauty is when they go to altar, God showed up. God had Abraham free his son and provided a ram to be sacrificed in his place. God met Abraham in the place after he placed a calling on him and Abraham was following through.

God will meet you where he called you, just not on your timing. I’ve been struggling with faith, I’ve been struggling on whether this life is what God has called me to do, I’ve been struggling with connection with God, I’ve been struggling with a relationship with God. It’s been rough. It’s been battles with the enemy, internal struggles and some very dark days. God promises me he will never leave me nor forsake me. He promises he will always love me and he is working all things for good for those who love him.
But I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to hear the goodness of God. It was as if I put myself in this box and the enemy decided to trap me in there and tried convinced me that God had forgotten me, and repeatedly told me if he truly called me then I wouldn’t be going through this pain. But all this time, God was out there telling me to hold on because I had to endure this moment to get to where God wanted me but I couldn’t hear him over the words of the enemy. I was right where the enemy wanted me, trapped in my own thoughts.

But I was set free. You see there was this moment I had to pull over and allow tears to just flow down my face and be broken before God. At this very point was the point at which God met me. I yelled. I screamed at God. But a peace had come over me. It was in that moment that I knew I was free and all I had to do was let go. 
God will meet you where he wants you. Today I walked into church with more happiness and joy than any Sunday over the last few months. I got to serve Jesus today and for that I am thankful. 

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.