Waking Up

Tonight, storms are rolling through, the first real storms we’ve had around here in a while. It’s great to sit in the quiet and listen to the thunder roll on. Makes for a good night of reflection, and it helps me to really¬†think about where I’m at in life and where I’d like to be. That’s what tonight’s post is shaping up to be (in case you’re not at all interested).

In the town I’m living in, it’s easy to be discontent. There are hardly any jobs out here, aside from plant and factory jobs, and there seems to be some dark cloud of religious oppression settled over the entire region. You see it in the way a lot of churches here are ran, and in the way people have settled. Settled for “good enough,” for “at least I don’t do that,” and for “well, I said that prayer that one time.” And that’s interesting, considering the Christian college sitting right outside downtown.

I can feel myself falling into that same trap. The easy way out is for me to blame it on the town I’m in, but I think that’s a cheap shot. The real reason is that I’m starting to give up on a lot of things. On being a worship pastor, on being freed from sin areas in my life, and on realizing my own potential. I guess I’ve just lost my grip on the person I wanted to become, on the things that, at one time, made me come alive. Can you relate?

Well, I’ve recently been given the biggest gift of grace I’ve ever received in my life, apart from salvation. And, if you know me, you know that’s saying a lot. She’s an unbelievable person, but we’ll save that for another post :) The point is, she’s helping me to remember who it is I wanted to be at one time, and she doesn’t even realize it.

So here’s to not settling, to waking up every morning with excitement in my heart for the things of God and to living a life of meaning, purpose, and passion. It’s time to reclaim the direction God has for me and start bringing life to His people, whatever that may look like for me.

“Father, thank you for your unending grace in my life. Help me focus on what is positive instead of bitterly clinging to what is negative. Help me overcome sin areas in my life and forgive those who have wronged me. Help me remember how incredible life can be if I just give it a chance, and help me treat the people around me with the kind of honor, respect, and integrity that honors You.”

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Reaching

There are times when, in the midst of confusion, misunderstanding, and uncertainty, Father reaches down, lifts up our eyes, and washes over us a sense of peace and hope. This can’t be found in anything other than God, I’m convinced of that.

The next time your car breaks down, or your spouse says something unkind, someone at work discourages you, or you’re made to feel lesser than everyone else, remember that Father is here, He is listening, and He will see you through.

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Proud

Something interesting happens when we’ve been through a “rough patch,” I think. Somehow, in the midst of being ridiculed, slandered, misunderstood, and accused, it’s like there’s this new person forming in us, totally silent until one day we realize, “Wow. I’m different that I used to be.” And this is a good thing! For myself, this moment occurred just a couple months ago.

I realized that somehow, in the middle of all my stuff, someone new had taken the place of who I used to be. That confused, insecure, “I have something to prove” guy somehow disappeared and was replaced with someone new. And this new guy took responsibility for his actions, owned up to his mistakes and moved on to something better.

But what happens when other people don’t? What happens when you’re branded by the people around you and held to the guy you were instead of the one you’ve become?

Well, that’s easy. Hold your head up and keep walking, because everyone makes mistakes. And for anyone who doesn’t get that, well, their moment will probably come someday, too. We all have slip-ups; that’s a given. What separates us is how we handle¬†ourselves afterward.

And I can say with confidence that I handled my mistakes with the most honor and integrity I could muster. So there’s the lesson. Handle your slip-ups with integrity and be confident in that. Then, you can walk with your head held high and the knowledge that God, despite your mistakes, is proud of you.

And that is worth everything.

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Grace to Grace

Sometimes it seems like I live my life “from grace to grace,” moving from one place of redemption to another. This is the beauty of the gospel; God never tires of pouring His compassion on us and showering us with the mercy of love that keeps us truly alive.

But sometimes, I get a vision of a life free from the bondage of sin, the things that displease God and those things that try to keep me distant from His love. It’s a curious life we live as Christians, because living in God’s love isn’t something we can attain through striving. We simply have to let it be. And this is something I’m learning more and more each day; I must surrender myself entirely to the will of God, embrace everything that God has made me to be, and resist the temptation to measure myself by the world’s standards.

I must fight to be the kind of guy who embraces faithfulness, strength, and self-sacrifice above pleasure, worldly stimulation, and self-interest.

And, uh, I should start writing here more often.

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He is Dreaming Over Us

Sometimes, in all our hoping and praying and fighting to be something bigger, we get a glimpse of One who is the biggest, most powerful of all. One who looks at us with eyes full of hope. And it is in these moments I am brought to my knees. There are times I’m so overwhelmed, so completely overtaken by the wonders of God, that all I can do is close my eyes and say “Thank you.”

It’s this very God who is right now, this very moment, breathing air into your lungs, whispering hope into your broken places, and dreaming over you bigger dreams than you can imagine. He is so desperate for you to be true, to be light, that he is passionately pursuing you despite your imperfections.

So, I say, have your moment with Him. In the quiet, think of who you have been in the past. Remember your sinfulness, remember where it led you, and then remember that God was there at the end of it all with nothing but love, forgiveness, and a purpose. He will bring you to higher places, and He will triumph.

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Hidden Seasons

I’ve just finished reading part one of a book I was given, “Anonymous,” and I am happy to say I’ve found the very book I needed to.

Have you ever stumbled upon a book, or person, that just seemed to get it? It’s like I’ve thrown my hands up. “Finally!”

What I’ve learned from this book is simple. I think a list will relay it best:

1. I’m certainly in a “hidden” season. And I need to start appreciating it.

2. I must stop living for the excitement of the future and instead relish today. It’s hard to keep my eyes off that future book deal, worship album, hot wife, or whatever else I’m just so sure God has for me, but I must. Keeping focused on such things reveals a lot, and not much of it is good.

3. I miss writing. I should start back again.

4. I’ve not handled myself well in the past. Enough said.

It’s a lot to take in, but it’s so, so good. God is speaking, and I’m just now starting to listen. Pray with me, if you remember, for God to open my eyes to what He is doing in my life.

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New

The past couple months have been, er, difficult, to say the least. But, God is faithful, and I’m learning that patience, though difficult, can be very rewarding. Not that I’ve been patient, by the way. It’s just, I’ve now seen first-hand what it feels like to want more, expect more, and need more, only to have my hopes shattered. It happens to all of us, I suppose.

I also learned that going off your crazy pills too fast can really, really suck.

But the biggest lesson I’ve learned lately is that nothing can substitute a good community. I firmly believe God works best through His people, and when you don’t have those people around you, life gets a little darker. Well, a lot darker.

Let’s use myself as an example. Because of a couple bad decisions, and my honesty, I lost my home, my community, my school, my church, my direction, my everything. And it’s only recently, after throwing myself into a new circle of friends, that I’ve found healing. These are the people who’ve renewed my hope in Christ, pointed me toward the right Scripture, and shown me a true example of God’s forgiveness towards us. It’s great, and it shows just how important good community really is.

Remember that next time you’re with your friends. If they’re the type of people I just described, say thanks. Point it out. And if they aren’t, figure out a way to change it. And if you’re someone who doesn’t have a circle of friends at all, well, I know what it’s like. Find one. Be vulnerable. Take a risk. Throw yourself out there. You need it.

Brokenness

I think sometimes God will allow us to enter seasons of testing, dark times of searching and wandering, of hoping that all is not lost, when He will speak to us most clearly. That is, if only we would listen. I wonder if everyone doesn’t find themselves in a time like this at some point or another.

It’s as if we’re a silent club, isn’t it? There’s something spectacular about the way broken people are connected, as though something is lying just underneath the surface that only we can understand. It isn’t quite tangible, yet almost, and it can’t be described, but for those of us who’ve experienced real pain, it’s easy to find.

It’s in the eyes most of the time. Sometimes you’ll hear it in a word or phrase, or sometimes, like now, it’s in a blog entry. I think one of the most useful places I allow my brokenness to shine through is when I sing and lead worship.

I remember once, after I led, someone came up to me. She was walking towards me, and it looked like she was shaking. It wasn’t until she had grabbed my arm and I had looked into her eyes that I saw she was crying. She told me that I sang from a deeper place.

What I realized afterward was that brokenness connects people in a way more powerful than any well-written song, carefully planned worship set, or eloquently-given message could ever hope to.

It’s embracing our sin, the broken parts of our soul, and allowing them to humble us that will let Jesus shine through and bring God’s kingdom to earth. No more competing, no more trying to be “the best,” and no more believing the lie that we are great. Jesus said himself that only One is good, and I, for one, believe him.

It’s interesting to me that we aren’t taught to be meek and poor in spirit. If broken and desperate people were the ones whom Jesus sought after most, shouldn’t we strive for that? I’ll make it my goal to find that kind of humility, and I’ll do it all for the glory of God.

A good place to start, for anyone interested in becoming meek and poor in spirit, is by finding what makes you broken. Find it, and then soak in it and ask God to be glorified because of it. He will cleanse your soul, refresh your spirit, and send you off better than when you came: empowered, full, and useful for His kingdom.

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Been a While

The Holy Spirit keeps reminding me I haven’t spent real, quality time with Him in months. So, instead of writing something impressive and powerful, I’m going to soak in the presence and love of God.

When was the last time you let God love on you? Put in some headphones, turn up Jesus Culture, read the words of Jesus, and listen for His voice.

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Madly

This is one of my favorite worship songs. It’s so simple, but it’s central to the call of every Christian. I recorded this on a macbook with a good friend, Denise, who’d probably kill me if she knew I put this up. Oh well.

Madly (w Denise) by jasonstansel

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