Jump In

In a few hours I am going to be picking my girlfriend up from the airport. We have a long-distance relationship so these moments are pretty special. You can imagine, after not seeing her for quite some time, I find myself running to her. Everyone in the airport probably thinks I am crazy. But I don’t care. Why? Because when you love someone no one else matters but them.

The last few days, John 21:7 has been on my mind…

So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.

In this verse, Peter was informed of Christ’s presence. Immediately, the love he had for Christ overcame him. He could not wait for the boat to reach land. He jumped right in and swam towards the Lord.

In this moment, his impatience became virtue. He was flooded with a zeal for being with His Lord and Savior.

Today, you may find yourself in a similar boat (hehe).

Maybe not a fishing boat, but maybe the boat of being a teacher, physician, student, brother, sisters, or friend. How often in this boat, do you see the Lord but wait to go to Him? How often are you afraid of the unknown in the water, so you neglect to jump in?

When Peter took the leap he did not care. He was not afraid that he would drown. He did not think about how dirty the water could be. He did not think of how deep it was nor if there were any creatures in there. Peter readied himself and leapt.

Friends, I encourage you today to take a leap for Christ. Allow His love to fill your hearts as to banish all your fears. Keep your eyes focused on Him as you paddle to shore. Strive to live love. Love so ferociously that you become a lighthouse for God.

We must transfer this leaping into our relationships with others. Leap off the boat for the people in your life.

Disregard yourself and put them before you.

Leap off the boat for the poor, the lonely, the sorrowful, the faint of heart, and I know…you will find God.

 

 

 

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You Are So Ugly

Ugly- (adj) unpleasant or repulsive, especially in appearance 

 

There are a lot of bad words in the English language. Many of these words will leave a sting if they are directed at someone else. The word ugly has developed into a very hurtful word. I can argue that it is one of the worst. If someone has ever called you ugly you probably never forgot it or ever will.

To have our appearance attacked feels like an attack on identity. It feels as if name callers  dislike of your outer shell determines what kind of person you have been to the world. I pray that if anyone has verbally attacked you on your appearance to your face or behind your back that you have recovered from the pain.

 

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We live in a society where we are so quick to fix our outer appearance when others find it distasteful. We do all we can to control it and change how people perceive us.

“I don’t like that shirt on you”….“I’ll change it”

“You are so pale”….“I’ll go tan”

“I think you would look cuter as a blonde”….”I’ll dye my hair.”

“Her nose is giant”...I’ll fix it.

“He is so scrawny”…I’ll go work out.

 

The way we talk about others illustrates how much we as humans place appearance on a pedestal.

Is he or she attractive?

What do they look like? Tall? Short?

 Locker room talk: scale of 1-10?

 

When others dislike our external appearance we want to please them. We want to have no blemishes.

If that is the case…

 

Why do we choose sin?

There will always be people in the world that perceive you as ugly. They will not find you attractive. They will call you names. They will laugh at you. You have no control of this fact.

However, each time we sin we are turning very ugly. Each time we turn our backs on God we are leaving the beauty of the light and falling into the muddy pit of darkness. We are staining our souls.

If your neighbor could see your sins painted on your body like muck would it matter how attractive you are? Would it matter if you are tall, short, fat, skinny, etc?

When we talk about others let physical appearance not be the bulk of conversation.

How about?

What has he or she done for the community?

What makes this individual unique?

How has this individual brought you closer to Christ?

When we look in the mirror we critique our appearance. Prayer is very similar. Through prayer God allows us to see the sin in our lives we can STOP.

The question I pose to you today is this:

 

When you leave your body behind will your soul be beautiful?

 

Friends, we are all so ugly at times. We are humans in a flesh-centered world. The good news is that through Christ we are made clean. Our stained souls are washed anew.

Here is a quote from baseball great Yogi Berra after someone made fun of his appearance.

“So I’m ugly. So what? I never saw anyone hit with his face.”

Our looks means nothing. Our external shell is short-lived. Let us focus on the appearance of our souls.

We need to build souls that do not strike out.

We need beautiful souls that hit home runs for the Kingdom.

 

Do I Trust You?

I was driving back home from a spring break trip to my friend’s university in Pennsylvania.

The drive from home to my friend’s school was easy. It was pretty much a straight shot. I set the cruise control and jammed out to my music for 2.5 hours.

However, the ride home was a bit different. It had been snowing all night and was still snowing when I started driving. The roads were slick. My car was sliding. My GPS said it would be about a three hour drive.

At one point during the drive the GPS took me on a different route. I was driving through cities in Pennsylvania and New York that I never knew existed. I was scared I was headed the wrong way, so I looked at the GPS a few times. But, overall I trusted the technology. It would guide me home.

After about three hours the towns started to look familiar. The snow had stopped and I made it.

_________________________________________

 

When I reflected on my trip a question arose:

How could you put all your trust in the GPS to guide you

but not God.

I let the GPS take me to places that were unfamiliar. Quite frankly, I was out of my comfort zone. But I trusted. The robotic voice was my serenity. The more I heard the voice the more relief I felt.

When God takes me to places unfamiliar….places that take me out of my comfort zone

Do I trust Him? 

Do I listen to His voice and feel peace? 

Do I thank Him when I am guided home?

 

Who or what do you place your trust in…

 

When the roads are slick.

When the snow of this earth blinds you.

When you feel lost.  

 

Maybe, the reason we are so quick to trust technology and other things earthly is because it is easy.

We plug in our location and follow the directions.

Technology is a matter of our convenience.

However, with God we must let go of our own desires. We must persevere in prayer and train our ear to listen to the language of God. We must take hold of the wheel, press the gas, and ask God where He wants us to go.

I can assure you that if we do this, He will guide us home.

“Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love, and the future to God’s providence.”-St.Augustine

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Girls Don’t Deserve Roses

To all my women readers,

In a few hours it will be Valentine’s Day. Ever since childhood, we have engrained images in our our minds about this special day.

Valentine’s day cards, chocolate, teddy bears, and especially roses.

Lots of pink and red everywhere.

The first couple years of college, I thought about how special this day was for a lot of girls all over campus (some do not care much for it). I knew the feeling of being noticed and getting flowers meant so much to certain girls that did not have a special someone in their life. Even as a guy I can empathize. To be given gifts and to be noticed feels good.

Gifts demonstrate acknowledgement. 

Gifts illustrate that someone cares.

Gifts make us smile. 

Therefore, for the last couple of Valentine’s Days, I decided to give many of the girls in my life flowers. Cause why not right? Not necessarily in a romantic way (well, maybe a few) but just to show them that someone cared on this day. I loved seeing them smile. I loved making it a surprise. I loved letting them know someone was thinking about them on Valentine’s Day.

However, my attitude has changed this year.

This year I will not be buying flowers.

This year I have developed a new motto,

“Girls Don’t Deserve Roses.”

Before anyone gets angry at me…let me explain.

I am not anti-rose. I think flowers make a beautiful gift.

As I sit with friends and joke about the Bachelor every once in a while a sadness strikes me. I observe all of these beautiful women stare at a single rose that this guy Nick is holding. The way in which they stare is as if the rose is the last antidote and they are ill. When they do not receive the rose I can see their hearts shatter.

They feel rejected.

They feel lonely.

They feel like they messed up.


As I reflect on this, it is very much like Valentines Day. Some women in my life I know will feel hurt tomorrow because they do not receive a flower or gift from a man in their life. Others may not care at all. However, to the one’s that it does impact they may feel as though they are not attractive. They may feel like something is wrong with them. They may even feel like they did something to deserve loneliness.

I am here to tell you today that girls do not deserve roses:

Girls deserve much much more.

As we see in the Beauty and the Beast roses die. Roses and other gifts are a great way to show appreciation but to me….that is to easy.

I want to and I hope all men want to live in such a way to show all the women in our lives that they deserve so much….every.single.day.

To all my women readers.

You are worth more than a few petals and a stem.

You are worth more than a few chocolates.

You are worth more than a nicely written card.

I encourage you to wait for a man who keeps on giving gifts. Each and every day.

The gift of treating you like a best friend. 

The gift of listening to you.

The gift of having deep conversations with you.

The gift of cheering you up.

The gift of being there for you, praying with you, praying for you, etc. 

Girls. You do not deserve roses. You do not even deserve a bouquet.

You deserve gifts that won’t wilt.

I Am In Love.

Love.

Such a powerful word.

#Romantic

A few months ago I was listening to a talk on love. I am pretty sure it was a sermon from Francis Chan. Anyway, throughout the talk Francis Chan said something along the lines of:

“When we are in love we do crazy things for others. Girlfriends, family, friends, etc. So, what about for God? If we love Him, would we do crazy things for Him. Would we give up our current comfortable lives?”

Then I felt the punch in the gut feeling coming…

I thought:

“What radical things do I do for God?”

“If He called me to do things that appear crazy to the world…would I do it? Has He already…and I haven’t listened?”

 

I consider myself a pretty adventurous person. I like taking risks. I like showing my affection for others by helping them in times of need. I like doing acts big or small to show my appreciation.

What would I do if someone I loved/admired/cared about needed me now?

If one of my siblings called me and said they needed me. I would drive two hours to the airport. Get on a plane. And be home for them. I’d skip class. I’d miss tests. 

If my upset friend needed to talk to me at 3:00 in the morning…and I was dead asleep. I would get up, drive to their apartment, and we would talk. 

If a girl I had a crush on lived a few hours away, I would drive those 2.5 hours just to see her for a few hours. (true story by the way). 

 

So....what radical things are you doing now because you love God? 

As I reflected on this question I was not really sure. I felt as though God was calling me to love him deeply.

But how? What does radical love look like?

I think it is really interesting that when we do radical things out of love it is considered romantic, selfless, and pure awesomeness. For example, think about all those crazy marriage proposal videos. Guys go out of their way and put so much time and effort in order to make it perfect. Why? Because they love their soon to be bride so much. There is nothing wrong with that at all. Quite frankly, I plan on being one of those guys one day. Get ready future Mrs. Bellacicco.

Furthermore…

We need to remember that as a Christian sometimes doing things because we love God appears crazy. Loving God does not look romantic at all.

Calling on him in prayer, helping someone that the world has said don’t go near, talking with strangers, maybe even going across the world to help the poor.

Loving God radically is through vulnerability.

 

Loving God radically is by sacrifice.

 

Loving God radically is by prayer.

 

Loving God radically is by service.

 

Loving God radically is by listening. 

 

We need to remember, that unlike marriage proposals loving God can be viewed under a negative light in the world.

So, how do I do radical things to show my love for God. Well, radical does not necessarily mean big acts. Each time we do something for our neighbor we are loving God radically. Friends, today I encourage you to do something a little radical to show your love for your neighbor and the Big Man Upstairs.

Write a note of appreciation to a friend, coworker, stranger.

Call someone and tell them how much they mean to you.

Hug a friend who has been down lately.

Send a small gift of appreciation to a parent.

Listen with an open heart to the story of a hurting stranger.

Smile at a stranger.

Pray for a friend.

Pray with a friend.

As St. Mother Theresa said,

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

So, yes. Today, I shout from the rooftops. I am in love with God. 

Will you shout it with me?

If so….

Now it is time to show the world you are on fire with His love. 

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Acknowledgment

A few days ago, I was sitting outside of a classroom at Baylor University. A girl who I know, though not very well, smiled at me as she walked passed. She looked as if she was going to say something, but I looked away. I had smiled back but still kept my headphones on and did not say a word. After she had turned the corner I yanked my headphones off and turned off my cellphone. I sat there and reflected for a few minutes.

I thought, “Nick, what is wrong with you?”

I’m sure anyone who is reading this is asking yourself:

Why was he so hard on himself?

Did he have a crush on this girl? 

What song was it?

This was a girl I had met once a few years ago. I did not have a crush on her. We were basically strangers.

So why was I so frustrated?

A few reasons that all relate to the topic of acknowledgment.

What does it mean to fully acknowledge another human being?

Relationships and communication are at the heart of humankind. Whether it be friendship, romantic relationships, or family, at the center of our connection with one another is acknowledgement.

To acknowledge another lets the individual know that:

1. They exist.

2. They matter.

3. They are loved.

We seem to think there is a time and a place to acknowledge others. We are so quick to put our headphones on as we walk from class to class and building to building. A few years ago I saw students doing this all the time. I was so perplexed by it. I would ask myself, “Why are they shutting themselves off from conversations?”

In my favorite book of all time Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury describes the use of seashells in ears. It always amazed me that he “foretold” the phenomena of headphones and how it would impact acknowledgement. Though at first against it, I started following the headphone trend. I thought maybe listening to some good music would help jump start my day. Maybe, a great pump up song would keep me motivated and happier. This little example has taught me that the best way to feel true joy is to form relationships with others.

When I have a test and I see a friend walking to class I’m too focused on myself to converse.

When I am stressed out I close myself off to the world around me.

When I am angry I do everything I can to avoid people.

Isn’t it funny that when we are filled with joy we seek to be around others not hide from them?

So, why was I so mad at myself a few days ago?

Because acknowledgment is at the core of Christianity. 

We must remember that acknowledgment does not relate to convenience. As Christians it is our duty and belief to love God and love others. In order to do this we must be always willing to stop what we are doing and listen to the needs, desires, and dreams of humankind.

Acknowledgment is the stepping stone for loving others.

A message to that person I kinda sorta know but don’t really know because we haven’t been introduced but like we both know each other and what not

Everyone knows these people. The people we see on campus all the time, at the store, in line at Starbucks ALL THE TIME. Yet, they are strangers. But, are they really? I always have trouble in situations when dealing with “strangers”.

The extroverted side of me (so 99% of it) wants to say something.

The extroverted side of me wants a new friend. 

The extroverted side of me wants to put an end to this mutual awkwardness. 

 

However, I usually don’t do anything about it. The 1 percent holds me back.

 

That 1 percent is scared that the individual is not as observant as me. 

That 1 percent is scared that maybe the person will think I am weird. 

That 1 percent is scared that I won’t know what to say.

Basically, my lack of action is all derived from fear.

I remember reading an interview with JK Rowling. She was asked about her favorite virtue. JK Rowling said that it was courage. If you read the Harry Potter series or watched the movies you know that courage is embedded throughout the entire work. At first I was really confused as to why JK Rowling picked this virtue. Lately, it started to make some sense.

After thinking about it, courage is truly one of the most beautiful virtues. Why? Because it is an agent for change.

Courage DOES.

It is an active virtue. It is a virtue that attacks fear head on and says…

“YOU DON’T CONTROL ME.” 

It is a funny thing to think about how we all start out as strangers. Even to our own parents…we come into the world as a stranger. Over time we begin to meet new people and build relationships. Our friends were once just another kid in our class. Our professors were once just heartless lecturers. Our romantic interests were just dreams.

I write this letter as an encouragement to anyone out there to talk to a stranger today. Do not let your fear prevent you from finding a best friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, mentor, etc.

By acting on the virtue of courage we are building relationships. By our interactions with others on our campus, community, and the world we are showing love to one another. Through introducing ourselves we are saying, “I notice your existence.” By talking with a stranger you are saying, “Let me hear your story.”

In the era of the smart phone it is so easy to look down, to look away, and to fake a call.

Today, I encourage you all to slip your phone in your jean pocket, take a breath to fill your lungs, turn towards the person you kinda sorta know, and say….

“Hi I’m___________.”

Now, the story begins.