Here is the truth.

Lately, I’ve been praying.

A pretty simple prayer.

“God, allow me to see the truth of who I am. Help me see myself the way You see me.”

Some people may never pray this prayer.

They may fully grasp they are a child of the One True King. They may understand that God died for them. They may see the beauty before they see their scars.

I am not one of those people. I lived in the illusion that I was for a long time. I didn’t see myself in the light of His eyes. I was persuaded by fears and failures to view myself through a clouded lens.

Today, specifically, God answered this prayer. For a moment, though brief, I believe I saw myself as He sees me.

I was sitting on the airport floor. It was in New York. The terminal was hot. There were people everywhere. My blood sugar was for sure low. I felt consumed by anxiety. I felt overwhelmed. I felt drained of everything.

Then out of nowhere came this probably 1.5 year old child. The kid wobbled through all these people. She looked at me and stopped dead in her tracks. All of a sudden her eyes lit up. She smiled from ear to ear and giggled. Time froze for a second for me. In that moment I knew that is exactly how my God views me. Just as that child saw me.

Friends, you may see your faults before your successes. You may feel lost at sea every single day. You may feel overwhelmed and consumed by your negative self talk, anxiety, depression, fears, etc. I encourage you to pray this simple prayer. Allow your current vision of yourself fade. Soon He will send you moments where, even if only for a second, you will see the truth of who you are.

Throw Me in the Furnace 

I’m struggling with something. 

And to be honest I never thought I was. 

In today’s society being a male comes with a lot of expectations. 

One of which is never being afraid. I have told myself my whole life that I am invincible, but deep down I know that is not the case. 

I was given a wake up call. Quite literally, the last few weeks. 

For about two weeks now, I have had numerous nightmares a night. Sometimes waking up in cold sweats. Sometimes trying to catch my breath. Sometimes immediately calling people I care about to calm me down. While I do hate nightmares, I am grateful because they have reminded me that I am not okay. My subconscious mind is restless and the dirtiness is rising to the surface. 

So what should I do now? Pray for courage. 

In Daniel 3 we see three men going against the King’s orders of worshipping the idol. They tell the King that if they are thrown in the furnace so be it. This is a Bible story that has always stuck with me since I was young. I think it has to do with the boldness. The ultimate trust. The three men’s ability to speak from their hearts. 

I think the coolest part of this whole story is not when the men say that God will save them, but rather that they will still love and serve the Lord even if He does not. 

Mic drop* 

How rad is that? They are so accepting of God’s will that courage naturally follows. They don’t have to ask for courage. It is right there waiting. 

I want me some of that. 

For courage to flow so easily from my mouth and my deeds. 

This isn’t to say I have no courage. I believe there have been moments in my life when I did not know where the courage came from. When I acted so quickly and without thought to do what is right. The point is I want that in every moment of my life. In order for that to happen courage needs to become a habit. 

This habit begins and ends with our relationship with the Lord. 

That was the part I was missing. I thought courage came from myself. Society has told me that all along. 

If you want to be courageous.

You need to be tough. 

You need to look fiere. 

You need to be physically strong. 

Friends, today I remind you that courage is a gift from God. A gift that only comes from our relationship with Him. 

Today I am asking God for courage to live my life according to His will. To not care what the people of the world tell me to do, say, or think. 

But to say back, “Throw me in the furnace. I am not afraid, for Christ is always with me.”

The Day the Light Turned On

On January 29th, 2017 my life changed dramatically in a mere 30 minutes. How is that possible? Did something terrible or amazing happen?

Not really. 

So what gives?

I was on a plane headed to an interview. I checked my watch and it was 5:00 pm. I had another hour on board. Sitting in front of me was a book, “The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.” The first few hours on board I had been skimming through the book. The Spiritual Exercises, for those unaware, is a way to look inward.

Reflection on steroids if you will.

The Exercises (consisting of prayer and reflection) are to be completed in a month in order to strengthen one’s relationship with Christ.  Through the exercises one examines one’s life and the life and passion of Christ. I didn’t start the exercises on the plane. That is not what changed my life. However, I did think a lot about the topic of reflection.

I thought, “Have I ever truly sat down and reflected on my entire life?”

No. I had never done it. So that is what I did.

I went from my earliest memory to the present moment sitting on the plane. In complete silence. No headphones. Just me and my memories.

I have to tell you…

It really hurt. But I learned so much.

Here are a few excerpts from my journal that I wrote immediately after my life reflection which lasted for about 30 minutes (the fastest 30 minutes ever).

Today is 1-29-2017 and I reflected on my entire life. I now know why I feel certain ways at times. I know why I act in certain ways. I know now that I was hurt. When I was truly broken. I know now that Christ calls on me to hand him all of my burdens. In Him they are gone. I am made new. Not injured by the world…

You have taken a lot of beatings from this world. You have been so hurt. So now what? Don’t let this pain break you down everyday. Stop carrying it. Put it all on the cross. He is carrying it all. Let it go. He is holding it all. Let it go. Your Creator has taken it all. That is precisely what love is. God is love because he has taken it ALL.

My calling makes so much more sense now. I understand why. 

I can’t really explain to you what happened on that plane. All I can let you know is my life though still confusing and uncertain made a little more sense. I can tell you I was tearing up (I haven’t cried in a very long time).  I can tell you that I felt at peace. I can tell you that I finally understood the love God has for me. I can tell you I finally understand the power of the cross.

Towards the end of my reflection an image popped up in my mind. I pictured myself on a mountain holding a wooden box about the size of a shoe box. Inside was the weight of my past. I walked up to Christ and handed him the box. He gave it back. I looked inside and it was empty.

Friends, I encourage you to sit down in a quiet room and reflect. Think about your earliest memories and work your way to the present moment. In this maze of the mind a lot of things will start making sense. You will understand why you have certain fears. You will understand why certain moments make you happy. You will understand God’s will a little more.

As night hit, the plane became dark. As I came out of my prayerful reflection, I noticed that pretty much all the lights on the plane were off.

I looked up and noticed mine.

It was on.

I never turned it on.

 

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.

Nails Along the Road

When I was a little kid I always thought my Dad was crazy when he would say….

“This car doesn’t feel right?”

“How can you tell Dad?” I would ask.

“I don’t know….you just…know.” he replied.

This happened to me yesterday. However, after a few more minutes of driving the uneasy feeling became normal. I stopped noticing.

I shushed my thoughts by telling myself, “You are just being crazy, its a new car. It’s all in your head.”

After stepping out of the car, I locked it and walked away. However, while looking back over my shoulder, I noticed that the passenger side rear wheel was flat.

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME….”

I went over to the tire, pressed it with my index finger, and sure enough it was flat. It was ironing board flat. It was so soft it was like touching the pillsbury dough boy’s stomach.

I called AAA and was lucky enough to only wait a little over an hour. While the guy was helping me fix the tire, I noticed a shiny nail stuck into the rubber.

That little nail took down my 2 ton car?!

Why is this story important? I learned a few things from this experience.

  1. The fact that you can complain about “car trouble” is a privilege in and of itself. Therefore, stop complaining and be grateful.
  2. AAA is bae.
  3. Is this what sin does to us?  

If we are the car sin is the nail. At first we start telling ourselves that something just does not feel right. Whether we are acting on our lust, envy, pride, etc something just feels off.  There is an inherent feeling of uncertainty. Over time, that “this doesn’t feel right” feeling goes away. We become our sin.

Our sin becomes normal.

In due time, the air deflates from the tire and sin prevents us from moving forward. We are stranded on the side of the road. Sitting in silence unsure of how this even happened. We felt so confident. We felt so secure.

Friends, today lets reflect and determine what nails are sitting in our wheels slowly causing our tires to leak. In order to make life the best road trip of all time we need to make sure nothing is going to slow us down. When we truly care about reaching our destination (Eternal Life) we will be sure that all our tires are free from nails.

“But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of His son Jesus cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We are without sin,”we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins,he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.”- 1 John 1:7:9

Let us not deceive ourselves, but rather understand that there are many nails along the road. But it is all good, because God is sitting right beside us in the passenger seat.