Self-Protective Love…?

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“That f****r made me love him. I don’t love people.”

This was a comment made in a conversation I heard today as a group of girls was walking on the path below my window. I laughed at how dramatic the statement was and how trivial the relationship likely is (because, if I’m being honest, most Jessup relationships are more like junior high/high school relationships than runways leading toward marriage). Then I started to think: This is what’s wrong with people nowadays. (I know. There’s 70-year old, Grandma Tyler coming out.) We are self-protective people, so we don’t know or we hate Love and because of this we don’t know or hate God who is Love. What would happen if we would let down our walls and say that pain is part of the price we pay in learning how to grow in and cultivate love?

It was never God’s intention or plan for love between humans to be the messy, painful thing it is now, but as we humans tend to do, we messed up. We see in Genesis God’s perfect plan for love and relationships. Genesis 2:25 (TLV) says, “Now both of them were naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed.” In God’s perfect relationship both parties are bare and naked before each other. I know this is speaking physically, but I also believe we must live emotionally naked, or transparent, lives in order to create relationships as God intended. Transparent by definition means, “(of a material or article) allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen.” When I read this definition I thought of tissue paper used for presents. There are types of tissue paper that are made with speckles and when the light hits those pieces of paper it passes through the clear but remains black in the speckled spots. I believe we are to live in such a way that those we are loved by and those we love can see the light of God passing through us, but also can see His light making known the dark spots in our hearts. What I mean by that is, what if we lived such transparent lives that people saw our inner wounds?… Did your whole body just tense up? Or was that just me?

As I mentioned in my last post, I have problems with fear of abandonment and fear of rejection, so letting people see my inner wounds is a terrifying and dangerous thing. However, that is the paradox of love. The more I open up, the more wounds I expose, the more room I give for people to make excuses as to why they want to run. On the flip side, the more wounds I expose, the more I let people in to see the real me and choose to love me despite my shortcomings.  And so my fear of rejection and my self-protective nature tells me to keep my wounds hidden, but my desire to be known and loved tells me to bare all.

In a previous conversation with God, I was fully exposed in my weakness of rejecting people before they have a chance to reject me. Here’s how the conversation went:

God: You have rejected my people and, in turn, rejected me. If you want to go deeper, you have to let people in...Why do you think you are so hesitant to let people in?
Me: I don’t like feeling vulnerable, because then I feel weak.
God: Why do you feel weak?
Me: I feel weak because I’m sharing my fears or areas of pain and if people wanted they could use those things against me.
God: They’ll do that anyways.
Me: Not as much if I protect myself.
God: It’s not your job to protect yourself. It’s MY job to protect you.

I had been so used to thinking I was the one protecting myself that I had dismissed the fact that it was actually God who had protected me. It was God who had protected me from abuse and from self-harm and from terrible relationships that would have sent me on paths in life that I may not have recovered from (not because God isn’t all-powerful, but because I think I would have killed myself before I gave him a chance to draw me back to him).

That being said, I feel the need to clarify my statement about pain being inevitable. By saying “pain is part of the price we pay in learning how to grow in and cultivate love” I am not saying to walk openly into abusive or unwise relationships. I am saying because we are humans there will inevitably be painful moments. Keeping that in mind, what would happen if we decided to take a chance on others and let them love us or in turn chose to love them? Or even love those who don’t love us? What if we chose to love like Christ, the perfect example of love like Eden?

Could you let Love sweep you off your feet? Or are you too afraid you might fall and get hurt?

Keep in mind, this isn’t exclusive to romantic relationships. Some of us are so consumed by self-protective love that we keep our “best friends” at arm’s length and keep everyone else outside a bubble. Who are the people you need to let into your life? How can you let them into your life?

Friend, you are destined for SO much more than where you are right now. BUT you will only get there by letting others lift you up, carry you/your burdens and doing the same for them. 

Who are the chosen few you need to reevaluate before you throw them away?
LET THEM IN.

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What are you building on?

 

 

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HELLOOOOO!!

Oh my goodness, friend, I have missed you so much! Sorry, I haven’t written in a while. William Jessup University has been kicking my butt and this Thanksgiving break has been the first time I have been able to pause long enough to reflect and write so here we go!

Do you ever feel like there is something building up in you so much so you might just explode? That’s how I feel…but in a good way! Every day I have been bombarded by messages of God’s love and purpose for me/us.

This all started at the beginning of the month…and what a month it has been. It began with me feeling a spiritual, emotional, and mental funk, which made more sense when my schoolmate, Kev, unexpectedly passed away the following week. This sent me in a spiral causing me to push away my friends. (Praise the Lord for loving and gracious friends who understand that I am a work in progress.) The stress of this painful month also caused me to strong-arm a really great man of God I was dating. (Yes, I said I was dating. You good? Cool. Okay, let’s move along.) After I broke things off through a knee-jerk reaction of a text, God exposed me for the pain-filled parasite of a human that I was. Actually, a better label might be chief of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).

In love, God revealed to me I was bound by insecurity, fear of abandonment and fear of rejection, pride, and arrogance. These were the result of wounds I have left unattended. Over the next few days after this revelation, God spoke to my soul the ways in which I had let these things rule over my life. He said I hurt myself and others by reacting out of these pains. God later gave me a dream where I ran into an old friend. My heart was filled with joy and love when I saw this sweet friend of mine. I went to give her a hug, but, instead, she stopped me a foot or so away from her by putting her hands on my shoulders. There was no joy in her face, but rather she looked as though I was bothering her and she was waiting for me to go on my way. I remember thinking in the dream, “Why is she being so weird? I’m excited to see her. LET ME LOVE YOUUU!!!” When I awoke from this dream I asked God about it. Abba spoke to me tenderly and told me, “You have rejected my people and in turn rejected me. If you want to go deeper [in your faith, in our relationship], you have to let people in. I have bigger and better plans for you than where you’re at, but if you don’t let people in you’ll NEVER get there.”

God exposed the foundations of my life and what I saw did not please me. I realized my life had been built on fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, insecurities, pride, and arrogance…or as 1 Corinthians 3:12 would say, “wood, hay, or straw.” I realized I had been building a straw house and using God merely as the glue to hold it all together. Throughout the past few weeks of talking with God about love and talking with him about the condition of my heart, he has shown me the necessity of building my life (and for that matter all of our lives) on the foundation of Jesus, the foundation of love.

What does this mean? To answer this, let’s look at and breakdown Acts 16:25-33.

Acts 16:25-26 “25 Paul and Silas, undaunted, prayed in the middle of the night and sang songs of praise to God, while all the other prisoners listened to their worship. 26 Suddenly, a great earthquake shook the foundations of the prison. All at once every prison door flung open and the chains of all the prisoners came loose.”*

*Before we can lay a new foundation we must first destroy the foundation we’ve been building on. Then we can build on Jesus and his love.

Acts 16:27-28 27 Startled, the jailer awoke and saw every cell door standing open. Assuming that all the prisoners had escaped, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself 28 when Paul shouted in the darkness, ‘Stop! Don’t hurt yourself. We’re all still here.'”*

*How often do we stand in the dark thinking we’re all alone only to find there are others there with us? Just because you can’t see someone in their prison cell does not mean they aren’t there. Don’t assume every other person has escaped their prison only to leave you alone in the dark to die in shame. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Acts 16:29-33 “29 The jailer called for a light.* When he saw that they were still in their cells, he rushed in and fell trembling at their feet. 30 Then he led Paul and Silas outside* and asked, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ 31 They answered, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and all your family.’ 32 Then they prophesied the word of the Lord over him and all his family. 33 Even though the hour was late, he washed their wounds. Then he and all his family were baptized. He took Paul and Silas into his home and set them at his table and fed them.*

*The jailer called for a physical light, not knowing he was about the receive the Light of the World (John 8:12).

*Sometimes the very people who kept you from your freedom are the same people who will set you free. (Forgiveness, am I right?)

*The breakthrough Paul and Silas’ worship provided made a way for the Gospel to save this man and his family. From there they spoke truth and life over the jailer and his family. In return, out of their joy and the kindness of their hearts, they took care of Paul and Silas’ wounds and hunger. Freedom produces gratitude, which produces life change.

Mike Bickle has a quote which says something along the lines of “lovers always get more work done than do workers.” This can be strongly seen in the story of Paul and Silas. Their goal was not to convert the jailer and get him to release them. Instead, they worshipped God in the midst of their jail cell. Paul and Silas lived from a place of love. They lived on the foundation of Jesus Christ, which literally shook the foundation of their prison and set them and countless others free.

To reflect this I would like to share a poem with you that I wrote in the midst of journaling through my pain. This poem was a cry from the depths of my heart, my praise before the breakthrough. I hope my prayer blesses you, dear friend.

There was a time when things seemed simple,
But then I met you;
Creator, Author, Father of many.
You had the whole package and more,
But my infidel heart didn’t want you.
My selfish dreams left no room for you.
My schemes & ways left no space for you.
But now I say, “Come & have your way.”
I don’t want ‘me’ or the world.
I want you;
ALL of you.
I want my life to be DRENCHED in the river of your Living Water.
I want you & all of you.
DON’T you dare hold back from me.
As painful as it may be,
I’ll fight.
I’m ready.
And when I’m weak I’ll let you carry me.
I’ll humble myself in your presence.
I CHOOSE YOU.

The Journey OF Authentic Faith

“Faith isn’t about how well we perform or put on a front of spiritual soundness. Faith is about love, because it’s about Jesus. Faith is about the freedom to be who God has made you to be, who you truly are, as you walk imperfectly, like a child, to the arms of the Father. Faith is about being fully human, but knowing and believing you have a supernatural God within you. The same God that rose Jesus from the grave. The same God that heals, brings freedom, bestows grace and deploys angel armies to fight for you. Faith is not about being the perfect follower of Jesus or pretending you have it all together when you’re really falling apart. Faith is saying you’re not okay, but trusting God to make a way.”

Faith (n.)

  1. a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty
  2. b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises
    b (2) : sincerity of intentions
  3. a (1) belief and trust in and loyalty to God
    a (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
    b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof
    b (2) : complete trust
  4. something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

These are the typical definitions we think of when discussing faith. And let’s not forget the “Christian” definition: Hebrews 11:1 – “Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.” I never felt like I understood faith, despite these seemingly clear definitions and all the church sermons on faith I had attended. In fact, the more I  researched definitions and listened to sermons the more I felt like I was “doing” faith wrong. Therein lies the problem, faith is not something you do.

Some of you kind souls have been with me on this “journey to authentic faith” from the beginning. Others of you have joined my journey somewhere along the road. (Shoutout to my Living Waters and Jessup friends/family!!) Another portion of you have no clue who I am or what I am doing. (Welcome to the club! I’m still figuring out that last bit myself!) If you’re a part of the latter group, here’s a link to my first blog post of this series: Collide: A Journey to Authentic Faith.

To briefly catch you all up, I just spent the fall semester at the college of my dreams, William Jessup University. Those four or so months, though they contained many of the best moments of my life, also contained a few of the worst. October held the death of an old acquaintance. It was absolutely heartbreaking and weighed heavy upon my heart for many reasons. The biggest reason was God had put this man on my heart a couple months prior and told me to reach out, but for whatever reason I didn’t… And then this beautiful soul was just gone; undone by the work of his own hands. Maybe my words wouldn’t have changed his mind, but maybe they would have. Maybe my words would have changed his mind long enough for God to bless him with a new outlook on life and on himself. As I let all the “what if” questions get the best of me I thought back to when I knew this particular person. I was only 12 and we weren’t exactly friends. I was a very prickly person at this age, but mostly because I was ready to be done with life. There was one particular day I prepared myself for the emotional pain to be over as I sat in my bedroom with a knife held in my shaking hand pressed to my wrist. However, God had other plans. Holy Spirit stopped me and said He had so much more for me. Anyways, all the feelings of this sweet, talented, young man’s death brought me back to that day in my room. This heightened the feelings I had been battling throughout the three months I had been at school making me question why I wasn’t allowed to leave all those years ago. How selfish of me, right? I mean, here I am wondering why I didn’t get to leave my misery as all these wonderful people were mourning the loss of their loved one. Finally, the weight of this event and the build up of my own anxiety and depression came toppling down on me. I couldn’t take anymore. I drove to my special look out point as I sobbed, screamed, and fought every feeling telling me life wasn’t worth the pain. I fought every feeling telling me to end it all. I begged God to give me a reason to stay, and that’s exactly what He did.

First, He had me read Ephesians three. Within this chapter were the verses to become my direction for the future. Second, Holy Spirit told me to look up. To my left was a rainbow signifying His promises to me were good and would not be broken. Only now am I piecing together He was renewing His promise to me from when I was 12. God had and still has far more than I could ever ask or imagine to work in and through my life (Eph. 3:20). Straight ahead of me was a female golden eagle. God used her to remind me of my treasured verse, Isaiah 40:31, “but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” Lastly, Holy Spirit had me look to my right where there was a sea of storm clouds and one powerful ray of light bursting through. He reminded me His light will always shine through the dark to guide me. As I wrote this, He brought to my attention Matthew 4:16, which says, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” How fitting.

This quote on SurferToday.com caught my eye awhile back and I think it’s quite wonderful. (Do I surf? Not even a little bit, but this page of wave quotes was too interesting to not read.) “Feelings are much like waves: we can’t stop them from coming, but we can choose which one to surf.” We can ride the waves, but what happens when we get pulled under? For a moment it can feel like we’ve lost all sense of time, all sense of control, all sense of where and who we are. It’s a fight to survive. I felt defeated when I looked at the power of my wave. How was I ever going to overcome it? How was I ever going to break free from this powerful weight pushing me down? My pain was too much to bear. It was all “I” and “me” and “my.” Despite what I had heard and read in the Bible about being “saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8),” or doing “all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13),” I was taught by the words and actions of many Christians that working out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) meant working for your salvation and for God’s love. As a perfectionist, this way of faith always made more sense to me, than the seemingly wishy-washy faith of Christians who just loved God and let him love them back. However, as I sat on the hilltop in my little Subaru Legacy, God began to open my heart even more to the reality that His legacy is love. I don’t think it’s a coincidence legacy is another word for inheritance.

After my encounter with God, I began a process of letting Him redefine many words for me. You may have already read the blog wherein I wrote about God redefining “love” for me. (If not, you can read that post here: LOVE.) Here’s what Holy Spirit taught me about faith:

“Faith isn’t about how well we perform or put on a front of spiritual soundness. Faith is about love, because it’s about Jesus. Faith is about the freedom to be who God has made you to be, who you truly are, as you walk imperfectly, like a child, to the arms of the Father. Faith is about being fully human, but knowing and believing you have a supernatural God within you. The same God that rose Jesus from the grave. The same God that heals, brings freedom, bestows grace and deploys angel armies to fight for you. Faith is not about being the perfect follower of Jesus or pretending you have it all together when you’re really falling apart. Faith is saying you’re not okay, but trusting God to make a way.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says this, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” I want to focus on the bolded section for a moment. Somewhere along the way I rewrote this section and maybe you have, too. In my mind it read, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, and in doing so we will initiate and perfect our faith.” All those years I spent feeling like I wasn’t “doing” faith right came from a place of trying to “do” faith. Faith is not a verb. It’s not something we do. Faith is a noun: a person, place or thing. Faith is who we are as a Body of Christ and where we live as the Bride of Christ. Faith is our inheritance as the children of God. So the next time you feel yourself striving to “do” faith, remember: We are to strip off every weight that slows us down; including the weight we put on ourselves.

I want to thank all of you for joining me on this “journey to authentic faith,” but now it’s time for this series to come to a close. At some point I realized there is no journey TO authentic faith, only the journey OF authentic faith, because faith is not a destination. It’s a narrow road we choose to take when all else tells us the wide road would be easier and more fulfilling (Matthew 7:13-14).

Thank you all so very much for your love and support! God bless!

LOVE.

“Love is time given to someone or something marking it important. Love is tenderly speaking truth. Love is kindly correcting corruption. Love is passionately pursuing your dreams while also passionately cheering on those around you to pursue their dreams and dream with you. Love is a hand held as a loved one cries. Love is a hug goodbye, an acknowledgment of the absence that will be felt as you are apart. Love is everywhere. It’s in all things, because I am in all things. Love lives because I live.” -God to me in a coffee shop

“Love is time given to someone or something, thus marking it important. Love is tenderly speaking truth. Love is kindly correcting corruption. Love is passionately pursuing your dreams while also passionately cheering on those around you to pursue their dreams and dream with you. Love is a hand held as a loved one cries. Love is a hug goodbye, an acknowledgment of the absence that will be felt as you are apart. Love is everywhere. It’s in all things, because I am in all things. Love lives because I live.”
-God to me in a coffee shop


Love, the elusive feeling we all long for from birth to death, whether conscious or subconscious. As I began to write this piece, I felt myself desiring to define love. Not for the purpose of putting it in a box with a pretty little bow only to let it sit on the shelf. Rather, I wanted to discover and define love for the purpose of better getting to know God. This discovery of the truth of God as the person of love led me to ask myself “If I were to encounter myself in an everyday situation, would I feel the God of love? Even if I did not know I was feeling the presence and love of God, would I be able to notice a difference in my demeanor?” As a Christian, it is my job and greatest privilege to represent God as love to outsiders and, in doing so, invite them into the ultimate place of belonging: the Father’s arms.

I began my research, out of curiosity, by looking at what the world had to say about love, which meant beginning with Webster’s dictionary. Merriam-Webster gives nine definitions for the word “love:”

  1. a1 – strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties (i.e. maternal love)
    a2 – attractions based on sexual desire; affection/tenderness felt by lovers
    a3 – affection based on admiration, benevolence or common interests
    b – an assurance of affection
  2. warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion
  3. a – the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration
    b1 – a beloved person
    b2 – British used as an informal term of address
  4. a – unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another (i.e. fatherly concern of God for humankind, brotherly concern for others)
    b – a person’s adoration of God
  5. a god or personification of love
  6. an amorous episode : love affair
  7. the sexual embrace : copulation
  8. a score of zero (as in tennis)
  9. capitalized, Christian Science : GOD

Next, I took my research to the streets. As I sat in a little coffee shop in Kings Beach, California, I felt God urging me to ask someone in the shop what “love” meant to them. I was unsure of who I was supposed to speak to, so I took my time and waited for the moment I felt God tell me to speak. After sitting and sipping my coffee awhile I saw an exchange of love between a man and woman; a sweet, simple kiss. The man walked away, but the woman stayed put, gaze fixed on the laptop before her. In that moment I knew exactly who I was to speak to. I arose, said a little prayer, then made my way over. I have yet to discover a graceful way to begin a deep conversation with a stranger, so I dove right in. I said was writing a paper on love and had seen her kiss her partner. She introduced herself as Tanya and said the man I saw was her husband. When I asked if it would be alright for her to give me her definition of love for my paper, she asked if I was ready and said I may want to sit down, so I did.

What Tanya told me next would impact me more than she may ever know. She began by telling me her and her husband had fought that morning, and do so regularly. Tanya went on to tell me how Nick, her husband, is a recovering alcoholic and she is an enabler. She explained to me how her and Nick’s love has transformed after 10 years of marriage. In the beginning their love was selfish, “me” based, but now it is more honest and messy. The hard work they’ve put in has proven well worth it, despite how different love was from what Tanya thought it would be. She told me the romance movies she watched growing up about the guy getting the girl, riding off into the sunset, and living happily ever after in a place where everything is all roses impeded her ability to have real love, because real love is nothing like that. Thankfully, she went on to say real love is better than the movies. The next words of wisdom to come out of Tanya’s mouth hit me like a ton of bricks. She said “Always approach love with no fear, but from a place of feeling whole and from a place where you can give of yourself. To do this, your self worth has to be in tact enough not to compromise self for the other person.”

First John 4:7-8 (ESV) says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This passage spurred me to ask myself questions such as, “If God is love, what is love?” and “If God is love, who is God?” Furthermore, how am I to love if I do not know what love is? I could take any number of definitions of the world’s view of love and live solely by that, because they are not bad definitions. In fact, these definitions of love act as small holes in a tapestry through which I was better able to see the light of God’s love. This little bit of understanding made me want more, so I began with the typical passage on love: 1 Corinthians 13.

First Corinthians 13:4 (ESV) tells us, “Love is patient and kind,” thus telling us by definition of 1 John 4 that God is a patient and kind God. The passage then goes on to tell us in verses 4-8 how love behaves. “Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Humans often complicate the simplest of things. If Jesus said in John 13:35 (NLT), “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples,” why do we frequently choose to “prove” God through hate? Hate is the absence of love and, thus, the absence of God. In hate, we have claimed “God hates gays.” In hate, we have killed. In hate, we have thrown labels and spewed fire. In hate, we have sat idly by in our fancy churches and gone back to our cozy homes unchanged and unaffected by the dead wandering aimlessly throughout the earth. Maybe that’s not you personally, but if the body of Christ does not begin looking at themselves as a whole rather than individuals who live as they please than we have already lost the battle. “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse (Mark 3:24 NLT).” I’ve seen too many people deterred from God by the hate of those who claim to follow Christ. As disciples of God we are called to live love “not…in word or talk, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18 ESV),” because “whoever does not love abides in death (1 John 3:14, ESV).” Knowing this we should desire to look more like God and abide in his love.

If we break down 1 Corinthians 13 and replace each “love” with “GOD” it reads much differently. “[GOD] does not envy or boast,” he is modestly confident and secure. “[GOD] is not arrogant or rude,” he is humble and polite. “[GOD] does not insist on [his] own way,” but will let us use free will to make decisions. “[GOD] is not irritable or resentful,” but is cheerful and helpful. “[GOD] does not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth,” because he is truth. This is the way we should live; not with picket signs painted with hate and unrighteous anger burning in our hearts. “[For] God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:17 NLT).” Love is the driving force behind all we do. We can either live out of love for ourselves or we can live out of love for God. Only when we live out of love for God and others will we find the beauty of seeing people run home, as prodigals, to their Father to take their rightful place as a son or daughter.

Sorry, I Was Distracted By My Pain.

Have you ever felt an emotion so deeply you felt there were no way you could ever stop feeling that emotion? Whether it be love, loss, joy, peace, sorrow. Has that ever happened to you?

It happens to me quite often. I am an extremely emotional being, which is not always a fun thing. Especially when it comes to my depression. I explained it once as falling into a pit and hitting every protruding rock possible on the way down. But after you’ve hit the bottom you are able to use all those rocks you hit on the way down as stepping stones for the way back up to the surface.

For awhile there, I had hit bottom. Yes, I do understand it was my choice to leave the church and school I was at. It was a decision I had thought through, prayed about, and made in full peace knowing God was backing this choice. Yet, I did not foresee the steps after; the first step into anointing and the second step right into a pit.

I could never explain, or for that matter know, all of what happened to me during my time in California. I do know it was a time of God anointing me for the steps to come. However, like Joseph, I needed a pit of drastic proportions to test where my allegiance lied and to catapult me into my destiny.

It was hard to return to Medford after spending a God-touched month in California. My return is really where my fall into the pit began. I longed for the next step, the next season of life, the next adventure God had for me. I longed to feel whole again, like I had while in California. These last two months weren’t easy for me. Honestly, I feel I’ve been away from California for half a year or more. I know I probably sound like a baby, but when God ties your soul to a certain place it’s hard to feel full when you are not there. In this time away from Rocklin, Roseville, Sacramento, and all the other amazing places God has taken me, I’ve been learning how to not just accept his refining process, but embrace it. I’ve been learning how to not only be okay with myself, but how to truly love myself so I can better love others.

Mark 12:31 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I used to gloss over that verse every time I read it, not considering the depth of those words. I stopped glossing over those little black letters as time went on. Instead, I would become frustrated. I would ask God why He would possibly want me to love anyone like I loved myself, because I didn’t love myself at all. In fact, I generally loathed myself.

As I shared in Collide: A Journey to Authentic Faith, on New Year’s Eve of this year, God gave me a three pictures of my heart turning from stone to light. The first picture was my stone heart with cracks in it. The second picture was of stone shards flying and letting more light through. The third picture was of a heart fully made of light. Now I am in picture two with stone shards flying everywhere, but still keeping light from shining in all directions. I’m learning where I have blind spots and working with God to remove those areas so his light can better shine through me. I do believe my time in California was a type of explosive for my heart of stone. This explosive made a way for me to understand the beauty of the gift of grace and unconditional love from Father God. It put in motion the removal of apathy and disgust when viewing the world around me and gave me in their place empathy and Christlike compassion.

I’m not gonna lie, most days consist of me messing up and God having to calm me like a crying infant. Then he reminds me that if I actually were an infant I wouldn’t have a problem with giving myself grace, so why should I have a problem with it now. This process is nowhere near from over; it’s only just begun. Though there may be pain, this is the best possible adventure I could ever take with God; the best possible adventure we could ever take with God.

As I was writing, God brought this verse to my mind.

“For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy–a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.”
– 2 Chronicles 7:16 NLT

I believe God wants to speak this into and over your life today and every day. No matter your flaws or failures God has chosen you as his Temple and has set you apart to be treated as sacred. God will continually watch over you day by day, second by second, because you are close to his heart. You may not see it, feel it, or believe it at this moment, but God has a plan and a purpose for you. You are not useless, less than, or incapable of accomplishing the lofty dreams you hold within your heart. You are not who or what the world labels you. You are all God labels you. God sees you as complete, loved, healed, freed, wanted, chosen, his child, and his friend. You are not alone. As long as you live you’ve got a happy Heavenly Father ready and willing to help you and love on you. Plus, as long as I’m alive, you’ve got a friend in me.

What do ya say? Should we give this life a shot together? Run the race set before us? Fight against the powers and principalities against which we are more than conquerors?

Tainted Love Traded For Light


ugh.

Just…ugh.

I’m back in Oregon. More specifically, the old Rogue Valley. I love this valley. Really, I do. There’s so much beauty everywhere; in the people, the buildings, the trees, the water running its seemingly endless course. My word, this is a beautiful place…but also painful beyond belief.

I love you guys, so I’m going to be honest. Not that I haven’t been honest with you, but I’m going to be painfully raw.

I freaking hate being in the valley right now.

It sucks.

Being in the Rogue Valley feels like someone has one hand wrapped around my heart and the other on my throat and they are slowly squeezing. When I’ll catch my breath, I do not know. Being in the Rogue Valley is like following a map of historic landmarks. With each place I go, there is a hollowness of what was and a plaque reminding me of all the events that occurred with all the friends I no longer have. I guess, simply put, being in the Rogue Valley feels really freaking lonely right now.

I’m not trying to get your sympathy or be dramatic. I just want to share with you where I am at, because I told you I would share with you my journey of God’s great collision with me. Right now, this is where I am. And I know whoever you are, wherever you are, chances are you’ve felt lonely at one time or another. Or maybe, like myself, you feel lonely right now. If that’s you, keep reading, because I’m about to let loose.

Here’s what I’m learning: HOPE IS NOT LOST. Hope is right beside us, and His name is Jesus. Also, JOY IS NOT LOST. Joy is rising up within like an uncontainable geyser ready to show its power.

I write this to myself as much as I write it to you, if not more. It’s so easy to forget that we were not made for this world. We are not of this world. The problems that cling so tightly to us, like wet clothes after immersion in water, don’t have to drag us down. We get the pleasure of casting our burdens on our Savior, because He already took our pain. Jesus said in Matthew 11 (NLT), “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

I don’t know what you’re facing or what burdens you carry with you day in and day out, but I do know this: It’s not your problem to worry about or your burden to bear. It’s for you to entrust to God. Whatever He does with your situation will be extraordinary (even if it doesn’t turn out as you planned). Let go of the burden you have been carrying and take the burden which Jesus gives you.

Think about this with me for a moment. Explore the horizon with me. What if Jesus is not only saying the burden He gives us is physically light? What if Jesus is saying the burden He gives us to carry is literally light? His light. Can you picture it? No longer do you walk with baggage from your past and present, but now… Now you walk with your head held high and light beaming from within. This light is your new burden to bear. At times, this task feels impossible, but fear not. You are not alone in this trek. First and foremost, we walk this road with God. Then we walk it with others. Will you walk this road with me? Will you bear the light with me, even when it feels like an impossible burden to bear?

Will you let God use your wounds as avenues with which to shine light into the world?

The Hope Generator*

ben-courson-interview1-photo3

“You focus on what you can do and let God take care of what you can’t do.”


Founder of Hope Generation, pastor at Applegate Christian Fellowship, and dedicated follower of God.

Some of you may know to whom I am referring, but for those of you who don’t know let me share a little bit about the man himself: Ben Courson. Ben is the 29 year old founder of, and speaker for, Hope Generation, a collective working to show you that “no matter who you are or where you’ve come from…the God of Hope loves YOU and has a beautiful purpose for your life.”* His love for God is inspirational. His love for others is contagious. His passion for bringing people hope and his joy for life truly show the depth of which he wholeheartedly pursues God. 

I first met Ben after he taught a message for Applegate’s Journey of Hope Monday night service (which can be seen on his website: Hope Generation Teachings). His message spoke directly to where I was spiritually and emotionally at the time: walking through the valley of the shadow of death and enduring a Matthew 8 level of a spiritual storm. When I spoke with Ben, there was a strong sense of peace and joy that emanated from him. Every person that stopped to talk to him walked away with a visibly bigger smile on their face. About a month after our meeting, Ben poured out his heart as he shared with the Applegate congregation that he too had been walking through his own valley and enduring his own storm (that message is available here: Hope Generation Teachings – Hope Through Heartbreak). 

I had the honor of interviewing Ben with my mom, Kristina. His words brought us direction, encouragement, and new passion for life. I hope they do the same for you.

Tyler: Ben, how long have you been working in ministry?
Ben: I taught my first Bible study in 3rd grade on the Applegate main stage. I opened up Ezekiel 37, the chapter on dry bones. I read the story and sat down. All the other elementary school kids were like “What does that even mean?” But I feel like it’s the best Bible study I ever gave, because I just gave the Scriptures and didn’t muddy it up with my comments. When I was 16, I taught a whole Bible study with my friends in Southern California, which was when I knew I wanted to go into ministry. I became a pastor at 18 and now here we are.

 

Tyler: Is Hope Generation your full-time job?
Ben: Actually, I’m employed by Applegate. When people pay me for speaking or buy anything from Hope Generation, like my books and CDs, it all goes back into funding Hope Gen.
(Hope Generation Store)

 

Tyler: Have you ever felt an overwhelming weight from your calling? If so, how did you work through that feeling?
Ben: Oh yeah! But when you have a dream you’re willing to do anything. When you find your dream you want to put in the hours. Your shallow desire says, “Let this cup pass from my lips (Matt. 26:39, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42).” Your deeper desire says, “Your will be done, God (Matt. 26:39, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42). You put this on my heart. I know what I need to do: Pour water on the fire of my fears and throw gasoline on the on the passions of my dreams.”

 

Kristina: Do you think you can have a combination of gifts or dreams that don’t seem to go hand in hand?
Ben: Yes! There’s a guy I know who is a great teacher, worship leader, basketball player, was a 2 sport athlete in college, and is great with kids. His one thing is being great at a lot of things. Some people are just great at many things. Does that help?
Tyler: It does help, because I have a passion for so many different things that I often don’t know how God is going to work all those things into my life.
Ben: I don’t really share this with a lot of people, but movies changed my life. I used to ask God why I couldn’t be an actor, but God showed me when I was 17 that I would do my love of film and T.V. with my craft. Then, when I was on T.V. at 29, I realized God combined [those two dreams of mine.] It’s cool how the Lord has a way of taking several dreams and blending them. I bet you’re gonna find how God combines your dreams to be complementary, not contradictory.

 

Tyler: What advice would you give someone pursuing their dreams?
Ben: Ask a question and you’ll appear a fool for five minutes and be wise for life. Don’t ask a question and you’ll appear wise for five minutes and be a fool for life. When Jesus was 12 at the temple, those around him were not just amazed at his answers. They were amazed at his questions. Jesus asked questions. What I would say to my 19 year old self is: Faith can move mountains, but don’t be surprised if God hands you a shovel. Follow your heart, but take your brain with you. Reach for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground. Pray for the super, but do the natural and you’ll get supernatural. Don’t wait for opportunity to turn up; start turning up your sleeves. Put in the work. There are three things in life (work, love, prayer) that if you do, you won’t be off track. C.H. Spurgeon said, “Focus on your ability. God will take care of your opportunity.” Our generation wants to arrive without taking the trip. You focus on what you can do and let God take care of what you can’t do.

Ben gave me a lot of great information to work with, which is why I broke this interview up into two posts. To read the full interview check out my blog post: Interview with Ben Courson

*http://www.bencourson.com/aboutben/

Interview with Ben Courson

“Sometimes you have to learn the hard way to find out what you love.”
-Ben Courson


Hey there!
I’m so glad you’ve come to read this post! In case you didn’t read my last post, “Collide: A Journey to Authentic Faith,” my name is Tyler Shreve-Smith and I am currently on a journey. I am interviewing people to see what comprises their view of Christianity and, if they are Christians, to see how they walk out their faith. This is all to help me gain a better understanding of where I am with my beliefs of who God is and what Christianity is. I want to share this journey with all of you, because I’ve discovered I’m not the only one asking these questions regarding God and faith.

This post is the full interview my mom, Kristina Shreve, and I did together with Ben Courson, founder of Hope Generation. Hope Gen. is a collective, working to create media that shows you that “no matter who you are or where you’ve come from…the God of Hope loves YOU and has a beautiful purpose for your life.“* Ben is a 29 year old pastor based out of Applegate Church here in Southern Oregon, but he travels around the world speaking to promote the hope of the Gospel. Hope Generation produces uplifting multi-media content (check it out here: television episodescreativesHope Generation store, app, and radio). Whether on the highest of mountain tops or in lowest of valleys, these videos are timely in every season of life. They make you contemplate the brevity of life in such a way that does not discourage you, but rather, brings you hope and excitement for the future.

Ben’s words encouraged and inspired me. I hope they do the same for you!

Tyler: How long have you been working in ministry?
Ben: I taught my first Bible study in 3rd grade on the Applegate main stage. I opened up Ezekiel 37, the chapter on dry bones. I read the story and sat down. All the other elementary school kids were like “What does that even mean?” But I feel like it’s the best Bible study I ever gave, because I just gave the Scriptures and didn’t muddy it up with my comments. When I was 16, I taught a whole Bible study with my friends in Southern California, which was when I knew I wanted to go into ministry. I became a pastor at 18 and now here we are.

 

Tyler: Is Hope Generation your full-time job?
Ben: Actually, I’m employed by Applegate. When people pay me for speaking or buy anything from Hope Generation, like my books and CDs, it all goes back into funding Hope Gen.
(Hope Generation Store)

 

Tyler: Do you have a degree for what you’re doing?
Ben: No, I got a 2.0 GPA in high school. I didn’t go to my senior year of high school and I wouldn’t have if I could’ve gone back. I hated academics, but I fell in love with reading when I turned 18 and became a pastor. I’m a huge advocate of going to college if that’s what you need to do. I don’t want a doctor working on me who doesn’t have a degree. But I am also a HUGE advocate of reading. Read. You don’t need a degree… Follow your curiosity. When a person follows their curiosity, their passion, their dream, they go way further and live Zoe. They have an over and above kind of life.

 

Kristina: Do you structure your time?
Ben: Yes, I set a timer. I make sure that I spend 4 hours a day reading and writing and about 10-11 hours a week teaching. I have to time [my reading and writing] otherwise I won’t do them. I’ll just do them when I feel like doing it and most of the time I don’t feel like it. My deeper desire knows, “A writer hates to write, but a writer loves to have written.” At the end of the day, I hate it if I haven’t written anything. I don’t like the process of writing; very few great writers did. What they did, though, was force themselves to stay in the chair. I’ve found that if you have a self-regiment, you can get a lot done.

 

Tyler: Have you ever felt an overwhelming weight from your call? If so, how did you work through that feeling?
Ben: Oh yeah! But when you have a dream you’re willing to do anything. When you find your dream you want to put in the hours. Your shallow desire says, “Let this cup pass from my lips (Matt. 26:39, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42).” Your deeper desire says, “Your will be done, God (Matt. 26:39, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42). You put this on my heart. I know what I need to do: Pour water on the fire of my fears and throw gasoline on the on the passions of my dreams.”

 

Tyler: What avenue have you found brings you the most success in your ministry?
Ben: I’m terrible at counseling. I don’t counsel, because I don’t bring fruit. I’m not gifted at it. I don’t do weddings or funerals anymore, either. [I stopped when] I realized the Bible doesn’t call us to be human octopi. I try to do 18 things, but I can’t do it all unless I turn into an octopus. Saying yes to one thing gives you the power to say no to other things. But until you learn how to say yes to what you believe in, you’ll never be able to say no to everything else. When I know that writing and speaking is where I have fruit, that’s what I’m gonna do. That means I don’t counsel, but I will preach 11x a week. I won’t do weddings, but I will keep writing articles. That’s just what I was born to do. It’s what I’m passionate about and what I love. This life is so short and it’s gonna be hard, you might as well do something you love.

 

Kristina: Do you feel like you could’ve done without the weddings and funerals or did they help you learn what you really wanted to do?
Ben: I’m a big believer in trial by error. Part of it is I had to try those things and see if it worked for me. Part of it was I felt guilt tripped into certain things by my own expectations or other people saying, “This is what you are supposed to do.” Sometimes you have to learn the hard way to find out what you love.

 

Kristina: Do you think you can have a combination of gifts or dreams that don’t seem to go hand in hand?
Ben: Yes! There’s a guy I know who is a great teacher, worship leader, basketball player, was a 2 sport athlete in college, and is great with kids. His one thing is being great at a lot of things. Some people are just great at many things. Does that help?
Tyler: It does help, because I have a passion for so many different things that I often don’t know how God is going to work all those things into my life.
Ben: I don’t really share this with a lot of people, but movies changed my life. I used to ask God why I couldn’t be an actor, but God showed me when I was 17 that I would do my love of film and T.V. with my craft. Then, when I was on T.V. at 29, I realized God combined [those two dreams of mine.] It’s cool how the Lord has a way of taking several dreams and blending them. I bet you’re gonna find how God combines your dreams to be complementary, not contradictory.

 

Tyler: Where do you see many ministry workers go wrong?
Ben: I’m very optimistic and unity oriented. There’s about 41,000 denominations among about 2.18 billion Christians and Jesus prayed in John 17 “Father, make them all one (v.21).” I’m careful not to point out the things I don’t agree with in other people, because I know there are things I do they won’t agree with. I don’t want to major in the minors. I want to focus on areas where we can get on the same page. So I guess, in a roundabout way, I don’t like division. I think where I’ve gone wrong and where people can go wrong is when we start dividing against each other, because ‘a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Matt. 12:25, Mark 3:24-25).’ I don’t like when we’re known more for what we’re against than what we are for. That becomes problematic. When we’re known more for what we think about issues than how we love people. That’s where we’ve missed [the point]. I think that unity and love are key. Jesus said, “You’ll be known as my disciples by how much you love each other.” Not, “You’ll be known as my disciples by your theology.” I think division is where we go wrong.

 

Tyler: How do you handle situations where division does come in?
Ben: This is the deal. We have two choices when people do things where they’re creating division: 1) React or 2) Respond. Say someone is stubborn to hate me. I’ll be stubborn right back to love them. They say, “You can’t make me stop disagreeing with you.” I respond, “You can’t make me stop loving you.” That’s why the Bible says, “…overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).” That’s the only way to solve these problems. When Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr came on the scene and loved their enemies, they changed the world. Romans 12:18, “As much as it’s up to you make peace with all men.” It doesn’t say everyone is going to take it. If there’s division I say, “Well, that’s your choice. I can’t control it, but what I can control is my response and whether I react or respond.” Make peace like a sandwich. [You can and should] make it and offer it, but it’s up to others whether they take it or not. But it’s still there.

 

Tyler: On a similar note, how do you deliver difficult truth with love, grace, and tact?
Ben: That’s easy for me because I talk about hope. Paul said in Romans 15:4 he wrote the Bible so we might have hope. If you walk away from the Bible with less hope, it’s a giant exercise in missing the point. Paul said, “Faith, hope, and love (1 Cor. 13:13).” That’s it. When I speak, my calling is not to be judgemental or be degrading. I went through a season of that. Like hardcore “Jesus is not your homeboy” kind of thing and I had to go through that, too. That was part of the journey. But since I was 16, I’ve always had hope in my messages. It’s my calling to talk about hope. I have so much content bursting out of my head. In 100 lifetimes I could not talk about all the things I want to with hope. Talking about hope is itself a loving topic.

 

Tyler: What advice would you give someone pursuing their dreams?
Ben: Ask a question and you’ll appear a fool for five minutes and be wise for life. Don’t ask a question and you’ll appear wise for five minutes and be a fool for life. When Jesus was 12 at the temple, those around him were not just amazed at his answers. They were amazed at his questions. Jesus asked questions. What I would say to my 19 year old self is: Faith can move mountains, but don’t be surprised if God hands you a shovel. Follow your heart, but take your brain with you. Reach for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground. Pray for the super, but do the natural and you’ll get supernatural. Don’t wait for opportunity to turn up; start turning up your sleeves. Put in the work. There are three things in life (work, love, prayer) that if you do, you won’t be off track. C.H. Spurgeon said, “Focus on your ability. God will take care of you opportunity.” Our generation wants to arrive without taking the trip. You focus on what you can do and let God take care of what you can’t do.

 

Tyler: Do you have any books you recommend?
Ben: Oh yeah! Tell me the subject though…
Tyler: I guess, as far as ministry..
Ben: Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton is gold. He was a Catholic who inspired Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Any book by C.S. Lewis. I’ve read pretty much all his books. Except Space Trilogy, because I didn’t understand what it was saying. A book by C.S. Lewis I really like is called George MacDonald who was one of the most profound influencers of my life. George MacDonald was the only person who did what I’m trying to do. I want to be a fantasy writer and a speaker. MacDonald was a fantasy writer and a pastor. He’s the most underrated character in history. He wrote a book called The Princess and the Goblin, which has to do with a magic ring. Does that ring any bells? Tolkien loved MacDonald and now we have Lord of the Rings. C.S. Lewis, in his book about George MacDonald, takes snippets from him and says things like, “When you worry you’re fetching tomorrow with your thoughts and thereby redoubling your vexation.” George MacDonald also said, “Man finds it hard to get, because he does not want the best. God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, but man would not take it.” Totally switching gears, In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day. I just read it. It was really good. Outliers is the book that changed my life more than any other non-fiction book. That has the 10,000 hours rule.

 

Tyler: What are you top five favorite books?
Ben: Out of any genre?
Tyler: Yeah.
Ben: Oh goodness! Okay, I’m just gonna go off the top [of my head], because I can’t do it. I can’t pick five… A Star Wars novel called Traitor. I don’t know how Matthew Stover does it. That book changed my life. I had my heart broken at 19 and didn’t want to get out of bed. Traitor was all about this warrior, a jedi, whose Han and Leah’s son. He’s in a torture chamber and he learns.. There’s this line in the book, are you ready for this? I use it all the time. “Pain either has the power to break you or it is the power that makes you unbreakable. What it is depends on who you are.” That’s what the book is about, embracing pain. That’s why I can do the 10,000 hours. I used to throw up then get in my car and come teach, but that embrace the pain concept for me is why it’s, besides the Bible, number one. Number two, Lord of the Rings. Number three…There’s more Star Wars novels, but I’ll move on from those… I’ll go with The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Fourth, would be… uh.. It’s gonna hit me later like, “You should have said that!” But fourth would be.. Outliers. That should be way up higher actually. It changed my life. Five would be… in no particular order… Five, besides the Bible, would be the Harry Potter series. People had controversy over the first movie because it had to do with wizards, but if you’re gonna get rid of Harry Potter you gotta get rid of Lord of the Rings and you gotta get rid of Narnia, because they all do that, too. But then, once the seventh book came out, people realized it’s a morality tale. Very binary of light versus darkness. The message is on friendship, bravery, courage, just all the classic unwritten laws of heaven. Because of those books I think J.K. Rowling is the greatest writer alive…and I read for a living. It’s like Narnia; it’s layers. Even the names she’s using have Greek mythological history or Greco-Roman backdrop. It’s crazy. She’ll throw a line into book one and ten years down the line in book seven that is one of the integral parts of the plot. She’s a genius! I’m jealous of her!

As you can see Ben, gave me a lot of great information to work with, which is why I broke this interview up into two posts (link to other post). I will be doing this with almost all of my posts now that I’ve decided I actually won’t be videotaping my interviews. Thanks for understanding! I hope this interview brought some hope, joy, and light to your life!

*http://www.bencourson.com/aboutben/

Collide: A Journey to Authentic Faith

At the end of the day, Christianity really boils down to loving God and loving people, but what does that look like? What does loving God and loving people mean? That’s what I’m going to find out.

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Hello my dear friends and Family!

The title for this journey, “Collide: A Journey to Authentic Faith,” was inspired by the picture above. I received this picture (in physical painting form) as a gift from a woman by the name of Tricia Snyder, a pastor’s wife who was visiting with her husband to my first home church in Southern Oregon (Jackson Calvary Chapel). On the back of this painting are the following words:

“Get ready and prepare for impact – God is colliding with you – a violent, direct, divine impact. It is good!! A powerful, good thing He is doing! A collision usually happens when two people or vehicles try to occupy the same space. God has chosen to invade our space with Divine Impact.”

These words have always stuck with me and carried such importance in my life. When I took the time to think about the season of my life I am in, I realized God and I had had a divine collision wherein He was wanting to occupy the space in the driver’s seat of my life. I used to let God take over when I saw fit, but I quickly grew tired from always trying to have control of the uncontrollable. God had shown me, as I continued praying about my travels, this journey would be no small thing in my life. Rather, it would be my “journey to authentic faith.” To me, this phrase means discovering the woman God created me to be. It means discovering what genuine faith looks like when you strip away the rules and regulations Christians use to complicate Christianity. In my opinion, Christianity comes down to loving God and loving people, but what does that look like for me?  What does loving God and loving people really mean in my life?  That’s what I’m going to find out.

As of late, my life has been crazy, beautiful, sorrowful, laughable, tiresome, joyful and many other things. Some of you may know a portion or all of my story. Others may know nothing of what is happening within my life. Either way, I would love to share my story with you…

December 12, 2016 was my last day at my church of three years and the affiliated Bible college. I spent these years pouring my heart and soul into every area I served in and every person I came in contact with. These people became my family and my closest confidants. Leaving was not an easy thing to do, by any means, but I believe it was the right decision.

December 13, 2016: my first day without being in Bible college and without having a “home church” and the community that comes with it. I felt like I had no ties keeping me in Medford. Not like I had the day before or even a month before. This was the first day I felt lonely. This was the first day I regretted my decision to leave. I realized I didn’t know who I was or what my life was to look like without being involved in this church. 

In the month prior to my departure, I left my job at Old Navy believing I needed to let go of that job to make room for God to put something else into my life. The combination of leaving my job, school, and church completely cleared my schedule from all normal routines for the following months. November was also a pivotal month for me, because I had brunch with my Aunt Emmalee. This was a very special event for me being that I had not seen my aunt along with every other family member on my dad’s side of the family for half my life (or longer depending on the family member). At this brunch I shared, with my Aunt Emmalee a moment God and I had together in 2015. My Aunt Elissa (Emmalee’s sister) had sent me a Christmas card full of pictures of her beautiful family. Though it made me happy to receive this card, I was also struck with a twinge of sadness knowing I would not be with my family for yet another Christmas. Holidays were always a hard time for me, but Christmas of 2015 was different. On this Christmas card I wrote “2016 = Restoration,” knowing God had made a promise to me to restore my family and 2016 was the year He would finally do so. However, I had stopped trusting God would keep His promise some time between when I wrote on the Christmas card and when I saw my Aunt Emmalee. I mentioned to my aunt at brunch how much I would love to have a family reunion in 2017. After telling Emmalee this, she extended an invitation to me to spend that Christmas with our family at her house. I told her I would take a few days to pray about it. I knew God was moving and making good on His promise, so a few days later I told my Aunt Emmalee I would love to spend Christmas with our family. After many excited calls, texts, and snapchat messages, my aunt booked a flight for December 16th.

December 16th came and it was time for me to fly to Washington. I was a bundle of emotions barely being held together by a thread, but then God made it clear He was going to be with me on the trip. I arrived at SeaTac with Aunt Emmalee in sight, but, much to my surprise, she was not alone. Some of you may have seen the pictures, which so beautifully captured my greatest ugly cry ever (yay). Along with my Aunt Emmalee was the man I hold dearest to my heart, my dad (whom I had not seen since I was 10 years old). As if that was not enough to bring me joy, my Uncle Darren was also at the airport. It was truly a beautiful moment, which I will forever cherish.

My two weeks spent in Washington can be summed up into these three words: God showed up. Auntie Emmalee took me to City Church, Kirkland (per my request and partial begging) for church my first Sunday in town. It was in that very service where God began to speak my next steps to me. I desired to hear more from God, so I spent at least one hour every day returning to City Church to pray and journal about what God was speaking to me. There was one parking spot upon a hill where I would sit in my aunt’s little, white Volvo and cry out to God. This is the spot where I felt God till the soil of my heart to make way for the deepest work He’s ever done in me. It was in these times where God collided with me. He met with me, not expecting perfection from me, but inviting me to be vulnerable before Him. God used these times to show me areas of my heart that desperately needed healing. I know very well how to be transparent. Transparency is my speciality. Vulnerability, however, is a completely different thing. As speaker and pastor, Kim Butcher, puts it “Transparency is ‘[God,] here’s my stuff.’ Vulnerability is ‘[God,] here’s my stuff and you can step in.'” Being vulnerable before God was not easy, but I knew I could either be vulnerable or let my heart harden even more and continue to build up walls like I’d been doing since my childhood.

Christmas morning came and, I won’t lie, I was super nervous! I knew I would be meeting my cousins in a matter of hours and seeing family I hadn’t seen in far too long. Fear began to creep it’s way in. I thought to myself, “What if they don’t like me? What if adult Tyler is too weird and different from little Tyler?” What if…? What if…? What if…? I let so many things fill me with worry and fear that I forgot to enjoy the initial moments of seeing my family. As the night went on and we all began to talk and reacquaint ourselves, those fears subsided and an overwhelming amount of love and joy flooded my heart.

Then came the New Year’s service at City Church. Aunt Emmalee and I went together, and I am sure glad we did. God revealed things to both of us in this service that would forever change our lives. For me it was a picture of my heart, or rather a series of pictures. The first picture was my heart of stone. Some light was piercing through and shining brightly from the cracks in my heart. The second picture was my heart of stone exploding. Shards of stone were flying everywhere as the light shone in all directions, no longer forcing its way through the cracks in my heart. The third picture, my favorite of the three, was of my heart being a purely white light shining in all directions. It shone so bright I could barely make out the shape of the heart. God used these pictures to prepare me for what He would be doing throughout the next season of my life. He explained it would be painful to tear down these walls I’ve so meticulously built, but worth the work beyond what I could even imagine. I’m sharing all of this with you, because it is really where this journey began.

Initially, I thought this journey would be to figure out what makes a healthy church and how I can apply any gained knowledge to my future ministry. I was feeling pretty good about myself. I soon realized God had other ideas about the purpose for my journey. He was wanting me to take this trip as a means of allowing me to determine the type of Christian I want to be, to figure out what makes up a healthy church and to humble me along the way, shattering my heart of stone.

While planning for this journey, I decided I would interview people in each city I visited. As I spoke with my mom (Tina Shreve), we decided that I could start interviewing people in the valley while I waited to leave for my first city. God began to make ways for me to speak to people I never would have thought I’d speak to in a million years. (I am very excited to see how these relationships will grow over time and what fruit God will bring forth from each one. If there is someone you think my mom or I should connect with in the cities we will be traveling to, please feel free to message us!) Through a cool turn of events, I was able to begin by interviewing Ben Courson, founder of and speaker for Hope Generation (Check out his website here: Ben Courson – Hope Generation). (I will share the contents of this interview in a later blog post.) My mom and I spent many days, nights, lunch breaks, and random times throughout the month of January praying about what was needed to make this journey happen. Then things in my mom’s world started to change. One day, I suggested she come with me. She loved the idea. (I mean what parent wouldn’t love their kid suggesting they go on the journey of the life time together.) We began to brainstorm and became enthralled with this idea that felt so directly from God. Since I was the one who first planned the trip, my mom wanted to make sure that I was able to set the tone for how this whole thing would go. I told her that above all else, I wanted this whole thing to be a Holy Spirit lead trip.

I realize this is a lot to read and I apologize for that, but I would love for all of you to take this journey with me and see what comes of it. My mom and I will be leaving March 8th for Sacramento and plan to stay until March 22nd. We are currently working on plans to head to Los Angeles, however, keeping in mind this trip is to be fully Holy Spirit led may mean some plan changes along the way. I’ve listed all of our social media sites below, so you can follow our journey in its full capacity. I’m going to be recording my interviews as I go, which I’ll be posting on Youtube. I’ll also be blogging up a storm, so you can follow me on here to see where I’ve been, to whom I’ve spoken, how I am doing, and what God’s been doing. If God puts us on your heart, I would ask of you to please pray for my mom, me, and this crazy, faith filled journey we are about to take because chances are we will 100% need your prayers. This journey we are about to embark on is no small thing for my mom or for me. It’s a journey to encounter God in a new way, to embrace His love in a new way, to embrace His truth in a new way. Most importantly it’s a journey my mom and I will be taking believing through faith that GOD WILL SHOW UP not just on this trip, but every day of our lives.


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Picking Up the Broken Pieces

God already knew every ugly situation you would go through before you were born. He saw the schemes of the devil and decided to create, in those circumstances, opportunities for you to grow in your character and in your faith. However, God left it up to us to decide if we will take advantage of those opportunities or let the devil’s scheme work out as he hoped it would.

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Well, here goes nothing…

Hello, friends! For those of you reading who do not personally know me, I’m Tyler! I was born in Edmonds, Washington where I lived until the age of fourteen when my mom decided to pick up our roots and replant us in Medford, Oregon. It was quite the culture shock, which made my first few years difficult and, at times, somewhat miserable. However, it has now been about five years since our move and I can already see why God had us relocate to Oregon.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for my first post, so I waited until I felt the time was right to write this. After an event today, I felt God lay on my heart the topic for this post.

As I was doing the dishes today, I began to clean the beautiful little spoon rest pictured above. I scrubbed and scrubbed in attempt to wash off the nastiness that stained my beautiful little spoon rest. Unfortunately, the soap and water created a slippery mess, which caused me to drop the spoon rest. I immediately knew it was either going to have one big break or just chip, but I hoped for the best. I rinsed the spoon rest off and saw the chip. My first thoughts were, “Great! I ruined the spoon rest. It’s fixable, but it won’t look the same. People will still be able to see the crack if I did fix it, and that would just be ugly.” However, as I turned the spoon rest over in my hands, I noticed it still had its beauty and charm. You probably know where I am going with this post if you’re a super sleuth, but just bear with me.

I thought about myself as I looked at the broken, but still beautiful little spoon rest. I remembered all the times I thought I had failed God, and all the situations that cracked or even broke my heart a bit. I then realized something I think God has wanting me to realize for years: The cracks and breaks in me have not ruined me! I am still seen as beautiful in the eyes of God, and so are YOU!

There are many times in a person’s life when they go through troubles that will either break them greatly or just crack them. Despite what we may feel like at the end of those situations, God NEVER looks at us and thinks, “Great! They’re ruined. It’s fixable, but they won’t look the same.” In fact, God doesn’t want us to look the same when we come out on the other side of those situations! He wants people to see our cracks, because through each crack He can let His light shine. God already knew every ugly situation you would go through before you were born. He saw the schemes of the devil and decided to create, in those circumstances, opportunities for you to grow in your character and in your faith. However, God left it up to us to decide if we will take advantage of those opportunities or let the devil’s scheme work out as he hoped it would.

If you have done things in the past you are not proud of, or if you have been through some circumstances that broke you, know this: God wants to use you and your past!! He wants to fill you up with His love, mercy, grace, kindness, peace, and joy, so you may overflow and pour into our world; a world so desperate for hope. God wants to redeem every tear you have ever cried, every sorrowful sob you have ever let out, and, ultimately, every painful circumstance you have ever been through. What you may see as a mistake or something to regret, God sees as an opportunity for you to help Him bring joy to this world.

In writing this, I am reminded of a message my youth pastor, Pastor Natalie Schmelzer, spoke called “Jars.” The very last message of the series was titled “Before the Jar Breaks,” and said this: “Before the jar breaks, remember who you live for (Matthew 6:19-21). Before the jar breaks, remember what you are living for. Before the jar breaks, remember how you live (James 4:14).” If you have forgotten those three things, I suggest you do some digging. Pick up a Bible and see what this crazy life is all about. Remember: You are loved, my dear friend! God has a wonderful plan for you.

I hope you enjoyed my first post. God bless!