Pain is a Promise.

“Pain is a promise, but so is peace.”
– God to me, 2.26.19

This blog post is going to be a little different than usual. Unlike most, I’m beginning this post unsure of what the happy ending will be…or if there will be a happy ending.

The past year has been the year from hell for me. I have lost friends. I have lost myself. I have tossed God aside. I have lived a wretched, fearful life…I guess more accurately 2019 has been the year from heaven wherein God is stretching me and growing me just like I asked Him to. Blah, blah, blah. Bottom line: It has sucked. I don’t have a lot of words these days. I mostly just sit, eat, sleep, exist, then do it all again the next day.

Now that I’ve established where I’m at this year, I would like to share with you a journal entry I wrote a few nights ago on October 19, 2019:

Sleep looks different now. Then again, so do most things.

I’m finding it gets harder before it gets easier…I’m told it will get easier.

They say healing is a process and you can’t put a time limit on it. You just have to heal as you go and grow and do whatever it is you do. But that’s just the thing: Right now, I don’t know what I am supposed to do. I feel like I don’t know who I am. I feel like I don’t know where or why I am. I just know whose I am.
I am God’s beloved child.

Healing is not a glamorous process by any means, but it is humbling and beautiful, harder than hell and more glorious than the words this Earthly life can provide me with.

Most days are hard. God gives me the grace to be in pain, but then reminds me of the good. Then good days come (Praise the Lord!), but just as quickly as the good comes, the enemy comes to remind me of the bad. (Go figure.) All around, it’s really hard to exist right now, right here.

In the name of being honest, I’d rather not tell you my life’s all rainbows and butterflies. However, for fear of vulnerability, I would rather not share the fact that I cry most days. That’s the thing though: I would rather be imprisoned in pain and telling you so while asking for prayers as opposed to smelling roses and telling you life’s all dandy with a fake smile plastered to my face.

PLEASE NOTE: I have not given up hope. I can’t. He’s too good. God has held me from day one through to today, so I doubt he’d toss his hands up and say he’s done with me now.

Lol. I can just see it: “WELP! There goes Tyler, again. Being all depressed, not believing this life and pain are temporary. Not believing I am healing her feelings of sorrow and worry while giving her the fortitude she needs to continue on. She’s too hurt and too broken. I’m done with her. If she’s not gonna trust me fully, I’m outtie.”

That would be the dumbest. For starters, I’ve messed up time and time again and yet God hasn’t forgotten me or let me go. Why would he now in a place where I am simply walking through the pain of my past? Secondly, even if I don’t trust Him fully, I am doing what I can to love and trust him with my obedience. Giving Him my “yes” while being as terrified and angry as I am has been the biggest faith builder in my life thus far. He NEVER fails to show up for me and do what he’s promised.

So yeah, this $π|+  is hard, but God is tougher. And yeah, my heart feels broken and as if a fat rhino sat on it, but this is what it looks like for me to have my shadows be brought into the Light of Life.

At first, I felt very depressed about my whole situation. Not gonna lie, I still mostly do. But then somewhere along the way, Someone reminded me to refer back to the words of John 16:32-33 “32 …Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

His promise to me is one of pain and sorrow, but also one of peace.

Forgive me, but I am an encourager by nature and feel led to extend this same offer to you. Yes, your life has been marked by the moments that marred your heart. Yes, you may currently feel defeated. Yes, you might have even given up a few times on a few things or a few people (including yourself), but that’s just the middle. The in-between.

God gave us peace walking into it so that in the middle, where the trials and sorrow exist, he could remind us of his peace. That way when we walk through to the end we can revel in the fact that we too, through Christ, have overcome the world.

SO… I guess this post ends with hope anyways…despite the fact that I’m still depressed. Depressed, not just a little sad or down. I’m friggin’ struggling here. I feel like I’m drowning most days, but I STILL HAVE HOPE. Even if my blessings and the redemption of this pain don’t come to me this side of heaven, I have hope for restoration. The End.

God, wya?

I cried…

…as I usually do. I mean, I’m an emotional creature. What can I say?

But this time was different. I knew what I had done to drift into this state of mind. I knew why I felt the way I did.

I lacked gratitude.

Lately, I have found myself feeling this dead winter inside my soul. (Fitting for the physical season we’re in, but still not very fun as an emotional experience.) It’s a time wherein I feel hopeful and yet desperate for the end, optimistic and yet reality has set in, depressed but held deep within the arms of peace, buried and yet not dead, but just beginning to breathe.

This day (1.23.19) was a particularly rough day as I felt humbled by the pain in my heart, almost like a reminder that I am not invincible. I need God. I need his mercy and blessings. Then I need to be grateful for those moments of mercy and beautiful blessing. My day was filled with moments of trying to count my blessings as a reminder of God’s goodness to me, but sometimes that just doesn’t do the trick. Sometimes you look at your past or even you present, see all the blessings and still have to ask, “God, where you at?”

After my Global Outreach team meeting (which you can donate to, if you’d like, through the following link: https://jessup.edu/globaloutreach/giving/ ) I rode around on my longboard and asked God what he had in mind for the night. He took me to the prayer chapel where I played piano and sang to him. Next to my spot of surrender. Then something interesting happened. I felt like I was supposed to head back to the prayer chapel to get some homework done, but when I got there I saw familiar faces that I did not want to see. This made me stop in my tracks and then head in a direction I wouldn’t normally go.

Instead of heading to the library, I rode on over to the old Warrior Arena where I found a friend of mine playing basketball. This was a fun surprise as this friend doesn’t attend Jessup. (Don’t worry they’ve got a sibling at Jessup. They’re not stopping by to creep or anything. 😉 ) I stopped my aimless wandering and chatted with this friend and his brother.

Although I had not planned to see or talk with him, it ended up being exactly what I needed. It sparked in me a montage of remembrance. I remembered God had never left me. I remembered God’s goodness and kindness to me. I remembered God hears me. Most importantly I remembered I am not alone.

Sometimes conversations with God are deep, theological, soul-stirring conversations. Other times chats with God look like asking the simplest of questions, like, “God, where you at? And sometimes the answer is as simple as, “In the gym.”

You might be asking God the same question or one like it. My hope is that you (and I both) learn from my mistakes in mishearing God or plowing over him to get to an answer I like.

When God gives you an answer or a direction and it doesn’t make sense, follow through. Not because you want to, or because some magical, out-of-this-world peace will wash over you, but because this type of obedience and trust in God in the midst of fear leads to a deepening in the well-spring of your soul.

Where fear once resided courage will spring up reminding you of the time God came through. When lies tempt you in the direction of comfort and ease, Truth will come in to declare, even in a whisper, God’s faithfulness and compassion.

If you don’t believe me, test it for yourself. I promise God will come through…maybe not in the way you expect, but in the EXACT way you need.

Deserving of Love, NOT Punishment

“You don’t deserve punishment; You deserve love.”
– God to me, 01.07.19

“Go stand in the corner! And face the wall!… Turn around.”

I stood only three feet tall and three years old in the corner, wringing my hands, head down. I didn’t know what I had done wrong. I just knew I was in trouble. I was shamed and punished, but unsure why. I found myself turning around to see if I could be let out from my imaginary jail cell, but was only confronted with a stern voice telling me to turn around.

The voice was my father’s. And the accident that bought me a timeout: I had gone to the bathroom in my pants because I had been too afraid to tell anyone I needed to use the restroom. I attempted to build up the courage to say something, but by the time I had, it was too late.

Fear. Fear. Fear.

The driving factor behind each action was fear, not love.

First John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment (GNT).” I know, I know. I’ve referenced this verse before…and I’ll continue to do so until the day I die because this is one of the MOST beautiful things about the Gospel Message.

WHEN WE REALIZE WE ARE LOVED BY GOD WE DON’T LIVE FROM A PLACE OF FEAR OF HIS PUNISHMENT. WE LIVE OUT OF LOVE AND GRATEFULNESS FOR HIS LOVE.

I have shared my testimony before of when God spoke to me as I was ready to end my life. [If you haven’t read that you can find that post here.] However, that was really just the beginning. After that, He began to deconstruct the foundations of my life only to help me to begin to build my life on the foundation of His love. Now here I am some years later more in love with God, myself, and this world than I have ever been ONLY because I now understand that my relationship with God is NOT based off my performance. His love isn’t hung upon the ever unstable hinges of my obedience. His love is unconditional. His love is healing. His love points to the spots of pain in your life, like my childhood, and reveals that He did not intend for us to pick up the pains that we did.

My Leadership and Justice class was having an intense discussion about whether or not justice and mercy are mutually exclusive. A friend of mine shared the thought that they have to coexist because parents make them coexist all the time. She went on to say that if a child makes a mistake they don’t get punished as an adult, but rather they are still disciplined.

The best example that comes to mind when I think of this is when I was in my awkward and rebellious phase in middle school. I was twelve years old, sexting boys looking for healthy attention in unhealthy ways. My mom found out, so she sat me down to talk about it. She asked me why I had done what I did. Then she hugged me and told me she was so sorry I felt I had to get attention from guys that way. She didn’t yell or tell me I was a slut or a horrible human, but she did take my phone. This instance displayed both mercy and justice. My mom loved the hell out of me.

I pray for you to see God wants to do the same to you in your life. You aren’t too far. You aren’t the devil incarnate. You are human and you WILL make mistakes, but don’t be afraid. You don’t deserve punishment (and that’s not what you’ll get when you come to God). You deserve Love.

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.

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/

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