“Jesus bless the crocodiles, forgive the cobras and all the snakes.
Open up your arms to carry all of our mistakes.
Suck the venom from every bite and vomit every drop.
Some of us may bite your hand but some of us will not.
And every knee will bow before you, each forked tongue confess.
My selfishness will rot in me and I will seek your rest.
Still some lizards flee from you, ashamed of all they’ve been.
So Jesus take myself from me, never bring it back again.”—Showbread (via thatwasnotverysassyofyou)
You were a theatre, giving performances for all to see free of charge. You put on comedies, romances, dramas, anything to please. Crowds came back for more, masses filled up the seats that weren’t there. They loved the performances, but cared not much for you. Behind your curtains was something not many saw - the work you put into each production, sweat blood tears and even with no recognition, no credit, not a single compliment, you saw to it that the show would still go on.
Gave a seminar tonight on loving people inside the Church. Seeing the youth tear up, a few asking me for private talks, it’s all just so humbling. Ah. My love for this place and its people. Also shared my testimony battling depression for the first time in front of my mom. I can’t remember the last time she looked so proud. God is so good. Maybe I am going to be a pastor.
I want to redefine the concept of love. Here’s a bit of my story.
Two and a half years ago when I realized I was attracted to Nina in a romantic way, I took a step back to collect my emotions. Why was I attracted to her? What set her apart from other girls? I made a mental list of reasons. She was soft-spoken, yet knew when to speak boldly. She was kind to everyone. She was compassionate. She was hard-working. The list went on and on, and I smiled to myself thinking of how wonderful a girl Nina was. I loved her, I thought. This is what love feels like. And so we had our occasional arguments here and there, but for the most part, our relationship was sailing smoothly. We were happy.
The testing of those superficial emotions came when Nina’s depression hit an all time high. Over the course of about 5 months, she changed. Kindness turned into bitterness. Empathy into apathy. Compassion into jadedness. She wasn’t the same Nina anymore. She didn’t want to hear about God, while I was trying my best to cling onto the remains of my faith. She said things to me that I never would’ve imagined would come out of her mouth. We were crashing, our relationship was breaking down. Everything we did felt like the wrong turn. When it finally hit a breaking point, I looked at myself in the mirror, through thick, blurry tears, and asked the same question I asked myself two and a half years ago. Why was I attracted to her? What set her apart from other girls? She now spoke in curses and anger. She turned away the people who loved her. She was apathetic towards the hurt around her. She wanted to stay in bed and do nothing. This is not the same Nina I fell in love with. Nina saw it too. She knew she had changed, and she questioned and questioned and questioned how I could still love her. I didn’t know what to do. End it here? Push through and hope for the best? So I prayed. I prayed primarily not for the relationship, but for a better understanding of love. What it meant. And that’s when I understood. I finally understood the phrase we Christians love to throw around all the time - “unconditional love”. I didn’t love Nina because she was kind, compassionate, loving, or giving. I didn’t love her because she was pretty or cute. I loved her because she was Nina. I loved her for her. And I realized that the only reason I could even begin to love her in this way, was because this is how God loved me. I sat there, smitten with the raw truth of God’s love, weeping. That from day one, He saw me, loved me relentlessly through all my changes, all my seasons, all my highs and all my lows.
By God’s grace, healing came. Nina is better than ever before. She’s learning to love life again, her heart is being restored of the passion she had for the people around her. The struggles are still there, but our hearts have changed. And today, our relationship is deeper than it’s ever been. Hand in hand, we are growing together, in God.
In loving someone, whether it be romantically or not, understand this: emotions based on temporary things will not last. Unconditional love looks at the person and says, "I love you because you are you". If you fall for someone because they are kind or loving, what happens when they are unkind and unloving? Do you love them less? That certainly should not be.
And so I say I want to redefine love because I think we’ve got it so twisted these days. We’ve molded it into what we think is comfortable or favorable, when really, we should be molding ourselves into the example of love already set. Whoever is reading this, thank you for reading this far. I hope, with all my heart, you know that God loves you. Tremendously. Unconditionally. Not because of your accomplishments, or because you’re nice, or because you’re a leader in the church, but because you are simply you. Now let’s go love others in the same way.
On my way to pick up flowers and chocolates for the lady, I observed the streets I pass by on a daily basis. I see a man who hasn’t shaved in weeks, smiling to himself as he sniffs his bouquet of flowers and looks adoringly at his box of chocolates. I see a woman with worn out jeans, torn shirt, and a dirty beanie telling people around her how she needs a taxi to get home to give her man the flowers she could finally afford. She was beaming. I see a mother pushing her baby in a stroller. The baby is holding a rose, I make a funny face and she giggles. I look up at the mother and she gives me a warm smile. Love.
Even when I was single, I liked the idea of Valentine’s Day. Sure, people will argue, “But you shouldn’t just show your love today! You should show it everyday!” and yes, I do agree. But that’s not the point. Whether it was going out to buy a rose for my mom or just telling my best friends how much I loved them, it never hurt to take a day and reflect on my love for other human beings. I know a lot of single people dread today, and with good reason. It can definitely make one feel lonely. But regardless, if you have a mother, tell her you love her. If you have a father, tell him you love him. If you have siblings, tell them you love them.
I couldn’t help but think about each person I saw today and what stories their lives told. Perhaps the man had been so busy this week, he couldn’t even take time to shave. But upon remembering it was Valentine’s Day, he decided to go out and let a loved one know that he cared. Perhaps the shabby-looking woman had been looking forward to this day for months now, to be able to give back to the man she loved. Perhaps the mother and her spouse had been so consumed with the baby, that they haven’t had any time to rest. And so today, they could do a little something for each other. Or perhaps, the mother simply wanted to get her baby girl a rose. Hehe.
The world could use as much love as it can get. Let today be the day. Happy Valentine’s day.
“I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my…
A short devotional from last year. Convicted yet again.
I think I’ve finally realized one of my biggest problems. I refuse the help and love of other people, because I don’t want others to worry about me - that I’ll be fine on my own. It seems like kindness, but it’s just well-disguised selfishness. Because what we don’t realize is that one of the most selfless things we can do, is allow loved ones to love on us. It is to receive graciously and humbly. I’m learning.
If a brother or sister isn’t praying, reading, or generally responding to anything, don’t be so quick to rebuke. There’s obviously something wrong. Be the friend who takes the extra step in reaching out. There’s a fine line between convicting encouragement and overwhelming someone with “what they should be doing”. Grace. Grace.
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”—Thomas Merton (via mickymaye)
Did the title of this post catch your attention? Perhaps it sparked something inside of you. A righteous anger? An adamant "But they can be depressed!" If so, I commend your heart.
First and foremost, to clarify any misconceptions, “depression” is not simply a feeling of sadness. It is described as a prolonged, ongoing state of hopelessness or disinterest. It is not an emotion, it is a mental illness. I address this clarification because society cannot seem to wrap its head around the fact that a human being can be living a perfectly normal life, achieving great things, and heading towards a bright future, yet still want to kill him/herself at the end of the day. It is real. It is misunderstood. It’s more prominent than one might think.
Now, let’s think about this topic in the realm of the Church. Negative feelings seem to be a taboo in much of the Christian community. No, let me rephrase that. Negative feelings beyond the “norm” seem to be a taboo in the Christian community. For example, when a person breaks down during prayer time, he/she is almost expected to jump for joy towards the end of the worship session. Why? Because the gospel brings joy, yes. But what about the person who is still crying, even after everything is over?
I’ve been battling depression for a long time now. Since around middle school, I’ve had ongoing thoughts of self-harm, complete isolation from loved ones, and suicide. In April of 2013, I was a jerk of the wrist away from killing myself. To this day, I have random moments of breakdown and nights in which I would like to disappear and be alone. Keep in mind, I have been the President of the Christian Club in high school, the main leader in my youth group for years, and a source of mentorship for others. And yet, I still battle with this. There are millions like me. And the Church did nothing for me. Rather, God did. And for months, I had become jaded and bitter towards the place into which I invested my service and heart. Does anyone else see a problem with that?
And so what if we shifted the culture? What if we turned it upside down? What if we stopped making the church a place of obligatory service and mechanical motion, and made it a place of rest, genuine love, compassion, and ultimately worship? The church doesn’t have to always be a happy place. We don’t have to plaster on fake smiles, sharing surface leveled struggles, and then achieving a short-term remedy. The church should be a place where we can come with our real battles: "The other day, I didn’t talk to anybody. I feel so empty." "Today, I lied in bed for 2 hours just thinking about not living anymore." "I don’t feel safe with anybody, I’m so alone." And it should be a place where there is such a lack of judgement and such a surplus of empathy, that there would be no need to hide or sugarcoat the things going on in our minds and hearts.
Throwing a few bible verses at someone and expecting the problem to be overcome is something that the Christian community has picked up, and it frustrates me to no end. Don’t get me wrong, I am not effacing the power of Scripture. But I am saying that the human mind is complex. Sometimes a person doesn’t want to be told “to be strong” or to “pray about it”, as our Church culture has taught us. Sometimes a person needs to know that there are people out there who will listen. Or that there are people who may not understand nor will they try to understand, but will simply be there.
“You must learn her. You must know the reason why she is silent. You must trace her weakest spots. You must write to her. You must remind her that you are there. You must know how long it takes for her to give up. You must be there to hold her when she is about to. You must love her because many have tried and failed. And she wants to know that she is worthy to be loved, that she is worthy to be kept. And, this is how you keep her.”—Junot Diaz (via godmoves)
“Sometimes I just wanted to take a picture of my mind; a precious moment, a feeling or a dream. I discovered that I didn’t need a science fiction machine to make this possible, just a pen and paper.”—Saskia Keultjes
Seeing so much hate on my dash. Christ-followers attacking other followers for their respective theologies. "Healthy" biblical debates that are really just serving as avenues for intellectual boastfulness. Why are we so quick to tear each other down? Is the Christian population that devoid of compassion? It breaks my heart. Let us look to the cross above all things, for we are in the same family. Shalom, my brothers and sisters. Peace.
Men in relationships, stop thinking about how your girlfriends can improve.
Always, always think “How can I be a better boyfriend? Best friend? Supporter?”
If we are to be Christ-like in our relationships, we ought to practice humility, patience, and service.
Treat your girl like she deserves to be treated.
Her needs before yours.
i can never seem to wrap my head around why some christians don't hold back on profanity. personally i see no purpose in using profanity at all since it does not glorify Jesus and they are not the only vocabulary in the world.. but i may also be close-minded. what are your thoughts around this? does profanity become ok when it's not directed to anyway and just part of your adjectives list or expression?
Hey! This is a question that seems to always come up, especially in evangelical culture. So I’ll give my two cents.
Above all, I don’t think it’s right to judge anyone for the words that they choose to use. Even for Christians… we shouldn’t measure someone’s holiness off of whether they say “hell” or not (in the right [or wrong] context at least). We don’t know their heart, and for all we know, they don’t even understand that word to be a “profane” word.
Which leads to my next point. Words are defined by a culture. For example, I knew of a British woman who would drop the “f bomb” and use language that most of us consider “profane”, however, if you used the word “bloody” (in the English sense), then you might as well had cursed her out. That might seem like nothing to us, but to her it was an extremely profane phrase.
Here’s another example. If I were to scream, “Mierda!!!” at my house, no one would give it a second thought. Unless you speak Spanish, you probably didn’t either. However, in some Spanish speaking cultures, that word is a very strong word that is somewhat similar to our word “s***”. Why doesn’t it mean anything to us? Because our culture hasn’t decided that it’s a “profane”.
To be fair, the Bible says plenty about avoiding corrupting speech and using only speech that can build someone up. However, I don’t think (actually, I know) that Paul had 21st century American English “cuss words” in mind when he wrote about that. Rather, it’s a matter of the heart.
Calling someone a “b****” out of anger is just as bad as calling someone an idiot out of anger. Why? Because your heart is misplaced in both situation. However, why is usually more acceptable to say “I hate you”, but absolutely taboo to say, “I f***ing love you.” The former is corrupting speech and the second one is actually edifying. So what’s the deal?
The deal is that, a lot of times, Christians are really good at building systems that they can succeed at very easily, and thus making it a source of pride when they find that other don’t or can’t keep it as easily. So, if we say this word and that word is inherently “profane”, then, since we don’t already say that word, we can consider ourselves extremely righteous and holy… all while ignoring the real problem: the heart.
So, all of this said, I still remember something extremely important. While I don’t think using certain words are wrong (but rather it’s about the heart), I understand that certain people do acknowledge certain words as inherently “unholy”. So I don’t say those words around them. No because I think I’m holy in doing so, but because I respect them and don’t want them to perceive me in a way that might lose credibility with them. It’s not being two-faced, but rather just respecting the convictions of others.
Those are my thoughts. A little longer than I intended, but I hope it gets the point across and helps you out!
First seek discipleship, then mentorship. Sometimes we try so hard to equip others while not being quite equipped ourselves. I think God honors those who have the passion to lead and teach but let us be grounded in the Spirit in all we do, lest we begin to believe that we are in no more need of being taught. Teach boldly, but don’t forget to learn humbly.
I fear for the future of the Church because we lack realness of heart. We’ve gotten so good at learning the vernacular, most of us can fake it so well. "Trust in God because He has a plan for you." "God loves you, so don’t be sad anymore." Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that these are inherently bad things to say in the least. In fact, often I need to hear them myself and they are indeed truths. But only when they are a product of simple head knowledge do they become dangerous. Plenty of Christians will go to church every Sunday knowing that these statements are good, while not understanding their goodness. What does that mean? There is a lack of heart knowledge.
Recently, I had one of my younger students pray for me. He really, really wanted to, so I was eager to let him. I was carefully listening to his words, that I might be blessed, and after a minute or two I realized what was going on. I peeked an eye open to look at him and smiled. He had his eyes clenched and it almost looked like he was struggling, but I could tell he was thinking hard. Thinking too hard. "Um.. God. I pray that Dan would trust You and um.. love You and um.. know that You love him and.. um.. and know that You are holy and righteous and um.. obey You and um.. obey Your commandments and um…" This was a small portion of his prayer and bless his little heart, I enjoyed and was encouraged by every word of it. But I was still uneasy. It’s not that I didn’t think he was being genuine. I think he was being as genuine as any 12 year old could possibly be. It’s that these words he was saying to me, he was probably saying to everybody else, with the same thought processes. They were words he had heard in church and rather than connecting with me through prayer, he simply recited the words he knew were “correct”. And I knew he was not the only one.
Brothers and sisters, let our words be an overflow of our heart’s genuineness and nothing less. When we become less caught up in the “church talk” and more caught up in what God is doing in our hearts, we will be shocked at what words we are capable of saying. Words laced with specific empathy, compassion, love. Some of the most powerful words that were ever prayed upon me were simple ones. "It’s okay Dan. It’s okay. Father is here. He is right here with you." And that was it for me. Blessed beyond words.
"Dan, most people try to see the best in others. I see you and it’s different. You fight for the best in others.” - I
"And we forgive and forgive again, right? That’s you and me. We love and love and love, no matter the circumstance." - S
Two of my best friends’ words to me.
I forgive too easily. I give more than I can handle. I tend not to care about my own needs. As a result, I’ve been tired. No, not tired as in the “life is hard, I want to die” tired. It’s the “i want to be absolutely nothing, in the nothingness of the biggest realm of complete and utter nothing” tired. I do such a good job hiding it, but those closest to me can see the leaks. Too often I will use the excuse, “You don’t understand an ounce of what I’ve been going through.” And that may be true. But that sentiment leads to nothing but bitterness and jadedness. So screw that. That’s not who I am. That’s not who I will ever be. Bring me to Hell, tear apart my soul bit by bit, shatter my heart, and still I will love. I will love. I will love.
Going to be teaching and giving a seminar on depression for a retreat the next few days.
Please pray that I’d be able to love wholeheartedly and speak well, despite any bitterness or tiredness that is on my heart. Thank you.
Breathe. Listen. Inhale. Exhale. It’s okay if today, you did not seize any opportunities. It’s okay if today, the grandeur of life simply did not appeal to you. If all you did today was scroll through Facebook, it’s okay. It happens to everyone. We all need rest. Stay in, watch your favorite movie, have playful conversation with your best friend. It doesn’t need to be heavy, not this time. Brew your cup of coffee, sit at your dining room table, and just be. You are alive. You are alive.
At night you slept soundly, dreaming of willows by the crystal blue lakes. You would laugh without a care, contagious, infecting all who had the pleasure of being around you. Your laughter was the prize for which I contended.
But now, what burdens you so? My days have been devoid of your laughter. You lie in bed for hours upon hours, but the night has not yet come. You brew your morning coffee, but it is three in the afternoon. Silence has substituted your words, and all those who had once been infected by you, you reject.
Come back, dear friend. We can go together. Take my hand and we will find ourselves under the willows. If you find it, still, that the silence persists, I will laugh. And I will give to you what you have already given to me.
“How to love your depressed lover.
Last night I thought I kissed the loneliness from out your belly button. I thought I did, but later you sat up, all bones and restless hands, and told me there is a knot in your body that I cannot undo. I never know what to say to these things. “It’s okay.” “Come back to bed.” “Please don’t go away again.” Sometimes you are gone for days at a time and it is all I can do not to call the police, file a missing person’s report, even though you are right there, still sleeping next to me in bed. But your eyes are like an empty house in winter: lights left on to scare away intruders. Except in this case I am the intruder and you are already locked up so tight that no one could possibly jimmy their way in. Last night I thought I gave you a reason not to be so sad when I held your body like a high note and we both trembled from the effort.
Some people, though, are sad against all reason, all sensibility, all love. I know better now. I know what to say to the things you admit to me in the dark, all bones and restless hands. “It’s okay.” “You can stay in bed.” “Please come back to me again.”—(via pityandcheapwine)
I had lunch with my friend Sam today and he asked me an interesting question. A question that I hadn’t really thought about in a while.
"Dan, how do you and Nina stay so committed to each other?"
I thought to myself for a second and replied,
"When you walk through the fire together with someone, a different bond is formed. I have Simon, Isaac, Mike, a few of my best friends. I love them all equally to death and I share something special with every single one of them. But with Nina, the bond is something else."
It wasn’t until after I answered the question that I realized my heart had been with no other girl besides Nina for the past 2 years. It’s been 2 years learning to explore her beautiful heart and understand her intricate mind. Our relationship is coming on 9 months now and while that really isn’t that long, I feel like I’ve learned things that people don’t learn until they’re old and gray. And so as I sit here and type this up, I give thanks. I am thankful for the long nights of tears and anguish, I am thankful for the scars. I am thankful for the difficulty. Because while there is pain in the night, no matter how long that night may be, there is joy in the morning. I believe. And while the suffering has tossed our relationship into the fire, it’s always made its way back out, refined and stronger.
Father, Let Your love be reflected in both of our actions, our words, and our thoughts. Bring us back to the blood-stained cross daily. Be near to the both of us, and continue to lead us through this desert. Jesus.