Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I generally have these blog entries well thought out beforehand, but there is so much stirring within me that as dangerous as it might be, I think I will go with flow of consciousness.

I am being hard on myself today. I am most days, but usually only in small spurts. I think every era in time comes with its own set of hardships, its own advantages but also its disadvantages. Let me start from the beginning of this thought, though.

The other night I found my patience tried, like a frayed end of a proverbial string that was starting to unravel until it was just going to plummet to the ground. I was uncharacteristically frustrated and it was completely unnecessary. The things that were eating at me were all self-induced, the result of me accessing social and mental portals that were supposed to serve as mere distraction as opposed to substantial uses of my time or efforts. I began to think that this was life's way of punishing me for errant time and lazy behavior, and that I was learning an important lesson. I cannot argue for or against that, there might be some substance there, or I simply might be logically paving a path ahead of me I can take that will keep me from rocky terrain. Either way, it was a refreshing and eye-opening lesson to me that I cannot use my time of frivolous practices.

Social networking is a funny thing, in fact I am utilizing it right now by typing this blog, and I will follow it up with my usual Twitter and Facebook postings so that people who are bored or are naturally voyeuristic about the thoughts of another person can feed those urges. I see nothing wrong with that - reality shows prove that we are curious how other people live or exist. And because we are so curious about others, I think it is apparent we all want to foster curiosity about our own lives as well.

I find myself frustrated by the need to post things for all of my 759 friends on Facebook to see (minus those that surely have hidden me because I am either annoying, pointless, or offended with my religious views). Am I a victim of self-serving, or trying to assert my life is worth of others curiosity? Am I being fruitful and purposeful? Am I trying to rally the fans of Daniel Johnson's Life, or am I pointing you in a direction which will help you grow, think, reflect, or ponder? It is a constant struggle to want to help other people but not think about how it reflects on you as well. Pastor Rob (my senior pastor at Shoreline) said that he lives to make his wife happy, and then when she is happy it reflects on him and can express to other people that he is a good husband. It was clear that his motivation does not lie in wanting to show off himself to others, but do I always share that same motivation?

Am I important? Do I matter? I sometimes can actually sit back in my office chair and truly comprehend the vast amount of people that I share this city, this state, this country, and this globe with. Unless I am on the television, featured on Youtube, or prancing around on stage somewhere upsetting Taylor Swift, I do not get the amount of attention that I see other people get. I do not receive the acclaim, the reverence, or respect they get. And while part of me would be content to love one person and have them supply those things to me as I do them, part of me also wants it from everyone.

I can admit this, I am flawed. I am a self-serving, attention-seeking, loud-mouthed wanderer inherently. The core of who I am is selfish and only interested in convincing other people that I am someone you need to know, to befriend, and to follow. And if people buy into that, then I am leading them as the piper did the children off the cliff and into the abyss.

This is where my frustration lies, this is where I am the most guilty of my flesh being in control when I let it. This is my biggest struggle, and the hardest part of being human. Scripture? I would not know where to start with things that can be said which correlate to the pursuit of self vs. the pursuit of humility and servant hood. I think the whole story of the Bible begins with a foundation of man and woman being selfish, following their own desires and curiosity, laying down their faith in the process. And then it is all a spiraling menagerie of stories that further drive home the point that we are depraved, that we are selfish, unkind, and out to belittle, destroy, or kill those in our way.

And yet at the end of it all is the final testament of ultimate grace. The end of the story is that every instance of being told that, in spite of who we are, we are given the treasure that we could never afford. We are not the masters of our destiny, of our heritage, our inheritance. We, initiated by faith, are merely the recipients and there is nothing we can do to void that when we sign the contract and take what is rightfully ours.

It baffles me how along the way I can be so ugly, so downright detestable, and yet I am given a key to a kingdom that I was never worth of but that I have ownership in. This is the story of grace that stirs me, that gives me hope not just for myself but for those around me that madden, frustrate, and aggravate me. It is out of this and this alone that I find myself wanting to act in a different accord, against my own nature. I cannot earn grace nor can I lose it, but I will absolutely not live in such a way that says I will take advantage of it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Image is a funny thing. How we are shaped shapes how we are, at least it can be. 

I am going to be blunt, Americanized image sucks, so so much. I was super fat my early years, climbing to 400 pounds. I got a lot skinnier after that, then saw some of it creep back after a couple of years of sitting in class and then a full time job 6 days out of the week with nothing but a microwave, fast food, and convenience store snacks at my disposal. I am glad to say that I am currently in the middle of progress in turning things back around and getting back in shape again.

That part of the story is important because it affected my journey and is how I relate to the issue of image affecting our self-perception and how I dealt with it. The truth is that we all have problems with our image and the person we see when we look at ourselves. We might not share the same image issues, but they are always there. In America I think we have glamorized image to the point that none of us are capable of becoming what something once told us was perfect. In that we have molded ourselves to be a self-destructive society whose daily goal is to keep reaching for that end goal, an end goal beyond reach and never fully realized until our final slumber: perfection, and the contentment therein.

For matters of health, I think that being in good shape or healthy (not always synonymous in my case) is important and vital to a long, happy life (being in shape means natural endorphins are released in your body, providing further energy and a more positive outlook on life). Growing up, though, being in good shape meant everything. As I saw myself getting bigger and bigger I saw my dreams becoming smaller and smaller. I thought myself so incapable of so many things, and of being someone of substance who could provide anything to society. I found a sense of humor to be something people were never in short supply of, though, and I did my best to keep the laughs coming. I also maintained a commitment to the church I grew up in and found one of the few joys in life being involved in the lives of the teenagers, helping to lead them and just have some fun in their life.

Through the help of surgery and then a much more active and healthy-conscious diet, I was able to start dropping weight, and fast. I found myself losing more than half of what I weighed, as if I were two people halved into one. All those years of thinking all my dreams and all my desires were unreachable were suddenly within my grasp. And when I reached out to take what was mine and what it was I felt entitled to ... I came back empty-handed. Ok, ok, I have to put out a little effort to make this happen I thought to myself, and I started to conform to images I had always seen, but never had been able to be myself due to my weight and my poor self-image. To say I became selfish and reckless is an understatement. I was destructive to a fault, and I could not function as a friend or a leader to anyone, not even myself. I betrayed myself and my values so many times, I began to feel like a living piece of sludge.

Still, God does not always call the qualified, he qualifies the called. I saw the call in a vivid dream and a spoken word that will remain with me as if it were a movie onscreen for all the rest of my days. It was a snap-to attention, and it got my full focus, but there was much more of a journey ahead of me. I had a lot of lessons to learn, a lot of tests to take, and I can not say I passed them all. I failed, failing not just in secret, but in the limelight, in front of people I respect, admired, or aimed to be like. I let down all my friends, my family, and my leaders, but still they had love for me, even if I did not know it at the time.

My journey humbled me in ways that broke me, tore me down, and ripped me apart, but it was like that scene in Spider-man where he had to literally tear the dark symbiote from his body before he could become the good-natured person he was meant to be again. I felt like I was placed on new ground, with a fresh start and a clean slate. Sure, the things that had happened in my past shaped me, gave me perspective, and keep me sharp in my humility, but it has also done a myriad of good in my life. There has been an increased sense of compassion for others who hurt, a better sense of purpose and not wasting the time that I have like I used to, the lack of desire to be selfish with my time or activities or calendar, but mostly the dependency of God to shape who it is I truly am.

After a run in college in another city, I returned to my church and have found it to be a completely different experience. The call that was placed on my life is all that mattered, and I felt as though God truly led me back to serve the church family I grew up with, as a time to pour back into something I took so much out of and took for granted before. The difference is now the image that God has of me is what makes me up, drives me, and when we can grasp that image and embrace it, we can take the focus off of aspiring for greatness and, instead, inspire to spread His glory. 

Of course, this is easier said than done.

There is still much inside of me that can be unsettled at times, and I have not transcended to some upper level of spiritual nirvana, preventing me from the mess that is to be human. When looking at God's image and then who I am side-by-side I realize there is so much that I have to learn, much growing that needs to happen. There are still dreams I have that I sometimes think would have been realized by now had I not wasted so much time. Sometimes it can be a bit debilitating and discouraging to think of how far I still have to go, but then I found comfort in this verse today: 

Ephesians 1:11-14. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,  in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. 

This verse was paramount in reminding me that God's plan, His will, and His image for and of our life is meant to work out, with purpose. We are guaranteed an inheritance, and with that inheritance comes promises and guarantees of who we are and what we possess. By American standards we may not be much, in fact we might be downright out-and-out, but God is the one whose standard we should measure ourselves by and how we value ourselves. There comes a time when body, spirit, and mind all come in congruence and alignment, and I continue to press towards that goal, but in the meantime I do not count this time as wasted or insufficient but timely in His ultimate purpose for my life.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I do not know about you, but when I was young and in grade school I was a bit of an achiever, maybe even an overachiever by some standards. I liked doing well on tests, I loved seeing the red ink on my paper in the shape of an "A," made even better when followed by a "+." The real treat, however, was when a teacher would feel compelled to write a note that expressed the impression your schoolwork had upon them. These were regarded with such high jubilation that they got a special place right smack dab on the front of the family refrigerator. I imagine I was a lot like Ralphie from "A Christmas Story" whose essay on why he should get a Red Rider BB Gun would elicit sheer praise that would warm the cold thoughts his mother had in regards to him getting one, except I did not have the unfortunate, debilitating outcome poor Ralphie when she dismissed his stance altogether and aid "you'll shoot your eye out, kid."

I myself enjoy playing guitar and singing. I spend time writing my own material, but I am also a bit of a cover artist performing under the guise Cellar Lily. I record and upload my stuff to YouTube which started at the request of some friends and co-workers who wanted to hear anything and everything I worked on. Part of the YouTube community is the ability to comment on videos. My uploads are not videos, merely a song backed by an image I think goes along with the song in a sometimes-obvious or sometimes-obscure manner. Still, people have the ability to comment and offer their opinion on my song. I am always surprised and excited to receive random emails at different times of the day notifying me that I have received a new comment, but even more pleased when they actually have something nice or encouraging to say (sometimes I get Simon Cowell wannabes on there). 

I digress to say that a lot of us enjoy the pride we feel when we not only feel we did a good job or accomplished something noteworthy, but that someone else we respect or maybe even a complete stranger marvels at what our hands and mind have accomplished. We can see these things as truths about ourselves, and it gives us a healthy and welcomed re-assurance. 

The best thing about my life, however, is that I always have an unshakable and fully-believable Truth that was written just for me. Tests have been lost in the trash, and comments stored on databases that could be erased, but every day, at any time I can turn to the Scripture and see what has been written about me, my future, my destiny. And these words can never be erased, burned, or buried because these words are written on our hearts like a tattoo that can never be removed. These are life-changing and empowering words that are branded upon us and give us complete ownership and entitlement to the keys of the Kingdom.

When times comes that I wish I could hear or read some sort of encouragement that gave me that extra spring in my step I always know where I can turn to, without fail. As Jesus states in Luke 17:20, the kingdom is not something that can be observed because it is within our midst. All we need to do to see the blueprints of the kingdom and what charge was written for our place within it is crack open the book and take a delight in what He has written for us.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Do you ever find yourself completely famished and craving that one certain thing to satisfy your hunger? I know I do. Sometimes I find it really maddening (in a funny way) to not know exactly what it is I want and then I resort to nibbling on this and nibbling on that in some misguided attempt to satisfy whatever it is my body specifically wants. It is also times like these when it is dangerous to go to the grocery store as shopping around can lead you to throwing whatever your eyes see into the cart until you get to the check out and realize you have overspent considerably when all you needed was just a few of the items you had feverishly grabbed.

In our spiritual lives it is gratifying to know that we do not have to suffer from the same fate when we have the truth of the Scripture to give us a full "shopping list," if you will. In 2 Peter 1:3 we are assured that He gives us everything we need for life and godliness. He is also referred to as the giver of our daily bread and, in John 6:35, we are told that He is the bread of life and in Him we will never go hungry again.

We as people are constantly seeking fulfillment and to feel as though we lack nothing. In our times of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual hunger it is imperative that we are not filling our life shopping list with frivolous things to fill our proverbial pantry, be it material possessions, validation from others, social/governmental assurances, etc. Our true fulfillment comes from feeding on the truth which then aligns our daily activities, our heart, and our desires with the things that God desires. This is how we, as a consumer of the Kingdom, bring about the Kingdom for all to feast on, and be filled with.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Last night a dear leader in the faith I loved named Earl McClellan shared an analogy about us being squeezed like play-doh through a shaped hole. When squeezed through the hole, your composition then takes on the shape of what you are squeezed through. He urged us to allow God to squeeze us so that we might be molded in His shape and image. 

This was the scope of 2010 for me, so I guess now I digress into a bit of reflection. 2009 was a quiet year after returning home to Austin and job hunting for over 7 months. Once I found a place I called home for a season, I found myself in the middle of some of the worst storms of my life. I was constantly at war with myself, led and controlled by moments, situations, and emotions I just wanted to forget. While I had grown accustomed, in these times, to use things, events, or hobbies to keep me busy and distract me, there was a righteous defiance within me to deal with things. I did not know it at the time, but this was my call to be squeezed.

When people say or do things that cause us to look at our own short-comings, depending on the level of our maturity it can be a very defensive and emotional moment. Tempers can flare, errant or hurtful words can be spoken, and dissension is possible. The truth of the matter is that being forced to look at our inefficiencies naturally draws us towards growth, and as anyone who has experienced growing pains can attest, it is uncomfortable to feel that particular pressure, as if someone is squeezing a sensitive part of ourselves. I know facing some bad roots in my life and dealing with those made me feel completely wrung out, like a dry sponge. It was as if every last drop had been squeezed out, but now I was fresh and ready to soak up the right things in my life.

In the Scriptures, 1 Peter 5:10 says that "after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace ... will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."
If we are feeling the squeeze and running from it to earthly things (money, possessions, image, a relationship, physical pleasures, etc.), then the pressure will be alleviated and we will slip and slide through life with what is inside of us. We will still retain that which weighs us down and starts to stagnate, and stagnation leads to rot. Only when we understand and embrace the true change that being a Christian requires will we allow ourselves to be squeezed and find the things that preclude us from being agents of love, grace, joy, and peace truly drawn out of us. But if we take heed of the Scripture and recognize suffering as a time of growth, then we will find ourselves no longer restored by our own devices, by by God's renewal and strengthening.