Thy Will Be Done

If you know me, I don’t think you would deny that I can be a bit of a “willful” person. I do not like being told what to do. And goodness do I have some fiery opinions. I will try to keep the “Christianese” to a minimum, but there are certain phrases that while foreign or uncomfortable that truly capture what I am about to write about. So as a disclaimer I won’t shy away from that language

To live an authentic “Christian-life” that is alive and contagious, you have to come to terms with surrendering your will to God. What makes a phrase like “surrendering your will to God” so lofty and confusing is because…. well honestly, how often is a statement like that unpacked. Goodness, I know I cannot unpack it in a single blog post. But you are here already so let me try the best I can.

God has a Will and desire for the world. Like all of creation. The pebbles, the oceans, the mountains, the little chipmunks, and humans (individually and collectively). Also, something weird… sometimes people capitalize the word “Will”. Like God’s Will just got done starring in the Fresh Prince of Bel-air. I tend to be one of those people. I like to look the English language in the face and blow a raspberry in its immediate direction.

Emily Dickinson understood the power of turning words like “Will” into pro-nouns. To me, God’s Will is alive. It has a personality, it has a direction, it knows love, it knows hurt and brokenness and it breathes out life into creation. What does God’s Will want? It wants all of the world to surrender its pride and its selfish desires. It wants every human to run, to sprint, to roll, to drive, to swim with tears streaming into the open arms of God. God’s Will wants humanity to be its truest and fullest self. And the matter of the fact is that God’s Will is not misguided like our own, like my own. It has a vision that can see a picture written throughout history and time that my mind could never comprehend.

So for argument’s sake lets play out this scenario: At some point in life you decided that you want your will to match God’s Will. You even went to the extent to ask God verbally or quietly to use you how ever God desires. This is not a far-fetched scenario. Most professing Christians or even former Christians have been led to prayer a prayer just like this. I have no idea how many pastors and leaders have been completely honest about what a surrendering of will to God’s Will means. So stick with me, I am about to piss some people off.

Submitting to God’s Will is the single most painful and dangerous and fear-ridden decision you will ever make.

But God, is it good.

When you surrender like that, the pain will be searing, Dear Jesus it will hurt. People will still try to abuse you, they will try to manipulate you, they will try to crush you. You will constantly be put in situations that scare you so deeply that you will feel so small, so vulnerable that you will not be sure if you can press on. Every single one of your fears will be brought to the surface. They will be laid out, they will be examined, they will be poked and they will rage. And you most likely fail and concede more times than you can count. And when you think you have no more to give, and think you just cannot do this anymore, God’s Will ask for just a little more.

That pain, though, it will change your heart. It will change how you see people it will change how you see the world. It will strengthen you to climb heights that you thought were insurmountable your entire life. It will fill you with a fierce fire and a power that no human, no circumstance, no loss and no struggle can quiet.

And every dangerous situation God’s Will brings you into will make you more alive than you ever thought you could be. Life will taste sweeter than you ever believed it would. Relationships will be truer and greater than the world is prepared for.

Every time you have recoiled in fear will be brought forth. You won’t just survive your fears. By God’s Will and strength you will thrive midst fears you never thought you could endure. Thrive. Your fears will rise up and love will smash them down.

God’s Will has dominion. And God will not stop until your fears, your iniquities, your hurts, and your pain all submit to God’s Will. God will ask more of you than you think you can handle. But God’s Will knows you more intimately than you will ever know yourself. God will ask you to bend, but will never break you.

Submitting or surrendering to God’s Will is not a one time thing. Maybe you are willful like me and your plans are found in imperfect thoughts. And you will tell God “no”, but I hate to tell you, it probably won’t go down with God saying “aight, you do you”. I cannot tell you how many declarations I have made about what I won’t do and how every single time God has blown a raspberry in my immediate direction.

So you know I have lived out what I am talking about and am still living it out here are two examples of how God has dealt with my stubbornness.

At some point in college I said verbally, well more than a few times that I will move WHEREVER God leads me, but I WILL NOT live in Texas. Lol. Before y’all get upset. I’m not just some Texas hater. I didn’t even really have bad feelings towards TX, it just was not something I would consider….

So… in 2014 God put me in a car and sent me to my first vocational ministry position. In Texas. Goodness were those years difficult. They also changed me at my core. I do not live in Texas any more but I love the people there and that state like I never thought I could. My time in Texas taught me more about who I am in God’s eyes than maybe any other season in my life.

My second example. I have had this friend named Allison for nearly 16 years now. It was one of those frustrating situations you see where everyone wanted to tell us what we should be. I promise you. Her and I both on many occasions growing up said. I will never date him/her. Side note she is just as willful as me if not more. I believe her when she says she won’t do something.

Would you believe what God’s Will did. October 21st, 2017. I married Allison on a magnificent Fall day in Southern New Jersey. And on that day a mass of people saw that God’s Will will do what it wills. I am married now to the most amazing woman, I could not imagine a life without her by my side.

I just need you to know that it is all worth it. The pain, the disappointment, the anger, the abuse, the failures. In this world these things will persist. But God’s Will is a fierce and unstoppable force that will conquer every last ounce of influence that does not make you your fullest self.

God will ask for more when you think you have no more to give. And if you do not have more to give.

God will supply it.

I wrote a poem earlier, it isn’t great, but also I have not written a poem in years it feels like, so I figured I would share it. Just remember, it all doesn’t just “get better”. Christ makes your reality unimaginably good. So good, the thought of it is making me shudder in my seat. That goodness, that all-encompassing passionate love that your heart craves so desperately. That is what waits in God’s Will.

Much Love

BGTF

Here is that poem:

I never knew about

The devilish Mischief

I would endure

when you asked and

I begged yes

Ten years ago

I never knew

My fears would

Be examined

Be extracted

My whole self

Put under a microscope,

My chest peeled back

My heart pounding

Open for surgery

With my eyes

Wide-open

Just when I believe

I can take no more

You see it fit

To dig a little

Deeper; You prod

Harder

Some how your hand gets swifter

Your incisions more precise

Through tears

The scar tissue

The bloody mess

I cannot take more

And still you press

More

I offered myself

Over to You

So long ago

When I said, yes

I didnt realize

I could no longer say no

That you wouldnt

Stop chasing

When I run

That when my word

Was bond

Your promises

Could come alive

Still my fear rages on

And your answer:

“Just a little more”

Your will be done

You will press harder still

My will is surrendered

My will be yours

I will endure

 

Running

I’ve been running for a really long time. Almost four years it seems. I know, running is a silly word choice for someone who uses a motorized scooter. But we can run too! I am not even sure if this post will make it onto the internet. Here I am, though, typing anyway and seeing what comes of it.

No tea, no writing music, I’m in bed and not in a creative space. I am just tired of excuses. My thoughts were cluttered and super difficult to pin down so I decided to de-clutter my physical room as a symbolic exercise to declutter my mind. I know, super New-Age. But it seems to have worked.

So much has happened in the last 12 months. I started my first serious dating relationship. I quit seminary. I started working as a researcher for disability rights. I went back to counseling. I made a commitment to be all in on writing and speaking. I created and launched a Non-profit Disability Ministry. I began speaking at conferences and events about disability and inclusion. I started making videos. I found a home church. I met my biggest fear face to face and broke my ankle. I went to rehab. I moved back to New Jersey. I fought hard for four months to recover and get back to Nashville. I clawed my way, with help, out of the darkest pit of my life. I fell deeply in love with my partner, and someday wife. I moved back to Nashville. I launched my first video to get a decent amount of views (12k). And now here I am in mid-November hesitating where to motivate my legs to take me next.

While I have seen so much progression in my own life over the last year I am also painfully aware of the intense division that has consumed what seems like everyone in our country. But I don’t believe for a second that 2016 created all this discord and division. I believe whole heartedly it gave a voice to what was already lurking quietly in the background of our hearts. It was already there, now it has been clearly uncovered.

Maybe this is why I have been so afraid to post and write words for others to read. I DO NOT want to be another voice adding to the calamity and corresponding grace-less, unloving, polarized bickering that is controlling our hearts. Call it what you want. The truth is that our country is not one built on Jesus. It is built on the self-consumed, self-loving, self-seeking, self-indulging, self-proclaiming, self-preserving, self-deluded, selfish wants of our selves. Not one of us is free from that truth.

Harsh. Ouch.

And if you read what I just wrote and say to yourself “that’s so right! If only those (liberals/conservatives) saw how selfish they were!”

Then you literally missed the point of what I just wrote. I have never ever written a blog that pointed any direction but towards myself. I hope you can read these words in your own voice and take a beat from your overwhelmed emotions to consider this.

There will be no unity when the self is lifted above others. If we claim that it is not “the self” we advocate for, but those who look and sound and share views like us. I promise there is no difference to be had.

And the reason I have not written in four years with the conviction and depth and power that has always been in me is because I myself am self-seeking. self-preserving and selfish.

I am the man who took his talents and buried them away. Because surely, if I cannot lose any of what I have then I can keep it unharmed, unbroken and what I consider whole. I can show my Master that I have protected his gift from seeing the light of day. There is no weathering to be found. It has not been stolen or abused. It is the same as the day that He LENT it to me.

I cannot speak this next part to those who have not vocalized that they are a member of the Body of Christ. But I will write it so everyone can read it.

Our job. As the Bride of Christ. HAS NEVER been to use what has been given us for our own protection, preservation or provision. Those things. Those are God’s. Your job, our job is to be all in with every gift we have to offer.

We no longer bring our offerings to the altar to be burned before God. We take our offerings, our gifts, our talents and we hand them out freely to the Other. We share. No matter how much we are afraid it will hurt. We take scars and bruises along the way. And we give out what we have BEEN GIVEN freely.

Then we stand next to those we have shared our hearts with, we put our arms around them and we point to the Heavens and explain. “This is the God who gives and takes away. This is the Lord who so freely gives in abundance that we need not want, instead we are spurred on to give.”

We no longer burn offerings. No. We are the gifts God has poured out in abundance.

Turn your eyes, Oh Child of God, turn your eyes outward. Look at those who are not you. Those who are calling out in fear and in pain. Look to your hands. Look at your feet. Why are you not already running to those who are not you. Why are you not bringing them God’s gifts. The Spirit’s Gifts of love, patience, kindness, self-control, forgiveness and so on?

Will you stand in the gap? Will you show those in the world that there is a love greater than the self can ever muster? Run to them Dear Ones.

Much Love

BGTF

Little Distractions

Small distractions pile up to make big mountains. They don’t make a wall, like you would think, rather they pile. Under my feet they just grow and grow until the still earth is miles below. Whether you are afraid of heights or not. We are all grasped by that chest-tightening fear when we look too deeply, too intimately off the edge of a perilous drop. Whether you are standing on a balcony or have just climbed a peak. When you look down, it is impossible, not to feel the breeze catch you so that your entire body shudders at the rush of falling.

Distractions pile high and leave us terrified of what we have been avoiding. At one point the task was intimidating or stressful, but now it is clearly a death trap. To step off the edge of the distractions would surely end in a death sentence Why would you ever subject yourself to such cruelty? Why would you ever take any sort of plunge into uncertainty?

My mountain has grown incredibly tall. I can still barely make out the river below. I can no longer see its incredible strength and engulfing beauty. I see a shadow of life. The river used to be so strong, the current would exhaust my muscles and pull me further and further down stream. There was always a caution when I would wade in. What is in this water with me? I would ask. But it was never true paralyzing fear, rather it was awe. In the deepest part of myself I knew I would never drown, I knew I would rise to the surface exasperated and alive.

At some point, though, wonder and awe gave way to fear. Sure I could point my fingers at a handful of experiences that warped my trust in the river. But it was never the river at fault. A tree joined me in the river and snagged my foot once. I can’t imagine it was the tree’s intention, but rather it was clumsy and unaware of its roots. Maybe that was the first time that the crystal clear blue became slightly dark.

It overwhelms my mind when I think back on how quickly fear infected and polluted my eyes. The riverbank became more interesting to me, but I could still hear the power of the water forcing itself over rocks and twigs. I was safe on dry land.

I remember one incredible storm. I never knew the river could be so fierce and dangerous. I moved hastily further away from the waters, but this new energy from the storm had given the river permission to expand its reach. I could see its fingers reaching out towards me. I looked around at dry land and began to climb. Slowly at first, then faster when I had convinced myself the river was reclaiming me as its own.

Its been months and I am now so far above the river that I can barely make out its form. I long for it like nothing I have ever longed for before. But now I have a new fear: That all my distractions and the safety of dry land have separated me from the waters permanently. It seems too steep to climb down without slipping. And to jump would be to surely die.

So I go on piling up small distractions until it is late into the night and all I can do is sleep. Too high to drink the water. Too low to touch the stars in the sky. So I thirst and dream alone.

Much Love

BGTF

Nashville and more…

It has been right around eleven months since I have posted on this blog. It has been over two years since I have felt capable of writing anything but garbage. Even now as my fingers are fumbling to find the correct keys to press, I feel inadequate to be writing anything let alone publishing it on social media. I think these feelings, this Writer’s Ice Box I have been in is a testament to the amount of worth I place on words and my ability to create with them. Which is funny because over the last two years the persistent thought has been I am not good enough and I do not have anything worth sharing. All fear overshadowing one of my truest loves.

There are so many stories I could share with my readers (if there are any still out there) from the past two years. Oh, the lessons I have learned. Oh, the pit I dug myself into. Oh, the bloodied hands from crawling back out into the sunlight.

Let me start with where I am right now…

Right now I am in my brand new bed, in my brand new home, in a brand new city. Nashville.

I have been trying to get here for over a year and now I am here and every little step along the way has been God-imagined and God-willed.

I am really searching my brain for what story, what analogy to share with all of you. One that inspires hope and healing. That shows how I got to where I am today. How I am typing and not in a corner cowering from my dreams.

The only story I can think of has already been told. Millions of times over. Hopefully you know the story I am talking about. If not listen to this song below. It should explain everything I have been through and will continue to walk through. From today until Kingdom come.

I pray God gives me more words to share again.

Much Love friends it is wonderful to be back.

BGTF

Messy Second Chances

Before you start reading this post I would encourage you to watch the video above and then when you are done watch the video at the bottom of the post. It is not often that I include media into my posts. But I believe both of these songs have dictated what I am about to write about.

I want to talk about abandonment, fear, brokenness, grace and Jesus. Just so you are prepared for what I am about to get into here.

I was reading John chapter 11 this morning. Perhaps you know the chapter. It is the very famous passage where the author writes the words “Jesus wept.” Let me paint the picture. It has come to Jesus’ attention that his friend Lazarus has fallen very ill and may be nearing death. Jesus is unmoved by this and declares that this situation will not end in death.

Fast forward a couple of days and Jesus arrives to Lazarus’ home where his two sisters are mourning (Martha and Mary) Martha runs out to him. Mary does not.

This is what I want to look at, I have heard many sermons on this passage, but nothing like I experienced this morning.

Has someone ever hurt you before? Someone that you trusted and believed in? And after that hurt you found it incredibly difficult to face them? Maybe not because you are angry, but deep down you are terrified that they no longer love you? That they have abandoned you? That your trust was misplaced from the very beginning? You are terrified to face them because you are terrified that everything come out as false.

That is what abandonment does.

What does Jesus do? He calls Mary’s name.

Mary in turn runs out to him and falls at his feet weeping. The first words that come out of her mouth are drenched in salty wet confusion and brokenness. “Lord, if you had been here my brother would still be alive!” (Why didn’t you come, why weren’t you here, I thought you loved me, why did you forget about us, why God, why GOD, WHY GOD?)

Just then, Jesus is deeply moved in spirit as the author tells us. A verse later we get the “Jesus wept.” line.

Of course he wept. Yes he was saddened by his friend’s death, yes it showed us human emotion. But this ENTIRE scene in scripture paints a more beautiful picture of our human relationships with God than I could ever put in ink. It keeps just BLOWING my mind.

Jesus is heart broken, God is heart broken, that his children think he has abandoned them. He knew before Lazarus died that He would be glorified, but that doesn’t change how unbelievably messy and broken the situation, neither does it change how he takes complete brokenness swirling into chaos and spin it all on its head. He mixes the colors of tears and fear and paints a brand new picture.

He brings Lazarus back to life. There has never been a sunrise so awe-inspiring.

That is what it means that God takes brokenness aside and makes it beautiful. I am getting chills as I write this.

Jesus did not need to prove to any one there that he had not abandoned them. He is God, why should he have to remind us that we are loved and fully known? He did not need to call out to Mary in her desperation and pain.

What does he do instead? He first calls to Mary, he has not forgotten her. Then he listens to her, he hears her pain. Then he asks his Father to bring Lazarus out from death.

He stomps down so hard on the lies of abandonment and of a God that does not love us completely and fully. The lie about of a God who does not care. The lie about a God who does not forgive. Jesus stamps them out and changes every human life in the process.

Maybe I am insane, but I cannot express fully the beauty I am seeing in this chapter. I have never seen it like this before. Jesus wept. For us.

Like a parent who is truly devastated that a child has been hiding in shame and fear because they are afraid that his or her parents will never look at them with love again.

Like Adam and Eve hiding from a God so powerful, how could He ever love a mess so corrupted?

Yet still. He takes brokenness aside and makes it beautiful. Yet He is the God of second and third and infinite chances. Grace has no bounds. That is reality.

So I ask that if you struggle with any of these lies, look to Jesus, look to the cross, look at how God’s heart breaks to know we are afraid of him, that we are terrified that He will not take us back.

Jesus, that is what Unconditional Love is. Turn to Him and watch the master piece He paints on your heart.

He is calling out to you, He is waiting for you to run out to him, to fall at his feet and plead with him. He is waiting for you to be exactly who He made you to be. He is waiting for you to bring your ball of mess out to Him so he can make it beautiful.

Much Love

BGTF

30 Days of Writing: Day Twelve

Day 12.

I was not able to post anything to the blog yesterday because my internet decided to take a vacation day. Well it is working now. So I guess I have to proceed.

Not posting one day and today I am fighting myself to get back on my laptop and type. It seems too true that when you mess up on something it becomes easier to do it a second time. It was so much easier to come up with excuses of why not to write today since I didn’t get to post yesterday.

So I think today we will have to focus on commitment and perseverance.

One of my favorite things to say is that the best things in life are never easy. The work involved is part of what makes the best things so great. The reward of persevering is pretty fantastic on its own. But there is always something coming up against our ability to push through or overcome.

I think we can attribute a lot to our inability to persevere, but one of the most universal factors is fear. Now what we fear, though, is pretty much subject to our individual struggles and experiences.

Maybe you fear rejection, failure, success, vulnerability or something else that only you can put your finger on. These fears I have found tend to be the complete opposite of what brings us joy in life.

Think about what you fear, then think about the opposite, is your fear taking away something you value?

Do you love people but are terrified of rejection?

DO you desperately want to be known, but are terrified of trust?

Do you LOVE writing but are afraid of failure, rejection and even success?

What fears are holding you back from what you love?

These fears are lies. They are stumbling blocks that seem insurmountable, but that is not true. Both you and I know that is not true. We know that is true because if you take the time to look at your past you will see moments where you were faced with fears but acted nonetheless. And you prevailed.

Fear is a lie from Satan. Whether you are Christian or not and reading this blog. Know this. There is no fear in perfect love. If you love something in a pure manner. Fear is just sneaking in to rip that love away.

God loves us completely. Fear will try to rip that away. Fear is a lie. Do not let it stop you from persevering. Let what you love overwhelm your fear!

Much Love

BGTF

30 Days of Writing: Day Three

Day 3.

Today I am going back to the blogging route for this 30 days of writing challenge. As of right now I am only writing what I am challenged with, but over the next couple of days I want to get back in gear so that I can easily work on several different projects at once. Writing is a muscle. I am sure you have heard it before, but it has to be exercised. You have to practice. You have to write something crappy some times so you can eventually write gold. Lots of cliches.

Something I want to point out, though, any good gym rat will understand. When you swim in a pool for exercise you do not just work your arms or legs. In fact you are working muscles you normally do not even think to move. Swimming is one of those activities that works almost your entire body. It is all encompassing. So much so that it is not just easier to swim the next time you get in the pool, but it is easier to walk/run/lift weights and so on. Professional swimmers can swim better than anyone else, but because of their sport they can do a ton of other activities pretty fantastically. Granted this can be said about a lot of sports, but that is not my point.

I chose swimming just now because it is something you have to literally submerge yourself into. For me writing is the same. I am going into this 30 day writing challenge submerging myself into words. I am holding my breath and dunking my head in to the deep.

Writing, like swimming, does not just work my fingers or even just my creative mind. In fact writing, for me, works out my spirit, my heart, my intelligence, my relationships and my dreams. It helps me with self control and discipline in other areas of my life and it moves my heart and spirit onto grandeur dreams and passions that spur on my future.

Writing is my gateway drug. It opens up my senses to a world so much brighter, so much more real than I can physically experience.

So beyond practicing my craft and having fun stringing together phrases, metaphors and alliteration I am practicing life. That sounds weird, but it is true. I never feel as healthy as when I am writing frequently. But now I’m crossing over from blog to journal. So back to the topic at hand.

What is your swimming? What activity stretches you? Is it something you love? Is it a talent that you have? I’d say that each person has multiple activities that make them feel more alive.

A better questions is: how have you felt when you have stopped this activity? Have you felt atrophy in your life? Has your heart become colder? Your mind duller? Your eyes dimmer?

So what is stopping you from getting back in the game and exercising those muscles? What is stopping you from living life to its fullest?

For me it is fear, anxiety and uncontrollable circumstance. I put my life on hold during those things. If its bad enough, I atrophy into apathy. Don’t do that.

The activity that gives you life, probably gives you life…because you are meant to use it to give life to someone else. Don’t atrophy into apathy. Someone somewhere needs you to be as fit and in shape as you can be.

Much Love

BGTF