generally speaking.

[i’ve been posting like mad with a little extra time spent editing the ideas waiting in the blog queue, plus my normal postings. this is one of the last i’ve had waiting. it’s been a fun writing exercise, so thanks for reading all my flim-flam.]

“you always…”
“everybody says…”
“they definitely will/didn’t/can’t…”
“they surely did/won’t/couldn’t…”
“things never…”
an awful habit of mine is ‘speaking in definites,’ as i call it. or in generalities about things that could be specific. it comes with being dramatic in the moment. how i structure my thoughts into sentences says a lot about who i am, and it got me thinking about the effects of words:

word is bond. every utterance could be considered as a promise, a seed planted, a seed killed. so, why are words so easy to throw around? especially negative words. they do so much damage. words have so much power to create and destroy. it’s only when it’s personal that we start to realize their gravity.

do you make general assumptions sometimes? have you ever made a comment about a person or situation when you weren’t completely confident in it’s truth?
those moments are easily forgettable until a word-weapon is unloaded against you. sometimes you never even hear what was said, but you see the effects of what was said in how others treat you after they heard it.

it’s so easy to think badly of people, and therefore speak badly of them too. then it becomes habitual to generalize the worst about that person and maybe even an entire group of people. but what has been accomplished through this? sure, the negative talker perceives that he’s better than everyone else, and therefore he feels exclusive. but really, he’s alienating himself mentally and socially, i.e. he’s alone: unhappy and hard-hearted in some derealized state of accomplishment.

my friend’s long-time buddies are quite the negative talkers. they don’t say too many memorable kind words, sometimes stir up dissension for people around them, and seem like fans of gossiping & truth-stretching. i have participated in sarcastic banter with that guy over a long span of time, thinking it might impress my friend by being so witty around his friends. i even got a nickname for my efforts. over a short period of time, it got easier to say mean stuff about almost everything. in searching out ways to ‘hate’ on the world around me for humor’s sake, i inadvertently started viewing the world through a cynical lens rather often. it’s funny what cynicism does when it fills the mind. getting so busy judging others develops paranoia that the people around are hating on me

ha! what an idea. and the truth is, the majority of people likely do hate on those who are hateful toward them. it’s a hurtful cycle (that i realize i’m slightly perpetuating through this example thus far, but hold tight). in fact, my friend confirmed that the people who i enjoyed hating with also enjoyed hating on me. they made fun of me and apologized later with a pseudo-insult supporting the idea behind the mean joke. that was tough to swallow.

once words are loosed from the mouth–good or bad, they can’t be eaten. that’s the ugly of rotten words. one negative word can nullify many nice ones. that’s what makes the mean words hard to forget, even after they’ve been forgiven. the previous example hurt in my spirit. underneath my dissing, i’d been praying for those guys often since i met them. because they were important to my friend, they became important to me. the second thing that hurt my spirit is my self. i said my friend’s buddies were important to me, but they were obviously not important enough to let go of my image and take a stand for What is Right.

i presented a contradictory display of values that might have deserved a little hating on. i resolved to show kindness around these guys after my hate-gone-wrong display. i even tried to apologize, but it didn’t really go over right. maybe it was too late, but it didn’t change anything besides me seeming a bit more awkward and a lot less funny and cool. however, i’m not discouraged. i can’t change much of anything on my own, but i have seen some of my prayers answered over time for those friends i’ve discussed. (and this is a statement i can make with 100% definition: those the Lord has placed in my life and on my heart, i will pray with diligence until they’re answered. when i say i’ll pray for you, i am truly praying.) whether i’m around to see it or not, i have faith that the Lord will resolve things that i believe He has shown me. time will tell.

jokes are funny. i’m not condeming sarcasm, and i don’t plan on giving up my sense of humor. making light of the murk in this world is my favorite way to deal with it. however, be careful that meaningless negative words aren’t turning to meaningful negative thoughts. those creepy things take root and hold hard to an innocent mind before you realize. take heart in the reversal of all that’s been said: the beauty of a kind word. one sincerely kind word spoken at the proper time can break the hold of many negative ones.
a forgiveness. a compliment. a prayer. a greeting. an encouragement.
even a joke.

“A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. (James 3:4-6, MSG)

jesus saves

i will never forget the moment i accepted Christ. when i was at vacation bible school around seven years old,  i wanted this thing i’d been hearing about since birth that seemed to change everyone around me. i had prayed a prayer at a puppet show previously when i was four–a moment i remember vividly–but i just didn’t feel like it had done the job. maybe if i prayed a little harder and got baptised that would do it, i thought.

it didn’t.

i spent many years of my youth ritualistically praying in my room alone and sometimes with my parents and sometimes in the church pew. i was doing everything right. i threw my system of a down cds in the church trash can and i didn’t know any bad words. i read my bible. why couldn’t i feel secure in my salvation? i would waver between frustration and desperation over this, sometimes being able to put it out of my mind and sometimes plagued with obsession. this created a deeply-rooted insecurity in me that still exists today in my weakest and messiest moment. i started researching the subject of eternal security, a subject that–if you know me well, you know–is something i am very passionate about. i often fail to explain why: it helped me understand the truth of salvation and studying it ultimately led to my personal acceptance of Jesus Christ.

my dad gave me a book when i was 19 that would ultimately end up changing my life. “what every christian ought to know: essential truths for growing your faith.” i started reading it on the way to atlanta for the forward conference the summer of 2007. chapters two and three had me feeling so insecure. here i was on a church trip in a church van going to a church conference with my christian friends, and i was feeling scared that i wasn’t really saved again. a familiar feeling that i liked to put out of my mind. i chalked it up to “everyone feels this way.” but in my heart i knew that i was different than these people around me. my heart wasn’t the same. my joy was flawed and inauthentic. i just didn’t understand.

i started getting angrier as the day went on. i was praying for reassurance. i was praying so hard i was sweating. i remember so vividly telling God how angry i was at him for letting me feel this way. “have i not done enough for You to just give me peace about this? i witness to people for You. i act right. i think right. i do everything i know to do.”

and then i got bold. in the middle of the conference as everyone around me was getting their Jesus on, i was frustrated. i couldn’t take it anymore. i looked up at the ceiling as if Jesus was hanging out in the rafters and i said in prayer that if i could not resolve to know Him i was giving up right then. i would rather revoke everything i had ever said of Him, unlearn everything i had every heard of Him than to feel inauthentic and tired in my “relationship” with Him.

i was scared lightening would strike me dead, as i had been a big rituatlistic actor for years in my faith–and knowing that renouncing Christ was the one unforgivable sin.

then something i will never be able to explain happened. it wasn’t a special song, but i will remember it forever. hillsong united started singing “hosanna” and i started feeling something different in my heart. for the first time in my life, the Lord was clearly speaking to me. the Lord said to me in my heart that i had been putting on a show for years. i had been reaching and doing and trying to climb my way to heaven through my actions and that was just silly, impossible, missing the mark. how could i misinterpret His word after hearing it so often for so long? the reason Christ is different from all other religions in society today is because all I have to do is accept Him. He has done the work for me. He died for me–for every failure, every stumble, every sin in my life and in the lives of all who live.

i cannot save myself. i cannot earn salvation. i cannot gain salvation. i can only accept Him. i accepted Christ that night in 2007. it may sound looney and it may not sound like a moment worthy of explaining in such depth–but in that moment i was finally alive in my Spirit, and i was full of joy knowing what it truly meant that Christ had died on the Cross for me.

i have never really shared that moment before here or anywhere. i had so much pride in being saved since i was a child even after that night. i didn’t want to be seen as a “new christian.” man, my pride has always crippled me. i feel it is important to discuss the journey now, because i realized some things today. salvation doesn’t insure a perfect life. it doesn’t mean putting on a face that everything is OK. it’s not black and white. christians are sinners like everyone. they’re hypocrites and failures and a bunch a gray people in a gray world. it’s Christ in Christ-followers who is unblemished, and sometimes Christians don’t display the Lord accurately. sometimes they don’t display Him at all.

i’ve been conflicted for a year and a half. i started hiding from church. i don’t know if i have been to a service three times between today’s easter service and last year’s. at first i was OK. then i became lazy because of work, and then i didn’t want to admit i was struggling with sin. i didn’t want to admit i had gotten into a pit that i couldn’t get out of. i wanted to still be the erin in choir, organizing mission trips, leading bible studies, interning in the youth department. but i made some choices that i felt were inappropriate for those roles (like drinking, bad relationships, etc.), and i bowed out. rather than seeking Godly council, i progressed to a point where my heart was hard and blinded with my earthly choices.

i realized this today. i kept nursery, and hugging on the babies and seeing lovey-dovey couples made me feel so agonizingly helpless and impatient. i often give in to this desire to keep up with everyone around me. i’m too old to hunt easter eggs. i can’t pretend to be a kid this year to avoid feeling bad. i can’t stay out of work like i could ditch on college classes. i’m almost 24. i want to be on my way to starting a family and a life beyond myself. then i remember that when i accepted Christ, i accepted that even though it’s natural for me to be stubborn, impatient and selfish–i’ve got to wait. if i don’t wait on Him and His time and take things into my own hands, my life will be a tornado full of murk and trash like many moments of the past two years have been. if i do wait, i will be rewarded.

He put Philippians 1:6 in my head to comfort me today. though i am not happy, that’s just my circumstances. i have my joy in knowing that the most important thing in my life, my relationship with Christ, is fully intact and growing again. the Lord has placed specific desires and traits within me. i am not letting go of the hopes i know are of Him for i know i can be confident He will fulfill them in His time. it is my job to take in his word, give to others and live a life each day accepting and appreciating what He did for me on the Cross.

it has never been me. it has always been Him. and i’m glad to have that straightened out in my heart again.

i post this in hopes that my vain journey around the bend for quite some time will resonate with someone who reads this and that they will be inspired to put their pride, their confusion, their stubborness, their sin, their sorrow, their circumstances aside and see the simplicity of returning to Christ.

Philippians 1:6: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”

so, i’m pondering my God for a minute.

i just had the strangest thought. being that it’s 2:42 AM, i’m probably hallucinating, but i just had one of those moments where God gave me the vision again.

See, sometimes I joke with God, because we’re tight–and he made me funny, ya know? and he made me funny for a reason–to be funny for him–so that’s part of my worship. strange, you say? absolutely not. i’m sick of people thinking worshipping God is strictly through music. God made us so that He could love us, wanting nothing back but love in return–and like Eric told me one time, God don’t make no trash.

In the easiest way I know how to say it, God is basically the coolest thing ever, so he makes us like him, so we can have special little bits of his coolness. Sometimes we get caught up on what church and religion tell us is worship, but church isn’t God. I worship God when I see the beauty in something he’s created and I have the urge to paint it. I worship God when I cry over some injustice in life. I worship God when I see someone and I feel led to pray for them. In every attempt I make to know my God a little better, I worship him.

I take pride in who He made me to be. I take pride in being too emotional and stubborn, because God is emotional and stubborn. I take pride in being creative and outgoing, because God is creative and outgoing. Next time you really look at the natural earth, think about the beautiful the art is that God has made. Next time you really try to listen to God, see how much He talks to you. Sure, you may not hear a verbal, booming voice–but I sure do know when God’s saying something to me. And when I’m listening, I can’t stop hearing God. Crap, when I’m not listening, God gets even louder.

I guess I write all this because for so long, I had this trivial, shallow, formal relationship with God. I believed in God like I believe Uranus is floating around in space. I believed He was real and alive, but he was nothing personal for me. I hate to see people walk in that. It brings so much doubt. God is my friend. And that may sound cliche and silly–until you try it. I love just talking to God throughout the day about random things. Like I said, I joke around with God. I miss God when I push Him away and don’t make time for Him.

I get tired of people, including myself, missing out on just how awesome their relationship with God can be. They think of God as some solemn old man with a lightning rod ready to strike you down, and I just don’t believe a God that made me so that He could love me would be that cruel and distant. God didn’t need me. I hate living life like i’m doing Him some favor by giving him the tiniest bit of time i can in the day to learn how to live life like He did while He walked here on this earth, but it is so easy to forget that not only did He make us–He made a way for us to have a secure eternity in perfect happiness–and all He asks is that we believe in Him and do our human best to lead others to Him. How do I not live life worshipping 24/7. I blow my own mind.

So, that’s what God just told me. All I have to do is worship. Quit feeling sorry and worrying about all my mistakes, and take the moments you’re wasting and get up and do what you’re created and called to do. What could be easier? What could make me more happy or fulfilled than that?