Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Finding Our Way

Today I’ve been working on the book I’m writing, planning out some cool-sounding blog posts and writing down my vision for future writing endeavors. It’s so easy to look at other bloggers and follow what they’re doing. It’s really easy to be ‘that person’ on twitter with the good 140 character punch lines of wisdom and the witty critiques on pop culture. If I strategize well it’s even easy to get extra traffic on my blog and pat myself on the back for a couple thousand reads. Scary thing: I can be ‘successful’ fairly easily without being real, and it’s a continual struggle to pull myself away from ‘being a writer’ and back to being Beck.

There are thousands of writers out there that are much better at writing than me. There are hundreds of people who can offer you better life advice and words of wisdom. Honestly, I don’t know why people read my words, but as long as they do, I want those words to be honestly 100% me. That's all I've got to offer. I have this suspicion, and it’s been part of my perspective on writing for as long as I can remember:

Every one of us is dealing with a struggle of some kind. If you’re not currently in this day, you will be in one day soon to come. But while we’re all struggling, and we would all admit that we’re equally human, we seem to think that we’re alone and most everyone around us has it together. We don’t talk about our struggling in an effort to blend in, but by not admitting it we’re just making both ourselves and other people feel alone.

I want to write about the great things God is doing in my life. I want to write about the cool things that are to be found in theology, the wisdom I’ve picked up so far about living this Christian thing out, and encouraging words that will inspire people to do something amazing with their lives… But there’s more. Because like I said there are tons of other people writing those same things that can do it much better than me.
I want you to know that I struggle. I want you to know that I’m afraid. I want you to know there are days when I’m absolutely clueless.

I am twenty-six years old and I’m still not quite sure where I’m heading yet. There are days when I worry that I will never figure it out. There are times when it seems that everyone around me knows what they are doing in life and how they are going to do it and I’m the only one that is still fumbling around for a plan.

There are days when I feel so out of place, like I don’t belong in this culture, this group of people, this city, and sometimes even this world. There are days when I feel like I never will.

There are days when the constant pressure of looking right and being successful gets to me and I get tired of being different.

There are days when I want to be selfish, and do nothing except what will make me personally happy.

There are days when I’m praying and have to stop and ask myself, ‘Do I really believe that there is someone out there listening to me? Do I really believe this being I call God created the universe and is in control of time and space and eternity and yet cares about the details of my life?'

There are days when I don’t want to love, forgive, care, or even try for that matter.

There are days when God is the last person I feel like being around or talking to or thinking of.

I don’t have all the answers. And in all honesty I don’t have most of the answers. Most days I don’t even know if I’m asking the right questions.

I just want to share that. Because as much as I believe that God has a plan, as much as I am crazy passionate about making this plan known, as much as I believe that we have every reason to be joyful and no reason to fear or doubt, I’m not always confident and positive and overflowing with warm fuzzies. And that’s okay. I want you to know that it’s okay. It is okay to doubt. God is not offended by your questions. It is okay to be afraid. There will be times when you worry and stress and cry. There will be times when you don’t want to try, and times when you are trying and want to quit.

The important thing is that you keep going.
Embrace the doubt. Embrace the fear. Can I even suggest that you take it to God? He's not afraid of our honest thoughts.

Whatever it may be- face it. Whatever you need to say, say it. But then keep going.

A lot of people may seem like they have it together. A lot of people may seem like they have good answers. But the truth is that all of us are scared at times, and all of us are a little bit clueless. We are all trying to find our way, no matter how far along we are.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Inward Seasons

Ever been involved in some crazy good work for the gospel? Maybe mission projects & travelling, a new ministry, teaching, leading in some sort, or any other kind of hands on ‘making big things happen’ type of work? Ever been trekking along in this and then out of no where it seems to come to a halt, or something happens and God seems to have pulled you out of the middle of it all and into something a little more, well...boring? This post is for you.

If you are like me, you are all or nothing when it comes to the things you are involved in. I’m a dreamer. When I catch a glimpse of what He wants me involved in, I run with it. My mind comes up with the biggest goals, the ‘craziest’ possibilities, and I believe Him to be faithful in bringing those about. I think this is good. I have been a part of some incredible happenings so far in my pursuit of following Christ. I have shaken things up and created some real change. I have blazed past the status quo things church people typically settle for and pushed for greater and bigger. Sometimes God allows these little glimpses of what could be into our minds, sometimes He calls to us to jump and see what He will do. It can be pure exciting, adrenaline-rushing, life-as-it-was-meant-to-be, adventure.

Sometimes, however, God calls us away from an outward focused mission like these and into an inward mission of restoration and healing. As crazy, busy, and work-filled as these outward missions and visions can be, the seasons of inward work can be a lot more intense. In fact, they can be outright draining, and many times we are not aware of what is actually happening. It can seem like we have done something wrong. We are not seeing the growth that we want in our ministry. We are praying to be used in big ways, but the types of opportunities we used to have don’t seem to be opening up anymore. Is something wrong with us? Where is the disconnect? Is God done with us? Were we crazy?

If we are not careful, we will get stuck in several thought-traps. We may feel guilty because we can’t seem to ‘get it together’ and get back to whatever it was we were doing before when ‘big’ things were happening. We may feel exhausted because we’re continuing to try and force those big things to happen. We may embrace a stubborn pride and a ‘secret life’ because inside we’re falling apart but outside we’re determined to keep up a good appearance until we figure out what’s going on. We may become angry, frustrated, and ultimately disconnect from God because He seems to not be answering our prayers to be used. We may become resentful of others because no matter how much effort we put into ‘helping’ others we don’t seem to be seeing any results. In the end, we may begin to doubt our calling, purpose, and even identity because nothing seems to be clear anymore.

In these times we need to stop trying to run so fast and simply stop and listen. Where is He at work and what is He wanting to show us? Sometimes we clearly see what He is showing us and our reaction is 'Eh, yeah, but uhh, that is not such a big deal, it doesn't really effect me that much, plus there are all these people that need this, and this project over here..' We need to submit, obey, and commit ourselves to working with Him, on ourselves. We need to remember that our calling is to Christ, not to a place or a ministry or a project. Where He goes, we follow, and sometimes He stops walking forward, turns around, and looks into our hearts. We have to follow Him there as well. When we achieve the healing and restoration that we need for the next step, the outward call will come again.

One of the things I’ve begun to look for before giving my respect to anyone in an authoritative position is what they are learning. Don’t show me your degree, or tell me what you have been teaching or ‘doing’. Tell me what He has been teaching you. Tell me how what 'ouch, that hurts a little' lessons He has been giving you.

How has He been working on you? Too many of us as leaders are guilty of not being able to answer that- we’re too busy ‘working’ on others.

Sanctification is a process. He grows us, uses us, then grows us some more. We are in for a continual process of learning, sharing out of what we have learned, and then learning a little more. I think this is intentional as a way to fight against our pride. It is easy to slip into the mindset of "understanding" God and the Bible and knowing exactly what people need to hear or do or be taught in their current situation. We will never have it all together. If you think you do, I would caution you to check yourself. There is never a point that comes when we have arrived and get to coast and pour out for the rest of our life, as if we’ve learned it all and now it’s our time to instruct others. If we keep in mind that we are currently learning something new, He is currently working on us in new and deeper ways, we will remain humble in our approach to sharing with others.  

I’ve found the most rewarding times are when He moves through us and enables us to speak out of what we have learned and into the lives of others. We can’t continue in that if we don’t continue to let Him teach us. If we stubbornly refuse to look within when He points something out to us, if we wallow in the inward seasons instead of facing our issues and confronting the problems that He is calling to our attention, we will never move forward.

So take heart! Is God calling you to an inward-focused season of personal growth and healing? Are there deeper issues that He is leading you to face? Identify them and begin to face them. It may be hard, scary, painful, and something that seems really inconvenient. You may simply want to get back to pouring out and accomplishing great things and fixing other people. But there is always a bigger purpose. He knows, He sees, and His working on us is always very intentional. Great things are to come.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dear Miley?

I wanted to share my thoughts after reading several of these Miley/VMA posts because I've had many thoughts that no one else seems to have expressed yet. These thoughts are not meant to instruct Miley on how to live her life or to solve the problems of the entertainment industry, nor are they meant to critique the christian world's reaction or debate any previous views that have been posted. I simply hope that by sharing my personal reflections, it will cause other’s to reflect and we will all be challenged to examine our own lives in better and different ways.

There are four main types of posts I've come across:

1)   The OMG I’m shocked posts… ‘I can’t believe MTV would put that on tv’, ‘What is the world coming to?’ I get it, I really do. But at this point are we truly surprised? Maybe if you are less exposed to or less involved in mainstream music, tv, and media, you honestly don’t know. But I don’t see how anyone can be surprised. These things have been displayed, promoted, and celebrated in our society for quite some time, it’s nothing new. Beyond that, my thoughts keep going back to this-our hearts are evil, and when left unchecked they run wild.  We know this, we say this, we agree with this. But when we see this on display we act shocked. We expect people to act according to a belief system they don’t claim, and we act disgusted and appalled when they don’t. (I know someone’s going to argue something about just because we live in a sinful world doesn’t mean we should accept it, so let me go ahead and acknowledge- there is a difference in celebrating sin and fighting sin through following Christ.) I will touch on this a little further down..

2)    Judgmental ‘Dear Miley’ posts… “Dear Miley, I’m so disappointed”, “Dear Miley, I hope you straighten up soon” and so on and so on. First of all, let’s call it what it is- Miley’s not going to see it so you’re really just trying to sound cool for ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ sake.

Second,  we love to make these statements that establish a line between ‘us’ and ‘them’, between ‘me’ and ‘her’. Am I alone? When we see these things there are subconscious thoughts of how someone (like us) needs to tell her (him, them) a thing or two. God must be so angry at this blatant display of sin, I’m sure glad I’m not like that. And this is probably the concept that has most been on my mind- the sin that is celebrated and portrayed on MTV and all other entertainment media is no more sinful than the sin that daily sits in the dark corners of my heart.

Miley and I (and you) are not much different from each other when it comes to our human condition. We were born into sin. We willingly choose to seek after our fleshly, human, desires. We enjoy and celebrate our sinful pursuits because they bring us pleasure. And we are stupid, stubborn, and hopelessly lost in pulling ourselves out of the cycle.

Miley’s stripping down and dancing in front of millions on a stage in an effort to secure attention and acceptance is no more offensive to God than when I tweet cool quotes and verses in an attempt to secure attention and acceptance. Miley’s dancing all up on Robin Thicke is no more sinful than the lust that I have to continually fight against in my thoughts in certain situations. Miley’s seeking refuge in the party scene, sexual ‘freedom’, drinking and drugs, is no more shocking then my own season of seeking refuge in those things.

You see, Miley and I, we’re pretty much the same. The only difference is the transforming work of Christ and the Grace that I am learning to accept. He is daily transforming me into His likeness, but my heart is continually prone to wander away. There is a war within me every day, every minute-my flesh and His spirit working out these things within me. I am daily reminded that the only good in me is the work that Christ has accomplished on my behalf.

These are sobering thoughts. And if we really let them sit in, they change the way we view Miley, and Robin Thicke, and Lady Gaga, and everyone else we’re so quick to point a finger at.

3)   The "Dear daughter, let this be an example’ and “We have to protect our kids!” posts... I don’t want to offend anyone (but I usually do anyway). I’m not a parent. I’m not telling you how to raise your kids. But seeing people say ‘this is why my kids aren’t allowed to watch tv, listen to this music’ etc etc blows me away. Should you let your young children watch the VMA’s or listen to current hits about drugs and sex? No, I get that. But the whole concept of ‘retreat and restrict’ ‘don’t let them see it, don’t expose them to it’ so they wont end up the same way? I don’t think that’s correct either because of the logic from above- restricting what your kids watch and don’t watch will not guarantee they pursue a godly lifestyle. Authority, affirmation from parents, boundaries, guidelines, instruction…kids need all these things ‘train up a child in the way he should go’…but ultimately, if your kid does not accept and trust in the saving power of Christ, they can be as separate from the worldly influences as you can possibly get them, and still be completely tainted by their sinful heritage. Your daughter IS Miley. Your son IS Robin Thicke or (2 Chainz or whoever you most label as 'them over there'). That sinful spirit is already inside of their adorable little body and it’s just a matter of time before it takes on that same expressive shape, without the saving and transforming power of Christ taking over. So let’s not get prideful in our parenting techniques, let’s not brag on how our kids will never be like that or will never act that way or have a good head on their shoulders. If you’re trusting in your parenting strategies or your kids’ common sense to ensure their spiritual health, you’re in for tragic disappointment.

4)    The “I’m sad about the state of the world”, “I’m broken and sad for Miley” posts... I’ll go ahead and admit- I felt sad while watching. My thoughts went to many of the same places that these did- the brokenness of this world, the little girl inside of Miley that is searching for something, the fact that this life holds so much more satisfaction than anything these celebrities will find through their career. But this thought has really hit me hard…it’s easy to feel sad, it’s even easy to pray for Miley or pray for these few famous people, and then log off and carry on with our day. What real difference did we make? What real difference are we going to make? I feel for Miley and a hundred other people ‘out there’, but who am I burdened for ‘in here’? In Mobile, in my city, in my circles of influence-work, family, even church circles. There are girls all around me that need love, affirmation, attention, and just someone to invest in them. Beyond girls specifically, there are people all around all of us that are struggling and hurting. Everyone is looking for acceptance, everyone is looking for encouragement. Ultimately, everyone is looking for the only thing that can satisfy- life in relationship with the God that created them. This expresses itself in many many ways- drugs, alcohol, sex, money, relationships, various hobbies, careers, volunteer work, even church work….but we’re all trying to fill a spot that is very empty inside of us. It all comes back to the simple fact that we were meant to live life in relationship with our Creator and we need the truth of the gospel daily- we can't get to God, God came to us. Those of us who have been reconciled through Christ know this. We have knowledge of the Hope that the rest of the world needs. Who are we sharing it with?

These are my thoughts. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

That's Just How It Is

This is a eulogy that has taken me three years to write
This is the first handful of dirt tossed onto a coffin containing what once was
I still tap my eggs twice before I crack them,
I automatically listen to the last song on an album first
And my dance moves, well, they’re still imitations of the ones you taught me
Every time someone compliments my taste in music I laugh because they have no idea that you taught me how to find the rarest bands and appreciate the strangest sounds

People say to guard your heart, and that means a hundred different things
Today there is a little empty place in my heart that has become full
It’s no longer filled with the void of where you were,
It’s become full of the joy of having known someone beautiful
I will never regret letting you in
You’re a part of the person that I am
I don’t know if that’s how it’s supposed to be,
That's just how it is.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Don't, Don't, Don't...What about DO?!

Hang with me while I remind you of some fairly popular passages:

James 3:6-12 (Excerpts) "The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell...no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing..."
Ephesians 4:29 "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up..
There are many more, but for the sake of time, we'll leave it there. You get the point, and you know what I'm referring to. We hear all the time about the importance of guarding your tongue, watching your speech, how dangerous the tongue is, etc. All these things are true and I couldn't agree more. I'm a writer, I deal in the economy of words. But I feel like I have a little different perspective that most of us tend to overlook.

We are told our words hold the power of life and death, and we're cautioned to contain the death. What about the life?

One of the bigger frustrations you'll hear from a lot of believers is how we focus on the do not's (don't smoke, don't drink, and don't say the word sex) but we don't focus near as much on the do's.
If we're doing the "do's" we won't be doing the "do not's", it's a win/win.
Back to our words. Words were meant to have power. We see this modelled from our Creator. He spoke and things happened. Things were created. Life was started. Relationship was developed. Identity and purpose were given. Humans, being created in the image and likeness of God, are the only piece of creation to use words. Many things communicate in many ways, we alone have words.

How are we using our words? Not just how well are we containing our negative words, but how are we being intentional with speaking life and truth into those around us?
If our words truly hold the power of life and death, and if we are truly ambassadors of Christ, and if we really truly believe that we are surrounded by people who are dying and in need of the hope of the gospel- why aren't we using our words?

Maybe you struggle with containing negative words. Even though I'm an introvert, I get it. My words don't always vocalize, but they are always taking on a very LOUD thought form. Then there is the aspect of social media, it's so easy to 'speak' whatever junk is in my heart on that current day. Maybe you don't struggle with that at all but you talk about pointless things and never consider being intentional with your words. Maybe you're consistently speaking 'good' things, spiritual things, but you're not directing them into anyones life...they're just floating around out there.

We have to get intentional. Don't know where to start in being intentional? Intentionally pray. He will show you.

Where do you struggle most with words?


Monday, July 8, 2013

He Wrote Me In His Book

"Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." Psalm 139:16

I'm a writer. I have a 'book'. To see my life put into these terms is so fun for me because I get it. I can see God opening a giant Moleskine, pulling out a ridiculously cool pen, and beginning to scribble down the details of the character that would be me. I can see Him afterwords speaking these words and as they fall off of His lips, I begin to be knitted together piece by piece.

When I write, I take a while and jot down different pieces of what I want to include. Every piece of poetry and every blog has a different feel. I'll write down a piece here and there and then come back to it when I have more. Eventually all the pieces fit together just write and I know it's right- it's finished. When it's finished I have a book that I copy it down into. When it's gone into that book, it's ready to be displayed and shared with the world. It was formed and written before it existed as it is now known.

Our very days were formed for us before we ourselves were formed. He gazed upon our unformed substance (whatever that means) and thought over what our life would entail. He thought through what characteristics we would have, what events would take place and how that would shape us, who we would cross paths with, what we would accomplish. He formed our days, He numbered them, and He gave them to us. Not one extra day will be added, not one taken away.

Some may take this in an offensive way. There are a hundred questions this could stir up. You're saying God's a puppet master and we're just pawns in this big game of the universe? How can we be held responsible for our actions if He's set into motion our very personalities and characteristics?

I don't know.

I do know this. The fact that my days were formed for me and written into His book before I existed brings me much comfort for two reasons:
  1. I'm not in control. Maybe you're a control freak (I struggle not to be). But the thing I have to remind myself is that the more control I have, the more I have to worry about. Think about it. The more responsibility you have, the more things you are in sole control over, the more you have to hang on to and grapple with. The more you are at risk of losing control of. The more potential chaos and destruction. To know that my days were laid out and handed to me and that yes, I have decisions to make, but ultimately it's not in my hands...that brings me so much peace.
  2. This concept brings an incredible sense of purpose to my life. Now, I don't always know the details of that purpose. But if you're like me, there are days were it seems like life is pointless. It feels like I have no purpose, like I'm not needed, like...honestly, I'm really screwed up and I'm the only person on the planet that has no idea what they are doing. These words bring everything back into focus- my days were formed. I have been allotted a specific span of time in which I will exist, and it was not an accident that I was created, but an intentionally planned thing. I have a purpose, my purpose was set into place before I was set into place, and it has all been written out into His book. Nothing but the very hand of God can alter these things.
Knowing that your days were formed, knowing that your days have been written into the very book of God, how does that change the way you see yourself? How does that bring a sense of purpose into your life? What steps can you take to live in a way that will more reflect these things?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Just A Journal Entry

Just a journal entry:

"God's hand is very evident in my life. By that I mean His faithfulness- to mold and chisel and pull back every layer that is in the way of me being fully His, fully free, fully surrendered. Still struggling. Still praying. Still learning. But I'm seeing that He is leading my through it all, and re-learning that He is truly trustworthy. I can rely on Him to look out for me. He will do whatever is necessary to keep me seeking Him, and often times it will hurt- that tearing me away from whatever it is that I'm holding onto in place of Him. But I know that He is for me. He is keeping me. And therefore I can give the hurt up to Him and ask for His help in pushing through and learning on the way. I find myself craving wisdom lately- wanting to be able to speak words of life into people and situations all around me- and realizing that this type of wisdom comes not from books or classes, but from walking through the hard things hand in hand with Him and allowing Him to speak into my life in such a way that touches on my deepest hurts and fears."