Promises in the Dark

I haven’t done this in years. Before this blog flooded with people reading my posts on film and TV, almost no one read it. Leaves in the Pages was a personal journal of sorts. I didn’t have a following or hundreds of regular readers every day. I kind of said whatever I wanted, cause…I could, haha. Over the years, my writing style has changed, but something that I don’t do as much anymore is talk about my personal life. I’m not talking about the people I brag on like my super sisters Nicole and Robyn, or my incredible parents Sharon and Russ. I talk about them plenty. I mean MY personal life. I just felt like I had moved past that on this blog. Today, I’m indulging that younger, beginner blogger’s style and dipping into something that I feel lead to share. A rare internal vulnerability if you will.

I’ve been in a dark place spiritually for about three years. Four years ago now I moved to New Zealand. I moved away from my support; my friends, my family, and my church. Now, I want to discourage people from thinking that moving to NZ shook my faith and drove me to some bad places. Far from it. I found good people to do life with. However, I found myself almost never reading the Bible, praying when I needed to, engaging my faith, or attending church on a regular basis. I became complacent. We’ve felt it before, but I lived in this feeling.  I became a Complacent Christian.

I didn’t feel a great sense of guilt other than Sunday that I was not reading my Bible. I prayed when I had to, and I intentionally encountered God in NZ three times 1.) I prayed God give me a job when I was at the end of my rope and he did, right on time 2.) When I joined the Youth Ministry, I had to read my Bible when I did a sermon and generally be a good example to the kids. And 3.) When I had the worst day of my career and also my life, working in Corrections, I cried out to God for strength, and he stayed my hand in not drinking that night. Win.

Notice a trend? I used God. He became a tool that I went and got when I had a problem that needed fixing. I started thinking of myself as a “Sociopathic Christian,” but not in the violent sense.  Sociopaths are very good at faking emotions. Unless analyzed, they can slip by undetected and without incident. They can go along with the motions and feel next to nothing. They are capable of fooling many. The reason I used this analogy with myself is not because I am in any way a sociopath…no, I feel way too much to be a sociopath. I just wanted to be, above all things, always honest with myself. I didn’t want to keep fooling myself that I was a “Good Christian,” whatever that means. I wasn’t living out my faith and I certainly wasn’t following what Christ said.

The truth is, we hear God best when we run after Him. But that’s just it…I couldn’t remember the last time I ran.

A little under 4 months ago I started getting real with my religious darkness that had festered inside me for 3 years. The darkness was less evil than it was just an absence of Christ in a way I hadn’t seen in myself before. Still, I didn’t want to keep lying to myself. You may have seen on social media that I have been an advocate for the song “Yes and Amen.” That is in part to do with the fact that God’s promises have been pulling me out of my darkness.

  • “And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Yes. Amen.
  • “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Yes. Amen.
  • “For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” Yes. Amen.
  • “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Yes. Amen.
  • “For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord.” Yes. Amen.

He is Faithful forever. Yes. Amen.

Since moving to Colorado Springs, I have been on a mission to reconnect with my Father. I can say that it has been filled with anger, tears, rejoicing, pain, joy, learning, stumbles, humility, and reverence. Life with Jesus isn’t about wishing we were that “on-fire” teenager that first met Him all those years ago, it’s about growing WITH Him as life unfolds. It’s about finding identity in being HIS child NOW, not living in the past. It’s about walking with Him when life craps all over you and leaves you in heap. It’s about knowing that when I turn around in my shame to greet Him again, He is standing there, like the Father eagerly waiting for his prodigal son, with a robe, a ring, and a party of people welcoming you back to Him.

God keeps NO record of my sins, He waits patiently for me, forgetting my shame and accepting me back.

This is my message to you reading. The prodigal son. We all know one, have been one, or are waiting for one to come home. If you’re going through a dark time, maybe the darkest you’ve ever felt, and you don’t feel Him…you are most certainly not alone. If you’ve wanted to come out of the night and walk in the truth…rest in His promises. Don’t isolate yourself. Talk to those you love and trust. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” My heart was broken. Jesus is putting it back together. Trust the Father.

Josh Garrels: His life, his music, his Influence

MJM_TSIB_SA_NeverHaveIFound_Josh_FieldBW_900_by_SashaArutyunova

Josh Garrels needs to be known for not being known.

Humble, genuine, gifted. Josh Garrels has become known for these qualities through his attitude towards music, life, and God. Musical at the very young age of 3, Garrels started getting more serious about his music at 13. Starting a band, Garrels gradually honed his craft on the guitar and writing music. By the age of 22, Garrels was making lo-fi recordings in rooms and pumping out music on his schedule. Unimpressed by recording companies and the bureaucracy behind the music business, Garrels chose to self-record, mix, and produce his music without a record label or industry management. Keeping true to this style, every album he has released has been from the sweat of his brow. In Love & War & The Sea In Between, he and his wife hand labeled and sent out all copies of their music. His grassroots approach is radical. It’s not supposed to work, but it does. His fans love and appreciate his diversion from the traditional craft and they support it.

Continue reading “Josh Garrels: His life, his music, his Influence”

Already There

I had a transformative experience in my car the other day. As most of you know, I am on my way out to New Zealand, and this Monday at 2:15pm, I fly out to my new home.

Yesterday, I was in my car. I was driving back from an errand that I was running and the radio was on. I like the radio and I frequent many different stations. When I want news, I typically turn to NPR. When I want a great mix of songs, I turn to XRT 93.1. When I want some uplifting songs and I need some God in my life, and who doesn’t…I turn to 88.7 Air1.

Yesterday I needed to hear something uplifting, which I try to get daily because it feels so good. The song “Already There” by Casting Crowns was playing. Now, usually, I don’t listen to much Casting Crowns. Not sure why, but I don’t. As I listened to this new song by Casting Crowns, I began to feel something move in me. The chorus to this song is so powerful and so moving, and I couldn’t remember the last time I felt this way about a song.

When I’m lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You’re already there
You’re already there.
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You’re already there
You’re already there.

My life is drastically changing. There is PLENTY of excitement and joy for that. Yet, I can admit that I am scared. I am nervous. I have NO IDEA what my life is going to look like. The uncertainty is unnerving. The waiting is exhausting. Worry, doubt, fear, and anxiety flood my mind and I desperately seek for God. And God answered. Even if he answers in a song, he still answers. The words in this song overwhelmed me and rushed peace into my lungs.

God is already there.

This link is the artist explaining his song and the meaning behind the creation of it. It’s 1:30, Watch it to understand what I was talking about above: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W99gAQ_FRzY&t=2m35s

Here is the actual song:

The Chapter Begins, and it is Beautiful

Well after spending a significant amount of time in Michigan, I can confidently say that I am loving it here. I am glad that I am once again living with men I am comfortable calling my brothers. These past few days have been quite incredible. I am transitioning once again into living on my own…so to speak (living outside of my parents house). I am finding jobs to keep me busy while the long term work finalizes. We are also finding another apartment to live in and that is going very well.

It is a very specific, familiar feeling being back in Grand Rapids….like a warm blanket fending off a cold chill. Every street passed and smell taken in is a wave of nostalgia that had remained hidden to keep the pain at bay. Being away from my friends when I moved in 2008 was a painful experience. In order to take away some of the pain and enjoy my move back to Illinois, I had to separate nostalgia from friendship. It wasn’t Calvin College I missed, or even GR necessarily. The thing I missed most was my family that I had made in Michigan.

But now that I am back in GR, living here once again, I can’t help but fall in love with this city all over again. There is so much life, love, and happiness here that can’t be explained. I am not really too sure what it is that makes this place so different from where I grew up, but it is clear and it is true.

I will work very hard in the time that I am here, and I will also relish in every moment that I can before I eventually leave here for my journey to New Zealand. I am excited, even as I write this post, knowing that one day my dream…will become a reality. I have stepped into a brave new world here in Michigan, full of opportunity, joy, peace, and friendship. I cannot see anything bad or painful at the moment, and that is what I need right now. I experienced enough pain last semester…

If you are my friend, and you know me well, then I thank God for you and how you have influenced me. No matter where you are now, or what we have both been through, I will always pray for you and give thanks for the moment when we met, and you blessed my life.