Trusting Someone Other than Myself

"Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;"

- 2 Corinthians 1:9

I've come to the realization as of late that my trust has been misplaced. I pride myself in being able to accomplish whatever I set my mind to doing. I'm a perfectionist. When I start something, I want to see it through until the end and I want it to be flawless. However, I am learning that in order to live the life I was meant to live, I have placed my trust in the wrong person. So allow me to opine on trust and share with you what I've learned.

Peitho - "to have confidence"; "to trust" 

I am guilty of not seeking God for counsel in all things when it seems things are going well. I assume that my abilities are enough to carry me through my days/nights into the next day. I "have confidence" or "trust" in my own abilities. When problems arise, I run away from God and try to solve them on my own. Yet when times become too difficult and burdens become too heavy and life seems almost impossible to live, then will I seek help from God. I will lean on him...(but not completely; not wholly). What I am learning, however, is that no matter my circumstances, there is freedom and peace in placing all of my "trust" in God. 

Self-trust doesn't win us anything. It doesn't make us stronger. It doesn't promote us to any status. It doesn't guarantee anything at all. But I am learning that trust in God never fails because God is the fountain of life to all who serve Him. God is the source of power that I need. 

Paul's letter to the Corinthians made mention of his problems and trials that he had in Asia to the point that he and Timothy had given up hope on life. And in that moment, when despair consumed them, they realized that trust in themselves is far less effective than trusting "in God who raises the dead". The same is true of me. Now that I am realizing and apprehending the insufficiency of my ability to be my own savior, those moments of despair have induced the realization that placing my confidence and hope in God, who is sufficient beyond anything I could ever imagine, is the greatest destination for my trust. Since God is a God who raises the dead, then what trials do I have in my life that are too great to give to Him? None. His strength is perfect. His plans are perfect. My plans fail. My strength is limited....but I now know that my extremities are God's opportunities. 

And so I have a new place for my trust to rest. I place my trust in God because He has my best interest at heart. I place my trust in God because without Him I am not enough. I can't claim any adequacy without God. My natural talent only carries me so far. I'm learning that I am not competent to carry out the responsibilities of God's calling in my own strength. However, with God, I am capable to live the life I was meant to live according to His calling. I am capable to do His work because of His strength. I don't want to live a mediocre "christian life"....and I don't have to...neither do you!

"This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially those who believe"

- 1 Timothy 4:9-10

The fact is that Jesus Christ is the Savior for all but His salvation is only effective for those who trust Him (Go ahead and read that sentence again). 

And so I trust in the living God. 


Deny Yourself

"The time for honoring yourself will soon come to an end"

As far as movie lines go, the one quoted above is probably one of my favorites. Given the scene and the story and all that led up to the line itself, the line served as a culmination of fury and a foreshadowing of vengeance to come. In the movie, a gladiator is speaking to an emperor who: never deserved his empirical role, abused his power to gain influence, manipulated others to exalt himself, etc. In other words, it was always about what the emperor wanted. The gladiator wanted to be very clear that there were other needs and wants and desires in the empire of Rome that were entirely more important than the selfish needs and wants of the emperor. 

Unfortunately, life isn't like the movies....or is it? For me, I've been coming to a realization for a long time about my relationship with Christ and my own selfish desires. In simpler terms, allow yourself to think of my heart as the gladiator (noble, belonging to God, filled with incredible intentions, filled with a growing love for God, filled with compassion and a growing love for others) and think of my flesh as the emperor (selfish, filled with its own wants, its own desires, its own greed, lust, jealousy, etc). The truth, that my growing desire, love, and trust for God is revealing is, "Flesh, the time for honoring yourself will soon come to an end". 

That time is now. For a few weeks now I've really been contemplating what a real relationship with Christ looks like. What steps do I take? What is required of me? What do I do?

I chose a word to meditate on this year: "Sacrifice"

From that word has flowed a myriad of others: surrender, trust, obedience, honor, suffering, and joy, just to name a few. 

However, when I think about what is required from me to have a deep and meaningful relationship with God, I only get one word: "Everything".  And that is true, when we become followers of Christ, it costs us everything. There will be "sacrifice", there will be surrender, trust, obedience, honor, and joy. There will be suffering. And we are to count that suffering as "joy". 

Jesus said "If anyone wishes to come after [follow] Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me" - Luke 9:23. 

The path is pretty clear. If you want to follow Jesus, deny yourself, pick up your cross daily and follow Him. That verse isn't very long and it doesn't seem very complicated on the surface. Just deny yourself and carry your cross and follow Him. But dig just a little deeper. If you want to follow Jesus, deny yourself. Deny your selfish motives, deny your selfish wants, your selfish desires. Deny what this loud world tells you is important and realize that without Jesus you have nothing. Nothing. When you've come to this point and you realize that Jesus is the end game here and that nothing here is important if it isn't focused towards Him, then pick up your cross and suffer for Christ. Stand out. Be different from the world. Be radical, or obsessed, or ridiculous, or whatever word you choose to describe it. Just don't be the same. 

Maybe I'm talking to myself, maybe I'm talking to you, maybe not. But I am praying. I am praying that all of this moves beyond wishful thinking. I am praying that this is more than just a fleeting thought this time. Heaven is real. Hell is real. Jesus really died for you and I. So what are we doing for Him? I posted on twitter a while back something that sparked this blog post. I'm going to leave it with you here. 

The world hated Jesus to the point of crucifixion yet we desire to be followers of Christ while maintaining comfort and approval. 

Comment below. I'd love to hear from you and open some dialogue. 


I wrote a song..

Cystic Fibrosis is an ugly disease. In fact, all diseases are ugly. They rob, take, cripple, hinder, and steal years from us and loved ones. My cousin, Kara Hay, passed away after winning her battle with CF. I was visiting one of my best friends in Virginia and at 5ish in the morning he came to wake me up to tell me that someone was on the phone for me. I picked up the phone to hear my mother tell me that Kara, only 20 1/2 years old, had died. My heart was heavy. Life really is a vapor, and for some it's even less. Kara was fun to be around. She was one of those kind hearted people that just held joy in her bones. I'm not sure if you know this or not, but those type of people are rare. The world is full of burdens and fears and weights and if anyone had a reason to be weighed down with that type of junk, it was Kara. But she didn't let that stuff effect her (at least not that I ever witnessed). She was strong. She was unbelievably strong in her relationship with God. The more stories I hear of her, the more envious I become of that relationship because it's almost as if she knew Him as her best friend (and if I'm being honest, after 31 years of life, I'm still searching to know Him like that). I admire her, I love her, and I miss her.

I'm not sure what you know about me, but I'm a musician. I handle my emotions through music. I tell stories about love, hate, life, death, pain, and joy through music. Many times I never let anyone hear some of the things I write because I wrote them for me. I wrote them to serve as a vehicle to help me cope or deal with whatever weighed on my heart. I still do that. This song was no different. I didn't write this song to be heard or with intent to share with anyone. However, I shared it with one of my sisters one day who encouraged me to share it with my aunt. The sharing didn't stop there. I played a gig with the John Claybrook Band in Prattville, AL for a DiscipleNow weekend. In the middle of the show I stood on the stage with just my guitar and a microphone and I told the story of this girl named Kara and then I sang the song. In this room full of teenagers something happened. The song became less about my emotions and more of an anthem for everyone in that room who was/had suffered the stinging pain of loss. After the show student after student approached me in tears to tell me how their grandmother died of lung cancer or they lost someone in their life with a respiratory disease. I was amazed and humbled. I never meant for anyone to hear this song. But after witnessing the effect it has on others, I am realizing that it is more than just a song for me. This is a song for you.

iTunes is scheduled to release "Free to Breathe" on Friday, May 18th on the iTunes music store. A portion of the proceeds of this song will be given away to help aid in the fight against Cystic Fibrosis and I'm asking you to buy it. You don't have to listen to it. You don't have to like it. But buy it. It's more than a song. It's a fight for a cure.


Starting Over

you can hear something so many times that it becomes truth to you. it becomes a standard by which you live your life. it becomes doctrine.
i developed a doctrine of faith from those who taught me, those who i watched and mimicked, and those whose example i was “supposed” to follow. after years of hearing teachings, watching behaviors, and following examples set for me, i have realized (with the help of a few close friends) it is time to start over. 
i have to start over to realize a God that isn’t ashamed of me. i have to start over to realize a God that doesn’t want to damn me to hell at the first sign of sin in my life. i have to start over to realize a God that loves unconditionally and wants to know me in the same way that husbands know their wives. i have to start over to realize a Holy Spirit that exists in something besides the evidence of speaking in tongues (and no i’m not getting into that - that’s a whole other post). He desires a closeness and an intimacy with me beyond my wildest imagination. 
i understand that my past has shaped me into who i am today. however, i wonder about some of the things that were put into my head. i wonder about some teaching i received and the forcefulness with which it was taught. you see, there is beauty in approaching a relationship with God as though we are children. Jesus even goes so far as to say that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mark 10:14). how heavy the responsibility of the shepherd of those children. children are vulnerable. they have no preconceived notions of what things are “supposed” to be like. they have no predetermined agenda. they simply take the information you give them and digest it at face value. they are easily molded. 
my childhood was shaped with what i believe to be good intentions from those in authoritative roles in my life. however, somewhere along the way, it became less about a relationship with God and more about the selfish nature of man. “what does this person have that we can use?” “what talents, gifts, or abilities can we siphon from this one?” “in order to serve in this area of the church, you need to be willing to complete the items on this checklist in a manner approved by this person.”
what i learned growing up is that denominations matter. we aren’t one body of Christ. what we are is a collection of fish tanks and, by God, our fish tank is the biggest, cleanest, and most decorative in the city. in fact, our fish tank is the only fish tank that Jesus loves. other things i have picked up are: in order to have a relationship with Jesus, you have to be in one of those tanks, you can’t be blessed if you aren’t within the friendly confines of the building, and above all else, we are going to take up the offering because well....it’s that important. 
can we possibly get more Pharisaical than that?
why do we spend our time competing with one another? why do we focus on white washing our tombs and ignoring the bones inside? let’s be honest and look at the houses within a 10 mile radius of our churches. do you even know the people living within 10 miles of your church? i’m guilty of it too, so no, i’m not throwing rocks at your glass houses (at least not without throwing them at my own). if our building is clean enough, and we put on a big enough production, people will flock to our fish tank and beg to become members of our club that we call a church. i hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that simply isn’t going to happen. no one is going to decide to follow Christ because the choir moved them with a rendition of Oh Happy Day only rivaled by Whoopi and the other sisters
there is a fundamental problem. in my case, for my childhood and even until now, there was a slow evolution of a man made doctrine. things were said and done in plain sight (and some behind closed doors) that would make you scratch your head and wonder what kind of person would think or say those type things. you can hear something so many times that it becomes truth to you. it becomes a standard by which you live your life. it becomes doctrine.
but all is not lost. i am entering what i am calling a Personal Awakening in which i am realizing there is more to following Christ than being the whipping boy. my perspective of God must change. my outlook on life must change. i don’t need to be on the defensive at all times. i don’t need to be ashamed at all times. and i certainly don’t need man to give me his approval in order that i might feel significant among his “flock”.
i am learning about a different God now; a God that pursues me. i am learning that i am pursued by a God that is holy. He didn’t create holy and He didn’t decide one day to be holy....He just is holy. He just is. i am learning that God wants what is best for us. God wants good things for our lives. i am learning that bad things sometimes happen to good people but in the midst of heartache and pain, there is good growing and many times our eyes cannot see what that is. but the beauty of who we are in Christ is that we don’t have to understand. that isn’t our job. we can find rest in the fact that we simply have to follow. does that mean the road is easy? i can tell you first hand, emphatically, NO! it is not easy. but neither is suffocating because your feet are in too much pain to lift up on the spike driven through them to elevate your body to gather enough air to sustain life for just a second longer. 
i am starting over. i am becoming a different person. i am finding my identity in Christ. 
should you find yourself in the extraordinary position of being responsible for the caring of souls while they exist on earth, think very seriously of your responsibility. it is a heavy burden to bear and people follow you because they trust you. let not their trust be misplaced. study God’s word. study the life of Jesus and learn; because the moment that you cease to learn, you cease to lead. 
disclaimer: (it is important to understand that i am not laying blame at the feet of my parents - in fact, over the years, i have had several intense and fruitful discussions with them regarding my relationship with God). 


In the beginning...

In the beginning we made resolutions and then by March we've decided that it's all just too hard to continue down the path of self discipline.

well I'm making this resolution/commitment/whatever you want to call it in February. therefore, I plan to make this bad boy stick until at least late April or early May.

Resolution: I'm going to write more. I have decided that I have some things I want to talk about and I've decided that you all get to read them. and with special thanks to Steve Jobs (God rest his soul) and the amazing wonders of technology, I can now blog more often from the comfort of wherever I am when I have my iPhone with me.

So sit back and relax and let's share some dialogue! whaddaya say?



about five feet from the shore was a mini sand bar - it probably happens a lot but i had never seen anything like it. i stepped out onto that sand bar and the water kept rushing over my feet. the only thing i could hear now was the roar of the water as it rushed to the shore and i'm left standing there trying to wrap my head around everything happening around me. the sky is filled with yellow, orange, red, and about 4 different shades of blue. i couldn't stop staring at the sunset...i had never in my life seen anything so beautiful - and i'm not one to stop and "smell the roses", but this day was different. i just wanted to be...

all of my life, for as long as i can remember, i have been trying to forge a path for my life. when one thing doesn't work out, i set out into the unknown just blazing a trail....for myself. the problem with that is, i hate the unknown - i hate not having it all figured out....and so because of my hatred for all things uncertain, i scramble...i scramble to make things right. i scramble to get things into motion. i scramble to make sure that things are happening. i want the answers, and i want them now!!

but it hit me this week. the realization hit me that it is not my job to make the plans for my life. it is my job to just be...

amidst all of my surroundings standing on that small sand bar - i was lost...in awe. i kept thinking about how very small i am in comparison to this great big God that put all of that beauty into place. and for that moment, that felt like an eternity, nothing else was of any concern to me. i wasn't concerned with my plans, agenda, calendar, meetings, workload.....i just wanted to be...


"i need you, i need you now to come and rescue me. and shelter me from this storm somehow, and teach me how to be.....still" - jc


All Access: Backstage Pass

allow me to be vulnerable with you for a bit. i want to share with you something that i struggle with a lot....probably moreso now than ever....or maybe i have just begun to recognize the struggle...in any case, here it is: i seriously struggle to serve God when it's not glamorous....

the lights come up, the sound explodes and for the next 2 hours i can mask my insecurities. i can be whoever i want to be. i can paint a picture of the me that i want you to see....you don't have to know me and i don't have to know you other than to connect with you briefly enough to show you that i noticed you were there. i noticed you were there and i made sure that if you knew nothing else about me, you knew, if only for those two hours, that i follow Christ.

...and then....after the last note is played and long after the crowd is gone....i take off my mask. i lay down the me that you met and i crumble. a million questions arise in my heart and i look to myself for answers to these questions that i can't even begin to understand...i question my purpose, my plans, my goals....and i blame God for not immediately answering me....

i tell myself it's ok to wrestle with God (and i believe it is) - but my wrestling turns into pouting and pointing the finger at God and saying..."YOU told me YOU would carry me, you told me if i called, you would answer!...etc." - the truth of the matter is....i never asked Him.....anything.

this struggle has consumed me lately...and i will take a step further into deeper authenticity and tell you exactly why....

i don't feel it - i don't feel Him near...and that is a frightening thing. i know that He is here...even in the smallest and mundane moments of my life. my struggle is having faith and believing it. today my heart was broken with a passage from isaiah because i know that it is me...the verse essentially says that you (being me) will try to do this on your own until eventually you will end up all alone....that is how i feel in the simple moments of my life...alone

when you strip away the lights, the stage, the people, and the music and you get behind the masks that i wear, this is me.....afraid and alone....searching for the best way to sift through all of the mess that this world has to offer and to put my eyes solely on the author of my faith....and not just when the world is watching....but when mine is the only voice within 100 miles.