Take Comfort

Suppress, suppress, suppress…it will be over soon. Hold it all in says my body, yet my heart cries in anguish! Be strong! Be a man! says my mind, yet my chest burns in rage! My throat clenches and I blink the tears away, still I hold back the flood welling up inside. Suppress, suppress, suppress…I’m afraid I can’t any longer. I cry out in bitter pain sounding like a wounded animal I whimper. I beg and I plead Lord take this pain away! For what comfort do I have? My world has been ripped apart. The man I longed to hear say to me “I’m proud of you Mr. Travis” or see him light up when I told him of my race performance, is now gone…What comfort do I have?

Be at peace my heart, for I have comfort in my faith in the Lord. Faith that as brothers we will be reunited.

O heart humble yourself and be at peace. Take comfort in your friends, for they suffer alongside you. Share the burdens of this immense pain and prevail as one body.

Find joy my soul, joy in those around you. Joy in your friends made family thanks to one man.

Seek love my soul. Feelings are ever-changing in the breeze, but love that is genuine, that is pure, that is divine, is eternal. A never-dying love with unconditional standards is a precious love to possess.

Be at ease my body, release the flood gates and expose the severed bond between two souls where my pain originates.

Seek humility O mind. To endure physical pain is the mark of manhood, but to mask emotional pain is the folly of a youthful mind. 

Take comfort, in the gifts of the Lord. My family I’m so blessed to have. My friends whom I love dearly and consider myself greatly blessed to have in my life. My ability to compete in a sport that has created the most precious bonds I possess. A heart so full of love that I’m able to give away pieces and still have plenty left for myself.

In these, I shall take comfort…In these, I shall find peace…In these, I shall find love.

God being our guide, we shall prevail over the pain of loss, and rejoice over the love that was left behind.

With much love I write,

Coach, you’re the real winner here, look at the size of your family! With much anticipation, we shall be reunited.

“He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” – Genesis 15:5

Shattered

I am fortunate, the Lord blesses me daily, but one of the greatest blessing bestowed upon me was the bond I developed with a great man while he dwelt here on earth. Paul Hoover was my Cross-Country and Track coach during my high school days. A coach turned friend, a friend turned family. My Cross-Country family and I are all shattered, essentially, last night we lost our father.

Broken vessels we’ve become, individually we are just a piece of a shattered mirror. Coming together we can piece together the mirror, but it will never reflect clearly as it did once. Light is always found in the darkest of places however, each piece now reflects its own reflection, its own memories, thoughts, and heart. Each piece is reflecting the same image, but at its own unique angle and light.

Coach Hoover is a father figure to many of us, always there for us even if we had graduated. My heart breaks on its own accord yes, but my heart breaks all the more for my brothers and sisters. My friend Stanley, who is much like an older brother to me would even visit Coach on Thanksgiving day. Thanksgiving is a day reserved for family and that’s what we are. There are some people who you meet in life that you bond with better than some of your own blood family. Coach was one of those people. 

I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for Coach Hoover and the team. My first race I ran a 29min. 5K, I shot out for the first mile and quickly realized that I wasn’t ready for such a distance (for I was on the team only a week). I remember going up the wall of a hill (Miller Landing) and being passed by all of the girls on the team, each saying good job as they passed. I knew I didn’t really do well. However, with each race I dropped in time, and with each race coach expected more and more out of me. By the end of the year he told me that when I first joined he truly didn’t think I had it in me, “Maybe in the next year or so you’re make varsity time.” but he was surprised that I made it down to varsity time my first year, with my final time being 21:14. Following track season under the leadership of Stanley I marked my time down at 19:12. Running with Stanley after school was not just wonderful training, but something I looked forward to daily. After that summer I went into the season as one of the top runners on the team. I set my PR at 17:56 at our regional meet and even though we missed state by a few points I know coach was proud of us. It was the closest to state our  team had ever been. The following year we became the first boy’s Cross-Country team to make it to state with our school. Thank God He blessed us with such a feat.

I have much better stories to tell, but I’d like to keep those reserved for my family. They would only mean so much to those outside the family anyway. For us, precious memories are like Gold.

Coach had me ride with him down south to a dealership after I was out of school. He needed an extra driver for the return trip. I’m so blessed to have spent the day with him, we talked for hours and had lunch together. We talked about teammates past and present for a good bit. A new light was brought about him when he talked about the team. He was so very proud of everyone, his love for everyone was as genuine as it can be.

I want to refrain from using too many names on here, but each person we talked about was spoken of with love.

I wrote coach a letter a few weeks back, I’m so grateful that he got the chance to read it. I was able to tell him how much he meant to me. I have a hard time expressing my feelings verbally, so to have it in written word I believe it meant a lot to him. He told me himself actually, that he was proud of me and the team. We shared a special place in his heart.

Those Who Died in Christ

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

In time, we shall be reunited in Christ.

Lincoln Logs

Have you ever made an awesome structure with Lincoln Logs and you beg your parents to leave it proudly standing in the living room for the next few days? I sure have, many times in fact. When we build something that we’re proud of and is wonderful in our eyes we never want to see it destroyed. In the case of Lincoln Logs, we either beg for it to remain intact or we continue to add-on to it and your parents allow it to grow since you’re still technically playing with it. However, that is what most will do when they want it to stand, at some point, you grow bored. Pieces are running low, so new buildings aren’t as good or perhaps it’s just been sitting stagnant in the living room and you’re ready to tear it down. Then one day, you’ll start again on a new structure, that you hope to be more wonderful than the last.

The other night I was thinking about relationships and how they should grow and expand with time. What makes a relationship healthy, strong and loving? I was running a few thoughts I’ve heard from Andy Stanley and other pastors through my head; as well as 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen, refreshing myself with the qualities of love. Then I had the thought that relationships are much like Lincoln Logs. (a weird comparison I know) Lincoln Logs are always great fun when you first start building with them. You lay out the floor plan with the foundation, you start building up the walls adding windows and doors as you go. *Pretty soon you have a massive tower as your center piece and as I would do, place your plastic army men on high points to fend off the evil tan armies. After you finish building, you stand back in awe of what you’ve just created.

Now, I have seen some pretty cool structures built with Lincoln logs, but I’ve also seen some pretty basic huts or lopsided houses. Here comes the comparison, (it makes sense I swear) There are those who lack creativity and can’t seem to make a decent Lincoln Log house, so they make multiple houses. Destroying one after another trying to figure it out, many houses rise and fall. Perhaps they didn’t use the flat pieces for the foundation and it fell, or they forgot to add windows and doors and basically have a box. whatever the case may be, the houses aren’t really anything to be in awe about. Using Lincoln Logs as the visual here, imagine these poorly made houses as a relationship. Poor foundations, lacks substance, lacks care in the making, and they don’t stand for long. (definitely would not pass the living room test) the builder or in this case builders, failed to make a lasting structure, so it either fell on its own or they purposefully destroyed it. Truly, because it’s worthless to them. Unless the builders can learn to build a solid foundation, put care in the design and truly puts their hearts and souls into the making of the house, then the house will never really be wonderful.

The living room test – would your parents be proud of what you’ve built as much as you are? Enough to where they would allow you to display it in the most visited place in the house?

A healthy relationship starts with a firm foundation, with proper design and planning, building upon that foundation is the next step. Unlike Lincoln Logs where you can only build so much then must stop, a strong relationship never truly ceases to grow. The Lincoln Log tower is capped with a roof or a tower block, but a relationship cannot be capped, it must continue to expand. Both builders must love what they are building, take a step back, look in awe, then ask how to make it better.

There are many different avenues I could take, such as the structure must be evenly built. (Evenly Yoked) I could go on to say more about building the structure up and how to maintain it. However, the point I want to place the most emphasis on is the foundation. Nothing stands for long on weak foundations, such as the house built upon the shifting sands. 

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” – Matthew 7:24-27 (NASB)

In all relationships strive to build a strong foundation first and foremost. In your friendships, with your siblings, parents and especially your spouse. (best get a move on if you’re married with a weak foundation) Although I used Lincoln Logs to compare the structure of relationships, never treat a relationship as a game. It’s not something you can simply pick up, play with till you’re bored and throw away as if it’s yesterdays news. Far too often the dating tactics of high school follow people into adulthood and they pick up and drop relationships over and over. To build ONE lasting structure that is wonderful and leaves you awestruck is far better than a trail of destruction.

Below are links to Andy Stanley’s video series “Love, Sex and dating”. I highly recommend this series, especially for students in high school who through society tend to have a morphed view of what a relationship looks like. 

http://northpoint.org/messages/the-new-rules-for-love-sex-and-dating/the-right-person-myth/ – Video one

http://northpoint.org/messages/the-new-rules-for-love-sex-and-dating/gentlemans-club/ – video two

http://northpoint.org/messages/the-new-rules-for-love-sex-and-dating/designer-sex/ – video three

http://northpoint.org/messages/the-new-rules-for-love-sex-and-dating/if-i-were-you/ – video four

I would recommend for the ladies to watch video one then three, go back to two then four. Everyone must watch one and three though, if nothing else watch those two.

*Note – In case you’re wondering, I still do like to bring out the ol’ Lincoln Log set and my armies of plastic army men. Lincoln Logs are the Bee’s Knees man!

Camellia

Not many men would admit to liking things of beauty, such as flowers. Flowers posses so much more than just beauty, in many ways they provide lessons. God uses His creation to reveal Himself to us. Consider the stars and their vastness, providing knowledge of when it is time to plant and harvest, the Sun and its life-giving light, even the Moon controls the tides of the waves all in perfect unison. The universe reveals God’s glory and greatness in mighty ways, but don’t discredit the things dwelling here on Earth. There are creatures so bewildering and complex you must admit that chance couldn’t have created such a sight. Our own existence, created in God’s image is the ultimate testimony to God found in nature. When life gets hard, we often forget the beauty found in the simple things, we forget that God is right there with us. So, let us consider the Camellia.

The Camellia is a very interesting flowering tree; while most trees produce flowers and fruit in the Spring or Summer months, the Camellia blooms in the dead of Winter. While most other plants suffer during the Winter, the Camellia blossoms, revealing life when all else appears desolate. The sky turns grey and snow begins to fall and the mighty Oaks groan with the freezes snapping their branches. Yet, in the midst of it all, there blooms a flower. This is something to consider, God provides for even the creation deemed lesser by men, so how much more will He provide for you who is created in His image? A Sparrow will not fall from a nest without His notice. Thus, His hand is surely working in your life when you fall as well. There is nothing too great for God to handle. Do you wonder why God made the Camellia bloom when nothing else does? Reflect on this, looking at the Camellia flower it reminds us that life can be found in dark places. Looking at our own lives how does this apply to us? Well…are you at this moment the Oak tree, or are you the Camellia?

The mighty Oak! One of the sturdiest trees upon this Earth, with large trunks and deep roots the Oak is hard to fell. Many are like the Oak, they go through life strong willed and can handle much on their own. Many storms have come and gone and still they stand. However, as the tree grows, so does the weight of storms. While the branches held little weight in previous snowstorms, the now large branches that could be a tree of its own hold much weight. When the freezes make the branches brittle and the weight of the snow piles on, the branches lose their strength and they fall with a mighty crash. At this point, the once mighty and strong Oak seems to have its life falling apart, branches that it thought would hold fast were falling from its grasp. The storm has rattled the Oak, lifelong growth now rests at its feet; it groans and creaks at the new wounds and scars received in the storm.

oak

Is that not how many people go through life? Headlong and strong they grow, many problems they may face, but they make it through alright. Then one day, their whole world is turned upside down, everything falls apart. When looking at their feet they see what was lost, looking at their scars they see what once was, but if they would just look up, they would see the Camellia.

The Camellia bearing the same snowstorm may seem feeble in it all. The forest is alight with the crashing of branches and the felling of trees. Yet, there it lies, green and blooming it reveals life when death is all around it. It blooms it seems, when the forest needs it the most, to show that life is there in their midst. To remind them that God is still the giver of life.

Some people are like the Camellia, they don’t bloom often, but when they do it’s when people need them the most. When life appears desolate, someone comes along and reveals to them life in what looks to be bad. Taking what is good and reflecting on it, while leaving behind the bad with every day, life just may get a bit easier. The Camellia truly is an amazing creation crafted by God’s hands, a beautiful reminder that even in the storm He remains.

snow camellia

God can make a flower bloom in the dead of Winter, how much more He can do with you.

Roots

When you read the Scriptures do you understand what they mean? Difficult to comprehend at times, it’s hard to come to a conclusion on what is being said. I think that is one major reason as to why Jesus taught using parables. I myself love using analogies, so I have an appreciation for Jesus’s teaching style. I hope to use an analogy to better explain what it means to have a searching heart. Life without Christ will never reach full satisfaction and fulfillment. The heart and mind being corrupt with the fall of man we as humans will search in all the wrong places for a fulfilled life.

When we look at the story of the Samaritan women, we find Jesus searching for water. Being weary from His journey from Galilee to Jacob’s well in the land of Samaria, Jesus asked a woman who was drawing water for a drink. 

Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) – John 4:9

Keeping Jesus’s response the main focus, pay attention to what he says next. 

 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” – John 4:10

Living water! What does this mean? What has Jesus just offered this woman?

After asking by what means Jesus will draw water from the well, Jesus responded. 

 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” – John 4:13-14

What is it that Jesus means by this? Does He truly mean our physical bodies will never thirst again? That’s how the Samaritan women understood it at first, but looking back at the beginning of the passage we see that Jesus was weary and asked for a drink. With this being the case clearly Jesus Himself needed physical water to sustain His physical body just as we do. What Jesus is speaking of, is spiritual water.

Going one chapter back we see the encounter with Nicodemus. When Jesus is discussing the way of salvation with him, He mentions understandings of both the physical realm and the spiritual realm.Take a moment to read their encounter.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” – John 3:1-23

Clearly Nicodemus is perplexed by Jesus’s words and does not understand that Jesus is speaking of spiritual rebirth. Dying to our old selves and arising anew we are baptized in the Holy Spirit washing away our former desires. The Holy Spirit being our guide Born Again Christians are raised up in new life. This being the living water Jesus spoke of to the woman at the well.

“…but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

The Holy Spirit fills our heart and soul. Being born of the flesh we are still living in sin, however, the Spirit provides new life, now born again in the spirit. The desires of the flesh begin to fade and new desires take their place. Water wells of flesh dry up, but the Living water of the Spirit is eternal, supplying fulfillment and substance to the weary soul, the searching heart and the wondering mind.

I hope I have accomplished explaining these passages well enough for understanding. I would like to share an analogy I have based off of these passages of scripture to bring about an easier way to explain it to others outside of Christ.

So we begin with a tree, the tree representing our soul and the roots of the tree seek out fulfillment, substance, and desires of the flesh (sin). Thus, us being the tree spreading out our roots in search of satisfaction it looks for water to sustain the tree.

The roots follow a path and find a pocket of water in the earth, but after some time it ceases to satisfy. The well dries up and the roots continue their search. Digging into another pocket it takes its fill, simply to be dissatisfied in the end. Ever searching to satisfy the tree, the roots continue without lasting reward. Every well the roots tap into dries up in due time. Eventually, the roots are at a loss of where to search next. All of the wells of the past never fill the tree with life again. Each new pocket never fully satisfy and the tree begins to suffer. If not remedied with a lasting and sustaining water the Tree will perish. Upon hearing of an everlasting water, the roots dig their way to this rumored source. Reaching a layer of stone they stop…the water is on the other side. For many, the roots surrender the search for everlasting water and return to empty pockets. For some, they dig their roots deep into the well, at long last, the tree is filled with everlasting life. Digging through the stone layer is difficult, grasping onto hope and faith the roots trudge their way through the layer. Everlasting life being the reward the tree no longer concerns itself with the empty pockets. Springing forth with new life the roots immerse themselves into the everlasting well. The Tree now fulfilled and sustained can grow with confidence.

These empty pockets being our sin filled lives never satisfy the soul. For a time they provide substance, it gives the flesh something to feed on, but in the end it fails to fulfill us. Our souls being spiritual they can only be filled with spiritual water. Seeking after desires of the flesh may feed the flesh, only to excite the hunger of the soul all the more. For the flesh, it eats and drinks until it’s glutenous and drunk. Still desiring more it seeks out new wells. For the soul, the physical realm is not to its liking, it seeks the spiritual realm for its filling. With one drink from the everlasting well it is fully satisfied and fully sustained. If the soul never finds its way to this Living Water, then it will perish without fulfillment, without satisfaction, it will perish with thirst. The flesh can feed and feed, but it will never be filled, only to die and turn to dust its desires turned out to lead to death.

Understand that the physical realm cannot save the spiritual. Sin may be fun and fill a void for a time, but as soon as the flesh says it’s not enough, it will demand more and more and never be filled. Seek out the spiritual, find the everlasting well, drink heartily from it, dig your roots deep into this well, and be filled with life everlasting.

“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:24

A Story Nonetheless

Some time ago I had a dream, a vision of sorts. Only, I didn’t realize it until some time later. With the dream being so vivid, I truly believed it to be a Bible story. When I told a friend of mine the story, I told him that I would find the passage in the Bible so he could read it for himself. I was surprised to find that there is no such story! Lost, I went to my pastor and former youth pastor to ask them if they have heard of such a story. They had not. Following is the dream that I had, for what I can recall, I regret not writing it down at once.

I saw a grand temple, with a great number of people gathered there. The High priest of Israel was there accompanied by the Sadducees and pharisees. They were preparing to enter the temple to perform a ritual to atone for the sins of Israel. In order to enter undefiled, the High priest began to take multiple bathes. (I am uncertain of the number, I am going to assume twelve for each tribe.) After each bath, the wash tub made of gold was drained and washed out to prep for the next bath. The High Priest would say a prayer between each one while a white sheet was held up to cover him. After the bathing and prayers had come to a conclusion, the High priest entered the temple.

Nearing the altar, a flash of light swept the room and the priest found himself covered in vomit. Crying aloud he ran out from the temple. From the Heavens a voice called out. (my memory fails me, but I know the jist.) “You approach being physically clean, yet your heart is as repulsive as vomit.” Upon this I awoke.

The lesson I got from it and told to my friend, is that it does not matter how a person may appear. Even the most seemingly holy of people are not worthy before God, one must be covered by the Holy Spirit in order to be near God. By this, our hearts are made pure through Christ and not on our own merit. Our merit is like vomit before God, useless.

 

 After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 7:14-16

Breathing, Not Beating

I’ve decided to write a little about my past and include a story about a friend I made in Nicaragua. My title, “Breathing, Not Beating” I hope to make a bit more profound as I write. Now, my life does not include some tragic life event or poor upbringing, but hardships have still come my way. Many who read this will relate to some degree. I am glad to say that my past remains in the past. Much of the hardships, with the Lord’s help, have been overcome. This is essentially my testimony, leaving some detail out. No need to post all my sins on the internet, the impact is just as powerful.

I’ll begin by attempting to briefly describe my fourth grade school year. Many issues steamed from this point, but actually fourth grade was one of my favorite times in school. The situation was, I went into the year with no friends in my class. I would see them during free play and the such, but I didn’t interact a whole lot with the other students assigned to my teacher with me. at first I was upset, but then had a thought! “I know no one in this class, they don’t know me, I can be myself!” Problem is, when I’m acting like myself, I tend to become highly obnoxious. I love to laugh, especially in my younger days I could barely get through a joke due to laughing while trying to say the punch line. I had no care in the world what my classmates thought of me, I was myself, if they didn’t like it, then oh well. the year went on rather well. My classmates viewed me as the class clown I suppose. jokes weren’t really my thing, it was more of what I did. Putting my feet behind my head and walking on my hands, (yes I could and still can somewhat do that) putting my pinkie toe in my nose, (yes I did that too) and doing somersaults into the class while making a finger gun and humming the James Bond theme song.

My classmates weren’t the problem for me that school year. It was actually the students from other classes. During free play I didn’t change my behavior and still ran around the school grounds like a mad man. Some friends and I did start a very intense game of “keep away” which is nothing more than tackling whoever has a kickball in their hands and then taking it for yourself until YOU get tackled. It got banned. Anyway, one day while waiting in line to play an actual game of kickball, I had a student from another class say they didn’t want me on their team. A little hurt I asked why? They said because I was gay. Honestly, not knowing what that meant entirely as an eight or nine-year old. I still walked away knowing I was just insulted. The following days I discovered others were calling me the same thing. No one from my class however, only those from other classes. After some time of this, I greatly reduced my levels of hyper activity and became much more calm. I tried to act like everyone else, I still laughed and enjoyed life. However, all of a sudden, others opinions drove my actions.

Skipping forward to sixth grade, I found myself in another situation of where I knew few people in my class. This time I had a new thought “I know no one, if I keep to myself and say nothing, then they can’t use anything against me.” Thus, I literally went days at school saying nothing. Friends aren’t exactly easy to come by when you say very little, if anything at all. Needless to say, it was a very depressing year. I sat alone at lunch quite often, if someone were to speak to me, in most occasions it was to mock me. I would smile when people stared at me, not sure why, I guess I figured I needed to do something in order for them to look away.

Being trapped within your mind can become very scary. For hours a day I simply thought to myself. I bothered no one, yet bullies would go out of their way to bother me. A lot of hatred was birthed from that. It appeared to me that no one liked me, or cared for me. Of course not everyone hated me, but when no one seemed to care that others mocked me or no one sat next to me at lunch, it caused the appearance of that. Obviously I was sad, you could see it in my eyes. My smiles were always fake, and if conversation ever started I would quickly end it. Seeking to talk, but fearing it at the same time makes sense to anyone in any similar situation I would say. I suppose, if someone were to persist on speaking, and make it known that they really did want to talk, then most would open up. On the other hand, often times the first thought is, “oh they feel bad for me, it’s the only reason why they’re talking to me.” People don’t want others to feel sorry for them. If you want to be a friend, then be a friend. Saying “sorry that you’re so sad, I wish I could help.” Then walking away is the equivalent of saying nothing at all. So, here I was, a rather sad sack who closed himself into a tight shell. speaking softly when I chose to speak and had clenched fist ready to swing when enemies approached. I did have one saving grace however.

Everyday after school a friend and I would run from each others homes to meet at the entrance of my neighborhood. A grade higher than I, we never saw each other at school very often. Playing Rec park soccer and knowing him since elementary school made us close friends. Being able to open up and talk to a true friend each day, I swear kept me from total devastation. We had this crazy idea that we were going to break school records for our P.E. classes. Each day we trained for our end of the year physical test, so we could attempt to shatter a record. We started by doing a quarter-mile warm-up to meet each other, then we walked back to my home while eating fruit, followed by sit-ups, push-ups, leg lifts and a half mile run. Then, we played. This continued for quite some time. As soon as we arrived home we were out the door ready to go.

Now, this is where my testimony really begins, I hope you enjoyed the back story! Let us begin. I was raised in a Christian home, very good upbringing, wonderful parents and my siblings and I got along for the most part. My friend had a good home life as well, but he wasn’t raised in a Christian home. One day, while playing soccer, he posed a question to me. “Why do you believe in God?” He asked. a little off guard I simply said, because I do. After a little more discussion, I went home thinking, “why DO I believe in God?” After getting home I started to help my mother with the dishes and I told her what my friend had asked. After talking with her I felt confident in my belief in God and was ready to confirm that with my friend the next day. He had another question for me though, “Do you love God?” Do I love God? I thought…Well of course I do! Questions such as these continued everyday…everyday I had a new question and he a new answer. I washed dishes with mother happily at this point. It gave me a chance to discuss my newly posed question. My questions always demanded answers, not just for my friend, but for myself as well. As his questions increased in difficulty, my answers became more defined and confident. My knowledge of the Bible had increased and my love for God was at new heights. One day, as I came onto the school bus, he turned to me and demanded to know if I truly loved God. I quickly and fully sure of myself answered yes, of course I do! I believe that somewhere along this time span, the Holy Spirit truly entered into my heart. Being about twelve years old at this time, my water baptism three years prior became very obvious to be a safety net and not a true change of heart. I know now that I was Baptized by the Spirit in my time of growing with the Lord. No longer did I partake in communion just for a little juice or bread, but now I partook with gladness and joy in the knowledge of my Lord!

I first heard this from my mom, but I know it comes from another source, a poem perhaps.

“Sometimes people come into your life for a reason, and for a season.” 

After some time, the questions became very tiring. No longer did I question my faith. Being asked if I truly loved the Lord followed by worldly views became more of a heated debate. We would argue for hours and the final blow was basically a choice between God, or our friendship. Choosing God of course, our friendship faded away and I suppose, our season ended. I like to tell people that I was saved by an atheist. I’ve even had one person confuse it to mean an atheist saved me from Christianity. I told her, oh no, I quite literally mean an atheist converted me to Christianity. You would think that losing my only friend at the time would’ve led me into an even deeper depression. However, God had it all under control. I became much happier even in the current situation of loneliness. Soon after our friendship had faded, God placed another friend into my life. My pastor’s son who is extremely funny and talented became a dear friend of mine and stayed that way up into high school. Where once again I had to forged new friends.

In my current state I face constant fear, not for my own sake, but for my Brothers and Sisters in Christ. I’m currently working on that and am trying to learn to leave matters in the Lord’s hands. He saved me from despair, he can save others as well.

On my mission in Nicaragua one of our team members gave her testimony. It was of a rather dark past with much tribulation. It spoke to one of our translators who after hearing our team members testimony decided to share his as well. Aneriam is his name. He put a name to what I felt in my loneliness. He told us that he never felt so lost that he wanted to end his own life. However, he had been dead inside for years. “My mind may not have said I am dead, but my heart did.” That hit me, I can’t say I was so consumed by despair that suicide seemed like a reasonable escape. However, feeling such intense sadness in my heart it was as if I were dead inside and yet alive. I had breath in my lungs, yet my heart ached.

When the Holy Spirit entered me, I was filled with the breath of Life. No longer was I simply breathing in air, but the word of God and the Spirit stirred within me as well. My lungs will one day cease, my heart will stop beating, and my body will fade away. The Spirit however, will continue to live on. We are either filled with the breath of Life, or filled with the breath of death. I thank God for filling me with life and assuring me of life everlasting! Now, I live with gladness and with life! May the Spirit’s breath overflow within me and fill those around me!

I encourage anyone who suffers in whatever tribulation they face to look to God and to pray upon the Spirit to fill them with life and to make a new creation out of them. Dead to your old self and arising anew. Filled with life everlasting!

 

 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.” – John 3:5-7