Stay Present, Not Distracted

How many times are you going to let the lack of perfection keep you from making progress?

I hate New Years Resolutions. The “New Year, New Me” movement that occurs this time of year usually includes myself as well but I’ve not been feeling it this year. The inner voice of “you’ve not succeeded in the past, so why start now?” has a consistently winning record.

Writing is a discipline and craft that I greatly enjoy but recognize that consistency is necessary to become good. But you can’t get to good if you’re worried about being great and your fear of not being great keeps you from even starting.

One of my favorite writers and thought leaders is Jon Acuff. My previous counselor turned me on to him a couple years ago and he’s written some amazing books on starting and finishing. I’ve read both of those but am rereading for a third time, I believe, “Soundtracks.” It’s an amazing book that helps you turn your overthinking from a super-problem into a super-power.

We don’t have to try very hard to have a negative thought come across our minds. It just shows up. We get lost in our thoughts and they carry us away. Distraction keeps us from gaining any traction.

I would argue in our world of overstimulation, it’s almost easier to stay distracted than present. Aloof, rather than engaged.

What if we need to turn our phones off to turn our brains on?

I don’t want to be one of those crazy “conspiracy theorists” but if a psychological war was being waged on your mind and soul, wouldn’t the chaos and continuous inoculation of emotionally charged rhetoric via all forms of media on your smartphone be one of the most effective weapons? It’s always with you, always on, always listening, and sometimes even thinking for you. Pumping you full of advertisements priming you for your next purchase on Amazon and clickbait article to mindlessly read. Instead of engaging with the world immediately around you and making a positive difference, your emotional and mental energy goes toward thinking about an area of life you presently have no remote control over.

And if you’re always thinking about things you have no control over, then do you have any control at all?

If that question doesn’t put a little a little panic in your heart, then I’m not sure you’re tracking with me.

I’d like to sound the alarm. It’s time to return to engaging the world immediately around you. Your Insta-TikTok-Facebook-Twitter-Reddit self doesn’t matter but you do. The you that does the laundry, cleans the dishes, goes to work, prayer-walks around the neighborhood, and shows up for your relatives ballgames. The you that goes to church ready to learn and not only be convicted by the truth, but let it change you for the better.

Whether it’s taking care of your house, checking in on your elderly friends, showing up for therapy, or selling product. It all matters. And it’s all really something you can make a genuine difference on. A lasting impact.

Your fully engaged presence today could take you from the bleachers to the pulpit, the bullpen to the corner-office.

You can stay a distracted member of the crowd if you wish but I’m alive, awake, and feeling great.

Turn your phone off. Read a book. Hit the gym. Share your dreams with your wife.

Stay present, not distracted.

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An Answered Prayer

I was looking to see if I had any journals to write in, wasn’t sure if I wanted to blog and share my heart with the world today but then I came upon these passages that need to be shared.

I’m thankful for the 1994 GMC Sonoma that still starts even though it shows signs of dying. I’m thankful for resolute friends…And I’m thankful that Jesus has been so very patient and loving with me despite my distance from the altar. And surprising enough, I’m thankful for the bartenders that have befriended me and shown me that sometimes the dark side of the world loves more fervently than those in ‘The Light’.

I think we run from ourselves a lot. We’re scared of what may be lurking in the depths of our heart, or the recesses of our mind.

Justin’s Journal dated 10/4/2015

I was bright, scared, troubled. So much passion and fervor but weighted down by sin. At that point in my life I would argue that I was one of the statistics of young churched people that had ‘left the church’ without leaving the church. I still went to the service but was lacking wholehearted engagement. My character didn’t match up with what I believed. And even though I knew in the depths of my heart what was right and wrong, it was just too easy, too enticing to fall into step with the world.

What floors me is that God really, truly never stopped pursuing my heart.

It was right around this time-period that I would say the Holy Spirit was after me. I was running away as hard and as fast as I could but there was no escaping the pursuit of his relentless love. He grabbed hold of my heart and wouldn’t let it go. I tried to reason, justify, hide, and deviate but ultimately I surrendered. It was around this time that I was getting back into the Word and realizing that I needed to have ‘a word’ with myself.

But it gets better. Jesus didn’t leave me there to handle it all alone. He gave me a helper. He answered the prayers of my parents, myself, and those who had poured into my life for the previous two decades.

Further along in that same journal entry I wrote…

I want to marry a woman and to love her with that [wholehearted] kind of love. I want to look contently into her eyes, see the fire there, and know that she is alive. I want tears of joy to cleanse my eyes of years of bitter, hopeless, loneliness. I will belong to her – and her to me – and we will belong to God and His Church.

Justin’s Journal, 10/4/2015

And I did just that. It was no more than a few weeks later that I started dating Allie.

Today is 11/14/2022. It’s a little over 7 years later. And I would argue that every day for the last 7 years God has been answering that prayer. Tears of joy cleanse my eyes of years of bitter, hopeless, loneliness. And I look into her green eyes and know that she is alive and burns bright with the light of Christ, ready to carry hope, light, and righteousness into the world. Together, we are strong. Together, we fight for justice. Together, we are secure.

So, this is a reminder to you and to me. Never stop writing down your dreams and journaling your heart. Because 7 years later you may come across answered prayers tucked away in a journal that you haven’t touched since the day they were answered.

Appearances

You’re sifting through the Insta-filters, agonizing over the wording of the text you want to send to that family-member or friend…maybe you’re picking out your outfit and shoes for the day, the persona you’ll project, the way you’ll carry yourself, the words you’ll write.

I think if we are honest many of us find ourselves in this place, worrying more about the way things appear than how they actually are.

If you can hold it together long enough, then you’ll earn the raise you’ve been asking for. If you make fun of yourself from time-to-time, it will make it seem as if other’s words don’t hurt you.

It’d be best to appear…normal, put-together, desirable, content, strong.

But what if you’re weird, barely making it, feeling ugly, wanting more, and feeling weak?

And what if you’re really, really, really good at hiding it? You don’t need counseling, medication, or anyone involved. You’ll be fine. You’re doing great. Life is good. Another day in paradise.

(I think you can pick up on where I’m going…)

I have a theory.

If you continue pretending everything is okay for the sake of a better appearance – or to save face with others – in the end, you will still be hurting. Avoiding the difficult conversations, tough decisions, lifestyle changes, conflicting narratives and desires does not make the necessity to deal with them just disappear. They’ll still be there in the morning. And you’ll just be that much more fatigued, exhausted from the delaying their progression another day, another month, another year.

What if you picked up the phone, called your friend, and told them how you’re really doing? Appearing to have $1,000,000 and actually having $1,000,000 are two separate things. One racks up credit-card debt to buy fancy clothes and nice shoes while the other lacks that level of insecurity and doesn’t mind driving an older car and wearing slightly outdated clothes because they’ve got money in the bank and it’s staying there.

The thing about keeping up appearances is that you have to maintain distance to have control of other’s perception of you. If you’re stiff-arming people in your life to keep them at a distance from the real you, then you don’t have genuine relationships, you’re running your own Public Relations organization. You don’t have friends. You have a network trying to add to your net-worth.

Appearances come at a cost. Last I checked, isolation never led to anything good, ever.

Relationships are priceless. But they do have one requirement – you.

Not Insta-Fabuloso, Charismatic, Never-A-Bad-Day you. The real you.

The one that woke up this morning with crazy hair and bad breath. The one that has to shower and brush their teeth. The one that needs to exercise daily to keep their sanity. The one that has some things to work on but embraces it. The one that is ready to engage, instead of get distracted by things that don’t matter.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to appear to be strong – I want to be strong. I’m not interested in running my own PR campaign, I’m interested in real relationships.

As your friend, I’d like to make a request – what if we trade-in your appearance for your presence?

Distracted

Would you believe that it’s been two months since my last blog? It’s wild how easy it is to become distracted by everything else going on in life. And of course, I would ironically be in the process of reading Bob Goff’s book, “Undistracted.”

A book entirely devoted to helping you remove distractions from your life and staying wholeheartedly focused on the pursuit of your purpose.

And yet, there are so many distractions.

So many relationships, so many projects, so many endeavors – many good, some worthwhile, and all the while you still find yourself wondering, “Is it worth it?”

My pastor preached on friendship this weekend; his message was that friendship has four C’s – constancy, candor, counsel, and common-sense. I’d argue I’m a great friend, one of the best. You’ve gotta try real damn hard to kick me out of your life to get rid of me – or you just have completely stop trying to reach out (because I’ve entered a season of gladly ending one-sided friendships). My weak-spot in these four areas has got to be common-sense, mostly that of good timing for my unbridled candor and counsel.

And I think that’s where I’ve been lately.

I’m strong-willed, opinionated, persuasive, bold, passionate.

I studied communication in college, I’ve practiced writing for the last several years, and I make a living off of building relationships with customers.

Common sense tells me to save my candor and counsel for those that actually want it.

Something that I had grown significantly in over the last year or two (and what I’ve advised other friends that have started writing) was not downplaying, discrediting, or softening my rhetoric, opinion, or viewpoint to appease the reader. These statements would sound something like, “I’m not an expert in this field, but…” or “this isn’t for everyone, but I…”

The reality is the older I get, the less I know. Relationships more complex. Politics more unavoidable. Messiness a byproduct of involvement.

Despite this, I want to get back to writing. Back to believing in myself. And for this to happen, I will need to be undistracted – in full pursuit of my vision and purpose.

If you’re taking the time to read this, I count you as a friend. Thanks for loving me, even when I become distracted.

Actions Have Consequences

If there is anything at all that has been impressed upon my heart in this recent season it is that actions have consequences. You can reason, deflect, explain, and combat the consequences for your actions all you want but they’re coming. What was swept under the rug or hidden in the closet comes to life.

Another way I’ve heard it is that whatever is down in the well eventually comes out in the bucket.

You can feign the fruits of the spirit for a little while but you cannot sustain it without Jesus. Eventually, the bitterness bubbles to the top. You can claim to be a positive person, someone that adds joy to everything but everyone can see the sin in your heart that you think they can’t. And if they’re blind to it, it’s because they cannot see in the first place. They are blinded by their own sin.

Jesus said “whoever has ears let them hear” and “whoever has sight let them see.”

Are you willing to see your own folly?

Our pastor has been preaching on the fruits of spirit the past few weeks. Challenging us on patience, of course, because he knew I was in the audience. There were other messages taught on goodness, faithfulness, kindness, etc. but I would remember the patience one the most because it is my own thorn in my side that I must give to the Lord Jesus and trust Him to heal.

I’ve been dreaming of a new world lately. Perhaps it’s the Kingdom to come.

But I’d like the Kingdom to come sooner rather than later. The new world order that we’ve developed, the cancel-culture facade of “everything is everyone else’s fault” and “the government” will fix everything is getting us nowhere. There are job postings for days but no one is filling them. There is more mental-health initiatives, counseling, and funding available – information at our fingertips, the ability to meet with a practitioner face-to-face or online and yet we are “too busy” to take care of ourselves.

Since when was it someone else’s responsibility to take care of you? Not since you were dependent upon your parents to wipe your rear and tie your shoes. Since then, you had the choice to do your homework or not, to work hard or be lazy, to be faithful or faithless.

When Judgement Day comes – and it’s coming – God is not going to be interested in why you think it was so hard to do the right thing. He’s just going to want to know if you did it.

Actions have consequences. You reap what you sow. What are you planting in the fields of your heart? What are you bringing into your relationships with others?

Will you reap a harvest of righteousness or will God need to help rake your rubbish into the fire?

Get rid of distractions and silence the noise. If you do, you’ll hear His voice.

Friend

Here we are, at the dam.

Damn.

Easy rhyme, without the glam.

Perfectly imperfect,

The art is worth it.

We’ve been holding back,

Afraid of the flack.

Drop the gates, let it flood.

Drain this lake, your heart’s at stake.

Mourn the loss of youth,

Been told so many lies – what’s the truth?

Relationships are fiction without friction.

Get along with everyone and you’ll lose yourself.

If you come in close, you’ll find

Chaos in this mind.

Too much for you to handle,

So hold this candle.

Let the light shine. 

Come closer and you’ll see,

Me.

Broken, battered, bruised.

And by some even used.

The current’s flowing, feel the tempest.

I’ll flood your feed with thoughts to read,

But that’s not always what the world needs.

Sometimes it needs the pain.

Sometimes it needs the rain.

Sometimes it needs the anger.

Sometimes it needs the danger.

A white-washed tomb you won’t find,

I’m alive.

Make space, hold space, I need space.

But come closer and you’ll see,

Me.

All of the emotions, flood this page like an ocean.

All this heart wants is…

Relationship. Authenticity. 

We aren’t a PR campaign to be managed,

I’m not a patient to be bandaged.

So friend, come on in.

It’s messy in this house, but I’m living.

This is the line that turns to Jesus,

And we’ll get there.

But here’s the thing I’m learning.

The truth in my heart that’s burning.

How can we be with Him in the End

If we don’t learn how to be a friend?

Impact

One of the things that Bill Snyder is famous for is his handwritten notes. He’d take time to write everyone – his players, their families, coaches and players of other organizations, senators, and more. Part of the legend of Snyder is the legacy he’s left behind in spreading love and encouragement. In “My Football Life And The Rest Of The Story” he makes mention that he wishes purple ink did not fade, but I assure you his words never will.

Countless interviews and first-hand accounts tell the tale of these words touching souls to the point that young men believed in themselves enough to become hugely successful in the NFL and beyond. He knew that Manhattan, Kansas was a difficult place to recruit to so he didn’t always go after the 5 Star Recruits likely to play at Alabama, etc. He’d focus his energies on players with character and a desire to grow in self-discipline. You didn’t want to do that? That’s fine – you just were not going to be a part of his program.

An asteroid races toward the earth at thousands of miles per hour (I’m guessing…research lacking here on my part) and if it doesn’t break up all the way in the atmosphere, it crashes into the earth with great force and magnitude. The impact leaves an impression in the ground known as a crater, forever changing the character of the landscape surrounding it.

I’ve found myself a little annoyed with my writing and thinking lately. I feel that writers tend to have a certain theme in their material and eventually, everything you read from them starts to sound the same. Francis Chan writes about epic faith. David Platt writes about the radical church. Bob Goff writes about whimsy and enchantment. Justin Meyer writes about grace, truth, and reaping what you sow.

However, there is no denying that these idea sharers have launched their words into the atmosphere with such velocity that whatever life they land upon is sure to be impacted, leaving a lasting impression on the character of their landscape, forever.

So what’s so bad about that? What if God placed someone as zealous, bold, truthful, and emotionally deep as myself right where I am for a reason? A writer with a limited audience, full-time successful job in another field, and a dwindling desire to be “famous” or well-known.

You’ve heard of the Angel Gabriel, but have you met my wife?

I flirted these words her way this weekend as she celebrated her 30th birthday but it’s not far from the truth that my wife is an angel sent from the Lord into my life. When she met me, I had spent nearly a decade of my life entrenched in an addiction to pornography, was sleep-walking into an alcoholic lifestyle, and was working a completely dead-end job making barely enough money to maintain my hot-tub membership – I mean…gym-membership.

Allie is the epitome of grace, love, and mercy. She is selfless to the point that I assume if there’s leftovers of something that I like, they’re mine. Her beauty demands respect. Her heart warrants loyalty. Jesus used her (and the prayers of my family and friends) to save my life from the hell that is simply living your life to satisfy your flesh’s every desire.

She’s not perfect and neither am I. But if you knew me in the 18-25 year-old age-range and haven’t spent any time with me in the last 5 or 6 years, you really do not know the same person. Jesus sent Allie and the consequences of my sin flying my direction at hypersonic speeds. Once set free, I was surrendered wholeheartedly to the Lord again; there was nothing the enemy could offer me that would compare to my relationship with God and my wife.

So how do you make an impact if words aren’t your thing? Allie and I decided to write our own wedding-vows when we got married. She affectionately joked that it was hard to write hers as she wasn’t a writer, but I’d tell you that she’s spent the last 5 years walking out her faith and loving with all her heart. Her selfless actions leaving an impression upon the heart of every friend and stranger she cares about.

When people encounter you this week, will they be impacted?

Some forms of impact are destructive. You can use your words and deeds for good and for evil. One of my life’s gifts is persuasion; it does help that my college-education was in Relational Communication, but I’d argue the majority of those skills were already there before I entrenched myself in student-debt to place a few fancy words beside concepts that I already understood. I used to use that persuasion for evil, but now I use it for good.

What kind of impact do you want to life behind? And what would you argue would be your life’s theme as you do your own idea-sharing?

The Grave Is Empty – Now What?

One of my favorite inspirations and writers is Bob Goff and he has a very whimsical take on Resurrection Weekend. He says, “Day turned to night, His friends scattered and death thought it had won. But heaven just started counting to three.”

For the disciples and for us, all hope was lost. If Jesus didn’t defeat death and rise from the grave three days later then the wages of sin would still be death – our death. But death has been defeated, the grave is empty, Christ sits at the right hand of the Father on the throne, and all you have to do to accept the free gift of eternal life is surrender your heart and life to Him.

So we’ve eaten our jellybeans, participated in Easter egg hunts, and attended the Resurrection Weekend worship-services at our church. The grave is empty – now what?

This has been the question that I’ve found myself pondering this week. I think it’s a question that every Believer should wrestle with in their heart and take to the Holy Spirit for illumination.

If Christ died for us so that we could have a relationship with the Father and then we spend the remaining 362 days of the year ignoring Him – does the resurrection really make a difference for us, personally?

If death has lost its sting but we live our lives in fear, has it lost its sting?

If we know that satan ultimately loses the war and we are currently just barely getting by, letting the worldly culture determine our household culture, surrendering our convictions for the sake of convenience; are we letting the loser be the winner of our daily battles?

Do we think we can rule our Kingdoms and lives better than God can? (I know that I can sometimes look down and recognize that I’ve taken the throne and allowed God the gracious opportunity to sit in my cabinet of advisers. It’s a humbling realization and one that I quickly repent of and put myself back in place, giving Christ the throne.)

And what about mindset and your level of selflessness? The grave is empty. Death has been defeated. Christ is on His Throne. Are you going to continue living in self-pity, considering yourself a victim for your weaknesses instead of praising Him for the strength He can provide you with? Are you going to keep this blessing and good news a secret? Avoiding the opportunities the Spirit provides you with to share your heart, extend empathy, and offer an olive-branch to another hurting soul.

The Grave Is Empty – Now What?

There’s murmurs of excitement in the town-square, sightings of the Holy One, miraculous signs and wonders. The “Roman Empire” rules your country, but will you let it rule your soul?

The Grave Is Empty – what are you going to do about it?

Opening Day

As my wife told me the other day – “it’s your second favorite season; baseball season!” The only season better is Fall and the part of Winter right around Christmas time where Allie lights up the world with her joy.

Today is Opening Day for the Kansas City Royals – players young and old will start the long season with a fresh slate. Their records as of right now are 0-0 for the season. And it got me to thinking, maybe you need a fresh start too.

What if today was “Opening Day” for your heart?

Perhaps you’ve been putting in the work at Spring Training or you’ve had a tough off-season. There’s been some hurts, hang-ups, and habits that have held you back but you’re ready to lace up your cleats and get back on the field. Come to think of it, your butt is starting to hurt from sitting on the bench so long anyways. It’s time to field some ground-balls and pop-flies.

But “Opening Day” is going to require something of you. It’s going to require your presence.

If you remain in Auto-Pilot, fail to take the time to run the drills and make adjustments as necessary to succeed, then you are destined to find yourself right back on the bench. And here’s the truth that no one wants to tell you in a world that wants to coddle your ego, it won’t be anyone’s fault but yours.

Efficiency requires effort. And effort requires sacrifice.

You won’t have a winning season sitting on the couch eating French-fries. (If you figure out what sport that is, let me know, I might just give it a try.)

So what does opening your heart have to do with anything?

Have you ever succeeded in any of your goals without the help of others? Have you ever managed to successfully, in a healthy manner work through a mental-health crisis without the help of someone on your team? Probably not. I know that I sure haven’t. When I try to do it on my own, that’s probably when you’re going to find me on the couch eating French-fries and feeling sad about it.

We need each other. We need our teams. As a Royals fan, I think back to the World Champions that had Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain – along with speedsters Terrance Gore and Jarrod Dyson. Those guys had CHEMISTRY. And Salvador Perez. They also had Salvador Perez – the heart-and-soul of the team. But ask anyone in the club-house what made that team successful and they’ll tell you it was that they had fun, played off one another’s energy, and called each other to greatness.

And I’d be willing to bet that when the team had a tough stretch, a string of losses, some dips in batting averages, that they weren’t afraid to open up to each other about what was distracting them or holding them back – what was going on in their personal-lives and relationships and how that was impacting their swing.

So be a world champion. It’s Opening Day so open your heart. Find your team. Be present, available, put some effort forward, and build some relationships with your teammates.

It’s time to take the field and work towards that winning season.

Who’s The King?

“If you have two cents to share about everything, your two cents isn’t worth very much,” I shared with my wife as we were on a walk last night. (This statement was not at her directly but at the big C-Culture, in general. I like being married.) Thinking about this, I wonder how many cultural issues I’ve attempted to interject any opinion on that I didn’t really know that much about or how perhaps I’ve overshared apathy or passion over inconsequential things.

I’ve wrestled with writing the past couple weeks as you may have noticed by my silence. I didn’t want to write just to write but at the same time, I felt guilty for not keeping up with the goal that I’ve set for myself and established with my readers this year of writing once a week.

I want my words to matter. I want to matter. But it’s not about me, it’s about Him.

There was a time in my life where I thought I would be a pastor or full-time author. I wanted to have a “voice” that was heard and well-known. Some days I think I still want that, but as I’ve walked through the first year or two of my 30’s I’ve seen just what an undertaking that would be and how much flack one can receive if they have a “significant” amount of influence. So many judgments given in haste. I think about my own pastors that I’ve only really met a time or two and how I’ve thought to myself, “it sure would be nice if they were in town more often,” but I don’t know the whole story – perhaps there are excellent reasons for their double-residency or perhaps there are not, but who am I to judge anyone other than myself?

So the past couple weeks I’ve been looking at the man in the mirror; examining his heart and mindset, his drive, goals, and ambitions. I’ve had coffee with friends, taken long walks in the Spring air, enjoyed beers on the patio while watching March Madness unfold, and focused on continuing to become the very best sales professional I can become.

As I’ve looked at the man in the mirror and examined his heart, I am happy to report that it is truly, fully surrendered to Christ. I really have no desire to be my own king anymore. I’ve relinquished my daily desires to the leadings of the Holy Spirit, continued to cultivate disciplines that will lead to a healthier person holistically, and placed God back on the throne – Scripture back in the legislative branch of my soul, small group and pastors back in the jury box, and counselors in my cabinet. I may be president of myself or even president of an organization some day, but I’ll answer to God and to God alone.

Are you surrendered?

It’s exhausting trying to do it all on your own, isn’t it?

There’s a sign at a local church in Bonner Springs, KS that I pass on my way home from work every day that currently says “If you died in a nuclear war, would you go to Heaven?” (Heavenly Father, forgive that church for their delivery…)

While I 100% believe that’s not the appropriate way to reach others and ask them tough questions, I do believe that we have to be willing to ask ourselves and others the harder questions if we want to get anywhere in life.

Chances are, if you’re feeling lost, it’s because you’ve cut out all of the authority in your life and made yourself king and queen. Netflix has told you this is okay – “do what feels good now, don’t worry about the consequences later.” God says, “you will reap what you sow” and I promise you that there’s not a man on earth that has ever outwitted God’s Economy.

So friend, I ask with love, if you died unexpectedly (whether via a potential WWIII or random bout of illness), would I see you in Heaven?

“He will speak against the most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and a half a time. But the court will sit and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over the the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.”

Daniel 7:25-27

Evil may have authority in the world now, but it will not forever.

Christ will come swiftly and will not be defeated; His Kingdom will reign forever.