live simple. love simple. be simple.

my life with a Christian perspective

stagnant

right now its 1:09 in the morning, and i can’t sleep.  when i can’t sleep i become restless and my mind starts to go a mile a minute.  right now all my mind is focused on is my inabilities to move forward and progress my relationship with God.  thats why i have called this post “stagnant”.  because that is how i am feeling and how i’ve been feeling for awhile now.

lets first start off by defining the word stagnant.

  1. not flowing or running, as water or air.
  2. stale or foul from standing, as a pool of water.
  3. characterized by lack of development, advancement or progressive movement.
  4. inactive, sluggish or dull.

i believe all four of these definitions can sum up how i’ve been in relation to my relationship with God.  for awhile i’ve tried to put a label on it.  give it a title so it could have some substance and i could define how i’ve been feeling. before stagnant, i could only describe it as a numbness.  you know its there, but you can’t feel it.  when your foot is numb, you can’t walk.  when your hand is numb, its difficult to hold on to something.  when your relationship with God has become numb, you have difficulties holding onto it and walking forward.

i remember one time a few years back i got stung by a bee.  i had been stung before as a kid but had never reacted the way i did a few years back.  aside from it being painful, my foot turned about 5 different colors and became pretty swollen.  and later that night, while trying to go to bed, i had hallucinations.  first off i couldn’t stop shivering.  i rolled myself into the tightest fetal position i could possibly make to try to stop the shivering but it was no use.  the clatter of my teeth was so loud, it woke up my roommate.  i was up every 10 minutes trying to use the bathroom but couldn’t go.  and when i was in bed, trying to stop shivering and fall asleep, i felt as if i were strapped down to my bed and unable to move.  i was hallucinating thinking i was bound to my bed.  wanting to desperately jump out.  physically i knew i wasn’t tied down, but my mind didn’t know the difference.  it was the strangest thing i had ever experienced.

the reason i told you that is because the way i felt tied down to my bed those years ago is the same way i feel in my relationship with God. i feel tied down and unable to move.  i feel numb.  i’ve become stagnant.  and honestly, i don’t know where it came from or when it started.

when i think about what we as Christians are called to do which is to love and to go out and tell the world of the good news, thats when the numbness sets in.  its as if i become strapped down.  its like i’m strapping myself down.  i become scared when i think of representing my Father.  there is a line in an As Cities Burn song that has been with me for years because when i first heard it, it struck a chord deep inside me and it described me perfectly.  he simply sings, “now i let go of Your hand somewhere between love and what it demands of me.” and that is me.

back to the definition of stagnant:

first, when you’re not constantly flowing or running with God, you stop growing.  one thing i’ve learned as a Christian over the years is this: you can’t expect to grow in Christ if you stay still.  repeatedly throughout the bible, its stated that you must keep conversation through prayer.  you must stay in the word.  you must physically follow in the steps of Christ.  if you stop, you won’t change and you’ll become stagnant.

second, when you become stagnant in your relationship with God, you become foul or stale.  when i think of stale i think of bread.  when bread becomes stale it either becomes moldy or it becomes hard.  it becomes no good and has to be thrown away.  when something becomes foul, it stinks. no one wants to go around it and it starts to attract insects.  when we become stagnant with God, obviously we don’t start to grow mold on our bodies and start to smell, but our personalities, character and souls do.  we no longer look like the image of Christ.  our moods and personalities start to stink and no one wants to be around us.  instead of being the sweet aroma of Christ, we become the foul stench of the world.

third, we become characterized by lack of development, advancement or progressive movement.  we become strapped to the bed.  we don’t grow.  we don’t move forward.  and we don’t learn anymore.  we just are.  as i was typing this third meaning, another As Cities Burn lyric popped into my head: “so i hear theres a whole world out there, but i’ve grown to love this bed to much to leave it. i keep hearing about this world out there.  come untie me from this bed, come untie me from the wicked things i love.”  if we become tied down to our beds, to our complacency in life, we lose the ability to move forward and advance in our relationship with God.

forth, we become inactive, sluggish or dull.  or all three.  this one is the main one for me.  especially sluggish and dull.  i just feel lazy when it comes to my relationship with God.  i’ve become so complacent and comfortable in the life i have, i’ve lost the ability to progress.  its not that i don’t want to, i’ve just been inactive for so long, i’ve become comfortable.  and comfort is dangerous. being uncomfortable is scary, and that is why i get scared when i think of what it is God wants me to do.  God usually doesn’t call us to do things that make us comfortable, He calls us to step out of our comfort zone.

but this isn’t uncommon.  moses, one of the greatest men of the bible, was scared when God told him to go speak to pharaoh. i realize that being scared is normal and that God loves to use the ones who think they can’t be used. and i’m sure the way i feel is no different than someone else in my situation. but the point i’m trying to get across is that for awhile now i feel stagnant in my relationship with God.  its not something i want.  i want to look forward to picking up my bible and spending time in Gods word. i want to enjoy praying and spending time with God.  i want to be able to do Gods work without second guessing myself and without the fear the holds me back. but i don’t.  i just curl up in the tightest fetal position i can and wait for the fear to go away.

its the fear thats keeping me tied down.  the other day i posted on twitter “the devil is only as strong as the fear he creates and the fear you allow him to create.”  each day i give into the fear, i weaken myself and allow the devil to become stronger.  the way i’ve been feeling is incredibly difficult to explain and i’m not sure if what i’ve said has painted an accurate picture of where i am.  but in a nutshell, i feel tied down and unable to move.  i try my hardest to break whats holding me down and i constantly squirm, but i soon realize i’m not strong enough and give up.  i pray to God to help, but my prayers are laced with doubt.  i’m tired.  physically, emotionally and mostly spiritually. i’ve become stagnant.  i’ve become complacent.  i’m in desperate need of change that only God can bring.

i didn’t write this in search of pity.  i just felt i needed to write so i did.  if you have read this, then i’d ask if you wouldn’t mind praying for me.  because like i said, i’m tired and i can’t go on running in the same spot.  thank you.

obedience

if you know me then you know that a little over five years ago i felt God call me to north carolina.  i didn’t know why at the time, and i still don’t know why.  it was a pretty strong feeling.  i had never been there.  barely knew anyone there.  and everywhere i went, i either heard someone talking about it or saw something related to it.  but i never went.

about 2 1/2 to 3 years ago i read a book called ‘through painted deserts’ by donald miller.  that book changed my view on moving.  it actually took the want to move to north carolina and focused my heart on traveling the country for a couple of months.  either stopping at a final destination and calling that home, or coming back home to louisiana to live out the rest of my days.  the urge to move to another state had become less and less by this point and i knew that i just wanted to buy a van and hit the open road.  but i never left.

currently, i don’t have any sense of a calling or a want to move permanently to one specific place, or anywhere at all.  i do on the other hand still want to travel.  but similar to the moving thing, its not something i’m in a rush to do or something that i am feeling called to do at this moment.  one day i’d like to do it, but it doesn’t have to be today.  it doesn’t have to be now.

the other day i had a conversation that made me feel pretty uncomfortable. uncomfortable in the sense that i was being challenged to look at my relationship with God and my obedience to Him.  and that is what this post is about.

my friend that i conversed with suggested that i take some time to pray and think about what we had talked about.  that, too, made me feel uncomfortable because now i had someone outside of myself telling me that i needed to basically check myself and reevaluate my current situation and relationship with God.  it made me feel uncomfortable because i’m not a fan of others seeing a weakness in me and calling me out on it.  but i’m incredibly appreciative of those who aren’t afraid to do so and grateful for those people.

so i did what my friend told me.  granted it was only two days ago, and i’m not done seeking counsel and praying and giving myself an examination on my spiritual life, but i have come to some conclusions.  the reason i talked about the moving and traveling stuff earlier is because its the reason why i’m in the situation i am with myself and why i am writing this.  my friend told me they were afraid i wasn’t being obedient to God by going to north carolina five years back.  when they told me that, i suddenly became defensive and annoyed and upset.  i had the emotions because i felt what they said was untrue.  i’ve been a Christian for awhile now.  i always try to please God and do what He asks of me.  i really and truly do my best when it comes to that.  and thats why i became defensive, annoyed and upset.  but i also started to feel this way after the conversation ended and we went our separate ways.  the reason being is because i was no longer feeling those emotions toward my friend, but instead at myself.

after the conversation, i went home and started praying and asking God if it were true.  had i rejected what He had placed on my heart five years ago? was it even a God thing or a me thing?  i even sent a friend a message to get their opinion and insight on the situation and they ended up giving me some great advice.  one reason i was upset at myself is because i can be lazy in my spiritual walk with God.  i don’t stay in His word as much as i should.  i don’t pray as often as i should.  and if you want to have a better faith in God, a stronger dependence on God, a better ear to hear Him, then its imperative that you keep yourself in His word and pray as often as you can.  you have to communicate with Him in order to hear and see when He communicates to you.

as of right now, i don’t have an answer on whether or not i was being disobedient.  maybe He placed it on my heart to prepare me and get me ready.  maybe He has been using this time to build me up and prepare me for what He has in store.  maybe it wasn’t even Him calling me to north carolina, but instead, it was me just wanting to leave and escape some recent events that happened back then.  but i do know this.  i’m a good guy.  i love God and i love people.  and even though i sin and fall constantly, it doesn’t mean i’m not trying.  being a Christian is incredibly difficult.  believing in something you can’t see.  listening to something that usually doesn’t talk to you directly to your face.  these are hard concepts to grasp and hold on to.  but i keep holding on.  even though it may not seem like it, i always have and always will have faith.  i’ll have faith that God has a bigger plan for me than what i can ever imagine.  and when the day comes for that plan to be put into action, i strongly believe He will open the door of opportunity so wide, all questions of doubt will wash away.  i also know that i’ll never turn my back on God and deny His name.  and i know that if i have disobeyed God, its never been my intention.  as i said before, i’m a good guy with a good heart and i have good intentions.  God knows that.  and thats all that matters.

that conversation and these couple of days have shown me what areas i need to work on and to not be lazy and make excuses for myself anymore.  so from here on out, its nothing but bettering myself and my relationship with my Father.  if you’re reading this and feel the need to be an accountability partner to me, i’d gladly accept and appreciate it.  God gives us the strength, but He also says that we should require counsel from others.

thank you.

if i only knew

often times i’ve judgingly looked at others and thought to myself, “man, if only they knew”.  and by this i mean, if they only knew who Jesus is.  if they only knew what they were doing were wrong. i really felt sorry for them. then i’d go on about my business and not give it anymore thought.  i never realized my “concerned” thinking was actually a problem until this morning.

this morning i was sitting in church with friends and enjoying the message our pastor was giving us.  i’m sitting there taking notes down in my phone and doing a lot of thinking about the message and how it applies to my life.  then, out of nowhere, the aforementioned thought came across my mind: “man, if people only knew”.  the odd part of it is, it wasn’t related to the message being given and i wasn’t even looking at anyone when i thought about it.  as soon as it came and went, God told me “the reason they don’t know, is because you haven’t told them.”  i sunk down in my chair, stared at my phone with what i’m sure was a look of shock on my face and felt as if a pile of bricks had just fallen on me.  i didn’t know what to think.

i felt i needed to write about this, but didn’t really have anything to write off of other than what happened in church this morning.  and usually before i write a blog post, i like to get some thoughts in line and do a little research on the subject at hand before i start writing.  so i came home and jumped on my laptop and started watching some random videos on a video site called wimp. its actually a really neat little site with good, clean videos for people to watch. anyways, i came across a video of two people juggling and one of the commentators was a guy by the name of penn jillette.  now if his name doesn’t ring a bell, he is the other half of the eccentric magic act better known as penn and teller.  penn is the rather tall and large fella who does all of the talking and teller is the short, quiet portion of the act.  well when i came across the juggling video and heard penn jillette’s voice, i suddenly remembered a video of him i saw a few years back of him talking about how an audience member gave him a pocket bible at a meet and greet after one of their shows.  penn jillette is an adamant atheist.  he even states in the video that he knows there is no God.  but thats not what he talks about in the video.  what he says ties into what God told me this morning.

in the video penn asks the question, “how much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”  i don’t know about you, but that question really struck a cord deep inside of me.  and it goes along with God telling me this morning that “the reason these people you “feel sorry for” don’t know Me is because you haven’t done your job in telling them about Me.” in case you haven’t realized this yet, i’ve had a pretty good reality check today.

i was lucky to have been raised in a Christian home.  raised on moral values and been in church most of my life.  sure i went through my rebellious stage and stepped away from God and the church life.  i’m sure most of us have. but like i said, i was lucky to have Christ in me at an early age, so it wasn’t hard for me to get back in line and start going to church more and being around the right people to help build me back up.  i’m not saying i have it all together because i don’t and i’m far from that.  now i said that being raised in a Christian home was lucky and it was by most standards, but it also has a con to it that most fail to recognize.  being raised around goodness can make you blind to the badness.  you start to take it all for granted and its harder to appreciate Jesus.  we start to think that since we asked Jesus to come into our lives and live within us when we were 7, that we feel that we’re old pros at the Christian life.  we become know-it-alls and sadly enough, we become a little snobbish to everyone else.  like i am when i look at others in a judging manor wondering “whats their deal” and “don’t they know what they are doing is wrong?”  its a fine line to walk on and if you’re not careful, you’ll fall on the wrong side.  i don’t think satan gets more joy out of anything else than when he can make a Christian believe that they are better than the lost and nonbelievers when in reality, Jesus says we are no greater than the least of these.

matthew 28:19 says this: “therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  we are called to tell people about Jesus.  it doesn’t mean we have to go to russia or africa.  we can do it here in our country, state or city.  it does us no go to hold onto the most important information there is and keep it to ourselves.  if all the teachers in the world stopped teaching and told no one of their knowledge, the world would fall apart.  we are constantly surrounded by bad news every single day, but we hold the good news inside ourselves. we’ve become selfish.

this was an incredibly difficult realization this morning and its a hard pill to swallow.  being a Christian isn’t easy.  rarely does God ask us to do what we are comfortable doing.  instead He would rather challenge us and make us feel really uncomfortable to make His will be done.  and He does this because being comfortable requires no faith.  this is also difficult for me because i am in no way one for starting up conversation, or keeping it going really.  never have been.  its always just felt really awkward to me.  much like dancing.  so aside from giving me a reality check, i’m pretty sure God has challenged me. and i can’t say that i’ll succeed at this challenge, but i’ll give it my best.  i also have assurance in knowing that God will not place something in your life if He knows you can’t handle it.  so i suppose i can take this challenge as a complement from God.  He has faith in me to speak His word to others, i should have faith in Him to provide the courage to do so.

so if you’d like, i would appreciate it if you would join me in this challenge if you feel lead to do so.  i’d like to hear your feedback on the issue and possibly some tips on how to go about this.  remember, we weren’t made to sit idly by until we’re dead and receive the prize of heaven without working for it.  our faith without action is dead.  and remember this: if you’re not dead, you’re not done.

also, if you’d like to watch the video i mentioned, here it is: 

desensitized

if there is one thing i’ve learned over the past few years its this: you have to have face to face interaction in order to have real, authentic relationships. now i know you’re probably saying “well duh, rudy!  we all know that.”  and maybe we do.  maybe we know this little truth, but it doesn’t mean we tell it.

one of the things i hate about the technology we have today is how it drives a gap between people.  social media is the name we have given to this great divider,  but it is anything but social.  facebook, twitter, instagram.  you know the ones.  and i think i’ll go ahead and throw texting in there as well.  the problem with all of this is that it desensitizes us. remember when we were kids?  remember how when we wanted to go play with our friends we either called their home phone and asked their mom or dad if they could play.  or we would just walk, bike or skate down the road and asked to play.  that required hearing a human voice or seeing a human face to get something accomplished.  that rarely happens these days.  and yes it may not seem like a big deal, but relationships aren’t built off of the same stuff they once were.

with this lack of face to face interaction, we lose a great deal of important factors people need in order to maintain a healthy relationship.  (and when i say relationship, i’m including friendships as well.  not just boyfriend/girlfriend)  through texting and facebook chat and tweeting, you lose the emotion you get when talking to someone face to face.  yeah sure you can TYPE IN ALL CAPS to show you’re pretty upset, or you can use one of thousands emoticons out there to show how you “really feel” or even use a million exclamation points after a sentence to show how excited you are.  i’m sorry, but i just don’t take any of this seriously.  not as serious as if someone were actually yelling at me.  not as serious as if someone were crying 6 inches from my face.  not as serious as someone giving me a back breaking bear hug because they were the happiest they’ve ever been.  we need these physical interactions in our lives.  especially if we want healthy and pure relationships.

another important ingredient in a healthy relationship that gets lost in all of this is the tone and inflection of someones voice.  whether it be joy, sadness, sarcasm, anger, jealousy, pity.  any emotion has a certain vocal tone tied to it. i can’t tell you how many times i’ve been texting someone or chatting on facebook and completely misunderstand what someone meant all because i didn’t understand the tone in which they meant the statement to have.  things like this can lead to arguments.  tiny ones and big ones.  i’ve been there.  its not healthy.

aside from hearing the tone in their voice, we also need to see the expression on their face.  and heres why.  you can tell a lot about what someone is thinking or how they are feeling just based off of their expression on their face.  you don’t even need words.  remember that look your mom used to give you when you were a kid?  of course you do.  and you prayed it was only the look she gave you!  also, sometimes people can’t put their feelings into words, but they show it on their face.  when you’ve hurt someone, you can’t get the same emotion from this :( that you would seeing the joy drained from someones face.

just recently i lost a friend of 5 years because of this.  they were comfortable with having a texting based relationship and i wasn’t.  a few days ago they asked me why i didn’t want to talk to them anymore and i told them that the relationship we had didn’t feel authentic to me anymore.  they disagreed. and i find that to be sad because i love that person a lot.  but i have to have someone who wants to have a face to face relationship with me.  even if its face time on the iphone or skype or anything like that.  you still get a sense of human interaction that you don’t get with black letters on the screen of your phone.  thats a technology relationship, not a human relationship.

besides being desensitized to human interaction, we’ve become desensitized to God because of this.  the app on facebook thats called “on this day God wants you to know…” or something similar to that is a good example of this. i know we feel better about ourselves when we read these little posts on our news feed, and yes they can be a nice reminder, but i’m pretty sure God would prefer we talk to Him.  i believe He would much rather the personal interaction that comes with prayer, quiet time or reading His word.  i know God has been known to talk to people in crazy ways such as a burning bush or a moving cloud, but those aren’t remotely close to facebook apps.  just like humans, God requires us to have personal interaction with Him.

i’m not here to tell you that texting and facebook and all social media is bad. it can in fact be very beneficial and helpful to people in a number of different situations.  but what i am trying to say is don’t allow these forms of communication be the only form of communication between you and the world.  we all need healthy relationships.  we all need authenticity in our lives.  put the phone down and log off of facebook and go meet people face to face.  it feels good, i promise.

82 days

its been 82 days since we woke up to the tragic news of one of our own being taken.  for 82 days we have had a dark cloud covering our community.  and now, the cloud has moved on.

two days ago news broke of a body found near a cemetery in evangeline parish.  rumors started to fly as we went about our day.  all the while we wrestled with two maybes: 1. maybe its not mickey and she is still out there, alive, and ready to come home and 2. maybe it is mickey’s body and the shunick family and our community can finally have some closure.  well today it was released that it was indeed the body of mickey shunick.

for me, its hard to express how it feels to finally know that its “over”, if you can even call it that.  for 82 days this community has been in a tireless search for a person we didn’t know 83 days ago.  i remember hearing someone say a few weeks into the search that time was our enemy.  and it was.  as the hours turned to days and days to weeks, then weeks to months, we never let go of the hope of bringing mickey back where she belongs.  if anything, we held on tighter than we have ever before.  we never lost hope.  we kept pushing and kept striving.  for 82 days we gave it all we had, in any way we could, for mickey.  and now we can rest.  we can rest our hearts, our minds and our bodies knowing that our sweet mickey can now rest peacefully.

there is a certain sadness that comes with the news released today.  but there also comes a joy along side it.  we are deeply saddened that we’ll never get to see mickey again, or for us that never met her, get to meet the girl we’ve fallen in love with.  but the joy comes in knowing that her family can finally put to rest the question of where mickey was.  and hopefully, soon, they can have an answer as to why it was done.

tonight we’ll go to bed with a heavy heart for mickey and the shunicks, but we can have joy that tomorrow when we wake up, we can start our new chapter.  we can be happy knowing that sweet mickey is no longer in pain and she is in a much better place than where we are.  from what i’ve heard friends of mickey say, she was always happy and always positive.  so i think we can all agree on the fact that we need to remain happy and positive in this new transition.  not only for mickey, but for her family.

i don’t know if mickey’s family will read this, but i’d like them to know that they aren’t in this alone.  as a community and as a family, we helped you search for your daughter and sister, and now that there is some closure, we will also be there with you to help you through this tough time.  we will be the arms you need to hold you.  we will be the shoulder for you to cry on. we will be the ears to listen.  we will be the words to comfort.  to mr. tom, mrs. nancy, charlie and zack, you are now our family.  and i speak for all of lafayette when i say we are here for you.  we pray that you’ll find comfort and peace.  we love mickey, and we love you.

mickey is, and always will be, a part of us.  22 years just wasn’t long enough. we love you.  we miss you.  and we will see you and your beautiful smile again.

goodbye sweet mickey.

“love is all you need”

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. – 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

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