The Journey

Glistening stars swirled around the night sky as I lay over the radiating golden sands staring out into the heavens. The air hung in silence, only broken by the warm desert breeze and the occasional snorting of nearby camels. The otherworldly beautify of this rugged place was tranquil and captivating. Far away from the familiar customs of civilization, I was lost amidst the rolling dunes and the brilliant skies above. Laying there, staring out beyond the heavens, I would not have expected to find such immaculate beauty of God’s design among the seemingly mundane and barren. There, among that desolate beauty, I cannot help but reflect upon the path that led me there…


Welcome to the Journey

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
-Proverbs 16:9 ESV


Several years have come and gone since my time in the deserts of the Middle East, and all the while life continues to be one ever growing adventure. I’ve always been an inquisitive soul and rife for adventure! As a child, I often asked my parents to explain how things functioned. ‘Why’ was always a common question from my tiny self. Not the vindictive or petulant ‘why,’ but the awestruck ‘why’ of a child that was constantly awed by the wonder of nature, technology, and human behavior. While I may be romanticizing the breadth by which my childhood-self could comprehend or articulate such things… that sense of curiosity continued to expand.

“The wilderness must be explored,” exclaimed Russell the (nearly) senior wilderness explorer to the elderly Mr. Fredricksen. Pixar’s UP holds a very dear place in my life, as it captures (as only Pixar can) some of the foundational and emotional connections to my childhood. You see, my family enjoyed traveling together wherever we could in a day. Whether it was to visit family, visit small Texas towns, or to just drive away from home, we were always on an adventure. In the days before smartphones, global positioning devices, and smart cars… if you took a wrong turn or failed to have the most precious of commodities —a paper road map — you were sufficiently lost. Not in my family however! If you took a wrong turn or found yourself somewhere other than where you intended to be… You were on an adventure! An opportunity to see something unexpected. Experiencing something you didn’t know you were not hoping for. Discovering a hidden beauty that would have gone unnoticed had some causation brought you to its doorstep. Thus, as Texas found itself frozen over, I found myself reflecting — Where I am. How I got here. How absolutely everything in my life defies every expectation that I had — and was struck with a revelation. Is this not the Christian life?

I don’t know about you, but I never anticipated being here I am in life. I never anticipated the struggles, the heartbreak, the pain, the suffering. I also would have never anticipated the immense joys, the forged friendships, the beauties of God’s handiwork in my life. At times, I felt lost. Aimless. Purposeless. I felt crushed. Broken. Helpless. I was never lost… I was merely on an adventure. On the map that is my life I may have felt lost in a sea of people, things, places, and circumstances, but I was never beyond God’s sight! I was exactly where He intended me to be. Did He allow me to experience suffering that I was unprepared to handle? Absolutely. Did He leave me alone to suffer through it on my own? Absolutely not, He was with me. Sharing in my anguish all while ushering me forth to something more beautiful than I could have ever anticipated.

Proverbs tells us that we plan our own way according to our own desires, but it God who guides our steps (emphasis mine). If I were completely left to my own devices, I could not tell you where I would likely be today… If every passion of my heart were left to burn in its fleeting way, I’d very likely be chasing every whim and fruitless endeavor. I very likely would not be satisfied by whatever it is that I would be doing. Thus revealing the shortcomings of our own ambitions: they’re shortsighted. Perhaps I’m the only one who has experienced this (though this notion that I am the only one who has observed this suggests that others, too, have experienced similar observations), but when we make plans for ourselves those plans very seldom account for setbacks, failures, and the unexpected. Our plans are straight paths. Our plans are the ideal. The cause of this disparity between what we expect and what is more feasible stems from the fleeting nature of our hearts. We plan, but only for what we expect to happen (or more accurately, what we want to happen). This way of thinking leads to disappointment, frustration, and stagnation. What’s the point of trying when every (selfish) endeavor we commit ourselves to results in disappointment? We plan, but God guides.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

On their own, our hearts are shortsighted. We miss the very real dangers that threaten our precious idyllic plans. Our shortsightedness, however, is not lost on God. How many times did Israel, having witnessed firsthand the power and majesty of God, reject God’s instructions because they were so shortsighted? How many times have we? Countlessly. Yet, despite our shortcomings, God is still at work — even in the midst of a global pandemic. He is still at work in your life, even if you can’t see where at the moment. Time and time again throughout scripture, God tells us that He is working in the areas that we cannot see. Speaking through the prophets, God told Israel that they are about to experience something painful, but that there is purpose in this pain. He tells them, “I know the plans that I have for you… to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11, emphasis mine).” In the days leading to His arrest and death, Jesus told His disciples, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will (John 13:7 ESV).” In these moments, God’s words speak to the journey that we find ourselves on. Our plans in the midst of His bigger, better plan. He encourages us in the moment — the here and now — that while we may not understand in the moment He is working all things out.

God is guiding you to where He has called you! You are not alone on this path He has set you upon! The question that lingers then… are you aligning your heart to where God is leading? Do your plans match His plans? Oooph! Ultimately, God has complete sovereign control of all things, but He has given you agency. He has allowed you to make decisions for yourself. You can choose anything that you want, but He still calls you to align your life to His will. This reality presents a very serious implication: you can choose to live in the calling God has bestowed upon you or you can deny the calling. We plan. He guides. Sometimes that calling that God has given you will lead you to some wildly uncomfortable places. Your calling may be so daunting that you don’t even know where to begin. Time and time again God reminds us that we can trust Him to lead us to the places He has called us. We may not understand, but we will sometime later.

Life is messy, there’s no doubt about that. When you take the wrong turn or have an opportunity fall apart you may, as I have, feel lost among the broken pieces of hopes and dreams. Yet, there is a rugged beauty amidst those broken pieces. A beauty that comes from a wretched, bloodied cross on which a savior came to turn those broken pieces into something grand. A beautiful vessel in which His message is carried. There is an awe and wonder unlike anything else in this universe when somebody’s life is radically transformed by the sacrifice Christ paid for them. Far more beautiful than precious gems is the life of a believer fully surrendered before the almighty God! Our lives begun before we met Christ, but not before Christ met us. My life began at the moment of conception, but my journey started the moment I surrendered my life to God.

You see, it’s not a destination. It’s not the house with white picket fence. It’s not the spouse. It’s not the sports car. The wealth. The 70 inch OLED TV. The summer house. The cabin in the mountains. Life is the adventure of growing deeper in your faith, stewarding the mission Christ bestowed upon you, and caring for those God has placed around you. Make no mistake, there are good, wonderful blessings found as we continue forth with our adventure that is life, but the mission… The goal beyond every other goal, is to steward the message of the Gospel before God’s people. Leaning into God as we navigate life’s troubles. Clinging onto God as we walk through crippling grief. Seeking God’s face in the midst of depression. Crying out praises to God in the face of insurmountable adversity. Bearing testimony to who God is from the depths of being. No one said the journey would be easy, but we know the one who goes before us.

I am not trailblazer, but I know the God who goes before me is an all-consuming fire. There is a certain confidence and trust that comes to you in a moment of affliction when you know that God is with you. In my grief, I had nothing left within me. I wanted to give everything up by my own agency, yet something clung to hope, trust, and love in who God is. Tiny, yet dense, that hope that I know comes only from the Holy Spirit held true to the Father and kept with me through my agony. If you’ve been around a while, you know this about me, but I am an idealist. I like efficiency. I strive for clear, calculated processes. I’ve had to lose that part of myself. Life is not ideal, nor do I want to portray the Christian life in that way because following Christ means facing far more than we know how to handle. Yet, as I’ve said, we are never alone on this adventure. This journey is not ideal, but it is exactly what is necessary to mold us into Christlikeness.

Absolutely nothing that has occurred in my life was apart of my plans. Not. One. Part. Today, as I reflect back upon the path that I’ve worn to this place in life has been marked by God’s sustaining. He has been entirely necessary to shaping my life into what it is today. I can, without a shadow of a doubt, say that I am all the better for His leading in my life! I’ve found friends that have become family. I’ve found a community to call home. I’ve been given a calling for ministry. I’ve learned what it means to love unconditionally. I’ve learned how to be compassionate. To be humble. To have a desire to constantly learn. To strive for excellence in all things. The path to get here has been a journey. One full of twists and turns. Thrills and scares. Hope and despair. Yet, through it all, I’ve come to know my God far better than I ever thought imaginable! Life is an adventure, we’re never truly lost when God is our constant companion. Who knows where He’ll take you?!

All I know is that I will choose to enjoy the journey God has set before me.

Be Still

I know in the end, all of this will have been worth it… Everything in this process will have been worth it, because You are in it… I know that, while I do not understand, I am secure in Your hands. You have got me. The depths of my soul are secure in You… You called me. Equipped me. Changed me. You transformed me for something greater.

It has always been You.

You taught me how to love. How to care. How to serve. How to be patient. How to persevere. You lit the spark that set my life ablaze for Your glory.

It has always been You!

It will always be You, God!

You have always been there. Lifting my head to see the things beyond. Placing a song of praise in my heart in the midst of devastating heartbreak. You are the one that has set my feet upon solid ground when everything else gave way. God, You alone, are the one thing. That one constant thing that has sustained me when nothing else would. You are my saving grace.

You are mighty. You are holy. You are worthy of more praise than I’ll ever be able to express to You. You are God, alone. My savior. My protector. My sustainer. My friend…

You are for me. You are my God. In You, I place my hope and trust.

For You are faithful.

The Created Being

We were created by a creative God who put every detail of the universe in place with the utmost precision and for the upmost purpose. When we ponder upon the ramifications of the Imago Dei, we center ourselves on the communicable attributes of God’s goodness, kindness, graciousness, and mercifulness. We know of who God is by our awareness of these very attributes, but there is one characteristic of God’s being that we marvel at, but never fully correlate to our lives: his creativity. You and I have an awareness of the objective beauties and truths of God through His creation. One does not have to search long before being struck with awe and wonder of creation. Our jaws dropped seeing the sheer scale of a dinosaur’s skeleton as our imaginations tried to fathom how such gigantic creatures existed in our world. We stop in wonder of the galaxy when astrological phenomena are captured by NASA’s telescopes. Our scrupulous studies of the microscopic world reveal an intricate level of detail that is hard to fathom. Everything detail of the universe, no matter how large or small, was designed from God’s creativity. Awesome and mighty. Fearfully powerful and intensely methodical. A wondrous intentionality that is beyond our capacity to fully comprehend. Our God is awesome!

We often think of creativity as something that is limited to those who possess artistic ability, but creativity is so much more than the arts. Creativity is problem solving. Creativity is looking beyond the immediate to see the potential of something larger. Creativity is developing the potential of others. Creativity is adapting ones experiences into something that is relatable. Creativity is an inherent part of who we are as created beings. We were created by God and have been imbued with an inherent need to create in some way, shape, or form. Our creativity takes many different forms, but our inherent need to be creative is evidenced by our awareness of the objective truths and beauties of God and His creation. Creation reveals its creator in what is known as general revelation. The world around us, in partnership with the moving of the Holy Spirit, draws our attention to the higher being that created everything around us. This revelation is not enough to bring us to salvation, but is enough to seek after who God is. What purpose would this serve if we had no appreciation of the intricacies of creation? While there is subjectivity in our appreciation of works of art, there is simply no subjectivity in God’s character. His truth, beauty, and justice are absolute. They are whole just as He is whole. There exists no blemish or error within their intrinsic essence, nor is there any deviation in God’s essence. Thus lies the intentionality of God’s purpose behind creation.

Creativity and intentionality are in an inseparable relationship. When God created the universe there was no force acting upon Him. He created from within Himself. His motivation alone was the intent behind creating. He didn’t see anything done halfway. God saw everything that He created through to its completion with the greatest intentionality (What makes you think that He’s not as intentional with you as He is with what He made? He created you after all!). We see in Genesis that as God looked over the Earth and Heavens that He declared that what He had made as good. Yet, as good as everything that He had made was, He was not done. God created Man in His image and declared that Man was very good! Above all the things that God created, you are the pinnacle of His handiwork! Every part of you is intentionally made by God, and He breathed life into you. You are more precious than the finest jewelry or the purest diamond. You are the craftsmanship of the holy God!

You possess something far greater and more powerful than you may realize. Something that comes with a responsibility for stewardship. God, in creating you, bestowed upon you gifting, talents, passions, and a calling. You are a messenger of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those around you. Those gifts that you possess are tools in your arsenal to communicate God’s truths to those who most desperately need to hear of God’s cause. We must be intentional in carrying this message. Intentional in expressing these truths creatively though art, writing, conversation, story telling, and so much more. Whether you realize it or not, you have a platform to communicate the Gospel wherever you are and a command to leverage your life for the sake of the kingdom. If you are a believer of Christ, you must not neglect that purpose God has bestowed upon you.

When you stop in awe and wonder at the sunset, remember that God who painted it uniquely. When you pause to take in the beauty of the waves crashing upon the shore, remember that God who created you unlike any other. Embrace the calling God has bestowed upon your life and chase after him with all that you are. Run with all the tenacity you can muster after Him! You are a created being and, as a believer, a reflection of God’s handiwork. Be confident in Him and find your assurance, your creativity, and purpose in Him and Him alone.

-Terren

The Heart of Selfishness

Have you experienced that moment when your heart is suddenly rend as you have a realization that you’re not okay? Staring into the vivid reflection of your life after it has snapped into focus before you. The numb aching of acceptance is set upon you by the yoke of the Holy Spirit as it brings conviction. As the warm evening lights of passing cars and street lights streaked over my vehicle, I became aware of an ever-present reality of my life. I am incredibly selfish in one particular area of my life. An intrinsic reservation that I have continued to harbor for quite sometime. Prayer.

One tool that has been quite, admittedly anecdotally, useful in illuminating how I view and relate to the world has been the enneagram. This word brings great excitement to some and intense trepidation to others within Christian circles. To some, the enneagram is a beneficial tool in exploring their personalities and how God has uniquely gifted them. For others, the enneagram is something to be avoided at all cost as it touts Christian origins but lacks sufficient evidence to be considered inspired by God. To dispel much of these concerns, I will tell you that the enneagram is not biblical in its origins or in its claims. Merely a tool, like other personality assessments, the enneagram may be beneficial to others as they begin the process of self-reflection. Along with the proper application of scripture, one may find deeper answers of their own self, which is where I find myself tonight.

If you know, you know. I score as a two on the enneagram, which is known as the supportive advisor (though I also strongly relate to sixes). Twos “are people who see the world through relationships and define themselves through their service to others. They may be selfless, loving, and giving; or dependent, prideful, and manipulative (learn more at Your Enneagram Coach).” I find it very easy to love people deeply, to serve freely. I do not think twice about giving my time to others if it means that I can help them or be, well, supportive. Honestly, I have very little consideration to give before springing into action… but where I fail most, is taking care of my own needs. Ouch… At times, I feel completely blind to what I need most or feel as though other’s should just know what I need at any given time. It’s almost like I am an enigma to myself in coming to terms with seeking help from others. I do not want to be a burden or an inconvenience to others, even though I really need help or care or love.

As I was driving home tonight, the warm glow of headlights and streetlights streaking over the windshield, I felt my heart twist. Among my usual moments of reflection, one thought came to the surface. Why is it so easy for you to go to God with someone else’s needs, and yet so difficult for you to approach God with your own? You are so selfish because you refuse to spend time with God regarding your own wellbeing. Why can’t I seem to go before God with my concerns? My fears? Doubts? Desires? Like a child clutching a precious item in their hand, stomping their feet, refusing to share before their own parent, I have refused to go before God to hand over these things. I will, without question, suit up and wage war for my loved one’s needs in prayer, but hoard my own needs from God. How does that make any sense at all?

If God is who I believe Him to be, a loving caring father who has my best interests at the center of His heart, then why do I have such a hard time coming to Him? When I need help, I sit in silence. When I need love, I stay silent. When I need forgiveness, I stay silent. When I feel completely alone in this world, why do I not go to Him for comfort? When I feel Him tugging at my heart, why do I shun His advances? When I need direction, why do I choose to run in circles instead of going to Him? My selfish heart. My incessantly selfish heart. I’ll go to Him with everyone else’s needs, but not my own. He’s worthy of meeting everyone else’s needs, but He’s not worthy of my own! The problem is me. Myself. I. I am broken, faulty, and sinful…

The truth is that God is worthy of my prayer. He is worthy to hear my needs, and He is willing to meet them. He is working my life together for a greater glory that can only be found in Him. The issue lies within me. I do not lack understanding, nor do I lack discipline, but I lack faith. If I’m being honest, I lack faith… Truthfully, my faith has been radically shaken throughout this last year. This is not a bad thing. My foundation is firm and my life has been built upon that foundation, and yet remain things which need to fade away. Faulty facades that need to be replaced with structurally sound reinforcements. I need to learn to not be selfish with my prayers to God.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him…

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

1 John 5:13-15, 20-21

I know that God is good, for He has made Himself known to me time and time and time again throughout my life. He has cared for me, provided for me, and gone above and beyond for me. Even as a petulant little child who holds his needs so tightly clutched within my grasp of selfishness, God still cares for me and beckons me to share with Him those very things that I need to let go of. So that I may know…

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 1:17-23

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:13-16

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

A common thread throughout scripture regarding prayer is the notion that it is so that we may know who God is. He is faithful to hear us and is faithful to respond to our petitions. Our requests (literally what the word prayer means) do not fall on deaf ears, but are heard and listened to. We may know because our prayers are responded to. Our natural posture, as believers of Christ, is to be bowed before our high priest who is faithful to make Himself known to us. In order to become more gracious and loving to myself (which is something I need to learn how to do), I must be willing to take my needs and concerns, my wants and desires before the Lord so that He may hear them and so that I may know Him more fully.

We all need to be reminded from time to time who God is. Even the most seasoned, knowledgable, and wise among us need to be reminded of the goodness of God. Conviction does not come to bring condemnation by guilt, but to make us aware of the very areas of life in which we need to become more disciplined in. While not always pleasant or enjoyable for us in the moment, what joy may be found when we realize that we already have a savior who knows and sympathizes with our weakness! He beckons us to draw near to Him with confidence and genuine desire to be with Him. Admittedly I am a hopeless romantic, and what is more romantic than the fact that God has a desire for us? His creation, that has been separated from Him by our own sinfulness, is being pursued for reconciliation. Our broken relationship with Him is being mended by the purifying blood that was poured out as a sacrifice by Jesus. God has done all of this, so that we may know.

-Terren

This Beautiful Broken Life

Once upon a time, as most stories begin, harkens back to times of old when life was simpler and times were better. Nostalgia has long since influenced these sepia tinted reflections of life by fading away the realities of those times. Our memories, being slightly faulty, have been affected by time. We do not remember every bad day. We forget each misgiving. Our displeasures fade away int0 the recesses of our memory. By design, our minds lessen the emphasis of these memories and reinforces our recollections of our preferred days. We may long for yesteryear and the preferential memories of when life was better, easier, or lighter. We can long for the days of yore, but, truthfully, life is not inherently like the movies.

Two Thousand Nineteen has not been my year. I’ve been thrown into the wringer. Tossed to the wolves; left to be devoured. Marked at every turn by ever increasing adversity that continues to be overwhelming. I find it difficult to not be discouraged by my circumstances and have, as of late, found it ever more difficult to trust God’s goodness and grace even though I can see how He is being faithful to me. At more than one occasion, I have found myself wishing to go back to times in life when things were simpler. When the world was not as cold and dismal. However, if I am going to be transparent, the majority of my adult life has been constantly filled with adversity. I have not had it easy. God has absolutely blessed me, but every blessing has seemingly been met with curse. Finding stability remains ever elusive. Just when life stills long enough for me to catch my breath, another wave of unexpected chaos comes crashing over me. This year, more than any previous year, has tested my faith. I’ve been shaken and given over to turmoil.

I did not know how easily tear could suddenly flow from my eyes. I did not know what true heartbreak felt like. I did not know how great the disconnect between my mind and my heart could be. All of these experiences I’ve had the displeasure of gaining this year, I wish I could give back to God. Grief has continued to linger with me this year. My constant companion that rears its ugly face at the most impractical and unpredictable of times. I, at all times, am aware of that which is missing as if part of me is missing. The greatest grievance being that I know God is good and that these afflictions that have been heaped upon me are for my benefit, intended to make me more Christ-like, but in my heart it feels as though God is picking on me. That I’ve been singled out for despair… misery. The great disconnect.

I do not wish to portray my life as one of only suffering, because God has continued to bestow blessings and grace upon me. He continues to speak through other people, even though He remains largely silent to me. Thus, I know that there is goodness yet to come. In my darkest hours, I know that Christ is returning. As much as I wish that I could give up and disappear into the wilderness, I keep pressing forward in spite of my circumstances. I do not know what toward, and I continue to ask God for answers to questions that remain unanswered…

I wish that this year would have turned out differently. I long for moments that I look back on with great fondness and joy, but also with a longing sorrow now. I am broken. My faith is shaken. I hurt. All the while, I know and trust that God is good and faithful. I just wish that my heart felt it. That is perhaps the beauty of my brokenness, that God is good no matter what I feel at any given time. He is glorified in my brokenness because He is good and He is kind. Grace is given abundantly, especially to the brokenhearted. Grace is given freely to those who will receive it. Tomorrow is a new day, but also a day that remains the same. Typically, I have some cohesive, overarching theme in which I form my writings around, but this time I do not feel as though I have anything cohesive. The scattered musings of my mind. This has been a hard year for me, but it has also been the single greatest year of my life. I loved, I saw God at work among the nations, I forged new roads, I faced new challenges. God is good, in spite of what I feel or experience. The beauty of life is not in what I deem it to be, but in God’s handiwork in me.