Well I officially crutched and hobbled my way into 2017. The holidays are usually my favorite time of year, but this year they were a bit challenging! I havent been on two feet (without a boot) since October! My injury chaned my day to day life quite a bit!
Before this injury I had never had a surgery. In years past I had rolled my ankle a few times causing me to spend a few days on crutches, but not 8 weeks!!
October 27th - Ruptured my achilles
Novemeber 1st - FINALLY after a long weekend I get my MRI
November 3rd- Review MRI with doctor and plan for surgery
November 8th - Surgery
November 21st - After wearing an uncomfortable wrap I get my stitches out and I am back to the boot.
December 22nd - I am able to ditch the crutches and walk in my boot.
Days I am looking forward to:
February 2nd - I will finally stand with my right shoe on again!!
Closer to summer - I should be able to run again.
October 27th - I might be back to full strength again!
I think through the process I have had a pretty positive attitude, but I would be lying if I said it has been fun.. Some days have been really really dark. But as I look back it seems like it all happened a life time ago! But here is what I learned through the process.
I am a mere human:
This process has seemed to drag on. I went from working out everyday and living an active life to the couch. But in reality it has only been about two months. In the big picture of life this time will escape me and all that will be left is a scar. Most days I was down in the dumps and frustrated with my situation. I could have sat here for two months and pouted through it all. But if I sat here and cried and ate ice cream that wouldnt have changed my situation. Instead I hopped around the house and learned to live on one foot. My life went on! I just had to adjust and move at a slower pace.
When this injury occured I actually looked up the story of Achilles. His story is that when he was a baby his mother knew he would die at a young age. So to help him be stronger she dipped him in some water. As his mother put her baby in the water she held him be his ankle so his heel never went in the water. He grew into this strong war hero that won many battles. But, he was struck by a poisonous arrow in the heel and died.
I probably was getting over confident with my abilities and needed some serious humilty. My injury was also on my right foot so I couldnt even drive!! I needed the reminder that I am a human and that my life is so short! Every day holds such potential and I need to remember who gives me those new days!
Whenever I had surgery I looked forward to getting the stitches out. When I was on crutches I counted the days until I could walk. This process has continued as I hit the next check point. But I noticed something that was extremely frustrating! Whenever I got close to my next step people would say, "Oh that isn't bad! You're getting close." Getting close?? I almost wanted to hand them my crutches and say, "You do this for 8 weeks and say it isn't that bad!" I wasnt acutally upset because I know this is just my frustrations talking and those people meant the best for me! But it was hard to hear from people who would say that and then walk off perfectly healthy.
A few times I met people who had the same injury and they would say something like , "Oh no! That is the worst!!" When I started phsical therapy there was a guy there who had the same procedure 4 weeks before me. As we continue our workouts we encourage each other and he will say, "I know where you're at. You will get here."
That is so good to hear!!
It makes a total difference to hear basically the same thing from someone who has gone through the same expereince. People who have gone through horrible things can find strength from others who conquered it!
Jesus came down and lived on this earth. HE was hungry, thirsty, tempted. He knows this life and this world. He is telling us, "I know where you are. I can lead you somewhere better. Trust me."
It seems really hard at times to trust Him, but when we do it changes everything!!
As hard as this experience has been I am somewhat thankful for it. It knocked me straight on my back. With it I had to depend on others help. My pride took a beating over this experience and for that reason I hope I never forget it.
We all have scars and scratches from life experiences. Sometimes we have to evaluate the injury and others have to help us through them. In my case this injury plunged me into isolation where I had to reach out, but I also still had to do a lot on my own.
Wherever you may be in life right now take a few breaths and enjoy it. We are here but a brief moment and then we are gone. It is completely okay to ask others for help. Be open to helping others as well. And if you know someone is struggling please reach out to them!
Thanks y'all! Happy New Year!
Over the past three years I have spent six weeks in a place that I feel is a second home to me. This place shows me kindness, warmth, love, and joy! Of course if you read the title you would know I am referring to the country of Malawi! This post is long overdue, but I have to admit I have a fear. Multiple times I have typed up stories of my trips to Malawi, only to eventually delete them. I have a fear that my words of my experiences will not translate to those who haven't been.. I know it is a stupid fear, but aren't most?
So this year I am going to attempt to highlight some of my favorite moments and maybe we can gain something from them! The slideshow highlights the stories I am about to share!
For the past two years I have flown across the world and when I get there I think, "Wow it doesn't even seem like I was gone that long." It is as if everything paused and then I return and it's a breath of fresh air! I truly love it there! This year was special for me, I was able to introduce a dear friend of mine to Malawi.
I met Jackson when I was a sophomore in high school and he was an eighth grader. We have experienced a lot together in our short lives! From normal high school shenanigans to a road trip from Northern California all the way to Austin! I love this dude!
It was special to show him Malawi because I knew he would fit right in! Jackson brings joy everywhere he goes! Countless times him and I have ended up in tears from laughing so hard! On the way over to Malawi we had a 15 hour flight from New York City all the way to Johannesburg. We both couldn't sleep and we ended up playing cards at 3AM while eating Swedish fish. While in Malawi he brought his joy and the children soaked up the attention! Jackson is not only a gifted friend, but also a gymnast! He was showing off some tricks and teaching the kids as he went!
There were countless moments where I would be helping somewhere and I could here Jackson's laughter fill the air! It was heart warming for a piece of home to go with me to Malawi!
A Great Team
Milk has cookies. Texans have Whataburger. Shoot, even biscuits have gravy! Each of these just seem to fit perfectly with the other! I travel to Malawi with Drops of Grace and their partnership just seems to fit with Somebody Cares, the ministry in Malawi! I have been blessed to work with these ministries for the last three years. They partner together to make sure that the resources will most effectively help the people of Malawi! Drops of Grace has adopted the community of Kalimbira and over the years I have seen the positive results of this partnership! People are smiling again because they're able to provide for their families. Children are growing and at times I barely recognize them after a full year of growth!!
It brings me such joy knowing that Somebody Cares goes out everyday and they love the people around them so well! People are cared for and changed by the work of this ministry!
This year we got to work!! In the past years we have worked with helping feed the kids or doing other projects. We still continued serving in those same areas, but this year was unlike the others! Our team was composed of mostly people in their twenties and we worked alongside the youth of Kalimbira, who are the same age! Together we worked on Child Headed Homes. At these houses the parents have passed away and children are in charge of coming up with the income. But thankfully the ministries have stepped in and the kids can continue school!
At these homes we repaired roofs, put a new coat of mud on the floor to keep it sealed, and we also built a new structure that will serve as the kitchen. The kitchens in Kalimbira are quite different than the ones in Cedar Park, Texas. There was definitely a learning curve but once we got going we were a well oiled machine! The kitchen was built from the ground up from bricks and concrete mixed by hand. Four or five would move bricks and stack them as two others mixed concrete and would stack it on the bricks as we went. Jackson and I mixed a lot of it and moved the "mud" as the youth would line up the bricks. IT WAS A LOT OF WORK!!
As we worked the youth would teach us Chichewa words and I would repeat it only to be followed by laughter. (Guess I didn't say it the same way they explained) It was so much fun to work alongside the youth! If I started to slack I would here, "Mud boy!! Chongu!" Which means hurry!
I think we may have laughed harder than we worked, but that doesn't take away from the work we did!
I have learned a lot from my trips to Malawi.
I have learned that no matter the circumstances we face, God will provide.
I've learned that laughter can cross any language barrier.
I have learned that no matter where I go in the world I will be made fun of! And I am okay with it!
When I go to Malawi I gain more than I give. I gain friends and relationships that I will always cherish! Every year I spend 50 weeks away from Malawi, but that makes those two weeks a year all the more special! As I walked through Kalimbira this year I was surrounded by the smiling children and I heard, "Onndroo!" I turned to be greeted by a giggling child and I just shook my head! I couldn't believe that he remembered my name! I never would have imagined my life going to Malawi, but I am so glad it did!
Like somebody longing to see their family again for the holidays is how I long to see my friends and family in Malawi!
The other day I drove to a local coffee shop in my car and sat there to read. I got a black coffee for $2.50 and had all the free water I wanted! (Coffee shop water is better than normal water!) As I sat there I got onto my Facebook. I had a new message from my good friend Enock who lives in Malawi. We had an ongoing message going and he was answering how I could be praying for him.
"I think we need prayer now, more than ever before. Please continue praying for the nation as a whole, the hunger situation is worse this year but God has been faithful!"
Wait... what?! Y'all have less food and things as a whole aren't looking too great but God is faithful?! That hit me like a brick.
He continued: "We believe He will continue to be faithful for Our Valuable Children (OVC provides food for the children in the communities). Also the water shortages and electricity cuts are just making life more expensive making it worse for people in the communities. But amazingly We keep seeing more of God now more than ever before as well! So just continue praying that as we believe Him for all these, that we may see Him more and more because that is the end goal of all. To know Him and be known by Him. Thanks in advance for your prayers brother"
WOW. I was reading this in shock. I was sitting in the coffee shop with all the things I "need" and yet I so often turn from God. If I walked out to my car and it didn't start I wouldn't be thinking, "Thank you God! May I turn to you more and more."
But here my brother is across the world where the power is being cut off, the water is restricted, and things aren't looking too good on the outside. But he says he wants to know God more and to see Him more. That's because He trusts in the gospel and God has shown Enock that He will always provide!
Somebody Cares is the ministry in Malawi that we partner with while there! Enock works in the OVC department of this ministry. This ministry, through the help of God, is able to feed thousands of kids every day. (Also, the cost to feed a child for a year in Malawi? $50!!) So Enock gets to see these children grow because of this food! Before the ministry stepped in that was not the case!
Over the past three years I have been blessed to spend about 6 weeks working alongside this ministry. They are a well oiled machine carrying the gospel out into the world! There are about 30 staff members, each knowing their purpose and position in the ministry. Within the ministry they work with youth, children, widows, women, pastors, farmers, counselors, and many more. They face heavy situations, but they're able to trust God because every single day they have seen Him come through.
Day in and day out this staff cries out to God to help. They know He is the one provider and their only hope! Everyday they come to work early to do a devotion together. They set their eyes on Jesus and then go out to show that love! It is so beautiful! They love the people around them and it really shows what the church should be all about!
God Is Love Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:7-12 ESV)
With the staff in Malawi I have seen this love being perfected.
In Matthew 21 Jesus went to the temple. We see a different side of Jesus. He comes in and sees people buying and selling and benefitting for themselves. Jesus flips tables and flips out! He flips the normal practices of these religious men and really flips the script. (Alright, I'm done saying flips.) He says that His house will be called a house of prayer. Not a house of making money and forgetting the people in need. No, a house of prayer. After that the lame and blind came into the temple and He healed them. Jesus came in and took out what was not supposed to be there. Then after that the true ministry began!
I think majority of the time I get distracted and lost in this world. I look out for myself and try to make my life as comfortable as possible. Honestly I skip praying too. When I sit down and think about that it breaks my heart.
So I sat there in the coffee shop and I prayed for Malawi, for Somebody Cares, and for my own heart. Sometimes I hear a story and see something and my heart tells me that not even prayer could help that situation. How false that statement is. Prayer breaks down walls and brings us in direct communication with the Creator.
The gospel is not about perfection. It is about us realizing how we really are wounded and weak. We need a savior. When I take my eyes off of myself and put them on Jesus is when I truly see the beauty in others. So my hope is that we can become a house of prayer. We could link arms and pray for really big things and even smaller things. No matter the size, I hope that we will trust God to bring it through.
When I was 17 I went on a mission trip to Miami. My youth group loaded up on a single charter bus and headed east. We were going to be spending a full week running a VBS. Apparently our youth minister didn't realize we were running the show, surprise! That week changed the direction of my entire life.
That week I was in charge of 5 pre-k boys. Please reread that statement, this time slower.. A 17 year old in charge of FIVEEEEEE pre-k boys for a week! It was craziness! The first two days kicked me in the rear. But eventually I was able to take on that storm and have fun with these awesome little dudes! That week God showed me how to love and if I could love those kids that much then He must really love us! On the last night of that trip I was baptized!
Two years later I went to Mexico for a week. With a group of college students we were building a church and sharing the Gospel in a community about an hour away from Rosarito beach. What beautiful trip full of beautiful people! So while my team slaved away on the church I would sneak away for some soccer in the street. The local kids would come out and just hang out. I would make my best attempt to tell them to go get a soccer ball. Once they returned back we would kick it in the street for a long time. That week I met William. This little stud would play soccer, hang out, and just be awesome! We were able to talk to him that week and hopefully show him he is loved! I still remember the last time I saw William. He came out to our Fiesta, he made some art on a piece of paper. He put his hands in the paint and slapped them on the paper. His hands shaped a heart. (I still have no idea if he planned it that way) But he handed it to me. That piece of paper still hangs on my wall.
The following year I hopped on a plane to Malawi. To be honest I was completely unprepared for this journey. The whole experience slapped me right in the jaw. God opened my eyes to completely new horizons. On this trip two kids still stick out to me. The first one was "Green shirt kid" we laughed and played for two days. He clung to me and I was always on the look out for him. I pray that he knows he is loved. The second kid is David. Spoiler: The second year I went to Malawi I ran into him again. A big reason I am going back to Malawi this year is David. He lives in the community of Kalimbira and that is where we spend most of our days. So whether you're ready of not David, I am coming for you in July!! (God willing)
Nowadays I work at the Children's home here in town. As tough as these kids may be, they have my attention! I can hear them calling out for love and attention. I won't name names but there are a few kids that I just click with! However long I may be at this job I pray that I can just remind them they are so loved!
When I see adults I see them as children. It may be a weird thought, but that is just where my mind goes. So if they are angry, I wonder what hurt happened in their past. If they are joyful, I wonder about the people who poured into them as children. If I am honest I forgot most of the people who played roles in my childhood. I remember a few! Coaches who encouraged me, family friends, or even my theater arts teacher in 4th and 5th grade! (Thanks Gino!)
This mindset places incredible meaning into my life. So with Vladimir, Khalel, and Michael from Miami, William in Mexico, David in Malawi, or my friends at work. They will one day be adults. I don't do my job to be remembered, I do my job to guide them towards the heart of my savior. So my prayer is that you will see purpose in your own walk. Look around you. Each person is God's masterpiece. Children running towards Love!
Just like these kids came out of their houses and hung out with me. I pray that every single day I would step out and run towards Jesus! He is all I have.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
About 5 months ago I started a new job. It has been so awesome! I now work at the children's home in Round Rock and get to help out with after school care. We hang out with the kids on campus and also go pick up from a few different apartment locations. Each day is a different age group and I love how different they all are! The toughest part of my job is that we only get to see these kids one day a week.
It is actually a quite confusing schedule to explain without you being there so I will just say on Mondays we have elementary boys and girls from one apartment complex, Tuesdays we have the boys, Wednesday is middle and high school age, Thursday we have the girls, sprinkled in everyday we have about 5 kids that live on campus. To be honest I love these kids so much. It is a heavy job because these kids are going through real deep hurt. Some have been dropped off, a few are there as their mom gets back on her feet, and most live in a home where they barely scrape by financially. I never grew up with that fear. But God is greater than me and He has placed me here to love.
Everyday I go in I have to live intentionally. My job allows me how to love with purpose. To push through walls and show people I care. The majority of my time is spent playing basketball, throwing a football, playing tag on the play scape, eating snack together, or just simply hanging out. I have no special agenda or anything. I just get to do life with these awesome students!
Like I said I only see each kid once a week. So whatever we do is likely overshadowed by home life. So lately I have been talking to the kids intentionally. One of our younger boys who I will simply refer to as "M" loves basketball! I mean he simply wants a basketball and believes he is Steph Curry. It is awesome! M can get in trouble here and there, but I let it go most of them time because I know he doesn't receive much attention at home. The other day he would say, "Andrew watch this!" and he would throw his whole body into a basketball shot from downtown! He makes about 1 out of 8 shots. After about 10 times of him making me watch I felt as if God was reminding me to be patient and just watch. So I stood there and would cheer when he made a shot. He was soaking it up. I looked at M, grabbed his shoulder, and bent down. I looked him in the eye and said, "You are awesome. I am glad you come to group. I love having you here."
I will probably never see the fruit of my labor at this job. And I am not writing this to receive any praise of what I am doing. I just know that Jesus saved my life and now I hope to bring that hope and love to these lives. I would really die for these kids. They have stolen my heart, and I am okay with that. To be honest I have probably learned more from them! One thing I realized is that they have taught me to play. It is such a simple task but I think often a lost art. To play has no agenda, it is to just go and do it. There have been days I played dodgeball, talked about Pokemon cards, played knockout in the gym, and searched through the playground gravel for "crystals" (just shiny rocks, honesty I am not quite sure). I have learned that everywhere is a playground. Games can happen anywhere and usually laughter is there.
When I drop off the kids back home sometimes I just feel a weight press on me like a boulder. I hurt for these kids. We pick them up and we do our best to love them. But it is only 4 hours a week. I just know that some kids are getting dropped back off into the mess of home life. So in those moments all I can do is praise God for what He has done and cry out for these beautiful souls. So when they cry out, "Andrew watch this!" I will watch! When they ask me to teach them how to throw a football I will do my best. When I look them in the eye I will tell them they are loved. It is a special task to share the love of Christ.
My life is nothing special. It is just that, a life, which the bible describes as a mist. "For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." (James 4:14) I pray that my life would be an offering to the Savior of the world. That though life is fleeting I would be able to point people to Jesus while I am here.
So get out there. Look people in the eye and show them that you care. We don't have long here so be intentional. I love you all and thanks for reading about my life.
You know what really puts me in a super weird mood for no apparent reason? Looking through old pictures.. I can't really put my finger on why, but it does. If I had to try and guess it would be because I know I have missed a lot of opportunities.. Don't get me wrong, I have had tons of rare opportunities also! But, let me try to explain.
Sometimes I wake up from a daze and I have been scrolling through someones Facebook page that I haven't talked to in years. Have you ever been there? That may have been how you found this post. This might sound rude, but I recently was going through friends on Facebook and deleting the "friends" who I can't even remember the last time we spoke, if ever. So if you're reading this you probably made the cut.. But even that puts me in a weird mood. Maybe because I feel like I missed my chances to share Jesus with those people.
If you have read any of my posts ever you would know that pornography was introduced into my life around early middle school and really hung around for way too long. Even if I have pursued Christ and attempted to live a better life, this struggle was clinging to me.. I'm not completely sure with other addictions but with this one it encourages a secret life. A double life where everything may seem acceptable to the outside world, but if you dig at all you would see decay. So for me when I stare into the eyes of myself in an old photo, I see wasted time.
Every time I slipped I would promise myself, "this is the last time." Every milestone in my life came and this same promise was spoken over and over again. Until finally I would just say it to feel better about myself.
Freedom is always just one conscious step away. To stop looking at porn it requires fighting EVERY SINGLE DAY, in order to set your mind on Christ.
In my life I am extremely blessed to say I can look around at any moment and see men running to kneel at the cross. These men are far from perfect, but they know they desperately need Jesus. They all hold very different roles in their day to day life, but for me they are brothers. When I first started opening up about my struggle to stop giving in to pornography I learned something. It is a shared struggle throughout many lives.. Far too many. Every once in a while someone will come tell me how they love how open I am and how I can speak of struggling with pornography. They speak as if it is so brave, it may be, but it's so common and so deadly that I cannot let it hang around!!
So most of the time I look at old pictures and see time wasted. I look at old friends and the life I was living and see missed opportunities to shine a light. High school was a huge failure for me to show Jesus. I may have been a "good" kid, but even a "good" kid can distract people from seeing the Gospel.
When you kneel at the cross and trust Jesus your past is no longer a shortcoming. Jesus' life was not a waste and I can never out-sin the grace that God pours out. When Jesus sees me He sees a chosen child. Through Jesus and His life, death, and resurrection I can look at my past and see God building and molding me even in the filth in order for my freedom to be that much more glorious. For me my past is now a way to show people where I was, and to praise my Father by displaying how He saved me and washed me from those.
"So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." (Romans 8:12-17 ESV)
On my own I would be a missed opportunity. On my own I would have longed for more and always come up empty handed.
My life has purpose, and so does yours. My purpose in life is to glorify God and to love! The concept of the Gospel is really crazy if you think about it. It isn't natural to our brains. God made man and man rebelled over and over and over again. God cannot be in the presence of sin. So instead of just wiping the earth bare and scraping the idea, God becomes man and dwells with us. God in the flesh is Jesus, who lives a perfect life without sin. He is killed on a cross. Put in the grave, and at that moment it seems all hope is lost. But three days later He rises from the dead and beats sin and death!! All who put their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior are set free! Jesus took our burden that we may be free. This is the ultimate love story and we have a place in it!!
One day I want a family. I want to be able to be an amazing husband and father. Those have always been a big deal to me! But, without Christ I will never come close to either of those. If porn was still active in my life I would fail in all of those areas. But, through Jesus I have been given a purpose and a vision. I am free and I am not alone. Brothers and sisters, you are not alone. Speak up and lean on Jesus.
Growing up I played in the baseball league for many years, I then moved on to basketball, and even tried to play football for a year. I distinctly remember asking my mom one year if I could play soccer. She quickly told me no because she didn't want to sit in the heat. I completely understand her side and this isn't a post about how I have been holding in my anger for 15 years or anything like that.
So I never played soccer and stayed with basketball for the longest. Regardless of my mom's answer that day. soccer has come into my life and is continuing to bridge gaps for me!
In high school one of my friends lived right across the street. We actually didn't have much in common. He loved soccer and drums, I loved basketball and myself. But we still hung out and one school year they had a foreign exchange student from Mexico. Jose was the bomb, us three spent many evenings sitting outside kicking the soccer ball. I never thought much of it and I was definitely the weakest link on these nights.
I use these examples because I feel like God always kinda chuckles at us in the early years with things. Like I was not good at soccer, at all. Im still not the best. But, I have played it in 3 different countries now, which is super cool! I never will excel in soccer but God has used it in my life to break down language barriers. I was able to play soccer with William on the streets of Mexico. I have even kicked it with David in Kalimbira. We didn't share a common language, but we sure could kick a round object at each other. And sometimes that is exactly what people need.
Just last night I joined in on the middle school group at my church. We were having a game night and I hadn't hung out with this group in a couple of years so I went. There were a few kids who I didn't know, but they had a football which is like a golden ticket to start an interaction. I got their attention and they threw me the ball. I was in!
I say all of this because God can and will literally use any kind of gift you may have. Whether it is math, soccer, magic tricks, guitar, or even popping a wheely on a scooter. God uses our gifts in awesome ways, and I hope that we use them to point to him and not ourselves!
"So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
1 Corinthians 10:31
Whenever I kick a soccer ball or throw the football I never think about the impact it could have. But, I know in my life when someone takes the time to just be with me it means a lot. Sports has allowed me to break through language barriers. But also in Mexico and Malawi the kids will laugh when I attempt to speak their language. So be open to try new things and people probably will laugh! But that is okay!! Walk humbly and see people where they are!
Today, wherever you are just use your talents to bless others and show love! Maybe even learn a new skill and show people that you care enough to come to where they are! I pray that God will allow us to glorify Him in new ways today! Be constant in prayer for yourself and for those around you! I love you all!
Hate is a damaging thing. If I am honest I have been filled with hate for much of my life and that is fueled directly from my pride. Hate like a lot of things, promises things it can never live up to. Hate makes you think you can get ahead and push people down as you go. Hate whispers it is you against the world.
Recently I started working part time with an after school program. Last week we were picking up the kids and one of them informed us he couldn't come if one of the neighborhood kids was going to be there. I thought he was bluffing so I drove him home to see what his mom had to say. I pulled up to the house, he exited, and then his mother appeared out of the doorway. From the porch she shouted, "I don't like that kid (referring to the kid sitting right behind me in the van) and I don't want mine around him!" This honestly broke my heart and shook up the rest of my day. How could this mindset fix anything?
Hate is the thing that separates us from things that are different. It builds walls, burns bridges, and promises and edge against our opponents. I would even say hate is masked by sarcasm. It doesn't take much searching to see hate in our world. It seems very cliche to say but the news of today is exhausting. I can't read it too often and it weighs me down. We are just so used to reading stories of awful things happening.
Hate stunts our growth.
I think the reason hate is so easy to fall into is because we don't understand love. Hate is easy to go to. It is easy to tell people off. Cutting someone off in our car doesn't take much thought. But love, that is another story. Love takes time, thought, effort, and work!! Love sometimes takes us sitting in peoples mess with them and loving them where they are.
1 John 3:16 tells me, "We know what real love is because Jesus gave his life for us." The verse goes on, but can we just chew on this for a bit?
It says that we KNOW what real love is. Jesus who is God came down to this speck of a planet floating in the endless space of.. space. God chose to lower himself to our level and sacrifice His life for ours.. This type of love is unheard of. We are so used to seeing hate take life away, but love always gives life. The people we encounter daily need this dose of love to inspire them and to comfort them!
"Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good." Romans 12:9
Hate takes life, so if we read the verse above that means we must take life from the things that are evil. Don't indulge in gossip, pride, or the hatred that rots away our joy. We must cling to what is good, which is Jesus Christ!!
I live in the North Austin area and currently over 300 churches are going through an Art Of Neighboring series. It is extremely challenging and convicting to me. If you only follow me on social media it probably seems like I know a good amount of people, but in reality I don't know a single one of my neighbors. Not one. You see this series is challenging us to take the commandment to love our neighbors literally. It is really breaking down my walls and opening my garage door.
In the book that we are reading through with this study the authors are stating that love takes time. You see Jesus had an agenda and He did a lot of stuff, but a lot of His ministry was Him loving people right where they were. He was never hurried. People could interrupt Him and Jesus would look them in the eyes and love them. This is crazy for me because I am always looking to what is next and probably skipping right past so many people.. You see love and hurry never work together! Love takes time and with it we need to be open to being interrupted. Too often I am reading or choosing the perfect instagram filter instead of looking someone in the eyes and telling them, "I love you" with my time.
Earlier I stated that love takes work. I don't think I ever knew what love really was until this last year. My whole life things have been handed to me and I haven't had to fight for honestly a single thing. But I have been slapped in the face and have been just reading and soaking in what Jesus has done. I have always heard the stories of Him, but after just really reading and looking at this amazing individual you can't help but see love in Him. I encourage you to just read through the Gospel. It is so weighty. Love takes an extensive amount of time and energy. But it will always be worth it. To be loved is to truly be free.
Jesus died for us when we were fully happy in our filth. I was beaten down and exposed, but He sees me! Jesus is the only way that I know what love is. Love is sacrificial and hard. But if we really saw people where they were the world would be significantly different.
My prayer is that we can be interruptible. We can love and people would feel safe around us. Love doesn't just sit around. It acts and completely changes things!
Whenever I see a sunrise I start to cry. (Judge me all you want) I am not exactly sure why, but a sunrise to me is a new hope. With the new day we have choices to make and directions to go. A sunrise to me is God's way of welcoming me into His arms for the day. It is beautiful.
Have you ever seen the Olympics or the X-games? Ever gone to a concert? Have you ever seen an amazing painting? Whenever I watch sports I am always blown away! I have this weird thought process, but when I see adults I see them as children. Now some may be childish, but that is not what I am saying. I literally try to think back to when they were little nuggets running around. What moments shaped them and brought them to where they are??
So when I watch the olympics I think about how there was a time when that swimmer couldn't swim.. Or at the concert, there was a time when that guitar player first held that instrument. The artist had to take a first stroke with his brush. To me this is a beautiful mindset. It shows that every person holds amazing possibilities.
But in the same way have you ever seen a homeless person? Ever heard stories of an affair ripping a family apart? I know in my life I stumbled down the life of pornography at a young age.. These areas took a first step also.
You know how when parents freak about their baby taking their very first step?! This baby has progressed and grown and is finally able to take steps! This is a crucial moment and is huge for the parents. They cheer on their baby, they take pictures or record it, the whole event is documented and everything. I think that is how God is with us. When we finally decide to take one step towards Him, he rejoices! But he doesn't stop. Every single step we take towards the Lord gives us more strength and He rejoices with us and cheers us on.
Jesus is our only hope. He isn't shocked or surprised by where we have been. He offers us a new hope like a sunrise ascending in the East. Whether we have been wrecked by divorce or become dependent on drugs. Maybe you don't think you need Jesus, your life is pretty good and you just play it safe. Well let me ask you, what do you want in life? Money, security, purpose? Are you there? Will you ever have enough of these things?
My prayer is that today we will know that Jesus is our sunrise. He is offering a new opportunity and He is cheering us on to step towards Him. Open up your heart and walk.
My whole life I depended on myself to get me places. I played basketball and I was hoping that would get me to a sweet college and take me places, it didn't. My life was aimed in this direction to continue my work on the court and when that didn't work out it took away my identity and definitely shot down my pride. In 2012 I graduated high school and I had NO clue where I was going. Literally, I was scraping the bottom of the bucket for some sign of hope. So I decided to do some mission work hoping to buy some time and maybe God would give me a revelation. I was choosing to do missions for all the wrong reasons and it totally backfired on me. It didn't work out and I went home with my tail between my legs.
I was empty. Still being eaten alive by my addiction to pornography and lust, and I had no idea where to go. But one day my mom came home from church and just said, "Tyler Murphy wants to meet up with you and have lunch." Tyler Murphy is a worship leader who was going through a career change at the time. I used to go to his shows and I would blankly stare at him and just watch the drummer, Chris Chalman, because he is really good! But other than that I did not know Tyler on a personal level and I had no clue why he wanted to meet with me...
So probably a week or so later I met with Tyler at Taco Bell and we talked for hours.. Seriously, hours! It was amazing and finally gave me the hope I needed. Tyler was starting his new ministry and was just asking if I was interested in traveling with him and loving on students.. I completely leaped at this idea, because I always enjoyed youth ministry and it seemed so fresh and adventurous. This meeting took place in October 2012 and our first trip together was March 2013 to Joplin, Missouri. It was quite the wait, but it was worth it!!
Tyler is by no means perfect, but I have never met someone who has such a heart for Jesus and for others to experience Him. The way that Tyler came to me reminds me of when Jesus called his disciples.
"One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers - Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew- throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, "Come follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!" And they left their nets at once and followed him." Matthew 4:18-20
Now Tyler may have been trying to be over spiritual, maybe he read this and saw that Jesus called an Andrew to be one of the first disciples, so he thought he needed one as well. But, I doubt that.
In my bible above this passage I have this written, "He (Jesus) was probably smiling. Nobody just leaves unless you sense more." Think about the weight of this moment for Peter and Andrew. This man walks up and offers them an adventure and they leap at it. It brings tears to my eyes just knowing the end of this story!
Now I was not a fisherman, and I honestly had less than that. I was lost and alone. All my friends at the time were doing college and chasing dreams. My dream of basketball had just been deflated.. But for some odd reason Tyler asked me to join him.
Just as Peter and Andrew were willing for something more, I needed that. So after a few trips with Tyler he needed a bass player, and for some reason he asked me to play.. He taught me bass and the rest is history. At times I still feel like that 18 year old guy who was lost and alone, but I know that isn't true.
Tyler's ministry has changed my life. This isn't on Tyler, it is on Jesus. Jesus has done it all, but Tyler is a willing to listen and follow. Tyler has come beside me in my life and walked me through my struggles. Tyler is more than just a guy on a stage to me and to many others. To me, he is a brother. One day I will be able to tell my kids about these experiences. Tyler came to me, I answered and followed, and now we can partner together and hopefully point others to Jesus through our lives.
I know this type of story is not typical and not normal. But I am so thankful that I serve a God who takes the lost and broken and gives them a reason to dance. He takes the lonely and gives them brothers. He takes the lustful and prideful basketball player and turns him into a bass player. How beautiful is that?!
I didn't ask for this path. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
My name is Andrew Berry! I am just living my life chasing after Jesus and trying to point others to Him.