Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why It's Time To Share Your Story

Since taking my first class on journalism when I was in middle school, I’ve been told that everyone has a story. That every person I’ve met has something to say, a battle to fight, a mountain to climb and a dream to chase.

And it’s true. Everyone has a story to tell. Which means you have a story to tell.

From being a terrible high school newspaper sports reporter to where I am now as a staff writer for FIU, I’ve talked with hundreds if not thousands of people for many different stories. And every single person I’ve talked to, from Martha Stewart to the custodian who made sure the student center at the university I studied at and now work for stayed clean for 33 years, had their own story in the form of the lives they’ve lived.

In my own life, I’ve had the privilege of knowing people who have amazing stories -- stories that have inspired me, motivated me, and humbled me. But some of those awesome stories have never been told. The ones who hold those stories have kept them locked up for one reason or another. Sometimes it's fear, or embarrassment, or they just don't think their story is worth telling.

But it is definitely worth sharing because you’ve been through things that I’ve never been through. You’ve been to places I have never traveled to. You know people that I don’t know and met with people I don’t know exist. You know things I know nothing about. Oh yes, you have a heckuva story to tell.

Not only do you have a story to tell, you are the story. You are filled to the brim with triumphs and defeats, mountain peaks and valley lows, laughter and tears, joy and pain. And the really cool part is that your story is still not finished. It's still a work in progress.

I'm not going to lie to you: it is scary to put yourself out there for the world to see. It’s already difficult to share a part of your soul with close friends, let alone complete strangers. I still struggle with it. There will be haters and critics and people who won't understand. But if and when you decide to share your story, you won't be doing it for them.

Your story could change lives. Your story could make someone laugh, think and reflect. It could help a teenage kid somewhere know they are not alone in their struggles. It could teach all of us a thing or two about having compassion for one another, help us see the world in a new way and maybe even help somebody understand something they didn't fully grasp before.    

There are a bunch of ways you can share your story. Maybe it’s that blog you haven’t posted in since 2011. Or maybe it's through videos on YouTube. It could be conversations with the friends you’ve been keeping at arm’s length away. It could be that small group at church you sit at every week but don’t say anything. Or maybe it’s just beginning to be open with God, who you’ve been trying to run away from.

Whatever it looks like in your life, share your story. We need to hear your voice. You have a story to tell. So what are you waiting for? Let’s hear it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

23 Things I Learned While I Was 23

I turned 24 this past Monday, which means that I’m now one year away from reaching the summit of Mount Twenty-Something (I’m gearing up for my Quarter-Life Crisis as we speak).

Birthdays are a great time to celebrate and reflect; to think about how far you’ve come while looking forward to what you want to accomplish in the upcoming year.

This past year has been a roller-coaster for me, packed with breakthroughs and accomplishments along with some heartbreaks and low points along the way. But through it all, I’ve learned more about who God is, who I am and how to better love others.

I also want to take a moment to thank you for taking the time to read this blog and for joining me on this journey. Since my blog's re-launch at the beginning of the year, I’ve been humbled by the kind words and encouragement from both friends and strangers and I’m excited to see what’s next!

So as I turn the page on another year, here are 23 things I learned while I was 23:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Flipping The Script On 'What If?'

What if I fail? What if I chase my dream and it doesn’t work out? What if she doesn’t like me? What if he rejects my apology? What if I get hurt again? What if I had done things differently before? 

What if…

Whenever I start to think about going after something, those are usually the kind of ‘What If’ questions that show up on the scene like evil firemen dispatched to douse the flames of inspiration, excitement and courage.

The questions seem innocent enough, posing as precautionary measures designed to keep me safe. You’ve probably asked similar questions in your own life. But here’s what those questions are really doing:

1. They remind us of our past and handcuff us with regret.

2. They dampen our present by drowning us in doubt.

3. They rob us of our future by filling us with fear and expecting the worst.

When the ‘What Ifs’ you ask focus on a past you can’t change or jump straight to worst-case-scenarios for the future, you’ll freeze up and settle for average. Every time. And then you’ll regret the missed opportunities and unpursued dreams you left on the table later on.

But what if (pun sort of intended) we flipped the script?

Almost a decade ago, some leaders in the heart of Texas asked a different kind of ‘What If’ question -- one that ended up changing my life forever.

Some of the leadership at Fellowship Church, based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, asked ‘What if we opened a campus in Miami?’ They asked the question, prayed about it and then stepped out in faith. In the summer of 2006, the doors opened to a new campus in South Miami.

A few months later I walked through those doors and, for the first time, found a church where I could grow in my faith, serve God and others, and get plugged into a community of people passionate about reaching out to people far from God.

All because some people half a country away asked ‘What If?’

Our ‘What Ifs’ should inspire us to make a change in the world around us. They should fuel our passions. They should fill us with excitement and anticipation for what is to come. They should stretch us and inspire us to pray audacious prayers and dream big dreams.

What if I started praying for my future family today? 

What if I started serving at my church? 

What if I invited my friend to church and they came? 

What if I decided to go back to school and finish my degree? 

What if I started to get my finances in order so I can give more generously? 

What if I set an example in my household for what it means to live a life dedicated to following Christ?

How different would our lives be if we asked those kind of 'What If' questions and then stepped out in faith to see how God responds? 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Message For Archippus (And You)

“Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.’” - Colossians 4:17

* * * * * * * 

Many of us have this idea that ministry is reserved for pastors and worship leaders and missionaries. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The word ministry comes from the Greek word diakoneo, which means “to serve.” If you are follower of Christ, you are called to ministry -- because you are called to serve. The small business owner down the street, the college student living far from home, the sales accountant, the stay-at-home mom… they all get to play a role in what God wants to do in their homes and their communities.

Jesus wasn't just talking to His disciples when He delivered the Great Commission. He was speaking to you and me. We’re not benched and forced to watch all that God is doing from the sidelines, we get to play an active role in it. How awesome is that -- God wants to use you! He wants us to put on our jerseys, get on the field and make a difference in the lives of those around us and leave a mark on eternity. We get to be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves.

Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that God can’t use you because you didn’t go to seminary school. God wants to use you in your church, in your city, in your school, and in your workplace. He wants to use you wherever you are.

When Paul was writing his letter to the Colossians, maybe Archippus felt lost in his own ministry. Just maybe he was discouraged at the lack of progress he was seeing in his own ministry and thought about calling it quits. He probably thought the Lord messed up the paperwork and accidentally gave him a ministry meant for someone else.

But Paul had a simple message for Archippus -- and for us, too: Keep going.

See to it that you push past those moments when you feel like giving up.

See to it that you embrace the fact that finishing is hard and that easy is not the goal.

See to it that you meet the need that God has called you to fill.

Where can you serve? Who can you serve? Your family, your friends, your coworkers, your church, your community -- collectively, they all make up the ministry that is your life and mine. When you look around, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to be a part of what God is doing around you!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Putting On A New Wardrobe

These couple verses have been at the forefront of my mind for the past couple weeks and here's what I've been learning as I reflect on them:

1. “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved...”

I love what this says. Before anything else, God wants us to know who we are. Before we take another step, before we take action, He wants us to remember that He chose us. We are not an accident. God didn’t settle for us. He wants us. He did, He does and He always will. We are holy. When we enter a relationship with Jesus, we are made new and set apart. We are dearly loved. And God doesn’t just say it, he put His love into action through Jesus.

God already determined who you are and, more importantly, whose you are -- before you did a single thing or said a single word. Chosen. Holy. Loved. Our actions do not define us -- God does. Our actions do not form our identity, they flow from our identity. 

2. “... clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience...”

Now that God has shown us who we are in Christ, we must respond. We have to exchange our old wardrobe of habits for a new wardrobe, complete with a new set of virtues.

I don’t know about you, but patience is not my default during inconvenient circumstances (Put me on the expressway in Miami during rush hour and try me!). It’s not easy to be compassionate when a friend lets you down. It’s not easy to be kind to the cable company call center guy who refuses to meet your simple requests (like this guy).

But yet, we are called to follow Christ’s example. That requires an intentional effort from the moment we get out of bed and out the door to the moment our heads hit the pillow at night to be compassionate and patient. Kind and humble. Gentle and patient.

There is no one who showed compassion better than Jesus, who healed two blind men desperate for healing even though the crowds told them to be quiet.

There is no one who displayed kindness and gentleness like Jesus, who extended grace, forgiveness and healing to people who normally would be afterthoughts during His time.

There is no one who modeled humility better than Jesus, who washed the feet of His own disciples and submitted to to the will of the Father even in the face of excruciating pain.

There is no one more patient than Jesus, whose disciples sometimes had a hard time “getting it” when it came to what Jesus was trying to teach them.

3. “... And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

But compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are useless without one thing: love. Love is the string that ties all of these virtues together. It also binds us together, too. Love unites us and tears down the walls that divide us.

It was because God loved us that He sent Jesus to save us. It was because He first loved us that we are able to love others. God is love.

Without love, nothing else matters and every effort to live the life we are called to live would fall apart.

What do you take away from these verses?