Prosper

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven.” Prov 17:9

Lately I have been spending a good deal of my time thinking about relationships. The highs and the lows of relationships and the various forms they take. I have even been thinking about broken relationships. Here is what I have found to be true.

Relationships are messy.

Relationships can leave you bruised and beaten.

Sometimes it feels like you are in the trenches and never gaining any ground.

However, despite all of the heartache and pain, relationships can be the singular most beautiful aspect of life that we experience. Relating to other people in ways that cause us to sacrifice our wants and needs, to give of ourselves unselfishly and freely, is a picture of the kind of love Jesus tried to show us when he walked the deserts of the Middle East.

But sometimes we don’t love this way. We feel slighted by the other person and treat them with malice and ill intent as punishment for what they have done to us. We were created to love. We can aspire to love, but we can just as easily aspire to hate. Why?

Because we have been jaded by someone.

We have been hurt.

We have been treated with hostility and anger, spoken to in degrading tones, and those words have entered into our thoughts and minds like venom from a snake bite.

We have not been treated like we wish to be treated, so why would we treat others with love and kindness? Why should I sacrifice for you when you will not sacrifice for me? As I grow older I realize the old adage, “you reap what you sow”, holds a wealth of truth.

Imagine two gardens planted by different men. One garden is haphazardly planted. The rows are crooked, the ground hasn’t been turned and the weeds are so thick you can’t even tell where the tomato plants begin. The air is thick with the stench of rotting vegetables and the plants are wilted from lack of water.

However, the other garden is pristine. It looks like it belongs on the front page of a magazine. The rows are exactly two feet apart. The ground is so soft your feet sink into the soil. The plants are fertilized and watered on a schedule that could rival a production line. There are no weeds, just lush vegetation. The air smells of tomatoes, green beans and cucumbers. The whole neighborhood enjoys the spoils of this garden.

Which garden would you want to have? Would you want the garden with vegetables rotting on the vine or the garden of your dreams?

Naturally we want the garden that is beautiful and produces good fruit, but to achieve this we have to work at it. Nobody sees the hours our fictional old man spends weeding, watering, pruning and picking his garden. We don’t see the labor of love he puts into it. We don’t see the value he has placed upon this garden.

We want the good garden, but our actions say we are content with the rotting one.

We desire a fantastic marriage, yet we treat our spouse with indifference. We no longer see the love of our life standing in front of us. Instead, we see a person with faults and problems who only cares about themselves. We no longer see the value in the person we couldn’t live without.

We want our kids to be the best they can be, but we degrade them and never speak encouragement into their lives. We constantly yell at them, fight with them and bully them into submission. We, the parents, have the perfect path planned for them, yet we forget they are unique individuals with their own path to walk. Our job as parents is to help them find that path, not force them on one they were never meant to walk.

Negativity breeds negativity.

Jealousy breeds jealousy.

Hate breeds hate.

Nobody wants hate in their life, yet they let it in by the way they treat people. I understand being hurt and wanting justification. I understand treating people the same way we have been treated, but doing that only continues the cycle of hate and anger.

Love calls me to pour good things into those around me.

Love calls me to show hope to the hopeless.

Love calls me to encourage the destitute and to heal the broken.

Love calls me to go deeper, to go higher and to go farther into the heartaches and pains of people around me.

I am willing to sow into people exponentially and to see the fruits spring forth. I am willing to get my hands dirty and fight in the trenches for my relationships. I am no longer satisfied with the rotting, stinking gardens that we have become so accustomed to.

I want the good garden.

I want to prosper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Love”

Perhaps love is a symbol of things beyond ourselves.

Some will forget it completely, like old photographs on a shelf.

Still some adhere to its principles, for the meaning that it holds,

without ever understanding its essence for it is all just a show.

Some refuse it completely, locking themselves away,

they choose to be swallowed by the night, forsaking the light of day.

Love is a marvelous mystery we will never fully comprehend,

it drives us toward each other, and may soon be our end.

What is love to me?

How can I explain?

Is it rules?

Is it forgotten? A door to a higher plane?

Perhaps, if I may, steal a few lines,

of what love means to me and how it’s changed over time.

Love is a feeling, deep inside the chest,

starting in the center and flowing out to the rest.

Love is a shifting moving sphere of fantastic energy,

guiding us all through life, bringing you to me.

Love is a word!

A touch!

A smile that brightens the heart!

It is an ever-burning ember just waiting for a spark.

It propels us and it moves us to do magnificent things.

Love is the one you’re lying next to, the song you are meant to sing.

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

But above all else…

Love always thinks of others, not just of itself.

What Wakes You

Friends, I must admit… It’s been entirely too long since the last time you heard from me. This was no one’s fault but my own, for I lost sight of why I started writing.

I became drunk with pride.

Hungry for attention.

Longing for praise.

I started this blog just a little over a year ago as a creative outlet for my ideas and thoughts, stories, and music. My private journal was no longer enough. I had a desire to share what I was writing. I longed for the excitement of writing something that would help someone in some way. Perhaps cause a smile or a laugh, a new perspective on life, or even an awakening of the soul.

For awhile things were going magnificently. Ideas were flowing into my mind and through my fingers like a babbling brook filled with new snow melt. I was enjoying the process of my writing, listening to God’s voice and what He wished me to say. I was in love with it all….

But soon, my dream turned into a nightmare. I began to look at the counter more and more. I began to write with the intent of reaching the masses, instead of writing for the love of the craft. I somehow acquired tunnel vision. I only focused on getting more views.

More views meant I was successful.

More views meant I was a great writer.

More views meant I was better than other writers.

Notice a trend?

I became selfish.

I became arrogant.

I became egotistical.

In short, I became everything I never wanted to be. A greedy, selfish, arrogant man. I was disgusted with myself. So I quit.

I was finished. Done… But God wasn’t done with me.

2014 is dead and gone. A new year has come and with it new challenges and changes. It’s terrifying, but at the same time exhilerating.

It means a clean slate.

It means a fresh start.

It means new beginnings.

2014 was a time of shedding off some excess baggage.

A time of growth and humility. A time to wait and listen.

A time to abide in Him, and to understand His heart again.

God has shown His grace to me in so many ways this past year. I have a heart full of thankfulness, but perhaps the most miraculous thing He has done was remind me just exactly who I am and why I write.

I am good.

I am loved.

I am the pearl of great price.

I am His son.

I do not write for fame, or numbers on a counter, or satisfaction from earthly words.

“The best thing you can do for your fellow, next to rousing his conscience, is — not to give him things to think about, but to wake things up that are in him; or say, to make him think things for himself.”
― George MacDonald, A Dish of Orts

I write because He has placed a desire upon my heart to share with you what is in mine. I write because through what I say, maybe you will see a piece of yourself and hope will be rekindled, a spark will be lit, or the flame of a dream will burn brighter.

He makes my dreams fully realized and more beautiful than I could ever imagine. Yours are no exception.

You are good.

He loves you.

You have immeasurable potential.

You are the pearl of great price.

It’s a new year. A new season. A new start.

Let us walk this path together. Let us learn from each other. Let us live life with passion.

But most importantly… Let us love.

A Barnabas

The young man stares out into the horizon on a warm summer’s night on the Mediterranean Sea hoping this ship he has found passage on will take him far away from his pain. Far away from his shame and failure; from his mistake.

He listens to the lap of the waves on the aged wood, the creak of the weathered sails, the smell of the salt in the air. He tries to absorb it all, to feel everything all at once so he cannot focus on what he has done. He cannot afford to or the shame will crush him, but the thoughts burn through his mind like a hot flame.

He thinks of his family and his insides burn with guilt. They were so proud. So proud of the man he was becoming and the opportunity that had been given him. He could still feel the strength of his father’s arms as they embraced before he started on his journey. He could even see his mother’s tears as she watched her little boy leave to become a man. But now he was coming home disgraced. He was a failure.

What would they say? Dare he face them? Could he even be called a son anymore or would he be treated as one of the lepers? As an outcast. The thought is too painful to ruminate upon. He must think of other things.

He remembers a little girl he met on one of their travels. She was hungry, dirty, and in need of help. Paul had been busy attending to local church matters, so he went to the little girl. She was shy at first, but her hunger for the bread in his hand soon overpowered her shyness, and she warmed up to him. Her name was Lila and his heart is warmed by memories of her. How she held his hand and called him her best friend. Children are precious he thinks as his lips form into a smile and tears wet his eyes… If only he could have overcome his fear just as Lila had overcome hers.

Fear. He had always been afraid as a child. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of the animals. Afraid of his father’s anger. Always afraid of something he could not control. He surprised his family and himself when he agreed to go with Paul. Paul was his opposite. Where he was fearful, Paul was courageous. Where he was doubtful, Paul was optimistic. Wherever he was lacking, Paul was overflowing.

But after all the struggles and the advice and the encouragement, he had still given up. He had turned his back and ran. That was what he was doing now. Running. Running away from it all. Running away from his mistakes…. Or so he thought.

“This is your stop kid.” The young man jolts out of his trance and looks around him. He was so deep in thought he didn’t even realize the familiar shape of the shores surrounding his home. After all, it had only been six months since he last saw them, it wasn’t like he had become a stranger to his home during that time. “Time to get off the boat kid,” the helmsman says again. He’s eyeing me warily like I have a disease. I wonder if my shame is visible. Perhaps I have some sign that describes all of my negative qualities or maybe my cowardice is just that noticeable.

The boat gently glides into the harbor and I cautiously make the step from boat to dock. I do not move for a breath. I can still get back on the boat and run even farther away from my problems. Anything would be better than enduring the scorn and ridicule that is sure to come from my family and the townspeople. I have decided to get back on the boat and become a sailor. I’ll trade passage for work. I am about to take a step back onto this vessel I have come to know as my refuge when I hear my name. I freeze.

“John Mark.” I do not recognize that voice. My heart is beating wildly and I am petrified with fear. Who is this?

“John Mark.” My name again. I slowly turn around to face this disembodied voice and to see who has walked into my life.
I see an older man with deep brown eyes and a soft, kind face behind a snow-white beard. Instantly, I am content. I feel safe.

“Who are you,” I ask with one foot in the boat and the other on the dock. As I wait for the answer from this stranger I feel a sudden weight upon my shoulders, as if this very moment were predestined before time to happen and my choice will end my life or allow it to begin again.

“John Mark,” the stranger says with a paternal smile,  “My name is Barnabas and I am here to help you.” “Help?” I say fast and sharp. “I do not need any help.” His eyes never leave mine, as if he is staring into my very soul. I feel like I am being examined by this man. Every thing I have ever done is on display for him to view and I am powerless to stop it. He knows what I have done, I think to myself.

“John Mark you are not a failure.” He’s still  looking at me. “You are loved. You are important. You have a purpose to fulfill, and I can help you find it, just come with me.” He extends his hand as an invitation. “Get off the boat John Mark and let me encourage you. Let me help you.” His eyes are still on mine. HIs hand is still outstretched. Genuine love and concern is pouring from his body.

I look down. I look up. I look anywhere so I don’t have to look at him. His words are ringing in my ears. You are loved. You are important. You have purpose. I look back into those kind eyes and I surrender. I surrender my guilt, shame, fear, and self-hatred to the Creator. I will let Him say who I am. I am His child.

I take Barnabas’s hand and he pulls me up onto the dock. He gives me a pat on the back and we head into the city. Into the unknown. Into the future.

“Everybody needs a little help John Mark,” he says with a wink and a smile. I smile back and for the first time in a long time I feel hope.

“36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.” (Acts 15:36-40 ESV)

In every mistake and in every failure there is always someone in our lives who is like Barnabas. Someone who sticks with us through thick and thin, who believes in us despite our own unbelief in ourselves, and who lifts us up when we can’t. They hear what the naysayers say about us and they hear all the negative things, but they are still there for us.

Still encouraging us.

Still cheering us on.

John Mark made a mistake. It was a big enough mistake that Paul lost confidence in John Mark. In Paul’s eyes, John Mark was no good.

Not dependable.

Worthless.

Useless.

But Barnabas saw John Mark’s potential. He saw what John Mark could become. The integrity that was still there and the force that God could use for good. So Barnabas believed in John Mark and he encouraged him. He helped him see what he truly was.

John Mark was dependable.

He did have worth.

He was useful.

And eventually, Paul came around too.

“Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” (2 Tim 4:11 ESV)

You fell.

You made a mistake.

You messed up.

Don’t worry. It’s all going to be alright. Keep your head up. A Barnabas is coming and you will realize your potential and just what you are capable of.

 

 

 

Tip of the Fingers

a.aaa-Never-Giving-Up

So you’ve fallen.

Perhaps an opportunity came and you missed it. You missed your shot. Your one chance to shine.

Maybe you were doing good. Everything was going your way and then someone slammed the door in your face. You were left out in the cold rain with no umbrella or coat.

So you’ve fallen. After you told yourself you would never fall again you find yourself face first in the dirt. It’s in your mouth, on your clothes, under your finger nails… It’s everywhere. Everyone who looks at you knows what has happened. Even after you pick yourself up the dirt is sill on you. It’s like a huge billboard screaming to the world, “look at me! I messed up!”

So you’ve fallen

It hurts.

It’s humiliating.

It isn’t fair…. Guess what?

It’s no big deal.

Everybody does it.

It’s normal.

It’s normal to fall. It is a part of life. We fall as babies when we take our first steps and we fall as adults even though we don’t want to admit it. Why though? Why are we so afraid to admit it?

Because admitting we fall acknowledges our imperfections. It acknowledges the stuff we don’t want people to see.

That we don’t have it all together.

That we’re not as smart as we claim.

That we are in fact scared to death of the future.

Admitting we fall admits our own shortcomings…. Acknowledging that we need help.

But the beauty of falling is in the rising. We can’t choose how we fall, but we can choose how we rise. Will we continue to lie in the mud, face down and still as we try to avoid our shame? Or will we scramble for the finish line on our hands and knees because what we have fallen for is that important to us? Will we pick ourselves up out of the muck and try again? Or will we never try because we are afraid of ridicule and judgement?

No one ever accomplished anything by staying still. Greatness does not flow from those who have never been to the point of giving up.

It takes action.

It takes force.

It takes a leap of faith.

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So you’ve fallen or you’re still on the edge of the abyss trying to make the leap. Wherever you are, know you are not alone. We are all in this together.

I’m not giving up and neither will you. How do I know this? Because I know the human spirit. I know what we are capable of when we surrender to something greater than ourselves and move in spite of our weakness. For it is when we fall we see what we are made of.

So if your dream has been put on hold or a window of opportunity has been shut, do not give up. Do not think this is the end of your dream, because it isn’t.

It is just the beginning. Don’t give up. Crawl to the finish line. Make sure you keep trying and if you fall… Try again.

Do not give up on the burning desire inside of your heart, because you need it to come to fruition to satisfy your soul.

You need it.

I need it.

The world needs it.

So you’ve fallen…. How you rise is up to you.

Mirage

One of life’s greatest gifts is the joy of relationships. Intimate bonding between two people does the soul good and friends make the heart happy. Friends lift us up when we fall and bring us down to reality when we get to high. They keep us in check and even though they may annoy us, we secretly are grateful for them and their concern.

I say all this because this post was inspired by a very close friend of mine who shared with me pearls of wisdom and love that I couldn’t just keep to myself.

It helped me and I pray it helps you as well.

The other day was a terrible day for me. One of those days where you wake up late and then the snowball gets bigger. Nothing was going right and I was ready to pull my hair out. It seemed life had played a cruel joke on me and was pointing its finger and laughing. My day had turned to darkness and I was afraid I would lose my way.

Now, if you have ever felt like this just nod your head at your computer screen so I will know we are on the same page.

Basically, I was losing it. And not the good kind where everyone starts dancing Ferris Bueller style in downtown Chicago, but the bad kind. The put me in a straight jacket and send me to Arkham Asylum kind… Yeah, it was scary.

But I have this wonderful person in my life who patiently listened to my rant and then said this…

“Cody, there are mirages all along the way to the ocean.”

Powerful.

Earth-shattering.

The air rushed out of my lungs, the proverbial light bulb clicked on, and angels started to sing. This was the drop of water to my scorched, dry tongue that I so desperately needed. I have been stuck in the desert for quite some time. Trying to figure out my purpose in this life and chasing my dream of being a musician and writer.

But dreaming comes with a price. You cannot count the cost, for if you did, you wouldn’t start the dream. Life takes its sweet time and things do not just happen all at once. It comes with sacrifice and tears. Through pain and heartache our deepest desires are realized. It is in those moments we understand exactly what we are made of.

In the desert, mirages crop up along the way. They offer us the illusion of rest and shelter. Playing cruel tricks on our minds that we have finally found paradise, but there is nothing to be found. No substance. It is fake. The vision may look promising and you might think this is where you belong, but it isn’t. You soon find it was no more than sand in disguise. So you keep wandering in the desert praying for rain that never comes.

Keep going.

Keep dreaming.

I know it’s hot and you’re thirsty and you just want to quit, but don’t give up. Don’t settle for the mirage when you can have the ocean. I know you can’t see it, but it is just up ahead and once you reach it, you can submerge yourself in the Father’s love and grace. You can rest in His arms at your final destination.

Life is waiting.

Go for it.

 

 

Ten Things That Happen at Easter Musicals

Another Easter come and gone, eggs have been found, and the world’s chocolate bunny population has decreased by one hundred percent. May they hop in peace. Churches all across America have put on their Easter programs to critical acclaim and standing ovations. So, in the spirit of all things wondrous and good and since I was a part of an Easter program this weekend, I give you the top ten list!!

Enjoy

1. Costumes!

Remember when you were a kid and dressed up all the time with whatever you could find? Welcome to biblical Jerusalem, where everyone wears mismatched sheets and pillow cases! Nothing like a hot pink head covering to make the shepherds envy you.

2. Sandals or No Sandals?

Would Mary and Martha have worn designer sandals with flowers on them as they followed Jesus to Lazarus’s grave? No? Are you sure? But they look sooooooo cute! Fine, bare feet it is then.

3. Lines!!!

“Let he who is with sin cast the first stone…” Wait, did I say with? I meant without. Without!!! Drop the stones you bunch of sinners!!!!

4. Bring the Smelling Salts

Someone will always pass out in a production, whether it’s the thief on the cross or a woman in the crowd, somebody is going down and it won’t be pretty… Just say the Spirit fell upon you in a mighty way and all will be forgiven.

5. Choir or Crowd?

Scene 2, Act 8

Jesus heals… someone. Do we get in choir formation or crowd formation? Oh, this is where we freeze? Hey Jesus! Since you’re the only one moving can you come over here and scratch my nose? Ahhhhhh, praise the Lord!!!

6. Who’s Missing?

There is always that one person who misses practice, but luckily that is what the pastor is for. We’re missing our adulterous woman… and the blind man… and the sick girl. Have no fear, the preacher is here!

7. Timing

Okay guys we have exactly five minutes and two seconds for Jesus to disrobe, be bludgeoned, and hang on the cross. No pressure, but there are four hundred people out there waiting for their sins to be cleansed Jesus. Hurry people, hurry!!! One minute!

8. Un-mute It!

You do an I-formation handoff with the headset mic, somehow it gets muted, and you sing your solo with no volume…. Don’t worry I’ll project my voice over the music and hopefully more than just the front row will hear me… Oh me. Why did I hit mute?

9. Make It Real

In an attempt to be as authentic as possible, Jesus and the thieves are put into skin-tight body suits with fake blood applied EVERYWHERE!! And look like you are in pain and agony. You know what? Just try to die as real as humanly possible

10. Jesus Lives!!!

What you didn’t see this coming?! We shortened 3 days into 3 minutes and Jesus is squeaky clean with perfectly perfect hair. He’s alive! Death is defeated and my chains are gone…. It’s a good day.

Keep hopping my peeps.

 

Thanks to the crew at First Assembly of God for inspiring this list and putting together an amazing production. You rock!

 

Deathly Life

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

-Mark  Twain

Death comes to us all. We cannot escape it, nor can we run from it. Death will find us whether we welcome it like an old friend or reject it like the cancer it is, clinging to the last breath that leaves our malfunctioning lungs and hoping it will pass over to the next room. We are not invincible, though our minds tell us so. We are light and shadow and dust; nothing more. We are held by invisible strings. The Creator is holding us above the deep chasm of death and the only thing keeping us erect is His unfailing love for His creation. But soon, time will run her course and our bodies will wear thin and decay back to the ground from whence they came. It is inevitable.

The fear and stigma surrounding death only comes from the fear and stigma surrounding life. We are creatures of habit, afraid of change and always wanting some kind of consistency to the chaos we see around us. So we settle in life. We become that which we said we would never be. We do not take risks, for that would complicate the safe castles we have built for ourselves. Instead, we follow the rules. We follow the predetermined paths laid out before us, never forging our own way to see what might be beyond the safety of our own backyard, and all the while death is creeping along with us.

We fear that which we do not understand. We fear change because we do not understand why there must be a constant state of change. Why can we not stay the same? Because God has not called us into normality, of blacks and grays and whites, but into a world of color and grandeur. A world where we are constantly growing, stretching and molding ourselves into His likeness.

We fear rejection because we do not understand why people are so cruel. Why am I not accepted? Is it not the harshest teachers that teach us the most valuable lessons? Our validation of who we are does not depend upon people’s opinions or assumptions about us. Your validation and my validation comes from within. From what you know of yourself to be true and what God himself has whispered to the far corners of your heart.

This is why we fear death. Fear is all we know. How can we expect to meet the final chapter of our lives with some form of closure if we are afraid to even turn the page?

Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.

– Helen Keller

This is why we should not be afraid. Death is no more than a walk through the house. Passing into different rooms to make sure the lights are off and everything is where it should be. We cannot begin the journey unless everything is taken care of before hand. We know what will happen in the final stages of our lives, but we do not have to be afraid, because in that other room we pass into we shall be able to see. How glorious, how beautiful that statement is!

A woman blind and deaf from birth was not afraid of death because she knew once she passed into the other room, crossed the threshold, made the voyage across the sea, her blinded eyes would see and her deaf ears would hear for the first time. Oh, to have been there that day and witness the beauty that is God and the love that encompasses Him.

Just imagine the wonder of knowing the final redemption is awaiting you once you step foot into that world. You will be at one with the Creator. You will be at peace. You will be at home.

To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.

– J.K. Rowling

Is not our lives one adventure after another? We are born and our adventure starts. The pages of our life are waiting to be written. From our first steps, to our first kiss, to mistakes made and words said, to places visited and dreams shattered and made new, to love and marriage and parenthood, the story of our lives is being written by everything we do. Every choice, every action, and every word tells our story.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

What do you want your story to say? Do you want to live a life of fear? Or do you want to live a purpose driven life? The choice is up to you. Do not let fear control your life and what you do with it. Realize your potential and rise up to it. Do not be afraid, for what is there to fear? Be who you were meant to be and live your life fully.

Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.
-Marianne Williamson