Turmoil and Teriyaki

You're in your car, speeding along a stretch of narrow highway.  Your favorite music is playing, windows down with the cool breeze kissing your cheeks, when you think to yourself, "Nothing could be better than this." Life has truly settled into something blissful. Surely nothing could ruin such a perfect day.

A bit of time rolls by as a slow fog meanders lethargically onto the path you're headed, but it seems tame enough, so why not keep going?  Breaking through the cloudy air chills crawl across your skin as the temperature dramatically drops, prompting you to roll up the windows.  Time that seemed to pass so steadily now begins to slow to a crawl. You begin to think of where your exit is, yet the fog has shrouded any visibility than what is immediately in front of your vehicle. Wait... what was your exit? You search desperately for your phone to see if you can pull over to get any bearings as you feel a panic start to shove your heart into the bottom of your throat. "Where am I, where was I even going? " you ask out loud in frustration, confused and scared from your sudden loss of location.  "There!" You find your phone wedged between your seat and arm rest, prompting you to immediately maneuver off of the road. You press the home button to immediately receive nothing in return, no light, and no click, only a deep, gaping blackness staring back at you. "Where was I going?... I know, if I could just remember... remember, where I came from... where did I come from? I, can't even remember where I came from..."  Your heart is now resting in the pit of your stomach as you look in the rearview mirror, fixing your gaze upon a complete stranger. Quietly you utter, "Who is that? Who am I?"

This is what grief can feel like. It eerily creeps onto you and swallows you up, making you lose any sense of bearings or identity. It doesn't choose favorites, and though it always has a familiar air, it always comes in a different package.

Sadly, we all will have to face it at one time or another.

Now, I'm not saying all of this to try and be depressing, this entry is quite the opposite. I'm here to present to you something hopeful to fill you with courage and strength. I've seen this road many times, whether it be from the loss of a friend, family member, relationship, friendship, career opportunity, whatever; it's come to me so often I could have adopted that stretch of highway (years ago I might have even lived under an overpass), but I can sit here and tell you confidently that it does get better, and there is a hope closer than you think. 

First off, to all of my fellow men reading this, if you need to cry, have no shame. Let's be honest though, it's definitely ok to be picky about who you decide to do that around, but there is absolutely no shame in it. I look at tears and the heart kindred to the relationship of vomiting to the stomach (stay with me here). Let's look at a case study of how we're designed to handle food poisoning.

Let's imagine you're out with your friends one night and you decide to get some chicken teriyaki from Teriyaki House (this may or may not be a true story). You and your roommate both order the Teriyaki Chicken Bowl with brown rice, and begin to desperately shovel the cheap but seemingly healthy food down your gullet. You're tired, have class the next day, and now just want to crawl into your twin bed and sleep off your achingly full stomach. You think back as you lay your head against your pillow, "Something tasted a bit off, but that's fine, let's not let that get between me and a solid night of uh oh.  Uh...uh oh...oh no..." Your eyes shoot open faster than the blinds in a budget hotel and you fly out of bed holding your mouth, adrenaline pumping as you dash down the hallway and slam into the restroom door where you can hear the tormented echoes of your roommate who's fate came quicker than your own. You fight the urge, but sadly you seal your fate by reaching for the trashcan. I know this is a long, rather awkward description, but it lends itself to the fact that if you would have managed to fight the food back down, the virus would have spread and you very well may have been sick much longer than you would have liked. The same goes for tears and heartache... If you hold it in it tends to last much longer than you'd want, leading to more confusion, and, if you're anything like me, can also lead to misplaced frustration and anger. So, morale of the story guys (and gals), let it out, and don't eat at Teriyaki House...

So now you're a weeping mess and don't know what to do other than grunt and moan as you lay belly down on your freshly cleaned carpet, what now? Stop, just for a moment. You don't have to stop feeling or crying, but just take a second amidst the storm to pause. Don't get mad at your thoughts, don't try to justify anything, don't get upset at the fact that you're even upset. Just take a moment to stop. 

Now, gently sit up and lean against something. Continue to let yourself let it all out, but when you feel the storm break, ask yourself, "Who am I?" What's the answer that you get? Is it a torrential downpour of negative thoughts, or is it something quiet and still? To be honest, this is where I was going to insert scriptures to think and meditate on, but really in this moment absolutely nothing can make sense; all you can see is the pain you're in. But what I've found that has worked for me is to choose to quiet yourself once you've run out of tears, and speak to God in your most honest, and sincere way. If you need to swear, then swear, if you need to yell, then yell, if you flip off the sky in enraged animosity, He can certainly take it. But ask Him who He says you are. Grab a pen and paper, and write what you think He's telling you.  

When you write, filter everything out by the character of God.  1 John 4:8 (NLT) says, "But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love." Let's stick with this one scripture and just say, "Ok, so God is love, what does that even look like?"

1 Corinthians 13:4-7(NLT) - "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 

So...if God is love, and these are all descriptors of the word, then you must conclude that if God is speaking to you the words that you will be writing down will be FOR you, not against you. He's not going to criticize or manipulate you, and is not happy that you're having to walk out anything this unbearable. He's there, sitting with you, crying with you, feeling every bit of pain that you are.

Practice writing down who He says you are, where He says you're going, and know that anytime God speaks about your future He does it with hope, and that's a hope born from an eternal perspective to see what we don't.

Romans 8:28 (NLT) - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."

Jeremiah 29:11 - 13 - "'For I know that plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'"

It's important to grasp who He says that you are, because it's within that identity that your heart can begin to find rest. You can begin to hope for a new day, and see that though your soul may be in utter turmoil now, that pain will inevitably have an end. There will be a brighter day for you, and it's closer than you may think. 

Please understand, none of this is meant to be "Phillip's quick fix for heartache".  The heart can be unpredictable and everyone experiences different levels of grief in different ways. If you think you need to see a counselor than by all means, go see one. If you need to talk to a close friend or pastor to vent, then of course, carry on. But what I am trying to say is that you're not alone, there is hope over the horizon, and though it may not seem tangible, and can hardly be seen from behind your tears, it is there. 

So if you're in the fog on your highway, pull over. Know that it's ok to not know, or remember, or even have any semblance of peace. Know that it's ok to feel what you feel, and find a moment to be still, and don't try and remember who you are, let God fill in that blank for you.

It's from His perspective of love that you can truly begin to stop trying to heal, and start beginning to hope.

It's all going to be ok.



Scriptures I meditate on for hope: 

Psalm 3:3-6 - "But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side."

Jeremiah 29:11 - 13 - "'For I know that plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'"

Zephaniah 3:17 - "The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but (He) will rejoice over you with singing." 

Romans 8:28 - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."

Romans 15:13 - "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Psalm 39:7 - "But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you."

2 Corinthians 4:17 - 18 - "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 

Romans 8:18 - "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

Lamentations 3:21 -23 - "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning: great is Your (His) faithfulness."

Scriptures I meditate on for courage :

Psalm 56:3 - 4 - "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose Word I praise - in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?"

Isaiah 41:10 - "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Isaiah 41:13 - "For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'"





Jet Lag and Giant Birds

I recently just wrapped up a month long tour in Europe. It was beautiful, captivating, and many a time beyond words. I found myself falling in love with the various cultures and people, making new friends with every city I stepped foot into. Yet, when it was all said and done, all I could imagine was my very own bed for me to gloriously face plant into. 

So, here we were, all packed up and at the airport. My large group dwindled from many to few as we all said our goodbyes 'til the next adventure. Navigating Heathrow airport wasn't so difficult this time, with very few turns and stops, but there was still a frantic race against time to make my gate. I sprinted because the ticketing counter had held us for much too long with vigorous discussion about allowing instruments on the plane. I may have unintentionally collided with more than my fair share of fellow passengers as I bulldozed through droves of people, mimicking a linebacker plowing into the other linemen to tackle the quarterback, but then kept running because he realized he had forgotten he had to use the restroom. Breathing frantically whilst a disheveled mess I had made my gate, handed my ticket over and made my way to what would be my bed for the next twelve hours. 

While awkwardly scooting through the long, tight seat aisles of seats, something felt strange, off and ominous, as if there was a presence looming over me to beckon my attention the whole flight; yet I couldn't pin what was giving me the terrible feeling.  Was it the middle seat that I was settling into?  No, with a glass of wine I should be asleep in no time.  Was it the snappy flight giving me attitude because I am American? No, I've definitely handled that before. What could it be? Then it dawned on me, the rustling of packed lunches, the high pitched laughter, the array of various crayons spilling into the aisle.. I had found myself placed in front of three children, with parents who had clearly stopped trying to bring peace about two hours before they even arrived at the airport.  

I figured, "Alright, well it'll be ok, they'll be asleep in no time."  But loaded up on sugar, they began to prod and kick each other in a rhythmic dance of shouts and elementary slurs; the victim caught in the middle being the back of my seat.  They'd rip the controller from under the seat monitor and try and shove it in over and over again to no avail. They would grip the back of my seat to get up and would pull my hair because it was leverage. They'd reach through the seat and try and push my arm off so that they could get a space for their feet. I may have dreamed of some magnificent bird creature colliding with our plane, ripping a hole in the roof and yanking the whole family out, carrying them to another destination far away from ours, but I kept it together. Fast forward to twelve hours later where I found myself an even bigger mess, ready to almost collapse while standing from fatigue alone (that and the three glasses of wine that had absolutely no affect on the plane against the rambunctiousness of these children).  I couldn't fault them, they're kids, they honestly didn't know any better, and the parents were clearly at the end of their rope. I was agitated, but chose to face my next nemesis cresting its ugly smile over the horizon.  Jet lag, here I come.

One of my roommates arrives and we head home. I vent my agitation from the trip over the cadence of honking horns and agitated yells from surrounding Los Angeles traffic, and before I know it, we were all caught up and I was back in my apartment. Man...only 8 o clock at night.  I was determined to try and be in bed by 1am to try and get a jump on jet lag not catching up to me, but something interesting happened. I devoured my In n Out burger and sat on the couch for a good hour, but my eyelids, they were so heavy it felt like my face needed to be a power lifter to keep them even slightly open. Somehow I dragged myself up the stairs and into my bed, cuddled with my little pup. Next thing I know, I'm opening my eyes, and it's 9am. What?! Where did the time go? This was a little too strange... 

So, that day passes, and just when I'm ready to fight jet lag again, I'm in bed before 2am, and up and about around 9am again.  Rinse and repeat just about every single day for a week... How strange.  I've NEVER had to not fight jet lag.  Maybe I'm just that acclimated to travel? Or perhaps I have learned some freakish mutant ability to lull myself to sleep? Oh crap. Wait... Those kids.  They kept me up the whole flight, pushing me past the point of exhaustion, and that tallied up to what? Apparently it tallied up to me conquering jet lag in one day. These children were the terrible ushers of magnificent blessing. Because of their terrible ability to irritate I was immediately back into riding my normal time zone back home. 

Once I realized this I couldn't help but laugh to myself, but that's when I felt wisdom trickle onto my mind (that or I was standing too close to an open rain gutter). How many times do we walk through terrible things in our own lives, feeling as if they never end, and somehow that situation has prepared us for something even greater? How many times do we neglect to realize that the terrible season we're presently walking through is all setup to prepare us for an extremely positive outcome in our favor?

Jeremiah 29:11 says "For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

I've come to learn that though I'm in a terrible situation, I'm never going to stop in it. I'm not going to stop until that situation evolves into something good. I remember listening to a sermon by Kris Vallotton from Bethel Church, where he brings up Psalm 23:4, "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me..." He mentions that we walk through it, not sit and setup camp there. And he's absolutely right. When we're in our toughest moments we need to realize that we're not done yet, not according to God. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."  Did you catch that? God works all things for good.  He works all things, good, bad, awesome, terrible. So, if it's not good yet, keep going because you're not done.

Are you walking out heart break? If it's not a good thing yet then you're not done, and it's on its way. Are you suffering from a sickness or medical issue? If it's not good yet then you and God aren't done. Keep in mind, I definitely understand the depth to many terrible things that could be happening, but what I'm hoping to do is instill hope that you can grasp onto. There will be a better day, and though it may not feel immediate, it can and will come. That may even just be in how you decide to view your situation. Maybe even stepping away and taking a second to analyze it from the outside in, things aren't as bad as you thought they were.

Just like those kids being annoying destroyed my jet lag, your situation could be what propels you into something great. Wherever you are today, take a moment to consider that you have something good on the way. You have something amazing at your door step, and though that may seem ages away, it still is on it's way. Take some time and just breathe, realize that you are worth something good coming your way. You are worth a blessing, a miracle, love that you felt has been missing. 

Carry that with you this week. And even carry it with you into interactions with others. If someone treats you badly, look at things from their perspective and realize, maybe they are waiting for that positive outcome in their own life. Heck, what if you're it. What if your mess has come along to help you become aware of the pain others are going through? Maybe your freedom is in helping someone else find theirs. Either way, that is a topic for another time.

Have a great week!


Where's the Love Gone?

I'm sitting here, basking in the aftermath of an eclipse, listening to the President address the nation. Listening to him speak and articulate a well written speech that seems to hold well to his role.  This past week has been difficult, with the marches for statues with controversial pasts, to the looming threat of nuclear war from North Korea, to politicians on Capital Hill being accused of being racist, to the terrible act of terrorism that occurred in Spain; it's been one thing after the other.  Yet, earlier today I saw a news headline that read something along the lines of "Solar Eclipse Makes America Stop and Stand Together,"  and you know what?...I think that was absolutely right.  For just a few minutes today everything stopped because we were all so busy looking at something beautiful that was happening outside of all of our situations.  There was nothing we could do except to stop and admire the beauty of our infinite galaxy.  We were involuntarily taking place in a ballet that has been happening long before we've had the technology to see where we even stood on the dance floor.  The sun stood still, and the moon arrived and left in what felt like a single breath; and so have we, back to conflict, back to fear, back to hating one group or the other...

It really all is so...brutal.  

Luke 6:31 - "Do to others as you would have them do to you."

Luke 6:35 - "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back."

Mark 12:31 - "...'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment great than these."

We've all heard these scriptures.  We've basked in the childlike innocence of wonder when thinking of loving someone who said something nasty to you, or blessing someone that hurt you, but what about if they're marching on your doorstep telling you that your whole existence doesn't matter?  What if you feel scared or frightened that your skin color has isolated you because of a history that you personally had nothing to do with?  What if someone voted for a President that, when he spoke, felt like he was immediately attacking you and your entire family? How can you show love when this is happening?

I've read some beautiful articles this week of black men speaking with KKK members, and through sheer love and care coaxing them out of the hood that no longer made any sense.  There were also videos of men and women of different racial backgrounds helping Trump supporters pierce their way through a crowd of hate to get to their own protest box.  I've had phone calls and dinners with friends who support the President and have what seem to be deeply varied views of my own, yet here we were having the deepest conversations about anything else in life. The chance to bring unity is there, it's very ripe for the harvest, but we seem to lean towards the worst whenever the chance comes around.  

There are moments that we come across every single day to deliver a loving outcome, but it doesn't always seem the most capable of being chosen.  It's like asking a child if they want to build a sandcastle, or just kick a bunch over.  Sure, some kids may want to actually build it, but many, like us, would display an eagerness to arrive at a destructive nature that seems to come so naturally to us.  Why listen to someone when you can just shout at them to change? Why help someone when they don't deserve it because of what they seemingly stand for?  


Such a beautiful word.

It's defined as "The ability to understand or share the feelings of another."  Think about that for a moment. Empathy.

This, this is where love can begin to stem from. We all, black, brown, white, asian, whatever, need to be willing to stop jumping to such large conclusions and take a moment to try and let the other side explain themselves. Now, I don't think that we're always going to wind up agreeing on certain things...but what we can arrive at is a conversation that may clear up misunderstandings in things that have been miscommunicated from our upbringing or backgrounds.  Let's take the statue controversy as an example. Here's a group of white people marching with torches in protest of the removal of what they consider a valuable, historic monument. In this controversy an innocent women was senselessly murdered while speaking out against this movement, and that alone makes it incredibly easy to want to pour hatred out in defense of her young life taken.  I've heard plenty from both sides from articles, broadcasts, interviews, etc. What most of us seem to agree on is that racism is bad, and Nazism is an evil movement that has been around for far too long, but I was reading up on why people join these movements and it's interesting. In a wonderful article by Terrence McCoy from the Washington Post, it was written that many white men join the Alt-right movement because of fear... Many of them aren't so much angry at minorities as much as they are scared that they won't have a place in this country. Check out these little blurbs from it.

"Peyton Oubre, 21, of Metairie, La., perceived it after graduating from high school when he was looking for a job. “Where I live, go to any McDonalds or Walmart, and most of the employees are black,” said Oubre, who is unemployed. “And I could put in 500 applications and receive one call. Every time I walked into Walmart, there were no white people, and how come they are getting hired and I can’t?”

“White privilege,” he said. “I’m still waiting on my privilege.”"

"For Connor Perrin, 29, of Austin, who grew up upper-middle class, it was during college when he felt campus liberals were ostracizing his fraternity because it was white. “If only people would stop attacking us,” he said.“I can’t say anything just because I’m white. I can’t talk about race, and I can’t talk about the Jews because I’ll be called an anti-Semite, and I can’t say I want to date my own race.”"

I don't agree with this movement (Alt-right), particularly for the violent actions of the past week, but when I read these small sections it moved my heart a little. We're all people that just want to be heard, loved, and respected. I've heard plenty of Hispanic men say that they would only ever marry a Hispanic woman, yet, if a white person says the same thing we immediately call it being racially inconsiderate.  Doesn't that seem a bit backwards? And I get it, we're all hurt, we're all confused, we're all angry, but we need to be willing to sit down with one another and talk some of this shit out. How often are we going to keep crucifying people for the sins of their great grandparents? How often are we going to take what one person of a different race said about our own and superimpose it onto people who would have loved you from the beginning if you hadn't approached them from hurt?

I don't have all of the answers, but what I can say is that we need to take hold of one another in this broken world and make room for everyone. So, here's a challenge for everyone reading this. Make an effort this week to reach across the aisle. Take a breathe before posting that thing to Facebook, take a moment to consider that comment you are about to write, and really ask if your pride is all that is at stake. This week make an effort to hear out someone you don't agree with, and even if they present a doctrine or answer that you can't get behind, choose to love on them anyways. Do something kind for someone you don't see eye to eye with, because it's too important that we look towards one another for help. In a world where politicians seemingly spout nonsense across borders at one another, we can't trust anyone else to do what we really have the power in our hands to do. It should start with every single one of us individually making the effort to bring that positive change we hope to see in the world.

Reach as far as you can in your sphere of influence, and just trust that when you do, it'll convince others to bring that same change in their own environments. 

Thank you for sticking with me through these heavy thoughts. I know much of what I've said may upset some of you, but that's not my intention at all. I just want us all to wipe the mud and dirt off of our hearts so that we may clearly see through to one another.

Go in peace, and be the change that you want to see in this shattered world.


Brain Games

The human brain is a fascinating thing.  It can create vivid landscapes no man has ever perceived, and send signals to our hands to bring what was imagination to full life.  It regulates your body while you sleep at night, while still making you dream about having that important meeting tomorrow only in your underwear (It's not even the flattering underwear.  It's the boxers you've had since middle school with the Power Rangers on the butt.).   It stores vast memories of random childhood experiences while simultaneously making you forget where you put your keys.  But what we tend to use it for the most is holding on to stress...holding on to anxiety and worry...holding on to that deep-seeded hate you planted ages ago and can't even remember where it initially stemmed from.  

What kind of things go on in your mind that no one else can see? What do you think about when you first wakeup?  Really, think about it. Now think about the thoughts that follow you for the rest of the day.  What are you meditating on and revisiting?  What moments are you painfully reliving over and over again? Take some time and hold on to your answers.  

I'm not sure if I've written about this, but I'm too lazy to go back and check, so if you've read about this story already you're going to have to suck it up and take one for the newbies.  I lost my mother about 6-7 years ago.  I didn't think that had any emotional or psychological effects, but sure enough, as time strolled by I became bitter and cynical.  All of the childlike hope I had lived in daily had become this weathered old man, watching others dance in the sun while all I could do was think about how much skin cancer they're collecting. For years I would wake up to thoughts of dread for whatever the day wanted to pour out on me. I was living out perpetual thoughts of, "Great, what else is going to go wrong today?" Even if anything good happened, anything that would make any normal person smile, I would immediately think of how fleeting the moment would be, and wonder how long it would be until "the other shoe drops." What the worst part was, was that I knew I had become a slave to that mindset. Regularly in church services we would have people speaking on "renewing your mind," and "fighting on the battlefield of your thoughts," but I was too tired to fight, too tired to care.  I had laid down and thrown up my hands in defeat. So, what changed? 

Honestly, I can sit here today and tell you that I'm much happier. I do fight that fight and wrangle my thoughts. I reach for the first positive thing that I can in any dire situation, and walk daily in a new hope that tomorrow could only have better and brighter things for me. Yet, there is still the sting and scars of the past, still floating around my mind. There are just some things that I'll never forget, but that is no cause for defeat, if anything it's a reason to stand and march towards hope. Now this paragraph is certainly even too sugary for my own good, and to be fair there are still very dark thoughts that drift in unchecked. I haven't perfectly solved the fight, but I have built a good amount of momentum to keep my gloves up, and I want to share with you how that happened.  

I'm about to hit you with some imagery that is some of my favorite.  Imagine a row of lights, lets say ten. Every single one of those lights are a bright, intimidating red, all of them, except for number seven, which is a warm green.  Each light is a thought paired with a moment. So let's say you just thought about how that one ex who cheated on you; let's follow that thought line.

RED - "I can't believe they did that, how could they after all of those loving years together?!?"

RED - "How could someone do that to me?  Why would anyone be willing to hurt anyone else so willingly?"

RED - "I hate them so much and I hope their life falls apart."

RED - "I hope they see how much their life will suck without me."

RED - "I'm so lonely still, and scared."

RED - "Can I ever trust someone else like this ever again?"

GREEN - "No, I'm worth someone who won't treat me like that.  My heart is valuable, and just because that happened doesn't mean it will again."

RED - "What am I doing with my life?"

RED - "What's even the point of trying to find someone anymore?"

Did you see that?  That one green light amidst all of the red?  That is the one, tiny, sparse, minuscule thought that once in a dark cloud marches through our minds. It's the yes to life in a sea of no's. Understand that it's ok to hurt, and it's ok to feel what you feel, but realize that those small, positive thoughts can and will swing back around to you like a helicopter trying to pull a drowning victim out of the water in the middle of an ocean.  If you miss the ladder it will come back and try again.

Now, a great follow up question to that would be, "But what if that thought seems so far out of reach that I can't link on to it?" That's when you need to choose to be grateful for what positive things are going on in your life. Man that sounds incredibly cliche', but it's totally true. Try daily to make a list of things that you are thankful for now, and things that you are going to be thankful for in the future. Heck, start small if you need to.  "I'm thankful that I can breathe today.", "I'm thankful that I woke up this morning.", "I'm thankful that I had a full night's sleep.". Write some simple ones out daily and start to get creative with them... "I'm thankful that I will find that love I've been looking for.", "I'm thankful that I will have a job that makes me happy.", "I'm thankful that I will be in a better life situation in the future." This may sound crazy to many of you, but really, give it a try. As you grow more and more thankful, that ladder of positive thought that felt too high will become easier to grasp; then those nine red lights turn to seven, which then become 5, then all of a sudden you only have about two or three to have to deal with because you rode out that one green light.

Now, in light of that, think of those thoughts that I told you to hold on to earlier. Know that the darkest parts of you are ok to feel, but they don't define who you are. They don't need to define what you act on either. Start covering those thoughts with ones of thankfulness. If you can't find any, then ask a friend or loved one to suggest some things they see in your life that you can hold on to. 

Philippians 4:6 says - "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  

If you're reading this and you're not a Christian then that's ok.  I promise you that walking out thankfulness honestly does begin to change the landscape of your mind.  But if you are one I will tell you that the scriptures are pumped full of verses speaking on this idea. Also, if you are struggling with depression or anything of the sort that requires medication, please do not stop taking those meds because of what I've said. Walk out what you need to, but still try this method while you stay your course.

Today, right now, choose to hold on to that one positive thought. Know that if your thinking doesn't fully change right now, tomorrow, this year, or even in the next couple then that's ok. You're not alone in feeling this way. But take a stand for yourself. Be willing to fight for that better day. Be willing to start small and walk the thin road to a broader, brighter existence. Today is when you start to take back your identity. Today is when you join countless others in choosing to live a life full of hope that is worth living. I know it may seem too difficult, but I also know that you are fully capable. Change your thoughts so you can help change the world.



Father's Day Freedom

Happy Father's Day to all of the incredible dads out there!  Please take today to enjoy your brand new coffee mugs and hand crafted macaroni portraits!  (Let's be real, macaroni translates love perfectly fine. Every stomach that agrees can just give an "Amen".)

Now, as much as I want to use this medium to celebrate who fathers are and what they do, I want to speak to those who never fully understood what a father really is.  I mean, we get the idea, but we don't necessarily know, like the kind of know where you can't define it, you just feel it.  

A little background on myself.  I was raised in San Antonio, Texas, by my lovely Mother, Grandmother, and Uncle, who all went above and beyond parenting me.  I had a full family experience, but I only saw my actual dad once in all of my childhood.  Sure, he paid child support, but he just wasn't apparent in my life. To compensate for the lack of balance between parents my mother looked to the church to place multiple dads in my life, who were all great inspirations to make me want to strive to be that strong, disciplined man; yet, none felt like "Dad"...or what I thought Dad should feel like. 

So, here I am, not some twisted human being that is a blight to society, or a statistic.  I'd even consider myself a genuinely friendly and kind person.  Things worked out fine, yet, I still would love to be able to feel what I see so many people just naturally have with the man who raised them.  There's just something special about it that I can never truly define.  

I'm not writing this to give some kind of "pity me" story.  Honestly, just like many of you who come from a similar background it just really doesn't emotionally affect me that much.  It just is what it is.  Yet, when I start looking at my future of wanting to be a husband and dad one day, things truly start to haunt me.  I begin to ask myself questions like, "Will I be just like I heard he was?", "Will I make the same mistakes?", "Will I actually be able to take care of a family without having had a real role model?", "Will I love my wife like I'm supposed to?".  These questions aren't ones I just sit and ponder...they tattoo themselves to my skin. When I see a friend with his kids, I gain a sleeve of images. When I see a child run to their father because they're upset, I get words around my neck.  When people ask me when I'm getting married, the ink settles into my back.  I may not often think about it, but man do I feel it.  

Yet, when I really think about it, this could be possibly one of the greatest positions to be in. Now, don't get me wrong, I think it's incredibly important to have the father around to raise his child, but I think my position deserves a positive spin as well.  

Those of you that are fatherless, don't view Father's Day as something that makes a mockery of your past!  Celebrate the future that you have to be the change that your child gets to one day experience.  Celebrate the fact that you can still inspire young men and women today to positively affect the world for the better.  Hold fast to the fact that because your dad wasn't there, you have a completely blank slate to write what it means to be a father.  If you're a woman reading this then realize this could be total inspiration of the kind of man you SHOULD be married to.  A man that will be there with you and your child, help you carry the responsibilities, and care for his family with all of his heart. Sometimes the greatest example could be the one that wasn't there!  

Now, that emotional void that annoyingly shows up from time to time...  

Disclaimer:  Being involved in the Church I have heard over and over again that God fills the void of an orphaned heart.  I believe God is the ultimate proud father, but I'm speaking for those that say "Yeah, that's great and all, but what about something tangible?"  (I also understand this is a rabbit hole that can just go deeper and deeper, so I'm going to move on.)

First of all, you're going to be ok.  You can live a fully functional life not understanding what it means to have had a dad.  You can define that by the kind of father you become or by the one you decide to marry. The power to define Fatherhood is fully placed in your hands.  And, even if you never felt it emotionally, that doesn't mean your child is going to feel that way one bit.  That void, it's all you, those kids are going to be starting fresh.  You don't have to let it carry over to them.

Secondly, it's ok to want to know where you came from and reach out, or reconnect.  Understand that if you discover negative things by doing that, it doesn't rub off on you automatically, or make you exactly what you've been trying to avoid.  Your curiosity to learn more about yourself and genetic makeup has no hindrance upon the incredible person of character you can be.  

Thirdly (is that a real word?), that missing piece in your past isn't as ominous as you may think.  You have been given the full capability to love and give honor.  Maybe you have had it kind of rough, and not having a dad around has made you angry, confused, or even just depressed about life.  It's ok to feel those things. You're not alone, but you need to understand that the power to be something great is firmly placed within your hands.  Think of how incredible it is to say, "My dad wasn't around, but because of that I choose to be something greater than what a statistic may say.", or "My dad wasn't around, but I choose to be the leader he should have been." This is no reason to let your own life trail off to start a new cycle of pain.  

Fourth and final, forgive.  You need to let that "ish" go.  I understand that many of you may not really care, but forgiving even the smallest hurt brings so much freedom.  You don't need to call up the guy and start some kind of drama from saying you forgive him for not being there, but in your own heart, really forgive him.  Think of all of the things that he missed out on, and forgive him.  Think of all of the knowledge he could have taught, and forgive him.  Reach deep down inside yourself, and any animosity and resentment need to be sacrificed on the alter of forgiveness.  Let go, so that when you press on in your own life, you don't press on in bitterness, but rather in love and freedom.  

Father's day is a day that we celebrate truly great men.  These are men who take responsibility, men who understand the weight of the title, "Dad", men who hunker down to keep their family stable amidst the storm.  Yet, many of us have been scarred by the exact opposite.  Well no longer!  Touch that scar and fill yourself with pride that you too can celebrate, and I'm right there with you!  Happy Father's Day to those men who are going to be the opposite of the negative example you were given!  Happy Father's Day to those who will help raise the next generation to not know what neglect feels like.  Happy Father's Day to all of you who will be brave enough to take a stand to be that steady base amidst the storm in your future families.  Finally, Happy Father's Day to those of you who will step in where other men can't and won't.  




Do You Even Lyft?

You know, sometimes I walk dogs.  Sometimes I drive Lyft.  And sometimes I make up incredible excuses as to why I do these side jobs.  One day it's because it leads me to deeper times with God, walking in the warm silence of the day; and other days it's because, as an artist, I need material to help me craft better songs.  I can never be honest with myself or others and just say, "Yeah, I have a side hustle because my art isn't pulling in the cash today."  Why?  There are plenty of people that do these things for a full time job, and I swear, they are some of the real heroes of today.  (Next time you climb into an Uber or Lyft, really take a moment to ask the driver what they do aside from this, you may be surprised at the answer you get.)

So, again, why can't I just own up and be honest about what is happening in my career?  Maybe it's because of the facade of the Hollywood mantra, "Fake it till you make it."  No, that's not it, especially because I wear my heart so far down on my sleeve you'd think it were in my hand to pass out on Halloween like candy.  Really, it's because my pride swells deep up into my throat and spouts out anything else that may make people view me as a successful artist.  And really, by most people's point of view I am a successful artist.  I've had the blessing of working on a Grammy nominated album, traveled just about every continent (Australia, I'm coming for you), had a few top 40 placements on different charts around the world, and have collected the most incredibly inspiring group of friends I could have ever thought to be around, yet, I walk dogs and drive for Lyft, and that's ok.  

Success isn't defined by how many awards I've earned, or how many endorsements I've picked up, or how many Instagram followers I've collected.  Success is defined by what is in my heart every day, and in how I choose to carry myself regardless of what life is throwing at me.  It is how I'm able to celebrate others that may have gotten the break I may never get, and how no matter what I do, I carry the same enthusiasm that I do in my artistic endeavors into whatever other work is in my hands.  Heck, even Winston Churchill defined it as, "...going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."  

So, why all of this?  Well, I just want to encourage those who have worked endlessly for something that still hasn't fully taken off like you thought it would have.  Maybe you just keep getting those buyouts instead of residual pay, maybe your work is published but right now you can only put it out there for free, maybe you're working multiple jobs because your art just won't quit, and neither should you.  If you have a dream, a vision, a set destiny, then don't shelve it if you need to do something else for a while.  Nurture it, take care of it, grow it, work that job but then come back to that passion daily.  Don't let life and pride convolute and drown out your personal victories daily.  

Speaking of drowning out, I will address one thing that has been tying me to the floor just about every single day.  Age.  There is a good chance that this could just be in my head alone, but I'd bet you that that's not the case.  I'm not sure if this has anything to do with working in Entertainment, but I'm sure after our twenties are done plenty of people are stuck wondering if they took the wrong turn walking out of the house of adolescence.  This is where I'd love to tell you historical accounts of people who are older "kill it" and succeed, but I don't think that's necessary.  I think what is most important to addressing something like this is to help you understand that we are not alone, and it's ok to feel that way.  You're not the only 20/30/40 something that felt like you wandered too far into something that may not actually be right for you, and you're not the only one that needs to be reminded that that thing you've been working on for years is still worth it.  As generation to generation passes, we can see multiple accounts of people fearing "those that are younger", because they represent ultimately "those who will replace us", but that isn't the case.  You were born at the right time, in the right place, to do exactly what you were placed on this earth to do. No one younger, and no one older can take that away from you.  There is something poetically important to why you are here, why each of us are here, and it's unique for all of us and specifically our life journeys.  

Now that that is addressed, back to dog walking and ride sharing.  

I have part time gigs.  Many other people have part time gigs.  Those that are "extremely successful" (by regular standards) of course have stories that can be a similar conclusion met by multitudes of people who all have the potential, but just because you haven't gotten there yet doesn't mean you need to give up.  Everyone's story is unique, and that includes yours.  We are all humans who don't really have the deepest understanding of how to human correctly.  Many of us still feel like juveniles wearing adult bodies, and it's ok to feel like you haven't figured it all out yet. But regardless of what job you have and however many unfortunate circumstances have landed in your lap, regardless of age and "not having arrived yet", regardless of that life that got side tracked because you had to put your family first, keep pressing on.  Remember that success isn't defined by your follower number or bank account, but rather by who you proudly know that you are and that you are willing to say yes to your passions while taking care of responsibilities.  

You are the artist and success you've always wanted to be.  

Forgetting Anxiety

Over the years of my life I have dealt with countless levels of fear.  I have never seen any apparition, I haven't had to run and hide for my life, but what I have experienced are the thoughts that keep a person awake at night.  What I have lived are the fears of what my next day might bring.  Tomorrow...that is probably one of the most frightening words to have ever been concocted.  Is that paper due?  Do you have something early and you're afraid of never getting any sleep?  Even if you didn't get any sleep are you afraid of disappointing someone for not having had enough rest to really do your job?  Questions.  So....many....questions....

I've been making my way through a book called "The Celebration of Discipline" by Richard J Foster.  Perusing through the pages I came to a chapter almost totally dedicated to eradicating anxiety in someone's life.  To save you some trouble of reading I'm going to list my personal notes and takeaways here, but I will be mixing it with some of what I've learned and experienced in my own walk.  I do highly recommend you hunt down this book and get yourself a copy.  If you're a fast reader, it totally isn't for you.


Finding your way out of anxiety can be broken down into three facets and their proper corresponding attitudes. 

  • What We Receive
  • What We Have
  • What We Give

1.) What We Receive.  "We work, but we know that it is not our work that gives us what we have."

 - We need to see that what we have is not a result of what we labored for.  Everything is a gift from God.  Everything.  Now, I'm not saying that you can just sit around and God still provide, or that all of your hard work has been in vein, but just meditate on this.  Though you worked, what comes to you is not something that is tangibly in your grasp that you decide.  

- Matthew 6:31-32 (NIV) says, "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we wear?'  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

- Richard J Foster mentions, "When we are tempted to think that what we own is the result of our personal efforts, it takes only a little drought or a small accident to show us once again how utterly dependent we are for everything."  Overworking can be profitable but not always beneficial.  Lets calm down our need to achieve a little and realize that though we work hard, what ultimately comes our way is in God's hands.  

2.) What We Have - "To know that it is God's business, and not ours to care for what we have."

-  You go to bed at night.  You remember suddenly that you locked the door to the house.  You locked the car right?  Oh, did you close all of the windows?  Maybe one is open upstairs, but who would see or even use that...right?  Right...no one would even think to climb through that... but just to be sure you should probably get up and close it.  God is the ultimate protector of what we own.  This doesn't mean we should be negligent with what we have, but to also hold on to it loosely.  Precaution is a great thing, but it shouldn't control us.  This not only means what we've bought over the years but also with what we feel we've earned.  That job you hold so tightly to, that spouse you're afraid is having thoughts of leaving you, the safety that you felt having a full bank account would finally bring  you...  

-  Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) - "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all of your ways submit to Him, and He will make your path straight."

-  Take precautions.  Lock that door, work hard at your job, be a great caretaker of what has come to you, but also remember, ultimate protection isn't in your hands.  It's in God's.  I'd write all of Psalm 91 here, but it's long enough for me to just say its worth not only looking up but memorizing as well.

3.) What We Give - "To have our goods available to others."

- I'm going to quote Mr. Foster, then break it down from there.  "If our goods are not available to the community when it is clearly right and good, then they are stolen goods.  The reason we find such an idea so difficult is our fear of the future.  We cling to our possessions rather than sharing them because we are anxious about tomorrow.  But if we truly believe that God is who Jesus says He is, then we do not need to be afraid."  Wooooooooooooooh thats heavy.  The reason we find it hard to share is because we're scared of the future.  We're scared of not having enough tomorrow, so why should we have to give it up today?  This is the heaviest of all.  How willing are you to give away some cash to someone in need?  Or perhaps if someone needs to borrow that bag you've been saving in the closet that you'll never use, or your surplus of blankets that a cold homeless man or woman would really appreciate?  How trusting are you of God to provide?  

-  Let's be willing to extend a hand to help someone, even at our own inconvenience.  This could mean anything from money all the way down to how we spend our time.  Perhaps that one friend of yours keeps putting on shows and could use your support, or maybe you could babysit for that one friend who could finally use a night out with her husband.  Trust that how you are expediting what is just really borrowed from God will have more supply.  Again, disclaimer, be wise about your decisions, still pray on what you're deciding to contribute.  Be brave, but not dumb.

Take these three things and meditate on them.  Realize that ultimate protection is not yours to give.  Be present in today without focusing too hard on what is next in life...  Be productive and vigorous, but realize that what comes your way, what you own, and what you have to give are all not ultimately in your control.  Give it to God, it was His from the get go. 

-Phillip Meneses