Let me tell you about the LOVE of my LIFE

love is patient, love is kind. love keeps no record of wrong.

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when i finally got to that place where my destiny lied solely in the hands of God, it was unlike anything i had experienced before.
i moved to Clermont, Fl with no car, no money and no job.
i followed a spark in my spirit to move in with my college room mate and best friend to do ministry together at a church.
little did i know that God was going to stretch me in ways i didn’t know that i could be stretched. i reached the point to where i didn’t care if i ever make a dime, God would be my provider.

over the next year and a half, i watched as the things i had been diligently praying for for years begin to surface in my life. i prayed for housing, a car, the ability to begin paying my student loans, a full-time job and a place in a church where i felt like i was making a difference.
God showed up in my life and began putting the pieces of my destiny together. i was burning on all cylinders and it felt good.

except, i began to feel alone.

i began to wonder why i hadn’t found the love of my life yet. why hadn’t God answered that prayer?

and if it’s not bad enough, people kept coming up to me literally asking me “where’s your wife, Greg?”

believe me, if i knew, we’d be married by now.

i began to pray. i knew from past experience that if i try to search for the girl i wanted, she would stop short of who God wanted her to be for me.
so i waited. and waited.

and waited.

one day (Dec 6th to be exact), i was in a rom-com-grab-me-a-pint-of-ice-cream-and-a-blanket-and-leave-me-alone mood; i began to write a song cleverly titled, “where are you now?”
maybe i thought that somewhere around the world my future wife’s spirit would hear the words of the song and come running into my arms.

11692603_10206945889589383_3246431417684537947_na few days later (Dec 10th actually), i hear a knock on my classroom door.
(i have been serving as a teacher at a small christian school in central Florida for the past year and a half. never thought i’d be a teacher, but when you submit to God, He puts you in places that you never thought you’d be….and for good reason this time).
in walks the principal and her 20 year old daughter.

now, i’m a respectful guy. my parents taught me good manners, so i stood up and walked right up to this beautiful woman i see before me and shook her hand.
“nice to meet you”

(ugh. that’s it bro? that’s all you got? you blew it).

later she’ll tell me that she thought i was the cutest thing but she’ll never settle down with someone who was called to be a school teacher……..(i swear God, come on man).

3 months later she shows up in my classroom, AGAIN.
me, still single….still very, very, VERY single.

this time i work up the courage to tell her that if i had her number i could arrange a hang out while she was still in town. (going for it!! honestly, i was only focused on being a good friend…..for now).
in a very cute and romantic way, she leaves a note on my desk computer which included her phone number and the first joke i made to her earlier in the day in hopes she took some kind of pity on my failed humor and thought i was cute enough to receive her attention.

we meet up two days later and have the best 4 hour long conversation about everything.
i mean EVERYTHING.
the stuff you don’t share with someone you’re crushing on. the insider information.
the hard lessons of life and faith.

 

i realized that i had finally made a choice in my life to always be honest no matter what. to not hold back on areas of faith or truth, but to stand up for what i believe in no matter what. if someone can’t deal, then they aren’t worth the time or investment. i was going to be true to myself no matter what anyone else thought.

this philosophy i began to live by brought me pure joy. i had never been happier in my daily decisions, but i was still alone.

i ask her a question about something i can’t remember and she gives me this response that seemed repeated or stolen from how other people view the topic.
i sensed that she probably felt differently, but wanted to not look over the top.
i began to tell her why she was wrong and why i believed a different way, backed up with scripture references and points from my faith.
and then i FROZE.

i had let my inside voice out.

i had shown just how much of a Jesus nerd i was to this girl on the very first time of hanging out and i was now 100% certain that she was going to run for the hills.

she took a pause, almost taken back because she didn’t expect such a passionate and truthful response.
(i know it’s hard to visualize, but i don’t actually remember the topic because what was happening around the topic was so much more memorable to me).
she stared down as i saw the wheels behind her eyes turn as fast as they could.11823098_10154087911559951_5767376592079766902_o

she stops and says, “actually i agree with you now, i like your answer better.”

i didn’t even realize it but i was holding my held breath as i waited for her response. i try to exhale without her knowing just how long i was holding my breath.
for the first time, i was fully myself in front of a complete stranger and didn’t hold back.

i guess i needed 25 years of life in order to truly find myself and not apologize for who i am.
and i guess i needed 25 years of life to find the person who would never ask for me to become someone that i’m not.

the next 3 and a half months fly by.

honestly, the story of our first date (after this first encounter) answered all the questions i would ever have about Kristen and if we were right for each other or not. (but that’s for a different post)

this woman that i’ve prayed for my whole life.
an independent, self-assured, driven woman to support my passions and my beliefs.
to kick my butt when i’m wrong and cling to me when i’m right.
to walk beside me as a partner.
to be as beautiful on the inside as she is on the out.
and to have a drive and passion of her own to change the world one life at a time in her own way.

this woman was real and she was now in my life as the truest experience of the human condition.

because of the honesty.
because of our faith.
because of our openness and humility towards each other, the question of marriage came up before being boyfriend and girlfriend did.

and the rest is a growing piece of history.11873416_10207200910924757_681185981412168696_n

everyday i find a new piece of Kristen that i realize i had prayed for long ago.

she pushes me. makes me better. she’s not afraid to be strong and even less afraid to show weakness.
she feels pushes herself but also knows when to fall into my arms and ask for help.
she’s a companion. a beautiful soul.
she’s not afraid to grow old with me, to take every challenge as it comes and learn WITH me along the way.

neither of us know it all and neither of us knows what lies on the road ahead.
but if and when times get tough we will cling to God and we will cling to each other.
HE will pull us through.

God really does answer prayer and i’m forever grateful that He answered my prayers on HIS timeline and not mine.
any moment sooner and i would not have made the same decision that first day of contact to be who i am and not try to impress.

she is meant for me, and i am meant for her.

i am getting married to my best friend.

and WE are meant to bring the LIGHT where it doesn’t belong.

this is faith. this is love. this is the love of my life.

*Kristen and i are very excited to be getting married on May 28th, 2016 and we will be moving to Miami, Florida.
*to track our wedding craziness and locate our registry go HERE
*wedding day festivities and times are still subject to change

i have found the one my soul loves (sos 3:4)

Religion & Relation: The War of Control

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 ESV

We are supposed to be imitators of Christ, right?
His mission became our mission when He ascended into Heaven. We know we are to win souls. We know that we are to “save.” But we often forget to “seek.”

We’ve created a full force for “saving.”

We build our churches.
We pack into them on Sundays.
We even give our money to help ministries “save” the so called “lost.”
But rarely does any of this “religion” make it’s way into our daily lives. Rarely does any of this practice help us in our “seeking” of the lost.
And I’m going to boldly claim that it’s not meant to.

Our lives are full of “religious practice.”
We “religiously” support our favorite sports team or we “religiously” watch American Idol or our favorite reality show just so we can feel a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Then, we sit in church on Sunday. We pay our diligence.
We seem to enjoy the worship as long as it doesn’t last too long or feel forced.
We “Amen!” the pastor so that he feels better about his sermon and might end church early.
We greet with other church members but engage in a broken-record conversation that we say out of pleasantry but rarely do we build those relationships outside of church walls.
Our supposed worship experience has become a church visit full of religious practice.

I started teaching middle school this year. After 5 years of college and a year off from any sort of routine job, I began to experience a phenomenon that I haven’t felt since my days of adolescence.
Every Sunday night I get this sickly feeling in the pit of my stomach which sounds the alarm to the end of the weekend. It’s back to work on Monday and there’s nothing I can do to change that.
I know I’m not alone on this. Our lives become routine. We have our set schedule we follow each week/weekend.

Whatever your job may be. School teacher, banker, lawyer, accountant, grocery worker, landscaper, plummer…we work these 7-4, 8-5, 9-6 lives each week praying for the weekend and then when it finally arrives, we are already dreading Monday morning. I’ve noticed something very odd about our behaviour towards this lifestyle.

For a society so bent on routine, and hating it for that matter, we don’t like to break from it very often.

Think about any red light you’ve ever caught, or a train that made you late. How about a delayed flight?
Maybe they were all out of skinny non-fat no-foam white-mocha lattes extra whip at Starbucks this morning. When we find our routine, although it keeps us at work more than at home, we will do anything to stick to it and not break our cycle. We keep it inside our control. It becomes our religious practice.

Sadly, I also find this pattern in our relationship with God.

Sure, we love the message of God. We love to hear stories about how God has changed the lives of those we prayed for or those charities we gave money to. We even enjoy sharing about how God has changed our own lives. We didn’t use to go to church or pray every once in a while, but now we pray because we are supposed to. We don’t like it when God finds a way to throw a wrench into our plans…do we?

We like our religious routine; our 8-5 lifestyles. It may not be perfect but it’s the best we could come up with. If we had to change our schedule to adapt to something new that might make us feel very uncomfortable. After all…

We are only comfortable when we are experiencing something inside of our own control.

For example,
let’s say you’ve been going to church for a while and you start to feel like God has birthed a desire in your heart to reach out to teenagers. This desire has now affected your prayer life. You find yourself unexpectedly praying for teenagers in your church and your community. You have the love of God in your heart and you aren’t really sure how to use it just yet, but this is where you are gravitating towards.

You finally reach a point where you want this passion inside of you to burn and be put to good use. You decide to become a volunteer at your church’s youth group on Wednesdays. The only problem with this plan is that your current job (that you’ve worked at all your adult life) schedule’s you to work every Wednesday. You pray. You ask your boss to switch your shifts around so you can have that night off. That doesn’t work. You plead your case because you really feel like this is the right thing to do. You pray some more. You believe that God has ordained you to do this. Your boss says, “Well if you want Wednesdays off, you’ll just have to find yourself another job.”

Another job?
But you’ve worked there for 10 years. 20 years. Maybe you even went to school for this career, but now you aren’t too sure that this career is what you were meant to do.

Find another job? At this point, that would mean changing something that has defined you for the last “x” amount of years of your life.

The way you live your entire life is being put into question. This doesn’t not at all feel comfortable.

For argument’s sake, you play both outcomes out.
Stay at your job. Keep the income you’re comfortable with. The routine you know. The controlled lifestyle you’ve always had; after all, this is who you are.

or

Quit. Find a new job. Chase after the new desires that God has placed inside of your heart. This is an uncomfortable vanilla sundae with a huge dose of uncertainty sprinkled on top. But God’s promises remain true; He will provide.

What do you do?

May I remind you  “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Luke 10:2 NIV

But why God? Why did you have to mess up my routine? Why did you have to change who I am?

Actually, I don’t think God did this to you at all. I think you did this to yourself. We all did really.
Remember when you got saved? When you asked Jesus to come live inside of you?
Usually the prayer includes something along the lines of, “I give you my life, make me more like you.” Or “Help me to live my life pleasing to you. I give you my dreams. My life is in your hands.”
The dilemma you are facing right now is really just God’s answer to your prayer.

Now, I’m not suggesting you up and quit your job right this instant in order to accept the calling that God has for your life.  What I AM suggesting is that you ask yourself, “Why not?”

You are perfectly capable and qualified by God to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever you are working at. And if you’ve tried and failed, pray and try again. If you are not being edified by your workplace, change it up. You can’t complain for the world to change if YOU aren’t willing to change.

The fallacy in our practice of faith is the same fallacy we have in our everyday life, and that is we are entirely too religious in the way we operate.

God is a relational God. He doesn’t need our “religious practice” in order to love us. He satisfied that with the cross. Our lives are to be relationally driven too. Too often do I see people, myself included, walking around in the store trying so hard not to get in each other’s way, like the earth is a place where we are all supposed to coexist just as long as we don’t talk to each other. How can we save the lost if we don’t know who they are?

or better yet…

How can we save the lost if they don’t know who WE are?

The world has seen enough of the “religious christian” and they are turned off by them. Religious practice never saved anyone. Religious practice doesn’t give someone eternal hope. Love does. Love is only transferable through relationship.

Jesus didn’t die for our sins to that we can repay Him with religious practice.
Jesus died for our sins because He loves us and wants a relationship with us.
Jesus sacrificed Himself so that His love can stretch out through us and change the world that we live in.

Jesus didn’t go to church and stay there. He brought His message into the homes of those who needed it most (Luke 19). He sought after the ones who were outcast by everyone else (Matt 8). He died to break the barrier between Himself and us (Eph), not for us to create a barrier between us and the rest of the world.

Can we start being the relational disciples of God who invite ourselves over the tax collector’s house for dinner? Can we start being the hands of Jesus stretching out to touch those deemed by our society untouchable? Can we start being the feet of Christ who go outside of our routine to share the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven?

Jesus came to seek and save the lost; and now He sends us to do the same (Matt 28).

Surrendering our future is scary though. It means stepping out into the land of uncertainty. A land outside of our own control. I’ve tried to control my life in the past and have failed miserably several times. Now, it seems a lot scarier to go it alone instead of letting God lead the way. God WILL NOT fail you. “For I know the 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.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Let us let go of control and seek the true desires of our heart. The desire to share the love of Jesus in this world by being the hands and feet of Christ.

gb

My Top 10 Albums of 2014 (On REPEAT)

*This post has been revised from it’s original version to include NEEDTOBREATHE’S Rivers in the Wasteland. I formally apologize to NEEDTOBREATHE. I will never forget you again.

 

I LOVE music! Seriously. I listen to music more hours throughout the day than I sleep sometimes. I have my favorites, the albums I play over and over again. But I also do a serious amount of searching for new artists. I love buying an album. I know these days are long gone, but I used to love the feeling of going to FYE, Target or the local record store, buying a cd and listening to it over and over again through a boombox. No headphones. No statuses to update. No liking the album online.

I would lay down on my bed, stare at the fan and listen to every single album I bought at least twice before I got up. Three times if I was lucky.
There was a time soon after Switchfoot’s ‘The Beautiful Letdown’ came out that I would fall asleep at night with it on repeat. A great idea except that I had accidently scratched the cd right where the song “On Fire” was at and I would wake up to Jon’s voice repeating the word “Mysteries-ies-ies-ies-ies-ies-ies-ies-ies-ies” endlessly until I turned it off.

I literally wore out cds.

But now we live in the digital-streaming age. I’ve grown to love Spotify. I still buy albums off of iTunes (gotta support your favorite artists and friends) and the occasional cd (1989, duh), but Spotify is a great way to branch out of your current musical-taste bubble and discover some great music you could be missing out on!

That all being said, I’d like to comprise a list of my favorite albums of 2014! Mind you, this isn’t necessarily my list of the “Best” albums of 2014, these are just the ones I found myself pushing the repeat button on more than once! Maybe they are worth listening to! All albums are posted with a Spotify hyperlink! (Purchasing albums is the best way to show love to your artist)

10. One Direction – FOUR (Deluxe)

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Okay don’t hate me. I had to give it to them, this album is catchy as FRICK. In 2014, I became a 1D fan. “Story Of My Life” caught me by surprise. Those boys can SING. And they’ve got style (someone will catch this joke). This album fuses boy-band craziness with rock anthem style and that’s a pretty great mixture if you ask me!

Notable Songs: “Stockholm Syndrome” “Steal My Girl” “18” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” “Fool’s Gold”

 

9. Brooke Fraser – Brutal Romantic

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I have to be honest, I didn’t expect this sort of album from Brooke Fraser. She’s grown into her sound but hasn’t lost her RIDICULOUS talent for lyric content. Give it a listen, you’ll have this weird taste in your mouth wondering how you feel. Give it another listen. You’ll love it.

Notable Songs: “Psychosocial” “Brutal Romance” “New Year’s Eve”

 

8.  Bleachers – Strange Desire

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This dude from fun. totally captures the 80’s pop-rock sound and refuels it. This is another “summer” album. Road trip. Beaching. Running. This is really an anytime album! Have fun!

Notable Songs: “Rollercoaster” “I Wanna Get Better” “Wild Heart”

 

 

7.  NEEDTOBREATHE – Rivers In The Wasteland

610zMH8VYyLThis album is fantastic. Some of the best writing NEEDTOBREATHE has ever done. They continue to out due themselves every time. Make sure you catch them live.

 

Notable Songs: “Wasteland” “State I’m In” “Difference Maker” “Multiplied”

 

6. Coldplay – Ghost Stories

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A different sound from Coldplay with this one, but just what we needed. I really feel like this album was too short. They could have put one out twice as long and I still would have complained and begged for more. Go for a drive. Head for the ocean.

 

Notable Songs: “Midnight” “A Sky Full Of Stars” “Magic” “True Love” “Always In My Head” “O”

 

5.  Bellarive – Before There Was

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The best “unknown” worship band of all time. Bellarive is local to Orlando, FL but they are getting pretty well known around the world. They aren’t necessarily a CCM-radio worship band, but that’s a GREAT thing. They are changing the way that we see and experience worship. This album is their best yet, and their others are GREAT as well!

 

Notable Songs: “Calling On Fire” “Let There Be Light” “Lazarus” also THE WHOLE FREAKING THING

 

4.  Bethel Music – You Make Me Brave (Live)

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I’m not sure I would have made it through the year without this album. If at any time you are struggling to find the presence of God in your life, PLAY THIS ALBUM. He’ll be there by the first minute of “You Make Me Brave.”
Close your doors. Turn off your lights. Put on this album. Get into your posture of prayer. Your life will change.

 

Notable Songs: “You Make Me Brave” “It Is Well” “Forever” “Joy Of The Lord” “Come To Me” “Anchor”

 

3.  Foster The People – Supermodel

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Usually a band goes through a “sophomore slump” with their second album. Not Foster The People! This album is EXCELLENT! Listen over and over. The lyric content will surprise you once. So many metaphors and symbols. Plus, its pretty groovy.

Notable Songs: “Coming of Age” “Are You What You Want To Be?” “The Truth” “Fire Escape”

 

2.  Colony House – When I Was Younger

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GO LISTEN TO THIS NOW! I rode my bicycle to work everyday this summer and this album was that soundtrack. These are some seriously talented guys with GREAT, I mean GREAT lyrics. I’ve never heard a band’s debut album be this put together. They know what they want to sound like and they NAIL it! You’ll love it.

Notable Songs: THE WHOLE FREAKING THING

 

1. Taylor Swift – 1989

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DUH! You can’t be one of the best selling albums of all time and not be number 1! It’s no secret that Taylor is my favorite Woman artist right now, and probably always will be. I thought I loved her music in “RED” but Taylor has finally settled into HER SOUND with “1989.” It’s not on Spotify, but it’s worth the buy. I bought it the regular AND the deluxe! I’ve listened to this album so much, my car starts playing it automatically when I turn it on. Enjoy!

Notable Songs(besides the whole thing?!?!): “Wildest Dreams” “Shake It Off” “Style” “Out of the Woods” “This Love”

 

Honorable mentions:  Bad Suns – Language & PerspectiveYoung the Giant – Mind Over MatterNONONO – We Are Only What We FeelAmerican Authors – Oh, What A LifeWalk the Moon – TALKING IS HARDalt-J – This Is All YoursSt. Lucia – When The Night (Deluxe)The Colourist – The ColouristLecrae – Anomaly

For a playlist of the Top 10 (minus Taylor) click here:  Top 10 Albums of 2014 (On Repeat)

Be sure to post any of your favorite albums of 2014 down in the comments and I will be sure to take a listen!
Here’s to 2015! Still the year of Taylor, but there is loads of NEW music to keep an eye out for!

 

gb