I introduced my wife to Friday Night Lights recently, and to my relief and excitement, she loves it. She loves the drama and the familiarity and even some of the football. We powered through the first season’s 22 episodes in less than a week and show no signs of stopping until we’re done with all five seasons of the show. And to be honest, it’s nice to share something I love with someone I love. I get to watch the show again, but in a different context. My first time through the series, I watched as a single guy and new father who didn’t know what he was doing with and in life (still don’t, really). But now I watch it as a husband and a seasoned dad, and as someone who understands our world and culture on a deeper level than I did 7 or 8 years ago.

Read the rest of my new article for Bedlam Magazine here.

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She disappeared on a Thursday night. She was showing a house in the falling light to a buyer claiming cash. To a realtor, that’s the white whale. But there was no buyer and there was no cash and there was no whale. There was only the vanishing of a mother and wife and friend.

The news of her absence hit quick the following day; so it goes happen when the missing is pretty and blonde and white.

Find the rest of my new article on Bedlam Magazine here. And you can follow me on Twitter here.

Thanks for reading!

Let’s just cut to the chase right from the top and agree that no, love cannot fix us. It may wreck us and cause us to get our crap together, but it can’t fix or correct who we are at a cellular level. But that doesn’t stop movies, music, and everything in-between from trying to shove the idea of healing love down our throats anyway. The question is why do we choose to be suckered into believing it from time to time. It’s cuz we’re suckers. That’s why.

Read the rest of my newest ‘An Honest Man’ column at Bedlam Magazine here.

Have you noticed there’s a distinct difference between experiencing anxiety and simply being anxious? Yes, one describes the other (in theory), but when we say we’re anxious about something, that usually means there’s a certain situation causing us to be anxious. Maybe your classes aren’t going as well as you’d hoped or the thought of giving that huge presentation at work is causing nausea. That’s being anxious. But dealing with anxiety, that’s more of a daily, all-encompassing thing, isn’t it?

Read the rest of my new article on Bedlam Magazine here. And follow me on Twitter here! Thanks for reading!

Over the last week, the subject of discipline as it relates to children has weighed heavily on our nation’s mind and in our discussions. NFL star Adrian Peterson is the cause of this influx and examination of the subject due to his being indicted for child abuse. It’s alleged Mr. Peterson beat two of his sons with a switch to the point of leaving bloody and bruised welts on their bodies (photographic evidence has been provided to authorities to support these allegations). Of course, like many of our generation who grew up being disciplined with a heavy and often forceful hand, Peterson maintains that he was simply doling out needed punishments so that his sons could and would learn the difference between right and wrong. Holding to the old adage, he refused to spare the rod in an effort to keep from spoiling his children.

And for this, Adrian Peterson was wrong.

Read the rest of my newest article for Bedlam Magazine here. And thank you for reading!

TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains strong themes, including a discussion of rape, sexual abuse, and rape culture which may not be suitable for all readers. Please read with caution.

There’s an old trope that’s been used for decades in TV and movies. Our hero, a hard, distant man who has very little time or patience for anyone, partners with an opinionated woman who takes no grief from him. Regardless of their mission or success rate, one thing happens over and over again: The man decides it’s time for them to be together and so he grabs her, and though she tries to fight him off, he kisses her. She tries to fight him off at first, but eventually, this show of masculinity melts her frozen heart and she relents, folding into his arms and kissing him back with everything she has. It didn’t matter that she resisted or that she wanted little to do with him in a romantic sense; he put his mouth on her when she didn’t want it and this made her become something more pliable and accessible. His forcefulness is what made her give up and give in.

Read the rest of my new article for Bedlam Magazine here. And follow me on Twitter here. Thanks for reading!

On November 4th, 2013, I got married, and then on November 30th, 2013, I had my wedding. If you’re keeping score, that means I’ve been married for almost ten months now. And while I could wax poetic on the benefits of being married to your best friend/the love of your life and what happiness such a venture brings you, I have but one piece of advice for those contemplating marriage:

Don’t do it. Do not get married. Just…don’t.

Read the rest of my new article on Bedlam Magazine here, and follow me on Twitter here. Thanks for reading!

We’ve all been through crap when it comes to life and love and everything between. This can lead to confusion. That’s where I come in. I’ve been through it all, from top to bottom and back to the top and then back to the bottom again. Name it and it’s likely I’ve been through it. But I don’t mind talking about it. If it helps you guys avoid the same boo-boo’s I made, then I’m good telling my story.

With that mission in mind, I do my best to host a bimonthly Q&A type column where you guys can email (Cory@BedlamMag.com) or tweet me your questions about life and relationships and everything else, and I do my best to answer them without sounding too much like an idiot (harder than it sounds).

On to this week’s questions . . .

Check out the newest edition of my Q&A on Bedlam Magazine here.

As we’ve established in posts previous, I am not a particularly good Christian. I believe in God and do my best to remain loyal to what I know truth to be. I do try. But I forget to pray and read my Bible and not cuss or have wayward thoughts. In all honesty, I don’t really have my ish together when it comes to the Big Guy upstairs, but I know that He knows that and I like to think He appreciates that I try at all. At least I’ve moved beyond what I once was, yeah?

To understand me is to understand that I am the byproduct of a very dogmatic culture. Serving a strict God who was Judge first and loving Father second. Looking down on the dirty rotten sinners who refused to follow the teachings of my church and instead only preached love and acceptance and grace to those who had fallen away. Poppycock. And while this existence, this belief, wasn’t fostered by my parents or family–they are the antithesis of those beliefs–it was fed to me by those who . . .

Read the rest of my newest piece on Bedlam Magazine here. And you can follow me on Twitter here. Thanks for reading!

I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately, well before Robin Williams supposedly took his own life. Because that’s what people with the depression disease do; we think about dying and what it would be like and the relief we could have if we just stole one quick moment to snuff out our own light.

One thing most people don’t know about me is that I don’t cry. I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I cried over anything; death, loss, failure, disappointment–nothing makes me cry. But Monday night, I laid in bed and thought of the pain and weight that Mr. Williams carried and remembered how I’d almost taken my own life one night back in 2007 and I cried. I cried for him and I cried for me and I cried for everyone who’s ever felt the need and desire to end their story before it’s finished being told. I cried at the memory of the gun’s cold steel touching my tongue and remembered how it tasted. I cried at the mere thought of what my daughter and family would have gone through had I pulled the trigger and ended it all right there. I cried because I know that now, today, in this very moment, and I cried because it will probably always be there.

Read my newest article for Bedlam Magazine here. And thank you for your support. Fight on. Fight on.

I’ve been through the ringer again and again when it comes to relationships. I’ve been through hook ups, marriages, divorces, and break ups, and I’ve learned a lot. Most of the lessons were a result of my own stupidity, but regardless, I’m willing to pass those lessons on to you so that you can avoid the same mistakes I made.

With that mission in mind, I’ll be hosting a bimonthly Q&A type column where you email (Cory@BedlamMag.com) or tweet me your questions about life and relationships, and I do my best to answer them without sounding too much like an idiot.

Today’s questions run the gamut of subject matter and truly tested my knowledge and experience, which I enjoyed.

Let’s get to this week’s questions.

You can read the rest of my new column for Bedlam Magazine here. Thanks for reading!

The internet runs this world; we just live in it.

As our culture relies more and more on the almighty world wide web, we expand our horizons and social circles through the likes of social media, forums, and comments sections. We meet and interact with people we would never have come across if progress been halted after the horse and buggy. But here we are, lots and lots of different people sharing the same massive–and at the same time, tiny–space. As such, we become familiar with thousands and thousands of people who don’t think, act, talk, or believe like we do. They were raised in different circumstances and have come to follow a different path than we do, and this can often times lead to friction, anger, and even confrontation. Really, it’s just another part of our web-based world now.

Read the rest of my newest article for Bedlam Magazine here. Thanks for reading!

As humanity has grown and progressed, we’ve found better and more exciting ways to live our lives. We travel faster and more comfortably; we eat better tasting and more sanitary meals; we medicate ourselves in safer and more sophisticated ways (RIP the act of bloodletting with leeches…); and now we communicate quicker and easier thanks to satellites, cell phones, and all things technology. And as we’ve grown and progressed, we’ve found better and more exciting ways to entertain and satisfy the basic human need for a physical connection and completion. Basically, we’ve gotten better at finding ways to get our rocks off…except when it comes to those of us who are married, apparently.

We all know the old married trope: husband and wife are too tired/busy from jobs, kids, finances, other obligations to worry about connecting on a physically intimate level blah, blah, blah. Instead, the fiery passion that once burned so brightly between our legs has now whimpered and withdrawn itself to nothing more than the miniscule flame licking the end of a match. How do we get it back? More importantly, can we get it back? In short, no.

Just as humanity has grown and progressed, so do the people who are in a relationship. Even if we aren’t married, we grow comfortable with this other person and we quit trying. We redirect our relational efforts into our jobs, our family, and a million other commitments. Maybe it isn’t intentional or on purpose, but unless we’re mindful of where all of our time and effort go, we forget to invest in this person we’re sharing our lives with. If they did marry us (suckers!), neither of us is going anywhere, so we can give our attention toward other things, right? No! Nope! Negative! Like anything, a relationship cannot grow and become nourished without effort, attention, and time.

And that’s why all couples should be firm believers in sexting (hopefully we’re not naïve enough to believe unmarried couples don’t have sexual relationships).

Sure, you can make an effort in other ways by surprising them with lunch or scheduling a night off to take each other out, but what’s better than being bored at work only to have a racy text or photo from your lover pop up on your phone? The answer: not a single thing. That shows them you care. That shows you’re thinking about them and want them; a feeling some long-lasting couples have forgotten.

The best part of occasionally engaging in a little playful digital seduction with your partner is that it doesn’t take a lot of effort or planning, while still providing the maximum benefit. It tells them, “Hey, here’s a naughty selfie that says I’m thinking about you, but also to remind you how hot I am and how lucky you are to be with me,” and that’s something we all need to be reminded of more often than not.

Sexting and the like shows investment in your relationship and that you haven’t forgotten them. You’re proving to them that you not only still have an adventurous side, but you’re ready to use it to rip their clothes off as soon as you both get home. And that’s a shot in the arm just about any relationship could use from time to time.

Now, I’m sure there are some of us who are hesitant to engage in sexting or other debaucherous things because we’re not just that kind of person or are afraid our rather racy messages and photos could get loose and escape out into our digital world. And those are perfectly justified hesitations. Of course, you should never do anything you’re uncomfortable with, so find other ways you can show your partner how much you care for them and want them. And for those worried about losing their sexting efforts to the world wide web, those advances in technologies we discussed earlier have made it possible for your messages to be erased forever after they’re received. Services like Cyber Dust will simply delete your messages for all eternity without caching them. See? Humanity has you covered once again.

The point is that there are a thousand things that can go wrong in your relationship. Don’t let a lack of interest or sexual spark be your relationship’s undoing. Man or woman, husband or wife, whatever your role is, put forth some effort and show them some skin, tell them what you want to do to them, invest in them and in yourself. Most of all, show them you want them and are committed to them and what you have together. That’s passion and commitment. That’s effort and dedication.

And those are things a relationship just cannot live without.

You can follow me on Twitter here. Thanks for reading!

In our audience-driven culture, it’s hard to put a finger on what someone believes. We take advice and guidance and direction from pop-theologists on Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the internet because they have a following so they must know what they’re talking about. But it’s rare for someone of note to put their personal beliefs right out in the open for everyone to examine, dissect, and combat. It’s safer for them to hold their faith to their chest and keep it to themselves. Even among those of us who don’t have large audiences of readers or followers, we’re hesitant to state what it is that we believe or Who we have faith in, because we don’t want to start arguments or lose friends or be challenged. We’d rather protect our “brand” and simply be known as a Christian who has no specific affiliation or allegiance.

I’ve fought this inclination myself for years; first as someone who struggled to build a personal readership and now an audience for a site that isn’t just me but over 20 other writers, editors, and graphic designers all striving to foster the truth of a fearless community. And as the founder and chief of such a movement, it’s my responsibility to set a standard of gutted faith and fearless stances. But stating the intricacies of your beliefs isn’t done. Not today, not now. Better to strive for winking ambiguity and innocent omissions of truth to maintain your persona, your brand, your audience. Better to be seen as a generic Christian than to be slapped with a label and fed to the naysayers. Will I do myself, my company, and my following a disservice by claiming what it is I specifically believe about God, His Bible, and salvation? Will people still listen and take my writing to heart if they know for certain we don’t agree on a theological level? I don’t have the answers to those questions. But what I do know is that we do things differently here at Bedlam and my faith is one of the most intimate things about me. I’m not a great Christian, and some would argue I’m not even a good one. I’m once divorced and twice married; I cuss too much and pray too little; and I carry scars of addiction, suicide attempts, and the recklessness of a wounded heart. But I also know I’m forgiven. And that’s why I carry my faith so closely. In the end, it’s all I have.

Read the rest of my newest article on Bedlam Magazine here. Thanks for reading!

We are our parents’ children, the byproduct of what they instilled in us as we grow. They departed their wisdom into us as our minds and bodies developed, shaping who we are as we grew into adults ourselves. And as we matured, life and the experiences it handed us shaped us further into who we are now. The things we go through, the things our parents went through, our dealings with the world, our parents’ experiences as they grew, all of this is poured into us and molds us into who we are and what we become. Sometimes, this is a good thing because our parents are decent folks who love people and show kindness to others and we’ve had our own pleasant walk through life, void of anything too life-altering. But too often, our influences hold maliciousness and hate in their heart toward society or even groups of people, so we’re raised and shaped to believe the same way. Our heart and mind and soul are conditioned to believe that which has been ingrained in us from birth and so it festers inside us. Or perhaps we’ve faced circumstances with society or groups of citizens that leave us with bitterness in our teeth. Regardless of how it happens, we witness hate and prejudice infecting and affecting us, leaving us angry and broken.

Read the rest of my newest article for Bedlam Magazine here. Thanks for reading!

Let’s start by making this single thing abundantly clear: you can get it.

You’ve been told you can’t. You’ve been told you’ll never come close. You’ve even been told you don’t have what it takes. But you can, you will, and you do. Sometimes it feels like it’ll never happen; things aren’t going the right way, you keep falling short, you can’t seem to catch a break, luck is never on your side. And that makes sense because life is like that sometimes. But keep the faith, cuz you can get it. You can.

“It” is your dream, your passion, your purpose, and it’s yours for the taking. For the getting.

It doesn’t matter that this mantra, this subject has been worn thin. It’s a cadence we all need to be reminded of more often than less.

What we tend to forget is that we live in a world that provides us every single thing we need to be a success.

Read the rest of this article on Bedlam Magazine here. Thanks for reading!

As you crawl closer to 30, you can’t help but look back over your life and see all of the decisions you’ve made, both good and bad. You see the loves you’ve lost, the jobs you’ve declined, the chances you should have taken, and the TV singing competitions you shouldn’t have tried out for. You see it all. Some of it you regret, some of it you don’t. But really, that’s just life. We can’t go back in time and change things; we can only do our best to make wise choices and deal with the consequences of those choices, the good and the bad.

But what if you had someone who was willing to point out some of the mistakes they’d made and show you how you can avoid them? Wouldn’t that be so kind of them? Wouldn’t you feel like buying that person a new phone or maybe an NBA franchise? Sure you would!

At 29, I’ve made enough mistakes to last me until I’m 58. I’m on my second wife and I’ve had a kid.

Read the rest of my newest article on Bedlam Magazine here.

Isn’t it awesome when a sex scene pops up in a movie or TV show when you least expect it? Especially when you’re sitting next to your grandma, hanging out, having a good ol’ time, and then BAM! Hot, sweaty, writhing bodies are dancing across the screen and suddenly you’re shouting Bible verses while you rifle the remote at the screen, hoping to shatter it into a billion little coitus pieces. Granny may have a heart attack but at least things won’t be awkward between you guys at Thanksgiving this year. Ahh, good times.

What is it about steamy sex during movies or TV shows that makes things so gotdang uncomfortable? Oh, that’s right, it looks amazing. There’s perfectly toned hott people with killer tans, great hair, and even better bendiness tossing each other around, breathing all heavy and what not, while we sit there, wondering if grandma will get hit with too much debris if we just dive out the window right quick. It’s all very sexy and good and nice.

But here’s a not-so-secret secret about sex.

Read the rest of my newest article on Bedlam Magazine here. Thanks for reading!

One of the things I love to do more than anything is give stuff to people. It makes me feel really good, which may make me a bit selfish: I don’t give for you, I give for me.

Anyway, in that spirit, I’m giving my latest book, We Are Not Hoodlums, away for free on Amazon. Just go to the below link and you’ll be able to download the book for absolutely no charge.

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Read the rest of this offer and grab your free copy of my latest book on Bedlam Magazine here.

In his wonderful 2009 book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller made sure each of us knew we had a story to live and to tell. Whether it was biking across the USA like Donald or jumping off a dock with your whole family just as a special way to say goodbye to friends and guests like darling Bob Goff, this book enriched the lives of so many by issuing in a culture of storytelling through the living of our lives. It began a movement that is still going strong five years later.

But while Mr. Miller’s book focused on how to improve our stories and how to make them better moving forward, what to do with the story we were living yesterday or last year or a decade ago was left unaddressed. What are we supposed to do with the failures, sins, and complications we lived and experienced back when we were struggling to understand who we are and where we were going?

For most of us, our past isn’t something we can be entirely proud of. Back there are addictions and complications and sins and regret.

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Read the rest of my new article on Bedlam Magazine here.

Did you know a bad haircut can ruin your life? It’s true. I know because I’m currently sporting the absolute worst haircut I’ve ever had in 29 very long years on this planet. Not only did it ruin my day, week, and month, but it’s been over two weeks and I am still complaining about it. Seriously. Ask my wife. She’s so sick of hearing about it, she puts me in a timeout anytime the word “haircut” comes out of my mouth. And you would you like to know whose fault it is that I look like a drill sergeant from Arkansas’ 39th Infantry Brigade? Why, it’s mine of course.

I take my hair and its care very seriously. It’s actually my fifth best feature, so I do what I can to take good care of this mane God blessed me with. This being the case, you would think I wouldn’t be too willing to try a new barber on a whim, right? Well, I’m not that smart so you’d be wrong.

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You can read the rest of this article on Bedlam Magazine here. Thanks for reading!

There’s a little known band called The Republic Tigers that deserves far more recognition than they’re able to claim. Their last full LP release came way back in 2008, and one could even argue that their robust indie rock sound came a few years too soon. If they were just peaking today, they’d be on every alternative and indie station from here to New York and back to LA.

In one of their better efforts titledGolden Sand”, the Kansas City outfit discusses what it means to bear the responsibility of wanting to affect change. “Who am I to make some sort of difference?” they ask in rhythm. The charge culminates when the lyrics ask us to turn our bleeding hearts into some bleeding hands, to take that which we’re passionate about and actually do something about it. And that’s where words written way back in the early 2000’s strike at the heart of us today.

Read the rest of this article on Bedlam Magazine here. And you can follow me on Twitter here. Thank you for reading!

Depression is a fickle thing. Often times, it’s nowhere to be found and life is scrumptious and full. And in those times, there is no shortage of smiles and laughter and love. In those times, we are void of brokenness and pain and weighted hearts. But then it comes roaring back, looking for a fight. It’s in those dark and dastardly moments that we discover what it means to be empty of faith or hope or light. It’s then that we know what it means to be dragged to the floor by the weight that rests in our soul.

It can be difficult to watch someone you care about suffer with depression. We do our best to hide it, to masquerade it as phantom sickness or exhaustion, because we are shameful of the darkness that haunts us. Our shame isn’t a choice we make, but one that comes naturally and uninvited. So when our bleak eyes and heavy head are noticed and brought to the attention of our loved ones, we find ourselves turning away in passive distaste for the spotlight. Seeing our shame, discovering our curse, being privy to the black secret that runs through our veins, this can cause pain and heartache of your own. After all, who enjoys watching someone they love suffer?

Deciding how or if to approach those of us in your life who are depressed is not an easy or coveted choice by any means. It’s easy to assign yourself the guilt you feel is required to explain why your loved one suffers. But you must remember that our suffering is not a result of something you’ve done or said and made come to pass. Relieve yourself of that weighted burden. Instead, know that the heat we carry in our chest and mind and heart is no one’s fault, especially not our own. We are simply afflicted with the darkened shadow of depression.

Read the rest of this article on Bedlam Magazine here. Thank you for reading.

For the last five months, I’ve been creating absolute bedlam in my life.

It all started at my wedding in November. Some friends and I realized just how many talented people we were close with. We were writers and editors and graphic designers. We were an army, just in our small group of friends. So we began hashing out an idea.

Eventually, that idea became my new mission in life.

Since November, my friend, confidant, and leader, Jayson Schmidt, and I have been recruiting, building, and developing that idea up to this point today. Right now. This very instant.

We’ve brought on incredibly talented people and leaders like Cassi Clerget, Jake Dudley, and Coleen York. We’ve sold these people on the idea of a family and gained their trust through the idea of creating bedlam within the online community. We have a staff of 17 now, all fearless people with hearts that seek after God and the wellbeing over others.

Together, we form the Bedlam Family.

What is Bedlam exactly? Allow us to explain.

bed·lam [bed-luhm]
noun
1. a scene or state of wild uproar…

We will not be adding to the noise.

Welcome to Bedlam Magazine. We are the place where faith and culture meet, and we embrace the chaos that comes from not having it all figured out. Faith, people, culture, these are the subjects and souls that hold our focus and inspire our content. We don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but we’ve experienced enough to know we should be asking questions.

Starting March 31st, we will be fearless in our confronting of the issues and problems that face our world today. We will say what needs to be said and discuss what needs to be discussed, whether it is socially and religiously acceptable or not. We don’t believe in exclusion or prejudice. We are and will be for everyone, regardless of sex, race, belief, or orientation.

At Bedlam, you will find a family that will love you as you are and support you as you search for the person you wish to be. We are not here to simply inform, inspire, or entertain; we are here to make a difference.

We are Bedlam Magazine and we will not be adding to the noise—but we will be causing a commotion.

Sincerely, in God and faith,
The Bedlam Family
#iambedlam

That’s us. That’s Bedlam Magazine. It’s the only place you’ll find my words online after today. As Editor-in-Chief of this new venture, I’ve sold my soul completely to the idea of creating a new place where everyone can feel safe and welcome. I want my words to be a part of that from now until the time God tells me otherwise.

So keep an eye on us. Come March 31st, we’ll be entering the fray for good; rousing debates, stepping on toes, and causing a commotion.

We’ll never incite or insult with malicious intent, but we will stand for what is right and speak truth to power. That’s our calling and we are not easily shaken.

I am Bedlam. You are Bedlam. Together, we are all the bedlam that will cause a commotion of fearless truth.

Join us, won’t you?

You can follow Bedlam Magazine on Twitter here (and check out the #iambedlam tag) and please pass BedlamMag.com on to your friends and family. God bless you.

bedlam announcement

It’s annoying when a Christian doesn’t have a sense of humor about their faith. Whenever someone says something funny or insinuates a slight against God, the Church, or Christians in general, they get their proverbial panties in a bunch. Suddenly they’re out on a tirade full of defense and handing out do-not-stop-do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-$200 passes straight to hell. Maybe they’re that protective of their faith or maybe they’re just defensive of something or Someone they love. Regardless, when a Christian is unable to laugh at themselves or the faith they hold close, it makes them seem aloof and out of touch.

But here’s the irony of it all: the Christian faith—the beliefs you and I hold so very fast too—are completely and absolutely absurd to a comical level.
Think about it for a minute. We believe this great big omnipresent, omniscient Presence who lives in the “sky” created the solar system with a whisper, men from dirt (ahem…), and women from the rib of a man.

WHAT?

Wait, wait…it gets better. An angel that God kicked out Heaven is now His archenemy and does whatever he can to make believers sin so that they’ll spend forever and ever burning in a lake of fire.

HUH? But wait! IT GETS BETTER!

If we’re good and don’t sin and love everyone, we get to spend all of eternity in a fantasy world full of gold, rubies, pearls, and mansions. It’s all very Narnia on an acid trip without a budget.
And while all of these descriptors are obviously a simplification of our faith, it doesn’t make us (or our faith) any less of an easy target. What we believe is fantastic in a fairytale kind of way to the naked eye (or faith). So much so that it’s all too simple for those who don’t believe the way we do to poke fun at us or make jokes at our offense. Sometimes they’re funny and sometimes they’re extremely rude and mean-hearted. And honestly, we can’t control it because that’s just part of life.

We believe in the fantastical…and we’re okay with that, because that’s where our faith comes in.

Sure, on the outside, God, Heaven, Hell, the Devil, and the concept of sin seem absurd and purely fairytale, but we believe it’s more than that. We believe the existence and very being of God is centered in love and grace. We believe He saves us from our sinful nature by relieving us of our faults and sins and missteps. And a big part of that is being secure in our faith in Him.

So when someone makes a joke at the expense of Christians or our faith, it’s okay to laugh. Really, it is. God doesn’t mind if we laugh. He doesn’t even mind if we make jokes of our own. Sure, there’s a line between joking around and being disrespectful, but laughter is a gift from God and a having a sense of humor doesn’t pull you further from the will and grace of God. You can laugh at yourself. You can laugh at your faith. You can even laugh at God. He doesn’t mind. And if you think God doesn’t have a sense of humor, you obviously haven’t ever seen a duckbill platypus or white people try to dance.

So don’t be afraid to laugh. Don’t be afraid to engage with the naysayers. Show them most Christians understand that we believe in the fantastical, but we do it with grace, security, and aplomb.

We can be secure in our faith, and it’s time we laughed like it.

Thank you for reading. You can follow me on Twitter here.

Jealousy is written and talked about quite a bit these days, especially within the narrative of Christianity. We hear in Sunday sermons how bad it is for our heart and soul and spirit. We read in articles and on social media how it affects us and drags us down to disreputable places that are hard to recover or come back from. And these sermons and articles and tweets and posts are correct: jealousy is a dirty rotten sin/feeling that does far more harm than good.

But what seems to be missing from the discussion is just how good the presence of jealousy can be for us (for the purpose of this article, we’ll restrict our definition of jealousy to a professional and social one and not one of romance).

It’s true that jealousy can have a negative effect on us, but it also has a way of inspiring us and pushing us to a point of action.
A friend of ours earns a book deal with a major publisher for their new novel and jealousy rears its ugly head. Suddenly, we’re not okay with letting our own book gather dust. Instead, we’re busting out 5000 words a day and sending agent queries out like a mad person.
A band we know personally signs with Sony or RCA and suddenly we’re reaching out to every entertainment lawyer and musical licenser we can find on Google, simply because we’ve been inspired to do something about our lack of success thus far.
We’ve been called to action by that feeling of envy and we’ve allowed it to prioritize our desires to succeed. Instead of letting that jealousy eat at us and bring us down, we give it permission to ignite a fire in us and put us to work. Jealousy has become a benefit rather than a hindrance. In reality, it’s the best possible reaction to a feeling with such negative connotations.

I’ve written before that jealousy is simply a part of the human condition. Like it or not, we’re going to be envious of someone or something at certain times in our life. It’s letting that jealousy fuel our own dreams and aspirations that decidedly beats the ugly monster and puts it to work for us. We don’t let it rot us from the inside out. We make it sweat and earn its place.
Maybe some of us handle jealousy better than others, but if each of us will take the inevitable jealousy and turn it on its head so that it’s pushing us forward rather than dragging us down, we’ll be moving in the right direction.

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This article consists of thematic elements and scenarios and may not be suitable for all readers. Please read with caution. Thank you.

Imagine for a moment that your skin is covered in tattoos.

Every little bit of you is covered in ink, from face to foot. But these permanent markings aren’t there by choice; rather, they appear at random to symbolize the many trials and triumphs, failures and finishes of your life up to this point.

There’s a prominent 26.2 on your calf from the time you completed your first marathon. Musical notes adorn your forearm to signify your deep love of music and its power it holds in your life. The word “victim” is branded to your back from the time he wouldn’t stop, even though you begged him to. Place after place, time after time, words and drawings and testaments are born onto your body to signify who you are, what you’ve been through, and what you’ve accomplished. Because of these brandings, it’s hard to hide your secrets and even harder to hide your pain. These tattoos give you away, shining in the light of life and alerting everyone to exactly who you are and what you’ve been through. You aren’t able to shape and shift and construct your image because these markings are a part of you for forever and always. They can’t be scraped away or removed with a laser. You’re exactly who the tattoos say you are, nothing more and nothing less.

Now imagine that those tattoos aren’t visible parts of your skin, but rather invisible scars and mementos adorning your heart and psyche and personality. Those same brandings are only visible to you because only you know exactly what all you’ve been through and what you’ve accomplished. And still, they make you who you are and shape the person you become.

That allusive scholarship you won swells you with pride when you happen to think on it. The art you create loosens your heart and sets your spirit free and makes you fearless. The assault you experienced at a young age hardens you and tears you down every time it’s brought to mind. From the day of our birth to the day we’re a part of now, we are built and shaped by that which we’ve experienced and accomplished. Whether we’ve hidden them deep, whether we think on those instances with fondness or a sickened stomach, we are constructed into the sum of our life’s equation.

If we aren’t careful, we become what time and circumstance allow.

We can crash through our lives in anger and resentment, a meandering force of simmering pain. We can allow our past to influence who we are and ruin what we become. We can allow it to shape our friendships and falter our relationships. If we give them permission, those tattoos of life lost and pain gained can be the deadliest force imaginable wrecking a path through our lives.

And yet, each of us are allowed to be more than that. We’re more than the divorce we went through at the soft age of 22. We’re made of more than the rape we experienced before we’d even had our first kiss. We’re better than the drugs we’ve swallowed and chaos we’ve caused. We can push past the pain and circumstances of our past so that they aren’t allowed to build us into something bitter and dark. Instead of surrendering to those hurting times, we can give those tattooed scars to God and allow Him to wipe them from our hearts and minds. We can give Him those markings that brand our lives and allow Him to build us into something made whole and beautiful.

Maybe our scars hurt deep and spread wide. Maybe we’re not ready to forgive and move past that which hardens our heart and bruises our mind. But He is there, waiting with healing hands, ready to wipe away that which hinders us. All it takes is a step in His direction, a mumbled prayer of submission and requested relief. He is there for us today, tomorrow, and forever.

Are you ready to have those tattoos removed?

You can follow me on Twitter here. Thank you so very much for reading.

*this article has been updated to include a warning of thematic elements and scenarios.

My two brothers and I grew up under parents who were very careful about what kind of movies they allowed us to watch. Because of this, we became familiar with the old, expansive works of Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Jerry Lewis & Dean Martin, William Powell, Grace Kelly, Bob Hope & Bing Crosby, Abbott & Costello, and Gregory Peck; the grand movie stars of old Hollywood. Late into our Friday nights, black and white films would flicker in our eyes and guide us to sleep. Films like The Seven Year Itch, The Thin Man, Roman Holiday, and a thousand others. They were simple and entertaining. And for the most part, they were innocent.

A large staple of our viewing library was the catalog of little Shirley Temple, the short, blonde, curly-haired child star of yesteryear. Her movies were fun to watch while actually being funny enough to make us laugh. She could sing and dance and had impeccable comedic timing, even at her incredibly young age. There was something capturing about her, something I struggle to explain even now. But she was an entertainer and her films kept her audience engrossed even 50 years after they were first released. There was something special about that little movie star and the entire world saw that.

And yet, when I checked Twitter this morning, I was incredibly surprised to learn that Mrs. Shirley Temple Black (her married name) had passed away during the night at the age of 85. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised that she had passed; I was surprised she was still alive. As I’d grown and my taste in films matured, I lost interest in her films and moved on to more modern fare. I’d lost track of her—rarely, if ever, hearing her name in the news—as we do with our childhood heroes. But now that her name and work has been brought back to my attention, I can’t help but reminisce about all of the worthy experiences I had because of the films she was in. They were (mostly) bright and warm, welcoming even. I will always associate the films of Shirley Temple with a time of innocence and happiness. Before life got heavy and complicated, there was Shirley Temple, laughing and singing and entertaining three young Texas boys who weren’t allowed to watch much else. For that, I will always hold her and her work in the highest regard.

So, to Mrs. Shirley Temple Black, thank you. Thank you for being wonderful and timeless. Thank you for using your fame for good instead of selfishness*. And most of all thank you for giving me movies I can safely pass along to my daughter.

You will be missed.

*She served as the US ambassador to Ghana starting in 1974 and Czechoslovakia in 1989 among other diplomatic services.

I have a problem with feminists.

I wish they didn’t exist.

I wish feminists didn’t exist the same way I wish NFL draft prospect Michael Sam hadn’t announced he was gay and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t have his world-changing dream. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe I’m out of line, but it’s all God’s honest truth. I wish the world was rid of feminists and proclamations of sexual preference and fighters for freedom.

I wish none of those things existed because I wish so very deeply there wasn’t a need for them.

In this 21st century, equality has made leaps and bounds from where it once was. Slavery has been abolished in most advanced societies and people of all race, color, and designation are, largely, looked upon as equals and counterparts.

And yet, under thin, shambly layers of civilization and respectability, the ugliness of prejudice and inequality still run rampant, especially in the United States. Homosexuals are associated with the outcasts, racism is prominent, and women still fight to be regarded as the equal of men. Even today, in the year 2014, where technology races ahead of us and the human experience is more intelligent and less complicated than ever before, we look down on those who act and believe different than us.

And we Christians are more guilty than most.

For one reason and a thousand others, some Christians hold fast to what they believe are the old world ways of yesteryear. They hold men in a higher regard while viewing women as the lesser of the two sexes. Men and women of different color or descent are looked down upon and made to feel less than worthy of the attention of the lily-skinned believers. Homosexuals are ridiculed and attacked with viciousness and scripture as so called “Christians” hide their hate and prejudices behind a God they quite obviously don’t understand. That they consider themselves preferred before and above another human and child of God—whether because of their gender or sexual preference—when the Bible they flaunt so bravely speaks to the opposite doesn’t seem to bother them.

The bare fact of it all is that every single one of us, regardless of race, gender, or sexual preference, are wholly and completely equal in the eyes of our God.

Women stand side by side as equals and counterparts to men in God’s eyes (and probably above us in some areas…) because having a penis doesn’t give someone more worth than someone with a vagina.

A person with skin tinted in colors other than white are not worthy of less because of that fact, and that certainly doesn’t mean they are limited in how God can use them. We fail to remember this far too often.

Gay men and women are not less than their straight brothers and sisters simply because they’re gay. No, we are all found equally guilty in our sin and in our failing of Him.

So no, I don’t like that feminists exist, because I wish so badly that men and women alike would accept and appreciate the fact that regardless of gender, each of us was and is created wholly equal, none greater than the other.

I hate that racial prejudice is still so prominent that our first non-white President wasn’t elected until the year 2008 and is still attacked first by his skin color rather than solely on his merit as a leader.

I hate that a man coming out as a homosexual is met with disdain and professional discourse (according to Sports Illustrated, 90% of NFL teams already knew Michael Sam was gay and had dropped them down their draft boards because of it). Why can’t we Christians lead the way in accepting and loving a gay individual as our brother or sister in love and in God? They are not different than the rest of us who fail God every single day. We are not holier or closer to God than them. We only wish that was the case.

I can’t pretend that I think these words will change the world. Those rampant prejudices against gender, race, and sexual preference run too deep and too angry. But I can stand up and say that I am not above anyone else because of I’m a white man who loves someone of the opposite gender. I can stand up and say that I truly respect women as my exact equal. I can say that I love and respect everyone, regardless of the color of his or her skin. I can say that someone being sexually attracted to their own gender doesn’t make them less worthy of my respect and God’s love and mercy.

Maybe things won’t change and maybe this is just the way things will always be. But we can show the world how true followers of Christ are supposed to act and react. We can love and respect every person, every soul, wholly, completely, and without prejudice or reservation.

I’m taking a stand for equality and respect through the love of God. Join me.

Guns. Beer. Sex. Fighting. Sports. Pickup trucks. Chopping down trees. Hauling the chopped down trees with the pickup trucks. Building some things. Tearing down other things. Avoiding emotions. Having a penis (and erectile dysfunction, according to the commercials during football games).

These are the things that make a man what a man is supposed to be. At least that’s the idea today’s culture would have us believe. According to them, if you have the anatomy of a man and you’re interested in the things mentioned above, you’re a man, son. Plain and simple.

And yet, not so much.

A man isn’t a man simply because he has the equipment being a man “requires”. A man isn’t a man because he has sex with a lot of different women and drives a really big truck. A man isn’t a man because he shoots guns, drinks beer, and refuses to acknowledge the presence of ~feelings~. No, it’s all much more intelligent and honorable than that.

A man is a man because he does what’s required of him with courage and honor. A man is a man because he accepts his responsibilities and does so because it’s the right thing to do. A man is a man because he sees women as his exact equal and not someone who is to serve him or pleasure him. A man is a man because he accepts the help he needs and does so with a thankful heart. A man is a man because he shakes off the “manly” expectations of patriarchal society and instead does what is good and right and respectful. A man is a man because he defends those who cannot defend themselves, standing in direct defilement of those who consider a man to be one who is ruthless and centered in self. No, a man is more than that.

We are more than that.

A man is he who loves fiercely and readily welcomes the emotions of a full and bursting heart. A man is he who speaks honestly and without hesitation, standing bravely for what he believes, regardless of cost or sacrifice. A man is he who works righteously to keep his promises, and when he is unable to keep them, he accepts the responsibility of his failure and tries harder the next time. A man is he who treats people the way he wants them to treat him, not the way they do or have treated him. A man is he who shows up time after time, day after day, because he is trusted to do so and he covets that trust. A man is he who gives wholly of himself, to those who have and those who have not, because he realizes giving will always be better than receiving.

And it’s likely you know all of this. Either you’ve read it or heard it all in the past, and I hope that’s the case. But let these words serve as your reminder that a man isn’t made of sex and trucks and guns and beer. Rather, he’s made of love and sacrifice and bravery and honor. And while our society will keep selling the idea of the rakish, sex-fueled man, we can know that we are more than that. We require more and we give more. We aren’t based in diesel fuel and beer, but faith and courage. That’s what makes us men. That’s what makes us worthy of the title of “man”. And every single day, we work and love and give to earn that title again and again.

Follow me on Twitter here. Thank you for reading.

by Jhason Smith

“….regard the patience of our Lord as salvation;” -2 Pet. 3:15a

How amazing is it that we have a God Who is patient with us? This is one of the most beautiful expressions of His love towards us, His children. We are all products of His patience, masterpieces of His will (Eph. 2:10).

In the Bible, we read of no one “running with God;” but rather, they simply walked – (Gen. 5:24 [Enoch], Gen. 6:9 [Noah]).

I feel that hidden within the patience God exercises with each of us lies something extremely valuable that we can all glean from, but can be easily overlooked. In this, I am all too familiar with the bondage that comes from drowning in your own guilt and shame when you have “failed” God. I cannot tell you how much time I have wasted dwelling on the thought, “God is disgusted with me” or “He’s so upset with me,” after I made a choice to indulge in any given vice of mine. I knew that He loved me, and that He forgives me, but that still didn’t help with the emotions of feeling as if I was a complete failure every time I returned to my sin. And yet, every time I failed, He was there, standing firm, patiently waiting. This too turned into a weight of its own that I dreaded facing. Not only was I dealing with the fact of coming to Him and admitting my faults (as if He was unaware of them in the first place), but explaining it to the epitome of faithfulness and love that this world will ever know—all while retaining the fact that He would still be there afterwards and wouldn’t dream of abandoning me. Like kicking a cute puppy that loves you over and over only to watch it return to you again and again with a wagging tail, beaming with excitement.

“How can it be that He’s patient with me when I continue to do the things that I know I shouldn’t?”, I would ask myself.  When I would dwell on the image that this paints of the Almighty God not frantically running away in disgust every time I sinned, but simply standing still with His loving gaze fixed firmly on me, deep down, in my honesty, I found that it made me uncomfortable to accept. I began to see that this was the same for other Christians as well.  But why? What I realized shocked me. I discovered that what I truly wanted was anything but His patience. I found that I wanted Him to run. I wanted to feel that He was upset with me. Out of the depths of my heart, these thoughts echoed loudly. But to my surprise, and to my defeat, in the middle of my sin, He wouldn’t move, not a single inch.

The reason why Christians have a hard time easily accepting that God is patient with us in our darkest moments is because His patience uncovers a lie hidden deep within our hearts that we secretly believe. A lie can be told so much that, eventually, it will begin to sound like the truth. And when I would find myself returning to the filth of my sin, I would hear within myself the countless lies that would convict me of being a hypocrite, a liar, a failure, and worthless.  Time after time, the wrong things began to sound right, and I began to unknowingly accept them as truth, building layers upon them in my heart.

This was the source of my discomfort when I would think about God’s patience for me in my weakness. I felt that I didn’t deserve it. In my mind, I knew that grace was a free gift, of which no man could earn (Eph. 2:8-9), but with my heart, I felt this desire that wished He would express His disappointment in me. But, no matter how hard I wished, it never happened. And it will NEVER happen. Because If God abandoned us in our sin then it would affirm the lie that deep down we wish with all of our hearts were true; that we are a disappointment, unable to overcome, dirty, and worthless person.

By believing this, we are asking God (who is Truth) to become something that He cannot; a lie. And He will never do it.  Not even for the ones He loves the most—His children. So then, what is His patience telling us?  If my lie told me that I was two-faced, a disappointment, and was never going to be victorious; and all that it would take to prove this was for God to “give up” on me, then in Him staying, with great patience towards me, it proves the exact opposite. His patience proves to me that I am cherished, holy, and valuable. I am His beloved, His child. I am victorious, righteous, and clean through Jesus Christ. What a beautiful way of expressing His love to us. I thought for the longest time that the only reason He was patient was because He was waiting for me to become a better, holier person. But I’ve come to realize that He patiently waits because I already am His best. God isn’t patient with us; God is patient for us. The true intent of His great patience towards us is not to tell of how great He is, but how valuable we are. And that is the truth.

Wherever this post may find you, cease trying to fix yourself in order to return to the presence of God. Instead, simply come, which is His only requirement [Matt. 11:28], because it is the presence of God that fixes you.

Amen.

Jhason and his wife Brittany have been married since January 2013 and live in the greater Nashville, Tennessee area where they are both youth pastors at Eastgate Creative Christian Fellowship. They also possess a big passion for the worship music of the Church at large and desire to see people have a deep encounter with God in worship. They are actively involved in their church’s worship team and seek to express a new sound of worship that ministers to the hearts of people and introduces them to the heart of God. Jhason is 23 years old.

There’s a deliberate carefulness that invades a loving relationship. We’re careful not to say and do things that anger or hurt our partner, and they (hopefully) return the favor. It isn’t a practice founded in fear or loneliness, but rather in love and respect. We love and care for this person, so we want the best for them, doing our best to help them avoid any unnecessary annoyance or pain that may originate through us. And yet, as deliberate as we are in caring for our partners, keeping a careful balance of fairness and equality is practically impossible. Because just like life, relationships—and especially marriage—are wholly unfair.

Once we’ve been attached to another soul for any significant length of time, we can begin to see how much compromise and sacrifice are a part of our relationship. From where we live to where we go to church to where we eat dinner, each decision we face as a couple has the potential to drive a divide between us and our romantic counterpart. So we compromise and we do things we don’t want to do, all for the sake of keeping the peace and strengthening our union. It’s a vital part of a successful relationship, because without it, without the willingness to compromise and sacrifice our own wants and needs for those of another, there is only anger and confrontation and bitterness left. But because of this, because of the need and requirement of relenting our will at times, relationships can become ghastly unfair, especially if we begin to feel like it’s been a long while since we’ve gotten our way. But that’s okay.

No one ever said that a relationship should be fair. No one has ever said decisions are split 50/50 down the line, no matter what. Because they’re not and they never will be. Unless we’re adamant on keeping score on who does what when—a practice that is strongly discouraged by anyone with half a brain—there will never be perfect balance in our relationship. There will be times when our partner requires more of us than they’re able to give of themselves, just as there will be times when the opposite will be true. It’s that willingness to give unselfishly of ourselves that gives our relationship the strength it needs to last. It isn’t always easy to bite our tongues and relent on something we want to do, but uncovering the wisdom of when to fight and when to offer a preemptive surrender is a byproduct of learning what allows a relationship to strive rather than flounder.

At their core, successful marriages and relationships are about regularly surrendering to one another through mutual respect. They’re about putting our partner wholly before ourselves when it matters and when it doesn’t. They’re about giving first and taking last. And while that may mean the balance of our relationship leans to one side or the other, when both individuals commit to giving wholly of themselves to and for each other, that balance is often restored, giving the relationship more strength and deeper purpose.

Marriage and relationships aren’t fair because absolute perfect balance can never be present. But if both souls can commit to approaching the union with respect and a giving heart, the sacrifice of compromise won’t seem like much of a sacrifice. Instead, it’ll be a part of life that we do willingly and with a full, passionate heart. If both parties can accomplish that, if they can both reach a point of actually wanting to place their mate before themselves, the relationship will be beyond reproach. And in life and love, this should be our eternal goal.

Following me on Twitter here. Thank you for reading.

Why does what I have to say matter?

When I really think about it, there are very few topics, if any, that I will ever cover that have never been covered before. Rarely am I going to say something that someone else hasn’t already said. Of all the writers, bloggers, authors, speakers, etc., out there, what I write and how I write is going to pale in comparison to others’ impeccable giftings, talents, and passions.

Am I cocky to think my words have a place? Am I naive to believe my writing actually holds value? Am I childish to say my journey without a doubt needs to be shared with others?

I’ve completed one English course that could count for anything. I don’t know all the rules of grammar. My punctuation is far less than perfect. I write with how I feel, which can sometimes be anger or sadness. I wear my heart on my sleeve.

Anything I say, someone has already said it better or will do so in the future.

Am I being realistic or trying to use these excuses as a cop out? I could easily share blogs and pieces from other people that I believe in, forfeiting my own thoughts, feelings, and string of words.

Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I have to believe I would be doing myself and others a disservice if I were to start believing all of that. Surely suppressing what I believe to be a valuable part of my being isn’t the answer to the occasional doubt that tries to creep through my heart.

Because I do not write, but rather, I am a writer. I do not come up with words. Words flow out of me like the air I breathe. I begin to struggle functioning properly if I fail to write down what is on my heart and in my mind.

I will not let my past, present, and future pain be in vain. I will continue to share my life, laughter, tears, pain, and experiences with others. I did not go through what I went through just to leave it in the past. I went through it to grow, and hopefully help and love on others in a way I would not have been able to before.

Maybe two people will follow my journey faithfully. Perhaps 300. Maybe one day 5,000. But I musn’t allow that to be my focus, because if it is, on the days that I get no likes and no comments, the discouragement I feel will begin to override the purpose I know I have.

My focus needs to be on speaking with honesty and humility. My writing needs to be vulnerable and raw, allowing others to feel what I feel and know they aren’t alone. My focus needs to be on God, who gives me the strength to be open and the purpose that provides me with encouragement and fulfillment.

Writing is not something I do but part of who I am, and my story deserves to be heard. And in whatever way suits you best, I believe yours does as well.

I believe we can make the world a little brighter with the beauty of our words. So let’s push past the insecurities and discouragement. Let’s go further than the limits that we have put on ourselves. Let’s speak in the best way we can; truthfully, and let’s do it unabashedly.

You can find more of Rebekah Richardson on Twitter here and on her blog here.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I couldn’t necessarily classify myself as a good Christian. I’m a Christian, sure, but perhaps not one worthy of emulating.

And then I began to wonder…

What is it that makes us a Christian in the first place?

Is it how we behave or the things we say? Is it the thoughts that pass through our heads or feelings that escape our hearts? Is it the movies we watch or music we listen to?

Being a Christian is supposed to mean being Christ-like. But somehow I can’t believe Jesus would’ve sat all the way through The Wolf of Wall Street like I did, what with Leo snorting cocaine out of a hooker’s butt crack and what not. He probably wouldn’t listen to St. Lucia’s ‘Before the Dive’ like I am right now. And He probably wouldn’t allow the same thoughts through His head that scatter through mine on a daily basis.

So if so much of what I do and who I am isn’t exactly Christ-like, in what way am I a Christian?

Perhaps it’s because I believe in the death, burial, and holy resurrection of a Savior worthy of worshipping. Perhaps it’s because I believe in and have experienced the same Holy Ghost that filled the upper room in the book of Acts. Maybe it’s because the righteous faith I maintain in the God of Abraham and Isaac is the same faith that allows me to crawl back to Him again and again, sin after sin, failure after failure. Or maybe it’s simply because I claim the moniker of “Christian” and no one has challenged me on it yet. Quite honestly, I do not know.

What I do know is that the term of “Christian” has taken on a very loose definition in the recent past and I am the chief offender. Now, someone like me who consumes whatever type of media he wants and does whatever he wants and says whatever he wants can still call themselves a follower of God and no one has a problem with it. There is no discipline. There is no exclusivity to the term “Christian” anymore. Anyone can claim to be a Christian. And maybe that’s not a bad thing (any step toward God, even if it’s as simple as claiming faith in Him, is a step in the right direction).

In the end, the title of “Christian” is nothing more than a means of notifying the world of one’s faith. And yet, as most of us know, faith without works to back it up is dead and useless. So while it’s important that we’re proud of our faith and claim as such, it’s what we do with that faith that means the most. It’s conducting ourselves in honor of our faith and belief that is what’s weighed most diligently. It doesn’t matter what we call ourselves—Christians, Zionists, or what have you—it matters how we’re affecting this world day by day, soul by soul. Because, as we know, it doesn’t always matter what we say, but what we do. That’s what will leave the biggest impact and mark on our world, not our words but our actions. That’s what will make the biggest difference for the Kingdom of God.

Maybe we’re not good enough Christians to rightfully claim that title right now. Or maybe God doesn’t care what we call ourselves as long as we’re striving to be and do better by and for and through Him. If we’re cutting away the things that separate us from Him—the unGodly movies and music and thoughts and actions—we can crawl ever closer to doing and being what He requires of us.

And as follower of Him and His Word, that should be our aim, from top to bottom, day in and day out, forever and always.

Amen and hallelujah.

You can follow me on Twitter here. Thank you for reading and passing this article along. I appreciate it more than you know.

In this consumer-driven society, we are obsessed with instant gratification. We have an inclination for impatience. If we can’t have what we want, when we want it, we move on.

This perpetual urge to pacify personal desires leads to a sense of entitlement. Driven by ego we plow forward despite the ripple effect of our actions and behavior. Because we deserve it. Or at least we think so.

Unless motivated by a higher purpose (or social norms), we’re inclined to continue a self-serving lifestyle, especially if we listen to anyone who agrees with us.

We’re told, “Do what you want. Follow your dreams. Pursue your passions. Trust your own heart.” Taken on it’s own, this is crappy advice. Why? Because you are a pretty good liar. And the person you lie to best stares back at you from the mirror every morning. Your heart can’t always be trusted.

When we make impulsive decisions to appease a selfish demand, we risk missing the big picture. And what our deepest of hearts is truly after. To matter. To make a difference. To be remembered.

To achieve true greatness we must wrestle with the collision of self-preservation and servanthood.

Men and women throughout history are remembered for their achievements in art, science, faith, sports, and conquest. But the greatest names endure because of their sacrifice. Their light eclipses others because they served a cause greater than themselves.

We live in a time of immense advantage. No one has to wait until they are old to put a dent in the universe. The connectivity of the internet and social media platforms have shrunk the planet and magnified our potential impact as individuals. Community is no longer confined to geographic proximity.

Want to start a non-profit to provide shoes, clean water, or education to those in need? Go for it. (These three have been done, but the needs far outweigh the supply.)

Want to launch a web-design firm, create a paleo diet resource, or write a thriller novel? Go for it. (Don’t quit your day job. It’s a fundraiser for your dream job.)

It doesn’t matter how you feel about resolutions or goals; consider this your call to action. If you want to be somebody, you’ve got to do something.

Find a need. Fill it. Rinse. Repeat. Win.

Legacy sounds like an old person word. Like it or not, we all leave one behind. Our only choice is whether or not our legacy is a lasting impression.

KC Procter is a writer and coffee addict. He has 1 wife, 2 jobs, 3 kids & wakes up before 4am every weekday. You can find him at kcprocter.com or on Twitter @ThatGuyKC.

There’s a big, nasty stigma when it comes to Christians discussing and dealing with depression. Because of our faith in God and His absolute love for us, it’s generally (and inexplicably) believed within the Church’s walls that Christians are “too blessed to be stressed” or simply aren’t relying on God enough to heal them. Our faith is questioned and the righteousness of our souls doubted.

This is wrong.

Depression and its effects are not indicators of a lacking passion for Christ or failing faith. It is not a result of backsliding or even a punishment for sins we’ve committed. It’s all much more reasonable (and realistic) than that.

The National Institute of Mental Health (nimh.gov) says the following about the causes of depression:
Several factors, or a combination of factors, may contribute to depression.
Genes—people with a family history of depression may be more likely to develop it than those whose families do not have the illness.
Brain chemistry—people with depression have different brain chemistry than those without the illness.
Stress—loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger depression.”

Basically, it’s not our fault. It’s not because we’re bad Christians and it’s not a punishment for our dastardly deeds.

Part of the reason there’s such a vicious stigma with depression in the Church is that Faith and Science have always had a bit of a rivalry. But the two are not and cannot be mutually exclusive, especially in the case of depression. And in the case of depression, Science has information we can and should utilize.
If we Christians, good and holy and faithful as we are, want relief from our depression, we can certainly pray and seek God for healing, but it’s also prudent of us to seek all the help available to us. That means seeking out licensed mental health professionals and considering the benefits of antidepressants. Doing these things doesn’t mean we’re bad Christians or that our faith is wavering or that we’ll one day burn in hell for it. It means we value our mental and emotional health enough to seek out the help we need.

Regardless of what you’ve been told in the past, regardless of what antiquated lessons and chastisements you’ve had aimed at you from saints of the Church, your wellbeing is what’s most important. Seek God, stay faithful to Him and His ways, while finding the strength to seek alternatives not outside of God but outside the confines of the Church. You can go to therapy and still be a good Christian (there are even Christian mental health professionals you can see). You can be on antidepressants and still be a good Christian. Relying on these things for relief from depression and its effects isn’t a spit in God’s face. It’s a sign of commitment to taking the best care of the life He gave you.

Work to get better any way you can, even if it means stepping outside the confines of the Church. You’re worth the effort.

(Side note: if you’ve received health insurance through the new Affordable Healthcare Act, mental health benefits and counseling are a part of those policies and available to you. Check with your insurance provider for more details.)

You can follow me on Twitter here. Thank you for reading.

At certain times in the past, I have been attacked for the words and ideas I’ve pushed out onto the wonderful world wide web. It happened when I wrote a short story that I thought would do some good for some people. It happened when I spoke out against a Christian website called Prodigal that pulled a sex article I wrote for them after two months, three edits, and two hours of blowback. And it happened when a group of activists “discovered” a side Twitter account I had called @CoryAfterDark (I put ‘discovered’ in quotations because I never tried to hide the account or act like it wasn’t me who was writing the crassness it held).

During those times, hard, angry things were aimed at me and said about me. Public, private, and everywhere in between, my name was spat and (literally) cursed by people who were/are much intelligent than me. And it hurt, to be honest. I felt like I was being picked on. It was the first time I felt the sting of a disapproving public and I honestly did not know what to do or how to respond. So I did what came naturally and got really super defensive.

I argued and fought for my own sake. I tried to defend myself and did what I could to dissuade the naysayers. And all the time, I held tight to the belief that I was so very right. It wasn’t my fault they couldn’t understand what I was trying to convey in my stories or in my anger or in my “jokes”. They just didn’t “get” me. They didn’t understand.

And yet, I learned exactly one thing through all of the angry tweets and lengthy, vitriol-laced blog comments, through all the pain and stress and angst it caused in me.

I learned that I’m an idiot. A big one.

Instead of listening to what these people were saying or trying to decipher why they were responding the way they were, I chose to ball up my fists and get my feelings hurt. There was no compassion or understanding inside me. Instead of working on becoming a better writer who articulately explained his ideas and beliefs, I put the fault on them for not solving the mystery of my writings’ riddles. I was selfish and I was blind.

Even in my apologies—on the rare occasion that I actually did apologize—I spoke of sorrows focused on the reactions of the offended instead of accepting responsibility for the filth and immaturity of my ideas and stories and jokes. I couldn’t see the pain I caused some readers and followers and I couldn’t fathom that I was at fault. So I said sorry for other people’s anger. The ignorance of that astounds me now, because I was so severely wrong. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own that a story I wrote wasn’t received and interpreted the way I thought it should be. I was wrong for complaining when Prodigal pulled my article. That was their right and I reacted like the self-centered brat I was. Those tweets on @CoryAfterDark were nothing but filth, conjured up to show that I could write secular jokes like all the comedians I followed and admired. But they were mean and sinful and sexist and just plain wrong.

Looking back, I can honestly say that I’ve learned to widen my vision and scope of understanding. I write more carefully now, not by censoring myself but by considering how the placement and flow of my words can be interpreted and received. I work harder at avoiding the misunderstandings and controversy that swirled around my words before. And it’s not for peace or avoidance of trouble, but rather a healthy respect for those who chose to challenge me to be a better writer and person, even if they didn’t know that’s what they were doing. I feel like I owe them thanks for that.

As badly as I want to, I can’t go back and change anything. My reputation, how some people view me and think of me, will be forever tarnished in the minds of some. There are some people who read these very words and roll their eyes because they’ll assume I’m just placating or deceiving. And that’s understandable. I wouldn’t blame them one bit. But what I can do is accept responsibility as a writer and man and Christian and do and be better about considering the reactions and opinions of others. It isn’t easy and it doesn’t mean I won’t bristle at people and their comments from time to time. But I learned from those hardened times and reactions and I’m better because of it.

Not everyone is going to like me or the words and stories I share, but that’s okay. I don’t need to be liked. I don’t need to be thought of as a good writer. I only need to do my absolute best to share my story and hope to help others through that commission.

If I can do that, if I can respect the reactions and opinions of others, if I can do and be better than I was, then I can be proud of the work I create in this space and of the (hopefully positive) effect I have on the world.

This is my mea culpa and my promise.

You can follow me on Twitter here. Thank you so very much for reading.  

He said it first. I knew it was coming and waited for it, anticipated it. It was as if I was holding my breath and those three words set me free, filling my lungs with a hope I could build a life on.

I. Love. You.

I love you.

I had never heard them before; not like that, strung together with pieces of his heart holding them together. There were promises tucked between the syllables. Each one meant something, layers upon layers of romance and passion and admiration and adoration and intention wrapped up and sealed with his word, then placed in my hands. I could almost feel the weight of those words resting in my palms, tickling the soft skin between my fingers and coaxing a smile from my face. Because he loves me and that is more real and unreal than anything.

But only if I believe him.

Only if I hear those words and know them to be true. Only if I trust him when he says “I love you” and we’re thousands of miles away. Only if I remember them when we disagree and tears replace the smiles. Only if I believe in them when I haven’t seen him in weeks and they are the only thing tying us together. Otherwise, they are only words. Things we say because they are expected or assumed; a way to fill the silence.

Saying “I love you” is just one piece. It is neither the beginning nor the end, but somewhere along the messy middle of the love story. It doesn’t begin the romance and it doesn’t end it. It won’t always fix the broken pieces or brighten the dark days. It may lie silent and tired, stretched too thin or crumpled up and tossed into the corner. Real love, I’m finding, is never easy. It demands something of you, asking you to be something more than you ever thought you could be. It challenges you and poses the hard questions and frustrates and infuriates and saddens and asks you stay anyway, to find the path out of the thorny bushes and into the soft, colorful garden.

It is an open invitation from one heart to another; an invitation to smile and laugh and cry and lean on each other when the world weighs you down at the worst possible moment and turns off the light. It is one soul holding out his hand and asking her to dance today and tomorrow and the seconds in between. It is his lips saying three words that set you free and ask something of you in the same moment.

They ask you to trust. To put your faith in this man standing in front you, a bit awkward and a bit wonderful and completely himself. To believe him when he says, “You are lovely and beautiful and clever and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” Those little words are the bricks that form the foundation of the life we are building together, slowly but intentionally. They hint at a future I could never have dreamed of, because he is better than anything I could have imagined.

But first, you believe him. You take your fears and your insecurities and the trials of your past that left you feeling inadequate and ashamed and unworthy, and you put them in his loving hands. You give him the broken, tattered, rough-hewn pieces of your heart and know they are safe with him. That you are safe with him Because you, my dear, deserve that once in lifetime, feel it in the tips of your fingers, messy but mesmerizing real love.

And sometimes that’s scary. That faith and trust. Because what if he hurts you or leaves you or lies and cheats and changes his mind? What if she finds someone else or thinks you aren’t enough or realizes you’re just a mistake? Sometimes, those what if’s get stacked up on top of the I love you’s and you decide the risk, the leap of faith, just isn’t worth the possible disaster. Sometimes, people break your heart.

And then other times, you take the chance. Not in some grand, magical, Disney-style moment with an original song and full orchestra in the background as he sweeps you off your feet and dances with you across the ballroom. No, not for you. You deserve something more lovely. Something real and sincere and completely your own. You deserve that moment that creeps up on you, taking you by surprise, when you realize that the only thing left to say is “I love you, too” with a full heart and hopeful eyes.

Follow Cassi on Twitter here and read more of her wonderfully writing here.

I like to consider myself a good Christian. Well, maybe not a good Christian, but a Christian, you know? I believe in God and the Bible. I go to church (usually) and try to live in a way that would be pleasing to God. I do the things a Christian should do to maintain their faith.

But then I think, “What if I’ve got it all wrong?”

It takes faith to believe in that which you cannot see, and not just the “Christian” kind of faith, but the real, honest, Webster’s definition kind of faith. That’s what it takes to believe in a God we’ve never seen or directly heard. It takes that kind of monumental faith to place our lives in the hands of Someone or some Thing that we can only feel.

And because of that, it’s all too easy to doubt we’ve got it right.

It’s easy to consider the large leaps we have to take in our faith and wonder if we’re way off track. The world created from a whisper. Man created from dust. Our lives beholden to a plan created by an omnipresent Being who loves us no matter how often we may disappoint him. Without context, these things seem almost absurd and certainly impossible. And yet, they are the very foundation for what we place our life’s trust in. To an unbeliever, we can seem more than a little coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs.

When that doubt produces itself—the doubt that creeps into our hearts and minds and challenges what we’ve been taught and what we choose to put our faith in—it can cause a hesitation in our spirit and a stepping away of our faith…if we allow it to.

To some, doubt can be a wrecker of their faith. One stray thought of doubt can throw their entire worldview into question. Suddenly, they’re abandoning that which they’ve known and believed from childhood. That doubt has pulled them away and turned them into something unfamiliar. But doubt can be something of a strengthener. If we approach it correctly, doubting who God is and what He can do allows us to solidify the faith we maintain. Doubt challenging what we hold close in faith and truth doesn’t have to come into our lives like a wrecking ball (what up, Miley?), but rather, it can strengthen our stance by forcing us to reexamine why we believe the way we do. It can allow us the inspiration we need to grow uncomfortable in our faith and learn to defend it in fervor and patience. As Christians, this is an act of both dedication and renewal of our faith.

Doubt can shake us and it can call to question all that we believe. But if we’ll choose to see it as a challenge and not a failure, we can grow stronger in our faith. And now, in these days and times, we need that strength more than ever.

You can follow me on Twitter here. Thank you for reading.

I got married on a Monday.

While the world rushed about, spinning and twirling and breaking their business, my now wife and I stood in a busy but beautiful courthouse pavilion and whispered our vows to one another in the company of a justice of the peace. It wasn’t drawn out and it certainly wasn’t extravagant, but it was simple and it was beautiful.

On that cold and rainy 4th day of November, after five minutes of bright smiles and life-long promises, we slid rings on seeking fingers and rushed back out into the world. We were married and we were happy.

This tale may be confusing to some of you since you just recently witnessed the tweets and pictures and videos of our wedding ceremony at the end of November. And I apologize if you feel betrayed, but I’ve been married for over a month now and I’ve learned a few things.

I’ve learned that a calm head and quiet words do more to resolve an issue than heated anger or loud, rousing speeches.

I’ve learned that the saying, “I married my best friend,” isn’t just hyperbole people spout to make other people jealous. Rather, it’s a hard and fast truth that I’m blessed to live every single day.

I’ve learned to sleep on the very edge of a bed to avoid my wife’s blazing, hell-kissed skin. Forget Katniss, my wife is the true girl on fire.

I’ve learned no woman can arouse or entice me the way my wife does. And I never thought I would be able to say those words.

I’ve learned your face and abs can hurt from laughing and smiling too much.

I’ve learned that equality in a marriage is, indeed, possible. No matter the situation or problem, we put our pretty heads together, clasp tightly our soft hands, and battle alongside one another until a resolution is met.

I’ve learned that my deep seeded selfishness no longer serves a worthy purpose. I am no longer a “me”, but a part of a “we” and my long-held self-centeredness must dissipate sooner rather than later.

I’ve learned to listen and to communicate. I’ve learned to speak what’s on my heart, in honesty and truth, so that my wife and I can be bare and fierce with one another. Between us is only God’s truth, as it should be.

I’ve learned that The Vampire Diaries is as bad as I’ve always thought it was, as I’m now forced to watch it every Thursday evening.

I’ve learned to be protective of the woman I love, finally accepting my role as a husband and standing guard over her mind, heart, and soul.

I’ve learned that I’m not always needed, but I am always wanted. And that feeling is better than anything I’ve ever experienced.

I’ve learned that sex really can be satisfying every single time.

And finally, I’ve learned what it means to be truly and completely happy and content, and I wouldn’t change any of it for anything in the world.

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Few things in this world wound our hearts more than we face rejection. Whether it be in love, friendship, or work, being rejected doesn’t just disappoint us; it tends to wreck us in a deep way. Not only is someone saying they don’t want us, they’re also saying that we’re not good enough or worthy of their time or effort. This speaks to the insecurities we all hold on some level. We weren’t worth someone attention, love, or job offer. That thought can hurt for a prolonged period of time.

We all know that rejection can come in many forms.
It can come in the form of a friend who no longer feels the need to supply the same amount of effort or care to your friendship as they once did. They’d rather allow the friendship to slowly wilt than put any more work into it. This is a rejection of us as a person and as a friend, and that type of rebuttal can leave us feeling alone and uncared for.
Rejection often comes in the workplace when we’ve applied ourselves to learn new skills and traits so that we may advance our place in our profession, only to have those above us convey to us that they have chosen someone else for our desired position. This type of rejection speaks to the skills we hold as a professional and as an aspiration. That kind of rejection seems to heal itself once we capture new ideas of greener grass and fresh opportunities.
But most of all, rejection comes in love or romance as we approach someone we’re interested in, only to discover that they do not hold the same notions of compatibility as we do. Or it can appear when we’ve been with someone for any amount of time and they decide they no longer want to be with us. They reject the union—and subsequently us—that we’ve built together. That type of rejection tends to cut the deepest due to what massive weight the emotions and feelings that come with love have.

Whether the type of rejection we face came from one of these scenarios or a thousand others, the fact remains that being rebuffed for who and what we are never feels good. Instead, it feels as though we’re being tossed aside and assured that we are not up to par for the guy/girl/job/friend we want. And if we allow it to, that rejection and the accompanying feelings will begin to eat at the worth we hold in ourselves. It can begin to make us think that maybe we aren’t worth all the things we want. It can even cause us to begin to reduce the expectations and standards we hold ourselves to, and that leads to us settling and being unhappy.
But if we bring those feelings and circumstances of rejection to God and allow Him to make us whole and show us just how much incredible worth we hold, that feeling of rejection and all that comes with it will melt away and be replaced with confidence and a feeling of wholeness. That’s what our God does with the wounds and hurts we hold; He takes them away from us and instead, shines a healing light into our souls.

We may have been rejected in the past, and as a result, we may carry that hurt with us, but let’s commit to turning those feelings of rejection and worthlessness over to God so that He can begin to heal us in His image. He’s willing to do it. We just have to allow Him to.

Rejection is pain and that pain can be a catalyst to deeper, darker things. Turning all of that over to Him is how we take our rejection and turn it into rejoicing.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

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Dear Ex Girlfriends, Lovers, and Wife,

My wedding is coming up next week, but despite that, I can’t help but look back on our long ago time(s) together. I see perfectly to the past now. I see what was right and what was wrong. I see the mistakes and the failures. I see the laughs and tears and love and hate. I see the good and the bad, the trouble and the salvation. I truly loved some of you while only tolerating others. But despite all of that, despite the big mash up of fading memories, of things and feelings and emotions we went through together—both wonderful and disappointing—I can only offer each of you my thanks.

You should see me in my relationship now. You’d be proud of me, I think. I listen and I talk. I communicate. I put her and all of her needs before anything regarding me and my life, because she has become my life. She has become my reason. I finally understand what it means to be an equal and a partner. To some of you, I tried to be the master and savior of your life. I tried to save some of you and rule others. But then again, to some of you, I was a servant or play thing; available on call and at your whimsy. But I learned from all of that. I learned from all of you. Now, in the present day, there’s equality and grace where impatience and bitter maliciousness once stood. I’m better now, in love and heart, because I learned from you and us.

I badly wish I could take the credit for this transformation, but I cannot. At least half of the credit goes to her, my very near future wife. She sees me as I am and not as I was. She’s forgiven me for the missteps I made with each of you and instead, smiled on me with a kind heart and soft kiss. She isn’t fueled by competition or jealousy. Rather, we’re secure in each other, in our divinely designed love and partnership. We make one another whole and do it with bursting hearts and starry eyes. We are forever and we are always.

However, to each of you, I must say that I am sorry. I’m sorry for the way I may have treated or used you. I’m sorry I was a jerk and I’m sorry I wasn’t the man you wanted or needed me to be. I’m sorry I failed you and I’m sorry I disappointed you. But I learned from all of that. I learned from my mistakes and I learned from you. So thank you. Thank you for leading—whether consciously or not—to the one woman who so completely melts me, inside and out. Thank you for letting me learn what I didn’ t want or need so that I could fully appreciate what I did. Thank you for allowing me to take those missteps with you so that I could fully appreciate what it means to marry your best friend. Thank you for allowing me to learn and grow and flourish under your tutelage and guidance, even if it was from afar. I am a better man and lover and husband because of you. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

With all my mended and fulfilled heart, thank you.

Sincerely and with respect,

Cory

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They say if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. And though this isn’t always true, there are some of us who feel this way a majority of the time. Things get done quicker and correctly if we just do them ourselves. This is how we approach most anything in our life. If there’s an issue, we face it, conquer it, and then move on to the next thing. It’s not in our blood to ask for help from others or rely on someone else to make things happen. That’s not how we operate. It’s that type of ferocious independence that leads some people to great heights of achievement and success. But other times, that same unrelenting approach can leave others broken, lonely, and aching for some sort of company.

It’s never a bad thing to be self-reliant. In fact, it’s an important part of becoming an adult. We learn how to hold a job and provide for ourselves. We learn to be self-sufficient and independent of those who raised us. This is how we prove we’re ready to leave home and grow into the kind of person we should be.
But often times, that self reliance can grow into a mindset of refusing to rely on others for anything. This can come from being let down by others in the past so that we come to understand that it’s better if we just do things our self. Or it can come from being taken advantage of others to the point that we’re scared to lean on another person at any point. Though it may make things more difficult and taxing, we face the dragons alone rather than approach another person for help and look weak or unable to handle our own business.

And yet, at what point have we gone too far? At what point do allow ourselves to open up to another and allow them to help us? At what point do we quit trying to control our own lives and allow God to have His way and say about what goes on?

For some, we enjoy the control that comes from doing everything ourselves. It’s easier for us to be in control than it is to allow someone else to have our situation in their hands. Really, it all boils down to a lack of trust. This is manifested deepest when we refuse to acknowledge or consult God in what happens in our life. Instead of consulting His will and plan for our life, we decide it’s best that we make our own decisions and forge off on our own. Not only is this dangerous, but also ignorant.

If we subscribe to the teaching of Christ, then we should be ready and willing to acknowledge the control He should possess over our lives. In every significant thing we do, in every significant move we make, we should be seeking His will and relying on His plan for our lives. It’s in that concession that we are set upon the path He designed specifically for us. If we refuse to, it’s likely that though things may work out to some measure of success, we will not be as happy or satisfied as we could be if allowed Him to have say in our life.

It may be difficult to release the reigns of our life over to Him, but He always has our best interest at heart and if we can trust Him in that, He will forever do right by us.
We are meant to be independent and thriving people; not apart from Him, but through Him.

He wants what’s best for us. And if we can see the wisdom of allowing Him to control our lives, we will be forever satisfied, happy, and content.

Today, let’s focus on giving up that control we need so desperately, and instead, begin to rely and trust on the mighty God who gave us life in the first place.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
Proverbs 3:5

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Thank you for reading.

For as along as I can remember, I’ve wanted to belong to someone. I remember sitting in Sunday school and whispering to a girl that I liked her. I remember standing in line in middle school and smiling at a girl and her not smiling back. I remember wanting to get married (and then that desire quickly fading), even though I knew I didn’t love the girl I was marrying. I remember being told that I wasn’t the kind of guy a good girl would or should date because I was divorced and “used”. I remember aching in loneliness, even as a stranger lay naked next to me; a blip of satisfaction that was over and gone before the sweat had dried. Even in those times and years of assigned solitude, there was a part of me that wanted (and possibly needed) to be someone’s partner and equal. Yet, through my own missteps and mistakes, I often found myself avoided and searching, without result, for a blessed comfort. It was a difficult time void of understanding or patience. Instead, I rushed about, diving from kiss to kiss, from bed to bed, seeking acceptance and love, obsessed with finding my own someone to love and cherish. It was only after a lengthy span of heartache and pain that she came into my life and hit the reset button on everything I’d ever known. She’d found me and I knew I would always be okay.

If you’re single, it’s possible you see yourself in one of the situations mentioned above. You’ve had your heart broken and you’ve been all used up—at least that’s how the world makes you feel. You see the scars and pain you’ve endured and it makes you wonder if you’ll ever be wanted again. You’ve given bits of yourself again and again until you wonder if there’s anything left to give. You turn yourself inside out, wondering and hoping that your forever love is just over the next break of light. And it hurts. It hurts to think the one you’re supposed to be with will see and hear what you’ve done and what you’ve given away and that will make them turn and run. It scares you and causes a sickening ache in your heart. For all you have to offer and give, those past offerings of yourself to those who didn’t deserve you haunt you beyond consciousness or sleep.

Who would want you now?

But there’s hope. There’s always hope. Because love is a changer. Love is the mighty cleaner of past and present and future. Because that one person who loves you for who you are won’t care where you’ve been or who/what you’ve done. They’ll love you for your triumphs and your mistakes. They’ll love you today because yesterday has no say in the way they see you. I speak of this truth because I live it every single day and night. I see the way she looks at me and I know she only sees the me before her now. Not the guy who slipped from bed to bed or died nightly in someone else’s arms. She sees me in this moment with her and that’s all that will ever matter.

Your person will do the same for you. Because regardless of what you’ve been through, no matter how much of yourself you’ve given away, they’ll want you and they’ll want every bit of you, the good and the bad. They’ll love you wholly and without condition or hesitation.

You being loved for who you are is possible and plausible. I need you to know and accept that. Today, tomorrow, forever. You will be wanted.

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We’ve all heard/said it a thousand times, haven’t we?

“Life is so unfair. Why do bad things happen to good people?”

And when does that type of mindset or attitude usually come about? When things aren’t going the way we think they should. When something bad happens to us or our circumstances turn sour, even though we’ve been faithful and diligent in our walk with God. We question why less-than-good things happen to us when we work so hard to live and love in the ways He asks us to. But in the end, it’s rather simple: life has a way of treating us unfairly sometimes. Even to the point where we’re ready to quit trying so hard to be good and simply give up. After all, why does it seem like good things—money, fame, love, etc.—happen to “bad” people when we’re over here walking the straight and narrow and having bad things befall us one after another? It’s enough to drive a sane Christian crazy. And maybe it mostly comes from frustration or lack of patience, but we begin think God has quit looking out for us. This can leave us feeling alone and abandoned.

And yet, who are we to question the workings of an almighty, all knowing God? Is it really our place to assume we know what’s best for our lives, simply because we’re the one doing the living? No, not at all. It’s our responsibility to trust Him with our lives to the point that even when we’re going through these horribly rotten things, we have faith that it all has a purpose that He can see and deliver. That faith is what separates us from the rest of the world.

The truth is that God is always looking out for us. Nothing happens to us without His direct approval. The incredibly trying story of Job taught us that. If something bad or challenging is happening to us, it’s because God has allowed it to. Why? We may never know. But it isn’t our right or responsibility to question or doubt His wisdom or ways, not if we truly trust Him with our lives the way we should. Life may be unfair sometimes, but there’s a specific reason for those “unfair” times, and He controls those reasons.

A friend of mine once made the point that when God showed Joseph his eleven older brothers bowing down to him, He didn’t show Joseph how that would come to pass. He didn’t show him the journey. He only showed Joseph the end result. It was on Joseph to trust God to deliver that result through the slavery, rape accusations, and imprisonment. Just like Job, Joseph trust God to lead Him through those hardened times and into the Promised Land. That’s the kind of faith and trust we modern day Christians need to have in God.

No, life may not always be fair and even. Yes, bad things may happen to us more than we would like. But if we can bury our trust in Him and have faith that He is using these undesirable times to mold and make us into something better, something easier used by Him, then we can look on those harsh times with purpose and understanding. It’s not an easy thing to do or believe in, but having that faith is a choice we get to make.

Today, let’s begin to choose to have faith in God that though life is unfair or undesirable at the moment, He has His hand on our lives to deliver us into a beautiful land of promise and truth. If we can do that, we will walk more freely in Him. And that’s the kind of walk we Christians should always want.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)

You can follow me on Twitter here and get your own copy of Hoodlums here.

Over the last few years, there’s been an influx of self-love in our culture. Blogs, websites, and even entire companies (clothing and otherwise) have been created to further the message of loving yourself and appreciating who you are as a person and a soul. And I think it’s a wonderful thing. I even wrote regularly for one such site until they decided we should part ways (apparently you are not so worth loving if you have a bit of controversy attached to your name…). I believe in this beautiful movement and I want to do whatever I can do make sure my young daughter feels the warmth and acceptance of it as she progresses in age. But there’s a side of the self-love and acceptance brand that seems almost problematic to me.

And that’s the idea of us being perfect just the way we are.

Throughout the numerous tweets, articles, and even advertisements we see day after day, one message that’s seems to be persistent is “You are perfect just the way you are.” And I understand the idea to encourage someone who’s struggling with self-worth and acceptance to love themselves just as they are. But the idea of being perfect is a dangerous notion. Yes, each of us was made the way we are for a reason and we should accept and love and appreciate that, but as people, as souls, and especially as Christians, we are never perfect just as we are. There is always room to grow and improve in who we are as individuals.

Let’s take me for example (I’m always down for a little self-examination). I’m impatient and easily annoyed by people who seem to be wasting my time. I have very little regard or compassion for people who complain a lot. I don’t give of myself, my time, or my money as much as I should (aka I can be selfish). These things are only a few examples (there are literally a million more) of what keep me from achieving the idea of being “perfect”. Sure, I like and appreciate the way I appear outwardly, but these are things I need to work on as a person and contributing member of society. If I can rectify these things, not only will I be a better, kinder person, but I’m be happier with myself as well.
In the end, it is immensely important to love yourself and appreciate who you are, on the outside and on the inside. You were made the way you were for a specific reason, but commit to never being complacent with where you are. There is always, always, always room to grow and improve who we are as people and citizens. Don’t be hard on yourself for shortcomings and don’t hate yourself for failing. Those are just parts of life that we all deal with on a daily basis. But I encourage you to examine the ins and outs of who you are and allow yourself to improve every single day. You’ll be happier and healthier for it.

Love yourself.
Accept yourself.
But know that we are never perfect and there is always room to grow.

You can follow me on Twitter here. Thank you for reading.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to focus on the bad things that happen to us? And conversely, have you noticed how hard it is to keep our attention focused on the good things in our life when something bad is going on? It would seem that we are programmed to give our attention to the desperate parts of our lives by focusing on the more negative aspects. And in actuality, it’s necessary for us to pose a sort of self-examination upon ourselves every now and then so that we can right our wrongs and rectify our shortcomings. That’s just being a responsible adult.

But what is it that causes us to so intensely focus our attention on the negative aspects of our lives or the lives of others? What is it that makes us ignore the good in our life in favor of examining all the bad?

God’s word asks us to align our attention and mindset with those things that are good and holy (positive) as opposed to those things that are not. But as we walk through this life, our preset is to do the opposite. It takes a determined effort to straighten ourselves out with positivity instead of allowing negativity to rule us. It can be a nasty fight and one we can easily lose. Yet, that’s where we have to remember that we don’t have to fight these sorts of things alone.

Indeed, it is far too acceptable—especially in today’s society—to have a negative view of the world. It’s widely accepted that our society sucks and that it’s okay to think so. But we are called to be something better, to be something greater. We have such a positive influence on our lives in the form of a gracious Savior, so for us to choose to focus our attention on the negative aspects of our lives is both silly and disrespectful.

It’s not possible to be positive about everything all the time. Life has a way of getting to us and beating us down from time to time, and to feel negatively when that happens is a perfectly reasonable response. It’s when we make a conscious choice to give our attention to only the negative things that we falter and stray; because if you take a moment to consider your life, you probably don’t have it that bad. You’re alive; you’re somewhat educated since you can read (obviously); you’re not that poor since you could afford this book; and most anything else that you feel negatively about is solely up to you! Don’t like the romantic situation you find yourself in? Make a change. Wish you could live somewhere else than where you currently reside? Save up your money and hit the road. Most everything in this life is a result of a choice we have made. So for us to feel negatively about our lives is to say that we are not happy with our choices. But you know what? More choices can be made to rectify those wayward ones. You have the ability and gumption to make your life everything you want it to be. And that is a positive thing.

Remember that negativity is a choice that we make. There is enough good in our lives to override the bad if we’re simply willing to locate it and focus our attentions upon it.
And at the very least, we have a God who is always looking out for us, guiding us and keeping us from harm. He is a uniquely positive force in our lives and wants us to feel the wonderment of that force every single day. If that’s not something to feel positive about, I don’t know what is.

Make the choice to be positive today and you’ll truly change the world.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.”
Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

Follow me on Twitter here and get your own copy of We Are Not Hoodlums here.
Thank you for reading.

Even in today’s busy, over-populated world, it can be easy to feel lonely. It may present itself in the lack of romantic relationship we have in our lives or it can be when we don’t feel as though we have a lot of true friendships that we can enjoy and rely upon. Loneliness has become sort of an epidemic in these days and sometimes it’s hard for us to understand that just because we’re alone, we don’t have to be lonely (bonus points if you’re singing Jack “Cowboy” Kelly’s “Santa Fe” right now). Now that may sound as though we’ve begun to delve into semantics, but the truth remains that though we may be alone, possessing the feeling of loneliness is entirely up to us.

A lazy person writing about loneliness would simply quote you the often-heard scripture reference about God promising to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8) and call it a day. And while that scripture is true, the subject deserves more than that because being or feeling lonely is something that hurts; it’s something that weighs on the soul to the point of producing tears. When we experience that rotten feeling wrapping us up, it’s something that threatens the positive light in which we see ourselves. When we feel lonely, we begin to question exactly what’s wrong with us; why we don’t have more friends; how is it that we haven’t found love or a companion to share our lives with.  And to have these thoughts and feelings is natural, especially when we feel as though we will always be alone—but it doesn’t have to that way.

First we have to realize that being alone—romantic or not—isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Having time to ourselves is not only a commodity that we relish, but it can be a time in which we are reflective of all that’s going on in our life; it’s a time in which we can examine ourselves to the point of correcting those faults we each have. Only, it’s when those times of aloneness have stretched beyond a few days into a few weeks or months that we begin to feel the itch to be in the company of like-minded souls. As humans, most of us feel the necessity to enter into fellowship with others so that we feel as though we are part of a group; we want to feel a part of the camaraderie. It’s only natural that we feel this way. It’s when our alone time is joined by the feeling of loneliness that we begin to feel that weight settle upon us.

In truth, being alone is a choice. Most of us have the option to head down to the local Starbucks and sit among people who breathe and see and feel just like we do. But then again, it’s perfectly possible to feel lonely even in the midst of a crowded coffee shop. And though the phrase is overused and possibly redundant, the truth remains that God is always and forever by our side. He is omnipresent, which means that His spirit is always everywhere at once. He’s with you when you’re crying from loneliness in your room; just as He’s with me when I’m walking through the grocery store and wish I had someone to talk to. He’s forever with us, just as He promised. I think that particular truth is hard for us remember and appreciate.

When God made it known that we were never alone, He meant it in the loving, caring way that makes Him such a gracious God in the first place. He’s always there for us, always ready to listen and to heal. And though we may feel alone in the human sense, our God is right there with us, even through our loneliness.

So today, let’s remember that though we may feel alone or lonely, we never actually are because the greatest, most amazing love and interaction we could ever experience is always but a prayer away. And even on top of that, we have options in our loneliness: we can make the effort to create new friendships with people we meet in our every day life (really, that’s completely up to us anyway, isn’t it?) or we can simply wallow in our loneliness, feeling sorry for ourselves and hoping it changes one day. It’s a decision we have to make for ourselves and for our happiness.

Being alone doesn’t have to mean we’re lonely, and being lonely doesn’t mean we have to always stay that way.

Today, let’s make the decision to not only allow Him to heal those feelings of loneliness, but also to forge new, exciting relationships with people who are already in our lives.

It’s our choice to make.

“By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”
1 John 4:13 (ESV)

Follow me on Twitter here and get your own copy of We Are Not Hoodlums here.

Below you will find the latest entry in the Virgin and the Vagrant series Cassi Clerget (in italics) and I (in bold) have done in the  past. Both of us have been somewhat stuck lately, so we thought the best way to undo those hesitations was to write something together.
Follow Cassi on Twitter here and read more of her writing here.

We thank you for reading.

________________________

Eight years ago, I had a very clear picture of the next ten or so years of my life. I would spend my four years in college, study abroad in England, graduate with honors, get into grad school, finish my Master’s and start a PhD in British history and lit, become a professor, write books on the side, and of course fall in love (hopefully with a British writer). I had my future mapped out, my dreams in my eyes, and I couldn’t be swayed.

But sitting here today, two years away from that ten year mark, I’m miles and lifetimes from the innocent dreams of that wide-eyed seventeen year old girl. I’ve left some of those dreams behind, trading them for something new, and perhaps I lost (then found…then lost?) myself on the way. Because sometimes the bold ideas of the imagination and dreams of our youth don’t come true the way we believe they should. Instead, we’re left wanting and hoping, finding ourselves more discouraged than encouraged on our path to become who we imagine we can be. With my computer on my lap and notebook after notebook filled the potential of things, I wonder if I’ll ever see those dreams come true.

How long are we meant to wait until our dream is nothing more than a distant memory?

Darling, you are asking the wrong man. I’m the one who itches and aches and wonders why things aren’t the way I want them to be. The whole of my life is beautiful. I have everything I’ve ever wanted except one bloody thing. I don’t write for a living.

For the last 25 months, I’ve poured my heart into the words I spill across empty spaces. I empty myself again and again, creating an arrangement of thoughts and words and ideas that I can be proud of, that will help those who choose to read what I put forth. And yet, I feel abandoned and wasted. What if it’s all for nothing? What if I’m only meant to be a *gulp* blogger? The idea alone wounds me to the bone.

And yet, I see the difference my given words have made. I’ve read the thanks and accepted the sentiments. And that feels good…for a moment. But I struggle and sweat and ache at a job I loathe to pay away the responsibilities of living so that I may pound out more words and spill more ideas out into the world.

When does my time come? Does success elude me by my own fault? Or am I simply not good enough to make a living of this gifted talent?

But in honesty and truth, I can’t imagine giving up the dreams I’ve craved for so long. And while our circumstances and situations may tailor and amend those dreams a bit here and there, I don’t believe it’s wise or prudent to forgo and abandon the dreams that have been placed inside our soaring souls. We’re better than that and we certainly deserve more.

Comparing the woman you are now to the girl you were then, how have your dreams changed from then to now? Have you consciously abandoned a few goals and dreams for better, more realistic ones?

Actually, in so many ways I think I abandoned the realistic dreams for the unrealistic ones. They were big dreams grown in the heart of a girl who looked at the world and saw it as something to conquer. I was quite practical back then. I knew what I excelled at and pursued it. But chasing those dreams, the chance of being an academic writer and professor, left me empty. They fit me, but they didn’t excite me. They didn’t fill my soul with passion. After my first year of graduate school, everything around me was drained of color, empty of life and joy. I walked about in a haze, confused and slightly frightened to realize I didn’t belong in this world I imagined myself in. I had to begin again. I had to find new dreams to suit the young woman I had become when I wasn’t watching.

In the depths of my heart, I found my passion for words. Not the clinical words of research essays, but the creative whimsical power lurking in my fingertips. So I chose a new dream, the dream of a writer. Or perhaps I simply accepted with a breath of relief that writing is what I was born to do. But finding your calling doesn’t mean you’ve found the easy path, because I’ve realized I probably won’t be a best-selling novelist or world-renowned author. I’ve put those starry dreams away, keeping them safe in my heart. I suppose there is still a shadow of that pragmatic girl tucked away, whispering her own kind of wisdom in my ear. “Write if you must, but don’t forget you have to eat.” I would love to spend my day writing and creating and choosing just the right words to paint just the right picture, but real life seems to have different plans for me.

At what point, do you think, are we meant to reevaluate our dreams? When do we have to look at them with a critical eye and ask ourselves if they are worth pursuing or if we should tweak them to fit with what is realistic? Or would that mean abandoning them altogether?

In my experience, our dreams evolve as we do. So maybe it isn’t so much a[b] hard and fast editing of our hopes and dreams, but instead, an evolution that changes slowly but surely with us as we grow. At least I’m hoping so. Because as much as I would love to hide in a dark room all day, writing bullish brilliance and collecting royalty checks, a very large part of me knows that I won’t be reserved to just writing. I’ll be made to speak to crowds and create films, all while telling the stories that lie on this hoodlum heart of mine.

In all reality, very few of us are the same people with the same goals and aspirations at 17 that we are at 25 or 28. We change and we evolve as the world and our Savior shapes us. Sometimes it’s by our own choice, but more often than not, we become what time and circumstance mold us into. Our dreams are shaped and prodded with the same benevolence.

My question to you: what advice would you offer to those of us who are unhappy or impatient with where we are? What would you say to the one who knows they’re ready for a bigger audience or stage, but can’t seem to catch the break they need?

I think I would say to never stop trying and never stop believing, because each of us are given our dreams for a reason, each of us gifted with a calling we may not fully understand, and you must walk through life, evolving as you said, and growing into that dream. Some things take time and maybe we’re simply not ready, not today, but that doesn’t mean that God has forgotten us or the hopes we hold close to our heart. Every day, you work to better your craft and pave the path to your dream. Every single day, you get closer. Not one of those days is a waste unless you do nothing with them. And maybe your break will come tomorrow. Or maybe in a few months. Or maybe in a few years. The secret, I think, is to always believe that today is your day and to make the most of it, because at just the right moment, exactly when it is meant to happen, you will catch your break and step onto the stage and the world will listen. They will see you and your passion and be better for it. And on that day, there will be no stopping you.

What encouragement would you pass along to those who seem stuck? Who don’t believe their time will ever come, no matter how passionately and intentionally they try to make their dreams their reality?

I tend to take a somewhat different approach. Maybe it’s because I’m a realist, but I tend to think that if you’re wanting to do something as a profession, then you need to be the best at it. So one must work. Put in the hours and the days and the weeks it takes to master a craft, and never be afraid to try new aspects and ideas of what you’re trying to achieve. That not only keeps you and your talent on waiting toes, but it keeps you fresh and vital in your field of choice.

Get better every single day. Fight for what you want by refusing to yield to the disappointment.

I have friends who are making their way in the literary world; friends who are signing book deals, landing agents, and collecting advances. And to be perfectly honest, I feel jealousy rattle my bones every time another announcement of the sort is made.

I know I should be happy for them, but a very large part of me can’t help but be like Kanye and think, “These (guys) really that much better than me?” And while I am happy that my friends and colleagues are succeeding, I can’t help but wonder when–and if–my time will come.

Do you deal with this? If so, how do you handle it?

I try to separate my frustration with my own situation from my excitement for my friends and fellow writers. I see them succeed, publish articles and books, start movements and spread ideas, bring to life their heart’s desire, and I am truly, deeply happy for them. I love them dearly. Each of them deserves the good things that come their way, the chances that present themselves. They are talented and genuine, and I couldn’t be more proud.

But deep down, there is a whisper of doubt. I smile in celebration of my friends’ success one second, then wonder what I’m missing that keeps me from finding the same in the next second. I don’t like to be that person. It doesn’t lend itself to happiness and it doesn’t get me any closer to achieving my goals. So instead, I step back and realize this just isn’t my moment. It’s not my time. It’s not about my failures, but about my friends’ successes. They deserve to revel and enjoy their moment. Plus, in many ways, seeing my friends and colleagues succeed is inspiring; it gives me a reason to hope and believe that I will someday have my moment. Until then, I surround myself with inspiring, talented, encouraging people to challenge me to forge my own path.

I’m curious, how would you measure success? Is it signing a book deal and making a best-seller list, or changing lives with the words you write? Or is it unfair to try and limit our dreams to such black and white terms?

If I’m completely and wholly honest with myself (and you, as always), my definition of success is to sustain a comfortable living while doing what I love. As long as I can provide for me, my (soon to be) wife, and daughter, I will consider myself a success. I don’t need big houses or millions of dollars. If I’m helping people and doing what I love on a full time basis, I am a success.

Do you ever consider that your dreams may be wrong? That you picked the wrong thing to want, that your wants are outweighing your talent and/or calling? Do you ever think to yourself, “Maybe I’m just not meant to be that” or “Perhaps I’m supposed to work an honorable 9 to 5 job without using my creativity any more than I am now”?

I don’t know if dreams can ever be wrong. Perhaps the way they come to life is different than we imagine, but that doesn’t mean you’ve chosen the wrong dream. Do we even choose our dreams, I wonder. Or do they find us at the moment when we are ready to believe in them. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I read Little Women almost two decades ago. Since then, what my dream has meant has changed and adapted itself to my surroundings and abilities. But it has never truly left me, and I’m not sure I could ever let it go. It would be easier to let it go; to accept a 9 to 5 job. I have one of those now. I wake up at 6:50am, walk to work and buy a coffee, work until a little after 5pm, come home and find that while I have the will to write, my spirit is exhausted. Tomorrow, I say. But the cycle repeats and my mind is filled with ideas and stories that must wait. I’m tired of waiting, of listening to people who try to convince me that writing is a passing phase. If God has different plans for me, so be it. But until then, I will open my heart, let loose the words, and hand them over to those who need them.

In the gorgeous and lovely words of our favorite Brandon Flowers…

        Please don’t tell me I can’t make it,

        It ain’t gonna do me any good.

        And please don’t offer me your modern methods,

        I’m fixin’ to carve this out of wood.

I feel like you and I (and thousands of our counterparts) are in the same boat. We have the dreams and we have the talent and we have the will. We just need half a chance to show what we can do.

And we’ll make it. Even if we’re never paid to write the words that our hearts feel, we’ll have made a difference in this world by painting this cussing internet with the faith our good Lord acknowledges and honors. And that’s a testament to who we are and what we dream, all on its own.

In the summer, there’s a thickness about the air in south Louisiana that makes it hard to breathe if you’re not used to it. Deep, gasping breaths leave you almost choking and bellowing for more. And because of the weight the atmosphere carries, you sweat and sweat and sweat, no matter what you’re doing. Standing, sitting, walking through the French Quarter, or working in a warehouse, it doesn’t matter. You’re losing some liquid. And this was my initial struggle when I first moved to New Orleans last year. I worked long hours, shoving plastic cartons of soft drinks onto big trucks for the next day’s transport. Day after hot day, the sweat and the pounds melted off of me. When I began in April, I weighed roughly 200 pounds. By the end of summer, I was lean and mean at about 165. Being 6’2, this transformation was noticeable and was mentioned to me more than once. It felt good to be noticed for being “in shape” and fit.

Soon enough, the temperature . . .

Read the rest of my new article for Bedlam Magazine here. Thanks for reading!

You guys! We’ve just launched a new campaign with a brand new Bedlam tshirt that is freaking awesome.

Rachel Zink created a masterpiece for us and it’s available for purchase now! However, there is one catch: As awesome as they are, there are only 20 of these shirts available as of now. That means you need to jump on this asap!

IAMBEDLAM

We have regular tees, v-necks, long sleeve, and women’s cuts, but again there are only 20 available right now. Check out the campaign HERE on TeeSpring and grab your new shirt before they’re gone.

I’m only sending this post to my subscribers so that you guys are rewarded for your loyalty. So check it out and support Bedlam Magazine.

Thanks so much for everything, you guys!

xoxo

-C

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