For Men, friendship, Life, Love, Manhood, Ponderings, Thoughts

be brave with yourself

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with trying to figure myself out emotionally. As a man, I feel like I have a very unique and, sadly, widely stereotypically unacceptable personality type. I’m an emotionally expressive being. I get insecure, angry, hurt, heartbroken, joyful, excited, anxious, depressed, stressed, affectionate, and just about anything else you can imagine. And whatever emotion I’m feeling is expressed through my facial expressions, actions, and words.

I’m the type of person who loves to show the people I care about that I care about them. So, naturally, I do that in ways that I’m familiar with. For me, that’s straight up telling them or looking to spend time with them. (My love language is equal parts words of affirmation and quality time.)

But lately I’ve been feeling like I’m supposed to change myself. Like I’m too clingy or emotionally attached to the people I care about. So today I practiced being more withdrawn, distant, cold with my friends because I thought that’s what they wanted. You see, every morning I send my friends a message that reads exactly this: “good morning fam.” But yesterday morning I didn’t. Why? Because I was silencing myself. I thought, I’m too loud. I need to tone myself down a bit. 

I wanted to be more like the other guys, like my best (guy) friend, more even-keeled, laid back, someone who couldn’t care one way or the other if his friends loved him or not. I thought that’s who I was supposed to be, who everyone wanted me to be. So I tried. And I failed.

Because one of my friends noticed when I didn’t send that good morning text. They noticed when I silenced myself. And we had a long conversation about it and at the end I just asked them straight up, “Do you think I’m too clingy? Does it bother you? Or do you just think that my personality is more emotionally expressive than most guys’ and, because you love me, it doesn’t bother you?” And their response was the latter.

This week I learned an important lesson, I think. One that’s been a long time coming. And that is that, yes, I have an atypical personality type. Yes, I’m a more emotionally expressive being. Yes, I have no problem and actually thrive on showing and receiving affection. No, I’m not less of a man. I am completely, wonderfully, irrevocably myself.

Guys, we have got to learn to be brave with ourselves. We have got to stop trying to please everyone because, in the end, that will please no one. If the people around you really love you then they’re not going to care if you’re clingy or if you’re laid back. All they’re going to care about is if you are completely and utterly the rawest, truest version of yourself that you could ever be.

That’s the you they fell in love with.

You know, when I tried to distance myself (which was, honestly, a defense mechanism; I was feeling insecure so I thought forcibly detaching myself would spare me the pain that comes from loving another person) I felt like I was dying. I felt so out of it all day. I felt like a part of me was missing, like I was suffocating the truth inside my soul. All because I thought that’s what the people who loved me wanted, all because I thought that I could force the insecurities to go away if I just stopped caring.

But you know what? I’m proud of the fact that I am emotionally expressive. Because, in my eyes, that means that the people I care the most about will never have to go a day thinking that I don’t love them. Because they’ve seen how I show love and they’ve seen who I am in soul.

Is love terrifying? Yes. Is it painful? Heck, yeah. Love is vulnerability. Love is attachment. Love is expression. Love is learning what ways those you love best receive the expression of your affection. Love is choosing to give your friends and family what they need to feel love, even if it’s different than what you need.

Love is real, and it is raw, and it is torn, and it is agonizing, and it is true, and it is brave.

So be brave with yourself. Because the people who deserve you aren’t looking for a cheap replica. They’re here for you – all of you; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Christian Living, Life, Living, Ponderings, spirituality, Thoughts

the problem of evil

“Evil will continue to exist in spite of us, so it doesn’t matter what we do.”

Recently, I decided to watch The Purge with some friends. I wasn’t really sure what to expect except for the few reviews floating around the webosphere. What I got was a giant: “This pissed me the fuck off.”

I’m not even joking. Those were my words at the end of the movie. (Yes, I repented for my slip up in case you were worried.)

The reason why, though, is hard to explain. At the beginning of the movie one of my best friends said something to the effect of: “It would make sense for them to do this in real life.” Now, mind you this is one of my Christian friends. So I was confused because to me it sounded like they were condoning a heinous act such as “the purge” to occur. 

So I’m sitting there through the whole movie thinking – and saying – “you would honestly be okay with this happening?” Their response was merely: “Well, it basically already happens.”

While this is true, the dilemma arose within myself where I was forced to ask the question, “if evil exists in spite of our best efforts, do our efforts even matter?” I must say without doubt, “Yes. Yes, they absolutely matter.”

You see, God knew. He knew that evil would remain in the world even while His Redemption story unfolded. Even still, He sent His Son to continue that story. Two-thousand years later, evil still rages against the light, but that light does not die. Because the valiant struggle persists. Because there are still those who resist apathy and silence in the face of darkness. Because there are still those who know that the war is already won and there will only be one Victor in the end. Because there are still those who know that, in spite of the evil in our world (racism, murder, rape, all manner of violence), their efforts matter. Their efforts are the very means by which the light remains in this world.

The light is not yet gone. Until it is, our efforts matter. Our decisions, our allegiances, our opinions matter.

Yes, darkness is an enormous reality which we must face every day. But heaven is the greater reality. And, thank God, it is the reality in which I live.

Life, Love, Ponderings, Thoughts

f.r.i.e.n.d.s.

I’ll be there for you when the rain starts to pour. I’ll be there for you like I’ve been there before. I’ll be there for you ’cause you’re there for me too.

Let’s talk about friends. They’re great. They really are. It’s such an amazing, miraculous, beautiful thing to find such connection with a group of people who you once considered strangers. Like, how does that happen? You just look at somebody and say, “They’re cool. I like them. I want to be their best friend.” When you think about it, it’s crazy. But it happens every day. Every moment of every day, one door to a new relationship is opened. Maybe it starts with a date or a church event or a common interest. Whatever it is, there’s this one thing that irrevocably connects you to this complete stranger. It’s crazy beautiful.

Most of you know my story because I’m unashamedly vocal about it. I’ve felt the sting of betrayal from people I considered best friends. I’ve felt it. I still feel it. But in the year since those things occur, the ruins of relationship in my life have been transformed.

God stepped into my ruin. He reached into the rubble and He built something new and exciting and scary and beautiful. He did what only He could do; He brought the people I didn’t know I needed into my life – my best friends. And I am so so so thankful for them. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without them. They are the definition of what friends should be. Friends….

F – Fight for you

R – Respect you

I – Include you

E – Encourage you

N – Need you

D – Deserve you

S – Stand by you

And most of all, they love you. And I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that my friends love me with the kind of love that only God can cultivate.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Friends are such a special thing… I grew up with this desire to have a small circle of friends like Chandler, Joey, Rachel, Monica, and Ross from Friends – the kind where we’re all deeply involved in each others’ lives, where we’re a key player in their process, a main character in their story. And I’ve found that. Thank God, I’ve found that.

To end, I want to honor my best friends and just turn the spotlight to them with some photos taken in moments I’ll never forget. Here are my friends:

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Christian Living, Life, Living, Ponderings, spirituality, Thoughts

you can have your dead gods

You can have your boycotts and your protests and your marches. You can keep your rights and your opinions and your attitudes. You can tout your dead gods and old religions and rusty traditions. You can keep your comfort and your safe spaces and your happy feelings. You can stuff your ears with lies that make you feel good and words that feed your constantly shifting ideologies. You can fill your life with entertainment and pleasure and sensationalism and everything you could ever conceive of. You can have all this world – the fame, the fortune, the glamour, the rights, the freedom, the entitlements, the attitudes, the sex, the pride, the comfort, the ego, the power, the drugs, the anger, the tragedies, the chaos, the pain, the agony of constant wondering, the struggle, the insecurity, the sickness, the mental oppression, the physical and emotional addiction, the fear. You can have it all.

But me? Give me Jesus. He is all I want. He is all I need. He is everything. You can spend your life striving and striving for everything that you think will give you a moment’s happiness. But me? Give me Jesus. Give me just a moment longer in His presence. Give me that gripping deep inside my gut that causes me to fall to my knees in broken surrender as I realize just how heavy the burden of brokenness is on this weary world. Give me the tears that stream from my eyes as the faces of the lost and the hurting and the deceived and the broken flash across my mind because all I desire is for them to know the peace that I have come to know. Give me the sheer wonder I feel whenever He walks into the room, whenever He breathes revelation into my heart, whenever He speaks life into my soul, whenever He revives these dry bones. Give me the fire of His presence as He consumes me from the inside out with a passion that goes beyond emotion, but is a thing birthed inside my very DNA. Give me the freedom that comes when I have the courage to not settle for anything less than what comes next. Give me the liberty that comes when I toss the broken chains aside – the chains of grief, of fear, of insecurity, of shame, of pride, of rejection. Give me the joy that comes when I know that I am loved and I am chosen by the very creator of the cosmos. Give me the fearlessness that comes when I set myself aside long enough to let Holy Spirit open heaven inside of me. Give me the hope that secures me in this life, that allows me to not tremble with anxiety at the mention of the next disaster. Give me the confidence and the courage that comes from knowing that I don’t have to measure up to anyone or anything. Give me the Living God who laughs in the faces of the gods of wood, flesh, and stone as He performs miracles, signs, and wonders across the world while they sit on their shelves gathering dust.

You can have your dead godsBuddha, Allah, Odin, Self, pleasure, entertainment, fame, glamour, luxury, comfort, vanity, apathy, addiction, self-righteousness. But me? Give me the Calm in the Storm, the Prince of Peace, the Lover of my Soul, the Great I Am, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Abba Father, the Deliverer, the Strong Tower, the Cornerstone, the Living Flame of Love, the Bright and Morning Star, the Soon Coming King.

You can have all this world. But give me Jesus.

Life, Ponderings, Thoughts

dare we doubt the sun?

“The sun does not abandon the moon to darkness.” – Dominion, Brian McBride


I worry a lot. Like, a lot. 

I worry about the fact that I work full time at Target and still don’t seem to make enough to be able to move on with my life (find an apartment, support a family, get a car, etc…) I worry that I’m never going to find peace with the things I struggle with so that I can be the man my someday family needs me to be. I worry that I’m going to destroy the good, healthy relationships I’ve worked so hard to develop. I worry that my salvation is not as secure as I thought and one day I’m going to die and find myself hell-bound. And there’s so much more that I worry about.

And I worry about the fact that I worry. It’s all very worrisome. 

Lately, though, I’ve begun to realize a few things about this worry. I’ve let it control my life. I’ve let it elevate my stress until it’s unbearable, which decreases my productivity and motivation. I’ve let it get my down and depressed. I’ve let it affect those around me. But – like many other Christians – it seems I’ve forgotten about this one time in Scripture where God told us not only to not worry, but also to give our worries to Him.

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” – Psalm 55:22

Worry and stress and anxiety (not the mental illness – just the emotion) seem to be the one sin that Christians don’t take seriously.

The thing is, though, these things are dangerous. They’re dangerous to our faith, our lives, our relationships, our jobs. When we leave our worry unchecked we teach ourselves to not let God take control. We let it consume the way we relate to people. We let turn us into depressed zombies with no motivation for anything. But, it seems that while all these things happen, the worry still never goes away.

Worry, like any sin, must be cast off before we can begin to heal. God wants to take your worry. He wants to hold you and support you. He wants to be your refuge and your strength. He wants to sustain you.

So let Him.

Like the sun does not abandon the moon, He will not abandon you to darkness.

Christian Living, Life, Living, Ponderings, Thoughts

a year without music

For the last few weeks leading up to the new year, something began to shift in me. I can’t place it exactly, but it was something spiritual. Now, a week into the new year, I think that maybe it was a process of healing, of clarity, of surrender. Something deep inside me is changed; I’m different than I was before.

And during that time, I began to feel a nudging in my spirit. At first, it was just that whenever I tried to listen to “secular” music, it didn’t feel right and I was unsettled. So I would give up and switch to one of my worship playlists. But it didn’t stop there. Instead, this nudging began to disturb me more, moving me out of a place I found comfortable.

And, after reading a fellow blogger’s post on a similar subject, I began to hear in my spirit that I should take this year – 2016 – and do a complete fast from secular music. Not all music. Just non-worship music.

Why? Well, I began to pray this in my spirit last week: “Lord, silence every noise that would drown out the sound of your voice.

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Sometimes, there’s so much noise in our lives. Maybe it’s busy schedules, hobbies, work, activities, too much leisure, or overthinking the simple things. So much of these seemingly harmless things (and others too) end up drowning out the sound of God’s voice in our lives. It’s like the dissonance that comes when you hit random notes on the piano with your left hand while trying to play Beethoven on your right. Consequently, these innocent things become harmful.

So that, I feel, is why I was led to make this decision. It seems drastic, I know, to embark on such a long-winded fast. But I’m desperate.

I’m desperate to hear His voice in my life. And I’m desperate for whatever He has for me. And I’m desperate for revival in my life, in my church, and in my city and nation. I’m desperate for more of God. I’m desperate for restoration. I’m desperate for empowerment to do the things God’s called me to do. I’m desperate for His raw and unfiltered love, truth, and grace.

There’s nothing I want more.

So, yeah, stepping away from secular music for the whole of 2016 may seem a little severe, but I don’t care. It pales in comparison to even a moment spent in His presence.

And there’s nothing I want more.

Life, Ponderings

the depth of it all

I’ve always been an “artist”. Only recently, though, have I really become an artist. That is to say, for most of my life I’ve participated in different forms of art – drawing, photography, landscape painting. It wasn’t until these past few months, though, that I’ve really found my sweet spot – abstract art.

I’ve created a few works of art now and with each one, I’ve discovered a hidden – even spiritual – meaning.

My first piece, Aqua, was kind of my “I’ve struck oil!” piece. It was this piece that sparked something in me, a desire for freedom of expression. I realized then that I loved abstract art more than anything because I could express anything and everything that was within me to express on the blank canvas before me. My fears, hopes, dreams, desires, memories, they poured themselves out as the piece began to take form.

Like Adam from Love and the Sea and Everything in Between, my most recent novel, I have a thing for the ocean. This exchange between Adam and Liz says it all:

“You have a thing for the ocean, don’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s as vast and endless as I feel.”

EndlessThis is the word that echoed within the halls of my heart that day as I sat before the canvas, painting with utter abandon. It was a thing of beauty, a moment of passion, as I lost myself in a world of vibrant color and depth. It wasn’t just a moment of carnal or emotional satisfaction, though – it was spiritual too. I felt the word – endless – deep down in my spirit as if it were a part of me. I don’t remember the experience very well, but I remember the feeling I got inside when the piece was finished.

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Aqua – Brian McBride, 2015

My second painting was called Oasis. It was during my church’s week of prayer at the beginning of this year that I began to hear this word in my spirit, in the same way one hears Holy Spirit when He speaks. As I sat in the altar of my church one night, when the doors were open for those who wanted to pray to come and do so, I began to meditate on this word and its meaning and the weight of said meaning.

That was when I heard it whispered in the back of my mind: “The wonder after the wandering.” Sure, this isn’t the exact, Oxford definition, but there’s a certain spiritual – even emotional – accuracy to it that cannot be denied.

As I heard this, I began to write in my journal, listening for what further definition might be provided. This is what I wrote:

When we come to an oasis, we’re stepping out of a place of desolation, despair, yearning, ruin, and into this place of exquisite beauty that captivates us with this almost euphoric sense of pleasure, satisfaction, and fulfillment. It’s that place we never want to leave.

It struck me so suddenly and so powerfully and I began to envision in my mind an elaborate, abstract piece to depict this idea. Thus, Oasis was born.

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Oasis – Brian McBride, 2016

My third and most recent painting is called Exuberance. This one was a sort of “prophetic declaration”* painting that I painted for my parents. Exuberance means: “the quality of being full of energy, excitement, and cheerfulness; ebullience.”

I painted this one specifically for my parents because, as pastors, there’s a lot they deal with on a day-to-day basis. From criticisms, counseling, and church hurt to stress, busy schedules, and family issues, they go through a lot. Sadly, joy and cheer is a hard thing to come by. It takes a lot of work, honestly. So, with this painting, I wanted to embody that feeling of energy, excitement, and enthusiasm.

 

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Exuberance – Brian McBride, 2016

Admittedly, it didn’t turn out as I’d originally planned, but the more I look at it, the deeper it becomes. It’s one of those pieces that just evokes something inside of you. And that’s what I was going for.

It’s interesting to see the depth of painting when you merge every aspect of your soul together and express the things that live inside you without bounds. Art really is an expression of body, heart, and soul.

 

*If anyone is interested in what I mean by “prophetic declaration”, feel free to ask in the comments! I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.