I moved to Leicester, England!

10.06.2021

It's officially three full weeks in England and I wanted to take a moment to express and write out what it's been like so far! I recently sent out an October email, which you can view here. I talk about the ministry opportunities and team introductions in that email, but I will mentioned it on this post as well. So if you are not subscribed and would like to, you can do so on the right-hand-side of my blog page.  

Wow wow wow! Every morning I wake up, I think I can't believe I'm here and every time I go to sleep, I think, This is what I want to do. On my first day here, I did not have any jet lag, which I am so grateful for! I did roughly 30 hours of traveling and I was so exhausted that by the time I got to the house that I'll be staying in for the year and got ready for bed-- I fell asleep instantly. The next day, I got to meet Tim Churchward, his wife, Jess, and their two little chickadees! Tim is my Third Year mentor this year and one of the Lead pastors at Chroma Church.

I also got to check-out Chroma Youth, which was so much fun! I met so many people and I walked into the main sanctuary of Chroma for the first time. I have been watching Chroma's live streams on YouTube for about a year and a half, so getting to see it for my own eyes and to be there in the room-- I kept thinking about what my relationship with God has been like. All the hard things, good things, and waiting seasons. I was marveled and in awe of who God is and what He's done in my life. I started crying (of course) and as the days progressed, I was letting the reality of being in a different country sink in, especially since England has been a place where I've always wanted to go. 

Later in the week, we had a conference called Leaders Gathering, where people from all over the UK could come and encounter a refreshing breathe and filling of the Holy Spirit. Many of the people who attended were church leaders and (in some instances) was their first time attending a gathering like this since lockdown started. The Lord met His kids and people encountered the Lord deeply. It was an honor to pour out and to be poured into. 

More recently, we got to go on retreat with our team to the countryside, which was my first time-- there has been a lot of firsts since coming to the UK. We walked out through the fields and followed the trail into the forest. It was so much fun! After our walk, we shared stories, prepared lunch, and met the rest of Tim's team. It was on this retreat that my third year team and I were officially put on ministry teams where we'll be serving for the year. 

I will be helping with Student ministry (College age students), Administration, and Tough Topics. Each of us were also placed into a Revival Group (RG) and I will be joining Katy Ball's RG for the year, which I am so excited about! As an intern, I will also be a part of the connect team for Chroma, as well as the ministry team, where I'll get to pray and serve the congregation. God is moving in this place and I am so grateful that He chose me. 

That still moves my heart-- He chose me and He will keep choosing me. Dear reader, the Lord chose you. If you think that your life lacks purpose or calling-- that is a lie and you are made for such a time as this! 

Your life has purpose.

You are full of His calling!

Your passions and goals in life is what the Lord wants to use. I charge and encourage you that when we lay down our dreams at the foot of the cross, He will USE them!! He wants to do life with us! All it takes is a yes. All it takes is saying yes to Him and that's all He needs. You are all that He NEEDS! 

I want to take this moment to say that I am so proud of you! Where you are now, at the place that you are in now. I am so proud of you! It is without a doubt that the Lord, the savior of the world is even more proud of you! If you need to hear that the war is won because Jesus already fought it for you-- hear it now. That's what He does. He will fight for you and say that it is your victory because that is how He loves.

You've. WON!

Being here in Leicester, England, is something I could not have thought up on my own. So many things needed to happen with the Lord in order to fully step into what He had for me here. There were so many hard moments, but there were even sweeter moments still. I don't have life figured out and I never want to get to a place where I've convinced myself that I have it all figured out or under control, but the Lord is there every step of the way. Hold fast to Him and chose life with Him-- things will change! 

Dear Reader, thank you for investing time into reading this post and I hope that you encounter God in such deep and sweet ways! He is so patient with us. 

Much Love,

MJ

The Bay Area

8.19.2021


Hello!

It's officially two and half weeks since I've moved from Redding, California, to the Bay Area. I had hoped to have been in Leicester, England by the 15th, but I feel that there has been so much grace and God's hand over the timing of everything. Considering that I was planning on being home for only two weeks, the Lord knew that I needed more time than that. I'm starting to realize that the timing of securing housing in Leicester has also been such great timing, too, because if I had left when I planned to leave, I'm not sure if I would have any place to stay. All I'm waiting for is my Visa Decision and even that brings comfort in knowing that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be-- there is no rush. 

Going back home, I have gotten more insight to my family and their day-to-day life for more than three days would have given me because three days is the most I would have been able to spend with my family at a time while I lived in Redding. It's really cool getting to learn the knick-knacks and routines that my family has, which I am incredibly grateful to get to be a part of. There's a great difference being exposed to people and places that aren't a part of our "regular" schedules. 

I've noticed the subtlety of how much things have changed in my parents and younger sister's personalities; the growth that I see in my nieces and nephews; and the way my own hometown has gone reconstruction with torn down and rebuilt streets and buildings. I find that in some of my reflections driving through the East Bay, the City, and revisiting places that I've spent so much time in have changed. It's almost as if these towns and places represent how much the people in my own life has change. 

I have to emphasize the depth of how much I've realized things have changed since I left Redding.  Not to say that things have to be put on pause when I leave a place, but there is some comfort going back to familiar places. The Bay Area is home. My family is home. I have been in Redding for the past seven years, but it wasn't until 2015 that I've officially (all-year-round) started living in Redding. So coming back, I've felt like to some degree that everything was going to be the same. In some instances, things are, but there were conversations that happened that I wasn't a part of; trips that I didn't get to attend; and family/extended family birthdays that I didn't get to celebrate. These walls and the seats of cars have witnessed life these past few years that I never could. It may sound dramatic and I'm sure that different walls and places have witnessed how much I've changed, which needed to happen, but I'm processing this new perspective of time and the lives we get to be a part of. 

In the places that I've gotten to revisit like the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, Univeristy Avenue in Berkeley, and the Barnes and Nobles in El Cerrito. Other people have occupied the aisles and tables I once stood in, walked through, and revisited countless times before. It's different and I'll count on things changing even after I leave. 

Change can be scary, but it's also necessary. I've changed. My family has changed. My hometown has changed. It's a part of life and I feel that when it's officially time to get on that plane to Leicester-- I'm excited to see what other changes will take place. 

Much Love,

MJ

I'm Moving to England!!

7.06.2021

Hello!!

Summer has officially picked up in Redding and I'm grateful for the days when it gets is at least 100 degrees outside (Yes! I know!), but nonetheless, I'm taking in all that Redding summers offer. I want to write this blog post detailing a bit about what I'll be doing within the next month and half, which is insane to think about! There are a few moments that I start tearing up because all I can see is Jesus' face-- and that's all I want to see, but at the same time trying to be present and living each moment as much as I can!

As many of you know, I graduated from Second Year at BSSM in Redding, CA, in early May, which was filled with such deeper levels of knowing the living, breathing Father and letting those encounters with Him change who I am because they have to change me. This past year was so necessary and incredibly transforming. God's presence has filled each meeting, each conversation, and each moment. His love and kindness has been so tangible and undeniably beautiful. I want to take this moment, as well, to thank you for reading this post and if you have supported me in any way-- financially or through prayer-- I am incredibly thankful because I got to know and see the Lord! The Holy Spirit has tangibly moved and touched my heart and soul! To know Him for the rest of my life has become my greatest desire! So, thank you from the deepest parts of who I am because you have played a special part in where God is taking me. 

After completing the Second Year Program at BSSM, graduates get to apply for Third Year, which gives us the opportunity to be mentored by affiliated leaders within the Bethel Church Community including the global church. When starting Second Year in 2020, I knew that I wanted to pursue Third Year and I had a leader in mind, but I also knew that when starting Second Year, it couldn't just be about Third Year, it needed to be about HIM! And I got HIM!! God is the greatest gift and remains the greatest person that I have ever received. I've laid down dreams, my future, and my life to wanting to serve and love King Jesus.

Since, I knew God was on Third year, I decided to apply for a leader that I've known for about roughly a year, which after applying and going through an interview process, I can officially say that I will be interning with Tim Churchward, who is on the Pastor Leadership Team at Chroma Church in......... LEICESTER, ENGLAND

I'M MOVING TO ENGLAND!!!

CRAZY, RIGHT!! I could not have thought this up! For those who know me, I graduated with a degree in English, which meant that I would go to England because it is the motherland of my major and a right of passage because I've dedicated years to learning its Literature, English Language, and history.

It's definitely felt kinda weird and different knowing that things are going to change. Guys, this is a dream come true. After I had the interview with Tim, he thought it best to give ourselves a week to think and pray about it. While waiting for an answer and bringing this potential opportunity to the Holy Spirit, I prayed and worshiped knowing that the Lord is worthy and kind. I told the Lord that is He didn't want me to go to England, I don't want to go! His desires are my desires and all I want is more of Him-- however that looks in my life. 

During the waiting portion, I watched a movie called Clouds on Disney+ (it's a great movie, you should go watch it!!), which is about a boy who has terminal cancer and has only 6 months to live. By the end of the film, he asks the audience a question, which was, If you had 6 months to live how would you spend it? Three things popped into my head, but I'll only share two. (1) If given the chance, I would go to England and (2) I would worship my King-- King Jesus. That is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to go where my Love goes, I want to be where my best friend is! Jesus is my greatest love and an incredible friend! My heart resounds with thankfulness and I am incredibly honored to be chosen and to have this opportunity to run after Jesus face!

Thank you so much for reading!

Much Love,

MJ

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Dear Summer: Part 4

6.03.2021

Dear Summer,

I can't believe it's already June, which means that it's been a while since the last time we saw you. Trust me, I'm excited for you to fully unpack and settle in, but as a Bay Native, who loves cold weather-- please take your time getting here. The last time you had come into town, the world was breaking, running, mourning, and experiencing and waiting for change on every aspect of life. Hearts were broken, disappointed, but expectant and hopeful. 

Since the last time we saw each other, I was just starting 2nd Year. I remember standing in your heat unworried about how this year would unfold. But now that you're back, I am proud to say that I graduated 2nd Year at BSSM and that I was accepted to be a Third Year, which I will officially announce at a later date!! Trust me, it's really great news! This year was incredibly beautiful and it has been marked by encounters with the power of God and incredible, beautiful, sold-out-for-the King Revivalists. Very often, I thought about what would have happened in my life if I had made different choices. If I hadn't done BSSM, Simpson, or pursued that passions that filled my heart! I get more and more shocked by how life unfolds by the choices we make.

Considering how last year went, you have come in really nice, gradually letting us know that you are moving in. I remember the days that you came to check-up on us earlier in the year when I wasn't expecting such warm days. I usually enjoy surprises, but weather is something I take in high regard. You have no idea how tightly I'm going to be holding onto you for the next few months. I feel this year, you will be full of Good-byes, until-next-times, longer hugs, excitement, adventure, different accents, and time zones. 

I'm starting to think about the first time I ever wrote to you. I remember being nervous and a little scared when you came because of our history, but we learned how to trust each other again. I've learned a lot from you and how time can bring both pain and joy. A lot of things are going to change as the year progresses and there is incredible excitement, but I'm starting to realize that with change comes letting go. Maybe that's why we don't do so well at first when things change.

I'd like to consider you as close friend and I hope you think the same of me. A few days ago, I was looking at old videos and pictures of my old friends. There were a few moments when I really wanted to go back to those moments, to go back to that part of my life before everything changed. I've learned that things happen in our life that we can't fully explain, but what matters most is how we respond. And that's where grace comes in. Grace to make mistakes, to learn from them, and to grow from them. As I sat looking at these old videos and pictures, there was an urge to want to go back to that exact moment and fix the choices I made. Then I start thinking about where I am and who I've become in this moment.

As much as I would want to change things, there still remains a deeper longing for what Jesus has done in and through those moments. I rather the good and bad all mixed into knowing and believing that I have King Jesus with me-- my Savior, Love, and Best Friend. I wouldn't trade this year for anything. I've encountered the love of a Father like never before and as much as I want to go back to those friendships, life-stages, and moments-- I'm just as thankful to be out of that. I have the greatest opportunity to walk healed and growing in the reality of who I am as a Daughter of the Father. I'm not completely sure what I wanted this letter to look like, but I think what I've written is a reflection of where I am right now. I'm sure some of this doesn't make any sense, but I guess that's all part of the process. 

I'm grateful that you're here and all I ask is that you stay close and maybe bring in some rainy days, if you can.

Much Love,
MJ

Fully Man | Daniel Hardy Jr: Look At My Boy

3.07.2021


Daniel Hardy Jr. is a current 2nd Year BSSM student, who I have the honor of knowing and being in the same Revival Group this year! He is from Anchorage, Alaska, but has made Redding, California, his home with his wife, Mariah. He graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Communications at the University of Idaho and hopes to pursue his Master's. Daniel's story is one that holds God's love and redemption of a son willing to lead in the Gospel while integrating creativity and connection. Daniel carries hope, joy, and love so well!! I know Daniel to be an incredible man of God, one who covers and moves just as Father God does. The following is Daniel's story answering the question, When was the moment you realized you were becoming a man?

Hello, my name is Daniel Hardy Jr.

I want to start off by sharing a poem. The title of this poem is: Look At My Boy

Sure he's a man, yes, there's a beard 
Indeed he is handsome, and sure, he is weird.

But look at his life! Look how he loves! 
He looks just like Me, spreading peace like a dove

But there's more for you Daniel, just take hold of my hand. 
Remember the poem, footprints in the sand?

I have always been there, and I always will be, 
Spread your arms and jump into the depths of the sea

You learn how to swim, now learn now to fly,
Taking risks when I'm present is like eating a pie

Sweet potato that is, your favorite of course,
It's gonna be fun, like driving a Porsche

So don't worry about perfection, it's okay if it's messy
When you step into who you are, it will even bless Me.

Look at my boy! He's the apple of My eye,
I care about completion, but I love when he tries.

That was the first poem I wrote in my Creative Arts class during second year at BSSM. I've always played around with words, and I love poetry and hip-hop, but I had never before taken proactive steps to grow in this specific area. Although it had felt like something I was gifted in, and definitely something I was passionate about, I allowed fear and doubt to suffocate that idea of pursing Spoken Word.

I wanted to start off with a poem, because it's very vulnerable to share your art with people, especially publicly! And when I think of the question, "When was the moment you realized you were becoming a man," so much of that process is inextricably connected to vulnerability, and making decisions even when they're scary.

I grew up in a household with 2 parents, and I knew they loved me. It took me much longer however, to discover how emotionally shut down they were. This inevitably had a profound effect on me, and I learned to bottle up my emotions. I didn't ever feel safe to fully express with my parents, or anyone really, what I was so unaware of what was going on within my heart, that even when I matured into a young adult, I would react to pain in extremely unhealthy ways.

This is common for all people, but I would say in some ways even more so for men. From an early age, young boys are force fed the idea that manliness looks like being macho, strong, being sexually desirable, and being unaffected by pain.

What perpetuates these stereotypes? Society... pop culture... friends... maybe our parents? Did you ever hear these words: "Stop crying before I give you something to cry about!"

OR

"Boys don't cry! Man up!

I don't think I really grew into manhood until I learned that crying was a gift. Some things in life happen to you that are so painful that the only way to heal is to give your heart permission to grieve. I didn't know I could actually do that. That I could give my heart permission to feel, process, and let go. At 33 years old, I've cried more in the last 8 years fo my life than the previous 25 combined, and I'm a much healthier man because of it.

It's obviously vulnerable to cry, so I learned how important it is to invite Holy Spirit into that process with you. (For the record, it's very beneficial to invite God into everything you do!!). It was amazing knowing I'd be comforted by the Great Comforter Himself, God our loving Father. There's nothing like getting wrapped up in His wonderful Presence like a warm blanket after a good cry.

When the floodgates of tears were finally opened, so were the gates of my emotions. I'm still very much a work in progress, but I finally was able to feel things. I heard God more clearly, and I felt more empowered by His Spirit. By His power and grace, He gave me the strength in my weakness to get free from pornography and being promiscuous. I made the bold decision to wait until marriage before I had sex again. I never did before, from the ages of 16-27, but I knew what I wanted and I trusted God in that.

I knew I was becoming a man when I took ownership of my messes and was willing to clean them up. I remember contacting women I had been with, telling them the truth for the first time, and asking for forgiveness. I exposed my dirt and my faults. Talk about vulnerability and doing things that scare you!! But I wanted to continue walking the path of vulnerability and reconciliation that the Lord has (and still has) me on.

I knew I was becoming a man when I told the girl I wanted to date my darkest secret. The thing that I thought would push her away. I was so scared to tell her, but God reminded me of something. He said "I want you to tell her son." And I said, "No way God!! She'll think I'm disgusting and gross. She'll leave me!" And Jesus responded by saying this "Even if she does leave you Daniel, I never will."

Wow. I knew I was becoming a man when I learned how to be a son. I want to be obedient and please my Heavenly Father. Thanks be to God, 6 years later and I'm not married to that girl He empowered me to be vulnerable with.

Those are just some of the examples I can give, but I'll finish with one more. You know you're becoming a man when you realize that this life isn't about accomplishing things and arriving at a destination. Rather, it's about abiding in Jesus Christ. We can't do anything of true value and sustain it without Him.

From a Grateful Son,
Daniel Hardy Jr.

Fully Man | Tou Mua: The Created Man

2.26.2021


Tou Mua is currently attending Simpson University in Redding, California, and is in his last semester of his undergrad career. He will be graduating this May with  a Bachelor's Degree in Cross-Cultural Studies. He is originally from Chico, California, but currently resides in Redding with his wife, Jessica, and their two cats, Kiki and Mojo. I've known Tou for a couple of years and have seen the ways he carries a heart passionate for the lost and instills purpose and community into those he interacts with. His intentionality to serve, care for, and celebrate those around him offers inspiration, hope, and guidance. I am so incredibly thankful to know Tou and the following is his essay answering the question When was the moment you realized you were becoming a man.

Hello Friends, 

I am excited to be a part of this Fully Man Series and share with you all about the moments that helped me realize when I was becoming a man in a world where navigating through manhood and adulthood is a challenge that all men face. I hope that through my sharing with you all about my personal experiences and thoughts, it will encourage and provide you a perspective to shape your thoughts and views of manhood within your very own lens. Before I dive into sharing with everyone about my journey so far in becoming a man and what it has looked like for me, I would like to attempt to provide you all a framework of my views and thoughts of what it means to be a man with the hope that it will help you to best understand where I am coming from. 

When I ask myself, "When was the moment I realized that I was becoming a man?", it would be difficult to pinpoint any given time in my life where I crossed over from boyhood to manhood, and childhood to adulthood. We can define manhood by someone's age. but I am not speaking in terms that are defines by time. What I am wanting to share and focus on are the intangibles and what goes on internally that produces what is external. So my point is, I did not necessarily reach manhood and adulthood the moment I turned eighteen years old or when I got married. The process of life is not always as clear-cut and defined as the expectations of society. But society's expectations and assumptions can be used for good as something that pushes and encourages our growth and who we become. 

In our world, we all generally want to meet life's expectations. We want to graduate from high school; then graduate from college around twenty two years-of-age; have a career; get married and maybe have kids. What is good about this is that it gives us a timeline of events that should take place, telling us where we should be in our personal lives. There is a reason why this timeline of events exists; it works and provides results for the greater good of society and human wellness. Although it may appear good for society, is this process that we go through-- from the perspective of a man-- beneficial to out general view of manhood? Because what about the men who have not been very successful in achieving life goals, or have the worldly desires of masculinity?

One concern that has always been an issue for men is: what does it take to be a man and what is a man? Do you instantly become a man the moment you lose your virginity? Move out from your parent's home? Or when you get married? There are many questions, and loaded questions at that. But they are relative and valid questions that we have all faced at one time or another. I think that the most simple way to address these questions has to first be a matter of where you stand between God's image and view of man, and the world's view. When we are focused on the qualities of manhood in the eyes of society, I believe that we all come to discriminate against all men whether they are a "man" or not. Because not all men are equally intelligent, handsome, charming, or financially stable. To view and compare men with one another in the same light can be disabling. And what is even more detrimental is when men project the world's and society's expectations onto themselves. To say that to be a man, or more "manly", one has to be a certain height and have a certain amount of strength is not reality. Even if that were true, then do we transition out of manhood when we are too old to be able to care for ourselves?

When we focus on how God views and created men, I think that there is a personal revelation of what it takes to be the man that we were created to be. We all have our own journeys to make and adventures to experience, and I don't think that God made us unique just for the sake of being different from one another, but to also express diversity. The paths that we take and experience will be different. Society is a cookie-cutter producer of men. God's view of man produces those who pay attention to the needs of the things that are in front of them, to steward and cultivate something that has very little to something greater. When we experience this kind of understanding, we come to comprehend the process of manhood and how deep it really is to be a man.

For someone who has had a love-hate relationship with his earthly father, I struggled to understand what it means to be a man for the majority of my lifetime. I grew up having a strong dislike for my dad because of the manly qualities that were lacking in him from my own personal view. I was critical of him in every way of what a "man" was supposed to be. But the issues that I had with him were filtered through the lens of society and not the lens of God. I tried my best to separate myself outwardly from my dad as much as possible which caused me to ignore what was needed to internally take place in order to sustain the man I wanted to become. I was so concerned with the results and exterior side of manliness that I became ignorant of the substance that is needed in a man. It wasn't until I came to Christ that I came to truly understand one aspect of what it takes to be a man: responding to our life's purpose and leading with what we have.

So to answer when were the moments that made me realize that I was becoming a man, the results are all that has taken place, such as when I moved out of my parents home and paid rent for the first time; buying my first car; and getting married, to serve as some examples. These results stem from the moments that I had decided to take responsibility in being able to care for my own life and ultimately caring for those that are around me. There has been good fruit in helping me realize how I have come as a man, but in life we are always learning and I do not think that we ever stop growing. Stepping out to learn and care for myself came with many struggles, but even in those struggles I probably leaned most of becoming a man by how I responded. We all have our own struggles on the daily, so how we respond to life is instrumental to who we become through those obstacles. 

To the brothers out there who struggle with and wonder whether they are man enough in this world, do not let any one or anything distract you from the fact that you are already a man. We are intrinsically already men-- know that. It is only a matter of how we respond to and lead our own lives in how we are gifted and blessed. When we hone in on what we have and what is in front of us, then we can make the most out of what has been gifted to us. Know what God has for you as a man and a child of His so that you can become who you were created to be.


You can reach out to Tou by following him on Facebook here.

Fully Man | Shane Geer: A Story on Seeking

2.21.2021


Shane Geer is a fellow 2nd Year student at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BBSM). He is from Southern California, but considers Redding, California, home. I first met Shane while we were both students at Simpson University, where he graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science in 2019. I currently work with Shane and am in the same Revival Group for 2nd Year and it has been a marvel to see how God has been radically impacting, growing, and transforming  his life! To experience the covering Shane offers in safety, trust, and freedom is an honor to know and to see the ways he has gone after the face of Jesus has the power to break chains and renew minds. The following is Shane's take on When was the moment you realized you were becoming a man? 


Son,

Let me tell you a story. I was a wee lad tottering around getting into all sorts of messes. I would blunder around joyfully with not a care in the world despite the walls that were collapsing around me. These days of careless joy and unbridled imagination were quickly being suffocated by the turmoil I was surrounded by. The times that I would try and have fun and laugh were met with glaring eyes and pain staked faces. I quickly had to learn to grow up in order to no longer face the rejection from hurting people. People who knew nothing aside from survival, no matter the cost-- be it their heart or others being lost.

Growing up quickly wasn't that bad though, at least when I would compare it to the troubles others had. I had to learn not to smile in order to not get beat, while others had to figure out where they were going to eat. I had to learn that men don't cry, while others had to learn how to keep warm at night. I had to learn that families normally break up, while others had to learn dead family members don't wake up. You see son, I had a lot of blessings: food in my belly and a roof over my head to name a few, but, you see son, those things just won't do. I was starving for emotional connection and a place I could call home, because growing up I still felt empty and alone. 

Home. Such an interesting phrase, not something determined by a space, but rather something shared by those who love the sight of your face. I had for so long searched for meaning and identity through performance and ambition that I didn't know what it was like to be loved for the person I was made to be. Thankfully the LORD finally made me see His shining face and the love He had for me. As I slowly fell in love with the Man hung on a tree, I kept retuning to the poison my past had for me. I thought the key to life's glee was simply self-rejection and misery. You see I had heard so often, "work hard now, so you can play hard later" or "dreams don't come for free" that I forgot to live the life that was right in front of me. Thankfully the grace and mercy of my creator is enough for me and still fought for me despite my failings or lack of intimacy. 

Intimacy, into-me-you-see. The thing I lack because I don't want people to see into me. Being told I was too loud, too rambunctious, too obnoxious, too much. Too much, the opposite of not enough. Rather I must live a life that is tempered and tamed in order to be named, beloved. Beloved the name that the LORD has called me because Shane, is actually the same name as John just derived through the Irish rendition Sean. Beloved, a much loved person, whom God seemed to choose despite the imperfections. The imperfections that make up the perfection. The perfection declared by God because He spoke it into being. He spoke me into being. The being that is not too loud, rambunctious, obnoxious, or TOO MUCH. How can the infinite God be burdened by too much? He says that it is not enough to have a life that has been snuffed. He wants a life broken free from the chains of achieving and deceiving. Achievement marked by deception. Deception that one could find the fullness of perfection by striving. By working. By fighting.

Instead intimacy was bought for me by the Man who hung on a tree. In order to allow me to see the brokenness all throughout me. To surrender up the misery and striving. To find joy in the abiding. Joy and peace that allows me to be fully me. The fullness of identity found in the creation He made me to be. No tempered glee or barred off intimacy, but rather freedom to be loved and to love me. 

Son, do not forsake the depth you have, nor the experiences you have been handed. You are beautiful. Son do not allow others to define the characteristics the good LORD gave you. You are beautiful. Son do not allow yourself to throw away the pieces of your heart that seem to be unwanted. You are beautiful. Being a man is not about growing up, moving out, getting a job, or providing for a family. It is about recognizing the beauty the LORD has created in you and through you. It  is about providing a burnt offering and receiving the fullness of His glory. It is about being a man who's willing to hang on a tree to bring intimacy to those who have still not seen.

Yours Truly,
The Beloved

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Fully Man | Derek Drake: Man Enough

2.19.2021


Above: Derek, his wife, and their two little chickadees! I am so excited to introduce to you Derek Drake, who I have known to be a very talented, inspiring, and authentic friend and co-worker. It is a marvel to know him and the ways in which he makes space for people to be completely who God created them to be. Derek is originally from Arizona, but moved to Redding, California, in 2019. He graduated with his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Christian Studies, and is currently pursuing his Master's degree in Psychology. I am so grateful that I get to share Derek's story as he answers the question when was the moment you realized you were becoming a man.

I am excited to share a little bit about a process that will impact and change your life as you continue on in this journey called manhood. Being a father of two kids, I want to share a little bit of my personal journey and speak into your life. There is a need for fathers to truly speak real and true identity into their sons and daughters. As a father, I hope to share something that will resonate as truth to you.

So, manhood. I actually have hated this word for a long time because to me this word meant rejection, inadequacy, inferiority, and weakness. Those were the lenses in which I saw myself when it came to talking about manhood. By nature, I am a very creative and sensitive man and these character traits go against what the world says is "manly." So the first point, real manhood actually looks like embracing all the unique things about your personality, appearance, and character. The world and even other people will try to say you must look strong, deny emotions, work with your hands, play sports, remain hard-hearted, and dominate in social environments. This could not be further from the truth. There is a world that needs the real you to show up. There are sons and daughters actually looking for men who will make space for others to show up authentically and it starts with you. This truth has taken me several years to embrace, but having really great friends in my life who see and know me have helped me understand this, in addition to, the relationship I have cultivated with the best Father in the entire world: God. 

It does not matter whether you identify with being some rough, rugged, outdoorsy man, or a tender-hearted creative. What matters MOST is that you show up as you in every environment. For example, for me, it meant that I had to embrace the fact that I am not a sports guy, so I did not try to make myself become that, but I embraced the parts of me that allowed me to come alive. Secondly, real manhood looks like processing through trauma and pain to find healing and become a whole man in Christ. You are not exempt from experiencing pain and going through hard things. The reality is, you have probably already experienced some pain and trauma. The world and others will tell you to white-knuckle it, keep going, or ignore it, but this will actually cause an infection that will also infect many of the people around you, even those you really love. It does not matter what you have experienced or gone through, it does not change the fact that you are still beautifully and wonderfully made. 

I was sexually abused as a child and also grew up around physical and emotional abuse between my parents. This pain and trauma had spent years telling how unfit for manhood and life I was. Shame was my best friend. I kept all the pain inside and pretended it was not there, but watched it rot inside of me in plain sight. This pain and trauma caused so much anger, confusion, self-hatred, and a lack for zeal for life in general. The most manly thing I ever did was go though counseling, share my story, and let people love me through this pain. You can do it too! You are not a victim to your past, struggles, or trauma. You will be able to overcome it because there is a King, Friend, Son, Savior, and Love who overcame everything just to be with you. 

Lastly, real manhood looks like loving people well and letting others love you. Typically amongst men, love seems to be a mystery and some facet of life that is confused with merely sexual encounters and multiple relationships. Ultimately, this type of living will continue to leave you empty. This is not God's design for your life for cultivating relationships, no matter how many people encourage or affirm your sexual experiences. You will one day find a spouse whom you will treasure far beyond their physical beauty and this aspect of intimacy will continue on in your marriage until death. 

Real friendship in your life will be marked by the way in which you are known by others and seek to know them. The conversations you have with your community of friends will need to extend beyond the surface level of sports talk, the weather, or all of your personal accomplishments (although those are important and should be celebrated). Real manhood will invite you to be courageous, vulnerable, and transparent in your conversations with others. This will mean that the walls and barriers will have to come down. This means that your heart will be on display. Scary? I know right! But, you will find that being known and knowing others is one of the most liberating feelings you will experience. 

Now, I know that this sounds like a lot. This may even sound impossible or extremely foreign to you, but let me encourage you. One of my greatest joys of being a father has always been watching my kids learn something new. I think about them taking their first step, learning to feed themselves, learning to use the potty, saying their first word, or simply tying their shoes. They did not automatically know how to do these things, they had to try everyday and they relied heavily on my love and support to guide them. They did not give up because they saw how confident and affirming I was of them throughout the process. They DID get frustrated and cry or get angry in the process, which even then, I acknowledged. But, when they finally got the hang of it, the excitement and confidence it gave them was a feeling that outweighed how difficult it was in the beginning. It meant they were growing and, as a father, I was so proud to see and be with them throughout the process. 

Our Father feels this exact way about us x10000000000000000. He is calling us to be the men that He created us to be everyday. He sticks around for the process and celebrates every little and big victory. Take heart, God's got this and you are man enough! 

Love you!
Derek

Derek currently does not have any social media, but you can find him on LinkedIn. He also is a vocal coach of his very own business called DrakeVoice, which you can check out here. Derek also self-published a devotional for sale on Amazon called Rooted: Growing in God's Word Through Hardship, which you can buy here. If you'd like to send Derek an encouraging word, please comment on this post or send him a private message on his LinkedIn account.

My Favorite part of being 25

2.15.2021


A year ago during my 25th birthday party, one of my friends asked me if I had a favorite moment during my 24th year of life. After a few minutes of going through that past year, I was able to remember that I had one moment in particular that happened during 1st Year of BSSM. Eric Johnson, one of the lead pastors at Bethel, had come to speak to the 1st Year class in the Civic Auditorium in Redding, California, and he shared how 2018 had been the worst year of his life. Throughout his sermon, I could feel and understand the turmoil and introspection he went through. It was pain and his journey healing from it. I remember earlier that exact day thinking our minds are powerful. We give ourselves so much power. This thought describes 2018, for me. 

After Eric had finished speaking, he did an alter call for repentance and stepping into learning how to let go and, because it was 1st Year, everyone went up-- including me. SO many people had gotten up that there wasn't enough room to go any further than standing in the aisles. I knew that I couldn't stay long because I had an Advanced Ministry Track (AMT), which was the last class session of the trimester and I really did not want to miss it, but my heart was heavy. Since there was so much of us that had stood up, Eric told us to sit where we were standing and he led us into an encounter to do one thing: to let go. I processed 2018 with the Holy Spirit and he revealed things that I had pushed aside and covered up. 

While sitting there on the floor letting Jesus do what He was doing inside of me. (SIDE NOTE: As I'm sitting her writing this, I feel the weightiness of His glory and the intentionality of His heart.) After a good amount of time, some people were being ministered to, others were leaving because the session had gone past the class time. I didn't know what time it was, so I decided to make my way to class. I arrived to the classroom, which was in the same building and I found a free seat and waited for class to start, but I couldn't stop thinking about what God was doing inside my heart. After a few minutes, one of my friends from my RG came in. I heard my name and I looked up and the moment my friend saw my face, he walked straight to me and hugged me. I started crying and he asked me what was wrong and I said, "This is the last session and I don't want to miss out. but what Eric was talking about today really hit me hard." To which he responded, "If God wants to be with you right now, I don't think you're missing out." I nodded realizing that I had to leave class in order to press into what God wanted me to face. 

So I took my friends advice and decided to leave. I walked out of the Civic and noticed that there were still people in the main auditorium. I made my way to my car, and sat there. I cried and cried and I realized that I had to forgive myself. I had to go through moments with the Holy Spirit that He wanted me to acknowledge in order to submit my heart, mind, and soul to, but it was painful. To admit that I had control over myself and allowed MYSELF to think and live a certain way wasn't easy. I had convinced myself of the thoughts and lies that I had assumed was right about who I was. I HATED, H-A-T-E-D, HATED myself. I wanted to throw everything I was out the window. I was scared, disappointment, hurt, and broken. And that's when His love came in-- or the realization that He was there the entire time. I sat in my car letting Christ redeem and fill all of me that needed to be repaired. That day was one of the most hardest moment of my life. To have compassion and grace for myself...

That was my favorite moment being 24-- I forgave myself. I decided to let Jesus define who I am and repent for thinking otherwise. He calls me daughter and beloved. 

Now being 26(!!!) on February 4th, I ask myself what was my favorite moment being 25?

It took me awhile because 2020 seemed to be a liftetime, but my favorite moment being 25 were the moments I spent with Jesus. Very often I would think and dream of going to a secluded cabin in the mountains or along the coast just to be alone with Him. His presence is and always will be my favorite parts. Please know the importance of spending time communing with Him in our day-to-day tasks is important-- in the mundane, such as making dinner, brushing my teeth, driving, cooking-- making room and spending time with Him is where I long to be, but setting those specific moments dedicated to looking at His face and praising Him is so necessary!! TO KNOW HIM!

A few days come to mind. I think of the day I decided to redo 2nd Year, how I picked up my passion for reading again, learning what it means to be human, or going after things that make me come alive. But one day in particular was the first day that 2nd Year BSSM got to worship together under the tents for the first time in 2021. Last year, when most of everything was closed, I started to miss corporate worship. I felt that each voice in the room was a single drop of water that when put together, it becomes a waterfall-- roaring and shaking the air. That is what happened when we came together (with masks and maintaining 6-feet-apart, of course). Hearing and being in the room with others who are hungry for the Lord made me think This is what we're made for. We are made for community and communion with our King Jesus. He is holy and worthy. There is a fire in my heart for more of our King and He is faithful to answer the cry of our hearts! 

A lot has happened this past year and, with every year I grow older, my greatest wish is that I grow tethered and deeply more in love with my love, best friend, and Heavenly Father. I hope it's filled with more connection with other sons and daughters, new experiences, a living and fresh breath of God, and deeper revelation of a renewed mind, love, peace, and power! There is still so much more that I'm learning and I am so excited for what this additional year on my life will hold. Often times, when I let the reality of being 26 sink into my mind and heart, all that stirs is hope and excitement, which is kinda scary, but I just hope that I take and step into those risks! In other words, pray for me! Here's to 26 and thank you for reading!

With All That I Am,

-MJ

Fully Man | Anonymous: Truth Through the Ragged Machismo

2.12.2021


I am so excited to share the 2nd essay to the Fully Man Series. This man is a dear friend, who has ask to remain anonymous, but I will say that he has impacted my life and continues to inspire me to dream and dream bigger. He understands the journey of creativity and the value of simplicity, realness, as well as moving forward no matter what life throws. I am grateful to see the ways he fights for people and the reality of Jesus. I am so honored to introduce to you his essay answering the question, When was the moment you realized you were becoming a man?

 
Dear Nephew,

It's about time we talk about healthy manhood. Of course, I don't have it all figured out. I know with each new chapter in life, I will be evolving and reestablishing my core ideals to my daily life. Yet one thing is to be certain; I will continue to be a man for Christ. Bear in mind with everything I'll say, volumes have been unpacked about these subjects. But I wrote this letter to begin a dialogue that I hope will continue throughout the years. 

Our immediate family has influenced us both. We've also been influenced by television and social media. Yet, society nor our family's presentation and expectations have always been the healthiest about manhood. In this letter, I'll be sharing about emotions, machismo, and my growth through my position as a Social Worker.

You will experience sorrows in life, as we all do, and you, too, will make poor choices and struggle with guilt, shame, and insecurities. To have breakthrough, you will have to confront the darkest parts of yourself, the parts that feel unlovable. You'll have to become brave and choose to love yourself and forgive yourself. To allow people near your heart, to esteem you and give council. And it's ok if sorrowful feelings continue to resurface throughout your life. That won't make you less of man. It's natural that your body and mind recall past pains. You have permission to go through your process and to confide in others. 

We both have heard countless times the expressions of; "stop being a bitch." "you gay as fuck," and "man up." Don't belittle your emotions or allow others to, because they are ok and normal to have. I stress this because I was so used to desensitizing myself. Emotions are your body's indicators of how you feel about something. For emotions are also tied to our underlying belief system. Obviously, we get upset or happy because of how something vibes with us. 

As well, remember the difference between guilt and shame. Knowing the distinction between the two will increase your emotional intelligence. Guilt is feeling comprised for what we did. Shame is feeling comprised for what we have become. Shame stings more, having that inward focus emphasizing what is wrong with ourselves. If you ever get stuck with lingering negative feelings, I charge you with the reality that you are loved. I hope you will remember that your chapters in life eventually end and start anew. Soon enough, you will have a new chapter of life. If you choose to learn from your past, then it doesn't have to define you or dictate your future. 

In our Hispanic culture, you have experienced the unachievable and straining "machismo," which is aggressive masculine pride. From my experience, I believe machismo is an overcompensation towards the anxiety and strife in life. It also doesn't help that we both grew up in a community hurting from gangs. As a child, attempting to understand what manhood is and how I will be leading myself, I naturally took to the Mexican gang mentality.

Our Hispanic community tells us that males are headstrong and that we are to safeguard public opinion: that no one disrespects us. As we both saw, that can get out of hand pretty quick. Machismo is a one dimensional way of thinking. The machismo mentality solely focuses on not looking weak. I was trying to contain myself into a one-dimensional persona that strived to look strong.

Yeah, you could unwind after gaining a reputation and some hood stripes. But, I'm better off and stronger as a multi-dimensional person (educated, culturally aware, traveler, etc.) Thankfully, I was able to mature from this distorted way of thinking by asking the fundamental questions of my identity and purpose. Believe me, after being on probation twice, house arrest for three months, along with all the court mandated classes and community service, that headstrong mentality was not the way to go about things.

Looking back, I observe that I filled into the maturity of manhood when I began working as a Social Worker for Adult Social Services in my local county. In this position, I walked to the darkest parts of society, and I was tasked to be a light, to be an uplifting hand. I met with people who were financially exploited, physically abused, mentally impaired, and so on. In that realm of work, I had to be an advocate. There was a saying, God makes all things work together for good. It's interesting how God made us of my old headstrong mentally, evolving it with to serve in this field. But I grappled to keep it in check.  

I almost got into fights with suspects several times, in which I had to do a de-escalation class. This position was pivotal because I had to work on my emotional health again because of stress. Not only that, I went through compassion fatigue from countless cases. I even dealt with getting emotionally jaded by becoming aware of the awful abuses that happened in my county. With everything I took part in, I love when justice is served.

You will have to forge yourself to be resilient so that you can enjoy the beauties in life. There is hope and masculinity outside of the narrow-minded view we were raised in. Machismo is not the answer to our identity; Jesus is. I leave you with a final resolve, to not fear suffering, but to find the wisdom you can gain from it. Every trial will mold you, so it's best to try to control your development during the shaping. I have become someone who contends, to be honest with myself and to communicate well with others. I'll continue to pursue wholesomeness. My goal is to live out integrity. My beloved nephew, consider regular reflection and self-discipline. For doing so, your emotions will make you a wiser and stronger man, leading you to make better choices. 

Much Love,
Your Uncle


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