testimony

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If you missed it, this is a little part of Ben Affleck’s testimony at the US Senate.
Congratulations Ben!

- I love when chairman says “Jennifer and Violet are very proud of you, well done!” (1:23) and Ben look at them and smiles in a very lovely way!

My Most Horrifying Church Experience Ever


Disclaimer: To protect my family and myself, I am not using names and I’m purposefully obscuring certain details. I cannot confirm them privately, either. These are well-known people in Christian circles who I still believe are doing helpful things, despite the terror behind closed doors.  I must be careful here, because 1) they would absolutely crucify me if they saw this post, and 2) they could also deny having ever met me, despite email correspondences and recorded conversations.  But I have to speak up.

I want to tell you about my most horrifying church experience ever, because it began so ordinary and subtle, and I want to protect you from the nightmare I eventually woke up to. 

I know there must be so many more terrible experiences at church and mine is not nearly the worst, yet I hope you’ll know that not every horror story about church happens in a cult of backwood druids sacrificing goats to chanting.  It can happen in the most mundane sort of atmosphere with a slowly tightening chokehold, until it’s too late.

Years ago, I befriended the lead pastor of a church ministry that was doing amazing things in the community and we first became friends over the phone. The pastor explained that every church in America was doing it wrong.  This really appealed to my discontent about the church culture, and our phone calls were filled with tons of encouragement and positive affirmation over my “gifts, talent, treasures, insights, and abilities given by God.”  Whenever I spoke bad about my own church, the lead pastor agreed as loudly as possible.

In the first few months, he offered me a position at his ministry, but I was obligated to my current church.  However, I was still able to visit.  I was completely seduced by the way he and his team did ministry.  Their preaching was fun, their services were boisterous, their praise team was incredible, and they knew every single family by name.  They were well-respected by the community and they were funded completely by other churches and individuals from all over the world.  All the while, they were saying, “We do it better than the other guys” and their website sold tons of church curriculum.  I even bought some.


One thing I noticed right away is that these guys constantly agreed with one another about everything, both in public and private. They never, ever disagreed on theology, ministry, or even their preferences.

I found this a little strange since even the best of friends disagree sometimes, so I anonymously messaged their blog, “What happens when your staff disagrees or when you guys get it wrong?”  A few weeks later, one of their team members answered, “We never disagree and we never get it wrong.”  I was a bit puzzled, but I put this behind me quickly. 

I was also a little troubled by their constant disregard for other ministries, especially mega-churches and Christian authors.  The lead pastor spoke a lot about grace in his sermons, but behind closed doors, he was constantly saying “Those mega-churches don’t care about the poor and won’t give me money” and “Those bestsellers you like are all s__t.”  Once they invited a mega-church praise team into their own church, and when the mega-church wouldn’t buy some of the curriculum, one of the church staff said, “What is wrong with them?  They like their Starbucks more than Jesus.”

I attended a few Bible Studies and the lead pastor would read something he wrote, and then ask, “What do you think about that?”  His staff would answer quickly and the lead pastor would light them up with compliments.  No one ever disagreed.  Soon when it came to my turn, I found myself answering in a way that would please the lead pastor.  I was afraid to say something stupid or misaligned with their theology.  I remember sweating and shaking while I answered their questions. 

The crazy thing is, the lead pastor would affirm my answers and I felt great, like I had suddenly unlocked Christianity and the thousands of years of church history were all wrong.  It felt so amazing to have the Secret-Sauce that no one else had.  I was intoxicated with being on the inside, of having the keys to the club, bumping chests with the boys.  Finally, I had made it to the inner-ring.


I stayed oblivious.  I really loved these guys, and I still do. 

About a year later, I was highly involved with the ministry.  But those little things I was able to ignore couldn’t remain silent.  I felt increasingly anxious around them, like I always had to say the right things according to their view of church, or else I was an idiot.  So I wrote the lead pastor about a minor disagreement I had with him.  I made sure to show the letter to both my mom and to two friends, to see if I was being fair and gracious.  I re-worded it several times to ensure I was making a suggestion, not a rebuke.

That night at 3am, I woke up to a phone call.  For the next 42 minutes, the lead pastor yelled and cursed and demanded my apology.  I hardly spoke.  He dropped the f-bomb at me about ten times.  He also started cussing out other pastors and his own staff and then saying, “I’m telling you this because I love you, man,” and then back to cussing. I don’t have a problem with curse words: but they were directed at others, namely me.  I offered to write a letter that recanted all I said, and he said, “Yeah you damn well better,” and after the phone call, I contacted the entire staff to apologize.

Some of the staff tried to contact me, but the lead pastor refused any more dialogue.  In a six-page letter, the lead pastor told me why I was no longer fit for his ministry, that I would immediately withdraw from any of his activities, why my fiance was incompetent, and why I was just a “nobody pastor from a nobody town who didn’t know nothing.”  Also, this was on my birthday.  I was absolutely devastated.  I apologized again and I made zero excuses.  He said, “We’ll work together one day when this all clears.” 

I never heard from him or his staff again.

For the next few months, I checked out their Bible Study materials online and they were all reactionary statements to the things I had said in my letter.  One of them was even, “How NOT To Talk To Your Leaders.”  I wish I could say I brushed this off, but it hurt like fire. 


You see: This particular church ministry wasn’t the typical “bad church” or full of “that kind of Christian.” They drove normal cars, didn’t preach anything too wild, were married with kids, and wore skinny jeans like every other church staff.

On the surface, they were an amazing church with flashy sermons and great music and lovable people.  I still believe they’re doing a wonderful work.  But behind closed doors, there was an insidious incipient strain of insider legalism that demanded you fall in line, or else.  I was holding my breath half the time around them.  At the same time, I became smug over other churches and I criticized other sermons and methods of ministry that weren’t like “ours.”

This church was also huge on “grace” and hardly ever talked about God’s discipline and justice.  They trashed any other church who didn’t center on “God’s love.”  I understand this, because grace is often the first thing that leaves a church: but by being against churches that didn’t have grace, I wasn’t having grace for churches that lacked grace.  I still fell for an “Us Versus Them” mentality, which is exactly what this church said they were against.  By being against legalism, they formed their own legalism.  This is so much more dangerous than a typical moralistic church.

So often we think of “bad churches” as fire-and-brimstone picketers or the TV preachers with gold-toed diamond shoes, but usually, those who abuse authority are charming personalities that are blind to their own hubris and ego.  They don’t always see themselves as the abuser, and they’ll laugh off victims by pointing to more extreme cases or saying it was just a “disgruntled attention-seeker.”  And it’s these type of institutions, that are neither extreme nor obvious, which do the most harm, because they will hardly examine their own procedures.


This was all several years ago, and I’m still recovering.  A part of me wishes I could expose them all.  I still have the screenshot on my phone of the 42 minute phone call.  I still have the six-page email that essentially called me worthless.  I still have the communication where the staff tried to contact me, and couldn’t. 

The sad part is, even if I did all that, they would still find a way to spin the whole thing to their advantage and they would publicly destroy me.  Even writing this blog post is risky (I’m expecting at least an angry email, at worst a threatening phone call or press release, but hopefully nothing).  From their point of view, I’m the bad guy, I’m the one who “needs prayer.”  They’re too powerful.  Their ministry could bear the exposure of truth; I would be ruined by the lies they tell about me.

Yet assuming I could safely expose them, I still would not.  I don’t want to be one more guy who says “Look out for those Christians.”  Because as much as I was hurt, I still have hope for them.  I still pray for them.  As much as I’m devastated and angry, I still love those guys.  At least one or two of them were so much better than the ministry they were a part of; I could see them eventually breaking away to do greater things.  And if they’re truly not following Jesus, then my response can’t be to gloat, but to get on my knees in prayer and weep for them. 

I don’t say that to look holy or better; I say that because naturally I’m a selfish person and I would love nothing more than to see them shrivel and fail.  But it’s Christ in me who wants the best for them, who wants to see them repent and restored and reconciled.


A couple good things did come out of this. One was that I learned not to be too impressed by celebrity pastors.  They need grace like we all do, and that’s exactly why we can’t idolize them. While I was saddened by the entire debacle with Mark Driscoll, I wasn’t surprised either; maybe it was the best thing to ever happen to him. And I learned to be as transparent as possible, to keep my hands open. I welcome disagreement whenever I can. I constantly assume I’m not the smartest person in the room. If there’s an opportunity to be vulnerable, I jump in the deep end first, because I don’t ever want to pretend I’m better than I really am. Again, I say that not to look better than anyone else, but exactly because I’m not. 

I also tell you this because I want you to be careful.  I want you to be in a church where you are safe to disagree, to ask questions, to have dissent, and to speak up against the leaders.  

I don’t mean to be contrary for the sake of being anti-institutional.  I don’t mean to stir discontent where there is none.  Anyone can do that, and it’s too easy.  There are still many good pastors out there who deserve your trust.  But even the good pastors need accountability and hard questions and self-examination. 

If your church is full of Yes-Men who “never get it wrong” — then they’re definitely not in the right, either.  If your church is strangely in unison with the lead pastor every dang time, I don’t want to say cult, but we’re getting into bizarre mindless idolatry of a seductive personality.

I’ve seen too many churches like this, and it absolutely breaks my heart.  Jesus himself was so open to questions and challenges and dialogue.  In the early church, Paul and Peter were confronted all the time.  It probably became ugly to be so honest and truthful, but that’s why honesty requires grace.  Honesty requires the hope that you won’t be ridiculed for being ugly and wrong.  If you’re afraid of feeling wrong in church, that church isn’t a church and it’s not for you.

I love you, dear friends.  Find a safe place where you can be honest and you’re met with grace.  In the meantime, I grieve for those who have been burned by the church and I pray for healing, for us to trust again.

— J.S.

my friends, i want to be vulnerable with you.

i want to tell you how deeply Jesus has worked in my life because it’s one of redemption, love, and mercy, and i think we could all use a reminder of those things.

i was raised in the faith. i grew up believing God, praying consistently with my family, and attending mass each sunday on a regular basis. i knew God was real and i knew He loved me. however, i abused this belief in using it as a backup for when i was feeling down. i would cry out in prayer when things weren’t going my way and once He provided, i continued on with whatever i had been previously occupying myself with. i lied a lot, gave in to cheap thrills, and placed my self-worth in the hands of those around me. i paid no attention to the hurt i caused those around me, the ones i claimed to love most. i lived as if i was invincible, as if nothing could touch me. 

i went off to college right after high school with the intention of being completely independent. i became a chameleon. i had several different groups of friends that i’d adapt to as soon as they came around. i drank the majority of the nights of the week, let boys pursue me that i’d never date simply for the attention they gave me. when i was interested in a boy, i did whatever it took to grab and hold his attention. if he wasn’t paying attention to me, i subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) believed that i should be doing more or that i wasn’t good enough to earn his love, so i must be worthless. i woke up miserable too many days to count. i skipped class, i let others walk all over me (and vice versa), i lied countless times, and i ignored those i loved for nearly three months because i was afraid of being seen in the enormous mess that i was in. i had dug myself into a hole so deep that my family didn’t recognize me and i felt numb every time the thought of asking for help crossed my mind.

this kind of life began to evolve into bar scenes, men i barely knew, drinking far beyond my capacity, and walking into situations i thought i could lie my way out of. i convinced myself that if i could get to mass on sunday, i wasn’t doing as bad as i thought. i convinced myself that i was happy because i was still able to laugh and smile and everyone else around me was doing the same thing. i was a broken and shattered mess of a human being and i couldn’t bring myself to come clean to anyone about how miserable i was because i didn’t yet realize how deeply this was affecting me. 

one night, while carrying on like i normally did on the weekends, i found myself in a situation where nearly everyone in my life had turned away. everyone who knew how i lived wasn’t speaking to me, and if they did, they said the most hurtful things about me i’ve yet to hear. i believed that because of the things i did and the choices i’d made in my life, those people and their labels for me were correct. it all hit me like a ton of bricks that sunday morning as i lay in bed with tangled hair, last night’s makeup still on, little memory of what the night before entailed, and no one around to comfort me in the ways i was seeking. 

i remember wiping tears from my eyes and being as quiet as i could so that i didn’t wake up my sleeping roommate and her boyfriend when i saw the corner of my bible out of the corner of my eye. it was on the top of my tall dresser and i immediately stood up to go grab it. i didn’t know what i was doing, but as i pulled it down, i saw that my fingers had left thick fingerprints in the dust on it. i climbed back into bed, placed it in front of me, and stared at it. i was terrified, had no idea what to open to or what i was even looking for it, but i opened it up. i opened it up to psalms and started crying harder. i felt unworthy, unlovable, and dirty. i felt a strong sense of calm knowing that God’s word was open in front of me, that it had been there all along. it reminded me of God’s love for me, which i hadn’t thought about in upwards of five years. His love for me had been there the entire time, waiting for me to reach for it. the dusty fingerprints meant nothing to Him. what mattered was the fingerprints - the fact that i reached for Him. 

i decided that day that i couldn’t keep living the way i had been. no more lies, no more 4:00a bedtimes, no more hangovers that lasted till i went out that next night, no more denying my desperate longing for something more than what i was allowing myself. i made a promise to God and to myself that i was going to spend at least five minutes of my day with Him. those five minutes slowly turned into ten, then fifteen, then thirty, and soon enough, i was spending any free time i had with Him.

He took my shattered heart and began to patch it up, little by little. i had to say goodbye to old friends who encouraged poor choices, goodbye to old stomping grounds that produced bad habits, and think deeply about my actions throughout my day. there is no way i’d be in the place i am now if He didn’t give me the ability to open my eyes to the toxic environment i had surrounded myself with. as hard as it was, it has been the gift to myself to recognize the bad and kick it out. 

i fall often and create more cracks in new places, but He continues to love me into forgiveness. He has used me in ways i truly never thought i could’ve been. He has given me people who love me because i am a daughter of God. not because i could provide them with something. they want nothing but to give me Christ-like love, and i never would’ve found them had i not grasped God’s hand when i did.

saying yes to Him has given me purpose. He shapes me in every experience, continues to call me beloved (even when i run in the opposite direction of Him), and provides in every circumstance because He is constant. i am confident in who i am because i know that my good comes from a loving and merciful Father who has called me daughter…  and that is something that can never be taken away.

8 Curious Things I Noted in Regards to Darren Wilson's Testimony

Now, let’s pretend Wilson’s testimony is 100% true

According to Darren Wilson’s testimony, he was terror struck and felt as if his life was threatened in the presence of Mike Brown. He(Darren Wilson) states in regards to Mike Brown punching him, “I felt that another one of those punches could knock me out or worse. I mean it was, he’s obviously bigger than I was and stronger and the, I’ve already taken two to the face and I didn’t think I would, the third one could be fatal if he hit me right.” So Wilson had been struck twice by Mike Brown while he was still inside of the vehicle with the windows rolled down. 

1. Since Darren Wilson was so terrified for his life, why wasn’t there an attempt to roll the window up or to drive off? Especially since according to Wilson, Mike Brown had shut the door on him when the officer attempted to step out. 

Wilson said he considered mace as self defense but figured since the proximity of range was too close he would blind himself in the process. He doesn’t carry a taser on him because he, “elects not to carry one. It is not the most comfortable thing." Therefore a gun is the only option since Mike Brown is, in Wilson’s words, stronger than him. 

2. When someone is truly fearful of their lives, getting away with an injury is better than not getting away at all. I question if Wilson actually was fearful for his life or if he felt his authority threatened when Brown allegedly provokes the officer to shoot him, “You are too much of a pussy to shoot me”. 

3. Also, this particular officer chooses, daily, to rely on only mace and a gun to be his last resort of self defense for comfort’s sake. But because Wilson already states that when mace is used in close proximity to another person, there is potential for the user to be blinded, that really leaves only a gun for self defense. 

Wilson shoots once, breaking the glass on the cop door. According to the testimony Brown ducks further into his vehicle and begins hitting him wildly, “Fist, grab, I mean just crazy. Just random, anything he could get a hold of swingin’ wildly. (page 8)” 

4. Isn’t it odd that Brown, who had no weapon on him at all, had the courage to initially assault an officer? Isn’t it even more strange that even after the officer had fired his gun, Brown didn’t try to evacuate the scene? But instead, continued to attack Wilson fearlessly by coming in further into the officer’s car? Usually when a gun shot is fired, people are quick to find shelter and run. 

Then Wilson attempted to fire more shots and cleared his round. “Um, when I turned and looked, I realized I had missed I saw a, like dust in the background and he was running eastbound on Canfield (page 9)” So Wilson pursues Brown while yelling for him to stop. “When he stopped he turned, looked at me, made like a grunting noise, and had the most intense aggressive faces I’ve ever seen on a person"(page 10).  Wilson then goes to explain that Brown charges at him, while holding his hand to his waistband of his pants. WIlson fired multiple shots while Brown was charging at him and eventually Brown fell to his death. 

5. Wilson makes it very unclear the exact moment in which Brown was no longer thrashing at him inside of his vehicle and when he(Brown) started running away from the car. Wilson almost makes it seem like Brown just vanished in the few moments Wilson was trying to fire his gun. Which is odd, because Wilson depicts Brown as a quite large and very angry/aggressive figure.

6. When Brown attempts to run away, Wilson is no longer in danger. His life is no longer on the line, so why does Wilson continue to shoot Brown while pursuing him? Remember he still has the option to use mace. They are no longer within close proximity to each other so Wilson is no longer using a gun for self defense. 

7. Once again, Brown is an unarmed teenager. It’s strange to note that, after he’s been shot at multiple times, he continues to charge at Wilson with his hands around his waistband. Is he not fearful of his life? Why is he charging at an officer, after continuously being shot at/had gotten shot suggesting he has a gun? 

8. Lastly, Brown runs away from the cop car probably with the intent on exiting the scene but why does he turn back around (while being pursued/being shot at) and run back towards Wilson? 

God has been genuinely doing a work in my heart. I feel a peace in my heart, a lightness, that I haven’t in a long time. It’s like He’s lifting the weight of sorrow off my heart. I’m healing.

Someone asked me how I “won your girl’s heart.” I replied:

Hey, I don’t mean to rain on your parade at all and I know it’s a struggle, but I definitely didn’t “win the girl’s heart.” We both made mutual decisions toward one another out of risk and much reflection. To “win” someone assumes that she has no autonomy and she’s not her own person. She decided to take a chance with me, and it’s no small thing for a woman to entrust herself with a man. I’m not the hero of my own narrative who “won” an objectified trophy called a woman. I learned to respect her personhood and that she has her own hopes, dreams, and insecurities, like everyone else. She supports my dreams as much as I support hers.

I’m sorry, I know you expected a fun cute answer and I’m definitely not accusing you of false motives. I’ve just always had problems with the idea of “winning” a person and I think we’ve all been conditioned to think of women this way, which is why many men haven’t grown up, and why I myself still have plenty of growing to do. Until men see women as people, men will never be mature enough to be a person on their own, either. I’m preaching this to myself too, brother. May we all get there.

you’ll look in the mirror and it won’t be so hard. you’ll smile because even when you hear lies from the devil himself, you’ll have your Father’s joy. and at times you’re going to feel ugly, alone, and regretful, but don’t worry - remember, you don’t have to defend yourself to Him. you don’t have to keep quiet, there’s no room for defeat, when you give your life to the One that wipes every sin, every shame, every insecurity clean.

you’re beautiful, so beautiful, and don’t let anyone tell you how or why, because it’s not their business. take it to the cross, let Him know your pain. He’s going to wash it all away with the blood that spilled just for this.
—  a reminder - c.h.
10

THE TRUTH ABOUT ME BEING SPIDER-MAN.


Sup? I told myself I would wait until I was on public television to tell this story, but in case I don’t get that chance…. Here we go. Here is a little something. Funny thing is, it started freshman year at SCAD. That was around the time the Amazing Spider Man series was just beginning and Ultimate Fallout issues were being released and Miles Morales hadn’t been announced yet. There was a flyer of The Ultimate Fallout Death Of Spider Man issue was going to be published we still didn’t see who this new Spider-Man was. I mean growing up; I’ve been a fan of Spider-Man.  I’d watch the cartoons, played the video games and I know every line to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, Sam Raimi’s Spider Man 2 is my favorite. It’s great. One of my little brothers became a fan of it because I was a fan of it. I mean he LOVES it. It was weird at first, but it’s all good now.  



Anyway, there was the whole Donald Glover for Spider-Man thing going on. Naturally, I thought nothing of it at first… after all, I had no idea what was going to happen in the future….  Then the Miles Morales character was released… That’s when things got interesting.  Now, the following year, life got crazy and I doing the whole drawing to survive thing I happened to go to church one day. I was couch hopping and crashing at friends’ places and was very close to being homeless. Then,I happened to go to church one day. If I hadn’t made the friends I made, I wouldn’t even be here today.



Anyway, I met a guy that saw my work and wanted to look at it, he told be he had some connects to Marvel and suggested I should started drawing some stuff catered to that. He and another friend of mine gave me some comics to read and the Miles Morales comics were in there.



I managed to get job at Panera Bread at the time and it was a miracle I got a job like that when I did. Coincidently Marvel editors were coming down to SCAD the same year, some professors knew my situation and helped me get a portfolio review, it was great and my brother was excited to see me drawing Spider-Man and what not!   The thing was, people kept coming up and seeing the character and saying. “Ha. That looks like you.”  In an interview I was asked are there any parallels between your life and that of fictional Black/Hispanic Spider man Miles Morales?



Well yes. The parallels are a bit uncanny actually. At the time I was working at Panera and I was reading only 2 things, The Bible and Spider-Man comics. (Yes I know… It’s weird. Feel free to point and laugh.) When went to read the comics I noticed a few things… and others did too. The spider that bit Miles had a number on it. That number was 42. At the exact same time, my log in number was 42. I laughed when I saw him trying to draw out his suit, because that’s how I felt trying to draw Spider-Man sample pages for Marvel comics the first time. It was tough! The thing that stood out though was the fact they HE WAS LEFT-HANDED just like I am.  Then there was the classic picture of Miles drawn by Sara Pichelli, when Miles is first introduced and he take off the mask and says “Maybe this suit is in bad taste.” His facial features mirrored mine very mine when I was young. I remember because I got made fun of for having those SAME features, so I knew what I was looking at. It was both amazing to witness yet extremely strange. That said, all I wanted was to DRAW Spider-Man. I had no idea I was going to somewhat personify the character. I took a picture of me in the Miles t-shirt and put it online and Sara Pichelli saw it and commented, “You’re perfect!” My heart stopped a moment because Sara is one of my artist influences as well. It is weird because our mannerisms are very similar at times and even how Miles doesn’t believe in himself was a feeling I could relate to. How Ganke (Miles’ best friend) reassured him that he was capable of greatness was how my friends were towards me when I was down.  Everyone could see it. Again, I just want to DRAW the character mind you.



Time passed and the suit was made.  I didn’t only relate to Miles but I felt like Peter sometimes too. Like how no matter what he does, life always seemed to be hard for him. A lot of people can relate to Peter, I am no exception. There are parallels that go beyond physical appearance. Sometimes I joke that I’m just another universe’s take on the character.



Listen, before I got the suit, The Amazing Spider Man 2 came out and it came out at the end of the 4 years for everyone in what would be my graduating class. This was literally the end of my time in SCAD and I had no idea what was next, but I had grown significantly as a person by this time. When that happened there was a song released called It’s On Again, by Kendrick Lamar and Alicia Keys, the opening verse by Kendrick hit me so hard that I cried. If that song didn’t reach ANYONE else, it reached me. Allow me to explain I’ll break it down. It the opening verse, Kendrick says,



1.And everybody know the story of David and Goliath


But this is bigger than triumph



 I felt like all of my obstacles where so much bigger than me and I was just trying to survive. I was so small compared to everything going against me. I was the underdog and I still am in many ways I felt like I was the David and life/basic survival itself was my Goliath. Also, giving the story of David and Goliath in the bible was a story I loved the Bible, it carried some weight for me. I was actually surprised it was put in lyrics!



2.This is for the warrior, this is for you and I


This is for euphoria, give me a piece of mind



I had friends that were supportive of me and the we thought was, it one succeeds, we ALL succeed. They and God gave me a piece of mind everyday I worked. Knowing that everything is not about me this is more than enough reason to help others.  It made me stronger. 



3.God is recording this! Won’t you look in the sky?



Another big thing for me was God in a song about Spider-Man? I loved it! At the time I was trying to build my faith and I felt like nothing was working, everything was hard but I was ever mindful of God’s presence and I no shame in admitting that. “Look in the sky” made me think, “Keep your head up and keep pressing forward.”



4.Tell him that you got the behavior of your neighbor


Even when stability’s never in your favor



I learned humility and empathy in my times of struggle and even though I didn’t have much, when I did, I would try to help others the best I could. I always wanted to be useful and I couldn’t stand being a bum. I had no idea what was going to happen to me and where I would go after my friends left SCAD, I couldn’t go back to Detroit, I didn’t have any sight of stability after all of this)



5.Fly with the turbulence, only last a minute


This one hit me pretty hard. This meant to accept the struggle I was going though and have faith things will get better for me, I had to tell myself that this was only going to be a short time in my life and eventually something would give. 




6.Land on your dreams, and recognize you live it!

This was almost prophetic in the sense. The line “land on your dreams” part, I wanted to draw Spider-Man and then the follow up, “and recognize you live it” I literally ended up personifying the hero himself just by enduring hardships and literally becoming the character so to speak.  I wanted to draw Spider-Man and in a way, became Spider-Man!


7.Walk through the valley and peaks, with bare feet.
Run through the flames, that’s more passion for me

The harder my life became, the stronger my will to draw and move forward became. I was going to give it my all. I also literally walked everywhere I needed to go, I had no car or anything like that. Even my shoes would give out and I was sore day in and day out. Still, I had to keep going. 


8.I passed testimony just so the world can see!
Battle wounds on me, you watching me lick ‘em clean.

Everything that I had gone though was so I could give this testimony, I had gone through a LOT and I had to keep going. The fact that I’m typing this is proof of it. The friends I’ve made at SCAD have been there and have seen my highs and lows and been there for all of it. They’ve seen me grow and it has inspired them, I thank God that I went though all of the things I did, because they have seen me go through incredible things and somehow able to pull through. If I didn’t have faith and I didn’t work hard every chance I got, I would NOT be typing this today.  


9.I know, I know, my pride, my goals, my highs,
My lows, I know, I know, it’s mind control

My pride was a big factor for me and I HAD to learn humility, in fact if I was going to reach any of my goals I had to be humble throughout everything… and I mean EVERYTHING from my high points, my low points. I had to control my thoughts of doubt and discouragement and realize that any fears I had were all in my head and that I had move forward no matter what. 


10.I know, I could prosper, no impostor, Prosecute my posture.

I stand up and I stand by it what


This is the conclusion, I knew that if I toughed it out, I would see something good would happen, but I had no idea what. I just had to carry on and stand by my faith. It has not easy!

The following year, around the time of the events in Ferguson, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and countless acts of police brutality and violence and I remember I was deeply distraught by this, I did a sketch of how I felt that was well received and spread in many places. But I still had no suit, when I finally got the suit, pictures were taken and I then people IMMEDIATELY gravitated to it, but I don’t think it was about me dressing up as the character at all, I think it was because people were happy to see a face of color representing a HERO. I know this because of the flood of messages I received from kids, parents, schoolteachers and comic fans in general. Even people didn’t even READ comics thought it was cool and were moved. Next thing I knew, I was on Buzzfeed ( I didn’t even KNOW what Buzzfeed WAS until this happened), BET, Moviepilot and was even offered to speak on BBC Radio 1 as well!  It was something positive that came out of nowhere! Which when you think about it, that’s what Spider-Man is SUPPOSED to represent. Hope in times of adversity. It actually inspired people in ways I didn’t even see coming! Of course my little brother was the biggest fan I must say. That alone shifted me. 

 In the end, this experience changed not only me as an artist but as a person in general. I was and still am deeply humbled by the experience and can only say it has molded me for the better.  Then the unthinkable happened, my friends got me into comic con (Something I thought I would never get to experience because I couldn’t afford it) there I met many of my heroes and among them were Brian Michael Bendis @brianmichaelbendis (The writer Ultimate Spider Man and creator of Miles Morales as well as his original designer, Marvel comics artist Sara Pichelli herself. She saw me, was surprised and came from around her booth and straight up gave me a hug and drew a sketch for me as well as reviewed my artwork and she liked it! I was tearing up because I could not believe all of these events happened to me as well as how far God has brought me as well as providing me friends that made it possible. It’s a moment in time that no one can take from me and I’m still shocked that even happened. This whole thing became bigger than anything I could imagine happening.

People have asked me if I would act as Miles in any Marvel films and here is what I have to say.  Would I REALLY tell you that on here?! Hahaha. All jokes aside, I would love to cameo as Miles Morales. That would be incredible. I have some acting experience.  The funniest part about this is that I do enjoy acting and like drawing is just one of those things that’s just in me. I didn’t really think about, but I actually have been doing it my whole life in one small way or another, in comics, in order to convey emotions, being able to act them out is a BIG help. The times I have acted for people, they’re always shocked because it’s one of those “hidden talents” I never broadcasted. Then they get mad, they’re all like, “WHY ARE YOU JUST DRAWING COMICS?! YOU NEED TO BE DOING THIS MORE OFTEN.” So yes, there is potential there to move forward in acting.
That said, I’m self taught and I am actually doing acting exercises now to make sure I can sell that 30 second cameo of Miles if I was asked to do it. Hahaha.  I would love to do it. It would throw my little brother for a loop. Only time will tell, I’m grateful for all that has happened so far and I am humbled by the impact it has had. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this and I hope it has inspired you or increased your faith a little bit.

Peace and blessings, Nikolas (Miles)  

Happy Birthday, Harry Houdini!

In 1926 the great illusionist conjured up one of the most entertaining congressional hearings in history. Testifying on a bill making it a crime to be a fraudulent fortune teller in the nation’s capital, Houdini castigated the mediums and vociferously defended their victims. Calling witnesses (including his wife!), producing a “sucker list” and other evidence, accusing audience members of fraud, Houdini enthralled some of members of the House Committee on the District of Columbia, such as Rep. Frank R. Reid of Illinois who kept asking the chairman for more time for Houdini to speak. Others he seemed to have angered or confused. Nevertheless, the bill did not pass.

Hearing Testimony from From Harry Houdini on HR 8989, a Bill to Impose a Fine on Fraudulent Fortune Tellers in the District of Columbia (HR 69A-D7), 3/20/1926, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives 

Highlight.

Tonight I gave one of my friends a hard copy of my book.  I’ve been discipling him for over five years.  We sat across from each other at a cafe to read.  He asked me for a highlighter and headphones.  At once he dug into my book and began highlighting, digging deep, nodding his head.  He would pause to tell me a line he liked or a thought that convicted him. Suddenly, in the middle of this cafe, I began tearing up, overwhelmed by the whole thing.

I know who I am.  I’m selfish.  I’m wretched.  I’m weak.  I have done a lot of wrong things in this life.  I have hurt many people, including myself.  Ten years ago, there was zero chance I would be a pastor or write encouraging things or talk about Jesus.  And yet here was my friend, actually reading things I wrote and taking them to heart.  I couldn’t believe it was happening.  It was both horrifying and humbling, and I instantly thanked God like crazy. This is what He does. He’s always doing things like that.  God takes the worst of us, the most shattered and damaged and rebellious and prideful, and reverses our entropy into pulsing life.  He sees a desert and says, “I see a garden.”  God can take a miserable sinner like me and you and breathe something brand new into these jagged veins.  This is the work of Christ, shaping us, connecting us, healing us.  He loves even us, dear friend. 

— J.S.

God speaks in the best timing, in His own perfect way. I’m thankful for God speaking to me through tblaberge tonight as he shared his testimony about Finding Christ in the Storm.

Earlier today, God and I were having a conversation about this quote by Oswald Chambers:

"Why shouldn’t we experience heartbreak? Through those doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with His Son. Most of us collapse at the first grip of pain. We sit down at the door of God’s purpose and enter a slow death through self-pity. And all the so-called Christian sympathy of others helps us to our deathbed. But God will not. He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, as if to say, ‘enter into fellowship with Me; arise and shine.’ If God can accomplish His purposes in this world through a broken heart, then why not thank Him for breaking yours?"

I’ve experienced heartbreak recently, and found myself struggling again over it lately. I loved Matthew. He was my first love. I waited 25 years and so to me, to give my love and finally say ‘yes’ meant so much for me. We talked marriage, he had built these hopes and dreams up with me about me being his wife…we talked about it often. He said all these things and I trusted him. Then, all of the sudden he feels different, and those dreams are crushed.

It’s been 10 weeks since our relationship ended -which I accepted- and 4 weeks since I finally said ‘goodbye’ -which was needed- and all this time, I’ve pushed myself to get over it already. But I’m not. And I’ve beat myself up about that. I’m still heartbroken, but everything in me has wanted to move on and get past this. In part because I know he has, and there’s no reason to live in yesterday when it steals the joy you could have today. I can’t change any of it. But every day I feel the loss of who he was to me and what we had. I continually have to choose to give everything that has happened over to God and ask Him to heal my heart. It’s not a ‘one and done’ thing. I wish it was that easy, but it’s not.

I’ve been very alone. Yes, I’ve had a friend here or friend there, but mostly, I’ve been alone. I’ve carried it and dealt with everything mostly between me and God. And while that has drawn me closer to Him, it’s prolonged my healing process in some ways, because it is harder to do this on your own. And I have been. I’ve needed a friend who could understand, but I’ve felt very alone in going through my heartbreak.

So, God brought me a friend tonight. He brought me family. God reminded me I’m not alone. Not only is God with me, but I’m not alone in what I’ve been through, and there’s hope that I will get through.

Somehow, in the crazy way God works, I see Chamber’s words come alive through a brother in Christ on tumblr. Like, God can use anything, and I’m not surprised. He’s God. :) Not only has God used Todd's testimony / heartbreak experience to speak to me in the place I am in, to give me comfort and hope that someone else understands, has been here, and found hope in Christ to get through- but also seeing God use his heartbreak for His purposes gives me faith that God can use mine for His purposes, too. That gives me such hope that all this pain is not in vain. It also encourages me that it’s okay to share where I’m at, because God can be glorified even in that. I really pray He is. I’m encouraged because I can believe even more now that God has a plan and purpose even in this. And it is greater than just my relationship with Him.

When I heard Todd say,

"I’ve had people say, ‘I don’t want to be with you’ I’ve had people see me as not as valuable as I should be seen.’

…it hit home. My greatest fear is rejection. I’m afraid of not being loved. My testimony springs from the moment I realized Christ accepted me ad loved me as I am. I finally was able to see myself through His eyes- who I am in Christ. When I found out the truth of God’s love for me, it changed me. I was loved, and that love will never change because it is not dependent on me, but on the One who is love.

So then to love someone and then be rejected by them…it hurts down to your soul. To be loved and then feel not loved any longer in that way…it’s painful. I’ve had to continually give that hurt over to God and abide in His love. To remind myself, I am still so loved, by perfect love that will never leave.

God’s love is unchanging.

The love of Christ is still meeting me where I am. In my brokenness, in my shame, in my hurt, in my regret, in my questions…His love is the answer that picks me up and carries me through. We can’t be looking to lost love when the Greatest love we could ever hope for is already here for us.

So my encouragement to myself and to anyone else who maybe has struggled with this, it all comes back this, which Todd so beautiful said:

"Let Him love you.
Love Him in return.
It will change you,
and it will change those around you.”

I saw this very slow car on the interstate in front of me that was rusted through and ready to fall apart, and for some reason, I was overly irritated at someone driving so slow in such a beat-up car. It must have been going 40 in a 65 mph zone.  I passed and pulled up next to the car, and I got a glance of the lady inside.  Suddenly I felt terrible.  Her face looked absolutely wrecked and tragic, like she just heard the worst news in the world. Her shoulders were fallen into a heap and her mouth was open and her eyes were glass and misty, not quite weeping but just holding back.  She was staring into nothing. I’ve been there.  I know what that’s like, the hurt pulling in through your lungs and the bottom dropped out.  It turns the world into gray noise.  Completely numb and unable to see how it could possibly get better. 

I got behind the lady again to follow her and make sure she was okay.  She got off the interstate safely.  I thought that maybe if other drivers were going to get mad at her, they could get mad at me first. It all changes when you know what a person is going through.

— J.S.