Just a school teacher trying to be the hands and feet of the Teacher.

It’s a long walk through this world, but keep walking tall, you’re one day closer to being Home.

a Long Walk Home...

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Dear friends and followers,

 

Two and a half years ago I started this little blog out of a place of pain and out of the desire to share my struggles with my Christian walk. I could never have imagined it would lead to 760 followers, over 10,000 views and hundreds of comments! I am so thankful for you for supporting my writing.

I have decided to take a scary step. This past week I launched my blog on its own site, www.recklesslyalive.com. Unfortunately, you will not be automatically subscribed to the new site. Please come visit and subscribe on the left hand side by email to continue receiving notification when I post

Thank you again for all the wonderful support!

-Sam

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The Reset Button


There was a season of my life when I loved to party. FIGHT, FOR YOUR RIGHT, TO PAAAAAAAARTY. I tried so hard to fit in with the beer pong and the tequila shots. Far too many nights during that time were spent in the seductive city nightlife of strobe lights, ear-damaging N-TS, N-TS, N-TS music and the alluring feeling of losing control after a few too many drinks.

I hated that life. I desperately needed someone to press the reset button and let me start over but I didn’t think that was possible.

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I was a chubby 9th grader. Those who know me now might not believe it, but it is the truth. I drank 3-5 sodas a day. I ate junk food and quit playing all of my sports in order to work and help pay for things around the house after my dad left. While I eventually grew and stretched out, even in college I was never in good shape, I barely worked out and ate like crap.

Reset button.

This past June I was in a serious funk. I was stressed between working, teaching and writing my 30 page Master’s thesis. I had zero time for God or my favorite people. I was a walking Southwest Airlines commercial: I desperately needed to get away from it all. I needed a… you guessed it.

Reset button.

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God has been teaching me more and more how to reset aspects of my life in little and big ways. Sometimes it seems like erasing the past is nearly impossible. “Things will never get better,” the enemy says, “you aren’t strong enough to change.”

“Things will never get better,” the enemy says, “you aren’t strong enough to change.”

Except that you are. God has given you everything you need to start over and turn your back on whatever aspect of your life you’re not so fond of. He calls this grace. Grace might seem like some silly Christian-ese word but it literally just means the opportunity to start over. The chance to fall on your knees and ask, beg, plead: “God, give me a second chance to be who I was meant to be.” The best part, his answer is always yes.

YES!

Of course my child, I love you. You are free of your past. And you don’t even have to enter a credit card. How about that?

Thinking about making a change? Let one of my favorite quotes inspire you:

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.-The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be sweaty and painful. It’s going to involve intense moments of vulnerability. You’re going to have to talk to God about it. Ask him to give you strength and to open doors. Tell your friends your goal and start asking for help from smart people who know some stuff and who can support you.

Don’t put it off anymore. Don’t try to numb the shame with alcohol, food, or pornography. Make a plan of change today. Maybe it’s something small like making more time for the people you love. Maybe it’s something big like eating healthy and exercising or quitting a destructive habit (like partying).

Make small goals. Remind yourself with every good decision you are one step closer to being who you’ve always wanted to be. Finally, write this across your face (or bathroom mirror):

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. -Phillipians 4:13

You’ve got this. You’ve totally got this. Let me know how I can help or pray for you. We’re all a messed up work in progress, my friend.

Do it now, it only takes a second. Take a deep breath. Make a plan and push the button.

RESET.

 

 

It’s a long walk through this world, but stand tall. You’re one day closer to being home.

My Year Without Sugar


Tasty cakes, Ho-ho’s, Cinnabons.

Coldstone, Dairy Queen, Cherry Berry.

Pies, shakes, malts.

Ice cream cones, cupcakes, Chaco Taco’s.

Dove Chocolates, Twix bars, a Kit-Kat break.

Just a bite of chocolate after lunch. Just a little sugar in the coffee. Just one piece of cake.

 

6th grade was an especially awkward year for me. I was short, very short and chubby (yes, you read that right, chubby). I was on the brink of stardom after being cast as the lead in the 6th grade play… which I soon found out was because I looked the part of the tubby Winnie the Pooh. Awesome.

Yes, I hadn’t had my growth spurt yet, but also I ate crap all the time. I drank 3-4 sodas a day. No one really paid attention to the nutrition (or lack thereof) that was entering my body.

Over the past few years I’ve really been focusing on improving my eating habits. It has been a long process of learning how to cook real foods and avoiding the onslaught of processed junk that looms on every exquisitely stacked end-cap at the grocery store. I’ve been training for my first marathon in October and as a result I am hungry ALL the time. Seriously, All. The. Time. I knew I needed to fuel my body with good stuff.

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photo from http://rriderlausd.org/blog2/?p=9425

 

I know this incredible family from church who decided to give up sugar for a year. They selected one day a month as a “cheat day,” usually a holiday or birthday, and off they went. I decided to join the challenge seeing how long I could make it and if I really would feel as good as they claimed.

We started almost four months ago now and the results have been better than I could have ever imagined. The detox was HARD. Articles I read said it would take 7 days for the cravings to lessen and 21 days to change the habit. The hardest part has been social situations where everyone is having a S’more, or someone brings a treat especially for me.

The results of giving up sugar have been better than I could have ever imagined.

I haven’t told many people about my challenge since some of the people I did tell were pretty judgmental. I got comments like, “of course you’re doing something like that.” “Watch out, you’re going to turn into one of those health freaks.”

Honestly, I hope they’re right. I hope I am.

The truth is life without sugar feels AMAZING. I still eat natural sugars in fruit and honey, but I avoid all desserts and processed foods with more than 5g of sugar. I seriously just feel better.

About 2 months in I had a moment of weakness. I was at a wedding and I decided to use a cheat day to enjoy the cake. I took a bite and I didn’t even want anymore. A few weeks later I had a chocolate chip cookie, same thing. After the second cookie I felt sick to my stomach and through the second half away.

The point of giving up sugar was not for attention or to be a part of some fad diet, it was about a lifestyle change. It was about noticing what I am putting in my body, testing my willpower, and making choices today that future Sam will be happy about.

The bottom line is I’ve found I’m happier about my life when I am making healthier decisions. It’s just easier to love every detail of my life and to thank God for the immense blessings around me when I feel better. Maybe giving up sugar isn’t your thing, that’s fine! I dare you to set one goal to improve your health this week, maybe more exercise, more water, or eating clean foods! You can do it!!! Take some advice from my er… alter ego.

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Let me know how I can support you or pray for you! Change doesn’t happen overnight, it’s slow and sweaty and painful, but it’s so worth it!

 

 It’s a long walk through this world, but stand tall, you’re one day closer to being home.

 

Aside

My Life Since Zimbabwe: Recklessly Alive


My entire life changed in an instant. With one click of the mouse it was done; application submitted. I had made my decision. I was going.

The naysayers surrounded me with doubt.”

“You will never raise $4,500.”

“Are you sure this is what you want to do?”

“You’re going to hate sleeping on the ground and eating disgusting food.

It’s hard to believe how many people spoke out against my crazy dream. Even as I was getting ready to leave, I struggled to find anyone to drive me there or even come to our final concert. Yet, somehow I knew that this was what I was supposed to do and no one could stop me.

Yet, somehow I knew that this was what I was supposed to do and no one could stop me.

As the year went on getting ready for the trip, I battled my own demons, doubts and negative voices. As I walked out of my classroom with my car packed, a teacher friend handed me a $50 and said, “I forgot to donate.” It put me at the exact amount of money I needed to raise.

As soon as I got to Wilmar for training, I entered into six of the happiest weeks of my life. Not because they were easy, they weren’t, but I felt and saw God every single moment in the music and in the beautiful people around me. It was hot and exhausting but we were working tirelessly for God, for something bigger than ourselves.

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The biggest struggle was returning home, completely changed. I have spent much of this year reflecting on that experience, smiling about inside jokes and failing to keep in touch with those incredible people. One frigid December day, I finally realized why I was so happy on that trip. In Zimbabwe I felt recklessly alive, (which just so happens to be the title of my book).

The book begins on the darkest day of my life, a day when I almost committed suicide and follows my long uphill battle of running towards a life I am fiercely proud of. Naturally, when I got back to the states I started to reflect about why I was so happy in Africa and how I could live that out back home. Here were some of my conclusions:

1.) I was surrounded by people who believed in me and showed me love and grace relentlessly.

2.) Everyday I  took risks, try new things, and talk to people I didn’t know about my faith.

3.) My life was filled with beautiful music that praised God.

4.) I was completely focused on Jesus, seeing Him and hearing Him in the world around me.

5.) I prayed and relied on the Father in times of fear and anxiety.

6.) I made time everyday to laugh and have fun.

It’s so easy to rush through life. To over-plan, over-schedule, and over-achieve. I am more guilty of this than anyone. I push myself to accomplish and achieve. Yet, when I think about Zim, I know that’s what I want most in life. I want to be around people who support my dreams and call me out when I screw up. I want to tell people about God and all the amazing things He has done in my life. I want to be recklessly alive and I don’t think one exists without the other.

I want to tell people about God and all the amazing things He has done in my life. I want to be recklessly alive and I don’t think one exists without the other.

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My dream is to get the book published. It seems crazy and impossible, but most great dreams do at the beginning. There’s still in an insane amount of work to do, but I am so excited to be done with grad school and be able to focus on it! Will you read it?

What makes you feel recklessly alive? When were the happiest days of your life? I would love to share more with you about my journey (or you can just go back and read the past three years of this silly blog.) I’ve learned so much and I am blown away at how incredible life can be, how alive I can feel when I am living a life for God. Stay tuned my friends!

It’s a long walk through this world, but stand tall, you’re one day closer to being home.

 

 

 

 

Are You Proud of Me?


The second the felt-tip ink hit my hipster moleskin journal, I knew something was up. Now uncapped and unleashed, sentence after sentence sprinted from my hand and across the page like a spoiled kid writing his dissertation of a Christmas list to Santa. The pen was angry and tired, yet it pressed on and on until, as usual, the root of the problem presented itself in the form of an annoyingly simple question:

God, are you proud of me?

I glared at the white popcorn ceiling in my bedroom expecting an instantaneous response. *cricket, cricket* So I slammed my journal shut in a teenage tantrum and pressed my face deep into the cold pillow until I fell asleep.

24 hours came and went and again I found myself writing the same question.

God, are you proud of me?

I stared up expectantly. Still nothing. A few moments of angry contemplation. Then, a new question:

How would you know if God is proud of you?

Silence. Angry slamming of journal. Face-pressing in the pillow.

This cycle has been going on for an embarrassing number of days. The truth is, I don’t really have anyone in my life telling me they’re proud of me and, for the most part, I never have. I haven’t seen my own dad in over a decade and my mom tends to drift in and out of being present in my world depending on the season. The frustrating part of deep-seeded pain is it always finds its way to the surface, no matter how many times you try to whack-a-mole it back down.

Why would God love me? Why would someone who created the earth want to know me or be with me? It doesn’t make sense. I have nothing to offer. I haven’t accomplished anything. Suddenly I realized I was laying in my tiny, old back bedroom, 7 years old, trying with all my might to accomplish love. If I do this right, maybe I will earn love. If I do something worthwhile, someone will notice and be proud of me.

[Why would God love me? Why would someone who created the earth want to know me or be with me? It doesn’t make sense. I have nothing to offer.]

Yet God’s love doesn’t work like that. There is no way to earn His affection. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more or less. A new-born baby has done nothing to deserve love, it simply is loved because it’s alive. That is how God feels about you (and me, apparently) beaming with pride for no other reason than we are His creation. And that is the most incredible thing in the world.

So he got up and went to his father. ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. – Luke 15:20 NIV

If you have any doubt about how God feels about you, read the rest of Luke 15, the story of the Prodigal Son. It’s all there. If your life has lacked unconditional love like mine, God’s love might seem impossible. You might need a million reminders like I do.

So tonight my journal looks a little different. Gone is the question, at least for now. Tonight I rest my head on the pillow quieting my attempts to earn love. I will go to sleep completely accepting that God loves me for exactly who I am.

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I am proud of you.

I love you.

You are mine.

 

It’s a long walk through this world, but stand tall, you’re one day closer to being home.

 

I Can’t Ever Go Back


I can’t ever go back, I thought, as tears streamed down my face. As I looked at the struggle in the lines surrounding his charcoal eyes, I couldn’t hold it in. I tried to play it cool, occasionally wiping them away like there was just something in my eye. Yet, an ocean of sorrow and empathy swam through my heart. How am I this selfish? How do I always lose sight of who I am?

How am I this selfish? How do I always lose sight of who I am?

Life hasn’t been so hot lately. Last week I was a stressed, over-tired, frenzied mess, frantically trying to cross everything off my never-ending to-do list while concurrently making sure everyone in my atmosphere was happy and at peace. I’ve spent too much of my life that way.

The truth is, I haven’t felt like God’s been around much. I have these seasons sometimes where I just don’t feel like chasing Him anymore. It’s much easier to just exist and ignore the life God is calling me to. I see people around me that are so content with living for themselves and sometimes I wish I could go back.

We had just finished serving seconds to some beautiful people at a homeless/transitional shelter in Minneapolis: Sloppy Joe’s, corn chips, salad, M & M cookies. It was an endearing youth group provided feast. As I looked to the corner of the room, there, sitting at a table by himself not talking to anyone, was Jeff.

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I couldn’t tell you how the conversation started; frankly, I didn’t do much of the talking. “They don’t want me there,” he told me when I asked about church. “I see the glares from the perfect suburban families, they don’t want me there. I only let myself go once in a while because I don’t want to embarrass everyone.”

“Then they came and took my car. It didn’t run anymore, but it was my home, it was all I had. The pastor said he was going to help me and take me where I belong. We got in his car and he drove me here, to this shelter. What he meant to say is ‘You don’t belong in the suburbs.’ I used to, that’s where I grew up, but not anymore. Now I don’t belong anywhere and I have nothing left, not even my bible.”

Jeff’s stories cut straight to my core (and these weren’t even the hardest ones). I was crying because I kept thinking here is Job on earth, right in front of me with every reason to be unhappy, still standing and smiling. Here I am with every reason to be ridiculously joyful and I am nothing but exhausted and lacking hope.

Here I am with every reason to be ridiculously joyful and I am nothing but exhausted and lacking hope.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. ~Matthew 16:24

Every morning when I wake up, I am thoroughly self-seeking. I have to fight to deny the selfish expectations of our consumerist culture that calls me to focus on myself and the things I don’t have. The more I’ve come to know Jesus and recklessly love Him, the more I’ve realized I can’t ever go back to not caring about people like Bill and Jeff. I can’t go back to ignoring God’s plans for my one and only life by wasting my time on things that don’t matter. I want to chase Him everyday because the life I have found with him has made me happier than I’ve ever known possible, even in the chaos.

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So today I am so thankful for Jeff for reminding me who I am and why I was created: to serve others. (I mailed him a new bible and a cross necklace, I hope he likes it!) When I am struggling, when I am lacking joy and hope you can bet it’s because I haven’t been serving the world, I haven’t been living out my calling. My life changed for the better when I started measuring it by this quote:

To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

To know one life has breathed easier because you have lived. THAT IS SUCCESS. I challenge you to strive for that kind of success today. You might even be lucky enough to meet someone like Jeff. He is the true definition of strength and faith and he was the perfect reminder of why I can’t ever go back and I don’t ever want to.

 

It’s a long walk through this world, but stand tall, you’re one day closer to making it home.

How I Became a Yes Man


Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” ― Catherine of Siena.

There was a time of my life when it never seemed to stop raining; I hated who I was and what I’d amounted to. I was utterly convinced this world would be a better place without me. That storm has been a dark and reoccurring motif in my story, a lie that is so easy to believe when you measure your worth against the American Dream: looks, money, status, celebrity, how many girls you’ve slept with… you see on paper, my life didn’t amount to much.

A few years back I hit rock bottom. I believed there was a God through my teenage and college years, but my relationship with Him was surface level at best. I tried desperately to keep one foot in his camp and one foot in this world. Finally, sobbing into the carpet of my childhood bedroom, I broke. I said:

God, if you are real, show me how to be happy. Show me how to live a life I can be fiercely proud of and I will do it. Whatever it takes.

And off we went. I promised that when I felt like God was asking me to do something, I would say yes. It seemed easy enough.

Hey look, an opportunity to teach 5th and 6th grade Sunday School, you should do that.

“Yes God, I can do that.”

Maybe you could stop spending your weekends in bars and partying.

Yes, God I think I can do that.

Have you considered letting go of some toxic people in your life who hurt you over and over again?

Yes God, I can try to do that.

Maybe we should take care of your body a little better, how about some healthier foods and exercise?

Yes God, let’s do that!

What about mentoring two middle school boys and helping with a junior high bible study?

Yes God, I’m in!

How about an adventure to a foreign country to tell people about my love and all the work I’ve done in you?

Seriously?! Yes God!

(To name a few)

The change sucked. God pushed, I pushed back. It was sweaty and painful. It involved moments of intense vulnerability and loneliness. It involved getting into God’s word, going to workshops on love and prayer. It required commitment to a church and God’s community. As a result, I saw people exit my life in droves. Friends stopped returning my phone calls and mocked the person I had become. I lost that war, but I won my life back.

With every yes, I found more hope, more peace and true healing. I started to fall in love with my life, every detail of it. When I stopped chasing the wrong things, I finally gave the right things a chance to catch me. I began to see our time on this planet like that guy from Tuesday’s with Morrie, a gift that far too many people take for granted.


When I stopped chasing the wrong things, I finally gave the right things a chance to catch me.

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. Ephesians 2:1-2 The Voice translation

Why did I ever let this world tell me how to live?! I have felt more alive these couple years than ever before, than I ever knew was possible all because I started finding my worth in God. I learned about what he values and he sees as worthy. See, God doesn’t look at outward appearances, but he looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). God looks at how we love and how we serve this broken world.

Becoming Fully Alive and Finding Your True Purpose in Life...

So let my life be a testimony that God can rock your world like crazy; I can’t even tell you how good it can get. The day I became a yes man for Jesus was the day I truly started living. It all began with that simple phrase, “Yes God!” and day by day, he has made me a new creation, a new man and there is no better feeling than knowing that you’re finally becoming the person you were meant to be.

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It’s a long walk through this world, but stand tall, you’re one day closer to being Home.