The Devaluation of Life

(an open letter to the upper-middle class white Christian conservative American)

Quit fighting half the battle.

 

Sunday marked forty-four years since America became polarized on yet another front (as if we really needed any help). Now instead of just being polarized racially, culturally, and generationally, America was now polarized on life. And America has remained polarized on life ever since.

Because of this argument of whether the baby’s life or the mother’s life matters more, I believe that very few people are actually pro-life. I think that the vast majority of Americans are pro-choice. I think that the people that are more worried about the baby’s life than the mother’s life are just as guilty of stripping someone’s voice as the opposite side. The devaluation of life is the same whether you fight only for the baby or only for the mom.

On Sunday, we had a guest speaker at church that spoke on the sanctity of human life. One of his big points  was this, “Fight for the voiceless.” But he spent much of the message talking about how pro-mom AND pro-child he and his wife are.

This is the proper view of human life: to be pro-mom AND pro-child; because while the baby is voiceless, there is an astounding chance that the mom has never been given a voice either. Is this always true? No. Absolutely not. But instead of shaming women for getting abortions like the Church has generally been really great at for decades, what if we just befriended? What if we helped the woman instead of just telling her she’s wrong and making a project out of her? What if we fought fear with hope?

Is abortion wrong? Yes. Totally. And that’s not really something on which I’m willing to compromise. Also not the point of this blog, sorry.

Have we been engaging the space in a non-helpful way? Mostly.

Mostly we’ve engaged the space with verbiage like “She chose when she decided to have sex! It’s the baby’s turn now!” or “There are consequences for every action and they need to learn responsibility!”

Hate. So much hate. So much ill-will and hopelessness. When pro-baby people say things or think this way, you strip the voice from the woman just like pro-abortion people strip the voice from the child. The voices have equal value and should be taken equally serious.

 

Humble yourself.

Befriend.

Give hope.

We. Need. Hope.

 

When In Bryan (Month Three)

If you know me in any capacity, you know that I love kids. As a matter of fact, kids aged      1½ to about 8 years old may be my favorite demographic of human being on the face of the planet. They teach me so much about living life to the full and having fun and laughing a lot and being an adventurer.

One of the highlights of November was going to watch my pal Jett at his first soccer skills showcase (try saying that 10 times fast…). While it obviously wasn’t the best soccer I had ever seen, it was unbelievably incredible to see how much he lit up when Drew, Marissa, and myself all showed up just to watch him! (It was also incredible to watch his mom play goalie against his dad and hope that he didn’t kick her in the face and also hope that she didn’t beat him up for kicking her in the face).

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There were a few other things that happened in November, as well:

-The Aggies’ football program spontaneously combusted.

-I’ve begun to practice the art of task delegation. Which means I get to actually equip and train people in areas instead of doing jobs myself.

-I turned 22.

-My niece, Zoey (check out the #zoeywatch on Instagram, if you’d like) who is three years old will finally snuggle with me for more than ten seconds.

 

This month has been far lighter than the last couple months and I am so incredible thankful for that. In my last blog, I wrote about how the Lord was growing me in emotional health and that has absolutely continued. But it has been wonderful to live in the kind of freedom that is offered by living in the light. I’m learning how to communicate with my co-workers, friends, and girlfriend better and better. I’m learning that I don’t have to hold in my emotions or how I’m feeling and that it is OK to externally process the good and the bad with my people. However, this month has not been quite as much of a punch in the face as last month was (praise the Lord).

 

The Lord has also been growing me in thankfulness. Maybe it’s just the season, or maybe I’m just growing up, but I wake up most mornings more thankful than the day before. Thankful for my breath, thankful for the ability to move and walk and run and lift things, thankful for people that care, thankful for means of transportation, and ultimately thankful for the fact that Jesus came and took my place, lived a life I had no shot at living and died a death I absolutely deserved. And Jesus did all of this so that I could live with the Father forever? Dang. That thought breeds thankfulness.

 

It’s been a good month and I’m thankful for the breath of fresh-air with which the Lord has gifted me in this season. BRING ON THE HOLIDAYS!

When In Bryan (Month Two)

I can’t even believe it is already November. I feel like October would’ve been nearly non-existent had the LORD not totally began to demolish a bunch of the walls I’ve been building up in my heart and soul for the past five years. This past month has been a lot more emotionally taxing than physically taxing (as September was).

We as a church staff have started reading a book together and spending a good chunk of our staff meeting processing through it together. The book is called “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero. This book has been a consistent kick in the teeth for the past few weeks. Here’s a few things the Lord has been revealing to me about myself (some of which I may write about as the month goes on, but this isn’t the time to go in to detail about all of this).

 

  • I am not good at submitting to leadership.
  • I am not even close to as humble as I thought.
  • I am afraid of being known because really anyone who has truly known me in the past has pretty much dropped me at some point (with a few exceptions).
    • This has led to me choosing to live in the dark on a lot of stuff and let me tell you, I wish everyone would live in the light. It is far healthier and far more bearable and joyful of a life. It far more closely reflects the life Jesus describes in John 10:10.
  • I have an inherent lack of trust for people within the Church.
    • I also generally have unrealistic expectations of people in the church, I think.
  • Love doesn’t hinge on clarity and clarity doesn’t bring forgiveness.
    • Love breeds forgiveness regardless of clarity.

 

And in the midst of all of this demolition of my synthetic inner walls, I’ve realized this as well: I am far less important than I thought I was, but I am far more loved and cared for than I could ever imagine.

I’ve had so many conversations in the past two weeks of repentance and forgiveness. Not because I am fully healed from things that have happened or the lies people have fed me or the abandonment that I’ve faced from people who have used me. No. Those things still hurt. But what’s different now is that I’m not pouring the salt of bitterness and resentment into those wounds while the Lord is trying to bind up my broken heart and heal my wounds. Now I get to sit and be taken care of by the Lord and by my friends and I don’t feel resentment anymore. I can sit and be bandaged and not rip the bandage off to pour in more dirt and salt. My wounds aren’t infected anymore and that is the first step of being emotionally and spiritually healthy.

Please don’t get me wrong, it has been really terrible and exhausting for the Lord to come in like a bull in a china shop and demolish all of my walls. But it has also been so good because I’ve gotten to taste, see, and feel the goodness of God the Father because while he’s come in swinging, he sits there with me while HE builds everything back up and speaks life and speaks identity over me.

“You’re my son.” He says. “Of course I’d fight off all of these lies that have surrounded you.”

October was crazy and tiring, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

When In Bryan (Month One)

Well. I’m officially one month into my Residency program at Declaration Church in Bryan, Texas. And let me just say, it was nothing short of exciting! I want to just highlight a few of things to give you the gist of my first month.

 

 

  • Not only did I reach my financial goal for my year of residency, but the Lord exceeded my goal and He did it through the most unexpected of means!! A HUGE thank you to all of you that are supporting me financially. I obviously could not be doing it had you not been obedient to where the Lord was asking you to give. I so appreciate you.

 

  • We had an overflow room! (kinda…). The first three weeks were absolutely crazy and our seating capacity was beyond maxed out. So, to counteract this so people could come and sit and hear and respond to the Gospel, we worked our tails off to create an overflow space in the back of the building.

 

  • We have interns and they are freaking stellar at their jobs! One of them is specifically our worship intern and he has been an unbelievable asset by helping me shepherd our band members and auditioning new instruments and singers and helping me cast our vision for our worship ministry. It has allowed me to breath a little more. And then our other intern is specifically focused on production. He has been so key in helping me drive up the quality of our worship services so that our excellence will point people to the excellence that is the person of Jesus.

 

  • We had baptism service on the 25th and it was SO INCREDIBLE. Kids were getting baptized, students were getting baptized, adults were getting baptized. The Gospel is advancing in Bryan/College Station and the trajectories of people’s lives and their family’s lives are beginning to radically change!

 

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The bulk of the past month has involved learning that I can’t do everything. And even if I somehow could do everything, I shouldn’t; because then others can’t have a stake in the kingdom advancing.

I’ve learned a lot about delegation and leadership of leaders.

I’ve been starting to learn again that I don’t always have the most important thing to say and that my opinion isn’t always the best one.

I’ve gotten to have incredible Gospel-centric conversations with kids and with students and with adults.

The Lord has been super gracious and kind as He always is and I’ve been growing more and more thankful for all of the gifts He’s lavished on me.

And Away We Go

Well friends, we did it. We really did it.

I could probably post about seventeen blogs about the last three years that I spent in college, but instead why don’t we just celebrate that we’re finished?

This is a blog mainly focused on catching you up on what’s coming up next in my life.

 

  1. I’m graduated from Texas A&M University – College Station with a degree concentrated in Leadership Development and two minors: Business and Psychology.

That may sound like a lot, but the program through which I accomplished my degree has a set-up conducive to having three areas of study. For those of you that are trying to do quick math in your head, yes I did graduate early. Most people ask me why I decided to graduate early and the answer is really super simple: no more student loans, please!

      2. I’m staying in Bryan/College Station for at least the next year.

For the past year I have been working as an intern for a newer church here in Bryan/College Station. My roles have included anything from setting up/stacking chairs, standing and directing traffic in a burning hot or freezing cold parking lot, teaching  kids about the person and works of Jesus, playing in the worship band, running slides, getting coolers for after-church parties, and everything else operational that you could possibly think of. I lived the intern life real hard. However, this summer I have transitioned into a more specific role(s) (though still moderately general).

The majority of my job will involve wearing three hats. The first hat is in the role of Executive Assistant to our Lead Teaching Pastor. The main thing this entails is scheduling and helping him with administrative tasks so that he can be freed up to think about our vision and direction as a church and plan for sermons and shepherd our people really well. The second hat is an oversight role over all of our worship and production. This hat entails shepherding our band and production (slides/sound) volunteers, coordinating setlists and music with our worship leaders, and fighting for the most effective and efficient services on Sundays (in terms of operations). The third hat I wear entails oversight of all of our social media and graphic design. This mainly involves making graphics and keeping announcement slides updated (or delegating graphic design to one of the awesome designers in our congregation).

I love doing all of these things and more, don’t get me wrong. But my absolute favorite part of my job hands down is the fact that I get to be the team leader for the best parking team in the land. I could write an entire blog on how incredible my parking team is, but I’ll only brag on them briefly. They are part of what make Sundays doable for me. They are the bomb.

3. In order to do all of this, I have been given the opportunity to raise support.

I legitimately mean it, too — it is a fantastic opportunity, because I have gotten to totally brag on the LORD for what He’s doing in Bryan/College Station numerous times and it absolutely pumps me up each time I get to talk about it. My salary for the next year is 100% fundraised. What this means is that unless I have a group of people around me that buy in to my vision and/or the vision of Declaration Church, I do not get to work for DC full-time.

As of right now, I currently need $3,142 more in order to meet my goal. (That is $261.83/month if you’d like to think about it that way). If this is something in which you’d like to partner with me or at least hear more about, I’d love to talk more about it with you. I’ve attached a link at the bottom of this blog that takes you to a page with more information and where you can give if you feel so inclined! Don’t feel pressured, but do know that I would absolutely love to have you on my team going forward!

 

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*above is a picture of the church staff and wives and the couple that hosted our last staff retreat. We’ve lost a couple of them to other jobs and other cities but the majority of them are still around!

 

In short, I never thought I would finish college in three years. I never thought I would stay here. I never thought I would love this little city called Bryan, Texas so much. I never thought I would be support raised. I never thought I would have people here for whom I would do anything. I never thought some of my best friends would be under the age of 10 (lots of babysitting).

The LORD has blown up any kind of expectation I had for my life post-graduation and I couldn’t be happier to be part of the church planting movement here in the South-Central United States.

 

If you’d like to hear more about what I’m doing or more about Declaration Church, please don’t hesitate to ask! My email is heyden@declarationchurch.net and I’d love to answer any question that I can. The following link goes to a page that has more information about my Residency Program.

https://www.declarationchurch.net/Heyden.aspx

 

Written in Ink (Part II)

I feel like one of the unintentional capstones of many churches in the past couple of generations (at least) has been an ignorance of the role of God the Father. Maybe I just don’t remember my upbringing correctly, but I don’t feel as though I was truly introduced to the Dad-ness of God until even after I was saved in the summer of 2011. And I grew up in church!

See, the God that I grew up knowing was King, which is absolutely correct. What wasn’t correct was the lack of of a fatherly view that I was taught. God is King, yes. But He is so much more than that. This leads to the story, which is a little less personal and more factual than Part I.

One of the first things that I learned post-salvation is the weight that the name “YHWH” (pronounced yah-way) carries. YHWH is the most personal name for God. And when I see most personal, I mean that it is the name that God explicitly gave himself when talking to Moses in Exodus. I learned that orthodox Jews, both in the Old Testament and now, will not say the name (much less tattoo it) because they see it as too holy and pure for human lips to mutter. And honestly…it is. That is exactly why I got it tattooed on my body.

When Jesus busted on the rabbinical scene in 1st century Israel, he came on as a “semicha” rabbi. To put it simply, some of the roles of a semicha rabbi was that they typically travelled and taught rather than staying in one specific city or temple. Another role of theirs was to interpret the Torah (the Law). A semicha rabbi might say something like this when teaching:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…

“You’ve heard this…but I say this…”

This isn’t a rabbi trying to illegitimate Scripture; rather, this is a rabbi offering the correct interpretation of Scripture. That quote is from Jesus in Matthew 5, if you would like to see more of Jesus’ semicha rabbi-ness. So, what does this have to do with YHWH? Well, I’m excited that you asked that question because that’s exactly where the story lies. Let’s go to Matthew 6.

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.”

Jesus already had an entire chapter before this to blow his audience’s mind with his interpretation of Torah (not sure their reactions, but I’m sure someone there had to be mind-blown). This phrase, though…this phrase probably silenced the large crowd that was with him. I can hear the crowd muttering right now, “Did he just call God ‘patēr’?” 

This word, “patēr”, is the Greek word for Father. In the Old Testament, the word that would have been used would be the word “abba”. Abba is a name that only natural children will call their dad; that’s how intimate of a name it is. Did you catch that? Jesus busts on the scene and tells this large crowd of Jews to pray to God and call him Father!

He doesn’t say “When you pray, call God ‘Lord’ until He deems you holy enough to call him ‘Father'”. No, Jesus jumps from a name that is unthinkable to speak (YHWH) and goes straight for the most intimate name a child can call a parent (patēr/abba).

THIS is just a glimpse, a fraction of the freedom that Jesus brought with him and lavished on those for which He died on the cross. I am so incredibly forgetful of the freedom that Jesus gives me. I get to call God “daddy” and I get to hold both hands up and be picked up and held and told that He is taking care of everything and that He loves me and that I am free. This is what any good earthly father does, so how much better is our Heavenly Father? This is why I got this tattoo on my right wrist: IMG_8243.JPGI need the constant physical reminder that I am free and that it is for freedom that Christ has set me free.

Dad, Why’d You Spank Me?

For the past few months, I have been utterly fascinated by the major Prophets of The Bible; namely Isaiah and Ezekiel. Part of the fascination comes from having never read them before; part comes from the fact that few churches teach out of these books; and part of it comes from learning a simple truth over and again.

If you grew up in church like I did, you have almost definitely heard the phrase, “God does not cause bad things to happen, but He does allow them to happen.” But think back, did that ever come out of a sermon or series concerning the Prophets? Did it come from a sermon or series about the gospel? The chances are good that it probably did not.

In the Prophets, there has been one over-arching theme that I have noticed:

The Lord is the direct causation of destruction and exile and pain. 

I understand how hard that sentence is to swallow, but stick with me. My goal here is not to make you cynical as I am, because I would never wish that on anyone. My goal is for the gospel to be more clear to myself first, and then to you.

[Ezekiel], I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and behold, it has not been bound up, to heal it by binding it with a bandage, so that it may become strong to will the sword. Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt and will break his arms, both the strong arm and the one that was broken, and I will make the sword fall from his hand.

Ezekiel 30:21-22

First, I want to acknowledge that there is purpose. There is always purpose. We do not serve a God of arbitrary chaos and disorder. We serve a God of complete order and process and purpose. The passage begins with the Lord declaring that He has broken the arm of Pharaoh, so that it may become strong to “will the sword”. In other words, so that Pharaoh may conquer and take over land and people. We have said it or heard it said so many times that the Lord “gives and takes away”, but many of us (myself included) never thought about the very real repercussions of that.

He gives: health, land, power, people, fame, money, dominance, etc.

He takes away: health, land, power, people, fame, money, dominance, etc.

The pendulum swings both ways; however, the hand is always on the pendulum. The pendulum never ever swings on its own. This analogy takes us to the next part of the verse. The Lord declares that He will then proceed to break both of Pharaoh’s arms and that He will make the sword fall from Pharaoh’s hand. Pharaoh’s time on the throne was complete.

I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them through the countries. And I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put my sword in his hand, but I will break the arms of Pharaoh, and he will groan before him like a man mortally wounded. I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, but the arms of Pharaoh shall fall. Then they shall know that I am the Lord, when I put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon and he stretches it out against the land of Egypt.

Ezekiel 30:22-25

Exile. The Lord will scatter and disperse the Egyptians. He alone will strengthen the arms of another king and give him the sword and Pharaoh will come crawling to that king begging and pleading for his life. I mean, can you imagine feeling mortally wounded just from a set of broken arms? Can you even imagine that pain? That is the drug called “influence” upon which the human race is fatally dependent. Pharaoh, like us, could not physically bear the thought of losing his power and wealth and influence. Pharaoh, like us, worshipped created things rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).

But why? Why would the Lord bring so much pain and destruction and exile? Look at the beginning of the last sentence in the previous passage.

Then they shall know that I am the Lord.”

This is not arbitrary destruction. This is not merely a power trip. This is not even primarily punishment. This is the Lord bringing people to Himself which is what He has been doing since He created adham in the Garden of Eden.

In a string of conversations that I have had with a friend of mine, he continuously comes back to one point: “Don’t you think God is ultimately out for our happiness?” My answer every single time is a resounding “absolutely not!” I think God is out for His glory and if that causes us to be happy, then here’s to the byproducts! Friend, God is not out for your sake. He is about His glory and He will make His name known and glorified by whatever means necessary. Think about this in the form of the gospel.

The Father sent the Son away from holiness and perfection and glory with a purpose; that purpose was not the miracles or the teachings or the healing or even to be an example of how we should live. The purpose was to do what we have always and will always fail to do and bear our consequences on our behalf. Jesus’ purpose was to glorify the Father in that the Creator fixed what creation had broken without the slightest help (or thought to help) from creation. The one who was wronged gave everything in order for the chaos and destruction to not last eternally. Jesus, who was perfect, mind you, was slain because we could not get our act together. He so deeply wanted us reunited with Him that He intervened and did what we needed to do for us. Here are a few things Jesus experienced from the hand of His Father so that we would not eternally have to: death, exile, complete destruction, abandonment, suffering. On our best day, we deserve every single one of those things and more, but Jesus stepped in voluntarily and bore that burden for us.

He fixed it.

The Lord fixed it while we had our backs turned in conscious rebellion and sin against Him.

Because He fixed it, the Spirit now can draw us near to the Father because the Father sees the redeemed as He sees the Son: perfect. And He is going to do whatever it takes to draw his children near.



Extra Verses (about the Lord causing destruction):

Isaiah 9:10-12

Isaiah 24:1

Isaiah 25:2

Isaiah 45:1-3

Isaiah 50:2-3

Isaiah 65:11-15

Ezekiel 14:21-23

Ezekiel 15:6-8

Ezekiel 16:36-41

Ezekiel 33:29

Ezekiel 35: 1-4, 7-9