Gas on Good Friday

God locked me out of my car tonight while getting gas. All that separated me and my keys, phone, and wallet was a window. It could have been cinder blocks, but God thought it’d be more humorous if I could see my life’s possessions inches from my face but out of reach.

No, there wasn’t a magnificent hand from the clouds that shut my car door behind me. Of course I locked myself out. (Accidentally.) But God had sovereignty over it, just as he tells which winds for the dandelions to surrender to. Any moment he pauses my little plans is a reminder that he has a far better blueprint rolled out on his royal table.

I still freaked out inside, and maybe kicked myself for such a silly mistake. I’m not the clumsy brother after all. So I got the clerk inside the Circle K station to help me out. She was wonderfully nice, dialing every number I needed and handing me the shop phone. The police wouldn’t offer to jimmy the lock, and then the locksmith said it would roughly cost $80-100 for his service–steeper than usual because it’s Good Friday.

Then I remembered I had parents. Mom and dad! You only live, like, 50 minutes away and have my spare key!

Waiting almost an hour for my dad to come to the station, I searched my thoughts outside. Then I searched for my phone, remembering it was locked away. I went back to my mind and prayed out loud. Did that lady see me talking to myself? Then I looked for my phone again, wanting to call my girlfriend or write down a song idea. Stop and enjoy the calm. You don’t need to be distracted.

For thirty minutes I just sat curbside, a buzzing highway behind me and a florescent British Petroleum sign in front of me. People came and went, pumping gas and washing their cars. A young couple made out quickly at the pump (Why?), a scary looking dude held open the door for a beautiful black family, and most cars coming through held only one person. A colony of ants were distributing food among each other below my feet, and further underground were probably thousands of gallons of squeezed dinosaur juice that will soon propel aluminum wagons upwards of 80 mph. Life is weird, but it’s also numbing. We forget to just stop.

What’s even weirder to me is that the one who created life did so just because he wanted to. Those people, with all their scars, give him joy and sorrow. He cares for those ants. How small! The darkening sky above me? Dude, he painted that for us! Fossil fuel? Actually, I don’t know how he feels about that. He did create the sun and the winds first.

I need to stop more often. I don’t have 24 hours in any given day, I’m given them. I’m just glad he gave me one to sit on concrete, stare at people, and praise him for dying on our behalf 2,000 freaking years ago! Good Friday indeed.

You Will Touch 80,000 Lives

This article originally appeared on DesiringGod.org here.


There is something about the truth that causes people to tremble, look in awe, and become overwhelmed all at the same time.

If you surrender your life over to Jesus and walk with him for your fullest joy, then you might understand this. The truth of Christ means responsibility rests on your shoulders: you see strangers and loved ones trying to quench a deep, internal thirst in a world that — without Jesus — is salt water. With the realization that life is meant to glorify the Lord, you can’t help but weep at the sight of unbelief and fading lives.

The overwhelming truth is how many don’t know Jesus, how many are living eternally insignificant lives. How can we cope with a reality that bleak?

An 80,000-Fold Influence

Let’s say that a person meets an average of two to three people a day. Assuming the average life span is roughly eighty years, this means that the average person will encounter somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 people in their life. The football stadium at the University of North Carolina, where I am a student, houses 62,980 people.

Imagine if you walked into this stadium at the end of your life. One by one the seats are all filled with old and strangely familiar faces, memories flooding back to you until the crowd starts to pour over onto the field. You have met each person here, though many were only for a single moment. Each person represents at least one opportunity you had to influence the trajectory of his life. Your life will impact the world through thousands of people, who will, in turn, impact millions.

What would you say to each person now if you had the chance? What would you say to your mother, your high school girlfriend, the custodian that held the door open for you at work last week?

The Weight of Love

Eighty-thousand opportunities for influence is a significant role for anyone, but only Christians can understand a narrative like this. God purposefully created every person to enjoy relationship with him (Genesis 1:26–27; 2 Corinthians 6:16–18), but every person sins and falls short (Romans 3:23). Nevertheless, we hope in that Creator who sent his Son, Jesus Christ, and paid for the sins that separated us (Romans 3:24). He died and rose again, acting not only as the pinnacle of human history, but as life-bringing change for individual lives (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Either these events are miraculous history or legendary tale — of all importance or no importance at all.

The gospel is the truth that causes us to tremble, to look with weighty awe. The weight upon any gospel-impacted heart is the weight of love. It is a love for those 80,000 people — for the countless cashiers, the homeless encountered on the street, the neighbors we met once and the neighbors that frequent our dinner tables, the siblings at our sides.

Christians of all people should be pitied if our hope for the fullness of joy and the eternal pleasures of God’s presence in a new, stainless creation held no water (1 Corinthians 15:19). But we know the truth and, therefore, our pity overflows with love for those who don’t know it yet. Jesus came to die to give every sinner a future, and he came for every saint with a past. Therefore, we weep for the unbeliever. We weep for the friends and family who could overflow a thousand stadiums that still haven’t heard the good news.

The truth is heavy, but we cannot look away. Why? Because Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37). These 80,000 cannot hear without being told. Who is to tell them, then? You are, Christian (Romans 10:14–15).

To the Laborers

This task seems unbearably heavy. But our hope is found in the Lord, who loves to employ his children in the mission to bring everyone into his arms. Whether yours is a lifetime of twenty years or eighty, you are working the harvest. Christianity began in the hands of a few: the news of Jesus’s resurrection was entrusted at first to just three women (Mark 16:1).

As individual believers awaken to their joyful responsibility, the masses await. A lifetime has the potential of impacting tens of thousands of lives. Your impact on most may be no more than a tiny ripple in the ocean of their lives, but together with the faithful ripples of others, there is hope for a tidal wave that will finally bring them to God’s shores.

Paul’s ministry focused on a few, discipling them to embrace Jesus and, in turn, to disciple a handful. The Great Commission to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth has snowball-like momentum. It is time to pray and act for great numbers to come to Christ. It is time to see stadiums full of love, not a message left tragically unsaid.

This is Spirit-filled optimism born in the midst of sober realism. Though he is not with us now in body, he has promised greater things to be done by us through his Spirit than what he accomplished in his thirty-three years on earth (John 16:7; Acts 1:8).

The truth may be overwhelming. The responsibility is great. But the Lord’s friendship sustains, and the power he provides is greater than every obstacle we face in this mission.

Dear Littlewick

Before reading this, you have to understand this letter is addressed to Littlewick, the name I have given my personal tempter. C.S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters, messages from one demon that were written to another on how to strategically and covertly stray a man, the ‘patient,’ from being with God through Jesus Christ. I used to struggle believing in a spiritual world with demons that personally attack you, until I started surrendering over my life to Christ. This is my break up letter to Littlewick, named so because these ‘powers’ of Satan are harmless and little as long as they’re fought off in the name of Jesus and not given a flame. The problem is, the world has forgotten that.


Dear Littlewick,

You know quite a deal about me, and I am flattered by the gravity of concern you have for my life. Looking back, I can see where you have been, where you have had your meddling. Before I was even brought into this world you were scheming as to how you could work me to center my life around this world. You’ve been incredibly cunning, I’ll give you that much. As Screwtape has said, we mortals often think of your kind as putting things into our minds, when in reality your best work is when the very thing we need to live is kept out. How foolish! Don’t you know that the darkness can never overcome the light? Oh, Littlewick, your name is suitable for when I don’t provide the matches for you to burn my hope. And though I have just become aware of our relationship, I’m afraid (rejoicing) that this has come to an end. Need I explain?

We have to break up. I know your existence thrives on this, but I am no longer yours. I am His. I belong to the One you tremble at. I belong to the Ally, the Father you mock in cowardice and call ‘Enemy,’ though He provides all that we need. The relationship you and I had is not just over, it’s decimated. It’s certainly not forgotten, and here’s why: my selfishly willed past surrounded by your whisperings gives me now a pitch black backdrop on which the Gospel contrasts so brightly that it rescues not only myself, but my lost brothers and sisters. I see His grace and mercy because of what I looked like without it. Yes, you have had your hand in shaping my testimony, and I recognize my rebellion against the Father was my choice. At times I still hear your laughter in the form of doubts and self-degradation, but because my past depravity isn’t forgotten, I can remember it is forgiven.

I am forgiven.

Do you remember when your colleagues worked in peers of mine in the seventh grade? Of course you do, you were very delighted. For the sake of my own memory, and my victory, allow me to recall. They were three kids my age on the track, different from me in color. You tried telling me that was something to fear. I wouldn’t listen. But you did have me listen to what they were saying about the Ally’s Cross that hung around my neck. They pointed at my Jesus and mocked Him, “God’s not going to help you around here,” as if He would ever leave me. Yet, you were crafty, having me listen. I had no idea the effect that had on me until years after. I subconsciously placed deep within a doubt of Who He was (and is, and is to come), and thus forgot who I was: redeemed. I was far from the Truth, Littlewick.

From then on, it took six or so years of loneliness, false relationships, puberty, and putting my identity in performance and possession to come to the Father. As my tempter, striving to pull me away from Him, you were with me in that wide valley, but it seems that we both forgot one thing: He is the mountain. From every side He has total view and total command. That is my victory: finding Him, only because He always knew where I was. You may try to defeat me, Littlewick, but the war was won long before He created me, even you.

I am done cheating on Him, on my Savior. I’m done trading Him for the love and pursuit of this fragile, temporary world, for satisfaction in the creation and not the Creator. I’m instead trading myself. As He has given up Himself on the Cross for the traitor and vapor that I am, as He gave up the riches of His Kingdom for the dirt and clay, I too take up my cross and leave behind my meek and lowly slum disguised as a palace.

I am done resting my head in a pillow and crying over the temporal. I’m ready to rest my all on Him and to cry tears of joy at what is grace.

Never again will I forget these facts: that He died only to rise, conquering the sin of mankind He saw full well at Gethsemane. Never again will I question Who He is, because out of His great love for us mortals, He plotted out thousands of years to confirm His love for us. Nothing can threaten the weight of the Truth. Littlewick, how could I deny the over 350 prophecies, written hundreds of years prior to His time on earth and fulfilled within His 33 years here? How could I deny the hate and passion both Romans and Jewish leaders had for Him, that they badly desired to stomp out the revolution He was unfolding for the ages, and not stand in awe that His Sovereignty still persists today? Listen. How could I ever mistake Paul’s transformation and all the boldness and stubbornness of Christ’s disciples for a mere fairy tale? How absurd your claims are, Littlewick. God is forevermore.

Finally, please give this message to your father below: Game on.

No longer yours truly,

A Child of God

Understanding (screenplay)

Written by Brett Zeck
Edited by Jacob Wishnek

FADE IN:

EXT. OF A DORM HALL – EVENING, JUST BEFORE SUNSET

Outside of a dorm entrance a few couples (each pair separate) are enjoying themselves on a beautiful fall day. One pair breaks off and the male goes inside as the female leaves the screen.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. OF A DORM ROOM – EVENING

ELIOT surveys Netflix on his laptop, all comfortable in his bed.

NEAL walks into the dorm with a look of frustration, drops his bag on the floor and stares out the window. His hair is slightly damp and he is wearing a zip-up jacket.

NEAL
I am an idiot. I’m really an idiot.

ELIOT closes his laptop and directs his attention to NEAL.

ELIOT
I mean, yeah, tell me something I don’t know. Who is it this time?

NEAL
(sigh)
That girl I met during Fall Fest, we just had coffee –

ELIOT
(dances eyebrows when pronouncing ‘coxswain’ immaturely)
The coxswain for the rowing club or the one with the irrational obsession over cats?

Cutaways are overlaid ELIOT’s previous question to visually depict the two girls. See production notes on page 1.

NEAL
Seriously, dude? You just ruined both girls for me… But, it doesn’t matter which one it was now.

ELIOT
Damn it, Neal. You didn’t start profusely sweating again, did you?

NEAL
(prolonged silence, proceeds to remove jacket revealing wet shirt)
I don’t know how to talk to girls! And I don’t even like coffee. I thought I’d be better at this, I mean there’s a 60-40 ratio here and –

ELIOT
Shut up and close your eyes.

NEAL
Close my eyes for what?

ELIOT
Just do it. You’ll learn something.

NEAL proceeds to close his eyes with a questioning look. The screen fades to black.

DISSOLVE TO:

ELIOT and NEAL now find themselves standing in a nearly empty study room with just one GIRL in it. They are out of her sight behind an obstruction (a pillar or bookshelf). ELIOT has changed clothes: a black bandanna and a black T-shirt. NEAL is now dry (see production notes). ELIOT and NEAL speak lowly in a whisper so that the GIRL doesn’t hear them.

NEAL
Eliot, where are we? Did you change clothes?!

ELIOT
(tightening knot of bandanna)
Shhh. Never mind that, you’re in training now. See crazy cat girl over there- what do you see?

NEAL
I see a girl (to girl) H-hey there, I –

ELIOT slaps NEAL.

NEAL
Hey!

ELIOT
She can’t see you!

NEAL
What?

ELIOT
She can’t see you! That’s not how this works! Now- what do you see?

NEAL
Uh, a coffee from the Daily Grind, a laptop, and a book…

ELIOT
No, my son. She is the book… read her.

NEAL
(ignoring ELIOT)
How do we get back to the dorm?

ELIOT
(slaps his back)
Think, Simba. What. Do. You. See?

The camera narrows in on NEAL’s eyes in a vertigo/dolly zoom effect as they grow big and brighten just as ELIOT places his hand on NEAL’s shoulder, as if he were transferring some kind of special ability to him. (Note: if the vertigo effect cannot be accomplished, sub in a pull-string lightbulb above NEAL’s head that ELIOT turns on as they both look on at the girl, into the camera, for a similar but less awesome epiphany effect.)

NEAL
(eyes widen and brighten and speaks fast)
She’s reading a textbook from her Women Studies 202 Introduction to Feminist Thought class, a heart shaped sticker residue is left on her laptop, and the drink from the niche-hipster hyper-local coffee shop is a large half caff scalded almond milk latte, four pumps vanilla, one pump cinnamon, meaning that she’s a free thinking woman who has just ended her relationship with her boyfriend of six months because he couldn’t understand that feminists want gender equality, not matriarchal superiority, and she has a refined taste in regards to the preparation of her caffeinated brews, so I should approach her cautiously and lie about my affection for coffee no matter how horribly destructive I think it is to the livelihood of my taste buds.
(gasps for air)

ELIOT
(silent for a moment, teary-eyed)
I am impressed, young grasshopper.

NEAL
(dripping with sweat again, a little astonished by himself)
How did I know all that? Where did that come from?

ELIOT
You had it in you all along, padawan. That’s the power of understanding women. Now, go speak to her.

NEAL
(reluctant)
But, I’m sweating again. That’s a bad sign, man.

ELIOT
Neal, once one has the power of understanding within, infinite possibilities await. Certain physical… setbacks no longer impede connectivity between you and those you wish to understand.

NEAL
Wait- what are you saying?

ELIOT
I’m saying you’re an ugly piece of –

NEAL
Hey! I –

ELIOT
(cuts off NEAL and speaks quickly)
It explains why the coxswain girl from Fall Fest is dating that guy that looks like Beans from “Even Stevens.”

At this point, ELIOT and NEAL break their whispering and the GIRL notices in the background. To which ELIOT and NEAL are oblivious to.

NEAL
(shocked, slightly mad)
Who – WHAT – Why didn’t you tell me she was seeing someone! I thought I was on a date with her earlier!

ELIOT
(apathetic to NEAL’s worries)
I thought you were upset about freaky feline girl?

NEAL
(disregarding ELIOT’s question)
I asked the coxswain girl how far she wanted to go!

ELIOT
(air quoting “first date”)
Why on earth would you say that on a first date?

 NEAL
(a look of realization crosses his face)
We were talking about school! Like how far we were pursuing majors… I didn’t mean anything like that!

The GIRL packs up and leaves (in the background, on screen) while ELIOT and NEAL continue to argue, still oblivious to her actions. The final scene is the GIRL walking out of the study room, looking down at her cat shirt littered with hair, passing ELIOT and NEAL out the door. They both stop bickering and watch her leave with embarrassed looks.

END SKIT.

First Impressions Aren’t Trustworthy

BalanceA word of advice: first impressions are as deceitful as a sunrise.

First of all, the day begins long before the sun stretches over the horizon. The sun doesn’t deserve credit for beginning anything. In the same way, the people in your life were existing long before you came around. They have made memories without you, and they will make memories without you. People come and people go. As do jobs and landscapes and youth.

Secondly, the great hues of color and the gradual warmth of dawn only apply to that time of day. A good start doesn’t mean a good end. Just because your day begins with a sense of color, doesn’t mean the skies can’t be an overcast gray hours later. Neither does getting off on the wrong foot mean you’re destined for trials.

I’m not talking about the sunrise at this point.

This is the sad truth to your life, but if you spend time in thought, you’ll find there is also good in this. Is the sunset not just as beautiful as the sunrise? While your day has clear skies and shine, does that memory remain once it begins to rain? Of course.

Not all hours of the day are spent perfectly, but all are used for one of two things: experience or pleasure. Fair warning, experience is commonly accompanied with pain, but followed by growth. Remember, though: fear is useless when all things have purpose.

The point is that your life is a cycle, between the good and the bad, between the ups and the downs. And not everything is pure happiness or sorrow. You must be able to endure the climb to be able to one day enjoy the view from a mountain peak. Once you’re able to comprehend this, life becomes much easier.

A mantra is a word or phrase repeated to help one focus on a certain thing. When you engrave into your mind the thought that positive moments are inevitable to encounter and that times of pain or tribulation are benefits to your experience, you’ll notice that even through the bad, your outlook is much more good than it otherwise would be. You begin to appreciate going up the stream because of the excellent scenery that is beyond (and around) your troubled waters.

Where you are now, you won’t be for long. Change is inevitable, and thank God for that. Better things are always to come. If you’re having the time of your life, or even if you are in Hell right now, appreciate it. Someday you will never have the chance to return again. The greatest opportunity to take advantage of is to learn from the bad and cherish the good.

Even in death there is positivity. The only negativity may be either the one passing felt momentary pain, or that those grieving selfishly want that one person back on Earth (although, I can’t blame them). In death there is the end of one’s suffering and his or her’s divine meeting up above.

The highs and lows of existence go hand in hand and make us human. To allow turbulence to infiltrate your emotions isn’t necessarily unwise, because through this one learns balance. However, to let it overcome your spirit and to become a walking corpse is the dumbest thing anyone can do, because the road won’t be bumpy for long.

To the Class of 2015

WF

It’s hit me. Four years are coming to an end, and that’s it. There’s no going back. Once you’re out, you’re out. You may always visit, but it can never be done again.

Hearing your favorite social studies teacher recount his life’s stories, taking thirds at pasta parties, and looking forward to sitting next to that one person capable of a thousand laughs: over.

Wake Forest isn’t my hometown, and certainly nobody treated me as welcome the first few years. In fact, it seemed like anything but the Wake Forest I see now. This town is my home. These people – the runners, the theatre geeks, the gridiron Coogs, the class of 2015 – these people are my family.

It’s hard to think the year is no longer 2011. It’s hard to not see that one senior always in neon in the hallways kindly naming me as ‘freshman.’ It’s hard to come to the fact that this family is divorcing.

All good things come to end, and in place of them better things.

Ends are only quiet explosions to new beginnings.

The next step in life is a restart. The step right now is slowly cherishing these remaining months with those I love, and letting go day by day with only thoughts of forgiveness, laughter, and promises to stay in contact.

To the class of 2015: thank you. High school removed me from a terrible position. I was alone, I barely knew God. I had no one to talk to. On that first day of high school (more like the first day of cross country practice) freshman year, my life changed. People changed. Thank you for anyone and everyone who has ever had a single positive impact on me. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this Cougar family.

Everything you do carries on in ways you cannot imagine. Whether a second or four years, thank you.

Midnight Thoughts on Death

I consider our present sufferings not worth comparing to the glory that will be ignited in us. // Romans 8:18


This is the truth: we all die. This should be the greatest news to your ears, the greatest encouragement to your soul. There’s reason to live in hope. There’s an end to this momentary state of pulsing pain and passing pleasure. The continuous let downs are temporary.

We’re going to leave this world behind!

Your struggle with sin is actually going to end one day. The torment of life’s fleeting senses is that: fleeting.

God is going to reclaim you. If you can hold off, or just try to hold off, temptation and desire for the rest of your days, you’ll be rewarded for all days to come – no, beyond days. The days won’t even be as they are now. You’ll receive eternal pleasure next to the Father and these days will be longer than a mere 24 hours as the earth moves farther from the sun over an infinity of years.

As Peter calls you by name, you’re made completely whole. A moment in life, a process called death, and then an eternity of happiness.

If your experiences were a film reel, there would be one flicker between one set and the next so small that it’s impossible to prove its existence. This flicker is the change. The change from human to an everlasting angel. You don’t notice yourself in the flicker, you just understand on the other side.

You understand. Everything. That could be the greatest gift, next to a forever absence of pain and the laughter between reunited family members and the ease of existence. The purpose of everything, the exact dimensions and infinite space of the universe, the location of your soul mate – all is understood. Clarity. Rest. Peace.


I’m trying to rise
Above the shit the devil tries
Which is why I keep my eyes
To the sky
// Jon Bellion