How Hip-Hop Saved My Life

Daniel Catron

I love hip-hop. I’m a white kid from the burbs, but rap has always resonated with me. I’m drawn to it. It speaks to me. In fact, if it was not for rap I would not be where I am today.

A little over two years ago I was in one of the darkest times of my life. I had been in a relationship with a girl who I had poured my heart and soul into.

I had so much faith in God during that time and felt so in tune with Him. I felt like He was speaking to me. I felt like He was finally placing things in my life that for months I had been praying for.

I had so much faith in that relationship, something that does not come naturally for me and all of a sudden it was over. Boom..

Just like that.

I questioned everything…

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Don’t Hide Your Burps From Your Friends

Sometimes it blows my mind how silly the things I get embarrassed about are.

I mean super, ridiculously, silly….

For example I was out with some friends one night, when I burped.

And when I say burped I mean I released the Kraken. We’re talking a silent (but deadly) burp from the deepest pits of hell.

Now I did what I could to avoid burping in anyone’s direction. I thought I succeeded..

Until I saw my friend Crystal’s face. “Why are you making that face?” I asked.

Crystal said “I thought I smelled vomit.”  Immediately I knew it was my burp…

But I denied it, and what’s worse, I acted like I was trying to figure it out myself. But I knew deep down, it was mine.

I tell you that story because that’s just a small example of how silly this thing called shame can cause us to act.

I eventually came clean about my burp….weeks later at a concert in another state. When I did my friends and I had a great laugh about it, and I was left inspired to write.

I struggle so badly with wanting to be myself, with wanting to share my pain, insecurities and heartache with others. I just get so caught up in worrying about how they will respond. I forget that they are human too…

I think it’s funny how we want strong intimate relationships with people, but we can’t even tell them that we are struggling. We expect our friends to come to us with all of their problems and yet we are piling on our stress all by ourselves.

We live in a time where everyone is screaming “Be yourselves!” “Be anything” but we’re all just trying to be what we think we need to be.

If you don’t believe me check out everyone’s hair. I am serious do it. My roommates and I have the exact same hair cut.

If you walk into any major city you’ll see everyone being different…in the exact same way. We are obsessed with matching, fitting in, and labeling it as new, unheard of, or edgy.

I am sick of being edgy, and I am sick of being fake. It’s exhausting, and it’s caused me more hell on earth than good.

What we don’t realize is that there is someone out there who wants to be themselves but they need someone to show them they can. Someone who is so authentic it inspires others to be who they are.

I know all about the tension of not wanting to show weakness, not wanting to show people who you are.

If you tell people who you are, and they don’t accept it..that means they reject you..they reject the real you.

I have read some amazing books on people pleasing, being authentic, being true to who you are. One of the common threads I love about those books is their mention of being exhausted.

Being fake. Is. So. Exhausting.

Donald Miller, in his newest book “Scary Close”, talks about being exhausted after being around other people, from “performing.” Essentially when we are being fake all we are doing is acting. We convince ourselves it is for the right reasons but that could not be farther from the truth.

When we fake our way through life we are sending a message to the world that being real is not okay anymore. Being who you are will get you nothing but rejection and pain. What a terrible message to send.

What if we stopped acting? What if we could spend time with other people and feel a sense of peace knowing we are accepted?

I can tell you from experience that this journey is painful. It will hurt. It will cost you “friends” but really if they can’t stick it out through that, who needs them?

One of the first things you need to do is be open and honest with at least one person, I guarantee someone is coming to mind right now if they have not already. Find them. Open up. And be real.

Talk about some of your dreams, the weird things you want to do that others probably just don’t admit to.

Be honest with the music you like….even if it is Creed.

Be honest about the movies you like….even if it is any Nicholas Cage movie ever.

People need you to be who you really are. They need to see that you don’t care about what others think, they need someone to say the bold things, ask the bold questions.

These same people need you to love them for them. That doesn’t mean agreeing with everything they are doing, but it does mean loving them despite some of the stuff they have going on. Remember, if you want others to love you for you….love them for them.

If the world was filled with less actors I believe we would all be better for it.

What is one area of your life where you do more acting than living?

I Am Not Saying Churches Should Do Drive-Bys

Sometimes when I am driving, I wonder what people’s reactions would be if I were in a terrible car accident.

I mean, who would show up to the hospital? Who would cry? Who would call my mom? It’s weird, but I do it.

I have always craved attention. When you are an only child who grew up with a single mom, your desire for community and for belonging is off the charts. A lot of what I have felt my whole life didn’t really make sense. Well…it still doesn’t.

I just know that I crave attention, but more than that I want love. It’s really easy for me to see people as placeholders. Temporary beings in a spot that can be easily filled. I don’t like feeling this way, but after having someone who is supposed to love you more than anything bail….it’s kind of hard not expecting everyone else to follow suit.

Now, I am not writing this for you to feel pity, and don’t misunderstand me, I love my life.

What I am saying is that I have always wanted community, and a sense of belonging. I didn’t always have it.

When I first started coming to church, I was excited because that’s what I thought I was going to get, family.

The truth is though that’s not always what we get when we join a Church. I truly think a lot of people want Jesus, but they also want community, a sense of belonging.

Pastor Francis Chan did a video teaching series titled “Basic” where he talked about the core “basic” truths to Christianity. In one of the teaching videos, he spoke about a gang member who had become a believer and was baptized. Soon though he noticed the man stopped coming to church.

When questioned, the man said that when he was baptized as a believer into the Church, he thought he was becoming a member of a family and a part of something where people would have his back and he would have theirs. That didn’t happen. I am not saying churches should do drive-bys…

But isn’t it amazing that the place where community should be at the center of who we are and what we do is often the loneliest place on earth? This guy literally felt more community, family, and belonging in a gang…..let that sink in people.

I can’t tell you how many times I left church only to feel like I had nothing and no one, where I literally cried from loneliness.

Now I know what some of you are thinking, “You shouldn’t be worried about others, you should be focused on Jesus.” And you are right, but that’s not what I am saying. What I am saying is “yes, we worship and glorify God, that is why we are here.”

However, we should feel the most at home, the most love, the deepest sense of belonging at Church. If we don’t, then what in the heck are we offering people? Come join us for an hour on a Sunday, and an hour and a half during the week for small group and that’s it? Do. Not. Bug. Us. After. That…No I don’t think that’s what Church was meant to be like.

It wasn’t until I found a Church where community matters that I felt a sense of belonging. I feel loved, I feel as though I am welcome, as though I am family.

To get this though we have to do our part. We have to volunteer, we have to join some sort of small group, we need to participate.

Otherwise all we did is mimic the same environment we get at a movie theatre…only this one is about Jesus. Have you ever truly sat around after a movie to meet people? Didn’t think so.

There is hope. There is a place out there for you. Where you will not only glorify God, but feel His love through His people.

It’s the greatest joy I have ever felt, and I pray you don’t settle for anything less. Because there is nothing better than viewing the people you do life with as family.

Why Are Christians Throwing Rocks?

I struggle everyday with trying to live for God and not be a total screw up. A lot of times I fail, sometimes I succeed. It’s a process.

What makes this process bearable is having a body of people surround me and help keep me accountable and on track with what God has planned for me. This is why I think Church is so crucial for Christians at any stage in their walk. We simply cannot enjoy the fullness of this life for God without other believers encouraging and building us up (See 1 Thess. 5:11).

Which brings me to the awkward topic at hand.

The tension between being a church with open arms for anyone and everyone of all backgrounds, and being a church that calls for repentance of sins and a deeper relationship with Jesus.

I recently read a post about Pastor Andy Stanley and his comments in regards to homosexuals (specifically students) in the local church. He declared that the local church should be the “safest place on the planet for students to talk about anything, including same-sex attraction.”

Now my problem is not with Andy’s statements, in fact I proudly posted the article on Facebook and stated I couldn’t agree more. My problem is with the response from Christians on social media. Many began to bash Andy, say he is an untrustworthy, liberal, Pastor. Some said he was attempting to be popular for church attendance. Others stated he was being dramatic and jumping on the bandwagon of being too critical of believers.

Pause. Let me state for the record my stance. I believe homosexuality is a sin, I believe it is against God’s design for relationships and marriage. I believe we were built to marry the opposite sex. However, I also believe we were designed to show grace. What Andy (at least in my humble opinion) was doing is not calling for us to condone anything, but simply to create an environment where people can come broken and sinful and receive love.

Where people can come and not have to pretend to be better than they are.

Where people can come to encounter the living God and allow the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sins.

We see this in Jesus’ ministry when he welcomes broken, no good rotten sinners to be His disciples and through love, relationships and time radically transforms their lives. We have the ability to foster and create an environment where this can happen, but we have to be willing to deal with messy broken people.

Why? Because Jesus did.

People often act as though showing patience, kindness and grace to sinners is the gateway drug to condoning their sin. Here is my problem with that mentality. It contradicts exactly what Jesus did and said.

I see this in a very famous story where Jesus defends a woman who committed adultery and saves her from being stoned to death. The religious leaders of that day were about to KILL this woman.

But Jesus steps in, and right before He drops the mic says “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

The men one by one left until it was just the woman and Jesus. “Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:10-11)

Now obviously we don’t stone people to death here in American churches, but some of us make it very difficult for any person struggling with same-sex attraction to feel welcomed in our doors.

We talk about the unconditional love and grace of Jesus Christ, except if you’re gay of course.

We talk about the Church being a hospital for sick people, but we only treat certain illnesses.

As a Church we talk as though the only threat to marriage is homosexuals. Let’s not worry about men being addicted to porn and teenagers having sex outside of marriage.

What we need is for everyone to drop their rocks, look broken hurting people in the eyes and say, “I do not condemn you. Go. Sin no more.

We will walk with you, love you, pray for you. We will not leave your side.” We do not need to condone their actions, but we also do not need to act as if we are any better than them.

What would happen if more churches welcomed people struggling with same-sex attraction?