2015: My Story

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2015 was, in my opinion, the worst year for America and the world in the 21st century. Massive outbreaks of violence at home and abroad flooded the news the entire year, racial tensions are the highest they’ve been since the early ’90s, freedom of expression is become more and more policed, and from the looks of the current political polls, the country’s not going to get better anytime soon, no matter who we elect.

But this isn’t about all that. This is about me and my year.

2015 was game changer for me. In the physical realm, lots of things happened. Close friends came and went (twice), I got the opportunity to produce a TV show for the majority of the year, and I took a trip to California for the first time in my life. Spiritually, though, this year was something special, something I didn’t expect. I’ve never grown as much as I have in this calendar year, and I have a spiritual attack to thank for that.

Let me explain. Until the early summer, my relationship with God was stagnant. For years, I was perfectly content to just coast along. I went to church and listened to worship music on a regular basis, but I wasn’t engaging with God or getting into the Word. I always figured that I had heard enough of the Word at church and knew the right things to say that when a spiritual attack happened, I would be ok. It took all of 1 day for that mindset to die.

Without going into too much detail because it’s still a private matter, one of my friends had a pretty severe spiritual attack back in June. I freaked. I didn’t know what to do. One of my friends did know what to do, thank God. He grabbed his Bible and began quoting Scripture and taking authority over the situation in the name of Jesus. All I could manage to do was pace around nervously, praying under my breath. I can safely say that it was one of the scariest experiences of my life. I felt like a terrible Christian because I didn’t know what to do. That day was a wakeup call. I knew I needed to grow, but didn’t know how or what that looked like.

Throughout the year, I had been going to a Bible study run by some of my co-workers. I really liked it because it was really chill. There was enough structure in it to know when things were going a little too long, but that was about it. It really left a lot of room for the Holy Spirit to move and take control of the structure. After the events I just described occurred, I made sure I was at that Bible study every single time. It was there that I took note of 3 specific people, and if they’re reading this, they know who they are. These 3 people are incredibly in tune with the Holy Spirit, and you could tell in their demeanors. These 3 were the first Barnabas friendships I ever had in my life. I gravitated toward them in different ways, and they all spoke into my life in different, but meaningful ways. Luckily, I lived with one of them, so I was able to pick his brain on a daily basis. He encouraged me to set an alarm on my phone everyday to remind myself to read the Word. This changed my life.

The beautiful thing about God is that He isn’t a cute girl in a chick-flick. You don’t have to make some elaborate gesture to get His attention or His affection. All you need to do is take 1 baby step toward Him and He comes running to embrace you. That’s what happened to me. All I had to do was set an alarm on my phone, signifying that I was taking a step toward drawing closer to Him, and He poured out blessing on me. The next day when I had my first devotion (or quiet time, as you may call them) in months, I was astounded. I felt like I was supposed to start in Hebrews, which I had never read all the way through. I noticed as I was reading Hebrews 1 that I was picking up on things that I normally wouldn’t. It was then I realized that God had given me a heightened sense of discernment. I had done nothing to deserve it. All I did was take a step toward God and He did the rest. I began growing more than I ever had just by reading the Word more, but it didn’t stop there.

A couple months later, another one of my Barnabas friends texted me. He had gone out into the woods to pray and he texted me out of the blue asking if there was anything I needed prayer for. At that point, I was extremely unhappy with where I was working, for a number of reasons. I had been praying for weeks asking God if I was supposed to stay or move back home and try to find a job there. Nothing. Silence. So, I told my friend that some added clarity would be nice. About an hour later (if that), he texted me back saying that God didn’t want to give me clarity, but perspective.

After that, everything changed.

I didn’t have to pursue perspective, God gave it to me. I can’t explain how it happened, but ever since that text, as I have drawn closer to God, He’s given me new perspective in countless situations. I’ve been able to to see a situation on the surface and look for a different, deeper perspective. In fact, most times I don’t even look for the perspective, God just gives me a new mindset. Since He’s given me a new mindset, I’ve grown in contentment, particularly in regards to my work situation.

I’m not saying that I’m where I want or even need to be spiritually, but this is the first New Year’s Eve I can look back on the year and be happy with where I am spiritually. I can for once say that I grew more than I receded. The hard part in 2016 will be growing more without receding. But I can say, for once, that I’m up for the challenge.

So as I raise my proverbial glass to 2016, I want to say a heartfelt thank you to the 3 Barnabases in my life. Though y’all have moved on to bigger and better things, I thank you for all that y’all have done for me spiritually and I look forward to our continued communication from afar. And, of course, I would like to say thank You, Jesus, for revealing Yourself to me in new ways this year. It was truly the greatest year of my life. Here’s to many more like it. Happy New Year, everyone!

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Dear Church, It’s OK to be Single

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Welp, it’s Valentine’s Day, and for the 23rd consecutive year, I’m single.

I’m gonna be 23 this August and I’ve never so much as gone on a date. The last time a girl even hinted that she liked me was in 1st grade. I struggled all throughout middle school, high school, and even some of college with insecurities and thinking that I was undateable. It wasn’t until late in my sophomore year of college that I finally began giving those insecurities to God and quit worrying about what everyone around me thought, because there was a good chance that none of them cared, anyway.

While I was going through all of that, I witnessed friends and close family members get into (and sometimes out of) relationships almost weekly (or at least it felt like that). Looking around at my friends, it felt like I was the only single person, which was ridiculous because plenty of my friends were single, I just refused to acknowledge and believe that. It was hard enough to witness so many relationships, engagements, and even a few marriages while I struggled with self-esteem. Now that I’ve surrendered it to God, it’s gotten somewhat easier to see my friends and family go through so much happiness, but it’s still not very much fun.

It’s never easy being single on Valentine’s Day, especially when many of your family and/or friends are in relationships, engaged, or married. It’s even harder if you’re a Christian while all of that is going on. Christianity can be cruel to single people, albeit unintentionally. I can’t count how many times well-meaning Christian people have asked me, “When are you going to meet a nice girl?” Believe me, nothing would make me happier then to do just that, but Christendom has put so much pressure on young, single people like me to find someone and find someone now.

I’m so fed up of all this pressure. It’s hard enough to stay pure, try to wade through the sea of “fish” (as the saying implies), narrow it down to a few potential candidates that match yours and God’s criteria, and pick the right one. That’s a daunting undertaking. However, apparently taking the necessary time to not just find the right one, but the one God has chosen for you isn’t quick enough for some in Christendom. To some, not being married by the time you’ve graduated college means that there’s something wrong with you. You’re either impure, walking away from the faith, or there’s something wrong with you personally, physically, emotionally, or all of the above. They treat us single people like we have a disease.

It’s getting to the point that I at times feel guilty that I haven’t found someone yet. The church preaches endlessly on the importance of family, and here I am sitting on my hands doing nothing to oblige the seemingly thousands of people that are expecting me to do my part repopulating the church (through marriage, of course). I’m fed up with it. If the church is making me and many others like me feel this way, it’s time for those in the church to take a step back and reevaluate what and how they’re teaching. At the risk of sounding blasphemous or, even worse, liberal, I believe the church needs to put less of an emphasis on family.

Now, I’m not by any means saying that the church should stop believing or preaching the importance of family. Quite the contrary, I think they should continue doing just that. But I think that when it comes to preaching about family to younger people, especially high school and college students, they should be careful as to how much emphasis they put on marriage and family. At times, it feels as though those in the church don’t believe that it’s healthy to be single. That is absolutely not true. And I honestly believe that there are those in the church that believe God has called all Christians to be married and have families. That is also not true. God never promises you a wife (or husband, if you’re a woman), 3 kids, a high paying job, and a nice house in the suburbs with a white picket fence when you choose to follow Him. Quite the contrary, He promises that we’ll be persecuted for His Name’s sake. Marriage and family are a blessing, not a requirement for life as a Christian, and should be treated as such in the church.

In regards to singleness being unhealthy, in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul goes so far as to not only imply that being single is healthy, but he makes a case for staying single:

“An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided…” (1 Corinthians 7:32b – 34a, NLT).

As Paul shows in these and other verses in chapter seven, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being single. In fact, we single people should take advantage of it right now!

So to all of my fellow single people on this Valentine’s Day, I just want to let y’all know it’s ok to be single. If you want to be married, wonderful! Keep praying that God will bring the right person to you in His perfect timing. Pray blessings over that person, even though you’ve never met them before. If you don’t feel like you’re supposed to get married or are holding off on that for a later time, fantastic! Take advantage of your free time. Do things that you’ve always wanted to do. Travel, take risks, have fun. And, most importantly, use your free time to further study God and His Word. Grow in your walk with Him. And to those who work in the church, don’t look down on us single people. We can’t just walk out the doors after service and magically make our soul mate appear. Acknowledge and sympathize with us about how difficult it can be to be single and don’t look down on us. To those are married, but don’t work in the church, do the same. Don’t ask a single person, “So when are you going to meet someone?” For the sake of your health, don’t do it. Ever.

And finally, I want to wish a happy Valentine’s Day to everyone who is in a relationship, engaged, or married! Enjoy your time with your special person! And to those of us who aren’t celebrating, just remember that being single is ok. And that spending Valentine’s Day in sweats watching TV and eating candy is a pretty fantastic way to spend a Saturday!

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good TV?

Modern-day Christianity is failing in a major way. To some, that statement shocks you. To others, that’s a major understatement. As a still-growing Christian of over 15 years, I can say that there are things that I see in modern-day Christendom that make me very excited about the future. But there are also a lot of things that frustrate me. The biggest area of frustration is a startling lack of Christian media, especially in the areas of film, TV, and video games.

“Wait, Christian media isn’t lacking,” you may say. “Just look at social media: Christian YouTube videos, blog posts, and music videos are going viral!” Yes, that’s true, and that’s one of those aforementioned areas that really excites me for the future of Christianity. However, there is a startling lack of media in the one place that remains one of the most influential means of communication: television.

Television has been around since the mid-‘40s. Ever since it exploded into mainstream America in the late-‘40s/early-‘50s, it has been by far the most influential means of communication until the late-‘90s/early 2000s when the internet exploded. When it first came into prominence, TV was the way to bring together mass groups of people. For example, in 1953, nearly ¾ of all households watching TV tuned in to the #1 rated program at the time, I Love Lucy, to see Lucy give birth to her first child. Approximately 44 million people witnessed the blessed event. In comparison, 29 million people tuned in the next day to see Dwight D. Eisenhower inaugurated as the 34th President of the United States. Think about that for a second. As if it wasn’t staggering enough that out of all of the people watching TV in that timeslot, an incredible 72% of them were watching the same show, it received more viewership than an inauguration! That’s the power of television!

Of course, the ultimate example of TV’s power is the Super Bowl. Every year, millions of Americans gather around the TV and voluntarily eat their entire weight in chicken wings, pizza, and nachos…and it’s glorious. It’s now the norm for the Super Bowl to break into the top 5 most-watched programs in U.S. TV history every year. Regularly, upwards of 100+ million people watch the greatest football game of the season each year (unless the Steelers, 49ers, or anyone from the NFC East not named the Cowboys is playing, but I digress).

The aforementioned examples are to show just how powerful TV is, even in the age of the internet. TV can do more than just make people laugh, cry, and cheer, it can influence how they think. Norman Lear’s TV empire in the ‘70s virtually singlehandedly turned liberal opinions from the sizeable minority to the dominant majority on TV. Three’s Company in the ‘70s and ‘80s made living with opposite gender before marriage okay. MTV became the voice of a generation in the ‘80s and ‘90s by showing them that all they should want in life is fame, money, and lots and lots and lots of sex (the more sexual partners the better). And now, shows such as Modern Family (admittedly a hysterically funny and smartly written show) are making gay relationships normal. Seeing all of this, I can only ask, “Where are the Christians?”

What are we as the body of Christ doing to glorify Him on TV? Yes, there are countless Christian networks, but what kind of influence do they have? When was the last time your friend said to you, “Hey, did you see [generic preaching show] last night on TBN? It was SOOOOO good!” Yeah, never. Modern-day Christianity is failing when it comes to television.

I don’t understand why Christianity has never felt the importance of TV. Have they never heard of the programs I just listed? Do they not realize that trends are set and opinions are made/changed in part because of what people see on TV? Or do they just not care? If the powers-that-be in modern-day Christianity don’t give a crap about using television to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, we’re all in huge trouble.

Why am I so passionate about this subject? Think about it. How many hours of TV do you watch per week? You’ve probably got one of more shows that you’re following regularly this season. Plus, there may be some time during the week where you just decide to relax and watch TV regardless of what’s on. And don’t forget about other things on TV, like news and sports. Nowadays, you don’t even need a TV to watch TV. Sites like Hulu and Netflix are leading more and more people to do away with their TV and cable. If you think about just how much content you view on TV and the internet, you witness a lot of programming in a week. And very little (or possibly even none) of that content is glorifying Christ’s name. I sincerely believe that Christians could make TV shows that are just as good as secular ones. That leads me to parody Larry Norman’s (who was one of the first Christian rockers when your parents were younger, like a thousand years ago) famous quote, why should the devil have all the good TV?

Of course, that’s not to say that watching secular programming is bad or that those shows are of the devil. Quite the contrary, if there were no secular shows, there would be no TV, and that would be a horribly terrible thing. I myself am currently enjoying a long list of secular shows this season, including The Big Bang Theory, Gotham, Modern Family, and Downton Abbey (No, I refuse to hand over my man card!). These shows range in content from not that bad (i.e., TV-PG), to pretty raunchy (i.e., TV-14). Do I feel guilty that I sometimes watch shows that aren’t very clean? Sometimes, yeah. I’ll be the first to admit that The Big Bang Theory, though smartly written, has a lot of unnecessary crude and sexual humor and situations. The problem is that if you want a show that is as smartly written as that show is, there aren’t very many other options.

What’s sad is that Christian TV could change that. It could influence people just like the aforementioned secular programs. These shows could be perfect examples for Christians to look at and model from. They could look at characters on these shows and the situations that they go through and apply what the characters learn and how they act to their own lives. I can’t count how many times when I was in high school that I yearned for a positive role model I could look up to on TV and model my own life after. As silly as that may sound, TV has that kind of power over young people.

Take Kim Kardashian, for example. I think we can all agree that Keeping Up with the Kardashians is the dumbest thing to hit television since The Bachelor (although Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo gives it a run for its money, but I digress). In theory, no one with any real sense of taste should watch that show, right? However, the new Kim Kardashian app amassed over $43 million in its first 3 months on the market. Why is this? Is it because aliens are experimenting with Earth’s teenage girls’ minds and forcing to buy the app and watch the show. Unfortunately, no. It’s because teenage girls see her as a model of outward beauty and are striving to do all they can to be like her. They’re watching her show and downloading her app so that they can be more like her and study her habits and tendencies. Honestly, I’d prefer the former scenario as opposed to the latter reality.

As that example shows, TV has a major affect on young people. Why the church doesn’t seem to grasp this absolutely astounds me. The church has been great about going into other areas of media and establishing a presence. Christian music is an enormous moneymaker, as is Christian literature (both fiction and non-fiction). Yet, for some reason the church has decided that going into film, TV, and video games would somehow be less appropriate and/or spiritual. As a result, they are missing out on three of the most influential and important mediums with which to reach young people. TV is a key factor in the equation. And with other alternatives to TV quickly taking prominence, it’s time for the church to act now and start producing quality, faith-based, scripted programming, because reaching young people for Christ has become more achievable than ever.

It Is Well

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God is hard to figure out, which is a good thing.

There are situations that I’m sure God blessed, only to have him say “no,” and vice versa. When I need a word from Him, He’s silent. When I so desperately want a “yes,” He says “no,” or, even worse, “wait.” But there are two words that are even worse than all of that combined. These two words break my heart and fill me with courage, love, and hope at the same time:

“Trust Me.”

Two little words. Two syllables. Yet, they have so much power.

I absolutely hate hearing these words. It’s because they’re usually the exact opposite of what I want to hear. A lot of us hate those words because they require us to have faith, something that can be extremely scary. I don’t understand why I and so many other Christians have such a hard time trusting Him. Throughout the Bible, they are so many examples of people trusting God and having things work out for them. I think we fear trusting Him because there are no guarantees that come with that trust. But God isn’t looking for a guarantee; he’s looking for an obedient heart. If we can prove to Him that we’re willing to go and do anything He asks us, He’ll bless us, and sometimes He’ll bless us with the very thing we repeatedly ask Him for.

We as Christians often pray for things and kind of subconsciously give God a “wink wink nudge nudge,” thinking that He’ll give us what we want just because we really want it. For some reason, we like to think that we can will God into give us what we want. That’s not the attitude we should have when we speak to Him. When was the last time we prayed for the courage to trust Him instead of giving Him a wish list?

I’ve had to learn this in my life through two major situations that required me to trust in God. The first was college. When I started at Texas Christian University, I was absolutely terrified. I really didn’t want to go there. I was coming out of homeschool and all of my friends were from church. As an introvert, I abhor situations where I have to be around mass groups of people. That’s what college is when you’re first starting out and know no one there. I felt abandoned.

I was really struggling with adjusting to college. In order to make friends, I decided to pledge the Christian fraternity Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX), which took up a lot of my time. And, of course, I was really stressed out with the workload. Being a top 100 university, TCU is harder and has more demands than the average university. I was mad at God for putting me in this situation.

That’s when I discovered the power of worship music. Earlier that year (2010), Passion put out the album Awakening. There were two songs from that album that were massive hits in churches, “Our God,” and “Awakening.” Also, the David Crowder Band broke all of Christian radio with the massive hit “He Love Us.” Those three songs, plus the song “SMS (Shine)” from the David Crowder Band, were on constant repeat on my iPod my freshman year.

There was an experience I had with one of those songs that I’ll never forget. Driving home from a fraternity meeting, “He Loves Us” came on my iPod. I felt the weight of my fears bubble up to the surface. It was like I was carrying something heavy and, out of nowhere, God took it from me. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, and it was then when I knew that, if I trusted Him, I would get through TCU. I literally had to pull the car over because I began to cry. I’m talking sobbing.

That was a turning point. Even though it still took me another couple of semesters to completely adjust to TCU, things got better from there. I certainly had my rough days, weeks, and semesters, but every time I felt like quitting, I trusted in God and that put my fears at ease. I graduated in May of this year with a Bachelor’s of Science in Film, TV, and Digital Media

The other major situation in which I’ve had to put my faith in Him is my current situation. I’m working as an unpaid intern at a small, Christian production company in Tyler, Texas.

This wasn’t the plan. I had it all planned out by my junior year of high school: I was gonna go to TCU, make lots of friends, make a bunch of short films, meet a cute girl, and graduate with honors. Then, I was gonna find work at a church or production company in DFW, save up money for a ring, and get started on the rest of my life. Instead, I made a handful of really close friends and a bunch of acquaintances, worked on very few short films, graduated with an (at best) above average GPA, and never once got anywhere close to asking a girl out. And to make things worse, I get to see my friends and relatives start their lives. They’re getting married, having babies, buying houses, and making money. And here I am making no money, living in a two-bedroom apartment with 4 other dudes, and I’ve never come close to being on a date, much less in a relationship. This hasn’t been the easiest few months.

Not long into my two-year internship, I seriously considered dropping out due to circumstances I can’t talk about. My parents and I prayed earnestly for God’s guidance. We all felt like this was where He led me, yet things just didn’t seem right. Not long after we started praying, I had an eerily similar experience to my freshman year at TCU. I was returning to east Texas after spending the weekend back home. I promised my parents that I, along with them, would continue to pray about the situation throughout the week. When I returned home on Friday, I had talked to my parents about where we stood, spiritually. None of us had received a word from God. The only word my mom got about the situation was, “Let Me talk to Matt,” which went with the word I got the previous day: “You’ll have an answer by the end of the weekend.” I’ve had times when I thought God said something like that, only to have it be myself thinking that. I didn’t put a whole lot of weight in that thought until I heard what my mom told me.

So, we all waited throughout the weekend, hoping that I would hear something. When it came time to leave and I still hadn’t heard anything, we all promised to continue praying. As I was driving back to east Texas, I felt God nudge me to play some worship music in the car. What ensued was an uncanny string of worship songs (all on shuffle) that were all very relevant to the situation. After what was probably the fifth or sixth song that hit home, I felt God gently whisper in my ear those two words that I hate more anything, “Trust Me.

I began to cry, just like I did four years ago. I was reminded of what happened after that experience and how TCU went from being insurmountable to conquerable. It was in that moment that I knew that if I trust Him, things are gonna work out. I don’t know what the next year and a half are going to entail, but I know that if I continue to trust in Him, it’ll be better than anything I could ever imagine.

Appropriately, the song “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel Music has been on non-stop repeat recently. It really hits home, especially during the bridge:

You make me brave

You make me brave

You call me out beyond the shore into the waves

You make me brave

You make me brave

No fear can hinder now the promises You’ve made

That’s such a hard thing to take to heart. Fear can’t touch His promises. He’s promised to protect us, to provide for us, and to be with us always and forever. Yet, some of us allow fear to make us forget those promises and that He’s not going to break them. What we need to do is take Philippians 4:6-7 to heart: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (NLT, emphasis added). As hard as it is, we need to obey God, pray for His protection, guidance, and for the courage to trust in Him, and then we need to actually trust Him. In the end, everything will work out, we’ll each be able to say “It is well with my soul.”

“Let go, my soul, and trust in Him.” – Bethel Music

The Beginning

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I figure the best way to begin this blog is by starting it, as Perd Hapley would say. I never thought I’d write a blog. I’ve always struggled with writing out my feelings. However, this a different season in my life. It’s a season of change. And with this season of change, I’ve come to realize that I have some things to say. Things that are too long for a Facebook status or a tweet. But before those things can be said, I feel like I should first introduce myself for those of you who may not know me that well.

I’m 22. I grew up in Hurst, Texas, a suburb of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. I was homeschooled for most of my academic career, which was a fantastic experience. I became a Christian 15 years ago when I was in 2nd grade.

I grew up in a Christian home and have always gone to church, but I really didn’t experience God fully until my family started going to Gateway Church. If you’ve heard of that church, I’m not surprised. It’s the second largest church in Texas (behind Lakewood) and is the home church of Dove award winning worship artist Kari Jobe. When my family started going in 2001, there were 250 members and the church was using another church’s building on Saturday nights. Now, it has more than 30,000 members spread across 5 different campuses. It’s been an incredible 13 years and an unbelievable journey to see the church grow like it has.

Before we started going to Gateway, I didn’t really know what a real church was supposed to be like. Even at a young age, I thought church was just something you went to every Sunday so you can be a good Christian. When I came to Gateway, I discovered that church isn’t a place you go to mark off your weekly checklist; it’s a place you go to encounter God and to grow in Him. And grow I have. The 13 years I’ve spent at Gateway have been the best of my life. I’ve grown exponentially. I’ve learned what it means to be fed at church. The difference between me now and me then is night and day, to say the least.

In 2010, I enrolled at TCU (Texas Christian University), in Fort Worth. I majored in Film, TV, and Digital Media, and minored in History. It was an up and down journey, and I definitely didn’t love every part of it, but it was one of the best experiences of my life. I grew more than I ever have in those four years. I learned how to persevere through times, and I came out stronger because of them. I made friends that I hope to keep for life and had experiences that I’ll never forget.

Currently, I live in Tyler, Texas. I work as an intern at a small Christian production company. These last few months have been a real leap of faith for me. I’m living away from my family for the first time ever and I’m having to essentially start completely over. It hasn’t been easy to say the least, and I don’t foresee it getting easier for at least a couple more months, but I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be, so God will make everything work out for good in the end.

And that’s a short introduction to myself. I’ll no doubt go into more detail about all of these different aspects of my life in future posts.

This blog is going to be a place where I go to rant or give my opinion on certain topics. Those know me know that I can be very opinionated, so this is a great place to talk about my opinions! I currently don’t have a plan as to what the structure or topics of this blog will be, but for right now, I foresee it being mostly about Christianity and Christian movies/TV. I’ll probably sneak a blog about sports or some other topic in there somewhere, but I’ll try to keep those to a minimum.

I really hope you enjoy this blog! I’m really excited to give this a try! I pray that the words I write would impact you and that God would use them to speak into your life!