Already Included #71 – Who Told You?

By: Sarah Nyhan

Would you even know if there was the concept of such a place as the interpretation commonly referred to as “hell” if nobody ever told you?

In that logic, what happens to you if nobody ever tells you about this “hell”? That’s it? Off to the eternal BBQ pit for you?

That doesn’t sound like a Shepherd that leaves the 99 to go find the last little sheep. Or The One who submitted to our twisted call for “justice” executed through an unfair trial and the torture and murder of an innocent Man. Just to prove we have nothing to be afraid of. Perfect love casts out fear.

Is the god you worship so impotent that He just gives up and leaves it up to us? Jesus said to focus on love and be as children. And yet your god expects us to get it right or else? For ourselves? For others?

I used to preach that, but I couldn’t even live it. And I’m not buying it anymore. I need God to be bigger than me. Than anything I can bring to the table.

Is it possible to experience God for real? Or did Trinity stop being personally interested in us when Jesus ascended? Does God only check in to correct us or to give us the infrequent attaboy? To drop by and bounce out after giving us a bone every now and then? Or is God right here, right now, caring about the things that concern me? Concern you?

Do we worship a book or do we worship The Creator? Is it possible that God could even personally speak to our hearts? Our minds, our spirits? Not just through a few men and their interpretations?

Whenever I go outside the city, I start to see and hear again. My peace returns. My joy. Not to turn that encouragement into yet another element of dogma. Just saying.

And I do believe in hell – don’t have to go very far to find it these days. Just not an eternal literal BBQ pit for all of those kids that didn’t get it during this human experience. Pastors and preachers INcluded.

Already Included #70 – Vision

By: Sarah Nyhan

Something just hit me.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

How many times did Jesus talk about those who have eyes to see?

A few years ago I thought I knew where life was going. Then EVERYTHING was ripped up, out, and away from me. Everything.

I thought I was then given a new vision. I hung on for awhile. But it’s been so many years. So even that new vision seems all but dead right now.

And so, like I encouraged a few days ago, I sat down today and poured my heart out to God. Actually, my anger more than anything. Brutally honest. Pretty much without apology. I didn’t even want a Response if it didn’t involve some real relief or action. Cried some tears afterward. But then got back to business. Because the alternative just doesn’t work well for me.

And so hours later I ran across a video of Tyson Fury talking about how he spiraled after his victory over Wladimir Klitschko. He went from being on top of the world with everything he could ever want down to seconds from the end. Lowest of the low.

Such a curious thing. You’d think the man would be happy. But no. He said it was his lowest time. Right after he achieved everything he had been working for his whole life. In so many words he basically said he had reached the pinnacle and didn’t know where to go next. Nothing satisfied him.

I think about it now and I wonder if maybe these fights in our life aren’t about anyone else? Tyson thought Wladimir was his biggest opponent. Maybe he was wrong; maybe the biggest fight of his life was with himself. Could it be the same for everyone else? Maybe we are constantly in training to be able to face ourselves?

In any event, Tyson seemed to describe feeling completely lost. He described trying everything without anything sticking. And that’s when I realized he was suffering because he was a man without vision. He could not see the purpose, the reason, the hope. He looked into the day before him and couldn’t find himself in the story, his real self. He didn’t know who he was or where he fit in anymore.

I think maybe now more than ever we also collectively seem to have lost our story, our vision, our direction. Not a commentary on behavior choices; if anything, I think those are just symptoms of a much bigger problem. Of blindness, really. We stumble around. Leading each other here and there. Sometimes seeming worse off than when we started. Yeah, that’s plenty painful to face. No wonder we run to our phones, substances, and anything else to keep us distracted.

Over these past few years I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the time when I am not settled it is because I am facing an impasse. That’s what happened today; feeling very frustrated that I know God can move in areas where I want Him to move – but then not seeing what I expect to see when I expect to see it.

So will I sit in the judgement seat against Christ? Will I push those thorns into His head? Will I mercilessly whip His flesh? Will I drive nails into His body and hang Him naked for all to despise?

That’s what my emotions wanted to do. And I let myself feel those feelings. I admitted them. Because God would already know them.

But my feelings weren’t being intellectually honest. That’s not their job; they are only indicators. Pointing me in the direction of my healing. Which I’d personally like to get through as quickly as possible.

I think I was so frustrated this time that I didn’t pray to be able to see. Instead I committed to nursing my indignation in solidarity with my feelings. But previously, especially recently, I have been trying to remember to ask for God to help me see as He sees. And everytime I do that, it seems to help. So maybe past prayers carried me through today’s challenge. Because Tyson Fury was just the start. Understanding started unfolding rapidly after that for some time.

And yet I laugh because in all the understanding of course there were no answers. Lol. Just like God, I suppose. I guess answers won’t help me get where I am going. I’d sure love some though.

But no, it was just comfort. The same kind that wrapped me up before. Peace that passes understanding. Lifted up on wings like eagles. As only Spirit can do. Reaching places in my heart that language isn’t even able to go.

I don’t know the end of the story, but so far all this unfolded for me:

My parents used to drive us around to look at houses when we were still under their roof. They both started multiple business ventures of their own. I was involved in some while still a kid.

As an older kid, my favorite part of the newspaper (remember those?) was the business section. Other kids were dating and partying. Not me; I’m 19 and reading business articles for fun. Pre-internet. Pre-retail investor hype.

Rick Ross’ anthem was my jam. On repeat. Been about that life. Just didn’t give myself permission to press the gas pedal.

Every semester I’d look longingly at the real estate courses, but I didn’t know anyone in real estate and was discouraged by others so I didn’t enroll.

But God.

I’d keep circling back around to the idea after I graduated with my IT degree. Stress relief at work? Read business articles and look at real estate listings. I even registered for some self-paced learning materials. But again, didn’t give myself permission to pull the trigger.

Long story short, my attempts to be “sensible” ended in disaster. Job after job. Different industries. The job held for the longest length of time was driving a taxi – where I learned a lot about people, business, and almost every inch of the city.

During all those explorations, I decided to volunteer to sort clothes for a ministry event. I spent hours at a warehouse space generously donated to the church by the owner. I didn’t know who he was until I was there sorting one day and he introduced himself. We ended up talking about business and he told me how he started and grew his real estate holdings. Including that storage/warehouse complex. I would go back over the years to chat with him about real estate as he sat in his “office” on the property, i.e. his pickup truck. 🙂 More seeds being sown.

One day it finally hit me: the only thing I wanted to do at work all day was to look at real estate. I could spend hours on it. For years I had dismissed it as a silly distraction since I didn’t have the money to invest. But the blessing of rock bottom is that I decided to finally do what I had always wanted to do (real estate) and to hell with the consequences because at that point it was six of one, half a dozen of the other. It was either going to be Jesus or nothing.

And, boy! Rolled out! Like a red carpet!

I qualified for all of my tuition paid for at college. Gifts also from others toward college expenses. No student loans during the entire duration of pursuing my real estate degree.

In addition, the perfect job initially so I could go to school during the day and work at night since there were day classes I needed to attend. For a company in the industry no less.

Then the very first day of classes, the director of the program offered to mentor me. Forty years in the business. A professor for decades. An author and a speaker. He gave me a ton of invaluable advice. Many opportunities.

One of which involved speaking on a panel to the attendees at a Texas Real Estate Teachers Association conference. Where after the presentation, the first audience question was directed to me: “When is your book coming out, Sarah? Because I want a copy.”

Another being nominating me for the Distinguished Graduate designation for the department the year I finished. Which led to me being chosen as the student speaker for the Distinguished Graduates ceremony at San Antonio College. A standing ovation.

So many other things I could mention.

He spoke of God. And also another of my professors spoke of God. She is now the program coordinator after my mentor retired. Super successful in her own right. Also an author and a speaker. She encouraged me to go into commercial real estate – which was never even on my radar until she mentioned it.

Which led me to enroll in a Real Estate Investments class that wasn’t even on my degree plan. Ended up being one of the best classes I took. Learned about risk and asset types. Learned how to evaluate potential investments. How to calculate cap rates. Lots of lingo for the commercial side of things. My final project was to put together a marketing package for a self-storage property.

I applied for a million residential real estate positions while in school. Nothing worked out. I couldn’t even get a job as a receptionist. But then I decided to look for a job in the commercial real estate industry. I intially felt so hesitant because I had no experience.

But what does God have for me? A commercial real estate field researcher position. They told me they didn’t usually hire people without all the qualifications they normally required, but I seemed to be well on my way to getting where I needed to be. It probably also helped that I already knew almost the whole city from being a taxi driver. So they considered me and offered me the position. One of only six similar positions in the entire State of Texas. The only position of its kind in San Antonio. The others being in Dallas, Houston, and Austin. Flown out to Missouri for training.

It was such a blessing! I was able to work remotely from home. Set my own schedule so I could work around my classes. Had a company car, gas card, laptop, camera, and printer. Drove around all day every day taking pictures of only commercial real estate.

Went to quarterly broker meetings with all the big shots in town. People who do multi-million dollar deals. Even $100m+ deals. I’m sitting right next to them at the meetings. Learning TONS of game!

Researched over 6,000 properties… Until they went out of business unexpectedly THE DAY after I graduated!?!?!?!

That was the final exclamation point on a series of things that had been happening where I was so certain God had me going a specific direction and then everything seemed to absolutely fall apart. Leaving me stuck wondering why. Much more on the whole story hopefully someday.

But for now, to get back to the vision theme, after the company went out of business I started applying for jobs in the commercial real estate industry. But all of my contacts from the old company fell through and every door seemed closed.

Then I saw an ad on Craigslist. Working as an admin for a broker who specializes in self-storage. Doing property research, creating marketing materials, and putting together proformas where I was responsible for calculating cap rates. Full circle!

My broker again wasn’t initially on my radar in terms of where I thought I was going. But I asked God to help me see. And I felt like He showed me that my broker lets me do EVERYTHING! He threw me into the fire in terms of being responsible for handling his transactions. He always seems to have full confidence in me. Much more than even I have in myself. And he is never stingy about sharing his people or clients with me. He even passes leads onto me. Doesn’t even charge me any of the typical office fees many brokers demand in order to sponsor agents.

Whereas had I been hired at one of these huge commercial real estate companies, I would have probably been lost in the shuffle. Probably would have had to fight for my life to get promoted and even have a remote chance of getting anywhere near touching the actual transactions.

So that was the comfort I was given today. A big reminder that I can trust God. Because none of the opportunities that clearly opened up and were given to me were EVER on my radar. All were WAY above what I had dared to ask of imagine. I understood nothing about what they were teaching me for the future while I was in the moment. Only hindsight has been 20/20.

Again, no answers to my specific questions. Just tons of peace. That something is coming together. And it will probably be better than I hoped for. Even if I only understand it after the fact.

So I don’t really know what the future holds as much as I try to figure it out. But I’m learning to hold my dreams loosely. Gotta lay my ideas down, talk to God about my desires, and give Trinity all my questions. And I feel free to be brutally honest with Spirit about all my fears and feelings. It’s embracing those challenging moments that seems to catapult me to the next stage of healing.

Someone told me that when you’re a baby, God gives you a BIG vision so you can kinda get your feet under you in terms of getting comfortable enough to move forward. But as you go along, the amount of vision you’re given gradually gets smaller and smaller. To the point where sometimes you feel like all you see is the next step.

I don’t want to speak with authority on that, but it seems to accurately echo my experience. And again without claiming I’ve got the market cornered on truth, I wonder if we’re only given the next step because intellectual knowing keeps us in our heads and apart from our hearts. As the healing progresses, only Spirit satisfies. So we need to be close. But we’re not used to having Someone like that to run to. Given the option, we turn to ourselves, or our work, or others. Our phones, substances, experiences. Anything else, anyone else but God.

Until we experience Trinity for ourselves. That God really is real. And really does love us. Really does see us. Really is concerned about what matters to us.

As much as I try to communicate it, even the most beautiful words won’t substitute for real relationship. But I hope by sharing my experiences and my comfort, that it will encourage at least someone to risk asking for their own. To ask to see themselves and others as God sees them. To ask to get their vision refreshed.

I think it will help us so much. Individually and collectively. I think plenty will change for the better once we experience and know how much we are Loved!

Already Included #68 – In Action

By: Sarah Nyhan

Things were overall going well today. Then I exposed myself to some people from a past life per se. A life that currently appears all but dead.

And at first there were a lot of good things. But slowly, just like before, a word here, a word there… Before I even knew it, even though I was trying to watch out, I rapidly slipped and fell down the slope.

Thankfully not very far and not for very long. Which is a miracle, really. I think it’s endurance. Trial by fire. The more I choose life, the more aware I am when death comes knocking. It’s repulsive to me now when I realize it.

This time it only took a few minutes to get through the mess. I was having such a good day and then my mind did a 180 after the exposure. It was so jarring. I didn’t want the feelings and thoughts at all. They were unfortunately too familiar. I had no desire to do yet another round in the ring with them.

So I followed my own advice from yesterday. I cried out in brutal honesty. And faster than I could get the words out, Comfort swooped in to wrap me up in assurance and perfect love! Unlike the hours, days, and weeks I can spend if I insist on spinning my own wheels.

Some of the helpful thoughts: “Start with what you know.” Well, I sometimes feel like I don’t know much else than Jesus loves me. “That’s a great place to start!” If Jesus loves me then I matter. And what I want matters. Then remembering that I don’t have to be strong enough; I can trust God to be bigger than me. Back on track.

The specifics really aren’t the point so much as sharing it as an example of yesterday’s encouragement worked out in real life. Hope in that respect. Sometimes seeing it in another can help when we’ve yet to experience it for ourselves. Me included.

But back to the beginning, a few things came to mind.

More and more I understand not being able to put this new wine in the old wineskins. It just doesn’t work.

And also even further back to the first garden. Maybe it was a real tropical paradise. But I choose to see it more as a picture for us. (Easier to remember in a culture that passed on information orally. I find more freedom in reading the stories more literarily than literally these days.)

And so I am now leaning to the garden being a picture of our mind. Maybe even our hearts. And the directive? Guard it. Take care of it. Kinda be jealous over this space given to you by God. So we’re not deceived. Only for our good – individually and collectively. (Not at all about an ego.)

Religions take this to the next level. Mostly good intentions gone too far, in my opinion. I don’t think it has to get that crazy or complicated. I think the answer is much more simple. Just like they initially did in the garden story: simply be with God. No formulas.

This is about relationship. Real relationship. The kind you crave but don’t even dare to let yourself think about after so many disappointments.

People say be with Jesus and then they turn that into a list of stuff to do. Like even go to church, pray, or read the Bible. No, I’m talking even more simple than that. I’m talking simple enough for a child.

What do you do when you want to spend time with someone? You just meet them and usually talk with them. That simple.

You don’t even have to believe. Trinity will gladly take even your unbelief. Very welcome as more honest than most, I would bet. Don’t we long for those we feel safe enough to be our real full selves with? God is that big. Even bigger. You were already fully known and loved before you even could disappoint youself. God does not change. We are the ones constantly invited to return Home.

I think this is about healing. I think this is about love. I think we’ve got a lot to learn. But never any condemnation.

Ask and you shall receive. And then hold on for the ride. 😁 The adventure of really living out loud and in color. New and fresh every morning. I haven’t experienced any other option that remotely comes close to satisfying. By design.

And yet there is a lot of hope. Not willing that any perish. Not content to leave even one little stinky smelly sheep behind. Preparing a table for us. Finishing what He starts! That, my friend, will give you wings to soar, to risk taking flight.

How little do we think of God? Where did we fall down along the way? What is He doing even now?

God, thank You! I want us to see as You see, hear as You hear, know Your love for us, experience it so personally that the intellectual is unnecessary, and then be able to share that hope starting with those we love. Healing this amazing gift You have given us. One beautiful person at a time. A real rEVOLution.

Already Included #59 – No Condemnation

What an adventure. Trinity never ceases to amaze me.

I pictured Peter tonight. It sounds to me like he left his day job to follow Jesus. Jesus who looked like a human man, but Peter undeniably saw something different about this man. Peter probably heard all the gossip, all the naysayers, all the arguments against Jesus. And he tried his best. He dove in head first. He knew there was something Divine about this Jesus. Who leaves their day job to follow someone around without a plan? Surely Peter experienced God.

But then they are sitting in the garden and here is his Hero giving Himself over to the bad guys. To all the people who were fighting against them. Jesus just gives Himself up. I imagine Peter must have been so confused.

Here he left his job, defended Jesus to probably so many, maybe even his loved ones doubted his decision to join this rough group of followers without a plan. Just going here and there without any concrete outcome.

I mean these people come from and are surrounded by and were born into a very concrete religious community. Their entire society revolved around this monumental structure of a religion. Every facet of their lives were defined by the religion.

And Peter has the audacity to break away from the system. Peter has the audacity to throw away everything he’s ever known. Peter has the audacity to stand up to the pillars in his society.

And then his Jesus, this man he was so sure about, just gives Himself over and seems to throw in the towel.

I imagine Peter watching from a distance thinking, “Any time now my Jesus is going to throw these dogs off His back and show them who is boss. Show them who the real God is.” But then he watches them beat Jesus mercilessly.

Maybe as they place the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, Peter says, “Surely my Jesus will save Himself now. He saved everyone else.”

Maybe even when they placed the cross on Jesus’ back.

Maybe even when they stabbed the nails into Jesus’ body on the cross. Maybe even then Peter still held to His Jesus saving the day.

But then the cry. Then the water from Jesus’ body as the spear was thrust inside.

I imagine the sick feeling in Peter’s stomach as the people took Jesus’ body down from the cross. Maybe the doubts screamed so loudly inside of him. Maybe all the memories of the gossip and the naysayers and the religious arguments came flooding back to him. Maybe the most insidious of all flooded his mind: logic.

Maybe the other followers stood looking at Peter for an explanation. Maybe he had to go home to his family who were already past their last bit of patience with him. And then this.

The darkness of the night settled in. The stone was rolled over the tomb. And Peter’s Jesus looked very much like a human man who was dead. And Peter may have thought he looked to many like a fool following a crazy man.

But the miracles? But all the experiences with Jesus? Peter had been so sure. But now his Jesus lay very much dead. And with Him all that Peter had invested. Everything. His entire life. His reputation. His friendships. He had been so sure. Why did Jesus let him down and leave him? Alone.

The silence the next morning must have been unbearable. The deafening roar of a million questions. Of all his doubts coming true: “What if I was wrong? I probably took it too far like they told me. I probably should have just watched from the sidelines. Now look at me. I have nothing. How can I ever recover from this? And more – my heart. How will my heart and mind ever recover from this? Who on earth will have me now?!”

The looks in the street. Maybe haughty. Maybe filled with disgust.

Maybe it felt like a giant kick to the gut back to square one. Starting all over again except this time even farther down. “Look at me. I’m not a young man. I should have known better. Maybe I just saw what I wanted to see. Maybe I made it all up. Maybe I should have listened to them and just settled down and into place.”

Where was his Jesus to protect him now from all the people with power? Where was his Jesus to provide for him?

Where did you go, Jesus?! Why did you let them do what they did? How will anyone believe in You now?

Peter didn’t know his Father. We don’t know our Father.

No condemnation. But maybe you can relate. I can relate.

No sin was committed. This has happened so that people may believe. And be free.

Trinity has the last Word! Not death. Not “logic”. Not earthly powers. Not even our doubts and especially our failures.

The grave could not hold Him!! All was not in vain! For Peter or for us.

But I imagine those three days of silence must have felt like the end of almost everything. And maybe it was the end of one of the most important things: all of Peter’s well-meaning strength. All of our well-meaning strength.

I want to believe enough, but I can’t. I want to trust enough, but I can’t. Even the strength of our faith is not needed.

I cried out in anger and frustration, “God, if You are really God then….” God showed up. God saw me. God heard me. Alive for another day. Not just in body. But I mean really alive. Another monument. Another deposit into my trust account.

I cannot manipulate God with my belief. It is not needed. Again, the Father’s heart, Trinity’s heart. Or otherwise it will never work out. If anything is dependent on me.

“Peter, lead my sheep.”

“But I failed You, Lord.”

“I never needed your strength, Peter. Go tell them how much I loved and love you. Even when you thought you had failed and screwed everything up. Tell them how much I love them. Tell them that their strength is not needed.”

Help us see, Father. Help us hear. Thank You that You already and always are!

Already Included #58 – First Frogs

By Sarah Nyhan

I was thirteen years young when I started high school. My best friend had an older boyfriend. She told me to go talk to his friend. I walked over to this older guy that I had never seen before. He told me, “You’re going to break up with your boyfriend and I’m going to be your boyfriend now.” And I didn’t fight back. I hate that.

I hate that I was taught to value myself so little. Now looking back, I blame a whole community completely soaked and saturated in separation mythology. If you’re told your whole life that your Creator is angry with you, that you are nothing, that you deserve nothing good, etc etc etc then it’s no surprise that you’ll settle for the first frog that comes along asking for a kiss. Or the first church that will have you. Or the first job that will have you. Etc, etc, etc.

It makes me sick now. Sick with anger. Sick with grief. To think about how much we are lied to and how we pass that mess along to each other. Crabs in the bucket. Dare someone to break out and the whole lot will come trying to pull them back down. Because don’t you dare challenge this sickness and sadness they’ve married themselves to. Don’t you dare challenge anyone’s fears.

What if I’m wrong? What if Trinity really isn’t concerned about my feelings? What if Trinity leaves me hanging? Leaves me making big dreams and big talk? I’d rather try and fail then rot away with regrets. I didn’t fight this long or this hard just to settle out of fear. No sir, no ma’am.

What on earth are we fighting for anyway? Why are we even doing all this studying and seeking? At the top of my list: real life and real love. A real God.

There is a song by Clint Black entitled, “Love She Can’t Live Without” that pretty much sums up my thinking. The chorus has the lyrics: “She can live with what goes with leaving, she knows it’s the only way, though it kills her to give up believin’, she can’t live with herself if she stays, she could settle for what she’d be feeling, if she gave in and worked this one out, she doesn’t want the kind of love she can live with, she wants the kind of love she can’t live without.”

There’s another song by Martin Garrix and Dua Lipa. The chorus has the lyrics, “Is the only reason you’re holding me tonight is that we’re scared to be lonely?” In my experience, that is hell. Trying to fit yourself into someone else’s life, someone else’s world. Just to be accepted. Just to belong. The new toy for whoever. For the lover, the “friend”, the employer, the religious community. As long as you play the part then they’ll keep you around. Swimming in shallow waters.

I want more. I want real connection. I want real life. Real love. I want a real God. I want a Creator of this magnificent universe that cares about me. That didn’t spin me out on my own. I want the love story Trinity writes for me. I want all the life Trinity wants me to explore in this human experience.

We were Created just to tread water? I can’t buy that. It’d be easier if I could. But I feel like I’m completely cheating myself when I try. Totally letting myself down.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a beauty in simplicity. There is rest in God. I’m not talking about ambition for the sake of. I’m talking about not betraying my heart. I’m talking about being authentic. Being honest with each other. Valuing ourselves and each other.

One thing I did right in my life. There was a male and his family. After many decades, even recently, he told me I hurt him by not marrying him. Years and years go by. What you were so sure of gets less clear. You wonder if maybe you ask for too much. But I know I would have been miserable as his wife. No matter how much I love him. We just operate out of completely different values. It would have been oil and water. The lies creep up all around saying I should have just been happy someone wanted me around. But that’s not the point. I at least loved him and myself not to ruin our friendship. Not to force something out of fear. And that’s a love I hope he’ll understand someday. A love I wish a lot of people understood.

Maybe love made that decision easier. I loved him more than I love myself. However, these past few years have been an intensive course in learning to say no. Learning to walk away. Learning to fight back. And unfortunately learning to stand alone. Learning to trust myself. Learning to honor myself. Learning to value myself. Because Jesus didn’t come to die for nothing. Trinity didn’t Create this amazing planet for nothing. For trash. No way. That’s not my God. That’s not my Jesus.

I want this inheritance of fear to stop here. With me. With us. Not because of our strengths. But because we are safe in Trinity’s heart. Jesus proved it. I need God to help us see, help us hear. Help us be free!