Friday, April 29, 2011

Oh Friday...

The alarm goes off at 6:30 am.


Techno before breakfast is never a good idea.


I reset it for fifteen more minutes, and when the dance party commences once again, fifteen minutes later, I reluctantly surrender to the inevitable. Time to go to work...


It never ceases to amaze me how bossy clocks can be. How these devious little time pieces, whether cell phones, watches, or cuckoo clocks, somehow managed to sneak in and dictate every detail of our short lives. I almost feel like I should rebel.


Almost.


I spring out of bed, with the livliness of a sloth who drank too much Nyquill, accompanied by a couple Advil PMs, the night before.


I send a quick text to my good friends Courtney and Abby telling them it's Friday...Friday.


I stumble over to the closet and endeavor upon what ends up being a futile search for something to wear...damn, I should've done laundry last night! Laziness bites me in the ass on this fine Friday.


Moments after the initial text was sent, my phone lights up with responses; one telling me to go back to bed, the other saying that she hates me and that it's 6-freakin'-45 am. I don't blame 'em, the poor girls.


Damn Rebecca Black and her Friday song...


In the bathroom one glance in the mirror produces a shock and awe effect that is much more potent and effective than George Bush could've ever dreamed.


Good lord is that what I look like in the morning?


In the words of one Mr. T; "I pity the wife who have to deal with my morning face someday." That was Mr. T who said that right...? I could be wrong. Not every cognitive gear is in place and functioning quite yet...after all it's 6:55 am. I'll look it up later and let you know if he actually said that.


Somehow I find myself at work, in a semi-presentable state. I open with Sue. She's my buddy. :)


The Muzak is playing already (if you are unfamiliar with what Muzak is, please reference the post titled 'That One Guy, That One Song') and I am subjected to the glory of Bryan Adam's song 'Have You Ever Loved A Woman?' Kill me.


To his credit, I think I have and can relate...


But that's all the credit he will get.


I opt, instead, to turn on Vimeo and pump up JLo's song "On The Floor" since it is only 7:35 and we do not open our lobby till 8:30. My supervisor Jess asks me if that's my weekend clubbin' music to which I respond; 'You bet your sweet love biscuits it is!'


After she files suit for sexual harassment, we have a good chuckle and go about our daily business.


I immerse myself in the blogosphere, and begin dreaming about the fun that this weekend is going to bring...


All because of one simple word. Friday.


Oh Friday...


The time is 8:47.


***I hope you have a fantastic weekend! I pray that it is filled with blessing and joy. Remember that every day is a gift! Don't hold back, don't hesitate, live it! ***


With Love,
Josh

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spotlight: China



I wanted to share this article with you today; I found it while browsing my Google Reader.






It occurred to me, while reading this article, just how much I take for granted because I live in America. In China, it isn't only the religious activity that is monitored and regulated by the government. Their blogs are regulated and sometimes shut down for "hateful" or "obscene" commentary against the government.



Citizens still vanish in the night in China.



Citizens are harassed for their personal beliefs or convictions by Big Brother.



You could certainly argue that the United States has it's fair share of intolerant behavior, but that is often on the individual or organizational level. It isn't coming from the government, which is charged to be representative of the people, by the people, for the people.



Today I feel a strange mix of grief and blessing, my heart goes out to my brothers and sisters in China. I pray that they will continue to be strong in the trials they face now, and in the future.



I feel blessing, a deep sense of gratitude that I live in this country with our privilege and freedom.



May we never take it for granted.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday Recommendations



Song Recommendation:






Leona's gorgeous voice and optimistic message in 'Better in Time' never fails to bring a smile to my face. Even on this rainy, crappy Tuesday. It is a helpful reminder that though we may be hurt, we are never unable to heal and move forward...





Interesting Read:



The Shack- William Paul Young



I read this while on a plane to Washington to visit my sister. It is a great story about forgiveness, redemption and renewal in the midst of the main character's deepest heartache. A fantastic, easy read for a rainy afternoon.





Social Network of Choice:



Facebook



Yes friends, it's true, after nearly two months of being off I am back. Cocked, locked and ready to rock! Facebook provides a wonderful outlet for self-expression, narcissim and creeping on your friends, all blended together. Drink it in...it always goes down smooth!



Remember, if it's not Facebook official, it probably didn't happen.





Drink of Choice:



Starbucks- Toffee Nut Hot Chocolate with Caramel



Hello, my name is Josh, and I'm a Starbucks addict...



I have to say that I'm not ashamed of my addiction to Starbucks culture. I love the smells, the comfy chairs, and the wicked sweet green aprons the employees wear! My recommendation for a tasty warm drink is a Hot Chocolate with a shot of the Toffee Nut syrup. Make sure to ask for caramel to be added! It is the proverbial icing on the cake for this warm tasty treat!



Enjoy your Tuesday! :)




The Trouble With Labels

"Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins." -1 Peter 4:8


When I read this last night at Converge (one of Oshkosh's student ministries), it jumped out at me.


First Peter, like many of the epistles, is a letter written to the early church, and contains instructions for what the life of a Christian should embody. Or rather, how someone who has decided to follow Jesus should emulate him in their lifestyle.


Apparently, one of the marks of a follower of Jesus is to show a deep love for one another, continually.


Can you imagine?


I am not a fan of religion. I think that often religion takes genuine, passionate love of something and turns it into a chore. I think that religion has the potential to steal authentic joy, and lose Jesus' message in a list of rules, regulations and requirements.


The reason this verse stuck out to me is because it is so simple, yet true.


Love each other deeply. Love one another as if you are loving God.


In society we have labels for everything: Prude, emo, hippie, black/white, gay/straight, trendy, nerdy, liberal, agnostic, conservative...


We love our labels because they are, in essence, identity. They give us a sense of belonging, a sense that we are a part of something greater than ourselves.


It is a noble goal, to be a part of something greater than oneself, that is.


Human labels, however, are the source of much injustice in the world. They can create a sense of superiority within the individual. Once this is instilled, it becomes oppressive toward others. It strips them of their dignity and humanity.


The term "hate speech" is often used in American society to silence dissenting opinions. It is used to oppress those who carry a different label, all the while claiming to be liberating the oppressed. Hate speech is just one example of the difficulties human labels present.


But Peter was on to something different...


When he refers to a love that covers a multitude of sins, he is referring to an identity which transcends the identities that humans manufacture to instill some sense of worth within themselves.


This idea is the citizenship of heaven.


The language of heaven is love. When the world is restored, it is love that will be spoken on the tongues of its citizens.


Love crosses social, economic, and racial barriers. It is the heartbeat of humanity, though we don't realize it.


Can you imagine a world where people loved each other deeply for the people they are? A world where everyone is viewed not for their created labels, but for the one true label which is the seal of the divine?


I'm becoming convinced that living and loving in this way would, in fact, cover a multitude of sins. The sins caused by racism, sexism, injustices against the poor, oppression...


"Sin" isn't what the church has made it seem. It isn't the word used to keep people from happiness, creativity, and pleasure. Not at all.


The more I come to understand it, sin, is what keeps humanity from living as God intended. It keeps us from living full, joyful and harmonious lives.


Anytime a woman is raped or abused.


Anytime a child is forced to join a "freedom fighter's" army.


Anytime a religious person defames, slanders and is hateful toward those who disagree.


Anytime someone takes their lives, along with the lives of other innocents, in the name of an ideology.


These are the things that keep the world from the way of God.


It is no wonder He is grieved. His creation, His children are set on destroying one another.


If you are a parent, you may well be able to imagine this feeling, if your children instead of living together in love were set on destroying one another whether physically, emotionally, spiritually.


What I'm learning from Jesus' example, and from this passage above, is to strive to love deeply. To love others more fully, but not just fully...to love others daily. Continually.


Individuals will have disagreements in life.

This is important to note, because I think there is a wide misconception many hold, that loving others requires full agreement, or endorsement of an individual's choices.


We will not be able to resolve every conflict, or to accept everything that others believe. But I don't think that is what love is, and I don't think that is what love requires.


Love requires accepting a person for where and who they are, regardless of whether or not one agrees completely or disagrees on some things.


I have very strong opinions about many things. I also have friends who see life completely differently than I do. I don't love them less. We don't agree, but I respect them and their views.


Yet, even in this, Jesus is still working within my heart. Exposing the labels that I allow to separate me from others. The labels that keep me from loving and respecting another as nothing less than beautiful.


So what I'm finding is that it is not the disagreement that causes the multitude of sins but, rather, it is the method in which one relates to others.


We can disagree and speak our disagreement in love.


Or we can disagree and speak our disagreement in hateful, hurtful ways.


It ultimately comes down to choice. The free will that humanity has been given, and that we use liberally on a daily basis...


Will we choose the language of heaven?


Will we allow the transforming power of love to cover a multitude of sins, and tear down the labels that divide?


***If you are reading this, please know that I am grateful for your time, and that I love you! I hope you have a blessed and fantastic day, and that you may encounter the language of God. That love would be spoken to you, not just once but time and time again!***

Monday, April 25, 2011

Simply Intricate

I was sitting with my friend Hailey recently, sipping some coffee...well, actually, mine was vanilla chai, her's was coffee.


We were in the library at Oshkosh and she was studying for an biology exam.

I love the library at Oshkosh. The room hums with the sound of computers (Macs and PCs alike) all working simultaneously, it's a comforting drone that envelops me. The colors are warm; even when its cold outside the computer lab is always nice and cozy.


Plenty of comfy chairs are disbursed throughout the entire area, and in them one can find an abundance of poor, starving college students, some with shoes some without, some wearing slippers.


Some are dressed to a hilt, in anticipation of the night that will follow after they have put in their time; the majority however, are in comfy clothes, sweats, hoodies, and hair looking like they've just rolled out of bed. Or perhaps they know that this room will, in fact, be the closest they will come to bed, judging by the massive load of homework they have put off until this moment.


They are here for the long haul.


I like the ambiance the library gives off. It is an air thick with knowledge mingled with stress, fatigue and learning. The hours that are poured into books in the pursuit of the ever elusive answers to each new set of questions.


I love it.


I am no scientist.


Hailey, however, is brilliant. She started telling me about how cool bugs are, which I heartily disagreed with; then she showed me her bio book, complete with pictures of the little buggers (pun intended), and my newest learning experience began.


She started telling me about flies and how their bodies are covered in tiny hairs that sense and detect motion. When the air moves around them, these hairs vibrate within the core of the fly and it knows danger is potentially imminent.


I always wondered how they were able to dodge the towels and fly swatters, it's like they had help!


Oh, and they have segmented eyes, which enable them to look everywhere without moving. Even though I myself am not partial to bugs, I had to admit that this fact is pretty badass.


Their antennae are short to reduce the drag and to make flight possible, and the halteres serves to balance the insect during flight.


Even a bug as simple as a fly, an insect that annoys the crap out of me on hot summer days and won't leave my damn burger alone, can be complex and beautiful. Who knew?


The intricacy of it all leaves me speechless. The way that flies have been equipped with just the things they need to survive.


As I casually perused Hailey's bio book, I began to feel a sense of great peace, which is something that I have certainly never felt in a science class before. I think it was the fact that, in taking a closer look at the smallest, most insignificant insect one can find a design, a detail and care that is unmatched.


In that moment I felt that care deep within, and the reality that you and I are not alone in this life warmed me inside. It's almost as if the creator of all was holding me in His hand and saying, 'You are fearfully and wonderfully made, I have been with you from the beginning, and I'm not letting go...' It was true, and real and beautiful.


We are so much more than we believe. You are so much more than you know!


All of this from one little conversation about flies...who would've thought? :)


A while ago I watched a Louie Giglio film. It starts with a look at the stars, but ends with a look into the human body. At you, and I, and the incredible intricate design of humanity.


I hope you enjoy it!


Louis Giglio- How Great is Our God

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Given to a Dream

I believe that there is a point that everyone reaches in life when they realize they are not the point.

When they realize that their life, while uniquely and beautifully original, is not the "end all be all."

Perhaps you know someone who's been to that place?

Or maybe there is someone in your life that you think will never get over themselves. The show is always about them, and nobody else...

But I think it happens to everyone at least once in a lifetime.

We realize that there is more to life. And we ask ourselves about the kind of legacy we are leaving. What we've done to actually improve or make the world better.

I'd even venture that 9 times out of 10 people don't like the answer they get.

If I'm honest, I live a very selfish life. I don't want to really, but its just so damn easy.

Comfort is a commodity that we have an abundance of. It permeates and seeps into every detail of our lackadaisical lives. The world has many problems, but I think one of the most deadly problems is indifference.

I was telling my friend Abby this the other night, while we were reflecting upon the capacity for evil that humans have. I think it is easy for many to look at the Hitlers, Stalins, Bin Ladens, or Konys and say that we could never do such things.

When I thought about it, I came to a shaking realization...

When individuals are indifferent, apathetic, or uncaring we become the catalysts for these evils to take place. The days we think that the world's problems are just to big for us to have any significant impact, so we just give up instead. We become partners in crime.

When individuals have the power to change these things within their grasp, yet turn a blind eye to them, they are just as much a part of the problem as those who are committing these acts.

See, when I'm comfortable in my life, my job, my career. It is easy to sweat the small stuff, in the most negative way possible. I complain about a client, I bitch about how long my day was, I crab at the waitress because my food isn't cooked just so...

Yet, do I really realize how good I have it? Have I ever thought of a book as a rarity, if not a luxury? My education? My options for a career?

Have you ever wondered at the incredible riches that we have in this country? Even in the recession.

I think that by seeing suffering, by becoming aware of the ways in which the world is hurting, this misplaced sense of entitlement is easily lost. The indifference melts away into something greater.

I firmly believe that humanity is the image of the divine. That we are so much more than just biological mass. More importantly, I believe, is that within the living, breathing image of the divine, there is the heart of the divine as well.

We have the way of God within us, although it is clouded.

There is something within a person that awakens when they serve another. There is a fulfillment. Or how about when we show kindness to another who desperately needs some hope? Helping someone in need? Working with a friend through a tough time.

Forgiving an enemy rather than retaliating.

Committing to another with your full heart and nothing less.

We have the potential to live the way of God and we don't even realize it.

That said, I don't believe we can actually be God. We are human. We get tired, we get crabby, we hurt, we don't forgive, we don't love well...

I do think that we have more potential for the better than we give ourselves credit for though.

I don't think God wastes life. I really don't.
I don't think we were created to merely exist day to day.

We were created to dream. To be given to a cause. To be passionate. To love fully. To break down labels, and to see people as mirrors of the One who has created us.

As much as I'd like to think it sometimes, this show isn't about me. It isn't about what I can get out of life, but what I can give in life.

The Invisible Children presentation really impacted and inspired me. It stirred in me a desire for something more. A call to something outside of just myself. A call to be given to a dream. A vision.

Can you imagine being a part of something that brings peace to a war torn country? Enabling children to walk their own home roads without fear of being abducted? Putting a book in a child's hand for the first time? Bringing food to the starving? Medicine to the sick?

Suddenly, when I'm presented with these potential avenues which can leave a legacy behind I'm faced with the glaring reality that what we "live" for in America is oftentimes very minuscule, and ridiculous.

The rappers who want the next best car, woman, or to party their lives away. Swimming in a pool filled with champagne. Hotel suites with every amenity imaginable!

This is the good life?

I'm coming to see that the "good life" isn't what we think it is. It leaves nothing behind.

Perhaps our view of the good life should be finding ways to help others find a better life.

I think that it's nothing short of pure insanity that we have enough food in this world to feed everyone, yet there are people starving every single night, while we throw our leftovers out.

We have the power. We can help.

It's about more than just giving money.

I guess what I'm saying is...

Giving your life for a dream, whatever it may be, may end up bringing you a life that you never imagined you could live.

You will probably be changed forever.

You probably won't mind.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Rocks...



I'm so glad that there is more to this day, than eggs, candy and a stupid bunny. 'Cause if there wasn't that'd just be lame...



Jesus rocks my face! :)



Have a fantastic Easter everyone! May you be filled with joy, happiness and celebration!



May you know that you are loved beyond words. :)

Voice of the Voiceless

My friend Kelsey told me about the organization called Invisible Children a few years ago.

She said it'd be "right up my alley," whatever that means...

Last night Invisible Children did a presentation at the union on campus, and I attended.

Kelsey was right.

Check out their story!

http://vimeo.com/3765611

Invisible Children saw peace come to Northern Uganda, but the Lord's Resistance Army has branched out into surrounding countries and are continuing to commit the same atrocities they did in Uganda. Abducting children and turning them into child soldiers, killing, raping and burning their way through Africa.

No one should have to live in slavery.
No one should be forced to commit atrocities.
Least of all children.

I now see why Jesus' most violent imagery was used to describe the fate of those who would lead children astray!

I am joining their Tri Movement, and am donating on a monthly basis to help fund the communication network that Invisible Children is assembling to track the movements of the LRA. The funds also go to rescuing and rehabilitating child soldiers. To giving them back some semblance of the life they should've had...

I am so blessed to live in this country. I am so blessed to have a job, a home, and to be able to walk down the streets without fear...

We are blessed to bless others. We aren't meant to keep everything for ourselves.

My prayer, is that I would use every last breath within me to reach out and help to share this blessing, to bring freedom to those who need it most.

Through any means possible.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Beauty in the Mystery

I don't get poetry.

Really, I don't.

I have some friends who are quite good at it though. My friend Rachel is a crazy poet, I always call her a hippie, but it's all in good fun. She doesn't actually smoke weed...that I know of.

I read her blog often, and she is always spilling forth with some sort of short poem or flowing stanza, or whatever other words English majors may use to describe these sorts of things.

To me the difficulty with poetry, or anything that is defined as art really, is that there is structure, and yet you cannot define it. What I mean by that is that, there is often some form of rule or law that governs the form, and yet the form cannot be contained by the law.

It's the nature of creativity.

It drives me nuts because it's not predictable.

Or maybe, the real reason is that I have about as much poet within me as Michael Jackson had natural Caucasian. The result of trying to be something I'm not created to be is just comical...

Who knows?

However, I do love watching others who take a passion of theirs and make it purely their own, much like my friend Rachel the hippie does. :)

You may notice that I reference Donald Miller quite often in this blog, please get used to it; Don is pretty much one of my heroes, although he doesn't know it...

I feel that this truth he presents in his book, Blue Like Jazz, really captures the essence of why I don't get poetry, yet how I should approach matters of faith in God...

"I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Baghdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes. After that I liked jazz music. Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way."

Shouldn't this be the way of faith?

I have many friends who don't see life the way I see it. They can't grasp the concepts of God and Jesus, and the whole thing just seems to far fetched to them.

My friends aren't any less intelligent than I am, some of them are downright brilliant! They have helped me see life in many different ways, through many different paradigms. Knowing them has helped me in so many ways, it is virtually indescribable!

It occurred to me today that the story of Jesus isn't a story about proving something to people.

His mission contained purpose and, above all, love for all people. When he interacted with others he presented his message, but He wasn't consumed with pointing out other's faults. He wasn't concerned with demonstrating his elaborate knowledge.

Paul writes in Philippians that he instead took on the nature of a servant.

Humility, apparently, is a characteristic that even God gives reverence to.

Humility is not beneath God.

Jesus' teaching was most effective when the individual realized that they were missing something. When they realized they weren't completely whole. They asked Jesus. They came to Him seeking guidance, because they knew He was different.

Jesus didn't browbeat anyone (even the religious people whom he was harshest on) into His way of thinking...

It makes me wonder how church culture has missed the boat.

I mean, upon hearing the words: religious, evangelical, or even Christian, I find myself having a hard time not shuddering.

I don't believe Jesus came to be an evangelist.

Isn't that weird?

I think this is true though, Jesus didn't come to be "Mr. super pastor"; he didn't care whether the masses joined his congregation, said his prayer, drank his communion. It was about bringing life to the individual. Edifying them. Bringing them on a journey from death to life. From the grave to rebirth. Renewal.

Do you remember what he did feel about the masses?

Just before feeding the 5,000 the scripture says that Jesus looked out at the great crowd and felt compassion for them. They were like sheep without a shepherd.

Compassion.
Deep, full, loving.
Love.

I can almost see it...can you? A father, looking out of a skyscraper, and seeing his child wandering the street. Alone in a sea of hardened and uncaring faces.

Lost.
Frightened.
Searching for him.

The father elects, not to stay aloof and wait for his child to find their way home alone (which they may never do), but instead he comes down and offers them the path home. He extends his hand and offers for the child to take it.

It's beautiful really.

A beauty that is lost in this thing that we call "church."

You see, the early church wasn't about an institution. The phrase "going to church" was non-existent, because church has never implied institution. Church is the "body" of Jesus, or the physical presence of those who believe in Jesus on earth, if you will.

Church isn't a building.

It's a presence.

It is the presence of God amongst humanity.

This is what it means to be a Christ follower.

To love, in physical, tangible ways others on this planet who need to know that God loves them and wants them to come home. To be with him again.

Which makes me wonder, if those who follow Jesus stopped focusing on doing and saying the "right" things, the things which would make others see Jesus as they do, and started focusing instead on loving Him deeply how would the world begin to look?

Would it be a worse place?
Better?
More authentic?
Would more people find the truth of Jesus' message?

Maybe, the world must first watch those who follow Jesus, love him first before they can love him too...

Maybe God would begin to resolve for others who see the love of God being reflected through his church, his body.

It's like jazz. Or poetry.

Everything won't always resolve in the human mind, but there is undeniable truth just waiting to be grasped. It is accessible to all and at it's heart is love.

Pure, reckless, crazy love.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What Ever Happened to the Heroes?

Everybody dreams about being important.


Everyone aspires to do big things, I think, and even though we have varying ideals of just what success can mean, there is a desire within us to want to achieve.


Every guy wants to know that he is worth something. That he can be competent and successful. That he can be a hero to the woman of his dreams.


There is definitely something that happens to a guy when he starts noticing girls for the first time...call it hormones, or growing up or whatever you'd like, but guys want that significance. They want to be noticed.


That's why it's so terrifying to be at that middle school dance, looking at that one special girl from across the room, and getting up the courage to walk across to see if she wants to dance with you.


If she acquiesces he walks away victorious with his head held high; if she declines it could be days before he gets the confidence to try again.

Ever since I can remember noticing girls, I've wanted to find that significance in a relationship with one. I've wanted to be a hero to her. There is an longing that I feel in me whenever I watch the superhero movie, when I see the hero saving the girl. The way she looks at him. That's something every guy (whether he is willing to admit it or not) wants deeply. That look of deep respect and admiration.


This is not to say that the woman needs to be helpless and frail. Not at all. This longing in a guy's heart is not to be dominant over a woman but, rather, to be respected and loved and appreciated for the things he brings to the relationship.


I don't want a woman who is "weak" and can't function properly without me but, rather, someone I can share my story and adventure with. Someone I can hold up when she's weak, and someone who can compliment me when I'm not strong enough to do this life thing on my own.


The yin to the yang.


This world is so confusing with the messages it presents to young guys about what it takes to be a 'man'. It tells us we can't cry, can't feel anything. That we have to do 'macho' things, pump iron, have abs like Bruce-Fking-Lee. That it's funny to burp and fart in front of the ladies.

The thing that saddens me the most is the low view of women that American society crams down a young guy's throat on a daily basis. To be a real man, apparently, you have to look at porn, go to the strip club, or score with as many drunken girls at a party as possible. Be an asshole. It pays, and besides girls go for the bad boys anyway, right?

Chivalry is dead.

Nice guys finish last.

I was exposed to world's idea of 'manhood' as early as seventh grade. I grew up assuming that this was the way you treat a woman. Yes, my dad was in the picture, but I was way too embarrassed to ask him about any of this. We mostly talked politics or band. Subjects I was comfortable with.

By high school, I thought it was the norm just to look at women for what they could potentially offer me. It was super selfish really, and the irony was that it never satisfied. See, the trouble with what the world says that it takes to be a 'real man' is that it rarely ever takes into account the other person's feelings, their fears, desires and hopes. By basing a relationship off of sheer physical attraction, it diminishes the entire person into an object. I was never filled.

I was a parasite.

Once one was used up, I moved on to the next one.

I always did the leaving too. To be honest with you the reason behind this was actually fear. Deep down inside I knew I didn't have what it took to be a man for these girls; so I avoided commitment as much as possible, and always did the dumping when it was a relationship. It was a defense mechanism. It hurt a lot of people too.

Here's something I am learning though... Jesus has a completely different idea of love, manhood and how a man should treat a woman.

He didn't try to score on the woman at the well, or the woman caught in adultery.

Nope.

He didn't try to get a few drinks in them to 'loosen them up' a bit and, let's face it folks, Lord knows at the well he could've turned enough water into wine to get her seriously tipsy!

What did he do?

One he talked to. He told her all about herself. He knew her down to the last detail and he still cared for her, flaws and all. The other he defended. He stood up for her when the world was throwing stones, tearing her down, and telling her that she is not good enough.

I want to be that sort of man. We need men like that, I think.

There are those who'd say that the Christian worldview on the roles of men and women is repressive to the female gender.


I'd wholeheartedly disagree.


The more I understand about God and his heart for humankind I have discovered a new found appreciation for the Eves of this world. This worldview presents a woman, not as an object for mere procreation, nor as a piece of property, but rather the crowning of all creation. A beauty that is unmatchable in the whole entire earth!


I think that's why guys can be so intimidated in her presence, so daunted, and wonder if they have what it takes to fight and die for her. It is why we have this longing. To be the men that we were meant to be.


Ladies, I'd be lying to you if I said I have it all together. I'm far from a real man right now, and I still continue to make many mistakes along the way. I'm still trying to learn what it takes to be the kind of man Christ was. I'm learning to let go of the guilt and the shame I carry from prior years, due to the hurt and injuries I've caused others.


I pray that you know that I am striving each day to become a man who is worthy to fight for your honor. To protect you and love you with everything I am, and will be.

I'm not there yet, I've still got some growing up to do. I make mistakes, and more often than I'd like I'm afraid. But I will continue to fight to be the hero you need, and the hero that I long to be.


To be heroes, young guys need solid fathers and mentors to show them what it takes not only to honor women, but to be a man who wholeheartedly pursues Christ. Check out this cool organization that author Donald Miller started in response to the fatherless generation!








The Mentoring Project

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekend Recommendations

So since it is supposed to be really crappy out this weekend, treat yourself right. Relax. Have a cold one. You earned it! :)


I recently read a book titled "Soul Cravings" by Erwin McManus. My friend Nicole recommended it to me and it has pretty much rocked my world. The title is self-explanatory so if you find yourself with some spare moments and it's cold out, grab a copy, throw on some comfy clothes and have a chai nearby to sip!


If you don't find yourself to be the reading type, music is definitely a great second option...


My friend Danielle introduced me to an artist called Sia awhile back. She showed me one of her music videos and noted that she loves how different it is...I'd have to agree. Truth be told, I think that if one tripped a bit of acid it would certainly enhance how different the video can be...


Nonetheless, I do love the song and the words, so today I'd like to share it with you!


Soon We'll Be Found- Sia















I hope you all have a fantastic and blessed weekend

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Adventures/Life Lessons

Every Wednesday I meet with a group of guys and our mentor.

It is a time to discuss life: the good, bad, ugly, mundane and of course...women.

Last night, however, was a special treat.

We went on an adventure.

We all piled into our mentor's golden minivan, complete with remnants of McDonald's Happy Meals and their treasures, still wrapped in their cocoons of plastic.

As we drove out of the outskirts of Omro the road started to get darker and darker, as the streetlights became few and far in between. An occasional speed limit sign, the only indication that anyone had been here before...

We came to an intersection where the beams of the headlights illuminated a bright green sign with arrows indicating which way one must go to reach their destination. To the right was Omro, straight ahead was..........Eureka?

Ok, seriously, put this on the map. Eureka? Who honestly says that they live in Eureka, WI?

To my dismay our van plunged ahead into the darkness. The roads resembled civilization less and less, and, in the end, I found myself wondering if the Milwaukee County DOT was placed in charge of Eureka's roads.

We reached the "town" and I say that lightly.

One corner bar and grill, a bridge, a stop sign and we were through.

Eureka makes Omro, the little town about 8 miles west of Oshkosh, look like a thriving suburban metropolis!

Shortly out of town we passed what must've been the town's weekend party. There were about 50 or so cars parked out front of darkened buildings. There was a barn a ways back from the road, from which a dim light was emitting. Nothing like a good old barn dance to make one's Wednesday night!

Then it was dark again. No street lights. Shady roads.

As I am a avid horror movie fan, I felt that this was the appropriate time to make a smart quip about how our mentor was merely taking us out of town to dispose of us...

To which we all laughed....with slight apprehension.

We finally arrived at our destination. A fishing area on the outskirts of Eureka.

From there, we broke out our gear. Headlamps and flashlights. We started hiking...

Throughout the hike Mark, (our mentor) taught us a bit about the plants we were seeing. He was an environmental studies major before he chose the route of ministry, and as he talked I was astounded at the intricate design of nature.

For instance, one of the plants he showed us, dogwood I think, has the capability of being broken off from it's origin, stuck into the ground at another place, and it grows new roots and becomes a new plant! Who knew, right?

He also showed us how to identify certain growths by whether their offshoots were alternating or not.

To some this may be basic knowledge, but I myself, who had not grown up in an outdoorsy home environment, drank it all in feeling like a newborn babe. Just absorbing it all.

After about 45 minutes of hoofing it we reached the damn. Sorry...dam. I gotta cut down on the language.

If you didn't know, right now it is mating season for Sturgeons.

I didn't know.

So as we crept toward the rivers edge our lights happened upon an incredible sight. Amidst the rushing current were about a dozen Sturgeon nonchalantly challenging the current. Letting the water rush over them, but not budging even though the current was rather swift.

They were massive!

Some were 4 to 5 feet in length. They had fins on their lower backs, which bore an eerie resemblance the baby sharks I remember from my excursions to the zoo as a young boy. Their faces had whiskers of sorts too!

Oddly enough my first thought was of my cat...

I couldn't help but wonder if, by some trick of the evolutionary process, the lazy animal that skulks around our home, is terrified of water, and eats all our food might've been some lowly pre-fish life form...

Seeing these monstrosities in the water beneath us, we did what any four college age guys and their college-at-heart mentor would do...we tried to catch them.

Yup.

It was 11:00 pm at night, and we were fishing with our bare hands, for fish that resemble baby sharks, and easily weighed half our weight.

Brilliant.

Three of the guys even waded into the water tennis shoes and all. I opted out.

Our feat was in vain, however, as fish bested man with sheer brute strength and the rest of the riverbed to escape to. We were left with faces full of water, and the smell of the river lingering on our clothing.

Walking back to the van, smelling the night air, thinking about what had come to pass this night I realized that in the sheer simplicity of acting like a dork with these guys, I felt a connection. With them, with nature and a peace that surpassed understanding took it's place in my heart.

This was far more vivid than the most enhanced TV screen, far more fulfilling than any astronomic number of Facebook friends that one could accumulate.

It was real. It was true. I love my brothers and am so greatly blessed to be a part of their story.

So I guess this is my first fishing story...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

All Good Things...

I'm an impatient person.

It's just a part of who I am. I can't stand walking behind the slow people in the airports, or waiting in lines at Disney. When I was recently in Milwaukee, some friends and I were waiting to get into a club (we were in the "common people" line) and it took me about 15 minutes to give up.

I don't like waiting because often I find that the things we wait for are stupid. For instance, waiting to get into that club was stupid. We have a whole city within our grasp, and yet some would wait a whole night to get into one place!

We can spend minutes, hours, and days of our lives waiting for something and then find out that the few moments of glory fade much sooner than we anticipated. It just doesn't live up to what the agonizing moments leading up to said event promised.

Not all waiting is bad. Don't get me wrong. When I feel that something is important I can wait with the patience of an Ent (Nerd alert! If you didn't know, an Ent is a tree guardian found in the Lord of the Rings books. Ents take great pride in the fact that they aren't "hasty" folk).

Tangent. Yes, I know.

I think everyone reaches a point in their lives where they are sick of playing it safe. Life is just too damn short to be certain about anything and everything. We can get caught up in the rules of religion, or society, or relational expectation; we can mimic "life" on the outside and all the while be dead within.

Your life is unique.

It was meant to be that way.

Letting go of the safety of "control" and submitting to pure, full, exploration of the person God created you to be is terrifying, yet liberating. Both. Simultaneously.

So whether it's pursuing a career you are passionate about, whether it's climbing a mountain or taking a vacation, or getting the girl, or doing something you've never done before...do it!

One thing that I'm finding is, no matter the path you take one truth remains.

You never walk alone.

Your steps are guided by the One that is graceful, protective, loving and caring. Even in the dark places, you've never been alone. You never will be.

This is what I know to be true.

So go out and live! Stop holding back!

My new favorite 'psychic' Shawn Spencer (aka James Roday) actually inspired me to write this, and I want to share his sentiments with you before leaving today. :)

From Psych Season 4

Episode: "Death is in the Air"

Shawn Spencer: You know how when we were kids, there were all those cool prizes at the bottom of cereal boxes?

Juliet O'Hara: Yeah.

Shawn Spencer: Okay, well, there are two kinds of kids. There's the kid who flipped the box over and opened it from the bottom and grabbed the prize right away. And then there was the kid who waited patiently and ate bowl after bowl of cereal until... until the prize just tumbled out on its own. There's also a third kid named Mikey who'll eat anything, including the prize, but he's not really important right now.

Juliet O'Hara: Okay... and?

Shawn Spencer: I didn't wait. I didn't wait for my decoder ring or my Frankenberry action figure when I was a kid, so what am I waiting for now? All I know is that I don't want to miss out on the prize...

The prize is life friends. However that looks to you or I, I pray that we don't miss it!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Missing Link

On Sunday, my parents, grandma, uncle and good friend of mine all went out to lunch.

The venue was called La Fuente.

The menu was, as expected, comprised of tortillas, cheese, meats, beans and rice.

Authentic.

We sat for a good hour and a half and just talked. We talked about life, current events, relationships, memories... No phones were on the table. We just sat and enjoyed each other.

I listened to my parents reminisce about when they were growing up. Their parents used to throw parties. They knew their neighbors personally. Their neighborhood was a community. Family meals were the norm, not the exception.

As I thoughtfully munched on my enchiladas I couldn't help but feel a sense of deep loss. Almost as if I'd been robbed of something. A need that exists deep within my soul.

I don't know my neighbors. In fact, I couldn't even tell you if my roommates and I live next to guys, or girls, seniors, or college age. I have no clue. Yet Jesus tells me to "love my neighbor as myself"...

Love and community aren't accidental, they are intentional.

There is much that's written in books that has to do with 'community', and much that is preached from the pulpit about building a healthy one. People talk about it all the time. Talk is cheap though...

We live in an era where communication has never been easier, yet we find loneliness and isolation rampant in society. Why is this?

How can we be so easy to reach and yet be so disconnected?

I think we've forgotten how to share life. Spending time out walking with friends. Having guests over to share a meal. Conversations. Learning about their families, backgrounds, hopes, dreams, fears... Building community isn't found in a program. It isn't found in a self-help book. We've got it all wrong, I think...

It takes intention to realize what is occurring around you. It's on the individual.

I'll never forget one afternoon....

I was driving to work at a food service establishment, at which I was a shift manager. By the way, being a shift manager essentially means you receive a little more pay for a lot of extra hours.

I worked most every day, sometimes up to eleven hour shifts,which concluded in me collapsing into bed and the waking up the next day to do it all again. As I was driving I may have been fumbling with my Cd's or was texting someone while driving, but I just happened to look up... I was shocked.

The trees were a brilliant yellow and red. The palette of fall, in all its magnificence, was staring me in the face.

But that wasn't the shocking thing...

When did the trees change??

This question rattled around in my brain for the next ten minutes or so. I couldn't believe that I'd been so lost in my own world I had managed to completely miss the change of the seasons!

I was on autopilot.

I think many people find themselves in a similar predicament in regard to relationship and community. We put ourselves on autopilot.

We go to work, say the right things, put in our time then come home. Wake up. Repeat. All the while our soul is screaming to be known. Screaming for something more than a routine. Something more than the business and the clutter we have come to know as the American lifestyle.

As life continues, it is my prayer to live and love each moment. To see each breath as a unique opportunity to be intentional. To share life. That you and I won't get stuck in autopilot and...
just miss it...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Defying the Laws of Nature


So folks, tonight will be a case study in Natural Law when it is mixed with a touch of insanity.


I am going out to the club.


To dance.


That's right folks. I do understand that boys were not born to dance; much the same way that pizza was not meant to have pineapples on it...


Should be interesting. As we speak I'm already beginning to channel my inner Beyonce' in preparation for the evening's festivities. :)


Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dietary?




Just the other week I happened upon an interesting and enlightening little fact...I learned that 'cottage cheese' had an alternate meeting.






That's right. Cottage cheese. That lovable (or unlovable depending upon your experience) side that often is seen residing in the neighborhood of the salad bar. Those little white curdles lost in soupy white-ishness that somehow holds it all together.






I wasn't aware that such a random, obscure little side could be living an alternate life.






Yes, in my twenty two (almost twenty three) years of life, you'd think I'd have gained a far larger wealth of useless knowledge.






Apparently not.






So for all you who may not know 'cottage cheese' is a slang term referring to the bumpy textures found on cellulite deposits. Often on women. Though I don't think it is exclusively attracted to women...it could swing both ways.






How did I stumble upon this completely random factoid? I'm glad you asked. :)






It began when a couple of ladies from my work asked me to do a "Slim-possible" 8 week challenge. Essentially, the concept is weighing in every Monday during the eight week period to see how you are progressing. Bless their hearts!






Yes, it is true that I could stand to shed a couple pounds, maybe tone up the love handles so they aren't as loving...but what you must understand is that I have an exercise aversion.






It may have been the many trips through the Culvers drive through with my dad when I was a young lad; after all, what is better for bonding than concrete milkshakes?






Or it may be that treadmills just freak me out. I mean, it's like you're moving, but not...weird.






Bottom line is that I just don't do exercise. At least not the typical regimented, structured, bust-your-ass plan.






So, I declined.






I did get the pleasure of being on the tail end of the "team name" brainstorming session. That was an experience! Names ranged from the Triple Jellies to the Beer Battered Cottage Cheese. Girls are so funny.






It was in that moment when the wisdom of woman's workout slang was imparted upon me.






Interesting day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Funny Thing Is...



Have you ever been in a relationship (friendship, family, or romantic) in which you were wounded?




I'm not talking about the momentary hurt of a careless comment.




I'm talking about the deep deep wound, the kind that bleeds every time you see that person. The kind that causes you to question whether or not you could ever see them again without feeling the pain deep within your heart?




Many times the answer to this problem is to walk away. To let time heal, and to learn from the scars.




But the funny thing is...




Many don't do that.




If you've been in this situation, there is a good chance that there was a period of time spent trying to maintain that relationship. Trying to "fix" it and shape it back into some semblance of what was; all the while trying to avoid the hurt which caused the emotional train wreck to begin with.




In the process, one can end up wounding themself even more and a relationship becomes a compulsive relationship. One where the parties involved grudgingly go through the motions of friendship because they are too scared to let go.




Do we really hope to salvage what once was? I mean, really, truly? If we're honest with ourselves when the cards are down it actually seems like a hopeless feat. Kinda like walking up a mountain with no shoes or supplies, or going rock climbing without a rope or harness.




No matter how many times you may try to make it work, it just won't.




Even stranger than trying to 'make it work' again is the reluctance many have to admit or acknowledge that something is wrong.




Sometimes it's a mutual feeling; sometimes it is one person holding something over another's head.




Guys and girls alike have both been at that place where they are virtually tearing out their hair and ready to scream "I can't read your mind! Just tell me what's wrong!"




But we don't.




We code our messages. We give a look. A roll of the eyes. A barbed comment here and there.




Can you relate?




Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to others?




I'm beginning to see that the need for reconciliation runs deep within the veins of humanity. We don't want our relationships to end up broken. We don't want to hurt each other or to be hurt. Instead, we long for the fullness and love that solid, healthy relationships bring.




So, to me, I could see why it would make sense to stick around even after you've been hurt.




But that begs the question, why can't we just do the "adult" thing and speak what's on our mind?




I always find it incredibly ironic that we always refer to speaking desires and opinions as the "mature" thing to do. I mean, have you ever heard someone who says that they "wish that certain people can just sit down and talk things out like 'adults'?"




What does that even mean? In my experience, for better or worse, it is the 'adults' who do much less talking, and do it far less honestly than immature children do.




Irony.




I digress though.




Oddly enough, I think that in this I am discovering a vital truth about God and how He desires us to live.




We don't do things the easy way because we crave worth. We crave intimacy. To be known so deeply that one would never have to verbalize what is wrong because it is already known.




Do you have a friend like that?




One that doesn't have to hear that something is wrong in your life, they just know?


I'll take it one step further; have you ever had a friendship that went beyond the crappy times?


Have you ever had that friend that is super perceptive to your moods, feelings, desires? They can relate almost every time you say something? They are the first to be there? They are genuine




It is difficult to find a friendship like this, but it is something that I believe humans deeply need and want. We want to be known.




The funny thing is, at the core of the Christian belief is a God who desires that exact same thing!




I'm not talking about Christianity as it has been portrayed by people. The scandal. The injustices caused. The hypocritical actions by pastors. The judgmentalistic attitudes. Often I wonder if these people have read the same Bible as I have....






What one must understand is that the Christian faith goes far deeper than the labels that humans have managed to create for it. Far deeper.




It is a story about God. It is a story about us. And it is, at it's core, a story of love and relationship.




Jesus Christ was that friend. The one we long for. He was intimately accquainted with every single person who was ever. Every single person! It's that thought that blows my mind, yet makes complete sense.




When humans are said to have been made in God's image I don't think it's just a reference to physicality. We have a part of God in us. We are a reflection of Him.




Isn't that crazy?




So is it possible that there is a link between intimacy with God and our intimacy with others?




Better yet, would having a deeper sense of intimacy with the One who placed that desire in the human heart change how we interact with others?




I think it's definitely possible.