Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Barriers

What if there were no more barriers?

What if every church building was taken apart, and seen for what it was...simple brick, stone and wood?

What if Jesus wasn't a brand?
What if he wasn't on coffee mugs, pens, and 5 step church planting books?

What if the gospel didn't require someone with a degree from seminary?

What if it didn't require the "right" theology to be effective?

What do you think would happen if people took Jesus at his word, and didn't cast judgement on one another, but left judgement to God instead?

What if we didn't place so much stock in our little rituals; the head bowing, and comfortable environments where everyone speaks the same jargon?

What if those who claimed to follow Christ realized that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that one can do to be guaranteed heaven, but to place oneself at the mercy of a just God at the end of their short time here?

Would we be closer to the new Jeruselam?

Would we be closer to God?

What if God's message was for all, not just some?

What if those who had experienced a real, tangible, personal and Living God, realized this?

Would not the gates of Hell be overcome?

Would the world be shook to its foundations by a coup, the likes of which had never been seen before?

A shift from dark to light.
From hate to love.
From violence to peace.
From pain to joy.

If you are like me, and have pondered even one of these questions let me tell you that you aren't alone.

There is a God who has lost his voice in our society, yet He is not lost.
There is a God who is not contained in the box of religion.
There is a God who cannot be used for human purposes.
He cannot be manufactured and sold. He can't be bought. He is far more than that.

There is a God who loves you beyond words, and came to humanity to communicate that very fact.
To share and experience life with us.
To stand for the oppressed, the hurting, the falsely accused.
The underdogs. The rebels. The goths. The unwanted.

There is a God who wants you more than you could know.
He believes you are precious, more valuable than all the cash, cars, gems and treasures one could attain here on Earth.

I believe that, for those who profess to follow Jesus, our job is this...

To break down these barriers.
The fences with barbed wire strung through them.
Demolish the watchtowers that keep people out, and keep others in.

To rid ourselves of these labels that humans have made, and place upon each other.
To stop playing dress up, and putting on a show in our little church subculture.

To be real people.
Broken people.
Loving people.

Free to be human.
Free to make mistakes.
Free to be wrapped in glorious grace.

Those who claim to follow Jesus have a great calling placed upon their lives...
A calling to show a new way to the world.
God's way.

I cannot think of a nobler pursuit.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Law of Delicious

Weekends are fantastic. I mean it.

Whenever I get to Friday, I finally feel the weight of the week lifting, and a list of endless possibilities begins to unfurl in my mind.

There are so many fun things that can be done on the weekend: you can go camping, climb a mountain, feed your pet squirrel arsenic, play Frisbee, learn a foreign language, paint your face, wear camouflage and slink down the isles of your local Wal-Mart while loudly humming the Mission Impossible theme...

What I'm saying is that weekends are glorious, and filled with potential.

Which is why, Friday night, I found myself playing Madden in my living room...

Yeah, I know, it's sad, but I never get tired of absolutely demolishing the Patriots or the Steelers. It's therapeutic ya know?

My phone buzzed as I was on round two, alerting me that I had a text. It was my friend Courtney. She wanted to know what I was doing that night. I froze. Should I tell her the honest to God truth? Should I let her onto the fact that I'm a loser, and have literally no plans whatsoever...

Or do I make something up? Something important sounding...

I could say that I'm having drinks Brad Pitt tonight, or that I'm working on the screenplay for Star Wars 7, and that I have an urgent deadline to meet, or the producers will cut my funding...I could say that I'm going to a rave, 'cept there aren't any in Oshkosh...and I have no gas to go anywhere else.

Shit.

Plus, if I tell her I'm busy, then she won't come hang out and I'll still be bored as hell...

Decisions, decisions.

I reluctantly opted to swallow my pride, and told her I wasn't doing anything.

"Do you want me to come over after work? I'm done around 4", was the reply.

I responded with an emphatic yes, and, several hours later, we found ourselves in my kitchen. Talking. We talked about life, boys, girls, first kisses, relationships, Christian culture, drinking and other topics I'm sure.

After our third shot of apple pie, I was struck with a brilliant idea!

"Do you wanna make a cake?"

"Um, surrree..."

So much for brilliant.

She decided to humor me, and went with it anyway. We began scouring the kitchen for the items we would need to accomplish this feat. I will tell you right off the bat that this is not a genuine baking story, as we were using a boxed cake mix from the store.

We quickly discovered that I was missing several key ingredients to make the frosting, so we texted our friend Sam, who had swimmers ear that night, and told her she should come over. Side note: Swimmers ear happens when you get water in your ear from swimming, showering and whatnot, then gets infected.

Apparently, it hurts like a bitch.

My logic, however, was that if Sam was going to be miserable, it is far better to be miserable with good friends who are making cake, than by oneself. Plus we needed vanilla extract and Crisco...

So Sam came over, by this time the cake was out of the oven and smelling fantastic! We still needed our butter cream frosting though. It was in that moment that Sam told me we would need to "beat" the frosting...and it was also in that moment that I realized that I don't have a beater in my home.

Gah!!!

We didn't let this minor setback slow us down though, oh no! I cast my gaze about the kitchen, looking for some answer from God above that would help us conclude our adventure, and finish this sucker off.

My eyes fell upon the blender.

Oh yes friends. The blender.

The thing you make milkshakes and smoothies in.

Sam, gently informed me that this was a stupid idea. Apparently blenders aren't the tool of choice for making butter cream frosting...or any frosting for that matter. But, it was either that or eat plain chocolate cake, and I wasn't having any of that!

We threw in the powdered sugar, Crisco, vanilla extract and a touch of milk.

I wish I could say that it worked like a charm but...not so much. It took additional stirring sessions interspersed amongst our attempts at blending the mixture.

Mental note: get a beater for future baking endeavours...

I want to say, though, that the frosting turned out just as delicious as if we would've beat it. As we spread it over the cake's surface, bits of the cake top tore off, because it was still warm and soft, but we managed to cover the entire surface.

I cut it up, and Courtney and I went forks in. I showed my first two pieces no mercy.

As I savored the warm, spongy cake texture, coupled with the sugary, soft frosting, I felt my stomach murmuring it's approval. Hell, I'll probably have to walk to work tomorrow, but something that feels this right, can't be wrong!

My adventure last night, while unorthodox, gave me a crash course in what I now know as "The Law of Delicious." Simply put, the more time you put into your food, the tastier it will turn out.

The run time on this cake adventure when all was said and done: About 60 minutes.

Imagine what I could do with two hours...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Secretly Incredible


I read an entry from Don Miller's blog recently, titled: Be Quietly Incredible


I really enjoyed the concept, and I want to learn a bit more about how one accomplishes this; especially since much of culture, religious culture included, places emphasis upon taking credit for the good works one does.

This, however, seems oddly like a more fulfilling idea.

Maybe it is because the life "score sheets" are no longer necessary.
Or perhaps this is an ideal that lives deep within, yet longs to be let out...

Either way, may you have a blessed day, and may you always be quietly incredible.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What I Found in the Rain...

It's warm out, and I feel the drops slowly begin to tickle my skin. Small soft kisses from above.

The sky darkens and a slow, ominous rumble subtly shakes the ground.

There is healing in rain.

I don't know why, but it is a beautiful thing.

I love walking out into a storm.
It can be so violent, so dark.

The torrential sheets of rain soak me through and through. Once sweet kisses of life, the droplets now become stingers, pricking my arms and legs.

I close my eyes and look up to the heavens above.
I let it pelt my face.
Behind closed eyelids I can see sporadic flashes.
So powerful. Potentially blinding.

I spread my arms and take it all in. My bare feet squish into the mud.
The storms take that which was thought to be solid ground, and causes it to transform.
It is no longer stable, my footing is no longer sure.

I hear another crack of thunder, the sheer power of it rumbles into my eardrums, and rattles my insides.

I love being here. In the chaos.
Mother nature, so troubled. So distraught.
Lashing out in light and sound, and giving new birth and healing all who live under the sky.

The downpour subsides, I put down my arms and slowly open my eyes.

What I see brings me inescapable joy, for through the clouds I see streaks of sunlight.
It is a brand new horizon, ripping apart the darkness, replacing it with brilliant hues.
Rosy pinks, vibrant yellows, oranges as deep as the ocean.
All mix together in a splendorous pallet of color.

It is as if an angry artist, in a fit of rage has thrown all his paints at the canvas and has created, in the process, a masterpiece.

Because, in life, storms are unavoidable.
We often get lost in the rain and the black of night.
Yet with each new storm, there is always a dawn.
A new horizon is created.

There is always a tomorrow which trails after the opportunity that died today.

There is healing in the rain.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Josh's Wednesday Picks

Website: I Am Second

Story matters.
Your story matters.

I Am Second is a website of stories; celebrities and individuals alike who have experienced God's love and they share how it has impacted them personally.

I first encountered I Am Second when a friend sent me the link to former Korn guitarist Brian "Head" Welch's story.

Check it out, browse the stories, and enjoy!

Blog: Yeti's Movie Corner

A good friend of mine recently started a blog to review movies. He has always been my "go to" guy for movie advice and, while we haven't always seen eye to eye, he is brilliant when it comes to movies.

Couple that with a slightly sarcastic, yet humorous edge I see quite a lot of laughs in your future if you choose to stop by Yeti's Movie Corner!


Book: Blue Like Jazz
"I once listened to an Indian on television say that God was in the wind and the water, and I wondered at how beautiful that was because it meant you could swim in Him or have Him brush your face in a breeze."-D. Miller (Blue Like Jazz)

If you read no other book in your entire life, read this book! I kid you not. This book has substantially shaped, molded, and even changed my views about God and faith and such.

Super easy to read.
Laced with clever humor.

Donald Miller fashions together a clever series of essays about his life adventures and the God behind it all!

Drink- Apple Pie

Why yes, I am recommending an adult beverage! Apple pie is quite possibly the single most delicious alcoholic drink I have ever had the pleasure of sampling!

Drink it hot, cold, or lukewarm, and it will still tickle your gullet as it goes down leaving a lovely "yum" sensation in your belly!

If there wasn't the potential to get drunk off it, it would certainly accompany my breakfast, lunch and dinner meals!

Alas, that is actually called alcoholism, so for now I'll refrain from doing so. But seriously, try it sometime.

Song: Best Is Yet To Come- Red

From their album 'Till We Have Faces', Best Is Yet To Come is an anthem of hope to all who wish for a new start.

We all have brokenness in our lives, but it doesn't have to be the end, it may be just the beginning!

God has D.I.D.

For starters...

I do not think that the "Father" God looks like ZZ Top, or Grandfather Twilight for that matter.

Nor do I think Jesus accessorizes his outfits with a life size crucifix.

And, no, that is not Hedwig from Harry Potter in the background.

Now that I'm done ridiculing this classic painting, please allow me to share the actual reason I am writing today...

I had a small epiphany as I was reading Hebrews Chapter 5 this morning. I'm quite sure that it's something that has been taught before, and it's probably taken for granted by people much wiser than myself, but I thought it was cool...

In this chapter the author talks a lot about Jesus being a high priest and whatnot. He illustrates the point that, since Jesus became human, he can be trusted to make our case before God, because he knows what it is like.

He knows what we go through on a daily basis.

The part the jumped out at me, was the part about him being God's son, and learning obedience through suffering.

I have always wondered why the phrase "Son of God" was so important in referencing Jesus.

I mean, he is God right? Why would God call himself his own son?

It never really made sense to me...

I could understand him being titled Christ, or Savior because that, as Christians see it, was his purpose. But to use family verbiage to describe God himself coming to earth always seemed a bit strange to me.

What is it about the whole "god head" (three-in-one) concept that makes me feel like God has Dissociative Identity Disorder?

I mean, someone with multiple personalities often think they are one person, without realizing that they are shifting between different identities.

Maybe that's what God has...
He could probably get treated for that.

Then it hit me...

God didn't need to give himself that title. Believe it or not, it's actually for our benefit. Jesus could've just said he was God, rather than bothering with the whole Son of God, Son of Man business, but he didn't.

There is a reason.
God doesn't make mistakes.
God, above all, wants us to find him.

So why the title?

God created family. He created man and woman to become one, he created them to have children. He created children to see the love between a husband and wife, and to emulate that example for generations to come.

A father holds incredible influence over a developing child.
Children long for their father's approval.
His love.
His care.
His protection.
His provision.
Children want to please their father, to feel his joy.

As much as society tries to stress the opposite, there is a distinct difference in children that have not felt their father's love.

So here is why Jesus is the "only begotten Son of God":

First, because God had never taken on human form before. That much speaks for itself.

Secondly, however, it is because God is creative. God paints beautiful pictures. Take a look at nature some time and you will see his canvas of creativity.

God knows that not everyone can learn the same way.

He understands that some prefer picture books and comics to Moby Dick or War and Peace.
He knows that some feel him strongly in a church service, while others find him in Mosh Pits.

He understands that some things just can't be explained in words.
So, he doesn't merely give us a book of directions to read and act on.
He is tactile.
Hands on.
He wants us to have something tangible to grasp when we try to please him.

This is where Jesus comes in.
Jesus was the only man to ever keep the standard of life God set for the world; he fulfilled the law that ensured the world would be as God intended.

Now humanity has a tangible picture of what an honorable, true, genuine, authentic life should look like. We understand God better because he has revealed himself through Jesus.

My friend Abby always starts her prayers by saying, "Hey Dad", or something of that nature. When I first heard it, I thought it a bit odd. Maybe a little too...informal. I mean, if you're talking to Big Guns upstairs you might want to try to throw in a bit of pizzaz, right? Give him a special title or something?

Lead off with a, "Oh most supreme Lord of the universe" or something?

After reading Hebrews today I began to realize just how beautiful a simple "Hey Dad" can be. It is an intimate and passionate God who holds the heavens together. Not a businessman who does transactions.

I never thought about it this way before but, now that I've started, it gives me great joy.

I love my Dad!

God hasn't left us alone.

He is actively involved in our lives, actively seeking out new ways to relate to us. To bring us that much closer to him. I see this all the more clearly after my adventure in the book of Hebrews this morning.

Brilliant. Just brillant.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Pole-Dancing Christian

One day, while having some breakfast with my parents, CBS Sunday Morning News did a fascinating segment.

I couldn't find the actual report that I saw that day, but I have a recap done by ABC on the same thing! Check it out!

I didn't know what to do when I saw it!

All I could think was.........this is freakin' brilliant!

I think every church should offer a class like this.

It is no surprise that this has somehow managed to garner some controversy, but here is the way I see it...

When Dean says the body is a temple, she is absolutely right. Our bodies are to be used to glorify God, with the talents and passions which have been given us.

So if you have been blessed with the talent of creating beautiful artwork, let every pen/brushstroke of the hand be used to glorify the one who has given you that ability.

If you have been given the gift of speaking in front of many people, then use every last breath to glorify the creator of that breath.

If you are a dancer, dance in celebration!

If you sing, sing with great passion!

We are alive and breathing to give every last breath to celebration. Don't hold back.

I have been around enough women to understand a couple different things.

First...

Women's minds function differently than guys minds. So when these old religious dudes start screaming that these women are being fiendish because pole dancing is "all about sex" I just find it comical. That is not what is happening here.

Guys, we have to realize that women think much differently than we do!

I have been around countless women, and fitness is a very important topic of conversation.

They talk about going to the gym.
Biking places.
Eating healthier.
Starting a diet.
Going running together.

I'm becoming convinced that, if women didn't exist, neither would much of the health and fitness industry. Lets face it guys, this is probably why they are better looking than us.

I always hear women talking about fitness.

As a matter of fact, they talk an awful lot...

That is another beauty of the Eves of this world. They are inherently social.

I'll never forget one day when I read a news article about the social differences between men and women. Women tend to say, on average, about ten thousand more words than they typical guy.

Connection is very important to women.

It is why they tend to be better at making the effort in the relationship.
It is why they are more prone to try to be peacemakers.

What are two things this "Christian Pole Dancing" class offers? Fitness, and social environment. Women aren't thinking sex when they go into the classes.

However...

Let me clarify one more difference between guys and gals.

From what I understand, to a woman, the terms 'sex' and 'sexy' are two different things. Guys, we have to realize this. The ladies don't think about the actual act of sex as much as we do. But they do want to be noticed. They want to be admired for the work of art that they are.

Women want to be sexy. They want to be breathtaking. They want to know they are beautiful.

There is nothing wrong with this.

This is how God created women. Eve is the crowning of creation. She is God's final masterpiece in the creation story. There is nothing more beautiful in this world!

It is valid to point out that we live in a society which tends to place emphasis on the beauty of appearance, and less upon the actual character of the individual.

I will acknowledge this.
It is a fair point to raise.

But, herein lies the value of the true Christian faith as I understand it. It does not take a superficial view of each individual. It is a faith which emphasises the heart and character, as well as the taking care of one's body.

So when a group of women decide to take advantage of a social environment, where they can pursue fitness with a good group of friends, and burn a few calories in the process, I believe that their souls will benefit as well.

It is all about the environment. If you are with others who encourage you, and share your convictions it can, and often is, an incredible growing experience.

One last point...

Somehow, the idea of a "good Christian wife" has absolutely begun to destroy families. Ladies, when you hear that phrase do you honestly think sexy?

Perhaps yes. Odds are no.

Because somehow there has been a shift to thinking that, after a woman gets married it's all over. Throw in the towel girls, because marriage has no more "sexy"-appeal!

Once the honeymoon ends, the guys get lazy, don't do the romantic things they once did. The ladies get into a boring routine of cooking meals and hauling kids to soccer games.

The adventure is gone. The sexiness is lost.
This can prove very dangerous for a soul, which craves adventure and excitement.

Marriage is sexy folks. Yes, there are many challenges, but the love produced between a man and a woman should not diminish, but grow. It is the sign of a healthy relationship. Sex, while not the only thing, is a very important thing. And for there to be sex, there is often sexiness.

Perhaps a pole dancing class is just the thing to help a wife see that, even after marriage, she can still be just as sexy (if not more). Honestly, I really don't think God would get angry about a thing like that.

Long story short, I know that this particular form of worship isn't for everyone. Just as singing is not my strong suit, we share God with this world in different ways.

So before you start thinking that I'm saying all Christian women should pole dance, please stop.

All I'm saying, is that there's nothing wrong with it. It shouldn't be controversial at all.

Ladies, if you want your small group to meet at a pole dancing studio rather than a Starbucks...go for it!

You only live once! :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Post About Sex, Sin and Such

"If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither."
-C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

This quote, albeit a lengthy one, is, by far, one of my favorite quotations from C.S. Lewis' book Mere Christianity.

Why?

Because, this champion of the Christian faith has openly challenged a contemporary thought process, believed both by the church, and of it.

I'll admit that while growing up I honestly thought that sex, outside of marriage, was the 'Big Sin.'

You know, the one that God would send you straight to the pits of hell for.

You've probably heard similar things if you've grown up in church. Maybe it isn't explicitly taught straight out, maybe the pastor is subtle about it.

Or maybe, and this would be exceptionally grievous, it is taught unintentionally. Whatever the reasons I grew up thinking that the 'Big Sins' were suicide and...yes Sex.

With a big, fat, capital "S."

Now, I do want to say that I am coming to see that sex outside of marriage can be an exceptionally devastating thing. I've experienced it firsthand, and I wish that pain on no one.

The danger we face with making some sins bigger than others, however, is that it can instill a false sense of self-righteousness within the person who does not struggle in that particular facet of life.

Is this not what the Jewish religious leaders, whom Jesus saved his wrath exclusively for, did?

Weren't they so focused on perfecting their external shell, and condemning those who "fell short" according to their religious standards, that they completely missed God, in the flesh, who came to restore the very people they were condemning?

And what's the deal with sex and "sin" anyway?

First, sin.

My new found understanding of the church-y term "sin" is a rather simple concept. It is a term which just describes things not being as they were intended.

I realize some may view this as a bit simplistic, but the more I understand about the Christian faith, the more I tend to see how people can actually make things more complicated than they need be.

Here is the basic concept, the world was right but man chose to deviate from what was right, good, and true. He chose his own way over God's.

Thus, sin.

This is why I believe that all sins, from the 'littlest' to the 'greatest' were created equal.

So sex outside of marriage (or unchastity as Lewis deems it), is actually a sin, because it deviates from they way God intended relationship between a man and a woman to be.

That's the big deal. It's why Christians tend to spend a lot of time on the virtue of Chastity.

Marriage is more than just sex! True, sex was created specifically for marriage and enhances it exponentially, but it goes deeper than that.

It is a multi-faceted, beautiful relationship which, in its right form, mirrors God's relationship with humanity.

But I already wrote about marriage, so there is no need to repeat what's been said.

What Lewis is saying, in Mere Christianity, is very profound.

He doesn't merely identify external "sin", as many Christians tend to do, but, instead, he focuses on the root of the problem.

Man.

When he says that the "Diabolical self" is the 'worse' of the two selves he doesn't mean that sexual or other 'Animal self' sins are irrelevant.

Lewis understands that the sins of man are not external, nor physical, though they may be manifested in external and physical ways.

He is actually saying that the worst sin is found within the heart of man.
These are sins of any kind.
Any shape, size, or caliber.
They take place any time a person decides to place themselves before the way God intended things to be.

The heart is capable of producing the tendencies toward selfishness, power, control, lust, hatred, and many other things.

When a religious person screams hateful and vicious things at another human being, in the name of God.
When any man decides to take advantage of a woman.
When a father or mother abuse their children.
When someone decides to cheat, steal or lie.
When someone holds bitterness in their heart toward another.
When leaders use their power to oppress.
When someone is discontent with the life they've been given.

All of these 'sins' stem from one source. The heart.
This is the "heart of the matter" so to speak. (Yeah, I'm so funny.)

So why is Jesus so ticked at the religious establishment of his day?

I think that, time and time again, throughout the narrative of Christ it is the "religious" and "spiritual" ones, are those who have succumbed to the Diabolical self.

Pride, control, and lust for power had seduced them, and yet they had somehow convinced themselves that they were right with God.

This is why a convict on death row, an agnostic, a drug addict, a homosexual, or even a politician, may, in fact, be much closer to experiencing God than a "religious" church-goer.

What God wants is the heart.

And when it comes to the heart often it is the former who are more genuinely seeking God and his grace and truth, than any of the latter.

God isn't interested, nor is he impressed by Christian credentials.

He wants for us to trust him, to believe that His design and plan was the right one, and the most freeing.

He wants the best life for us. Now. Today. Forever.
Will we trust him?

Therein lies the choice that we have been given.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Measure Of A Man

"The measure of a good man is not his ability to do damage with his fists, but rather, his ability to show compassion." -F. Bhaer (Little Men, 1998)

Guys have testosterone. It's in our nature to be aggressive...perhaps you've learned about this in Human Growth class back in school? Or even better, from your parents?

Guys are fighters.
Watch any little boy growing up, he will turn anything into a weapon sticks, stones. Boys play with army men, Legos, nowadays they play violent video games I'm told...

They dress up as superheroes, pirates, and Power Rangers for Halloween, each category intrinsically linked to aggression and fighting by some rite.

So this idea has been hammered into the young boy's brain from early on.

Which, of course, certainly explains the drunk dude at the bar, who takes a swing at anyone who brushes up against him.

It probably also explains the reaction by some guys who, upon finding out their girlfriend has talked to another guy, immediately seek that guy out and threaten him. Tell him to stay away from his girl, or face the consequences...

So why, then, is the caliber of guy which society is producing becoming less and less substantial? If men now are acting out of their own natural instinct why is the world we live in becoming less and less of what God had in mind?

After all, God created man, right?

I think that guys, in American culture particularly, have misunderstood our God given calling to manhood. We have lost the context for our aggressive natures.

We have replaced being fighters and warriors, with being animals.

I used to play football. I loved the game; I loved getting out there and laying a hit on the scrawny little quarterbacks! In my pads and helmet I felt pretty badass, and it gave me a rush to pursue the ball carrier, and feel him crushed under the force of my tackle. In my mind, I awarded myself extra points if I knocked the wind out of him...

Yet despite my love for the game, I loathed the locker room.

The locker room blurred the lines between aggressive instinct and animal nature...

Guys would run around, towel whip each other (which hurts like a bitch), call the less 'well-built' ones queers, spit in the sinks, take a shit and not flush, talk crudely about girls, pick their noses and wipe it on the benches...

Mind you, I love football with a passion...but after one year of that I quit. Man, it was disgusting.

I started thinking to myself...this is what being a man is?

I realize now that it is not. It is actually called being an animal.

Man is called to something far greater than acting like a caged beast.

I began to realize that my love for football and my aggression in that context had purpose. There was a point to it. The locker room, had no point.

As I read through the Old Testament, I see, continually, that men are placed in the role of warriors. The aggressive nature instilled within a man is, in fact, necessary time and time again, when God asks for courage and resolve from his chosen people.

The men in that culture did not merely fight though...

These men understood their first love, and that was to a God of peace. A God who liberates, not oppresses. Their first call was to love this God with their whole mind, body, and soul.

Theirs was a call to love, not fight. And when the time to fight did come, they fought because they loved, not because it was animal instinct. It was out of devotion, not self-preservation.

On the flip side of the coin, it is precisely when men began acting as animals, without self control of any kind, that God allowed trial and hardship to come to the nation of Israel.

Then, in the New Testament, I discovered another aspect of manhood. Men who didn't rely on physical strength, weapons, brawn. Men who did their best to emulate the example of their rabbi, Jesus.

These were men who treated their wives with respect, not as property, nor as a simple means to further their household. They loved fully. They did not stir up fights but, so far as it depended on them, lived at peace with everyone.

They were men who were persecuted for their convictions, yet stood firm and clung to their beliefs. Even amidst torture and death, they remained faithful to their Lord.

Animal instinct actually juxtaposes everything these men stood for. The way of the animal would tell one to fight their way out, or to run. Animal instinct is self-serving to the core. It places emphasis primarily on what is good for the individual, and the individual alone. It does not take others into account, and will often sacrifice others for the sake of furthering one's self.

But these men were not animals, they were something more.

They had something more.

In studying these men I found a key truth about God's intention for men.

We are not intended to be mere animals, acting on sheer instinct. We are intended to be lovers, full and complete in unity with Him.

It is only because of this love and understanding that it is possible for a man to understand how to treat a woman the way she deserves to be treated, or to handle himself with integrity in his job, or to show compassion on those less fortunate then himself.

There is so much more to a true man than just brute force.
Being the strongest, meanest and biggest.

Time and time again, throughout the Bible I see examples of those who place their stock in the "tough guy" ideal getting toppled by the unlikely, the 'weak.'

It makes me think that God has something more in mind for man than purely the pursuit of sculpting his muscles...

So, guys, if you think that what makes you a man is having sex with lots of women, or not cleaning up after yourself, being rude and insensitive, or not crying...ever...

Let me just say that you are missing out on something far better.

Being a real man is so much more.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

An Educator's Dream...

These are pretty funny, but I couldn't believe that these were actual test answers submitted by students! :)

"b) Does the object continue to move after it comes to rest?
"No. there is an elephant in the way."











"1.) Explain the shape of the graph


"It's curvy with a higher bit at the end and a rather aesthetically pleasing slope downwards towards a pretty flat strait bit. The actual graph itself consists of 2 strait lines meeting at the lower left hand corner of the graph and moving along at a 90 degree angle. Each line has an arrow head on the end."




"Explain ONE of the three ways clouds can be formed. Use diagrams to help illustrate your answer."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Madness

Here are Monday's Picks!

Website: Happy News

No joke. I actually found this site on a super depressing winter day. I literally Googled 'Happy News.' The site actually made me smile a bunch that day. I go back and casually peruse on occasion. I'm grateful for the optimists that are out there in the world!

Movie: Tangled

Honestly, when I heard about this movie I thought it'd be the dumbest movie in the world.

I mean, the actual fairytale is wicked sweet...Mother Gothel actually gouges out the prince's eyes and such.

Disney has a way of taming down the classics and making them accessible to children for some reason.

However, my friend Theresa said she was going to see it in the union for $2 and I was bored that night so I came along...

Fan-freakin'-tastic movie!

It is definitely one of my new favorite Disney movies! Rapunzel is adorable, her male counter-part, the roguish "Flynn Ryder", is hilarious, rough around the edges and most importantly not a 'Prince Absent' as some will remember from a prior post...

Album: Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King

I've never been a huge fan of the Dave Matthews Band. They have put out enjoyable music for quite some time, but I never really got into them, until now. Once I heard this album I fell in love. The musicianship is incredible, the songs don't all sound the same and it is a beautiful tribute to former saxophonist LeRoi Moore.

Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King has certainly earned its place amongst my 'Summer Anthem Albums.'

Book: It's Kind Of A Funny Story- Ned Vizzini

One of the best books I've read in awhile. My friend Nicole lent it to me, and when I finally had a chance to sit down and dive in, I couldn't put it down!

A riveting story about a young teenager who struggles with depression, Craig decides that life is no longer worth living and plans to commit suicide. He gives a suicide hotline a call before leaving the house and, upon deciding to take their advice, checks himself into the hospital.

From there he is admitted into a psychiatric unit. In the ensuing story Craig finds that there is so much more to live for than he ever could've imagined...

Thing to do: Walking

I don't exercise, but I do enjoy a nice walk. Preferably in the moonlight, along the beach...with one or two margaritas to follow...

Lately, I have been walking a couple miles to work each day, and it's actually really nice! I listen to some music, enjoy the fresh air and have a bit of me time.

Saves on gas, and, hopefully will keep my shape semi-intact.

Put some miles on your shoes, not your cars! You won't regret it!

On "Dickishness"

As I was driving down I-94 one day I was nearly driven off the road by a shady-boxy-looking-maroonish-car. The car swerved in front of me, going at least 15 mph over the speed limit...

As I watched his back end fading away, my eye caught a small black and white bumper sticker, tastefully placed on the lower lefthand side of the car. It said 'Don't Be A Dick.'

How profound.

When the car had completely vanished, I continued to comfortably coast at my pace, which is about five over (Hey, I'm a rebel, not an idiot!), and I felt a deep sense of honor. This particular driver had blessed me today. He felt so strongly about this message, that he urgently pulled in front of me to make sure I wouldn't miss this tidbit of sage wisdom.

He gave me an enlightening piece of advice. One that I could take with me for decades to come...

It was zen. Perfect. It was like...rock 'n roll.

Hell, forget the Bible, forget Socrates, forget bathroom reading!

This boxy-maroon-car-driving-man had given me more in one sentance than any of the aforementioned inspirations.

Only...I had one problem.

I have no idea what makes one "dickish" and another "not-dickish."

Did this mean I had to stop letting cars into my lane when they signal over? Should I, rather, swerve dangerously around them at 15 over? This set my mind ablaze with thought.

So what is dickishness? Is it a political ideology? Do you become dickish when you subscribe to a particular religion? Do dickish people eat certain types of food? Can girls be dickish?

Naturally I looked it up in the urban dictionary, which is arguably one of the most reliable sources of information on the web. Annnd... I found it!

Dickishness: relating to, or being, in the state, quality, condition or degree of being a dick.

Shit.

'Cause that sure clears things up for me.
Now I'm back to where I started...

Wait! Maybe only people who are named Richard are considered 'Dicks!' But then...is Mr.-boxy-maroon-car-driver saying that we shouldn't be naming people Richard? I actually kinda like the name... I mean, I wouldn't name my kid Dick...but it's not the worst as far as names go.

Those Bible names on the other hand...

I could understand 'Don't be a Habakkuk' or 'Don't be a Methuselah'. I mean, parents who named their kids those names were seriously cruel.

How 'bout "Don't be a Judas."? Oh, wait...Lady Gaga is in love with him, so clearly that name is still fashionable...

Maybe it means...don't be a Private Investigator. I remember in Se7en one of the swat team guys calls the detectives Dicks! Yes! That could be it! Of course...if people weren't dicks then we'd lose a key component of our law enforcement. That wouldn't be good. He couldn't mean that. Could he?

Maybe he's a hippie. Doesn't like "the man"...ya know?

So here I am. I've come full circle, and I still have no idea what being a 'dick' means, and how I'm supposed to avoid becoming one!

What's more...I've come to my destination and haven't been able to enjoy the ride and scenery because I've been too busy thinking about this damn bumper sticker. Thanks Mr.-boxy-maroon-junker-piece-of-crap-driver-guy.

Damn. What a dick!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wisconsin is a She, Florida is a He

I live in Wisconsin. That's my state right there, the colored one that says 'Wisconsin' on it.

There are definitely benefits to living in this state...we have lots of beer, and lots of cheese so that's cool. We tailgate before our baseball, football, and little league games.

For those unfamiliar with the practice of tailgaiting, I will elaborate...

It is essentially a way in which Wisconsinites bond before athletic events. It requires a grill, lots of delicious food, and enough beer to get you hammered enough to completely disregard the game you came to watch.

The Green Bay Packers are pretty good at football.

Oh! And we had Brett Favre too! But that's another story...

If you ever visit Wisconsin you will notice that the natives here do a strange thing when they meet each other for the first time; when asking where the other is from, the other person tends to hold up their hand and point to a random place on it.

This is called 'the hand map.' It isn't officially recognized by the national Department of Transportation, but if you come here it is the next best think to a freakin' Garmin. I promise.

Try it. If you hold up your right hand with an open palm facing you, you will notice that it looks like my home state...

I've lived in Wisconsin my whole life.

Not by choice, mind you, I was actually born here...

Today I find that I am beginning to believe that Wisconsin is, in fact, a female.

Allow me to unpack this statement a bit...

She can't make up her mind.

It's June 10th, and it's maybe fifty degrees and rainy out. I wonder what her boyfriend did to piss her off... about three days ago it was ninety, sunny and humid! That's right folks...she was hot, locked and ready to rock!

Most of the year, however, she is cold. A real ice queen. Winter begins around mid-October and lasts (at least this year) till mid-April. Do the math. That is six months of emo-gray-snow-slushiness.

It's almost like her iPod got stuck playing Scary Kids Scaring Kids or something...

My blogger friend Laena doesn't think it would be so bad living here.

She's from the Sunshine State. Florida.

I think Florida would be a guy, if I'm honest.

It's pretty even keel there, not too much variation of seasons. Simple. Almost too simple...

And he's always hot.

In fact, if it weren't for states like Wisconsin, I'm sure we'd have far more than 50 United States...

He does get pretty volatile sometimes, he has a hurricane of a temper, but that doesn't happen to often...right?

So I was thinking...if Wisconsin and Florida got together what sort of a state would they make together?

I'd like to think it'd be interesting, but it'd probably be something unremarkable like...Kentucky.

Despite my beef with just about every aspect of this state, there is one thing that is undeniably true...it is my home.

It will probably always be my home. Despite her crazy season swings, unpredictable weather patterns, lack of summer, the Green Bay Packers and other such annoyances, she is beautiful in her own way.

I love watching the leaves change from summer to fall. The cool crisp feeling of the air. The smell of those same leaves burning a week later in fire pits. Bonfires, hot chocolate on cold days, a white Christmas...

She is like most women I know, she truly is stunning. She has a quirky yet alluring beauty that is her own, and sometimes I'm not sure she even knows it.

So here is to home.

Here is to the place that, no matter how far one may wander, they can always come back to and find a small sliver of solace in this crazy world.

A reminder simpler times.

Cheers!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Stories

It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. -Sam Gamgee


Stories are everywhere.

One would be hard pressed to find an element of life that doesn't incorporate them.

Each movie, song, or book has one...

The entire blogosphere, Facebook, the news, Google reader...each of these have a plethora of stories waiting to be read.

Each blogger has their own their own story to tell, and though the paradigms are different, they share their stories through their own blogger space. They share their story with the entire planet...

Story is much deeper than just simple communication though. It is more than a medium through which to articulate ideas. It is connected to humanity in a far bigger way...

We are story.
Living. Breathing. Story.

I wonder how often, if at all, we think of this...

Life is a narrative. As much as scientists would like to maintain that we are nothing more than cold, calculated existence, we are so much more. There is more to the human DNA.

We cannot exist without story.

Think about any sort of relational interaction that is made between friends or family...what is it made up of?

Story.

We share with others how our day went at work, the type of food we had at that party. We tell in vulgar detail about our reaction to that jerk who cut us off while driving...story after story after story. It is like we cannot help but to tell stories. They are natural to us...

The only way possible not to share stories would be not to speak at all... to refuse to interact brings about loneliness, isolation and, in essence, the death of the soul.

We were created to interact, which brings me to the conclusion that we were made for stories.

We didn't create story but, rather, story was made for us...

Have you ever thought about your life that way?

That on a daily basis you are, in fact, writing a story. The narrative of your life. Each day is a new page. Each day has its heroes, villains, complications, triumphs, sadness and joy.

Ultimately each individual life, when reflected upon after death has told a story. Some call it their legacy.

Which leads me to wonder what kind of a story I am sharing with this world...

Is it a story of love? Hate? Impatience? Apathy? Routine? Adventure?

What sort of pages am I writing on a daily basis?

More importantly, what are others going to read when they explore my life?

Personally I hope to surpass a mere legacy; it is my desire to have left an epic by the time I leave this life...

This idea of story is a foundational aspect of what the Judeo-Christian faith teaches, and that is that each human life is significant. The idea that not only is every single person who has ever walked this planet is not only uniquely and beautifully made, but also that the stories one writes are important. Your life does matter. It matters more than you could ever imagine!

In so many of the greatest stories, the heroes are shaped by those around them. They are shaped by those they encounter throughout the tale. It is safe to say that without those interweaving story lines, some of the great heroes of the stories wouldn't be who they became.

Your story matters.

I often wonder at how much I find myself wishing I was in some other story...

That I would have this element or that setting, this plot twist or that particular success. How much of life is spent wishing for something that isn't, while neglecting to write what is?

I always thought it'd be fun to be a rapper...or a professional skateboarder. Something exciting.

I wish I could draw as well as my little sister, teach like my dad, or heal people like my mom...

Alas, these are not my gifts. They aren't the tools that I've been given to tell my story with.

I am a writer...or, I aspire to be one at least.

It is with my blog, pen, and paper that I will write and share my story with anyone who may be interested. When I leave this place I hope that people can read my life.

That they can take a small piece of me with them and, more importantly, that it can present to those who are estranged because of religion, the God who has lost his voice in this culture.

To write a story of hope to those who have been beaten down and brutalized Christian establishment in America.

To let them know that there is a God who loves unconditionally.

That all the years of being told they 'don't meet the standard' or aren't acting piously enough are irrelevant.

I'm convinced that this is really what it's all about.

That the true purpose of story, which is wrought into the human DNA, is the means through which to glorify the creator of story.

The One who is the author of life.
The One who is writing the greater story, which we can now be a part of.

It's a beautiful thing really.

So, as I wind down I am faced yet again with the question; what sort of pages am I writing today?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thursday's Three

Song: atmosphere- sunshine

A hip-hop duo hailing from Minneapolis, Atmosphere's single 'Sunshine' mixes humor, in relating the aftermath of a deadly hangover, and love of life. Lamenting on the beauty of sunshine and summer.
It's the perfect song to play on a summer evening while cooking out...


Thing to do to recapture youth: Yo-Yo-ing

Found a yo-yo in the "junk" drawer at my parents house (I swear, every home has one). Naturally I was drawn to it. There is something to be said about the power of toys from the past. I managed to get my pinky in the loop and the rest was history!

The simplicity of the "old skool" still reigns supreme in my heart...


Social Activity: Sharing a meal with friends/family

Recently several friends of mine came over and I put together a meal for them. We sat around the table and just talked about life and good times and stuff.
It was actually really nice... :)