Thursday, July 28, 2011

101

This is officially my 101st post.

Doesn't seem like a lot, certainly not with some of the numbers that get thrown around in society today...

But 101 posts are quite a lot when you write each of them.

It has been well over a year, approaching two, actually, since I started this journey.

It started as a simple journal.
It was never too personal; as a matter of fact, it has always been a public blog.

I guess I figured that, with so many bloggers out there in the world, all doing their own thing, I really wouldn't have to worry about anyone reading this.

I'll never forget my first followers.
It is such a cool feeling not only to be creating something purely for yourself, but also the discovery that others have actually taken the time to read, and appreciate, what you've been up to in your spare moments.

I'll also never forget deciding exactly what I want this space to be.

I wanted it to be a place that was real.
A place that had a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.
A manifestation of overactive imagination.

But not only that...

I wanted to create a place to see things, perhaps, a bit different than the common thought.
A place where people can come to, just as they are, and relate.
A place where Jesus doesn't wear a suit and tie, and he doesn't ask you for your money.

I wanted it to be a place that people could understand, that Christians aren't crazies that believe in aliens and spaceships, and yell rudely at people to "turn or burn."

Perhaps I succeeded, perhaps not...

I'm just me, and I love that you spend time here, reading me.
My life, musings, thoughts, hopes and dreams.
My fears, my imperfections, my insecurities, all of it...
I feel as though you are living alongside me, though we may be states, or even worlds apart.

It has been a crazy journey so far.
There has been joy, pain, tears and love.
There have been days when I didn't know if I could keep going,
there have been days when I can't stop.
And it is in this space that I have rediscovered my passion, and that is writing.

We write pages every single day.
We write our stories into the stories of others.
We have the potential to create tragedy and happy endings...

This space has blessed me, because I've been privileged to meet a small group of new friends. Their writings have shaped me and moved me, sometimes to smiles sometimes to tears.

Never underestimate the power of your words, you may be influencing someone a world away, and never know it.

If I could say one thing today it would be this:

My name is Josh, and I love you.

May you know that I fully mean every word.

Thank you for taking the time to visit my space, read my thoughts, and share your life with me. It has certainly been an unforgettable couple years... :)

Shadows



I need you with me as I walk through the shadows...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Thou Mayest"



Cold is the water
It freezes your already cold mind
Already cold, cold mind
And death is at your doorstep
And it will steal your innocence
But it will not steal your substance

Chorus:
But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand
Hold your hand

And you are the mother
The mother of your baby child
The one to whom you gave life
And you have your choices
And these are what make man great
His ladder to the stars

And I will tell the night
Whisper, "Lose your sight"
But I can't move the mountains for you

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The "Seeker-Friendly" God

Just how much does God really want us?

And, just how far would God go to bring someone back to him?

I think that these are two crucial questions to ask when interacting with those who would identify themselves as Christians.

A few weeks ago, while in the process of searching for a local church to call my home, I found myself attending a little baptist church down the road from my home.

It's a small one.

I can literally count the congregation attendance on any given Sunday on my fingers and toes. I have some friends who go to this place, and really enjoy it. They say that the "community" there is unmatched, and that the people are great.

I saw my friend Heidi there, who I hadn't seen in quite awhile, so we sat down on the couches in they foyer, and started catching up. I told her that I was still in the process of finding a church in this town, and that none had really come close to my church back home...

It was while I was sharing this with her, that one of her church friends sat down with us. He had long flowing hair, and a beard. He wore jeans and, I later learned, plays bass during worship at this church sometimes.

He seemed pretty rock 'n roll, and I immediately liked him.

I went on and shared a little bit about what my church was like back home.

It is a larger church, and they have several services on Sunday. One service on Saturday night. There is a fairly large worship team that plays on stage, and it's generally a pretty upbeat time of worship! There is even one guy, who has a ZZ Top-esque beard, who occasionally shreds guitar solos during the songs.

I'm not kidding. He shreds guitar solos...in church.

I swear he is the ghost of some old rock star, freshly reincarnated, and newly converted. Now he's sending using his licks to glorify the good God above!

My old church has coffee and a donut buffet that is made available to the congregation between services. It's tasty.

They hold rock concerts and comedy nights in their auditorium for the local community, and those who might not be comfortable coming to church on any given Sunday.

There is also a thriving kids program, which is bursting with young ones who are learning about God's love on a weekly basis.

The services are generally themed, or done in a series style. They are posted online so that those who aren't in the area can follow along, if they choose to.

But all of these things aren't the point...

The point is that this church is the gathering place of some of the most genuine, real, authentic people I know. The pastors, despite their large congregation, know you by name.

The worship is energetic and real, not forced. The messages deal with real issues, and they aim to help people apply the Bible in relevant, tangible ways in every day life.

This place welcomes all. It doesn't ask for people to wear a certain kind of clothes, or to carry a Bible with them. They don't ask for membership. They don't ask for money.

There is a love that fills this church. Something living.
Something of God.

This is the first church that I've ever been able to call my "home" in life. I've never connected with a church before this one.

I was sharing this with Heidi and, to my surprise, the bass player kind of dismissed my enthusiasm.

He actually went on to say that he feels churches like that are too "showy" and that worshiping God shouldn't be a "production."
Then he said that churches like that are much too focused on being relevant and "seeker-friendly."

I immediately found my that I was liking him less and less, the more he talked.

He might as well have slapped me in the face and, to be perfectly honest with you, I was astounded by the arrogance of his statement.

Heidi agreed with the bass player guy to an extent, though she did so more diplomatically.

It was at that point that I decided I wasn't coming back to this particular church.

Now...

Please understand, I don't hold anything personal against this guy.

I'm quite sure that he is completely genuine in his belief of how church, and worship of God should look. I'm sure that the church that he and my friend Heidi attend works for them. That they can connect in that church, as I did with my own home church...

But, to pick on a church because a lot of people happen to go there, or because they like doing a light show with their worship, or because they have a coffee bar is just plain rude and, as I said before, arrogant.

It brings me back to the questions that were posed at the beginning of this post:

Just how much does God really want us?

And, just how far would God go to bring an individual back to him?


I believe in a God that loves humanity with a blinding passion.
I believe in a God who desperately wants relationship with his creation, despite their rebellious attitudes.
I believe in a God who felt this conviction so deeply, he came himself, to make a way for those who had chosen their way over his.

This God was a servant to the ungrateful.
This God endured ridicule, humiliation, and torture all because he wanted his creation to understand what love was.
This God is a seeker-friendly God.

He will spare nothing to show his children that he loves them.

I'm beginning to see that in the modern religious system we know as Christianity today, there is a class of elite.

A group of people that think that there is a "right way" to worship.
A right way to pray.
A right way to evangelize.
A right way to share God's love in a sermon.

This group believes, that the more people are flocking to an ideal, the further from the truth this ideal must be.

After all, if many people are finding the love of Jesus at a megachurch, then the pastors must not have taught everything they needed to. They must have made God way to simplistic for these people!

The message of Jesus isn't that simple....is it?

Their idea is that God's way is narrow, and that only a few select individuals will inherit God's love and pardon.

As for the rest...

Well... they just must not have done, or believed the "right" things. They must have attended a church which induced an "emotional high" rather than a genuine church experience. They couldn't possibly have experienced God in a mature, rational way...

This kind of thinking is wrong.

One of my oldest friends, Theresa, is what I would call a devout Catholic. She loves Catholicism. She feels very connected with God through the practices of her particular church. I love hearing her talk about her faith and her religion, because it is real!

My friends Holly and Hailey both attend different Pentecostal churches. Churches where speaking in tongues and dancing around spontaneously aren't uncommon. Both have experienced God in real, true ways in their church homes.

There are several friends of mine who attended the church that I went to on this particular day, and have felt God there, even though I personally haven't.

There are people who don't go to church at all, and feel God more strongly than some church-goers do!

Some meet in buildings, others go to mosh pits. Some host small groups in their homes. Some drink coffee, some smoke cigarettes, some wear Abercrombie and Fitch.

It doesn't matter, how or where or when or what. We are all God's children.
Church buildings, institutions and specialized communities aren't the point.

God is not confined to a particular denomination.
God isn't confined to a certain religion.
God isn't confined to a certain set of practices.
God doesn't care about the trim and trappings, or lack thereof, at each different church.

God wants our hearts.
God wants our love.

Perhaps there is something to "seeker-friendly" churches. Perhaps, there is more of God in these particular congregations, than in a church that tries to make it as difficult as possible for someone to swallow, what should be, a simple message of love, and hope...

So, why don't we just stop bashing a particular style of worship, church, or sermon and let God do his thing. He's much better at it than we are.

No matter where you are currently in life, no matter what you've been through, or are going through...

I pray with everything that I am, that you will experience the God who seeks and loves fully, and unconditionally.

His love is for all, not just for some.
He is a seeker-friendly God.

unKnown

"It’s easy to take off your clothes and have sex. People do it all the time. But opening up your soul to someone, letting them into your spirit, thoughts, fears, future, hopes, dreams… that is being naked." -Rob Bell

She walks down the road, the buildings loom up on each side. A canyon of stone, glass and warm, buzzing neon. Cars scuttle by busily; an army of a million tiny dots, like ants in a maze.

It's a warm July night, yet she feels so cold. Alone in this vast city.
A face amongst faces.

She's a smart girl.

She was the top of her class in high school, and she made the deans list in college...

If anyone took the time to get to know her, they'd be astounded by the intelligence within, brimming over the edges, spilling forth into her eloquently crafted sentences. A girl with untold possibilites; whether a writer in the making, an aspiring artist, or a successful business woman, each exceptionally viable option is hers for the taking.

People push by around her.
Distracted by texts, and hurriedly shuffling through papers.
Oblivious to the world around, they shove on, heads bent. Lost in thought...or perhaps prayer.
Because this city has a religion. It is a religion of it's own.

This city-god asks for life, and greedily accepts the sacrifices of its congregation through its own system of demi-gods.
Fashion,
Pursuit of money,
Tight schedules,
Time spent.

Those who live here often bow down in worship, simultaneously offering generous sacrifices of the one precious thing that has been given them. Life.

A sacrifice this place hungrily devours on a daily basis.

She's a beautiful girl, though no one seems to notice this fact as they bustle by.

To her left is a hall of images, encased in glass, illuminated brilliantly.
There are figures who reside in each window.
Airbrushed gods and goddesses.

They bear a standard emblazoned with perfection, their eyes, laughing, scrutinize each passerby. They know that no one can touch them, for there is a barrier that goes beyond the physical glass.

They are an illusion. They look down from a vantage which is unattainable, yet sought by many to attain.

The girl stops and glances into the brilliantly lit showcase. A woman, scantily clothed with perfect features casts a mocking, sultry glance over her to the crowds shuffling by beyond.

Her eyes roam over this particular goddess, drinking in every single detail; the smooth porcelain skin, the full lips which curl into a pseudo-smile, yet imply something more.

A figure that is on display for all to see and all to covet. This goddess is the embodiment of beauty...

At least...beauty, as this young woman has been raised to believe it to be.
But there is no soul behind those eyes, there is only physicality.

Only something for the men of this world to leer at.
The type of person who will never taste lonliness, and will always know companionship, if only for the wrong reasons.
Only something she'll never be...

It is in this moment that she wants to scream. To scream and not stop, until all the ugliness she feels inside melts away. The pain that this illusion has caused her, has taken an untold toll. She is not looked at for who she is, but only what she can offer. She is another piece of meat. Unremarkable. Unspectacular.

She wants to fall to her knees.
She's so tired.
She just wants a savior to take her out of this place.
To be free of the unadulterated insecurity that haunts her daily, and hounds her after dark.
Instead, she shoves.

She peels her eyes away from the model, turns and walks on.

Lost amid the sea of bodies, cigarette smoke, and dull neon lights.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Golden Weekend

This weekend will bring with it a monumental day in my life...

My Golden Birthday.

BAM. Twenty Three baby!
Gosh, I'm getting old!

So, a golden birthday sounds wicked sweet, I know, but the more I think about it I really have no idea what one would do on their golden birthday...

I thought about getting a golden grill.

Not a George Foreman though...

For those who may be over the age of forty, "getting a grill" is simply the process of turning your teeth into precious stones, or a valuable metal...such as gold.

Finally, I could look just like Lil' Jon, or Lil' Wayne... or...maybe it'd just look a lil' stupid.

I'm a middle class white kid from Waukesha...honestly, we can't pull that crap off.

I was also thinking about demanding that my friends get me a treasure chest, and fill it with those chocolate gold coins that seem to stuff many a stocking right around Christmas time.

But, I guess that since it's been about 95 degrees and humid lately this probably wouldn't be a stellar idea. I'd hate to think about all that precious treasure making one hot mess in the authentic wooden chest.

Yargh! I guess I'll just save that idea for the Pirate Truck Guy's birthday...

Maybe I could take a classier approach and pop some bottles in the club with my friends. Champagne's golden-ish in color right? After all, who wouldn't wanna get slizzard?

Sounds like a pretty fly idea to me.

Hmmm...

I could have a movie night devoted to movies about gold...

Italian Job anyone? I could definitely use a little Mark Whalberg/Charlize Theron action! Ow ow!!!

How about National Treasure??

Wait!!! Even better idea!

What if some good friends and I went on our own search for a city filled with gold!?

I'm sure there are plenty of those lurking beneath the murky, polluted depths of the Fox River! With the crawfish and all...

Perhaps, I'll buy a Wonka Bar...who knows, maybe I'll get lucky and get to tour the Chocolate Factory.

Maybe I'll meet an Oompa Loompa!

Maybe, I'll go to the local Golden Arches for lunch.

Maybe, I'll get a membership at Gold's Gym..............nahhh.

Maybe, I'll hit the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button on Google.

Who knows?? We only get one Golden Birthday. :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

More

"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work." -Genesis 2:2

My eyelids begin to droop. My vision narrows...

No! Not again! Not in church!

I feel the inner monologue begin, that ever persistent voice, you know the one I'm talking about?

We all have one. It's that smug little self-righteous jerk, that hides inside. The one that makes you feel like crap anytime you act out...

"Falling asleep in church again are we?"
No. I lie.

I look down at the text that we are currently learning about, and try to focus.
Leviticus.
God help me.
The voice just won't quit...

"Must've been that extra Jack and Coke you had at the wedding last night...sinner."
It wasn't the Jack and Coke that did me in, I reason, it was clearly that extra glass of wine, or five.

"Which makes it that much better, what about last week? What's your excuse for that?"
Uhhh...it was a long drive back home?

"Surrrreee. Don't play this game with me! I know you're just not as spiritual as other people."
Hey now! That was kinda low.

I desperately take a pull from my McCafe coffee cup, trying to suckle some remnant of energy-giving brew out of it. Alas, it is dry. No more Jesus juice for me till the end of the service... provided I make it that long.

The eyelids are getting heavier every minute. I feel like the world's scrawniest bodybuilder as I try, in vain, to hold up the crushing weight.

"Well you aren't. Look! We are already doing the closing prayer, and you haven't heard a word of the service. Lazy."
Shit.
"Guess we'll have to try harder next week champ."
Guess so...

This round goes to the smug little jerk man. Again.

Sunday afternoon naps aren't a random occurrence for me. They are actually a part of my biological makeup, it's really weird.

Any other day of the week I may start to feel tired, but, usually, I can fight the good fight and win.

Not so on Sunday...

So perhaps there is something to this phenomenon.

Do you think God takes Sunday afternoon naps? Do you think he crashes on his heavenly recliner and drifts off watching the game?

I've lived in Oshkosh long enough to know that the majority of the populace already believes that God does, indeed, watch football, and that he unashamedly loves the Packers.

Ugh.

There is something about Sunday though. There is something about taking some time to rest in the midst of a hectic life.

I was talking to my friend Asha the other day, and I wondered aloud at how much time we spend just "doing." Not just "doing" but doing stuff we don't particularly enjoy...

That's just life though, right?
Work your ass off six days a week, take care of all the stuff you've put off on the seventh.
Fill every moment.
Be productive...

Yet, before long there is an inevitable burnout, and it is in these moments that I begin to wonder if, perhaps, we are missing something important...

I'm inclined to think that if the creator of the universe took time to rest after creating everything, perhaps we should take a page from his book, and take some time for ourselves.

Maybe we weren't meant to be mindless machines, running from meeting to meeting.
Or coffee date to coffee date, for that matter.

Maybe sometimes it's ok to be alone.
To be quiet.
To listen to the stillness.
To sleep. To dream.
To write the thoughts of the heart on paper.
To walk, away from the city, and to allow the masterful craft work of nature to overwhelm and awe you.

Sabbath is so much more than a day off.
It is a day of renewal. A renewal of the body and mind.
And the funny thing is, when this particular renewal does take place, it is the soul that tends to follow suit.
We can become whole again.

I pray that you don't get lost in the everyday mechanics of living, and miss out on the sweet life to be had in the process.

Take a Sabbath and remember that you were meant for more.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Problematic Princess

One of the classic Disney movies that I grew up with was the story of Sleeping Beauty.

What most people do not realize, however, is just how troubled this young princess truly was...

But for starters, let me share with you the best line of the entire movie, just 'cause I think it is wicked awesome!

It happens when Prince Phillip is fighting his way, tooth and nail, to rescue the dear, sweet, narcoleptic beauty who is stowed away in the highest room of the tallest tower.

He has escaped the evil sorceress, Malificent's, dungeon. He fought his way out of the castle, and thwarted the hordes of evil minions who tried to stop him. He hacked his way through a jungle of razor sharp thorns, (probably the original version of barbed wire fencing used to cut down on illegal immigration in this particular kingdom), which had magically sprouted up in front of him.

Just as he is riding up to the gates of the castle, where Aurora is sleeping oh so peacefully, the wicked sorceress materializes right before his very eyes...

"Now shall you deal with me, O prince, and all the powers of Hell!"

Seriously, tell me this is not the coolest line ever uttered by a Disney villain! It gives me chills to think about even now...

Ok, maybe those chills aren't produced by the actual line itself...

Maybe it has more to do with the fact that the temperature in my workplace is the equivalent of the average freezer, and I'm wearing a polo that leaves my poor little arms dangling out in the cold...

Regardless...

Malificent proceeds to transform herself into a giant, fire-breathing, dragon, and it's on like donkey kong!

At the incredible climax of this furious battle, Phillip propels his sword straight into the belly of the beast and, amidst the sorceress' terrible shrieks, the viewer witnesses the dragon plummeting to its death.

As the camera zooms in to capture the grisly aftermath, we see that naught but a sword remains, sticking prominently out of a black sooty patch of ground.

This guy is so much better than the last prince I wrote about! Quite the catch.

And Aurora?

Oh yeah, she's still in the tower...sleeping.

My lord! If this girl can sleep through an epic battle with a fire-breathing dragon, then how in the world will she ever be on time for her morning work shifts?

I find Aurora to be slightly a slightly problematic princess.

She was, sadly, the original D.A.R.E. poster girl.

I mean, don't get me wrong, she's certainly a sweetheart! There is absolutely no doubt about that.

At the beginning of the movie, the viewer can observe that she's been born into a solid home environment, complete with good parents (a king and queen nonetheless). She probably had the toys that all the kids wanted, and her own pony...

But something went wrong.

It started with the birthday...

Her birthday party was crashed by Malificent, the token antagonist of this film, who is indignant about not getting an invitation.

Hey folks, evil sorceresses like to party too!! Don't hate!

She then proceeds to share with everyone that her feelings are hurt, but that she is going to take the high road, and give Aurora the gift she bought anyway.

Her 'gift', it turns out, is kind of a downer as she informs the party-goers that Aurora will, before her sixteenth birthday prick her finger on a spinning wheel's spindle and die. Hell, try picking up something like that at your local Target department store!

This is, perhaps, why Malificent wasn't invited in the first place, she doesn't really give good gifts...

Seriously.

Uncle Albert bought her a Speak and Spell.


Aunt Ruth got her a couple savings bonds, which probably won't fully mature till the next century, given the current economic climate.

Even cousin Lester brought the head of his little sister's doll...ok, that one wasn't that great either, but it definitely is more useful to a young princess than, you know...death.

Nevertheless, it's because of this threat that the royal family decides to hide their beloved daughter until her sixteenth birthday, so that this horrible prophecy cannot come true.

She is spirited away into the local forest to live with the three royal fairies Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather.

Not only that, but her good old dad, doing what any father would do in this situation, proceeds to burn everyone single spinning wheel in the kingdom.

He probably simultaneously wiped out the spinners trade in the process but... it's actually not a bad thing, because the Industrial Age had to come around one way or another, right?

Poor child. Life can't ever be that simple for a celebrity kid, can it?

The three fairies are kind and good though; they strive admirably to do their best to provide a healthy substitution to Aurora's prior home environment. Throughout the early stages of the movie we see Aurora developing into a beautiful, and promising young lady.

There is only one quirk to her personality that I feel the need to mention, and it is that she seems to be an environmentalist at heart, because she actually has a relationship with the forest creatures...

She actually talks, and interacts with the little cuddly critters!

Now, that isn't such a bad thing I guess...

I mean, what else are you going to do if you are growing up in the middle of nowhere with three old ladies?? She doesn't even know they're fairies, so she can't even learn to do cool magic and spells to pass the time!

There are no other kids around to play or be social with either...so I guess the natural solution is to make friends with the forest populace. It must've been like being home schooled or something...

Honestly, I can't blame her one bit. She just made due with the cards she was dealt.

The plot takes an interesting turn right around her sixteenth birthday which is the perfect time for young hormones to start acting up.

She has a chance meeting in the forest with her future betrothed, the young, dashing Prince Phillip, who happens to be riding his horse in the vicinity and hears her singing and carrying on with her forest friends.

He sneaks in, and when she finds herself in his arms she is immediately diggin' him.

I mean this guy is smooth!

Maybe all the years of not having a solid father figure in her life have taken their toll. She doesn't even play hard to get!

MEOW!

Of course, she doesn't know he is a prince at the time; nor does she know that he is, in fact, pledged to be her future husband.

That's what makes this entire scene a soap opera writer's dream.

They immediately set up a second date but, as luck would have it, their hot date falls right on the day when she is actually going to be brought back to the castle and reinstated as a royal princess.

Aw snap!

The fairies inform her of this fact, and she throws a fit.

I can just hear her thoughts, can't you?

"O-m-g! This suckssssss...."

"Worst birthday everrr!"
"They're so unfairrr!"

It's a scene that is so reminiscent of high school drama and adolescent love, I can't help but smile at this part.

Nevertheless, royal obligation overrules teenage lust, and she's escorted back to the castle sulking the whole way. No doubt she's thinking the whole time;

"I'll never love anyone ever again..."

'Cause, you know, they knew each other so well...

Anyway, the fairies take Aurora to her super sweet royal quarters. They also hook her up with a cool tiara which, by the way, goes great with the dress and shoes that she just picked up at Macy's on the way into town.

One would think that a teenage girl would be happy, given the circumstances, but she just sits there and bawls her cute little head off.

Ah, girls...

The tragedy of the movie occurs right here...in the midst of a young teenage girl's heartbreak.

Sadly, she doesn't have any friends to call up on her royal cell phone, and she can't really talk to her parents because, let's face it, they haven't seen each other for like 15 years or so... so, yeah, that'd be awkward, right?

She's alone.

Suddenly, the fireplace becomes a secret passage. Yes friends, you heard me right, in the princess's quarters there is the one fireplace in the entire castle that has a secret passage.

You'd think the parental units, or her personal security detail, would've checked out the floor plan before they stuck her in a room by herself, before her sixteenth birthday, while there is a threat on her life.

Sadly, they didn't.
C'est la vie.

The passage is eerily lit with creepy green lighting, and she's drawn to it like a bug to a bug zapper.

The whole time you, the viewer, are quietly screaming for her to stay away, because, as everyone knows, when the creepy music starts in the soundtrack, it's generally a bad sign.

Aurora, however, didn't have the soundtrack to her own movie, so she and the cameraman are drawn into the creepy corridor. It's at the end of the corridor they find...wouldn't you know it...

A spinning wheel, complete with spindle!

It looks as if some in the village are still resistant to the king's economic restructuring mandate.

As was noted, there's a evil looking needle on it, and I can only imagine that this is symbolic of a defining moment of this girl's life.

Instead of seeking refuge in family and friends to heal the pain of love lost, she is instead venturing into the dangerous world of drug use.

The fairies, who suddenly realized things were too quiet in her room, rush into passage after her, but alas, it's too late! Sleeping beauty lays on the ground, at the feet of the shape shifting sorceress (who's apparently a dealer as well).

She isn't moving.
She OD'd.

All in the name of love or, at least, what she thought to be love.

It's at this point that the fairies realize that they can't reveal to the king, queen and the entire kingdom that the long lost princess is a junkie, so they hatch a plan...

They put everyone in the kingdom to sleep, which probably took quite a bit of vaporized chloroform meticulously dispersed through the central air system of each peasant's home.

Then they set out to find Phillip. Remember him?

Well, they find him locked in Malificent's dungeon. Apparently he got more than he bargained for when he showed up for his hot date!

They release him and his noble steed, and arm him with a magical sword and shield.

He rides out, battles the dragon, and finally climbs the steps to the tower in which his girlfriend is sleeping.

He too, like Prince Absent, plants a big kiss right on her lips, but I tend to view this part in a metaphorical sense, rather than literal. I mean metaphorically as in, her being resuscitated in a rehab clinic, surrounded by the love of her friends, family, and sweet new boyfriend.

The end of this Sleeping Beauty story is a decidedly a happy one, as we find this Problematic Princess once again back on the right track. The straight and narrow.

The moral of the story is that friends, family and love are the most important things one can give teenagers growing up in this crazy world. They won't raise themselves and we, as a culture, shouldn't expect them too.

That said...

Keep a close eye on your kids, and always make sure all your birthday parties are drug dealer-free!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Joy of Books

Saw this on my friend Sophie's blog, and just
had to share it with you today! :)

She actually has a lot of wicked sweet stuff on her spot so check it out sometime!

Blog: Obscure
Cartoon found at: Poorly Drawn Lines

Take some time, read a book. :)








































Women, and Men in Uniform

In my short time on this beautiful planet I have noticed two common truths about women...

1) They love accents. The kind and type vary, but most women I know like some sort of accent. Often it's British.

Annnd...

2) They love a man in uniform.

I never quite understood this phenomenon. It is so strange to see the ladies, who are so rational and calculating at times, melt into little giggly girls when they see a few military men in uniform at a wedding.

It isn't just military guys though...

My friend Courtney is quite partial to firefighters, I recently found out. Some girls like cops.

It is the queerest thing.

I won't lie, I've tried to pull the "man in uniform" card on a couple cute girls I knew, but apparently not all uniforms are created equal.

Apparently marching band uniforms aren't sexy.

Sad day.

Now I just try to keep that on the down low. At very least, it isn't my leading line anymore...

Sometimes I feel as if I somehow got the short end of the stick. I don't have a cool uniform to impress the ladies with, and I don't have an accent.

Apparently, Wisconsinites do have accents but, for this to be effective, one would need to travel to another state...and even then, sometimes you just end up getting made fun of for talking all weird like.

But I digress...

So what is it about a uniform that makes a man more appealing to a woman?

What is it about a certain arrangement of buttons, cords, or patches/insignias that turn an average man into the star of an AXE cologne commercial?

Perhaps, it is the fact that often these men are super fit and trim, and the uniform accentuates this fact. I'm not completely naive in thinking that the ladies don't notice a well built guy when they see one...but you can pull that off with most any kind of clothing. You don't need a uniform for that.

I think that it is probably the ideal behind the uniform, that gets women all giddy and goofy. That particular man, in uniform, is a part of something greater than himself.

He is a man who is going places.

He is a man who isn't merely focused on himself, but the cause he is committed to.

The uniforms that most women like are ones associated with some form of security, whether national or local...so there is a sense of protection that comes along with a uniformed man.

I think these are all natural desires for the ladies to have and, suddenly, I felt the beginning of sweet revelation sweep over me as I pondered this phenomenon...

Uniforms are really nothing more than stylized clothes; medals, a cool hat, and shiny shoes are all just a different take on the every day apparel.

Yet it sets the wearer apart. It shows that he has been through difficult things, there is a depth of character that is embodied in a uniform.

There is a clear divide between man and boy.

How many ladies today are stuck in a world of boys?
How many ladies today desperately seek men, maturity, and security?

A uniform, in it's own way, is a clear signal of manhood to a woman, and that is attractive.

Guys, I'd ask, no plead that we can strive to create a world where women will no longer need a uniform to identify a true man.

Where they can clearly see the virtues of integrity, security and strength just as much within the foodservice worker, bank teller and lawnscaper, as in a serviceman.

We owe it to them. They deserve it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Jesus listens to Rage Against the Machine

"The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do.” -Psalm 12:5

Recently I embarked upon a new project with my friend Tim...it is called DarkRed.Nation.

It is more of a political blog which aims to help apathetic youth understand the ethics and values this country was founded on. Hopefully it will be a place to communicate these ideals to the future leaders of the American nation in an accessible and relevant format.

We'll see if it works...

I don't talk about politics here though.
That is intentional.

Spirituality is not a product of our politics. I've stated this before, and I believe it fully.

I do believe our values shape our ethics, and that our ethics can, and do, determine our choices at the polls, or if we even choose to attend the polls.

But...

I don't believe Jesus and God have certain political affiliations, and that they bolster one party while tearing down the other...

So to use Christ as a political tool, in my opinion, is just plain wrong.

That said...

As I was listening to my "social justice music" play list the other day, and dreaming up ways to pursue this new project, I mused that Jesus probably would listen to Rage Against the Machine on his own iPod.

Yes, friends, you heard me right...

There is a play list on my iPod that I listen to when I want to do any sort of activism.

And yes...

Apparently, the Lord in Heaven uses Apple products.
But this isn't really a shocker...I mean, come on! Just look at their designs and how well they function and tell me Steve Jobs didn't have help from above...

And yes...

I did just speculate about Jesus' own playlist.

Allow me to share why I came to said conclusion...

There are very few musicians that actually have the power to inspire me with their music.

Most popular music is fluff, in my humble opinion. It lacks substance, vision and direction. I mean, honestly, when I hear California Gurls I don't exactly want to get down to my local soup kitchen or food pantry and "serve it up"...

When I hear LMFAO's song "Shots" I don't end up packing my bags for a hurricane relief trip.

Now, I'll be honest with you, fluff is necessary sometimes.

Sometimes we need a song that has virtually no meaning to it. They can be fun, and catchy. Sometimes I need a little Ke$ha to numb my brain, dumb me down a bit, and take the edge off the week...

Rage Against the Machine, however, is not fluff.

Zach de la Rocha and company are, arguably, one of the most passionate music acts ever formed...and I think that Jesus could relate to much of their passion.

In fact, there is also the potential to find a bit of Christ himself in their music, if one chooses to listen carefully.

Here is a brief snapshot of this group:

Rage is a group that fights to give a voice to the voiceless.
They are very anti-establishment.
They are incredibly involved in social justice issues.

In many ways, as crazy as it may seem, their view of the world is much closer to the idea of the Kingdom of God, as I understand it, than many mainstream politicians, or evangelical voters for that matter.

This kingdom that Jesus talks so much about, doesn't oppress others.
It is diverse.
It is not self-serving.
It is not deceitful.
It doesn't make profit off of the misfortunes of others.

The Kingdom of God is one that transcends any sort of political establishment, or regime that humans have the potential to set up.

I think that it is incredibly ironic, that the true Kingdom of God is remarkably anti-establishment, don't you? It doesn't seem right. To us, the idea of a kingdom has boundaries, it has a hierarchy and an infrastructure. It has an economic game plan.

This particular idea of kingdom that Jesus talked about, was different. It assumed harmony amongst people. It assumed equality amongst all, united and restored under God.

This teaching contradicts our ideas about how things should work in the world. We need our systems to run the show somewhat smoothly. What Jesus proposes is completely anti-establishment; at least, establishment as we know it.

The crooked politicians, the special interests, the earmarks, corruption, scandal, profiteering...

See, God understands us better than we humans understand ourselves. Crazy, huh?
He knows that there is a unique human tendency to use our created systems that are intended for good, whether governmental, religious, or educational, to serve ourselves.

He knows that any man-made system ends up breaking. It ends up giving privilege to few, while taking advantage of many.

This is why he didn't set up a new empire in his time on earth.
Jesus was all too familiar with the Evil Empires of the world.

Rome.
Egypt.
Assyria.
Babylon.
Persia.

These were the greatest empires of the world. These were the indestructible powers of the world that were thought to be eternal in their power and glory. These were the systems that humanity set up to rule the world our own way.

Rome, Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, and Persia all have another thing in common...
They are nowhere to be found today.

Each respective superpower of the world which has been perceived as "indestructible" has collapsed at some point. Human systems don't work.

We need something new.
Something of God.

And it is at this place that the opinions of Jesus and Rage Against the Machine diverge...

Rage tends to advocate throwing off oppression and empowering the proletariat to run the show. Though they say they do not advocate violence, there is a definite attitude behind their music that implies that the only way to find peace is to forcibly take the power back.

After all, those who are oppressed will run things much better than the oppressors, because they know exactly how they don't want things to work. It is a great idea in theory, but flawed to the core...

Jesus, knows this isn't the way of freedom. He knows that it is just another system in the process of being set up and, as was noted earlier in the post, human systems do not work. Violence and political revolution aren't the answer.

We need a coup of another kind...

Jesus offered this new kind of revolution in his teaching about the Kingdom of God.

However, before one begins condemning Rage Against the Machine for their skewed ideals of freedom and what it takes to establish it...I want to remind us of a group that was not so different in this kind of thinking.

It was a group Jesus called his own. His beloved.

His disciples.

As I read it, in the accounts of Jesus, his very own core group of followers, had thoughts about the implementation of the Kingdom of God that are eerily similar to Rage Against the Machine's philosophies.

These were the followers who spent just over three years with him, all day, every day. He told them everything about the Kingdom...

and they still didn't get it...
Isn't that how people are?

I know that when I personally hear any story of oppression, I find anger a natural reaction. It wells up inside almost instantaneously. I want to fight for justice, and to make things right. I want things to be as they should be.

How can people do this to one another?
How can we as a society allow this?
These oppressors deserve to know how it feels to be oppressed!

If I am not careful, the fine line that separates righteous (justified) anger will be crossed, and in its wake a vengeful soul will be left with nothing but hatred within.

This isn't the way of God, and it will never bring resolution or healing to the world.
"An eye for an eye and the world goes blind" isn't just a cute statement, but a universal truth.

Jesus embodied a new standard. A new kind of revolution.

One which reconciles enemies.
Forgives oppressors.
Leaves justice to God.
Brings people together, rather than divides them.

Jesus was a revolutionary. He was a radical.

I think that he, and the "guilty parties" in Rage Against the Machine actually have quite a lot in common, though their methods may differ when it comes to the "plan of action."

I think he smiles at their passion.
Their heart for those less fortunate.
Their desire for justice.
For these things are in the heart of God as well...

There is a lot to love about this band. Oddly enough, there is much about their passion and social consciousness that is strangely, yet profoundly, more "Christian" than many church-goers I know.

Rage will always be one of my favorite music groups, but it is equally awesome to realize that Jesus is probably rockin' out to them too...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ode to Insomnia

It occurred to me that many bloggers have some sort of post referring to insomnia, whether directly or indirectly.

Clearly, it is not only poverty which accompanies the love of writing, but there is also a definite, intrinsic link to lack of sleep.

Perhaps it is concern about the origin of the next paycheck that keeps these writers up, intently pouring their souls out through pen and paper.

Or, perhaps, there is an unshakable muse that refuses to allow sleep to come to one, unless they have effectively written down the inspiration.

Then, and only then, once it has been immortalized in line or verse, will it release its hold on the helpless writer, and allow sleep to wrap its tender arms around them.

The mind is a funny thing, isn't it?

There will be nights where I will become possessed by an idea.

This idea, this muse, this thought will so powerfully affect me that I cannot sleep. My mind becomes something more than just a tool, it becomes a personality of its own. It obstinately refuses to shut down until the idea spills out of the tip of a pen, and stains the pure white paper black.

Much like a domineering mother, a controlling significant other, or the urge a junkie must feel when pursuing their next fix; so becomes the hand of the writer at the mercy of the mind.

When the inspiration is, in fact, finally out of the head and manifested in the physical world, only then can one find solace in the sanctuary of sleep.

So here is to insomnia, a subtle yet powerful master.
To the sleepless nights for starving writers.
To the masters of verse, the English majors, who wield a powerful command of the beautiful and ever expansive English language.
To those who write stories in the dark of night, to share with the world at dawn...

This is my humble Ode to Insomnia.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Pirate Truck

As noted in a previous post, I've been walking to work lately.

Not only is it a fantastic option for those who don't want to get chubby, yet hate exercise, but one tends to notice more things when walking places than when driving.

For instance, the Pirate Truck. Every day, I see a truck parked in one of the lots just down the road from the bank.

It's a blue Ford F-150. It has a pirate flag in the back.

A pirate flag.
I kid you not.

I wasn't aware that the Redneck Surplus store carried them.

It's kind of interesting because most people who fly flags in the back of their trucks want to associate themselves with something.

For starters, there is the ever popular...

American flag: Proudly flown out of the back of many a truck. The American flag is a wonderful symbol of pride in this great nation. Many who fly this flag in their truck bed are also blaring Toby Keith exceptionally loud on their stereo system.

The drivers of these trucks probably didn't abstain from saying the pledge of allegiance in early school years, but rather said it loud and proud.


Don't Tread On Me: When nationalized health care was pushed through by Barack Obama, the Gadsden (or 'Don't Tread On Me') flag of 1751, became the banner under which Tea Partiers, pissed off conservatives and anti-government independents united.

Though the Gadsden flag is more commonly found on Patriot Guard motorcycles, or at Tea Party protests, it has been spotted in track beds on more than one occasion.

The disco may have died, but 1751 is alive!

The Stars and Bars: Probably the most commonly flown flag in trucks. The Stars and Bars of the confederacy allegedly lives a double life.

Some maintain that it is a symbol of slavery and oppression, while others deem it a symbol of Southern culture and take great pride in the fighting spirit it represents.

Either way, they lost the war.

Drivers in these trucks often wear cowboy boots and cutoff t-shirts. Upon seeing the driver one might be struck by the notion that, perhaps, the Marlboro man learned to drive a truck, rather than ride a horse.

They could, quite possibly, be correct.

This brings me to...

The Pirate Flag: This whole time I've been trying to fathom some legitimate reason for the Pirate Man to fly his Pirate Flag from his Pirate truck.

Alas, I have found none. This is the only flag of this kind that I have ever seen in a truck.

Since, the practice of piracy, in the classical sense, virtually died in the early 1800's it seems rather stupid to associate oneself with it.

Yes, piracy at seas still occurs, but they do not fly the skull and crossbones, nor the Union Jack anymore. If they did, they might be laughed off their own boat!

Honestly friends, if Captain Crunch owned a truck, he probably wouldn't fly this flag.

Sorry, Pirate Truck guy. You need to update your flag taste a couple centuries...

Lenses and Life: What I Learned From A Camera

Last night I spent some time with my friend Nicole. She's actually the one who recommended the book "It's kind of a funny story" to me.

Nicole is very smart (I happen to have a lot of friends who are, as it turns out), and she is super active. She is very passionate about To Write Love On Her Arms and Invisible Children. She is an activist at heart.

Though Nicole is a newer friend to me, she has blessed me substantially with her perspectives.

Last night, as we were walking over to the local DQ, we talked a bit about God, Jesus, and church among other things.

We talked about how narrow minded religion is, but I found myself wondering if the institution itself is really the problem, or if narrow mindedness runs deeper than its religious exterior...

As I thought about it, inspiration came from the unlikeliest of sources. The art of photography...

I love photography.
Especially film, 35 mm film to be exact.

I love the creative process. Not just searching for and capturing the shots, but developing the film in the darkroom as well.

Digital has made things too simple; one can snap, review, and delete pictures instantly if necessary.

Film, however, is an entirely different animal.

You need a certain amount of artistic eye to find your shots. You have to work with the lighting, because the camera does not automatically correct it for you. You play, tweak, and improvise if necessary.

Even then, there is no guarantee how the roll will turn out, but, if it does, it means just that much more.

Why did I shift from religion and God to photography?

I think that photography and life are a lot alike...

If you've ever been to a photography show you will notice something interesting.

It quickly becomes apparent that each artist sees something different through their lens. True, they can often have similar subject matter, sometimes they even shoot the same locations, yet often they end up revealing entirely different perspectives of the same world.

I can't tell you how many times the Eiffel Tower has been photographed, yet each artist can manage to show a different detail, or aspect of the storied tower that another didn't see.

Isn't that how life is?
Isn't this the reason why we have conflict?
When life's lenses don't capture the same things?

Everyone has a "lens."
We see, perceive and therefore react to life differently because of our particular lens.

The trouble is that our convictions, the things we feel strongly about, and believe passionately tend to make us believe that our lens is always accurate. We all think that the snapshots we have taken are the "right" portraits of life as it should be.

I honestly don't know many people who think they have a lot to learn. Do you?
We tend to think we are pretty smart, and know quite a lot.

I think this is especially true with religion.

It is a comfortable thing to believe that you have everything together, and that other people have much to learn from you. It is far more difficult to admit that there are things you don't know.

Don't misunderstand me...

Our paradigms are important.
Convictions and deeply held beliefs are important.

They give each individual a way to reference, comprehend and take action in life, but our paradigms cannot be immovable. They cannot be fixed.

One cannot allow their deeply held beliefs to hinder their ability to look at life different ways.

Listening, authenticity and honesty are also art forms. Much like photography.
Some have an easier time picking up these arts.

They are "artistically inclined", if you will.

But for those, like me, who aren't, it can be quite a difficult process to learn these arts.

I'm finding that while passion is important in life, relation is more so.

When I first found Jesus to be true in my life, I was super passionate about his message, and wanted to share it with the world. I signed up for a trip with a campus ministry. It was a three month long endeavour.

Three months of sharing my truth with those on the beaches of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

We used little booklets to explain what we believed to many intoxicated partiers during that time. Then we would come back and share to the group how our day went. We'd share success stories, and hardships in the process.

I just assumed that this was the right way to go about it.

However, something never felt quite right.

I realized in many of these conversations that the person we were talking to was, in my mind, a conquest, not a person. I wanted a cool story to tell when the group got together at night. I wanted to be an effective evangelist. It was about me, and justifying myself.

It was horribly wrong.

My lens was fixed. I already had the truth in my mind, and I was going to convince others to see life the way I saw it.

In my time of sharing with partiers I didn't see one single person I had talked to come to our weekly meeting, or to church with us.

During this trip the members of the project also worked full time jobs at local establishments. I made many friendships at Chick-Fil-A that summer. It was one of the best jobs I ever worked.

In that time we saw many of the Chick-Fil-A staff join us at our weekly meetings. One had us over to dinner at her place. My manager invited me to spend a night with his wife and kids, we watched the Princess Bride and had homemade peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream.

Something real happened at the Chick-Fil-A that summer, and it never once involved me using my "Knowing God Personally" booklet. It messed with my head a bit to be honest.

I thought to myself, either I'm going to be a terrible evangelist or a great food service worker...

The difference between Chick-Fil-A and sharing on the beaches was the way in which we related to people.

We didn't assume our lens was right around our co-workers. We just listened to them. We listened to their stories. We invested in their lives and, in turn, they invested in ours.

These co-workers taught me a great many things, and, I hope, that I was able to share some thing with them as well.

It was authentic relationship. Not a stat sheet.

I think many Christians are a lot like mediocre photographers.

Their picture has fantastic subject matter, but it is poorly composed.
It doesn't reveal the true beauty of what they have been photographing, but rather a skewed, cheap looking, poorly matted attempt.
They are actually too busy critiquing the other photographs around them to realize this fact.
Pointing out the smallest little flaws and details of another's portrait.

But they fail to realize that not everyone views life through the same lens.

We all take our snapshots of life. Sometimes we photograph the same places, people, events; but we are moved by different elements of the picture.

Its composition, our memories of people, places, the history of these pictures.

Regarding one's own lens as the only truth is not only prideful, but it is also, in my opinion, anti-God.

It begins to instill a subtle sense of superiority within the individual.
Almost a sense of being the "enlightened one."

This can develop into rudeness, bigotry and even contempt for those who see life differently. Sadly this is demonstrated rather frequently in religious circles.

When a lens is fixed, ignorance abounds. It is blinding. Those who proclaim to be viewing life through the lens of God, end up creating destruction wherever they go.

Our lenses can prove to be very dangerous, if we aren't careful.

I don't want to be like this.
I want to share my pictures with others.
I want to see theirs.
I want to talk about the similarities, differences, and delight in the fact that my simple pictures of life aren't all there is.

Maybe this is why Jesus emphasises humility in his followers.

A servant's attitude.
A lens that wasn't fixed on one thing, but instead takes every snapshot with a grain of salt.
Each picture cannot capture the whole. It is merely a piece of something greater.
Jesus understood this.

I think that Jesus would certainly have been a masterful photographer...