Thursday, September 29, 2011

[Friends]- My Friend the Philosopher

I'll never forget the Saturday he showed up at my door.

We went to school together, I knew who he was and all, but we had never actually talked before this.

"Hey...Josh, right?"

Yup, you hit the nail on the head brother.

"I'm going out of town for awhile, and I was wondering if you'd want to take my paper route..."

It was that simple sentence that initiated my second longest friendship.

His name is Dustin.

Dustin is incredibly smart. He is also one of the most sincere and motivated guys that I know. He takes the things he loves very seriously which is why, I suspect, that he is destined for incredible things.

We went to elementary school together, so we've known each other since kindergarten really, but when Dustin actually took the initiative by asking me to take his paper route, I never imagined that we'd still be friends to this day.

It was after elementary school the bonding began, really...

We would walk to jazz band rehersals at the middle school together in the mornings (at 6 am!). Since we both played the trumpet it was assumed that we were, by nature, just plain awesome people.

In high school we both joined the marching band, which became the equivalent to a full time job for the next four years of our lives. We both took it upon ourselves to take a leadership role in the trumpet section in just our sophomore year. He always had my back, and we started to whip the youngens into shape.

During these years we all shifted between houses on the weekends. This weekend it was my house, that weekend it was Dustin's, the next it was my buddy Logan's place. We always hung out. We were pretty rowdy teenagers at that...

We would hang out in my parent's basement, burn incense, and listen to all the old school Metallica c.d.s. I'm talkin' Master of Puppets, And Justice For All, and Ride the Lighting, baby! The classics, you know?

We also played cool board games like Axis and Allies, and talked a lot about girls. A lot. The sheer amount of inside jokes we had escapes me at the moment, but I certainly couldn't account for all of them without a calculator and some scratch paper.

We even tried to form a band once...but since you aren't sampling our music on your iPod, and I'm not on a world tour, you can imagine how long that lasted.

The really cool thing about having friends who are just as dorky as you, is that you don't have to get mixed up in the stuff high schoolers don't need to be mixed up in.

I never felt the need to drink or party with Dustin. We were just dorky high school guys, and that was cool.

Dustin is a philosopher at heart, I think.

He has a very analytical mind, and he is able to see multiple viewpoints to an arguement, and formulate a rational conclusion from the evidence.

Because his mind works in this fashion, he has developed solid convictions, based in reason. This is especially true when it comes to his faith.

One of the coolest things about this guy, to me, was his genuine belief in God. As an agnostic, virtually an athiest, throughout high school this was something that downright inspired me. While I thought it was a load of crap, Dustin patiently showed me that intelligent, sincere people could believe in this faith.

He helped me to see that it wasn't just the crazies who blow up abortion clinics, or tell gay people they're going to hell that believe in Jesus. In fact, when he talked about Christianity, and the God he believed in, it became apparent that those people who I had garnered immense frustration with, were actually missing the whole point of the Christian faith.

I think that this played an enormous role in changing many of my pre-concieved notions about Christianity.

It wasn't an instantaneous thing. It happened over time. One conversation at a time. It's amazing how much influence you can have upon someone, and never actually know it.

But the story didn't end in high school...

Dustin now serves with the in the Air Force as a Wing Commander. He commands about 80-100 men, and they couldn't be in better hands, in my opinion.

I also had the privilege of standing by him as best man, as he married another great friend of mine from our high school years, Taylor. It was a fantastic experience, and made me feel thoroughly old and grown up. :)

There is so much that I could write about this guy, but you'll just have to take my word for it. He is one of the best friends any guy could ask for. I'm just lucky 'cause I didn't even have to ask. :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lecrae - I Am Second

Check out the latest video at I Am Second!

Lecrae shares his story about growing up without a father, learning how to rap, and the confusion he was immersed in until he discovered the truth that Jesus offered!




Just goes to show that you can go through heavy stuff, but that you can use your talents and gifts to pursue something positive.


We all have gifts, what are we using them to glorify?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Christian Agenda?

“A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage.”

-Rob Bell (Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile)

Christians and politics...


Odds are if you hear these two words in a sentence, it can bring up all kinds of negative images, and rightly so.

I've been thinking a lot about this quote, from the book Jesus Wants to Save Christians. It's quite a good read, and challenged me on a lot of different levels.

It is very important for the church to understand its role when it comes to politics, because this understanding will vastly shape the body of Christ itself, and what it is presented as to the countries it is in.

It occured to me that Christians in the early church were none too focused on the politics of their time. In fact, if Jesus had wanted to start a political revolution, he certainly had the clout to do so early in his ministry, but he didn't. He kept talking about the Kingdom of Heaven.

This is a recurring theme throughout the new testament. It's something that the early church pursued wholeheartedly. It's the establishment of something that goes beyond human systems, and governmental infrastructures.

So when we see members of the American body of Christ using their faith as a political tool, it raises quite a few disturbing questions.

Chiefly: "Does the American body of Christ's goals align with the early followers of Jesus?"

It's this political posturing on the part of many preachers that can actually drive people away from the central message of Jesus. A message that transcends current political trends.

Both sides of the aisle do this.

We have the so called "values voters" on the conservative side, a title which is really a misnomer, because it implies that those opposed to these particular views have no values. This is untrue. Everyone has a set of values. It determines how we think, act and interact with others.

There's also the radical left wing preachers who use Jesus and his message to promote a liberal political agenda.

But, in my understanding, the church wasn't formed as a political tool. Oh, yes, we are called as Christians to live in accordance to the laws laid down by the powers that be, to "render unto Ceaser what is Ceaser's." But that's about it...

The idea of the church is to begin to heal the world of its many injuries. How can we do that when we are tied up in political disputes that are actually quite petty?

Would our time be better invested in action, rather than trying to legislate a better world?

America is a Democratic Republic.

I find this fact exceptionally interesting, given the fact the all of the founding fathers were devoutly religious, and that the overwhelming majority embraced the Christian faith, or at least professed to.

True, they did base much of our current government's framework on Judeo-Christian ethic, that is indisputable. But, America is not a Theocracy. It wasn't designed for the institutionalized church to govern its people.

Why is that?

I think the founding fathers understood that church and government have two vastly different functions. I think the founders, having come from a religious monarchy to begin with, also understood that there is just as much potential for a church, when given this kind of power, to become an oppressor, rather than a vessel of freedom.

When the flag and the Bible start to hold hands, we see systems set in place which can actually take away freedoms, and render life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness useless.

The church is not a governmental vessel. The Bible was not designed to be legislated onto those who don't believe as the Christian does. The power of the Bible comes from individual revelation, and inner change. The power of God's word is how it interacts with the individual, and how the individual responds.

Politicizing the scriptures actually can end up trivializing the message of Jesus.

I can't tell you how many of my friends, who don't believe in Christianity, seem to think that all Christians vote Republican.

I can't even begin to describe how difficult it is to explain that Christianity is more than just heterosexual soccer moms who tote their kids to soccer practice in an American made minivan, that is plastered with pro-life stickers.

The message of Jesus is so much greater than the American experiment.
It is more than a political agenda.
It's more than legislating morality onto others.

The message of Jesus calls for the institution of the kingdom of heaven, on earth.

A kingdom of charity.
A kingdom of love.
A kingdom with a citizenry that cares for their neighbors.
The widows.
The orphans.

A kingdom where we delight in creation, and cast our worries on the one who created all because, after all, he cares for the sparrows and the flowers, how much more than will he care about us.

Christianity and politics should be like oil and water. Separate.

We do have a blessing in this great country where we can choose and elect our leaders. A luxury many in this world do not have. But when we go to the polls, I pray that we can remember that America isn't the point.

It may seem un-patriotic to say.
I don't, by any means, harbor contempt for this nation.
Trust me, I love America, and what it stands for, but it isn't the point in the grander scheme of things.

Many throughout human history have placed their faith in great nations. In reading about the Assyrian empire yesterday, I found out that they named one of their palaces the "Palace without a Rival."

The Palace without a Rival now lays in ruins now just outside of the Iraqi town of Mosul.

Rome was considered the world's shining light. The eternal kingdom. It too fell.

America isn't the point.

The kingdom of heaven is the point, and as citizens of this great kingdom we have a responsibility to move for what matters.

To see the last become first.
To free the oppressed.
To rid ourselves of hatred.
To become all we were intended to be.

Our glory is not in a system.
Our glory is being the progeny of a Creator, who is love and who deserves all glory, praise and honor.

The Forgetful Bride

I frequently browse several blogs, and "a drop in the ocean" is one of them.

Blogger RJ has put together quite a nice space, complete with poetry, random musings and stories about traveling!

It's really cool, you should check it out when you get a chance!

I really liked RJ's thoughts in a post entitled, "Sunday musings- the Church."

[Excerpt:]

"The Church. Some go as a Sunday obligation, others to socialise, and some to actually worship God, hear his word and share fellowship with each other. Today I was thinking about the latter group. In the church today, we sing lots of songs, many of which are good songs, praising God and what He has done. But how much do we think about what we are singing? Sometimes I feel like aspects of the gospel are romanticised and dramatised in our songs, as if they need dressing up, to make them more palatable (not just in songs, but that is my main area of focus at the moment). Sometimes I feel like we are focusing on a few aspects of God, the ones we feel comfortable with, like His love, mercy etc (which is great, nothing wrong with that) and forgetting that His love meant sending His Son to die on a hard wooden cross... "

[You can find the rest by clicking the entry link above :)]

It occurred to me that this is a common phenomenon in Church history. The body of Christ (the people that God works through to meet humanity's many physical needs), is referred to countless times in the Bible as "the Bride of Christ."

While this may be slightly confusing to some within or without the church, it means simply this...this bride, this group of people are supposed to represent a marriage of humanity with the divine. They are supposed to represent the world that God intended before things went horribly awry.

But, what I am coming to understand is that this particular bride is exceptionally forgetful. What RJ notices, is that often in the church the reality of Jesus and his work in this world is glossed over. If you have been raised in a church then perhaps you can relate to this. If you hear something often, the depth and weight it carries with it can be reduced into a small bumper-sticker worthy statement.

"Jesus died on the cross for our sins."

Cute.

Now it can go on my car, so other people can read it as I swerve angrily in and out of traffic 'cause I missed my alarm and am late for work...

But a slogan doesn't really do the act itself justice. It doesn't help a teenager growing up in America understand the agonies of crucifixion, or the conviction or fortitude it must've taken Christ to follow through with it. The above statement, whilst it works well on a billboard, or a bumper sticker, doesn't help the bride remember the great lengths that the groom went to prove his undying (literally) love for her.

RJ goes on to ask the haunting question: "Are we becoming wishy washy Christians?"
And I would say, absolutely.

To clarify, I don't mean that Christians should be more militant in the interest of avoiding "wishy washy-ness." There are plenty who identify as Christians in this world who are quite zealous, and I really don't believe that is how Christ wanted his bride to treat others.

However, I do think that we are becoming wishy washy in knowledge.
We're wishy washy in understanding.

When the reality of Jesus' sacrifice penetrates the heart, and seeps into the bones of his bride it is a catalyst for some of the most beautiful work this world could ever witness. Because you can't stay the same. It is nearly impossible for someone to receive the revelation of God's love poured out over us, and not to be moved.

The church doesn't need to dress up, or make palatable the concepts of Christ, because He is quite possibly the most inspiring person who has ever lived.

So then what do we do?

It is my personal belief that revolution only comes from within an individual. It is only when the hearts of Christians worldwide change, that we'll see a shift from staleness to freshness, from wishy washy to assertive and confident. We have this power within us, and it is when we light up in this way, when we choose not to forget, but to meditate, reflect, and celebrate this extremely compelling story, well...

Then we will see not a forgetful bride, but a bride in all her radiance and glory.
A brilliant beauty that will leave all who behold her in awe.
The marriage of the human and the divine.

[Music] Beautiful Bride- Flyleaf



For all the ugliness that humans can create, the bride of Jesus Christ is one of the most beautiful, and awe inspiring communities this world has ever seen!

Beautiful Bride- Flyleaf

Beautified diversity, functioning as one body
Every part encouraged by the other
No one independent of another
You're irreplaceable, indispensable
You're incredible, incredible

Beautiful bride, body of Christ
One flesh abiding, strong and unifying
Fighting ends in forgiveness
Unite and fight all division, beautiful bride

Strengthen your arms now, train your fingers for battle
Urgency's here now, train your fingers for battle
Fighting this violence with your feet wrapped in peace
Sad tears and silence, now screams of joy, victory

Beautiful bride, body of Christ
One flesh abiding, strong and unifying
Fighting ends in forgiveness
Unite and fight all division, beautiful bride

Beautiful bride, body of Christ
One flesh abiding, strong and unifying
We're not gonna fall and forget
How far you went to pick us up
If one parts hurt the whole body's sick
If one part mourns we all mourn with him

Rejoice, we'll sing with you
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

Beautiful bride, body of Christ
One flesh abiding, strong and unifying
Fighting ends in forgiveness
Unite and fight all division, beautiful bride...

[Friends]- My Oldest Friend

Recently, my blogger friend Laena began a "friends" series.

I thought this was really cool, so I thought I'd do my own. :) So before you tell me how brilliant I am for thinking of this cool idea, I just want you to know that it was Laena's idea first. ;)

I've been extremely blessed by each of the people I will post about, and a simple blurb won't really, truly do them justice, but it's a start...

Meghan is my oldest friend.

She's smart and beautiful. She also has a great, and very sarcastic, sense of humor, which kind of makes my life to be honest.

She likes the Chicago Cubs, and probably knows a bit more about football than I do. She's also engaged somewhat politically, which I find incredibly respectable and noble.

I've known her since...oh, I don't know, third grade?

Back when you could color with crayons, or bring legos into school for show and tell, and it'd still be cool.

I don't know exactly why we hit it off...

Maybe it was because we were bookworms, and were placed in the higher reading groups. Maybe it was because our favorite book was Roald Dahl's "The BFG."

Or maybe it was my boyish charm and babyfaced good looks...

Whatever the reason, we became friends.

She was the first girl, that I remember, I thought was cute. Yes, that's right folks, third grade crush. It was actually in late middle school that I resigned myself to the fact that we weren't going to get married. Her mom, on the other hand, still thinks it's going to happen...

We managed to be in the same fourth, fifth and sixth grade class too which, if you didn't know, is exceptionally rare. In the fourth grade Meg and I were on the team that won the prestigious "Battle of the Books" reading contest, in which, I was forced to read the incredibly dull book, Tuck Everlasting.

Never again.

We both went to the Celebrate the Writer festival at Carrol College in Waukesha. It was for the kids who could write well, and had exceptionally over active imaginations.

Some things just stick, and Meg stuck like glue.

In middle school, I hit a new phase. I had my first encounter with depression. I didn't really know how to handle this new flood of emotions and, often, these feelings manifested themselves in anger or frustration, though I didn't even know why.

It was in one of these particularly scary episodes that she brought this craziness to the attention of the school counselors, who then contacted my parents. This, I believe, was the first step (and a big one at that), in the process of identifying and fighting clinical depression in my life.

And isn't that really what friends are for? They bring you awareness of the things that you can't see on your own. Friends help you to help yourself.

There were some good times in middle school too, though. Meg and my friend Sam would always come over after school, and we'd hang out, listen to techno and play video games in my parent's basement. Those were great times. Just a bunch of middle school kids, being extremely dorky and not caring about the outside world.

Then there was the hormone stage of middle school...

There was a point in middle school that we had a super awkward "like each other at opposite times" faze. Perhaps you can relate?

We just look back on that now and laugh. I'm beginning to see that sometimes certain things don't work out because there is something better in store.

I think God definitely knew that Meghan and I would be much better suited as friends, and for that I'm grateful, because girlfriends have come and gone, but she's still in my life to this day.

Have you ever had a friend that you aren't able to see for long periods of time, and then sit down to reconnect with them at coffee or something, and find that you can have a conversation just as easily as if the last time you had seen each other was yesterday?

Meg is that type of friend to me.

In high school we both became heavily involved in different types of activies. She pursued athletics, while I did music. As is evidenced by our vastly different physiques.

Our paths crossed rarely, if ever, but when she took up about five pages in my yearbook at the end of that year I realized that she would've been there in a heartbeat if I ever needed anything.

I realized then, that I'd do the same for her too.

Meg and I still talk, though the subjects have changed from recess and gym class to politics, sports, relationships, and relationships...and a little more about relationships.

It is truly a blessing to be able to know someone for this long. To have someone see you at your best, your worst, and your absolute worst, and still say; "Hey, you're ok with me."

We've been through a lot of shit, but to this day my oldest friend Meg is still an important part of my life, and for that I'm grateful.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Flowers and Thorns...

Check out this great and insightful post by fellow blogger SuziCate titled "It's All In How You Look At It."

It really inspired me today!

[Excerpt:]

"“It is by helping others that we are helped, it is by giving that we receive, and it is by loving that we are loved.” ~John Harricharan (Morning Has Been All Night Coming)

We are each gifted with both the blossom and the spikes.

Which we choose to use creates our lives.

We may use our blossoms to delight the eye or soothe the soul.

We can use our thorns as a protective layer to keep others from getting close and penetrating the surface..."

I often frequent this spot when I am looking for little nuggets of wisdom. Check it out, you won't be disappointed! :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

[Music] Imperfect- Stone Sour


Stone Sour - Imperfect por Rock_Angel no Videolog.tv.


A broken relationship is quite possibly the most painful thing any human can experience. The loss of love. A breaking heart. As Corey Taylor sings this song, I can actually feel what he's feeling. I know what it feels like to lose something. Trying to forget, yet finding yourself visiting that place over and over, reliving the pain.

It's only when you allow that person to die within you, that you can find hope again.

I love this song, it speaks to so much of me, so I thought I'd share it with you today. :)

Imperfect- Stone Sour

Some things are better off forgotten
We bury them in places that we really only visit by ourselves
Oh you were a version like no other
Oh they never tell you what to do when all you see is gone
What's the sense in anything when what they say is wrong?

Oh what do you want to hear?
Do you know how many times
I tore myself apart cuz you're not here?
Oh why do you want to know?
Does it make you feel alive?
I had to die to finally let you go

Stop me... I find myself believing
A story gets rewritten so a blasphemy's permitted once again
Oh and you were so perfectly imperfect
Oh they never tell you what to do when all you have are lies
What's the sense in anything?
It's just one more goodbye

Oh what do you want to hear?
Do you know how many times
I tore myself apart cuz you're not here?
Oh why do you want to know?
Does it make you feel alive?
I had to die to finally let you go

Role Models

Ah, the Miss America organization. An American apple pie institution.

Just the name conjures all sorts of images doesn't it?

Pageantry.
Lights.
Crowds.
Sparkly crowns.
Swimsuits (for the teenage boys who happen to be watching)...

But is that all Miss America is about?
Actually, surprisingly, it's not.

For years this organization has strived to create a confident, assertive and involved breed of woman. Each contestant must pursue a platform they are passionate about, and promote that in their time as an American Miss (whichever city, state, or country represent).

No folks, the platform isn't always longing for world peace. Platforms can be promoting awareness about diseases, recycling, community involvement, you name it.

There is actually quite a lot that goes into scholarship pageants. You wouldn't know it would you? Neither did I. The only reason I knew about any of this was because an old friend of mine actually participated in several pageants.

Miss America, however, is not solely about creating successful, confident individuals; it's also equally focused on creating good role models for young girls who are growing up.

Being a representative of the Miss America organization carries a certain weight of responsibility with it.

Which brings me to Miss Oshkosh.

A few months ago, the reigning Miss Oshkosh, Veijzahn Knight, was cited by Wal-Mart for shoplifting. She pleaded no contest.

You can read the whole "article", which was posted by Oshkosh's fine publication "The Northwestern, here.

It's kind of sad really. I mean, come on, she's Miss Oshkosh! She's got a sparkly crown, she supports the men and women of the armed forces, she gets to ride around in an open car at parades, and wear a sweet sash!

Is there anything better in life, really?

Now, I know people make mistakes. I'm not asking the girl to be perfect by any means, but she also did accept the title of Miss Oshkosh.

She did accept a position that is supposed to be about more than a crown and getting her picture taken. She accepted the responsibility of carrying herself as a role model to the young women of this community.

So I guess now is the time to ask some questions about public figures...

What are the sorts of role models would you like for your children to have?

Should they be held to a higher standard, since they are representing a concept greater than themselves?

Does this responsibility still mean something to an individualistic society?

What does a strong, confident and assertive young woman act like?

These are questions that people have to come to a consensus on before events, such as the American Miss pageants, can be effective.

I often wonder what compels people to shoplift.

What are the motivations behind it?
Desperation?
Extreme hunger?
Poverty?
Lack of moisturizer?

I almost cried when I found out that what was stolen was makeup and Hello Kitty merch.

Really?!? Really?!?
Come on Veijzahn!

If you're going to be a role model for shoplifters, at least steal things that don't embody vanity and straight up silliness!

What does it teach young women when you steal makeup? That the outer appearance is what matters? I thought we were trying to get away from the shallow stereotypes of beauty pageants!

And Hello Kitty merch?
Are you an Asian teenager??
What are we teaching the kids??

I'm being facetious right now of course, but it does sadden me.

What saddens me most, is the fact that when she was apprehended for her petty crime, that she didn't at least have the character to admit that she did it. I think that is what bugs me the most, because it comes from someone who is supposed to be a role model. Someone who thinks beyond themselves and thinks of others.

She made a mistake, and she got caught. Happens to a lot of us.

But then she lied. The manager reviews the cameras, to check her story and finds out that she isn't telling the truth. She is now a liar to the press, and to the parents who won't let their kids see this report.

I would have had so much more respect for her if she had just owned her dirt, but c'est la vie.

You may say; "Well Josh, you aren't perfect so don't judge."

And you would be absolutely right, so I'm not going to judge her heart. I don't know where this mixed up beauty pageant darling is in her life. I really don't.

Veijzahn, if I could say one thing it would be this; I love ya girl, we all make mistakes and I'm sure you've learned from this one.

Next time the hand starts twitchin', remember all the people who placed their faith in you to be a good role model and somehow, I suspect, the Hello Kitty merch won't be as attractive anymore! But until then I dug up a sweet bag that would totally be a great accessory to your outfits!

Best part is, it's recycleable, so not only can you shoplift in style, but you can save the world and promote a new platform simultaneously!

You're welcome! :)

On a completely unrelated note: I do think they should really rename the Miss Universe pageant. It's a super misleading title, because it implies that the universe participates in it. I've never seen anyone but earthlings win it. So should it really be Miss Universe? Or would Miss International be more fitting?

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

[Music] The Beautiful Letdown- Switchfoot



The Beautiful Letdown- Switchfoot

It was a beautiful let down
When I crashed and burned
When I found myself alone unknown and hurt
It was a beautiful let down
The day I knew
That all the riches this world had to offer me
Would never do

In a world full of bitter pain and bitter doubt
I was trying so hard to fit in, fit in,
Until I found out...

I don't belong here
I don't belong here
I will carry a cross and a song where I don't belong
But I don't belong

It was a beautiful let down
When you found me here
Yeah for once in a rare blue moon I see everything clear
I'll be a beautiful let down
That's what I'll forever be
And though it may cost my soul
I'll sing for free

We're still chasin our tails and the rising sun
And our dark water planet's
Still spinning in a race
Where no one wins and no one's one

I don't belong here
I don't belong here
I'm gonna set sight and set sail for the kingdom come
I will carry a cross and a song where I don't belong
But I don't belong
I don't belong here
I don't belong here

Kingdom come
Your kingdom come
Won't you let me down yeah
Let my foolish pride
Forever let me down
Easy living, not much like your name
Easy dying, you look just about the same
Won't you please take me off your list
Easy living please come on and let me down

We are a beautiful let down,
Painfully uncool,
The church of the dropouts
The losers, the sinners, the failures and the fools

Oh what a beautiful let down
Are we salt in the wound
Let us sing one true tune

I don't belong here
I don't belong here
I don't belong here
Feels like I don't belong here
Let me down
Let me down
Feels like I'm let down
Let me down.
Cuz I don't belong here
Please
Won't you let me down?

Damaged

"We are a beautiful let down, painfully uncool.The church of the dropouts, the losers, the sinners, the failures and the fools..." -Switchfoot, The Beautiful Letdown

Last night I attended a breakout session with the Appleton Alliance Church college age group.

The session was titled "Fire Away" and its goal was to have an open mic night of tough questions for Cal Kanowitz (the college age pastor) and Rev. Dennis Episcopo (head pastor of the church).

If you know me, then you know that I love these sorts of things. I love questions.

My question, in a nutshell, was this:

"The Christian and homosexual communities have some very bad blood between them, in what way should the future leaders of the church step up and engage the gay community?"

I asked this question very deliberately, because I have very strong opinions on this issue. I've seen so many Christians act as if gay people are somehow untouchable. Like being gay is the unpardonable sin, and I've been heard about the toxic aftermath created from those attitudes.

I've heard stories of parents who are professing Christians telling their own children that they wish they had never been born, when their child comes out to them.

I've seen the "churches" who hold up signs that say "God hates you."
Many other churches just skirt the issue, as if it isn't relevant.

I needed a straight answer. I needed to know where the lead pastor of this church in Appleton stood on this issue, an issue that so many hold at arms length.

Rev. Dennis took my question, and I felt immense hope as he talked, it made my heart so happy to know that there were others who felt as I did about the method of engaging the gay community, as followers of Jesus.

He said, in essence, that it really isn't rocket science. We need to engage homosexuals, and everyone for that matter, in love. Just as Jesus did. He said that the important thing is to create relationships, to break down stereotypes and negative connotations that have built up between Christians and gays.

He encouraged the young leaders to ask questions, rather than to spout out our own pool of knowledge. Both he and pastor Cal told us not to be afraid of getting questions that we cannot answer, after all that is the process.

"When it comes to the end of the day, and if my friend asks me about Jesus, and I share what I believe with him, and he chooses to reject it, it is not lost time. If I can perhaps begin to break down the negative stereotypes and illusions and perhaps show this friend what a genuine Christian looks like, it is worth it.

Because at the end of the day, whether we agree or disagree, I still have a good friend. And that's what matters."

And it is.

Because at our core we're all damaged. We're broken.

The thing about following Jesus Christ is that it has the uncanny ability to expose this fact. It's quite humbling actually. I agree with Rev. Dennis, our responsibility as Christians isn't rocket science.

The true church is, and always will be full of damaged people.

People who have been abused.

People who cut themselves because of the pain they feel.

People who are trapped in eating disorders.

People who have cheated on their significant other.

People who have pride issues.

People who have no self-esteem.

In essence, the church is a big spiritual rehab clinic, and we're all patients. Trying daily to flush out all the junk that is destructive in our lives. We fail often. We're imperfect to be sure.

There is but one promise that the church holds, and that is that for those who seek it there is hope, and healing.

Change.

There's a new beginning.

You don't need any sort of qualifications. God doesn't call you up to give you a phone screen to see if you're the type of person he'd want as a part of his body. You don't need a church resume', you simply need a heart that desires God, and the courage to pursue him.

So often, we let labels cause division.
So often, we are terrified of those who are different.

But it is in those times that we, the church, need to remember the words of God to his people echoing throughout the ages: "Do not be afraid, I am with you."

We don't need to understand everything.
We don't need to be afraid of what is different.
Our responsibility is to bring love to this world.

To love others recklessly, as Jesus loved us in all our damaged, messy brokenness.

It doesn't matter if someone is gay or straight, depressed, angry, bitter, hopeless, apathetic, proud, rude, arrogant.

None of that matters.

Jesus had the hardest time with the "perfect people." His message landed on deaf ears, because those who have it all together, have absolutely no need of a savior.

He deeply loved and cared for the broken.

He called his followers to engage others, even if they don't see things the same way.
He never said that we were the ones who change hearts. Only he can do that.

All he asks of us is to love as we have been loved. To meet another where they are at, and care for them any way possible. Care for them, not because of their labels, but simply because they are another human being.

Simply because they are another. Human. Being.

My friends, I'm a broken person.
I have no reason to be proud of myself.
I'm, in every plausible way, just as in need of a savior today as I was before I knew this Jesus guy.

But the funny thing is...

When this realization sets in, I don't feel hopeless, I actually feel joy.
It is humbling.
It is freeing.

The kingdom of heaven has no room for those who hold themselves in higher regard than others.
This kingdom is built on love, and love doesn't demand superiority.
Love doesn't hold up a standard that someone has to reach in order to receive it.
It simply is.

Love looked down from a Roman execution stake, in the midst of the most agonizing torture that humanity has conceived, and said...

Forgive them.

God's grace and mercy is for all, not just some.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Toothpaste and Life

To piggyback on my recent entry about disposable razors, I figured I'd talk a little bit about toothpaste.

Toothpaste is a big deal, if you didn't know.

I'm not joking.

Toothpaste can make or break relationships. There are two types of people in this world, the "squeezers" and the "rollers." I bet you already know what I'm talking about don't you?

Simply put, there are people who, in their quest to get the sticky oozey gel out of the funny little tube, squeeze it. Regardless of the location on the tube they are squeezing.

Their philosophy is this: "As long as the toothpaste comes out, and I can brush my teeth, it's all good. Doesn't matter where you squeeze the tube."

These people drive the "rollers" absolutely insane. Perhaps you know a roller. Perhaps you are a roller...

Rollers insist that "the way" to do the toothpaste thing is to begin from the bottom. As you use the toothpaste, you need to roll it up from the bottom. Seeing a squeezed tube of toothpaste really kind of messes with rollers. It doesn't fit in their minds. Sometimes this causes agitation, other times it causes silent disgruntlement, but there is always conflict in a roller's life when they come in contact with squeezers.

Why am I bringing this up?

I think that relationship with God is a lot like the relationship of toothpaste to teeth.

We constantly search for the meaning. We crave something that, when applied to our lives will bring us health and take away the ugliness. Much like toothpaste does for the teeth, it freshens breath, breaks up decay, and guards against plaque. Admittedly, when it comes down to dental hygiene, toothpaste is a key player in creating happy mouths.

Don't we want this with God?

Don't we desire something fresh and new within us?

Don't we want to have the junk broken up, and to be protected from the ugliness that could ultimately destroy us?

Well God, and your dentist respectively, desire these things as well.

I remember going to the dentist as a kid, sometimes when he'd clean our mouths it'd go well, that is, provided we had been brushing consistently like he had instructed us to at our last visit. But, there were other times when our visits didn't go so wonderfully. I had a few more of these visits than my sisters, I think.

The times I hadn't been brushing, and the day of the appointment came around, I would brush like a fanatic. As if brushing that day would change a year of being inconsistent. The dentist probably knew exactly what was up. I, however, thought I was super clever and that he didn't suspect a thing... till he had to get out the cleaning scrapers.

I hated those.

They hurt, and as he scraped between and on the teeth, breaking up and removing the deposits, he would gently remind me that I could avoid these things by just taking his advice this time around.

I was always really motivated after that.

Some years I'd do well. Others, not so much...

I think that God is the same way. He wants what is best for our health, but he gives us the choice to do things our way. Eventually we come back to him, and we have to let him clean up all the junk and buildup that we have created in our lives.

Those moments are some of the most painful times in life, yet when we are through we feel renewed. We feel ready to face things again. To pursue things the right way.

I think that religion is a lot like the toothpaste tube, and I will share why I believe it is right now.

In a recent post about doctrines, I noted that the thing that initially set Christianity apart from other religions of the time was the concept that God was beyond human understanding. He wasn't something the Hebrews could make some sort of a statue out of, or carve a likeness of. It was actually forbidden, because it would be such a disservice to this God who is so far beyond human comprehension.

The toothpaste tube is like religion, in the regard that it isn't the point.

Nobody goes to the store, to buy a tube for toothpaste without the toothpaste in it. That would be a pretty odd thing to do wouldn't it?

The actual point is what comes from the tube, and its implications for the overall health of your teeth and mouth.

We see squeezers and rollers around us every single day.

Squeezers tend to understand that the point isn't the tube, but rather the toothpaste. They pursue obtaining the end result in various different ways, different squeezes in different places along the tube.

Rollers don't like this method.

The religion of a roller is static. It's fixed. There is this concept of a "right" way to pursue God, which sounds very nice, if you are a roller, but it really isn't very practical. Not every grows up in sunday school. Not everyone gets confirmed.

Some people grow up in religious homes where sexual abuse was rampant.
Some people have grown up being told by religious people that they are going to hell.

Is it any wonder why they might not want to join a church small group?
Is it any wonder why they may not want to affiliate with a corporate body of Christians?
Is God somehow less interested in these sorts of people, because they won't "do" religion the right roller way?

Rollers have a lot of difficulty relating to people who do not swim through their channels to connect with God.

Sometimes it takes a squeezer to meet this person where they're at.

Someone who can, in that moment, say "I know you've seen it done this way, but there are other ways."
Someone who can identify God in ways that the rigid, rule focused way doesn't.

Some people like the roller way of religion.
There is one way to go about obtaining the end result, that's it. Period.

Perhaps there are merits, but there are also possibilities that can be missed in these moments because, as you know, regardless of how one rolls or squeezes the tube, toothpaste still comes out.

Whether you are a roller or a squeezer, please remember that the tube of religion isn't the point.

The point of it all is a God who wants what is best for those he has created. His is a way the leads to a new, fresh and better life.

A life where the junk is cleared away, and freedom can be found.

Truth in a Razor

Today I scraped out my razor, freeing the blades of the shaving stubble that had clogged them from their previous use.

This had to be the, what, fourth or fifth time I had done this?

The water ran in my sink, warming up, creating a nice relaxing sound and occasionally a wisp of steam would waft up and create a tiny patch of moist warmth on my skin.

I love shaving, just like I love showers.
There is something exhilarating about the warm water, it brings with it freshness, a newness of life. It's transforming really.

Isn't it funny how something so simple can have such a profound impact on your psyche?

But something different happened today...

As I lathered up and began to run the blades over my skin, I began thinking about the razor itself.

Why had I gone to such lengths to clean it out the past four times I had shaved? It's a disposable, after all.

Well, the answer is really quite simple, right now the budget is a bit tight, and the next shopping trip, while on the horizon, is still in the distance. I have to make what I have right now last.

Isn't it funny how when you have little, or are tight on money some weeks, you have the uncanny ability to astound yourself?

Ordinarily, when I use a disposable razor, I get about two uses out of it, then I toss it. They generally come in packs of six or so, so even with the shortened lifespan, one pack generally carries me to the next shopping excursion I endeavor on.

This razor had twice outlived its predecessors, and shows no signs of relinquishing its life just yet.

It made me think just how wasteful we can be.
We live in a disposable society; most everything we can purchase is tailor made for a single use.

It's crazy to think that something that has a sole purpose of being thrown away after one or two uses could, in fact, be lasting us much longer.

It got me thinking about just how much I consume on a daily basis.

Yesterday I was watching The Blindside (which is a great movie by the way), and there is a line that never fails to get me...

Leigh Anne Tuohy, who has taken the orphan Michael Oher under her wing, is showing him their guest room that she prepared for Michael. The Tuohy's are well off, they own several successful franchise food stores, they have a large house, and it is implied that they eat free at any of the stores they own whenever they'd like.

Michael is an orphan. He doesn't know his father, his mother is heavily involved in drugs and men, so much of his life has been spent fending for himself in and out of foster homes, and crashing on a good samaritan's couch.

It is in this moment of the movie that Big Mike looks around the room and says:

"It's nice, I never had one before."

To which Leigh Anne replies,
"What, a room to yourself?

Mike then says simply,
"A bed."

Those two words hit me like a ton of bricks every time I see this movie. Sandra Bullock does a phenomenal job throughout the entire movie, but at this moment she simply shines.

The viewer can actually see her paradigm being shattered, and her brokenness in that moment as she is confronted with the reality this boy has grown up with. A reality that is diametrically opposed to her life and experiences. Up till this moment, she and her husband have been helping this young orphan, and it's so easy to begin patting oneself on the back in that situation.

We've all been there.
Done our good deed.
Put in our time and walked away...

But the simple truth of Mike's two words cut, like a knife, to the heart of the reality.

That reality is, that we can never do just "enough" to relieve the suffering of this world.

As I finished shaving under my chin I thought to myself, if I can make one single disposable razor last this long, why do I spend my money on a new pack of six every two weeks?

You know those lights I left on last night by accident?

What if the money that I spent for that, in this month's electrical bill, could've been used to heat someone's home?

What if the money I spent on a Taco Bell lunch could've been used to buy bread and water for someone who doesn't know where their next meal will come from?

What if the clean water that I left running while I ran to check a laundry load could've been used by another to shave?

What if I could begin living less and less in a disposable wasteful world?

Would I still feel Michael's words like a punch in the stomach?
Would it still be hard to breathe as I'm faced with some of the cruel realities of life?
Would it still cause tears to circle my eyes?

And why do those tears come, at that particular moment?
Why do they circle and sting my eyes in such a way?

Perhaps they are a halo of remorse.
The weight of the truth that I need forgiveness for living with plenty, while others have nothing to call their own.

Perhaps it is the haunting truth that I casually throw away a razor as if it is of no consequence, while another couldn't afford shaving cream for an entire month. An entire month! A month without being able to feel that simple pleasure of renewal that I feel when I shave...

A wise man once said; "Whatever you did for the least of these (or rather, those without), you did for me."

May I be forgiven of the disposable lifestyle I live.
May I learn from this truth that was discovered, as most are, in the unlikeliest of places...

A razor.

Monday, September 19, 2011

[Video] G.O.S.P.E.L.

My good friend Ally showed me this video, and I thought it was a very cool, creative way to present a classic message. Hope you enjoy! :)

What is the GOSPEL - Propaganda (Dare 2 Share) [HD - 720p] from Disciple of Jesus on Vimeo.

Friday, September 16, 2011

[Music] Someday- Flipsyde



Flipsyde.

A politically, and socially conscious hip hop outfit. Their music continually inspires me with their positive messages, soaring hooks and intricate raps. Check them out!

Someday we gonna rise up on that wind you know
Someday we gonna dance with those lions
Someday we gonna break free from these chains and keep on flyin'

They tellin' me it's all good just wait
You know you're gonna be there someday
Sippin' on Jim Beam ok
Gotta get these things one day
Till then do another line you know
Searching for that other high
Stop or I gotta steal then steal
Kill or I'm gonna be killed
I got a sack in my pocket
Conscience yellin' drop it
You know we're gonna lose it someday

And we tryin' to hold it all together but the devil is too clever so
I'm gonna die you gonna die we gonna die
Someday one day I said

Someday we gonna rise up on the wind you know
Someday we gonna dance with those lions
Someday we gonna break free from these chains and keep on flyin'

Try to lie but it ain't me
Ain't me
Try to look but I can't see
Can't stop right now cause I'm too far and I can't keep goin' cause it's too hard
In the day in the night it's the same thing
On the field on the block it's the same game
On the real if you stop then it's no pain
but if you can't feel pain then it's no gain

Rearrange and you change and it's all bad
and you try to maintain but you fall back
And you crawl and you slip and you slide down
Wanna make it to the top better start now
So I hold my soul and I die hard
All alone in the night in the graveyard
Someday one day I'm gonna be free
and they won't try to kill me for being me
Hey someday

Someday we gonna rise up on that wind you know
Someday we gonna dance with those lions
Someday we gonna break free from these chains and keep on flyin'

If you know how this is
Gonna see it's not that easy
Don't stop get it till it's done
From where you are or have begun
I said keep on try a little harder
to see everything you need to be
Believe in your dreams
That you see when you're asleep

Someday we gonna rise up on that wind you know
Someday we gonna dance with those lions
Someday we gonna break free from these chains and keep on flyin'

Enough

"And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."

-Book of Philippians, Chapter 4

I think about this verse a lot.

Some people think that the Bible promises that if you follow Jesus, you'll get rich.

They believe that if you just do the right sorts of things, God will bless you with wealth and prosperity.

I do believe that God brings great wealth to those who choose to follow him but, the more I think about it, the wealth that God offers to us is often unlike anything we'd expect.

This verse often comes to mind when my funds are tight; I think about it while I'm trying to budget so that I can pay rent and bills and such, but it goes beyond that...

I also think about this verse when I see things that I desire to acquire, in the interest of putting on a better "show" for those around me.

Since my roommates moved out a little while ago, my apartment has been relatively bare. I am lacking quite a few things that, it would seem, are necessary to run a home. Mixing bowls, another couch, a bed frame and bunk spring, a kitchen table and chairs.

In fact, most things in my apartment, at this time, are actually gifts from friends. Individuals who have blessed me beyond words, and have met my needs when I couldn't meet them myself.

All in all, it's bare.

And somehow, in my simple mind, this bareness is a reflection upon me as a person. It's something that shows that I'm not competent enough to live independently.

And sometimes I feel embarrassed, to be honest, that I don't have the things that others are blessed with. Sometimes I find myself wishing that I had what so-and-so has, or being discontent with what I do have. I am coming to see that it's always dangerous territory to be venturing into when you begin wishing for the things that others possess.

When I met Tim, from the "Far From Home" post, things started to change in my head.

Maybe God didn't have prosperity and wealth in mind when he inspired Paul to write this bit of instruction to the Philippian church.

Maybe we have taken the verse itself out of context, and made it mean what we want it to mean.

Maybe glorious riches aren't an allusion to abundance and being well off but, rather, having enough.

Can you imagine a world in which people didn't always desire more, but instead chose to be content with what they had?

The idea of being full, of no longer craving more, is beautiful, but does being "full" require that you have an abundance of material things? Do we need stuff to fill us?

In America, especially in the college scene, money dominates much of our conversations. Talking about things like rent, and being stretched thin till next paycheck. Talking about how we wish we had money, and all the grand things we'd do with it.

What would you do if you had a million dollars?

Life would be so much simpler wouldn't it?

I find it humorous that we often associate simplicity with accumulation.

"If I just had this, then my life would be that much better."

Can you relate?
I can.

Yet, if we desire simplicity in our living, then shouldn't we be finding ways to rid ourselves of stuff?

It's incredibly ironic that no matter what the amount of the pay raise is, or the bonus we receive, it is still never enough to satisfy.

Maybe there is a different way to think about having our needs met by his glorious riches.

Maybe the goal of life isn't the pursuit of a life that is thought of as good, but rather a claiming of the good life that we have within our grasp each and every day.

Maybe if we, as Americans, took a look into the lives of the less fortunate...

Those who have no homes.
The children whose families don't have enough money to buy shoes for them.
The people who walk everywhere they go, but not by choice.
Those who have lost family and friends to war and plague.
Those who work around the clock, just to make ends meet.
Those who won't have an opportunity to go to school in their entire lifetime?

Would we then start to see that we do indeed have enough?

Would the car we own, regardless of condition, be a blessing?

Would we still tell our acquaintances how stressful trying to pay our rent is, during our $4 a cup Starbucks therapy sessions?

Would our classes and educational opportunity still be a hassle or a blessing?

Would our job still be a bore?

We are not entitled to abundance, we are blessed with it.
We are not created to accumulate for ourselves to find happiness, we find it in using what we have to the benefit of others.

These were the principles the early church understood, and wholeheartedly embraced.
They are principles that many who have been raised in the prosperous western Christendom don't understand.

Glorious riches aren't a state that can be attained through seeking more.
We've had them all along.

Family.
Friendship.
Jobs.
Health.
Education.
Public sanitation.
Companionship.

His glorious riches are revealed in the awakening of self, the appreciation of the things we do have, and the realization that enough is filling.
And, in that moment you may just find that you are suddenly rich in the things that matter.