Monday, January 30, 2012

My Friend the Economist

It occurred to me, as I was creating the post, that Tim and I don't have many photos together. In fact, the ones we do have are often in shady dark places like, bars or at parties.

But, you know what? Not every post will have pristine quality pictures. Deal with it.

Tim and I went to high school together, but the circles we ran in weren't exactly the same ones. Tim was the rock star, I was the band geek. So sadly, we never actually hung out in high school. Let me tell you though... when we actually start hanging out a couple years after, I was quite sad we never did. We would've gotten along fantastically, I think.

Tim, as I mentioned, is a rock star. He plays the bass, and has worked on several different project. He currently plays with a stellar cover band, and they often rock out in local bars in the greater Milwaukee area.

He's quite good, and has taught me a thing or two about starting out, as I feebly venture into the challenging endeavour known as the "Sunday worship team." He likes a variety of music, including a lot of that underground "hippity hop" stuff. You know, mix tapes, heavier beats, and anti-pop themes? Yeah, that's the stuff. He's actually gotten me into several different groups.

He's also an NRA nut, and proud of it. No joke. It's pretty awesome, actually. I've learned quite a lot about guns whilst hangin' with Tim, and will probably be learning even more in the years to come. Epic.

Tim, like so many of my friends, is one smart guy.He loves learning, and is always searching for new knowledge. Economics fascinates him. Yeah, for real! If you need any help studying for exams I'm sure he could help you out...for a price. He also knows a fair amount about politics and exercise among other things.

You can check out his blog here, and I'd highly recommend it!

I think that one of the main things I appreciate about Tim, is that he thinks about things. Crazy right? But I mean it! When you talk with him, you actually come out of the conversation feeling like you learned something new.

I think this is probably because he's very much self-educated. He hasn't relied upon the public school system to teach him about life but, rather, he's gone out and researched the issues himself. At a time in our nation's history when critical thinkers are beginning to become the exception rather than the norm, conversing with Tim is a breath of fresh air!

He's able to see many issues from multiple points of view, and is open to honest dialogue, but he also carries strong personal convictions with him. That fact alone could earn my respect in a heartbeat. It's much easier, in my opinion, to respect someone with conviction, someone who knows what they believe and why. Tim has no problem with doing this.

Often the venue of choice for our conversations is one of several hookah bars called Shi Chai, in Milwaukee.

If, however, we don't happen to be having super awesome conversations, one could probably find us shooting some pool, or cruising around Milwaukee's bar scene.

And that's another beauty of our friendship, we're both simple kinds of men (Lynyrd Skynyrd reference intended). We don't need to be doing crazy stuff to have a good time. Having a meal, conversation, or a few drinks is more than sufficient to keep us entertained for several hours at a time.

His appreciation for family and friends is pretty damn inspiring to me. It helps to ground me when I get caught up in the logistics of life.

When I start to sweat the details, Tim's values and priorities always bring me back to the understanding, that as long as I'm healthy, have great family and friends, then I can count myself blessed beyond words.

There are so many great things to say about this guy, as with all of my friends, and I can't hope to do him justice in a simple blog post. All I can say, is that I appreciate him. His friendship, and the constant inspiration that provides, and that I can indeed count myself a blessed man.


[Music] Sidewalks- Story of the Year

If I Die Young...

"If you found out you had one year left to live, what would you do?"

A question that my friend Laena pondered in a recent post titled: "Before I go." Excellent post. I'd definitely recommend it, because she uses a lens, not often used in our fast paced society to examine the concept. That's all I'll say...now go read it!

The post got me thinking myself.

Everybody has their own personal "bucket lists." Things we want, experiences we covet, and every list varies.

Now, perhaps, I'm over thinking this question. Maybe it's meant to imply that we should do as much as we can in this particular scenario, maybe not. But as I thought about what I would do, if I would find out I had but a year to live, I realized that I would simply focus on one thing...
Being more thankful.

Material things are fun, and there's a great deal of stuff that I'd personally like to own...but in the end, it's just stuff. I think experiences are great, but quantity of experience doesn't necessarily make for a better life.

I think that being thankful would be a great way to begin...and end this life.

What I mean is this...

Understanding that longevity is never promised from the day of conception. Understanding the simple fact that the sweet breath that's breathed into our lungs from our very first gasp, is a gift.

Nothing is ours to ask for.

We didn't create our first heartbeat. Nor do we determine when it will stop. We didn't create our lungs, our eyes, our hands. We didn't create our sense of touch, or smell. We were knit together by masterful hands. Thrust into a world that has much beauty as well as ugliness, and were given the opportunity to add our two cents to the greater story that's being told.

I think, that the understanding that nothing is mine, and that I'm not owed anything by life has given me a deep sense of peace. I'm not afraid of dying. I'm not driven by the need to prolong my life. Everyone has their day, and until mine comes I'm going to live the life that I hope I'd find satisfying if I actually was given a gloomy progenosis.

I want to appreciate my family, my friends every day.
I want to help someone in need. I want to spread love, not hate.
I want to be inspired by someone.
I want to be a better man than I was yesterday.
I want to give more than I take.
I want to leave my friends with happy memories of our time together...

These, in the end, are the things that I feel matter the most. They can happen at anytime. They can happen today. They can happen everyday.

But it all begins with peace.
A peace that is rooted in thankfulness.
Thankfulness that grows from understanding.
Understanding that causes us to realize that we've been given a tremendous, beautiful opportunity.

To share.
To heal.
To bless.
To love.
To breathe.

To live.

So maybe the true question isn't, "If you had a year left in your life, what would you do with it?"

Maybe the true question is: "How are you living today?"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tests

I tend to get hungry when I drink alcohol. I don't know if this is the case for you, but I definitely do. My freshman year of college my neighbor, Hippie Rob, officially dubbed me the "Toppers King" 'cause I'd always end up dialin' for Topper Stix.

They're delicious.

Tonight, after my fourth pint of Guinness, I decided that a trip to Jimmy John's was absolutely necessary. Bad move. Of all the places to go, and of all the time's of the night to go there, there she was. In the lobby. A person from my not so distant past. Someone who, whether she knows it or not, caused a great deal of pain in my life.

A broken relationship. Something that was never resolved. Something that didn't have a happy cliche' ending. Something I chose to end, because trying to pretend everything was all good was the furthest thing from the truth.

And as I stood waiting for my sub to finish being made, I swear the clock stopped. Freaky fast? My ass. I felt sick, almost as if I didn't want to eat anymore. All the bad memories surfaced again. All the hurt and pain from less than a year ago, which prompted me to begin this blogging experiment, was back in a big way.

I had to make a decision.

We've seen each other, now what? Do I walk out with my sub, without further acknowledging her presence? Do I put on a sickeningly happy front? Do I pretend every thing's peachy between us?

I chose to briefly say hello, and made a bit of small talk before taking my leave. I don't feel like it was horribly awkward, actually. If I'm completely honest, it was actually good to see her face again, that's what bothered me. I didn't want it to be ok.

As I drove home, I tried to put the pieces together. Why was this so disturbing to me? This is someone that I'd claimed to have forgiven. I'm glad to see her doing well, right? I've moved on, haven't I?

And that's when it hit me...

I hadn't really forgiven her. Not fully, anyway.

It's so damn easy for us to say we've "forgiven" someone. It's so damn easy to talk a good game, all the while dissociating ourselves from anything remotely related to the past injury. Am I right?
It's easy to say you forgive someone if you completely block them out of your life. If you never have to see them again, then it's easier to forget, and much, much easier to forgive.

But when something, like tonight, happens it kinda shakes you a bit. It shook me. I realized that, maybe I haven't fully let go of my anger. In fact, I know I haven't. I felt angry at Jimmy's. I felt vengeful. Even now, I hesitate to write this, because it isn't very flattering. It's never flattering to admit that you're in the wrong.

It would be a lie to say that I saw her, and that I had nothing but warm fuzzy feelings inside.

It was in this experience that I realized something about faith in God, and about living a life in pursuit of Christ...that we can only truly feel the weight of our words, when those words are put to the test.

Tonight was the litmus test of my healing process.
The results weren't what I expected. In a way, it's very frustrating, because I just want to be done. I want to heal. I want to love this person as myself. Deep down, I do.

But it doesn't just happen overnight. It may not happen in a year. Or two. Or five. What I realized tonight is that forgiveness is a choice, and a discipline. It's a conscious effort. I'm glad that we talked briefly. I'm glad that I didn't choose to walk out ignoring her. Was it hard to do? Absolutely. But it's another step.

Isn't that what life's really about? Our choices?

Each choice is another step toward our final destination. We choose our path on a daily basis. These tests aren't mishaps. They aren't mere coincidences. They're road markers.

Something that I've determined to do whenever I feel in the unforgiving mood, is to remember my savior. The man who gave everything for me, and continues to intercede on my behalf, even though I continually hurt him. Though I'm unlovable oftener than not.

As this knowledge slowly begins to seep into my heart, I start to realize that if I'm given the grace to be imperfect, why should I withhold that from another? Is my standard for others holding them accountable for sins in the past, sins that my Savior has pardoned? Who am I to place myself in that position? Who am I to hold a grudge?

And the answer is this: I am nobody. I have no right.

Humbling as this is, it's also a freeing realization.

I welcome the tests that are placed, so carefully, within my life everyday. With these tests come not only the choices that determine our destination, but also truth about, and freedom from the things that would keep us enslaved to ourselves.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Virtues and Stupidity

Virtue: A quality considered morally good or desirable in a person

Sometimes virtues, well, they aren't what we make them out to be. Or rather, they don't bring the promised reward, that we're lead to believe they do.

I feel like I've been lied to for much of my early life, and yes, I know that's a cynical thing to say...but hear me out.

All my life I've been told that if I want something badly enough, or if I persevere diligently, work hard enough, that I can attain it.

Really?
That's how life works?
Well, break out the champaign. Let's have ourselves a party!

Don't get me wrong, that sounds like a sweet deal, but it actually does a sort of disservice to the people (including me) who've been subjected to this crap. See, what can subtly happen, with this sort of mentality (while very optimistic), is that it begins to generate unrealistic expectations for how life should be.

We actually begin to believe that life will work out, just how we plan for it too because, after all, we've done just what mommy and daddy, and all our school teachers told us from childhood on. We are going to be freakin' superstars dancing on life's little stage. All the world adoring our "special awesomeness."

Well, this just isn't true. And, while I don't advocate raising children to be outright cynical... I do think, that some realism is needed to balance this goofy thought process. If you've lived long enough to be disappointed, or to walk away from a dream, you'll know what I'm talking about.

You can do anything you set your mind too...well, not exactly.
It's not as if you can't do many things that you set your mind to... but to say that one can do anything one can set their mind to just borders the absurd. This is why, channeling our character strengths toward something can, at times, become real stupid, really fast.

I mean, come on folks, I'm not basketball material. As much as I would love to dunk like Jordan, I'd probably be as good at it as Shaq at the free throw line. Sorry if you wanted a baller mom and dad, but this boy just ain't pro athlete material, no matter how hard he works (work ethic), how high he jumps or how long he trains (perseverance), or how much ass he kisses (ambition).

Many people would love to be Fortune 500 CEO's, and they virtually kill themselves working their fingers to the bone, taking a lot of expensive classes, and end up having their own enterprise go bankrupt. Did they not have the virtues of hard work? Perseverance? No, they just mightn't have been very good business people.

And therein lies the rub. Sometimes, embodying a positive virtue, can actually be downright stupid.

A musician who pours their blood sweat and tears into crappy music, won't be redeemed by the fact that they have an exceptional work ethic. If they don't have the musical ear, no amount of production can change that.

An ex who is persistent, and relentlessly pursues her former significant other, trying her best to mend a relationship may very well be considered admirable...until the restraining order is filed against her. Then she's just a creep.

A fighter who trains relentlessly, and has an ambition to become the greatest fighter ever, gets knocked out, not because he hasn't put in his time, or persevered, but because his muscle structure only allows him to go so far, and he's bested by a more naturally athletic competitor.

A Chicago bears fan remains ever optimistic about the next football season... only to be sorely disappointed that, no matter how much faith he may have that his team will do better, his faith isn't rewarded.

...In fact it's completely shattered ever single season... You'd think...after three decades...Just ONE good season, that's all I ask, ONE. Something consistent even? How hard could it be? I mean, I could coach the freakin' Bears better than Lovie!!!! Can't you keep a damn quarterback? And what's up with the play calling, huh?........eh heh heh.........I mean.... purely hypothetically speaking, of course.

But I digress.

A person who has many virtues, also needs the wisdom to put those virtues into practice. It is my personal belief, that each person who is born has divine purpose. Now, how we may rank that purpose, in terms of human glory, accomplishment, or success is actually immaterial. Purpose transcends human definition, in my opinion. It is part of a greater story that's unfolding in the heavens.

So we need to use wisdom and discernment, and know when it's prudent to quit. To have the courage to take a new direction. That in itself can be a virtue, when you think about it.

See, when old dreams die, new ones are born. When we long for something deeply, and when we've invested our life, time, money and effort to pursue said dream, the hardest thing can be admitting when a new dream is realized. Do we have the courage to choose the wise thing to do, and to re channel our virtues, our character strengths where they belong? Or will we remain, trying our hardest to be something that, perhaps, we were never meant to be simply because we've been told we can.

That's the real question, isn't it?

Of course, if you dismiss this as hokum, then by all means do your thing. Here's a song just for you, should you crash and burn, to nurse your self esteem back to good health. ;)


Friday, January 13, 2012

[Music] Rise Above It- Switchfoot



Switchfoot just does their own thing...and it's amazing. Great band, great lyrics, great way to start the day...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Friend the Life-Saver

It was by happy chance that me and Theresa (or "T" as I like to call her) met. I was an adolescent boy, trapped in the throes of new hormones, and she was walking around at a band concert with a really cute friend.

No lie.

This was the beginning of me and Theresa's relationship, where I was known as "creepy dude from the band concert."



It wasn't till freshman year, in Honors English class, when we happened to be seated alphabetically next to each other that we actually bonded. Thus, an era began.

We quickly discovered that we were both reading nerds, and were both thoroughly bored in the class, as the teacher wasn't that great. So, we made our own fun out of the period.

One of the ways we made English interesting is that we'd take this heavy-duty giant dictionary that we found (I swear it was from 1800 or something), and we'd look up a word each day. We justified this by maintaining that we were merely "expanding our vocabulary." Some pretty darn interesting words in that book, let me tell you.

T comes from a family similar to my own. Lots of siblings with lots of emphasis on family time. We were both part of families that put numerous children through our high school band programs, so T and I were on the tail end of a long standing, band-family, legacy.

T is one of the smartest women I know. No joke. If she's ever found school difficult, it's damn near impossible to tell, unless you know her really well. She diligently strives to excel in her studies, a character trait that applies to her life, not just her schooling. Honestly, I don't know how she does half the stuff she does. Not only is she involved in school, but she works several jobs to pay the bills, and still manages time to spend with her friends.

When you finish hanging out with Theresa you actually feel smarter, like you've learned five new things just by chatting. I'm not kidding. It's quite fantastic.

T also doesn't whine. She has just as much, if not more, on her plate as the above average American student, but I don't hear her constantly harping on that fact. She rolls up her sleeves, and just gets it done! You don't see that as much anymore in this country, sadly.

Theresa's a life saver to me in so many ways...

Theresa was my life saver in school. In fact, she's quite a giving, altruistic person. She is generous with her time, and never expects anything in return. I can't even begin to describe the amount of times that she bailed me out in classes, and helped me cram last minute test prep in. Labs in Physics were a bitch, but she somehow found the ability to always have her work finished, and then to attempt to teach me the lessons I'd failed to learn in the previous class period.

She has also been a life saver in my own personal life. I've had quite a lot of ups and downs in life. In high school, I always seemed to be creating some sort of drama, and it was always T who was there with encouraging words, or to just listen to me. I never felt judged around her, but I always knew she would tell me the truth, as she saw it.

It's such a rarity, but it seems I've been blessed with quite a few honest friends. I can always count on T to give it too me straight, and I often don't question her opinions because she has an uncanny way of being able to see multiple sides of an issue, and evaluate it fairly.

I really value that quality most in her. She is one of the most judicious friends I have. Aloof from drama, but always ready to lend help to those who need it.

T also helped me when I was at my lowest point. My freshman year of college. Before all this God stuff happened. I think it was in those couple days, that I realized just how much crap this woman has put up with from me. I won't list it all here, but it's quite a list...

I write about God a lot, and how he works through people. I firmly believe that God is always present, and shows his care through the people around us. T was that person, and not just in that moment, but for as long as I've known her.

I think it was that realization that really brought a lot of truth into my life. Realizations about self, about God, and about friends. The knowledge that, as rotten as I'd been, my friend was still there for me. Still cared, and wanted to see me find better...that made all the difference.

I did find better, and it feels pretty damn good, I must say.

In life, we all have our battles to fight; but it's times like those that, I believe, God places friends like T in our lives. They're people who inspire, motivate and encourage you. They're people who help you to see that tomorrow's going to be a little brighter than today was. Sometimes, you need a dear friend to save your life. I have a friend like that, and I'm truly blessed and honored to be a part of her story...

[Music] For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti- Sufjan Stevens

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dating 101

I've been on my fair share of dates thus far in life.

There have been many good ones, some bad, and few ugly (fortunately), so it goes without saying that with every date you go on, you learn the kind of qualities that you want in a person. You learn a little bit more about who you want to spend the remainder of your life with...

Practice makes perfect after all, right?

Well, this morning I'm going to share with you some of my invaluable knowledge on the subject of dating...

For starters, the venue you select is a great indication of how your potential relationship will play out. Coffee date??? Please! Pardon me as I go drown myself in a sea of pure cliche'!

You have coffee dates with your friends. You go to a place like Starbucks to catch up on life, maybe bitch about the world's many problems, not to fan the flames of a romantic relationship. Makes me want to yak. I mean, I go to Starbucks with my freakin' sisters, and you wanna go there for a date? Lame.

That said...

Not all coffee houses are bad. Some local ones actually offer live music on certain days during the week. As you wait for your soy latte, which is being made by the guy sporting a bandanna and a Greenpeace shirt, you can enjoy the sounds of local artists, bleating, and straining out the choruses of songs that other, actually talented, people have already made famous...

But for me, the coffee house venue isn't the way to go, not for a first date at any rate.

Do something fun!
Have an adventure!

I mean, if you start a relationship lame, it's probably going to be a lame relationship.

That's why I'd recommend things like, inventing a new sport, starting a flash mob at your local Catholic church, or feeding wild animals near someone's campsite. Light fireworks in your hand and see who chickens out and drops one first.

Up the danger quotient, and live a little! The bond you form from these kinds of activities won't only be exciting, but will heighten the anticipation for the next date.

Then there's conversation.

The key to a great date, in my opinion, is great conversation.
Now, I'm fairly decent at asking questions, and I don't mind passing the proverbial ball into my date's proverbial court, and letting them chat a bit.

My problem is, when my date takes that ball, and hogs it all damn night. Perhaps you know the feeling?

You drop her off at the end of the night feeling like your ears have just run a marathon, and you're 99% sure that she knows absolutely nothing about you.

Yes, I want to get to know you, but not all about your family tree, and your great, great, great, grandfather Sven the viking king! As cool as that is, until we've been dating for over half a year, I really don't care that much, just sayin'.

Find someone who can give, and take. Conversations are a two way street, friends. If you find someone who acts contrary to that simple model, you'd be foolish to pursue it further. Why? We'll, quite honestly, if they're a self-absorbed, super annoying person now....odds are they won't change till the day they die.

Which leads into the next category...personality.

I'll be honest, there are a lot of beautiful women out there who have a personality as deep as the kiddie pool mom and dad used to have out back during the summer. Weather and celebrity gossip may be tolerable at first, but in the long run it'll become monotonous.

Find a woman who can intelligently discuss literature, art, the Iowa Caucases, religion, or Marvel Comics, and you've found endless hours of deep, intellectual stimulation. Great for rainy days.

Attraction is a very important aspect of a romantic relationship as well. I mean, honestly, are you really going to pledge the rest of your life to someone you aren't attracted to? I'm not.

What many fail to realize, however, is that whilst on a date, individuals often have their "best foot forward." This includes appearance. I've learned that people have just as much potential to be ugly, as they do to be attractive.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so the saying goes.

Attraction, to you, may be a combination of any number of things. Personality, physical appearance....Well I guess, it's actually a combination of two things, really.

Make sure to know yourself well enough, coming into the date, that you can identify how much you value each of these things. If you're a shallow, I mean, physically geared person (and by that I mean that the personality doesn't matter as much as the looks), there are plenty of ways to test out your date to see if they can make the cut.

Take them to a restaurant that specializes in messy, or finger foods, and see how they eat.
Even better, stall dinner long enough that you're famished by the time you arrive. That way you can see how/if she porks down the food.

Prepare some killer jokes in advance. A great joke will cause laughter thereby, undoubtedly, baiting the datee into laughter. You can gauge how annoying the laugh is, if there are any side products such as snorts, grunts, etc. You can also measure how the face contorts and changes during laughter.

Some people look positively hideous when they laugh. You don't want to take the chance of having a lifelong commitment.

Now, if you rank personality as higher in your priority list, it's a little trickier to identify a great match. Obviously conversation and spontaneity when selecting the first date are good things...but, people can be fun yet still be lacking in character.

Offer to pay for her dinner, and see if she graciously accepts. If she jumps on it too soon and orders half the menu, then you know she's just in it for the free meal, but if she has a near breakdown with the fact that you want to pay for her McDonald's happy meal, that isn't good either.

Find a person who doesn't mind to be spoiled or pampered once in awhile, but still knows how to be a team player. Relationships are for team players. While each will bring their own unique talents to the relationship, you're both working toward a common goal. A great relationship.

I always check to see how they respond when I make an attempt to open doors for them, or if they say "thank you" at the end of the night. As a guy, I want to know that my efforts to be a gentleman are respected, or at least appreciated.

One other thing, make sure they respect the time you've set aside for them. Time is the most precious gift we can give someone, and if someone doesn't respect that, cut the mooring lines, and allow them to float away.

This one's a biggie. See, as was noted before, people don't change a whole lot throughout their life, it's just too convienient to stay the same. If you, and your time, aren't respected now in their eyes, then you won't be later...

The biggest thing is this...have fun.

The second that dating becomes a chore is the moment that you've lost something key in your relationship. Yes, relationships are work, and they aren't all love and puppies all the time. But, they also shouldn't be an absolute drag.

Your search for a better half should make your life just that, better.

Monday, January 9, 2012

[Music] More Than Life- Whitley

Memento Mori

"And we look at all we've created with and revel in our own glory, but even the strongest steel bends, and breaks. Even the tallest buildings crumble. Even the greatest pieces of artwork lose value, and collect dust.

We build our empires, and worship our own greatness, but in time a new power comes, and the magnificence of man is crushed in his arrogance. Walking through the ruins of man's greatest feats, one can hear the echoes what we've known all along, yet have ignored...'Memento Mori'!"

Memento Mori. Remember your mortality.

It's more than a mere caution. It's a calling. A constant reminder that life is short. Life is precious. Each moment that we're given is a gift. We will all have our time, and when that time comes, I want to look back on a life well lived.

A life of intention.
Purpose.
A life of compassion.
A life that made all the difference to at least one person...

You see, when we realize, I mean fully realize, that we aren't immortal, life has a way of becoming that much sweeter. Some have to come close to their own funeral to fully appreciate the fragility of the life they've been given to live. Others don't.

But no matter who you are, may you feel Memento Mori echoing within your innermost sanctum. A reminder that today is to be siezed, to be lived to the fullest, and not to be squandered.

My newest tattoo:

Memento Mori is wrapped in a star that is comprised of two colors.

Purple is royalty. Sovereignty. Purple is the God who encompasses us all, and who holds our fragile mortal lives in his hand.

Red is blood. Blood that was shed to gain peace, and end the war with the sovereign power. Both colors interconnected and encompassing. It is not a mistake, only sweet providence.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thoughts On Tebow Time

I can't believe I'm doing this.
My friend Paul would probably shake his head sadly, as I jump on the Tebow train...

Paul is a smart guy. He knows a lot about sports, stats, and he often posts lengthy statuses on Facebook with predictions of game outcomes on a weekly basis.

I, on the other hand, am not a sports junkie. I don't follow stats or percentages. I'm probably the least qualified person to talk about sports.

That said...

I'll tell you why I like Tim Tebow.

First off, if you don't know who Tim Tebow is, then kindly crawl back to that rock you've been living under, and don't read this post. You won't get it.

Tim Tebow, current starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos football franchise, has been the trending topic in football this season. That's right, you heard me. A Broncos quarterback, heading a mediocre team has been making all the headlines, and has become a NFL sensation over the course of 12 short weeks. He's garnered quite a following in the process.

When Tebow took over, the Broncos were battered, demoralized, and certainly not playoff contenders by any stretch of the imagination. Former quarterback Kyle Orton eventually got the proverbial "axe", and later came back to exact his revenge on his former team, only by that point Tebow was 7-3, and Orton's team didn't make the playoffs.

The Broncos were pretty much guaranteed a playoff spot by that point. This incredible 180 that was taken by the Broncos was attributed, by many, to the infectious team spirit which Tebow brought to the playing field.

Critics are quick to point out that his numbers, and statistics are garbage. In fact, there are quite a lot of people who love to hate Tebow. If not for his statistics, or lack thereof, then for his faith in God. Many are offended when he frequently celebrates good plays, by dropping to one knee and thanking God for the moment.

But here's the thing...
The Broncos weren't winning before Tebow took the helm. Now they've finished off the first round of the playoffs against a vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers team.

People talk all the time about teams that "deserve" the playoffs more, but the truth is that those teams had their opportunities, and they aren't there now.

There is no denying that Tim Tebow has brought a revitalizing spirit to this Denver Broncos offense. There's a new wind blowing in Mile High Stadium tonight.
I won't throw stats your way because I don't think numbers tell the whole story. Here's another view of that story for you...

Tim Tebow is in his first season as a starter, he's a rookie.


Denver implemented a virtually entirely new offense, suited to Tebow's strengths (this means they had no offseason to practice, fine tune, and perfect a new style (not commonly seen in the NFL).

Tebow finds a way to win. Some games haven't been pretty, but, let's be honest folks, at the end of the season the number of wins and losses become the only stat that matters.

Most importantly, Tebow is comfortable with who he is. He has convictions, and even if you don't personally share those convictions it is certainly an admirable trait. He doesn't back down, he isn't a chameleon who simply is whatever color happens to please people on any given day.

Perhaps that's a big part of his appeal. He isn't a skeeze-bag, he's a genuine man of faith. I think that it is this particular trait that influences other aspects of his life. It's the reason he's driven, and spends each week working harder toward a better performance. That, in turn, is the reason his teammates gravitate so strongly to him.

As a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, I can appreciate the value of having, not only a quarterback who can post some decent numbers, but a team leader as well. I can appreciate this, because the Bears have not had one of those for, well, about three decades now.

Quarterbacks who are born leaders make a world of difference to an offense. Tebow energizes his offense, if he makes a bad play (and there have been plenty to choose from), he won't sulk, or pout, but instead will look at his books, and prep for the next drive. He's passionate about the game, but doesn't let it consume him either like many other "drama-queen" quarterbacks.

At the end of the season, I'll let the pundits page through the stats, and make their snarky comments about Tebow. I'll let the critics slander and malign him if they really want to. That's their deal.

But what Tebow is doing for the Broncos is just the beginning. I think he has potential, and that he's definitely won my respect with his classiness, both on the field and off.

I'm not saying I want this guy for president or anything, but, I think, that quarterback of the Denver Broncos may suit him just fine.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Real Men Cry

Mark Driscoll has a lot of good things to say. I'll start with that simple statement.

He isn't stupid, in fact he actually knows quite a lot about theology. It's actually what he's mostly known for.

But credentials alone do not a man make. I was reading a post by a blogger called "Chaplain Mike" about Driscoll which you can read here, which prompted this post...

Now, I've sampled Driscoll's stuff before. I'll tell you right now, it isn't my cup of tea. I like the graphics, and some of the concepts for how to format discussion (like smart boards, text message question sessions, using social networking and such), but I really don't like him, and how he presents himself.

In fact, after initially watching some of his clips I remember thinking; 'This guy seems like a total tool.'

But, he has a heart for Jesus, he has a heart to try to communicate the truth, as he sees it, to young men who haven't been 'churched' if you will, and he's done well, as far as numbers go.

After reading Chaplain Mike's post, I decided to revisit the world of Mark Driscoll, and remembered just why I don't like much of his stuff. Below is a clip of Driscoll talking a bit about real men, and, what he believes they've been replaced with in the church...






Now, I don't begrudge Driscoll for having an opinion on this issue, but I do completely disagree with it. If you know me, or have read any previous posts, you may know that I was raised in an artistic home. My father taught music in public schools. From a young age I learned to appreciate things like, musicals, symphonies and museums. I was never a "jock." When my dad and I would bond we would do so over Culver's concrete shakes, or listening to classic rock.

I grew up in a home where we learned to share, and talk about our feelings. My dad and I feel things deeply. We get sad when animals die or are abused, and shit like that.

I played football for a couple years, and enjoyed it, but I liked music more. I invested all four years of high school in marching band, musicals, and photography classes.

I actually resent Driscoll's disdain for "sensitive" guys. I resent the whole idea that, unless you're some kind of brawler who is obsessed with his car, and how many RPM's you can get out of your engine, that you cannot be an innovator. I resent the idea that true men are at home on Sunday watching football on the couch, rather than being active at their church.

Real men cry.

You know why?

Because real men aren't afraid of their emotions, and feelings.

Because conversation and relation are divine traits.

Because music, art and literature are just as important as sport.

See, as a guy, there's this sort of pressure to subscribe to this "macho man" mentality. To out-lift, out-shoot, out-talk the next guy.

I will not subscribe to this.

I've felt this pressure my whole life to be a "dude." It's something I can't be.

Please don't misunderstand, I love taking opportunities with my friends to learn about things outside my comfort zone (check out my "wilderness man" stories on the blog, and you'll see).

But, I'm not created to be a hunter, a fisher, a "jock", a warrior (at least in the militaristic sense).

It isn't me.

God has created me to write. To love art, film, and music. This is who I am, and I'm not ashamed of it. And if you can relate to this, then you shouldn't be ashamed of who you are either!

If you're a guy who is a "sensitive", there is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with you. Just because you aren't a hunter, fisher, or mechanic does not make you less of a man. If you appreciate new clothes, smelling nice, conversing with a woman and learning about her life, you are not any less a man!

Manhood is not something that is attained through credentials.

It isn't attained by doing the "expected" or "typical guy" things.

Jesus, who is my sole inspiration, invested his time in relationships with others. Plain and simple. He wasn't chest bumping with his buddies, and burping, or making pervy jokes. He interacted with women, he loved and had compassion, he wept, he showed emotion.

Do you really think he was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying like: "Yeah, Father God, you know this cross thing? Bring it! I'm not a pussy, I can take it! Can't you think of anything better? I'm up to it!"

Hell no!

He felt fear. He prayed so hard he sweat blood! He wasn't trying to downplay his coming suffering!

Being a real man means feeling something other than constant testosterone.

I like some of the stuff Mark Driscoll has to say, most of it I don't.

Some of it, like his ideas about Christian manhood, are actually quite ridiculous.

Being a man is about more than being a "dude." It's about being real. It's about being true to the person that God has called you to be.

In fact, God has a way of shattering these shallow perceptions we prescribe to, and replacing them with radical realities.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I Shouldn't Like Dubstep...

But I do. I really do.

It all started when my eldest sister showed me this video...





And that was all it took... I had the damn thing stuck in my head for the rest of the day!

For those of you unfamiliar with the genre known as Dubstep, I'll clarify...

Dubstep is a form of underground, dance, electronica that is rapidly becoming quite popular. Apparently it originated in Southern London. Southern London! I know, I couldn't believe it either! I thought they only had tea, crumpets and a Queen, I certainly wouldn't have guessed that this is becoming a hotbed of sick electronica!

But the funny thing about dubstep is that, it isn't really all that musical. Most songs loop the same hooks over and over, while gradually building to a booming crescendo, then dropping out all the treble for a split second and substituting it with a ridiculous amount of bass line (this is known as the "drop"). The music is designed to be listened to on some heavy duty speakers, and sounds often like a splattering of bleeps and blurps, violently mashed together.

If you've heard a song in this style, you've actually just sampled about 99% of the entire genre.
It isn't really that technical, or even super stimulating to the brain as, say, jazz, classical, or even classic rock.

But there's something about it. Maybe the fact that I want to dance like a crazy fool every time I hear it, or because the bass just gets into my bones and keeps me moving throughout the workday. Or maybe it's because I prefer a darker, more macabre take on electronica, as opposed to that straight up techno crap. I don't know.

What I do know, is that I'm hooked now. This is much much worse than my addiction to the game Words With Friends, this thing could go on for quite awhile...

Ah, what to do?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Binding the Wounds




Whenever I have conversations with my friend Sam, we often end up discussing religion. Surprise, right? I mean, I never talk about that stuff here. Ever.

On Sunday, Sam and I discussed the concept of the "body" of Christ (simply defined as those who follow Jesus), and how it should really look...

Have you grown up in church?
If so, I want you to ask yourself a simple question...

Does this community reflect God to those who interact with it?

What I mean is this...

We, myself included, tend to be static. Humans are creatures of habit. Ever noticed how it was the first day of high school? If you were so lucky to choose your own seat at the beginning of the semester, often you would find yourself there at the end of the semester as well. Why? Because comfort is important to individuals.

We tend to take the things we like, and try to bend them to surround us in an effort to keep from moving outside our comfort zone. We do this all the time. I think I've ordered the same type of sub from Jimmy John's the last six times I've eaten there for cryin' out loud!

We like the known.
We tend to embrace it, while shunning the mysterious.

And so, life can become quite predictable, quite fast.

Church, organized religion, or whatever you'd like to call it has become a neatly wrapped package with a little bow on top.

Don't believe me?

Walk into most churches in America, and you'll find greeters (almost like Wal-Mark, only unpaid), there will be a mingling period before the main event, I mean, service durin which (if you're a Protestant evangelical who identifies as a "Non-Denominational") you can probably find a coffee bar, and get some life pumping through your veins in time for the service.

Service will often come with an itinerary (I mean, program), to let you know just how long it will be before you're free for another week. There will be all sorts of ways you can get involved in expanding the churches influence listed in the bulletin. The service will generally consist of worship (style varies), a 30-60 minute message, a little more worship, perhaps some communion, maybe a baptism (if it's a particularily adventurous sunday), and a bendiction.

That's it.

If you're super spiritual, you may even stick around to talk afterward rather than running home to see the beloved (insert favorite sports team here) play at noon.

So again...is this sort of experience what Christ really had in mind for the generations following his death and resurrection?

Isn't this the kind of thing he railed against?

Now, I'm being a bit facetious about some of the things listed above. I know. Traditions and rituals are important. There are many that carry a weighty significance with them, and are quite powerful when done in a large gathering...please don't misunderstand.

But, when I think about Jesus and how he lived his life, most of the radical, powerful things that he did happened outside the church walls. They were intermingled with his interactions with those who were considered "non- churched."

See, this is, in my experience, how God really truly works. He's personal. He relates to you. He knows you down to every last character flaw, and failure, and he still loves you more than anyone ever could.

Isn't that how those who represent him should live? Isn't that what's being lost in the idea of "church." Church, as Rob says in the clip, isn't a building. It isn't a denomination. It's people. People who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ. People who have taken his teachings to heart, and have committed to doing everything within their power to follow it, as best as they can.

People who believe that something is profoundly wrong in this world, and that it's the responsibility of those who call themselves "Christ-followers" to search out the widow, the orphan, the poor, the oppressed, the "not good enoughs", and show them nothing less than the love, they themselves have been beneficiaries of.

So what does a community of a living, breathing God look like?
What does a community of a God who interacted with his creation, who showed compassion to the friendless, who ate with the unpopular, who rebuked the self-righteous, what does that look like?

Does it look like your church?
Does it look like the community of people that you spend most Sunday's with?

If this isn't the case, perhaps it could be. Communities are built a relationship at a time. Perhaps your community is waiting for you to take the lead. Perhaps, just as Christ was our example, now it is time for his disciple to step up, and to begin to emulate the example we've been given.

Church goes beyond a meeting place on Sunday. Sam and I both agree on this. It happens every other day of the week. It's about knowing someone, and being known. It's about caring deeply about others, meeting their needs, and knowing they'll meet yours should the need arise. The community Jesus began with his disciples happened more than once a week. It happened every day.

This fact is very important, because the calling of a Christian goes beyond memorizing bible verses, and attending accountability groups.

The calling of a Christian is to ease the world's suffering. To bind its wounds, and to bring hope to those who've lost hope. God understands that we need other people in this. He understands that we can't do this, if we're going through life alone.

We need brothers and sisters to passionately pursue this common goal.
We need a church.
We need a community, a place to belong.

So ask yourself, is this the community you're in?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bitchin'!

I now have a slideshow!! haha. How cool is that?

On the blog sidebar there is a link to a page called "Adventures in My Word".

If you happen to be the type that loves pictures, and all that junk, help yourself :)

I'll be updating the photos periodically.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Foundations

Perhaps, the simplest, most overlooked problem that Christians face when trying to communicate the message of Jesus to others boils down to one word: Worldview.

How an individual percieves the world.

Why?

Well, because the Judeo-Christian faith tradition requires a basic understanding that many do not embrace, yet many Christians assume is commonplace...

This idea is that humans are fundamentally flawed.

We're a broken product, and in need of mending.

We're like a piece of artwork that has yet to be completed.

The Judeo-Christian worldview begins in a place of imperfection.

A place where the individual realizes that they're lacking.

But, so often, Christians can miss the proverbial boat because, not everyone sees life through this particular paradigm.

In fact, Jesus talked to people who didn't believe this.
All the time.

Actually, a large portion of Jesus' interactions in the New Testament took place with people who actually saw themselves as quite good. People who did and said all the right things. These were people who saw themselves as good, not lacking.

Naturally this caused quite a lot of awkward encounters between Jesus, and these individuals.

I mean, how can someone need a savior if they're ok to begin with right?

If someone isn't drowning, why would they need a lifeguard?
If you aren't sick, why in the hell would you need a doctor?

The math just doesn't add up, does it?

Christianity isn't deeply going to impact a person, unless they first realize that something isn't quite right inside.

If we're all honest with ourselves, no matter how good things may be at any given time, there are constant questions that we can't shake. A persistent feeling of things being out of place. Do you know what I'm talking about?

"What was he thinking when he took that? It wasn't his..."
"I can't believe I didn't see it coming. She seemed so happy didn't she?"
"How could he do that to me, after I trusted him?"
"Why do I have these feelings inside? I know they won't lead anywhere good."

Question after question.

Why aren't things such and such a way?
Why do I feel these things?
Will it ever end?

Humans have a remarkable ability to deny the weight of reality. To distract ourselves, in hopes that whatever it is that's pursuing us, will somehow disappear. But it doesn't.

Something's wrong and, Christianity, teaches that it's in our nature to want to do the things that are destructive to us. We're getting better, everyday, at finding creative ways to make a mess of our lives, and the lives of others.

Why do people steal and lie?
Why do spouses cheat?
Why do people smoke cigarettes, when they know they cause cancer?
Why do people drink themselves stupid, and spend hours spewing their guts back out?
Why do we fight, and kill each other over land, oil, and pride?
Why do significant others abuse each other?

The answer will depend on your worldview.

It depends on your opinion about whether humans are, at their core good beings, or not.

It took a lot of honesty for me to get real with myself. We all like to think that we're pretty good people, and that other people have all the problems, but that just isn't true.

We all have baggage that we're carrying, even the best of us.
I have baggage that I'm still carrying. (Hard to believe, I know. ;)

But there's hope...

When everything falls apart, and you're left to face the reality that life really is completely, utterly out of your control, then you begin to understand the desperate need we humans have within us for a savior.

It isn't till you nearly drown, that you can fully appreciate a lifeguard.
It isn't till you nearly die, that you appreciate the deft hands of a surgeon.
It isn't till you realize the absolute fragility of this thing called human, and the sheer magnitude of our broken existence, that you can fully appreciate what Jesus Christ offered to all.

Not just me.
Not just you.
To everyone.

Realizing the flawed nature of humanity, is often the beginning of a brand new story. A story full of opportunities extended by the divine. A story of a Savior, and what he means to a shattered humanity.