Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Friendship

A two syllable word has become powerful, mystical, and yet allusive at the same time. A word that can bring color to the fair cheek of a little girl or tears to a grown man has become one tossed around like a hot potato. Life moves so fast that we never stop to question even the words we use, why we use them, and if we understand the implications of them. What is this word? Friend or any form of it, i.e. friendship, friendly, etc. I’ve often asked myself and others if friendship is something based upon circumstances, but recently have been challenged to delve even deeper and further back into this curious word; a word so powerful it can bring about the full gambit of emotions.

Who are your friends? What is it that makes them a friend? What must be done to attain the capacity of friend? These are all valid questions upon the voyage of this discovery.

A friend is someone that you are involved in a relationship with that is intimately connected with you on a platonic level. The intimacy of the relationship truly depends on each parties level of trust and respect within this relationship. What about time investment? Is it a large investment that pays out over the rest of your life, like childhood friends, or continuous investments on a regular basis, like a school friend? Intimacy, frequency, and humility are the key materials it takes to build and understand friendship. Intimacy and frequency can have differing levels at a static practice, but humility is absolutely key. Wait a minute, am I missing something? As much as you may think this question should be posed as open ended, it is, in fact, rhetorical. Most would say that there needs to be a bond, something or someone that bonds them, an experience or some sorts. The core dilemma in that element lies in its uncertainty. Experiences or circumstances change, as well as people and items. Friendship is such a complex thing to deal with because analysis typically is done so externally. Friendship is so complex because it is an attempt to bond two beings that have completely unique characteristics. Maybe friendship will never be understood completely because it ultimately comes down to something spiritual, something beyond our psyche. It comes down to two souls connecting in such a way they become bonded. While I attempt to explore some aspects of friendship I will not offer arrogance and say I have it figured out.

I have had the hardest time with understanding friendship these last 4 years of my life. Growing up in a city where you were born you know all the same people and meet new people through the people you know. I had that rug uncomfortable pulled from beneath my feet in March of 2006 when I decided to move to Indianapolis. I had no connections, thus no connecting points, to even begin with. I had to start with a clean slate. I think this was a painful process, but as I look back, has aided me in my understanding and attitudes towards friendship. I suppose naivety lead me to believe that friendships were based upon a common bond, like school, sports, mutual friends, clubs, or some other tangible factor. External elements always change, we have no control over it as the nature of the world is change. Change is inevitable. Unfortunately for many something as intimate as a friendship is based upon an ever changing element, some external bonding mechanism. This is not to say the mechanism or bonding element is evil or bad in itself. These elements simply help in the process of creating a bond. Circumstantial bonds are relied so heavily upon that in the aftermath of change are broken hearts, relationships, and deep seeded emotional trauma (whether or not we are willing to admit to it). If Mortal Combat were a reality and someone could actually reach through my chest cavity and rip my heart out there would be issues immediately. Beyond even your physical reaction and natural physics and anatomy you would suffer from mental anguish almost as painful. Your mind understands that you need a heart to live, thus crudely ripping it out would result in distress because you are missing something necessary for life. The same is true of friendships. Too many friendships are left in the wastes of our pasts because mentally we believe there is an element, physically, that is necessary. The necessary element is a bond based on circumstances or tangible, inevitably changeable factors. It makes sense then that one would freak when the essential, or so they think, is taken away. “I just wish things could be like they used to be…” At first I thought there was some cruel joke being played on me because everyone of the people I considered friends would ay this to me, almost in unison, in pitch, tone, and rhythm. I used to allow this to bother me too. I would analyze myself looking for whatever wrong I had done to change everything. What could I do to get things back to the way they used to be. I quickly learned that my search was pointless and quite empty. I began to ask, “Why would you want things to go back to the way they were?” I am now engaged, growing exponentially in my faith, full of joy, peace, and happiness. I have finished school, advanced professionally, given back to the community, and obtained so many other treasures from pure experience of things changing. Why would I want to give all that back? I can say the same of many of my friends. Why would we want things to go back? If the understanding is our friendship is based upon a certain bond and that bond has changed then it is understandable why we would want to get back. I’d like to challenge the thinking that it is one inert element that creates and sustains friendships. Excepting change and looking at our experience of friendship as the bond rather than the elements that made the bond would lead people to such freedom in the relationships they find themselves in.

Can we even find ourselves in friendships and relationships though? Magically we awake to being surrounded by friends that we just happen to stumble upon…is this reality? Relationships are intentional. Friendships take work. I think there are plenty of acquaintances we can have based upon the frequency in which we see or experience people and circumstances. It takes effort to allow intimacy. This intimacy is what makes a friendship different from a stranger you see frequently in the local coffee shop. Maybe this frequent common bonding element will aid in the beginning of a friendship, but the reality is that it will take work. Frequency cannot be the cornerstone of a friendship. Frequency is inevitably changeable. Any house built upon a shifting foundation will fall, much like a friendship built upon or understood to be built upon irregular happenings. I used to be the single, available, always involved guy at the local church community I help start. I was very frequent in circumstances, in circles, and gatherings. My frequencies lead me and others to believe we were friends. There are two people from that community I still speak to or consider friends. Obviously frequency doesn’t build friendship. However, if the mentality that frequency does is there then it is destined to fail and leave emotions open to pain. “We used to hang out al the time man, are we still friends?” Or even better, the attitude taken that if a person does not have an increased frequency then somehow his friendship is questioned. Frequency cannot and should not determine a friendship.

Seems to me that even these two, frequency and bonding elements, factors are at the forefront of friendships but fail to be sturdy for construction. What is it then that makes friendship? It is an internal element, the one only you and I can monitor or control. We have a sense of control when change occurs within ourselves. The madness that comes from external change does not exist when one changes from within. Friendship is based upon an individual. This appears to be a quirky explanation for a relationship that includes more than one person. Is a person willing to accept another person? Does this connection between souls, unexplainable in nature, warrant a personal response? If the answer is yes then the individual work begins. Effort, respect, and trust are key to friendship and each comes from within an individual. When these changeable elements transform we are left with nothing but ourselves. Within that self there is a decision making process that must be worked through. Will I allow this connection to be lost over things I cannot control or will I control myself and the elements I can in order to see to it that it works? It is easy to kick and scream about frequency and elements changing, but what happens when you realize that those don’t matter anyways? We aren’t involved in the same community any more, so what, what are you going to do about it? I have different priorities, thus different frequencies, what are you going to do about it. Can you reaching and change me? Can you change my personal choices or elements? The answer is no, so why would you allow yourself to become distressed by them? The reality is that friendship takes work, hard work. It would be easy and convenient if all of our friends were based upon like circumstances and frequencies, but then they would not allow for change. Are we willing to allow change in our friendships? If so do these changes just make friendship more difficult or tear away at the very essence of what it is? The answer to this question will reveal who a friend is or is not. If you miss that friend, stop wishing things were the same as they were, stop wishing away change. Make the call, make the effort to keep that connection you so miss. The reality is that this unexplainable connection of beings takes work when things change, which is unavoidable, thus work is also obligatory.

May you be a good friend. May you check your presuppositions about friendships at the door and not allow changeable circumstances to be the foundation you build on. May you reconnect the friendships you miss. May you accept change and work diligently to have friends and healthy friendships.

OMG…she was kissing who?

The spirit of the Christmas season has crept its way and become comfortable within me lately. As a result my radio has been tuned to a radio station that plays non-stop seasonal tunes to meet my veracious appetite for Christmas entertainment. Furthermore, even the gym I work at from 5-730am plays non-stop Christmas music. This music is everywhere! This increased frequency in seasonal listening has amplified my listening so much that I know the words. I was riding in the car with J driving while listening to I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause when something like an epic light bulb shown above my head. In a moment of sheer brilliance and epiphany hit me like a mac truck…

This song is not about a mother’s infidelity with a fat man who creeps into houses and wears unfashionable red suits. The actual significance of the song is an adolescent’s realization of Santa and father being one person.

Yup, that just happened. Wrap your mind around that one folks!

Merry Christmas, hopefully you got a chuckle out of this.

Conformity Conflict

Before the time of written language, the writing press, and word processors there existed a tradition of story telling that has been lost as an art. Deep within these stories passed along one can find the treasure and essential essence of what a story is truly about. A great story, one worth telling and preserving over generations . is truly about a journey. No one desires to invest 120 minutes in a darkened room full of strangers to see a movie about a boy being born and having no troubles, having the perfect life, and then dieing. Although the medieval practice of throwing tomatoes at artists who displeased their audience has died with its time, resurrection may be possible with a cinematic feature like this. The “boos” would deafen anyone even close to this theater they would be so loud. Riots would ensue a critics would berate the mediocrity, at best of the film. Drama is what makes a journey worth watching, worth telling, and worth living. I’ve always said conflict can either reveal or build character. In every situation of life there is an opportunity to learn and grow, to mature and excel, to become enlightened and comprehend. These learning opportunities are choices on the opposite end of the spectrum far removed from the alternative. The alternative to progression of character is regression of freedom or better said oppression. “Freedom is not free at all, but comes at a great price.”

My comprehension of these truths is what gives me comfort here and now. This is comfort I seek in a place where I am uncomfortable, it is not my ultimate comforter, but a portion of true serenity. Conflict is an unavoidable reality, an inevitable foe that we will be faced with for as long as we breathe in this age. The question then is not how does one avoid conflict, but where does one decide conflict will take them, in a progressive, constructive direction or dark place. Being that conflict is an element that we cannot control, it is an external factor that exists regardless of our preferences. Being that we cannot control circumstances, the core of conflict, we can only understand it and seek to control ourselves and make progressive choices.

Maturity reveals that we do not live in a homogenous society. Conformity has no place in our culture. Diversity is celebrated and makes life beautiful. Individualism, diversity, and freedom have conceived a tri-breed child in conflict. The understanding of individualism is that each person has their own set or principles, preferences, morals, and faith in something. History still bleeds from the wounds caused by individuals oppressing with conformity. Although we may not agree with each other individually, respect is key to peace. Respecting others’ rights to be individuals is the mortar that bonds different stones in building the wall that is peace and unity. Jesus was all about peace and unity, in fact, His entire will and goal is to bring peace and unity to everything through Him. Jesus is not a conformist, nor is He the general leading an attack against individualism. Jesus’ entire message is about a new humanity where individualism is celebrated and embraced. This individualism must be respected in order to even begin pursuing a progressive life with conflict. Most of the time we are offended by individual’s choices or opinions and seek to win them to our side, seek to sell them on something we think they should believe or think. We seek to conform them to our own individualism, which makes it not individualism at all. Respecting and allowing people to have their own faith, opinion, political view, set of morals, etc. frees us from the tiring efforts of arguing towards conformity. This releases us from trying to change people in the midst on conflict, making its resolution all the more possible.

Emotions are important, but should be held captive to truth. I may feel like I was ignored and thus not respected, but the truth may be that someone just did not see me. Instead of allowing my mind to build upon something that may not be true I am challenged to verify truth before I allow emotions to run ahead. In the same way we need to look at situations with truth as primary leader with emotions tailing along. Seeking to uncover facts and truth within a conflict is essential. If one allows there mind to wander and emotions to lead the way their path is doomed to lead them nowhere. I always find myself in the middle of counseling someone through a conflict somehow. I guess people come to me expecting me to listen to them and offer them advice and opinions biased to their likings. Fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how rational they are) for them I always try to consider differing views, consider the other aspects and views of the situation that they will naturally not consider. This is done to reveal truth and not continue to crutch their mind with circumstantial evidence or emotions. Assumptions are made irrationally, but quickly morph into gospel truth and a bad foundation which they build their case upon. Emotions are reactions (prompted by stress, chemicals, past hurts, etc) based on dynamic situations. If these reactions are based something that changes, then the reactions themselves change. Something so active is not rational or safe to build anything on, especially a conflict. I have learned that emotions are not disposable because they are important and should be paid great attention to, but as long as they are based on truth. It would be like subject A being upset with subject B because they feel like that subject is actually subject C. The truth is B is B and not C, so it is ridiculous for A to be upset with B because indeed B is not C. Wrap your mind around that and consider if your feelings and emotions are realistic before trusting them.

Manipulative is not a flattering adjective for any subject. Unbecoming as this adjective may be it is something deep within each of us. Going back to conformity and individualism, it is easy for us to try to twist things our way, to get what we want out of people or situations. This is especially true in conflict. My fiancée and I are about as opposite as two people could be with how we handle conflict. She is rational and likes to get away and think before she speaks. I on the other hand like to get everything out on the table and talk it out right now. Although I know how she resolves conflict I still try to get her to talk, even after all this time. In a since I am trying to manipulate her into what I want to happen, I want to twist her arm in such a way she does what I want, talk right now. This, I have learned, is very destructive and can, and has, lead to hurting people. I should allow her to be this way, respect her ways of resolution, and accept her individual preference. Words and phrases like can’t, won’t, should, you will, are all destructive and screaming evidences of manipulation. “I want him to say…” This is something a friend recently said to me when I was walking him through a conflict. My question back was, “Are you okay if he doesn’t say…?” The reflection in the mirror needs to be faced with the question of, “If things don’t go my way, am I ok? Am I willing to allow them to disagree with me? Am I willing to let them not do what I want?” It is better to place your concerns and requests on the table, but be willing to leave them there. For example, if I am offended by someone coarsely joking with me I should not rush into their presence demanding them cease their style of joking or else. I should be able to calmly tell them that it offends me and request they not do it. I should understand within that request that they may not stop. I should understand that I cannot change them and shouldn’t even consider that as an option. Being manipulative in a conflict can easily turn it into a fiasco.

Even if we disagree can we respect someone enough to allow them to be individual and accept them? This is the ultimate question in conflict resolution. Will you consider people as much as you think you should be? Again, conformity is not an option if resolution is your goal.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Con Air, Jump!


You ever hear things like this? The Spirit will convict you of …Do you feel convicted about it? The Spirit convicted me of…

Conviction is a judgment that comes upon a convict, someone who has done something worthy of a judgment. I think of it in terms of that awesome movie with Nicholas Cage, Conair. Conair is an airline that transports convicts. All criminals convicted of something on their way to the appropriate judgment (prison) laid on them by a form of justice (judicial system). You may be like me and think that the idea of being confined to a system is pure evil, but we are all confined to a system, it could be mentally, emotionally, legally, or physically. We live in a certain environment which has molded us in such a way that it has aided in the development of our mental system. We have a certain attitude towards things due to this system. For us in America we are greatly impacted by our judicial system. We all know that when you do wrong you are punished. We are al very familiar with the idea of conviction. We get bad things are convicted. The problem is that we carry this thought, developed within a system, into another system, when it comes to faith in Christ and all that comes with it.

When we believe in Christ we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, the advocate for which Christ left so we could have. Jesus actually said it is better for Him to leave (ascend) so that we could have the advocate, Spirit. This Spirit indwelling comes at faith. Faith leads us to action, not the other way around, just need to be clear of that. One cannot act to attain faith, no good deeds will get the Spirit that transforms one into the temple that we morph into post-faith (Jesus said so). This in itself is another post, which I will write soon enough, but should be understood before continuing on. Paul talks a ton about how we are justified through faith. The idea is that faith is inputted upon us, meaning Jesus took the conviction from us, thus God looks at Jesus’ conviction in place of ours (those who are of the faith). I’ve always had this theology of the Spirit, but was just reminded of it when reading a new book by a popular author. I hope that more and more voices rise up from this world to speak against the things we have missed the mark on. So I was looking forward to this being an area he would dive into, but was disappointed when I read his words, “The Holy Spirit convicts people of sin…as we journey through life as believers.”

Do you believe this? I do not. The verse this kind of thinking comes from is actually in the same discussion Jesus holds with the disciples about the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “But, very truly I tell you , it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you. When he comes he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment , because the price of this world now stands condemned (John 16:7-11).” My translation reads prove the world wrong, but the word used in a lot of other translations is convict. Who did Jesus say the advocate would prove wrong and why did He say He would? He would prove the world wrong for they do not believe in Him. He prove them wrong about sin because they don’t believe in Him. How would the world not believing in Him prove them wrong about sin? The world is wrong about sin because they think we can stop, they think that we will be judged for what we do by a just standard. This is a thought that the world, those who do not have faith in Jesus, that do not have faith in his death and resurrection completing condemnation and the implications of sin, is correct on, based on their reasoning. Those who have faith have a new being, a new life, hence re-born, where our condemnation and conviction were taken care of. Jesus was convicted, on the cross, made into a convict, by taking the sin of the world upon Him, in our place. How can one be convicted of a crime they have already paid for? Is God thirsty for blood? Does God seek condemnation again? No! No! No! This is my chant of a response. God offered to end condemnation to all those who would just believe! God is a loving being that wanted to end condemnation, so much that he convicted an innocent citizen of His own in our place.

The spirit does not convict anyone that has faith in Christ of sin. He convicts the world. So, no I am not convicted of anything, neither are you. I think the Spirit will guide us to make decisions based upon the Spirit He has empowered us with. I think we now have a choice between wrong and right and He will always try to guide us there, but also always give us the freedom to choose. I understand that is a risky move on His part, but He took it. Words are nothing to express the gratefulness I have for that! I think that the church has taught conviction to its members for so long because they want to see everyone do good and stop doing wrong. We’ve placed all these “things” in place of trust. Fearing that some will abuse the gift of forgiveness the church for so long has been in prevent mode for far too long. God took a huge risk that His grace would be abused in all this, why can’t we take the risk as well? Do we trust that the Spirit truly lives in us? Do we truly believe that we are guided by the Spirit in truth? Do we think that it is Him that guides us towards a more abundant life, full of good choices, constructive choices? These are questions I raise to those who teach conviction to believers. I challenge you to ask your self these questions ad be honest to yourself, God knows what you are thinking and feeling already. I have found such freedom in the reality that the Spirit is such a liberating person that has chosen to transform me into a temple, a place where He lives and moves. Can we let go of fear and embrace the love and freedom offered by the Spirit? Can you?

I pray this offends in such a way that leads towards self analysis. I pray you honestly seek God and His Spirit. May you know the freedom that is within you. May you know the One who takes the risk of abuse. May you understand you are no longer a convict. You are no longer convicted. May you find joy and peace and happiness in this and may you live in response to this great news, this amazing reality! We are not on Conair, we are not condemned nor convicted, we are free to leave Conair. Jesus opens the doors and offers you the excitement and experience to sky dive, the chance to leave Conair. May you jump!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Learned Ambitions


I met with a friend the other day at good ol’ Starbucks to discuss mentoring the need for male mentors (be looking for a new writing about that soon). She had recently seen the movie Blindside with Julia Roberts. She brings up a good question that I cannot answer, but do consider exploring it a bit deeper may lead to some positive, progressive thinking.

“What is it in a person that makes them have the capacity to make it, like 9 out of 10 won’t make it, but something inside him made him make it…”

This is a good question. The question has nothing to do with circumstances. It has nothing to do with positive influences that effect a person’s most intimate ponderings. It has nothing to do with external elements impacting internal psyche. There is an intangible element that one possesses deep within themselves that pushes them to greater things than anticipated or even available to them. Obviously it is something within them that others do not posses. The 1 kid out of 10 that probably will make it regardless of any external influence also has the ability to be destroyed by the external influence he does not require. I had lunch with a friend from work today. He was asking about applying for a job within the company we work for. He was asking questions like, “Like what do I apply for, how do I know what and when to apply for this?” Why can some answer these questions for themselves so easily and effortlessly while others scramble for even hints? So what is it, what’s the intangible element, the mysterious factor, the x-factor to success?

I came up with my own philosophy on professional success years ago that has worked for me. This internal ambition that propels some to great places is an element many can domesticate though. It is not a Darwinist selective gene that makes one greater than another. Some are born with the natural abilities and innate facility to draw upon this x-factor. Let’s call this x-factor and seemingly intangible element internal ambition.

This intangible is something built of confidence, not arrogance, but being comfortable with yourself and your abilities, humility, and a set up realistic expectations, a full mental capacity to consider all angles. One must be confident in himself to even approach a goal greater than himself. This is what success is; it attains, conquers, or obtains something greater than anticipations warrant. Comprehension of expectations takes a bit of effort to begin with, but one must move past acknowledgment towards honesty and the formation of realistic expectations. Walking into any situation with a realistic view of circumstances and expectations can aid in self awareness and humility. This is the way spirituality works. One’s self awareness and reflection causes them to reach for something greater than themselves. This concept is easily understood within a nice suite and large community gathering but too often fails to translate into practical life, such as a profession or personal life. Once one becomes self aware by analyzing the situation they find themselves in they can do an honest audit of who they are and where they stand in all of it. This is the beginning of humility. I say this is the beginning only because the choice to be arrogant still exists. One can offer themselves self delusions of greatness, but circumstances and tangible elements will reveal the epitome of who they really are, thus eventually bringing humility. Humility leads to a realistic view of the circumstances, not swayed by fantasy, and allows expectations to be established clearly. These expectations should be viewed from all angles, good to bad. Once all the angles are viewed and considered it is easy to approach whatever goal it is one faces or desires.

Again, some have an uncanny ability to discern a circumstance holistically and move forward humbly and successfully, but it is not only these men and women that lead the march, we can join them in the ascension to success, both personally and professionally. In the grand scheme of things internal ambition is what thrusts individuals past their counterparts and is truly a tangible element that can be domesticated and learned. The question then becomes a sobering one, is this desire true, is the goal for yourself or another? An honest look into yourself can answer a lot, hopefully many can look within and find ambition soon.

Miscalculations


?
+
*
?
-
+
CE
+
-
?


This has been my life in mathematical terms and literary characters, my journey since following Jesus. I began by questioning everything, even my own opinions and faith (in whatever I had faith in). I quickly put my faith in Jesus as The Messiah and Savior which led to exponential growth. I quickly got involved in “church” and then moved up to Indianapolis to start a “church.” I put church in quotation marks because the organization of a church, the organized meeting and building is not what the church is, it is simply an expression. Nothing bad towards that gathering or expression, I just think terminology needs to be clear for proper understanding of certain concepts and ideologies. I then got enrolled in a bible college and learned a ton about the bible and Christianity. I then became bewildered with the teachings, religious culture, and beliefs I held to. I began to question things. As I questioned and squirmed I pulled myself out of the culture all together, away from the community, and away from the institution in question. The problem with questioning an institution is that it isolates you and alienates you from those that hold to the very thing you question. My wounds began to heal, the bad taste in my mouth began to go away and I eventually started reading and writing again. I began exploring my faith and its implications again. I began to unlearn a lot of unhealthy things I had learned. I began to really simplify everything around me so that I could be comfortable with who I was, my faith. Now I am back to questioning. I am questioning the motives and actions of those who claim to have the same faith that I hold to.

What do you think about Christians?

A) Rigid, uptight, unhappy, boring, judgmental, extreme, passionate, angry, proud…

B) Loving, peaceful, patient, kind, compassionate, humble…

Which answer would the largest population chose? The test population must not be Christian because I believe opinions of self are inaccurate for the most part. I have become more and more uncomfortable with my own mind as of late. Being honest with myself about things has suddenly offended opinions I have long held to. It is refreshing to let go of these naïve opinions and embrace truth though. The embracing of this truth separates me from a people group I am supposed to be at peace with. How is it that the more one learns about his own identity the more one realizes that he does not belong?

I went to lunch with a friend Friday and we got on the subject of faith. He says, “I understand having faith in something, but what I don’t understand is religion.” I’ve found that some of the most rigid and uptight people to be around are Christians. I have heard way too many stories of Christians going to people about their sin. Stop doing so you can be, basically is the message spoken. It is a mean, harsh, condemning message. In no way is this the Jesus I see in the bible. I’ve found that the religious culture of Christianity looks identical to that of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. Those who are not on the same page of the religion get outcast because they don’t fit, they don’t do what should be done, and they aren’t religious enough. This is offensive to Christianity, the American religion. But I find the more I follow Jesus the less I am actually interested in Christianity. I’m more disheartened by this religion than I am proud to call myself a part. The reality that I’ve come to is that just because I share the faith of religious folks does not mean I have to share in the practice of a burdensome religion. The simple message of Jesus is that we are free through faith in Him. Will a branch produce fruit? Yes. Will the branch produce fruit in your time and within your wants or needs? No. I see too many Christians who do not trust the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. I see a people full of conformity and methodology. I see a lot of rules, a lot of dos and don’ts. What I don’t see is love. Maybe the love is for all that are like them, but isn’t that what Jesus was so furious with the Pharisees for?

What if we’ve miscalculated? What if we’ve fat-fingered something and caused a huge mess of things because of simple miscalculations? I have been stuck in the book of Ephesians for quite some time now. The biggest message I got out of it was simple: There is peace! Hostility has been destroyed! There is the possibility of a united humanity. The wall that divided has been torn down! Peace and unity seem to be the themes of Jesus. If you want to know what love is please read my post on it. Why is a message based upon unity causing so much division? Have we miscalculated? So many passionate people I know hold dear to many miscalculations that lead them down a road full of even bigger miscalculations. It’d be a challenge for you to do an audit on all your religion these days especially. No matter what you are doing if it isn’t moving in the direction of love, unity, and peace it is not something Jesus is about. Justify it all you want, but if love isn’t wrapped around everything you do then it doesn’t matter what you do.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The New America?


I think this should be read by anyone in America. As we approach a new age that smells all to similar to the Nazi regime. Socialism is not the direction we need to go to pursue the fullness of life and to live within great freedoms. The Power of the People can stop this from
happening to us, our parents, our grandparents, our children, and to
following generations. An Indianapolis doctor's letter to Sen. Bayh about the Bill.

Here is a letter I sent to Senator Bayh.
July 23, 2009

Senator Bayh,
As a practicing physician I have major concerns with the
health care bill before Congress. I actually have read the bill and am
shocked by the brazenness of the government's proposed involvement in
the patient-physician relationship. The very idea that the government
will dictate and ration patient care is dangerous and certainly not
helpful in designing a health care system that works for all. Every
physician I work with agrees that we need to fix our health care
system, but the proposed bills currently making their way through
congress will be a disaster if passed.
I ask you respectfully and as a patriotic American to look at
the following troubling lines that I have read in the bill. You cannot
possibly believe that these proposals are in the best interests of the
country and our fellow citizens.
Page 22 of the HC Bill: Mandates that the Govt will audit
books of all employers that self-insure!!
Page 30 Sec 123 of HC bill: THERE WILL BE A GOVT COMMITTEE
that decides what treatments/benefits you get.

Page 29 lines 4-16 in the HC bill: YOUR HEALTH CARE IS RATIONED!!!

Page 42 of HC Bill: The Health Choices Commissioner will
choose your HC benefits for you. You have no choice!

Page 50 Section 152 in HC bill: HC will be provided to ALL
non-US citizens, illegal or otherwise.
Page 58 HC Bill: Govt will have real-time access to
individuals' finances & a 'National ID Health card' will be issued!

Page 59 HC Bill lines 21-24: Govt will have direct access to
your bank accounts for elective funds transfer.
Page 65 Sec 164: Is a payoff subsidized plan for retirees and
their families in unions & community organizations: (ACORN).

Page 84 Sec 203 HC bill: Govt mandates ALL benefit packages
for private HC plans in the 'Exchange.'

Page 85 Line 7 HC Bill: Specifications of Benefit Levels for
Plans -- The Govt will ration your health care!
Page 91 Lines 4-7 HC Bill: Govt mandates linguistic
appropriate services. (Translation: illegal aliens.)
Page 95 HC Bill Lines 8-18: The Govt will use groups (i.e.
ACORN & Americorps to sign up individuals for Govt HC plan.

Page 85 Line 7 HC Bill: Specifications of Benefit Levels for
Plans. (AARP members - your health care WILL be rationed!)
Page 102 Lines 12-18 HC Bill: Medicaid eligible individuals
will be automatically enrolled in Medicaid. (No choice.)

Page 12 4 lines 24-25 HC: No company can sue GOVT on price
fixing. No "judicial review" against Govt monopoly.
Page 127 Lines 1-16 HC Bill: Doctors/ American Medical
Association - The Govt will tell YOU what salary you can make.

Page 145 Line 15-17: An Employer MUST auto-enroll employees
into public option plan. (NOchoice!)

Page 126 Lines 22-25: Employers MUST pay for HC for part-time
employees AND their families. (Employees shouldn't get excited about
this as employers will be forced to reduce its work force, benefits,
and wages/salaries to cover such a huge expense.)

Page 149 Lines 16-24: ANY Employer with payroll 401k & above
who does not provide public option will pay 8% tax on all payroll! (See
the last comment in parenthesis.)
Page 150 Lines 9-13: A business with payroll between $251K &
$401K who doesn't provide public option will pay 2-6% tax on all payroll.

Page 167 Lines 18-23: ANY individual who doesn't have
acceptable HC according to Govt will be taxed 2.5% of income.
Page 170 Lines 1-3 HC Bill: Any NONRESIDENT Alien is exempt
from individual taxes. (Americans will pay.)

Page 195 HC Bill: Officers & employees of the GOVT HC Admin..
will have access to ALLAmericans' finances and personal records.
Page 203 Line 14-15 HC: "The tax imposed under this section
shall not be treated as tax." (Yes, it really says that!)
Page 239 Line 14-24 HC Bill: Govt will reduce physician
services for Medicaid Seniors. (Low-income and the poor are affected.)

Page 241 Line 6-8 HC Bill: Doctors: It doesn't matter what
specialty you have trained yourself in -- you will all be paid the
same! (Just TRY to tell me that's not Socialism!)

Page 253 Line 10-18: The Govt sets the value of a doctor's
time, profession, judgment, etc. (Literally-- the value of humans.)

Page 265 Sec 1131: The Govt mandates and controls
productivity for "private" HC industries.

Page 268 Sec 1141: The federal Govt regulates the rental and
purchase of power driven wheelchairs.

Page 272 SEC. 1145: TREATMENT OF CERTAIN CANCER HOSPITALS -
Cancer patients - welcome to rationing!

Page 280 Sec 1151: The Govt will penalize hospitals for
whatever the Govt deems preventable (i.e...re-admissions).

Page 298 Lines 9-11: Doctors: If you treat a patient during
initial admission that results in a re-admission -- the Govt will
penalize you.

Page 317 L 13-20: PROHIBITION on ownership/investment. (The
Govt tells doctors what and how much they can own!)
Page 317-318 lines 21-25, 1-3: PROHIBITION on expansion..
(The Govt is mandating that hospitals cannot expand.)

Page 321 2-13: Hospitals have the opportunity to apply for
exception BUT community input is required. (Can you say ACORN?)
Page 335 L 16-25 Pg 336-339: The Govt mandates establishment
of=2 outcome-based measures. (HC the way they want -- rationing.)
Page 341 Lines 3-9: The Govt has authority to disqualify
Medicare Advance Plans, HMOs, etc. (Forcing people into the Govt plan)

Page 354 Sec 1177: The Govt will RESTRICT enrollment of
'special needs people!' Unbelievable!
Page 379 Sec 1191: The Govt creates more bureaucracy via a
"Tele-Health Advisory Committee." (Can you say HC by phone?)

Page 425 Lines 4-12: The Govt mandates "Advance-Care Planning
Consult." (Think senior citizens end-of-life patients.)
Page 425 Lines 17-19: The Govt will instruct and consult
regarding living wills, durable powers of attorney, etc. (And it's
mandatory!)
Page 425 Lines 22-25, 426 Lines 1-3: The Govt provides an
"approved" list of end-of-life resources; & nbsp;guiding you in death.
(Also called 'assisted suicide.')

Page 427 Lines 15-24: The Govt mandates a program for orders
on "end-of-life." (The Govt has a say in how your life ends!)

Page 429 Lines 1-9: An "advanced-care planning consultant"
will be used frequently as a patient's health deteriorates.

Page 429 Lines 10-12: An "advanced care consultation" may
include an ORDER for end-of-life plans. (AN ORDER TO DIE FROM THE
GOVERNMENT?!?)

Page 429 Lines 13-25: The GOVT will specify which doctors can
write an end-of-life order. (I wouldn't want to stand before God after
getting paid for THAT job!)
Page 430 Lines 11-15: The Govt will decide what level of
treatment you will have at end-of-life! (Again -- no choice!)

Page 469: Community-Based Home Medical Services = Non-Profit
Organizations. (Hello? ACORN Medical Services here!?!)
Page 489 Sec 1308: The Govt will cover marriage and family
therapy. (Which means Govt will insert itself into your marriage even.)

Page 494-498: Govt will cover Mental Health Services
including defining, creating, and rationing those services.

Senator, I guarantee that I personally will do everything
possible to inform patients and my fellow physicians about the dangers
of the proposed bills you and your colleagues are debating.

Furthermore, if you vote for a bill that enforces socialized
medicine on the country and destroys the doctor-patient relationship, I
will do everything in my power to make sure you lose your job in the
next election.

Respectfully,

Stephen E. Fraser, MD

Love (a new perspective)


What about me? What about my preferences? What about my wants, my needs, what about me? Is this type of questioning appropriate for a married man? Is any reasoning focused on self at home within the marital context? These are questions that make me feel equivalent to a small boy sitting alone in a dark room in the corner scared to death to do anything. As much as living life out of love rather than fear makes sense I find myself fearing my own demise and failure of a huge principle that I will soon be called to obey and follow. I know it is for the best and I know that a marriage should operate by both parties having no focus on themselves, but how do I do that? The command that sends me into armadillo mode is this:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself (Ephesians 5:25-28).

Alright, so there are several questions I have when I read this little ditty. What is love? How did Christ love the church? What does this all mean for me?

What is love?
Well, what word was used? Being that the Bible was not written to me, an American man in 2009 or in English we need to understand what word and language was actually used in the original script. The word used in that passage is agapa. Husbands, agapa you wives, just as Christ agapa’d the church and gave himself up for her… Apparently there are 5 words for love in Greek. When I say I love pizza, it is not the same as saying I love my fiancé nor is it the same as saying it to a good male friend. The other 4 types of love in Greek are philos, eros, sturge, and epithemia.

Philos=brotherly, or friendship love
Eros=Romantic, sexual love
Agape=Unconditional, all-consuming love
Surge= old friends connecting after a long time... where things appear to pick up exactly where they left off... even if many decades intervened...
Epithemia - overwhelming desire to give all (not sexual)

Aright, agape, what does that mean for me? What does unconditional love look like? Well, what does conditional love look like?

Conditional- imposing, containing, subject to, or depending on a condition or conditions; not absolute; made or allowed on certain terms
Unconditional- not limited by conditions; absolute

My love should be unconditional. That is tough because everything we encounter within our environment is based upon some sort of condition, everything is conditional. I do my job based up on the condition of getting paid. My employer pays me based on the condition of me meeting goals and such. Everything is persuaded by conditions, weather, emotions, politics, money, opinion, etc. Now something as intimate as a relationship you are committing to for the rest of your natural life if supposed to be unconditional. I can’t think of anything that is unconditional, but my love for someone is supposed to be? No matter what conditions may be I am still supposed to love. We’ll talk about this a bit later. What exactly is love though? The same word, agape, is used a little bit later in the bible, tucked away in a letter written by Paul to a church.

Love (agape) is patient, love (agape) is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love (agape) does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love (agape) never fails.

This unconditional love suddenly gets even more complicated, on top of the already difficult task of being unconditional. One of the most intricate tasks I’ve been challenged to was to replace my name for the word love. The reasoning behind this was that if I am supposed to be a follower of Christ who was God and God is love then so should I, be love. So I tried and became very saddened of how much of a failure I was within that challenge. You should try it, it is quite humbling.

Christ loved the Church
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…
Another word study is required here I think. What does gave himself up mean?

Just as Christ gave Himself- Greek word= paraded
1. to give into the hands (of another)
2. to give over into (one's) power or use
a. to deliver to one something to keep, use, take care of, manage
b. to deliver up one to custody, to be judged, condemned, punished, scourged, tormented, put to death

Christ loved the church by giving himself into the hands of others, he released his everything. He gave Himself into another’s power or use to keep, use, take care of, manage, he gave Himself into the custody of others to judge, condemn, punish, scourge, torment, and ultimately put to death. What I am not saying is I am required to let my wife kill me unjustly. I’ve heard it said that the person you love has the greatest capacity to hurt you the worst and I believe it, especially in light of this whole idea.

Me
What does this mean to me? Seems that marriage is more about sacrifice than anything we are ever taught in school or church. Seems like marriage is about sacrifice and taking the words like me and I out of the conversation. Living out of fear that you will not get your way or that you will get hurt extinguishes the power of love, the power of a true marriage, of a true husband. Do I trust this concept enough to live it out though? Can I stop fearing that I am not a factor and live as if she is what matters most, more than myself even?

Based on this little study I decided to venture into I’ve come up with a few things. Adam is supposed to offer unconditional love. I should be patient, kind, not envious, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking (probably most important), not easily angered, keep no records of wrongs, rejoice with truth and not rejoice with evil, always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere, and never fail. If I’m offering love unconditional then it will not fail because it will not be molded by external conditions. I am supposed to give myself, my feelings, my desires, my concerns over to another (J) to keep, use, take care of, and manage. I should love in such a way that it is all in the hands of another. Is this something I can do? Rather than fear that I will fail, which I am sure I will, I should pursue this love and being a good husband. It seems that love is a painful process that someone chooses, choosing to give it away rather than this romantic idea of reciprocal emotions and respect being exchanged. Maybe if we viewed love like this we’d be more free to operate within it and become less disappointed, less anxious, and have less unrealistic expectations. If a husband lived love like this, even though sometimes it will hurt and be painful, what else could a wife do but return this love? But again, it’s not about the return, it’s about the willingness to invest. Question is, is it an investment we (husbands or husbands to be) are willing to make and remind ourselves of daily?

This has been a very sobering look at love for me, a sobering look at what the labor of love actually calls for, a sobering look at what a husband should be. This has challenged me to my core, challenged me to love (truly) and challenged me to stop worrying about myself so much. This has truly been more of a mirror to myself than anything else. I used to think marriage would be hard because you had to constantly put up with someone else and all their flaws, but what I’ve found is an inverse principle. The hardship of marriage will be constantly seeing myself and my selfishness. Getting over my pride and selfish desires is the challenege. The otherside of the mirror doesn’t look so pretty in light of all this, my own reflection haunts me in light of this love and so the pain comes in looking into and at myself. I really want to be a good husband and hope that you will join me in praying that the Spirit would give me guidance and strength to endure love, to be love. Regardless of the return I pray I would pour out love and be a loving husband.

Monday, December 7, 2009

No Thanks Mr. Gore

I’ve been meaning to write more about my weekend with the new family and new fiancé since it all went down, but have just not been able to focus or had a huge desire to write recently. Last night gave me that little push I needed. Last night I spent my first Christmas doing some sort of family tradition since I’ve moved up here that looked anything like the movies. Growing up in Jacksonville, FL Christmas traditions fall short of what one would think is appropriate or seasonal. Maybe there is something more too the environment surrounding the season than the actual date and month on a calendar though. I took a class in college that was based on a similar idea, that cultures and individuals are all affected by their environment, but cannot remember what it was called. It’d be an interesting study now though, being as I have an experience to link my desire for education to this time around. The temperatures yesterday ranged from 19 (low) to 36 (high). J was all excited about going home to participate in their annual family tradition of decorating the Christmas tree. I was a little nervous at first because I’ve never really felt this seasonal spirit that everyone seemed to have on the movies. We walk into the house to see an almost rhythmic dance from within the fireplace. The warmth and smells produced permeate the senses and dive deep into the psyche to convince myself that I have the seasonal Christmas spirit I so longed for. Christmas music is being played and we begin to decorate the tree. The family remembering all the times of past and enjoying each others company. For a moment the room seemed to be still and move in slow motion as I was a spectator of something beautiful. This moment was interrupted by a rugged, probably unsafe, ladder and some old red lights. If you are thinking that I was beaten with an old piece of wood by a police officer you are wrong. I was handed an old rickety ladder and strand of lights and asked to hang the strand of red lights that they have traditionally decorated their tree with. In that moment my observing was turned into participation and no longer did I watch a family tradition, I became part of it. No longer their tradition, it was ours.

Ever since that announcement that we were engaged in Michigan on Thanksgiving weekend I have felt nothing but acceptance and the warmth of what I’ve missed since moving from Jacksonville, Family. The entire weekend, Thanksgiving weekend, was great because I knew I was adopted into a new family. Although I still greatly miss my family, it is very nice to feel like I have one up here. So last night as the Christmas music played and we all just sat around after the tree was completely decorated I just looked around and smiled. J hated the taste of roasted chestnuts. But all in the name or tradition I decided to bring a package of them to roast on an open fire (even though it was done in an over at 400 for 20 minutes). We chased that with some eggnog and wondered what exactly eggnog was. What a great ride this has been so far! This morning it snowed and I find myself just smiling a lot as I reflect on how important family is to me and how blessed I am to have J and her family around. It makes me miss my family as well, but it is nice to know I have that here now. So I will probably find myself listening to Christmas music and being enamored by decorated houses as I feel like that cinematic Christmas spirit has finally made its way to my heart. Maybe this is all a bit sappy for you to read, but that’s how I’ve been feeling lately. So if Al Gore is truly the environmental prophet and global warming is correct I have become an avid hater, for I’ve found that there is truly something magical about all this cold weather, snow, ice, fireplace, Christmas season Jazz. So no thank you Mr. Gore, I do not want any of what you are serving, I’m fine with traditions and family for now.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Beyonce Lil Wayne & Bob Dylan have spoken

If there was a juke box for my life within the past week or so it’d go a little something like this:

‘Cause if you liked then you should have put a ring on it
If you liked it then you should of put a ring on it
Don’t be mad once you see that I want it
If you like it then you should of put a ring on it
- Beyonce

Bling Bling
Everytime I come around yo city
Bling Bling
Everytime I come around yo city
- BG & Lil Wayne

Come gather round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin
Then you better start swimming
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin.
- Bob Dylan

What I’m trying to say here folks is….wait for it….wait for it…

I’m engaged!

Here are some pictures and I will write another entry to go over details and some other thoughts surrounding that weekend.














Monday, November 23, 2009

This Weeks Idiot Award

This weeks idiot award goes to.....DRUMROLL...........

**Michael** (congratulations!)


My daily laughs come from www.fark.com if you are wondering. It makes me laugh out loud!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Free Stuff...is it good though?

“I’ve been sleeping with my best friend for 5 years and my husband doesn’t know…”

That was one of many shocking confessions made on the morning radio show I normally listen to on my way into work this morning. The contest was called Confess Your Mess and it was for the grand prize of, drum roll please, Twilight: New Moon movie tickets. There is no confetti, no horns, or flashing lights after that surprise. What a let down right? A huge city wide morning show holds a contest to confess stuff on air that could potentially end a relationship or even worse, a marriage, just to win free tickets to a freakin’ movie about vampire love drama. I don’t understand the obsession with Twilight myself, but I’m pretty sure winning free movie tickets is not worth confessing horrible things on air for.

Oprah made a big deal out of the grilled chicken at KFC when it was first released and gave away free meals with a coupon you could print off line. My friend Billy and I printed them off and went to the closest KFC. We were in line for an hour. I had never seen this many people crowded into such a small space before in my life, which I’m sure was a fire code violation. They had a police officer directing traffic because it was so chaotic. All over some free chicken (although it was tasty and free is always nice! Ridiculous!

At any given night in Conseco Field house at a Pacers game at the receiving end of a highly pressurized air gun you will find an enthusiastic fan dancing, screaming at the top of their lungs, and waving their arms around like they were having a grand mal seizure hoping to get a free t-shirt shot at them.

Do you see the trend? Don’t you get the feeling that people are crazy about free stuff? This is the point where you make the assumption of where I am taking this right? If you think I am going to go to the typical monologue of salvation being free and we should be excited to receive it, sorry you loose.

If those crazy air guns that Boomer spits t-shirts out of shot out angry spider monkeys I am sure the excitement would subside quickly. If Oprah gave away free meal coupons for a condemned and unsanitary restaurant I am sure the lines would not have been so long. If the prize for the Confess Your Mess contest was sending out a chain gang member to beat you for your ridiculous confession then I’m sure the radio station would not be flooded by phone calls. People get excited about receiving free things that are cool or exciting for them. People want desirable things to be given to them for free.

I guess my question is why don’t people get excited to receive the Gospel? I am not convinced it is solely because the world is full of wickedness and evil and hates God. I think people like good news, people like free things. Why is it that the easiest way to direct traffic on a busy Saturday night is to put a street preacher in the area you don’t want people?

Isn’t the Gospel good news? Is it something burdensome and heavy? Is it ugly, smell bad, or oppress? Isn’t it something that people should be jumping for? What has happened that it is some kind of deterrent now? The message hasn’t changed has it? If it isn’t the message changing then it must be poor representation, right?

I pray that we can all look in the mirror and ask ourselves honestly how the rest of the world sees the gift we have and if they would want it. It’s all about the gift being good….do we make it seem good?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Expectations

The doors open….”4 please,” and off we go. The exciting metal box takes us to an adventurous land of wonder, filled with keyboards, staplers, and fax machines. It is a little before 8 as I walk around the corner to a new world, filled with busy fingers, name plates, and almost harmonious incoming phone calls. The low level of chatter sounds like some sort of melodic office chant. The smell of cheap coffee permeates my sense of smell. My journey is almost finished and I am within yards of my destination when I am greeted by something like a monster, a monster empowered and fueled by negativity. Within the first 10 minutes of being at work I am bombarded with negativity. I mean it’s not even 8am yet and people have already decided that they are going to have a bad day. It is a little disheartening that this negative attitude towards things begins so early in the day and then further dictates the rest of the afternoon.

When thinking about this writing I intended it to go in a different direction than the path we will walk down now. My initial thought was in response to something I had read earlier in the day. I was casually reading through the book of Philippians, a letter from Paul, earlier that morning. Paul, who is in jail and being beaten and all kind of other things I am sure the jailing system of that day enjoyed, tells his recipients that he has found a way to be content in everything. Now this is coming from a man being treated like an animal in a cruel jail system by an even crueler government. He tells the Philippians to do everything without grumbling or arguing so that they will shine among other men like stars. My initial writing was going to go something like this:

Paul was a prisoner being cruelly treated and is content. Inspired by the Spirit he says to not grumble in anything and not to argue. You live in a free country, have a job in a tough economy, and are sitting in the air conditioning, shut up and stop complaining!

I now realize that thought process may be true but somewhat simple and shallow though.

I am currently reading, and almost finished with, Don Miller’s new deal, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It is a great book, such an easy read, and full of thought provoking insights. One of the chapters I happened to read this morning was The Reason God Hasn’t Fixed You Yet. The Danish culture is the happiest in the world. There happiness comes from low expectations. The point is not lowering your standards, but considering your expectations and where they come from, if they are fair or logical. He basically says that God will not come in and fix everything while we are here on earth or in our lifetimes like some great movie provide resolution because it is through pain that we learn and through pain we grow. I sat down the book after I read that chapter because he came at life from a perspective I had not been taught. I had been taught that everything will be alright, Jesus will fix it all. But if we do learn through pain, would God be cruel to not let us grow and learn and become more like Him if He did fix it all and not allow pain?

This got me thinking about expectations and how, like everyone else, I have them. So what is it that causes my co-workers to attack me with their bitterness first thing in the morning? Circumstances are ever changing and so it is to be understood that circumstances are not within the control of any given person. Maybe that guy who cut you off in traffic, customer who yelled at you on the phone, manager who made a decision you did not agree with, or co-worker who handled a situation in a way you contrary to yours is not crazy or as bad as you or I may make them out to be, maybe we are unfairly placing expectations on them. Maybe flawed expectations are the problem sometimes. I thought I was going to be judged and thrown out of a friend’s house one week when I made a comment in a conversation. We were talking about how cool it is to see Christians move into urban neighborhoods with the intentions of being the light of Christ. I poked fun at those Christians who say that all people need in areas like that is Jesus and how shallow I thought that theology was when I noticed the glare in eyes and eye brows perched atop foreheads. I continued to say that just going into a neighborhood and preaching doesn’t solve anything because even if they know Jesus and get the gospel that doesn’t fix all the problems, the socioeconomic grab bag of dilemmas they face daily. If the expectation set is that having faith in Christ is going to solve all of our problems and we will be all good hasn’t He failed us all then? The answer would be yes based on that expectation, but I do not know a God that fails, however, I do know a people who have some crooked expectations and theology. We are the problem in our pain, not God or the lack of His presence. Our expectations have made us wanting more and left us in need.

Idealism is not practical and leaves the hopeful empty. Utopia is not the point of this. The point of Jesus is not to create a grandeur escape from this pain, it is to make this pain beautiful and give hope that we can make it, we can live in pain, we can live amongst the fallen world. I think life looks richer like that. I’m not waiting for this delivery from here, I’m looking for completion of here. I think Heaven will manifest itself through a redeemed people, through scars and wounds, blood and tears rather than some easy cop out because our expectations are weak and idealistic. What if we took the dull prism we glared through when looking at life and flipped it upside down or better yet cleaned it (take some CLR to that bad boy!). Instead of thinking that customer is an idiot for not knowing something; we should check our expectation of them knowing it first. Maybe instead of expecting our spouse to know what we are thinking or if we’re having a bad day we could tell them so we wouldn’t get frustrated when they act like they don’t know, we’ve placed an unfair expectation on them. If we did not expect our spouse to be everything than maybe we would not be disappointed when they are not. We cannot expect the customer to understand all the complexities of our business therefore cannot expect them to ask “smart questions.” Does this make sense? Maybe the rest of the world isn’t crazy, maybe our expectations are bad. Maybe Jesus isn’t just a religion; maybe our expectations of what He is and does are wrong. We cannot expect Jesus to change the world if we expect Him to just fix it all, He does not wear a shiny white bath robe, a brilliant purple sash, nor does he have a clean shaved beard or hair. He is a nitty-gritty old Jewish guy who wants to get through the tough spots of life with you not for you.

May you check your expectations at the door. May you see the world in a new light and see Jesus without idealistic or irrelevant expectations. May you change the world around you with the knowledge that expectations might be the problem sometimes. May you have a great week at work, may you not feel stressed, may your attitude not be based upon false expectations.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Inner Thoughts Part 2

You know what is great about education? It drags things out of you that you did not know existed. It inspires you to learn and grow. Have you ever been speaking and you say something that you needed to hear? Like it has been inside you, but you didn’t have the words or mental capacity before to articulate it, but for some reason in that moment you say exactly what you needed to hear. Or maybe someone says something that you needed to hear. Maybe someone asks you a question that requires you to dig so deep to answer that it actually drags something out that you need to know exist within you. I just finish writing two final papers that did just that. As I read and spoke about them I felt my heart leaping with joy again, I felt passion and peace in my life. Here is the second question and my response. I hope maybe this can inspire or encourage you as it has me.

The Question: Write a two to three page paper on “My Life Mission Statement.”

I am convinced that turning in 3 pages with 1 word a piece on them (I- Don’t- Know) would result in a failing grade, but simply put, “I do not know,” is the answer to my life’s mission statement. I have long yearned for an articulate answer to this question and through nearly 5 years of being a Christian filled with many changes, pains, joys, accomplishments, set backs, and a plethora of other circumstances a specific life mission statement still alludes me. Maybe the re-defining the term life mission statement will aid my journey though. In typical Westernized Christianity a life’s mission statement is summed up in phrases like, Serve AIDS infected orphans in Africa, Help recovering addicts break their cycle of addiction, become a pastor at a local church, etc. I find no place for myself in these definitions of life mission statements; I do not believe I have been wired to think in specifics, but more holistically. I have tried to squeeze myself into an identity that fits within the typical mission statement response, but am always left bewildered and frustrated. These frustrations have led me down a path that is leading me toward a more ambiguous life mission statement and require a new mindset towards the general idea of life mission statement. I suppose my journey trying to follow Christ has left me more disillusioned with the Western religion of Christianity than I expected therefore it is foreign to me to choose a specific mission within its context.

Jesus set forth several principles that a follower/disciple is to live by and act upon:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 23:25-26).”

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).

Love and pray for your enemies (Mathew 5:38-48).

It is my desire to follow these principles to the best of my ability, dependant on God for the strength and knowledge. In a recent reading of 2 Peter additional His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:3-9). As I have read and studied the Bible I have come to more of an understanding that it is about holistic lifestyle than specific calling. I know people who have moved from their homes to go across the ocean to minister the gospel because they felt called. I cannot speak for others callings. I was born and raised in Jacksonville, FL. At the age of 21 I started following Jesus and at 22 I moved away from Jacksonville and took up residence in Indianapolis Indiana. I felt called to move here and help start a church. Everything I knew at the time was pulling me and making my bones ache for the city of Indianapolis. 4 years after this move I now find myself in the same city feeling a different calling, if you want to call it that. I’ve been on a journey for several months recently trying to rediscover my calling, trying to understand what a calling is. The one scripture I can never shake when thinking of my calling is found in Isaiah.


In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and
exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were
seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two
they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to
one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is
full of his glory." At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds
shook and the temple was filled with smoke. "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined!
For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and
my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." Then one of the seraphs
flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the
altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your
lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." Then I heard the voice
of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said,
"Here am I. Send me (Isaiah 6:1-8)!"


The general idea here is that God revealed himself to Isaiah, forgave him, broke his heart for something, and then sent him. This is a very simple principle that I have wrestled with for years now. What God broke my heart for 5 years ago is much different than what my heart aches for today. The reality is that I find myself sitting in the same coffee shop on the same block downtown, surrounded by the same people, but feel much different than I did before. No outside factors have changed, but everything is different. This leads me to believe that the difference is within me. I have come to an awareness that callings change. I allowed guilt to haunt me for months because I did not understand that a calling can change. I felt called to move to Indianapolis to start churches, but felt myself falling further and further from this passion I believed God placed within me. The guilt was that I thought I was dishonoring God or had fallen away and become so far from God that I no longer even felt called. Operating from a fixed calling principle does not allow for adjustable factors. I wonder how many people continue within their calling when passion has become a distant memory and the calling feels empty. I wonder how many people are aimlessly active physically, but paralyzed emotionally, spiritually, and mentally? I have listened to a watched many men on Sunday mornings preach who feel called, but you cannot feel a bit of passion in them. Their messages do not seem to be empowered by anything. These men continue to follow their calling when it is possible that God may have changed their passion or calling. I’ve also offered counsel to friends who long to escape their current circumstances to serve God. They feel like they must flee from their trivial life in order to serve Him. I I think that specific callings are not life long and given more in seasons. That opinion makes it difficult to answer a question intended to reveal a life long mission statement. The traditional definition of a calling, a specific act or ministry, suffocates my own understanding and application of following Jesus in a holistic way.

My life mission statement is to follow Jesus in a relevant way where He calls me to act. The circumstance may change, what my heart aches and longs for may change, but He will not. Love will not change. Jesus calling me to love others will not change. I suppose my life mission statement is simple, follow Jesus the best I can within the context I find myself in. It has taken me a while to get there, but I find comfort in that ambiguous calling, that vague mission statement. I thank God that I am able to say I can follow Jesus and know Love and because of that I live my life in response to Him.

Inner Thoughts Part 1

You know what is great about education? It drags things out of you that you did not know existed. It inspires you to learn and grow. Have you ever been speaking and you say something that you needed to hear? Like it has been inside you, but you didn’t have the words or mental capacity before to articulate it, but for some reason in that moment you say exactly what you needed to hear. Or maybe someone says something that you needed to hear. Maybe someone asks you a question that requires you to dig so deep to answer that it actually drags something out that you need to know exist within you. I just finish writing two final papers that did just that. As I read and spoke about them I felt my heart leaping with joy again, I felt passion and peace in my life. Here is the first question and my response. I hope maybe this can inspire or encourage you as it has me.

The Question: Write a paper on the topic: “The Measure of Spirituality.” This should be at least 5 pages or not more than 7 pages.

Holy Roller, self-righteous, pious, virtuous, upright, moral…A description of a spiritually mature person typically includes these terms. In the same breathe though, these words have also hurt, oppressed, and violated people and their creator, the God Almighty, and ultimately, they crucified Him. Many righteous have betrayed God, much piety has fueled oppression, but that does not mean one should dismiss the importance of these terms, in their intended meaning, and adopt emotionally driven mysticism. God is an orderly God. God is a loving God. He is loving and just. Humans have failed being like Him because we all swing like pendulums. From one an extreme to another we sway, conservative to liberal, religious to heathen, loving to hateful. Somewhere in the middle of these extremes is a beautiful ground Jesus calls us to live in. The extreme of religion, piety, virtue, and self righteousness created a system of analysts. The problem with the analysis was that the data group scrutinized was the wrong group of data, not intended to be evaluated. The wrong data is other’s spirituality. I am convinced that the Gospel is truly beautiful and that if everyone lived a life full of self examination that it could change the world in a very powerful way. If we would get out of the way the power of God could be tangible in the city and across nations. I suggest that any measure of spirituality must begin internally to be effective.

The fear in this approach is that a measure may look a bit different depending upon the individual. We are all made unique, none being the same, thus we cannot expect an analytical process to be static. You do not measure a solid the same as a liquid, nor is an ounce of salt as powerful as an ounce of Cayenne pepper. The idea is that we have so many things different about us that it is asinine for any one system of measurement to be considered standard. It is more practical to consider principle over method and mean. I used to have a mentor that would ask me tough questions about dating relationships I found myself in. I started dating one girl and by the second week of dating her my mentor told me that I needed to walk into her house and pray with her entire family, hand out tracks together, and do street evangelism on our weekends. This seemed odd to me, but for him this is what he measured as a spiritual relationship. There once was a blind man, born that way, who had been waiting by this pool for 38 years hoping to become healed. Jesus heals him and opens his eyes. The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. So because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath the Jewish leaders began to persecute him (John 5:15-16). We read this and scoff at such a response to healing. However, a very real measure of spirituality for the Jewish leaders was keeping the Sabbath. Jesus’ message opposed this mentality and irrelevant measure of spirituality directly. Jesus was less interested about measuring spirituality of others than he was in empowering and challenging others to measure their spirituality within themselves. There was a widow that came to the temple to give her offering. Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on (Mark 12:41-43)." The measure of spirituality in that day was putting in large amounts, like a carnival game or something, the greater the input the greater chance of a big furry prize. Jesus was not interested in the amount or that measure of spirituality, rather He was interested in her heart. Jesus is very interested in the hearts of those who follow Him, those who are spiritual. Maybe the measuring stick looks different, but it comes in response of the same grace.

I do believe principles can be measurements of spirituality though. John states that God is love (1 John 4:16b). Jesus calls us to be His disciples. A disciple of Christ is now called a Christian. The term Christian was first given as a scarlet letter, a provoking insult. The early followers were being made fun of because they were like little Christs. What an honor it is to wear that badge now though. Jesus said that He and the Father are one (John 10:21). Jesus claims equality with God. God is love, therefore Jesus is love. What is love though? If we are to seek to become like Christ who is love then what is love? Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). Francis Chan eloquently and very challengingly says that you can replace the word love in that passage with Jesus. If you can replace it with Jesus and we are to be like Jesus then you can transpose our name for His in place of love as well. In principle, a spiritual person is like Jesus, who is love. So a practical measure within oneself would be the practice of reflecting on that principle. Am I patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered. Do I keep records of wrongs? Do I rejoice in truth, always protect, trusts, hope, and persevere? This is a way one can measure their own spirituality.

If the Spirit of God resides in you then it will produce fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other (Galatians 5:22-26). Does the fruit of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control characterize our lives? If the answer is no then it is worth looking into for yourself. These characteristics can look different in a variety of circumstances. Maybe patience looks like not pumping your fists in the air while sitting in the morning commuter traffic. Kindness may be as simple as listening to someone in great distress or lending money to the needy. Faithfulness could be being faithful to a spouse or as simple as sticking with God through rough times. Gentleness could be holding your tongue and not being so highly opinionated and argumentative. Self-control may be a diet or fasting. The practical application of the principle will and often does look different for every individual and thus must never have an inert set of measurements as methods.

Paul suggest to the Colossian church that as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful (Colossians 3:12-15). Peter writes and advises that we reflect on our faith and Jesus often. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter:5-11). Disciples of Christ wrote the New Testament to remind followers to examine themselves. They wrote to promote measuring spirituality. The measures though are individual, not corporate or to be counted by others.

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul gives a very clear avocation here. Overall I think that the measure of one’s spirituality must begin within. When that self examination is rich and full and active then I think they gospel will bridge the gaps so many external spiritual measurements have caused over history. By measuring your own spirituality you can be spiritual working at a call center, a home improvement store, being a basketball coach, a soccer mom, or a parent. Any aspect of life can be casually impacted by Christ’s power if we would all examine ourselves before we look to others. We would be wise to heed to Jesus’ critique to the spiritual people of His day, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye (Matthew 7:5).” Self examination of internal spiritual measures will make themselves apparent to others as they watch you live life. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)… In being able to give a reason for your hope Jesus’ message and love is spread much more than ever trying to recruit others into a system of measure that is irrelevant to them. The danger in measuring others spirituality is you might just crucify God. The early spiritual people took that path. Let us always learn from history and seek to measure our spirituality within.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm a Headless Chicken

This is no theological rant, this is no general revelation, this is a personal moment that I’d like to share with anyone that knows me and this page.

I do not like snakes…I think they are gross and I am very scared of them. I don’t even like to look at books with pictures of them. I especially hate watching videos of them because it always seems that the money shot is of the snake attacking the camera. Ewww, I hate snakes. When I was a kid, growing up in Florida, I used to patrol the yard before I would mow the grass with a couple shovels looking for them because I wanted to kill them. If you are an animal lover and are already offended just keep reading and get over it, I was a kid. I still have a very vivid image of a particular day in my mind. Even as I write this I can feel myself wanting to leap from my chair, my toes are curled up, and my shoulders are tense. I finished my perusing of the yard and found no foe to slay so I continue to bring out the lawnmower. To my surprise a large snake burst from underneath the mower. My first reaction was to give him the good ol’ kibosh, down with the shovel. Now I hold the head of a snake in my shovel that should be dead. It is still opening its mouth and doing its tongue thing though. We’ve all heard the phrase of running around like a chicken with its head cut off too. I’ve seen it, it’s real. No, I am not in a morbid mood, something just hit me the other day while thinking about my life and where I find myself.

Where am I? Well, I am in a big transition place right now. In January of this year I left the church that I moved up here to help start, Indy Metro, to help another person with another church plant, Response. At Metro I had structured learning, accountability, and plenty of challenges from older men to grow. At Response I had a vibrant community of fellow believers I had relationships with. Now I am trying to find a place where Julia (my girlfriend) and I can grow together at. We are going to journey though the rest of this life together so we need to be growing together as well. Because of recent circumstances and such I have not been able to attend a Sunday gathering regularly or the Wed night house church we began to attend together. So I am in a totally new community and don’t know anyone and cannot be consistent in the times when they do gather. Paul makes this beautiful parallel between the body and the church. He lays it out that every part of the body is dependant upon the rest of the body. The heart needs the hand, the foot needs the eye, the mouth needs the stomach, etc. What happens to the body as a whole is clear when a piece is missing, it does not operate at full capacity. But what about the part that is missing or sick, how is it affected by not being whole and connected to the rest of the body?

Remember that chicken’s body just running around without a head? Well, it’s disconnection from vital organs and things that make it live causes it to still have nerve endings that are being stimulated that send signals that recreated actions that are stored in muscle memory. This disconnected part is actually dead, but still running around due to the last memories of nerve impulses and muscle memory. If there was some way to miraculously reconnect the head, nerves, blood vessels, and other necessary things that would make a clean and efficient reconnection, then everything would level out again and the chicken would begin to act and operate as it was made to, things would make sense. I’m watching myself run around like it’s crazy because I am disconnected from the body, the church. Getting reconnected is miraculous and in Christ it is possible, just going through the process to find the community and friends is taking its toll on me and I’m running around like crazy. I don’t have any older men speaking wisdom into my life, I don’t have a bunch of people that I consistently hang out with that are encouraging in my faith, I do not have any connections that I need. This transition is necessary because what is most important is being a good husband in the future and us growing together, but it is just hard.

So please pray that I can be calm during this transition and not give up, not be down, and not run around like I’m missing my head.