Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tears for Strangers

Psalm 5:2 Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.

Have you ever had something really break you up, like break your heart? If you have then you will understand this emotion or feeling I am trying to describe in words that fall so short of the reality of this pain. I was dating a girl who cheated on me and told me she hated everything about me, this was totally out of the blue. I was so dedicated to her that I was willing to change anything to be with her. Nothing I could do, say, scream, cry, think, be could change it, she didn’t love me back. It was this crazy empty, numb feeling. There was no hope in it, there was nothing buy pain that I could not bare. I’m sure that many have felt this at deeper levels, because this was a dumb relationship in retrospect, but at the time I did feel this. It is the feeling of deepest heart break I think we can feel, like our strongest emotion on the sadness end of things.

I just read a news story about a family in Arkansas whose home caught on fire. Read it here. Can you imagine waking up to your home on fire in the first place, that has got to be traumatic. I’m sure they were not fully aware and processing what was really happened, it must have seemed like some cruel nightmare to them. If that’s not bad enough, here’s the kicker. Their 5 children were upstairs asleep. The flames blocked any access to the upstairs and so they died. Read that again… The flames blocked any access to the upstairs and so they died. Does that not sit right with you either? As I was reading this story a single tear rolled down my cheek and I felt a fraction of the pain I can only imagine they are going through.

How does one work through that? How can one handle that kind of pain? I will give you my answer of what I know is true, God offers hope and healing. My question is how do you run to Him in this time? Can you imagine the pain, confusion, resentment, and maybe even hatred they must feel now? Sometimes the best thing is not to tell these people a bunch of quotes, but to just be silent and weep with and for them. Jesus wept and I am sure this breaks His heart more than anything. There is a purpose for this, I have no idea how to process that, but I know His Word is true. I know prayer is powerful. I offer no answers in this, I only offer free thoughts and expressions of my own pain in just reading this story. I don’t even know these people, but for some reason this story has stopped my day equidistant and I’m brokenhearted.

I know He hears our cries and wants to offer healing. Lord, be with this family and soften our hearts to weep with them. I don’t understand this, but I trust you. Help this family do the same.

I have no huge checks to give, I can offer my tears and heart though, Jesus hears us. May you be broken hearted over the loss of precious life, innocence of children, and pray, let God hear your cries for others in pain.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Freaky Tall Rabbit

Yesterday was Easter! Easter is one of those days that you are supposed to wake up and feel just full of joy and maybe even skip to church right? People have been asking me all morning, “How was your Easter?” Do I give them the cordial response of, “Good, thanks for asking, how was yours?” or should I be true and say what I really felt, “Weird actually, kind of weird.” I know, I know, I’m some kind of evil heathen to say that my Easter was weird right? I realized last night, as I reflected on my day, some of the reasons for these feelings and would like to share and hopefully encourage you to look into your mirror and ask why it felt odd.

I think I get confused between the holiday and the actual celebration. I mean, I’m surrounded by easter bunnies, easter eggs, easter dresses, easter music, easter plays, easter music specials, easter special deals at the grocery store, etc (notice how easter is not capitalized there). I’m overwhelmed by this holiday we’ve allowed ourselves to be sold out to. I mean really, we teach our kids that there is an eight foot tall bunny rabbit that sneaks into their homes at night while they are asleep and leaves them a basket full of candy? Is there anyone else who is freaked out by the thought of a huge rabbit walking into your living room at night while you sleep? I went to lunch after church yesterday with some friends and it just felt like another day, we laughed so hard I got the hiccups (that always happens), we talked about the future, and we talked about how far our friendships have come. The part that bothers me is how normal it all felt. How normal all of last week felt honestly. Holy week didn’t feel Holy did it? Saturday night I went to a basketball game and stayed up late. I’m not going to say doing these things are bad because that basketball game was the most amazing game I’ve ever been to including high school, college, and pro ball. I went to the IHSAA 4A State Championship game for boy’s basketball. Amazing, I’m sure I’ll be talking about it for years, do a Google search for Brownsburg, Gordon Hayward, and you’ll find the video. So, again, the point is not that going to a basketball game is messed up some how, the point is, that I did it the night before Easter and didn’t even think about easter. The Sunday morning came and I walked to church like I always do and felt the same way I always do except I just expected more visitors this Sunday. I just moved along like nothing happened.

This reminds me of when my friend’s The Bunso’s, it wasn’t until I had mourned them leaving that I could really move on. Yesterday morning I had to read John 19:1-30 on stage before Dan spoke. He wanted to read it with expression and impressions so I really put myself in the role of someone reading this as one who loves Jesus. So as I read I got more and more passionate and in the end, when I said Jesus bowed His head and took His last breathe I was emotionally torn, my eyes were welled up with tears (although I didn’t cry), and I realized how much it hurts to read about what Jesus had to go through. Then I started thinking about that last night and how I, like millions of other people, just go on with Easter like it’s just another Sunday, with the only difference being nice suits, pretty hats, and sweet candy. We don’t ever mourn for Jesus. I’m often appalled at how much more in tune with God children are than adults. My friend Aaron’s boy, Elijah responded to a question with complete genius yesterday morning in the children’s ministry, even though he doesn’t know it yet. Trina asked the kids, “How does the cross make you feel?” as she held up a plastic cross in the air. Every kid in the room said happy except for Elijah, he said, “Happy and sad!” He went on to explain that he was sad Jesus had to die the way He did, but he was happy that he can know Him. Boy wonder or innocent faith and a clear mind able to grasp the reality that Jesus was brutally murdered?

Mourn for Jesus, He was murdered, He did get beat, spit on, and tortured for you, but rejoice in the fact that because of that, you are free! I think Easter looks a lot better to me today than it did yesterday. After rain always comes sunshine, after mourning comes resolution, and after His death comes life. Live it up, Happy Easter!

Modernize

I’ve been getting onto m friend about updating their family’s blog lately and basically came to my own realization. I have a great sire that I keep current, but am horrible about actually letting people know what is going on in my life, like events, and those sorts of things (the kinds of things family or friends that live far from me may want to know), so I decided to give you one of those updates.

Monday, March 24, 2008
5:30am- wake up
5:34am-shut off all 4 alarm clocks going off in my apartment
5:36am- return from walking to the living room to shut off those clocks to lay in my bed and stare at the ceiling wondering why I am up at this time of day and how I’d love to just lay in bed all day.
6:00am- pick up my phone to look at my calendar, check to make sure I have nothing going on.
6:45am- apparently I fell asleep while looking at my phone and the ceiling and was woke up by Dan calling.
6:46am- jump out of bed, run frantically to the bathroom to get showered, shaved, and sexy for the day to come.
7:05am- Dab picks me up in his sweet new sports car to go to the staff meeting
7:07am- walk in to our gallery on Mass Ave to talk about the next sermon series we will be doing.
7:45am- leave the meeting to go to work.
8:00am- walk up stairs to my desk on the third floor to get work started for the day.
8:10am- record my daily message.
8:30am- work on new claims
9:30am- write update blog

Good? I’m just kidding! I was speaking with a friend last night and we came up with the idea that it would be funny to write a very shallow, chronological update of my day, I hope you were entertained, I had a blast writing. That's for you JG, stop being too serious (in a good way)...lol.

Well, in January, my friends, The Bunso’s, moved back to Jacksonville. I really never actually processed their move until last week. I was able to allow myself to mourn the fact that two of my greatest friends moved far away from me. I am still in school. I graduate in December and am scared beyond words because I have no idea what I am going to do afterwards. I’m still praying about going to Africa, but God is quiet right now or I’m just not listening, but nothing seems to be happening, so I continue to pray and seek Him. I’m still living downtown Indianapolis. In June my lease is up and I’m going to get a roommate, that way I can stay in the same location, upgrade to a bigger apartment, save money, get a new friend, and get some accountability. So that is an exciting adventure to look forward to. I had been praying about getting a new position within the company I work for and God came through (He always does) and I got the position ad I love my job. I’ll be honest, I still go through days maybe weeks where I feel alone up here, I really do miss being around family, and really miss having a best friend to just pour my whole self into and receive all of them in return. It’s this intimate relationship that is missing that we are all searching for. God created us for intimate relationships, my favorite description of what an intimate friendship or relationship looks like is, “two souls completely experiencing each other.” I think I miss that, but there are glimpses that happen every once in a while. God is doing big things at Indy Metro. This year, one of my own personal goals is to focus, get my hands out of everything and clean up my plate a little bit, so I can manage things that I am good or strong at, rather than just being mediocre at a bunch of things. Hopefully that is understandable. My passion to teach grows daily. Last week I had the opportunity to speak in chapel at Baptist Academy on the eastside of town. I love teaching people about God and how He is not some mythical idea, but a practical, Holy, real, God. Anyways, I would like to either be a part of another church plant, maybe look into youth pastor positions, I figure that is a great stepping stone to becoming the church planter I believe God is calling me to be. Who knows though, only time will tell? The more I learn the less I know…that is my philosophy as I grown and learn up here in Indianapolis. I’m curious and excited about God more and more each day in Indy although it is an emotional ride sometimes, I know that He works together all things for those that love Him. I’m not good at this update stuff, sorry, I’m much better at giving my passionate opinions about things and dumping my mind out into expressive words to hopefully inspire others. But, that is my update, hopefully you feel like you kind of know what is going on, don’t feel bad if you are still confused about what’s going on in my life because so am I. Continue to read, pray, live, love, and seek for Him, I look forward to crossing paths sometime along this crazy ride we call life.

Because of Christ,
Adam Sloope

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Veil

Reading through the Bible I’ve come across this trend. When people see God or have an experience with his Holy Angel, they normally react out of fear. The Israelites told Moses that they could not stand to talk directly to God so they made him. Time after time people are just going through life and God decides to pay a little visit and it’s like a record screeches and all of the sudden they are in fear. The angel always has to say, “Don’t fear I have good news,” or something along those lines. Why is it that these experiences frightened them? Have you ever had one of these experiences? I wish I could say I was ultra holy this week and I’ve had tons of these experiences, but I have had very few. Isn’t this what we are all searching for though? Aren’t we all on this search, this journey to actually experience God? I know that is what I yearn for, beyond the Sunday morning gatherings, Tuesday morning prayer groups, and private study sessions, I long to experience God, face to face.

Well, last Monday I was really praying about something, I fasted and prayed all day and that night I was standing in my apartment leaned against my little island and wa really praying, like didn’t even think about the room, the fact that my neighbor was playing music loud, or that my feet were cold, but just zoned out. All of the sudden I feel this crazy tension around me, like weight, but not tangible, like nothing sitting on my chest, but like a ridiculous amount of humidity, like the air became incredibly dense around me. I knew this was something to be concerned about, so I felt scared, I stopped talking, covered my face, and just took a deep breathe, and said…

What would you say? Would you react like this? Now that your wondering, I whispered, “I know it’s You, thank you.” Yeah, Yeah, I know there are doubters and people who may think that is charismatic, but I honestly don’t care. Have you ever had one of these experiences? Do you want one? I just thought I’d share with you mine. I’m off to watch NCAA tournament games now and later going to the Indiana state championships for 4A HIghscool ball, but I’ll be thinking about this and Him, may you as well.

Vampires

Generally my blogs are not way out there, but just thoughts that roll around in my head. Well, this blog is going to be a bit different, it is out there and quite an odd thought, but one that carries indeed. The word that will make your face grimace and your left eyebrow slowly rise to a point of confusion and bewilderment, that word is vampire. Yes, vampire, the blood sucking, Count Dracula, red cape wearing, garlic hating, bat flying, night dwelling creatures, vampires. I watched a movie with a friend the other night at my apartment and must admit I was less scared than I was just plain bothered by it all. Most vampire movies I’ve seen are very unrealistic and mystical, something I laugh at more than I am bothered by. However, this one was different, it was realistic and very sick, and it has stuck with me since I watched it. 30 Days of Night is the movie. If you’ve never seen it or heard of it, click this; go here, to see what it’s about. These vampires basically find a small town in Alaska that is completely night for 30 days straight. In this movie, they come to town and start tearing things apart; they cut off all the exits, and prepare the city for a feeding frenzy.

In some very dramatic and gruesome scenes the audience is shown these vampires tearing in to the necks of these innocent people living in this city. Anyways, I guess I could continue with the gruesome descriptions of horror and slaughter, but for the sake of dinner, lunch, or breakfast, whichever you just enjoyed, I’ll spare you. The only thing that did not differ from all the other vampire movies is the end scene when the sun finally rises only to defeat these blood thirsty evil beings called vampires. In recent years cinematography has come up with this cool effect where they kind of turn into like ashes and blow into the wind when the sun does hit them, so basically that is what we’ve seen over the last 5 years or so in any vampire movie. No matter how long these vampire movies are they always end the same way, the must, because we need to see some sort of resolution to movies or else as consumers we boycott it all together and start watching chick flicks or Rocky or Rambo redone after 30 years… (that makes me laugh) The sun always wins. There is never a time that it doesn’t. Well except for Blade, the day walker, he is half vampire and half man, so he can deal with the sunlight, but he’s a good guy, so no worries.

So here is my out there thought of the month, we are all vampires. No before you spit on your computer, slap the desk, yell, “He’s insane,” and kick your trash can, hear me out. We spend our lives in the dark right? The entire Bible is filled with this theme of light and dark. Creation started with dark and light was added. Dark is missing light. Light wins, always. I mean think about a few verses in the Bible with this theme in it, Jesus said He was the light. There is this beautiful little metaphor created in the Bible, darkness is evil and light is something redemptive, Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, or a work by them. Jesus teaches that we must deny ourselves and be reborn. Rebirth infers death doesn’t it? Paul teaches to put off our old selves. There is this idea consistent in scriptures about death and life, dark and light, evil and good. We must die to live. I used to have a pog (if you don’t know what a pog is 1) you were not a child of the 90’s or 2) you were asleep from about 1990-1998) that said “live to die and die to live.” We are to die to our Godless state of humanity and then we will live in Christ Jesus. Light exposes us for what we really are. Have you ever looked in one of those magnifying mirrors? I don’t think I would faint as hard when I saw the reflection if there wasn’t so much light. Light exposes us for who we are, all our blemishes, and the truth is we don’t like it. So vampires get hit by light and start to die. This is because the evil is exposed and the light wins.

So here’s where you get to be just as messed up as I am and think about this for yourself. When the light hits you, do you just start to smoke, make a loud annoying screech, give a malevolence stare, and retreat back into the dark or do you die? There is beauty in the latter of the two. When we get hit by this sun light and die we can either just float away into little pieces of ash or we can be recreated into this powerhouse of a being that is made whole in Jesus. Jesus calls us to be reborn, to die to our evil nature, and live in Him, this is where we begin to flourish and really experience life, the abundant life He talked about. God wants us to stop retreating into the darkness, He hates vampires (just work with me on this thought), and He burns with Holy passion to see darkness turned into light. If we keep retreating into the darkness and remain vampires, we keep tearing each other apart, setting cities on fire, and causing catastrophic carnage all over the world, one life at a time, let’s face it, anything we do without God really just tears us apart, we make valiant attempts but always hurt each other. We’re vampires, evil people, and we know nothing but carnage and wickedness. But God offers something other than just floating away into ashes at the end of the movie, He offers new life, recreation, beautiful light and splendid life through His Son Jesus Christ.

Retreat, become ash, or become a beautiful recreation made to live life abundantly, to the fullest. We have an option, God gave us a choice. Tomorrow is Easter, the celebration of Jesus conquering death, it’s not just a fairy tale, CNN, Fox news, MSNBC, and the rest of all the scientific driven establishments have been looking to find some evidence that Jesus not conquering death, whether it is bones or some kind of fancy DNA test, but fail year after year, because it is not a fairy tale, it is the truth, something you can depend on. Jesus conquered death, so can you, through faith in Him. I pray these words move you more than leave you with a weird look on your face and I pray that you may see life through Christ and experience something outside the realm of evil and vampires.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Justin...are you serious?

I was listening to the radio this morning on my way to the gym and heard a new song by Madonna featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland. It’s called 4 second to save the world and I’m not going to lie, it is a sweet song. Timbaland is an amazing producer. But beyond the entrancing beats and marvelous bass line, there are words. I always pay attention to the words, because no matter what these artist are expressing themselves through them even though they are hidden behind the music.
So here’s the line that got me and it’s something about Justin, me and him got some beef, even though I think he’s an amazing musician. I wrote about him and Timbaland in a blog months ago, http://adamsloope.blogspot.com/2007/12/come-down-from-there-justin.html. The line goes like this, “all that matters when I die is I did everything I wanted to do (or something along those lines)”

Oh Justin, tisk tisk… So is that all that matters? Isn’t this what our world believes? Life is short, live like there is no tomorrow. The idea is to do as much bad, foolish, things as you can before you die because then you won’t be able to… Really? Is that all life is about, just having as much as you can? If that is true how come even when you’re having fun, the most fun you can think of having, you still feel empty? I did it. I was a fire fighter, had all the girls, drank like a fish, partied like a rock star, and did everything I could to take over the night life. Underneath that funny, care free exterior there lied a very empty boy full of pain and confusion because he never could figure out why none of that cured it. So is that all life’s about? Have as much fun before you die, pain the town red?

There is a context in which that may be true, but living for yourself in a way to indulge in everything you please just because you want to before you die…you can’t seriously believe Justin. Again, I’m a fan and think he’s an amazing musician, but is his message what is tearing apart our youth? Listen to the lyrics and you’ll hear more than JT singing it…this can’t be what it’s all about….

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cornerstone of relationships

This is going to be the longest post ever on my site, so please accept my apologies in advance, but give it a chance and read it, tell me what you think. I dumped my heart into this and have been working through this thought process and biblical principle for month. Enjoy!

As a teenager I was a huge fan of a band I watched grow from local San Diego musical geniuses to world wide rock stars on MTV over the course of about 3 years. They won a contest on MTV to become a signed band to a major label and blew up on the music scene after their victory. Papa Roach is their name. Many teenagers connected with this band because they speak of real pain and real life that their listening audience may have been or is going through.

I tear my heart open, I sow myself shut
My weakness is that I care too much
My scars remind me that the past is real
I tear my heart open just to feel

These are lyrics form the song “Scars” off of their “Getting Away With Murder” album. There is great truth in these lyrics. Many people live and die by their scars. They go over and over their past pains, fears, and accomplishments as reference points on which their lives are based on. The problem with these lyrics are tearing the scars back open. As I have watched, listened to, and been a part of many relationships I have noticed a trend that causes these relationships to be unhealthy and fail. Forgiveness is key to having a healthy relationship.

Without forgiveness one cannot move forward. As a child I loved to walk past this one house in my neighborhood. They had a little Chihuahua chained to one of those stakes in the ground. Chihuahuas are easily excitable dogs. So as I would come up to the yard I would start running into the yard and past the dog only to lead him after me. I knew he would not catch me for his chain would become taunt and the stake in the ground would pull him back quickly. As a little rebellious child I found great joy in watching this dog’s momentum stopped quickly and abruptly by being yanked back by the leash that was holding him back. In a less dramatic fashion this same type of show can be seen across the world in all sorts of relationships, dating relationships, marriages, parental relationships, professional relationships, etcetera… The spiritual truth is often separated from practical application in the minds of many people who will openly confess they know they are supposed to forgive. My biological father left my mom at a very young age, all I remember of him are several theatrical moments of despair. I remember watching him beat my mom, watching my mom carry him from the car to the house because he was too drunk to walk, being locked in a closet watching him snort cocaine, and one conversation on the phone where I was told he was going to replace me with another kid. My mom remarried when I was in middle school and that marriage did not begin with much ease. They are still married and doing quite well now, but it has taken time for them to get where they are. However, I notice in conversations with my mother that her life is still manipulated by her not forgiving my biological father. Her heart is callused. She has a hard time trusting, she still has a very weary view of men, she is guarded, and almost every argument or heated conversation brings up the ugliness of her past and her failure to forgive. My fears of failing as a husband and father are birthed from my failure to deal with my father appropriately, over a decade after I have even seen him. I only allow dating relationships to reach a certain point before I bail out because I fear failing as a man, like my father failed me. I was in a deep relationship when I was in my late teenage years. I gave her my every thing, she was my world. I changed myself to meet what she needed and wanted of me. Ultimately she cheated on me, told me she hates every thing about me, and just tore apart my identity. Because I have not forgiven her fully, I still find myself avoiding getting close because it allows me to be vulnerable, which can lead to me getting hurt like I was before. I promised myself I would never allow myself to get hurt like that again. People make promises like this to themselves every day and because of not forgiving people the way they act and interact towards and with people are affected in a negative way. She hates men because she was raped at 13, he cuts himself to escape the pain of being beaten by his alcoholic mother when he was a kid, he shot innocent people at college because he was tired of being made fun of, we read these stories and they break our hearts, but there is always a deeper issue in relationship issues. The problem is the lack of forgiveness. We go through life running from that point of getting hurt or being let down only to be snatched back to the very stake we are tied to, that moment that holds us back from progression. The resolution is not to drink away the memories, cut ourselves to alleviate the pain, or live life pointing the finger, it is not to forget, but forgive.

The flawed promises of, “I’ll never allow myself to get hurt like that again,” leaves us empty and miserable. Forgiveness is making yourself available to get hurt. There is no limit to forgiveness. There is this misconception that when you forgive you must not allow yourself to get hurt like that again. Peter asked Jesus once how many times he was to forgive. Jesus responded well in saying, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:22, NIV).” Then he followed this up with a parable to further illustrate His point.

"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart (Matthew 18: 23-35, NIV)."

This parable and Peter’s question about forgiveness follows Jesus’ discourse on discipline within the church. Jesus is saying that we are to forgive as many times as we are wronged. God forgives us, cancelled our debts in full and we are to show the same kind of forgiveness to others. To think about how many times we have wronged God, sinned against our master will bring about astounding numbers, numbers that mean nothing, because God forgives every time. God does not protect Himself from getting hurt by others. God even went as far to send His only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to reside among His creation just to be sinned against and hurt, ultimately murdered. If Jesus kept count, we would all be in deep trouble, so how is it justified that we protect ourselves and make sure that we are not hurt again? The uncomfortable part about forgiveness is the relinquishment of control. When we forgive we give others the opportunity to hurt us again.

The uncomfortable part about forgiveness is the relinquishment of control. When we forgive we give others the opportunity to hurt us again. However, forgiveness is not forgetting. The beauty in scars is the reminder of the past. There is a difference in learning from the past and not forgetting it and not forgiving. Scars take time to heal, they must scab over and heal before they fully heal. There is ointment, band aids, blood, pain, and an ugly process that a wound goes through to become a scar. Often times we act as if we were children, little boys in the school yard though. When the wound begins to scab over and our boy begins to heal itself, we pick the scab only to go through the pain again and watch ourselves bleed. I have a friend who got into a fight with Boo Boo Lee when he was younger. He was hit over the head with brick and has a scar to remind him what happened. My sister has a scar on her eye brow from when she was jumping on the bed and hit the post. Children have scars on their hands from touching stoves they were told are hot. These scars remind us that the past is real. We are given opportunities to let our wounds heal and become reminders of past experiences we can learn from. My friend now knows what can happen in a fight with Boo Boo Lee and what to avoid, my sister no longer jumps on the bed, those toddlers have learned to not touch the stove. Without remembering our past we would continue to hurt ourselves. You cannot grow without getting hurt, the scars from that pain remind us of those experiences and the knowledge we learned from within. When I see characteristics of my father in myself, I can view them as warning signs and correct them, when she encounters an aggressive man, she can back away, he can stop cutting himself and be cautious of an alcoholic person in his life, we can all be aware of warning signs and act accordingly, we cannot control if we will get hurt, but we can make wise decisions based upon our past. We can stop picking our wounds and let them heal, we can stop bleeding by allowing ourselves to be healed (by the Holy Spirit), and find beauty in scars.

We have the opportunity to let go of the pain we feel from wounds. We do not have to keep picking and watching ourselves bleed, God wants to heal us, much like the body automatically begins to heal our wounds. It is up to us to learn to allow our bodies to heal our wounds by creating a scab and not pick it, allow God to work through and in us to heal the pain and eventually just have a scar. We have comfort in God, He is telling us like He told David, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV)." God is always with us and we have assurance that we can seek refuge in Him (Psalm 46). Forgiveness is the key to any healthy relationship. Without forgiveness we are tied to the stake in the ground like the Chihuahua. We don’t have to pick these wounds, we don’t have to be pulled back by a chain tied to a moment of pain or hurt, we do not have to tear our hearts open just to feel, we can treat scars and our past as reminders of our past, that it is real. Forgive, but do not forget.

May you forgive and allow healing so you may experience relationships in full.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Roller Coaster

Be joyful in all things (persecutions) why we should be joyful, we are under more attack because the evil one is scared of what we will become!

“A good question to ask yourself in the morning is when you wake up do you stir fear into the gates of hell?” I heard this one time and it has really never left me.

Recently I have been fortunate enough to come into some trails or persecutions. For an entire week I was down and really let the circumstance affect me, drag me down you know. After a while of being down, I suddenly found myself to be ok, but apathetic. Like this roller coaster of emotions, apathy, spiritual warfare, and resolve. So when I find myself really excited about the Lord soon I come across something that will drag me down, then I keep getting down and down until I find myself at the bottom of a barrel somewhere and notice I am far from God, then I slowly begin my assent to the mountain top, where I am living for God and am on fire again, the comes trials again, and on and on. You see, there is no way I can avoid persecutions, but I should come to expect them and be joyful through them.

The evil one is not concerned with someone who is not doing anything for God, shaking the gates of hell; he is only concerned with those who God is using and are obedient to Him. At the moments I feel closes to God; I have noticed almost immediate trials or tests. So, it’s not about me just going through them and gritting my teeth anymore, it’s about me knowing that there is a reason for this trial or persecution, and being excited that the devil thinks enough of me as a threat to his evil plan, to bother with me.

When I look at things like this, I notice my roller coaster seems to stop being so dramatic and tends to level out into ride where I will occasionally hit bumps, but not necessarily let myself fall apart in the midst of persecutions and trials.

She Didn't See Me

At any level of leadership within the church you become well known. We all know the pastor, the worship leader, the drama team, the greeting team, and so on. We are so quick to invite someone to be a part of the leadership team at church aren’t we? There is nothing wrong with that, but being a leader or some kind of active person within the church is a prestigious position isn’t it? We look at the people who have active roles in our churches with appreciation and respect, he sure loves the Lord, she is such a servant, they really are kind to new guest, etc.

There is this building across the street from the theatre we meet in called the Barton House. It is a government housing project. From what I hear and what I have witnessed first hand by being in there a few times, it is a pretty dark place. All kinds of people live there who are either mentally disturbed, on drugs, or in pain (physically and emotionally). We invite them to church of course, but what happens after Sunday morning? I was driving home from lunch yesterday and on the corner I saw a girl from our church that is not on any team specifically, has no churchy responsibilities, but I saw this girl sitting on a bench with one of the ladies from the Barton house. She doesn’t see me, but I noticed her. I noticed her heart for Jesus. I noticed how much she really cares about these people, this woman. She doesn’t need a plan or strategy to “save the Barton House,” she simply loves, one day at a time, one park bench at a time. There is significance to that. Maybe they weren’t having any super spiritual conversations, maybe they were just sitting there listening to the wind blow on a cold day in March or watching the cars pass by, but in that moment there were two people, spending time with each other, there was love, there was Jesus.

Isn’t this how it should be? I never go into the Barton House, for I think there is no reason, we don’t have any planned times or events, so I just think about it when I see the residents of this building on Sunday. I’ve tied myself to a program and am ashamed that people don’t find me sitting on park benches with hurting people. She didn’t see me, but I saw her, she’ll never know the impact her love has on people, who she doesn’t even know are watching.

May we all be like her, sitting on a bench, just breathing, being the presence of Christ.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Chew and Spit

“You treat compliments and criticisms the same, you chew ‘em up and spit ‘em out! If you swallow either one, they will rip apart your heart.”

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me. It seems like things are flying out of left field onto me and I am feeling the reality of spiritual warfare big time. It’s not just a spiritual myth; it is a real thing and FORTUNATLEY I have been victim to it (my reason for capitalizing FORTUNATLEY will be explained in my next blog). So I call my friend to discuss a particularly odd and heart breaking situation that arose out of thin air. So as I begin to pour my heart out and how much I’ve been thinking about it, he interrupts me and says, “You treat compliments and criticisms the same, you chew ‘em up and spit ‘em out! If you swallow either one, they will rip apart your heart.” This thought is short but packed full of truth. It really encouraged me. He basically said that if you really take to heart a bunch of compliments you become prideful or big headed. Your ego is stroked so much that you take these compliments to heart in a way that is really toxic to you. So pride comes into your life and ruins many other areas. The same thing can happen with criticisms. If you really take them to heart and over analyze them you become down and isolated, it drives you crazy. Taking compliments and criticisms into consideration are different from letting them run your life. You should chew on them, think about them, and spit them out. By doing so, you are getting the affect of them, you are reflecting and being encouraged, or making positive changes in some cases, but in the end you never swallow because being prideful or analyzing yourself into self-pity can both rip apart your heart.

I think it’s like chewing tobacco, as nasty as it is. People chew it to get their fix of nicotine, but never swallow because it would be toxic and cause them to be laid up in a community hospital getting their stomach pumped.

I don’t plan on getting my stomach pumped, I don’t want my heart ripped apart, so may you join me as I treat compliments and criticisms the same by chewing them up and spitting them out.

Traditional Tattoo Ignorance

I’m on the phone at work and over hear a couple of the girls discussing tattoos. Then I over hear one of them ask, “Is it really a sin?” At that my ears become a little larger and heart begins to beat fast. Then it comes, “Oh, you should see Adam’s!” I turn around and pull up my shirt to reveal my arm full of ink from shoulder to elbow (a half sleeve). Oh how the tension filled the room quick, the awkward silence was deafening! So they ask me, “So tattoos are sin, am I going to hell?” This was all asked jokingly because no one wants to actually reveal they are worried. So I chime in because I’ve actually done the biblical research and study on this. I tell them that in context tattoos are evil because people would tattoo and cut themselves for the dead as an act of worship to foreign gods, therefore, it was forbidden. So I say, “So unless you are getting tattoo’s to worship another god or something you are okay, you won’t go to hell because some traditional religion thinks so.” The issue here is NOT tattoos, it is religious ignorance. The issue is listening to far too many people say, “Well, my pastor says…” We just accept these religious traditions and then try to enforce them on others too often. God did not call us to live the Christian life just because, there is explanation to the things we should and shouldn’t do. Why is it that we stick to our guns about certain things and when asked why we give the sorry answer of, “Well, that is just what we believe.” If it is true belief and truth is relative like this statement implies, then we are all in for a world of hurting. Truth is not relative, it is absolute. It is our responsibility to find the truth ad study why it is true. It all makes sense; we are just too lazy sometimes to put in the work. Tattoos are not a sin, unless they are done out of worship to a foreign god. I know that because within the literary and historical context of where it is found in the bible, the truth is exposed. Tattoos aren’t bad or good because generations of people believe they are, rap music isn’t bad or good because older generations won’t accept it, homosexual outreach strategies aren’t bad or good because the legalist says it is. Nothing is anything because someone says so, it is only found to be wrong, sinful, good, or right because the bible reveals it to be so.

I cannot settle for hearing people who say they follow Jesus say things out of ignorance, we must not settle for pure hear say answers and must always be ready with an account of why we believe what we do, with love(1 Peter 3:15)!

May you study the Word and know what it says, pray for revelation of who He is, and be able to always give an intelligent response to what lies within.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The corduroy pillow

Sunday my friend was the speaker on Sunday and he spoke about how Jesus does not condemn. Anyways, it was a great message with a lot of different elements to it that made it overall quite the experience to be a part of. Everything went smoothly, however, there was one moment that kind of made the record scratch. Kind of like in movies when someone weird walks into a room. So he says, totally out of context and out of no where, “Did you here about the corduroy pillow, it’s making headlines everywhere?”

I had lunch with him today and asked him what in the world he meant. He explained and I cannot stop laughing 7 hours later. Imagine laying your head on a corduroy pillow, you can imagine if you slept on it all night, there would be lines on your face when you awoke. So now I get it, “the corduroy pillow is making headlines every where…” Do you get it? It makes me laugh and for some reason, as cheesy and goofy as it is, I am laughing to myself making everyone in the room with me probably think I am crazy.

Thanks for the laugh Aaron...

Ears and Giraffes

Last night we met for small group at a local Starbucks. It is interesting to see over the past year how close we have become, we have actually become a family. It is great to see God’s handiwork. Sometimes people make comments off the cuff that they don’t think matter, but for some reason I always catch them. So one of the guys in our group made this comment, “I was watching this program one day about the ear, how complex it is, and it made me think of how amazing God is just because of a little thing like an ear. And then I got to thinking about giraffes, they are amazing too.

It is true that God’s creations declare His glory (Psalm 19), but sometimes we take this truth for granted and it may take something like a giraffe or an ear to remind us how great He is. I’m not much of an outdoors type, so I won’t give you great stories of being in the wilderness and coming across great works of His hand, but I do live downtown and can give you some things I have seen. Downtown Indy is set up in a really cool way, there is a state law that protects public parks and right downtown there is a stretch of parks and memorials. One in particular, the American Legion Mall, is this football sized field of grass with hills on both sides. It is an amazing park to just sit in and look at the huge buildings that cast their shadows down on you. I just sit in the park in the Spring and Summer and just look around, I don’t bring my iPod or cell phone, but I just sit there and look around and listen at the amazing piece of land God created that I call my home in downtown Indianapolis. Yesterday was a very nice day, I think temperatures climbed into the 40’s or 50’s so people came out of their caves and were exploring the city again. It is amazing how vibrant of a city Indianapolis is in the Spring and Summer. So last night on my way to meet with my small group family, I noticed people walking, running, and just being around the city. In these moments, like watching that discovery channel show about ears, you see God’s creation declaring His glory. Look around, take it all in, wonderfully beautiful isn’t it?