Saturday, September 27, 2008

Beauty in the Speed Odometer

In general I try not to speak the first hour in the morning and when I do drive, rarely, I try not to listen to music at all. Weird habits right? Well, my mind moves a million miles a minute and there is never a moment that I am not thinking about the reason I’m thinking about what I’m thinking about. It’s a crazy mind that God has given me, but it’s me and I’ve had to learn how to control it and use it constructively. Well, this morning I was driving to school and about 10 minutes into the drive I just say, “wow!” I was taken back by something simple, but because God has given me this crazy mind, it lead me to see small things a really beautiful and have a little moment with God that revealed how big He is and how small I am. The wow moment was brought by the simple reality that I was driving.

Here’s what is beautiful about driving: There is this little pedal that I cannot see at the floorboard of this multiple ton S.U.V. I’m driving that controls the speed that I travel. The little pedal is connected to a lever somewhere in my engine that release the right amount of gasoline that makes my truck accelerate. Then there is this circular thing right in front of me with buttons that correspond with the little unseen pedal and I can push a plus or minus sign to make this big machine go faster if I chose. There is a gauge with a needle that gives me a pretty precise idea of how fast I am going by the amount of pressure I put on this pedal. Not only that but who did all that math to make the amount of pressure correspond to an estimate of distance and time. That’s just in the vehicle I’m driving alone. Then there is the reality that my eyes and feet work together to put pressure or relieve pressure form this little pedal if I feel I am going to slow or fast. My brain must be going crazy! Then I have to control this little wheel, think about how much I need to turn it and then make the adjustment while I use my feet and eyes to control my acceleration all driven by this little pedal I cannot even see. All this is happening in my car, but there are other cars passing me at greater speeds within a couple feet of me. Then on top of that some of the people driving them are drinking, talking on cell phones, eating, shaving, or putting on makeup. This is complicated isn’t it? If you didn’t know how I think before this blog, welcome to my mind, try not to get lost. J

I thought about all that in about a second while I was driving and I was taken aback by the complexities of the situation I found myself in. We are very intelligently designed beings. I drive without thinking about it. I remember I used to have a manual car and I used to drive, talk on the phone, eat, and shift gears, all at the same time. Does this not make you think, “Wow!”? God made us this way. It is times like that when I am reminded of how BIG God is and how small I am. When I realize how small I am and then know that He cares about me, little ole me, I am amazed and have to stop and thank Him. My point in all this is to just point out how creative God is and how much He gives to us and because of that our response should be worship. May you see God in little things that are actually HUGE! May you respond to that with worship. In this world full of complexities God wants something simple, your heart, your love, your worship.

Vapor & Death

Pools will fill beneath people’s feet one day, one day a little old lady will lie in a really expensive box that will be put in the ground, and one day I will have to fly back to Jacksonville. One of my greatest fears is that on the day my Nana dies that amidst all those emotions and all the people in my family I will stand speechless with a heavy heart and numb hands. I am considered the wild one of the family, the one who does dumb things, doesn’t plan well, and makes a lot of mistakes. I used to cry myself to sleep after I visited Jacksonville for the weekend. I’d lay in my apartment in Indianapolis crying because I was considered radical or crazy by my family. I walked away from everything, at least this is what they say, I left a job on a great fire department, a prestigious position in a growing insurance company, a great girlfriend, nice apartment, nice truck, nice clothes, blah blah blah. I see none of this as important, but my family used to beat me up about how dumb I was for moving to Indianapolis. It used to really affect me and I used to doubt my decision and feel like I was a failure. I moved to Indianapolis to help start a church, I bought into this big dream of a downtown urban city changing to embrace God and be changed by living the Jesus way of life. So that’s my story, the end. Because of this my family now has this view of me and all these expectations of who I am supposed to be because they think I’m some religious guy and I am sure that when my Nana dies they will expect me to say something moving at the funeral. The fear that fills my chest and makes my hands go numb is that I won’t have anything to say. I don’t think that Nana has come to a faith in Christ and so if she dies without knowing Him then all those tears will be tears because something has been lost instead of someone fulfilling life and being with Jesus.

Funerals are not supposed to be sad though. They should be celebrations of life right? Maybe I am a dork, but that naturally leads me to think about what life is. I am reading this book called Crazy Love right now. IT is a really good book, full of in your face truths that we frankly need to hear and be reminded of. I just read a chapter about the brevity of life and caught myself wondering about life. When I die, it won’t matter what I looked like, how much money I made, how many cars I had, how big of a house I had, how good I am at a sport, or anything really. As I look around at what people attribute as valuable to life I am actually deeply saddened. I went to the Colts/Jags game last week with a good friend of mine (Colts lost by the way!). I was just astounded by the huge poster of Peyton Manning on the outside of the building, the 60 some odd thousand people who filled the stadium, the same number of people who spent between $89 and $300 on a jersey that represents the player they like, and the ridiculous amount of money spent on drinks, food, and tickets just to watch a game. No one will care who won this game in a year, this game does not impact life in any sense at all, but I paid $309 for my Maurice Jones-Drew Jersey, $30 on my hat, $74 on my ticket, and easily dropped $20 on food and drinks, and basically committed a portion of my life to this event. Not to say the event or anything with it is wrong, but it these athletes lives are totally based upon a game that no one will really even care about soon. So that is their life right? I look at my own life and more often than I should get stressed and caught up with it. I expect my next day, I anticipate that I will grow old and have a family and children, I suppose my days will just be back to back. I should wake up each morning amazed that God gave me a day. He doesn’t owe me anything. Why am I here anyways. Do you ever think about that as you look into the mirror I nth morning? You ever ask yourself, “what’s the point of this?” It’s a humbling thought.

We are often shocked by the sudden death of someone we know or a young person. We say things like, “they had such a bright future in front of them,” or, “They were too young to die!” Says who? Who are we to say that they have a future or that they are too young to die. The truth is God is control of it all. The reality is that our lives are but a mist or vapor that vanishes quickly. In view of this we should really wonder what we are to do with this little vapor we have. The point of it all is to live for Christ and to point to Him. So although Peyton Manning may be a great quarterback, or she may be a great dancer, or he may be a great accountant, none of it really matters. What was the point of all that stuff they did? God offers us the freedom to live a life that means something, a life that leaves fingerprints and footprints in the world we will all soon leave (that’s a euphemism for death in case you are wondering). I am reminded tonight that my life is short and I am challenged to live it for all it is worth. When I die I want people to be able to laugh and tell stories about me, I want them to remember how much I loved God and how much I tried to live my life for Him. I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to say something nice at my funeral; I want people to be able to know that I am with Jesus and that my life was pleasing to Him. I love my Nana and I want her funeral to be a celebration of life, but if she doesn’t know Jesus then her life doesn’t truly exist because it is only through Him we have life, what it truly means to live.

May you seek life, may you stare into the mirror and ask yourself, “what is this about, what is my life for?” may you love Jesus and seek to live the life He offers you so that on the day you stop breathing people will not be lost for words, shocked, or have numb hands. I pray that you live life as if it is a vapor, use the little time God gives to us to live for Him. Death can be the end or the beginning, it is up to us. Let not tears be rivers of regret or sorrow, let them flow from joy that you are a child of God on that day!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cats eat Donkeys for Dinner!

My hands were covering my face, my heart was in my big toe, and my stomach felt like it was upside down. They just stopped us on a 4th down play. Everyone around me screamed with joy, especially my friend Drew who decided to get on his knees beside me and scream yes! Then what may have been my favorite color of all time in that moment laid upon that beautiful, monstrous field, a simple yellow flag! This was the scene at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis yesterday afternoon. If you watched ESPN or any other sporting network or had a chance to watch the game you know what I am talking about. The Jaguars were down a point with a little less than a minute left to play and this stop by Indy would have cost us the game. But a dumb decision by a Colts defensive guy caused that beautiful yellow flag to be thrown out onto the field.

The Jaguars running game was ridiculous yesterday, it mad the Colts defense look in the best way like a high school team. Our run is unstoppable if you are a colt, little Mo-Jo (Maurice Jones-Drew) seems like a 7 foot 300 pounder to you. But it wasn’t our run offense that ultimately led to the big V, it was a super man of a kick by Josh Scobee. 51 yards away from the goal and it was 4th down with 8 second to go. My heart was beating faster than a cocaine addicted chipmunk. Snap…Kick…the ball seemed to move in slow motion as it entered the middle of the uprights…then screams by upset Colts fan and and pure joy by maybe 15 Jaguar’s fans. It’s good! The Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts 23 to 21. Thank you Jaguars for giving me an escape from the horrible fans in blue. Over confident and thinking they were unbeatable; they now all are chewing on their feet.



After the game I remember all of the colt fans booing me, pointing fingers in my face, and saying some pretty obscene things to me during and before the game. How could I lay my head down in complete rest that night if I didn’t do a little personal victory lap around the city of Indianapolis. 60 thousand Colts fans left the stadium with their heads hanging in shame as I, and a few other crazy Jaguar fans, proudly floated out of that stadium. As traffic was jammed up downtown I ran through the cars creaming, “We won!” I was wearing my Maurice Jones-Drew Jersey and Jaguars hat! As I walked past sad Colts fans I would tell them, “Sorry about your loss, good game,” then smile and walk away. Oh how nice it felt to be the minority victor in a hostile city! Victory is sweet, but it is even sweeter in the face of arrogant football fans. The Colts are not immortal, they have been served a swift reality check of a defeat at the hands of a very hungry and now second ranked AFC South team called the Jaguars. So until the next time these warriors meet on Dec 18 in Jacksonville in an epic AFC South showdown I will proudly wear my Jaguars gear each Sunday and remember the sweet taste of victory while I was sitting in Lucas Oil Stadium amongst so many rivals.

I’ve attached some pictures for entertainment purposes. Enjoy! Also, I made a bet with some friends that if the Jaguars lost I would wear Colts gear and paint my face blue and white next Sunday to church, but if the Colts lost they (Ben, Andrew, and Ryan) would have to wear Jaguars gear and paint their faces. Oh how nice it will be to see this next Sunday. I anxiously await until then!
This is my boy Drew covering his face in shame after the game!!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Homeless Coffee

Not once have I had a complaint about my local coffee shop, not once, I am faithful and loyal. But my complaint is not with only the coffee shop but the school of thought that caused the incident that so hurt me today. As I walk in this guy I’ve seen before asks if I have any change and I tell him, “I’m sorry but I don’t carry cash bro.” A gentleman walks into this coffee shop and says, “I just want to let you know that the guy out there is asking everyone that passes for change,” and then storms out. Now, notice what I did not mention, his purchase. That is because this guy did not buy anything! He comes in to an establishment, not even as a customer, to let them know that a guy outside is bothering customers. Thank you local downtown civilian superhero, saving us from the bad man that asks people for change, how awful of him (notice the sarcasm there)! I’m bothered by all this and I just sit there looking out the window at this person, this being made in the image of God. As usual I’m just kickin’ it at my table and I see something that I generally associate with an annoying scream. I see a police car with his lights on parked in front of the store, holding up traffic. He gets out of his car and begins questioning this guy and eventually leaves. I don’t know what was said, I don’t care, but I do know this, whoever called that police officer has this disease, they have graduate from the school of thought that treats people as if we lived in cast systems.

Here is what I was thinking about the entire time this was going down:

I wonder if he gets this often (people calling the cops on him)?
How does this make him feel?
What was he doing that was so wrong?
These bright lights bring attention, so does the car in the middle of a busy avenue downtown, there are a ton of people sitting in the coffee shop that I am witnessing all this…he knows this, he sees all of us…how does he feel?
What bothered that guy so much that made him run into this coffee shop as if some building were on fire to proclaim a nice guy was sitting on the bench outside simply asking for change?
Why did one of the girls who works at the shop feel it necessary to call the cops?


I feel a little nudge and then I start thinking about how low this guy must feel, how below standard he must feel, he must be so embarrassed or even worse maybe he feels nothing because he is used to being beaten down like this. Thanks for the nudge Jesus! So I just stare outside at this guy, watching him look left and right, putting his head down, and maybe I’m just dramatic, but I feel like he is feeling defeated and worthless. Well, I get up and step away from my table and walk outside to greet him again. I ask him his name and tell him I am sorry some jerk felt it necessary to call the cops on him. I ask him if he is hungry to which he responds, “Yes!” I walk him over to the Old Point Tavern and ask him his name, age, where he lives, where he is from, just general conversation things. I tell him I wish I could sit and eat dinner with him but I have finals due next week and am at the coffee shop doing them (which I’m not now because I’m writing this). So I tell the waiter the order is for here, let Gabriel order whatever he wants. I tell him again I am sorry the way people act towards him and that he doesn’t deserve that. He lives in the government building that Indy Metro serves on a monthly rotation, so I tell him about the service which is Sunday and invite him to meet some people and tell him I look forward to seeing him Sunday morning. I walk away from him, sitting at that table at one of the jazziest little taverns in the city, praying that God would use that little deal to affirm this young man as a human being and that maybe just maybe people in the area would treat him better. I hope everyone who was a jerk off to Gabriel saw what I did and hated it, I hope their skin crawled and they feel convicted of trying to take a man’s dignity away by beating him underneath their social caste system.

What’s my point in all this? Jesus said that whatever we do to the least of these we do to Him and whatever we don’t do, we don’t do to Him. I take this literally and think that we are given opportunities all day long to serve Jesus. I don’t know what the outcome of that will be, but I do know that social injustices can be beaten at the individual level if we are willing to step up. Next time you walk past someone and think to yourself, “I work hard for my money, why don’t they…” shame on you, may God rip your heart apart and may it break for humans, people, beings made in the image of God. Do you see a homeless man or a broken person who is loved by God just as much as anyone else? May you see injustice and spit in its face, serve the less fortunate, pray with them, for them, pray they will feel loved, the kind of love Jesus offers. I love living in the city. I can always tell when someone is form the ‘burbs by their reaction to diversity like this, so I say take your ego, your high dollar vehicle, your complaints of a homeless man asking for change, take all that and park it back in the suburbs and leave it there, we don’t want you down here. Jesus is working in this city; we don’t need you or your money friend! If this offends you, good! I pray you come to read the Bible for what it is worth and really experience Jesus and His call to love everyone.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Jesus on the Outside

“It’s easier to get someone to come to Christ than it is to church.”

Maybe I’m simple minded and just enjoy finding intelligent things in simplicity, but I tend to pay close attention to what people say when they talk. I think some of the most brilliant quotes people say are often times things they don’t even remember. I was sitting at, go ahead guess, my local coffee shop, and this guy motioned me as if he wanted to talk. So here is how he starts the conversation, “Are you in school or just typing a list of people you’ve slept with in the past year?” Odd way to start a conversation and I must admit made me chuckle a little. I told him I was in school and didn’t have a list to keep anymore. Our conversation went from that to talking about Jesus as soon as he asked what my degree was in. “Leadership and ministry,” I answer. As usual, which is something I constantly praise God for, here I am just sitting at my corner table by the window and someone approaches me to talk and out of it Jesus gets mentioned. Towards the end of our conversation he says, “It’s easier to get someone to come to Christ than it is to church.” I told him this was one of the wisest things I’ve heard all day as I answered my phone. After about 30 minutes of thinking about that and chewing on it, I doubt he remembers saying it, but I can’t forget how profound it may be.

I am from the curious 3 year old school of thought and like to ask, “Why?” to almost everything. I like to get at the core of things and wonder why things are asked and said. Well, why is it that this statement is profound and true? I think what has happened is that we have fallen short of the entire Gospel and limited to a moralistic modus operandi. What I mean is that far too many people think being a Christian is about doing something to not doing some things (because unfortunately, Christians are more known for what they stand against instead of what they stand for). They think that if they say the right things, do the right things, avoid the wrong things, and fit a mold Christ will accept them and therefore they are saved. They drag this BS into the church and make this beautiful bride look more like a street whore. I am a church guy, the big C though, not little C. I’m not into this idea of church that so many have, you know, going to church, parking at the church, being on a church volley ball team. I’m into church as a body of people doing things and being things. The church isn’t something it is someone; it is the bride of Christ people! She is beautiful, like first time seeing your soon to be wife walk down the aisle beautiful, like seeing your baby girl say and comprehend, “I love you Daddy,” for the first time beautiful, like watching the sun rise beautiful. The church is a beautiful lady! The church is full of bad people though! There are churches full of people who give money, serve in volunteer organizations, and listen to only Christian music, full of these people who are bad people! Woah woah woah right? You just want to hit rewind right? Well, too bad for you this is a blog and it continues and hopefully you will bare with me and continue reading. I previously wrote about this idea of Jesus wanting our hearts, not our actions, in an entry entitled The Heart. In Romans chapter 10 Paul talks about the difference between obtaining righteousness (or seeking is what I should say) by obeying the Law in contrast to obtaining righteousness by having a faith from your heart. The difference is that those who seek to be “good” and simply obey Law will only get what the Law can give, which eventually leads them to nothing, not righteousness, but if you obey the faith from your heart then you will obtain the righteousness that Christ offers. It’s kind of a complex thought and took me about a week to truly digest and get my head around and I can’t even say that I’m a pro on it honestly. The idea here is that Jesus could care less about your actions unless He has your heart. If you don’t like to hear that then you may want to stop reading the Bible because Jesus is going to offend you. I say that partially in jest, but partially out of truth because Jesus IS OFFENSIVE!

So why is it easier to get people to come to meet Jesus than it is to come to His church then? I think it is simple, actually. Jesus does not sweet talk, He does not hold back. Jesus does not try to please people. Jesus puts the truth out unapologetically and fully understands all the stuff He teaches. The church (in the context that a majority population person would understand it) is full of people who do a lot of good things but still own their hearts. Meaning they are seeking righteousness from the law (religion) instead of faith from the heart. The church is full of people who don’t understand, don’t actually follow Jesus at all, just think the idea of being saved from Hell is groovy and like feeling good about themselves after “going to church” on Sunday. This is not to knock it, it is just to say that is not the point. Jesus wants His church to be full of people who know Him and seek to do what He wants and seeks to live out of a righteousness that comes from faith from the heart, not following some list of rules. This is a difficult paradigm shift to make. So when people can get to the truth that Jesus offers, it is beautiful? Most of the time they can’t get to him though because they encounter too much fluff and other crazy things because we don’t fully follow Him, don’t fully understand His Word, don’t truly live from our hearts.

May you remove the fluff from church, your life, so that the church will be easy to get to. May you seek to introduce people to Jesus. May you truly follow Him so others will desire to. May you live from your heart and be an agent of change in the little C church, make it something real that people will want to be a part of. May this profound truth I encountered in a local coffee shop die and become a bad memory. May we be the church and show the world, our nations, our cities, neighborhoods, and neighbors who Jesus is. I have hope for the church and for this generation, I have hope that we will embrace and be the church, so that many will know who Jesus is.

PS this picture is my friend Molly, when she was a kid, I absolutely love it and needed a reason to use it. Hope it makes you smile as much as it does me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Big Bang

I have to be honest, I have been fascinated and following the machine intended to simulate the Big Bang Theory. It is a very expensive attempt to find out the roots of the universe. I find it humorous almost that science is only exploring and proving what God created. The Large Hadron Collider cost $3.8 billion to operate. All this money invested into finding out what happened to start the universe. It is clear from Scripture that God has revealed Himself through His creation (Psalm 8:1-9, Romans 1:18-20). So in the end what will happen is that they will invest all this money to bring themselves back to this, “there must be something that created all of this that we cannot find.” That my friends would be God Himself. Christianity is often mocked for its closed mindedness and mystical faith on fairy tale like stories, but I would like you to read a quote from the most recent article from Fox News about this.

Eventually two beams will be fired at the same time in opposite directions with the aim of recreating conditions a split second after the big bang, which scientists theorize was the massive explosion that created the universe.

So let me get this right…

Eventually, at some point in time, as long as they keep trying, and that is still only a hope at some particular occurrence, two beams will have to travel in opposite directions with the same aim, recreating some theory scientist have come up with, the big bang.

We all have faith in things don’t we? These scientists have faith that this will happen, so much faith that they invest and use the government’s money, $3.8 billion worth. Millions of people around the world have faith that these scientists’ faith is right. I think instead of arguing for or against things, Christians should maybe just seek to understand what others believe in. This theory seems more unrealistic and mystical, more fairy tale like than anything the Bible has to say. Christians are known more for what they are against than what they are for. So, even though I am a Christians, I agree that all these people who are uneducated and just fight against the Big Bang are closed minded. Anyone who refuses to learn the other side of the coin is close minded. This story fascinates me though non the less. So what do you have faith in?

Sin

Ewwwww, the “S” word! If you ever want to end a conversation very quickly or are in the middle of hearing a boring or pointless story, you can end it quickly by just randomly screaming ‘SIN!” I guarantee that the other person will squint their eyes, slowly tilt their head, make a reflective sound affect then slowly turn their back and walk away. I can picture it and it makes me laugh, like it should be an episode of The Office or something. In all seriousness though, no one likes to hear this word or even discuss it, it is an immediate turn off. So guys if you show up to a blind date and she isn’t what your into, just start talking about sin and she will make the decision to leave so you won’t have to feel bad…lol. How many people have been burned by this word? Homosexuals, people with tattoos, unmarried parents, people involved in premarital sexual relationships, drug users, the list could get very long here. We treat sin as if it were something God came up with because He was bored, like The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all sitting around playing poker and one says, “Hey guys, we should make up a list of things that people can’t do, just for kicks and giggles.”

My point is that the sins we so firmly stand against, and very well should, have a deeper meaning behind them. They are sins because they do something to impede abundant life, they kill off the relationship with God, and make life just harder. A homosexual will admit that choosing that lifestyle makes it harder than anything else, so will a person having sex before marriage, or getting plastered on the weekends. The word repent is thrown around too much I think. The first thing a person needs to hear may not be repent, even though at some point they will face it. How can someone repent of something if they do not have anything to turn back to? Why would a drug user who loves the affects that heroin has as it slowly fills his veins or a young girl who thinks her boyfriend loves her and so has sex with him or someone who lives for their job and the idea of power and riches turn away from that if they see no problem with it? People need sin explained. We can’t just go to someone and tell them they are a sinner and because of that they need Christ all the time, or at least with my generation, that has been isolated by this very thing. I never understood why God would tell me not to have sex before I got married while I was running around like a dog in heat in Jacksonville before I started following Him. I just thought it was some rule I had to obey. I didn’t understand why it was a sin though. I started researching all these things I knew I was not supposed to do once I started following Jesus though. I started understanding that sex before marriage creates a ton of things that make life harder/worse like the fear of STD’s, a baby, emotional trauma caused by a one night stand, feeling used, feeling like all you are worth is in your bra and panties or boxer shorts, and ultimately not being able to be more intimate with that person beyond the point you were (mentally) when you had sex. Once I understood it did all these things, I was so excited to learn and know that God said this was a sin because He knew it would hurt us and didn’t want us to go through life in constant pain. I had a friend who had a miscarriage. She got pregnant because she was having premarital sex. She came across some Christians who told her that that was a consequence of her sin and she should repent of sex before marriage. When she told me that my eyes filled with tears (they are actually tearing up even now) and I became filled with righteous anger because she didn’t need that! She needed someone to tell her they are mourning with her and that they are so sorry she is having to go through this pain.

Think about all the sins you can, make a list, and then do some research, some thinking of your own, some praying, and try to find why God would say this is a sin. When we find these reasons, we see that sin is not this crazy idea God had just to hold us back or make us follow a rule list like a 5 year old in kindergarten. Repentance from sin is an obvious Biblical principle and necessary for one to follow Christ, John says that once we are children of God we will not continue to willingly act from our flesh (1 John). When people start seeing that the life that Jesus wants us to live is not because he is some power hungry dictator, but is actually a better way to live, a more liberating life, then you see change, then the word sin is actually beautiful instead of a taboo. Like my friend I spoke about with the miscarriage, we too often use this as an advantage on the God grading scale, as if we were ahead of the curve. We use this to convict people. Are we in the role to convict people? Jesus said He didn’t come to condemn but save, so if we are condemning or convicting, we are trying to act as the Spirit and thus should really question ourselves. Before you take the next sinner down the “Romans Road” please consider that maybe just maybe the reason they run from freaks carrying crosses and telling large crowds of people to repent on a Saturday night, is because they have never been really explained why the sin they are involved in is bad for them and why Jesus doesn’t want them to have to go through it. You dig?

May you love others enough to explain why Jesus doesn’t want them to live a life of sin rather than tell them they just need to stop. May you take time to research the sins that you like to speak on or that you see affecting others in your city or neighborhood so you can explain to them why the God of Heaven wants better for them. May you see that God telling us not to sin is because He knows it will kill us and he wants us to LIVE!

Bombs

Close your eyes, put your hand over the left side of your chest, and listen….

Beat, beat, beat, beat, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…

Do you feel it?

It’s your heart beat, it generally moves in a smooth, rhythmic, almost melodic pattern that I think would be an amazing beat to a song. Our souls have this natural rhythm, but something messes it all up. Some of you may have felt something that is better described as chaos, hardcore rock or metal, than smooth and melodic. The reason behind the irregularity you feel in your chest may be due to stress or anxiety. I believe that beautifully complex organ in our chest is created to have a smooth melodic, almost jazz like vibe to it, but something messes that up, something makes those euphoric beats more like terrifying ticks to a bomb. What is this you ask? Well, I believe it is as simple as a lack of communication and expressing oneself.

Is this argument even plausible? Yes. Thoughts that are not expressed can become like poison. I have a friend at work who actually went to my manager and complained about me, he said he doesn’t like the way I talk to him and is really frustrated with me, he felt like I treated him differently than everyone else. My boss said when he told her this he was shaking and turning red and she could tell he was really upset about it. Obviously I was shocked because I treat everyone the same and just float around the office and make everyone laugh and smile, that’s just my personality. Naturally, I call him and my boss into a room to have a meeting because this shocked me and I wanted to know what I have done so I can stop doing it and help that professional relationship be whole and not cause any negative feelings. When we all talked it was revealed that I am not doing anything particular that I can change or do better, basically, a couple things happened that he perceived wrong and never said anything to me, then I am on this new project at work and so he is dealing with a lot of my work and feels a little overwhelmed, plus he says that he doesn’t like how I speak in philosophical and poetic terms (if you know me, you know how I speak and what that means) because sometimes he doesn’t understand me. The straw that broke the camels back was I didn’t say anything to him when I came down to my office last week. There was nothing particular that happened that was anything significant, but because he didn’t speak about these as they happened they began to build ontop of one another and before you know it, he is about to snap. A wife cleans up after her husband for years and never says anything because she doesn’t want to seem like she is nit picking him, but something one day makes her snap and she goes off, leaving the man standing in the bathroom wondering why leaving the seat up has made her feel like their marriage is failing. It’s not one instance, it is this monster building up inside of her that feeds off of unexpressed thoughts or emotions and grows with more rage daily. When I was a little bit younger and living on my own I let a friend live with me for three weeks. He was a slob and never did anything and I was letting him stay in my place for free, never got a thank you, can I help, or can I give you some money for the groceries I am going through like a crazy man. I never said anything, I held it all inside and one day I walked in my apartment and saw him eating my cheetos. That was it, we were face to face about to crush each others faces with fist of fury all over a bag of cheetos?! No, it was the pinned up thoughts that I did not let out before. The reason dating is weird is because we always try to figure out the other side, we make it a big game, we can’t say this or that, they won’t say this or that, so we presume and make up these stories in our head and then find out in the end that much pain could have been avoided by just communicating.

Do you see now? The lack of communication has huge implications. It tears apart relationships. Does that mean we should run around saying whatever we want when we want? Absolutely not! The Bible is clear that when we speak we should consider others as well as be sensitive to the need of the person we want to communicate with (read Ephesians 4-5) . Wives, if your husband works 10 hour days at a construction site, when he gets home from work, beaten up from the day, exhausted mentally and physically, that is NOT the best time to tell him. Roomates, the same is applicable, and I am speaking from experience and need to work on this myself. When you get home at 1130pm and your roommate is into doing something (playing video games, cooking, talking on the phone, doing homework) don’t make the first thing you say to them a complaint or a you need to do this or that.” If you’re not married and have the pleasure of being a part of the crazy world of dating, don’t hold back what you feel, don’t be crazy and tell the person you love them after the first date, but don’t hold back because you don’t know what the reaction will be. Also before you speak, look into yourself. Don’t be so arrogant to think you are always right or what you have to say is even worth saying, often times we fill the room with a lot of hot air thinking our voice is important.
Can you imagine a world where there are no walls that hold people back, no emotional explosions caused by a lack of communication. Open communication allows two completely different people to comprehend what each other are thinking or feeling. Isn’t that the point of all this relationship stuff? Understand each other so we can have authentic relationships based on love? Without open communications we run around like bombs waiting to explode, Jesus doesn’t want that for you my friend! Jesus said that His yolk is easy (Matthew 11), all that pressure caused by poor communication seems heavy right, well then it’s not from Jesus. Again, open communication is not a past port to be a jerk who says whatever you feel, reflect upon yourself, consider others, consider the circumstances, the needs, before you speak, but please do communicate once all that backend stuff is done.

Close your eyes, put your hand over the left side of your chest, and listen….

Beat, beat, beat, beat, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…

Do you feel it?

May you feel melodic beats rather than a bomb ticking, may you openly communicate and may you know that freedom there is in Christ and how it affects everything, especially the way we communicate.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Crazy Train

I always harp on one of best friends about keeping their blog site up to date because I love reading about them and their family. She tells me that I need to do an update instead of just things that role around in my head about what I study and experience. Well, here is my attempt and I am really going to try to get better about updating those of you who do read this from far away (Hope this makes you smile Danae). So ALL ABOARD....the crazy train I call my life. Since July I have been living in a new place with a roommate. I’ll be the first to say that this has been a really big test for me. Not that we don’t get a long, it is just getting used to a different person who has opposite living habits and routines than you do sharing the same space. I find myself always finding something that bothers me, so I’v really had to try hard to shut up, which is hard for me as you know. Well, another good friend of mine gives me this advice, “Drop your ego and just serve him, just serve your roommate and let him figure out the things that are not good by himself, because you cannot change him.” Great advice, so that is what I am doing, cleaning the apartment, bathroom, kitchen, trash, etc. I’m learning that I need to serve him in order to live like Jesus would want me to live, so I’m trying my hardest to do so. We always joke around and say that it is getting me prepared to get married. In a lot of ways I guess a marriage would be similar, except your wife wouldn’t be an over six foot tall man with long hair and a goatee, unless you are in to that kind of thing, I’m not though, I prefer my wife to be a beautiful, petite, woman that smells nice…lol.

You’ll never guess where I am writing this email from…yea…good guess….my local coffee shop that I practically live in. I came back to Jacksonville and met with a friend that I really hadn’t had the chance to connect with since I moved and we were just talking about everything that has changed and who I am up here and she says, “Adam, you used to talk about what you wanted to become when you moved up there and you have become what you set out to be, everything sounds like exactly how you wanted it.” That was encouraging to me because often times I feel like the black sheep of all my family and friends. I abandoned everything I knew to chase after God on this reckless trip into the Midwest. Now three years later I love the fact that I am known by name at this coffee shop and that I have formed friendships with the people who work there and come in and out. Because of that I always find myself talking to people about life and what they think about it all. Naturally, this leads me into talking about Jesus. So it is totally not your typical “witnessing” but it is more like me just talking with friends about something that is a basic part of who I am, not like I’m selling something nice and shiny that they need. Funny, I am in the middle of writing this and a guy just walks up to me that I always see (he is the guy that said his dream was like an efen oasis) and says, “Hey bro, I came across this Psalm and its efen (apparently he likes this word) crazy, I think it is my favorite one now. It’s Psalm 91. How cool, this is the guy I was telling to read the bible for himself and now he tells me he is and has actually found something he likes and speaks to him. Amazing! I love where God has me! So I am pretty much know around these parts as the guy who sits at the coffee joint at the corner table listening to Pandora, blogging, and reading his bible. I like that. Often times I get messed up feeling like I am not of much worth because I don’t make good money or have some great family planned out, but as I reflect on who God has molded me into, I must say THANK YOU!

My heart continues to bleed and beat for church planting. The need for the message of Christ to infiltrate our urban cities in a relevant way that transcends lifestyle or Sunday morning preference and meets people where they are and lets them face Jesus even if its at a bar or over a conversation dropping the f-bomb several times. I’ve changed so much because of adapting to this culture. I rock designer jeans, t-shirts, and either chucks or a wild pair of old school neon colored shoes. I use terms like gnarly, rad, cheers, mate, and wicked. It’s funny because this is not who I was when I left Jacksonville, but I guess things change as you immerse yourself into culture. I have a huge heart for people who have been hurt by Christianity (in the context of the ugly judgmental traditional religion) and want nothing to do with Jesus. It’s funny to see my socially aware and justice hungry generation reject someone who actually came up with all the ideas they believe so much in. It’s my burning desire to get them to see who Jesus is through their lenses, whatever that may be and to get rid of all the outside noise that has influenced them to hate or reject Jesus. I’ve backed off from doing a lot at Indy Metro, not because I dislike it. I still believe in a church downtown, I just promised myself this year would be about my walk with Christ no matter what the sacrifice and in my case it was giving up being involved in everything. I naturally like to have my hands in everything and have a say and know that my opinion matters, but now I think that God is wanting me to focus on Him and listen for what He wants me to do. I’ll be done at Crossroads Bible College in December, but still have to take about 2 semester worth of electives, so I may go to a local community college to meet some new folks and get a different view of things by taking a couple world religion and sociology classes. I am going to get recertified as an EMT up here so maybe I’ll go work at a hospital or something. Who knows honestly. That’s where I am. I don’t know what is next for me. I have recently had talks with one of my professors about the possibility of going to China, then I have a friend in Kenya who has hooked me up with a ministry out there that looks after abandoned children and AIDS orphans. Plus the thought of moving to a totally new city to start a movement of LOVE (I’m talking about Jesus here people!) is something that immediately gets me excited. I’m always in need of prayer for doors to open and things to work out, but more than anything I need to hear God’s voice in all this because I refuse to make impulsive decisions, I must follow Him. It will be interesting to look back in my journal this time next year and see what is going on.

On a random note, I am growing my hair out again, not cutting it for a year, I will only keep my neck and around my face cleaned up, but the rest is going long hair and don’t care style. I’m on a new weight gaining program and plan on hitting 190 before the year is over. I’ve recently started a small group (if you want to call it that) where me and a couple guy friends just get together and talk about our faith, life, and pray for each other. I think this is powerful because there is nothing systematic about it at all and it is truly just genuine followers of Christ coming together to try to grow and encourage one another. Some great friendships have been born out of this. I don’t use the friendship term loosely either, I mean guys praying together, hanging out outside of the church context, going through hard things together type stuff. I’ve learned a ton about the man God is continuing to create me to be out of all this. I have a natural ability to lead others and create authentic relationships and I can for some odd reason start a conversation with a wall, but that’s only if it is not a beautiful female wall, which brings me to my next point. You’ve probably been scanning this post looking for this because it is typically the first question I get asked by people who do not have daily contact with me, “Any new girls in your life?” The answer is no. I see beautiful women that are Christians all the time, but because I am so afraid of becoming the pig I used to be before I started following Christ I swing to the extreme of doing nothing and letting opportunities pass me by. I thought I found a woman I could accept and be myself around, totally unafraid of the future and not afraid of commitment (because as you all know this is a problem I have), but she didn’t feel the same. I was and still am sometimes crushed by this, but God taught me a lot through it and I was able to get a much more mature thought process on this whole relationship thing. I pray (not prey like my brother loves to tell me to do) all the time for God to fulfill my desire for a wife and keep my eyes open, so one day I can answer your question with a yes. Other random things to tell you…hmmm….well, I am STILL not a Colts fan and never plan on being one. I am a diehard Jags fan. I’ll be honest too, I’m not sad to see Brady’s injury and the Colts still limping due to theirs. I really think we have a chance to take the AFC South this year! I’m still working on building my fixed gear bike (if you don’t know what that is, look it up). It is really big up here and the trendy thing to do if you live downtown, so yes, I am jumping on the band wagon! The problem is, I have really expensive taste and often find myself looking to spend close to $1,000 on a bike, but cannot bring myself to do it, so I’m just building one as I get money to blow.

Well, I’ve pretty much poured myself out on this one, I don’t have much else to say… So I am going to continue studying Romans, I’m only on CH 10 and I started back over a month ago, Paul is just s brilliant and the book is so rich you cant read it to quick, it takes a lot o chewing and digesting. Hope you enjoyed this post and the pictures, please feel free to hit me up on Facebook or shoot me an email aslope@gmail.com. Please keep me in your prayers as I really feel like God is wanting to do something with me, I just need to be smart enough to not miss the boat. I pray you find the joy of Christ like I have and can never look back and say what if, jump into those open doors, run over those shady looking bridges, and abandon all rationale thinking and run head strong, fast, and faithfully into the wind right after our savior Christ Jesus!

The Heart

I was fortunate enough to witness the starts of something new in the city Sunday night. The grumbling I have felt and heard since I moved here finally is starting to grow wings and fly. Response Church held its first Sunday evening worship service last week. The thing that excited me most about this movement of people in the city is not because there is another “church” downtown, there are plenty of those. This exhilaration comes from the reality that a church is not being started, a church is being called to action, the school of thought that thinks you go to church is slowly dying and I am starting to see the emergence of a movement in this city. What’s so special about this movement? Well, the special thing is that it has to do with changing the heart instead of lifestyle or habits. When asked what people typically think of as Christians the normal responses include things like going to church, reading their bibles, or trying to do the right things. Jake so cleavly stated that no one says things like, “a broken being who has a new heart that changes the way they think, feel, and interact with life.” Why is that? This question is what I’ve personally been on a journey in answering for 3 years now.

Jesus is responding to the Pharisees questions about his disciples not being ceremonially clean and doing all the right things and Jesus responds with a common saying, scripture they would all know,

“'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men (Isaiah 29:13).”

Jesus continues,

“What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean (Mark 7:20-22).' "

Seems like Jesus’ is not concerned with what we are doing. Now, does this mean we can just say we love Jesus and be nasty people who act like we love ourselves? Absolutely not! Paul addresses this very question of the law vs. our liberation and freedom from it in Romans. Jesus did not come to start what we know as modern day Christianity, a religion that has a set of beliefs, doctrines, rules, and regulations that seem heavier than anything, not Jesus’ style if you drop everything and just read the Bible and seek who He is. Too often we read the Bible and make it so systematic that it does actually seem like a set of rules. So is Jesus about you learning the rules and doing them because you have to or about you learning about Him and because of who he is responding in a way that is a totally different lifestyle. So no longer do you do things because you have to or shouldn’t but because you have the great privilege to and because not doing it is better for you. There are plenty of people running around saying and doing the right things, they look the part, but per Jesus, they can be far from Him. I’m not saying religion is all bad, but I am saying it is only a small reflection of what should be going on inside the individual, this heart change thing.

Si, I’m excited for my new found friend Jake and the opportunity God has given him and many others to start a new movement about the heart, about Jesus, downtown Indianapolis.

“As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man (Proverbs 27: 19).”

So the question is, what does your heart say or reflect, has it been changed? Jesus wants your heart not just your obedience out of fear or moralistic pressures, although obedience is a response to Him having your heart.

Monday, September 8, 2008

It’s Like An Efen Oasis Man

This is an actual quote from a young man I had a conversation with the other day. I am on the phone with a friend and we’re talking about how amazing the book of Romans is and how brilliant God made Paul. So I get off the phone and notice a familiar face. I call these faces “block buddies.” These are just guys I see on the block all the time because we are always in the same place. Well, I get off the phone and he asks what I was talking about. I presume he is a Christian. He hangs out with a friend of mine who is a Christian and rocks a cross chain and religious looking tattoos. He is a pretty cool cat, he has a fixed gear bike that I would probably give my left pinky for and has more tattoos than I do, so he gets some cool points out of my camp. Well, my assumption that he was a Christian was quickly challenged while speaking to him after this phone call. He begins to use terms like greater being, transcendent energies, and angel wars and I begin to realize he is very religious but does not know God. He gets into this story about how he views life as if we are all cats and we either rest, chase little toys, or just sit back and try to figure things out and I have to interrupt him and simply ask, “What do you think about all this?” He answers my question several times wrapped in different odd stories, metaphors, and similes with I don’t know. He tells me he reads all these books about this greater being and has a ton of credence in these odd philosophies and principles. What I see in all this is a lost guy running around like crazy trying to find the truth. I asked him if he reads the bible and he kind of grins and says that he basically sticks with the 10 commandments. So he just basically mixes in the 10 commandments with all the other religious views he has adopted which makes for a very intelligent and spiritually driven guy.

For some reason God has wired me in a way where I can start and keep conversations going with total strangers that transcend trivial exchanges. So I have learned to really speak their language,. Really adapted to this downtown culture and oddly enough God uses me to speak into people’s lives who practically would run from anything implying Christianity as an organized religion. So I tell him to start reading Romans because it seems like a great book for him to read because Paul is very logical and explains the Gospel very clearly and in such a way that is understandable to people who think this way. At the end of our conversation I reach my hand out and get a huge embrace instead. This embrace was not some weird guy on guy in the middle of a predominantly homosexual area of town though, this embrace exuded thankfulness and understanding. It’s like I connected with him in a way all these other religious people haven’t been able to.

As I have conversations with younger people like him I realize that we are a very religious society. We love to philosophize and spiritualize things. Especially the area of town I live in, everyone is an artist or musician of some sort. Artistic thought is something I have become more and more interested in as of late. We hear things like, he is a musician, an artist, a poet, a sculptor, a photographer, etc and what you won’t actually hear is how similar all of their minds work. Their minds (mine as well, because I am an artistic thinker) work in vague ideas, emotional connections, and a thirst for new intelligence. Towards the end of our conversation another guy comes up and begins listening in and starts telling his stories about listening to dark hardcore cult like German music and how it speaks to him and such. He then tells the story of a dream he has and says that he sees Jesus and it’s like an efen oasis. My head tilts and face grimaces when I think of these stories because it has become so cool in my generation to be like that and speak of things in ambiguous terms and be sure of nothing. It’s funny how cyclical everything is, the same kind of minds Paul dealt with in Acts 17:16-34 are the same kind I am dealing with downtown at a local coffee shop. I pray God can use me in a way like He did Paul to reach people who did not know Christ. I pray you will be aware of the philosophers and great thinkers in your society and not be scared to have conversations in terms they can understand.