Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Adventures of Adam

I can’t tell you how excited I am in writing this. I’m sitting at my coffee shop, listening to the new ‘Ye (Kanye West- 808’s & Heartbreaks) record, and just relishing in the reality and presence of Jesus in the city! I got off work today and decided to just come straight to my coffee shop and chill out on the gym. Now, this does not mean I’m slacking for those of you doubters out there. I’m up to 180 and lean as a robot machine terminator type of dude! That makes me laugh even writing it. Hope you enjoy my humor as much as I do. I’m taking the week off the gym so I can give my body a chance to fully recover from the trauma I normally put it through by lifting chuck Norris-like weight throughout the week.

Things are awesome in Indianapolis! I don’t just say that because I have to be cordial in an update, I mean it. God is a good God and is so faithful to His broken rebellious children, I have been fortunate to witness that in my own life! About a month ago I was just going through this ugly season and dark valley. I was really just fed up with the church (corporate) and school. I want to read the Bible and draw close to God for myself, not out of reaching or meeting a goal. School has been this way for me. Having to read the Bible and write papers on things that must be studied and exposed by reading the Bible has this odd effect on me that causes apathy. It is unhealthy, but very symptomatic to my rebellious, anti-organization, anti-structure, random personality, that when I am doing something only out of necessity instead of desire I typically withdrawal and decide to not do all together. So being disenfranchised with school and the corporate church and all its implications set up the conditions for the perfect storm. When it rains it pours too! I withdrew from church and became every bit of lethargic towards the Bible and anything school required me to do. I became very critical, cynical, and just over all a very ugly person. The reason I became so ugly was because I was relying on my own self to accomplish things and to have desire towards God. I cannot do anything alone, but fail, so I failed indeed, apart from Christ I am nothing. I had all these reasons (that were perfectly justified in my own mind by the way) for not wanting to be a part of the church (Indy Metro). Reasons included the following, not preaching or being on stage at some capacity, not feeling like anyone was pouring into me, and not agreeing with the way things were being done (preference only though). I had meetings with Dan and Aaron both to tell them I was leaving Indy Metro Church. Neither one, surprisingly, tried to persuade me to stay, but just sought out for better understanding of what I was going through. One question asked towards me had the most impact on me though. “Do you think getting all those things would really make you happy or is something else?” Thank you to Dan and Aaron for being patient with me this entire time, I know I am difficult at times.

Boy oh boy did God have other plans. I was praying so so hard for God to reveal some great profound truth to me by making something catch on fire or have it written on my forehead in the morning. It’s funny what you pray for; it’s funny how a man of faith prays for signs…. Well, by reading Scripture, all I could get was this idea of God having perfect timing and to wait on Him. I re-started a great friendship that had went sour with a friend who was now in Iraq over email. It was amazing to see God work through that in itself too. Well, my friend fasts for 40 days and on the last day within the last hour of his fast, he is given this simple yet amazing thought from God…Flowers never ask to bloom elsewhere. He didn’t know a lot of what was going on because I have this horrible habit of isolating myself when things are wrong so I didn’t write him any of this. Well he tells me this great illumination God gave him having no idea I was praying for God to speak to me. Well, at that point with all the Scripture I had read about trusting His timing and then this deal I decided in my head to stick with IMC. I hadn’t even met with Dan and Aaron again to tell them I was sticking around. I met with Dan the next day at Starbucks randomly, I didn’t even see him sitting behind me and we had a little talk. He told me some things God was doing in his life that totally affirmed me staying at IMC. Same thing happened with Aaron the next day! God completely took my ugliness and turned it into a beautiful masterpiece made of broken pieces. I keep saying that the old Adam is back, but it is so untrue. That characteristic passion and excitement is back, God gave it back to me, but it is balanced now with a little bit of wisdom (I still have so much to learn). So I’m so totally into what God is doing here in this city through IMC.

I am always told I am a natural leader and have a big influence on people, whether it is negative or positive. Well, I’ve been meeting with a small group of men who are a part of IMC too and to see what God is doing in their lives is nothing short of remarkable. God uses such messy things doesn’t He? He uses me to influence these guys and challenge them to get close to Him. Now they are challenging each other and growing more passionate about God too. I am blessed to see all this. Dan wrote on my facebook wall a couple weeks ago, after God renewed my passion and started showing me what He is doing through and with me, that totally sums up how it is, “ok.......so you did a professional "grown up" gig tonight? welcome to your future, youngblood.God has big plans for you, amigo. you couldn't mess it up if you tried (God's sovereignty:)......and God knows......you have tried!”

How true is that? Even when I try to screw it up, God is in control, thankfully. Along those lines, I got another promotion! I’m managing a region of field people who inspect vehicles. This is a totally new gig because I am now looked to as a manager and able to make decisions and such. Like today I made this proposal to create a new position that will help us be more efficient, I’m still running numbers on a salary, description and such, but the point is that God has set me up in a job to do all this. With all this comes more responsibility with the people I meet and interactions I have and financially. I’ve been really convicted with two big issues lately that I am currently praying through, self-discipline and finances. This is an ongoing work God is doing in me and I strive to truly give away my entire life to follow Christ and hope that when anyone would look at my budget and personal management patterns they could say, “this cat loves God.”


My passion for church planting continues to grow as I meet people and interact with my local community. God has given me such a big desire to see this city changed by and for Christ. I just had a conversation with what’s turning into a good friend about local churches being unified and helping each other in order to see the kingdom advance above our own personal preferences. Exciting conversations. Then I had a conversation with this cat with the young actors theatre here in Indy about how we could partner up and make an impact in this city and specifically use a large community space that is pretty well known. God is doing big things in this city and just keeps showing me and allowing me to be a part of them. As much as I’d love to say sometime soon I’ll be living back in Jacksonville living up the beach lifestyle with all my old friends, my heart has been stolen by a city called Indianapolis.

I’m still in school; I’m actually in my last class to get my BS in ministry and leadership. I plan on taking a semester off and then continuing my pursuit of my masters in divinity. Doesn’t that sound fancy? I could care less about the degree, but I am just so hungry for more knowledge. I plan on taking Hebrew and Greek so I can truly understand the original language the Bible was written in. Not so I can boast in my knowledge, but so I can be better equipped to know God and disciple others to follow Him and ultimately change this city, one heart at a time.

Please pray for continued favor in the hearts of men here in this city, at my job, within other organizations we will partner with, and especially my neighbors downtown in my local coffee joint. I still have a desire to serve in Africa at some capacity. Please pray that I would be faithful with the finances and opportunities God grants me. Always pray that I follow Christ and continue to have a huge heart for His Word and this city.

So that’s my life folks. Hope you enjoyed. I’ve attached a couple new pictures of me from random things I’ve done recently (trip to the mountains and generally hanging out with friends). Please let me know how I can pray for you or help you in any way. The body of Christ is bigger than this distance between us! Thanks for keeping up with me too.

That’s it folks, the adventures of a broken man in Indy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rock 'n Soul

Death his unnatural, God didn’t create us to die. Sin causes us to die. Jesus causes us to live after this physical death takes place. It’s simple yet profound. Because it is unnatural when it does happen it gives us a bunch of emotions and things our natural selves can’t really handle, so it takes some unnatural things to help cope with them. I witnessed the greatest unnatural event I’ve seen in quite some time last night. The funeral service for Tom Russell was held last night on the North side of town. I had no idea of what to wear, if I wear black I am saying I am mourning, or so tradition says, but I don’t want to be disrespectful to the family or tradition. I decided to not wear black because this was a celebration of life, not a horribly loss of hope. Hope lives on with this loss though. Brief story before we continue though, as it was told last night.

A young girl goes with her church on an outreach event held at a prison. They begin talking to inmates as they return and continue to serve there. A young man asks this girl if he can start writing her. She agrees and they begin writing back and forth. Love is sparked between this distance, paper, and ink. She has this best friend who she tells about this inmate and his great heart for God. One thing leads to another and they start praying that he will get released because they want to be together. He has served 8 out of the 20 year sentence. They pray and pray. This best friend begins feeling like God wants him to do more than pray. God uses this man to put feet to these prayers. God is in this thing the whole way. He is just starting his business as an eye doctor and has a shop a couple doors down from where the girl works at a Christian book store. His first couple of clients were officers that worked at the prison this man is at. The next couple of clients are higher ups at the same prison. He starts asking questions and gets this unanimous response, “There are two people in the prison I would go out on a limb for and he is number one.” So this guy now goes to Sunday school and just tells his class that he wants to raise money in order to get a lawyer to start trying to get this man out of prison. A man pulls him aside and tells him that his brother was saved in a prison ministry and that whatever he is short at the end of raising money to get the legal proceedings started he would take care of.

They start talking to a lawyer and eventually get a hearing. The reason this hearing was possible was Tom had made such an impression on the staff of the prison and this girl through his letters. He also impacted this best friend as she shared the letters with him. He said that the things written in the letter were so profound and things he had been learning at theological seminary. Tom used his time in prison to really get to know God and Jesus. He was the real deal and everyone knew it. In 1984 they got a final hearing. The attorney had a good relationship with the judge that was supposed to reside over the entire deal, so this was another thing that they had going for them. When they got into the court room another judged showed up though. The girl sat as this all happened and prayed aloud. After the judge and attorney had their exchanges the judge says that he will be released today. Tom is released and this girl who he met through a ministry got married. Lori and Tom Russell started a life together.

A true change happened here. This man lead a family straight to Jesus. This church building was filled; people were actually standing in the back. As family members told stories during the service it was apparent that the entire room was filled with people who knew Jesus because of Tom. They spoke of his way of living life to the fullest, always smiling, laughing loud, and how infectious of a personality he was. People loved this man. I didn’t event know him, I met him twice, and by the end of this service I felt myself loving this man and everything he was. The one thing you could not get around when talking about him was his complete devotion to Jesus. He and his wife raised three kids who all know Jesus and are great kids, doing great things. Zack is an amazing graphic artist, caring, and determined young man, Max is a teenager with his head on straight too, he wrote this poem that brought me to tears about his Dad, he is a star football player at his high school, Chelsea is a beautiful soft spoken girl who just exudes what love is, she is soft spoken and humble. All of this is because of a man’s devotion to Jesus. Tom Russell is a great man. I know that walking away from that service. It was a true celebration of life that night and it was amazing to hear so many stories of how he impacted anyone he was around. The service closed with slide show of his life set to a great Peter Framton song, “Do you feel like we do?” The chorus repeats a question, “Do you, you feel like I do?” I hope I feel life the way Tom Russell did. I hope I can impact people the way he did. What a beautiful story of redemption, amazing what one person can do for the kingdom, stunning what truly following Jesus looks like.

It was an honor to be at that celebration service and I have been impacted for life because of it (as well as discovering some new music I need in my life).

Zack approved this writing, thanks brother.

Church

You hear a lot of bad about church, there is a lot of cynicism towards it, and some terrible things have been done and been justified with Jesus or the church. I’m not even a huge fan of calling whacko’s that hurt people in Jesus’ name Christians, I don’t think the problems are caused by Christians, it is caused by people who are under the false impression that they are Christians because they don’t truly understand what it means to follow Jesus. I also think that the church itself is misunderstood. We hear idioms like, “Going to church, being a member of a church, church parking lot, etc.” There is this underlying misunderstanding that the church is something like an organization or a building that people go to or something they are a part of. I say false to all these thoughts and want to share with you a real story of the church and why she is so beautiful. Often the bride of Christ has too much make up on and is dressed horribly, but in this instance she was a beautiful, modest, gentle lady, Christ’s bride for sure.

A friend of mine had a family member in the hospital under some pretty serious medical conditions. It happened suddenly so no one was prepared to face it or its implications. I got out of the gym last week and saw I had a couple new messages. Generally I don’t even listen to my messages, but just check my missed calls, but thankfully in this instance I checked my messages first. It was from one of my good friends called and said I need to get up to the hospital because my other friend’s Dad was in serious condition and it didn’t look good. I ran home and showered up, grabbed another friend and we rolled up to the hospital. Generally hospitals freak me out, they are reminders of sickness and death to me, so I just don’t like them. Something was different about this hospital though, it wasn’t the swanky cafeteria, furnishings, unique smell, polite staff, or nice parking garage, it had nothing to do with the hospital at all actually. I walked up to the room I was told to meet my friend in and to my surprise it was full. I swung open the door expecting that uncomfortable silence. Nope not here! The sweet sounds of humble prayers being lifted to Jesus were filling this room. All night I sat there amazed and watched people come and go, filling the room, crying out to the God of heaven on behalf of this family and man. Ever time there was an update a family member would come in the room and update us and we would stop our conversations and all pray together for whatever that specific thing called for.

We can’t really understand God’s timing or plan fully, but we must accept it and trust that His is best. God decided it was time to take my friend’s dad home, back to heaven. The family came out of the room full of different emotions that no one could probably get their heads around at the time, but at that time all anyone offered was love. Pure love, no agenda, no expectations, just love, the kind of love God created, this unadulterated, piercing love that can heal. Groups of people embraced the family members and just hugged them and let them cry on their shoulders for as long as they needed. I was involved in one of those hugs. I can’t tell you how it felt, to truly feel that love Christ was about, the love that God is and the kind He intends for us to experience, it is unreal. Love, Jesus, God, Christians, and most importantly the church came alive that night!

I don’t understand all the things that drive people’s cynicism and doubt of God, Jesus, and His church, but I do know that no matter what anyone thought about God that night, they saw something they wanted to be part of, they saw something stronger than anything they can imagine, they saw something beautiful. I saw the church that night, I was a part of the church that night, and I tell you what, that is BEAUTIFUL, that is ENTRANCING, that is INTOXICATING, that is exactly what God had in mind when He called for the church to be a body. Forget the programs, budgets, Sunday schools, advertising campaigns, money, buildings, and fancy titles, those are expressions of the church. The church is found in things like this. I saw the church and she was beautiful. I was way out of my league there. All the theology and formal education you can get cannot and will never compare to an actual face to face encounter with the church. That night she was beautiful and could silence any cynicism or negative tensions anyone could offer up. I was so unworthy of being a part of that, but that’s the cool thing, God uses a bunch of broken pieces (people) and makes them into a beautiful picture of His glory, it’s like a wicked gnarly stained glass window.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Confederate States of America?

I know, I almost threw up writing that crap. The reason I question the confederate states of America is because this presidential race and historic event has exposed the ugly head of racism that has hid below the surface for so long. Racism is a clever animal, it has been so well hidden that most middle class Americans have believed the lie that it no longer exists.
Before you stop reading and say he must be some overly emotional African-American kid pumped up just because a “black” president won the president elect stop and read, just give me a chance. I am a Caucasian-American who grew up in the inner city of Jacksonville and was fortunate enough to grow up with ethnic diversity so am sensitive to any racism, even if it is subtle and soft spoken. I think the subtle and soft spoken racism is actually more toxic that the overt bigots we have all grown to hate. The danger with the soft spoken and subtle kind is that it has turned into jokes and comments said off the cuff. If you ask the average American the question, “Are you racist?” they would gasp and say, in an almost offended tone of voice, “No,” without hesitation.

I’ll offer you a couple of examples of this hatred brewed in jest that I came across within the last 24 hours:

I get a forward text message (which I hate by the way) and it says (and I quote, seriously, this is a quote, not a joke):

“Early voting results are in! Obama is in the lead, however that is expected to change at 5:30 when white people get off work.”

It was hard for me to quote that and even invest my fingers’ energy to type that bull crap. But I’m not done folks, read the next one:

I’m standing at a ladies desk today giving her some feedback on a new system I helped build and am kind of acting as a manager for (within my group). I am telling her to put fifty into a particular field, now that is fifty, as in fifty dollars. Well, my other co-worker says jokingly, “Nah you mean fiddy.” That was funny because everyone I work with is older and you wouldn’t expect to hear slang from them. That’s not where the racism starts though. My other co-worker begins to correct me as I am laughing at the other one who said fiddy, but stops himself half way through the correction and says, “Well, maybe it is fiddy, we did get that new president…”

I know, you are probably, or should be, getting a little more frustrated and in shock, but I’m not done, just one more example:
A friend of mine that I work out with walks into the gym. We are all shooting around getting ready to play a basketball game. He walks in and high fives every African-American person in the room and says, “We did it!” Then he says to me, “I bet you had a rough night, you doing ok?”

I’m fired up at this point because this is the third occurrence of out right racism I have heard and it finally has just worn me thin. I respond to him, “You are a racist bro, you assume because I’m white I am upset that Obama won, don’t come at me like that!” I respond to my bigoted co-worker with, “You are horrible you know, that was a racist comment, please walk away.” I respond to my friend’s text by telling him he is a racist and to never send me crap like that. Surprise surprise, imagine what their responses to me are? “I’m not racist.” This makes me laugh out of anger, you know the kind that you choose to laugh rather than scream? Racism is still alive, it is sad that in a time when this leader need support the most all we can think about is his race. I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that President Obama would tell you himself that he didn’t win this one for the “blacks” or that he feels like he accomplished something special just because he is a “black” man.

Side note, the reason I put “white” and “black” in quotations is because I have never seen a white person or a black person. We are all different tones, some darker than others, others lighter than some, but all tones, not one extreme or the other. To separate is unhealthy in my opinion. We have different heritages, but are all one color, just different tones. Also, I’m not a huge Obama fan, I’m not a supporter who thinks he is a savior or anything crazy like that. I’m not a McCain supporter either. I’m offering a truly unbiased opinion because both sides have their pros and cons.

Do you see where I’m going with this yet? What are the driving issues behind little smart comments or text messages like that? What is really driving a “black” man to only celebrate Obama’s win with those of the same race? Why is his assumption that “white” people are sad and not having a good day or need condolence from him? The answer is that there is a deep deep issue that has not been resolved within them. If there is anything in you that makes you laugh at the race jokes or isolate yourself to one race of people and not include others of another, you my friend have a bit of racism in your blood, in your heart.

Martin Luther King Jr. put his life into creating equality and putting an end to racism in America and would be enthralled to see that America has come so far. I mean America (as a whole, sweeping generalization obviously) came from thinking African-Americans were not even allowed human rights to electing an African-American to lead our country. MLK, however, would be deeply burdened and angry at the residual racism that still infest this country. I thought that the North won, I thought this was the United States of America, not the confederate states. Shadows of the racism many gave their lives for still haunt our current society and it bothers me.


May you search yourself for any ugly left overs, any hints at racism, anything that would lead you to make crude statements or jokes, may you search yourself and pray the God of Heaven would rid you of this poison!

PS…I am listening to the Flobots, listen to the song Anne Braden, track 10, it touches on this issue a little.

Narrow Path

It all started with an impromptu message 10 minutes before lunch. “Lunch?” was all that was typed.

It ended with an awkwardly tense elevator ride.

I go to lunch with some friends from work and as usual everyone asks about my dating life or situation. I start explaining myself as we are eating lunch and the conversation carries until we are half way back to the office. I’m explaining why I will and won’t do or be certain things in dating and what the implications are of that and on and on. If you know me then you know I am extremely analytical and because of this I over think everything, especially dating. Apparently one of the girls has an epiphany and they start giggling and whispering. I request adamantly that the cat be let out of the bag. So one of the girls agrees to tell me but warns me that she is going to be blunt. “You just need to get laid!” They all think this is hilarious and burst into laughter. The laughter unfortunately is not with me, it is at me. Another says, “Adam, you are just up tight, you just need some a$$!”

I push my hurt aside and try to remain clam and unflappable and respond jokingly, “Nah, that’s a flood gate, you don’t want to open that, I remember the kind of guy I used to be.” Now what I mean by that is I used to be loose by their definition, not uptight at all because I took their advice, I always just had sex and lived that lifestyle. I don’t live for me anymore though, I live for Christ, so I tell them I walk a different path now and that I am not uptight. I’m actually a pretty laid back guy, not much bothers me, so uptight is not a term generally attributed to my character. In this situation though I appear uptight because I think about these things instead of just following the feeling like some euphoric free flowing hippie lava lamp. That basically leads me to think about why I would act or do things in dating and what would those actions cause or imply. That is the way I think and I cannot apologize for that, but I think considering your actions before you actually hit the play button is something Jesus would be into anyways.

This isn’t a rant blog…I’m taking you somewhere so stick with me on this, you’ll get it…

I just took this class in school on Christian counseling and one of the major distinctions between Christian counseling and other types is that it is not medication and more of a cure. Meaning, we often treat symptoms instead of thinking deeper about the cause of the symptom which would lead us to seek a cure. In the example of me “needing to get laid” or my thoughts on dating, having sex wouldn’t solve the anything in my dating life. There is a reason why people have sex before marriage right? So I am going over all these core issues that cause people to think things like, you just need to get laid and I’m laying out all my reasons for why people act the way they do, I’m laying out the source of the problem, and they tell me I’m judging and condemning…This is funny now because all of the sudden because I think before I act and think deeper about the cause of my actions I am judging…

The world and people who choose not to follow Jesus, not people who say they believe in Jesus, but people who have actually died to themselves and follow Him, care about behaviors. Followers of Christ care about core issues, actually the core issue. The reason most people participate in destructive behaviors is because they have a core problem, they are disconnected with God. I got a really hurtful look into the narrow way today, that narrow path, seemed more like a little tunnel or spot light I was standing in, walking downtown, being laughed at because I am uptight. My question for you friend is: Are you uptight or do you simply consider your ways before you initiate action? I think considering your ways is a kingdom characteristic. Continue on, walk that narrow path, stand in that little spot light, crawl down that little tunnel, carry your cross, head up, proud to walk the narrow path and know my friend, know that it is right, even though it may be obscure to everyone else.