Archive for February, 2009

I like to pretend that I would be an awesome character in a movie like Braveheart or 300…

February 26, 2009

I, on occasion feel like I am my own worst enemy. I fall down just to pick myself up again, time and time again. I recently watched Braveheart for like the 50th time and during the movie, I had a fairly vivid day dream. This is that dream, complete with narrative.

I’m losing the fight. The unrelenting enemy is back and he is as strong as he was the last time we fought. I’m older now, more experienced and I have been training for a long time. I prepared myself thinking that my fight was going to be against a predator who believed I would be easy prey. I see now that my foe is not so direct, and that all the time I have been training and trying to develop my karate’ has been fruitless in this battle. The void of black could not contain it; it escaped its prison and caught me flat-footed, with my back turned. I don’t know how this fight will turn out, I find myself with a great many less allies that I had the last time. Many have fled the cause, seeing it a pointless fight, and while others, I pushed away myself. I was foolish in believing that I would easily conquer any who dared assault me.

I settled deep into the trenches, trying to hold my ground, but I was pressed back against the cliffs. Behind me is Sheol and Abbadon, Death and Destruction, and if I lose then I will be dead. No funeral for a fallen hero, no glorious parades or tales of Herculean feats, just a cold body in a pine box.

I wonder why he fights with such fury, how does he know all my weaknesses and failing points, where does he find his strength and why does he even hate me to begin with.

The dust of battle begins to settle as the field clears of those fighting, and I find myself alone facing my enemy. I’m am tired and weak, but finally ready to look into the face of who has raged against me and brought me so much conflict. He holds is chin high with arrogant pride, and with his shoulders broad and his eyes cold, he breathes heavy with anger and pain. He is not collected, he thinks only of the moment and of what he sees in front of him. He is selfish and he thinks that he has won the fight, never thinking for a moment about everything around him. Those who are dead or dying are far from his thoughts, he sees only his goal in front of him, me.

The air whips and clears all haze from between us. I see the angry, scarred beast of a man who stares back at me. My entire fight has come to this point, finally meeting my enemy face to face. I step up and confront him our eyes lock and I embrace the hatred I have for that which has caused me so much pain, this person who has brought death to my door and it’s only then that I realize who I am staring at . I find myself crushed to find me looking into my own face. I am my own worst enemy and I hate myself for it.

Psalms 144:1 “Praise be to the Lord, my strength! For he makes my hands ready for war and my fingers ready for battle.”

“Don’t look back in anger, I heard you say…”

February 23, 2009

Over the weekend, I was fortunate to get to enjoy a short vacation. My 9 closest friends here at school and I packed up two cars and went to Gatlinburg, TN for the annual Winter Fest conference. I’ll blog about the trip some other time, but I mention it now to say that the overall theme of the conference was to remind us as Christians that there are only two simple instructions when trying to be a “good Christian”; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and also “Love your neighbors as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37-40) Now, yes I said simple, but please note that I did not say easy. That, by itself is yet another conversation for another time.

Chapter 3 in “The Externally Focused Church” is called “The Power of Service”, and it talks about how service and being a servant is what really wins over a community and impacts the world for Jesus. This seems pretty common sense to me, after all, don’t we see Jesus and the Apostles in Scripture doing the very things we would want people to do for us; healing the sick, feeding the hungry, accepting the outcast and down trodden are all things that the church should be known for, not building projects, awesome music or trendy speakers. Jesus serves his disciples at the Passover dinner, washing their feet; he serves those who are going to turn right around and serve him. We are not exempt from serving just because we don’t like it, it is what we are told is going to show the world how genuine we are and how real our God is.

Chapter 5, “Nothing happens outside of relationships”, reminds us of the need for genuine relationships, not only in the church but with those on the outside also. I think it is horribly sad that we have to be reminded of that, when did we as the church get the idea in our heads that we were supposed to be walled up in our congregations like we were waiting on the enemy to strike first? I hate when people take Romans 12 out of context to try and make it seem like we should never interact of socialize with non-Christians and even more so, I hate it when people look down on you for hanging out with non-Christians. Where is Jesus in that? He himself said that the “healthy” are the ones who don’t need doctor, that is why he spent so much time with the “sick” and needy, in short, they were looking for his help and Jesus went where he was wanted.

“Well I heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord…”

February 18, 2009

Today, I had the opportunity to listen to a man named Terry Smith give our Ministry class an insight into his experience as a counselor, therapist and pastor all in one. He would tell you that he doesn’t think of himself as clergy but as I listened to him talk about his experiences in helping the broken hearted, witnessing the “religiously oppressed” and giving advice to the next generation of ministers, I realized very quickly that he was indeed a pastor.

Not only did he speak honestly and openly, he spoke from his personal experience and from his heart. It is my most firm opinion that this is the most effective way to speak to anyone about anything, with conviction and sincerity. He gave testament from a life time of practice and experience and I would give anything, as Caleb phrased it, “to pick his brain for a couple hours.” Ministry starts with being deeply involved with the story that God has for you and your life. I hope that as I am telling the tale of my life in the twilight of my years that I will be able to do so with such power and weight as Mr. Smith did today. It was truly a blessing indeed.

I am not one of the “cool kids.”

February 15, 2009

A Forward: I wrote this particular memo while I was at work and contemplating the things that were happening at the time. I wrote this probably about a year and a half ago. As anyone who has ever worked in the mall will tell you, it is very slow in the morning.

I was recently told that I was a hypocrite and that I was not a true Christian, that I was only faking my faith because I thought it was “cool.”

My simple and honest response: “Christianity is not cool.”

We live in a world of self-fulfillment and greed, where sex, drugs, alcohol and money dominate the culture and government of our time. The opinions of the few are held higher than the needs of the many and might is what makes right. So ask yourself this, “Why would anyone think that Christianity, a faith of humility and sacrifice would be cool in this day and age?”

Again I say, it isn’t cool. It’s not trendy, fashionable or the hip thing to do. Most of the time, the “faithful” are viewed as freaks, geeks and weirdoes; too old-fashioned and reserved with the Bible not being held with any sort of reverence or relevance for life today. We are not the “cool kids”, and even though it seems impossible and silly to be a person of faith, it is the right thing to do.

It is almost impossible to live a good life, the Bible itself tells us that our righteousness is as filthy rags compared to God. God knows we are human and that we are going to screw up, even if it is a hundred times over the same thing. It’s the idea we hear when we are little kids: “It’s the thought that counts, you get an ‘A’ for effort.” God doesn’t expect people to be perfect, but He wants you to try to live life as sinless as possible. Even though I stumble and fall flat on my face, trying to live a life that is pleasing to Christ is what it is all about. At the end of my days, I would rather try to live a Christian life, full of all the up beats and beat downs of living in a world in which we are constantly at war with, and find out that there is nothing after this life than to do every little thing I want with my fleeting moment of existence only to find out that all the of the Christian kids were right all along.

No, I don’t think I’m cool, but I’m okay with that. Mathew 18: 21-22

“It’s a big enough umbrella, but it’s always me that ends up getting wet…”

February 15, 2009

So I’m in the middle of reading “The Externally Focused Church” by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson and I came across an idea they have that I really like. “Critical mass is one person with a vision.”

This is a quote from the CEO of Blockbuster Video, Scott Beck, and he says that the only thing it takes for a vision to get off the ground is just for one person to take it and run. I love this idea and I always have. I have never seen this quote before reading this book, but I have firmly believed that one person can make a difference, regardless of what the countless “Nay-sayers” will proclaim.

Jesus changed not only the world around him, but the rest of the world, simply because he not only held on to God the Father for strength, wisdom and peace, but he refused to give up on the vision he knew God had for him and his life. So my question now becomes, “Why are our churches not changing the world like Jesus did?”

A Life Less Ordinary.

February 12, 2009

 I’m just in total awe at the idea that I might me in the middle of God doing something amazing with my life. I cried out, and He answered. I fell down and He picked me up. I lacked and needed and He provided and gave.

In the Bible, when Jesus calls Simon Peter and Andrew in Matthew 4, He simply says “Come and follow me, be my disciples.” He doesn’t make mention of what it’s going to be like, how things are going to be, and He doesn’t try to convince them to follow, nor for that matter, do the brothers try to bargain or barter with Jesus to figure it out. He offers and they accept, simple as that. It’s their blind faith that changes their life.

I find it works a whole lot better if when God asks you for something, you simply just do it. All He ever asks of us is to listen and obey, and He in turn will take care of the rest. I told a friend yesterday, that while I am very thankful for His mercy, it isn’t God’s mercy that moves me, but rather His grace that I can testify to. I’m in awe of what He gives us, even though we don’t deserve it.

Last night on campus, we had our weekly tuesday night devotion. The speaker was a senior named D.J. Ferris, someone whom I had never met before. He told the story of how four years ago his girlfriend at the time died in a car crash and that it was that experience that God used to reach into his life and start real relationship with him. In the moment when I realized that he was totally okay with what had happened, I realized how much faith and spiritual strength that he has and I lack. I’m not some unwavering pillar of commitment who never falls off of the path, but yet God still chooses to work in my life.

So praise God for everything, in all of  the ways that He is, both great and small. “Here I go, scream my lungs out and try to get to you. You are my only one…”

“Dear your name here…”

February 8, 2009

“Its been a long time…very long time, since I heard your voice….”

That’s a line from a New Found Glory song that until yesteday, I hadn’t heard in a long time. For some reason, it made me want to go through my old pictures. I really shouldn’t say that as if I don’t know why I wanted to look through my old pictures, I do…I wanted to remember what you look like.

I’m quite the sentimentalist and I have collected a lot of pictures over the course of my life. I use them for two reasons: 1, to keep me from forgetting things and people I never want to forget and 2, to remind me of painful times in my life and that I never need to return to that place or time.  It’s been a long time but I think after everything that has happened, I can finally say something and be okay with it.

You broke my heart into a million pieces, and I struggle to forgive you sometimes. It was hard to move on and forget about it. The fighter in me, who is good at rolling with the punches, didn’t take that hit well or just shrug it off and say “that’s life”. We never speak, I don’t see you anymore and you and I are worlds apart in every aspect of our lives.

I’m not sure you ever even knew that I was caused that much pain, and to be honest, I don’t really know why I chose to write such a long letter about it now, so long a time after the fact. I guess I simply had you on my mind after hearing a song I hadn’t heard and seeing pictures I hadn’t seen since the last time you caused me tears.

So, to whom it may concern, I wonder if you think about me because every now and then I think of you. Last night, I realized it had been 8 months since I had been on a date and that has simply just been way too long. As a line from another song I like goes, “I taste the salt, I taste the pain, but I’m never thinking of you again…”

“I’m begging you to be my escape…”

February 4, 2009

You know what really pains me? When I see someone that I love or care about throwing their lives away to people who only want fickle, worthless things for them. “Drink with me, let’s have sex, move here with me because the town is so cool, etc….” I see all these people looking for sollace and comfort in these temporary, fleeting mists of content. I can’t freaking stand it. I want to shake that person awake and scream at them how much I care for them and that I only want the best for them, that the things they are doing and the people they are doing them with are only going to destroy them in the end. I want them forever to know that the things they think are so important, do even matter at all. That these people who matter so much to them, will one day screw them over for the next person that they will try to leech off of. Self Righteous ? Arrogant ? No, I just care about my friends and I’ve seen too many destroyed because they tried to save their own skin and find happiness….funny that I was trying to save their skin as well.

“The hammer may strike me dead on the ground…”

February 4, 2009

Upbeats and beat downs
You know, I’m not normally one to pass judgment on someone, but I truly believe that some people don’t have a genuine fear of pain and death. Not that I wish these things on anyone just because, but there are people who really deserve to have the crap kicked out of them.

Example:

I’m grocery shopping in Wal-mart last night, and this old lady, let me again emphasize the OLD part, was mopping the floor.  As I’m walking by, this ghetto super star, or thug if you will, comes and walks not only onto the freshly mopped area, but also bumps into the old lady. He then cusses her out for not only bumping into him but for getting soapy water all over his “Forces”. This little old lady apologized to this guy,  kept her head down and went back to work. This “gangsta” kept yelling at her all the way down the aisle, calling her various names, the least of which was a word used for female dogs. The only thing I could think of was having the entire dojo of Brunson Martial Arts use this waste of flesh as a practice dummy.

This guy deserves everything bad that happens to him over the next week and more. And in the minutes it took for me to write this blog, I realize all people deserve everything they get, bad and good. That God sees everything we do in this fleeting moment of time we call life and HE gives justice accordingly, and praise God for that…not only for His justice, but for the mercy and grace He gives freely to all, sinners and saints alike.

 

“Take a walk outside your mind…”

February 3, 2009

I just finished reading “In the Name of Jesus” by Henri J.M. Nouwen, a book that expresses some ideas on Christian leadership and taking care of not only the emotional, but spiritual health of our clergy. The last time I wrote on this book, I expressed my ideas concerning what we perceive as successful in ministry, but now I want to talk about this idea of the “pastoral mystique”.

I hate the idea that our pastors, ministers, priests and elders are supposed to be shining and perfect with an unrealistic expectation of holiness.

Now, I know what you’re saying and yes, I agree that our clergy should be examples of godly living. Scripture does hold teachers to a higher standard than the rest of “the flock”, but where does it say that they are supposed to be emotionally disconnected from the very people that they are ministering to? This idea not only makes for a horribly ineffective leader, but also an emotionally bankrupt person.

I love that Nouwen mentions that just as much as the congregation needs their pastor, a good pastor needs his congregation. He needs them to help keep him accountable, because as Nouwen says, “A Christian leader is called to help people to hear that voice and so be comforted and consoled.” That voice, p.s., is the voice of God, the same still, quiet voice that a pastor gives to the flock, is the one he also needs to help keep him going.