About Me

My photo
I LOVE God, I have been married for 5 years to a wonderful woman, I am a recent college graduate of Lakeland college with a degree in Religious Studies,I have currently foregone going to Seminary, but feel called to work with teens and young adults and do so at my local church, Vineyard CC, in Grafton, WI.

Total Pageviews

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Joys of the tortured Artist

             When you are an extrovert your soul starves for the hum of human connection. As an extrovert I feel blessed because I do not have to worry so much about the loyalty of a small group of friends to find ways to keep me entertained. Although,  I am not saying that I don’t want that in life, I do. What I am saying is that I my soul do not thirst for quiet, but instead the noise, the buzz of a thousand different connections, like the center circle of a spiders web, feeling every single vibration, meeting it, greeting it, and welcoming it as if it were a long lost cousin, that I always knew existed, but couldn't prove until that moment. This is not a guise to cover up some insecurity and it is not a one-hundred percent of the time thing. I enjoy greatly the quiet, intimate moments between my wife and myself, but for them to feed, there actually needs to be a peripheral connection, which can sometimes be stifling and draining to my wife who is an introvert. Luckily for us both, I am like a humming bird bouncing around from flower to flower, filling up on the sweet nectar of different crowds and groups of friends, allowing those connections to afford me the mental fitness to try to be the best I can be in my marriage.
                While this thought was wondering through my brain it happened upon the words humming and interconnectedness, which lead me to a reality that I believe is true regardless of “rovertness.” When you are an artist, regardless of your medium or mental fitness you are always tortured in a way. You struggle to bring to life something that may not even be a full formed thought, but the simplest of emotions, through mediums that are not linguist with set parameters and meanings. Hell, even writers deal in the deadly arts of allusion, illusion, illustration, and simile. Dancers become ninjas, taking a musical phase and contorting meaning out of practical nothingness. Painters use the various colors of the rainbow to awaken our neurons into understanding the deepest thoughts behind the canvas, like a cook who has crafted the perfect stew, this in and of itself an art. As a dancer I rejoice to move and feel the music; to lead my partners to smiles and laughs that come from trusting someone they just met, hoping that they will not hurt them, and the payoff of that trust. I am lucky that as an extrovert I get double the soul high in a dance club, from being around so many people and being able to enter into so many different conversations, as well as the joys of telling who I am through my art, through my passion, through what makes me hum. You can tell an artist is bearing their soul to you when you see that smile that only comes when they are doing what they do. When they see in another’s eyes that they get a little bit of who they are in that moment and this happens regardless of if they are an introvert or an extrovert. An artist is tortured to connect to the world, to the other through mediums that are not always received, or allow for interpretation. We bare our souls through our stories and leave a little bit of ourselves behind when we leave a dance floor or the blacksmith shop. We are tortured, yes, but it is a torture that I would not change for the world, it is one that I enjoy and hope will lead me to new understandings of the world around me, to God, and to the people in my life. I do not have to create a dance specifically for church because when I dance and move I am talking to everyone around me about my day and who I was created to be, which tells of the God who created me.

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Year, New Creation, New Purpose, or why you should look at the Green Lantern to learn about what faith can mean

         With the new year upon us, seven days in to be exact, I was asked to write on my thoughts about “New Creation, kainos ktisisf” and for reference I was offered 2 Corinthians 5. Well I have to say after reading this chapter I can’t help but get caught up on the fact that it reads like stereo instructions. The problem with this is, if you’re like me, you skip the written instructions and go right to the diagram and the bible doesn't come with diagrams. In this case, I am in luck, as this chapter does have a diagram, 2 Corinthians 5: 17, the famous, or infamous; “if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” This diagram is not as easy to read as stereo diagrams and I feel leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to understanding our relationship with the Holy Trinity. Why would any creator, create its creation and then tell them that they have to be more then what they were created to be; while at the same time saying that the creation must seek out the creator in order for this upgrade to an acceptable form? This brings to mind the image of early 90’s video games such as Super Mario Bros. or Mega Man, where Mario or Mega were incapable of completing their quests without upgrades, such as mushrooms that made you large enough to crush everything, or a feather that turned you into a raccoon that could fly, or a new more powerful weapon that allowed you to destroy the evil machines blocking your path to your creator. In any case you just weren't good enough without the upgrade and your creator or princess or whatever was just so far away from you and removed the quest that you were actually on!
             I have never been able to really buy this video game imagery of what it means to be in Christ and become a new creation because if you have ever played any of these games what happens if you are on mushroom power and something bad happens? Well, you shrink back into your original form and you must be very careful about what you do, so that you do not lose your life, else you will be forced to start the whole level over again. Let me tell you, this happened to me more times than not and really, this is what happens to us in our spiritual lives as well, wouldn't you agree? We are riding a spiritual high, having the power of the Holy Spirit backing our moves, things are going right left and right and then we make a stupid move or we have something go wrong, a death, lose a job, ect. ect. and then the questioning of God’s role(s) in our life happen and doubt sets in and sure enough we have shrunken back down to the form we were before our spiritual upgrade, but in truth, were we ever super-sized to begin with? What changed, our perception, the things happening around us? Did God suddenly forsake us because we were human and made a stupid decision or take our loved one as a cruel punishment for something we were un-repentant about? What a petty small god, truly a god of Roman or Greek acclaim, wouldn't you agree? Still, Paul seems to push this idea of becoming something better then what you were when you are in Christ. While I disagree with the idea of suddenly being something better, I do agree with Paul’s summation point that being in Christ means that we no longer need to be reconciled to God, but instead we are those who are now charged with reconciling the other to God.             

            Simplifying the chapter down to Paul’s summation point makes more sense than the diagram sentence. This point charges us with a new mission for our life without specifically telling us how to go about it or raising the bar for our actions to a level that is disparaging and causes you to just want to not play the game. Simply, it says, now that you are in Christ, you have become a minister to those around you. After all, didn't Christ come and suffer as human to demonstrate how to bring us back into right relationship with God the creator, with each other, and with creation? With that in mind, to be in Christ, or to act in a Christ like way would mean that we act toward bringing others back into right relationship with God, with each other, and with creation. Now, in a small way, at least when it comes to your thought process(es) a change does/may occur, depending on those things that you put priority in before accepting this call.             
           That is where my understanding of becoming a new creation ends paralleling Paul’s stereo instructions. He is overly concerned with that which is beyond it is frustrating to think that such a prolific authority could be so distracted with what was beyond, after all didn't Jesus say bring that he would bring the kingdom of God to humanity? If we act as Christ and Christ acted in a manner to bring the kingdom to humanity then it is fair to say that by accepting a call to bring humanity back into right relationship is to bring the kingdom to humanity, not prepare humanity for the kingdom. All of the talk about that which is beyond puts too much stress on a need for perfection, for preparing our souls to be in the presence of God, but God sought us out. God became a man and lived as a human, suffered as a human, and died as a human, so why do we concern ourselves with this notion of being more then what God created us to be, in some search for absolute, everlasting perfection? In my opinion our flesh can never be perfect and our souls already are.            
            I look at being a new creation in Christ like the Green Lantern. Hal Jordan was a reliable/unreliable guy with the best of intentions and all the courage in the world. He was flawed and when he accepted the call to be a Lantern those flaws did not change. He is often made fun of for those flaws. However, what changed for Hal was his purpose and calling. He now had a new focus and new knowledge, but he was still the same Hal Jordan. Now I chose this imagery over the video game imagery earlier because even though Hal got a ring and “super-ed” up, the powers of the Lantern only amplify the abilities and qualities with in the ring bearer. They did not change who Hal was, they did not make him invincible; what they did do was change his priorities, so that he could bring things back into right relationship from their broken or threatened state.               
            When we chose to be in Christ, live as Christ, have faith in Christ we find a change of priorities within our world. We do not suddenly stop speaking the same way or become a perfect replica of ourselves, without any flaws. We stay ourselves, but we embrace a calling to work towards bringing humanity into right relationship with God, each other, and creation. This can be done in so many ways. I love what Frederick Buechner had to say about a calling. He said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Even here, you do not need to change who you are to answer your calling, for your calling intersects who you are with a need. My idea of a new creation does not need to focus on our soul or the afterlife because our soul, in my opinion, is that part of the creator that lives within each of us and is perfect without need of change.           

            With the new year upon us many of you may have made resolutions to change things about yourself that you don’t like, may be quit a bad habit you picked up along the way, lose some weight, or maybe even gain some weight. Whatever it may be those changes will not change who you are or who you were created to be. They might make you feel better about yourself, but they will not change who you are. Like a new year’s resolution becoming a new creation in Christ does not change who you are, it does not prepare your soul for the afterlife, but what it does do is create a new focus for who you already are, a new purpose for all your talents and flaws and that is to help God in bringing humanity back into right relationship with God, each other, and creation.

Friday, April 6, 2012

LOVing gamES

            I have to be honest, my wife and I arrived a little late to “The Huger Games” party and actually only read the books because we saw the movie preview and wanted to see the movie. Then based on the urging of some of my friends, I borrowed the first book and became hooked. I kid you not I finished reading it in two days and if you truly know me you know how fast that truly is. This occurred the same week that the movie would grace the screens and if I wasn’t motivated enough to read through the entire series as fast as possible, the movie lit a fire under me that I have rarely had when it comes to the written word. Now, typically I would avoid such a hot topic to write about, or wait for the buzz to blow over before I talked any topics I felt moved to bring up, just I had done with “Harry Potter.” However, with the end of Holy Week approaching fast I can’t help but lay down my thoughts because where I see God in this movie parallels how God works within the passion story.

                I want to start by establishing an understanding between us. When you read the books or watch the movie you have to recognize that our characters live under a unique reality. The FACTS of their reality are dictated by an imperialist type regime. They are denied information and forced into acts that some would not otherwise participate in if not for the regime’s supposed power. As the details of the story unfold the characters discover that what they had once thought was FACT was actually changeable or not applicable for every person within Panem. Through their growth and the bending and manipulating of these supposed facts our heroine and her friends discover that which is TRUTH; those things which cannot be manipulated and become dependent on the perceptions of the observers.  For instance, the fact that the Capital was all powerful and able to kill whomever they wanted was proved false. Where the TRUTH was that love was such a powerful act, that of Rue’s, and Peeta’s, and even Katniss’s, that it turned the tables of the capital’s power.

                So long as we can agree on these definitions the rest of this blog will make sense. You see, it is those things that hold true that are the most easily relatable to the story of Jesus. Take for instance the truth that love is greater than violence.  Katniss showed Rue, whom was her enemy, love and kindness that is relatable to the same love that Jesus showed the Roman centurion whose ear was sliced off by Peter, stopping a bloodshed that could have taken many lives. While Katniss did not always answer with the same pacifistic nobility the Jesus demonstrated for us and calls for us to repeat within our lives, she still showed love and cared for more than one of her enemies.

                You cannot ignore the violence itself as a character representative of a relative fact. That fact is that, right now, we live in a violent world. Violent acts are responded to with more violent acts because of thinking that brute force will change the outcome and bring upon peace, yet we ignore the truth that Jesus, as I stated above, calls for us to love with reckless abandon and forgive in the same manner. It is this core truth that sparked the movement called the way that we now call Christianity. This is not to say that it is true that we can love in such a manner of our own accord, after all it was God incarnate whom demonstrated these acts.  Instead what the truth that I am trying to illustrate is that God walks with us through this struggle loving with us, allowing us to not have to try to do this on our own. We can see this demonstrated in “The Hunger Games” through the mutual love of Peeta and Katniss and how it was that love that turned what the Hunger Games represented on its head, turning a fact into fiction and proving the capital fallible.

                When Christ rose from the dead on Easter he too turned the facts of this reality into fiction and proved that the rule of man is fallible compared to the love of God. The living Christ walks with us to help us love each other. When we accept this truth then our reality shifts and those things that we thought were true are reveled as being dependent upon our perspective and only temporary facts.

What other truths do you find God speaking to you in this story or others?

How has God changed your reality?

As always Peace and Many Blessings

Friday, March 23, 2012

CrOssInG the NeW diviDE

               I am currently a little behind on my pod cast listening. The exact reason why, I am unable to say, but what I can say is that sometime late last year I just stopped listening to my pod casts. This being said I am back at it and catching up on the awesome stylings of some really cool people. I am even thinking about adding a pod cast, but that is neither here nor there. Catching up on my podcasts has been fun. While listening to a Homebrewed Christianity podcast from 8/24/11, something the guest, Ingolf Dalferth, said stuck out to me. On the recording Tripp and Ingolf Dalferth are discussing identity and engaging the Biblical text when Dalferth states “{the Christian perspective}  . . . is a changing of one way of looking at life and yourself to a completely different way of seeing things . . .” The wonderfulness of hearing this quote right now is that I have been itching to complete this blog, which you are currently reading, about this same idea.

                You see this idea of a great change from one you to another you is all over the place in TV, music, and movies. I probably could list many examples, but that really isn’t my style. As I often do I must brag on the music of Linkin Park for two reasons, one: they often write music that speaks to the relationship between humanity and God, and two: there is one song of theirs that just screams of this transformative power that occurs when the old you encounters the reality of the living Christ. The song of which I speak is “The New Divide.”  This song was introduced to the world with the release of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” when it was used as the movie’s theme song. The song has obvious allusions to the content of the film, which has its own “God” encounters. One particular encounter is when Optimus Prime speaks to Sam saying; “Fate, rarely calls on us at a moment of our choosing,” leading Sam on another adventure where he is transformed further into a hero that he never dreamed of becoming. This transformation drives the action of the movie, and not to be seen as disconnected from the movie transformation becomes the story that drives the music and lyrics of “The New Divide,” which can be viewed right here.

I remembered black skies, the lightning all around me
I remembered each flash as time began to blur
Like a startling sign that fate had finally found me
And your voice was all I heard that I get what I deserve

So give me reason to prove me wrong, to wash this memory clean
Let the floods cross the distance in your eyes
Give me reason to fill this hole, connect the space between
Let it be enough to reach the truth that lies across this new divide

There was nothing in sight but memories left abandoned
There was nowhere to hide, the ashes fell like snow
And the ground caved in between where we were standing
And your voice was all I heard that I get what I deserve

So give me reason to prove me wrong, to wash this memory clean
Let the floods cross the distance in your eyes across this new divide

In every loss, in every lie, in every truth that you'd deny
And each regret and each goodbye was a mistake too great to hide
And your voice was all I heard that I get what I deserve

So give me reason to prove me wrong, to wash this memory clean
Let the floods cross the distance in your eyes
Give me reason to fill this hole, connect the space between
Let it be enough to reach the truth that lies across this new divide
Across this new divide, across this new divide

                Transformation from an encounter with something greater then ourselves is a powerful theme that does not exist solely as tool of fiction, but it exists within our own reality. Many of us can probably tell a story of how something that happened in our lives, forever changing us from that event. Granted not all of these events can be called positive events, but they will inevitably reveal something of our true selves and who we were created to be. Dalferth, Linkin Park, and I are not saying that you do not have to look inside and search within for further revelation on whom we truly are, but rather, in this blog, we are speaking towards those external encounters and events that are so powerful and challenging to whom we thought we were that we have no choice but to wrestle and become something completely different.

                This idea of extraordinary transformation is all over the Bible as well. I would go so far as to say that the entire purpose of the Bible is to be a tool of transformation, where you encounter the story of the living God, in the life of and continued ministry of Jesus. The story of the conversion of Saul to Paul is one such transformation. Paul’s transformation story is one where he truly did cross a new divide and found a reason to fill the hole, connecting with the space between.
                When I hear this song, I cannot help but think of the account of Saul’s conversion as it is written in Acts. From the opening verse with the bright light surrounding him, and a singular voice that only he could hear telling him of his fate, that he would get what he deserved. Most Christians would have thought that Saul deserved death for their persecution and executions, in the same way that Saul himself thought he was going to die, but he was proved wrong. Instead that which God deemed he deserved was a new life serving God for the betterment of humanity, reconciling him to what he created him to be, and righting their relationship, sending him to do likewise throughout all nations. This encounter transformed Saul so completely into a new person that his name was changed to reflect that he was no longer the same person.
                I believe that we all have “God” encounters, rather in music, TV, movies, personal relationship, or random occurrences. When these occur we have two choices of what to do about them. We can one: ignore what we encountered and choose to not let it change us, or two: we can accept what we encountered and let it change us, proving us wrong and surprising us at every turn, turning us into who we were created to be. When you listen to “The New Divide” think about Paul’s story or think about what you don’t like in your life, you can even meditate on what you think your life should be like, but then allow yourself to encounter God and see how it changes you.
                Its kind of like when I answered my call to ministry. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I was created to do such a thing. However, I have not been the same since I have encountered my new reality. It isn’t an easy thing I wrestle with the new me all the time asking for a reason to prove me wrong, but I am always answered the same way.

                Recently, I have joined a new church, The Vineyard, and have been busy as the Communion Volunteer Coordinator and helping with Youth stuff when and where I can. I just heard back from our head pastor on if I was accepted to take the position of Volunteer Fundraising Coordinator and now officially hold said title, on a brief(a couple of months) trial basis. I am constantly being offered opportunities to be who God created me to be.

                 I had a review at work and I was complemented on how my smile and attitude brighten up a room and that even if I were having a bad day, I never let it show. The complement continued that my positive attitude is infectious and makes me a pleasure to work with. Please realize that I am paraphrasing, but this kind of compliment has been happening to me quit frequently, which has gotten me to think, have I changed that much. There was a time if I was having a bad day everyone would know it. I am sure that this isn’t all encompassing, but it does mean that my conscious effort to not allow myself to dwell on negativity can be considered effective. I even received a compliment like this from a co-worker whom I used to not get along with, which honestly meant a lot.
                I could not have changed this much singularly as the result of my own efforts, but this has ultimately been an outward manifestation of the internal change that has been progressively more obvious the more I accept my calling to be a minister and my encounter with the living Christ. In other words answering God’s call on my life has transformed me and allowed me to discover the things that bring me inner joy and find ways to use those to meet the world’s deepest needs.

As always Peace and Many Blessings 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"The River" runs through me

        It is almost serendipitous that my first blog in quite a while would be about how a TV show from the writers of “Paranormal Activity” inspired me to continue my search for God speaking to us when we least expect it when the tag line within the show is “There is magic out there.” I guess it starts with the fact that I have been looking for something to write about or at least the inspiration to actually site down and write for several weeks, so where did the inspiration come from within “The River”?

          Well, firstly, the fact that it was created by the same people who created the “Paranormal Activity” series of movies had me wondering where would the series go and what would it deal with. I will have to admit that both “Paranormal Activity” and its sequel, “Paranormal Activity 2” scare the beegeebers (pronounced: be*gee*ber*s) out of me. The main reason is their “real life” depiction of the demonic is probably one of my core fears, in so much as I acknowledge that the demonic exists and can interact within our reality in physical ways. To paraphrase a friend of mine, for something to be scary you have to believe something like that can happen. Once I knew that these movies were not real footage as they were advertised, it was much easier to except them as entertainment. It also helps that “Paranormal Activity 3” was just not as scary, which left me to wonder would “The River” offer a glimpse of the supernatural intellectually as stimulating as the first two or be a letdown like the third? Would the series speak to me?

          My faith in God comes with an awareness that the supernatural exists. While I acknowledge that this awareness or acceptance does not come naturally for some, it has and continues to for me. For me, accepting the aforementioned statement, allows me to draw a natural correlation, that is to say that whenever the supernatural is involved we can learn about God. We may not always learn what God is, but we can learn what God isn’t or at least how another person relates to God. I believe that this hypothesis holds true for “The River” as well.

          The first observation I could make is, as I stated above, the tag line of the make believe show, “there’s magic out there.” Typically in Christian culture the term magic would be seen as an evil thing, but for me God’s creation is magical and it’s out there. God created many wonders for us to enjoy and that is truly magical. I could go into the long process of listing some of these magical things, but I will let you fill in your own list. I will point out that God coming to earth, taking the form of man, dying, and rising again can be described as magical. This act of God’s leads me to my next observation from “The River.”

          The next observation that can be drawn is that of the relationship between the father and the son. The relationship between the father and the son within the show goes from a positive relationship to one that is strained. I really cannot help but see the parallel that can be drawn between us and God. As generations have passed our relationship with the creator has mirrored the strain that a father has with his son as the son grows to become his own man, wanting to go his own way. Within the show the writers have thrown an interesting element into this relationship, which asks the question what happens when the son is drawn back onto a path in search of the father, following the father’s footsteps? Will the son fulfill the hopes of the father, living up to every potential that the father sees within his son? These are not questions that have been answered by the writes thus far in their four episodes that have aired, so I cannot really dialogue about where this parallel will go. What I can say is that we all have a purpose and as we walk the path of that purpose we not only learn more about ourselves, but we learn about God in our lives, just as the son, Lincoln, continues to learn more about a father that has become more and more distant throughout his adult life, despite the fathers continued love and joy over his son and his son’s accomplishments.

          Finally, I would like to have a discussion on how God is speaking to us through the supernatural images within the show. Now, it would not be as awesome of a show without the supernatural or the search for the source of magic that seems to have been the focus of the missing father. With the supernatural and the source of magic in play, as I stated above, I have a glimpse into God. God is supernatural and God is the creator of all magic, actually the creator of all things. Now if there were a real life place that we could seek out to find God I think we would all be on journeys like the one in “The River.” However, since there isn’t such a place, that I know of, we have to settle for our lives being the journey and our dealings with the supernatural being more mundane and that of mainly internal revelation. That being said the images of the supernatural show “grey” forces. Forces that operate neither for a preconceived good or evil, but that function based off of their own rules and only appear to be harmful when those rules are broken by those on the journey. Within our own lives we deal with very similar situations where things are neither good nor evil until the point where we break some sort of rule that causes harm or a negative outcome to befall us. Within the show the father left behind a series of tapes and a journal for the search crew to use, albeit unintentionally, to decipher the rules that need to be followed for positive outcome. We too have things that we get to use to decipher what will cause positive outcomes in our lives, such as the Bible and the Ten Commandments. However, just as the father’s journal need to be decoded so too do we have to interpret the Bible in search of what God is trying to say to us.

          Within “The River” there is a prophet, a path, a search for “the source,” and there are many run-ins with supernatural both in positive and negative ways. I have yet to find a messiah, or savior, to lead them on the proper path to that which they seek, bridging the gap between the father and the crew, but I will keep watching and let you know when one appears. For now just remember there really is magic out there and when we embrace God’s wonder, all things are possible.      

Friday, October 21, 2011

AlLoW me to be VuLnEraBlE

This week has been a hell of a week. It has been a long time since I have been down this road. While, I know I go in my arks of highs and lows I don’t seem to be able to find that peace that I can typically grab onto. I was thinking about the last time I felt some true peace, the last time someone said you are on the right track or that is a good fit for you. The truth is in ministry I don’t think I have ever really had someone say that is right up your alley, I have had things fall into place where it would be hard for me to deny that that was where God wanted me to be. That being said there was a time where my talents meshed with what I was doing, I had peace, and people let me know I was good at it. Ironically, I consider it the first step in the direction towards ministry, that step was an attempt at becoming a massage therapist.

I left massage therapy for several reasons, the biggest was I injured myself and was unable to complete my hands on classes leaving me 2 major classes short of my certificate. However, there were other reasons as well. The biggest of those is that I did not live for myself. I left my decisions be dictated by the person I thought I was in love with. I gave everything to that person from finances to dreams, I gave everything openly and freely and hoped upon hope I would get the same in return, but I didn’t. It was, yet again, another failed relationship and like the relationship or because of it, a failed career attempt.

I wasn’t the same after that. I started fading away from the peaceful, calm, fun loving person who would have become a massage therapist. I started making choices out of vengeance for the lack of love that was shown me. I acted out like a five year old wanting their parents attention and upon being ignored whips their penis out on the table and pees all over dinner. Still, I was unable to leave that relationship; I had invested everything there and did not want to be labeled a failure. Likewise, I was a wuss and did not want to be the one doing the break up, I just could not bring myself to be the one to break her heart, even though mine was crushed to the point I was not sure I still had one. So what went wrong?

I am sure we all have had these types of relationships. We invest everything we have from goals, to money, to other unnamed resources only to find we leave empty handed, vacant, empty.

See the problem is that humans are unreliable and when we open ourselves up in such a manner we allow ourselves to become vulnerable and vulnerability is a dangerous and wonderful thing. Vulnerability allows us to be our best, while at the same time if someone takes advantage of that vulnerability it can turn us into our worst. We lose ourselves in the vacant-ness left by the destroyed transaction, it’s like getting to your car, far from the store, and discovering that the cashier short changed you. The retaliation isn’t always as simple as going back to the store and getting your appropriate change back because sometimes the store is in on the bamboozling and they refuse to appropriately compensate you for all your trouble, so you find the cashier’s car and key it, vandalize the store, and torch the bitch! Natural reaction, right . . . right.

While many of us may have felt this way, thought about doing it, or maybe even planned it, the reality of acting out in such a way is just unrealistic. We typically take the faulty transaction at face value and allow it to kill our spirit, becoming disenchanted with the whole system, until a time where some store or cashier or both make your trip so worth your time that you forget your hurt and are made whole in ways you did not know you were lacking. Consequently, the whole time between these transactions are spent shopping, not because we enjoy the experience, but because we have no choice. We need things that only a store can provide. Unfortunately, this is the same way in which we love, in some transactional manner, but is this the way we should love, is that true vulnerability?

This same question was asked by my friend and recent travel partner Pat L. Green in his recent blog, which can be found  here/. This post sparked so many thoughts in me, I just needed to write them down, not to jump on his band wagon, but because I don’t think I have any other discourse but to discuss them through the written word and because this is actually a written bitch slap that I needed to get me out of the funk that I have been in this week.

Let me start my thoughts by saying, I believe that even if it is unintentional, all love and vulnerability is an inherent transaction. Our intent may not be to get something particular out of it, but when we allow ourselves to love and be vulnerable we are depositing parts of ourselves into another. We are initiating an action and Newton stated in his first law of physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. While the return that we get may not be equal to what we give, we still have initiated that action. Now, how we respond to being short changed is going to determine if our action is truly love for loves sake, if we try to torch the store because we were bamboozled, well, that is the reaction of someone who had expectations going into the transaction. However, if we can walk away from such a transaction without malice because of the slight, any joy we receive, I believe, is genuine and a sign that we loved for loves sake alone. After all, when God first created us, God provided all the goodies in the garden, not because we loved God, but because God loved us and when we disobeyed God, they continued to provide for us, despite our short changing them. When we love like God loves us, in this organic transaction, void of any preconceived expectations, loving for loves sake, reconciliation takes place between those whom are being vulnerable to each other.

One thing I have learned from studying the bible and getting my degree is that God does not just try to reconcile us to God, but God also tries to bring us into a reconciled state with each other. In that vein I would like to bring my favorite song writers, Linkin Park, into this discussion because while their more current stuff has direct hymn like qualities calling directly out to God, their original works are a call out to each of us for this same reconciliation with each other that we are speaking about. The song that I thought would fit best for our discussion is “A Place For My Head.”

"A Place For My Head"

I watch how the moon sits in the sky in the dark night
Shining with the light from the sun
The sun doesn't give light to the moon assuming
The moon’s going to owe it one
It makes me think of how you act to me
You do favors and then rapidly
You just turn around and start asking me
about things that you want back from me

[Chorus (x2):]
I’m sick of the tension, sick of the hunger
Sick of you acting like I owe you this
Find another place, to feed your greed -
While I find a place to rest

I want to be in another place
I hate when you say you don’t understand
(You’ll see it's not meant to be)
I want to be in the energy, not with the enemy
A place for my head
Maybe someday I’ll be just like you
and step on people like you do and
Run away the people I thought I knew
I remember back then who you were
You used to be calm, used to be strong
Used to be generous but you should’ve known
That you’d wear out your welcome
now you see how quiet it is, all alone

[Chorus (x2)]

Go away
You try to take the best of me

I want to be in another place
I hate when you say you don't understand
(You'll see it's not meant to be)
I want to be in the energy, not with the enemy
A place for my head

Shut up....what!

[Chorus (x2)] 

As you can see, right off the bat they are talking about this transactional nature of our relationships. They use the sun and the moon as the example of the way that we should love each other. In this case the sun loves the moon in a way that allows the sun to share its light with the moon with complete disregard for what the moon is going to do for the sun in the future. Consequently, they are fixed bodies and really can’t “do” anything for each other, but hey its poetic license! The remainder of the song is a call out to a particular person to reconcile their greedy ways, taking everyone’s love for granted expecting more and more out of the people around them and even “loving” someone just so that they can get something in return. Isn’t that what we have been talking about? Although the song makes my point from the negative perspective, scolding vs. warning, the particular audience; the song speaks directly to the heart of the issue and that is for love to be genuine it needs to come from a place of vulnerability, where all expectations of the other are cast aside, allowing for an organic transaction where all parties involved get what they need from the relationship, not what they wanted.

Allow me to end by bringing this full circle and explain why I love the fact that God talks to us from every imaginable place possible. As I said at the beginning, this week has been hell, but I did not elaborate, allow me to be vulnerable and explain why. This week has consisted of me arguing with my wife for reasons that just don’t make sense, a sick dog, a large vet bill, with no money to pay it, and the foreboding feeling that I was handling this all on my own, despite friends who have been checking on me and praying for me even though only a hand full have actually met me in person and a wife who loves me with the firey passion of a thousand suns. With the written bitch slap that Pat’s blog provided I have come to realize that my despair comes from an inorganic transaction(s), one(s) with expectations and a guarded heart, void of the vulnerability required to love as completely as I am capable. While not everything is as cut and dry as this and there are complexities that I am aware of that involve psychology and therapy sessions, I am comfortable saying that this week would have been a lot better if I just loved like I used to, with complete abandon.

I hope that this blog is for you what it needs to be, I pray that the Holy Spirit speaks to you like it did to me through Pat and Linkin Park. For my wife and friends I am sorry for this week and I LOVE you all very much, even if my expectations get in the way some times, and for those moments, I am so very sorry.

As always Peace and many blessings!

Friday, October 7, 2011

SwEet JeSus WalKing on the WateR

I thought I would post my sermon for the jail house service this sunday. I am very excited to do this. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as i will enjoy presenting it.

My name is Steven Carter and I am a recent graduate of Lakeland College with a degree in religious studies. This has been no small feat for me; after all I have only had to go to 4 colleges and three different degrees before finally getting a diploma. I have never really been a bad student, but there are things that I never thought I was ever going to be good at, like reading at a normal speed or writing grammatically correct, so with these assumptions I did not pursue possible careers that depended on me mastering those skills. As a result I went to two different schools pursuing a degree in meteorology and when I failed to succeed, where all evidence said I should have, I decided to give up pursuit and attended a third school to try a more relaxed field of study, wanting to attain a certificate in massage therapy.

Massage therapy was not a horrible fit for me. I enjoyed the human interaction and getting to help people, make a difference in their lives. That being said fate had a different plan and I became injured, causing me to be unable to finish my last two classes and letting another degree slip through my fingers.

At this point I had no idea what to do with my life, I lacked direction and focus. I had to make money to survive, but nothing was overly satisfying and I did not know where to turn for help. I had faith in God, but only recently started going back to church and was not planted anywhere that I trusted to help me answer these life questions. All I knew was that I wanted to help people, but that was too general, I needed something to focus on, so I turned outward to God asking the great creator what they wanted from me. Not expecting an audible answer, hearing become a minister shocked me and caused me to question my sanity. However, I will never forget that word: “minister”

With my life being a mess there was no way that God actually wanted me to become a minister, so I fought against the call. I was stubborn; God couldn’t be calling me to that, but God had to have some plan for me otherwise how was life going to get any better, so I continued to ask, with the same response coming every time. Finally, I couldn’t ignore it anymore, the more I thought about the call that God was giving to me the more it felt right. I started to look at all the other people God had called and saw that they were not unlike me and a pattern began to form, a pattern that tracks all the way into the new testament and through to some of the most famous saints. We all have a problem believing that God has enough faith in us to call us into ministry, but God calls everyone into God’s service because God has faith in all of us. Let us take a look at probably one of the more well know bible passages in the new testament and see what it has to tell us about God’s faith in us.

Insert Mathew 14:22-33

So, who did Peter lose faith in?

I recently had the opportunity to read Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell. In this very engaging book Rob asks the same question. To answer the question he puts it into the context of the time that the event takes place.

See in the Jewish community of that time life revolves around the Torah. The Torah is the first 5 books of the Old testament and learning it and understanding were pivotal, so most children would start school around the age of 6 and spend the next four years, learning the Torah. The best students would continue on to the second level of school, those who lacked an aptitude left school and learned the family trade

                Those that continued on went on to memorizing the remainder of the old testament and by 13 they would have all 39 books memorized. They would not only memorize but they would also study the art of questioning and the oral traditions surrounding the texts. They wanted to see if the student knew it, understood it, and wrestled with it. They were not interested in regurgitation, but progression of the thought, taking it one step further then the Rabbi had before them.

                By the end of the second school around the age of 14 or 15 only the best of the best were still studying with the Rabbi. The rest of the students had reverted to learning the family trade and starting families of their own.

                At this time the student would petition the Rabbi for continued education. The Rabbi wanted to know if this kid could do what he did, so he would grill the student to make sure. The rabbi wanted to know if they were able to enter thunder-dome and come out the other end, looking a lot like the Rabbi. If the rabbi thought they had what it took they would say:

                COME FOLLOW ME

So, if we rewind from our previous story to when the disciples are actually called to become disciples we see that Jesus is calling students who were already rejected by other Rabbis. They were not deemed worthy to learn to be like the rabbis in their towns. Then along comes Jesus, God incarnate, calling the rejects to become like Him. God is calling them to do what he did. He had faith in these rejects, he saw what they could become.

So, what did Peter lose faith in? Peter lost faith in God’s faith in him. He suddenly began to doubt his ability to be like Jesus, there by doubting  God’s faith in him.

You see God loves all of us and all we have to do is answer the call and believe that we are not insane, but that God is REALLY calling us to follow him, we have only to believe that God believes in us.

Do you believe that God believes in you?