About Me

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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.

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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?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

tHe TiN mAn

The Tin Man got it all wrong
his curse was a blessing
He was courageous
He was compassionate
What did he need a heart for?

He was hard
He was guard
He loved,
even those he just met
What did he need a heart for?

Part man
Part Machine
he could feel
But he was protected by steel
What did he need a heart for?

The heart is a double edged sword
It was going to cause him pain
It was not worth the gain
What did he need a heart for?

For all the joy you can feel
The life you can live with zeal
He already had his soul
That should be the goal, so
What did he need a heart for?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

wE aLl neEd a WaLl 2 LEan On

            Investing in another human being can be one of the greatest gifts you give them. In this day and age of the “me” society, we often forget to invest our time in someone other than ourselves. I believe this is a fatal flaw and one that gets overlooked in favor of some trite search for a successful existence. You know the old adage; the American dream. We expect to reach some destination of affluence and end up leaving a host of neglected souls in our wake. I pose the question why, why do we choose to devour resources to better our own existence and forget to return the favor for others that we come into contact with?

                I am sure we can all think of a time when we felt neglected. Maybe it was your parents, or friends, or religious leader who just seemed to look past you instead of into you. See these are the relationships that can have the largest impact on our social, spiritual, and psychological well being. Your entire self identity can be skewed because someone overlooks what you have to offer towards their daily life. What can it mean to actually invest into someone’s life and dreams?

                I am going to borrow some information I recently read from Rob Bell’s Book “Velvet Elvis.” In the book Bell gives us a history lesson on how one became a disciple in the time of Jesus. Apparently you had to be invested in by a rabbi who saw into you and saw your worth and ability to emulate them and become a rabbi within their tradition. If you were not chosen by a rabbi then you were forced to learn the family business. This history lesson then gives you a different view of how important it was in the way that Jesus chose his disciples. They were in effect rejects from other rabbis. So, if Jesus images and is God’s love for us in physical form, then we learn that God wants to invest in each and every one of us, even if we are rejected by those we hoped would invest in us. That is to say, investing in your neighbor is a Godly act. 

                I would say, as I have done before, that there are many alternative cultures that tend to do a better job of demonstrating this kind of love then the Christian community. At the same time when the Christian community does act as it should it can be an unstoppable train of love, as well as it should! Likewise, when we look at media, the most moving interactions; be it movie, tv, or music; occur when the media taps into the combination of redemption, investment, and reconciliation, basically making it something Godly.
                As I like to do, I shall now give an example of one such media. Recently, I have had the pleasure of watching several good movies in the past couple of months. Two of them have the same general example of investing, although the premise of the movies is different. In both “The Help” and “The Secret Lives of Bees” you are introduced to characters that invest in each other, despite what society says they should do. In both movies people look beyond color and social norms to see the person within. These are the images of God in our life.

                I realize that these are very easy movies to demonstrate a Godly idea with. After all, they are kind movies, with high and low points, but the overall sentiment is that there is an obvious right and wrong to the world. The great thing about these movies is that they are a slice of real life; nothing comes easy and without consequence. God works in these types of human choices. God makes good out of bad, working to reconcile us back to God’s good creation.

                I would like to end with an offering of my own life. Recently, I have had many people come into my life who seem to see something worth investing into. They are encouraging and engaging in my daily life. I would like to take a moment and thank them for the time they are putting in. There is no need to name names; you should know who you are. I would encourage each and every person who reads this to find someone and invest in them. Look for something that they don’t see in themselves and help bring that out of them. Tell them what they do well and be ENCOURAGING, not discouraging. Focus on the positive because we all have enough negative in our lives.

Shalom and God’s many blessings upon you.

Friday, August 12, 2011

8/14/11 Sermon

This weekend I get to preach on a text from Genesis about Joseph. I thought I would be cool to post it here on the blog since it not only references the blog, but makes a pop-culture reference as well. I also thought I would add the prayers I wrote for the service. Let me know what you think.

Prayer of invocation:
Creator God, please come into this space and prepare our hearts and minds for your word. Open our minds up for the clarity of your call on our lives and forgive our stubbornness when we do not follow those things which we already know. Open our hearts to the possibilities your love may be calling us to and forgive us when we choose to ignore your love. Thank you for your wisdom to know and your love to share. In your holy name we invite you into this space, Amen.

Recently, I have started a blog. The main focus of the blog is to illustrate how God can speak to us through the most unlikely of mediums, looking mainly at “secular” media, such as songs, tv shows, and movies. It is an interesting experiment and one I have a lot of fun doing.

While I was thinking about this message I toyed with the idea to do a skit as an introduction. I had the vision of how it would go and made an attempt to get there. All I can say is that my rough draft was, well, rough. Trying to come up with a way to correct my failed attempt and make it more understandable I realized that the research I do for my blog already discovered the skit written for me, better than I could ever write myself and from one of the best comedic minds of our times, Mel Brooks. You see, in his Sci-Fi spoof “Spaceballs,” Brooks writes a “who’s on first” type scene between one of the main bad guys Dark Helmet and his second in command Col. Sanders. In the scene the antagonists are trying to figure out how to track down and capture the good guys after they had just escaped. In order to find out where they were Col. Sanders tells Dark Helmet about instant cassettes, movies that are out before the taping is over. With this tape they could have fast forwarded to see how their journey was going to end, instead they forwarded through those parts of their journey that had already happened till they reached the location of their prey. Along the way they stop at a point in the video that was currently taping, everything they saw happening was happening. Confused, Dark Helmet asks for clarification on when that scene was happening, only focused on his future he could not understand the present. Confounded about when the past had happened and when they were going to know the future one of the funniest interactions of the movie takes place, Helmet becomes so confused during the interaction that even after our heroes’ location is discovered he has forgotten who has been located in the video. Once the location is found and Helmet’s confusion subsides they set off, with a destination in mind, on a basically unwritten journey. Although Helmet ended up confused from the instant cassette, it did offer him a lens to not only evaluate what had already happened in his journey, but to evaluate how to get to his envisioned end result.

In our Bible reading for today Joseph had his own lens that he interpreted his experiences through. That lens was his knowledge that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and his father Jacob loved him. Joseph had a lot of experiences that he had to interpret through this lens. Firstly, he grew up having visions and dreams that acted like instant cassettes telling him of future events, learning how to interpret these dreams resulted in interpretations that did not always sit well with his 11 older brothers, or others who asked him to interpret their dreams. His ability and how he shared it with others got him in trouble, despite any setbacks that he experienced he maintained his morality and continued doing what was right as a result of his life lens, remembering his vision from God that he would one day be in a position of power over all of his family.

Nothing that happened to Joseph was any worse than being sold into slavery, something that was perpetrated by his brothers none the less, as a result of the interpretation of his dreams! This being the first setback along his journey, Joseph made the best of a bad situation, using his talents he moved up in the ranks of the slaves to a position of power, managing the other slaves for a middle ranking official in Pharaoh’s court. He was then cut down again when he rebuked the advances of said official’s wife, who then framed him for attempted rape. While in prison his skills of interpretation gained him notoriety and despite the accusation of lying and attempted rape, he was still seen as a man of high character. Such a reputation gained him an audience with the Pharaoh which lead to his release from prison and the rise of power which allowed him the opportunity to provide for his family, bringing us to the reunion that our Bible reading for today takes place.

For every bad thing that happened to him, Joseph could have gotten mad and blamed God. He could have taken his gifts and wasted them, used them for evil, or just given up living his life. Consequently, if Joseph ever felt these things we are not privy to them because in the end Joseph looked at his life through that lens I mentioned above, that his God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, his father loved him. As a result every human choice that was made made sense to him. He saw where he was and remembered his vision and concluded that the path that he took to get there was the path ordained by God. He was now in a position to celebrate with his family and provide for them, like no other could.

Ah, to have such clarity! To have such clarity of purpose, to know where God wants you to go, yet how frustrating!

See like Joseph we are forced to deal with the decisions of others and in that same vein we are forced to deal with the results of our own decisions. Romans 8:28 states “We know all things work for good for those who love God, who are called to God’s purpose.” In times of strife, when we are sold into slavery or turned on by someone we thought was a friend, or when we see something that doesn’t immediately speak to us from God, we might be asking ourselves how this is going to work out for good. We might ask why God would ordain such a horrible thing to happen. The present becomes very confusing and frustrating, possibly causing us to forget our goals or even the reason we set off on a particular journey in the first place. I don’t believe that is our bible readings for today or even Romans 8: 28 is trying to say that God forces an easy road or a road that makes sense while we are traveling along it. I believe that these verses tell us two things 1) God continues to work for good for us, despite the results of our decisions or those of others, God is an expert at turning Junk into art. And 2) If we look back through our lens of God’s love after we have reached a point of an envisioned future, it is easy to see how God worked, even through the worst things in our lives. Is it a perfect system? NO! When humanity is involved nothing is perfect, but God’s love is always trying to reconcile us back to God’s perfection. This is a purpose of the resurrection, to reconcile us back to God by walking alongside us and helping us through the muck in our lives.

We all have moments in our life where we have experienced setbacks in achieving some end goal! I know that I am currently trying to find the purpose of one such setback in my life. MY goal was to go to seminary this fall, but because my wife and I did not have the money to move we have had to postpone. This setback has compounded the complexity of the discernment process. Trying to discern the purpose of a failed goal isn’t easy, however like Joseph I have the lens of God’s love and I am maintaining the knowledge that God called me to become a minister. I have already had the opportunity to view my instant cassette through papers and essays I have had to write as part of the discernment process. Looking through my lens I have been able to see how God has carried me through some of the muck in my life towards the call of ministry, despite the wrong turns, like Joseph, looking through that lens it’s hard to call them wrong turns. For now, I need to continue living my life as positively as possible despite any current and future setbacks that happen along the way. Easier said than done, but then again, when some author wants to write my story I certainly hope that they write it the same way that I view it now, through the positive lens of God’s love which reconciles the muck.

Let us pray
YHWH, in this time of prayer we may have asked for clarity on a situation, we may have asked for help for a friend struggling in their life, we may have thanked you for a recent breakthrough in our lives. I want to thank you for hearing our prayers. I want to thank you for your mercy and I would like to thank you for your wisdom, for when we cannot find words you taught us a prayer to call out to you.

Prayer of thanks giving:
God of Abraham, thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to walk with us through this life. Thank you for falling when we fall and lifting us up after. Life isn’t easy, it wasn’t for Joseph, it wasn’t Jesus, and it isn’t for us, but your love is steadfast and works to make things good. Be patient with us when we are down and do not lay our burdens on you. Remind us that you are greater and stronger and are with us always. In your hands we lay our burdens down, in your love we rejoice that you have walked with us through our lives, and in Jesus name we pray, Amen!

Peace and God's many blessings

Monday, July 25, 2011

Is Harry Potter a Magical Telling of Jesus' Story?

            Saviors, superheroes, synonyms for which humanity seems obsessed with. When you search through our lore, ancient and modern, you can see them throughout, but why? The answer is not cut and dry because it depends on the perspective you take. For some it might be a call for humanity to rise above itself and become something greater then it is, like in Hindu, Buddhism, or humanism; insomuch as these three ideas/religions call for humanity to do the work for themselves with little intervention on God’s part or even the idea that there is no God. However, I am none of these, as you know, I am a Christian and when I see these images I see God calling out to humanity who is calling out to God.

                These Images become a circular conversation between humanity and the divine. They remind humanity of the superhuman power that exist around us in God’s presence and for me, God is everywhere, working with us and through us, lifting us up, walking with us through this life. When I see these images I am reminded of the true superhero, Jesus, and what his story means for our lives. In the story of Jesus we find the perfect merger of the divine and humanity, reconciling all of humanity to the power and wonder of the divine.

                This obsession with understanding our relationship with the divine has most recently been explored in the lore of Harry Potter.  One could argue that a magical wizard could never be used to parallel the story of Jesus, but that is where we get short sighted.  There is nothing evil about Harry Potter and his story is very similar to Jesus’, as most superheroes’ are.

                I would like to make this very clear before I continue. This is not the pagans Jesus. The fact that magic is used does not negate the reality of the parallels and make them less valid. Furthermore, the use of magic does not mean that the parallels drawn were made to make a mockery of Jesus’ story. I would pose that unbeknownst to Rowling, whom I have never spoken to and cannot not quote in any manner of truly feeling this way, wrote this story as an exercise of demonstrating that the good in this world will always conquer the evil, which is in of itself a parallel to the story of Jesus. God works everywhere and in every way, even if we do not know that God is working through us.

                Let us start our exploration with the fact that the story of Harry Potter is an expose for all ages on, how the good in this world will always conquer evil. In every quest Harry defeated the evil in his way. Isn’t that what Jesus has done for us in real life? From the overall theme we can move to more specific examples of Jesus story.

                Probably the most telling is the resurrection of Harry in final book and movie. While Harry had to use magic to pull off this resurrection, Jesus only needed his Godliness to conquer death. Beyond the resurrection is the defeating of the bringer of death, in Harry’s case his name is Voldermort. I would also point out that what we call miracles can be considered magic. Jesus turning water into wine sounds like transfiguration to me.

                My point in all of this is to show you that God continues to work and continues to talk to us. We should never count something out merely because of the medium it uses to tell. If the message is bad, by all means avoid it, negativity breads negativity, but magic and wonder are all around us and are tools of YHWH. I challenge you and will continue to do so always to find new ways that God is talking to you.

As always Peace and many blessings

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lessons learned from a Matisyahu concert

Its been a little longer since my last blog then I would have liked, but I have actually gotten some enjoyment out of the summer in the last couple of weeks. I quiet enjoy being busy, at least being a good kind of busy. In my semi-adventures I had the opportunity to see Matisyahu with some new friends at a musical festival called summerfest. This is a huge festival in Milwaukee, WI with free stages, or as far as free goes when you have to pay to get into the festival, but that is neither here nor there. At the concert I had the pleasure of making my way to the front of the stage in hopes of getting a good view of Matisyahu's performance. What follows are the lessons I learned in the crowd of the Matisyahu concert.

Lesson 1: Follow the Leader. This lesson was learned in our effort to find a place to watch the concert. We designated Kat to lead, since she had been having good luck getting through the heavy crowds throughout the night. I followed her, being equally talented at getting through crowds, being short and wily. Behind me was Kat's husband Adam and another couple with us ( I do not remember their order). As we made our way through KAt and I kept our eyes forward assuming that the rest of our party was right behind us, which they were, that is, until they were sent on a detour by a party of concert goers rolling a joint. It was not until we were too far ahead that we could not see them behind us that we looked back to see if they were behind us. Upon this discovery we both asked each other what we should do and determined that we should press on and find a place to watch the concert.

While we were leading the pack, we did not do a good job of it. Good leaders make sure that everyone stays together and that you all arrive at your destination on time as planned. While we did not have a specific idea of the place that we wanted to stand, other then as close as we could get, we should have made sure that everyone got there. Our motives were purely based on how much fun we were having and not on the actual leading which we were tasked with.

Our leadership should have looked more like following the directions of the ones behind us. Now for those of us who are nonconformists might be scratching our heads as to how this is a lesson because we prefer to be leaders, forging forward, blazing new trails, instead of following one, or asking others input into where we are going, but the truth is following is as much a part of leadership as any other trait you can think of. In Jesus' teachings he often talked of the reversal of roles, where the weak are truly the strong, or how the meek will inherit the kingdom of Heaven. It is in Jesus teaching where we find plenty of encouragement for us to follow as well as lead. If you need direct verses, give the Beatitudes a closer look.

Lesson 2: Become undignified before the Lord, not inhospitable. In 2 Samuel 6:21 - 23 King David speaks to his wife about how his celebration, although undignified for a man of his position, is exactly the kind of celebration that pleases not only God, but also the peasants around him. In other words, King David was not afraid to get down and show God how he appreciated everything God had given him and how he enjoyed all of God's creation. In a crowd, such behavior has a fine line between the celebration that is a pleasing display of God's love and hurtful inhospitality that is not.
Story time. See, in an over exuberant crowd if you make it down in front and find some breathing room you are lucky. Finding a spot such as that is not the end of the story; however, you have to keep the spot and not get pushed out of the way. While we were in the thick crowd of people, Kat and I had to fend off people trying to push there way down further in the front, or people trying to find their party, constantly being jostled around. So a fight did not break out extreme amounts of hospitality had to be extended to your neighbor. You had to respect their space and be willing to give up your own to make room for someone trying to get through, either out of the crowd or deeper into it. If you are like me hospitality also meant protecting smaller people and females from getting run over by the rough current of the crowd. Unfortunately, some people did not do such things and made to ruin the time for others.

Lesson 3: Generosity. The parable of the good Samaritan gives us a good guideline for sharing the things we have with this in need. If you had been in the crowd of the concert you would have seen a many people demonstrating generosity. Puff, puff pass. Enough said.

While these are not all the lessons one could have learned from the concert and being in the thick crowd of people, but I think that is enough for right now. If you have not seen a Matisyahu concert, I suggest you do. If you don't know who I am talking about, I suggest you listen to his music because it is some of the best reggae music you have ever heard and each drop of it is dedicated to his love of YHWH.

For now Peace and God's many blessings

Monday, June 20, 2011

God's still speaking, but are we still growing?

Think about your church. What draws you there? Is it the way that they interpret the Bible? Is it the values that you share with them? Is it the old world church feel, sitting in wooden pews facing the sanctuary? Or, is it the rock music that ignites the Holy Spirit deep within  you? While the things that could attract you to your church and keep you there are not limited to these things, they do represent four distinct characteristics that contribute to the whole of a church community.

These ideas were brought to my attention by Doug Pagitt when I heard him speak at the WI conference of the United Church of Christ two weekends ago. His talk introduced us to the ideas in his new book "Church in the Inventive Age." If you would like to know more about this book or purchase it, check it out here. In this book and during his talk Doug breaks down the components of culture into the four categories that I represented above with the four questions. As Pagitt puts it, culture, or for our purposes church, are broken down into four categories: our knowledge, our values, our ascetics, and our tools. So, whats the point? Well, the point is that each cultural age brings with it a different church age that is defined by a highlighting or adapting of a particular category, changing the "feel" of church for that time. As each age gives way to a new age it leaves behind churches that do not necessarily follow the transition into the new age.

This lack of transition is not a bad thing. It allows for areas to define themselves and determine what is going to make up their church culture instead of feeling like they need  to conform to the needs of others outside their community. Not everybody can be the same, which is always a good revelation, but what I would like to talk about is the problem with evolving in one area and not in others.

In the UCC our slogan is, "God is Still Speaking." This speaks miles towards what our congregations feel comfortable with evolving within our denomination. What I am saying is that within the UCC we are more comfortable with evolving our knowledge base, the way we interpret the Bible, and what values are sacrosanct as a result of our reinterpretations. Keeping this in mind, when one thing is allowed to evolve, something gets left behind. In the case of the UCC, I find that how we worship; place, time, style, and tools; is stuck in a time warp. This works for some, but I believe an evolution is due.

I love my denomination. I love what it stands for and who it stands up for. I love the fact that everyone is welcome within the walls of our denomination. That is unless you are young/a young thinker that gets bogged down from an "old" worship community. I mean no disrespect in this regard, but I do not see an evolution within the ascetics and tools that we use. A majority of our churches are designed straight out of "Little home on the prairie," They tend to be very monochromatic in both visual ascetics and musical selection.  I think this comes from a scary statistic, it is an "old" denomination. Not in its existence, but literally in the age of the members.

See I have seen this reality first hand. When I went to the state conference I was the youngest person in the room. I wasn't the only one with piercings, but I most certainly was the only one sporting a mohawk and tattoos. While these things are not exclusive to the young of heart or age they can be considered good indicators. To take this one step further, my pastor even challenged me to find at least one person with a similar disposition as myself, tattoos and one other distinguishing characteristic, needless to say, I failed in my mission. That is not bad, but it does make it hard for someone like myself to feel welcome, even among the welcoming.

Change is never an easy thing and should not be done for no reason at all. That being said, in this instance I believe it needs to be done because sooner or later the denomination will just die out. Our young thinkers will get pushed out and be forced to form their own churches and we will be left without leadership going forward into the next era.

Our current leadership believes in "grey" thinking. Another way to say this is they do not believe that every answer is going to work for every person. In this same regard, shouldn't we have the same thought process about our services? Why are our places of worship cookie cutter copies from the past? Why do we not have a service later in the day then 10:30a and during the summer, when we go down to one service, is that service actually earlier then our late service? Why is our music right out of old hymnals? I think you get the picture.

I will be honest, I don't have the answers to these questions. In some areas doing a later service will work and in others it will be rejected with the force of a thousand suns, but shouldn't the options be there? I know that some of our leadership is willing to try new things, which is awesome, but we need to let our parishioners know that they are allowed to think outside the box. If we don't make it known that it is OK to want to change things, then we are going to drive creativity out our doors, even in welcoming and affirming churches.

Its like the scene in "Gleaming the Cube," where Christian Slater's character cuts his hair and throws all of his skater clothes away for preppy clothes, so he can fit in his dead brother's world and get close to his girlfriend. In the end, the only way he was able to save the girl and solve the murder was to be who he was, a skater punk. We need our "skater punks" in our churches, as themselves, so we can move forward. Even King David refused to stick with the status qua and worshiped in progressive and undignified ways, refusing to succumb to the wishes of his wife. We need to worship with the same disregard for the dignified, or at least have that option to. Here is hoping that those who are bored with the same "old" church speak up and help to move it forward.

-Peace and God's Blessings

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"I hate this argument"

Just a few minutes ago I posted a twitter " I hate the argument: 'I hope there isn't a God, because the he is a CRUEL son-of-a-bitch!'" Little did I know that this post would lead me into one of the best conversations I have had on twitter and strike up two of the most concerned Facebook posts I have received in awhile. This left me the idea to discuss where this post came from in a blog.

The first thing I need to point out, I most recently heard this argument on a TV show I am watching called "Jeremiah." It is a post-apocalyptic show with strong theological themes and in one scene a woman who was crippled, due to broken bones, something that wouldn't have happened before the big death, was having a conversation and blamed God for everything using my quote from above. The kicker, even in this show the virus that killed everybody was not something natural like MRSA, but instead it was an engineered virus created in a lab that got away from containment. So, even in this it was mans decision not God's, but God did spare the children from the great death and like moses and Noah a few chosen adults were spared as well.

That should give you enough detail about the show to continue this blog, without bogging it down in great detail. I also believe that this sets up why that argument is one of my pet peeves. It does not accept human culpability for our actions.

God gave us this world and created us in God's image. This means a lot of different things, but for this discussion I am speaking about our ability to create. Part of our creativity is a responsibility to our creations. Unlike God, there are limits to our creativity. However, we both have the ability to create community, which means we are responsible to each other. To continue my logic puzzle we learn from physics and observation that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, but that reaction is not a simple mirror reflection. Using this imagery, its like looking into a mirror and seeing someone else's reflection back. Where God has autonomy we do not, even though God does not choose to act in that manner. Consequently, our actions will never be autonomous, unless we place ourselves into a vacuum.

So, when someone says that they hope God does not exist because then God would be a mean son-of-a-bitch, they are saying that God is responsible for every action that man takes, taking away our free will. This is not my experience of God or an interpretation that I mesh well with. I have experienced the evils of humanity and know that even in the darkest hour it is still brighter with God then it is when I gave up on God. In those dark days I tried going at it alone and I learned that it was not God who allowed bad things to happen but our actions that have negative consequences.

I know that some have things happen to them that are outside their control. Others made decisions that effected them or a natural disaster happens and their life is decimated. I know how easy it is to blame God or an understanding of God that we have come to know, but there are many different images of God and our understandings of those images are partly shaped by our experiences.

I am always moved when I see survivors of a natural disaster come together, help each other, and rebuild what they have lost. I am moved even more when they are thankful for their lives instead of condemning their creator for what they have lost. it takes a long way back from tragedy and no one can be expected to be happy with God in the face of negative circumstances but to put so much fault on God does not remove human culpability.

Finally, I was reminded about Job's story during my twitter-sation. I was reminded not to be one of his friends and I had to stop and think if that was what i was being. I was happy to be able to say that I can continue to boast being someone who is least likely to be accused of that. I have many a time raged at God for the hand I get dealt and I also know my God is big enough to take it and loving enough to comfort my pain. In Job, God did let the opposer do major harm to Job. what i believe we should take away from that story is that God wanted Job to get angry. even in his anger Job never forgot who his God was and said that to his friends. I don't expect you to go to worship and praise a God you are angry at, I would even suggest stay away if you are not in the right frame of mind to worship, but you should TALK  to God and you should talk to friends who can just be and be there for you.

I also like to remember that the uniqueness of the Christian perspective is that Jesus means that we do not have to live or fail alone and that God is always there, even if we have top deal with the consequences of someone else's actions.

As always -peace and God's many blessings

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Another Poem:

When I Met Death

It was late or early in the morning
I looked outside and noticed an eerie light
At least it wasn't boring
The moon or street lamp illuminating the night

Even though I couldn't sleep
I laid my head down and closed my eyes
I tossed and turned, laying in a frustrated heep
I changed my mind and started to rise

I looked and there stood a man in black
where there wasn't a minute before
I said hello to the mysterious man, cutting him no slack
the man turned chilling me to the core

But to my surprise it wasn't a skull to great me
instead it was Johnny Cash
that came to collect my soul's fee
frozen stone cold I was unable to dash

Johnny flashed that famous smirk when I asked
What are you doing here?
In Florida's  hot sun is where death basks
So, I'm filling in, have no fear!

You came to collect my soul, but why?
because your a fan, was his reply.
You drank and drugged and lived a long life
Don't you think I'm too young to die?

Johnny answered again:
I know what your saying
but its not my call
and i have to add in this matter the big GUy isn't playing
So, I better not drop the ball

How can this be?
I haven't seen the world!
I am only Thirty
as I spoke my fist curled

Woa! Wait a minute Boy!
before you get ruff
in this task I take no joy
I didn't mean to put you into a huff

despite your age
you have touched the hearts of many
when you turn this next page
what you taught them will be remembered plenty

See, son, you don't have to worry
in the morrning you may be gone
from tears their eyes may be blurry
but they will know how to sing your song

Speaking of which, it is time to go
I'm singing tonight with good ol' June
She hates to be alone to start the show
so, I have to get to the Pearly Gate Hall soon!

I am pretty sure you don't have a choice
but if your still not down
just use your voice
and later in life is when i'll be back around

I wasn't one for rules
so, let me tell you one more thing before I go
just because you have seen death don't be blue
live your life like there aint no tomorrow

You know just one more truth
you live forever in your loved ones hearts
so, don't be afraid to be a goof
they are the fruits that show your smarts

I know this seems a little heavy
but Johnny really let me live
all because I wasn't ready
a second chance he did give

his exit was as awesome as his act
in one turn he was playing
being introduced as the man in Black
is what the announcer was saying

Oh, what a sight
to see Johnny fade away
his music filling the night
on my pillow my head still lay

although I was conscious
the entire concert I got to hear
now wondering what was like on his bus
forgetting about this I did not fear

So, When m\y wife awoke i told her
the music and his words fresh in my head
she asked if I was sure
As sure as I am that I'm in this bed

She was Jealous of my interaction
torn over her mixed feelings
trying to find some satisfaction
unsure of my revealings

you dream about Cash
What do I get?
 Glimpses that are gone in a flash
could put a normal person into a fit

I will praise God
that you are hear another day
and Johnny Cash
For not taking you away!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why isn't Church like a Punk Concert?

I just got done listening to a sermon from Jay Bakker that he gave this last Sunday, June 5th, 2011 at Revolution NYC. In this sermon he spoke about accepting our faults, just as the disciples had accepted theirs. By accepting our faults and avoiding a disguise of perfection, we better live out a grace filled life. He pointed out that this is where the church fails it members, it forces us to hide who we are because even the darkest thoughts that pop up with in our brains are part of who we are.

For many of us, our dark sides are a lot more noticeable then others. They cannot hide it from the outside world because it is something beyond their control, like bi-polar disorder, something I am very familiar with, as my wife is one of the many people in the world who suffers from this disorder. My heart breaks with the recognition that the only thing that can be done is to try to control the disorder with meds and therapy. It breaks even farther when the medications fail and my wife spirals to the point of self hatred. It is this self hatred that really caused Bakker's message to stick with me.

My wife is not the only one who hates things about themselves. I also have a laundry list of things that I hate about myself that make accepting God's grace harder and I believe makes my ability to forgive those around me harder. In fact my anger and ability to hang onto my anger are two things I hate about myself. In this we are in good company.

Considered one of the greatest of all the apostles, Paul had much to hate about himself, but he still had one the greatest connections to God recorded and he didn't even learn directly from Jesus as his contemporary did. I believe that one thing that separates Paul from most of Jesus' present day followers is that Paul straight out spoke about what he hated about himself, he confessed to his dark side, and he never, never let anyone forget it! Take what he says about himself in 1 Timothy 1: 15; " This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: 'Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners' - and I am the [WORST] of them all (NLT)!" To steal some imagery from Bakker, this is like Paul's AA meeting.

If church was more like an AA meeting, church services might be more supportive for the worshipers. They might be able to get beyond hiding their sin from each other, they may just be able to accept God's grace and spread that grace to those that they meet. After all, God does love us no matter how sinful they are. Just think about John 3:16, that is how much God loves us. So, if God can love us in our sinful state, why can we not love ourselves and others and God commands us to?

I want to leave you one last thought. Take a look at all of the alternative groups that a person can belong to from being a punk, to a member of a fraternity, or even a gang and an obvious pattern arises. These groups accept you for you and all of your freaky thoughts. You become a member to have a family who takes care of you no matter what. Why isn't the church or our families as accepting? Why is it that we have to search out groups that will accept us when the Church should always, always be that group?

In this final thought I couldn't help but think of some lyrics by Linkin Park. Recently, Linkin Park's songs have had a lot todo with reconciliation. They seem to be calling out to us to give them a reason to change the way that they see that they should. I think one such song that speaks to what Mr. Bakker and myself are speaking about is "New Divide." My understanding of these lyrics is that our singer has seen the grace that God offers, but two things are holding him back from accepting that grace: 1) the representatives of God are not offering what they see is possible in God and 2) the singer themselves cannot reconcile the grace offered with those things that they have done. I will leave you with the lyrics so you can decide for yourself if my assessment is correct.
-Peace God's many Blessings upon you

"New Divide"

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 this space between
Let it be enough to reach the truth that lies
Across this new divide

There was nothing inside
The 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 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 this space between
Let it be enough to reach the truth that lies
Across this new divide
Across this new divide
Across this new divide

Friday, May 27, 2011

I just wanted to Share a Poem

My wife and I happen to be moving. While I was packing stuff up I found a journal entry that I ripped out of a journal that I decided to give my wife. The entry was about how I felt about my call to ministry and the other changes that were going on in my life. Sometimes when we look back, even if it is only a couple of years, you can see how your thoughts have changed, stayed the same, or been re-enforced through that time. At the end of the entry I wrote a poem and I happen to really like it! I like it so much I feel like sharing it. I really hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

hide and Found
I have found LOVE once,
I have found LOVE twice,
                                                                                                         My Wife, Sarah
I have found LOVE three times,
                                                                                                          My Family and community
I have finally found LOVE in myself
                                                                                              before - when all I did was love myself
There was no JOY
                                                                                               For - I was alone!

-Peace and God's many Blessings upon you

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

the OUtcast, the Mistfit, the Marginalized, and the Broken = Punk

So, I was having trouble coming up with what to blog about the other day, as a result of not being used to taking all of my random thoughts and putting them into one coherent piece impactful enough for your consumption. What I did was make a list of topic ideas that I have been toying around with, but have not written about to help with the creative process. Although I have plenty of ideas that I cannot wait to write about, there have been somethings going on in the news that I cannot avoid writing about, even if they have been touched on by a million other bloggers (an over-exaggeration I am sure).

As a huge supporter of the LGBT community, I cannot avoid writing about the attacks on the our GLBT brothers and sisters as of late. If you watch the news, are from the mid-west, and are a Christian there are at least three issues that are note worthy. In West Bend, WI the local high school GSA has been denied official organizational standing by the school board. For more information on their fight: http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/121738394.html Likewise, recently, Sojourners magazine declined to run an add by a pro-homosexuality Christian organization named "Believe out Loud." YOu can check out this link for the response from Sojourners. http://blog.sojo.net/2011/05/09/a-statement-on-sojourners-mission-and-lgbtq-issues/ If you would like to see the add that they passed up, you can view it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0buh-1quVs&feature=youtube_gdata_player Finally, Uganda is pursuing an onslaught of homophobic legislation. This legislation is being pursued in the name of God and in a genocidal fashion, making penalties for homosexual offenders gravely severe, up to the point of death. For more information please read here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uganda_Anti-Homosexuality_Bill

I look at these issues and wonder to myself, why? Why do we continue to ignore the fact that we do more harm then good by doing things like this? Why do we tip toe around issues that should be confronted? In this day and age, we would never stand for racism being committed in our schools, so why is it ok to deny these children the right to a safe school because they were born differently or support those born differently? Just a note, I am aware that racism still exists, but my point is that we, as a society, are not tolerant of it and crimes committed in the name of racism are punished much more sever then if they were committed for other reasons. We need to stand up for our LGBT brothers and sisters, not push them down or to the side just to avoid angering the less tolerant.

The Punk community is filled with outcasts, misfits, marginalized, and broken people who are just looking for a home and people to understand them and fight for them. Interestingly enough, if you read the New Testament, particularly the words of Jesus, you will find that his ministry calls us to stand by just those people. Take for instance the Beatitudes.

1 And seeing the multitudes, aHe went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and btaught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For fthey shall inherit the 1earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Luke 5:1 - 12 (TNKJV)

These words of Jesus call for us to stand by just those people. In other words, when you include and love our GLBT community, you are doing the work of God. When you stand by them, when they are being discriminated against, you are doing the work of God. Our brothers and sisters were created this way and are tossed to the side, treated like second class citizens, and even killed because of that fact. This means the punk community acts more in the way of Jesus then some churches do, if held up to this standard. So, why can these normally secular group of people follow the way of Christ more then Christ's bride?

As a punk Christian, although they truly are not mutually exclusive, I feel doubly compelled to stand up for my neighbor and love them and welcome them into God's family, or stand by them when they are hurting. I encourage you to do the same. Take a stand. Speak up to your church leaders and remind them of what their call is and that you truly feel that being born LGBT does not exclude you from God's love or service of the church. Write a letter to your politicians urging them to stand up for our LGBT brothers and sisters both locally and globally! We have the numbers, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700137150/Gallup-Poll-Majority-of-Americans-support-gay-marriage.html , shows that the majority of Americans believe that same-sex marriage should be allowed. So why are we not pushing for this recognition within our church walls, the place where the outcast should first be welcomed and loved?
I write this, not to anger, but because I love my neighbor and I cannot sit idly by and watch our church communities continue to push my loved ones to the side. In my understanding of all of Jesus' teachings the commandment to Love your neighbor as yourself trumps anything else that may be written by anyone else in the Bible.

In peace and Love, God's blessings upon you!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

That was an unlikely place to find an image of God's love . . . but it was

    As the title suggests we can find images of God's love in the strangest of places. This should really not be that much of a surprise to us Christians, after all our whole faith system stems from the central belief that God took human form and allowed others to crucify that human form (Jesus of Nazareth, just so there is no confusion) and through that death, death itself was conquered.
    This may seem, to some, like a morbid, vengeful  way to demonstrate love, but to me this is a beautiful act and one that offers us the opportunity to live our lives free of stigma and shame. If we look at it through the lens of Jesus as God incarnate, God is not sacrificing God's son, but God's self. God is making the decision for God's self, not for someone else. It is this image that we can find in the most amazing places. For instance, in an episode of "Criminal Minds."
    In the first season of "Criminal Minds" there is an episode called "Ride the Lightning." In this episode the BAU is presented with the task of interviewing a husband and wife cereal killer team to determine if there are anymore bodies berried undiscovered, after a 13th body is found a couple of days before their execution. The wife was only convicted of one murder, their son. As the episode plays out you discover that the woman, who is initially seen as a heartless killer, is in actuality a loving mother who offered herself up, so her child can live blameless and free from his father's crimes. By admitting to her son's murder and dying in the electric chair her son is able to be adopted by a different family and is reborn as a new person through her sacrifice. To add to the otherwise blatant imagery I am presenting to you, the members of the BAU, the eternal element of good in the show, discover the truth, that she is blameless and should not be put to death, must choose between her life and the life of her child. A decision that is nearly impossible to make ends with her execution.
    This mother's sacrifice of herself calls us to ask what we would do for our children. Could we go to our death innocent of any crime, just so others may live free from any corruption that would be caste upon them, as a result of others actions, and at no fault of their own?
    Jesus life, ministry, death, and resurrection offer us that same clean slate. Allow me to reiterate, we are offered a gift. We are offered love, forgiveness, and grace unconditionally and all we have to do is accept it. When we accept it, we get to use it, like when we get an iPod for a present. These are active things not inactive and should not be put on a shelf. So,we not only have to choose to open it, but then we must choose to use it. The Easter story is not just a soul thing, it is a life thing. This is not only seen in how easily it can be translated through fiction into a "real" life situation, but it is also seen in the knowledge that Jesus calls us to continue his ministry by using the love, forgiveness, and grace offered by God. This is a gift offered to ALL regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or nationality. God works in the strangest of ways and with all walks of life!
    Jesus demonstrated how hard it is to use this gift, but we are not expected to walk it perfectly like he did. We are allowed to mess up and when we do God is waiting for us with open arms. All we have to do is pull the forgiveness off of the shelf and use it. I thank God every day for these gifts because free will is a bitch, full of pitfalls and questionable choices. I for one, know that I have made a multitude of wrong choices, but also know that God loves me unconditionally and I know this through Jesus life, ministry, death, and resurrection.

As always, God's blessings and peace be with you.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Just an introduction to my thoughts


   I thought I would make my first entry short and sweet by introducing my thoughts a little more. One of the first things you might be wondering is why I said Punk in a subsidiary of Christianity. Well the answer is easy, the whole premise to punk music, lifestyle, and other eccentricities is a call out to the status quo that there are changes that need to be made and things that need to be said that aren't. This may be a rather simplistic explanation of the punk culture but as we continue this journey a expanded definition of this culture will be illustrated through my ideas and visions for the future. This relates to Christianity, how? When Jesus lived his words were just as radical as the words and ideas of the punk culture of now. Jesus and his disciples were nomads walking from city to city trading teachings, healing, and miracles for food and places to stay. Again, if you are aware of the punk lifestyle you will now of the traveling that is done and the connections that are made through the love of the music and the spread of a message.
   I see part of my call to ministry to reach out to the outcast, just as Jesus did. While this may sound like something you have heard before, I do truly mean these words. The Church should be a place that never closes. It should be a shelter for those who are downtrodden and pushed to the margins of society, ignored and bullied! The Church should not discriminate, it should be color blind, it should have no gender preference, and no sexual orientation preference! Jesus loved everyone and spread that message where he could and I am called to do the same.
    I recently saw a video where two punk kids were interviewed by Enoch magazine, http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x8ab3h_punk-rock-vs-the-church_shortfilms. They were asked about faith, the church, and being punk. One of the most startling things to me is that they mentioned how the Church closed its doors to them and did not offer them a place to stay when they went to a new town. All I can say is what are we doing? As a punk (hair, tattoos, piercings, and all) I know the stigma that would be offered to them as they pass through some church doors. I call out to all churches and say that is high and by time that we actually open our doors to the outcast just as Jesus showed love to the outcast, demonstrating the kingdom of Heaven to all those around him.
     These things are the things that I know the Church can and should offer. Likewise, I hope to have a hand in bringing on changes like these. With these final words I would like to thank you for reading my introduction and let you know that I look forward to sharing my future thoughts with you. Peace and God's blessings upon you my brothers and sisters.