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, 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.