What If?

I know i haven’t posted a new year slideshow, yet. But I will probably get around to it in the next month or so.
So this morning i was feeling rather nostalgic so i was looking around facebook at my High School classmates to see where they are and what they are up to now. I realized that many have become doctors, nurses, musicians, actors, artists, lawyers, architects and the sort. I moved on to my college classmates. Many have gone on to join the ministry, become missionaries, or as above doctors, nurses, etc. Then i began thinking about those who i have kept in touch with. I thought about how most of us share that common bond in Christ, and then i began to wonder. I have no answers, this is just a question posed to the internet and universe. It may not make any sense because I accidentally locked myself outside the church yesterday in 16 degree temperatures and my brain still has yet to thaw completely. But I wondered. I wondered what would this world be like if us Christian people did exactly what Christ told us to do? What would the world look like if we were just like the early church? Where we brought our skills, gifts, talents, lives, money, time, and/or everything to God, or  to the Church. Could we do it? It would mean a lot of sacrifice of ourselves. It seems that in our consumerist mentalities we have become a nation, much more a world of individuals. Could we become a community once more? What if Christians started to show the Kingdom here and now? I realize some of the people who read this may believe in the Rapture, and that is ok. I, personally, don’t but that is a different blog post for a different day. Anyway I fear that the church has been so consumed by this idea of  “We are leaving soon anyway, why should I care?” Maybe that is why we can’t do what I am asking about. But again What if we could do that? What if we could be a community that helped each other out when we needed help? What if we could stop fighting among ourselves? What if we started providing free health care to people? What if we started providing free mechanical services? What if we started providing meals for the hungry? What if we could show the world what Christ said so long ago that “The Kingdom is here!” We, the church, are the kingdom. We are made up of Doctors, lawyers, Nurses, Auto Mechanics, Computer technicians, Heating and Air conditioner Repair Techs, Ministers, Pastors, Counselors, Therapists, Accountants, Inventors, Cooks, Janitorial staff, Customer Service Reps, Sales people, Publicists, Actors, Artists, Musicians, Writers, and so much more. We, all who have been created in God’s image, can do it. I believe that we can change and begin to be what we were created to be. But for now, I guess, I am left to wonder. I am left asking, “What if?”

Jesus, on sale now!

So as I heard news today from my siblings about something that happened to my father i was rather troubled. I was troubled more when moments later I had a visit into my office to tell me about how much my Christmas Eve Service was not for everyone. (granted i had to deal with a lot, musicians quitting on me, youth quitting on me moments before we start, no one showing up to rehearsal…) This is something that has been nagging in the back of my mind for a while now. My friend Chris and I chatted about this a while ago at the NYWC. We talked about what was the biggest problem with the church and conferences like that one. We talked about the one thing that really becomes evident this time of the year. The commercialism of our faith. I mean seriously Jesus sells and we are the hapless wallets with feet that these salesmen target. I have been rather unimpressed with the way that this has permeated into the consciousness of the church as a whole. We want things our way. This old slogan for Burger King has become the mantra of the church. Things aren’t always perfect, we are humans it happens. Maybe we need to start reminding each other that a worship service is just that, WORSHIP. It is not about whether or not the audience was entertained. It is about us sharing our gifts with each other in order to celebrate, worship, and appreciate God, and God’s gifts to us. Granted, there are some things we need to examine and change only because they have become stale and old and we no longer worship we go through the motions. I know this because i am guilty of this as well. I go through the motions week in and week out and i honestly don’t feel a connection or a relationship with this God sometimes. I want things to be entertaining sometimes, I know I’m right there. The truth is that we need to rethink some of our practices and examine ourselves and our own hearts. On this topic, what is in the church or been given to the church does not belong to the church, the congregation, or the church staff. Those items belong to God, for that matter anything we “own” according to scriptures does not belong to us it belongs to God. We have been called to be stewards of what we have been given. Thus just because all that stuff is there does not mean we can go to a church and just take something for our own benefit. It does not mean if someone gives something to the church in order to benefit those who are less fortunate, that it belongs to any person besides the ministry which God has ordained for it. You can’t take it back and say oh because things aren’t going my way i can withhold my donations. ARGH seriously if that is the way you want it then you can have it. That is not the God i serve. I don’t serve the “Almighty Dollar” and it makes me sad that some do… OK Rant over sorry I just needed to Vent…

Growing up

As I am looking forward to another thanksgiving as an adult, I started to think about growing up. I started to think about a discussion we once had in a youth ministry class back in college. I remember talking about how in America we don’t have very many rites of passage. In our groups we were trying to think of ways to incorporate rites of passage into ministry. I thought about the state of the world. I have to admit I have sort of lost much of my faith in humanity over the last few weeks. That, though, is a different story for a different day. Anyway the reason i was thinking about all of this was because I don’t quite feel like an adult. I started to think that this is true for many if not all of us. I was watching a movie, well there isn’t anything new about that. But the movie’s character who is an adult went home. She went because she wasn’t feeling herself, and scared. I started to think about how it felt to be a child. I remember being lost a couple of times. I hated being lost. Not knowing if i would see people I knew and loved, and loved me. Not knowing where to go. Maybe i just take things a little too seriously sometimes. I feel maybe that we all feel like lost lonely little kids in a big scary world. We all put on the tough exterior and we all pretend to be strong and courageous, but we are internally feeling like lost scared and lonely little children looking for our place in this world to call home. Madeline L’Engle once said, “The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” I think this is very true about ourselves. We do collect our ages. I think we are all of our ages all at the same time so we never really lose who we were when we were 5 or so on. I think this may have to do with the lack of rites of passage in our culture. Anyway whatever it may be I know one thing is the same. We all are looking for some place to call home. Some place to belong to feel loved. hmm just some thoughts today…

On Zombies…

So, I don’t know if i just started to notice this phenomena, or this has just become prevalent in the last few years. There have been a lot more cultural artifacts relating to Zombies coming out in the last few years. I think i have sort of figured out why, but this is just my own meandering mind at work on something that may just mean nothing. As I sat and watched “Zombieland” a couple of weekends ago with my girlfriend, i noted something which caught my attention. I noticed this probably because of the work that i had been doing in my own life. So I noticed that so many of us have become zombies of sorts. We lead our lives day in and day out going through the motions. Waking up, going to work, coming home, dinner, a bit of tv, rinse and repeat. I don’t want this to be my life. I don’t want to be zombie. God did not come so that i can be a happy zombie. God came so that I may have life and have it too the fullest. I really started to think about this in the last couple of weeks. I have started to play this board game my friend turned me on to. It’s is accurately and coincidentally named “Zombies!!!”. As i have played this maybe 4 times now. I started thinking about how every time we play it how we as a culture have become about “killing” these zombies. I don’t know of a single Zombie movie with “I am Legend” in exception (but they have said it isn’t really zombies) that ends with someone finding the cure for Zombie-ness. So is it really impossible to become Human again after turning into a zombie? I say no it isn’t. (I think i should write a good “Christian” Zombie movie) I mean think about it we have the chance to change our lives. That is the wonderful news about free will! God has not given up on us! God loves us! God believes in us! So why are we zombies? Why are we the walking dead? I think because this life has become so ingrained in us that we no longer fight for the things that we believe to be right and true. I will tell you what I believe to be right and true. I believe that God has asked us to create Heaven on earth. Jesus himself said, “The kingdom of God is near!” It is and all we have to do is strive toward it. I mean seriously we need to stop overlooking the poor, we need to stop judging others, we need to love our brothers and sisters, we need to expand our families, we need to care for all of creation! WE NEED to BE the KINGDOM! I believe that is the Good news. The true Gospel that we show with our lives. WE show the world that God has not given up on us! I love this St. Francis of Assisi quote, “Preach the Gospel to all the world, and if necessary use words!” So my point is don’t be a zombie. Don’t live your life without standing up for the Kingdom. Do what Christ asked of us. LOVE! (oh and ps that is why my facebook status has recently said stuff about being a zombie)

Church on the Precipice

Today was the last morning of National Youth Workers Convention. I think that Francis Chan summed up the whole meta-narrative of the conference this morning. He said, “I have this odd feeling recently, the feeling like everybody is just on edge.” Despite the fact he was getting at something completely different. I do believe that he was right in that the Church is on edge. It is on the edge of a new reformation, I am not just saying that because I am Presbyterian. I heard the same story over and over this weekend. We need to start thinking more, judging less, and telling the true Gospel. The Gospel that God loves us and there is nothing we can do to change that. NOTHING!!!!
Too often we are too hasty to judge. We claim that God loves us and that doesn’t change though we are hasty to kick people to the door because they are: gay, a sinner, homeless, dirty, etc. What is incredible is that people seem to take offense to this. I think for too long we have been spouting this mantra “Love the sinner, Hate the sin.” Instead of helping us to love people it has just lead to more hate. I think we just need to love the sinner.
I have noticed to often in the church we become so self conscious about our image and our relative “Safety” that we change our story. I feel like i am in danger of doing so as well, but that is a different story for a different day. Our story becomes get yourself right with God before you come in. We can’t keep doing that. We aren’t right with God ourselves either. Our story has been oh God is our victory. God makes things alright and hunky dory once you come to God. That is a giant lie. HUGE! This lie has lead the church to become complacent and comfortable in the zombie-esc lives we lead. We are quite comfortable living our lives the way they are. Sitting in our pews week-in week-out without doing anything to change the world around us. Honestly, I don’t care if you believe in a rapture or not, but that one piece of (really bad in my opinion) eschatology does not give you the right or the excuse to do nothing about our current state, environment, etc. God commanded us to change the world through the love that God has showed us. God commanded us to show that God has not given up on the world, that God is still in the business of creating through us. Creating a world that we would be proud to call home.
So here we are at the edge. I think it is make or break time. If we don’t proclaim it, the very rocks will cry out with the message that God has not given up. This convention showed me that it is time to get out of my computer chair and get up do something about social justice. Be more proactive for the needy, the downtrodden, the marginalized, and the unloved. I wish I knew how. It is a process that is for sure and I will do everything i can to make sure that we are doing the work. I want to tell a better story with my life. I want the Church to proclaim the good news (Gospel if you will) that God loves us and there ain’t nothing we can do about it! GOD HAS NOT GIVEN UP ON YOU!!!!!! Don’t give up on God. God believes in us. I think its time we earn that trust…

Treating the symptom, not the disease…

As I was sitting in church on Sunday I was thinking about the reason why we don’t do what Christ asked of us. Christ asked us to love all mankind no matter who, what, when, why, where, sexual preference, lifestyle choices, color, creed, etc. Somewhere along the way we got obsessed with a symptom that we are no longer connected with the God that loves us. I have been thinking about this question a lot recently because my youth came up with a list of topics that they would like to discuss in youth group. We are going to be doing a messy type of spirituality in youth group this year. But that is a different post for a different day. Anyway one of the topics that came up the most was How do we know that we serve the one true God and someone else isn’t right. So I had a conversation with someone about that very topic that evening. We talked a long time about this topic ranging from Anonymous Christianity, to All roads leading to God, to what makes this God different than all other gods. Anyway my answer to the last is what made the most sense to me. The God of the universe that we serve as Christians is one that wants to have have a relationship with us. A God that could not stand to be apart from the creation that came from that God’s own hand. I think the symptom that we are disconnected from this God is our intolerance, nay our hatred of the rest of Creation that is even the remotest bit different than us. This symptom we call sin. Sin has overwhelmed our consciousness as a church. We have tried to come up with ways to keep us from sinning. Even had vast studies and conferences talking about how to stop the symptom and how to stop it. Instead of doing the very thing that would end it for good…. TREATING THE DISEASE. The Disease being that very disconnect from that God. Is not doing what that God asked us to do. It’s not loving the rest of creation. Look what we did to our world! Look what we did to each other! Look what we continue to do! We have become so lethargic and unconcerned with the very issue that we needed to be the entire time! I think we need to finally need to get up out of our pews and do what God asked us to do so long ago… WE NEED TO LOVE!!!! Anyway that is my rant for the moment.

Busy Summer, and Changes

So I know that it has been a very long time since I have posted on here and well I didn’t have much to post on at first and when I did there wasn’t enough time for me to sit down and type something out. So it has been a very busy summer. I got done with VBS and a week later we left for Denver. We spent 10 days in Denver. When we got back from Denver we started camps up. Camps ran for the month of July and they were incredible, I will talk more on that in just a moment. When I was done with camp that very week we had an in state missions trip where we were asked to do a VBS for a small church in a small town in Montana. Now that I am back from that I have a lot of work to get done before our fall programs start back up. So it has been a very busy summer. I have been trying to make it up to virginia city when I have time to visit Cathy. Cathy is the girl I was talking about in my last post. She said it was ok that I use her name.

Camp was amazing. I loved being the speaker. It was a lot of fun. I think i discovered a lot about myself while i was helping to lead teens into a deeper relationship about God. I thought back to my days at camp when I was younger. I wish I had a speaker that really knew how to put things into terms I understood. Camp was always amazing for me but I think what was most impact-ful from those times were the relationships I formed and in essence the small groups. I was blessed to be a speaker and to direct the small groups. Anyway what i discovered was the biggest things I let get in the way with my own relationship with God. I get to prideful. I let my guilt take over from things i have done. Frankly I get lazy as well. I don’t want to spend my precious free time with a God that I can’t see. I also discovered my three major prayer requests. So if you pray for me ever this is what I would like you to discuss with God on my behalf. I certainly pray for these things myself too, but i can use the extra prayer. So if you think about it. Pray that I make a difference, I can be secure in my relationships, job, and myself, That I can have peace. All that to say Camp was impactful for me still.

Speaking of things we don’t have time for. Have you noticed all the uproar on the health care reform? Seriously I mean it seems like nobody has read the bill and so they continue to fight with something they are making up in their own heads because they feel 1000 pages is too much to read. What?! Are we such an ignorant and add nation that we can’t sit down and read this bill when it is our job cough cough (senators and congressmen) cough cough to read those things! Seriously, if I were elected by the people to read those things and to vote yes or no on things, I would read. You know what i realized by watching the news footage from the town hall meetings? I realized that it’s not just the church where people are completely afraid of change and are completely uninformed about the way “our america” is going without this change. We need health care reform. I am one of those 50 million Americans without health care! I need health care! If I get sick I go into debt deeper than those doctors who went all the way through med school (that was a jab at how expensive graduate schooling and collegiate schooling is). Even then if I had health care those who now control that health care would do everything they could not to pay for my medical bills! Seriously, don’t get sick in america. Don’t do anything that requires change in america. America resists change as much as possible. I am sorry but I am sick. I am sick of people resisting change wherever possible. I am sick of people who demonize those of us who strive for change. Change for the better. Don’t you think that we have your best interests at heart? Ok so I am talking about the church as well. Oh well God help us to make a difference.

Once a month…

It appears that once a month seems to be my blog producing speed. Oh well I think now that I have a week to breath and not plan (well its all future planning not planning for this week) or run anything. I finally have a chance to update my adoring public on how I am doing. Ha ha ok so maybe my public is not adoring, but at least I see some people read my blog. Which on one hand kinda creeps me out that I don’t know who reads this thing, but on the other hand it makes me happy that some people care about my thoughts on certain topics.

Ok, so a month ago i promised that I would get back to you with what was making me so giddy and happy. Well there are a lot of things, but there was one major event that kinda was like turning on the light switch of life. It was like all of a sudden I was seeing life for what it was and it is beautiful. All the crap that I had previously worried about or cared so much about just seems so minuscule and insignificant. So as promised after I had sorted through stuff and told people that I needed to I can now write about it here. On April 9th I had gone on one of the best first dates in my life. It was wonderful. It was a woman who had been in the play with me so I am quite pleased with the organic “normal” meeting. Side note: Internet dating sucks! :side note over. Anyway this date was just incredible. We met at a coffee shop and just sat there and talked about everything for a couple of hours until I realized it was probably time to say goodnight since it was going to be Good Friday the next day and I was going to have a long day. So i walked her to her car. On the way over there she grabbed my hand and it was just like magic. I have no other words to describe it. I still lack the ideal way to put it into words. So I have to succumb to using cheesy Hollywood cliches to clarify and emphasize my point here. You know how people speak of sparks and how there is just this knowing that you are supposed to be there in that moment? That only begins to tip the iceberg on how I felt. What is even more awesome is she felt the same way. She still does. When we arrived at her vehicle I gave her the first date hug, which led to a kiss I’m not going to lie. It was a great kiss. If there were not fireworks somewhere in the world at that moment there were in my mind. We said goodnight, and I went home. I had a smile plastered on my face that entire night. I had it plastered there the next day too, except the frustrations that came with a busy day of ministry. So we planned to go on a second date. We decided to go out again on Saturday, which only being two days after the first, was a little quick. I didn’t mind the rapidness of this though. We did the classic, dinner and a movie. Wasn’t the best movie ever but it was very nice feeling like a teenager again and wondering, “Are we going to hold hands? Does she like me? I hope we do!” After the second date it was solidified. We decided it was supposed to be and who cares what people think. So we spent pretty much every day together since. Well besides the time spent at work or at school. I have just loved getting to know this woman. She is incredible. She makes everything seem better and brighter. Like I said earlier it is like she turned on the light switch in my heart and I can finally see what it is I was supposed to be seeing all along if that makes any sense. Now this may seem odd since I have been in love before. I have loved my ex’s yes, but this one just seems different you know. I mean it seems, I don’t want to get ahead of myself now but…, meant to be. Like for once the planets aligned. God, finally said yes. I don’t know however you choose to describe it. It’s so completely wonderful that even when i begin to try and describe it words don’t seem to be enough.

It has been over a month. In fact we are very near to two months. I am still as in awe of how awesome this is. I am sure she will be a part of my blogs from now on so for the sake of anonymity let us now call her C. If she gives the ok I will call her by her name later. So C took a job this summer as a part of a theatre company in one of the old mining towns up in the mountains of Montana. She is about 3 and a half hours away. Which isn’t very fun for me, but obviously i have been through long distance relationships before. I guess i can endure once again. I went up to see her this last weekend. I am very glad that I did. Just seeing her again filled my heart with such joy. I really do adore this woman. She makes my life seem so much better! But happiness does not rest solely on her. There are other things in my life which are great, but those are other blog topics. So we took one of those old time photos together while i was there. There isn’t much to do up there. The museums are a little lacking, but we toured around a little and it was fun. She thought that I was a little obsessed with old timey photos. I have put some up on my wall going up my stairwell. I explained to her that since we began visiting my Grandmother in Durango, that those photos have been a big part of my life. They have all been taken at different points in my life. So I needed a new one anyway. So I will submit this photo so that you may see our silliness. I am so glad I found this woman, and that she found me. God is certainly wonderful to us and if that was one of the only reasons I was brought to Montana I feel that it was a good one. Thanks God!

Me and C in Virginia City
Me and C in Virginia City

Creepy Bullhorn guy

Ok I have to rant a little bit because i find this very disturbing and I feel that it is doing more harm than good. I saw two very disturbing things this week. The first was on saturday as I was driving down the busiest street here in Billings. I saw this guy on the side of the road with a bullhorn, standing on top of a step ladder, yelling at cars passing by, and carrying a sign that read “Jesus Saves”. I am sorry but to me that says “Jesus is a crazy person that condemns people.” That sign was completely counter intuitive to what he was doing! I am sorry but if I were in the business of “saving” people I wouldn’t use crazy step ladder bullhorn guy. I am in the business of Church and honestly even then this doesn’t tell people to go to church i think this tells people to stay away because we are all a bunch of crazies.

This brings me to my second disturbing thing. I live pretty close to a middle school and have to drive by it to go home or go to the church. As i was driving home this afternoon to grab the dvd that I forgot to bring with me earlier I noticed that School was just getting out. Now this is not a disturbing thing, but when you have older men standing out side the school with boxes full of little orange new testaments ready to give out to the students it is. I mean I work so hard to get students to come to youth group. I work very hard to dispel this image of Christianity that evangelicals have given to us as being creepy. As I noticed that I wanted to get out of my car walk over to these men and proceed to tell them that they should immediately stop and go be creepy somewhere else. This doesn’t say come to church, or read this book. This tells students… “Hey Christians are crazy creepy people. You should come to our church and we will serve you poisoned kool-aid and be even more creepy in other ways.” I can’t stand it! I drove back just a few minutes later after grabbing the things from home i noticed several students walking down my street with those orange “Bibles” in their hands some were laughing at it and hitting each other with them. some just looked like they were trying to get far enough away to toss them. Others looked like they were trying very hard to avoid these guys. I feel so sick about it. I don’t know why i do. I feel like maybe this is what people are trying to avoid, trying hard not to turn into when they consider going to church. I feel like maybe this is doing much more harm than good.

Where do we go from here though? How to we tell people about God’s love? I think we do this by getting to know people first. I think we need to return to the way they did it in the early church. We need to invite people over and show them we aren’t creepy. Show people that we are normal people trying to live together in community striving toward the same goal. Showing people that God his helping to form a new and glorious world and that doesn’t happen through yelling at cars, or handing out Bibles in front of Middle schools. I think we need to get up off our butts and stop sitting around in our complacent christianity (small c because that isn’t real Christianity). We need to stop bickering and fighting! We need to come together and form the Kingdom in our own churches before we try to tell other people to join that kingdom. Stop it creepy people!!!!! Seriously! We need to stop being a conversion religion, and start being a communion reality…. ugh ok rant over…

God Moves in Mysterious Ways

I know I haven’t posted in a while. I think maybe its been like 1 or 2 posts a month, but hey i have a lot going on. Well just to update you on some of the things that have been going on. I finished with the two biggest youth events of the year and am working on a third. Youth Sunday is coming up. I am really excited about it. When it is over i will have more time to just be and that is a good thing. We just finished with Antigone. The play that i was doing over at Rocky Mountain College. It was a lot of fun though, not one of the greatest shows i have ever been in. I thought the premise was good. If you want to see the pictures from that you can go here. There is also something else that has been one of the most wonderful things. I will talk more on that later. I just love being here in Montana. It feels like home to me. I love my job, I love the people i work with, I love my apartment, I love my life, I love my friends, and I love what i have going on in my life right now. I can’t remember a time in the recent history where i have been this happy. It has been maybe 2 years of heartache and just crap in my life and now… Well needless to say God is moving in my life and it is the most incredible thing. I know that live has its highs and lows. I just really don’t want to come down off this life high that i am on right now. (I am not on drugs!!!!! I am just high on life!) It is really weird how God moves though. There have been a couple of things that God has been showing me love through and well i feel like i have been waiting for it so long. I have been praying that God would some how see me and voice God’s love to me. I feel it. More than I have in a very long time. I guess i have a lot of things to blame for that, but more on that at a later date. I am looking back at my life and i am realizing that things that i thought were bad really aren’t. Yes i did go through a lot. I did come through a lot of crud, but in reality it could have been a lot worse. I feel like when i moved to Montana it was like shedding an old life. Like I molted out of that sad, pessimistic, neurotic, paranoid (ok i still have a bit of that), and self-pitying self that was in control for so long. It is a rather ineffable feeling that I am struggling hard to describe, but words fail me. Suffice to say this at least, I feel like a new man. That’s all…