Late nights, Lattes, and Theology

Last night i was just having a really rough day and i needed to get out of my normal routine and life for just a bit. I had my friend Kristi who is the Chaplain over at the local college meet me for coffee. Oh, I guess I should mention that here in Billings there is this great coffee shop that stays open until 12 midnight. It’s awesome! So after i got all of the emotion, neuroses, and molten crazy that is me out on the table; she preceded to just sit and listen to me. She offered some personal stories about how she knows what i am going through. It was awesome just to sit with a friend and chat. So anyway, from there we went on to discuss some finer points of theology and the future of the church in America. To some of you (all 2 of my readers) this may seem like an incredibly boring or dull topic to discuss till 11pm. I don’t know about that, but I know that for me it is one of my favorite things to talk about. I love talking about God and the things that confuse me, the things that give me some strange thoughts, my doubts that spring up occasionally, and the changes that i want to be a part of help to bring about in the church. I haven’t had a discussion like that in… Well i think it was before i moved to Virginia. I miss my friends. I miss John, who uses to have such a level head about theology and tell me where i was diving off the deep end. I miss Mark, who would encourage my crazy imagination to run away with some weird theological oddity (then quite rapidly would go back into spouting some sort of nonsense about his latest dating mishap). I miss when i could talk to Matt about more than just the job search and how crazy im becoming. I miss Casey, who always had some insight into why i was driving myself nuts not to mention how she could keep her husband in check (after all the jokes that she was the female version of me, i truly believe that she sees things very similarly to me I am thankful for that). I miss Jim, who no matter how hard i tried i could never beat him in anything except uno. I miss our late nights at Old Chicago. I miss all of that, but I am very thankful that God has allowed me to come to a place where i can meet a friend who is older and wiser than I and can sit and just chat theology. I hope that all of my friends can continue to do the same as well. I really think that the true meaning of communion is just that. A joining together of people sitting, laughing, and continuing the conversation about God and all of his majesty. I think that is something we miss out tremendously in our churches. A lot of the time it’s the corporate worship where we sit listen to a lecture style sermon, sing songs, and occasionally snack on bread and grape juice. Don’t get me wrong I love church and what it is supposed to be, but I really feel that we have lost that meaning. We have lost what our liturgy means. We have lost meaning of the endless tradition. I guess that’s why i like sitting in bars, coffee shops, and people’s places talking about god and the church. I enjoy it because it shows me that I am not alone in my desire to shake things up, To revolutionize the way we see our church and our faith. We have an old world religion that we are trying to give a modern spin to. What’s funny is that it really isn’t all that new what we are trying to do. We are just trying to get back to our roots, but that is a different story for a different day…

Apathy

As I sit here watching tv shows on my tivo I started to think about passion. I know it seems rather ironic that i would think about passion during a passionless activity. Well I will explain my thought process. I was thinking about shows that people go nuts over. Stuff like the Superbowl, or your favorite tv show. Granted I am prone to be a little over enthusiastic about some of my favorite shows. I then started to think about what else people get so worked up over… I was only able to think of a few things: Politics, sports, and family. Of course those were the only things i could think of and could be more or even less. But as i thought about it I was surprised about how much i have noticed that people are just apathetic in life. That people are devoid of passion. It is really a shame. I have noticed the more i talk to people my own age and some of my students that they are all apathetic. They don’t really know what to do with their lives, and honestly don’t really care all that much. I have found something in my life that i love doing. I love working with people. I love helping people find that passion for life and that passion in life. There has been a verse that has been bouncing around in my head for a while now. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 I have been thinking a lot about this passage. I have been wondering what Jesus meant by being the gate and the shepherd. I have been wondering what that has to do with having life and living it to the fullest. The thing that keeps coming back to me is the Nooma video “dust”. One of the biggest themes of that video is that Jesus believes in his disciples and in us. That Jesus chose us to follow him and that Jesus believes in us that we can be like Him. That is something that I am passionate about. I am passionate about this God who loves us so much that this God can not help but to meet us where we are at. The God of the universe that like a parent loves us so much that God believes that we can be anyone we want to be. God the creator of all things believes in us. That God made us in His/Her own image. We tend to think we don’t have enough creativity to come up with something. Now that just isn’t true we just come up with these things to put roadblocks in our way so that we can’t achieve our dreams. My mother has gone back to school to do finish her degree. She did this because she always wanted to finish. She put those dreams on hold because she needed to take care of us her children. It is amazing what she sacrificed for us. So i am surprised at people who say that they are too old, or too young, or too whatever it is. Why do we do this to ourselves? I think as Christians especially we should pursue our dreams. Pursue them because the God of the universe believes in us. I really think that is what Jesus meant by that statement. That Jesus came to free us. Free us from all of the roadblocks we put in our own way. Free us from ourselves. Free us by showing us that the God of the Universe has made peace with us and believes that we can be whatever we dream. My grandmother Esperanza’s favorite verse was Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I think that verse says it all. Through Christ you can do anything you dream you can be. So let me encourage you don’t let apathy stop you, Don’t get in your way, God has freed you to be whatever you dream to be.

A love like that…

This has been a heavy emotional week for me. I really don’t want it to be. I don’t want to miss her anymore. I don’t want to love her anymore. I know its something that i just need to get over it. I know i just need to let go. It’s just so hard for me to do so because i don’t know if she is hurting like this. I mean in my mind she is doing really well and she is good and doesn’t care about me anymore. It just really sucks. I don’t know why this week has been so bad i think its probably because it was her birthday this week. Anyway I think i just feel extra alone… its hard to feel accepted even though i know that i am here. I know people love me and care about me, but that is as a staff member. It is as a person who will help them, but it seems to me that people don’t really care about the personal mental health of those who help them… So today i am trying to get back into the right frame of mind to “help”. I feel that is the purpose of a Sabbath is for you and God to get in touch and talk, meditate, and work toward getting you back to the place where you can be with each other as a community. That is really besides the point though. So anyway today I felt like i just probably needed a good cry to get the feelings out of me. So I watched “Titanic” I have seen that movie maybe 10 to 20 times. I remember when it first came out. I went to see it about 4 times in the theatre. I went with my sister. I went with my friends. then i went on a double date with my friend John and the Steele sisters. We really liked the Steele sisters (funny cause they are both married now, so is john… I am the only one still single). So as i was watching the movie I realized you can’t really love someone enough with only a day of knowing the person, but also as i was watching i started to think about what it would take for rose to get back on the ship to be with Jack. If you were to do that… If you were to knowingly face your own death, because you couldn’t stand the thought of being apart from that one person. That Is what i feel love is like. The God of the universe loved us that much. God loves us so much that God couldn’t stand being apart from us. God had to get down here and knowingly face God’s own death just to have a relationship with us. God loves us so much that God would have jumped back on a sinking ship just to be with us. There is nothing we can do to make God love us any less! Anyway as i was sitting here thinking about that i was wondering if in the future some girl will love me enough to jump back aboard a sinking ship because she can’t stand the thought of being without me. I pray that God will bring that woman into my life. I pray that God will send me someone who will pursue me like God has pursued us. I feel tired i guess. I feel tired of pursuing… I pursued her more than i should have i guess. Anyway I want a love like that… Maybe im just a hopeless romantic. Maybe i just am way too influenced by romantic movies…

White Wedding

So on Sunday afternoon I attended a college friend’s wedding. It was amazing! I had never been to an Orthodox wedding. I think it was one of the coolest weddings I had been to because the service was not about the family and focus was not solely on the married couple, but more so God’s blessing and God’s union of the two. It was incredible. I really liked the fact that almost all the prayers and the entire liturgy was done in song. It did get a little old at the end but it was still a very wonderful look at the way weddings have been done for over a millennium in the church.
I think the most amazing thing though was not the service, was not the reception, was not the outpouring of family, was not the large group of people, It was the love between the bride and groom. I had never been that close to a love that pure. I mean I have been to weddings before, including my best friend’s; but I have never been to one where I could just feel and observe the love that radiated from the bride and groom so powerfully. I was reminded while standing there watching the ceremony (yes, standing it is in an orthodox church, the pews are rarely used) that we are Christ’s bride. The Messiah is our bridegroom. Putting that together with the love that can only be more powerful than what i observed its uncanny! That God loves us so so so so so so so so so much I am sure God looks at us like we are the best thing that has ever happened. That no matter what we did to screw up that God will still love us. Anyway, I am not an overly emotional sentimental guy, but this wedding almost made me cry.
This was a wonderful reminder for me. This had been a weekend that I really needed a reminder that God loved, loves, and will love me like this. I had spent the day on Saturday unpacking all of my boxes which was good to have things finally out and where I can find things once again, but I did something stupid. 5 months ago when I packed all of my boxes I was still together with Sherri. A girl I was quite positive I was going to spend the rest of my life with. So being the semi- emotional sentimental sappy guy that I am I packed every single one of my boxes with something to remind me of her or a picture of her… Yeah it was a rather painful thing for me to do to myself. What was great is that at the bottom of the box with the most “sherri” stuff in it there was a postcard from a friend that has been very encouraging to me during this time. That made my day. It made me smile from ear to ear to find that. Not only that I have been adjusting to my new environment. I like it very much, but its been hard to sleep recently. I don’t know why I can’t sleep, I just can’t. It has been making me rather irritable and that just isn’t a good thing. So after a weekend of no sleep and an emotionally painful day, Sunday was a resurrection of my spirit.
Sunday spending it with my new church family and getting to see people who so openly welcome me in and greet me with such warmth is a wonderful thing. I have never been a church where I felt so welcome and wanted. It has been rather cathartic just to attend services and to run into people around town who say welcome and are so happy I am here. Then an afternoon talking to my sister’s husband on the phone (he found the bolts to my futon…), and an amazing wedding. God just really uses small things to bless us and remind us that God loves us no matter what. I am so thankful for where I am and for what God has done for me. Anyway I just wanted to share that all…

A year in Review

This has been a very odd year for me. A lot has happened yet it seems that the year has just flown by. Back in College my friends and I would have an end of the year get together where we would look at slideshows we put together from pictures of the entire school year. I miss those times I guess now living in the same city as one of my college friends has made me rather nostalgic. I ran into her in Target yesterday. That was really very cool! I haven’t run into someone I knew in a store since college. It made me feel like I was supposed to be here again. It was awesome. Anyway due to that I put together a slide show of my year and all the photos that represent 2008 for me….


Lord, Let my pride fall down… I’m a little man.

When you are constantly having to ask for help you are constantly being humbled. I have had my car stuck in the snow for the majority of the weekend. It stinks. (smells like burned rubber… but really the situation is bad) So i have been having to ask for rides to and from the cabin. Yeah its been nice just sitting around a cabin with nothing to do but watch the snow fall, but after a while it gets old. I find it really hard to ask for help. I think because I have had to do things on my own for so long. It goes all the way back to High School when my mom was working so hard to support my brother and I. She had said to me… “Michael, (she calls me Michael) if you want anything extra you are going to have to get a job and pay for it yourself!” So I did and I worked hard to get the things I had. I remember prom was a major expense. Now i have to pay monthly for major expenses like, rent, electricity, car payment, etc. etc. etc. I guess it gives us all a sense of pride when we begin to do things on our own. Look at this! Look at what I did! All by myself. I am reminded of my 2 year old niece. She loves to help with everything! She also wants to do everything by herself, and if she does not get to, she throws a fit! But some of my fondest memories of the past 4 months that I lived with my sister’s family are of Catalina. Remembering her helping with something or doing a puzzle and looking up at me with a smile and saying “Uncle Michael, I did it! All by myself! Yeah!” What is even more funny is that she would say that even if we did help her out in someway. I think that is the way it is with us sometimes. We do something and God helps us, but we still want to scream out to the heavens ” I did it! All by Myself! Yeah!”

I wish sometimes that i didn’t feel so prideful. I wish that it didn’t hurt me to ask for help. I always feel so vulnerable, and ugly when i do. Like i am taking without any thought to those who I am taking from. In reality they wouldn’t have offered if they didn’t want to help. Yeah I am sure that at sometimes its difficult to help others, but they do it anyway. I am continually blown away by the generosity and hospitality of the families here in Billings. They really want me here. I have never been at a church that bent over backwards for me. This is huge, humbling, and amazing all at the same time. I still fear that I may not live up to their expectations of me. I fear that I might not be the man they think I am. My prayers are that if I am not God would make me into that. I pray that by being around the generosity and hospitality that it would make me more generous and hospitable. This song is running through my head this morning its an old supertones song and this line is my prayer for the day, “Lord, Let my pride fall down… I’m a little man.”

The Ghost of Christmas’ Past

So as I was driving around Billings today to try and see if there were any apartment complexes that do not advertise on the Internet (they really all should!), I was listening to the radio. Now, as you may have guessed, All radio on Christmas eve is jam packed with Christmas music (of course). A song came on the radio and it caught my attention, “have yourself a merry little Christmas”. I started listening to it and I really started to feel sad. I mean this poor person seems lonely and just wanting to have a merry little Christmas. Then more depressing Christmas songs came on… “Last Christmas I gave you my heart, The very next day you gave it away…” “I’ll be home for Christmas, If only in my dreams…” “My grown up Christmas wish” and really not sad but i figured your perspective on it may grant it being a sad song “All I want for Christmas is you.” I started to think about my Christmas’s and how i have spent them the last years.  I started to be rather depressed… The last great Christmas I had was back in 2004 which I think was the last time I spent it with my family. In 2005 I was living with my best friends and we sort of celebrated on Christmas eve with gifts for each other and some Old Chicago trivia, Ok that was fun. But the actual day they all went their different ways. I was left at home alone (by the way another great Christmas movie there). 2006 was the year I spent Christmas with Julie. I asked her to stay in Denver with me rather than going back down to spend with her family. I really shouldn’t have done that. I was just lonely and depressed and wanted someone to be there with me. She should have spent it with her family. I should have gone down to spend it with her and her family, but I did make a very extravagant meal that day. It was incredible the best meal i have ever made I would say. 2007 I spent with Sherri… If the wound was not as fresh as it is I am sure I would still view it as a pleasant holiday. We had only been dating for a few days at that point, but we were best friends before that so it was a lot of fun. This year… I am here in Montana. I chose to come up before Christmas because i needed to get back to work. My severance ran out and i just was able to find a part time retail position. I was not able to give what I like to. I really like to just spoil one person every Christmas. Yes I give gifts to everyone, but I spoil one person. Last year I gave a special person an Xbox 360. The year before was a lot of fun gifts to one person.  The year before I was poor again so i guess I’m at that point again. I like making someones holiday just that much more incredible by getting them that one thing they really wanted whatever the cost. Anyway, I think that people are just a little selfish when it comes to Christmas. Granted I do like getting nice Christmas presents, but i think i enjoy just making one person’s special. I was going to do that for Sherri this year. I had plans. I had rather grandiose plans that I now realize that would probably not have come to fruition anyway. I do miss her. I don’t know if I miss the relationship so much anymore. I miss her friendship. I miss our talks together. I miss just being with someone who made me feel happy and not so alone. I just started thinking about that today as those depressing songs came on the radio.

I started thinking after that… I have so much potential ahead of me. This next year could be the year that I find the one. This could be the year that I really start to come into my own, as a youth director, as a person,  as a giver. I started thinking about what next year may look like, and I was encouraged. I started thinking about what it would be like if I did find that one special someone and got to spend Christmas with her. I started thinking about: celebrating with new friends, inviting old friends to come celebrate with me, Having family come out to see me, playing in the snow, cooking an extravagant Christmas feast including the Christmas beast. I have so much ahead. I have so much to be thankful for. I was overjoyed by those thoughts. So much so that I now wish that those blessings would be visited upon those who spent Christmas with me over the past years. I pray that John, Casey, Jim, and Jessica enjoy their holidays as marrieds, that they create new Christmas traditions and Memories as new families. I pray that Julie may celebrate with her family finally, that she would see that she is loved and cared about more than what one man can show. I pray that Sherri have a wonderful holiday season filled with friends, family, and blessings in the form of maybe a new job and things that she really needs.  May you reader also be blessed with wonderful potential and a wonderful year ahead. I pray your Christmas be just the one you need. If not then maybe next year you could be the person I spoil! lol!

A Return to Blogging

It has been a very long time since I have blogged. The last time I had blogged was about a year ago and that blog was then used in a very unkind way against me. I am daring to put my thoughts back out into public once more. Why? I don’t know. Do I think people will read it? Probably not. But I figure it is sort of therapeutic for me to get my thoughts out of my head and onto the page so to speak. The catharsis is definitely something I need.  I have been through a lot this year. I will not go into everything so as not to incriminate those may or may not deserve ill will.  If you know me, or if you would care to know about what has happened leave a comment or send me a message and i would be happy to discuss those things further. Needless to say this is where I will be putting my thoughts to the page.