December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

I've never really been fair to this night. I remember, especially in high school, setting such high expectations for New Year's Eve. For some reason, I expected it to be the best night of the year as I would attend some great party with a ton of people and never remember having so much fun as we rung in the New Year...then I grew up. In my opinion, New Year's Eve is one of, if not the most overrated night/holiday of the year. You always go into it thinking, "This is the year. This will be the New Year's Eve party that will really set the tone for the rest of this year for me." and year after year, it ends up primarily being the same as the New Year's Eve before.

I've adapted a new attitude toward this night over the past couple years. I have changed my expectations from "the funnest night ever" to "a chance to chill with some good friends enjoying some good conversation with some good music playing in the background as we wait to watch the ball drop on Times Square". Having said all this, I'm off to do just that and I hope that wherever you end up or whoever you are with, you find yourself having a safe and happy New Year's. See you in 2008!

December 30, 2007

Clean Slate

Well, we've come to the close of another year and I'm sure with it comes all sorts of feelings and emotions. I would guess feelings of excitement and an anxiousness of what the new year holds or maybe guilt and regret for things we said or did over the past year. A lot of people use this time of year as an opportunity to start over, to change something about themselves they don't like or want to make better, usually in the form of a resolution or two. So as I was thinking about the passing of one year and the coming of another, I started wondering what, if any, significance this might have in regards to one's faith.

Reading through Philippians the other day, I was struck by Paul's words of "forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead" and I started thinking...I wonder how many of us miss out on the things in front of us because we are so focused on the things in the past? Jesus himself talks about giving us life to the fullest, about setting us free from the past; the guilt, the shame, the baggage, the sin in our lives. We have the opportunity in and through Christ to start over with a clean slate. This isn't to say the past goes away but instead I think it says that we have hope despite our past.

So what better time than the New Year to let the past be past and allow Christ to set you free from the things that are weighing you down? Paul says it's a strain, that it isn't easy but it's worth it and could be the very thing to change your life.

December 29, 2007

Back Home Again in Indiana

Christmas has come and gone and that means we find ourselves home again in Indiana after visiting my wife's grandpa in Naples, FL. Being a Michigan boy, I have to admit it was a little weird when I woke up on Christmas day to sunny and 80 degree weather but I can't really argue with that. Other than the drive down and back, this might be one of, if not the most relaxing Christmas I have ever had. Grandpa is the kind of guy that goes to bed early but wakes-up even earlier and has, what we like to call "coffee time" every morning which entails sitting outside, drinking coffee, maybe having some bacon and eggs and reading the paper. It's great because "coffee time" runs right into lunchtime.

One of the things I really enjoyed about being at Grandpa's over Christmas was the slow pace of the day and reading the paper every morning with my cup of coffee, light on the cream and sugar. I never read the paper when I'm at home. I chalk this up to two things mostly, 1) I am not a subscriber 2) because it costs money. I don't think of myself as a cheap person, not willing to pay a couple bucks a month to get the paper delivered to my doorstep, it's just that I'm not sure I would really take the time to read it if I got it and then it would seem like a waste of money and trees. So I'm thinking that maybe for some excitement in the New Year, I'll give reading the local paper a shot and see how it goes.

December 21, 2007

Can't Afford Christmas

The part of my commute that I enjoy from my office to home is listening to All Things Considered from NPR News. I was on my way home just the other day and heard a segment talking about the rising prices of heating oil which is greatly impacting the people of the Northeast and Midwest. Now I didn't pay much attention to the segment as I was distracted by the ridiculous amount of strip malls that I pass on my drive on top of the fact that my house is heated with natural gas, which isn't nearly as expensive as heating oil.

And then my focus changed when I heard the lady that lives in Massachusetts utter these words, "I just can't afford Christmas". It didn't take long for those words to sink in and start the thought process that had me thinking about the stress of this season. I've always thought of this "stress" as the type caused by trying to find the perfect gift or fighting the crowd at the mall or even dealing with holiday traffic but now I have a new perspective of real stress that Christmas can bring but shouldn't. Have we gotten so far off-track of what Christmas is really about that people "can't afford Christmas"? Last I checked, Christmas was about a FREE gift given to you, me and the entire human race and yet there are people who are struggling to heat their homes, feed their families or pay for their medications and as a result feel like they can't celebrate Christmas because they can't afford it? Shame on us for ever once thinking that Christmas was about getting or spending money and if you don't have it to give or spend, then it looks like you may have to settle for the discounted version...

December 17, 2007

My Favorite Things about Christmastime

There is something about this time of year that I find really nostalgic and peaceful, which has led me to put together a list of my favorite things during Christmastime. Maybe you will agree or won't but hopefully they will make you think of some things you like during this time of year.

These are in no particular order...

*I like sitting in a comfortable room in my house with no lights on except the Christmas lights

*Shoveling the neighbor's sidewalk just because I like to shovel and receiving a loaf of freshly baked cranberry bread as a bonus

*The smell of food cooking

*When Otis lays on the rug and it looks like he is admiring our Christmas tree when in reality he is probably wondering why he hasn't "marked" it yet

*Classic Christmas songs like "Jingle Bells", "White Christmas", "Winter Wonderland" from people like Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra

*I like seeing other people out shopping for family and friends, really trying to find that perfect gift

*Warm homemade drinks and our attempts at roasting chestnuts

*Watching classic Christmas specials on TV like A Charlie Brown Christmas; Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer; The Grinch Who Stole Christmas to list a few

*Giving gifts, especially to my brother because he usually really likes what I get him

*Our family get-together at Grandpa Jay's & Grandma Betty's

Wow, there are more than I thought and I'm sure I'm forgetting some. I hope you're taking some time to enjoy the Christmas season, whatever your list might end up looking like.

December 15, 2007

Predicting the Unpredictable

Now I know that the weather in the Midwest is crazy, I've been living here all 28yrs of my life yet somehow I still can't figure out why the news can't get it right. "Winter Storm Warning in effect until 1pm Sunday." "Look for an accumulation of up to 12in of snow." "Watch out for a Wintry Mix of freezing rain, snow and sleet." I guess what really gets me is that I am someone, having grown up on the West coast of Michigan where we could get lake effect snow and get 6 to 12in in an hour, who schedules or cancels things based on the forecast.

So hypothetically, let's say I had a party planned at my house tonight. It's been planned for some time and yesterday I began hearing about this "Winter Storm" that was going to really dump on us and as a result, I canceled the party. I'm sure you're thinking that makes sense because I wouldn't want anyone to try and drive through this awful "wintry mix"...that never really showed up! I'm hypothetically bummed that I had to cancel my hypothetical party because of this real storm. Gotta love the Midwest!

*At no point in this drama was a meteorologist slandered sincerely or hypothetically

December 13, 2007

Snow Angels Tour

Last night I had the privilege of seeing Over the Rhine in concert (I've lost track how many times I've seen them live) at the Music Mill here in Indy. OtR is currently on their 'Snow Angels 2007 Tour' promoting their most recent release entitled "The Trumpet Child".

The Music Mill is a great venue to see a show because the setting is spacious yet intimate with hardly a bad seat in the house. OtR shows are generally seated shows and the one last night at the Music Mill was no exception. It had the feel of sitting around with a couple hundred of your friends enjoying laughs and incredible music. If you have never taken the opportunity to see OtR live or taken some time to check out their wide range of musical graces, then you my friend are missing out.

With vocals that can rock you to sleep 1 minute and raise your blood pressure the next, combined with instrumentals that can foot the bill I find it hard to believe anyone would be disappointed. Making Paste magazine's list of 100 Best Living Songwriters gives a little more weight to their opening track lyrics from "The Trumpet Child" that read "I don't want to waste your time/With music you don't need" and I think you'll find checking out Over the Rhine will be anything but a waste of time or money.

December 11, 2007

Something Different

This year Tai and I have decided to do something a little different, we have decided that we are not going to ask for anything for Christmas, from anyone, including each other. The more we talked about it, the more we thought it could actually be a cool thing to ask our families to use the money they might have spent on us to buy a goat, or cow or maybe even a flock of geese for a needy family somewhere around the world. I mean seriously, who doesn't want a goat?

The Heifer Project is a charitable organization that uses gifts to purchase a number of different animals that not only provide food but renewable income as well. The goal is to end world hunger by "teaching a man to fish" instead of simply "giving him a fish".

I must admit, there is something freeing about not asking or expecting anything for Christmas. It has honestly made this season more enjoyable by making it much more simple. Instead of making lists and checking them twice, I have been reminded of the simplicity that surrounded the event for which we celebrate Christmas. Funny how simple things can be when we keep first things first.

December 8, 2007

Private vs. Public

I was flipping through the channels tonight and came across Rev. Gene Robinson speaking on C-SPAN. If you aren't away of who he is, he is the Bishop of New Hampshire for the Episcopal Church and happens to be openly gay. I must admit it was a somewhat interesting lecture, though many of his points have been used elsewhere and I struggled with the parallels he made between the plight of the African Americans and their struggle for equality as being the same struggle that homosexuals are experiencing today but that's not what I found most interesting.

Rev. Robinson made a comment to the effect that "religion should be separate from civic life" and this has been an especially hot topic as of late with the wide range of presidential candidates and the faiths they represent. I wasn't alive when JFK ran for office so I think it is easy to say that faith has been brought up in this presidential election more than any other in my lifetime. What role should religion play in our public lives? Should it have a role at all?

Now if I take a step back and look at the life of Jesus, I can't help but think that His faith was both public and private. And I'm not saying it should or shouldn't be the basis by which a candidate is elected into office but what does it mean for people like you and I who are looking to hold a public parking spot not an office?

December 6, 2007

Nothing Like Some Good Conversation

So I had the opportunity to visit with one of my college students tonight and we ended up having a great conversation. We talked about everything from love, faith, the ways in which God does or doesn't interact with creation, freewill and a little more. A couple highlights that I left the conversation still pondering:

  • If God is Love, is it possible for someone to give or experience love and not know God? This is one I've been wrestling with for a couple years now and am not sure I'm closer to any sort of conclusion. The best I've come up with so far is that maybe we can know or experience love in part but never fully without knowing God...
  • Is it possible that we attribute things to God that He didn't do or don't give Him credit for the things He does do? Whether it's a tsunami, the death of a friend or loved one, that promotion at work, the joy experienced in a relationship, sickness, poverty, etc etc
  • Discerning God's voice in your life isn't easy but it sure helps when you have people you respect and trust in your life.
Those were just a few of the things we talked about at length. I must admit that I find conversations like this not only fun but challenging and meaningful. If you have thoughts on these or any other topics you want to share, don't hesitate to throw your $0.02 in.

December 5, 2007

Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

We got our first real snow last night so I thought I'd share some pics of Otis and I messing around outside...

December 3, 2007

A New Look & A Hospital Visit

So, I just got done redesigning the blog, what do you think? I think I could really like the new look and feel but I guess only time will tell.

I took a friend of mine to his doctor appointment at one of the hospitals downtown this afternoon. As I sat in the waiting room in the hospital waiting for him to finish his visit I started thinking about how the hospital is a place to find humanity in its most vulnerable state. Not many people like going to or being in a hospital and with good reason but I couldn't help but be aware of the people sitting in the waiting room or passing by in the hall and imagining that some of those people could be facing some of the toughest challenges they have ever faced. Besides being keenly aware of my own good health, I could sense that the hospital is a place where people's walls come down; many not by choice with some finding themselves trapped under the rubble.

December 2, 2007

Being Set Apart

The church that I work at just opened a new sanctuary a few weeks ago and we had a Consecration Service for the new space today. As I was driving home in the rain from this service, I started thinking about this idea of consecrating something.

Webster's dictionary defines consecrate this way: "dedicated to a sacred purpose" and of course that makes sense when you think about a church sanctuary. I think I like this idea of being dedicated for a sacred purpose or another way of saying it might be "being set apart to be used by God". There are a number of different texts in scripture that talk about this idea of being used by God or being holy. Remember when we are told to "Be holy, because I am holy"? This is another way of God asking us to let Him use us to spread the Good News of His love, grace and mercy. This sounds like a good idea for all of us, not just our buildings.

December 1, 2007

Bringing Myself Up To Date

Well, it's a new month and beside the fact that I can't believe it's December already, I've decided I'm going to do a better job of updating my blog starting today. My goal is to update it once a day but most of that depends on 1) how exciting my life is, 2) if I have anything worth saying, 3) more importantly if I have anything anyone might find worth reading and finally, 4) if I actually remember to update it. Now, with the hope that I'll be writing more frequently comes the need to write on a wide range of topics which could include but isn't limited to: Jesus and things related to Him, politics, culture, music, movies, my dog, sports, books, video games... Please don't hesitate to share your comments, ask your questions or give your suggestions, they are always appreciated if for no other reason than I know at least 1 person is reading this besides me.

Now for the real post...
What if, this year, Christmas wasn't about you or me? Now just stay with me for a second. We've all heard the seasonal cliches, "Jesus, the Reason for the Season" or "Don't take the 'Christ' out of Christmas" and I'm not saying they don't make a good point but it can be easy to ignore or lose in all of the hustle and bustle. If you think about it, Jesus was a pretty simple guy and came into the world in a pretty simple way and I wonder what Christmas could be like if we were willing to keep it simple. Willing to simply give of our time, our friendship, our money, our prayer...ourselves...and expect nothing in return.

November 5, 2007

The Craziness of it All

I'm sure there have been times in your life when things have seemed out of control. Not only do you have "too many irons in the fire" but the fire is on its way to consuming you. This craziness in your life has left you swirling to the point of being dizzy with stress, worry, doubt and little if any time to recover your footing. Why is it, in these moments (or maybe I should say days or even weeks) of pressure and desperation when our faith is needed most, do we lose it in our to-do lists? Do we get so caught-up in where we have to go or who we have to be that we leave our faith behind?

Now, it would seem to me that one's faith would be the very thing needed to help get a handle on the craziness of it all. Faith that I'm not the one in charge and don't have to be. This is huge because it relieves the pressure of always having to have an answer or understand why life can get so crazy. Faith is that thing that says there is something to be found and even gained in surviving through the craziness we may find ourselves in at times. It's not so much the ups and downs, ins and outs, overs and unders that life can throw at us that are so crazy but when we fail to bring our faith with us through it all, now that's crazy!

September 14, 2007

Thy Kingdom Come

I know it has been a while, well, a long while and for anyone who reads or cares, I'm sorry. It's amazing how quickly your schedule can fill up and eventually own you but I think I'm finally starting to get control of it, well at least a little.

Currently I am working through a study of the kingdom of God as I spend time reading Kingdom, Church, and World by Howard A. Snyder. One of the points that he makes throughout the book that I have really grown to like is that God's kingdom can be experienced now, of course not in its fullest but we can still catch glimpses of it. I think the reason I like this idea so much is because it means that you and I as Christians can and should be actively bringing about the kingdom of God today! There are things that we can do as followers of Christ to reveal the life transforming love, grace, mercy and forgiveness of God's kingdom to the people we interact with each and every day. This brings a whole new sense of purpose and meaning to the prayer "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done..."

And so it has to be asked of you and I, are we living as kingdom people today or are we coasting by waiting for this far-off kingdom to show up eventually?

June 20, 2007

Si Se Puede

I just recently got back from my 5th visit to the beautiful country of Ecuador. There is something about that place that brings me back over and over again. It really has some of the most impressive displays of nature I have ever seen but even more than that the people of Ecuador are a beautiful people. Some of the most generous people I have ever encountered but they are also a people that are very passionate about their country and their land.

I had the honor of leading a great group of 9 high school students along with 3 great leaders on a trip that challenged our worldview and what it means to be a member of God's Kingdom, which is actually MUCH larger than the U.S.

This trip gave us the opportunity to experience Ecuadorian culture as well as work alongside Ecuadorians to better their community through the rehab and painting of a community center as well as a pre-school.

I have no doubt that this trip reminded each of us that the world is a pretty big place but God is bigger still.

June 7, 2007

James vs. Paul

I've begun to study the book of James. I have never studied this book very intently before. I've sort of been scared of it a little, I guess. There is a lot of talk in it about "faith without works is dead", "you see that a person is justified by works and not faith alone."

Statements like that make me, and many Christians shudder. This doesn't match up with what Paul talks about, most heavily, in Romans and Galatians. Paul says that "we are justified by faith alone apart from works."


What do we do with this apparent disagreement on something so central to the gospel message?

Here's something that I found helpful while studying the book of James.

We have to take into account the context of each author's letter.


* He had a view point that was primarily pastoral (meaning meant to teach, rebuke, and encourage Christians)

* He saw faith and works in light of what God requires of those who have already become Christians.

* He saw "works" as acts of ministry, mercy, love and justice done in obedience to the demands of God's indwelling Spirit.


James is calling out (rebuking) the Jewish Christians in this particular church for having an empty faith. A faith that isn't apparent by the way they live their lives. For example, he talks at lenght about how they show favoritism to rich people, how the rich are treating the poor like crap, how their tongues (how and what they talk about) are not in check. He is basically saying that our outward expressions and activities should mirror our inward affections.


* He had a view point that was primarily missionary.

* He saw faith and works in light of what God requires for a person to become a Christian.

* He saw "works" as acts performed legalistically in obedience to the letter of the law in order to earn salvation.

Paul is calling out (rebuking) the Jewish religous leaders who are not fully accepting the idea of faith in Christ alone for salvation. He is arguing against those who stand opposed to the basic Christian belief that faith alone in Christ is enough to bring us to God.

I think 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 can help give a little insight into how "works" are measured for a Christian.

11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

What Paul seems to be saying here is that a day is coming when God will look at what we've done with our lives. He will judge our works and our motives for our works. This judgement is not for unbelievers, it is for Christians. If what we have done with our lives (our works) are burned up, then we will not be burned up, but we will escape as one escaping through flames.

Strong words.

Is that meant to motive us to do good works? I don't think so, but it does speak truth about what will happen one day.

We should be motivated to do good works by love, the love that dwells within us by the Spirit of God.

May 29, 2007

On Matthew 5:27-30

Jesus is obviously talking about lust in this short passage and He uses some harsh words to talk about this particular sin. For right now, I'm not going to comment on the lust part of this passage partly because I think Jesus makes the point pretty clear but mostly because I want to focus on verses 29 & 30. Now, if you are like me, the first time I read this I was thinking how unfortunate it would be to gouge out my eye or cut off my hand. We have to be careful not to take things we read in Scripture literally that aren't meant to be taken literally. Jesus is talking figuratively but using very strong images to convey the ugliness of sin and in this particular case, lust.

So before you go and gouge your eyes out or cut off your hands, think about this... 1) Jesus is making the point that we need to cut ourselves off from things that cause us to sin, even if it hurts at first. I think a great example of this could be a relationship we find ourselves in that causes us to sin in some way. Not necessarily lust but maybe this friend or whoever is causing you or pressuring you to drink, do drugs, lie, cheat, steal, etc etc. This would be where we need to "cut" ourselves off even though it may hurt at first. The point Jesus is trying to make is that nothing is worth falling into sin which then leads to death, not even our "eye" or "hand". What is it in your life that you need to cut yourself away from in order to avoid a particular sin? 2) If this was to be taken literally, we would all be running around bloodied and blind, which wouldn't get us much of anywhere at all. And the last reason why I don't think Jesus is talking literally here is 3) Blind people can still lust.

May 8, 2007


I want to talk for a second about "a personal relationship with Christ" if I may. Too often people think that being a Christian has nothing to do with anyone else and is solely based upon the individual's own journey of faith. It focuses on what eternity has in store for me with little to no consideration of others because really, "that is a personal decision that they will have to make because I certainly can't make it for them."

Now I don't disagree that each individual needs to make a personal decision whether or not to follow Jesus but to turn Christianity into a religion that focuses and is based on the individual is, in my opinion, going against the very foundation of what Christianity is all about. In order to truly be a disciple of Jesus, you and I need community. We need people! How can you be a Christian solo? Jesus doesn't tell us to love ourselves as our self...NO, He tells us to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Lk 10:27) because He assumes that we already have a sense of love for ourselves. Who are you to be the salt and light to if your relationship with Christ only matters to you? Paul says that we are part of a body and that we need each other, we can't do it alone.

The whole point of Jesus' ministry (and ours with Him) is to bring the Good News of His love, forgiveness and grace to the world. One's relationship with Christ starts inwardly but is made evident outwardly; it may begin individually but has to become communal or it is not the Christianity of Jesus. I think it is exciting to see how the individual and the community go hand-in-hand. The growth of the one can't happen without the growth of the other. The moment we privatize Christianity is the moment it ceases to be Christianity at all.

April 20, 2007

Boasting only in the Cross

Galatians 6:14 Paul says that we are to boast only in the cross. Boast meaning, rejoice, exult, or glory in the cross of Christ. Think about how strange that is. We are called to rejoice in and exult in, the horrific murder of the completely innocent Son of God. Boast only in the cross?

Paul actually boasts in other things in the New Testament. He boasts in the glory of God, he boasts in his suffering, he boasts in his weaknesses, he boasts in the people he led to Christ. So then how can he say boast ONLY in the cross?

Here's why I think he can say that.

Because every good thing, and every bad thing that God turns to good is experienced because of what Jesus did on the cross 2,000 years ago. People, you and me, deserve nothing but God's judgment for our sin. He is the creator, we are the creation, we have no rights before Him, we are entitled to nothing, he owes us nothing, but on the cross Jesus took the punishment we deserved and now those who trust in him receive all of God's love and goodness.

So, a boasting in the glory of God is a boasting in the cross, a boasting in suffering, is a boasting in the cross, a boasting in weakness is a boasting in the cross, and a boasting in new believers is a boasting in the cross, a boasting in friendships is a boasting in the cross, a boasting in sports is a boasting in the cross, a boasting in life is a boasting in the cross.

I wanted to say this because I fear there is a different view of the cross creeping into Christianity. A cross that's simply symbolic, or a cross that merely points to an example of great love, or a cross that shows how weakness and submission can defeat evil.

Boast only in the cross, because in the cross the wrath of God against His sinful, rebellious creation was satisfied for once and for all. Through the cross the bridge over the great expanse has been built with the blood and body of Christ. Now, because of the cross, we can experience the relentless grace, the endless forgiveness, the perfect love, of our Creator.

Rejoice in that, exult in that, boast in that.

Yeah, that was pretty heavy for my first one. Sorry.

April 18, 2007

Gone Fishin'?

Jesus had no concept of line fishing, the way most of us grew up being taught how to fish. You know, where you take a pole, a line, and some bait in order to catch a particular kind of fish. This idea of fishing would make no sense to the fishermen of Jesus' day. Why? Because they used nets and any fish that happened to jump into the net was exactly the kind of fish they were fishing for. Doesn't this give Jesus' words more weight when he says, "I will make you fishers of men"...using nets, not poles! Too often those of us in church "fish" with a particular kind of person in mind, we use a certain kind of "bait" and if we don't catch the right kind of person for our church, we throw them back. That is not the kind of "fishermen" Jesus intended you and I to be, not even close! He desires for us to cast our nets out into the world and bring into the boat anyone that is willing to come, even if they are different than us. Jesus never threw anyone back. So what type of "fishermen" or maybe better said, disciple, are you? Are you casting your net of love, hope and forgiveness into a world that desperately needs to be found in its grasp willing to keep whoever you might find in it? See the great thing about it; Jesus tells us to catch the fish, He doesn't say we have to clean them because He will take care of the mess...

Pillar of Faith

I'm at a large church staff conference this week down in AL and found myself thinking about my Grandma Maureen. Now I know that I don't think of her nearly enough or talk to her as much as I should but there are 2 reasons she has been on my mind the past day and a half: 1) she had a successful hip replacement surgery yesterday and 2) throughout our worship times today we sang a couple classic hymns that I can vividly remember her singing when I was much younger. A couple of the hymns that instantly time-warp me back to being in kindergarten and 1st grade are "He Lives", "How Great Thou Art", "And Can It Be that I Should Gain", and especially "Victory in Jesus". It's almost as if I can hear her singing them right now as she stands in her kitchen cooking goulash or doing dishes as I sit here in my hotel room. As we sang these hymns today in our worship time, I found myself almost moved to tears thinking about the impact my Grandma has made on my life and most importantly on my relationship with Christ. If it was not for her love, persistence and constant singing I'm not sure I would have ever come to walk with Jesus as close as I walk with Him today. She has always been and continues to be a pillar of faith in my life. And like the pillar of cloud and fire that went before the Israelites as God brought them out of slavery in Egypt, I think God puts people in our lives to be pillars of faith for us, giving us strong shoulders of prayer to lean on in times of confusion, doubt, fear and uncertainty. It is through my Grandma being a pillar of faith that she helps me see that there is an even stronger pillar on which I can lean, the pillar of Jesus Christ! And through the example she leads of a life dedicated to Christ, I know the truth in the words of the great hymn I can hear her singing even now, "He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart"

April 3, 2007

Unexpected Solitude

Now this might sound weird but I've been trying to practice the spiritual discipline of solitude. I just started trying to make a point of doing this in the last week and the place so far that I've found it easiest is, as you would never guess, in the airport. As I write this I'm sitting in the Pittsburg airport on my way to South Carolina to check out a mission trip site. I don't know if you've ever flown before but airports are one of those places where there are a ton of people walking around but no one interacts with each other. It's this very reason that makes it really easy for me to practice solitude by being by myself and yet having the opportunity to people-watch, not in a creepy sort of way but simply observing those around me. When I found myself watching people and having an attitude of solitude, I could sense myself being more sensitive to possible joys or struggles individuals might be experiencing in their lives at the moment.

It's really a pretty cool experiment to try…people-watching with an attitude of solitude allowed me to quit thinking about me, become more sensitive to the issues those around me might be dealing with and even spend some time praying for the complete strangers that happen to be my fellow travelers today.

March 14, 2007

Christ & culture II

often times we think that Christ and culture are polar opposites and that they have no relationship to each other, that an individual can't be culture savvy and still be a devout follower of Christ. what if being a devout follower of Christ means that one has to be culture savvy? it would make sense to me to think that if i want to know how to most effectively impact someone with and through the love of Christ i need to know the culture in which they live. there is a certain amount of responsibility on me to know and understand the culture in which i am trying to follow Christ in.

i think it's more than just knowing culture but actually engaging culture as well. engaging culture can take a number of different forms: talking with a neighbor over the fence, going to the movies, staying aware of current events, going out on a Friday night, joining the league at the 'Y', etc. Christians engage culture when we take Christ with us outside of the sanctuary on Sunday mornings and into our places of work, our homes, schools, cars, etc.

now please understand that i'm not saying we should be standing on the street corners "preaching" at passerbys but i'm also not saying we should just blend into the background of the cultural landscape. engaging culture means we have to give culture a reason to engage us, if we are exactly like culture then there is no point of engagement. something about Christians is different than culture and that's the way it should be. the very lives that we lead should cause people to stop and ask questions like; "You really think this, why?" or "There's something different about you, what is it?" it's in questions likes these that Christ and culture meet, depending on our response. Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden...In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

March 9, 2007

Christ & culture

so i've been reading some different things for a couple of my classes and have started thinking about the relationship between Christ and culture. and of course i'm asking myself all sorts of questions like: what does that relationship look like? should a relationship even exist? what role do Christians play in that relationship? does our culture care about Christ? (sidenote-when i say culture, i am referring to the culture in which i live, Western or American culture, in case you were wondering.)

i think there are a lot of implications that go with the relationship between Christ and culture and i also believe that as a follower of Christ, one has the ability to impact culture without being completely lost in it. as Christians we hear all the time, "be in the world, not of the world" but what it seems like is happening more and more is not only are we not going to be of the world but we're going to take ourselves out of it as well. what i mean by that is Christians are secluding themselves from culture and then we talk about how bad our culture has become or is becoming. i mean look at Jesus, this guy was immersed in the culture of his day but never lost sight of his focus. he didn't run around telling his disciples to stay out of the temple or not to talk to people on the streets or in the markets. Jesus met people where they were, in their culture and showed them what it meant to truly know God. if we as Christians are afraid of culture and retreat into our own camps, when we do this we not only take ourselves out of culture but we take Christ out of a culture that is looking for something with lasting meaning.

more to come on this topic....