Wednesday, December 20, 2006
It is the hardest thing I've ever done...
Within the first few weeks, I had already experienced my first fight break out. I was put in charge of watching twelve boys in a narrow kitchen for about an hour as the other staff and upper level (more responsible/reliable) boys calmed down and de-escalated the ones fighting.
Apparently I handled myself pretty well... if they say so.
A lot of the time I feel like I will never figure this job out, at other times the sense of dread subsides and it can be fun hanging out with the kids.
The first couple weeks were hard. I didn't know any of the rules, didn't know the kids and their personalities, tendencies... didn't have their respect and were constantly tested and manipulated. I still am sometimes, but it isn't as bad.
I had a review around day forty, and was told I need to discipline the boys more... to show I can manage the floor more assertively. I was screwed up the rest of the day emotionally. Call it insecurity. It was the first time in my life I wasn't above average at, except for minor league baseball... but who cares if you can't throw from first to third?...
The big thing in this field, in this setting, is the commitment. They want a year commitment. They give you three months to decide if it is a good fit for you. The boys doubt at first if someone is going to bail out on them... it really affects the boys the most, whether someone sticks around. They don't always have a lot of people in their lives who care enough to help them change. That part of the job excites me. The process is dirty, but the goal is noble. It's hard to keep that perspective each hour of each day...
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
So my greatest concern right now is to get a good job, one that will work well with my desired career path, aka not Starbucks. I went into my move back to Denver wanting to trust fully in God, seeking him first, and trusting He would open doors for a truly amazing opportunity. Let's just say I'm not very good at fully trusting God. My question: what does it mean to abide in Christ, to be one with him, to draw our strength and abilities from the Vine (John 15)? How?
Friday, September 29, 2006
It got me thinking. How much more enticed will reps be to help me with my table problems if I treated them with patience, tolerance, and kindness? I lost an opportunity to share Christ's love by acting like He would had. Instead, I made her day that much more unpleasant.
What would the world look like if Christians acted like Christ? What would the world look like if the Kingdom of God reigned over all?
We have a map of the World on our wall in the apartment. I thought how different it would look if humanity had never fallen... if God the Creator and the Lord Jesus directly interacted with us, and we were as we were intended...
I don't think there would be any borders. There may be to section off names of places, but there would be no division, no hostility, no war. There would by no means be government. Can you imagine a world where every leader was under the authority of a loving God?
Anyways, those are a few thoughts I've had lately.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Below are questions asked of me about my faith/religion/etc.
What does it mean to be a Christian? Does it entail certain actions, beliefs, practices, etc? If so, what?
A Christian is one who identifies Christ as his or her means of salvation, but a devout follower is who further acts upon that relationship, believing they are in need of pursuing God more.
What is "faith" in God? What does it mean to "put your trust in the Lord"?
Faith in God is the belief that God will take care of the worries and hardships in life and death, that there is no need to control or manage the safety/security/comfort of one’s life.
Is church important?
Church is important in the sense that we are the Body of Christ, and without exposure to it, and participation in it, we miss out on the design that God intended us to experience.
How connected are the practices of attending church and your relationship with God?
Connected in the sense that one can experience/participate in a corporate worshipping of God, receive support, and provide service to God.
Why go? Why not go? What do we get out of church/what are we supposed to get out of church? (That question could get very idealistic, but lets stick to our actual lives and experiences)
We go because it keeps us rooted in the faith, serving as a reminder of what we believe, who we follow, why we need to look/act differently.
How do you connect with God? Do you remember any times when God has transformed you? (Connected: does God transform us? Are we supposed to be transformed? From what, to what?)
Through prayer, worship, listening, serving, & obeying. I’ve felt differently due to events God has orchestrated, changing my behaviors. The Holy Spirit has stirred new thoughts or feelings within me, changing my outlook and actions. I think God’s intent is to transform us from Prodigals to Heirs, from the pig trough to the Dinner Table, from the rags to the royal robes, from isolation to the embrace of the Father.
Why do you spend time with God? Why don't you? Does it need to be a rigid practice? (like praying/reading the bible for an hour per day)
I spend time with God to eventually accept the truth of my identity in Christ. I don’t because I fear that intimacy and don’t want to become vulnerable, and abandoned. Pride is a comforting distraction, sin appears absolutely logical and productive for survival. It never was designed to be rigid; those things become rigid with improper motivation. Do you want to work for your salvation or better know your loving Father?
What keeps you from God?
The fear and pride and comfort of sin.
What does the Bible say about this stuff? Is it right? (That 2nd question can go in a lot of different ways, but I generally mean, does what the Bible say about being close/far from God resonate with you - so yes, it is a personally relativistic 'right' in this case)
I would like to believe my understanding is based in Scripture, though I can’t say particularly where for specific examples.
How do you prefer to worship God? (Singing, serving, etc. - be specific)
I prefer to worship, allowing the Holy Spirit be the music leader, directing its flow like a dance. Also, by thinking and speaking about the things of God with friends. Through writing, art, acts of kindness or becoming the servant.
Are there right and wrong ways to worship God?
It is not worship if it bolsters one’s ego and turns attention away from the Triune God.
Where is your worship life at right now? Aka, do you need to kick your own ass? (This presupposes a question: do we have to want to worship God in order to worship him? Do we have to have a right heart set? If so, how do we get to that place when we aren't there?)
To address the presumption, yes, one needs to desire to worship God to do so. One can end up at that heart’s place by two means: the Holy Spirit’s calling or intervention, or by intentionally seeking God’s heart, either through thought or action (but the Holy Spirit always plays a role in the enhanced richness of the worship experience – when communion with God is attained – despite what one believes he or she experiences).
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
I still feel pretty inadequate, but I saw this documentary on the History Channel, and the evidence is legitimate. Check out the next airing if you can. I think it is awesome the way God can orchestrate all of it and it attests to the love He has for his people, an invitation that is still open to all. Granted, it is hard to digest the fact that people were killed as a means, but I have the rest of my life to figure that stuff out about God. My experience, and that's all I can unwaveringly attest to, says God is loving and faithful. Anyways... check out the Exodus Decoded... it is powerful.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
If I were to have my own autobiographical movie, I'd have fun creating the background music. Jason Upton sings about this whistle in the Will of God. There is this whistle in God's Will. Isn't that beautiful? Imagine this whistle (or better yet, listen to the song) as the background music to one of the scenes of your youth. When I do, I get this sense of peace, this incredible peace and satisfaction with life, like it would be all too soon for the moment to end... Heaven would be this moment for eternity.
The problem lies in the fact that we age, and in so doing, lose innocence... We get hurt and start closing our hearts to others, and God. I think that's why finding Jesus for the first time is so great... exciting. We get to reclaim that innocence, to surrender our hearts to the Lord, and it is great! But again, the problem lies in the fact that we age (as believers), and in so doing, lose trust of God to protect us, to love us. The world screams the opposite, that no one is safe to trust... "Watch out for yourself! Lower your guard to no one... you will only be taken advantage of, or abandoned... better to stay closed off!"
Looking back to my youth, I remember no vicious fear of losing security. My parents were gods, impenetrable to attack or failure. Isn't that how God is really? Isn't our image of God reflective of our parents' image, even after maturity, when we grow distant... Now, in my life, my devotion to God is set... I will always be in the Body of Christ, always returning home as the prodigal, day after day, month after month, etc. But my image of God hold many disappointments still... and I know the Gospel! I know there are errors in my perceptual set of God!
So the question is this: how do we reconcile our understanding of God, thus learning to trust him whole-heartedly, as a child does his father? Isn't that the very nature of the Will of God, to know and act as the Children of God that we are?
Our fears get in the way of our relationship with God. We fear, so we react poorly, filling our insecurity with shiny things... idols. How my pride sparkles! It shimmers and blinds me... I don't even see my fear anymore, I'm too distracted. Or the glistening flesh found a mouse-click or two away... get enough of that and I'll feel safe... for a while. Or simply give everyone what they want to see, reserved, distinguished, mysterious... don't dare make things awkward or ruffle others' feathers! "No, stay under the radar and you'll be approved by them, and that will be enough for you."
I want to hear that whistle again... I want to experience that peace, that warmth as the whistle reverberates through my mind and heart and I know I am surrounded by grace and the strength of the Lord. It is easy being a kid, a child of God. Daddy carries the burden! Hell, Daddy carries me!!! And the only voice you hear, the only voice that carries any weight is Daddy's, for his word is the Law! What a great peace to trust the Father.
Why, then, is it so hard to hear Him now? Have we so forgotten to listen that we don't recognize when he does call?
"Only your will fills...
The void inside of me.
There's a whistle in your will...
Your yoke is easy,
Your burden is so light...
It's the bondage breaker...
The Will of the Lord...
And your whistle,
It blows off all the stuff
That tries to push me along
And move me forward,
And your whistle sets me free
Open our ears, O God...
Rise, O God, and break off
that Man-pleasing Spirit…
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…
Break off that man-pleasing spirit…
The spirit that leads us into foolishness,
The spirit that leads us into foolish ways
Open up our ears…
to hear you sing over us,
to hear your whistle, O God…"
- Jason Upton Whistle of Your Will
(from Dying Star)
Monday, July 10, 2006
Early memories of my Christian walk are met with nostalgic envy, for I recall it being so easy to be excited about God. I remember a time several weeks or months after my "conversion" (the day I prayed for Jesus to enter my heart and life to be Lord) where I was standing on top of my chair, hands raised, tears blinding me, snot nearly choking me as it ran from my nose, soaking my shirt. Why I was crying is hard justify to one not familiar with the concept and experience of the Holy Spirit. In that fresh, new experience of being with God, feeling his presence around me, I was overwhelmed with joy. Part of me was sad and regretful of my brokenness as a young kid. Part of me was madly in love with Jesus and the idea that he loved me. Over the years, I have often lost that intense gratitude and understanding. I envy the passion I had in my youth. I look over my life and my understanding of my relationship with God now, as a twenty three year old graduate, and honestly, I feel alone.
A quick truth about the followers of God: The only difference between followers and those not interested in the things of God is the hope that we can that we will not lose our connection to God. We still are spiteful, conniving, selfish, lustful, annoyed, angry, happy, sad, giving, dishonest, resentful, forgiving... just like everyone else. Why? Because we all are human, broken but human. Followers hold on to the hope of staying connected with God because we see the need to change and trust God is powerful and righteous enough to lead us away from brokenness into redemption. We see Jesus' work on the cross as a means to atone us and make us more like God, who is all loving and forgiving, selfless and giving.
Okay, so it wasn't too quick, but my point is I still feel alone sometimes, even though I claim having a personal relationship with God. Why do I feel alone? In part, I am to blame for I flee from God... I'm the friend who doesn't return phone calls and avoids people out of insecurity. I feel insecure around God most of the time. Not all the time, like when his love renders me powerless to resist his comfort. But when I do resist, and pull away, I feel lonely, alone and isolated. I am to blame, but there are times when I wonder if God does choose to remain hidden or distant, whether to teach an important lesson of discipline (for example) or what not... Who know really but God?
What do I want to say? That I am no different than anyone else except my hope to find God active in my life, so that He can help me change into a better person. I am certain the key to that is letting God be my Loving Father, and fully receiving his love. The key is to find in my heart the place to intimately cry out "Daddy" and trust God hears and undoubtedly will respond in kind with abundance.
I want to say that is my deepest prayer, to be so intimate with God, and that everyone on this earth will be the same. There is a lot of brokenness, fear, pride, sin... there is a lot that keep me from knowing that, that keeps all of us from knowing that. Ideally, those following find that identity and become strengthened and empowered, teaching and guiding more and more toward God and his message of hope. Ideally, I learn it and lead.
A question to end with that can double as a prayer request: God, do you at times intentionally withhold your followers, your children from drawing deeper in intimacy with you, or is it our brokenness to blame? Is it my brokenness? If our brokenness, could you pour your Holy Spirit out in abundance to accelerate our progressive salvation, that we may learn to trust you more and more with our care? If your withholding, can you increase our patience for your coming and our obedience to what we know for certain, that you may be pleased with us?
"Come up here, come up now
My Beloved, My Beloved..."
Here I come oh Lord...
In the midst,
In the midst of heartache, oh God
In the midst of brokennes, oh Lord
Even like John on the Isle of Patmos, oh Lord
In the midst of persecution, Lord
I look up, I look up, oh Lord
I look up, oh Lord
And I see in the heavens, oh Lord
I see your door, Lord, standing wide open, Lord
Wide open, Lord
And I hear with my ears,
I hear your voice that sounds like a trumpet, Lord
Sounds like a trumpet, Lord
And you're calling out to me,
"Child come up here, beloved come up here,
Come up here and hear my voice,
Come up here and see what I want to do,
...come, my Beloved, come...
You are my Beloved...
Don't let anyone,
Don't let anything hold you back."
- Jason Upton (Come Up Here)
Thursday, June 01, 2006
I started reading a book a couple nights ago. It's called To Own a Dragon by Don Miller. It about his journey through figuring out what it means not to have a father around and how that made things harder for him. I grew up and still have my father around. Well, he's around, but hasn't really been there for me, emotionally. I can relate a lot with Don in his struggles, in the lies he's had to confront and deal with due to not having a dad around. One of his chapters addressed how parents should instill in their children a confidence and sense of urgent importance for their existence in the world.
I had a professor say the only reason we have kids (or at least the big reason) is to feed our egos, to continue the pride of our lineage, to remain alive vicariously through our children. He was a bit messed up.
I never felt like my existence was all that important, at least I never picked up the notion that was true from my father or mother. I knew they loved me. I also knew I annoyed them a lot, being a kid, tormenting my sister. I know I confused them, or intimidated them, being a distant, confused, scared teenager. I played it off as anger or annoyance at them, but it was fear.
I never felt the world was worse off without me, but I never felt lived through vicarously through my father, to ego boost him. He isn't that kind of man, and I'm glad. But I'm not in a way because at least in that way I would have felt like I had a purpose, that I was in some way important to my dad. I didn't get the message to much. I think I have been taught to mainly assume I'm important, that even though it is never said, it is true. It's not good enough, nor do I think it should be.
So I guess much of what I am thinking through currently is how my father-son relationship has shaped the way I view the world, how there are false perceptions I live by that make it more difficult, that there is a different perspective, a true reality to live and think by. Am I failing? I think I am because I have seen the truth and choose to live under the lies. I don't really no why I choose the lies; they're not as fun to believe as the truth that I am irreplaceable and world-shaking.
So I am a failure! If my mom reads this, she'll probably get all upset and tell me not to think like that. But my mom do not think alike. I will admit, a couple months ago I would have agreed, there's something wrong with me for thinking that way. But now, I am in a place where God is a little bigger than I once thought. I little more capable than I thought, a little more loving.
I was watching TV with my mom and we turned to the Dateline special "To Catch a Predator." She asked me what's wrong with some people, and I shared my thought that it was all a result of the Fall of Man. I do not do well talking about spiritual matters with my family, so I didn't elaborate any more than to say they were no worse people than ourselves. She made a comment that she didn't rape little children, and I knew I got in over my head.
What I wanted to say but didn't was that I am a sinner just like the pedophiles on that show. No I don't prey on the weak, but I sin in other ways, in the way I sit around most of the day doing nothing of importance or merit, or in the way I lust over the female image. In God's sight, I still choose things outside His will to satisfy my heart's desire that destroy my soul, just like the pedophiles destroy their soul by feeding a carnal desire. I won't get into the argument that certain sins are worse than others, for a good argument can be made to support that claim, especailly when others are hurt or destroyed in the wake of the destructive act. But my point is that sin is sin, and all of it, any of it drives us away from the only one who is good and right for us.
Am I upset that I am failing this part of my life? Not really. I would have been if God hadn't taught me some stuff. Well, it's not really a new thought, just a better understanding of it. It's the Gospel that gets me through the disappointment of failure. The Gospel of Jesus. I know more clearly than ever before that my sins, my failures have no hold over my worth. Because Jesus chose to die on a cross, I have a freedom to fail and be forgiven and redeemed. Yeah, I could choose to run away from God and avoid Him, and I would indeed be in a sad state, a state many are in and think is the only way to be, so separated from knowing the joy that comes from knowing God that they know no other way to be. I have lived that way, have tasted the sweetness of God's way and yet still chose darkness, and it was bad, and depressing and harmful. But God shepherded me away from that and taught me the better way, the way of grace. The Gospel of Jesus is this: that the scared, directionless, lazy young man who wastes his days in front of a TV can at any moment look to God and be redeemed and empowered to make more out of his life, to live like the prince that he is through the inheritance given him by his Kingly Father in Heaven. Even more, when the prince runs away despite knowing his riches, and lives with dogs and dines with pigs, the Father in Heaven still finds a love with no end to welcome him home and restore his glory.
There is tremendous value in our depravity, for it reveals the love of God for all of us when He recreates us and makes us new. And it all comes down to his love. It is everthing. Everything. If I didn't know the Love of God, I would die, I would want to die. This life is too painful without hoping for something more. The more is available and attainable in God.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
I think I forget to have fun a lot of the time. Here I am, out of school essentially for the next few years (well, almost [stupid Spanish test]), in need to begin a responsible life, and yet there is a side to me that loves the idea of wandering the US, scraping by by doing street performance or selling origami or something. I long for adventure. I really want to be an old grandpa one day and have the most amazing stories to tell my grandkids about what went on right now in my life.
Everyone keeps asking me what is next for me, what my plans are for the future. I've come to terms with that... The whole not knowing thing and the fact that the question is unavoidable. I don't know what's next, and I like that. It's mysterious, not knowing. I may live in Colorado again in seven and a half weeks, working for my Alma Mater, I don't know. I may be a bum, bumming off my parents... again and still. I may be finding a girlfriend, I may be in Nicaragua within the year, I may be settled at a nice job in CA. I may get in an accident and die, I may win the lottery. I just don't know and it's okay. It is good.
I see the Lord in the present. He's in my circumstances. He's not in a panic, looking around, expecting danger to jump out at any moment. He's at peace and joyful and fixed on my face, waiting for me to look back on him. I am and I will continue to. I do not fear what's next, if I will succeed, whether I will be happy. I already know the answer. Regardless of where I go, what I do, who I'm with, one companion I trust will be by my side and that is Christ. And that is all the difference in the world, for I know my path is good when He is in my life guiding me.
I've been meditating on a passage of Scripture and I want to share it. Philippians 3:7-4:1 says:
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!There are years that could be spent digesting all that rich word, but to only begin a nibble, may I say I desire Paul's heart for myself. I want to be that focused on Christ, for He alone is enough to get through it, and all others who say there is another way or it needn't be so extreme are liars or immature in the faith, or scared to walk that path themselves, rationalizing away the need. I don't want to be an enemy of the cross of Christ. I want to "continue to work out my salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12).
I may come off as extreme, but I feel passionately that many are lying to themselves, ignoring their God-given consciences, convincing themselves that there is no need to seek God fervently. There is a need, a strong need and all those who don't are wasting precious time. I love and find hope in the fact that Christ eagerly awaits the moment a heart turns toward him and that salvation is readily available even on a dying breath. But I fear many who have heard the good news of Christ love, avoid the issue of their rebellion and give in to the fatigue of the race, losing pace, dosing off during a rest, sleeping precious moments of life and opportuntiy away. I've been there and failed like that. I'm done with that sloth. How many, though, are still sleeping?
| Michael scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. Michael is an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. He believes that God's grace enables us to choose to believe in him, even though we are totally depraved (until his redeeming work within us). The gift of the Holy Spirit gives him assurance of his salvation, and he also enables us to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. Michael is influenced heavily by John Wesley and the Methodists.|
What's your theological worldview?
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Friday, April 28, 2006
My mom used to sing Snow White's famous lines "Someday my Prince Will Come" when I was younger. Half jokingly, usually, when she was annoyed with my dad. But I think a part of her really wanted a prince, some man of extraordinary charm to sweep her off her feet and carry her away from the drab of her ordinary life.
Lately, I've been wondering if I could be a prince to someone. Do I have the passion for such a performance? Is that a fair way to describe it, as a performance? Part of me wants to believe in the possibility of a romantic fairytale, boy meets girl and it's magical, ending happily ever after. Part of me, the realist, says that's crap. Life is hard, people misinterpret the meaning behind actions and words, and things aren't asked, doubts foster fears, risks aren't taken. Fairytales don't exist because there is no work to be done in the relationship, the magic is written in. There is no fighting for the girl except from conveniently evil, predictable villians. Relationships takes work, hard work with tough conversations.
Why can't there be more poison apples? I think I could handle poison apples. It's those cryptic comments, conflicting schedules and vast spans of silence that cripple my character.
I should write a modern day fairy tale romance, crap and all. Perhaps it wouldn't sell, though, since it wouldn't resemble the classic template. Perhaps it would, because it would remind them of their own experiences. Now that I think about it, it would sell, for it's already been done successfully in Garden State. Their lives are screwed up, and they fight through it. I don't know. Perhaps I'm full of it.
To be a modern prince, does it mean to be annoyingly aggressive? Or is that just... annoying? I am pretty sure he would be confident in what he wants. The problem seems to be with what is assumed with the word Prince. Who would turn down a Prince? But a normal guy? People do without them all the time. I don't feel very princely most times.
But I do sometimes... feel like a prince. I am a Prince, for I am a brother of the Almighty King, co-heir of Christ's Kingdom. I believe that whole-heartedly... sometimes. Okay, rarely, but it's true and I should hold onto that truth for dear life. The Flip-side of that is true as well. There are breath-taking princesses out there, worthy of the most respect and tender-hearted love one can muster.
So what does it mean to love a daughter of God? How does one respect her wishes while battling the cravings of one's heart, desires for more than the platonic? How do you make the fairy tale play itself out without completely upsetting the flow of normal life, without seeming like a selfish ass?
I don't want to be a selfish ass, but I want more. I want to try to be the prince. Is the prince even charming? Will a Awkward Pauper do?
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
I enjoy teachings from Larry Crabb quite a bit. I can see his authenticity, his humble honesty, and I trust his word. I've been thinking about what he said in chapel a few weeks ago. You see, he spoke on true masculinity/femininity in preparation of some visitors we were to receive the following week. Soul Force, an organization dedicated to fighting for equality for the homosexual, Christian community, are having an Equality Ride to dozens of Universities with policies that do not advocate the homosexual lifestyle. All that to say, Crabb spoke about how homosexuals and heterosexuals alike struggle with being the men and women God intended them to be (the main point being Homosexuality presents an alternative to some to not have to face and struggle through their true expression of masculinity or femininity).
I could go on and on about the Homosexuality issue, but I won't. We all are afraid to be who we are. The young man who likes the girl but never pursues, or does but backs off when it seems too vulnerable... he lacks a strength essential to being a full man. The father, who being afraid of failure or rejection, avoids interactions with a son, starts a dangerous cycle of raising future generations crippled by timidity. The woman, defensive from past pains and disappointments whether from a neglectful/abusive father or a self-centered, hedonistic guy, isn't fully a woman when she closes off her heart from receiving the love and support of a man. Others avoid the challenge by looking to pornography, where an image on a computer screen or magazine cannot reject you and there is no committment to another person. The man who has an affair with a prostitute, because for that short period of time he feels like she desires him and is able to please her (ignoring the fact that she is paid to act that way).
I have gotten to the age where I'm imagining starting a family soon. The thought has crossed my mind several times whether or not I'm competent enough to raise a son or daughter (or both). Looking back at my relationship with my parents, their is a legitimate fear that I can't; I wish they handled things differently than they did, and I as their son, should have acted differently too. Anyways, the fact is parenthood, marriage, relationships are ridiculous. It calls one to open up and expose your heart, because that's what love is. Yes, there is a place for boundaries, but at the same time, boundaries can become fortresses with one's heart closed off inside, preventing any connection with those one is supposed to love. Isn't that all too frequent an occurance. Emotional distance.
I was at a prayer team retreat a while back, last year I think, and I was being prayed over. My deepest concern for me then was that I was stuck being timid. After the prayer, I had a vision of sorts. It was just a thought, nothing extremely detailed, but it was of me and my son. You see, it was profound because I had never before imagined having a son. I feared it. I felt completely inadequate raising a son. A girl I could imagine. I didn't have a problem imagining to pour love and affection on a daughter. But a son... that wasn't modeled to me very well. The vision was of me having a great time playing with him, and we were close. It was a great thought.
What do I think it means to be a man? Perhaps the question should be "What qualities do I want to exhibit as a man?"
I want to be vulnerable. Our culture avoids being vulnerable and transparent. I want my friends, co-workers and family to know when I am good and bad. I want to have the humility to accept their support as I show my weakness. I want to model that to my future kids so that they will grow up the same way. I want to be persistent. I want to be the first to encourage my future wife of her importance in my life, the first to ask my kids how their day had gone, what they had learned, how I can support them. I want to never avoid. I want to see a problem and resolve it. I want to love deeply, share intimately, and live boldly.
I have found more strength in God than in anyone or anything. I look back over the last few years in my faith journey, and I feel I'm becoming the man of God I'm called to be. My desires to be a man, those qualities, are absolutely attainable. On my own power, they will never come to be. But with my heart focused on Christ, his example, and by seeking to become like Him, I cannot fail. In Christ there is Life, the Abundant Life. A life where families are strong and centered, where relationships are deep and meaningful, where lives are changed and people see they too can experience joy and peace, Heaven on Earth as you will for the Kingdom of God is here. Victory over evil and death, pain and isolation, is readily available for those who submit their lives to God. I'm learning to do that and am seeing the fruit of that labor. I'm no master, but in time and with grace, I will slowly grow in greater likeness with Christ and the world I know will change. Lives will change.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
I sorta feel like that now. Empty. I guess I'm just thinking too much about my life, where I am, where I'm going. You see, I'm finishing my time at CCU. I haven't taken any classes this semester, finished those in the Fall. I settled for a job that is not challenging and pays poorly. I have three weeks left with some of the greatest people I'll ever know. I have no place in Colorado after graduation. I need to move back home. At least for now. I'm sad because things just started to pick up here. I prayed a while back that God would take me on an adventure. After going to Nicaragua, and making new friends, there is a lot more I feel I could do here in Colorado.
Glendale doesn't seem like an adventure most times. Not for me. It's too familiar, too full of the obvious. Living at home again. Also, too familiar. So I feel like this adventure I felt God beginning to take me on is much like how the disciples must have felt about their adventure with Christ... derailed.
I remember a Psalm. It was one I was told to read by God (through his servant Amber). Psalm 77.
I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands
and my soul refused to be comforted.
I remembered you, O God, and I groaned;
I mused, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart mused and my spirit inquired:
"Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"
Then I thought, "To this I will appeal:
the years of the right hand of the Most High."
I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will meditate on all your works
and consider all your mighty deeds.
Your ways, O God, are holy.
What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
The waters saw you, O God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the skies resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
I was told then, and I believe I'm being told now, that when in a low state, feeling empty and abandoned, that I need to remember what the Lord has done already, for it is with that perspective that I am able to see the present for what it really is. The morning is nearly here. The Son will shine brightly in glory, victorious over the darkness. Jesus is King, he has not been defeated by death, but his Kingdom has come and is here now, in my heart and yours (I pray)! My adventure is not derailed, it is continuing strongly, with a change in setting, introducing familiar characters that need to see change. My short time remaining is not a thing to be grieved over, wishing there was more of it, but a thing to be grasped and enjoyed, taking every opportunity to savor for what it is, a perfect gift from God. And who knows, I may end up back here in the Fall, or in Nicaragua at the Project... the possibilities are endless. But for now, I will delight in the Lord for the blessings he is pouring over me: time with my dear friends, time to grow closer together and closer to God... time with my family to continue to struggle through what our relationships will look like as a approach adulthood... time to walk the path the Lord has for me, whether it is living in the States, serving in some capacity, or in Nicaragua, supporting a beautiful hope for more in life than living and working in trash.
You see the emptiness of Easter has nothing to do with the feeling of defeat and has everything to do with the grave. Christ is Risen. And his story is not over but continues this day in my life and yours. I have Jesus in my life and he leads me in truth. He leads along a tough path, full of twists, turns, fog and smoke. I lose my way sometimes. But Jesus always knows where I am and calls me back to continue on. And so I go, excited, for I know no harm can come to me.
Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits--
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
I hope this works. Here is a link to more photos from the trip, taken by my teammates. And another. And another.
Monday, April 03, 2006
I think America has let capitalism overshadow moral and societal values. We strive so hard to become independent, wealthy and successful, when such pursuits drive us away from family, friends and God. Throughout my journey as a Christian, trying to discern what it means to have a relationship with God, I have had one certainty that is applicable now. I've discovered with absolute assurance that when I think I have life figured out, that I know what's best in a situation, I'm usually wrong, and it usually ends in frustration, pain and failure. It ends that way because I act with my interests in mind, my comfort, my benefit. Many call it "the Fall of Man."
The beauty of God's will (the opposite of selfishness usually) is that in the end, there is benefit for me even though I did something for the benefit of others. It's a most beautiful paradox: that through denying my own preservation, I am freed to preserve others, and in mercy and grace, God blesses me and preserves me because I obeyed. I could have gone through my trip in Nicaragua, keeping a shield up, not letting the kids get too close, protecting my emotions, but then I wouldn't have developed such amazing ties with them. I could have dwelled on the fact that I was sick and hot and uncomfortable, but then I would have missed out on all the fun of experiencing God in the midst of that. I experience God on a daily basis. I feel when He's impressing something on me. God loves his people. The only thing that assuaged my heart in the dump was the fact that I knew God was faithful to have more for those people, a hope of a life with Him for eternity. The truth... everyone of us lives in the Dump. Life is miserable and meaningless apart from being with God. I love the illustration Christ gave to us through his interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well. He offered her (and all of us) Living Water, the quenching of all our worldly thirst. It isn't a physical thirst but a spiritual thirst, a soulish thirst. I've tasted that Living Water and so have many of the joyful people in Nicaragua. This water quenches the burn from the smoke we breathe in our dump of a world. The fumes are abundant... our perceived need for comfort, luxury. The waters we drink to attempt to parch the thirst... lust, pride, entitlement, food, television, fashion... all fail. I've drank from every one of those contaminated waters, and still do turn to them, but I've only found Christ to be able to quench the thirst because He freely gives His Spirit of love and unconditional acceptance to us. There is rest in Him. I eagerly await the day I fully understand and embrace that truth.
My trip to Nicaragua affirmed that truth in my heart, something I knew in my head mostly, but forgot in my heart. The life with God close by is hard... it demands us to give up the things which instinctively seem good for us, but in reality bring death and pain. It is only with forfeiting those rights and becoming an obedient, sacrificing servant to God do we find there is true life, abundant life in God, life with purpose and rest from the wickedness of this world.
Enjoy my writings of my trip. I found more of God down in Central America... I hope you find Him through my reflections.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Saturday, March 25, 2006
I don't remember what we did Wednesday. Yesterday, Friday, was an important day for us. we first went to te dump and walked around. It was a little over-whelming. You have to get the picture... imagine driving down this path, people rummaging through the recently unloaded stuff, looking for glass, metals, plastics, anything that can be used or recycled. They use the blue dye that's dumped from the jeans factory for cleaning, since it has a bunch of chemicals in it, bleach and such. Just off the main section were the homes, made of anything, scrap metal, matress springs for fences. The whole time I felt dirty, and in harm's way... there are constant fires which start spontaneously, and with the trucks kicking up dust and whatnot... it was horrible. Even nearly a day later, I still feel the effects of the pollution in my lungs. We had to use handkerchiefs when it blew directly at us.
There were dogs, cows and birds rummaging in the trash, searching for food. There are over 150 families living in the dump, usually 6 to 8 in a family. All of them are exposed to this pollution on a daily basis.
Afterwards, we went to a park and thought through what we just experienced. We shared, prayed and ate lunch. We then went to the project, and they held a ceremony presenting their appreciation for us coming so far and pouring into their lives. They made us a popular Nicaraguan meal, with Yuca, pork rinds, cabbage. It was good. So was the juice. We then presented them with a monetary gift to help wherever they need it. They told us it would go toward finishing the walls and roofs of the school. We then gave a birthday gift to this beautiful girl, Blanca, for her Quinceria that is coming up. Then we played with the kids, trying to gett in as much time together as we could. It was really hard saying goodbye. All the kids are so beautiful, so happy being with us, despite not being able to fully communicate with us. After our last group pictures, we left, the kids trying to grab onto the back of the truck. We then made our way back to the church, ate dinner, and we debriefed during the church service. Right before going to bed, I experienced my first time at a washboard, cleaning my clothes by hand.
Thursday, we went to the project, mainly playing with the kids, but Heidi, Gabby and I taught the 2nd grade class. Then we went to lunch at this nice restaurant. I had a banana and milk concoction and chicken wings (barbacoa y picante). There was a zip-line there, in a playground next to the restaurant, so we tested it out. We then went to the market and bought stuff. We only had an hour though and the spirit of the market made me sad. It seemed a very dark place, spiritually. That night we went out to dinner with all of our host families. We went to the mall and ate at the food court. We got ice cream then headed to an internet cafe.
Wednesday, we went in the morning to a men's prison. At the cultural center there was a church service the men attended. We sang a few songs in English for them and Gabby translated their meanings. I really enjoyed that experience. I wasn't hindered in the slightest from entering the worship circle and feeling God's presence. At the end, we helped pass out personal toilettries for the men. We then went to the project and had a solo time. There were still a few kids around, not in class, so it was a little distracting. We then just mainly hung out before heading back to the church.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
This morning was interesting... and entertaining (at least it will be when I and others read about it). I got up and, not one minute later, soiled myself. I should have been more precautious since the day before I had the runs. Well, it ran alright, right down my leg. So I was in a frustrated mood this morning going to the Project. I decided to take it very easy, to drink much more water, and use sunblock religiously. We first played with the kids. I was feeling lifted in spirits already, so I braved it and played some futbol with the kids. Then we worked on making tables while the kids were in class. We used planers and sandpaper to smoothe boards out while some of the men of the group welded some metal together for the legs. Pedro, the man I helped yesterday, was in charge of the welding. Anyways, after the table work, we had lunch, then had our devotional book time and then a tour of the Project, seeing where the families lived and how they grew crops. We learned a lot of history, how some mothers are raising kids on their own since the fathers are abusive. One father, actually, sold all the families possessions and comes back every night to sleep in the house. The rest of the family is gone, at a safe house until the father leaves. Hopefully the trial against him will go well, but the judges are corrupt, it could go bad if he's paid off.
Another mother kicked out a father for killing three puppies in front of the kids. They were all abused, but that was the last straw. He comes back occasionally, which frightens the children a lot. Another family was at the Project but left to live in the dump again. A boy Wilmer fell asleep, so the mother covered him with cardboard to protect him from the sun and dust... a truck ran him over. They moved back to be closer to the grave and hopefully will continue to see the benefit of living there. Pedro's family had three children who died from poisoned peanuts they found in the dump. They came to the project a little over a year ago, and their youngest, David, was very mal-nourished. Today, he can walk, be away from his mom and is doing great.
We really connected with the kids today. I made my Donald Duck voice for them, which was a big hit for them, and my other fun noises. When we took the tour, we gave them piggy back rides and shoulder rides. Oh, we also did crafts today by making picture frames with popcicle sticks, glitter, stickers markers, and foam shapes. They liked that a lot. It was nice to see the kids opened up and enjoying our affection. The language barrier is nearly a non-issue now, which is a huge blessing. Holding one's hand and spinning them around while on my shoulders says more than words can. And it's not that we're not speaking. We're able to say and understand more and more.
Today was a great day. I learned today that there is a place for joy in all situations. When I felt frustrated and worried I wouldn't feel better, I gave my situation to God and praised Him regardless of my state, trusting He planned my ordeal for a reason. Things got better, but my joy in being here was constant, my joy of God's faithfulness never wavered.
Now back at the house, I look forward to spending some time, washing some clothes, windin own and hanging out.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
The other events of the day included breakfast, huevos con arroz y frijoles. Church service was at 8:30 and we hung out afterwards for a while. Then we went to a carnival and played volleybal and soccer and basketball. We had Fanta in a bag. There were volleyball tournaments and young girls dancing on stage. Then we came back and had lunch, arroz con bologna y pollo. Then we napped and hung out until Church (the night service). The service was long. We went up and butchered a worship song, then Morgan and Dan redeemed us with a song inspired by Psalm 121.
After church, we went to dinner in town at Ventini's, a pizza place. It was close to the place where Pastor Gary and his wife were staying. They came from Maine and he spoke of us being unified as a people in Christ, despite our differences in language and culture. We ordered way too much pizza and still paid very little. Then we came back and had our meeting.
Tomorrow, we go to Project Chacocente and begin our service.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
We then dressed and ate breakfast which our host graciously cooked for us. It was a pancake breakfast and they were most satisfying. We then lounged around waiting for our other teammates to get back from contacting the school and/or waking up and meeting us from the other house. We played the guitar and took pictures of the pajaros de abuela. We shot some hoops and kicked the soccer ball when finally we, as a fully assembled team went into Masaya and had lunch at Tip Top, a chicken place. I had Tip Top a la plancha y una coca cola (a grilled chicken breast served with beans, pico de gallo and tortillas). We bought water at the supermarket and then went to tour the local active Volcano.
We strolled through the museum and then drove up to the hiking trails where we walked for about 45 minutes to an hour, seeing the other two volcanoes and the lake. It was quite windy. Hace Ventoso. By then, we were pretty tired and headed back to the church/houses. We travelled the backroads home, behind a golf course on a dirt road, trees providing shade. The steeper part of the road reminded me of the time in Mexico where we struggled to get up a muddy hill with no traction.
When we arrived back, we showered (nothing was rushed the entire day) and first Rachel, Pastor Pablo and I ate dinner, a pasta salad con avocado, chile (not too hot, which impressed Pablo), arroz y frijoles. Church youth group eventually followed where I understood maybe three words in the songs and the congregation was separated by gender. Dan ate cheese puffs to win a shirt. We felt convicted for not knowing our Bibles very well, and we shook a lot of hands, greeted by smiles and blessings.
I sort have checked out then, changing back into my casual clothes and meeting with the team to debrief the day. For the most part, we shared our desire to want to communicate better, how we love the Latin culture with more care-free attitudes, noticing this and that about the culture... We all just feel so blessed to be here, experiencing it all.
I have some expectations, or rather desires, for this trip that I feel are legitimately from God. I want to see how Christ is the Lord of Nicaragua and its people. He told me to just enjoy Him in this culture, in this language despite my incomprehension. The Spirit is not hindered as we are and I want to fully embrace that truth and not fight against my selfishness of preference. I also want to feel comfortable being awkward with the people. I want to stretch myself by trying the more advanced spanish I know. I also want to show the love of Christ through my actions. My words won't be too great, but I want to learn to let my heart lead me.
Friday, March 17, 2006
So we had an early start this morning. We met in front of the Ministry House at 3:45 AM, packed the vans and left for the airport. We did the normal airport stuff... after meeting Shannon there, we checked our bags, proceeded to security and waited for our flight to board. We had McDonalds breakfast. Arriving at Houston, we then proceeded to wait for our next leg... for some ungodly six hours or so. During that time, we sat and slept and ate lunch together at the food court (most of us Panda Express), wondered about, sat in the Brookstone Massage chair... a tangent on the chair if I may...
I entered this trip with much anxiety about my future, a lot of built up tension... the flight to Houston, I was the most uncomfortable I've ever been on a flight. My seat did nothing for me, and I attribute the discomfort to my stress... anyways, the massage chair felt amazing to sit in, but like how Psychotherapy has the potential to unlock repressed emotions, causing an avalanche of memories and pain and tears, the chair had the same effect on my physical state... it simply awoke all the pain from the tension I'd carried for those many months of future anxiety.
Back to the story... I sat in the chair and only became more sore. At one point we played a card game, but for the most part we slept (some didn't go to sleep the night before). Oh, Gabby and Heidi were the lucky ones of our group. They had to catch different flights to Houston than we took. So there flights didn't arrive till after we had lunch, a few hours shorter a lay-over.
Eventually we boarded and took off for Nicaragua. We caught the Sunset on our flight and landed in darkness in Managua... Ironically, most of us caught the sunset on the flight over. Landing in Nicaragua, we then waited a long time at Customs, paid our fee for entering, I got my first foreign country stamp in my Passport, and left the Airport where we were greeted by Pastor Pablo, Isaac (Eee-sock), and others from the church. We then drove to the church and homes, sat around a bit, found our living arrangements, and went to bed, sleeping in the next morning. Our time with the Nicas had arrived, but I think we were all too tired to fully grasp and express the excitement we had.