The Obligatory Reflective New Year's Eve Blog

A few days ago, I was thinking about how much I've failed to make progress in my life, how little I had changed, and generally how much I stink at life.

It's not easy to do that when you have friends. My friend began to remind me of everything that had changed in the past year. I began to realize that I didn't stink at life at much as I thought I did.

In the spirit of this realization and the dusk of a pretty eventful 2008, I have decided that this obligatory reflective New Year's Eve blog will be about everything that has changed over the past year. You are welcome to read along. Here are the three highlights...

1. Location, Location, Location: I moved from South Texas to Dallas in August, determined not to stay in my comfort zone after graduation. The day after graduation, I already had my car packed, and I drove 8 hours up to Dallas and moved in with four guys, working at a Starbucks and contemplating seminary. Then I moved from Dallas to Tempe, Arizona at the beginning of October, for what has to be the coolest job ever. I'll talk more about that later.

2. FINALLY: After a full six years, a prior planned graduation halted by a last minute failure, 2 majors, 3 lost scholarships, 4 years off and on in the dorms, 5 part time jobs, 13 roommates, and 16,000 dollars in loans... I graduated with a B.A. in History. But I didn't want to teach, and didn't want to work for the government. I felt like I should be following my heart and God's call, so I thought I should probably go to seminary. So, I moved to DFW, where you can stand anywhere, throw a rock, and hit a seminary. As it turns out, that was only temporary, because God had another plan for me, and that plan was...

3. Third Format: When I saw an opening for "Third Format Worship Resident" on (yes) I thought there is no way they would consider a small town worship leader from Texas for this. Apparently, I was wrong, and for once it feels awesome to be wrong. I know it might not seem like that big a deal to a lot of people... but to me this is pretty big. I get a chance to be involved with an outwardly focused, innovative ministry at a church bigger than my hometown, and learn and grow and lead all at the same time. This is pretty much exactly what I was looking for.

Other things have changed as well. In general, I know the direction I am going. I didn't before June. Not everything has been awesome, either.

I pretty much killed the best, most unique friendship I had ever had, with someone who knew me like the back of her hand. I still miss that, and I wish I hadn't hurt her. I think she's probably forgotten about me, though, so I guess it's all for the best.

I already had my invitations to graduation in May when I got the news that I wouldn't be graduating. It was pretty much the most embarassing thing ever, having to explain why I couldn't graduate to my friends and relatives.

All things considered, this was still an amazing year. I have to say that for the past seven years, each successive year has been the new best year of my life. Seven years ago, I gave my life to God, to serving and loving Him in whatever way I could, and making Him more than just a savior or a part of my life. For seven years, I've been learning how to find my identity, my purpose, and my direction in Him. So, in closing, I thank God for another freakin awesome year. I never could have imagined this life before He changed me in 2000.

See you in 2009!!!

Everyone is cold in Denver

I had a great christmas trip home. I loved getting to see my family again, remembering just how much yelling and whining happens in a house with three generations of women, and seeing uncles and aunts and cousins galore. It was restful and amazing... I didn't touch a guitar once!

I got to visit some of the people who were instrumental in my formative years of Christianity. It was great... I saw this old man, for maybe just a few seconds, and he asked me how and what I was doing. I told him that I was doing great, and what I was doing, and he starts kinda laughing and crying, and tells me "We've been praying for you so much!" I think they got me in this drawing to see who would pray for which kid back when I went to camp in 2001 and first truly felt like I may be called to ministry. I am glad that me not sucking too badly at life can encourage an old prayer warrior like that :).

The trip home was kinda crazy, though. I nearly didn't make it out of Houston, which is where my first connecting flight took me. I had to change airlines, go to this detatched terminal that could only be reached by an awkwardly placed bus line that pretty much drove us around the tarmac and left us at a terminal skywalk that had been modified to lead to the ground. Then I had to go back through security with 20 minutes left until my flight, and got a bag check because I had left a bottle of water in there. Apparently those are dangerous.

By the time I was in Denver (the second connection), waiting for my delayed flight, I began to miss home a lot. The Denver airport is a miserable place to feel lonely. Everyone is bundled up, and people are laying everywhere waiting for delayed flights, and there are so many people alone there. You start to imagine that everyone is just as lonely as you, that the cold they are fighting is just as much inside of them as it is in the air around them.

Then I got home, and quickly decided that home is awesome, whether it is Arizona or Texas... and that everyone is cold in Denver, and I don't want to be there again.

Merry Christmas!!!

Here is something I love, just for you :).

Merry Christmas!

The Trifecta

It struck me today, that the gospel needs three things; hands, feet, and a voice.

If I only had one of those, it would be my calling to give it up for the sake of the gospel.
if I had two of those, it would be my calling to give them both for the sake of bringing freedom.

The gospel needs hands, feet, and a voice. I have all three.

Not just different names for the same thing...

It's amazing, the difference a day makes.

But it wasn't so much the day. It was more than that...

God showed me something about hearing His voice for the oppressed today, and I realized that I hadn't been hearing Him for a while. I had things I hadn't dealt with, things that needed to be done. There were two things in particular, the second being a prayer time, in a quiet place, alone. I prayed to hear God, to hear what He had to say to me, and to see with His eyes.

I didn't get an answer. I was pretty bummed.

But I left that place inexplicably happy, and all of a sudden my eyes were opened to just how blessed I am. God has been speaking to me, telling me He loves me, by providing everything I need and want, in abundance!

I have amazing friends, all over the place... South Texas, North Texas, Arizona...

I get to, for at least the next year, play music and lead brothers and sisters in worship FOR A LIVING!?!?!? I can't stress enough how crazy awesome that is to me. I'd do this for free! (and had been for a significant amount of time)

I am in a place where I can learn and grow and make mistakes and lead at the same time... which is very rare, considering that other places wanted me to start music ministries from scratch or take over as the lead guy, which I was totally not ready for.

I have a place to live, food to eat, and I get to go home for Christmas.

But, you may be asking yourself... What is the point?

The point is, that when you look at your world through His eyes, you hear His love in every breath you breathe and every step you take.

I was reading a book, about a man named Brother Yun, who is also known as "The Heavenly Man". He went through torture and prison and starvation and isolation and every other hardship imaginable... but he viewed it with eyes fixed on the cross, and only saw how each beating was a blessing, and each insult an opportunity to show love.

I know there are times that I can show love instead of indifference, and that I need His eyes to see those situations for what they are. Through His eyes, you see the same world as you see with your own eyes... but there is meaning in everything, and direction and purpose.

That is the beauty of life with Christ. It may look like just a different name for religiosity, but it is so much more.

Who's eyes do you see the world through?

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

I had a bad day today.

I was supposed to wake up for a christmas concert with a new favorite band of mine, but I didn't. Instead, I slept until a friend called me, at the church, looking for peeps. Then I did wash and cleaned up, but didn't even get that all the way done. I showed up later than I wanted to at the church, forgot to take my acoustic, and broke the string on my boss/friend's guitar during the communion song. I messed up on every song we did, felt way out of tune, had a sore throat...

Pretty much everything I said was stupid or useless. I just want to go home already, just for a few days. I miss home. I miss home a lot.

Do you ever have days like that?

It is funny, because it is at these moments that I realize that I am ridiculously blessed... that the only reason I feel lonely is because I know nothing but loving friends and family. The only reason I feel like i could have done better is because I am blessed with talent. There are people going through so much during the holidays, and my problems are not that big. I'll be alright. God is amazing for letting me be where I am.

But it was still a crappy day.


I have this friend, who I love to hang out with. Every moment with her is fun and interesting, so I try to make time to hang out with her. However, about 50% of the time she either cancels or doesn't show up. She has a busy life, so I can understand her not showing up all the time, but constantly being ditched starts to wear on you. I get to the point where I'm not sure I want to plan to hang out with her again, where I think she probably doesn't want to hang out with me. She tells me she wants to, but actions speak louder than words. She's not shown up three out of the last four times she said she would. It has me thinking... what's the point?

On my calendar, every weekday at 2:30PM, I have "God Time". Yet, Monday I was too busy making a loop for a video and song we are doing for Christmas. Tuesday I was on top of a mountain on a video shoot. Today, I show up at Starbucks (where I do my "God Time") at about 3:00PM. I've been getting a lot out of having a regular quiet time (which, if you know me, is incredibly difficult because I SUCK at schedules), but I still missed those two and showed up late for this one.

What if God was like me? The Bible illustrates a relationship between Him and us, His people, adopted into the family. What if that relationship is more than just a nice word? What if God has humbled Himself to the point where He can be just as hurt by me not showing up for our "hang outs" as I am when my friends ditch me?

This girl asked me what I wanted for my birthday. She wanted to buy something, but all I really want is her presence. I would buy her dinner, take her to the movies, go on a hike, watch Christmas lights... whatever it took, as long as I could hang out with her. The only thing I want is her time.

I have a feeling that, as I try to do this and that to please God, working hard to perfect a string section to a song or climbing a mountain to make a video celebrating His birthday, that my priorities are out of whack. I think what matters to God, more than anything, isn't a song or a video or something like that. I think He would be honored more if I kept my word, if I valued him more than a flashy video or lush loop to a song.

What if I was made in His image, and the reason her time is important to me...

is the same reason my time is important to Him?

God and I... we have a relationship. Right now, I am one crappy friend.

P.S. John Shaffer... your comment to my last post kicked me in the spiritual balls. Good job.

Take the Exit

Jon Foreman has a song called "Lord, Save Me From Myself". It's pretty much my prayer right now.

I let my insecurities and my desires team up to guide my actions in a certain area of my life. They tend to lead me in a direction I'd rather not go. Not a blatantly bad direction. Just a direction that is nowhere near as good as the direction I should be going.

If Heaven is north and Hell is south, I'm headed west in the right lane, and following wherever the highway curves.

There's an exit coming up soon, for a little two-lane back road that meanders north. I think I should take it.

Have you ever been at that exit? What happened when you took it? What happened when you passed it?

Relief vs. Healing

I've had a cold for the past few days. When I get a basic cold, I get dayquil for the daytime and nyquil for the night. The nyquil leaves me completely wasted, which is great when I am about to go to bed. I have no problems with nyquil.

My problem is with dayquil. It touts itself as a "non-drowsy" medication, but I have found that claim to be quite misleading. When I take dayquil, I may not necessarily be sleepy, but I'm still sluggish both mentally and physically. However, I do feel better, so I live with this haze. I know no better way to find relief, and as far as I know, the common cold is pretty much gonna run it's course no matter what I do. I just rest as much as possible and wait it out.

Now, I'd be pretty stupid if I took this approach with every sickness or injury I had. Everyone knows that two or three ibuprofens won't do much for kidney stones or appendicites. Everyone, with the exception of some athletic trainers, knows that ice alone won't heal broken bones or torn ligaments. There are certain steps needed for healing in each of these cases. Bones need to be set and immobilized for proper healing to begin. That appendix and those kidney stones need to be taken out. No questions asked.

Dayquil won't heal a broken leg.

Yet, I sometimes take the dayquil approach to my spiritual life. I know that my spirit is hurting, that I am broken, and that healing can only be found in who God is. But I am stubborn, and I try to find solace in the arms of a friend, or a "friend". I try to find relationship and purpose in things of this world, and because God has blessed me so much, I am usually fairly successful in finding temporary, 4 hour relief for my pain.

It isn't healing, though. It is temporary relief, and it leaves me in a haze, almost numb to life. It is a sad state, because God has blessed me with an amazing life that I should be enjoying "to the fullest" and "abundantly". When I am all here... when I am whole and I get to experience this life for all that it is... I am amazed. Amazed that God would bless me so much. Amazed that I could be so dumb.

I wrote a line in a song a couple of years back. It went:

imprisoned in my lust and anger
selfishness and greed.
I'm tired of these medicines;
it's freedom that I need.
Freedom... healing... I need it, constantly. We all do. We live in a broken world. We are constantly bombarded with a sick, contagious world, and we weren't created to live in our own little bubble. We weren't created for quarantine. We were created for complete, total, constant healing.

This is what's been going through my mind all week. Relief vs. Healing. And I've come to this conclusion:

Healing > Relief

Little Baby Jesus (Do You Hear What I Hear?)

I have noticed this crazy backlash in the church, from seeing Jesus as a meek and mild.

Now, I think He grew up into a strong man, and that He was assertive and even forceful when he needed to be. I think the Bible is clear on His authoritative nature. I think He may even be the "man's man" of chest-bumping college guy small groups everywhere, drinking and making fart jokes and having spitting contests with the disciples during the late nights camping on the coast of the Sea of Galilee.

However, the other morning I was reminded of the beauty of the "holy infant, so tender and mild" who was born over 2000 years ago in a Bethlehem stable. I was listening to a song we are doing for the upcoming 3F service, an updated version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" The line "a child, a child shivers in the cold" caught my attention and got caught in my throat as I sang along. It was cold that night, and for some reason I thought of our Savior, who was at the right hand of the Father, and by whom all things were created... shivering. He was a baby, in a manger, shivering.

Shivering is our body's way of trying to fight the cold. He humbled himself to the point of becoming a defenseless baby, shivering in the cold, relying on His mother to wrap him up and keep Him warm, and on his feeble young body to fight off hypothermia.

He's been weak and helpless before. He knows how to help us when we feel that way, because He humbled Himself. That is so beautiful, that He would love us enough to come in such a lowly estate. I teared up a bit.

Today's dose of AWESOME!

Jon Foreman of Switchfoot and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek are collaborating for a new project called Fiction Family. The first song is up on the website, along with a brief history of their collaboration. These are two of my favorite musicians of all time... which makes this qualify as today's dose of AWESOME!

(and more than makes up for the horrific sound my cord made last night at 3F)

Drunk on Freedom

I think this is what we are sometimes.

I am talking specifically about those of us who are Christian, although this could apply to anyone who has abused a newfound freedom, whether newly graduated, newly "legal" or newly single.

In the case of Christians, there comes a point in our Christian lives when we learn what it means to be saved by Grace, and not by what we do or what rules we follow. With this knowledge comes responsibility, since we are expected not to cause the "little ones" to stumble and not to boast in anything but Christ. We are expected to treat this freedom with humility and sensitivity to those around us, like a new driver is expected to drive safely or a drinker is expected to "enjoy _______ responsibly".

But too often we get drunk on our freedom, flying around the corners in our freedom vehicles, almost (or completely) oblivious to those crossing streets in front of us or in the car with us. We (by "we", I mean "I") deride others for daring to be on the street in front of us, or for being audacious enough to ask us to slow down just a bit. Eventually, so much evil happens because of our freedom, that people become convinced the whole deal is wrong. They become convinced that God couldn't mean what He said about freedom, because of all the horrible things that happen because of it. They want to take our keys, lock us up, ground us forever. And they aren't entirely wrong.

"Get wisdom, get understanding" -Proverbs 4:5

"The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and His tongue speaks what is just" -Psalm 37:30

Now, I'm not claiming to be righteous, but I have been blessed with many men (and women) in my life whom I would consider righteous, and have obtained at least a little wisdom from them. This is what they have told me.

Consider others better than yourself (Phil. 2:3). Don't ever put your freedom before the good of those around you. If there is something you do that may cause another to stumble, don't wave it in their faces. Don't speak about it proudly among your friends, because you aren't supposed to speak of ANYTHING pridefully.

Instead, use discretion. If you are around friends who are of the same mind, who are able to drink without getting drunk and without stumbling spiritually, or able to dance without becoming immoral, then have fun! Know that not everyone is where you are in that, and live accordingly. Love them more than you love your freedom. That's what Jesus did, taking on the prison of full humanity (which is what it was, compared to being our Limitless God) and ultimately death, in order to reconcile us to Him.

Don't be given to legalism, but be righteous and speak wisdom. In this way, you can recommend that one doesn't drink, and that another does so in moderation and enjoyment, to the glory and honor of Christ.

Don't fall in with those who have sacrificed their freedom for a black-and-white Christianity. Following Christ is a full-color, 1080p HD experience, my friends. Savor every moment, and fall completely in love with Christ, instead of begrudgingly accepting a new law (because becoming a slave to a law will ultimately taint your view of God). He wants us to be sons and daughters of God, and He wants us to grow up strong, and He wants to rejoice in giving us new, beautiful freedoms and strong, timely advice and commands. He wants a love relationship, in every way, with all of our hearts, as we mature and become complete, not lacking anything.

Live by the spirit, and by grace. Live in love and truth. Live in humility, with a heart in tune to those around you. Don't drink if it will hurt others. Don't dance where it will cause others to stumble. Make the way easy for the young ones. They will face tougher times and deeper lessons soon enough. When the time comes to partake in drink, or dance, enjoy every moment, knowing that you are doing so to the glory of God.

Also, to the younger believers who may read this... don't be too prideful to admit that you are among the younger. There is no shame in being young, only in failing consistently to grow up. Be content with whatever your current limitations are, whether you still struggle with alcoholism or lust or whatever. Seek wisdom with humility, and work to become the type of Christian/person you would admire.

Let Go

We have these small, short, fragile things. They are damaged so easily, destroyed in the blink of an eye. They are crying out to be given away, but we hold on to them with all that we are.

These small, short, fragile things... they are our lives. Some are already half-spent, and some are just starting, but most likely none of them will outlast the century. One wrong step and we are broken. One decision, made in haste and desperation, and we are no more. One faulty machine, one missed check of our blind spot... you get the point.

These lives are only worth protecting when they are all we have, and for our lives to be all we have is a tragedy in and of itself. People reach the pinnacle of what these small, short, fragile things have to offer, and find nothing worthy of their efforts. We've conquered our habitats, but we've been living in cages. Something inside of us knows there is more.

So we are invited out of our cages, and told of great things that we can and must do with these uncaged lives. Everything inside of us tells us this is right. All that we are asked is to leave our cages behind, and be free...

...but this new world is big, and we've only heard stories of those who have traveled far from their cages. No one can understand why we would give up the awesome cages we've made for ourselves, for something so unsure. Soon we begin to look back, and we miss our cages, and eventually we venture back (we exchange the truth of God for a lie). Surely our cages weren't that horrible, and they were quite comfortable. We slip back into our cage, lock the door, and live safe and sheltered lives. Every once in a while, we venture away from our cage, but we reject and scoff at the idea of leaving our cages for good. Those who are telling us to leave our cages... they are simply crazy.

Still... there is something inside us that knows and longs for the freedom outside of our (now self-imposed) prisons. We try to ignore the voice inside of us, that piece of us that isn't satisfied with having the nicest cage, or a cage just like our friends' cages. We hold on so tightly to the bars of our prisons, fighting freedom tooth and nail...

We hold on so tightly, to so little. We celebrate the freedom we were offered, and reflect on our trips outside of our cages, and something inside of us won't keep quiet.

What is out there, beyond what we've always known…out there, where the only one we can trust is the one who offered us our freedom in the first place.

What is “Out There” is what we were made for.

"Out There" isn't a destination. It isn't a place we can go, or an hour we can "give", or anything else tangible and immediately achievable. “Out There” is a life given completely to Christ, guided completely by the Holy Spirit to heights and eternal significance that only the Blessed Creator could dream up. Jesus Christ is the one offering us freedom and purpose. Our souls cry out for the freedom of His salvation, and our spirits for His purpose and direction for our lives. We can try to ignore these cries, to stifle them with earthly success and a life of plenty, but those things are nothing more than temporary solutions to a permanent problem, band-aids on a bullet wound.

Normally, this sort of post ends in a question, to make you think. However, since this post is just as much to me as it is to you, I will disregard conventional wisdom and simply say this…

Give up this silly little life. Accept freedom. Accept purpose. Let God take your life and make it something amazing, something beautiful and new. It doesn’t matter how much of your life is already wasted (I say that because, no matter what you’ve done in your life, God could have done so much more), because God will take even those past mistakes and make them part of a new masterpiece. There is no point to staying in your cage if you have been given freedom. There is no point in rejecting freedom when it is offered.

Let go.

Choosing the Right Wine (John 2:10)

Jesus turned water into wine, and I think we've missed the point.

I've heard these verses used incessantly to prove that "drinking alcohol isn't sinful in moderation." I agree with that point, but I think worrying about what we are going to drink has blinded us to some important symbolism in Jesus' home brewery.

The key is in what the master of the feast told the bridegroom in verse 10.
"Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now."
In the allegory of the church as the "bride" of Christ, the bridegroom would in fact be Christ (who was established in chapter 1 as God in flesh). Jesus called the wine at the last supper "the new covenant in my blood" that would be "poured out for many" in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22. This is contrasting with the "old covenant" of Exodus 24, which was confirmed with the blood of young bulls sacrificed on an altar of 12 stone pillars representing the 12 tribes of Israel.

So following this line of thinking, this miracle is a symbolic precursor to the better wine of the new covenant, the blood of Christ.

I think, more importantly, that the miracle could represent the contrast between our lives before and after Christ. Before Christ, this world's pleasures are all we know, and what we drink freely of... not knowing that something so much better is awaiting us when we accept Christ, and join into the new covenant. There are so many stories of regret, from people who sought what this world offered, got near the top, and realized that their journey was in vain and the worldly success would never satisfy them. True satisfaction is only found in Christ.

Christ was communicating this to us as well... that His wine is so much better than what this world has to offer. We spend our time drinking 6 dollar bottles of this world's finest, from plastic bottles with twist-off caps. Christ is offering us something infinitely better than whatever may lay in the world's finest wine cellar, but we are content drinking grape juice gone bad.

So in the end, it's all about choosing the right wine... the Wine of the New Covenant, the redemption available to us through the blood of Jesus Christ. Enjoy your alcohol in moderation, but don't miss the point.

Love More Deeply

I spent the weekend in Mexico on a "Family Mission Trip", as pretty much the only single guy in the group of 200. We built houses for families in the town of Puerto Penasco, or "Rocky Point", off the coast of the Gulf of California.

My group built a house for a family of six, the Valenzuela family. The father, Jesus, was so grateful, and helped willingly in every aspect of the building. He didn't sleep much while we were there, since he worked nights and helped us during the day, but there was always a smile on his face. There were tears in his eyes when he thanked us for his house, a house that people in America would pass by without a second thought... 22x22, 4 rooms, unfinished on the inside (they have to pay taxes on finished houses), with walls made of tar paper, 2 coats of stucco, and chicken wire.

There were tears in our eyes, too... we had brought the family along with us, and they had eaten lunch and dinner with us the last two full days. We took them out to eat, then let them experience a night in our camp the next night. They were grateful and graceful in every situation, and their love for us and for each other was evident in every movement.

Serving others allows us to love more deeply, and I love that family from the bottom of my heart. I think their love ran so deeply because they didn't have an over-abundance of "stuff" to choke it out or stunt it's growth. I had a sense that their love ran more deeply than we could imagine.

I want to love more deeply. Maybe I need less stuff.

Blogging on Purpose

I've never been one to "blog on purpose". I never really tried to get lots of readers, although I did try to make friends and in the process got readers. I have two main blogs now, on xanga and blogspot. I also do the Myspace blog every once in a while, and the facebook note, and I have another blogspot where I rant on occasion, and I suppose this underscores my dilemma...

I don't know how to blog and advertise my blog and try to get readers to it. I just... I've never really been about that. My boss, however, has a blog that he is constantly referring to and trying to get people to. He is a young teaching pastor, so he has a reasoning behind it, a desire to connect with a younger and more connected generation. He can do more, the more readers he has, so he tries to get more readers. He is also an introvert, so he communicates through blog and email, even when only five feet and a door seperate us. Go figure.

I guess I am debating with this right now... whether or not to make this one of those "on purpose" blogs. I do enjoy the blogging platform, because it lets me communicate in a much more thoughtful manner than my usual rapid-fire banter. I know, in the past, that my posts have been helpful on my older xanga site to others.

That's where I'm at right now. What do you think? Blog on purpose?

Which part of socialism would you prefer? (a rant)

1. The part in which we use our military to place an ever-tightening grip on our country while our economy and standard of living plummet and the world turns against us.


2. The part in which the government attempts to help out a struggling working class and the working poor, at the expense of big business and the wealthy (who are only in trouble if they have plunged into huge debt that necessitates ridiculous income in order to make payments tomorrow for yesterday's and today's decadence).

Today I got a text, telling me to "help stop the spread of socialism by voting for McCain!" I thought this was rather retarded.

Quite frankly, both of this year's candidates had a bit of socialism in them... and for now I'd prefer the liberal open hand to the conservative iron fist.

As for abortion and gay marriage... abortions actually went down under Clinton and up under Bush, because poor males felt more inclined to stick around with their unplanned families when they could count on the government's help, which caused women to keep their children. Banning abortions wouldn't stop them, it would simply create a cruel and unregulated black market which would put the women in more danger... if you are endeavoring to stop abortions, treat the cause, not the symptom.

And for gay marriages... I think most of us aren't worried about whether they get insurance benefits and get to visit each other in hospitals. I think it is about our children, and not wanting to have schools teach them that having "two mommies" is normal. So why don't we reach a compromise, instead of being inhuman to homosexuals. We show a wrathful and vengeful face to the world when we create an "us against them" mentality and rhetoric. (To those of you who would answer "God hates homosexuals... it's in Romans", I would urge you to read the context of the verse, find your own sin in that list, and realize that the point of the book is God's grace through Christ and His love and redemption available for all people.)

To me, this compromise would give them rights and allow them to have civil unions, but not teach about those issues until the seventh grade or some other arbitrary time, so that parents could have time to broach the issue on their own terms rather than have an authority drop the two mommy bomb on a five year old. Gay people are going to be together, so we might as well allow them to be healthy and well fed so that we have more time to reach them with the Gospel!

But hey, I didn't vote, so don't act like anything I say matters. I was registered... but it was 15 hours away. Let the judging commence.

I actually had two or three people tell me they were disappointed in me for not voting... I almost felt like saying "Oh, I'm just kidding! I actually went around the polling station slapping babies, but I voted!"

Just some thoughts as I "Remember, remember, the fifth of November."

The funny thing is, I could argue against almost every single thing I typed here. We act like we are right all the time, but we're just trying our best just like everyone else.

Congratulations, Overzealous Campaigners

You've taken all of the joy out of voting.

I mean, seriously... it isn't even about "facts" anymore (of which I've heard so many contradictory facts that I am beginning to wonder what the word "fact" really means)... although both Obama and McCain backers will point fingers and say it is the other camp that is doing all of the fabrications, claiming to be morally impeccable and bastions of truth. That alone makes me want to punch someone in the nose, but it isn't what I am the most steamed about.

It is the success of both parties in trashing my perception of their opponents. I mean, no matter how much I am convinced academically that Obama may actually have enough experience and knowledge to be a successful president, the old idiotic comments about him wanting to hand us straight to Muslim extremists and constant mispronouciations of his last name (Osama) and emphasis on his middle name (Hussein) make me inherently averse to voting for him. I hate myself for it, but the power of suggestion worked on me, and now I can't escape those perceptions. Plus you have the McCain Zealots, trying to make sure you like McCain with Christian voting, and questioning your relationship with Christ if you don't agree with them 100%.

And then there is the Obama trump card, constantly reinforcing the link between McCain and Bush ("a vote for John McCain is a vote for George W. Bush"), has left me unsure of McCain, mainly because Obama's ridiculous funding has let his message infiltrate virtually every home in America. That, coupled with the sheer old-ness McCain exhibits in any live speaking situation, has killed what would have been my somewhat sure choice. Then there are the Obama Zealots, constantly yapping their heads off about social programs that America "needs" and the promise of "change" that an Obama presidency apparently would sprinkle like fairy dust over the entirety of Washington D.C.

All of this has gotten old for me. So, although I am a registered voter, I have made a decision. Since there is no space on the ballot that simply states "Sarah Palin is a hottie" (check!)...

I will not be voting this November.

Also, I am withdrawing for every bit of debate about these candidates. I will walk away or ignore any conversation about the candidates, and if pressed, I will state my decisions and reasoning, followed by a rousing chorus of "SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! STOP TALKING PLEASE! SHUT UP!!!"

I would appreciate your support in this endeavor, and if I get anything else, I will promptly ignore it and/or make fun of you. Thank you :).


P.S. I am not apathetic, nor uninformed. I graduated with a History major and a Poli Sci minor this summer, I have heard about and researched and thought about this election for the past year. There is no choice, in my mind, that strikes me as more desirable than the choice to intentionally, purposely withdraw from this vote, although it may only matter to/affect me.

Blue Like Jazz... THE MOVIE!!!

Why am I barely hearing about this?

I loved this book, and Don Miller's other books as well! I am looking forward to this movie a lot :).

I like the way they are going about this.

Jesus On A Crowded Street (Luke 2)

Luke tells us (or Theophilus, at least) that Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem for the census, and that there was no room at the inn for them, so they had Jesus in a manger.

No room at the inn. That means lots of people were there. Mangers weren't only out in quiet countrysides... Bethlehem may have been a small town, but from what Luke says, it was also an old town that was used by the government for gathering people who descended from there. The manger was probably near the inn, near the city and the torches and the noise and the bustling.

Amidst all of that hustle, the Son of God was born in a humble manger... like the babies born on subways or taxis or city buses or streets everywhere, children this world has forgotten.

Jesus never forgot those children because He was one of them. His lung's first cries for air were probably heard by passers-by, dismissed as the birth of another lower-class citizen. His first rest was the best rest the humble couple could offer him, and it was perfect in His plan.

There are places we wouldn't go, places we feel we are above, where He can be found alive and actively working. He hasn't forgotten the people there, His children... even if we have.

Jesus and the Naked Woman (John 8:1-11)

In Ironman, the bible study I attend on Thursday mornings, the speaker talked about being an example to your kids, or to other guys, in keeping yourself from lusting. He used John 8:1-11 as an example of Jesus showing those around Him what to do:

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."

I had heard this story so many times, either as an example of Jesus' forgiveness and the woman's repentance, or the inequality of treatment between the man and the woman (where was the man?), or a diatribe against our judgement. I'd also heard speculation on what Jesus was writing in the ground, everything from profound teachings to squiggly lines and doodles.

However, I'd never considered the significance of the mere act of looking down and writing on the ground. Jesus was presented with a woman caught in the act of adultery. You don't do the act of adultery with clothes on. This woman was most likely naked. The Pharisees and teachers of the law had brought a naked woman in the midst of all the people. Men, women, children... all. They, of course, probably went to the middle of the group in order to gain access to Jesus and keep their view of this naked woman.

Jesus, confronted with a naked woman, sets the example by bouncing His eyes away from her, and occupying Himself with writing on the ground. It obviously affected His disciples, since John remembered exactly what He was doing 40 or 50 years later (John was the last gospel to be written and/or compiled). He was setting an example that probably convicted those around Him, so that they knew exactly what sin He was talking about when He told them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." The old men, whose eyes had probably been fixed on the naked woman in front of them, knew immediately that they had been figured out. The young ones took a little longer to get it, or perhaps took their cue from the elders to leave the situation.

Was Jesus lusting? Well, no, because He was able to speak to the woman after her condemners had left. It wasn't for His benefit that He was bouncing his eyes from her... it was for the benefit of His imperfect disciples, those twelve young men who were learning to walk in His footsteps.

I think we can take two lessons from this aspect of the story. The first, of course, is to keep your eyes off of naked women. The second lesson is that we need to be setting an example for those following us (children, younger men). This second lesson is important, because as Jesus showed, it's not just about what we can handle or not feel convicted about. We should do whatever we can to show righteousness, striving so that those around us will be challenged.

Rich Mullins

"Jesus said whatever you do to the least of these my brothers you’ve done it to me. And this is what I’ve come to think. That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken." -Rich Mullins

"Jesus seemed to have a particular place in His heart for the oppressed. I think maybe because He was Jewish." -Rich Mullins

"I will be my brother's keeper, not the one who judges them. I won't despise him for his weakness, just regard him for his strength. I won't take away his freedom, I will have him learn to stand. And I will (I will) be my brother's keeper." -Rich Mullins

I think most worship leaders look up to Rich Mullins, but I wonder how long he would have lasted on the average church staff? I mean, even being a very humble and honest man, his ideas would not be acceptable content on a Sunday morning in most American churches. I could imagine lead pastors and elders and deacons cringing as this incredibly talented man stopped singing and began to speak.

Still, I admire him. I want to be a man strong enough to speak when words are needed and act when words are no longer enough. I want to be a man humble enough not to speak when it is only my own feelings that are hurt, and to serve those who would never think to serve me. I want to be a man with the wisdom to know the difference between the time for words and action and the time for silence and service. I am not entirely sure he found that balance... he died as a young man, he may have had growing and learning yet to do.

His words, though... his honesty is beautiful. I heard that he was considering joining the Roman Catholic church, but didn't in order to be truly ecumenical. I find that awesome. I am also quite impressed by his apparel... most worship leaders I know (including myself) at least somewhat value appearance and presentation, and dress accordingly. I don't see that as a bad thing, but I love Rich's utter lack of concern for his own appearance, and the contrasting care put into his music (meticulously having all of these instruments to add their parts to the beauty of the music). It exudes humility.


I am still not completely unpacked from my move to Arizona. I only had a car full to begin with.

It's not all about the stuff, though. It's more about my mindset, and the things I've felt being here in this new place.

After six years of progressively moving into leadership roles and making many amazing friends in Kingsville, Texas and elsewhere in that wonderful state, I saw myself as a man ready to take on the world. I figured it wouldn't be hard to just go wherever the Spirit led me, because of a couple of summers I had spent away from home.

My first move, to Dallas, showed me that I could still be insecure, and still feel out of place and alone. It was like God's warning shot. But there, I had a best friend and a group of guys to hang out with, although my "social circle" shrunk down to a more reasonable size.

This second move, though, has been something I didn't expect. I didn't know I could feel as alone as I felt those first couple of days here, or as insecure as I have been these past two weeks. It's nothing to realistically be surprised about... I, however, apparently was not in touch with reality. I could almost feel everyone sizing me up, and feel myself being driven by this desire to make everyone like me. I wondered if I had said too much, or not enough, or if I had made sense... just so many questions in my head. Did I even belong here? Had I made the wrong move?

So this is what it's like to be the new person, in a strange place. I think we all need to be reminded of how this feels from time to time. We get so comfortable that we can't empathize with those around us. I have a new understanding for those who are new to the fellowship at Third Format, or whatever group I'm a part of. Every struggle has a purpose.

So I'm here, finally realizing that I'm here for a reason, and finally getting past those initial insecurities. I realize that I am human, and that I am not invincible. I've been tempted to live with my life still packed away, subconsciously preparing my escape if things get too hairy and keeping myself linked to where I once was.

I realize, now, that it is time to unpack. I could sure use the trunk space.

A simple fact to start us off

Texas is cooler than Arizona.