I work in a pretty big office, and I've got a couple of really good work friends. They all know I am getting married, and they've been joking and commenting about it for a while now. One of them told me there would be times, at stoplights, when I'd seriously contemplate jumping out of the car and running away. A few others enjoy calling my fiancee "my first wife" or "future ex-wife".

I have other friends as well, friends I've met throughout my time here in AZ. They are different than the friends I made in Texas, and different from your typical church friends. They wish me luck and try to offer advice, but when I talk about wanting to do it right, they never can quite offer their complete confidence... because of where they've been before.

It is pretty discouraging, getting so much negativity at work. Still, the friends outside of work are the ones who show me what is ultimately going on. They believe just like I do, and want what is best for me, but they know what could be lurking on the other side. They are scarred from their own experiences with marriage, and it has made believing in the institution that much more difficult. Many of my friends at work have not had Christ's healing in their lives, and so the wounds are still fresh. Every time I'm talking optimistically about marriage, those fresh wounds throb and they can't help but sneer. How could I know what lies ahead?

These wounds and scars... they run deep in our society now. In the church and outside of the church, people have been hurt and burned by those they were supposed to be with forever. When you step out into marriage, it's almost like "I've seen the one's who fell before me, and they were stronger than me." I wonder, sometimes, why I still have this confidence, or how I will ever get past my own scars, being the product of a fatherless home.

This is a time when all of those songs and stories finally make sense. There is a powerful confidence, a peace and strength, that come from knowing the Savior, and I will count on this strength and grace as I enter marriage, knowing He is watching over me even as the wounded stagger around me. I know this is bringing glory to Him, because in a way, I was wounded too. I've seen firsthand the devastation caused by a marriage falling apart... three times. My first waking memory is of my father telling me I couldn't see him anymore.

I wonder if, as me and my new wife go boldly forward, those around us will see my scars and find hope?

There is a difference, though, between wounds and scars. There is hope in scars, hope that lies in the healing that has taken place. In a wound, there is only pain. I thank God for turning my wounds into scars, for turning my pain into simple reminders of where I've been. It gives me hope for where we're going.

The Inevitable Connection Between Lost and The Church

You knew someone was going to do it. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm not the first. However, I am not going to tell you that there are spiritual themes from Lost that can be extracted, distilled, and poured out into our lives (although some may make that claim, and they may be right). I am not going to tell you that good and evil on this earth are almost always as unclear as the plot of Lost seemed to be, because I wouldn't know.

In fact, let me start out by saying that I am no expert on Lost. In fact, the only reason this post exists is because I only watched two episodes before the finale, and then caught up with the recap before the finale. I then watched the finale, with a surface level knowledge of the plotlines and characters, and felt like I understood what was going on. In fact, when the finale ended without the powerful conclusion I expected from such a beloved show, I was okay with it, because I had been entertained for two hours.

My fiancee, on the other hand, was pretty upset about the ending. Her and her sister talked about this character and that character, and what had happened seasons ago, as if they were talking about old friends. They had been personally invested in the show, having watched the show for six seasons, and when the ending fell short of their expectations, it affected them. It meant a lot more to them than it did to me, because I was simply an outsider who had come in to be entertained.

A great show creates a fan base of insiders, who connect with the characters and the storylines. These insiders know the lingo, and know the meaning behind a certain move or action within the show. They are personally invested in the show, and when the show fails in some way, they are affected.

An outsider, on the other hand, is simply tuning in for some light entertainment. In fact, an outsider may be intimidated by the depth of the show he has found himself in. When the entertainment is done, the outsider leaves, and most likely isn't affected by whatever it was he just watched (he may have even been switching between the show and ESPN).

Here, I believe, is the correlation between Lost and The Church. Built within the structure of the church is a natural Insider/Outsider dynamic. A successful church builds a group of Insiders, whose goal then (hopefully) becomes bringing more people into the group. It is a self-replicating structure when it works, and often it works quite well.

However, there always comes a point where the Insiders become too immersed in their lingo and storylines and characters, making it hard for Outsiders to join. We hand them the Bible like a box set of DVD's, and tell them to study up. Or maybe we simply talk about those storylines and characters within our church, and when an Outsider asks a question about what we are talking about, we simply brush them off, sure they would never understand.

To see a TV show create a devoted following, personally invested in its plotline and characters, is amazing. To see a Church do so is beautiful and encouraging. However, how do we reach both the Insider and the Outsider? If you make things too simple, some of your Insiders will leave. If you make them too complex, the Outsiders will be intimidated and unwelcome. It is important, and exceedingly difficult, to find the answer, as a Church, that fits your community and allows you to grow.

The only way to make this easier, then, is to make it the mission of the Insiders to bring in those Outsiders, but this doesn't come naturally. We all love to be the keeper and giver of a secret. We all strive to be Insiders, often times at the expense of others. It seems that we are almost afraid; afraid that if we let too many Outsiders in, there may not be room for us.

Regarding the finale... I feel like the ending to Lost may have erred on the side of accessibility. It was the finale of an intricate story, woven from so many smaller stories. I should not have been able to come in and understand what was going on because of a crash course an hour before. The fact that I could, and that the ending was too easy and cliche ("it was all a dream/test/purgatory you had to go through before getting to heaven/afterlife/reincarnation"), was a disservice to those who had spent years trying to piece everything together. Thoughts?

My First Mac

I've been working with Macs since I was in grade school. I remember playing Oregon Trail and Sim City on PowerPC's, learning to type on the original monochrome Mac, and later on creating movies using animation programs and playing Starcraft and Unreal Tournament on the colored iMacs and G3 towers. Recently I've created digital music, used presentation software, and edited video using MacBook, MacBook Pro, and the new desktop Macs with the huge screens. To me, using a Mac is as normal as breathing.

That being said, I have a confession to make... I've never owned anything Mac. Ever. No iPods, no iPhones, no MacMini... nothing. I have always felt like quite the imposter, raving about how much better Macs are, while never being part of the club.

That has now changed, thanks to my soon-to-be father-in-law. He is pretty much a technical genius, and he scours Craigslist looking to pick off the weaker Mac owners like a sea bird on a baby turtle. He gets the coolest old Macs, and now he's bestowed one of those upon his daughter and I.

It's a G4, which is an older model, about two generations before the macbooks and such. That being said, this is one of the best G4's out there, although it's known for being loud (called "Windtunnel G4"). This computer is actually older than my PC, but it just looks so much cooler. I don't know how Mac has done that, constantly being cooler than everyone and everything else. It's crazy. I am pretty jazzed about joining the Mac world, even if it is with an older machine. Here's to no longer being a poser!

I was actually going to go into the whole "one man's trash..." bit and tie it to the way God can use us and love us even when we feel like we're too used and too useless, but I'm too sleepy, and I told myself I'd go to sleep after I set this computer up (we have it where the PC used to be... the PC is in front being used to watch Hulu on the living room TV), so good night!


Where I'm from, there were stray dogs everywhere. If you saw one that was particularly cute, or if you just wanted to have a pet, they would simply start coming as you left food for them. They were grateful and loving, but they each had their own issues. Each of them had been through pain, through abandonment or abuse. They would shrink back from, or bark angrily at, a certain type of person. They always seemed to carry that bit of suspicion with them, like a wound that would never quite heal.

To love a stray was to love an imperfect creature, a creature who may one day make a mess somewhere you didn't expect, who may carry the fear or anger of a past attack or abandonment for years. My grandmother wasn't very good at this. Dogs would suddenly be gone from our house, simply because they had ripped up a plant or barked at a cousin. Grandmother would allow these dogs to live within her gates because they were free, and because the pleasure she got out of them was worth the scraps of food she gave them.

God, thankfully, is not like my grandmother. The Bible shows us a God who prepares a feast for us, even when we don't even deserve His scraps. The Word reveals a Savior who will never turn his back on us or give up on us. We are shown a God who loves us despite the messes we make and the anger and fear that shapes our actions, indeed a God whose very love is the antidote for whatever aims to harm us.

This is the most beautiful news that a world full of Strays could hear. There is a God who will love us unconditionally, who prepares for us a feast and a new, beautiful life. All of the fear inside of us, from the pain and crushing heartbreak we've been through, is healed by Perfect Love. All of the anger that makes us lash out... this is the most beautiful part, because we have a God who holds us through our darkest night, with our teeth biting at air and biting at Him, our paws straining to escape what will surely be more pain...

I know this because I'm a stray. I still need a God who will hold me through my dark night, who will love me even though I just barked at his kid and pooped in his grass.

This one is for the strays.

Magic 8-Ball God

I've noticed many of my prayers start out as "yes" or "no" questions. If I am only praying for a little while, I'll pray really hard for a yes or no, then I'll go on about my day assuming whatever answer makes more sense to me. I may also consider a song on the radio, or a random conversation, to be the very voice of God.

Yet, when I really let myself speak to God, and when I lay my heart and soul to bear, I realize that there is something much more to my prayers than a "yes" or "no". I realize that there is a relationship I've been missing out on, one where I can laugh and cry with the Creator, and realize that He is listening. Answers to prayers come in their own time, but the answers are rarely the point.

It is during these times that I realize just how much we treat God like those "Magic 8-Ball" toys. We ask him a question, and do whatever it is we think is necessary for him to answer. Then, the first thing we see or hear must be the answer to our question.

We're adults. We realize that we can't base our lives on a children's toy. Aren't we setting ourselves up for failure and pain when we treat God like this?

I long for Your presence
both fearful and lovely
Brighter than the dawn
louder than the oceans
Your voice is sweet music,
a song I have missed
and Your words are
the cure for my pain
the answers to my questions
the comfort in the chaos...

I ache for Your song
to be heard on my lips
I yearn for Your will
to be done through my hands

I cry out for help
and I pray that You hear me.
I can't do this on my own.

Magic Vs. Mundane (a best-of-7 series)

We are kept alive by the pursuit of adventure.

I struggle with the balance between adventure and responsibility. I worry constantly, that I am either being too responsible and not taking the risks I should, or that I am being too adventurous and putting myself in unnecessary situations. I remember moving out here to Arizona, I had a constant conflict for the first few months, about whether I was being responsible coming all the way out here for only an internship. I remember feeling so alone those first few weeks, and wishing I'd stayed in Dallas with an apartment full of friends. Yet, when I was in Texas, I longed for the day when I'd be doing something great in some strange place.

Now I am on a bigger adventure, about to start my life with the woman I was made for. I wonder how we will find the balance between the magic and mundane. I wonder how I will fare as a leader, being so prone to moving and leaving, so used to a life in flux. I wonder how I will provide stability for my family, when all I've known is seismic shifts and periodic eruptions. The desire of my heart is to be a responsible, dependable husband and father, but I worry that I will forget what adventure means, and what a daring life feels like.

There is worry in adventure, and that leads me to believe that perhaps this will be the biggest adventure of all.

23 days.