Author Archives: lukemanalive

Church Community

Community. It is a nice little tag word that Christians like to use at church. “Be part of community” “Join a community group” “What I am really looking for is a community”

It is supposed to communicate a close group of people that can really share life together. Unfortunately, to commonly our communities look more like a shared social media page than an actual community.

This past Sunday while I was at church we were asked both before and after a short video to answer a prompt, “What causes you to feel / press closer to Jesus?”

“Being in nature really helps me appreciate who he is… When you almost die from….” During the conversation it appeared as though everyone discovered their hands for the first time. One person was picking at their hand. Another yawned, examining their fingers. Everyone paid just enough attention to be able to respond.

After the video the same level of involvement continued. When I pressed one couple as to what they were going to change to make Christ a priority, they listed off reasons as to why it is hard. No commitments. No confessions. No one was sharing a part of their lives with any intent to keep up with the other people, to be held accountable, or to be actually known. They were answer prompts the same way people answer Facebook’s status question, “What is on your mind?” Thrown out to an audience that won’t walk with them.

If we really want community we need to put away the status update conversations, and the when in church relationships. Status update conversations are those that you have because, ‘it is the thing to do’ like standing up or sitting down when everyone else does. ‘In church’ relationships are those you have only at church. Not the weekend. Not in evenings, and certainly not when you need support, to be held accountable, or pressed on towards Christ.

You will really know if you are actually sharing life if you go to your group of people when tragedy strikes, or when you need accountable help. If someone suddenly dies in your family, would you show up to church? I have been a part of several groups I would have. In fact, while I was part of one bible study a very emotionally traumatizing event happened. I went to community group, and slept in the corner. I was able to be un hidden processing what had happened.

Strikingly there was a moment that could have shown the church as a community. A not very old individual had died unexpectedly just a few days prior. I don’t know if the family showed up to church. I don’t know if people cried in the previous service. But I began to really wonder, would most of the families show up to share their pain, or their joys, with the church family when it happens?


Winning and Losing at Grocery Stores

 

I have reached a new level of adulthood. For the first time in the last year that I have been doing all my own grocery shopping, I checked to make sure that the eggs were not broken. I also, as a general practice, get lost at least two or three times every time I go to a grocery store. I found everything with one trip through. Win!

The obvious couple in front of me was checking out separately. As soon as I unloaded my groceries it was apparent I was going to be there for a while. She had a WIC check that was giving the clerk trouble. A call back for a question, an attempted processing, re calling, four-five attempts to send it through the machine to read it, finally an attempt to manually enter it which caused the system to crash.

I smiled at the couple behind me, as they appeared to be on the edge of being irritable. The poor girl checking out was horribly embarrassed. They were buying almost nothing but baby food.

‘Pay for their food and tell them that Jesus is looking out for them’

He wore Nike shoes, a nice Casio watch with what looked like a thousand functions, and her makeup was done very well.

‘Buy their food’

They probably did not need the WIC check. Annual income limit for one is 21k, for two is 30k. As we all moved to another register after this one froze I quietly asked the clerk, “How much was their total?” “25 dollars”

‘Pay for their food. For once, you have cash in your wallet.”

I had no doubt that they would get the WIC check working. The store wasn’t going to refuse their food simply due to issues with a machine. I let another couple that had come in behind me go first at the next register since it took me time to move all the groceries back to my cart.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course, I am sure.” I like spreading calm happiness. I let another couple with five items go in front of myself as well.

‘Pay for their food’

I am very willing to help people in need. But, I don’t consider people with smart phones, Netflix accounts, high speed internet, new TV’s and new car payments to be in need. Most people I meet who get assistance from family or some government program could happily make it on their own if they chose to spend their money on something other than entertainment and luxuries.

I loaded my groceries into my cart and then into my car. I took my cart all the back to the store front to see if they had made it through. They had, and looking at me the man said, “Thank you man,” “no problem” I responded. Inside, I said I was sorry.

I have spent more than twenty-five dollars on: food that has gone to waste, video games, late fees, dating websites, alcohol, cover charges, chocolate, massages, gym memberships, two subscriptions I don’t even use and countless other items.

I won at being an American adult that plans and checks their eggs. I lost at being a compassionate follower of Christ who puts eternity ahead of the present. I didn’t get lost in the grocery store, but I lost in modern ideals of optimization, need, self-reliance and so may good American qualities that get in the way of living for eternity.


How to Fight Brokenness, Do Good

The world hurts. All around I see things that are broken, divorces, yelling matches, ongoing jaded arguments, affairs, violence, controlling behavior, bigotry etc. I see things that are not necessarily broken but just ugly, a mean word, negative assumptions, miscommunication, obsession, unhealthy habits, pushing work on to others and more. It all comes down to relationships. Broken and ugly relationships between family members, among friends, students and teachers, politicians and their constituents.

I know friends struggling with a divorce, another an eating disorder, another that feels lonely and neglected, another wasting their life on a career they don’t love. People matter a great deal to me and all of these hurts and pain can be overwhelming. I immaturely can default to just keeping busy in my own world to distract from everything I see. Not only those people I know personally but the eyes and weary faces of those at the grocery store can weigh on my heart.

Even more so I am burdened when it is through my hand that the ugliness comes. From obvious things like saying unkind things to those that are close, being mean to my mother, failing to respect boundaries, or most recently the subtlety of planning to be able to deal with a bad marriage rather than working towards being ready for a great one.

That last one, that subtle move from focusing on negative to positive is very helpful. In a world with the media spewing all of the things gone wrong with the world from violence, to political systems, to laws, child kidnappings, sex trade, etc. Where can we even begin? What really helps? There are those that have a voice and an audience with several million views. Me? I had seven views of my blog yesterday. Mostly from Canada. Where I am pretty sure even thieves say they are sorry.

Do good. Do right. Have compassion. When someone is posting inflammatory language on Facebook, siding with one person or another, listen to their heart. They are probably hurting. Coming back with the other extreme probably won’t help. Even if kind words won’t change their view, they will contribute to beauty in the world and not an ugly argument.

Do good for the world in front of you. You may be able to go out and serve at a homeless shelter or spend hours a week mentoring children at risk. But if you don’t, then simply do good to all of those around you and what touches your heart. Do at risk youth touch your heart? Then play with kids you know. Share words of advice. Encourage them and tell them nice things. Share stories of your life that teach a lesson.

Do divorces pain your heart? Then listen to those struggling in their marriage. Have compassion on the divorced, and do good in your own relationships. Listen, understand, communicate, encourage, write letters, leave notes for others, especially a significant other. Kindly speak up when you see ugly behavior in others that are single or taken.

For me, most of all, I just feel for those that are sad, stressed, burdened or confused. So, I smile. I smile in public, I smile at the gym. I may not change their life, but for a moment I share something meaningful. I am trying to add being as encouraging and uplifting as possible. I believe in the potential of all my friends whether they see it or not. I want to remind them of who they are, because we all forget who we are at times.

The best way to combat wrong is to do right. Actively. That may be actively targeting a specific wrong, or it may just be doing the right thing in your own life. Spread beauty.


Muslims, Fear, and the Church

My passion is helping to connect the church to the world. Unfortunately the church has stood with many parts of culture that are fundamentally against Christ. These are often subtle and we miss them. I am thankful for several of my good friends outside of the Church to remind me of how we are, or are not, portraying Christ.

The gospel and Christ’ calling is more about what we are supposed to ‘do’ than it is about what we are ‘not to do’. My next several postings will be on the church as they can more effectively live out the gospel as a positive endeavor, rather than a negative calling out against something.

I was outside of a church recently when I was approached by a young-ish man. He loudly pronounced that he was not a threat and he dramatically emptied his pockets of his cell phone, wallet, and keys. Threw off what could be called a jacket and tossed down his hat and proclaimed that he was harmless to everyone minus an upside down cross tattooed on his neck. I ignored the gesture, ended my phone call and introduced myself. His name is Jason. He was drunk and coming off of a meth high.

He felt the need to proclaim that he was not a threat because he had been called an ‘Arab’ ‘terrorist’ or ‘Muslim’ before. Normally I would have glossed over this. But recently I read an article by Aziz Ansari giving a brief overview of his experience with racial and religious tensions. Although he himself is often greeted in the street by individuals wanting an autograph (he plays tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation). His immediate family on the other hand has experienced a much different response. They are often called terrorists, immigrants, told to go ‘home’ and other rude or fear inducing public remarks. Specifically he details the fear he had for his mother’s safety just after the attacks in Miami.

He specifically details in his article that Donald Trump’s campaign has increased the fear and tensions he has perceived. Whether it has increased or just brought to the surface what is already there is irrelevant. There is a systemic problem as it relates to the church. This hyped up fear of terrorism and Muslim extremists is pushed mostly by right wing conservatives. A vast majority of whom are Christians. What I want to focus on, and I pray that my reader can readily listen, is the Churches response to Muslims and Arabs in our country.

Here is my central point: Christians should never in any form be a part of spreading fear. There is no Scriptural basis for fear within ourselves or spreading fear to others. Specifically, we are called to only fear God, and to be a neighbor to all we come across.

Muslims should never reasonably fear for their safety from Christians. Even if a terrorist is a terrorist that claims to be a Muslim, what have we to fear? We have Christ who conquered death. Should we spread the fear of God? No. We preach Christ, him crucified and risen again. Fear is not of faith. Christians live by faith. If we perish in the process of spreading Christ’ love, then so be it.

The same is true of homosexuals, transgendered, hippies, pot heads, metal heads, nymphomaniacs, strippers, gang members, prostitutes, pimps, etc.

The Church as God’s voice to the world needs to be a place of safety for all others, with self-sacrificing reasonable caution. Should a twelve year old girl have spoken with Jason? Of course not. But any other college or high school male could have. If I become a victim of a very small pool of people intending violence at a church, then so be it. Christ calls us to fear him alone, so let it be far from the church to cause people to fear anyone but God.


If you can walk Dance

image

If you can walk, run
For some have no legs
If you can talk, sing
For some have no voice
If you can write, draw
For some have no hands
In your abundance
give the world,
food for the hungry,
water for the thirsty
an embrace foe the outcast
and listening for the burdened
Live Give Love


Justifying Fashion for the Church

Often in Christianity we have to categories. Those things that are sacred, and those items that are secular. Recently I have been seeing more and more how this dichotomy is dangerous and even harmful to the Christian church. There are many perfectly good enterprises that are given up in pursuit of a life that is only sacred.

                God created a world for us to enjoy. We are called to follow Christ wherever we are at. Are plans are to be committed to the Lord whatever they are so long as they are in the character of Christ. When looked at this way, there is a great deal of life that is free to be enjoyed that is normally considered secular.

                Fashion for example. I have had the past had a great deal of difficulty spending money on anything related to clothing. I am more than my clothes and none of it will fit me for very long anyway. I never knew what to do with my friends who invested in a hundred dollar pair of pants, or three hundred dollar shoes. We are very quick to judge this as a waste of money that could be given to the poor.

                But, even a slight comparison to our other judgments will find this lacking. Do we judge the individual who spends three hundred dollars on a ski trip? Or buys a car with leather seats and A/C instead of a minimalist design with no power windows or air conditioning. Do we judge the one that remodels their kitchen? I have never heard of that. These are all things that are ‘expected’ as normal and good. But the judgement is arbitrary.

                Furthermore, I categorize fashion and clothing as one of the arts. How we dress and present ourselves can be as much as a form of art as a canvas. Matching colors, styles, seasonal clothes all with your particular body type in order to convey an image is an art. Especially if that dress conveys an image of your personality in line with who you are. I would be curious to see a fashion guide based on personality.

                Finally, how we present ourselves is important in ministering the gospel of Christ. Just as overtly expensive clothes can make those who are less ‘fortunate’ feel bad, so too cheap of clothing can cut off certain peoples. If you want to minister to the wealthy or LA and Hollywood culture, you had better dress like it. Clothing can also spark conversations.

                Use your money wisely, and follow Christ. In some cultures, it is considered rude not to wear your best. We are the ones that have to look at you all day, not you.


Philosophy, Country, and Love

I talked in my previous posting about being caught up in these dreams of grand adventures and perfect Disney movie lives. This is more of a revealing of my own internal dreams than a specific critique of culture. I often get caught up in the perfect moments. The right lighting, mood, events, and words said at just the right time.

Not only that, but I am a philosopher at heart and have this constant yearning to find meaning in events. Though it more comes from a heart that is trying to figure out its own path in a world that has yet to be made right, it is still searching. I want to know that what is done is significant and has meaning. Whatever meaning means.

You cannot find the solution to a problem on the same level that the problem is found or created. The answer to my own philosophical nightmare of meaning and significance I found in the very lofty views and words of Luke Bryan from two of his popular songs, “rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey, whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky… rain is a good thing” and “A huntin, fishin, and lovin everyday that’s the prayer that a country boy prays”

The lyrics from these two songs are good examples of how connected to life that country music is. Country singers always sing about what is tangible. What they see. What they feel in response to specific things, like a girls smile or hair. There are no complicated metaphors or layered meanings within meanings. There are no hints and jabs from other parts of culture. There is a country boy or girl singing about what they see, touch, taste and know. And it is beautiful.

The same could be said for a lot of LA culture. The artisans of LA create from what they see hear and touch. Though there may be a bit more meaning, you cannot escape the direct connection from the lives that they live.

This is why I listen to country. Because although I am always caught in the dream of a tomorrow that will never come. Even though I want to create these extravagant adventures and believe in a love story worth sharing. Really life is simple, and I love the simplicity, but I need help staying grounded. So hand me the gluten free beer and the rustic guitar and lets talk about the cheese in the fridge, the mice in the barn, dust on our boots, and the sun on her hair.