Tag Archives: life

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?

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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.


Love is Simple

Hollywood produces a steady stream of movies that portray stories of fantasmagical proportions. Heroes such as James Bond and Captain America are both larger than life, but are portrayed in a very rapid carefully strung together story line with a seemingly endless rising action. Even true to life stories are cut and edited to grip the audience. Even the most mundane become spectacular.

A simple father becomes a hero to find his son. A child becomes a king. Several ordinary men save a country. Most significantly love is built up to almost scripted perfection. Though some hero stories are based on real life, and some real life love stories are worthy of the big screen, these are few and far between, and are, in actual life, more filled with the mundane than the spectacular.

In real life we eat pizza, cook soup, walk past stores, sleep, clean, drive, make coffee, and work for most of our lives. Love is involved in simple flowers, chocolates, a smile, a clean dish, a folded article of clothing, a short walk and a hand picked flower, kisses on the cheek, and even a slice of cheese.

Love can be very simple. All of the large plans, carefully thought out trips, and adventures lose their luster if we cannot say I love with the very things that we touch and do every day. And that is why, I love country music.

To be continued…


Living in the Noise

Previously I wrote about the danger of busyness. I hope it was impressed upon you that busyness can become an idol. However, there are times when we really are just justifiably busy. Similarly, there are times when we just get lost in the never ending options of how to spend our time. We can fill our time with more work or play or badminton, bad kittens, remote controlled cars, television, cat videos, and almost anything you can imagine.

The never ending options is more than just options of doing, it is also options of relating. our One can spend time with family, friends, significant others or acquaintances through in person encounters, telephone, texting, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, or any other medium.

The question I see is, how do we serve God in the middle of all of the noise? One answer is to simply remove a lot of the noise. I support anyone who wishes to do this act. I find it helpful and refreshing to remove oneself from our current isolation in ‘social’ media or remove activities to ease the stress on our life. It is a healthy practice to replace the cyber with the real communication.

However, there are also those that have no desire to depart from such activities. And as I am a firm believer that we should serve God wherever we are at, that means there must be a solution for how we are to serve God in the middle of the noise. In my current situation I am afraid that I am justifiably busy with a more than full time job and a master’s program.

I can go all week from waking, work, gym, homework to bed without a single ‘ministry’ receiving my time or energy. So I ask, God, what shall I do? Currently I travel for work so do not have a home church to serve in. Most all of my friend are just as busy themselves and so finding time to regularly communicate is a difficult process.

I have not landed on a satisfactory answer at all. However, I have come to realize a few little pieces by watching the world around me and asking God for wisdom. In recent personal situations I ask repeatedly, “God, please help me respond and work through this with grace” granted I have failed more than I have seen grace work. But, I can still focus on responding how Christ would with patience, kindness, self control and humility among others.

In my professional life, there is a disease of gossip and negativity at work. I can live counter to this with encouragement in Christ. So though most of the hours of my day I cannot directly account for or tie to a specific heavenly focus and affect, I can humbly walk knowing that God has a way for me to present my life as a sacrifice to Him.

 


A Girl Named Sue

                Today I met a girl I have decided to call Sue. I was at the store and as I stood in line I overheard the checkout person say in a hushed voice, “Yes, it is a customer. She has been doing it for a while.” Shortly after he said this, I saw who the culprit was, and what her silent mission was. She was very frumpy looking. Sandals, baggy pants and an equally baggy shirt. Her greying hair had been sloppily put into a bun. She wore giant coke bottle glasses, leaned forward just a little and her bottom lip jutted out. It was immediately apparent she was not a member of mensa. Without a meeting her officially I have called her Sue.

                She leaned in towards my isle as I quickly stepped back to allow her access to her determined stare. The magazine rack. She grabbed several, and the hobbled off to the next isle. A minutes passes, and she quickly leaned over and looked into our isle. Apparently whatever she was doing was very important as she let out an expletive, left one magazine, took to, and then moved on to another isle.

                In short, she was moving magazines around for some unknown mission. Possibly given to her by the voices in her head. Or maybe she would say it was her coffee cup.

                On the way out though, a familiar phrase popped into my head, “We are all more alike than we are different.” I wonder if she likes classical music as much as I do. Maybe she would dance with her magazines, or her coffee cup to the sweet serenade of Chopin or Bach. Or maybe she is like my sister and detests classical. She might like dubstep. She may get down on the floor dancing like there is no tomorrow in some dance that must be from its own separate cultural disposition.

                I share this because the longer I am alive the more I run into people who are freaked out, depressed, or in some way ‘out of their minds,’ ‘at their wits end’ and feel as though no one else is in their boat with them. They feel alone. I find myself here often. With my incessant occupation to give meaning to everything I often feel alone. But, but I cannot do that. I cannot allow myself to think this way. Not only is it selfish to think that I am so special so as to think that no human in my vicinity has been through what I have been through, but it is false. We are more alike than different. We are all more alike than Sue than we are different.


Out of Darkness Into the Light

The answer to the darkness is never to stay in the darkness. The hurts and pains in our lives can never be fixed, or soothed just by talking about them. When I share with my friends my darkness, my hurts, pains, and everything that is wrong with the world, I need a listening ear and I need to hear their stories. But it cannot stay there.
For years I my relationships with people revolved almost solely with exposing and working through hurts and pain. When I found myself in a relationship with someone who had difficulties in life, but who did not need deep probing questions, did not need someone to sit and hold them in the darkness, I didn’t know what to do. She would be sad, I would listen, and then they she be fine. Or would have been if I had not kept digging. She had talked herself out of depression, and was drawn to the light more than the darkness. I did not know how to have a relationship with her, or anyone else that didn’t need, what I call, commiseratory, darkness wallowing rescuer .
Other friends I knew were drawn to the darkness. I would listen and commiserate. They were all too eager to keep going back, and bringing up more and more hurt and pain. Because I wanted to ignore my own pain and hurts was very quick to live vicariously through them. I know it did them good to have a friend, but I could do them better.
Part of this does come from my struggle to enjoy the world just because. I struggle with enjoying people just because they are them. (Which my purple friend is greatly helping me with) I am learning though. I know that it is good to listen and sit in the muck with people for a while. But you can’t stay there. There must be some good, enjoyment, happiness, love, that moves us forward. For some, all they need is the innate goodness of a relationship with someone that cares to listen and understand. For others though, they need something more.
I propose trying an adventure, playtime, laughter, tickling, happy stories and the color purple. Go outside and experience something new. Give your friends a relationship with you, and the rest of the world worth cherishing. Because it is not our relationship with the darkness that defines us, but the relationship with the light.