Saturday, February 28, 2004

tonight....., YES TONIGHT (I owe this title to the many dedicated Young Lifers out there)

Well, I finally did laundry today. The apartment complex that I live in has a wash room where two dollars in quarters gets a load of laundry clean and dry. So after four full loads of laundry, I finally have boxers on. Ahh, the touch, the feel of cotton. The fabric of our lives.

So the soft cotton of my boxers is warmly caressing by buttocks. And it feels good. I also got a person to go with me to see The Passion of the Christ tonight. I am going at nine with a girl named Michele. She is the leader of the college ministry at FBC Waco. We met when Jason recommended me to her as a potential leader for their retreat last weekend. We hung out a few times trying to put together retreat details and then hung out all last weekend at the retreat (which was at her parents house).

She seemed like a safe date. She is fun and cute and a solid Christian girl. But she has already graduated from Baylor with a degree in Church Music, so I won't feel like a child molester in the movie. It should be a good and challenging night. I heard so many good things about this movie. I know God will speak to me in a unique and creative way tonight. I feel a sort of reverent anticipation. I wonder if this isn't the feeling I should always have before a worship service? Either way, I am excited about this movie.

Michele is also a good date because I am sure she will be able to have an intelligent conversation about the movie. I wanted to go with someone who would give me a little more than, "Wow, that was great." As true as that may be, I kinda want to be able to kick around our deeper thoughts on the implications of the movie.

So all the laundry is done. All the dishes are done. Its a saturday night and I am going to see (what will probably be) one of the most moving experiences of this semester with a pretty cool woman of God. Life is good.

Father, I wait expectantly for you tonight. Prepare my heart and my mind, my eyes and my ears to encounter you in this movie. Jesus help me to see what you saw, to feel what you felt, and to participate in your humanity tonight. I thank you for the HUGE things like the cross and your sacrifice. And I thank you for the little things like clean clothes and enough food.

talking with a hot girl on a friday night

Ok guys, get ready for this one. I go to Common Grounds on a Friday night to surf the web and to get some reading done. And wouldn't you know it, one of the hottest girls in Collins Hall comes up behind me and taps me on the shoulder. She sits down right next to me with her Pi Phi friends and begins a conversations.

Now Jessica is one of the most physically attractive girls that I have seen on this campus. All the bitter girls reading this right now need to just prepare themselves. I am about to, yet again, be a normal human guy. I know its shocking, but it happens sometimes.

This girl's eyes are like a color I have never even seen before. They look like she has contact lenses on. Granted, she is 18 and is a freshman. But still, we sat there face to face having a conversation about a foot away from each other. Eye contact out the ying yang.

I want it to be known that I don't want to date this girl nor am I lusting after her. But her physical beauty is striking to the point of curiosity. So we sat and talked and she told me a little about herself. I felt a bit weird as I shared that this was my 7th year in school, that I am about to graduate, and that I will be a pastor soon. I think that as I shared a little about myself, the age difference became more and more apparent.

But the thing is that I have right now in my wallet two tickets to the Passion of the Christ for tomorrow night at 9pm. She mentioned that she hadn't seen it either and that she wanted to go see it Tuesday. Seriously guys, come on. Hot girl, sits down to talk to you, talks about her faith, talks about her job this summer ministering to high school kids at a camp, then she mentions that she wants to see the movie that you want to see, and you just happen to have two tickets for that movie the very next night. Tell me the temptation to ask this girl out on a date for Saturday night isn't off the charts.

But I resisted. She is just a youngen after all. A hot youngen but still a young youngen. I sucked it up and tried my best to handle the situation with integrity. We had a great conversation, which ended with me saying that I had to get back to my homework. Yeah right! I just HAVE to get back to my homework at 12:30am on a Friday night. But I had to break away from the conversation for fear that I might do something stupid. Looking into strikingly beautiful eyes has a way of making me do stupid things. Like asking a freshmen on a date to go see the Passion of Christ, of all movies.

I have to confess though that even though I "did the right thing" it wasn't as easy as I had hoped. The temptation was there and it was strong. My ego was feeling pretty good. Here this superhottie was diggen me on a friday night. It was fun. And the fun could have continued tomorrow night. We could have gone to see the movie together. And my ego would have been feeling alright. It would have been a night that I didn't have to fight off those nagging thoughts that wonder if I am too weird for a girl to like me. I could have ended a saturday night not wondering why I couldn't get a date again. I could have laid my head down on my pillow secure in knowing at least some girl wanted to go out with me on a saturday night, even if she was just a super hot freshman.

Some reading this could probably laugh at me at this point. And I guess I should laugh at myself. Some may think that by not asking out this girl I was simply doing the normal and right thing. That may be true. But until you have been in that situation, please don't judge. Its harder to resist that temptation than you think. The ego is a tricky thing and it demands tending to. And when it is rejected time and time again, not by others but by my own self, it can hurt sometimes. There is a sense that to "deny myself" is to do violence to myself. Even when it is as silly as not asking a hot girl out who would go out with me if I asked.

So I take a deep breath, chuckle at myself and the soap opera drama, and thank God that I didn't ask that girl out. I am sure that that simple date would have turned into a whirlwind of criticism, judgmental remarks, and mockery. And all of this I am glad to avoid, regardless of how appropriate they may have been.

Father, once again I submit to you. I trust that your ways are better than my own. I trust that less of my own ego could only be a good thing. I trust that by going home alone yet again on a saturday night, that you will help me die to myself and truly live in you. I trust that you will be my comfort and my partner. Father, help me embrace loneliness that comes from obedience and offer it to you. Teach me in the midst of it that I am never alone, and that you are always with me.

Friday, February 27, 2004

picture of discipleship

I am sitting once again at Common Grounds, only this time outside. I just saw a perfect picture of discipleship walk through the door. It was a young boy about 9 or 10 years old holding his little brother's hand who looked about 5 or 6 years old. They held hands as they walked into CG and made their way to the counter.

They both got bottles of soda from the refrigerator case. The big brother made sure that he opened the door and kept it propped open with his body as his little brother moved in and reached for the soda of choice. Big bro paid for their drinks and they walked out together. The little guy had a hard time opening the bottle at first. Big bro asked if he needed help. Little bro made a second and third effort and replied with a confident, "No." Big brother let the little guy work at it until he opened the bottle on his own. Then they strolled on down the sidewalk together, each looking after the other.

Not only was it cute watching the two brothers interact, but it reminded me of how we should help our friends in their movement toward Christ. There was no coercion, no force, no violence. It was gentle and loving and protective. It was a picture of playful caring and warm companionship. And both knew that they were children. They had no illusions about their own maturity. One was simply taking care of the other in their parents stead. They both knew that they were headed home and that soon dad would take care of them both.

Father help me to know my place. Help me when I need to be the big brother to someone. Remind me when it is I who am the little brother. Use me, Father, to lead others to You.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

coffee, Lent and mercy

Its the season of Lent. So like New Years, only shorter, we decide to make promises to ourselves that we are sure to break. Lent season asks us to give something up for 40 days. Its a 40 day fast of sorts. It is symbolic of the sacrifice of Christ. But more importantly, it is in a way supposed to cleanse us and prepare us for the glorious celebration of Easter.

Why is it that when we try to give up something, we think about it more? It reminds me of legalistic Pharisaism. We try to not "sin", and in doing so we end up obsessing about that sin. In the end, we only sin that much more. Where do grace and sacrifice meet? Jesus told me, "I desire mercy not sacrifice," and yet this is what I do for Lent, I sacrifice. And after all, that statement of Jesus' doesn't seem true. Living a Christian life is sacrifice. In the same breath that Jesus asks for mercy he also asks me to take up my cross and follow Him. Which is it Jesus? Make up your freek'n mind!

But alas, I did decide to sacrifice...if you can even call it that. I am actually embarrassed to call "not drinking coffee" a sacrifice. Its really not. But it should be just hard enough to be annoying and just easy enough to actually do. Isn't that what Lent is about for us Americans? Giving up a comfort or luxury. In giving up whatever luxury we most enjoy, we call it sacrifice. And thus, if we can manage not to indulge in our little piece of comfort for 40 days we somehow can identify with Jesus. I don't know. It seems kinda silly to me.

But I have gotten off track altogether. If I call myself a "coffee drinker" and then I give up coffee, I tend to think about it more. I tend to wonder when I will get that next cup, that sweet nectar of the gods. But if I don't call myself a "coffee drinker" it is somehow different. If I cast off that label for myself then not drinking coffee is pretty easy. I don't need coffee. Why? Because I am not a "coffee drinker."

Sacrifice is difficult when that which I am sacrificing is caught up in my own identity. If it is not a part of "who I am" than it is not so difficult. So it seems that in order to get rid of things in our life which shouldn't be there, we shouldn't just try to sacrifice them. We can't just try to sacrifice. There is a need for new identity. The offering itself needs to be removed from our own definition of our selves.

This could relate to sin as well. Whatever area of sin that is in our life need not be offered up as a sacrifice. Its not so much that we need to stop "doing" that sin as we need to no longer "be" that sin. Our very identity needs to be transformed in such a way so as to not include that sin in the definition. This kind of identity transformation can only happen by the grace of God. As this transformation process goes on in our own lives, mercy must accompany it. We need to be merciful and patient with ourselves. This mercy, once applied to our own lives, will seep out into the world and transform our interactions with others. "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

So I guess the best thing to say is not that I am giving up drinking coffee for Lent. What I am actually saying is that I am choosing to not be a "coffee drinker" for the next 40 days (I love to split my infinitives. Whoever came up with the rule that you can't split your infinitives was an idiot.) . And while my identity is in transformation over this Lent season, I will treat myself with mercy and allow God's grace to change me.

And hopefully, by the time I get to Easter, my ability to be merciful would have deepened. And my model for sacrifice will not be 40 days of no coffee, but will continue to be Christ on the cross. My fear is that by the end of 40 days of no coffee, I will only learn that I am grumpy without caffeine and less cool without a mug in front of me.

Father, teach me what you really meant when you said that you desired mercy and not sacrifice. Teach me about dyeing to self this Lent season. And most importantly, teach me about your mercy and grace.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

free ball'n

So I haven't done dishes or laundry in like a week and a half. Not sure why I haven't done dishes. But laundry has piled up because my washer isn't working at the moment. I need to get it fixed.

But I have come to the end. I have reached the bottom. I ran out of boxers. As I type this, I do so as one without underwear on. A strange thing, not wearing underwear. Girls do it all the time. They may be uncomfortable with the thong so they disregard underwear altogether all so that there won't be "panty lines" in their skirt or dress.

But guys don't resort to this kind of nakedness until we absolutely have to. And I have indeed reached that point. Its funny because I feel naked under my clothes. Ironically enough, we are always naked under our clothes. So I sit here typing, and my bare buttocks is pressed up against the inner part of my jeans. (Great mental picture huh? HUH??)

It reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where Cramer had to forego his briefs because of a low sperm count. So instead of boxers, he went all the way and wore no underwear at all. Sometimes I wonder if people can notice, but alas, they cannot....until now. Those folks who actually get around to reading my blog will know my secret. My guess is that I won't be wearing underwear for the next couple days, at least until my washer gets fixed. SO WATCH OUT WORLD. I AM NAKED UNDER MY CLOTHES!!!

Maybe for Lent I will give up wearing underwear altogether. Hmmmmm...

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

avoidant behavior

I noticed lately that I practice a lot of avoidant behavior. Now, I am no psychologist or anything. Although I did get a minor in family studies in college. I did a retreat this past weekend where I talked about "rest." One of my points is how laziness in the form of procrastination is really an avoidant behavior. I am a big procrastinator and thus a big "practicer" of this kind of avoidance.

Procrastination is putting off the inevitable in hopes that by doing it "tomorrow" it will somehow be less stressful. Its a coping mechanism in dealing with things in life that one does not want to face immediately. So we put things off until "later." As a procrastinator, I have begun to realize that I put things off because doing them right now fills me with such stress, anxiety, and frustration, that it seems more healthy to avoid all of that. Then I sprint to do the task as fast as I can at the last minute. This is so that I have to endure that stress, anxiety and frustration for as short a time as possible. If I were to do that task piece by piece, all of those negative feelings would be stretched out over the long haul. This is not something I want. This is what I want to "avoid."

But I also noticed that I practice avoidant behavior in other areas of my life. I tend to stay up late. This began to happen my senior year of high school, continued through college, and tends to happen periodically in seminary. Why? As I self-analyze, I have begun to discover that this is a form of avoidance. I am avoiding tomorrow. I stay up late because I can't let go of today. Not that tomorrow is bad. I like how my future is looking these days. Its more that I don't want today to end.

"Today ending" just reminded me, as a senior in high school, that I was that much closer to saying goodbye to friends and heading off to college. "Today ending" in college forced me to end my late night fun and go to bed. "Today ending" in seminary means that I no longer will be in the part of the day (the end) where I get to relax and not think about school work. "Today ending" in seminary means that I have to face a new day full of work and stress. All of this I want to avoid. So I stay up late, desperately hanging on to today.

Its not that I always practice avoidance. In fact, I don't avoid some things that most people would like to avoid. Conflict is such a thing. Now most people who know me know that I don't avoid conflict at all. I actually kind of enjoy conflict. I see it as a good thing which can galvanize relationships. Conflict challenges me and allows me to challenge others. Most people want to avoid conflict, but not me.

Public speaking is another. I don't mind getting up in front of people and talking. I don't mind talking in class. In fact, I enjoy doing both. Public speaking is America's number one fear. Number two is death. So most people would rather die than speak in front of people. But not me. I don't avoid it. In some ways, especially since I will be a pastor, I am pursuing it.

I am sure that there are other areas in which I practice avoidant behavior. Off the top of my head, I think of how I try to avoid compliments and avoid situations where it is normal to say "I love you". I avoid doing the dishes until there is enough to fill up the entire dishwasher. I avoid doing laundry until I run out of boxers.

I don't know if there is a deeper psychological reason for avoiding these last few. As far as laundry and dishes, it just seems less stressful or annoying to do them all at once. I avoid saying "I love you" and receiving compliments just because these are awkward situations for me. They make me uncomfortable. I have done my best over the years to get better at dealing with these situations, but I still basically suck at it.

So in the end, why is it easy for me to face some of the seemingly "harder" things in life and difficult for me to face the seemingly easy stuff? How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop? The world may never know.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Merton speaks

Some Thomas Merton quotes that I used in the retreat this weekend:

"The earthly desires men cherish are shadows. There is no true happiness in fulfilling them. Why, then, do we continue to pursue joys without substance? Because the pursuit itself has become our only substitute for joy. Unable to rest in anything we achieve, we determine to forget our discontent in a ceaseless quest for new satisfactions. In this pursuit, desire itself becomes our chief satisfaction." The Ascent to Truth, p.17

"Those who love their own noise are impatient of everything else. They constantly defile the silence of the forests and the mountains and the sea. They bore through silent nature in every direction with their machines, for fear that the calm world might accuse them of their own emptiness. The urgency of their swift movements seems to ignore the tranquility of nature by pretending to have purpose. The loud plane seems for a moment to deny the reality of the clouds and of the sky, by its direction, its noise, and its pretended strength. The silence of the sky remains when the plane is gone. The tranquility of the clouds will remain when the plane has fallen apart. It is the silence of the world that is real. Our noise, our business, our purposes, and all our fatuous statements about our purposes, our business, and our noise: these are the illusion." No Man is an Island, p.257

Merton's own silent life has brought a palpable power to his words. This is a challenge to the noise of my life.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

a diverse church: calling or by-product?

Was the church called to be diverse? Is a healthy church one that embodies socio-economic and racial diversity? Should this diversity include theological diversity?

Church planters today have target audiences. They begin a community of believers by targeting a specific generation, race, or even socio-economic level. Churches who are trying to reach the twenty-somethings do better if they have a band or cool electronic media. Churches who are trying to reach the black community do well if they have gospel music. Churches reaching to Hispanic communities do well if they have bi-lingual literature and speakers. Churches reaching out to the middle-upper class folks in Grapevine, Texas should have flat panel screens everywhere and multiple ministries to every age child in the church.

Americans are used to being marketed to. We not only expect it but we demand it. But marketing techniques for church means that a target audience must be chosen. "Can't reach out to everyone" they tell us. And American churches have found success in appropriate targeting of specific groups. But what does this do to diversity?

Did the New Testament church feel called to diversity or was it a by-product of living life together well. Certainly Paul and others were calling the Jewish Christians to welcome the new and different Gentile converts. Clearly this was in the forefront of Paul's mind in many of his letters. So maybe racial diversity is something we are called to. Maybe in the diversity of races and sub-cultures God is glorified. In a sense, this kind of diversity shows the world that the unity which is found in Christ is greater than the divisions which are found in the world.

And yet socio-economic diversity didn't seem to be something the early church was "called" to. It seems to have been a by-product of living life together well. In Acts 2 and 4 we see a picture of the rich and the poor providing for each other. We see a community which had such unity that they considered each other family. And in the family of God, the big brothers and sisters always help the little siblings in need. It seems that economic diversity was almost a given. It was a reality which united the body rather than a reason for division.

How do we recapture this when starting new churches in the US? How do we participate in communities which resemble this kind of racial and economic diversity? How do we become a community which seems beautifully strange to the world? How can we glorify Christ with a unity that can only have Him as its explanation?

Father, what is impossible with humanity is possible through you. Would you give me wisdom to be able to begin to respond to these kinds of questions? I pray that you would give me your wisdom so that I can move beyond the wisdom of this world.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

retreat with God

I just got back from leading a weekend retreat on "rest" for the college group at FBC Waco. It was fun. I didn't get much rest. But it was still fun.

Speaking three times in a 24 hour period wears me out. And I woke up every hour on the hour Friday night/sat. morning because we had 6 guys crammed into one room. Its ok though, I was one of two that got to sleep on a bed.

In the end I am reminded just how much I have to learn about teaching and preaching. I wish that I was just being modest when I say that "I am not very good at it" but unfortunately I am just being honest. And not the kind of self-deprecating honest where you wish people to feel sorry for you. No, its the "as a matter of fact" honest that stings a little.

But I know God moved and taught. I know He used me because that is what He does. He always takes the best crap that I can offer and he manages to turn it into little precious gems. Though I am not sure if the college kids got much out of this weekend, I did have some SWEET time with Him in the last two days.

There was plenty of time to be silent, to watch the stars, to see the sun set, to feel the breeze, to sit in the grass, to hop across a small stream and to glory in His creation. There was ample time to pray and to listen. It was good. Not because I got any sleep, but it was good because I was in His presence. My hope is that just as God met me there, that he met those college students there as well.

In the end, I am confident that God would have shown up whether I had anything to say or not. That is just what he does. He shows up. And in the end, His creation spoke more profoundly than I ever could. But alas, for some reason He wanted me to join Him in the work that He was already going to do. And for that I can only thank Him.

Father, thank you for taking me along with You. I know You don't need me to do your amazing work. I know I don't have to be there for You to show up. But time and time again I get invited to be with You while You do that very thing. You honor me in this. And I am humbled. In some way, Lord, I pray that my life would honor You in return.

Thursday, February 19, 2004


Today has been a little frustrating. I keep chatting on my home church chat board about topics like "whether Genesis is myth" or "can a homosexual be a Christian." The frustration was as much with the medium as it was with the messages of the other people.

When you type on an online chat board, or you send and email or even in a blog, it is difficult to pick up the subtleties of language. Sometimes people are really sarcastic and sometimes they are truly serious. Its hard to figure out the difference sometimes on electronic media. The best we have are various smiley faces with different expressions.

These icons are supposed to replace the inflection in our voice, our tone and our emotional emphasis. They do this poorly. And when someone doesn't put in a smiley face, it is even harder to determine sarcasm. Some folks can't decipher when I am sarcastic and when I am serious even when I am talking with them. Its even harder on a chat board.

So I defended my view and they defended theirs. And my frustration grew with each post. Again, it wasn't just that I believed most of them to be arrogant and stupid, it was also that I couldn't do my part in the communication process. I couldn't read their inflection or tone or emotion. And this was frustrating. Have we lost the ability to do this because of the electronic media? Are we still able to read people in everyday conversation, or is that now a lost art? Has discernment gone the way of the dodo? Maybe its just me.

Father, give me discernment which will help me not only understand people, but see into people. Help me to see as Jesus saw. Help me to see into the lives, into the hearts, into the minds of those around me. Help me listen past the facade and see past the falsehood. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004


I sat in on a luncheon today where a missionary couple talked about the reality of doing ministry in level three countries. These are the kind of countries where you become an outcast when you become a Christian. Primarily they are Muslim countries. Islam is unforgiving of other faiths living in their midst. Especially within the family. A Muslim becoming a Christian means that he/she is basically excommunicated from the family ties. This is a devastating thing in communal cultures.

The amazing thing is that these two missionaries spoke of beatings and executions as if they were just another part of the job of a Christian. At one point he said something like, "The leading cause for people to come to Christ around the world is seeing Christians being martyred. Don't pray that persecution ends." It was astounding. These people lived and breathed life on the brink of death all the time. They have good friends that have died just because they confessed Christ. They seem to stare into the face of death and shrug their shoulders at it. Truly for them, "To live is Christ and to die is gain."

These two had faith that I couldn't comprehend. But they were just like normal folks. They drink Starbucks coffee and eat at Chili's. They had southern accents and made sarcastic jokes. They aren't too holy to hang out with us lowly youngens. They are just like me...only nothing like me. They not only believe in the power of the gospel, but stake their lives on it. They risk it all, daily, just so that others may know Him. They talk about death with a smile on their face. Its as if they know the cross is their destination, and they go their with joy. Not only that, but along the way they invite people to go with them.

Its as if they say, "I am headed to my death. I am headed there in order to follow my Lord. I go their with delight. Come, and follow us there. And bring your friends. And when we get there, we will die. We will suffer, and we will be beaten, and we will bleed. And in this we will imitate our Savior. And in this others will come to know Him. And finally, our lives will be lost and gained. Beyond our grave will be new life. Resurrection is assured and His glory will be realized. Come follow us, as we follow Him, and become the light to the world."

Father, I confess that I know nothing of the faith that these two servants have. Give me a trust in you that could empower me not only to face death, but face it with a smile. Father, if I am honest, part of me doesn't even want this kind of faith, or this kind of calling. I leave it to You, Lord. Help me to see what I cannot.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

talking to a stranger at Barnes and Noble

So, I had to take my car into the shop today. It was doing some crazy junk. I put it in the shop at 11:30am but they still hadn't worked on it by 5pm. Frustrating. So the whole day was spend down Waco Drive. I walked from Dunn's to Jason's Deli and had lunch. I finished up some work on sermon material there.

Then I walked back, looked around the Compass Book store, and made my way back to Barnes and Noble. I worked for a while on my sermons, read some in a Thomas Merton book, and read some magazines. All of this took about three hours. I needed to get to work so I asked Jason if he could come and pick me up.

All the while, sitting at Barnes and Noble doing homework, was this girl. The whole time I was there reading, sermonizing and reading some more, she was quietly sitting there in the coffee section doing homework. I couldn't help but notice her. I tried to avoid getting caught looking her way, but I have to admit that she was cute.

So with nothing left to do and with Jason on his way to pick me up, I decided to take the plunge and talk to her. I had zero reasons for doing this, except that this is what I felt compelled to do. This compulsion was probably due to the fact that she had amazingly striking eyes which seemed to call out to me from across the book store.

So I walked over to her table, took off my book bag, pulled out a chair and asked if I could sit down. She was a little startled and weirded out at first. I sat down and asked her if I could just talk with her for a while. I had no agenda. I told her that I had been there for a while and was still waiting on my car to get fixed. She seemed to accept this reason for chatting and stopped her studying.

I began my barrage of questions. What are you studying? What degree? What year at Baylor? Which sorority? Where did you grow up? Brothers and sisters? How do you like college? How are the grades? How is the sorority life? Then we got to the question of men.

I asked her "So do you have a man-slave in your life?" This is my typical way of asking if a girl has a boyfriend. Her face turned red, her head went down and her hand began to tuck her hair behind her ear. She was visibly embarrassed by this question. I meant nothing by it. I didn't want a date. I was just trying to ask about her life.

She told me that she wasn't dating a boy but that there was someone which she was talking to and interested in. She told me that that question made her uncomfortable. As I retreated in my questioning, I apologized for making her uncomfortable. So I continued in my questioning about school and other parts of her life. I added two cents here an there about my own life as well.

She was sweet and cute. Her name was Jenna. I never got to tell her how amazing I thought her eyes were. I never got to ask her if she found a good church in town to go to. These were two things that I was getting around to. But my ride came and Jason walked up to the table. They both politely greeted each other and exchanged names. I thanked her for the talk and wished her luck on her literature exam for which she was studying. I am pretty sure I left the conversation too abruptly.

Jason told me later that she had a funny look on her face when we left. As if she was expecting a better conclusion to the conversation. I generally stink at proper greetings and especially proper "good-byes". I didn't really have time to complete the questioning because I had to get to work. I am sure if I really needed to stay and finish the conversation in a better way that Jason wouldn't have minded. But as it was, I needed to get out the door.

I don't know if I will ever see Jenna again. I am not so sure she would want to talk if I did see her again. I just know that I wasn't going to bother her as she studied. But I decided to anyway. And I am glad that I did. For the 5 minutes (which felt like 20 minutes) that we talked, it was least for me. I hope I didn't freak her out too much.

This was yet another attempt of mine to really live life. It was an attempt to stop avoiding the awkwardness of strangers in order to connect with them on a basic human level. It was an attempt to be able to blog about an actual encounter with a girl rather than to have just another entry about distant glances.

Monday, February 16, 2004

late night conversation with God

Last night I couldn't get to sleep because many causes of worry were racing through my mind. This is how the conversation went:

God, I am broke. I don't have any money. I have mounds of debt. How will I pay this off? I am going to be poor for at least the next two or three years. That sucks! And here I am finishing seminary with no good answers to all the questions. No wife. Not even a girlfriend. I am behind on my school work. I have that stinken paper from last semester hanging over my head. I can't get to sleep.

I don't even know if I have all my LLL's done. Am I even going to be able to graduate? I have to graduate. And then I am supposed to be a church planter in June. I am supposed to be someone's pastor. Not only do I not have my crap together. But my crap is all over the place right now. My life feels like chaos.

I have to say goodbye to all my good friends in a few months. Then I have to go to Maryland and start over with new friends. Only these friends will all have expectations of me. They won't just be my friend, because I will be their pastor. And I can't get to sleep. And I have to write three sermons for this weekends retreat. And I don't have them finished. And I am broke. And I can't get to sleep. Father how is all of this going to get done?

Father what good is it being a Christian if I have to worry about all of this just as the rest of the world does? God, I have to trust you. I turn it all over to you. I can't handle all of this stuff. I don't know how you are going to pay all the bills or even get me to graduation but I know you can. I trust you. I give it to you. I choose peace, father, I choose peace.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

technical support

ok, for some reason in two of the comments links below, I can't get to the comments box. I click on "comments" and nothing happens. Its the comments section under this last post on "going" to church, and its the one under the "my 'type' of girl". Each have one comment on them. My guess is that the same person commented on these and whatever they posted for some reason is keeping the box from coming up. So whoever that is, STOP. And to whomever else, HELP. I don't know how to fix this problem but it has happened twice and is old already.

when not "going" to church could mean "becoming" community

Why do we "go" to church? I ask this question because I haven't gone to a Sunday morning service in two weeks. I slept in. I realized this morning just how little motivation there is for me to "go" to church.

This sounds funny even to me as I type it. Here I am a future pastor and a seminary student. Shouldn't I be motivated to go to a church building on Sunday morning for singing and a sermon? One would think so. I hope my church people are more motivated on a Sunday morning than I am.

My struggle is that I don't find my community in the people that I gather with on Sundays. I have a few friends there for sure. But its not were I find my Christian community. I think this may be the case for many Christians who go to "Christian" Universities or seminary. We find our community of nurture and challenge all around us during the week. But the last place we feel united with the people next to us is Sunday morning in a church building.

I have to admit, I have missed the sermons. I like to hear sermons and to be challenged. I have missed the music. David Crowder and his band are great worship leaders. God moves when we sing there on Sunday mornings. But God is moving all week. I was convicted not by a sermon this week, but by the movie "Monster." My daily prayer times have been more worshipful than ever. I am facing God and dealing with him daily. He shows up when I am doing homework. He hangs out when I am at work. I saw him in the snow and heard him in the voice of my friends.

So right now, Sunday morning is not really church for me. Its more of a weekly ceremony reminding me that I am a Christian. Its not me offering God anything. I try to offer my life to Him every day. It may be me offering God one hour of my time and some songs but I offer many hours and songs all week long.

More and more I am realizing that all those "delinquents" who slept in on Sunday morning in college were not as dumb as I judged them to be. They were more like prophets. By their sleep they criticized the church. They said to the church body, "Your community sucks, and the world offers better community than you!"

Now don't hear me say that I am advocating that everyone sleep in Sunday morning. But I will advocate this: If sleeping in on Sunday meant that one could find joyful songs, sacrificial lives, loving community and a supernatural unity in the church body during the week, then I say "SABBATH MEANS REST!"

Imagine with me for just a second. Every Christian who is fired up about the Lord sleeping in on Sunday. Getting hours of physical rest. Relaxing all afternoon. Playing football, watching football, taking naps, and eating. And being restored in every way for the coming week. And then during the week, they truly lived in a powerful community of faith. People who invited strangers into their homes. People who loved unconditionally. People who shared their belongings. A community that didn't make sense to the world. And what if this faith community was active and vibrant in the world community for 6 days during the week. And then on the 7th, they rested.

Now that is church. That is the group I want to hang out with. That is the kinda person I want to be. That is the kinda church I want to pastor. Maybe one day sleeping in on Sundays would be a sign of spiritual maturity and not laziness. But for now, I will try to make it to UBC next Sunday.

Father, help us all to become the church that you have called us to become.

Friday, February 13, 2004

distant flirting

Here is the thing with girls that may be flirting with me. If I think a girl may be paying extra attention to me or "looking my way" then what should I do?

My initial tendency is to keep a flirtatious distance. This way, she can flirt and I can flirt and its all done at a safe distance of looks and an occational "Hello."

But I am realizing more and more this distance can be my own selfishness at work. This thing about a girl who flirts from a distance is safe for me and puffs up my ego. Simply put, at a distance she can't see my warts. From a distance I can be sure to hide my flaws and personality querks.

My guess is that if I started just talking to these girls normally their infatuation would soon die. They would see the real me and be turned off. Using Jason's analogy, they would talk to Superman and realize that I am not "super" at all, but a genually messed up Clark Kent.

So maybe its not that I am too scared to talk to them. Maybe it is that I am too scared to have them talk to me. Maybe I am scared that their puffed up illusion of me would soon be popped by my rough edges. Its much easier for my pride for them to flirt at a distance. That way they can keep their false hope that I am some "super stud" and I can keep my illusion that they are interested in me.

Father, help me to always be me, warts and all, even to the strangers that I find looking my way. I pray that as I boast in my weakness, You would be magnified all the more.

let it snow

It snowed today in Waco. And by snow, I mean it actually snowed. Not just the flurry type snow which most people down here consider snow. It was big old wet flakes of white wonderland.

Growing up in Maryland and going to college in Pennsylvania I have experienced all kinds of different snows. I like snow. Its fun when it snows. It reminds me of the younger years when I got out of school because of it. I have many fond memories of building snow men, snow forts, an actual igloo in the front yard and making snow angels. Snow reminds me of the times I went out with dad to shovel the walk. It reminds me of the times I would shovel out the drive way just so I could bundle up and play basketball with gloves on.

Snow reminds me of the fond memories of college when we would go sledding as twenty year olds. It reminds me of the weekend when I taught Christina and Jodi how to shoot a basketball. We three were out in a foot and a half of snow full out tackling each other. Fun times.

As a Marylander I take snow for granted. Today I saw some high school girls at Chili's Too run outside at the sight of a the first flakes of snow. They all screamed and gathered in the cold grass outside of the restaurant. Some were jumping up and down at the white shower. Others flopped down and tried to make snow angels even though approximately 4 flakes had stuck to the grass at that point.

Their excitement about snow helps me to appreciate it more. For Central Texas its rare. For me its not. But a part of me danced when I saw those girls dance. A part of my heart screamed with delight as the many snow memories warmed my heart. Something about snow is magical. And no matter how many times I have seen it snow, the magic never seems to go away.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

more silly games

Ok, once again, I find myself trading stares with a girl across the room at Common Grounds. But this time I am writing, not after the fact, but right smack dab in the middle of the "dance of the eyes."

A few seconds ago, I looked up, she stared, I stared, she stared, I stared and she didn't look away. I had to break from the contest for fear that I might pee in my pants if I didn't. Ok, so I need to go pee now as I type this play by play. I will be right back after a short bathroom break.

Ok, I am back. I feel better. But why do I even play these little games. Its not like I will go talk to her. Oh, crap, I think she is moving. Oh, crap, now she is just out of my line of sight. Bummer. The game must pause. Until next time....

my "type" of girl

I was asked the other day what my "type" of girl was. I make it a policy never to answer this question when asked by a girl. This is for various reasons which I won't get into here.

I pondered what my type was. This question usually pertains to physical appearance. And as I think about it, I do have a "type." I have many "types" actually but one is a bit more prevalent then the others. What I mean is that there are many combinations of "looks" which I find attractive in girls. And yet one combination of "looks" appeals to me more than others.

But deeper than that, there is a kind of girl which I usually find myself attracted to. Physical beauty definitely plays a part in this. But more consistently than any physical "type" is a character "type."

I find myself attracted to girls who are comfortable in their own skin. Girls who know their flaws and know their weaknesses but don't obsess about them. Girls which are visibly passionate about God. Girls who are good at loving people of all shapes, colors, sizes, and ages. Girls who challenge me spiritually not through their boasting or advice but through their humility and vulnerability.

Girls who are ministry minded and God centered. That is my type. I don't think I could get any more cliche than I am right now, but the truth is that way sometimes. This "Sunday School" answer has never been more true to me. In 24 years of living, I have seen some amazingly beautiful girls. Real life girls that I thought only existed in TV or movies. But the ones that make me trip over myself time and again, are the ones which seem to die daily to their own "girlishness."

These are the girls which face up to the lies which this world has told them as females. They have sold out to the gospel in order to engage the world differently. They know God. And its evident that His hand is upon them. This is my "type."

What I am a miserable failure at is being able to "spot" ones like these. I too often still see through my own eyes. I can't see beyond the flesh, into the heart, into the soul. I am ever "seeing" but never "perceiving." You can see these kinds of girls from across the room. Their joy is evident. But one needs eyes empowered by the Spirit and vision which is guided by discernment. These are the kind of eyes I long for. This is the "type" of girl I am looking for.

Father, I pray along with all the other blind beggars, heal my sight, give me eyes to see.

A Kingdom response to Iraq?

We were talking about the Kingdom of God and the war in Iraq today. We talked about how Christ could have led a revolution. He had the influence of the mob. He could have violently overthrown the oppressive powers of Rome. But he didn't. He ushered in a new way of setting things right. He began a new way of living together. He inaugurated a Kingdom which set the oppressed free not by means of violence but by the way of suffering.

So how do we respond to the war in Iraq? No one would argue that the Iraqi people were oppressed by a cruel dictator. But how do you free them from that? Conservatives would say that Bush did the right thing. You have to use force to overthrow a dictator. After force is used then freedom can come. After all, this is the American way. This is exactly how America won its freedom from England.

Liberals would disagree. They would say that it can be done politically. Through political pressure, economic sanctions, and various other manipulations, the political world community could have pressured Saddam into giving up his weapons. If enough pressure is applied, we may have even been able to get the dictator to improve the living conditions in his own country.

Are these our only options? That is it? That is the best we can do? And as Christians we buy into these political parties as if these are OUR only options. We are either for the war or against it. There is no other ground. One is either conservative or liberal, republican or democrat. We are a bi-polar nation. I am not so sure following Christ means following an either/or of political parties.

How do we help the Iraqi people and how do we do it non-violently? I think even the liberal democrats and the conservative republicans can agree that political pressure would only go so far in changing the life situation for the Iraqi people. Why isn't there a whole think-tank of Christians who are trying to think of responses to these situations which would be in line with Kingdom thinking?

What I mean is that if America went to war to help the Iraqi people and to get rid of WMD, aren't there non-violent, non-political ways to do this? One might respond, "No, how would you do that?" But that is my point, no one is even thinking about how to do that. Why? Because it is the way of suffering, and Lord knows we Westerners don't want any of that.

Already, 500+ troops have died as well as many Iraqis. Conservatives say, "Well, that is the sacrifice for freedom. Both for the safety of America and the freedom of Iraqis". Liberals say, "That is too many lives lost. If we would have done it politically, no lives would have been lost. Even if we would have only vaguely secured WMD and never freed the people of Iraq, at least no one would be dead."

As I Christian, death is certainly not the worst of things. I have a greater hope. There is more to this life than what is here on earth. I have an eternal hope. A truly "Kingdom of God" type response would probably cost more lives, not less. More people would die. Why? Because it wouldn't be done politically and it certainly wouldn't be done violently.

I wish I had more concrete examples. But one might be the Civil Rights movements. If they had gone purely through the political process, the reality is that we would still have segregated schools today. Often going through the "established" means of change makes for very, very slow progress.

So instead of just petitioning their governors and representatives, they marched. Now they could have marched violently. They could have caused riots and reeked so much havoc in society that the government would have been forced to listen. But then they would have only changed laws and not hearts.

No, instead they marched in peaceful, non-violent protest. It changed a nation. And continues to do so. It changed not only our laws, but our hearts. All of this was led by a Baptist preacher named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who wanted change to happen the right way. He was bound by Kingdom principles as a minister and man of God.

So what would this look like in Iraq? It could have looked like a fleet of Christian volunteers who legally or illegally entered the country and began feeding the hungry and doing surgery on the broken. As they set up communities of hope in Iraq, the persecution probably would have been enormous. 500 dead? No, probably more like thousands dead. And the more Christians died, the more Christians would have gone over to Iraq to be a part of setting the oppressed Iraqis free. Why would Christians do this? Maybe to win converts? No, they would do this because that is what the Kingdom of God is about. And in the process, Jesus wouldn't have needed to be preached, He would have been seen all over Iraq.

My guess is that if this happened, things would have changed. God has a way of working powerfully through a small remnant. My guess is that in time there wouldn't have been a dictator. My guess is that the country would have been transformed from the inside out. My guess is that thousands upon thousands of Christians would have had to die to see it happen. But it would have happened, and this without a shot fired in the other direction. It would have happened without political manipulation or revolt. That is the way of the Kingdom. That is the way of the cross.

So to all you Conservatives that wanted war and to all you Liberals that wanted bureaucratic non-sense, you both are wrong. Sure, both ways are more comfortable to the Western world and even to me. But American ways are not the ways of the Kingdom of God. And I need to chose this day which Kingdom I will be a citizen of.

Can I honestly say that I am willing to help, sacrifice, and die for the people of Iraq? No. But I might be able to say that I am willing to help, sacrifice and die for the Kingdom of God. My task now is to stop trying to push the Kingdom of God into some transcendent, apocalyptic future. And realize that Kingdom living began with Christ. And that I am called to be apart of it.

Lord, give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to feel the movement of Your Kingdom in the world.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

better days

Its amazing what a talk with a friend, a little irresponsibility, a hair cut and a trip to the grocery store can do. I was down in the dumps a few days ago but today I feel great. Some things (like bills, groceries, and getting a hair cut) had been hanging over my head. These things are done now and life is better.

A good talk with Chad also made life a little better. A girl that I had been emailing sent me an email agreeing to "just be friends"....this made life a little better too. I felt a sense of freedom after reading her email. And my workout today was great. Its the little things right?

All day today when people asked, "How are you?" I answered "I am good", or "I am great." And these statements were fully the truth.

Last night I couldn't focus at Common Grounds because there was a poetry reading. A bunch of students got up and spouted off in rhyme. It was fun, so instead of trudging through homework, I simply put the book down. Ahh, the power of putting the book down. I listened to the poetry and lived life. It was great. The rest of the night I just hung out with my CG friends and had fun. So refreshing.

I have made it my goal to really live life the rest of the semester. I will accept the consequences which will come from truly living life. I will try to hold to the priorities in my life and not bow down to the gods of immediacy and dead-line. I will try not to prostitute my time to the god of study and the temple of scholarship. I will try, to the best of my ability, to love the life I live and to live a life I will love. And then, we will see what happens.

Father, You have called me to live an abundant life. Show me the fullness of what this means. Help me to daily choose joy and to really love this life you have given to me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

words of oppression

I went to the Tunnel of Oppression tonight. Many of the oppression "skits" were very realistic and very powerful. The one that was interesting to me was the last one. It was called the tunnel of slurs.

This was a dark room lit only by black lights. All around us were vile and violent words posted up on boards for us to read. All the while we just stood there as 4 or 5 people walked past us screaming at us. They screamed the most vile, harsh, violent, abusive and oppressive hate slurs that one could conjure up. The whole room was full of hate. And for that moment, it was directed at us.

We all knew the people didn't actually "mean" what they were yelling. It was just a skit. I even knew two of the girls, Mary and Danielle, and they are two of the sweetest people I know. But for some reason, it didn't matter. I could "feel" the hate. It wasn't just that hearing the words made me cringe. I could feel the damage of the words that were screamed. I don't mean I just "emotionally" felt the words. I could physically "feel" the assault of the hate speech.

I wanted to get out of that room as soon as I could. I wanted to escape somehow. I wanted it to stop. But it didn't. We all just stood there, taking the abuse. Even the expletives that didn't make any sense hurt. Here I am standing there, a white, heterosexual male. But when they called me a "nigger" and a "F-ing fudge packer faggot" and a "whore" it still hurt.

It reminded me of the power of words. Genesis 1 reminds me of the power of words. God spoke Creation into existence. Words can be creative. Encouraging, empathetic words can renew and create hope inside a person.

In the same way, words can destroy. Words are destructive. They can tare people down from the inside out. Words seem to be the vehicle of emotion. Words can carry anger through the air in order to land a blow in the heart and mind of another. They can carry hate, disappointment, judgment and violence. They do this whether the person actually "means" those words or not.

It is a good reminder for me about sarcasm and coarse joking. I may not "mean" the words that I say in these moments, but they still carry a destructive force. Words have power. They are a double edged sword. They are a weapon. They can be used for good or evil. I guess the choice is mine.

Father, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Monday, February 09, 2004

I love you tears

Tonight I got a call from mom. I could tell she sounded sad on the phone. I never talk to just one of my parents. Its always on the speaker phone and its always the two of them together asking me how life is. This time was different. I don't know where dad was, but mom just wanted to call to tell me about how her dad was doing.

My grandfather just underwent a surgery on his leg. He is a big, strong ox of a man. But his weakness is in his hips. He has had both hips replaced over the years. He is a farmer, tough as nails. But this time they found an infection in his leg. His diabetes didn't help. So they had to take out a chunk of leg muscle to get rid of the infection. His means that his mobile, independent life may be placed on hold indefinitely.

I have been praying for my grandpa Kuhn all week. He is out of surgery now and had to be put in a nursing home for the time being. For an independent farmer, this is as good as death. But he has to undergo physical therapy and he needs to take antibiotics intravenously, which couldn't be done at home.

So my mom calls tonight to update me on all of this. I told her about life here and she updated me on her new job opportunity and how the rest of the family was doing. My mom is great. But she was so sad on the phone. After I told her that I had been praying for her and dad and for new job opportunities as well as praying for my grandfather, she was so appreciative.

By the end of the conversation, she was choked up. I told her thanks for calling and she couldn't answer. I could hear the tears streaming down her cheeks. She tried to hold them in but she couldn't. I knew she didn't want to cry on the phone, she wanted to be strong, but she couldn't hold back the flood of emotion which was welling up inside of her.

So she apologized for bothering me, as if her calls are ever a bother, and I thanked her for calling. I said, "I guess I will talk to you next week then." She said, "Ok." I said bye and she said bye, and that was it. What I wanted to say, I had not the strength to say. I wanted to say, "Mom, it will be ok. And just know that I love you mom, I love you."

We don't really say "I love you" in my family. We show it. We are there for one another. We sacrifice for one another. But we usually don't toss around the L word. I struggle saying I love you, even to the people I love the most.

My friend Chad and I had a heart to heart last night. Thanks Chad. He ended our conversation with, "I love you man." He was sincere. And I knew it. I wanted to say, "I love you too holmes." That is what I wanted to say. But what I wanted to say I had not the strength to say. So I said something like, "Alright man," or "Thanks man" or something silly like that.

Even as I write this in Common Grounds, and I think of my mom crying on the phone, tears are coming to my own eyes. I wish I could go back....I wish I could rewind and end that conversation right. "Mom, things will be alright. I love you mom, I love you."

Father, I stink at expressing love. If a Christian should be able to do one thing, it should be that. But I suck at it. Forgive me for the pride that holds me back. Father, I can say I love you to You all day long, but what good is it if I can't say it to my friends, my family. Help me to say what I cannot say on my own.

across the room

What do I do with a cute girl across the way who is making eyes at me? Or maybe I am making eyes at her and she is just wondering, "What is that weirdo looking at?" I can never tell which is which. And all I know is that she is cute and she is looking my way.

I don't know about her emotional maturity. I can't tell if she is spiritually solid. I don't know if we would have great conversation or if we could have fun together. Its all a mystery. I guess that is the safety of just flirting with the eyes. No danger, no commitment, no consequences.

What compels one to go up and talk to another? Do I wait for the Spirit to move? Or do I move and hope the Spirit helps me as I stumble and stammer in first time conversation? The only thing I have consistently been successful at is to return to homework and pretend the flirtation isn't happening.

Maybe its not happening after all. Maybe its just wishful thinking on my part. Maybe its a mixture of her wondering what I am looking at and my own ego hoping she is looking my way. I guess I will never know.

Sunday, February 08, 2004


This past week has been a low one. Sometimes one goes through emotional lows. Usually there is a definite reason. Something is to blame. But for some reason I can't pin point the culprit. I have been feeling a general low I guess for many reasons all put together.

I feel behind on school work, at the same time, I feel like an inordinate amount of time is spent doing school work. The impending reality of graduation is on the horizon. I am kinda confused about how to handle a couple girl situations. Drama on the blog site. I worked all weekend so little time to have fun was available.

And speaking of fun, I was telling some friends the other day that I think I have forgotten how to have fun. Its like this cloud of drizzle is following me around. Every time I think the sun may be coming out, it seems to sneak behind that same stinken cloud. My sleeping patterns are kinda wack right now, which doesn't help. I am financially broke, physically drained, emotionally dragging and the fun factor in my life is non-existent.

I am really not sure why all of this is. I have no "trauma" of life to blame it on. I have everything I need. I have good friends. I have a great education. I just am not sure what's wrong. My hope is that I will somehow snap out of this soon. My motivation to get work done is lessening by the day. I need all the motivation I can muster right now because I have a lot of work which won't wait on my mood to swing. Curious. Life is so weird sometimes.

how do I make a decision

I was watching that movie "Fools Rush In" with Matthew Perry and Selma Hayek. Selma's character talked about her Mexican family's beliefs. She said that she believed that each person had a destiny and that it was up to the person to see the "signs" in order to lead them to that destiny.

This got me thinking about my own theology. Some could accuse me of having that same kind of theology. This is because I believe that God had one college that He wanted me to go to. I believe God had one seminary that he desired me to go to. Likewise, I believe there is one person who He wants me to marry. Does this make me a fatalist or Calvinist? Not really.

I don't believe in fate or destiny. I don't believe we each have a road map all planned out for us. But I do believe that God has an opinion, and even, a specific desire for our lives. What I mean is that I don't believe that it was planned out at my birth that I would go to Messiah College. But I do believe that when I was looking for colleges, Messiah is the one God wanted me to go to. I believe God knows me better than I do. I believe he knew about Messiah College better than I did. And so as I sought Him in that decision, I believe he led me to that place.

My theology could even fit into those crazy Open Theists' theology. Although I don't consider myself an Open Theist, my understanding of their theology would fit my view of making decisions. It wasn't necessary for God to know the future to lead me to Messiah College. It was only necessary that He know all there is to know about me and about the many colleges in the US. If God knows all there is to know, which would exclude the future, then it still makes sense that I should ask Him what decision I should make.

This kind of decision making still works with going to seminary and even my future wife. I needed God to let me know what the best decision was. I needed His omniscience and not necessarily His prophetic future telling. Thus, it still makes sense that God would have A girl that he wants me to marry. It still makes sense, even if God doesn't know the future and even if he hasn't mapped out my whole life, that He has an opinion about who I should marry. Especially if I view God as a Father of intimate love. These decisions in my life matter to Him.

Now, moving away from Open Theism, what if our God does know something about the future? All the more reason to depend on God to reveal which way to go,... which decision to make.

So people ask me, "Do you think God has just one person for you to marry?" And I usually answer them, "Yes." But maybe I should clarify my answer. Maybe next time someone asks me that question I should answer, "He will."

Father, I know that my theology is usually as messed up as me. Help me to err on the side of trusting more in You and being more dependent on intimacy with You. God, I trust You to know me better than I know me. I trust that you care about the decisions that I have to make in my life. And I trust that You have an opinion about which way is best.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

sticker of trial and tribulation

At work today, I was in charge of making a bunch of poster boards with quotes on them about various depressing topics. The posters are for the Tunnel of Oppression thing which CLL is doing soon. There was quotes on there about poverty, rape, abuse and the like.

One thing really stood out to me though as I glued the unending quotes onto each poster board. They always put the bar code sticker on the soft side of the poster board. They never put it on the shiny side. The shiny side isn't good for anything really. Markers don't write well on that side. Glue doesn't stick well on that side either. So whenever anyone uses poster board, they always use the soft side. The side where glue works and markers show up.

And wouldn't you know it. This is the very side which store owners stick their bar code sticker on. And its not easy to get that sticker off either. It takes skill and patience in order to carefully scrape the sticker off without leaving gooey remnants. Those tricky bar code stickers Ahh, such mysteries in this world.

my response

Ok, ok, so my response to the last post and the comments which it generated. Let me first say that I appreciate all the posts (yes, even the semi-condemning and judgmental ones) but please put your name with your response. I promise I won't bite. I would just like to see who is responding to my posts.

Let me also say that the last post was a joke. It was born out of a fun-loving conversation between me and Lisa Murphy. It was not ever meant to be taken seriously. No bulletin board was ever going to be made. It was just a joke. To those who took this post so seriously as to get offended by it, I am sorry.

Let me also assure my faithful readers that I am a heterosexual male who is single. As much of a surprise as it might be to everyone, I do find some girls attractive. I do find other girls cute. My blog should reflect this if I am being honest with myself. And in my blog, I try to be as transparent as I can be.

On that note, let me also share what I believe this blog to be. It is not a news article. It is simply my thoughts, my emotions and my questions. If you don't think I should have these thoughts, or these emotions, or these questions, that is ok. Just please try not to judge me. I am trying to be transparent. And when you do this, you reveal your best as well as your worst sides. I am not trying to be a monk. I am not trying to portray in my blog someone that I am not.

I think the tendency with we mere humans when we blog is to hide ourselves behind who we want others to think we are. We worry about what people will say and if they will still like us at the end of the day. This blog is a place for me to cast off those worries. It has been a safe place for me to expose my inner self. Regardless of what people will think.

My intention is not to offend. But if by being my true self, I end up offending people, then I have to live with that reality. People are welcome to come to this blog and crawl into my brain. It is the living room of my mind. You are free to enter into my mental living room. But when you get there, and the floor isn't picked up and the couch has some stains on it and the wall paper is falling off the walls, try not to judge. You are free to leave my living room at anytime. The door is not locked.

In being transparent, I take a risk. I risk people not liking what they see inside of me. And that is ok, I don't like everything in there either. We can agree on that. I risk that after two weeks of posting deep thoughts and wining peoples respect, I could post one goofy post and lose all of my admiring fans. And that is probably what should happen.

My true self must come out. If I can't expose my insides into the light of day here, where can it be done? I feel compelled even more now than ever to be real, to be honest, to be transparent. If by that last post I lost your respect, then praise the Lord. You probably thought too highly of me.

I don't deserve to be on anyone's pedestal. The great thing about people's responses to that last post is that my closest friends were the least shocked. They know what I am like. My sarcasm, my sin, my truth, my honesty, my confession.....none of it surprises them. Why? Because they know who I am.

Tonight, I had planned on continuing the top ten list. I have 6 new girls written down. They range from cute to Hot once again. But, my friend and boss Lisa Murphy asked me not to. So out of respect for her, I won't. And because I don't want to get fired.

I guess what is the most sad thing for me is that after all the deep thoughts. After all the heart wrenching posts, and after all the soul searching that I have done on here, the one post that got the most comments is the one that means the least to me. It was just a joke. It was just for fun. It was light-hearted tomfoolery.

Even this post that I am writing is weird to me because it is to an audience. My blog is not to an audience. It is to me. That's it. I am not writing a news paper column. Its a blog. An online journal. Imagine people walking up to you, after a morning of coffee and writing in your journal, and having them say. "Um, could you not write that in your journal anymore. People might get the wrong idea. And it might make people feel self-conscious. In fact, I am kinda disappointed in you for even writing what you wrote in your journal." How does one apologize for one's own journal entries?

Future readers of this blog please be advised, I will continue to try to be honest and transparent. Being that I am a 24 year old, single, heterosexual male, that means that future blogs will include stuff about girls. That is just reality. Anything other would be false. And this may be a shock to some, but some of my thoughts about females are good and some are less than good. But I refuse to put a filter on this blog which makes me out to be some holy, pious preacher-boy. That ain't me. But if you are willing to put up with the stains and messiness of my mental living room, I welcome you.

Friday, February 06, 2004

top ten fragrant girls

I was talking with Lisa Murphy, assistant director of Collins hall, tonight and we were discussing the freshman girls that I thought were smelly. I was working the desk in Collins tonight so we sat there and picked out some girls that would make my top ten list.

I am thinking about making a bulletin board in the lobby of Collins in order to display my top ten list. My job, as an office assistant, is to sit at the desk and decide if:
1. there is "a stinkyness" about the girl
2. the girl is stinky
3. the girl is stumbly
4. the girl is somber

Of course there is an increasing degree of smell as I move from level 1 to level 4. As the top ten list is formed, the top three will be considered the bronze, silver and gold medal winners. All the names will be posted on the board in the lobby and the medal winners will have their picture and bio posted up there.

My first few offerings for tonight are three stand out girls. They are:
Poopy Pants
Drinks Alot
Cry Baby

Aside-o Lamb just told me Cry's last name. I know the others because they have received gifts at the front desk before. I must say that Poopy is tough competition. She definitely rates a "somber". Drinks probably rates a stumble and Cry is both stinky and stumbles. I will call her, "Really stinken stumbly!" Maybe that is the equivalent of a 3 and 1/2.

So these are the first Collins girls to make the list. As the list grows to ten, their odor will fully rank and then they make a bulletin board. This is my, my DUTY as the only showered staff working in Collins Hall.

a follow up thought on homosexuality

I just finished IMing a friend's roomate who is getting her masters in counseling with a concentration in mental illness. We talked about homosexuality. She raised an interesting point.

I asked her if she thought mental illness was sin. She said no, obviously, but then noted the movie "Monster." In this movie, the main character is mentally ill due to a rediculously tough life. This mental illness led to her becoming a serial murderer. Is murder sin? Yes. Is mental illness sin? No. But the mental illness was a direct influence on the murdering. The action of murder which is sin came from mental illness which is not sin.

So what does this have to do with homosexuality? If the feeling of being attracted to the same sex is caused by a biological reality, then it may not be sin. But when one acts on this biological reality and has sexual experiences with a person of the same sex, then it becomes sin. If I believe that, just as mental illness is a biological reality, homosexuality is a biological reality, I must be open to the possibility that "acting" on this biological reality may still result in sin. This is the case for the mentally ill patient who murders. Could it be the case for a homosexual person? It is possible. I don't know.

The quest for truth and love continues!

more thoughts on homosexuality

I guess I have a few options when it comes to my understanding of homosexuality. I am convinced that one is both affected biologically and environmentally in various ways in order to come to the realization that one is homosexual. To the extent that it is a biological reality or an emotional choice does have an impact on how I should understand it in relation to sin.

Option 1. It is a sinful lifestyle which is chosen apart from any biological influence. It is chosen because of environmental and psychological issues as a means to cope. Such issues would include neglect, abuse (of any kind, emotional, verbal, sexual), or even social conditioning (ie. being effeminate and being called "gay" growing up.) It is freely chosen and therefore can be freely denied, though there remains a need for psychological healing.

Option 2. It is a sinful lifestyle which is chosen due to both a biological influence and an environmental/psychological influence. This would liken itself to alcoholism. There may be genetic pre-disposition that is re-enforced by certain experiences growing up. All this culminates in feelings which allows a person to assume an identity of being homosexual. It is freely chosen due to strong biological influences and therefore can be freely denied, though may be likened to an addiction. Need for both communal support and psychological healing are evident.

Option 3. It is a lifestyle that is a result of sin in the world, which is not chosen but is a biological reality. This would liken it to a mental illness. It is not recognized as a part of God's good creation and yet is also not considered sin. By comparing it to mental illness I am not saying that it is an illness. I am saying that this option would claim that it is a chemical/biological reality that must be dealt with in one way or another. People don't choose mental illness, it is a part of being a fallen creation. In this option, homosexuality would not, therefore, be a lifestyle of sin as long as it followed biblical principles such as monogamous marriage and sexual purity before marriage. It would not, however, be seen as an ideal, just as mental illness is not ideal.

One issue to consider in this option is that often sinful lifestyles (alcohol and drug abuse for instance) are often causes of mental illness (to stick with our main example.) And just as often, mental illness occurs at birth. Likewise, mental illness can be a reaction to abusive environmental and psychological situations. This option would have to leave open the possibility that the biological reality of homosexuality could be a result from a normal birth, from a previous sinful lifestyle, or from environmental and psychological issues. Because it is a biological reality, it is not chosen, and therefore cannot be freely denied. Further, the question of whether one should try coping mechanisms (as those who are mentally ill have tried therapy and medication) would be up for debate. Because it would not be seen as an illness, this would be questionable at best.

Option 4. Homosexuality is not a sin because homosexual people were created to be that way. It is natural part of God's good creation and should be accepted as such. One's sexuality, assuming biblical principles of purity and monogamy were followed as best as any of us can, does not negatively impact one's relationship with God. The Christian community, therefore, is the one in need of healing as they learn to cope with their own prejudices and learn to accept people of differing sexual identities.

I am sure that there are other options to be considered here. These are the ones that seem most prominent to me as a Christian. These are the ones that I wrestle with the most. I believe so strongly that a person cannot be divided into little nuggets. Our physical, biological, emotional and spiritual selves are not separate. They are one. I am A person, not many persons. So each part of me effects the other. This makes the issue of homosexuality so complicated. No easy answers.

Father, above all help me to love people.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

wrestling with homosexuality

I have been wrestling with homosexuality ever since the beginning of this year. It all began with the challenges put forth by my friend "Donnie." This friend of mine is gay and is a first year student here at Baylor. As he told me his struggle through high school, my heart hurt for him. His life is a challenge to my view on homosexuality.

Then this whole thing with Truett and Matt Bass. I have had many classes with Matt. We have argued with each other and supported each other for the past couple years in the classes that we have had together. He is openly gay now. I have a lot of respect for him as a Christian minister. His life is a challenge to my understanding of homosexuality.

Today in Dr. Gloer's class, all we did was discuss this issue and pray. Dr. Gloer has such amazing wisdom sometime. He, himself, is struggling to seek God's truth in all of this. He is also, like the rest of us at Truett, having to take another look at our view on homosexuality.

Gloer said, "The most dangerous thing we can do is to pray for God’s wisdom, and the most courageous thing is to obey it." Then he went on to say, "I don’t know where God is taking us, I just want to be there." I think the thing that effected me the most was when he said, "I don’t know the ramifications of seeking God’s discernment." It's SO true. So true. Crazy things can happen when we submit to the wisdom of the cross instead of the wisdom of this world. Who's to know what will happen? Certainly not me. Only God knows in the end.

Father, I submit my understandings to You. I don't have any wisdom apart from You, Father. Help me to know what you think of homosexuality. And help the Truett community to be just that,...the community which You have called us to be.


As I read over the posts on this blog I notice how extreme they are. It seems that I only express the highs and the lows of my days. They all seem to be either very self-critical or confused or full of joy. There aren't any just "normal" everyday emotions expressed. Maybe it is that the only thoughts which burn into my brain long enough to remember are the one which make it to this blog. Its only the extremes which stand out.

As I read over these posts I wonder, "Who is this guy?" Sometimes it doesn't even seem like me. Most of the time life isn't as extreme as these posts make it out to be. Life usually has a sort of comforting blandness to it. Maybe some of my posts should reflect this blandness. Sounds like a plan. I will begin articulating the averageness of life. Starting...........three minutes ago.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

the long way around

It has dawned on me that Jesus always took the long way around. When moving through the Promised Land from Jerusalem to Galilee and back again, he didn't have to go through Samaria. But he did. And there he changed a town through the witness of a promiscuous woman getting water at noon. Lives are changed on the long way around.

He came as the Messiah. But never took a shortcut. He could have turned all the stones into bread, this would have fed every hungry person in the country. But instead he took two loaves and asked his twelve delinquent disciples to pass them out to the crowd. Miracles happen on the long way around.

He could have been handed all of the kingdoms of the world. He could have ended Roman oppression and greed. He could have led an uprising, and the people would have followed him, just as they followed the many revolters before him. He would have been called the messiah king in line for the Davidic throne. Instead, he submitted to the guards and was arrested. Beatings happen on the long way around.

He had the command of angels. He could have jumped off the top of the Temple and had a thousand angels to catch him. It would have been like body surfing at a concert. He would have been heralded as the priestly messiah. He would have righted the wrongs which were ramped in the priestly circles. He could have offered a new religious system full of mercy and justice. Instead, he offered himself, nailed to a cross. Death is waiting on the long way around.

I think about the temptation of revolution. I always want to rebel or revolt against the status quo. I seem to think that doing this by force is the most efficient and most effective way to go. I don't want to heal hurting churches. I want to plant new ones. I don't want to repair damaged denominations, I want to free myself from them. I don't want to stay in relationships with people who are so different from me. I want to make new friends. I don't like the tension and struggle of unanswered questions. I want the right answers and I want others to have them too.

I don't want to see change happen through submission. I don't want the agent of renewal to be sacrifice. I don't want to go the long way around. I want change to happen now, and I want to take it by force. I want a shortcut. I want the freeway. I want the speed limit to be 75mph so I can go 85mph without getting a ticket.

I am sure I would make a great revolutionary. I will be a great church planter. I make a terrible messiah, and an even worse disciple.

crazy dreams

I had three crazy dreams last night. I couldn't get to sleep so I took some sleep aids to help me. All of this at 2:30am. This could be the culprit to my wacko dreams.

Dream 1: Me and a friend get into a fight about a girl. I don't even like the girl but for some reason I emphatically defend my right to pursue her as a girlfriend. I claim my territory and fight my friend about her. Ridiculous.

Dream 2: Somehow I find myself in the midst of a Southcentral L.A. gang. I am not quite sure what happened but I just know that Ludacris was near a window and was fighting the Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie Smalls is what I like to call him). In the scuffle Ludacris throws Biggie out the window, whereby he plummets to his death. Can't remember after that.

Dream 3: The Mafia is upset with me for some reason and I find myself in a white bathroom. Somehow I am Harrison Ford or am playing a Harrison Ford character in a movie, I am not sure which. Anyway, they beat me up and leave me for dead. A HUGE puddle of crimson blood floods out of my mouth and onto the floor as I lay there limp. I am dyeing.

Then, all of a sudden, I get a burst of energy. I decided to pick myself up and clean up the blood. The mob is just in the next room so I have to do it quickly and quietly. They are sending in a guy to "clean up" the rest. I gather that this means that I will be chopped up into little pieces so as to dispose of me easily. I grab some paper towels and clean up the blood. As the guy who is coming to take my life enters the bathroom, I throw way the bloodied paper towels and scurry into a stall. I stand on the toilet seat and crouch down so as to not be seen. He calls out my name because he knows I am in there. (I can't remember the name but it wasn't Mark, and I still recognized it as my own name, weird.) He slams open the stall door and sticks a cardboard box the size of a handgun in my face. I take the box, open it up, and there before me is a slice of vegetable pizza. I don't even like veggie pizza but I was glad to see this piece come my way. He was letting me live. And then I woke up.

After each of these dreams I woke up disturbed, anxious, worried and generally unsettled. I don't know what they mean, but two things are clear: 1. I've got issues and 2. Last night, the turmoil within (whatever that might be), manifested itself in some nutzo dreams.

february rain

It was raining hard this afternoon. I always wonder, before I jump out of my car and sprint into my destination, whether I should wait. This happened to me today.

It was pouring down rain. It was raining harder than I had seen it rain in Waco in a long time. And there I sat, ready to run, in my car, wondering if I should wait. Will it let up soon? Should I sit here a little longer? Should I relax and keep the music going?

But, inevitably, I run. I strategically open my door, lock my car, put keys in my pocket and grab my backpack all in one swift move. Then I spring out of the seat, shut the door and run in to Common Grounds. I got wet. Really wet, as did my backpack.

As I stare out the window now its barely drizzling. A second guess comes to mind. Maybe I should have waited. Ahhh, but then I would have missed the rain.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

listening to my friends

I just got back from speaking to some girls in Russell hall. Christy, their chaplain, set up a question/answer panel with me and three other guys. Mostly the questions were about dating, purity, dressing modestly, and guy's general opinion about things.

As I sat up front with Chad, Mark and Jason I noticed something happening. I would add my two cents here and there and add my dollar fifty when needed. But what I noticed was when the other guys were talking. I would just sit there and listen to Mark talk about God's grace vs. the lies of Satan. I would listen to Chad speak honestly about how scared he was of girls. I would listen to Jason warmly speak of Christy and what attracted him to her.

As I listened, a thought continued to enter my mind. It was as if I floated off the table we were sitting on and drifted across the room. And there as a ghost in the back of the room, behind the couches and behind the gathering of girls, I heard this thought. The thought was this, "Wow, these guys have such wisdom. How do they know so much? Where does this wisdom come from?"

And before my out of body experience ended and my soul re-entered my body, I realized that all of the afore mentioned gentlemen were future and present ministers of the gospel. Each one had committed their lives to follow Christ. Each one overflowed with wisdom, not from themselves, but from the source of the Spirit. This well of wisdom had clearly been tapped before. This wasn't the first time the Spirit would speak through them. And I know it won't be the last.

I was in awe of how God was speaking through three semi-normal guys. And God wasn't just speaking truth to those girls in the room. I was impacted by the movement of the Spirit as well. My dry soul found an oasis of living water flowing out of these guys. These guys who are my friends. These guys who I see all the time. These guys who I know their sin and their frailties. Even still, God spoke. Even still, God moved. Amazing.

Father, thanks for friends like these!

broken offering

"So take this broken offering and make it whole."

This is a line from a new Caedmon's Call song. I was singing along with it in the car today. It got me thinking about brokenness. What is it to be broken? And what is it to be put back together? My first thought moves toward an expensive vase that is thrown to the ground. Is that what God does to break us? Then does He rebuild us into another vase with spiritual super glue? I don't think this is a good picture of brokenness though we may feel this way sometimes.

There is some sort of creative process in the breaking. When we break things, it is rarely creative...usually it is destructive. But we do have some examples of "breaking" as a means of creation. I remember back to the days of high school soccer. If you needed an instant ice pack, the trainers would pull out this plastic bag filled with various chemicals. If you didn't disturb the bag, it remained room temperature. But if you broke the solid material inside, and if you pounded on the bag a little, then it soon became ice cold. Instant heat packs work the same way.

Another example of "breaking" as an act of creation is the always fun glow stick. I remember those fun middle school dances and outdoor concerts where glow sticks were all the rage. You have to snap the glow stick in half in order for the glowing to begin. Maybe this is more what we are like in the hands of God.

Maybe when we are broken before God, there is something being created. Maybe from the brokenness comes heat and light. I am even now reminded that even if we don't measure up to a heat pack or a glow stick....even if we are fragile vases which are dashed against the rocks....even then God can be creative.

I can see God picking up each splinter,...each shattered piece of pottery which once formed a beautiful vase. I can see him gather each piece by hand, one at a time. But He isn't remaking the same vase with some mystical super glue. Instead, forever the artist, I see God creating a wonderful mosaic. You can't even tell it used to be a vase. It has transformed into a captivating collection of colors and shapes. And even in the breaking of the most fragile of pottery, creation has occurred.

Father, take my broken offering and make me whole.

mercy me

Henry Nouwen spoke to me about something last night that I haven't thought of in a long time. He mentioned that when we get silent, the noise inside of us gets loud. What usually is the loudest is lust and anger. He said that this inner anger stems from unresolved relationships and this inner lust stems from unsatisfied desires.

He mentioned that usually we tend to do violence to these two noises. We tend to try to burn them or destroy them in some way. We try to beat them up as if they were not a part of us. When this happens we tend to do violence to ourselves. Nouwen reminded me that Christ has called me to be merciful to my neighbor. But Christ also called me to be merciful to myself.

Nouwen, in his powerfully simple way, offers an alternative to trying to conquer these inner noises by force. He suggests that we embrace these inner factions and treat them with mercy. He suggests that instead of making enemies of them and thus ourselves, he wonders if we couldn't treat them as friends.

I wonder, as well, just how one goes about being merciful to oneself? It makes sense though. Of all the people to greet with mercy, it might be good to begin with the enemies within.

Father, help me to see myself as you see me. Even the worst parts of me.

Monday, February 02, 2004


Father I come to you tonight to confess. In the past few weeks I have had so many people joke around with me about girls. They joke that the freshman girls all have crushes on me. They joke that the Collins CLs think I am hot. They jest in good fun and I laugh. My heart is heavy tonight Lord. My heart aches. Your conviction is almost too much for me to bare. What have I won for getting a few freshman to like the way I look. I have won only conviction from You. My heart is heavy. Forgive me. I have turned them to look my way. I have turned them to gaze at my idol. But to You, oh Lord, to You have they turned? Have I led them to Your presence? Have I led them to Your gaze? Do they giggle and whisper about You, oh Lord, or me? You have called me out. You have set me apart for ministry. And the best I can do is to get freshman girls to find me cute? The best I can do is to get some to look at my blog? Is that what my life is about? Father, forgive me. You know how ugly I am. You know my sin. You know my corruption and my selfishness. You have seen my whitewashed tomb. Before You I am so little. So little. So little. Forgive me, Father....I know what I do. And I do it anyway. My heart aches Father. You have set me apart to lead people to You. And instead I have led them to me. I cannot heal them. I cannot shower them with grace and love. I cannot see them like You see them. I cannot help them. I cannot transform them. You can. You can. You can. You can. You will. If only I would step down, step back, and hide behind You. If only my arrogance would subside. If only I could deny myself and follow You. Father, I don't know how You work. But I know that You can use even me. Father, may they not see just me. May they see You in me. May they see Your grace, Your gentleness, Your power, Your love, Your kindness. I am so full of myself, Father. I am tired of me. I need more of You. Ease my burdened heart, this night, and return me to You. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. Make me new again. Amen.

The Priestly Blessing (part two)

Referring back to my post last Friday entitled "The Priestly Blessing". I discovered an interesting truth in scripture from the Cain and Abel story of Genesis 4. The story goes that Abel brought his flock and Cain brought his offering of crops to God. The NIV says that the Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering but didn't look with favor on Cain's offering. This is actually not the case when one looks at the Hebrew.

In the Hebrew, it actually says that the Lord looked or "gazed" upon Abel but didn't look upon Cain. It was after this that Cain was "depressed" and ended up killing his brother Abel. Cain seemed to be jealous of God's face turning toward Abel and not yet toward him. I wonder if, given some time, and given Cain's resistance of the sin which was "crouching" at his "door" in verse 7, if God would have eventually looked upon Cain. This may be reading into the text but I think He would have. I think God hints at this in the beginning of verse 7, "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?"

Its also interesting to note that God asks Cain, "Why is your face downcast?" So because God's face didn't turn towards Cain, Cain's face turned downward toward the ground. In the end, it is the ground which cries out about Abel's blood and the ground which curses Cain in verses 11-12.

All of this illuminates my desire to have God's face shine upon me and for His face to turn toward me. What if God's face turns towards another? What if God faces a brother in Christ? Will my desire to win God's favor cause me to be jealous of my brother? Will I murder him for it? Where will my face turn when I don't feel the warmth of God's gaze on me? Will I look to the ground only to be cursed by it? Or will I turn to my brother and join God in His gaze? Will my face join with God in His smile?

Father, I long for your face to turn my way. Yet when You look elsewhere, help me to look with You. Help me to also bless those You bless and love those whom You love. God, grant me eyes to see the gaze of your face. Father, help me to be a part of the work which You are always doing in this world. And give me patience to wait for Your face to turn towards me.