this world will never satisfy….

May 24, 2010 at 11:32 am (Brokenness, God, Insufficiency of Man)

I sit here with a strange feeling empty feeling..a feeling that I have never had after a tv show.  I graduated from seminary in May 2008.  The next week, I began a journey through a TV series that would be like none other.  For the 3 months of that summer, me and 2 friends watched 4 seasons of Lost.  My every thought that summer was Lost..I was scared “the others” would jump out of the bushes in front of my house in Highland Park.  Lost was everything.  Then came season 5, then season 6 – the last season.  Once a week, the past 2 Springs, I have watched Lost.  Then ran home and read blogs, listened to podcasts, read articles…I studied for a tv show!  What was this thing I was watching?  This year, Lost Talk at the YL office on Wednesday at 10:15 am – time to process, think and discuss.  Dorks, yes I know.

Then tonight happened.  The end.  4.5 hours of Lost.  Now, Jimmy Kimmel talking about Lost.  The finale, it’s over.  6 seasons, 6 years, hours of studying, processing, discussing, missed sleep because of thinking and wondering, 6 seasons of confusion = right now.  And I am left now with an empty strange feeling…because this world will never satisfy.

It’s a feeling like I have after all the wonderful Christmas presents that costs hundreds or thousands of dollars have been unwrapped and you think, “Is this it?”  The things of this world will never satisfy.  There is a longing and a desire and a deep knowing that there is more to this life.  Its like what Solomon says after acquiring all the world has to offer and says that it is all meaning less.

Is Lost bad?  No!  By any means!  This tv show has been wonderful!  But it is a strange feeling to have after a tv show is over.

Paralleled with boys – they will never ultimately satisfy.  I long for love.  But when I find out a boy that I am close to (or so I thought), is visiting my state but didn’t tell me about it, I hurt.  May 11 – I talked to this boy and at the end of our discussion, knew I needed to write him off in my heart.  And I did, or so I thought.  But then I find out he is in my state but he didn’t tell me..even though I asked him about coming here when we last talked and he said it didn’t look like he was coming.  That was 2 weeks ago..maybe he bought a last-minute ticket, i don’t know.  But it just hurts that I wasn’t even important enough for him to even tell me about it.  So again, this world doesn’t satisfy.  Boys, tv shows, books they all leave me with an empty feeling when they are over…

There is only 1 thing that can fill me completely.  The Lord is all that will ever completely satisfy.  Why do I consistently try to pour myself into other things while knowing they will not ultimately satisfy me?   Will I ever learn or will I always be looking for the things of this world to fill me?  Lord, take my heart and make it yours!


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To be known…

May 19, 2010 at 11:16 am (God, Insufficiency of Man, Missional Living, Sovereignty of God, The Gospel)

Community is something I crave, and something all believers have been called to.  I absolutely agree with Dietrich Bonhoeffer as he says: “Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belaying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ.”  And also when he says “Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.  Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray.  You are not alone, even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ.  If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you.”  Without any reservations, I know this is the way the believer will find the most joy in the life and in their walk with the Lord.  However, a few months ago, I discovered that I was an introvert and that’s when things got confusing.

Up until September of 2009, I was living life as an extroverted person.  In September, when my world was shaken and everything that I thought I knew about myself and my walk with the Lord was questioned, I began to discover things about myself.  I discovered that 2 of my top 3 strengths were intellectualism and input, which basically means that I am a dork and I love to read and study.  From this discovery on, and still continuing today, I am discovering things about myself that I never realized before.  Not really new discoveries, but I am realizing that it is ok for me to be a certain way, that I don’t HAVE to make myself one way just because I think a person in youth ministry HAS to be a certain way.

In relation to community, up until September, I had been a part of a small group through my church for almost 4 years.  This group has changed, has grown, has divided, has grown again and in September, was up to almost 25 people and still growing.  Not really a small group by any means.  I never quite felt like I fit in with this group, I never felt really known and understood in the depths of my core, even though I had known these people for almost 4 years.  I just wanted to be known.  I wanted someone to ask how I was doing, I wanted to be authentic with someone, but no one ever asked.  I am a horribly depraved human being who puts on a wonderful facade of “everything being ok.”  I just wanted someone to notice my facade and call me out, but it never happened.  So, I continued living in the facade of “i am in ministry and have a degree from seminary so I am walking solidly with the Lord” and just the facade of mental and emotion well-being of “yes, i am all put together and loving life.”  When in fact none of that was true.  So, when my world shattered in September, I pulled back.  I lost trust in everyone and pulled back emotionally and socially.  I was alone and overwhelmed by the inner monologue running endlessly through my head.

So, in my discoveries of being an introvert, I realized that introverts rarely feel known and connected in large groups of people, and would rather be in a group of 3 or 4.  Less width, but more depth.  So I quickly shrank my circle of deep friends.  I pulled back emotionally from everyone in our group, besides 2 people.  I still love them, still want to hang out socially with them, but realized, trying to give myself to that group was more draining than beneficial, and I desperately needed help.

So today, I have 4 girls that I consider deep solid friendships – friends that the Lord has blessed me with and that I love so very much.  2  are in ministry themselves, 1 in school, 1 working..all different stages of life.  I love this, I love how the Lord uses them to teach me and show me new things about me and about Him.  But still….I find myself back to the same thoughts I had in our big “small” group – I want to be known. I often think of Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together and his caution above that I often remember – Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.  What is alone and what is real community?  Often, I am in a group of friends and having fun but still feel alone, because I am not really known.  The facades I put up hide too much.  Is my community of 4 real community.  We never all are together, these are 4 girls in different parts of my life.  So, is that real community, or not because I am not really known?

I want someone to know my struggles, know what I have been through, know my daily/sometimes hourly fights.  I don’t want to be fake, I want to lose the facade, I want the deep inner yearnings of my soul to come out.  I want to be authentic, but I don’t want to volunteer this information without someone wanting to hear it.  So, if your reading this, ask someone.  Ask a friend how they are doing, how they are really doing.  Ask like you truly care about them.  Ask how their soul feels.  Who Jesus is to them today?  And if you know me, ask me.  Ask me what is really going on under the facades I wear.  I want to be real.

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The manifestation of sin

December 17, 2009 at 10:27 am (Brokenness, God, Insufficiency of Man)

In high school, the pastor at my church had an affair.  In college, one of my ministry teachers was on a medical sabbatical at one point because of extreme depression.  In grad school, the pastor of my church stepped down because he was addicted to medication.  A friend’s dad who is in ministry has an affair.  Another friend’s mom who is married to a man in ministry, leaves her husband for an old crack head boyfriend.  My  ministry mentor turns out to be a child molester.  And now, my beloved pastor has brain cancer.

The manifestation is extreme.  Whether any of these things are the act of the free will of man, or ordained by God, they are all a manifestation of sin.  Oh how extensive sin is in this world!  My heart breaks when I see the sufferings of my precious middle schoolers, as they chase after this world and the temporary enticements of it that seem so so important but in reality mean so very little.  The enticements of this world are ever growing.  Everything around us seems so so good, so easily attained and so worth everything it takes to get it.  Living in the middle of a very rich city makes this especially hard.  I live in the midst of an environment of people who make a lot of money, live in nice expensive (and sometimes HUGE)  places, travel, drive nice cars and always dress really cute.  While non of these things are in themselves wrong, they shift focus.  As rebellious stubborn people, we are always striving for more in this world.  Sin manifestes itself in this city just in shifting our minds away from the grace of God and to ourselves and how we can make more of ourselves in this world we live in.

But ministry…My heart breaks when I hear of ministry leaders who fall and lead others astray from the Gospel and especially breaks when I know and love these people who are broken by sin.  My heart breaks for the 28 year old mom with 3 young children who’s husband who is my very dynamic pastor diagnosid with brain cancer.  Or..the young mother of a precious 4 year old daughter who’s husband was discovered to have been living a lie for the last 10 years and is a child molester.  All these people who are affected by the manifestations of sin.  All of the tragedies of life are rooted in sin.

Sin is is absolutely grotesque to the sight of God.  These stories are just examples of who sin is playing out in our world.  It is destroying everything.  Brain tumors exist because of our rebellion against God.  Sin is working its way to steal, kill and destroy.  And my thoughts when I hear these things?  I hurt, I am angry, I don’t understand.  I want to turn to someone and just ask “why?” but I am scared to.  Every ministry leader in my life has fallen in some way and I am scared to trust another.  Jesus…I must make more of Jesus.  Do I really really believe it?  Do I really believe that Jesus will make more of him self through the sin in this world.  That as my friend and pastor suffers through the horrible disease of brain cancer, do I really believe that more of Jesus is being glorified through it as he suffers well?  Jesus came to save us from this sin, that is moving to destroy us.  He came to save us from sinners and also to point us to a future glory – there is coming a day, a joy set before us, that Jesus has promised that he is coming to make all things new.  He is coming to save us from this world that is groaning from the sufferings of sin.

And now, as we live in this sin manifested world?  Its a battle, a spiritual battle…As I am in my 2nd year of full time ministry, I am already weary from the effects of sin, and my life is just beginning..Ministers in this world are the hardest hit, they are the ones Satan targets to bring down with sin.  Its a battle.  I want to get married, I want to love, to be loved, to have children, to raise them in the ways of the Lord, and to minister and disciple youth in this world..But I will admit I am a little scared.  It won’t be easy by any means.  I will always be hit on all sides..pain and sufferings will always be a part of my world.  Because its a battle..and I choose to head face first into this battle because its worth the fight.  I know the end of the battle.  Jesus wins, sin is destroyed.  This is the faith we walk in.  That Jesus Christ’s coming floods us with hope and arms us with such a degree that no longer do we have to deal with sin, but sin has to deal with us.  Death doesn’t have any sting anymore, I know how it ends.  And so, I live in this way now.  And so, as I hang my head and cry in the face of the pain of sin today, I cry out for the Lord.  Come Lord Jesus, Come!

Soon and Very Soon – Hillsong United

Soon and very soon
My King is coming
Robed in righteousness
And crowned with love
When I see Him, I shall be made like Him
Soon and very soon

Soon and very soon
I’ll be going to the place He has prepared for me
Then my sin erased, my shameful garden
Soon and very soon

I will be with the One I love
With unveiled face I’ll see Him
There my soul with be satisfied
Soon and very soon

Soon and very soon
See the procession
The angels and the elders round the thrown
At His feet I lay
My grant, my wishing
Soon and very soon

I will be with the One I love
With unveiled face I’ll see Him
There my soul with be satisfied
Soon and very soon

Though I have not seen Him
My heart knows Him well
Jesus Christ the Lamb, the Lord of heaven

I will be with the One I love
With unveiled face I’ll see Him
There my soul with be satisfied
Soon and very soon
Soon and very soon
Soon and very soon

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The warmth of the winter season..

December 2, 2009 at 11:53 pm (Brokenness, God, Insufficiency of Man, Prayer, Sovereignty of God)

Came across this this morning on Lauren Chandler’s blog…thought it was a great reminder for us.  As I think of the craziness of this sin-polluted world that Charles Spurgeon talks about here, my heart is burdened.  Spurgeon puts into words the many feelings I have so far about Winter..Winter has only been here a few weeks, but it has been a hard much that burdens the heart.  I pray that He remains the source of my warmth this season!

Morning + Evening by C.H. Spurgeon–

December 1, Morning:

“Thou hast made summer and winter.”–Psalm 74:17
My soul begin this wintry month with thy God. The cold snows and the piercing winds all remind thee that He keeps His covenant with day and night, and tend to assure thee that He will also keep that glorious covenant which He has made with thee in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to His Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor sin-polluted world, will not prove unfaithful in His dealings with His own well-beloved Son.

Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee: but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: He casteth forth His ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, He is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord’s sending, and come to us with wise design. Frosts kill noxious insects, and put a bound to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soul. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!How we prize the fire just now! how pleasant is its cheerful glow!

Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw nigh to Him, and in Him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of His promises, and go forth to labours which befit the season, for it were ill to be as the sluggard who will not plough by reason of the cold; for he shall beg in summer and have nothing.

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I want more…

November 30, 2009 at 10:51 am (Brokenness, God, Insufficiency of Man, Missional Living, Prayer, Search for Significance, Sovereignty of God, The Gospel) (, , , , , , )

Somewhere around 1987 I was old enough to venture out on my own and have some fun.  As a child, I had the perfect idealistic childhood.  I have great memories of riding my bike all around the small town we lived in, knowing everyone in town, even being able to “charge” my ice cream at a resturant to my dad with no questions at all.  I loved that part, I felt so grown up.  My dad was a farmer back in that day and I would go to work with him, riding the tractor, playing in the cotton trailer, hide n seek in the corn rows…I loved the small town; both of my sets of grandparents lived maybe 2 miles away, all my friends lived on my block, we played tons of sports together, had great summers, had tons of fun and our only rule was to be home by the time the streetlights came on.  Small town life was wonderful in 1987ish.

At a very very childlike faith, I asked Jesus into my heart at the age of 6.  At that time, I wasn’t really sure what was going on except I knew I was a sinner and needed a Savior to clean my heart.  I do not remember that exact moment, but I do remember times after that.  I remember sitting with my friend Monica and talking about how I wanted to go tell all the world about Jesus.  Even though I had never gone much farther than the banks of the Gulf of Mexico in Destin Florida at that point in my life, I knew there was a world out there that desperately needed to know the story that I heard at such a young age and I wanted to be the person that went and told them.

I loved to read even then.  I would read anything that I could get my hands on.  I loved to read, to learn, to imagine this world.  I loved to draw my imaginations and write stories about other people’s lives.  I feel as if I lived in a dream world a lot of the time…all of my life I knew there was more to life, more to this world than I knew and I wanted to know it, experience it, tell others about it.  More, I always wanted more.

Church at this time was nothing more than something you did on Sunday mornings.  In my mind, Church was a place you dressed up for, looked nice, put on the face of “Everything in my life is great”, and went every Sunday morning from 9:30 -12.  If the preacher preached longer than 12:00, people got mad.  That was church, the place you went and really I didn’t see “church” anywhere else.  I didn’t see much joy in “church.”  The older I grew, the more boring it got, boring and judgemental.  I saw the other poeple my age who were in church on Sundays but who were drunk the night before but then I heard that if you drank you went to Hell.  I didn’t know what to think about church.  It was something I knew I needed to go to, but something that was not interesting and I didn’t trust the people that were in the building with me.  They all seemed fake.  More..I knew there had to be more to the church thing..I believed the things I read in Scripture that said that Jesus is more than a place you went on Sunday morning..I knew there was more..i just didn’t know where to find it.

As I grew into my middle school years, life wasn’t as fun anymore and the small town didn’t have its same appeal that it once did.  I never really completely fit in.  I had friends at school, played every sport and had friends there, but most of my nights and weekends were spent alone, the older I got.  Living in a small town didn’t give you the different groups to choose between, we only had 1 group at my small private school – the party group.  I wasn’t allowed to hang out at the places they went and so, I was left alone a lot of the time.  In middle school, everyone is trying to figure out who they are but where I grew up, there was only 1 “type” of person you could be – rich, snobby, party type girl.  Maybe even a hunter or something like that.  I was not that.  I loved reading, music and art, sports and the outdoors.  I loved to travel and adventure.  I loved learning and trying new things and meeting new people.   I didn’t know who I was but I knew that no one else was like me and I knew I didn’t fit in where I was.  At this point of my life, I wanted to get out of small town, but for different reasons that I did as a child.  I wanted to get out to a bigger places where I could find friends, people that accepted me for who I was.

As the years passed,  this feeling intensified.  Then in 2000, it was time for college.  I wanted to go far.  I applied to Duke and to the University of Tennessee but was not allowed to go out of state for school.  So I picked Mississippi State University; the biggest university in Mississippi, 2.5 hours away from home, my dad’s alma matar, and also one of the best schools to go to for architecture and engineering (my interests at that time).  I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in life, my life wasn’t really focused on Jesus at that point in my life, but I knew I wanted to do something big.  I wanted to excel in whatever I did.  I wanted to be a Frank Lloyd Wright or Miles Van der Rohe, something to that effect.  I wanted to absorb as much knowledge as I could so my first year, I took as many classes as I could.  I took cal 1 and 2 in the same semester, computer programming language classes, Intro to Logic, crazy classes.  I don’t know why, but I just wanted to learn, wanted to study, wanted to know.  Jack of all trades in a way.  Little did I know that God was slowly shaping me during this time.  He was laying people in my path to point me back to Him – friends on the 5th floor of Rice Hall at MSU, RUF, Student Association and other friends in my classes.  I remember talking with my friend Josh Blades, just dreaming with him.  He wanted to be president of the United States (which I can still totally see him doing) and I just dreamed of being an architect in a big high rise building on like the 100th floor in NYC, looking down over the city.  My sophmore year, I switched my major to graphic design and my dream just changed to a big time designer in NYC but that year, God brought my cousin to MSU.  My cousin is 6 months younger than me but was a grade behind me in school.  She and her twin sister were some of my best friends in high school.  They lived in a town about an hour away but accepted me into their friends during those years.  They don’t know how much they did for me those years.  My cousin was a lot like me and we decided that we wanted to go work at a ranch in Montana or something that summer.  Well, Kanakuk came to campus that year for an event called After Dark.  Neither of us had ever heard of Kanakuk but we decided it sounded like fun and we would apply to work at that camp for the summer.  Little did I know what God had in store for me at Kanakuk…

I went to Kanakuk the summers of 2001-2004 and God slowly shaped and changed my heart during those years.  I came to Kanakuk as a very insecure baby Christian and was instantly welcomed by Will Cunningham, the camp director.  I worked at KKountry, the little kids Kanakuk kamp.  My first summer at Kanakuk, I met some amazing friends, was discipled for the first time in my life, learned about teaching others about Christ, and saw people on fire for Christ, a complete first in my life.  I had never seen anyone excited about Christ, and willing to give their life for Him.  That first summer in Branson Missouri, God started tugging on my heart and placing a burden there for kids.  Every summer I went to Kanakuk, God grew that burden.  The summer of 2004, I knew without a doubt I wanted to go into ministry and work with kids, teaching them about Christ, but I didn’t know what that looked like other than working at Kanakuk.  So that was my dream, to work at Kanakuk.  I went back to college in 2004-2005 with plans to graduate and go to the Kanakuk Institute, a seminary like program for a year that Kanakuk runs.  I had never seen a church that did ministry like I envisioned (middle school focused) and all I knew was Kanakuk and KLife.  I had been volunteering with Young Life during the school year but I didn’t know you could work with them.  I applied for the Kanakuk Institute, but didn’t get in.  There was no reason, it just wasn’t where God wanted me.  So that year of school, I graduated very confused.  I knew the burden God had placed on my heart, but I didn’t know how to fill it.  I needed more, I wanted more than what I was seeing there in Mississippi, I just didn’t know where to go.  I had only seen it in Missouri on the kampground of Kanakuk.

That summer I moved to North Carolina because some friends asked me to go with them to work.  It was a hard summer.  I lived in a beautiful place, on a tiny island called Hatteras Island, part of the North Carolina Outerbanks.  Me and God fought a lot that summer.  I did not know what to do, I had no idea where to go, what to do, and I wanted more.  I wanted to be big…I had dreams of being someone like Beth Moore, but for middle school girls.  I felt like the door to Kanakuk was closed, and that was all I had ever known.  I wanted more than I had ever had in my life, I wanted to learn more, fit in somewhere, teach others, help steer kids out of the chaos that I had to go through, teach them about the JOY of Christ that I had never known until I went to Kanakuk.  But how did I find that?  I was angry that God had left me here, completely lost and confused.  I felt like He was no where to be found in my life and no matter how much I tried to find him, He was silent.  After the summer, I had to move back to Mississippi with my parents but the dead feeling continued.  Hurricane Katrina hit, life turned upside down, then fell into a boring normalcy..I had a job as a graphic designer, and I went to church, but really?  is that life?  I had no one my age that lived in the town, church wasn’t anything to get involved in; i went to a bible study but it was only people my mom’s age.  MORE…I craved more..I desperately desired friends, to be known, joy in life, someone to talk to, to serve others, pour into others live’s especially kid’s lives, the excitement of life that I had briefly experienced in Missouri..MORE..but where was it?  My family was perfectly content in their small town life.  They loved it and would even get mad when I talked about not being happy.  They said there was something wrong with me, that life in a small town Mississippi was good and they loved it, there was something wrong with me if I didn’t either.  But I didn’t love it, I felt trapped..I wanted MORE than small town Mississippi.

And I ended up in Dallas.  It wasn’t me, it was God that put me here through a random train of events.  Dallas, not a city I had ever imagined I would go to.  Nashville, Charlotte and NYC were my cities, not Dallas.  But I got put here.  And I found it!  I found the more..I found friends, I found a church that was alive.  God took me to Japan, to California, Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, and Austria.  He led me to seminary where I fell in love with books and theology, languages that are no longer spoken, topics that only nerds discuss and all the more.  I found and fell in love with Starbucks, not necessarily the coffee, even though I do love it, I love the atmosphere and people.  I found other theology loving friends here that I love to sit down and talk about some random deep theology talk till 3am, just for fun.  Right now, I sit beside my friend Tom and my friend Angel is working behind the desk; various other friends are scattered throughout the room.   I met them and many more about 4 years ago when I started coming here.  We have built friendships, discussed lives, and I have shared Christ with each one of them.  I have not pressed it on any of them, they have just asked, we have talked and we have built a friendship.  I saw my friend Robert pray for the first time in his life one night here, I see God working here, I love this city because of times like that moment at West Village Starbucks.  Besides my non-believing Starbucks friends that I love with all my heart, God also lead me to a church that believes wholeheartedly in community.  I found friends here, good, biblical, godly friends.  For the first time I have gotten to know and love godly men and women that walk beside me in my hard times and good times.  They hold me accountable, grow with me, point out sin in my life, encourage me and help me in this walk with Christ.  Through this, I have learned what it means to not live this life alone.  I can’t imagine living it without others like these friends I have here.  He then led me to Young Life, the job that I never imagined but exactly what I was looking for.  I work with just middle schoolers in North Dallas and it is the joy of my life.  More..I am here…..Yes, I still want more, but I feel like where I live now, it is open to me..I feel free to discover more..More..diving into Christ and finding more of Him, being willing to go wherever in this world where I can tell millions more about Him.  I desire to tell the millions about Him, write a book that millions read, speak to millions, something.  I do desire to be used in a big way for Him.  This world is my playground and I want to go wherever He leads me to be used in whatever way He wants me to.

As I think of this more, I I wrong to want more?  As I write out my desires through the years, I see how I always wanted more and it seems completely ok to me.  However, when I was home this past weekend, my family got mad at me several times because they say I think where I live is better than where they live.  My first thought when my dad said that was, “Am I an elitest?”  Am I wrong to love the place I live more than the place they live?  Was it wrong for me to grow up there, be unsatisfied and always want more?  An elitest – The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.  By that definition, I don’t at all think I belong in that group.  In fact, I feel like I am the complete opposite.  Mississippi – where racisim is high and people consider themselves better than others because of economic status or color, that is the exact opposite of what I want to be.  I do pride myself in the fact that I have friends of every color, nationality, and type.  I love where I live because of the freedom I have here, because of the dreams it has allowed me to find.  And in my life, it is better than where I grew up.  I do not want that life there, I was not happy there.  I needed more.

Mississippi – a wonderful place to have a childhood and the perfect place for some people to live, work, and raise their families.  But not me.  I needed more of this world.

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what is God teaching me?

June 1, 2009 at 10:31 am (Brokenness, God, Insufficiency of Man, Prayer)

Within 3 days last week, I found out that I was not getting a raise next year, that I was being kicked out of my office, and that I was being kicked out of my house…..

What is God teaching me?  Am I supposed to still be in Dallas, with Young Life?  I don’t understand where all this is headed?  I am nervous about this summer, and scared about next year..what do I do?  God, what are you trying to show me?

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Zizek, and the danger of Obama for the American church

June 11, 2008 at 1:31 am (God, Missional Living, Politics, Prayer, The Gospel)

Upon browsing the web for discussions on politics and the missional church, I came across this article.  Read and let me know what you think…How does politics, specifically Obama, affect the missional church? 

One piece of Slavoj Zizek’s political theory in his foundational book “The Sublime Object” is his notion of “ideological cynicism.” Subjects of the first world, Zizek says, are too smart to become duped by the political ideologies of Western states. We know it’s all just more political spin. Instead, ideology for Zizek, takes on a different form in the so-called “first world.” Here, we are offered ideologies to appease us, to make us feel better about ourselves, so that those in privilege can keep on conserving what it is they really desire. So now, we look at the political ideologies spinning across the political process, and instead of politically observing “they do not know it, but they are doing it,” we observe “they know it, but they are doing it anyway.” In essence, we listen to all the new political speeches and new political options given the electorate and we know nothing will really change. Yet we participate in it anyway, because in essence subconsciously this is what we really want: we wish to protect our own specific pieces of the economic social pie yet feel good about doing it (there’s the classic Freudian split in the subjective consciousness).

 Zizek suggests that political ideology serves a cynical function now, giving us a Big Other to believe in, making us feel better about ourselves (morally), all the while we hope for keeping the status quo in place protecting our own personal pieces of the pie.

When it comes to Christians, I would suggest Zizek’s “ideological cynicism” could work another way. We participate in National politics, its political ideologies of a more just/moral society, even though we deeply suspect the corporate national machine insures nothing will change. We do this because it is much harder to think of the church itself as a legitimate social political force for God’s justice in the world. Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority did this for the evangelicals in the 80’s. He allowed us to think we were working for a better society thereby granting us a reprieve from examining our own churches’ life for moral vigor. Today, perhaps it is the same, as many of us jump onto the Obama bandwagon. It is simply a lot less work to support Barak Obama for president than it is to lead our churches into being living communities of righteousness, justice and God’s Mission in the world. 

I know Zizek might appear too skeptical for most of us. And there is always the cry “why can we not do both – vote for Obama and be missional communities for justice in our neighborhoods.” Yet I think the question is worth considering: “Are we supporting Obama because it’s easier than being God’s justice in the world ourselves?”

Senator Obama is putting out a pleasing message of “Change.” “I’m asking you to believe in Change,” “the Audacity of Hope,” and “A Unified America.”  Yet Zizek would call these ideas  “signifiers without the signified.” Words that in the end no one knows what they mean or refer to. Zizek would say it is these “words” which allow us to consent to what we know is a lie so that we can avoid the Real: that true justice of God demands fundamentally the way we live in relation to each other and the world. I fear these “words” take the place of pres. Bush’s words “Freedom” and “No child left behind,” words that few knew what they actually meant but morphed into a politics of multinational corporate politics the horror of which is hard to believe 8 years later. In a Zizekian way, I have often asked, did we consent to all this (vote for George Bush) as evangelical Christians 8 years ago (who by and large elected him) in order to assuage ourselves that we (through our country’s national politics) are contributing to a better world all the while staying comfortable within our protected enclaves.

Obama has shown signs of not caving in to the ideological production machine. He has dared come close to making particularist commitments. He did not shrink back from his infamous “they cling to guns or religion” guffaw.  He did not pander to the production of ideology (concerning gas prices) by proposing an end to the gas tax as Hillary did. Yet when it came time most recently to defend his pastor, Rev Jeremiah Wright, Obama backed off (after defending him other times). Wright’s particularist ethnic claims evidently came too close to puncturing the dominant ideology of race relations that allows us all to keep things going as they already are. Let me explain. In Detroit, on Apr 27, Wright made statements about differences among ethnic groupings in America. He detailed how the black culture is “different” but not “deficient.” He was continuing along his previous line of thought describing how American culture, politics and justice is really a white man’s system. It is was the kind of accusation which exposed the power structures of the existing system of which Barak seeks to become president of.  In so doing, Wright came too close to upsetting the ideology which enables us all to be comfortable with the status quo concerning race relations in America. I know Wright has been extreme. I know he has been incendiary. He has been inopportune and self aggrandizing. Nonetheless, isn’t his line of reasoning the very stuff of which the ideology of American democracy cannot handle for the reasons Zizek cites above? So Obama has to publicly disavow Wright. It is an irruption of the Real for those of us who think justice can somehow emerge from the current structures and signification systems of the American State. It’s a wake up call to the fact that Obama must cover over the realities of exclusion that occur within America’s system towards black culture in order to persist in the illusion of  “Change” and “Belief” that Obama is selling. Wright is too dangerous because he reveals that anyone who wishes to be insistent on his or her particular commitments culturally and religiously (after all Wright says he is “running for Jesus”) cannot fit in to the American system of justice.

I must confess my own proclivity was to vote for Obama this fall. Yet Zizek helps us see that if we seek a revolution of justice, we need counter movements that can reveal the lack in the System. To me this points to the church. And so I continue to want to press for the church to be the primary instrument of true justice in the world. The church must be FIRST as the initiator for social justice, from which we can then push for governmental cooperation. I am concerned that the new energy for justice on the local level by emerging and missional church movements might be dissipated by the Obama hope. I have always been concerned about the marginal status given the church as the foundational center for justice in society by my various spokesmen/women/friends of the Emerging Church. I know many fear fundamentalist sectarianism. I fear the democratic capitalist Symbolic Order shall subsume us all..  More and more however, people like Jim Wallis are seeing the insights of a tempered vision of what is possible in national politics (see The Great Awakening). More and more, people understand a new possibility for a Hauerwasian radical politics (see Shane Claiborne and his Jesus For President campaign). So, this is not to say not to vote for Obama, but this is to say, do not allow false ideology to sap our energy or distract us from the task of being God’s people, his embodied Kingdom in submission to His Lordship, birthing forth His justice made possible in His death and resurrection until He comes.    

What do you think? Is there a work of “ideological cynicism” at work in Christians supporting Obama? Is the Obama bandwagon a positive or a negative (or neutral) for the church’s role in bringing justice to the nations? Is energy by Christians spent on Obama politics misguided, too hopeful, and misdirected? Is it too easy to just say “you should be doing both, voting for Obama and working for social justice in your local church”?

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January 26, 2008 at 2:27 am (God, Insufficiency of Man, Prayer, Sovereignty of God, The Gospel)

Philippians – what a wonderful book!  Paul is writing to a church he previously helped start and is writing to encourage them even though he himself is in jail.  This letter is a joyful letter, in fact, that word structure (joy) is referenced 51 times in this small book.

Partnership/fellowship is the main theme of the book, something I struggle with.  Fellowship with other believers and God is a powerful thing.  The gospel and salvation are the great unifying elements, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on until completion until the day of Christ Jesus” – The stamp of justification and the ongoing process of sanctification.  We, as sinners, will culminate in complete sanctification of glorification when the redeemed sinner finally sees Jesus Christ and experiences transformation in His image.  This verse also gives us assurance that us getting to heaven does not depend on us.  Salvation is God’s work, not man’s.  He reached down to us, not the other way around.  As surely as He has already delievered us from the penalty of sin, He will one day deliever us from the presence of sin.

Paul ends this section of the letter with a prayer, a great example for us to follow.  In our days, prayers are usually about the physical ailments rather than spiritual needs.  We need to follow Paul’s example of putting spiritual needs first.  Paul is praying for His friends, a powerful vehicle that is not accessed enough.  Paul prays that unbounding love will increase for the church-love to ALL people.  The only way we will be able to stand before God sincere and blameless is if we allow the Holy Spirit to control us.  If we do, He will find our lives with the fruit that is the product of His righteousness.

So pray friends-talk to Christ about your friends more than you talk to your friends about Christ.  True Christian fellowship is when we have each other in our minds, in our hearts, and in our prayers.

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existence of God

January 18, 2008 at 11:19 pm (God, Insufficiency of Man, Sovereignty of God)

Alistair McGrath has said in his book The Christian Theology Reader, “What good does it do if you dispute loftily about the Trinity, but lack humility and therefore displease the Trinity? It is not lofty words that make you righteous or holy or dear to God, but a virtuous life. If you knew the whole of the Bible by heart, along with all the definitions of the philosophers, what good would this be without grace and love? Naturally, everyone wants knowledge. But what use is that knowledge without the fear of God? A humble peasant who serves God is much more pleasing to him than an arrogant academic who neglects his own soul. If I were to possess all the knowledge in the world, and yet lacked love, what good would this be in the sight of God, who will judge me by what I have done?”

Welcome to the number 1 problem of seminary, at least for me personally..knowledge, the struggle of gaining knowledge but keeping the passion. What keeps the passion? Understanding the definition of GOD? Understanding WHO God is? In the Old Testament, there are several names used directly for God, which is one way to define him:

ELOHIM: God (a plural noun, more than two, used with singular verbs); Elohim occurs 2,570 times in the OT, 32 times in Gen. 1. God as Creator, Preserver, Transcendent, Mighty and Strong. Eccl., Dan. Jonah use Elohim almost exclusively. See Gen. 17:7, 6:18, 9:15, 50:24; I Kings 8:23; Jer. 31:33; Isa. 40:1.

EL SHADDAI: God Almighty or “God All Sufficient.” 48 times in the OT, 31 times in Job. First used in Gen. 17:1, 2. (Gen. 31:29, 49:24, 25; Prov. 3:27; Micah 2:1; Isa. 60:15, 16, 66:10-13; Ruth 1:20, 21) In Rev. 16:7, “Lord God the Almighty.” The Septuagint uses Greek “ikanos” meaning “all-sufficient” or “self-sufficient.” The idols of the heathen are called “sheddim.”

ADONAI: Lord (Capitol letter ‘L ‘, lower case, ‘ord’) “Master” or “Lord” 300 times in the OT always plural when referring to God, when sing. the reference is to a human lord. Used 215 times to refer to men. First use of Adonai, Gen. 15:2. (Ex. 4:10; Judges 6:15; 2 Sam. 7:18-20; Ps. 8, 114:7, 135:5, 141:8, 109:21-28). Heavy use in Isaiah (Adonai Jehovah). 200 times by Ezekiel. Ten times in Dan. 9.

Or God could be defined by what He does: Adonai-Jehovah — The Lord our Sovereign,El-Elyon — The Lord Most High,El-Olam — The Everlasting God,El-Shaddai — The God Who is Sufficient for the Needs of His People, Jehovah-Elohim — The Eternal Creator,Jehovah-Jireh — The Lord our Provider,
Jehovah-Nissi — The Lord our Banner,Jehovah-Ropheka — The Lord our Healer
Jehovah-Shalom — The Lord our Peace,Jehovah-Tsidkenu — The Lord our Righteousness.Jehovah-Mekaddishkem — The Lord our Sanctifier, Jehovah-Sabaoth — The Lord of Hosts,Jehovah-Shammah — The Lord is Present
Jehovah-Rohi — The Lord our Shepherd,Jehovah-Hoseenu — The Lord our Maker , and Jehovah-Eloheenu — The Lord our God.

Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines God as “in monotheistic religions [as] the creator and ruler of the universe, regarded as eternal, infinite, all-powerful, and all- knowing; Supreme Being; the Almighty.” The Cambridge Encyclopedia as “Supernatural being or power, the object of worship.” These definitions, among others, bring major questions up regarding one’s concept of God. Some of which may include:

  • Is God personal, impersonal or a-personal (englobaling both)?
  • Is God finite, infinite? In some aspects, in everything?
  • Is God one? Is God three? Are there many Gods? Or is there one God who is manifest in all things, including a hierarchy of finite gods or spirits?
  • Is God good (can be called holy), evil, both?
  • Is God just, merciful, indifferent?
  • Does God reveal himself or is He pure mystery?

How one defines God-whether in belief or disbelief-will largely define one’s worldview, one’s framework of reality-how one understands him or herself and universe that surrounds us. If God is the Absolute of all existence, then one’s perception of all else is related to one’s perception of that which is at the center.

What is your definition of God? I am still working on coming up with my own personal definition of Him, but what do you have?

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