Now who's laughing?

I'm back in California, my car is in Buckeye, Arizona, and I'm still at work. Good times. Tonight I should be finishing my movie and I'm excited about that. It's about selling God. I'm fascinated by the fact that millions of dollars are spent each year on things that feature the image of Christ. It's disgusting to see all the stuff that's out there and saddening to know that people are buying it. And why, I don't know.

If people buy the stuff to evangelize, I question their faith system. If your faith can be described on one article of clothing, say, a belt buckle, it's far too simple. If people buy the stuff to notify others of their beliefs, I question their motives. What makes you assume that people care what you faith you hold? Heaven forbid they see your actions and interact with you and find out that way! Oh, no, it's much better to advertise. If people buy the crap because they want to fit in, I question their self-esteem. Does the Christian ghetto protect you, or coerce you to fit in? So the one place you should feel accepted you instead feel judged. If people buy the Jesus junk to support the Church, I question their sensibility.

People, not God, are making money on this crap. People, not God, are receiving income by targeting Christians and marketing products towards them. And surely no one believes that a large percentage of the profits go towards Christians who spend them wisely. Let's take the belt-buckle. It costs $5. Here are all the places I can imagine the money being taken away by non-Christians who are unconcerned with the goings-on of the church: the mine for the metal, the truck driver, the ore processor, the shipper, the machine manufacturer who stamps the buckle, the owner of the building, the electric company, the laser-etcher designer, the blah-blah-blah. The point is, if you want to support the Church, give to it, not a shop owner.

I think what bothers me a lot is the blatant ripping-off of pop culture. Since pants have been around, people have needed a way to keep them up, and a belt with a buckle has done well. Why do we insist on slapping the image of Christ on one? Why don't we invent a better way to hold up pants instead of making money off God? At least then we'd be creating and God might be blessed that we are reflecting in a tiny way the creativity of God.

A note to those who make Jesus junk: If you do this to make money, good job. If you do this to pay bills, good job. It is the American way, after all. Who can blame you? You found a great niche market (the Christian:probably rich, probably wants more stuff) and are capitalizing on it. Nicely done. If you do this to evangelize, you are missing the point. Jesus died for a world that is painfully lost and confused and came back to life to give that world hope. He didn't die so you could put his smiling face on a pen. Oh, I know you have good intentions. You have to get by and make ends meet. But don't you dare turn God into your dollar sign. He doesn't need product placement. He doesn't need your endorsement. He doesn't need anything.

He wants you to love your neighbor more than you love anything else but Him. He wants you to love Him more than anything else. And He wants the same for me. So pray for me, and I'll pray for you. That's what He wants, anyway.


Pick up the receiver, I'll make you a believer

I'm editing a movie right now and having fun with it. Someday, I'll be done with it. Peace and love.


Happy Turkey Day, suckers

I'm in Phoenix now. And I ate a lot of food. A lot of food. "Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die."

God is incredible. The book I'm reading now is trying to describe his attributes and characteristics and how they have been both perceived and defined by 2000 years of theologians. The more I read about their thoughts, the more I'm convinced of the mystery of God. How can finite beings define the infinite? We run out of words. But it's still cool to read how others have tried. It's my prayer that someday I will touch his robe and better understand his power, his might, and his infinitude. We can't even begin to wrap our minds around the concept of him, let alone he in his whole. It blows me away.

Love and peace forever.


I hate travel

This morning I left my hotel in ATL at 8:15 AM EST. I arrived at ONT airport at 7:15 PM PST. For those counting, that's one long day for a trip that was supposed to take 6 hours. I've been to San Antonio (unscheduled) to refuel while we waited for a storm to pass Dallas, I've missed three flights and one party with my wife, eaten three bags of pretzels, one double cheeseburger, rerouted once, and had my bags delivered to an airport 40 miles from where I ended up. Oh, and one of my carry-ons either stayed on the plane and went to Kansas City or is floating around the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport. I've chalked it up as lost. Good times.

Earlier today, in an airport, we had to walk through a whole company of Army soldiers as they were waiting for their flights home for Thanksgiving. I almost started crying by the time we had waded through hundreds of them, all dressed in their desert camos. They were just so young, and I never thought I would ever be that guy saying "they looked like kids!" One of them was reading a comic book for cats' sake. I wonder if any of them realized that this might be their last time home.

I know they all signed up for it, and I guess that is the strength of a volunteer military: everyone knows what they're in for. But I felt like if even one of them dies overseas, then we've all done something wrong. Don't misunderstand me: Evil must be stopped. But why does it have to be our people who die? Can't it just be the other guys'? Can't the airport in Baghdad be full of Iraqis who want to die? Or the airport in Darfur? Or Karthoum? Can't anyone else die besides my countrymen?

Yes, theirs is the greatest sacrifice of all. And they have willingly given their efforts, time, and the rights to their free will so that I can be free. I absolutely support our troops. I'm just scared that they might have to give their lives to something they don't understand, that I don't understand, and that the people they are killing don't understand.

What should we do? Beats me. I saw some people in an airport and got sad. That's the best I can do right now: try to empathize. And pray like crazy that the redemptive power of love overwhelms this world we live in.


Still more south

YS just finished. That's good. Mostly because I get to see my wife again. She is pretty friggin incredible. Right now she's in class after spending all morning putting in time for her clinical at a local hospital. I really admire her for that. Not a lot of people have the amount of care she has for people and I'm really excited for her to be able to get into a career that suits her so well. Nursing, that is. Good times.

We beat Halo 2 yesterday morning. Disappointing ending but in the age of marketing you've got to leave people wanting more. We had the Xbox hooked up to the projector for our display, took down the mirror on the hotel room wall, and played actual size Halo. That was pretty rad.

Not much else is here. I'm getting fat and that makes me sad. I really don't want to die of congestive heart failure and right now I feel like my heart is just trying to keep its head above the grease I've drowned it in.

I'm not sure most people think about death as much as I do. I've never really asked anyone because you sound like a nutjob if you do ask. But maybe that's my answer: it's abnormal to think about death. I guess mankind has always had questions about it and some would argue religion came out of those questions. It's just a weird thing that the molecules and atoms and cells in our bodies eventually quit. I don't know what that's like and that's scary. I do find comfort in my faith, but there is a lot of unknown there and with that much unknown, it can unnerve me if I think about it too much.

And American culture is not too tolerant of death, either. We put our dying into nice clean rooms where we can visit them if we want to but not if we don't. And we make them look alive at their funerals so we can remember them as alive and not dead (as though there is something wrong with being dead). We say, "at least he went quickly" or "she went quietly while she was asleep" but the rest of our lives we are praised for avoiding death or escaping it miraculously. How many times are we reminded to eat healthy or exercise or not drink or be safe in a lifetime? But then we're supposed to go quickly and painlessly when "our time comes?" That's odd. It's as though there is some point when we should embrace this thing which we've spent every minute trying to get away from.

Humans are nuts.

It's okay to be sad and grieve but don't always talk about it because that's just crazy talk. "Focus on life, not death." Okay. Which part of life should I focus on, the part that makes me live longer or the part that kills me slowly? Should I eat healthy and avoid food high in fats, sodiums, sugars, and too much potassium (because that could kill me, too)? Should I avoid driving on the freeways and walking beneath high buildings and using a cell phone (because of the radiation, idiot)? Or should I "just be aware of the risk" of terrorism and robbers and burglers and rapists so I can sleep better at night (but not too much sleep or then I'm just lazy)? Whatever.

I'm going to think about death because it bothers me and I'm going to try and live as long as I can so I can eat more food and play more video games and spend more time with my wife and dog. I'm going to exercise if I feel like it and buy baggy clothes and drive fast and not care about my life because I've already given it to Someone else. I'm sick and tired of trying to prolong a boring life. I want Him to have it all and if I die I'll see Him sooner than I thought I would and if I'm alive then I still need to experience something else.

Maybe it's just me.


Dirrrty South

So I'm in Atlanta, you know, where the players play and they ride on the streets like everyday? Yeah, that Atlanta. I'm here for the YS (Youth Specialties) convention and if I can sum it up in a few words, it would be these words: Very interesting. Both the convention and ATL are interesting.

There are a lot of African Americans here. I have not been around a lot of black people. It's really made me see just how racist I am, and I certainly am not proud of that. I automatically think certain things when I see a black person and the things I think certainly aren't beautiful but derogatory and judgmental. It makes me sad, but it also makes me want to change.

Part of the problem I think is that I don't have much exposure to the black community. I've been exposed to "media blacks" (entertainers of sorts, from athletes to musicians) but have not been given exposure to the normal, hard-working, intelligent, and respectful black. All I've seen is Lil Jon, Puff, Jay-Z, Terrell Owens, Michael Jordan and hundreds more. I don't get to see the Maya Angelous, the Ralph Ellisons, the millions of other black people who command and deserve my appreciation and respect. Somewhere along the line I wasn't told that blacks can have jobs and families and foods that don't fit into a media stereotype. That sucks.

Should I blame the media? Yes. I should also shoulder some of that responsibility? Yes. I haven't sought out those role models nor have I immersed myself in that culture and that's sad. I should want to. But because I'm a part of the majority I have no need to understand the majority. The minority is forced to accept my culture; I have the luxury of avoiding theirs.

What can I do about it? We'll see. I really want to experience a bunch of different cultures but without total immersion, it probably won't be much more than a field trip. Which is cool. I don't think I need to bury myself in anything to appreciate and understand part of it. But as soon as I think I know it all, I'm a poser. I'm only slightly better than I am right now in that I know what stereotypes I promote rather than now, when I can articulate only a bit of it.

I hope I'm not just one of those people who thinks we should all just get along. This is much smaller than that and on a much less grandiose scale. As an individual, I don't want to promote racism or stereotypes. That encourages discrimination and oppression and the Kingdom of God is not that. I'm obligated to proceed with God's grace and seek His wisdom in this. He took the ultimate step in trying to understand us; he came to earth. I think that's an example of what we can do to understand and love better.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying. I'm okay with that.

YS is interesting. A lot of Christians with different views, trying to be cool and figure out how to be relevant to their constituents. (A side note: I think instead of congregations, we should call church-goers constituents because of their ability to "vote" either with tithes and offerings or actual votes to throw out pastors, youth pastors, children's directors, worship leaders, etc. Let's be honest: we're all here to serve or be served and if things aren't going our way, we'll change it, dammit.) Christians are weird. We usually take pop-culture and repackage it to our own fit but with YS it seems to be like they are trying to make their own culture. Ask me later if its a sub-culture or a counter-culture: it's a powerful distinction.

All that to say, travelling without my wife is lame. Travelling to a city that challenges me to change is neat. Playing Halo 2 is neat, also.

The End.


and another thing

Not much has happened since I last complained. I still am not sure about the role of church in my life and how to find a church that fits me. I still think I'm pretty much a cynic. And I just don't know how everything works together.

Yesterday I had a rad class with Dr. Sarah Sumner. I'm in her God, Creation and Humanity class and there was just so much science dropped on us it wasn't even funny. So much information was passed and thoughts discussed and I am so excited to get into it more. We are pretty much studying theology (or as she puts it, "the study of the revelation of God, because how do you study God? He's not an object of creation, he's the subject of creation.") and how that has impacted the church and its people. I'm really excited about the possibilities of it.

We spent a little time talking about lying and why it's bad. Most of the answers had to do with its inherent evil, which was apparently not totally correct, and she said, "Lying is bad because it destroys community. It erodes trust and without trust you cannot build a concrete community." Not one of us thought of that, almost 30 of us, most of us ministers in the church and the best we could come up with was that it separates us from God. I pray that this class changes all of our views of God and how that impacts our lives. I want nothing more than to see how God has interacted with us and what he has told us about himself. He/she is good, and I am excited to be challenged.

I miss my brother.

On Thursday I'll be flying to Atlanta. That's that.

Bamboozled is a great movie. There was so much in that that Spike Lee covered that I still am trying to figure it all out. Each stereotype is addressed and criticized and I really appreciated his ability to that in a way that wasn't pandering anymore than was deserved.

I love my wife, and I am trying to figure out how to love her more. Right now I'm still trying to understand our different love languages. Danielle's is touch and mine is verbal affirmation. I don't know really what it means to be physical without at least nodding and winking towards sex. There is so much value in physical touch that isn't sexual and I'm trying to find that balance. Human's just need to be touched and my challenge to myself is how to integrate that in a way that is respectful and makes her feel loved and cherished. Do I cherish enough? Is that verb too antiquated? I cherish memories; I think my wife deserves a better verb but none come to mind. So I guess I'll cherish her more. She does deserve that.

Lord, may I not withhold forgiveness and grace because of my own sinfulness. May I not resent her or hold grudges against her but make sure she always understands Your grace through my actions. I love her so much and want her to always know that. And if she can't, may she always feel your grace. Take away those things in her life that distract her from your perfect love. And can she never feel far from you? Can you give her extra understanding of your faithfulness and desire for her life? Thanks. I love you and will talk to you later.

Peace and wisdom to all.


Sunday bloody sunday

Sunday's always bring guilt to me. I always feel like I should be going to church, even if I don't get anything out of it. And then I feel guilty for not looking for a church to go to, and then I feel guilty because I feel like I should lie to someone if they ask me what I did this weekend. "Well, we went to church, heard a great message, had good worship" and blah, blah, blah. I always feel some sort of duty to attend church and I have a hard time reconciling not going to church with being a good Christian.

That being said, we haven't gone to church in at least six months. I have a hard time believing that Jesus died so that I could sit in a chair, pew, or bench once a week. I also acknowledge that outside of a faith community it is hard to nurture a faith. But what if I just don't want to go because I'm sick of what I've seen in churches. I don't get a lot of out them except a sense of accomplishment in attending.

I want to belong to a community that clearly articulates practically how to live faith. Not just tells me to read more or attend more or pray more, but tells me that because poverty is overtaking our slums we desperately need to change something. I want to be a part of a dialogue that encompasses my whole life as a whole person and doesn't just sate my need to appease God.

I don't have a problem with liturgy. I don't have a problem with worship. I have a problem with habits. Not the things nuns wear, but in reading a part of the Bible every morning because it's just what you've done for God knows how long. Or in giving $30 to a local charity each Christmas. Or in praying for forgiveness like it's just something you should ask for, like a "nice day." I want to yearn to hear God speaking through his people. I want to look out my window in my car and see His truth in the eyes of a homeless man and in a flower and in a mom holding her kids' hands. I want to be consumed by Him. And that hasn't happened in a pew. Or a chair. Or a bench.

I know I can't count on church for a fix of God each week. I don't want to reduce my faith to something that gives me an emotional high. But I do want to grow. I do want to feel God, and maybe not in a physiological sense, but at least in a spiritual sense.

Am I doing my part? Probably not. I could be doing so much more to grow spiritually. But isn't that the problem in the first place? "If I could just go to church more and worship harder and pray with more faith, then God would do something . . ." That's messed up. It's so pompous to assume that an almighty deity would need me to act in a specific manner repeatedly in order to love me better.

He does love me. A lot. And I do need to recognize that. I just don't want my religion to get in the way.


Maybe it's me

I feel like I should explain where I am in my life. So I will:

I'm currently at a job that is fairly fulfilling, I have been married just over a year and still trying to figure that out, I have family and extended family that support me (and us) to no end, and I am working towards an American dream I'm not entirely sure I want. It's an odd feeling to know that everything I have is everything I've been told I want, but since as long as I can remember I've never been satisfied with what I am. I'm fairly certain that that is a bit of depression that's always been a part of me and since I'm always looking for another label to slap on myself so I can fit in with another group because I don't really fit in anywhere if I'm myself.

I talked with a dude named Ian awhile ago about who we were, and we both decided that it was a lot easier for us to complain and criticize things, specifically our faith communities, than it was to claim our own manifesto. I mean, I'm such a critical person and the best I seem to offer anyone is what not to do. Which is fine for awhile, but not very productive in the long run.

I just want to get noticed, I guess. And everyone listens to a critic. Whether they want to or not our society trains people to defend themselves and their status quo. So when anyone comes along and says, "this is wrong about you," we automatically determine if that person's words truly carry weight. And if they do, we determine if they are weighty enough to change ourselves. And if not, we assume the critic doesn't know us. But the point is: we still listened. And that's where I am right now. Trying to get heard and not offering any better solutions than just what someone or something can't do.

It works. People assume you have wisdom if you say something loudly. Even if it's empty, at least someone listened.

Maybe that's what our generation needs. Someone to listen to us. Maybe we're just tired of being lumped and categorized and compared that we just have to say something. Look at advertising. "________. It's my anti-drug." (Doing something is better than nothing. ) "Challenge everything." (Make sure you're not assuming anything about anyone.) The internet itself allows for anyone to be "heard" (even me) anywhere in the world. Suddenly crackpot terrorists with access to a webcam carry as power as the national media. That's odd, but promising.

Hear me out, world. I'm gonna complain until someone listens and once they tell me to change something I'm gonna tell them that I don't know how, but I can tell them that it's pretty screwed up as it is. So find someone else to change your world. I'm just hear to tell you that you're not doing a very thorough job.

And that's what scares me. That all I will offer the world is anonymity in the phrase, "Everybody's a critic."

I want to change the world, but I'm not sure how. And instead of joining those who are trying, I'm just riding pine, waiting for change to happen so I can complain some more.

Thoughts on narcissism

I've always thought people who posted online were presumptuous enough to think I cared about them. Which I probably still don't, but now I'm one of those people no one else cares about. I'm writing because I need a way to catalog my thoughts, and this is the wave-of-the-future way to do that. Sure, if anyone else reads this, that will stroke my ego but I think I just need to feel like I'm contributing to the literary world. I guess that's presumptious. But I sure feel a lot better.