July 5, 2009
Sometimes I cannot forgive
These days, mercy cuts so deep
If the world was how it should be, maybe I could get some sleep
While I lay, I dream we’re better,
Scales were gone and faces lighter
When we wake, we hate our brother
We still move to hurt each other
Sometimes I can close my eyes,
And all the fear that keeps me silent falls below my heavy breathing,
What makes me so badly bent?
We all have a chance to murder
We all feel the need for wonder
We still want to be reminded that the pain is worth the plunder
Sometimes when I lose my grip, I wonder what to make of heaven
All the times I thought to reach up
All the times I had to give
Babies underneath their beds
Hospitals that cannot treat all the wounds that money causes,
All the comforts of cathedrals
All the cries of thirsty children – this is our inheritance
All the rage of watching mothers – this is our greatest offense
Oh my God
Oh my God
Oh my God
It’s 10:30 on a thursday evening. I lock up the building, grab my bike and head home after a long day at the Underground (the church were I am currently an intern).
Some would say my ride home is dangerous, but I say its beautiful. The best view of Downtown Tampa is on my way home and you can only see it if you are walking or riding a bike. If you are driving it goes by too fast to get a glimpse. It reminds me to slow down and find the beauty in the part of Tampa that most people avoid.
As I make my turn and ride down Nebraska Avenue I see a police car at a funeral home. Making things safer, I suppose…
As I continue my ride home I see a cop make a u-turn and park on the sidewalk about ten feet in front of me. As I get closer it dawns upon me that the cop at the funeral home must of called another officer to stop me right when I get next to the car, the door opens and a young cop steps out and says, “hold on right there for a minute, sir.”
I stop put my bike down and wonder what I did wrong.
“Where is your light?,” the officer asks.”
“I don’t have one.” I reply.
“Well did you know you need a light to ride at night?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Well, I will just give you a warning, then, because you didn’t know.”
“But, I need to run your I.D. to make sure you don’t have a warrant.”
At this point, I realize what is going on here…I’m white with dreadlocks, backpack on my back, in a poor black neighborhood. Anger rages inside of me and as the officer runs my I.D. I think about clever smart remarks I can make to this young officer. (“By the way, I’m coming home from a church that cares about the poor, not just locks them up and I go to one of the top Universities in the world wanna see that I.D.” came to mind).
But, I didn’t say anything…I grabbed my I.D. and rode home.
It felt like the longest bike ride home ever. I felt hopeless.
Should I have fought this blatant stereotyping?
Should I have demanded justice?
What is right here? Where is love? Where is grace? Where is truth and beauty?
All I see is hate. All I see is anger. All I see is someone trying to hastle someone trying to ride their bike home.
So, I have been watching this french film called “Hate” and it is about riots in the Parisian Slum areas during the early 90’s. It is from the point of view of the poor youth who are extremely violent to the police officers they call “pigs.” What is fascinating from this film is the main character Vinz. He is filled with anger and longs for the opportunity to kill a “pig” because of the way they treat the poor in the slum. Early in the movie we discover that Vinz has stolen a gun and is waiting for the opportune moment to strike whenever a police officer wrongs him or another again. One point in the movie, they end up in one of the wealthiest parts of paris where the officers are incredibly respectful…a lot different from the cops in the poor area. But Vinz doesn’t care. He only wants one more cop to mess with him and he will get his revenge. Vinz trusts that violence will solve the wrongs done to him…
We feel like that sometimes, don’t we? When someone wrongs us we want to wrong them back. We want to give them what they deserve. We want justice through revenge.
The next day my friend Will and I were giving a ride to our friend “Mama” who lives at the house that I’m at this summer. Mama has lived on the street for a long time, so I decide to tell her what happened and she replied with these words…
“Baby, don’t let that get you down. These cops out right now are the new rookies trying to get some credibility. That young man was looking for a fight. What you gotta do, is just be polite and and respectful. They are looking to get some credit on their record for picking up people and he probably thought you were an easy target. Don’t forget Baby, you “won” now. There wasn’t any warrant and he had to let you go. Please don’t let that get you down. You just need to keep on doing what you are doing and you will be just fine.”
Mama was a poet to me in that moment. She gave me words that put everything in perspective. That is what poets do, don’t they? They give us a perspective that we would not normally see.
Poets never look for ways to get someone back.
Poets inspire. Poets share. Poets give.
Mama may be a former drug addict, but she is my poet. She is my teacher…
Mama teaches me that we win…
Through Love and Compassion.
Through Understanding and Seeing.
Through Grace and Mercy.
Through Beauty and Openess.
Mama captures me because of her grace and compassion to this young officer not her anger and frustration.
Mama taught me that we win because Love always wins.
Justice is never gained through revenge. It is only gained through love. The fact that the officer knew that I live in and care about this neighborhood has to be good enough for me.
I didn’t give that officer what he wanted, but I have to hope that I gave him something more…this is the only way love will finally win.
May 17, 2009
You thought you might be a ghost.
You thought you might be a ghost.
You didn’t get to heaven, but you made it close.
“After my experiences with Christians I’m really surprised that I’m still one.”
I said these words to my friend Craig a couple of weeks ago and it has haunted me ever since. I think I have a distrust and suspiscion for Christians because I have been hurt way too many times. There is always an agenda for love. “If you do this then we can love you.”
I have never had the best experiences with Christians and sometimes would much rather hang out with non-Christians. My whole life Christians have brought me down. It was as if I was in a pool, drowning and as I was trying to swim up to catch my breath someone would jump on me and bring me back down to the bottom of the pool desperate for air.
But, then there is this Christ. This Jesus that loves those who Christians do not love.
The Jesus that pulls you up out of the pool to the air that you desperately long for.
The Jesus that cares for the poor and the unlovable.
The Jesus that gives you an identity that no one can take away.
The Jesus that continually teaches me what beauty is, what life means and what truth can be.
But, I’m lucky not to have lost this Jesus…
I don’t know why people act the way they do and I don’t know how to get rid of the pain that Christians in the past have inflicted upon me and the grudge that I hold against them, but I do know that through this pain there has been joy and through this darkness I can still see the light.
I can see the beauty of this life.
I can see the wonder and awe of the world.
I can also see the intrigue of living a life following this Christ and I just can’t get away. It is just that beautiful…
March 31, 2009
This morning I woke up
Feelin brand new, I jumped up
Feelin my highs and my lows
In my soul, and my goals
Just to stop smoking and stop drinkin
But I been thinkin I got my reasons
Just to get by, just to get by
Just to get by, just to get by
So, I was eating lunch with my friend Greg a couple of weeks ago when he explains to me that he found a camera earlier that day. Greg lives in the woods in Chapel Hill and he immediately tried to sell it to me. Greg and I have a good relationship so I told him that he should keep it and take pictures throughout the week. My promise was that I would get his pictures developed and buy him some new film the following week…
Creativity is beautiful…
Creating God’s first Act…
We are “created” in God’s Image…
Our humanity is centered on the fact that we can create. When we take away someone’s opportunity to create we take away their humanity. This is taking the one thing that makes someone human, the one thing that brings someone dignity and the one thing that brings someone a sense of worth and purpose.
When we give people a way to create, we are restoring their dignity. God created us to create…
Why is it that we find so much joy when we create? Why do we find so much joy in art and music and literature?
Think about your favorite music or your favorite artist…
Think about your favorite hobbies…
Think about your favorite books…
We find so much joy in creating and seeing other people create because we were made to do so. It is integral to who we are as humans. To create is to show our humanity and our ability to give beauty to our Creator and to others.
Without our ability to create we lose our identity. We become lost. We become blinded. We lose hope. We lose Joy. We lose everything…
But, what would happen if a community gathered together and said we have had enough? What if we decided to give back the ability to create to those who have lost everything…to those who are outcasts…to those who have no identity…to those without hope…
I wish you could see the excitement in Greg’s eyes when I told him I would have the pictures he took developed by the next Wednesday. I wish you could see the excitement in my eyes to see the art that Greg was able to create.
Create, create, create…it is what we were made to do…
Odd how the creative power at once brings the whole universe to order. – Virginia Woolf
Life is trying things to see if they work.– Ray Bradbury
The world is but a canvas to the imagination.– Henry David Thoreau
It is better to create than to be learned, creating is the true essence of life.-Barthold Georg Niebuhr
Never take a person’s diginity: it is worth everything to them, and nothing to you.– Frank Barron
March 26, 2009
You don’t have to be ashamed cause your a miracle through and through. You don’t have to be ashamed of the miracle inside of you. What has love become? It’s not like we used to hear in those old songs.
Why have we decided that someones worth is determined by how useful they are? It is as if we have turned the word love into the word useful…
It is no coincidence that when someone in our society is not useful we ignore, institutionalize or abandon those who we have no use for.
In The Other Journal, Daniel J. Salinas speaks of a time when his daughter, who was physically and mentally challenged, passed away and the pain he felt from the words of others. He says at one point, “There must have been two options: “God heals her, or God takes her away. I had people coming up to me saying, “She was better off now….”
He goes on to say, “Evidently, If anyone, like our daughter, for example, cannot produce, her life is meaningless, worthless.”
How many times do we think this way? Unfortunately, I can count quite a few, for me. We call people projects, clients or quick fixes without loving the unloved. When will it be enough to love someone because they need love. Why do we always bring an agenda to the table?
It pains me to see people that honestly believe that usefulness is the key to life. I have a friend who is homeless and an alcoholic. This friend left town recently and I have missed him. My friend has been without love his whole life. There is a local pastor in the area who built a relationship with my friend and my friend use to call him when he was very very drunk. One night, the pastor had enough and took him to a treatment facility. Yes, I believe that we need to help our friends when they are in need, but what the pastor told him is unbearable to think about. He said to my friend, “If you don’t stay in this treatment facility then I am not helping you anymore.” I equate this to, “If you don’t get better I am not going to love you anymore.” My friend left three hours later……….
What has Love become?
That is not how love works…..we need to love until it hurts……no matter what.
“How can I love this person” is replaced with “How can I fix this person.”
“How can I serve this person” is replaced by “How can I get this person to contribute to society.”
They become bad “cases” instead of people who need love.
Nobody likes to be a charity case……
When will we be able to sit at the table and break bread with whoever will come?
When we look at someone what do we immediately think?
Is it “that person is useless” or is it “that person is love.”
This is what Salinas has to say about his daughter whom people had made it very clear that she was better off dead:
“She was a bearer of God’s image, and that was more than enough reason to have lived.”
What does it look like to love those who are not useful? Those who do not contribute to society? Those who do not produce? What does it look like to love those whom nobody else does?
Love…….What has it become?
My heart is in motion, for the song inside you……..
March 24, 2009
Grey clouds stuck together Fam. Lightning piercing through another land. Over the desert with the lost place, soul searching each and every way. See the awesome sounds so profound when it..it will grip you. If you can hear it you can feel it, too. It is something special I am running to……….
“I gave up Lint for Lent!” These are the words of my best bud Dave who, honestly, is one of the most thought provoking people that I have ever been around. There is not doubt that he can give the funniest most challenging comments of anyone I know.
He said this, jokingly, during a conversation about what some of us gave up for lent. Because, honestly, we Christians talk about what we gave up during lent all of the time. But, is that what lent is about? Is lent about giving things up like chocolate and facebook? Why do we have this constant obsession with giving up things and talking about it? What the hell is lent really about?????????
Let’s start with me…….because I’m bad at this lent game.
Last year I gave up two things. I gave up my bed (so I slept on the floor) and I gave up meat (including seafood). Wow…….wasn’t I a good lent giver-uper……..
Well, not exactly. Here is my confession…..
I longed for people to ask me what I gave up. Why? Because I could tell them what I gave up. Pathetic, eh? Ya, tell me about it. Well, as you can probably tell, that lent did not exactly teach me much. So, maybe I learned some discipline, but in the big scheme of things lent was about me and how much better I was than everyone else. This is not lent, this is arrogance at its finest.
I secretly wanted people to ask…..still gets me every time I think about it.
But, honestly this is what we are taught about lent. Lent is a time when I give up something so that I can defeat my wants.
So, I have tried not to talk about lent this time. Yes, I gave up something, but it is more about what new things I am seeing……
Because lent is more than just giving something up. It is a time to see the world in a whole new way–a radical way that reveals God putting it back together in the midst of our brokeness.
Lent is about re ordering our lives around God, instead of ourselves. It is not about giving up things so that we can feel good that we accomplished something. It is about entering into God’s story so that we can see the wonderful, beautiful things that are happening.
If it is about us, we might as well just give up Lint for Lent.
February 13, 2009
I feel your heart. I feel your heart. I feel your heart.
I used to hate when we had company over to our house becaus that meant one thing…….we had to clean. Why? I would ask. Why do we need to clean for people to come over?
My Mom always wanted the house to look neat and tidy for our guest. I mean, who doesn’t? She wanted to be hospitable to our guests…there isn’t anything wrong with that, is there?
This way to think about hospitality has been ingrained in me. Hospitality has meant………”try and look the best you can for people when they enter into your lives and give them things they need.” But, is this real hospitality? Is hospitality really trying to create an image of providing goods and services?
My friend A.J. defines hospitality as “welcoming the stranger.” This form of hospitality is defined by entering into the lives of other people who are different from me.
I am slowly figuring out that hospitality is less about doing things for guests and more about entering the lives of people who are strangers to me.
I have this problem…….its called the “I want to help people” problem. The reason I call this a problem is not because it is bad to help people, but because sometimes I care more about what I can do for somebody than who that somebody is.
A good example of this is “feeding the homeless.” Our first inclination is always, “someone is hungry, we need to feed them.” But, this is not hospitality. This is not welcoming the stranger. This is providing a good. When I think like this, I am treating the person as a project to be solved instead of a person to build a relationship with. This is why the “sharing of a meal” is so important. When you “share a meal” you are entering the life of the other person. This is welcoming the stranger.
It is time for us start entering into the lives of one another instead of making projects out of one another. This is real hospitality.
The first time I saw hospitality of this sort was in a chemotherapy treatment facility.
When my mom was battling cancer I would often go to chemotherapy with her. It took hours so we had a chance sit and talk about all sorts of things.
In this facility there was about 25 chairs and patients were constantly going in and coming out.
This is a place of a lot of suffering, that is for sure, but it was also a place where I saw my mom welcome the stranger……….
When someone was new to the facility she would instantly start to talk to them. She would ask all sorts of questions and try and learn everything she could about that person. She would bring encouragement and empathy to her new friend and make sure he/she would know that they were now a part of each others stories……a part of each others hopes and dreams, but also a part of each others grieving and suffering.
There was no goods or services offered here, just an offer to be apart of someone’s life.
To welcome someone into your life and to enter into somone elses is true hospitality. True hospitality is welcoming the stranger……..
Can you feel someones hurts? Can you feel there pains? Can you feel their hopes? Can you feel their dreams?
Hospitality is not about how many good things you can give to someone or about how good of service you can give to them……..Hospitality is about real people who have real lives and our opportunity to join them……..
My Momma said she wanted something real real real
Something she could be proud of, something she could feel feel feel
She said they not used to not having nothin real real real
That they don’t know how to act, don’t know how to feel feel feel
So, I have this friend named Keith……..
I met Keith about a month ago and he spent some time in Tampa so we instantly became friends. We shared a meal together at Jimmy John’s.
We talked about church and politics for a while and then we got to some deeper issues. Keith just recently lost his daughter to a very deadly disease and deep depression has plagued his recent days………
Keith is desperately trying to get back on his feet while dealing with this depression, but one day he just could not take the pain and checked into the hospital.
I get a call about a week after I meet Keith from a friend of his who told me that he was in the hospital and that he wanted me to get in contact with him. She kindly gave me the number to the hospital and I quickly dialed the number. After a couple of connections I finally reached someone at the psychiatric ward. After talking to the receptionist it became very clear that I was not going to reach him or give him a message, for that matter. They basically hung up on me because I was not family. Yes, they are just protecting him, but it was still frustrating.
I had lost hope………..
A week later I get a phone call from Kieth! He left me a message saying that he needed a P.O. Box so he could recieve his veterans checks and medicine. Keith, having no real address, needed this desperately.
I agreed to pay for the six month fee, 35 dollars. We decided to meet the next day and drive up to the Post Office…..
Wednesday rolls around and my friend Ben and I do hop in my car and roll out to have a meal with some folks that live in the woods in chapel hill, NC.
As we eat, I ask one of the guys if they have seen one of my friends Wesley around. “you mean Wes?” one of them says to me. “Yeah,” I reply. “Well, Wes died, he was drunk and got hit by a car,” The other guy says to me………………
This is a friend of mine……..
This is a friend who I promised to take to Florida in March…….that is less than a month away…….and now he is gone……
At the end of the meal when we were just about to leave one of the guys who stays out in the woods, Harvey comes up to my friend Ben and I and says, “Hey you guys driving?” “Sure are. Do you need a ride,” I reply. “Yes, but you are not going to like were I am going…………..” he replied
Harvey was going to the Liquor Store. He told me he was going to walk there anyway, but that he would really appreciate the ride…………
I really struggled with this…….especially because Wesley just died walking Drunk…………
What should I do? Give him a ride to the Liquor Store? Or, let him walk?
I don’t know if there is a right answer………
I gave him a ride….my only hope is that Grace is bigger than this…..
I think that my friend Patrick said it best when he told me that……”It is always best to aire on the side of Grace.”
As we drove we learned that Harvey was a former Marine who has post-traumatic stress disorder, a widower (his wife died of a heroine overdose) and a man who loves his philosophy…….
As we talked I began to feel like we had a relationship going, but as we dropped him off the sadness I felt for Harvey, mixed with the sadness I felt for Wes collided and I LOST HOPE……….
That is until I picked up Keith for our Post Office visit.
Right when I saw him I immediately started smiling and so did he. I reached out my hand to give him a shake, but he immediately grabbed me and gave me a big bear hug……..this guy made my day.
Keith is in a halfway house now. He is making it…….as he tells me, “God is good!”
Then we were off to the Post-Office. We got there just in time, but the lady said we needed a voters card to get a P.O. Box so we jumped back in the car and raced towards the elections office, grabbed a voters card an hurried back within minutes of them closing up.
Keith filled out his forms and I paid the bill. Then, what I saw I will never forget. The lady hands over two keys to Keith and says, “Now, don’t lose these. You will have to pay a fee to get them replaced.” Keith’s eyes lit up and a big smile came to his face as he grabbed the keys. “No mam, I’m definitely not going to lose these.” Then he turned to me with that big smile and said, “wannna go check it out?” “Of course!”
We walked down the hall and found the box and Keith took one of those golden keys and unlocked the little door and it opened right up.
I have never seen someone so excited about a P.O. Box before in my entire life………
“There she is,” said Kieth. “Isn’t she beautiful?” “Sure is,” I replied.
You gotta understand. This is it for Keith. This mailbox is all he has…….but Keith gave me a way bigger gift that day. A gift way more valuable than any mailbox. Keith gave me hope, faith and love………even after I felt like I had lost them all.
When I dropped Keith off he said those same words that he said when I first met him, “God is Good.”
January 14, 2009
The new moon rode high in the crown of the metropolis
Shinin, like who on top of this?
People was hustlin, arguin and bustlin
Gangstaz hardcore hustlin
I’m wrestlin with words and ideas
My ears is picky, seekin what will transmit
the scribes can apply to transcript, yo
This ain’t no time where the usual is suitable
Tonight alive, let’s describe the inscrutable
– Mos Def
As I walk out the door of my Dad’s house in Orlando for an evening run on Christmas the depression hits. I don’t know if any one else experiences this, but I always get depressed after Christmas. Maybe it’s the overload of sugar…….Maybe it’s the stress of the next year ahead……Maybe it’s the longing for more stuff……..the stuff that we mistakenly call “gifts.”
Whatever it is it hits me every year. And don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. It is one of my favorite times of the year, but I dread the time after Christmas.
As I walked down the street longing for a nice run to make me feel better I see a friend of mine that I grew up with in my neighborhood who is a year younger than me. We are going to call him James because I don’t want to use his real name.
I almost said hi and just walked on by…you know the “hey how are you, okay i’m way to busy to talk to you” thing that we do.
But, for some reason I stopped and chatted with James. I quickly learned that James had just been released from prison and is on house arrest for selling cocaine in downtown Orlando. James comes from a line of drug dealers. His Dad was deported back to Haiti shortly after they moved into our neighborhood because he was arrested for having a kilo of cocaine. After graduating high school, James realized that he could make a lot of quick money selling cocaine so he took a cruise ship to Haiti to meet his Dad and smuggled cocaine back to the states. James made a lot of money really fast………..then he got arrested.
He should be in prison, but the judge gave him house arrest because his lawyer proved that he grew up in a nice area and was a good kid who just made a bad decision. Funny what the suburbs can do for you…….
This is the wealthy burbs of Orlando. So, here our conversation began….
We started with small talk, but we soon graduated to some very deep issues after I told him that I want to live in the neighborhoods that he deals in. (By the way, this conversation is going on while he is buying an eight ball (cocaine) on his cell phone and waiting for his brother to pick him up to go downtown to deal). I will never forget what he told me after I told him the things I want to do with my life…….He says, “There can be a million Jonnos (he calls me jonno), but it won’t make a difference. Just get a good job, make money, support a family and stay away. You need to make a good life for yourself. You see, those areas, they have no hope………”
So we continued to walk and talk………three hours to be exact. We talked about everything from drugs to racism, from education to violence, from politics to money. Every twenty minutes or so James would get a call and he would set up a deal for later that night, but as we walked the calls slowly stopped………………
At around 1 in the morning James stops and says, “You know what, I was going to go deal tonight, but this conversation really enlightened me.” I quickly replied, “Well, I hope I enlightened you as much as you enlightened me.” Then he said, “My brother hasn’t came to pick me up yet and my phone has stopped ringing. I think this night happened for a reason. I’m glad we talked.” We then parted ways after a conversation that I, hopefully, will never forget.
As I walked back down the street to my Dad’s house, in the neighborhood where money is no issue, where my old friend James is on house arrest for dealing cocaine and where I learned that there is another way possible I thought to myself…….
There is always hope. And James, who does not believe it, just proved it to me. Maybe, just maybe, it starts with one conversation at a time………….
December 18, 2008
Suffer: verb 1. to undergo or feel pain or distress 2. to sustain injury, disadvantage, or loss 3. to undergo penalty, as of death
Joy: noun 1. the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation 2. the expression or display of glad feeling 3. a state of happiness or felicity
What do they have to do with each other?
Lately I have been wrestling with the same thing. I mean, can we really have joy in suffering? Why suffer? What do we do with that……
I heard great ideals growing up in church. Every Sunday I heard stories of people who risked everything–risked everything to show what love looks like. People who suffered and were constantly around others who were suffering. But beyond the great ideals that I was hearing I was told to live another way. I was never told to actually live like these people. That would be dangerous! I was told to stay in my safe little corner where I was most comfortable……because life is about being safe and comfortable, right?
My Pastor Tim has said multiple times that the thing he fears most for his kids is that they will follow the way of Jesus. Why? Because instead of being safe, instead of getting ahead, instead of making a comfortable life they will endure much suffering by turning the other cheek and becoming the least.
Take a moment and think about one person who you believe changed the world for the better. I will even name a couple……..Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa…..I think you get my point.
Now think about that persons life.
When we think about their lives we can see that they all went through some kind of pain and suffering. Life was difficult, unsafe and uncomfortable. But………….they all unavoidably came out better people.
Why is it that the people who are near suffering always seem to create something bigger than the suffering? Why is it that these people make such a huge difference? Why is it that these people have joy in their suffering?
It is because there will be death……..but there will be resurrection.
It is because there will be Fridays……..but there will always be Sundays.
What does this say to a church that is so far from the sufferings of the world? Do we not believe in resurrection? Do we not believe that good ALWAYS comes from the terrible?
We may endure suffering, but we must have joy.
We must have Joy because suffering is not the last word………the last word has yet to be spoken.
December 16, 2008
It is all going to work itself out………..
This is a phrase that a good friend of mine has to constantly remind me. He knows that I have a problem with anxiety…….I was once told that I even had an anxiety disorder. If there is something to worry about…….I’m on it.
Only until recently have I begun to see the root of this worry.
I worry about me!
I worry about my stuff….my well-being….my grades….my safety…..my comfort…..
Why do I only worry about me?
I have begun to believe that this selfishness is the root of a lot of problems. I would even go as far to say that this selfish worrying is hindering the church’s imagination. Look at it this way…….we have two options………
Worry about our safety.
Worry about the growth of our congregations.
Worry about our stuff.
Worry about our money.
Worry about our benefits.
Worry about our security.
OR We can worry about
Others……the others who don’t have a chance
The others who have nothing.
The others who are discriminated against.
The others who have lost everything.
The others who have no chance.
The others who just can’t take it anymore.
The others who can’t love themselves.
The others who have never felt love.
The others who are helpless.
Only then will we begin to find our place in the world. Only when the focus is off of us and on those who need us will we see a message that is full of life. Only when we focus on others will we see ourselves asking different questions….
Instead of “How can I get more money?” we will ask “How can I give more away?
Instead of “How can I become the best?” we will ask “How can I become the least?”
Instead of “How can I help myself?” we will ask “How can I help others?”
Instead of “Why are all these horrible things happening to me?” we will ask “How can I help those who are suffering?”
If we are to follow Jesus, the one who taught us that the last shall be first and the first shall be last, we must shift our focus from ourselves to others. I have worried about me and asked questions that will only benefit me for too long.
It is time for us to switch the focus from us to them…..because only when we start worrying about Right things and asking the Right questions will we begin to see that it is not about us……..
Only then will we begin to believe that, “It’s all going to work itself out.”
Only then will we see that there is a new way…….
December 13, 2008
My friend Brandy recently asked me what I though being “set apart” as a Christian meant. Brandy and I both believe that this phrase “set apart” has been turned into being “better than” and this kind of thinking can be very dangerous.
But can being “set apart” be a good thing? As I continue to wrestle with this I have tried to think about what being “set apart” is not.
Being set apart is not excluding people who are different from you, especially non-Christians. I have mentioned here before that I believe that we must be friends with people who are not like us to make disciples. Some of my best friends are friends who would not say they are Christians…………and I refuse to make them projects. What I will do is let them teach me and teach me they have. I would even go as far as to say that some of my non-Christian friends act a lot more Christian than some of my Christian friends.
I have a friend who I went to middle school, high school and college with who has taught me so much about life and I would like to share a little about him………
My friend would not say he is a Christian, although he grew up Catholic. He has even gone as far as to tell me that he is only still apart of the Catholic Church because he just wants to get married there. At least he is honest…..
But that is not what makes this friend so great. As I said, he has taught me a whole lot and I hope I have taught him half of what he has taught me. Over the years we have played sports together, eaten together and even lived together. We have had many discussions and argued many times, but we have also laughed and cried together. It is a friendship I will never forget. The last couple of years my friend has had a really rough time. I won’t say exactly what is going on, but he has gone through an incredibly tough time. With that said I have been really proud of him the last few years. He has stared adversity in the face and gotten through the roadblocks that were put in front of him. Basically, I’m really proud of him………
We were roomates the morning my Mom died. As I got off the phone with my Dad I walked back into our dorm room and started weeping. I could not stop crying. My friend instantly jumped out of bed, gave me a big hug and said, “come on, I’ll drive you home.” He dropped everything that morning, just for me………..I will never forget that morning.
We have both graduated and I recieved a text message from him recently that said, “Hey man, you would be proud of me. I was at a funeral of a family friends and I had a long talk to the Father there. We talked about Jesus.”
I texted him back instantly and said, “I’m already proud of you.”
If being set apart is excluding those who don’t believe the same things we do or who are not Christians or who are not in our same Socio-economic class or who are totally difference for us I don’t want to be a part of that……….
But, if being set apart is getting up at 5 am to comfort a roomate after their mom died like my friend did for me……….I think we will be just fine…..
December 11, 2008
“Can I take your picture?” “Sure,” I said………….without even thinking.
So, I was sharing a meal with with some friends a couple of weeks ago when I met a guy named Wesley. As Wesley and I talked I began to learn that he was from clearwater beach. Instantly we had something in common. We began to chat and chat until a guy came up and asked us to take a picture………
You know those times………..those times when you just say yes without even thinking about it? This was one of those….
So as Wesley and I are talking it immediately becomes very awkward as we kind of stop talking and give awkward smiles at the camera. By the way, this was at a ministry in which the poor, rich, educated and non-educated eat together. This guy was taking a picture to recall the moment when “we helped people in need.”
Now, I know this is a tough issue, but I wish I could take back that yes. My only thought was, “I wonder what Wesley is thinking right now.” This guy is taking a picture of me talking to Wesley and he is probably going to take it back to his church so everyone will see me (the rich, educated, white man) talking to Wesley (the homeless, poor, un-educated man) and say, “Oh that is so great!”
First off, Wesley taught me more than I taught him that day. He was doing the good deed, not me.
Second, we are never supposed to show off our good deeds. Jesus speaks quite provocatively about this and that day I realized why it is so bad (I know I run the risk of this very thing on this blog because I write about things I am involved with. I even had a friend recently who told me I must think I’m better than everyone else. This is the reason why I have neglected this blog for the last couple weeks. Its a struggle, I guess thats all I can say).
You are out of work and out of food. The only thing you have left to do is go to the local food bank for a meal. As you go through the line, already ashamed you can’t buy your family a meal, you see someone taking pictures of the people just about to serve you food. What thoughts would go through your mind…….
The only thing I can think of is, how demeaning. When we care more about showing off good deeds instead of caring about people we’ve got a lot of problems.
If that picture goes on a church bulletin board, what’s the point? Just to make it look like we do good things?
Maybe we should put down the camera and our pride……….believe me, I deal with this everyday.
I wish I could take back that yes……..
December 2, 2008
Lord I believe, help my unbelief.
Lord I believe, but would you help me see.
Lord I believe, yes I believe.
Lord we believe, could you help us out.
Help my unbelief………Help my unbelief……..Help my unbelief……….Help my unbelief
I can remember the first time that someone asked me when I was “born again.” I didn’t know what to say because I never had that one moment that some people do. I grew up in church, a methodist one, at that. We didn’t exactly have alter calls at my church so I grew up claiming to be Christian, but not knowing how I got there…………………
I need to admit something. Everyday I wake up and wonder to myself, “What if I’m wrong about this?” “What if I’m wrong about this Christian stuff?”
It is hard to admit these questions in a christian culture that expects you to have it all together, all the time and doesn’t let you ask the tough questions that everyone knows we want to ask.
But here is the point……….Every day I wake up and wonder these things, but every day something happens that makes me believe again. Every day I find that beauty, that wonder and that awe of the Kingdom of God that I have always found so fascinating.
I see it in the people who care for those who cannot care for themselves.
I see it in the rich who are starting to ask questions about the poor.
I see it in the people who are standing up for people on the margins who’s voices have been muted.
I see it in the person on the sidewalk that gives a friendly smile.
I see it in the parent who spends time with their family.
I see it in the beautiful creation that we enjoy every day.
I see it in the love that we not just see, but feel.
I see it in the joy of others.
I see it in the innocence of a child who doesn’t know any better.
Every day I see the Truth…………Every day I’m Born Again.
Search me and all my thoughts, O God. Even the Darkness will not be Dark to YOU. Even the Darkness will not be Dark to YOU, for the Darkest of the Darkness is as LIGHT to YOU.
So, the Duke Divinity School Intramural Basketball team had our first game last week and I came away from it utterly depressed. We lost, yes, but that is not why I was depressed….
You see, I have this problem. I have been extremely competitive since the day I was born and in the past it has gotten me into a lot of trouble. This extreme competition in all that I do has produced depression, hostility amongst others and anger (among other things).
At the beginning of the game we were losing pretty bad and I was getting frustrated. I mean, who doesn’t want to win?
As I got more and more frustrated I started to be a little more aggressive on the court. My frustration was evident as I started to complain to the refs about calls that were made (poor refs, they are Duke Undergrads getting paid minimum wage to get yelled at). Our captain, who is one of my favorite fellow students, even told us to be careful about complaining to the refs, but I had a hard time listening. It is incredibly embarassing to think back on my behavior, but it first hit me after the game was over.
One of our players asked the other team to pray with us. My first thought was, “Oh great, now they know we claim to be Christians. This is when the embarassment was overwhelming. I need to make something clear here. Asking the other team to pray with us after the game and acting “spiritual” does not excuse my behavior during the game. I think this is an example of how we, as Christians, act in todays world. We think we can act like asses whenever we want, but if we “act superspiritual” at other times everything is okay. That is not how things are supposed to work.
It only helps me to recognize how many times I “act spiritual” because I am supposed to be spiritual. A life that fully embodies Christ is one in which everything is spiritual. From my actions on the court to my actions off, my whole life should be centered upon God. When we separate the spiritual from the non-spiritual we are watering down the Gospel that gives us hope, life, love, beauty and truth.
This Gospel embodies all that we do and there is no separation………………….this includes the basketball court.
A couple of questions to ponder…
How can we stop separating our lives into the spiritual and the non-spiritual?
There is a famous athlete that stated that “God comes first” after accepting a very prestigious award. Can we really put God first if our lives revolve around competition and being the best?
Do all of our actions resemble God or do we do “spiritual things” to cover up the times when we have not been Christ-like.
Is competition healthy for Christians?
November 17, 2008
Let me know. Do I still have time to grow? Things aint always set in stone.
Seems like streetlights, glowing, happened to be just like moments passing in front of me so I hopped in the cab and I paid my fare.
See I know my destination, but I’m just not there.
– Kanye West “Streetlights”
Sometimes I wish I was extraordinary. Wait, let me rephrase that…….I consistently wish I was extraordinary. Who doesn’t want to be?
Extraordinary people make it.
Extraordinary people do things others can’t.
Extraordinary people make others look ordinary.
Extraordinary people make a difference.
Extraordinary people create change.
Extraordinary people lead others.
I want to be extraordinary and do extraordinary things, but I am beginning to learn that we need not be extraordinary to do extraordinary things. I just need to be myself and put myself in positions that let God to extraordinary things through me.
I have this new friend and his name is Rob. I met Rob last wednesday when we had the opportunity to share a meal together. Rob is a recovering addict, but for me that is not what defines Rob. Rob is incredibly articulate in his thoughts and speech. I’m talking profound thoughts in every breath!
Oh how I long to be that articulate.
Rob and I have begun to get to know eachother a little bit over the last week. I gave Rob my number and told him that if he needed a friend I was here.
Here in North Carolina it has been raining a lot. It literally poured for like two days straight last week.
Friday I got a call from Rob. He said that he was at his Psychiatrist’s office and was soaked. He said he needed a chance to regroup after being out on the streets for a month. So, I offered to put him up in a hotel for the night. That way he could get a warm shower, a good nights rest and give his clothes a chance to dry. As I met him at the hotel he told me that he had a Job interview on Monday and by that point I was already in “extraordinary mode.” Can you blame me? I want to help Rob, but this was my downfall. I told Rob I would help him out on Saturday to get ready for his interview, but I missed his call. I had no way to get back to him……….
My extraordinary plan failed and ever since Saturday I have been constantly praying for Rob. I really hope I see him soon and I hope that he gets the Job on Monday.
This has been a hard last couple of days, but I have learned something very important through my thoughts and prayers. We are not meant to be extraordinary people. God intends us to be ordinary. We need to be ordinary people so that God can use us to do extraordinary things.
To Let go and Let God is to allow God to create possibilities that we can not even imagine.
I had a friend tell me yesterday that “We’re broken, clueless, and really don’t even know what we believe, but in some weird way we are doing it……..we are actually doing it.”
I just need to be that ordinary man that allows God to work in ways that are beyond extraordinary…..
I hope I see Rob soon.
November 12, 2008
I want to be better than people……….I don’t exactly know where that comes from……….and that scares me.
I really did think that when I went to Divinity school that I would stop comparing myself to others. I guess this is just wishful thinking, but I think that it is even worse in Divinity school. We compare and compete with each other all of the time.
I want to have an edge on people. I want to be smarter. I want to help the most people. I want to be the most popular. I want to be the most likable…………..but does this stuff matter and why do I constantly compare? I mean, what really matters?
Constantly climbing this ladder of “being the best” is dangerous. It will literally kill us and I feel like it has eaten away at my mind, my heart and my soul.
I turn my head to the east. I don’t see anybody in sight.
I turn my head to the west. Still nobody in sight.
So I turn my head to the North and swallow that pill that they call pride.
Am I that insecure that I need people to regard me as smart, popular, or just plain better than others? Or, am I that insecure that I need to find people that are not as smart or popular so I can feel better about myself?
It is hard, isn’t it? We want to be the best, but Jesus doesn’t call us to the best, does He? He calls us to become the least and that starts with me deciding that I’m going to stop running in circles trying to believe that I am somehow better than someone else because of what I accomplish.
I am beginning to learn that if we stop believing that we are better than others because of our accomplishments, we begin to love ourselves and love others better than we ever have before.
Once we stop looking at others in terms of “how can I be better than them” we will learn that we are people that are so much more than petty competition and comparison.
Once we stop looking at people in terms of success we will love them for who they are, regardless of what they have done. We will love people no matter what, without an agenda of any kind.
The world tells us that what we accomplish makes us who we are and I believe this lie every day.
Being better than somone else does not mean anything. It only means that I spend more time finding the ways I am better than someone else instead of loving everyone for who they are.
I compare myself to others………but I hope and pray that I can learn to look past the shallow insecurities that plague my life.
Comparing ourselves tears us apart……..let’s look to another way.
November 10, 2008
My confession is not that simple, but I think it at least gives me something to work with.
In fact, I believe that we, as Christians, tend to think that it is our job to “teach” people the right way to live instead of listening to them and letting them teach us.
In the book of James it tells us to be slow to speak and quick to listen, but I have seemed to neglect this. I mean, I’m smart, right? I need to tell people everything I know, right? Well I am beginning to figure out that the Gospel is quite the opposite…….
The people who I have learned from the most in my life has been the people that I had “seeked to help.” It seems that the people I wanted to help ended up helping me. You see, our biggest downfall is when we start to believe that we are somehow better than someone else.
We don’t go to the margins of society to “help the poor people.” We go to the margins to listen to the voices that our society has muted.
We don’t give a meal to someone so we can do our good deed because we have the resources. We share a meal with someone so we can learn about their life and build a relationship with them.
We don’t throw theological nonsense at people who don’t understand it. We listen to their stories so they can teach us something about their theology.
We don’t go to people and throw the Gospel at them. We become united with one another so that the Gospel will pour out of both of us.
We don’t say we love someone just so we can tell them the right way to live. We just love them.
I don’t understand why I consistently do this, but I am started to learn that if we start every relationship with “what can this person teach me” instead of “what can I teach this person” we might be on to something.
We have a lot to learn from the people around us. So just listen…….
You might learn a thing or two.
November 9, 2008
I could not get this phrase out of my head yesterday, mostly because I have trouble bringing this kind of Truth to people.
This is a quote form Jean Vanier the found of L’Arche, a network of communities around the world that serves the worlds disabled. In these communities the disabled and the nondisabled live together. They pray together, worship together, eat together and most importantly learn from one another.
I want to talk about the reason why I have trouble bringing this kind of Truth to people.
During the session, a question was given to Jean along the lines of “If you started L’Arche today, what would you do differently?” Jean, in his calming voice said, “I don’t deal with hypotheticals, I deal with reality.”
You see, for Jean, he saw an injustice happening and acted on it. He didn’t wait until he had enough experience or had a plan for action………he just did it. I mean, we think we should wait three years and then act upon the injustices that we see, but I believe that this hinders on what we believe Truth is.
Truth is here and Truth is now and it brings the life-giving that we all long for.
I tend to stand by and wait until I am “qualified” to bring life to someone, but what I learned from Jean is that there are endless ways in which we miss these opportunities everyday. I don’t understand why I continue to live in a world of Hypotheticals in which I ask questions like, “What will I do when I’m done with school?” or “How can I plan the rest of my life so that it is easy and comfortable for ME?” instead of “What can I do today, here and now?” Jean seemed to agree when he said, “I don’t understand how you all can live in the world that you do.” “It doesn’t seem like its too much fun.” And this is coming from an 80 year old man who has served the people who are forgotten about in our society. This is a man who still cares for a young man who is deaf and blind. Jean has found life and gives life every day.
I must confess…………..I don’t
November 8, 2008
Busyness is something that I have been really dealing with lately.
If I don’t have time to spend with my friends…….I’m too busy.
If I don’t have time to build new relationships……I’m too busy.
If I don’t have time to call my family…………I’m too busy.
If I don’t have time to make a meal, any meal………..I’m too busy.
If I don’t have time to exercise…………I’m too busy.
If I don’t have time to listen to people’s voices who have been muted………..I’m too busy.
If I don’t have time to share a meal with someone different from me………….I’m too busy.
If I don’t have time to put others before myself……….I’m too busy.
I have been way too busy lately………and it scares me.
“I don’t believe prayer really works…….okay, just some of the time.”
“Mutual Fear……….and my stereotypes.”
“I need to be the student………not the teacher.”
“Nonviolence………….Do I really take this seriously?
November 4, 2008
As I get off of my plane that just landed at RDU I begin to reach into my pocket to grab my cell phone when I remember that it is in my backpack and totally off limits. How will I call my roomate to pick me up? How did people live without cell phones???????? And this was only the first day of my fast from communication technology………….
One of our assignments for my Spirituality class this semester was to fast from communication technology for five straight days. This meant no cell phone, no email, no facebook and so on.
I just completed my fast and a lot of people keep asking me how my fast went and what it was like to give up communication technology. I mean, how can someone live without facebook, honestly???
To be honest, I’m still sorting through these questions as I write my reaction paper.
I do want to discuss the biggest scare during my entire fast……….
When I gave up my cell phone I feel like I gave up a part of me. The whole week I felt as though there was a part of me missing and this began to scare me.
When did this happen? How did my cell phone become that much a part of me? Is this healthy?
I just can’t believe that my emptiness without a cellphone is healthy. As I began to wrestle with this I began to realize that I need to confess that I am very materialistic.
It is something that I continue to fight each and every day. I mean, I grew up in a culture that told me “what I had made me who I was.” This lie was fed to me each and every day as I grew up in the suburbs of Orlando. Sure I had lots of things, but now that I look back these had to be the most depressing days of my life. I started to believe that what I had made me who I was. My identity was in my “things.” My Dad told me that I said one time that I should be able to “have whatever I want.” That thought frightens me and it has taken me a long time to try and free myself from this destructive way of thinking.
My good friend Will and I are going to write a book in the future and one of our chapters will be titled “Alabama boys on the Tampa Bayou.” This comes from an experience that we had with two guys who got stranded in Tampa. Their friend left them behind with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
We had many great experiences with these two friends of ours, but there is one experience in particular that I remember like it was yesterday. One night, they found a spot to sleep right under a bridge on the river in downtown Tampa so we bought a couple of pizzas and headed down to hang out with them. It was a little cold out that night and as we left I offered one of them my jacket. What he said to me would change a lot about how I think about my “stuff.” He said, “no you keep it. you might need it.” The only thought that went through my mind after this was: If he could only see my closet. I felt so ashamed……
But, I learned something very important that night from our friend who had nothing but the clothes on his back. He taught me that it is not what you have that makes you who you are, it is how you respond to the people who “might need it” that makes you who you are.
As I took my hand out of my pocket where my cell phone was absent I remembered our friend out there on the river that one night………
How many times do I still define myself with what I have?
October 27, 2008
So sorry, but I will be on a five-day hiatus from writing. I don’t think I want to say why yet, but you can guess from the title of this post.
October 27, 2008
I need to be honest……..I haven’t been able to Love someone like I Loved my Mom.
A year and a half ago my Mom passed away. She has been the most influential person in my life.
Before she died she wrote all of my family personal letters. In mine, she wrote that when I was born she took me home from the hospital and thought to herself, “I have no idea what to do now.” I was her first born child and she was only 21 at the time…………she was scared. But, she started to remember the greatest commandment. From that day she decided that there was no secret formula. All she needed to do was Love me with her whole heart.
Her Love was something my whole family still longs for. She never wanted nice things or a comfortable life……..she just wanted to be a good Mom. And that she was.
Then, early one morning she passed away from Breast Cancer. It has been the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with and I long for the Love that she gave me. It was Love so True that my family has had a tough time trying to grasp that Love and give that to others.
I need to confess that I’m not sure I can Love like she could. I’m just not that sure…….
It is tough to lose the person in the world that Loves you the most. When that love is gone, you can’t explain the emptyness.
And I don’t know if I can show that Love. She gave up everything for us. Can I really give up everything for someone else? I’m just not sure…….
There is a new song I have been listening to that is coming out soon by an artist who just lost their mom very recently, as well.
The song is about this artist’s horrible loss and has been helped me put my feelings into words. These are the Lyrics.
On lonely nights I start to fade.
Her Love is a thousand miles a way.
Goodbye my Friend, Will I ever Love again?
Memories made in the Coldest Winter.
At the End of the song, the artist confesses how he really feels.
Goodbye my Friend, I won’t ever Love again………ever again.
That’s just how I feel sometimes.
October 27, 2008
Last week all of the first year students were going a little crazy. We had a quiz on the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament) and everyone was a little worried (I still don’t understand why, it is only worth 5% of our grade). In preparation for this quiz I got together with a study group at one of my group members apartment. As I rode up on my scooter I noticed two of my group members walking in when a guy in a pickup truck stopped and asked them for some money for gas to help him get back home. They both declined…………
Listen, I understand that school is important. I want to do as well as anyone else, but when we care more about getting a good grade on our Torah Quiz instead of doing what the Torah says we have a problem. A major theme in the book of Genesis is about Blessing. In Genesis, Blessing is never something that is transparent to someone. In other words, Blessing just doesn’t go through you to help someone. You have to be active in that Blessing. If you have that Blessing your job is to push that blessing in a way that helps others. I understand that it is easy for us to say that we are poor Grad Students, but lets face it. In terms of resources we are in the top percentage category.
The man in the truck spotted me and yelled at me. I couldn’t hear him so I drove my scooter up to his truck. He politely asked me for some money, but I did not have any with me. I told him that if he knew where a gas station was I would use my debit card to fill his truck up. He wasn’t from the area, but I told him I would follow him until we found one. Sure enough there was one down the street.
As we got to the gas station I learned that my new friend got lost and needed gas to get back home. I swiped my card and told him to take what he needed, but he refused to take only what he needed (two gallons). As we talked he apologized to me for having to use my money give him some gas. I told him not to apologize and I apologized for my friends not helping him out. Then he said something I will never forget, “I know, when someone needs help you’re supposed to help them, right?” I assured him that he was right and again apologized. He asked me what I did and I ashamedly told him I went to the Divinity School at Duke University. He instantly pointed to a Bible at his dashboard and said, “You see that.” I said yes and replied, “In there it says to help people doesn’t it?” “Sure does!” He said.
I told him again to go ahead and fill up his truck, but he declined and told me that he could use some food, though. I told him I would grab him something from the gas station, but he said he had diabetes. I didn’t know a place that was open at the time so I told him I would grab him some cash from an ATM. After he got done pumping gas, I met back up with him and handed him some money. He instantly hugged me and said, “You don’t know how much this means to me.”
Thats when my pride set in. I somehow decided that I was so much better than my friends for helping out my new friend Teddy. This righteous attitude made me so ashamed of myself I couldn’t even hug Teddy back. He wished me well and was on his way.
I think pride is one of the hardest things to deal with. Especially because there is no safe space to talk about it. If you even talk about dealing with pride you are marked as prideful.
Well I think we all deal with it, especially us Divinity Students. My hope is that we can create safe spaces to discuss pride and find ways to humble ourselves. Pride, in my opinion, can be one of the hardest things to deal with it.
Pride……………….can we overcome it?
October 24, 2008
This post is soul bearing. I have only shared some of this with the people closest to me and it is incredibly personal. What I have learned most about confession is that we don’t do it. I think the reason for this is because we run the risk of letting people in. I also understand that we run the risk of people judging us and thinking less than us, but I am starting to learn that it is more important do lay it all out there.
So here it goes…….
Lately, I have been under a lot of pressure from my Dad and my Grandparents about my singleness. They just don’t understand why I haven’t dated someone since I was a Freshman in college. The criticism has been unbearable. They feel as though it is impossible to be happy without a significant other. I would disagree.
I do affirm that marriage is a gift, but I also believe that singleness is a gift, too. We are never taught this growing up, especially in the church and it is hard to let go when it is beaten into your head that there must be something wrong with you if you are single.
It has taken a while, but I have started to embrace singleness. I have begun to understand it as a gift instead of a dysfunction. My life will never be defined as whether I am married or not. Either way, I am still blessed.
Even though I have begun to embrace my singleness, I have made mistakes. My biggest mistake came when I was dating someone my Freshman year of college. I don’t really want to make this complicated……we had sex. (That’s incredibly difficult to write) It is something I still have trouble dealing with and it continues to effect my relationships. It has been very damaging to me, especially growing in a Christian tradition that condemns something so harshly that to admit something like this runs the risk of excommunication. This is something I regret and know I can’t take back.
But what I can do is work towards a future that reconciles my hurt and pain. In times like this we must rise above our problems and continue to stand. My singleness has been a gift for me. A gift to reconcile the damage done by my mistake. Singleness can be just as much as a gift as marriage can. A gift to help me realize that it is not me, but God who is in control. He is creator and I am creature. I will revel in his goodness and beauty no matter what the future holds for me…………even if that means I am single.
October 23, 2008
I have this friend that I don’t even remember his name. It’s a shame I don’t remember because he was the first person to show me what Christ is like…………..
You see, this friend lives on the street and I first met him when my friend Will and I used to bring the leftover food from a meal site to a parking lot across from the salvation army where a large homeless population slept. These might have been the most invigorating times of my life, but this man sticks out every time I think about those days.
First off, the streets are a scary place. I always have a bit of fear in me when I walk around the so called “dangerous” parts of inner cities, but because of my unfair securities I will never know the fear of sleeping on the streets.
Our friend, that I mentioned earlier, could not sleep at night on the streets. The fear was too great.
Well, one night as we all sat around sharing a meal with one another I saw him walking and offered him to join us. Will or I (I can’t remember) offered him a seat in one of our chairs that we brought.
Within minutes he was asleep. I was floored because I had always seen him walking at night not being able to sleep on the streets, but he must have felt safe there with us. His fear was gone. God gave this man rest that night, probably the best rest he had in a long time. As I watched this man breathe peacefully I saw Jesus. For me, that night, the Bible became flesh and bone. Jesus was alive for me.
This man showed me that the Gospel is alive, real and ever present. God took away this man’s fear and gave him rest.
As I remember that night I think about how our friend taught me what it means to rely on God and how many times I don’t………….like my life is so hard………..
Our friend taught me more about what it means to be faithful than I could have ever taught him……….
Thank you, my friend
October 21, 2008
WARNING: Explicit Lyrics………I might get a lot of flack for this post, but here it goes.
The “Christian” radio station in Orlando (where I’m from) has a saying at the end of each broadcast. They say that their station is “Safe for the Little Ears.” I guess what they mean is that they don’t use bad language or talk about “bad things” in their songs that might be a little “inappropriate” for children. Well I hate to break it to you, but like my Pastor Tim says….The Bible is NOT safe for the little ears! I hate to say this, but this radio station along with its songs are not being very honest. At the very least, they are not telling the whole truth.
I’m just as much a victim to this as the radio station. I grew up know which stuff was okay to talk about and which stuff wasn’t. I learned to say I was fine, when I wasn’t and learned to act like everything was happy, when everything wasn’t. I learned that to be a good Christian was to have it all together, just like the songs on the radio. I mean “I still believe” was how I should feel after My Mom got cancer, right? Well, I didn’t feel like that at all……probably quite the opposite and that was the honest truth.
I got introduced to Hip-Hop music when I was in 5th grade. My friends used to sneak a boom box into class and we would listen until the bell rang. Hip-Hop has taught me a lot of things and one of the most important things was how to be honest. Now……I know what your thinking, but just hear me out.
Just to keep in perspective…I got introduced to 2pac and Biggie at a young age, so this is what I am coming from. I’m not coming from one of the garbage rappers that we hear these days.
2pac’s song “changes” epitomized, for me, the art of letting everything out…..not just the good, not just the bad, but the honest truth. I could feel the hurt and the pain. The joy and the sorrow. The happiness and the sadness. 2pac was being honest.
I’m going to go ahead and say it……….Hip Hop is more HONEST than “Christian Music.” Like I said, when my Mom had cancer the last thing I wanted to hear was “I still believe,” but I did listen to a Biggie song on repeat over and over again because he said this line, “…and my Mom has cancer in her breast. Don’t ask me why I’m Mother Fuckin’ stressed.” I listened to that because that is was real. It was honest, it was blunt and it was real. Let me make something clear……..
The Psalms are not happy go lucky songs that give you a good feeling in a worship service. The Psalms are honest. They talk about the full nature of what it means to be human. The hurt, the pain, the joy, the sadness are all expressed. If we want to be more honest with ourselves we must stop acting like we have it all together.
Talib Kweli has an album titled “Beautiful Struggle” in which he relates this theme to life. Life is not just Beautiful, it is also a struggle. We need to relate both sides of the equation. Trust me……God can handle our honesty. He has for a long time…….
LYRICS FROM 2PAC’S CHANGES
Come on come on
I see no changes wake up in the morning and I ask myself
is life worth living should I blast myself?
I’m tired of bein’ poor and even worse I’m black
my stomach hurts so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch
Cops give a damn about a negro
pull the trigger kill a nigga he’s a hero
Give crack to the kids who the hell cares
one less ugly mouth on the welfare
First ship ’em dope & let ’em deal the brothers
give ’em guns step back watch ’em kill each other
It’s time to fight back that’s what Huey said
2 shots in the dark now Huey’s dead
I got love for my brother but we can never go nowhere
unless we share with each other
We gotta start makin’ changes
learn to see me as a brother instead of 2 distant strangers
and that’s how it’s supposed to be
How can the Devil take a brother if he’s close to me?
I’d love to go back to when we played as kids
but things changed, and that’s the way it is
[Bridge w/ changing ad libs]
Come on come on
That’s just the way it is
Things’ll never be the same
That’s just the way it is
I see no changes all I see is racist faces
misplaced hate makes disgrace to races
We under I wonder what it takes to make this
one better place, let’s erase the wasted
Take the evil out the people they’ll be acting right
’cause both black and white is smokin’ crack tonight
and only time we chill is when we kill each other
it takes skill to be real, time to heal each other
And although it seems heaven sent
We ain’t ready, to see a black President, uhh
It ain’t a secret don’t conceal the fact
the penitentiary’s packed, and it’s filled with blacks
But some things will never change
try to show another way but you stayin’ in the dope game
Now tell me what’s a mother to do
bein’ real don’t appeal to the brother in you
You gotta operate the easy way
“I made a G today” But you made it in a sleazy way
sellin’ crack to the kid. ” I gotta get paid,”
Well hey, well that’s the way it is
We gotta make a change…
It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.
Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live
and let’s change the way we treat each other.
You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do
what we gotta do, to survive.
And still I see no changes can’t a brother get a little peace
It’s war on the streets & the war in the Middle East
Instead of war on poverty they got a war on drugs
so the police can bother me
And I ain’t never did a crime I ain’t have to do
But now I’m back with the blacks givin’ it back to you
Don’t let ’em jack you up, back you up,
crack you up and pimp smack you up
You gotta learn to hold ya own
they get jealous when they see ya with ya mobile phone
But tell the cops they can’t touch this
I don’t trust this when they try to rush I bust this
That’s the sound of my tool you say it ain’t cool
my mama didn’t raise no fool
And as long as I stay black I gotta stay strapped
& I never get to lay back
‘Cause I always got to worry ’bout the pay backs
some buck that I roughed up way back
comin’ back after all these years
rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat that’s the way it is uhh
October 14, 2008
I want to tell you about a hero and teacher of mine. He has taught me more about Joy than anyone in my entire life. I have learned so much from him that it would be impossible to repay him.
As I said earlier, I am back in Tampa. This means that I got to visit my hero and teacher. His name is Bobby and he is one of my youth kids at the Church I helped out with at my undergrad. Bobby is one of my favorite people in the world and I could tell when he stepped out of the car and walked up to church he was just as excited as I was, but then it hit me…..
I haven’t talked to Bobby in a long time. He called me a couple of months ago, but I never called back. I must have been too busy…..ugh.
Bobby and I used to talk all the time and he never failed to make my day. You see, Bobby has Aspergers Disorder (a mild form of Autism), but that never has been what makes Bobby special.
What makes Bobby special is the Joy he has. His Joy has been the light of my life for so long and somehow I just stopped caring because I didn’t have any time to call him and see how he was doing.
Of course, Bobby didn’t care. He still gave me a smile, a laugh, a powerful handshake and a big hug. Then went on to destroy me in super smash brothers on N64. Bobby loves me no matter what. What a humbling thing to realize.
How selfish am I with my time…….
This has to change.
October 14, 2008
I wish I could take back a conversation that I had yesterday. I want another opportunity to make things right.
I’m back home in Tampa and I did not show the love that I say I believe it.
I was walking out of a Walgreens heading back to church (which makes this more painful) when a guy who was homeless asked me for some money. I said I didn’t, which was the honest truth (It is important to note that in my earlier days I would say no even if I really did have some), but he said he needed money for new shoes. I looked upon his shoes and saw they were nearly ripped in two. My mind raced and I tried to think of a way to solve this problem. I thought about offering him my sandals, but I decided against it for two reasons. One being that I figured he would say no thanks. The other reason was that I didn’t want to be shoeless for the rest of the night. I nicely said I didn’t have any cash on me, he said no problem and then I was on my way.
I just can’t get this conversation out of my mind. I should have offered him my sandals, but my selfishness held me back. I wish I could take it back……..
Even if he said no, at least he would have known that I was willing to give up the sandals on my feet for him.
I hope I never act so selfishly again….what has happened to me?
This has been my most painful post to write.
I hope sometime soon we will meet again. Then I can tell him sorry…..sorry for my selfishness.
I’m so sorry……Lord forgive me.
October 14, 2008
There have been many people that I have talked to lately who have seemed to be opposed to the view I present here.
The best argument is that we should give “our best” to God.
A good friend of mine recently told me that giving “our best” to God is giving our clothes away to the people who need them……I think I agree.
We are not called to look our best, only to GIVE our best…….
It’s just too hard for me to see such a fancy Jesus.
October 10, 2008
Today, one of my professors said something that really bothered me.
First off, let me make sure that you know that this professor is a fantastic teacher. I actually beleive she is one of the smartest, most brilliant people at Duke Divinity school. But, today during our lecture she said something that I vehemently disagree with. She was talking about worship and she said that it is important that we dress in an appropriate way for worship. She went on to say that if we wore gym clothes in church, that means that we have a gym mindset instead of a worship mindset. Essentially, from what I gathered, she was pointing out that we need to dress in a way that is appropriate for worship.
As I thought about that I began to realize that if this the case a lot of my friends would not be allowed to worship at her church……because they don’t have these clothes. Then I started to think about all of the other people who wouldn’t be able to worship there…much of the Saints, Paul, the Apostles, Jesus….I guess I should stop there.
I am saying all of this not to corner my professor, I already told you she is brilliant and that I am honored to study with her, but I am saying this to set up a confession I need to make.
My elitism shows up in what I wear, even if it is just a t-shirt.
Why do I consistently want to buy that Duke T-shirt? Or Duke Divinity T-shirt, for that Matter?
Is it to show that we are so much better than other people because we got in? Or, because we go there?
Why is it that we want to make sure people know that we are important?
The elitism that is very apparent in the Divinity School is very scary and I hope that we can wrestle with what it try means to become less.
For me, I know that sometimes I want to show off that I go to Duke and go the prestigious Divinity School…and that scares me…..
….because it is not that we need another sweatshirt or t-shirt, thats for sure.