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?

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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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Upcoming confessions:

“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?

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?