United we stand

United we stand, divided we fall.

As a culture we love to take a stand on issues. In many ways, we’d rather be divided on an issue than agree on something. It means we have freedom. Freedom of choice, thought, creed, belief, action, and so on. This idea of freedom is pervasive and thought of as an inalienable right.

Because it is. The problem lies when one person’s view of freedom conflicts with another’s. One thinks he/she should be free to shop at a certain store, while another to read certain books in school.

As time moves forward, tolerance is the word that is thrown around the most. Also as we progress, hypocrisy sprouts from tolerance. Tolerance only goes so far in any camp until it encroaches on by another’s freedom. Deep divides occur.

How do we move away from this as a country? How do we practice true freedom while allowing for others to hold different beliefs? I don’t know the answer, and it isn’t really fair of me to point to a problem without a solution.

However, I do have a few ideas. Maybe it’s doing what we can to be kind (not just nice). Maybe it’s communicating our boundaries and their consequences while respecting another’s boundaries (that is called love). Maybe it’s realizing we are responsible for our own actions and their consequences, good and bad.

As we see discord in the nation, maybe we should check ourselves and see what lies within us before we criticize what’s wrong. Are we a part of that? What can we as an individual who has freedom do to make a difference?

That’s the power we were given in the constitution. It goes beyond freedom of choice. It is the freedom of the individual to make choices to change the nation for the betterment of all.

Down and out

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re not where you should be by this point in life? If I think about what would make me happy at this point it would be to have already reached my goals. It has been five years since I’ve finished the main part of my Bachelors. I was hoping to have my debt paid off in two years (dream on right?). I was hoping to have finished a Masters by now. I dreamed that I would be in my career and maybe somewhere on the mission field. Maybe even be married.

Reality is I graduated later in 2011, worked fast food for a year and a half, retail for a year, and job hunted for some way to use my degree like crazy to no avail. Deferment of my loans became commonplace as I couldn’t afford the payments, putting me further behind. This year I started a new career that I never saw myself doing, and frankly still see it as temporary. I feel like I keep getting more and more behind as the years tick by and I still haven’t felt like I’m where I want to be. It can wear on a person, and even feel like these years are a waste because they aren’t doing much to help reach my goals. I’d much rather be working on my masters. Instead, I live far from the school where I’d like to get my degree and no idea when I’ll be able to afford the degree and move there. Most dishearteningly, I lack the tools to do what I love – helping/counseling people.

So amidst all that frustration, what keeps me from going nuts? In all of it, it’s constantly remembering who is in control of my life. God certainly is, but I also am. I am responsible for every decision I make from now until I die. If I feel defeated and frustrated now, what will keep that pattern from continuing later on in my life? As of this moment, I have the choice and ability to handle whatever is thrown at me with grace and patience. I saw my 20s as a time to learn about the career I would launch into. Instead, they have been a time of learning about myself before I go into my career. I’m not where I want to be, but I am where I need to be. The best thing is, I can make the best of it now. I can glean lessons from the mud that covers everything in the spring thaw and from the beauty of winter that preceded it.

Learning isn’t bound solely into the classroom, training seminar, or a special program. If you’re feeling down about where you are now, I challenge you to do what you can today. Don’t live apathetically biding your time until you can begin your ‘real’ purpose. Your purpose is immediate, carpe diem.

“Enough is enough.”

“Enough is enough.”

I’m angry.

Isn’t the point of owning a “Christian” business to be an example of difference in how you run your business to others? So, instead of bigotry (hint: pharisees) wouldn’t the intended message that is to be conveyed gospel centered?

I’ll delve a little further. The Law’s design (OT) was designed to point out sin and our need for God. Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law, is the Sacrifice made so the Law can be fulfilled.

Are we giving unbelievers the Law without any indication of the Gospel? Does our depiction of our morality turn them away before they can learn who Jesus is and why they need redemption? They see Jesus as a detached strongman in heaven bringing hellfire and brimstone because of this behavior.

Looking at businesses who turn away people for what they believe reeks of hypocrisy, bigotry, and judgement. It’s like punching someone in the face and telling them they need heart surgery. They are so pissed off they got punched in the face they fail to see their need and immediately cease to listen to you. The business you run IS NOT YOURS. Nothing in this life is.

Do you not know who gives those gifts? What do you do with them? Turn them into a political platform in direct opposition to the Gospel? In light of the Gospel, who gives a #$%& about your gun rights, freedom, or any “right” we are supposed to possess?

Isn’t our freedom found in Christ? Let’s put it this way, North Korean Christians (among many other Christians) possess none of the blessings we are given in this country and they still live free from chains because of Jesus. Why do we throw chains back onto our right to religious freedom and make fools of ourselves because of it? We don’t look any different than the ones we try to space ourselves from. We’re just part of the culture of slavery (to sin, ideas, etc).

Christian culture has assimilated the idea that we need to puff our chest out and make a show of “standing for what WE believe.” Anything outside of that brings murmuring… Things like being offended, we’ll get persecuted more for taking a “weaker” position, etc.

Why not change our paradigm? Doesn’t the Gospel transcend culture as well as interact with it in meaningful ways? They can see flowers and tell people of God’s creation and the intricacy with which He made those beautiful plants growing before them. They can have their car worked on free of charge for a family in need and wonder why the shop owner was so generous. It goes on.

Why can’t a business welcome people, politely disagree, get to know the people they would have normally rejected, and invest in their lives? Can’t a business be a conduit for this? Why is a business supposed to be a platform for morality? Where. Is. The. Gospel??

Let us pray maybe our brothers and sisters will maybe change their mind in the way they present Christ and how they run their business. Don’t discount the hope and potential for change through Christ.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/04/16/i-am-a-christian-auto-shop-owner-gets-death-threats-after-making-this-announcement-on-facebook

I was asked this question (thanks Nathan), and my response is below. If I owned a bakery and I was asked to put let’s say gay marriage rules or a homosexual couple on top would it be wrong of me to decline those parts of the cake?

My question to you would be what would most advance the Gospel in your situation? I think the “right” and “wrong” depends on this: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
–James 4:17

It might be politely declining business and explaining why in a healthy way. It could be accepting business and using it as an opportunity to get to know someone. As in different areas of life, there are no clear cut answers for every situation. We do the best we can do with prayer, knowing Scripture, and surrounding ourselves with wise friends/family when making tough decisions when it comes to these things. In the end, we are human. We do make mistakes, but we can learn from them.

In the story above, the man’s heart obviously wasn’t on Christ and his fruit is evident of where his focus is. However, I would more seriously look at someone who’s fruit does point to Christ. What is important to me behind the people who make these decisions is the heart behind the matter and who the decision points to.

Skies

Chasing the western skies
We dance atop the clouds
Each one listning to lies

Like bugs attracted fluorescence
Every one hopelessly absorbed
Made to think that gives essence

Every day we see into others lives
Masquerades as entertainment
Instead those strings need scythes

When again can we stare
Out the window of our souls
A beautiful world to be aware

Chasing the western skies
We sway with the spin of earth
Dancing as mendacity dies

Predator

They smelled blood in the water
They teemed and writhed in crimson
Ripping flesh and crushing bone

Helpless and life fading
A friend thought him worth saving
Into the fray with kicks
His only weapon splayed

A friend lost a limb
Life still beat in his chest
Drug to the shore red came
A bystanders belt blood staved

Sharks in the water move on
Their fins slip below the surface
Predators with food to prey upon
Searching for the scent of disgrace

Dreams

They’re crazy those dreams
I don’t plan them
All of a sudden I’m in a better world
My mind is transformed to think it’s real
Until my eyes open to the light
And consciousness steals

It’s a dream maybe of hope
Of a adventurous plan
Something that hasn’t happened
What a stark reality intake up to
Wanting to stay in the dream
And not leave without you

Maybe it’s learning to wake up
Facing the day again
A time to mature and grow
Keep changing to who I need to be
Its hard alone when you’re gone
But there is a goal I wake up to see

When one has lost and still desires
Maybe these wires get crossed
The past and future collide
Dreams make the best of reality
And mercifully give credence
To the One who gives hope I can see

A dynamic system

Everything in the universe moves relative to everything else. The sun is no more fixed in space than the earth is.

This quote has more implications for life and thinking than just a scientific statement. It has vast social implications as well. Let me explain.

The world is complicated and dynamic. Political policies change, leaders change, countries change, and nothing remains fixed. Our thinking and policy making remains stuck in the same thinking as the earth is flat and the sun is stationary. How so? We bank on one leader, one country, and are set ablaze by one situation when we fail to see there are many dynamics occurring in a given situation. We don’t try to see the rest of the dynamics in play, and our emotions get in the way as well. We see one facet of truth.

People aren’t stationary, just like the universe. They are also complicated and dynamic. Yet, they are still people and that is the constant. Just as the stars are the stars. Yet, we also move in relation to one another. A political move is made, and counter move is put in action. This dynamic is in Israel, American politics, and worldwide politics. One unfortunate common theme is in place. Instead of knowing most of the reason (formulas, the why) behind the movement and undulation, we don’t. We know why the stars and universe moves in relation to other objects. It is gravity and mathematics, to put it simply.

In politics, however, there is no such simple answer. The entire truth cannot be known about any given situation because it is a card held against the chest to be played later. Sometimes it’s burned or hidden so that people cannot discover its meaning. This cardplay will be the downfall of politics and humanity. Truth withheld, even difficult truth, is the beginning of deception for selfish gain. Most wars are fought on this progression. Truth withheld, covered up, not given/allowed press, etc. makes navigating a complicated situation like handling Russia, China, North Korea, and Israel impossibly difficult. Truth is the power play and trump card, and those who brandish it use it as a sword to slay their enemies. The play and counterplay happen frequently. The US came into Iraq declaring that there were WMDs to be taken care of. No WMDs were found.

There is an instigator on either side of the fence who polarises the masses while those with a wholistic moderate view are generally marginalized. They are seen as weak or untrustworthy because they don’t swing to a particular party. At the least, they won’t get the support of either party because they don’t align enough with either, even though their thoughts and politics are solid. It is more about aligning with a party rather than bettering the country, speaking of US politics.

Credibility is a resource to be coveted. Regimes fall or are taken out based on this. Why is Edward Snowden so powerful? He owns truth. Why is cyberwarfare so dangerous? Truth can be uncovered and taken away. With such a powerful resource, all we do is protect it with lies. What a terrible barricade at the least, and a crippling foundation at the most.

How can we make informed decisions with the world the way it is? Search out truth. A lot of the time, you cannot find it in a politician. Where you can find a better resource is history, studying cultures, studying religions, and becoming acquainted with truth. We are in an age when we’ve been given unprecedented access to be able to know truth. We have powerful research tools at our fingertips, but we don’t use them. A people ignorant of truth is the easiest to manipulate in the free world. Citizens controlled by out of control emotions can be played to vote to suit the gains of those at the top. Don’t be a sheep and get eaten by a wolf because you don’t know what one looks like. Study them and know their eating habits so you won’t be mauled when one comes into your midst.

Just some thoughts about how truth plays in our world today. Thoughts are welcome. How has truth (or the lack of it) affected your view of politicians and countries involved? How has truth affected your life? Has it helped you see complex dynamics in a social system?

Loneliness

Loneliness.

The word alone dictates feelings of lack and of fear. Lack of people, lack of those who understand, lack of someone who loves you for who you are, etc. Fear goes hand in hand with this word. There is a fear that no one will be able to empathize with what you’re going through. The thought of never having someone to be by your side through thick and thin is daunting. Being alone in the wilderness with no one to talk to forces you to wrestle with the demons within yourself.

Loneliness drives people to do anything to fill their perceived and real voids. Men and women hop from relationship to relationship, even the unhealthy ones just so they aren’t alone. We spend our time attached to our phones, social media, or in public places to avoid lack of interaction. Sometimes we go to extreme measures to seek those who just might understand. Many times, those same people end up being the ones that control and manipulate someone who they know is vulnerable. In the end, we end up more wounded than before.

While I’ve been in Canada (as of July) loneliness has been the feeling I’ve been accustomed to the most. It pervades my lifestyle. I’m always moving, traveling, changing people with whom I interact, and staying in many different places. To give an example, since February I’ve been to six different worksites across the province. Hopefully this will calm down somewhat and I’ll rotate between two sites every week, but still a lot of moving. Even being an TCK, I’m used to at least having someone close to me close by. Whether it’s a close friend or immediate family, someone was always there. Up here, they are much farther. If it’s in Canada, it’s Calgary, at least three hours away. The US, as you can imagine is much further with a couple of time zones.

I’ve struggled knowing every night the only person I come back to is myself. Never have I found myself very interesting. What I did find was I had demons to wrestle with, a recently ended long-term relationship, and I had to come to terms being starkly alone. It frustrated me. All I wanted was to be with people, and for good reason. I needed to be edified, needed their companionship, and wanted growth. I craved immediate satisfaction in having someone who understood me. Having none of that, there were only a few choices I could make. Apathy was a major danger for me, and the biggest battle I fought. I could distract myself endlessly. Another was completely changing who I was, so I was no different. That meant many things, of which none were acceptable. Lastly, I could remain myself and grow.

Growing is painful. Being the last choice, it was the last one I came to in my process. Facing being alone and being positive about it seem like contradictory choices. It is, however, what God has worked in me. Being upbeat about the whole thing has made it not only bearable, but good. I cannot fathom suffering alone while resenting it. Bitterness would seep into my bones.

I’ve come to enjoy the solitude. I know that this time is good for me to learn. To think. To write. To make the most of my interaction. To be who I am. I still don’t like it all the time. I get much more excited than normal to visit my friends. I still desire companionship. It’s a period of waiting, and there is nothing wrong with that. There are times and periods in one’s life that look like a hellish desert. The oasis is found when Christ is the sustenance that carries you through. To expound, laying your foundation on His truth will make or break you. When you’re alone looking out into the glittering universe, you wonder of your significance. Knowing God loves you gives you a place, because He made it for you. God did something very intentional so that no matter how alone we are, He is always in reach. He is always present, and loves His redeemed.

This has been my experience so far as I’ve walked the path of loneliness. I’m still processing it, so this is just reflective of my experience. Which leads me to the question: What has your experience been? How have you dealt with it? Maybe we can learn a few things from each other.

Success

I’ve had several conversations about where life is going, what we’re doing for careers, and what our dreams are. These conversations have been roughly the same for me since graduating college. My ultimate answer is, I don’t know. I’m doing many things in the meantime to try to advance any semblance of a career, but where I want to go and what I want to be is far from me.

There are things yes, I dream about. I dream of having an impact on the world and those around me. I dream of making a difference in each person I meet. I dream of eventually being a loving husband and father. I dream of being successful, whatever that means. I dream of working hard, and being good at whatever I do.

The problem is, none of that gets you a good job. My degree hasn’t done that yet. I’ve not been able to find a job where I can use my degree in a related field. Some would say because I’ve not succeeded in getting a job with my degree that I’m a failure, or a lazy bum. The stigmas that go along with not having a “professional” job or career are endless, and being in the construction industry has its own as well. In a performance driven society, we are looked on with pity as failures. At the least they are kind enough to say we aren’t trying hard enough (I hope you get the irony in this).

When it comes to family, your life is made worse because well meaning parents (in-laws, significant others parents) drive their perspective of success into our brains. They say that we have to have a job that turns into a career. When we’ve been stuck in a dead-end retail job, they worry we have become complacent and lazy when we’re working our tails off to live up to their definition of what life should be. I’ve worked fast food, retail, and now I’m surveying in the construction business. I cannot get a good job (or a job at all) based on my well-wished dreams of being involved with people and loving on them.

What I can do is use whatever job I do have to fulfill those goals and dreams I have. It is not lazy to work as hard as I can to be as good as I can be at the career I’m in. That might not land me the sweet job everyone else dreams about, but I can be satisfied knowing I’ve made an impact where I’m at. Having an attitude like this also greatly increases our happiness. Stress is lessened, because always floundering with what career to pick to gain favor in someone else’s eyes is exhausting. Will we like it? Can we do that for the rest of our lives? We make to big of a deal out of those things. We need to do the job that pays the bills and puts food on the table. Having a magnanimous career might not happen, but we can be satisfied that we are making the most out of what we have.

Forever dreaming about what we don’t have will always lead to dissatisfaction, anger, depression, and feelings of inferiority when it comes to our career. Our peers have started their careers, and are enjoying them. Reality is, some God has given those great jobs to, and good on them. For some of us, God has given the flexibility to work whatever job we need to. It means we can be a light and influence in more places, and we have the chance to gain broader experiences. It’s not a license to be lazy, far from that. Rather it’s permission to be the best in any given situation.

Success isn’t having that shiny career with the pension at the end of 20 years time. Success is making the best of the tools God has given you, and glorifying Him through that. We have to stop seeing it as more money, or a higher position, or more prestige in the professional community. In the end, no one will remember you were a manager making so much money for this prestigious company. What they will remember is who you were to them at work, at home, and at play. How you gave your time to them and loved on them will be how they see you. Don’t build your kingdom with what will just burn away in a fire, but make it into something that will last and stand the test of time.

Image

Jesus didn’t see beauty, He didn’t see handsomeness, talent, ugliness, temperament, or anything we humans see as face value. What He did see is souls, and He died for each one equally. And He loves them all beyond comprehension, and He gives us our value. We are made in His image.

Since we are made in His image, dare we see souls instead of the features and personality staring back at us? Dare we see the trove of treasure in front of us? What someone looks like and does on the outside are a unique veil hiding the immeasurable value underneath. I might be failing to adequately describe the value of what the person next to you means in metaphors, but circle back to the One who made this place, us, and all the treasures contained in the universe… He gave His life so we could have it abundantly.