Thursday, July 7, 2011


My father was recently sharing in one of his messages that Selah is a time in the music when the music builds to open a pathway to vocals and lyrics, and that this musical buildup is meant to cause the words to penetrate deeper than without the buildup. He illustrated a number of Selah moments, one of which is akin to letting despondency and affliction break loose so it could be released in one fell swoop.

That said, a couple of months back I found myself in a bit of a Selah moment when I was starting to feel the culmination of a number of frustrations weighing upon me. Being someone who likes to spotlight the individual things in my life that cause strife and need to be dealt with, I spent some time trying to find out who or what to blame. It was like I kept spinning the rolodex looking for an index card that fit the bill, but I finally closed it and peered at the figurative mirror located about it. Oh, there you are, you scoundrel.

I found myself cresting downwards after a hearty time of spiritual, emotional, and mental fervor, and I think I started going into cruise control mode. I started to make inquisitive peeks into the world of politics and a broader realm of society as a whole. To be honest, I found a lot of fear, and as I kept diving further and further into this seemingly endless black hole, I felt the fear starting to nurture and comfort me. I started to feel like I belonged in this realm of fear, after all I was surrounded by so many others in the same place as me, so why not enjoy the company?

Needless to say, being one that is too introspective for my own good, this didn't fly for so long, but it did teach me some more about myself, my expectations, where I want to head in the future. I realized that my life needed a healthy dose of simplification and more time meditating on the Truth as opposed to the unknown fears that can loom in the distance or even the nearness if we choose to let it. Even something as simple as going out less and, rather, going to the gym more was starting to beef me up - physically, spiritually, mentally, and, consequently, emotionally. Offenses were, once again, falling off easier, and I felt a spark again and a general feeling of calm, joy - peace.

In this time of transitioning and getting centered again, I started to think of my place in this world. This is not a deep revelation by any means, but as much as I want to see change in the world, my part in it is only as big as I allow it to be, and nothing around me is going to change if I myself am not an instrument of change. I recently picked up a rather good book entitled Return to Authentic Christianity that didn't really challenge me as much as it validated my fears that the church is in a state of decline - away from authenticity and holiness, and gaining speed towards being relevant and cool.

I will admit that Christianity has as bad a rap as any other organized religion - people will take on the moniker of Christian and do some rather strange or divisive things that paint a bad shade on the faith system as a whole. This is not exclusive to Christianity, though - I have seen it in Islam, Atheism, Buddhism, Mormonism, and a number of other religions. Since those other faiths (and yes, I think Atheism requires as much faith as Christianity) are not my concern, I tried to understand what I could do to make Christianity more palatable, to make us Christians look much more level-headed and cooler to the masses.

You know what answer I came up with?


Every answer I came up with seemed to strike me as unacceptable, as if each one of my ideas meant I would be compromising an area, no matter how small, of authenticity, value, or moral constitution. Further reading of Return only seemed to further substantiate this realization. I mean, I might be alone in this way of thinking, but I actually found myself wanting to get a tattoo, not because I really wanted to get a tattoo, but because I wanted people to think "whoa, he is pretty cool, I am signing up" when they found out I was a Christian. I guess maturity has me realizing I have to stop living in such a way that proves something - that my actions not be rife with motivation to persuade people, but rather live my life for the One that gave it in the first place. I guess this is humility: realizing that I do not have the means to win people over or convince them, no matter how many tattoos I get (so far - 0), or indie bands I discuss with the dude at the local record store, but that I have to be holy, righteous, and allow Him to work through me and have His way as He sees fit.

In this is probably the ultimate simplicity and it has me laughing at some of the decisions I made, such as deactivating Facebook to quiet down the online social side of life. It is good, though: simplicity makes laughter and the efficacious laying down of overly serious thought all-too-possible.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


The story of David is pretty well-known: unlikely teenage hero goes out onto the battlefield and defeats fiercest warrior in all of Palestine with a mere rock. That story alone has spurned countless sermons, analogies, and stories of inspiration. Beyond this part of David's life, though, is one wrought with adversity and hardship. David is one of the most beloved figures of the Scriptures, but he was also one of the most flawed and, at times, seemingly cursed.

When David defeats the giant he is made a part of King Saul's courts and strikes up a brotherly friendship with the king's son, Jonathan. Their love is one that knows the greatest of depths and has them inseparable, brothers not by blood, but by soul ties. As the story goes, the king begins to grow threatened by David and ends up casting his spear at him, sending him running for his life and embarking on a perilous journey that sees him hiding from the king and hiding out or living in caves and other dark, gritty places.

In the church today, those who cannot seem to stay put or settle into a church home are known as "church hoppers," and looked at with suspicion, judgment, or even a little contempt. When someone displaces themselves from a community, suspicions arise, talk ensues, and theories are formulated. It is important to remember, however, that someone who has left our community has probably seen or felt the sharp end of a spear. Whether that spear was thrown from the hand of a leader, a pastor, or a congregation member, there was some harm or threat of harm that manifested and sent someone running for the hills.

The way of the Christian walk oftentimes ironically leaves little room for grace. The matured, long-time Christian should possess the gifts and fruit of the spirit that would seemingly make them impervious to mistreatment or seemingly petty squabbles. I think back to David, however, and I see a young man who probably felt more comfortable, secure, and at home in the king's palace than any other non-relative of the king. And yet, when that spear was thrown, David did not seek to make amends with the king, he did not attempt to speak to him and resolve conflict. Instead, he was overcome with fear and fled. 

I am sure this was a trying time in David's life as he found himself dirty, dark, and possibly despondent as he laid his head upon a rock to sleep. Like David, many others out there are feeling displaced and could use the hand of a king to reach out and welcome them back home or assure them they have a home, a place where their life is valuable and no longer at stake. I believe it is easy to cast people aside or write them off as a lost cause, but how many of our friends are sleeping in dark, cold caves needing just one touch to bring them back home?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Terrible news broke out a few days ago that Japan had suffered the worst earthquake in its history. That earthquake and several violent after-shocks led to a land-changing tsunami that has displaced countless homes and people as well.

I also read some intriguing news about the axis of the Earth shifting by approximately 6.5 inches. This is remarkable. I do not know what the long-term affects of this will be, but while the number is small, this shift could be significant. Over a long period of time there are countless possibilities for what could change on the surface of the earth as far as weather patterns or changes in seasons go.

I got to thinking about directional change and how small shifts can completely displace you over time from where you were eventually headed. I sat back and gave some thought to it and started to demystify the oracle, that is I really took inventory of what things have caused me to shift my focus and direction this year. Then I began to ask where that focus and direction are leading me. The fact of the matter is that I take stock in and live within a giant net of grace. I think that, ultimately, my own faith and belief in what is will lead me to my inevitable destination, but shifts will determine what happens along the way.

I will admit that, sometimes, I just want the company of a few. I have my own spurts in my life where I will be like a larva in the cocoon, shutting myself in (at least socially) and allowing intensive focus and growth to occur. And then, as is inevitable for the larva, I will bust out of my shell and take to the air becoming a social butterfly. I think, sometimes, we all say or do things that have us clamoring to bury our heads back into the cocoon, but that is the plight of being imperfect people amongst others. You are going to get scuffed up, worn out, beat up, or even abused, but there is always a place you can go to that provides you time to heal, and be restored.

This might seem silly, but I really like the mess out of a Japanese cartoon called Dragonball Z. In it, there is a mighty warrior living on Earth named Goku. He is actually a descendant of a race of humanoid warriors called Saiyans. The Saiyans live for battle, the glory of victory or even defeat always motivating them to become stronger, better, faster. The unique thing about Saiyans is that they grow their strongest after being beat down almost to the point of death either physically or emotionally. When they heal from this place of near-fatality, it is then that their power level increases exponentially.

I would like to think of myself as the real-life equivalent of a Saiyan. Sometimes life has a way of making itself look like a battle, and I sometimes find myself on the ground, barely breathing, blood trickling down my nose as I gaze at the sun above me through bruised eyes. I find my shelter, my safe place, and there I let the healing happen. Pain becomes a memory, one that will alter the shift and direction I go in; it will help me to think first about just saying the things I want to say, or just doing the things I was to do. I would like to think that greater purpose is discovered, and I am much more road-ready.

Like the Saiyans in Dragonball Z, though, I do not find that forces that work against me to be weaker and easier to defeat. Those things which break you down will not have the power to do so again once you rise up against them and overcome them. Now, it will take something much bigger to take you down, but the magnitude of one's obstacles is really just a testament of the power you have achieved through maturity and the gaining of knowledge.

Japan has suffered a huge blow to its country, and yet its people have endured hardships which have solidified their resolve and have them overcoming through their grace. I read countless stories of how they never panicked and were clam in their demeanor despite harsh conditions. I think a lot of us could do ourselves a great favor by looking at the Japanese people and taking a cue from them on how they behave or react during the conditions they find themselves in. Would we in the West also be able to maintain such a high level of civility, honor, and respect during same circumstances, or do we need to grow as a people and be prepared to stand firm in the face of great adversity?

I would like to think the answer is a quick and easy "yes," but first we must shift our focus as a people from what leads us around now and towards something much greater than ourselves and our own achievements or possessions. In one mighty wave, it can all be taken away, but the Japanese have shown us that no earthquake, and no wave can take away their dignity.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Valentine's Day came and went rather quickly. It was a satisfying day for me as I had the night off from class and relaxed with a rather depressing movie (the previews were misleading) about the trials of a family kept at an emotional distance by the unspoken truths in their lives. In the end the story managed to teach a lesson about how sometimes love can be great, even infinite although not expressed in an explicit or clear manner.

This is hard on some people, I know. Sometimes I have to remind myself that when my dad or my sister does this, it means that. A direct communication of love is not always delivered to us in a way we are familiar and comfortable with delivering ourselves. Looking back to Chapman's "The Five Love Languages," I most identify with the language of quality time. If you have my time, my company, then you have my love. Dinner parties, a night out on the town, or a simple evening in with a movie and some food equals some of the greatest memories in my life. For my mom, gifts is an important thing and she can still recall something she received (good or bad, unfortunately) or gave and when it was given or received.

What makes me thankful for Scripture is that it seems to cover a multitude of expressions for love. There were not only the loving and encouraging words that Christ spoke to His people, His followers, and even His enemies, but there were the gifts He gave, the service He provided, the time He spent with people, and the warm embraces or power his touch had on people's lives. I myself am not adept at all of these things, admittedly. My tongue is a monster all in its own as it tends to be rife with sarcasm but then can also surprised someone with an off-the-cuff metaphor of genuine and epic proportions. I am many different things to many different people, but the core of who I am is unshakable. There is love, for not just those related to me by blood, but for those walking through life with me.

Sometimes love can drive us to do beautiful things, but it can also propel us to frustration. It was hard for Moses in his time with the Israelites to see them fall into idolatry, rebellion, and other idle practices. All he wanted to do was lead them to their destiny, their heritage, and yet the people complained, walked in selfish desire, and were oftentimes the victims of severe misfortune, hunger, and even death. They were in the midst of their walk to a land full of milk and honey, richly populated with fertile lands where their lives would be made simpler and the generations that followed them blessed beyond measure.

Moses himself was frustrated on many occasions, even getting violent and hitting things with his staff, a behavior people today would deem to be violent and threatening. But the love Moses had for his people, to me, was most evident in the fact that he continued to lead them, to walk with them. And while the people were at times his greatest heartache and detriment, they were also his commission and his purpose, his responsibility.

I have to remember Moses sometimes in my own life. I have a few people like Moses in my life that are leading me to the promised land of fulfillment, hope, peace, joy, but I know some of the people I journey with can make the journey difficult. Heck, I know I can make it difficult. One great boss I had once told me "Daniel, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." Sometimes it is hard to point out the problem without sounding like a complainer so I have been working on assessing and solving so I can provide solution rather than situation, but I know sometimes I strike that proverbial rock out of frustration and release bitterness as a result.

I do not let these faults or moments of agonizing or stopping to stub my toe stop me, though. Just like I am sometimes the helping hand or guiding voice that assists people in their time of need, so am I grateful for when those people are the very same in my own life. Nefarious forces would like us to believe these times of feeling embarrassed or silly for being, ultimately, human are just signs of weakness, but I would like to think that these are opportunities for us to lean on God's Word and also the people He brings into our lives. The expression of love can be something ostentatious, sure, but sometimes I think love is its greatest when it takes the form of someone who is always walking alongside you to some place better, even through the swamps and mire of life.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I generally have these blog entries well thought out beforehand, but there is so much stirring within me that as dangerous as it might be, I think I will go with flow of consciousness.

I am being hard on myself today. I am most days, but usually only in small spurts. I think every era in time comes with its own set of hardships, its own advantages but also its disadvantages. Let me start from the beginning of this thought, though.

The other night I found my patience tried, like a frayed end of a proverbial string that was starting to unravel until it was just going to plummet to the ground. I was uncharacteristically frustrated and it was completely unnecessary. The things that were eating at me were all self-induced, the result of me accessing social and mental portals that were supposed to serve as mere distraction as opposed to substantial uses of my time or efforts. I began to think that this was life's way of punishing me for errant time and lazy behavior, and that I was learning an important lesson. I cannot argue for or against that, there might be some substance there, or I simply might be logically paving a path ahead of me I can take that will keep me from rocky terrain. Either way, it was a refreshing and eye-opening lesson to me that I cannot use my time of frivolous practices.

Social networking is a funny thing, in fact I am utilizing it right now by typing this blog, and I will follow it up with my usual Twitter and Facebook postings so that people who are bored or are naturally voyeuristic about the thoughts of another person can feed those urges. I see nothing wrong with that - reality shows prove that we are curious how other people live or exist. And because we are so curious about others, I think it is apparent we all want to foster curiosity about our own lives as well.

I find myself frustrated by the need to post things for all of my 759 friends on Facebook to see (minus those that surely have hidden me because I am either annoying, pointless, or offended with my religious views). Am I a victim of self-serving, or trying to assert my life is worth of others curiosity? Am I being fruitful and purposeful? Am I trying to rally the fans of Daniel Johnson's Life, or am I pointing you in a direction which will help you grow, think, reflect, or ponder? It is a constant struggle to want to help other people but not think about how it reflects on you as well. Pastor Rob (my senior pastor at Shoreline) said that he lives to make his wife happy, and then when she is happy it reflects on him and can express to other people that he is a good husband. It was clear that his motivation does not lie in wanting to show off himself to others, but do I always share that same motivation?

Am I important? Do I matter? I sometimes can actually sit back in my office chair and truly comprehend the vast amount of people that I share this city, this state, this country, and this globe with. Unless I am on the television, featured on Youtube, or prancing around on stage somewhere upsetting Taylor Swift, I do not get the amount of attention that I see other people get. I do not receive the acclaim, the reverence, or respect they get. And while part of me would be content to love one person and have them supply those things to me as I do them, part of me also wants it from everyone.

I can admit this, I am flawed. I am a self-serving, attention-seeking, loud-mouthed wanderer inherently. The core of who I am is selfish and only interested in convincing other people that I am someone you need to know, to befriend, and to follow. And if people buy into that, then I am leading them as the piper did the children off the cliff and into the abyss.

This is where my frustration lies, this is where I am the most guilty of my flesh being in control when I let it. This is my biggest struggle, and the hardest part of being human. Scripture? I would not know where to start with things that can be said which correlate to the pursuit of self vs. the pursuit of humility and servant hood. I think the whole story of the Bible begins with a foundation of man and woman being selfish, following their own desires and curiosity, laying down their faith in the process. And then it is all a spiraling menagerie of stories that further drive home the point that we are depraved, that we are selfish, unkind, and out to belittle, destroy, or kill those in our way.

And yet at the end of it all is the final testament of ultimate grace. The end of the story is that every instance of being told that, in spite of who we are, we are given the treasure that we could never afford. We are not the masters of our destiny, of our heritage, our inheritance. We, initiated by faith, are merely the recipients and there is nothing we can do to void that when we sign the contract and take what is rightfully ours.

It baffles me how along the way I can be so ugly, so downright detestable, and yet I am given a key to a kingdom that I was never worth of but that I have ownership in. This is the story of grace that stirs me, that gives me hope not just for myself but for those around me that madden, frustrate, and aggravate me. It is out of this and this alone that I find myself wanting to act in a different accord, against my own nature. I cannot earn grace nor can I lose it, but I will absolutely not live in such a way that says I will take advantage of it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Image is a funny thing. How we are shaped shapes how we are, at least it can be. 

I am going to be blunt, Americanized image sucks, so so much. I was super fat my early years, climbing to 400 pounds. I got a lot skinnier after that, then saw some of it creep back after a couple of years of sitting in class and then a full time job 6 days out of the week with nothing but a microwave, fast food, and convenience store snacks at my disposal. I am glad to say that I am currently in the middle of progress in turning things back around and getting back in shape again.

That part of the story is important because it affected my journey and is how I relate to the issue of image affecting our self-perception and how I dealt with it. The truth is that we all have problems with our image and the person we see when we look at ourselves. We might not share the same image issues, but they are always there. In America I think we have glamorized image to the point that none of us are capable of becoming what something once told us was perfect. In that we have molded ourselves to be a self-destructive society whose daily goal is to keep reaching for that end goal, an end goal beyond reach and never fully realized until our final slumber: perfection, and the contentment therein.

For matters of health, I think that being in good shape or healthy (not always synonymous in my case) is important and vital to a long, happy life (being in shape means natural endorphins are released in your body, providing further energy and a more positive outlook on life). Growing up, though, being in good shape meant everything. As I saw myself getting bigger and bigger I saw my dreams becoming smaller and smaller. I thought myself so incapable of so many things, and of being someone of substance who could provide anything to society. I found a sense of humor to be something people were never in short supply of, though, and I did my best to keep the laughs coming. I also maintained a commitment to the church I grew up in and found one of the few joys in life being involved in the lives of the teenagers, helping to lead them and just have some fun in their life.

Through the help of surgery and then a much more active and healthy-conscious diet, I was able to start dropping weight, and fast. I found myself losing more than half of what I weighed, as if I were two people halved into one. All those years of thinking all my dreams and all my desires were unreachable were suddenly within my grasp. And when I reached out to take what was mine and what it was I felt entitled to ... I came back empty-handed. Ok, ok, I have to put out a little effort to make this happen I thought to myself, and I started to conform to images I had always seen, but never had been able to be myself due to my weight and my poor self-image. To say I became selfish and reckless is an understatement. I was destructive to a fault, and I could not function as a friend or a leader to anyone, not even myself. I betrayed myself and my values so many times, I began to feel like a living piece of sludge.

Still, God does not always call the qualified, he qualifies the called. I saw the call in a vivid dream and a spoken word that will remain with me as if it were a movie onscreen for all the rest of my days. It was a snap-to attention, and it got my full focus, but there was much more of a journey ahead of me. I had a lot of lessons to learn, a lot of tests to take, and I can not say I passed them all. I failed, failing not just in secret, but in the limelight, in front of people I respect, admired, or aimed to be like. I let down all my friends, my family, and my leaders, but still they had love for me, even if I did not know it at the time.

My journey humbled me in ways that broke me, tore me down, and ripped me apart, but it was like that scene in Spider-man where he had to literally tear the dark symbiote from his body before he could become the good-natured person he was meant to be again. I felt like I was placed on new ground, with a fresh start and a clean slate. Sure, the things that had happened in my past shaped me, gave me perspective, and keep me sharp in my humility, but it has also done a myriad of good in my life. There has been an increased sense of compassion for others who hurt, a better sense of purpose and not wasting the time that I have like I used to, the lack of desire to be selfish with my time or activities or calendar, but mostly the dependency of God to shape who it is I truly am.

After a run in college in another city, I returned to my church and have found it to be a completely different experience. The call that was placed on my life is all that mattered, and I felt as though God truly led me back to serve the church family I grew up with, as a time to pour back into something I took so much out of and took for granted before. The difference is now the image that God has of me is what makes me up, drives me, and when we can grasp that image and embrace it, we can take the focus off of aspiring for greatness and, instead, inspire to spread His glory. 

Of course, this is easier said than done.

There is still much inside of me that can be unsettled at times, and I have not transcended to some upper level of spiritual nirvana, preventing me from the mess that is to be human. When looking at God's image and then who I am side-by-side I realize there is so much that I have to learn, much growing that needs to happen. There are still dreams I have that I sometimes think would have been realized by now had I not wasted so much time. Sometimes it can be a bit debilitating and discouraging to think of how far I still have to go, but then I found comfort in this verse today: 

Ephesians 1:11-14. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,  in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. 

This verse was paramount in reminding me that God's plan, His will, and His image for and of our life is meant to work out, with purpose. We are guaranteed an inheritance, and with that inheritance comes promises and guarantees of who we are and what we possess. By American standards we may not be much, in fact we might be downright out-and-out, but God is the one whose standard we should measure ourselves by and how we value ourselves. There comes a time when body, spirit, and mind all come in congruence and alignment, and I continue to press towards that goal, but in the meantime I do not count this time as wasted or insufficient but timely in His ultimate purpose for my life.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I do not know about you, but when I was young and in grade school I was a bit of an achiever, maybe even an overachiever by some standards. I liked doing well on tests, I loved seeing the red ink on my paper in the shape of an "A," made even better when followed by a "+." The real treat, however, was when a teacher would feel compelled to write a note that expressed the impression your schoolwork had upon them. These were regarded with such high jubilation that they got a special place right smack dab on the front of the family refrigerator. I imagine I was a lot like Ralphie from "A Christmas Story" whose essay on why he should get a Red Rider BB Gun would elicit sheer praise that would warm the cold thoughts his mother had in regards to him getting one, except I did not have the unfortunate, debilitating outcome poor Ralphie when she dismissed his stance altogether and aid "you'll shoot your eye out, kid."

I myself enjoy playing guitar and singing. I spend time writing my own material, but I am also a bit of a cover artist performing under the guise Cellar Lily. I record and upload my stuff to YouTube which started at the request of some friends and co-workers who wanted to hear anything and everything I worked on. Part of the YouTube community is the ability to comment on videos. My uploads are not videos, merely a song backed by an image I think goes along with the song in a sometimes-obvious or sometimes-obscure manner. Still, people have the ability to comment and offer their opinion on my song. I am always surprised and excited to receive random emails at different times of the day notifying me that I have received a new comment, but even more pleased when they actually have something nice or encouraging to say (sometimes I get Simon Cowell wannabes on there). 

I digress to say that a lot of us enjoy the pride we feel when we not only feel we did a good job or accomplished something noteworthy, but that someone else we respect or maybe even a complete stranger marvels at what our hands and mind have accomplished. We can see these things as truths about ourselves, and it gives us a healthy and welcomed re-assurance. 

The best thing about my life, however, is that I always have an unshakable and fully-believable Truth that was written just for me. Tests have been lost in the trash, and comments stored on databases that could be erased, but every day, at any time I can turn to the Scripture and see what has been written about me, my future, my destiny. And these words can never be erased, burned, or buried because these words are written on our hearts like a tattoo that can never be removed. These are life-changing and empowering words that are branded upon us and give us complete ownership and entitlement to the keys of the Kingdom.

When times comes that I wish I could hear or read some sort of encouragement that gave me that extra spring in my step I always know where I can turn to, without fail. As Jesus states in Luke 17:20, the kingdom is not something that can be observed because it is within our midst. All we need to do to see the blueprints of the kingdom and what charge was written for our place within it is crack open the book and take a delight in what He has written for us.