Thursday, October 28, 2010


After many, many months I finally stopped avoiding the inevitable. Drowning in the smell of perm and hair products, I gave my name to the smiling receptionist and waited patiently in a cold, plastic chair. It must be a daunting experience for some because I was offered a beer while I waited. Declining, I decided to bide my time by calling a friend. I soon heard my name called and made my way over to a soft, comfortable chair. A plastic gown was thrown over me and after much snipping and some polite small-talk, I looked into the mirror and marveled at how I looked with what must have been 17 pounds of hair missing from the top of my head.

I still feel like a handsome devil, and I can not help but admire how sleek and how clean I appear in the mirror. This is such a good feeling that I decided I must get it done again, and much sooner next time. additionally, I gave my car a glance over today and decided my first stop once I got some free time would be to the local car wash.

It is a good feeling to be clean, to exist within clean spaces. There is a sense and air of empowerment about me, and I know others share this feeling when they are in the same clean-cut boat or wearing a freshly-laundered or newly-bought outfit. Generally, things seem to go better for us or be easier to deal with when we are feeling this empowerment. It is as if the floodgates of positivity are opened and flood over us and nothing can get us down. In all honesty, I think in this empowerment engendered by our cleanliness we tend to exude an attitude which causes positive attitudes, words of encouragement, or helpfulness to gravitate towards us.

What people are seeing, though, might not be what we think it is. I do not think people are necessarily drawn to the outfit or the hair. Sure, it is what is most noticeable at first glance, but I think others are truly educed to the aforementioned empowerment and positive attitude we project from said haircut or outfit.

In a spiritual sense, no matter how inundated with junk or how "dirty" we might feel when it comes to our own sin nature, our poor decisions, or failure to be/speak our best, there is something within us that is pure and cleaner than snow. It is imperative to feel washed over and cleansed by the ever-present spirit within us, not because we are called to always feel wonderful or perfect but because we need to feel washed and cleansed by that which is in us.

I believe in doing this and being mindful, we will find ourselves devoid of the feeling of self-conscious insecurities or that people can see what is unclean or wrong with us. Therefore when people do look to us, engaged by what they see within us, we will be able to minister to them and not shut them off in a natural effort to hide what we feel most self-conscious about. I think this is what the Scripture was after when we were commissioned to let our light shine before men: to have that "so fresh, and so clean" feeling each and every day so we can show others that we are not perfect, but He is, and in Him we are truly cleansed.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I have a Youtube channel or account or whatever people refer to them as: My reason for starting one was to upload a friend's song that she wrote and performed for our old college. Months later, I recorded a song and someone asked me to upload it somewhere. Youtube seemed as good a place as any, so there it went. Somehow I ended up with 76 "videos" (I use that word loosely since I just post songs with a photo) with more to come, I am sure. 

At any rate, today I was on an online forum and some people were discussing a cover I had posted on my Youtube channel. One individual commented that they liked how I showcased the simplicity of the song in an elegant way. 

I was happy for their comments and told them they hit the proverbial nail on the head of what I was trying to accomplish in my reply: "My whole 'shtick' as it stands is to tear songs down to their very basic and simple acoustic core. I guess this is a way of showing people that even the most complicated or produced songs come from a very vulnerable, simple, yet genuine and raw place."

I looked over the words I had said, at first out of self-conscious vulnerability as I had kind of made my intentions transparent and wanted to make sure I had described myself in a soft yet honest light. But something else resonated with me: this is humanity. I'm no stranger to the fact that songs are an extension of who people are and what they want to express from inside themselves (well, at least those who aren't polluting the creative pool with songs meant for profit), so I started to digress and reflect.

Beyond our basic intrinsic need as humans (shelter, food, water, air, sex), we have emotional needs as well: safety, companionship, security: in ourselves, our relationships, maybe even our finances. There was a time when I had built up a cloud around me that was meant to magnetize people, give them a reason to come check out what the commotion was all about and then keep them in said cloud. I couldn't even begin to recall and list all the things that I thought mattered to others and, therefore, caused me to proclaim or advertise them, but it was all purposeful: I needed people.

At the core of me was a raw and insatiable desire to have immeasurable loyalty, trust, love, and companionship from others. I fed off of time spent with others and I counted it lonely times when I was by myself. I kept neglecting the Word and the Truth that I had access to all these things, 24/7, completely devoid of expectation or condition. I had the greatest loyalty, trust, love, and companionship of all in the form of my Savior, my God. It is amazing how a cognizance of this then allowed me to stop trying to garner the glory for myself and start giving glory where it was due, and to point others to the purest and most undefiled source of fulfillment.

We produce our own lives, we master our agendas (in a calendar sense, not a motive sense), our job titles, our educational endeavors, our friends, our mentors, our community involvement, our mission statement, and our public persona through social networking. We can appear to be very complicated and important people to others, but only one truth should ever matter and be prevalent in our lives: at the core of who we are is a need for a Savior, and our only interest at the end of the day should be to share that truth with others. The raw love of Jesus can strip away our self-induced layers of protection from feeling hurt or insignificance and cause us to be accessible both to His love, and our usefulness as a compass towards Him. 

I oftentimes imagine a world in which He is the true center of our world (that is the faces, places, and spaces we interact with in body, mind, soul, and spirit), and every heart, every eye, every mind is pointed at Him. There will be no questions of how to live when we're all facing the same direction, when we are all living in a raw and genuine place of divine fulfillment.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


If you are reading this, then there is no doubt that you have felt the string of failure, the defeatism that comes with disappointment in your self. It seems we inherently gravitate towards greatness, valor, victory, strength. We all want to be extraordinary, to be great. We admire the hero, the person who stands up, head held high, and gains something great by their actions. We strive to be the Rudy Ruettigers, William Wallaces, and Kerri Strugs of our world (that is, the spaces, places, and faces we interact with on a day-to-day basis).

Oh, how we fail.

I have taken my fair share of knocks in life, shaken my head more than a few times when thinking back on some decisions I made, words I said. I have been anything but a hero in more instances than I care to count, but I have come to realize something very important: weakness is a measure of and a doorway to great things. 

I mentioned Kerri Strug earlier, and you probably know who she is without having to run to Google. The reason her name is timelessly remembered is not because she scored a 9.712 landing in vault to secure a gold medal for America in the 1996 Summer Olympics. No, she is remembered because she did so after seriously injuring her ankle just moments earlier on a previous jump. American marveled as she did something most of us never could, even at the peak of our physical prowess -- and she did so while injured.

I find admiration in stories of triumph, unlikely heroes who step up to the plate and do something great in spite of themselves. I have a lot of respect for those in positions of authority, namely those within a spiritual context. There is a lot of sacrifice and strength in allowing oneself to die to self and live by a holier set of standards. While I am admittedly a nobody outside of my realm of influence and my own social circle, I see great things within me that I simply cannot attribute to my own self. In fact, everything great in me is a result of my own weakness, shortcomings, and failures. The only great thing I ever truly did was learn how to finally start trusting God and not try to be some intellectual giant who thought or felt his way out of every circumstance or emotional rut. Beyond that, everything is owed to something and Someone bigger than me.

Our success is predicated by our faith. Without faith in positive results, why would we put our hands and feet to any project, dream, or desire? We look at those who have come before us and declare "I can do that, or I can do something great and groundbreaking or trend-setting as well. I too can overcome because they did as well." This is good and well and is definitely a stepping stone to launch yourself off of, but this will only get you so far. When your focal point of faith lies in an individual, a group of people, or an establishment created by and consisting of an individual or group of people, your success can only go so far. You will be limited by not only your weakness, but the weakness of those who inspired you. People will fail, and in doing so, they will fail you. The only focal point we truly can be dependent on, the only unfailing person that is worthy of our attention and being a point of reference is Yahshua. 

Even in the moments leading up to His greatest victory, He struggled, He begged, and He pleaded to not have to take the burden, the pain, and the suffering upon His body. It is here I saw Him at His most human, at His greatest point of weakness, and yet He travailed, just for me. How much greater can I do than that? I cannot, so it is towards Him I face and follow daily when choosing my actions, my words, and my thoughts. Aside from that, there is nothing great I can do on my own in my human weakness.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Growing up sucks. No, it's not so bad. Growing up is awesome. Hmmm ... where did all my hair go, and where did these wrinkles come from, and why can't I function on four hours of sleep anymore?? 

Growing up is weird.

I have to preface this by admitting that I am self-conscious about writing this entry. I was planning on writing this very entry on Wednesday, but put it off because I got busy with work and preparing for youth, then listened as Pastor Ben Calmer (our senior high pastor) shared this very same message on Wednesday night. He even went as far as to preach some of the points I mulled over, but I suppose it's a cool thing our heads were in the same place this week. 

Earlier this week I kept hearing the Jars of Clay song where it sings "with faith like a child." Then I ran into a clip of Matthew Lillard in Hackers reciting 1 Corinthians 13:11 - "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me." I started chewing on that and contemplating child-like (not to be confused with childish) ways of living and thinking. 

Life as it stands now is wonderful. I don't want to confuse anyone by projecting the image of someone who thinks everything in the past was greater and present day is dreary and drab. I am finding life to be richer and more enjoyable than ever before, and I am seeing a lot of fruit in life, but kids really have it easier in some ways.

When you're a kid you're amazed by everything. You don't have that jaded attitude of "yeah yeah ,seen that... NEXT" that we can get when we are older. The world and even some of the dullest objects in it are all tools, weapons, castles, swords, fortresses, mountains, dragons, all things transformed by the imagination into something striking and magnificent. Everything is full of color, full of life, full of opportunity for fun and celebration. Even now modern art seems to lean towards a simplistic, minimalist, childish array of colors and shapes. The primary colors and three basic shapes (square, circle, triangle) comprise a lot of what I see in advertising, print media, and other visual stimuli; they invoke nostalgia: an engaging and powerful tool.

Children also have the luxury of insurmountable trust. As a parent, you have to teach your kids that not every adult is to be trusted, followed, or allowed into your home. You have to teach your kid not to accept candy from a stranger, and other similar, cliched (albeit valuable) lessons. And while children might not understand the intricacies of social graces and spaces, they still have an inherent sense of total justice that causes them to be downright indignant about people doing the right or wrong thing. There is no gray area, just black-and-white, and kids will sell you out and tell on you faster than Michael Johnson sprinted across the finish line in the 1996 Summer Olympics. Also, kids will interact with their community as a whole without much bias. They can seem to go to any playground and have fun playing with any kid regardless of background, ethnicity, or social status.

Additionally, what (to me) seems to be most rewarding to parents of young children is the amount of agape love they pour on you. You are their hero, and they think you can do no wrong. They will attach themselves and cling to you like no other force on Earth because you are their safe place.

Over time, these things diminish. The cracks and imperfections of our world begin to show, just like all things that get older. Rose-colored glasses lose their tint and start to become clearer. It can be hard to stay optimistic, to operate out of a place of constant wonder and amazement. Survival becomes more and more of a drive to what we do than things of old such as discovery, adventure, or curiosity. It can become harder and harder to trust: in people, in institutions, in faith.

Mark 10:15 finds Jesus making an aside to his disciples and explaining that if you can't have faith like a child, then you cannot enter the Kingdom. I've come to understand this more and more and have been able to see my trust and faith increase through testing and patience on my part. A toddler doesn't take his first walk, he takes his first step, and then another, and then another until he is confident enough that he can keep taking step after step. The trust sets in, and then he or she can start to focus on more important matters in life. 

Someone recently asked me how you trust God with the big things in life. My answer to them was something along the lines of this: like a child learning to walk and trust his own two legs, you have to take one small step at a time. Instead of asking for the whole taco all at once, build trust by receiving each ingredient at a time and then having the fortitude to make one fine, meaty taco. It's like putting on your seat belt each day. After 30 days (so they say), a habit formulates, and you don't have to focus on it anymore: it's just a part of your every day life. Likewise, I don't think God doesn't want us to spend all our time trying to figure out how to trust Him. He wants us to trust Him so we can move on to a more mature spiritual life, one that sees us spending less time looking inwards and at ourselves, and more on others and the community we are involved in.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


"Sometimes you have to stop living down here, and start living up there."

Eminem (real name: Marshall Mathers) uttered those very words in the 2002 hit "8 Mile" when describing how he wanted to change his circumstances and become someone greater, have a greater life.

 Last night a friend was handing me some direction on how to speak to someone about their difficult circumstance and she said something I've heard a million times in life: "Daniel, most people don't change." I chewed on those words and realized that don't really is the operative word here. What gives me hope is that the word can't doesn't fit into this sentence. 

When thinking about what the key proponents are for change, I really can't put my finger on the trigger, at least not in a general sense that is applicable for all people. I mean, I know what can change people, but I don't know how to get people to acknowledge and accept the what. One I am assured of, however, is that people definitely can change. How do I know this? Well, I'm here writing this. Out of experience. 

Experience is garnered from waking up each day, going to work, interacting with people, reacting to people, situations, etc. Experience is just the natural accumulation of knowledge that you gain from being a human on Earth. What we all go through isn't extraordinarily different, most things boil down to just a few generalized feelings: love, joy, loneliness, fear, and peace. I think a lot of people really want to get more of the latter, so change is usually sought when one thinks that change will bring about that peace. That will only get you so far, though. 

When you envision peace, think about what you see. Is it riches that give you the resources to not worry about spending money or lacking anymore? Is it a well-educated, kind, always-smiling, always-graceful, never-difficult, rose-buying, dinner-making, kid-raising cutie on your arm that keeps you company and assures you won't be lonely ever again? Is it that status at work, or society in general which empowers you and makes you a person worthy of great respect? All of those things are temporal. And I assure you that no one with one or all of those things find true inner peace at all times. 

I've chased after a lot of things in my life, and I can admit that a lot of them were sought as a means to an end. I foolishly grasped to things that would inevitably go away until I grabbed the next one (think Tarzan swinging through the forest on vines that run their natural course of swing, bound by the laws of physics). I was getting by from situation-to-situation, person-to-person, emotional-high-to-emotional-high. But I one day realized that merely getting by isn't my destiny  and won't culminate in me achieving my dreams. It was then that I realized change would need to come from within, and that that I couldn't seek outside vices and sources to find wholeness. And once I started to get a taste, it became an insatiable hunger until I found my calendar fill with ministry, quiet time, and time spent with people who love and need love from me.

Can. That word. "Let's have a can-do" attitude: such a Corporate America and team thing to say, but it rings true. Jesus was a CEO and captain for the company, or team, of love, and He believed in each one of us, He knows we have the fortitude within us to be courageous and brave, to stop being people who lack healthy relationships, have low self-esteem, don't know their purpose, are guilty because of past mistakes, deal with anger in unhealthy ways, find cyclical bad habits in our lives (curse my nail-biting!), need healing from past hurts, allow our pasts to dictate our future, have unhealthy boundaries, live in the shame placed on us by others, are weighed down by the loss of a loved one or a divorce, have lost our innocence, or can't have a healthy dating life before marriage. And, to encourage us when we don't think we can become those people, He has given us His Word, and in it a perfect example of someone who I'm willing to bet no one ever thought would amount to anything like all that: Saul.

It's not easy to let go of what makes us us. It's not easy to acknowledge that we are scummy, selfish, and wired for self-destruction. It takes a lot of untangling and washing of ourselves to free ourselves of mindsets and burdens. Sometimes it even takes the sometimes difficult but rewarding choice of seeking counseling and mentoring. And, more importantly than anything else, it's not always easy and can be a knock to our pride to admit that we need a Savior, but I can assure anyone from personal experience that all these things will truly set you free, that these things will invite and engender change within you.

Friday, October 15, 2010


One thing that has helped me keep my spiritual life sharpened and growing is by examining moments of discord or discontentment in life. In Isaiah 32:17, it states that the fruit (or effect according to the ESV) of righteousness will be peace. I have been applying this Word to my own life by examining my choices, mind, and heart when there are moments of unrest or disharmony in my life. 10 times out of 10 I find that dissatisfaction is inherent in moments of inaction or contravening action.

I find it easy to be at peace, to be satisfied and rested in spirit, mind, and body when one's mind is set to thinking and doing things that would be considered as righteous, when I am being purposeful in being diligent in my responsibilities both in the marketplace as well as in ministry.

And for the moments when things out of my control happen that are disappointing or hurtful, I revert to another Word -- James 1:1-2. "Count it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." I always find the mark of maturity in someone else to be their level of patience. Someone who can be patient and understanding, to me, is someone who has been through their fair share of adversity and learned to deal with in it in grace -- especially when it comes to involvement with others.

I oftentimes think about that fact that I am drawn to the tough things, situations, and people in life. I have an incredible desire to grow, to better myself in order to be more effective and purposeful. I suppose it's mostly subconscious (and admittedly sometimes completely conscious) of me to be drawn to adversity as a means of pushing myself and growing -- without pain or resistance there is no growth after all. In the end, I also rely on the Word that states: "he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

With God at the center of my everyday life, I trust and believe that His sovereign hand will keep the waves I can't tread at bay, and that there is no task, situation, or person which comes my way that will wash over me and not leave me standing. In moments of adversity, after the work is done and a proverbial tiredness or sweat pours over me, I like to stand with my head held high, the warmness of the sun's rays washing over me, and feel true peace wash over me like a cool shower. He is good, He is faithful, and I am well taken care of.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


"You can't handle the truth!" Colonel Nathan Jessep proclaimed sharply in the tension-laden courtroom.  His face bright red and his brow wet with sweat, Jack Nicholson illustrated a picture easily remembered in the minds of many people. a line and a scene that forever became an iconic pop culture reference as the face and voice of Jack Nicholson shattered the thick air in the world's movie theaters and living rooms.

Jack was insistent that revealing the hard truth about a fellow solder's deadly fate would simply be too much for the outside, civilian world to understand and, therefore, the appropriate punishment (in his eyes) would not be administered and he would find himself court martial-ed.

There was a time in life that I was teetering on the brink of inevitable early death. I weighed in at 399 pounds and was gaining weight thanks to bad metabolism, poor eating habits, and a general lack of exercise. I didn't accept it, however. Sure, day-to-day there were obvious signs I was in bad shape, losing my breath just bending over to tie my shoes or not being able to fit into a movie theater chair comfortably, for instance, but I was heavily (for lack of a better term) in denial. One day I snapped and unleashed some truth about how I felt to my family and, with their help, I started a journey to better myself. College has since taken its toll and seen my gain back some of what I lost (somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 pounds), but I am back on track with losing again.

My point here, though, is that I had held the truth at bay but finally made the decision to face it head-on. To be honest, I was afraid of taking a hard and honest look at myself and seeing me for who I really was. It meant stirring up a lot of pain and having to make disciplined sacrifices and tough choices to change what was true. 

Last night I had a heart-to-heart with a friend and tried to talk my way around a situation she has found herself in. I knew what needed to be said, and I knew she needed to hear some truth, but I was afraid of hurting her feelings or being misunderstood and causing her to get defensive and offended by me. She wasn't falling for it, though, and knew I had more to say. After much pleading on her part and deliberation on mine I found a graceful way to say what was on my mind. And you know what? It made her stop and think. Today she woke up and texted me that what I said had her up all night and gave her something important to think about.

I remember my own sister being immersed in a relationship years ago that wasn't bad, but it wasn't good for her either. Two years of silence eventually gave way to me sharing some truths about the person she was with and who he would be in her life. It was a very short but profound conversation, but it stopped her in her tracks and caused her to make the right decision for her life, a decision that led her to be with the person that I and she feel is the right person for her.

In our dealings and relationships with one another we oftentimes let fear preclude us from standing in a position of honesty and truth. The fact of the matter is that being honest is sometimes really hard and is really hard to take. I know in my own life I had some social/emotional/behavioral "blind spots" that friends or acquaintances of mine were quick to point out, and sometimes there wasn't always a lot of kindness, love, or grace behind those words. But what it did for me was give me the opportunity to digest some truth about myself which led to introspective deliberation and a needed change on my own part.

Some seem to think that Jesus was always a champion of niceness, that His ultimate goal of love was to be nice and make everyone feel good all of the time. And while sometimes that love allowed for Him to be encouraging, healing, and diplomatic, but He was also quick to point out harsher truths if a person or a situation called for it. I am all for being honest with people and letting them know something positive, that's easy, but it's hard to point out something that requires improvement or attention. These days, when it comes to myself, I find it best to be someone who seeks out the truth. This isn't to say that I am completely reliant on and worried about what other people think of me, but I do my best to be as cognizant of my words and actions as possible, and I go to others for affirmation, support, guidance, and accountability when I am in it is anything but smooth sailing in my life.

John 8:32 states that we won't just be set free by the truth, but we will know it. Since the truth exists at all times and is to be known, then I think it does us all best to put on our big-boy/big-girl pants and seek it out instead of waiting for it to blindside us when we might not be prepared for it.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Encouragement used to be a big relational need of mine. As the years have gone by and I've grown more comfortable in my own skin I've needed less and less of it, but I know the power that it can have in people's lives. I don't say that to put myself on a pedestal, I have my relational needs, but that happens not to really be one of them anymore as I've become more self-reliant and able to garner esteem by being and feeling like a person of purpose. I have found that sometimes the easiest way to get through to one of our j_hi or high school kids is to provide them with encouragement that opens their eyes to their own value and merit. It's beautiful to see people come alive when their skills and prowess are recognized.

Adversely, however, I have seen discouragement wreck lives and make people feel small and lesser of an effective person. In a men's home group many years ago I still remember the tears streaming down a young man's face as he told us of the time that his dad had discouraged him, and how that made him feel like less of a man even years later. Discouragement is a powerful force, as powerful as it's antonym, unfortunately. When wielded carelessly, it can destroy a person in an instant, rob them of their destiny, and prevent them from trying to make their dreams come true and be the person they were meant to be.

This past weekend I had the pleasure and privilege of spending time with someone I recently befriended. She told me about some of her life journey and aspirations over a couple of drinks and it was just an overall fun and memorable evening. Two days later she approached me and expressed worry: she was self-conscious of the fact that she had a couple drinks in front of me and that I might think less of her or be disappointed.

Now on the flip-side, this very same person opened their heart up in her blog and chronicled a very important turning point in her life. She was trapped in an abusive relationship and didn't know how to get out of a very dark and debilitating time. After attending a church service she found the light at the end of the tunnel she was striving for. With a resolve in her heart to be free she mustered the strength she needed to walk away from a sure (albeit hurtful) thing.

If you knew my heart or how my brain works, then you would know that I am a huge fan of strong people. I love seeing someone who weathers through some of the worst storms a person can go through, and then comes out on the other side not defeated and broken, but steadfast and tenacious. I was truly touched, inspired, and moved by this story of personal triumph, of the strength to make the difficult but right choices needed to give her back control of her life, her destiny, her dreams.

Now here she was worried about one instance of what she thought was a bad decision or error in sound judgment (which I didn't feel to be the case), and it made me think about how the enemy likes to work in our lives. Here is a person who possesses great strength and an inspiring life story, but they feel like less than their best because of one moment. We are all human, capable and ready at all times to act out of our fleshly desires and make a bad judgment call here and there (again, I didn't think this to be the case with her, but she thought so at the time). Even the mightiest fall or stumble, including the great author Paul who groused over doing the things he ought not to. It is in those those times of stumbling that the enemy hits you in a precise and destructive way; at your moment of weakness the tides of discouragement wash over you, and you can be led to believe you are only as great as your biggest failure.

This, my friends, is the beauty of being broken people in need of a Savior. This is where you can believe the truth about who you are, who God says you are, and truly realize that you are more than a moment. And when you find strength in those moments you truly cannot feel that you are less than the best person that God has called and destined you to be. This righteous feeling that is our birthright being children of God is the beginning and totality of freedom: the freedom to be who we are, who God made us to be: dirt, imperfections, shortcomings, and all.


Some say talk is cheap, but talking incurs a heavy toll sometimes.

I can be the worst over-analyzer at times. I like to take inventory of my day and my week to gauge how things went: socially, spiritually, mentally, etc. I don't do this as a way of unearthing the past or dwelling on it, but rather a way to keep myself sharp and learn something important from the instances where I felt less than proud of my reaction: internal (my thoughts) or external (things I spoke to others).

There are some days that I can mentally whiz through and give myself an A+: "Good job - you spoke good/positive things, were patient, worked hard, served well, loved greatly." But then, some days require a little more introspective reflection: "You didn't need to say that, could have afforded more grace here and there, need to get your patience in check, wasted time and didn't get to Task C or E, etc."

These days, it sometimes seems like we all talk a lot less to one another. Phone calls are becoming more and more scarce, and texting seems to be the preferred method of communication. Why use syllables when kilobytes of date will suffice easier and not interrupt another activity or event? With this becoming the norm, it would seem that what we say is in shorter order which leads to our words being scrutinized a lot more closely. With that in mind, I make it my goal to make sure that everything I say be purposeful whether that purpose be encouraging, humorous, informative, helpful, or something in that same vein (note: my goal is not always achieved!).

Methinks that words should exude passion, and that passion should therefore give way to action. What we say should inevitably make way for great things to happen in our lives and the lives of others. When one speaks fervently about injustice or a call to action, that call demands an answer, one that requires we put our money where our mouth is and put feet to our faith. There's no sadder thing, in my opinion, than someone who talks about their dreams endlessly, yet makes no moves towards the culmination of said dreams.

Yesterday one of the j_hi leaders shared a note about his dreams and what he would like to see happen. The remarkable thing that stirred my heart was that he illustrated how he has already and plans to further put his shoulder to the wheel and his nose to the grindstone. At a young age, he is already planting seeds and not just talking about the harvest that is yet to be. It's one thing to be a dreamer, but it's something far more noble to get your head out of the clouds and tread dirt, water, and sky.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Jesus was documented in the book of Luke as learning religious ways at the Feast of the Passover when he was twelve-years-old. Boys would be inducted into their religious community and manhood at the turn of their 13th year, so this was a normal custom for the preparation for their induction, but wasn't normal was the amazed response the religious leaders had in regards to this young boy. To me this is behavior indicative of someone with the utmost focus on their calling to minister.

It is remarkable how far society has come and how much deviation has transpired in the way of what we spend our time thinking about, looking about, listening to. In our junior high services it can sometimes be a large feat to get some of our teenagers to focus on a 15 - 20 minute message. But, here was Jesus spending at least 3 days in the temple absorbing what he was learning, rifling through it with mind and heart, then offering up questions for discussion or further understanding. Without the assistance of social media (Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Stickcam, etc.) or technology (computers, telephones, TV, etc.) this boy grew to be a man whose influence spread worldwide. 

That kind of influence doesn't come without a high degree of focus that culminates a dedication, tenacity, and genuine love others are willing to follow. I myself am no master of focus. Even these days I catch myself wasting an hour here or there listening to a new song that has my attention on repeat and aimlessly surfing the web without any clear intent in mind. 

For some of us, our focus can be controlled by areas where we are lacking, constantly searching for answers to the deepest yearnings of our hearts. I really believe that God's desire for wholeness and dependency on only His love in each one of us is meant to make us people who can then take the focus off of ourselves and start being others-minded. Jesus didn't use His kingship to promote Himself or obtain glory in men, when asked directly who He was He told the truth, but he didn't show up places and announce "Hey everyone, listen up: I'm Jesus." He needed nothing more than His Father's love and to find needs where they existed and offer truth (usually in the way of relatable parables) to bring about healing and the remission of guilt. The groundwork was laid out so he could then die as a propitiation and ensure that very same healing and freedom for an eternity.

I don't live with regrets, but I oftentimes wonder where I would be and what I would be doing if I had gotten my focus in order much earlier in life. I know there were a handful of years where I couldn't look at anything outside of my self, my pleasures, my needs, my selfish desires. And while I made some unique and interesting memories along the way, I sometimes wonder how much time could have been spent being a person of love. 

Nowadays my focus isn't on telling teenagers what they are doing wrong or need to do better, I'm just trying to get them to be cognizant of their focus. And that is done with ministry: finding the places that need healing, delivering Truth and love to bring about that healing, and then watching that person flourish and develop into someone that can pass that same love to other people. There is so much fun to be had in the life we are given, especially when you aren't spending all your time fretting and worrying about the things that enter your mind on a daily basis. 

Personal freedom invokes pure, lasting love and I often daydream about how our world would be if we could all have complete focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and/or praiseworthy.

For now, I just keep trying to focus on doing my part until that world is my reality.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Everyone loves a good gift.

Having celebrated my birthday yesterday, I had the pleasure of opening some gifts and finding things inside that I absolutely loved and needed. I felt extremely spoiled (especially with the 32GB iPhone 4 I received), but also appreciated and loved by those who gave them to me (in yesterday's case: my family).

I have to say that my favorite kind of gift is one that I can share with or use to help other people. I honestly think my iPhone 4 is just that as it allows my ever-so-busy j_high leadership team the chance to get communication to and with me, and fast. E-mail, texts, phone calls, pdf files, word documents, contact information, important/informative Tweets, service orders, itemized lists for the games, directions, meetings, etc.; they are all able to be dispatched and received immediately. It's remarkable, and something I feel isn't just there for my enjoyment, but also a tool that helps those serving with me to get things done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In the same way we have physical gifts, we are also imbued with spiritual giftings: skills and inner workings that provide us with a specific advantage. It is an honor and a privilege to have these giftings, but also even greater to recognize and hone it further for greater and more concise use. I know that one of my most prominent giftings is discernment: a gift that other members of my family possess and that allows me to be a lot more empathetic to others or be able to "feel them out." It has been a real treasure to see this gifting grow and be applicable in so many real-time, real-world situations and I truly cherish possessing it.

Now, I digress. Famed comic book hero Spider-man used to have a great mantra he often repeated about being a superhero. His Uncle Ben had once told him "with great power comes great responsibility," and so he used a lot of wisdom and careful thought to be responsible with what was given to him. I myself had this learn this concept as being someone who had to grow out of a lot of immature or unhealthy mindsets or struggles meant that my own "power"* was not always used responsibly. Still, we learn, we grow up, and we begin to see and use our giftings as something productive that can be a help to others who might have other giftings or need to reap the benefits of your gifting applied to their own life.

I think this is what makes me feel the most indignant about the Pharisees in Jesus' time. There is no doubt the Pharisees were gifted themselves: they were an influential political party, a respected social movement, and a revered school of thought; in short, dey was some smart fellers and were bestowed with giftings that allowed their enrollment, if you will, into notoriety. I can only guess and imagine that it was years of over-inflated and, subsequently, condescending piety which led to their almost cold state of affairs. Love was traded in for status, and we have one of the most chilling and explicit examples of irresponsibility as hearts hardened from years of self-entitlement and esteem from others.

I am reminded by their stories of old that I myself need to continue to walk hand-in-hand with humility. I am not against owning nice things or being technologically-relevant: it just makes your job easier. This is not really about that, though. This is more of taking ownership and being good stewards of what we were given and realizing we have been commissioned to love others as we ourselves are loved. I realize that there are gifts I might not possess or that are more dormant than others, but I can reach people in a unique and precise manner with what I have been given. Besides, God places people in my path that are also responsible with their gifts and complement or are strong where I am weak. Each and every day I continue to pray that my gift be the gift that keeps on giving by coming across opportunities to use it to better others and show others the path to Him.

*I use the quotation marks because I fear my use of the word "power" might denote some sort of mystical allusion which I would like to steer clear of.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Mark 10:18 - "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone."

My Atheist friends have conceded in many occasions that should I be right and there be "an actual Christian God," then they have nothing to fear because they have lived their lives as "good people."

Most people desire to be happy, and so we find a way to perform, live, and react at the level of happiness life affords us. In this state it is easy for one to be "good" and shy away from being something or someone else, but at the core of our existence, at the center of our being, is a flesh-driven machine that is inherently disposed towards our animalistic existence in nature.

What I think Jesus was trying to establish here is not that we are all evil and terrible people, but that good living is intrinsically comparative since we didn't create ourselves (whether you believe it was God, a Big Bang, or Evolution that created us, we were created). As a result of being created beings, we must have or find a true, unfiltered, untainted source of goodness to be that comparative measure, and the only true source of that measure is God.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


"The system of nature,

of which man is a part,

tends to be self-balancing,



+ E.F. Schumacher

I have always been a fan of anthropomorphism. To the best of my recollection, the fascination began when I had to do a major research paper on feudal Japan which segued into me rabbit-trailing into articles and information on martial arts (which I have always wanted to participate in, but never obtained the initiative to). One particular aspect of martial arts that truly intrigued me was the weaponry, and one principle of weaponry has stuck with me for a rather long time: the weapon is merely an extension of your body. Weapons are made to serve as an extension of your reach and increase in the deadliness of your strike.

I started to think about how a lot of inanimate objects we as a humanity have invented and created are merely extensions of our own limitations, access to go beyond that which is in our reach. It's all an exercise in self-reliance, if you ask me. And, further more, it has me often thinking about the fact that sometimes the behavior we exhibit on the outside in our interaction with the world and objects within it are sometimes akin to the behavior we manifest on the inside.

Objects ... our creations ... they rely on us. And one object I detest caring for is the dinner plate; I hate doing the dishes. To me, there is nothing more monotonous or fatuously cyclical than the washing of dishes. You pull a plate out of the cupboard, you put your food on it, you eat your food, you rinse your plate, you put it in the dishwasher or wash it by hand, then place it back in the cupboard to further perpetuate the circle of dinnerware life.

But, there is safety in the routine of washing a dish. The every day, natural life of a plate or a bowl obliges it to become dirty from use, but this is why we have the reactive behavior of washing that dish. We learn to live with and supersede the dirt with cleanliness.

When I think about it, it reminds me a lot of how we deal with the sin habits in our life and I think back to some particular sins I struggled with. I would find myself going through a cycle of temptation, then the actualization of said temptation by carrying out the act itself, the subsequent guilt and shame that went with it, followed by the prayer for forgiveness to a God I thought was disappointed in me. Thus, a cycle was established, and I learned how to live with and remain free from  guilt or conviction of my sin. I had become a self-cleanser, able to clean myself off enough to be good until the next indulgent meal of sin, but unable to consistently stand in a place of cleanliness ... of righteousness. 

This is where the living and non-living differentiate, however. We allow plates to be dirtied and then clean them so they will be ready for use when the time comes once again. My purpose, however, is an ongoing call and passion within me that I have realized I have to live out every day. There was a time when I realized destructive patterns of cyclical sin patterns in my life were holding me back from pushing forward. I don't have the catch-all answer for the whole of humanity on how to come to the revelation of who Christ is and who we are in Him, but for me it was a shift in what I spent my time thinking about and devoted to. When I started to truly engage the hearts and lives of junior high-ers like I had never done before, there was a responsibility I became cognizant of. That responsibility required a maturity and understanding within me that was still beyond me. 

This is where Scripture came into my own life: it is the constant cleansing that my soul requires and desires to do what is right, and not return (like a dog) to my own vomit. The story of grace, the story of faith, it was all so much more real to me and something I yearned for, not because I wanted to earn my place in the eyes of favor of Jehovah, but because a complete understanding and reverence of what was paid on my behalf permanently cleansed and changed my life. The purpose of a changed life is not to brag of what has been accomplished by or for oneself, but so that one can reach out to those who also might find themselves in a destructive part of their lives and show them the light at the end of a seemingly never-ending tunnel. It's a matter of relating and simply showing people the Way.

Now, I digress, and I don't begin to claim that I write while living a life devoid of temptation and sin. I still struggle with that which comes with the joy of being human, I still feel my way through some situations where I ought not to. However, I can also tell you I spend a lot less time in the proverbial self-cleansing dishwasher, a lot less time in the dark.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


This blog post is, my apologies, lengthy. As an introductory entry, I wanted to share in-depth about myself before proceeding with shorter (and hopefully meatier) entries.

While the reasons would be inordinate and exorbitant to include here, it stands to reason that I started out early in life with a gratuitous amount of trust issues. Finding few places in life I could deem to be "a safe place," I allowed mistrust to shape my thinking. I am no established psychologist (yet, as my higher education continues), but I think it is safe to say that lack of trust naturally leads one to be suspicious. Suspicions then bred an inflated amount of questioning in my mind and heart of many things: leaders, institutions (both religious and non-religious), parents, and other social constructs I encountered within my everyday walk.

My questioning quickly led way to a critical spirit as I took it upon my highly-introspective self to compose new answers to old questions that so many before me had asked. Suddenly I had the right answer to everything and I was beyond understanding other people because they were not on the same page as me. This was The Age of Enlightenment in the life of Daniel Johnson, and I finally had arrived at all the answers others sought, but few had found. The biggest of many downsides to this way of thinking was the creeping onset of bitterness in my life. I enacted a mindset that inaugurated an expected rejection of others, which really masked an expected rejection from others which caused me to hide behind a wall of intellect and self-delusion. My identity, my very resolve was one birthed and nurtured in a negative mindset.

I was determined to get to Heaven on my own, without any help from any one, but mostly without any help from the Father. He had already done his part in the way of Christ's propitiation, so what did I further need from Him?

It would be lengthy to describe the paradigm shift I encountered in my way of thinking, but I can sum it up by saying that I spent 3 years experiencing the most crushing humility I've ever had to encounter. Through a series of debilitating persona decisions and subsequent trials, I came to face-to-face with the person I had questioned the least: myself. Determined not to carry out the rest of my days bitter and someone no one would want to be around, I began to ask the tough questions, to look at the ugly spots I had worked so well (and unhealthily) to cover up. In congruence with some in-depth counseling, I began to find my foothold once again.

Trust is a matter of choice, or should I say the willingness to do so. Once we set our minds to something (in this instance to trust again), it's only a matter of time before the feeling of trust follows, that is as long as that which we put our trust into proves itself trustworthy. I realized that I thought and talked entirely too much. I spent a lot of time sitting around, and I said a lot of things, but I didn't really have a lot to say. I began to enjoy, cherish, and cohere to the art of shutting up.

I could print a lot of Scripture references here, but the story of trust is in every page, every line of the Bible. Our story, His story, is all contingent upon a system of trust originated in faith. As I stopped listening to myself so much, I was able to start repelling the lies I told about myself to myself and began to absorb the truths about who I really am. So many people before me (Tony Fetchell, Ted Haggard, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, etc.) have had their legs cut out from beneath them, and yet their stories of triumph and comeback are an inspiration to many, myself especially. When I stopped trusting in what man had to stay I stopped the self-inflicted abuse that held me to a system of guilt, a system which begets a character that scrapes by just enough to not get into trouble instead of flourishing and being beneficial in ministry to others.

So, now I find myself live and thriving in a ministry that does not just require my best (even if I don't always show up with it) at all times, but that gives me joy as it utilizes my existing skills and builds up the ones that require further honing. That, my friends, is Junior High youth ministry. Often overlooked and rarely mentioned, this stands to be a pivotal time in any person's life. Had I started to go a different way with my thought patterns as a 6th, 7th, or 8th grader, it is very likely that I would have stayed clear of the bitter path I chose to forge for a handful of years in my own life. 

Still, I look back on all that has transpired not as "a dark history" or "a sordid past," but rather a series of adventures and misadventures that I can share with young people in the hopes I can lead them to a realization of self in Christ that will stave off a defeated or an unhealthy mindset and view of oneself. And, so I give what little free time I have between the desk and the music to teach, to support, to love, in the hopes that I can just be an  example of Him.

I am Daniel Johnson, and these are my thoughts, my interests, my words, my story, my life, my journey, my blog -- my murmurs of the soul.