Monday, November 29, 2010


Back in biblical days there were religious/political leaders with a good deal of notoriety: The Pharisees. That word is associated with negative connotation for good cause, in my opinion. Here was a group of people well-versed in things religious who had a lot of knowledge and strong political influence. Like some who are dealt power and a position of leadership, they used their knowledge to belittle other people. I could suppose this might have been due to their need for religious & spiritual validation (which some people unhealthily seek by belittling or being condescending towards other people), but their motives and hearts are unknown.

What is known is that these men were constantly throwing scripture at people, constantly blasting the law at all times, and attempting to make men feel small or inadequate by comparing them to their own personal standards. The Pharisees thought they had figured it out best, and only those who measured up to their standards were going to make the religious cut.

Funny thing is that the very Son of God came along and basically gave a sentence of damnation to those who acted or spoke like the Pharisees. Here they were trying their best to make everyone feel guilty (we use the Christianese word "convicted" these days) by purporting their own standards and way of living, then someone shows up and smacks the proverbial caviar off their trays. Well we all know wounded pride is the mother of offense and this all led way to a murderous conclusion, but what else can be learned by all this?

I would like to think that we are given a prime example of how to live and how to lead. There was a love that has transcended through centuries that was shown, a love which trumped law, legalism, and religion. Jesus' own parables usually gave people a sense of indignation about those wronged in the stories he told, but those people who heard said stores searched their own hearts to see if they possessed qualities like the ones they abhorred hearing so much. His stories were devoid of finger pointing but were, instead, an open-handed approach where He unfolded his hands, offered a story, and let the lessons fall where they may as they naturally permeated the hearts of those present. This just illustrates He understood something basic about human nature: we all have an intrinsic desire to be better people.

When someone hears something that touches a nerve (because it touches on a sensitive area that is a weak place in our lives), their senses all come alive and spring to action. Our first reaction might be to get defensive which is why Jesus' approach was such a good one. He brought light to the dark places without pointing anyone out. He obviously knew that people respond best when left to their own devices, when information is shared with them as opposed to it being shoved down their throats or used as a divisive tool to separate those who thought they were more religious from those who did not appear to be (at least according to Pharisee standards).

In my own learning and growing as a person of faith I pray daily that the things which are revealed to me be passed on through my own life. I pray I not use what I learn or know to feel or act better than anyone else, but that I might shed light or clarity on a place previously cloudy or obscured even if not intended. In the same vain, I pray for people in my life that also equip and strengthen me not by chastisement, but by a daily life lived well and purposeful. If I could have nothing more than that in this world, I would continue to be a truly thankful and content man.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


While thankfulness is ever-present in my own life I like to think of Thanksgiving Day as a day to take a yearly inventory on what has transpired and reflect on some of the bigger picture items that are not necessarily a singular instance or event. For the past year I have the following to to be thankful for:

The family I have. Not just for being my family by default, but for being people that make life easier to live together and make the world a happier and better place to be because of one another and not in spite of one another.

For having a good job with Apple that lasted the full scope of my contract and then for a new job with IBM, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed and continue to enjoy. I also enjoy the two months of unemployment between Apple and IBM when I was humbled and blessed to earn money by mowing lawns to keep up with my bills.

I am thankful for the friendships I have developed this year. There has also come a wealth of relationships that I could never put a price tag on. I live and lead beside some selfless and focused people who make life even better. A couple of new people have come into my life very recently and have enriched it further than I can describe. 

I am thankful for being both humbled and teachable this year. Every low point has opened the door to growth and a better understanding of who I am and what I have to offer the world by my hands and through the gifts I have been given and instilled with. I have had good leaders and mentors in my life who have taught me more than I could imagine and I am thankful I have absorbed the good and repelled the bad. It helps change your attitude towards yourself, other people, and that things that happen in life that you simply cannot control.

I am thankful that I can honestly say this has been the best year of my life thus far. I am thankful that I am happier than I have ever been even though I have spent a lot less time doing things for the sake of making myself happier. I am thankful that I have found a deep, resounding peace and joy in my life that is seldom rattled.

I am thankful for little things: a car without major issues or break-downs, a laptop that still works well, the ability to make a hot cup of tea when I want, heat on the cold days, a/c on the warm ones, the countless freedoms this country affords me, the ability to connect with friends and family through social networking sites, new musical discoveries, good blogs to read, food on the table or at a restaurant, running water, and a small place on the internet to share my thoughts.

Most of all, I am thankful to the One who has made all of the above possible, and for His continued will being done in my life.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


When I saw the movie "Up" I think I am the only person who walked out of theater feeling cheated. I didn't know much of the movie beforehand, just that Pixar movies were always so light-hearted and a fun time at the movies. "Up," however, was something quite different. In the movie, love blossoms between a young man named Carl and his sweetheart. We see their lives together progress until one day his lovey passes and he is left ... alone. It was an extremely emotional and heavy-handed thing to see in an animated movie, especially from a movie studio that usually delivered the light-hearted fun. It also set the tone for the rest of the movie and I walked away thinking "that was a lot more serious than that I was ready for and open to."

I later decided to give it another chance and watch it on TV, however. On the second viewing I took something completely different from it and allowed a very poignant message to permeate me.

Life can be heavy sometimes. Hardships come without warning and on a regular basis. A lot of times the problems can stack up on and compound one another before you take action and suddenly you feel buried -- suffocated. It is an overwhelming place to be and can cause you to get stuck in a rut. Poor Carl, he lost his best friend, his wife, and was told he would be losing their home as well. With an overwhelming chagrin
washing over him, Carl did something courageous and unexpected: he embarked on an adventure. With a slew of helium balloons and a passion in his heart, Carl did something drastically daring and adventurous to remove himself from his rut.

Shortly after embarking on his journey, a young kid named Russell is discovered on the front porch of Carl's floating house and has no choice but to join Carl on his adventure. Russell inspired me by his open-minded approach to the whole situation. Instead of being a victim and feeling helpless he made the most of his predicament and had his own adventure alongside Carl. There was a kinship between these two that negated the age gap and allowed a brotherhood to transpire.

Circumstantial living (that is, being defined and led by your circumstances) can be a tough thing to endure and exist out of. Even the richest of men find their circumstances to be difficult: we are all part of an imperfect world. Who you are is what you do and how you react while life happens to you. While I'm not so sure that tying hot air balloons to your house is the answer to all of life's problems, I do think there is an important lesson to be learned from Carl and Russell. When all hope seems dwindling to the point of non-existence, or the pressure of an imminent situation or circumstance is upon your shoulders, like Carl and Russell we should either take the initiative to make it an adventure or go along with the one that sometimes comes right to our doorstep.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Somewhere in the distant past when I had time for video games I sat, surrounded by boxes of warm, gooey pizza and somewhere around 600 pounds of gut-wrenching, howling, grunting testosterone (between 3 other guys). This was not madness. This. Was. Halo.

If you are not familiar, Halo is a video game you play either by yourself or with other people online. Your job is to get dropped into a boxed location with some guns and either kill more people than kill you or complete a mission objective (capture the flag or something akin to that) while people are trying to kill you. Every now and then you get a guy like me who doesn't get much practice and is more of a human body shield than a finely-tuned killing machine. And, trust me, when I get the "you have been killed by ... " screen, my friends laugh, but there is very little satisfaction -- it is not as fun to kill the little guy. It is defeating the guy running around eviscerating everyone with seemingly little effort that causes your friend to jump up and howl in delight as they just unseated the big dog. 

It is about winning, and you do not win by beating the guy in last place.

When someone else has something, a position, a title, maybe even a significant other's heart, it becomes that much more tantalizing for us. It is the reason why the heart seems to want that which it can't have: we need to reach a comfortable level of self-assurance that comes through confidence, confidence which can be ascertained by investing in or obtaining things that project status. A lack of confidence can also appear in the form of arrogance as one relies on their ego to do all the work and project an image of success and contentment. It makes you feel better about yourself. For a season, and to a limited and shallow extent, that is. Trust me, I have been there.

Sometimes I feel like I might get the definition or meaning of humility wrong, but I understand a humble person to be someone who is whole and feels confident without the titles, the adornments, or the awards. When I dwell on the word "humble," I think of someone who is not meek or timid, agreeable at all times, but rather a person who, although at peace and harmony with their surroundings, is a powerful force of concise decision-making, peace making, and the desire to further themselves or the others around them in the name of a selfless goal or desire. As men and women, our own desires are flesh-based, we want to satisfy our own needs and desires and do not take God's will into consideration. Only goals or desires that are within His will are truly selfless, in my opinion.

That said, I now venture into the realm of relationships. As a contently single man (and not currently looking), I tell you that the words "contently single" have not existed in my life at all times. In fact, it was not until I had a game-changing paradigm shift not too long in the distant past that I began to rest in this place. So what can I tell you from my time as someone who did not trust in God in this area of my life and saw it happen in the lives of other people as well?

I was not entirely happy with me. I liked me, I saw good in me, but I was discontent and lacking in confidence in some areas I needed it so I could stop wasting my time. I was not in a place where I was allowing or interested in allowing God to exist in those places: I wanted to do things on my own or lean on my own understanding. It is easy when you are in this place of discontent with yourself that you seek someone else to fill the cracks and "complete" you. And thus begins the frivolous and hurtful journey of what I like to call "career dating." Constantly on the prowl or needing fulfillment that a relationship can bring, you're always finding yourself in one or wanting to be in one. If you can just get that person that makes you feel so happy about yourself and the world, then all will be well. At least for a short while.

There comes a point where you realize that you are not just dating someone, they are also dating you. If you are wrecked and needing to have someone because you do not like yourself and want someone else in the name of feeling better about you or being able to ignore your own shortcomings, then you are not a viable option for that person, you are a detriment to both them and yourself. To make things work you become the person you think they need or want. I think the relatively short and quick breakdown in relationships, for the most part, can be attributed to this. The guise of simply being who your significant other wants cannot last. You are deeply-ingrained and built up of deeper traits and characteristics than that; it is only a matter of time before who you are surfaces and someone realizes they went looking for a good deal, feels they got a raw deal, and then goes looking for a new deal (Thank you, Dr. Seif).

Being a whole person is going to do countless beneficial things for you that are too numerous to list here, but it is also going to allow you to connect with the right person for you and have a viable relationship. It is not going to fall apart when the real you surfaces because the real you will be present at all times. And instead of focusing on your needs what your partner can do for you, you can take the eyes off of yourself and be a better partner for them. 

Being this person is not attained by our own victories, earthly trophies, or a reliance upon ourselves. Nay, it comes upon steadfast peace and joy that comes with aligning our character with Him, and allowing our will to be His will for our lives. In that, we find the peace and the confidence to be who we are called to be. And, trust me, that is much more attractive than being the loudest or showiest guy or gal in the room. You wanna win a heart? Have a full one, lacking in nothing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Sage advice was never truer spoken than when someone told me not to settle for less than the best. And then someone people simple said don't settle, stay wild and free, forever young at heart. Well, I heeded that advice and still do to this day. Still, our insides, our will and emotions, they can't toss and turn like leaves in the wind, they must settle somewhere and be a foundation, then the rest of our makeup can frolic at will.

We can find a lack of peace in our lives a lot of the time: things still flare up, mind you. I guess I would equate it to a an explosion that causes the dirt and rocks to heave upwards. But when they fall back down, they settle back onto the ground and remain where they belong. Still, since winds, explosions, and the elements will always rock the surface, we must be settled somewhere deeper than the surface or in shallow proverbial waters.

The other week I was feeling a myriad of strange feelings. There were conflicts to resolve, reactions to circumstances, being tired due to lack of sleep (it was a busy week), and just general day-to-day stuff that was causing me to scratch my head a little more than usual. When a friend and mentor randomly asked me how I was feeling, only one word came to mind: unsettled. Being able to give my affliction a name, I was able to seek out poignant and relative truths in Scripture that spoke to my unsettled feelings and reminded me that I do have a heart that is settled in truth and capable of withstanding the tempest.

I like to think of it like a seashell on the bottom of the ocean floor. There is rests, an indention in the sand outlining the spot that seashell lies upon. Hundreds or thousands of feet above are tumultuous winds, waves, storms, and currents that are a strong tide through the sea. And yet, the seashell has deeply embedded itself within the depths of the ocean and remains unaffected and unmoved. So brittle and fragile is that seashell, but it is made sturdy in its settlement: deep within the arms of safety.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it. 

There are a lot of things about society that make me chuckle, most of them being the social constructs that help us sleep easier at night or ease some of the burden that life can afford us at times.

We are afforded a great deal of security in our lives by a lot of flammable papers kept in flammable drawers or flammable computers in flammable buildings. In an instant, your life and all the zeroes you have accumulated in your bank account, savings account, or retirement fund could disappear as quickly as they were created.

I want to avoid the misnomer of being a bohemian hippie who is going to preach at you from a hemp-based platform as the smell of patchouli fills the air or something along those lines. I'm not here to say you have to fight the system and live outside of it. I am merely intrigued by the fact that so much of our security is in things that can disappear in flames and up in smoke in an instant.

Matthew 3:12 makes reference to burning the chaff, and Hebrews 12 ends about things being shaken from our lives, and God being a consuming fire. When I think of what the chaff in our life represents, I like to think of it as the sin we become dependent on. Sometimes that sin is fostered by unhealthy relationships, mindsets, or afflictions we have in our lives. As a prayer partner, I have found it very common for people to ask for God to remove or burn things from their life that preclude them from achieving their destiny or making them more able to serve His will. It is a scary thing to ask for, though. A lot of these things represent security in our lives, security that we cling to until our last dying breath. It is easy to be stubborn and stay where we are at: familiarity breeds stagnancy, but I think we need the fire in our lives to not only light up the dark areas, but burn and melt away the things that do not look like Him or do not give honor or point towards Him.

Honestly, though, I feel it is scarier not to feel the heat. If there is no adversity or challenge, then maybe this is evidence that growth is not occurring and we are becoming stagnant. The measure of heat is an indicator of how close we are to the flames, and that heat is conviction, the flames righteous cleansing. In my mind, it is one of those rare instances where fire seems cool like ice in my mind.

Still, sometimes I wonder if people really know what they are getting themselves into when they ask for things to be purged. A lot of us are like Linus from the comic Peanuts and want to grow up clinging to that security blanket with thumbs in our mouths. Eventually the fire comes (always invited, even if subconsciously) and we begin to realize the only true source of security in what the Word assures us of and what we inherit from Him.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Psalm 4:4 - In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.

There's nothing like a cool sheet after a warm day. Conversely, there is nothing like a warm blanket when it's cold outside and Jack Frost is nipping at your nose, or toes, or however it goes.

I don't feel like I have anything terribly deep or thoughtful to say here, but if one wanted to ask me a verse that I live by (or at least try to, after all: I'm only human) on a daily basis, Psalm 4:4 would be in the list. 

I am personally always fascinated when I see commercials for beds on television. To me, a bed is such an intimate and personal thing, it is almost weird to see it advertised in such a casual manner, but I suppose someone has to sell them. And sell them I did. For a short while, I was put on a project at a major retailer you've all heard of to sell mattresses to people over the phone. It wasn't a terribly busy job that required a lot of work out of me (maybe one call every thirty minutes), but I took it seriously. It would perplex me when people would opt for the cheapest model (I'm talking under $100) we had: a bed I deemed to look and feel a lot like thick cardboard. This particular bed model even had a kitschy name to match, but I'll save the company some bad advertising. At any rate, these beds were usually returned with the customer stating "this is like sleeping on thick cardboard." It made me happy to know people valued what they slept on. I think it is important for a place that is crucial and vital to our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being to be comfortable.

There are a lot of metonymic uses for the word bed, all of them centering around passion, love, or rest. Those could be synonymous with one another, though: to me, there is fervent passion in rest. When I finally get to my worn-in spot on my bed I put the thoughts and emotions of the day on display in my mind. I will scout over the moments that stuck out, both the good and the bad. The good I cherish and lift up in prayer with gratitude. The bad I allow to convict me, and a much different prayer follows.

We are most vulnerable when we sleep. Not only are we almost completely oblivious to our surroundings at this moment, but a lot of processing goes on in our mind, both conscious and subconscious. It's important to heed the Scriptures and not let oneself go to sleep before you make the decision to forgive and forget. It's almost as if the reset button is hit on your emotions once the blasted alarm goes off and you awake to face the next day. I sometimes feel like I am the only one who finds it hard to get there sometimes. When we are angered it feels natural to instantly lash out or respond in a manner that would be deemed as sinful (an angry outburst, a harsh word towards someone else, or even a physical altercation in the most extreme of circumstances), but it is important we guard our emotions and put things on the shelf so they can be pulled off and sorted when it is best for us to do so and not in the moment.

Perhaps this is just one of the few straight-forward physiological lessons the Bible sets out to teach us: it is best to deal with your anger not at the moment you become angry, but in your bed before you go to sleep. Mmm, science.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I hope this blog entry isn't losing all credibility with the inclusion of a photo from one of the most disappointing superhero movies of all-time. Regardless, I know it is an easily recognizable image from a popular film and thought it would best represent this entry to a broad audience.

Someone older and wiser than I recently told me that people who champion their victories over victimization and wave their victory flag around are still tying themselves to the pain. This is the type of symbiotic relationship that can squelch dreams, maturity, growth, and ambitions. There are a lot of other mindsets that can attach themselves to us (bitterness, hopelessness, anger, hurt, etc.) and govern what we do on a daily basis, or how we perceive or receive other people or even perceive God.

In the past, it was easy for me to think that my choices had been made, I was cemented into being the person I was, and that the only way out was to start digging on my own accord, intellect and strength. What stopped me every time, however, was having to feed the symbiotic mindsets that got me there in the first place. I wasn't just responsible to me and able to just dig myself out, I had to stop and also give effort and energy to the things that I allowed to comprise me and my countenance.

When futile attempt after futile attempt led to constant, cyclical failure I felt hopeless, and that is when that God becomes that much bigger to me. God isn't just who He is, to me, He is also what He provides: peace, comfort, joy, and much much more. It's funny how the pits of life seem to dissolve and things just seem ... manageable. It turns how I feel about day-to-day life from from being merely a circumstantial reaction; that is, I don't let the things that I encounter or happen on a daily basis determine what is inside of me.

Attaching oneself to the graceful/loving character of God, the mannerisms of Christ, the fruits of the Spirit: it allows for one to be connected to a wellspring and a set of inner workings that are beyond our own capacity. This is where the concept of the Trinity makes the most sense to me and how it indwells within us and our lives. Connectivity to all three is what makes what we have in life, our part, our jobs, our family, our existence our place of joy, of service, of camaraderie. While I think it possibly silly to label our relationship to the Father as symbiotic, I can recognize that we are allowing a source to feed us as we feed it and become an intrinsic part of our innermost being.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


There are a lot of things man puts stock into when it comes to their faith. Faith is a measure (whether small or extraordinary) of goodwill we extend to things unproven and yet unseen but genuinely hoped for.

I can't help but feel that faith in anything other than God is misplaced. I can't even have faith in myself: I know I am going to make a wrong choice somehow, somewhere based on an emotional whim (which is where grace comes into play, thank God). 

The elections show me that people are pressing their shoulders heavily against the proverbial faith grindstone, hoping for someone to come along and save them: their checkbooks, their failing health, their shrinking retirement fund, their hope in equal rights and broader freedom, even their faith in the political system and our nation as a whole.

But, all these things can be given and taken at a whim, at any moment. It doesn't matter who is at the wheel steering the ship, the waves will come as they please. All we can do is close our eyes and hold on to the only thing that will never sway: His name, His sweet sweet name.

Monday, November 1, 2010


If I had to sum up the Christian community in modern ages with just one word, it would be this: divisive. Funny, considering that the Christian faith is meant to be the exact opposite of that very word. Yet here we are, brothers and sisters of one faith hurtling stones and ill-tempered words from the safety of four, stone walls. Somewhere, somehow, some of us got to thinking that Christianity is all about what our church believes and practices, or that what happens in our four walls is better than what happens in your four walls. But that attitude is completely missing the purpose: community.

I have been a part of Shoreline Christian Center in Austin, TX since 1994. Prior to this, I lived life on the missions field of Africa and was/am a son to two, full-time head pastors. My dad had both a local church and was also an itinerant (traveling) minister as well. After moving to Austin in 1994 and tentatively being on staff at a church ripped apart by scandal at the top level, my family sought out and found our new home at Shoreline (my parents have since moved on to answer God's call to pastor their own congregation though they remain dear friends with the pastors at Shoreline). Needless to say, I have seen church at and from every single level you can think of: children's leader, youth leader, young adults leader, praise team, and also on various missions and community outreaches. I've seen the mistakes, after all, these churches are being lead by people and not micromanaged by some divine entity teeming with perfection. Conversely, I have also seen a lot of the changed lives, too numerous to count really, so something must be going right.

All the churches I have been to and attended (and I have visited many around the Austin area, as well as across the country during my dad's itinerant dayes) have taught me one thing all churches have in common: people are actively searching for a church where their mind, soul, spirit, and body feel comfortable. Comfortableness is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can give way to complacency if allowed. Still, there is something important that one must be mindful of: the walk of one's faith has never been the church's responsibility. It is, rather, an individual endeavor which churches can only help foster and partner with alongside you. In short, a church's ability to cause a member to grow is entirely limited to the involvement and tenacity of said individual.

Mega-churches get the bad rap of being shallow or "seeker-friendly" these days, but I have seen a lot of great things done with the facilities, resources, and benevolence a large church has access to. In all honesty, a bigger church is easier to lose oneself in. It is much easier to be invisible when you are in a room of 10,000 than a room of 100. Still, it is not the church's responsibility to grab every person they see and demand a progress report on that individual to see where their faith stands and if it is growing. Really, all a mega-church can do is try to employ a staff (both paid and volunteer) large enough to connect with all the people in its church.

If your church, big or small, is going to fail, it will be because it does not offer any viable options for deeper living. To me, the depth of one's faith comes in the form of relationship: with other believers, with non-believers, with the needy, the young, the old, the widowed, the married, everyone and anyone apart of the local and global community. The church service as it stands today is more of a foundation to me, a time to hear an engaging message and experience some good worship, both of which are great on their own. The meat of the church experience in my opinion, however, is going to be what you get involved with outside of your typical 9 a.m. service time. This can be a number of things: small groups where peers discuss the Sunday message, or digging into Scriptures further while strengthening friendships with the center being a desire to grow in one's faith. It can also be involvement in the local homeless/needy person community, being sent on short-term missions trips, attending leadership courses and classes, going to groups that specialize in ministering to specific needs (of which there are so many a church service simply cannot address all of them at one), or serving with another ministry in the church.

My prayer for Austin and other cities all over the country is that our community becomes stronger, that the competitive nature of churches becomes a thing of the past, and we start to grab hands across denominational as well as property lines. There has to come a point when a church organization has to stop saying "what are they doing wrong" and start saying "what can we do right?" Abraham Lincoln once stated that "A house divided against itself cannot stand." We will find ourselves in a faith crisis if we do not all agree upon one mission and one mission alone: be the answer point to the answer to the need of the hearts in our congregation, then send that congregation out into local and global communities to spread the answer.