Becoming (in)significant

I want to be someone

I haven’t always wanted this, it’s not a longing I was born with in fact when I was small all I wanted to be was me. I did what I did because I loved it not because of who I would become because I was doing it.

But as I got older and I became more aware of the cruelness of the world, and I became a product of the cruelness of this world I developed a demand that I become someone, and by someone I mean someone of significance

I want to be someone that you talk about

I want you to be envious of the life I lead

I want you to want to be me

I want a story that is compelling, I want for the whole damn world to look on me with awe and wonder. It’s ok that my life has had pain and suffering as long as that pain and suffering is redeemed by me become famous.

It never mattered what it was I became famous for, as long as I was the one that received the adoration of the world.

So I chased after various degrees of significance for most of my life. Radio, acting, music, as long as it made me the center of attention, as long as it let me feel what it feels like to be significant than I was happy.

But here’s the problem, and this is why this blog post is nothing more than a confession, I wanted this because I didn’t like who I was.

I don’t like me very much, I often wondered why I should, no one else seemed to. So if I could make myself someone that was loved by everyone then maybe I copuld learn to love myself too. If everyone else changed their opinion of me bnecause of how great I became than I figured that my own opinion would change too.

Do you see the faultiness of these arguments? I do now but I didn’t for a long time.

See I had an interesting conversation with my pastors wife last night at church. She told me that the one thing that she wanted to be was anything but a pastors wife, and that was the very identity that God had invited her into.

That resonated with me because the one thing that I wanted to be was something, or to put it another way, I wanted to be anything other than nothing.

Yet Jesus has invited me into nothingness, into insignificance.

Into the identity of this life not being about me, who I am, what I’m about but instead, who He is, what He has done.

I am no one

nothing

insignificant

without Him

If I try to tell my story without talking about how He redeemed me, how He was there when I suffered the psychological blows of being bullied than my story will not end well.

But if I tell the story and I focus it not on myself but on Jesus than it’s a story that is not only significant but it is a story that never ends.

It’s uncomfortable sometimes because I am still a sinful human living in a broken world. I’m in flux, and there is a part of my being that still wants you to applaud me

 

Perhaps that’s why I’m even bothering to write this post, I don’t know

But more and more, day by day, what I long for the most isn’t significance it’s love

it’s peace

and you’ll never experience those things while you spend your life chasing applause

So the more this world tries to convince me that it’s all about me, the more they tell me how important my self esteem is and how I’m the only one who can achieve the greatness that can be mine if only I take hold of it. The more I’ll step away from the spotlight, into the shadows, towards Jesus, who made himself nothing so that he might be glorified as the worlds rightful king.

 

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Christian Existentialism

I’ve been mulling around a lot of thoughts in my head about existentialism and how I as a Christian reconcile the way the world is with the faith I hold. I am a student of philosophy, I enjoy reading about and studying different viewpoints but I don’t think that’s what attracts me to existentialism, I think the way that my life has played out is what draws me to it.

When I talk about existentialism I am talking about the way that we view the world. How we as individuals deal with the absurdity of life. Things happen that defy explanation and we all have to find ways to deal with those events. This is what is called existential dread and there are 3 classically defined responses

1: Suicide. Every successful suicide has taken place because the victim has felt an overwhelming sense of the meaninglessness of life. They live out the realization that Solomon writes about in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes.

What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

2: is Nihilism an acceptance of the meaninglessness of life. It is from this viewpoint that the New Atheist movement(Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens et al) has taken it’s root. Life has no meaning and no purpose so in order to avoid suicide one must assign his or her OWN meaning and purpose. It is also from this 2nd viewpoint that our biggest anxieties have grown out of. Before the 19th and 20th centuries anxiety disorders were simply unheard of. But in comes the enlightened age where more and more secular thinkers feel that we know enough about science that we can do away with thoughts of the divine. Religion is thought of as nothing more than a fairy tale told to make us feel good about our lot in life and everything in this world has come about by pure cosmic chance. Ernest Becker says this:

“Man is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual, up in the stars and yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping body that once belonged to a fish and still carries the gill-marks to prove it. His body is a material fleshy casing that is alien to him in many ways—the strangest and most repugnant way being that it aches and bleeds and will decay and die. Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with atowering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order blindly and dumbly to rot and disappear forever.”

3: Spirituality. Faith, not certainty pushes us toward this 3rd response. The Nihilist would claim that this is only the human assigning meaning where there is none but Kierkegaard, the father of existensialism, defines it more about finding the ONLY thing that holds meaning in an otherwise meaningless world.

How, then, shall we face the future? When the sailor is out on the ocean, when everything is changing all around him, when the waves are born and die, he does not stare down into the waves, because they are changing. He looks up at the stars. Why? Because they are faithful; they have the same location now that they had for our ancestors and will have for generations to come. By what means does he conquer the changeable? By the eternal, one can conquer the future, because the eternal is the ground of the future, and therefore through it the future can be fathomed. What, then, is the eternal power in a human being? It is faith. What is the expectancy of faith? Victory-or, as Scripture so earnestly and so movingly teaches us, that all things must serve for good those who love God.

In all worldviews there MUST be at least one eternal component. Either the universe itself is eternal or there must exist something outside of the universe that brought it into being. I understand God to be that agent. It’s not about my ability to be able to define God or explain how he did this or that, my answers would prove futile to those asking the questions, my only job is to trust and to have faith in that which I have found to be eternal.

So when faced with the absurd, or what might be better defined as the meaninglessness of life, when people I love die or when horrible things happen I can see the separation from that which is eternal(God) and that which is not(us, and this world) God, whoever or whatever he is cannot be defined by terms created by broken, non-eternal beings.  I feel that the reason that so many atheists are unsatisfied with the idea of faith is because they have yet to let go of their stranglehold on the material world. “SHOW me, PROVE to me” are their requests, because to admit that there was something that couldn’t be defined, scrutinized and understood is to admit that the world really doesn’t begin and end with the human and the material worldview. It is to relinquish  the throne with which we can sit on and the alter with which we can put our material possessions and pursuits on. It’s not only out of pride that we do this it is also out of fear, fear that “we’ve got it all wrong” fear that this God of which is being spoken of is nothing more than a tyrant. SO better to believe that this is all there is than to be faced with that possibility. So we live and die and our anxiety grows.

 

But the more I read scripture the more I am convinced that the God of this universe is NOT a tyrant, he is a lover. He is desperate to woo his creation like a courting male wooing his future bride. He wishes nothing more than to take this world into his arms and love us and enjoy us. It is only when one lives within that worldview that the anxiety and dread is erased. I will bet my entire life on it.

Why are Millennials leaving the church?

I have a friend who has a daughter and this daughter has Aspergers like I do. She thinks of Corrie and I as family and talks to us and recently I discovered she had given up on her Christian faith. When I asked her why she gave me pretty typical answers about science and there being no proof. How all of the miracles that get attributed to God are actually fully explained by science. I then asked her how she explains things like spontaneous remission but she shut the conversation down abruptly at that point.

I worry about her and others like her who are leaving the church in droves. They are doing it at younger ages also. I left the church in my 20s but I would never have imagined myself at 16 leaving my church, The generation of kids coming up today seem a lot different than we were. Part of me wonders why, I wonder what is going on, I wonder if the generation after this one will be even worse or if they will return to faith. I’m not the only one who is wondering, there have been blog posts written lately about why this younger generation is leaving the church. Rachel Held Evans gives some good insight from a progressive Christians perspective. and Hemant Mehta gives an atheistic view. Personally I think there are a couple of key reasons.

I think that the church as a whole has dropped the ball on the homosexual debate I’ve written about this elsewhere so I won’t into too much detail here but I believe we have put entirely too much emphasis on a subject that the bible only addresses a handful of times and most of the references are murky at best when you take interpretation into account, I don’t know whether the act of homosexuality is a sin or not and I am not too concerned about it. I know that gay people are sinners in the same way that I am a sinner, in the same way that the guys that pastor my church are sinners and we are all equally in need of Jesus. If the brokenness that infects my life isn’t enough to keep me out of communion with Jesus than theirs won’t either.

I also think that we have made a mountain out of a molehill in the science vs religion debate. Hemant says in his piece.

There’s been talk of finding a better way to reconcile science and religion. Whenever that battle takes place, religion loses.

There are some questions we may never know the answer to, but for the ones we can eventually answer, the scientific explanation will devour the religious one. Mixing science and religion requires a distortion of one or the other.

The opposite is actually true. The more that science studies the universe and our own planet the more obvious it is that there is a great deal of order and design to everything that is happening. There are structures in place that keep everything together. Just taking science at face value forgetting religion it is becoming increasingly hard to explain how and why this universe came into being and continues to function without some sort of guiding force behind it. Even most Atheists will admit that this is an amazingly complex structured universe we live in and they will marvel at how it continues to function though they will of course stop short of admitting a God.

Whenever there is a new scientific discovery made I marvel at it and I thank God for it. I’m pretty sure that I am a product of evolution and if that is the process in which God created us than that’s amazing! It probably happened over the course of sevral billion years and that is equally amazing. God is good, Christians don’t need to be scared of these things.

The biggest reason though that I believe young people are leaving church is because they don’t feel cared for. It;s not about hip music or smoke and lasers nor is it about pizza parties and pop culture references. There are real people, who have real problems, who come from broken homes and all kinds of abuse and neglect who need real comfort and real answers. They don’t need you to tell them about hell they may already be living in it. They need to be shown the love of God and told the gospel message. That’s what we’ve been called to do right? To love people and share the gospel? We need churches that are less hangouts and more hospitals. People who are committed to caring for the souls of those that attend no matter what state they are in when they arrive.

I am so thankful for The church I attend. Had I stayed with the first church I went to when I first gave faith another try I would not still be a Christian today. I needed a place where I could and work through my own shit, and I needed people who were willing to wade through that shit with me. People who would not judge but would offer companionship and friendship and patience, lots and lots of patience. That is what all of us need we need a place that wil care for us and when we are better a place in which we can care for others,

If you are a Christian, if you have a church and you are wondering how to best reach young people or anyone who may be disillusioned by church you should approach them assuming they will be just like I was. Angry, hurting and having very legitimate reasons as to why they left the faith. You need to give them time to work through it, answer their questions honestly and pray with and for them.  People no matter their sin pattern, no matter their sexual orientation should not be scared to go to church, the church should be the FIRST place they would want to go because they know they will be loved there no matter what.

These are the things I am most passionate about and the reasons that I feel like God has called me to be a pastor.

Things that have changed.

I have been a dedicated Christian for 3 years now. It has not always been easy and I’ve fought a few things but I can easily say I’ve been on this road for three straight years and couldn’t be happier about it. If you are a Christian for any amount of time there is a lot of discussion about character that takes place. It’s been one of those things that I haven’t really understood mostly because there is so much emphasis on our effort to change in many Christian circles. What must I do and not do in order to be counted as a Christian. Sadly this totally misses the mark of grace and the power of the cross. Character is important and it’s a discussion we need to have but it need not be about our own effort to change but rather how we’ve changed regardless of our effort as we have drawn nearer to God. I’d like to illustrate this by sharing some of the areas I’ve noticed changes in my life without really trying to change.

  •  I am much slower to anger: I’ve always had a notoriously bad temper especially when things aren’t going my way. I have been known to curse people out in my car when they cut me off, laying on the horn. I’ve kicked and thrown a few trash cans in my day and I’ve broken things. Not things I am proud of but a part of my brokenness. I’ve noticed, without really trying that I am a lot more patient. I’m more patient with other drivers, with general situations in life and most surprisingly I am more patient with myself.
  • Going out to have fun is much less important to me. I loved going to shows, going to karaoke, hanging out at bars and having a good time. I am not opposed to these things but it’s much more common to find me hanging out at home watching a movie with my wife or hanging with friends in their homes. I still get out to sing some but the definition of what a good time is has drastically changed recently.
  • I’m someone who can enjoy a beer, I’ve been known to advertise that face quite a bit. I’ve also been known to post pictures of me drinking a beer or some whiskey but as I’ve grown close to Christ I’ve also become aware of my influence to people I care about. I’ve got a few friends who can’t drink and I have no desire to become a stumbling block to them so I don’t talk about my drinking like I used to.
  • The way that I watch movies and TV and even listen to music has changed. I still enjoy lots of different types of entertainment but I am more apt to think about what I consume. Shows like Family Guy which I used to find really amusing don’t do anything for me anymore. It’s not that I feel like I can’t watch certain things or even that I shouldn’t but I;ve just lost the taste for crude humor.

All of these things which have changed without me working on them. They aren’t areas that I feel like if I didn’t change them I would be in trouble because such thinking again nullifies grace which is free and not earned. The Christian life isn’t about effort it’s about trust. The more I trust Christ the more he renews my character and identity into what it was always supposed to be.

 

What about you? If you are a Christian, what are some area’s that God has transformed you? If you aren’t a Christian what are some area’s that you like to see change but are having trouble?

Confession: Writing about me

I have a confession I would like to make. This might seem like a strange thing to admit but I am hoping that it will make sense. I have the hardest time writing about myself. I love writing but I mostly like sharing my views and opinions on things. That style of writing seems to come easy to me albeit the way that I write can sometimes come off as a little stiff. It’s comfortable for me, it’s something I can easily slip into. But when I write those posts, most of which I am fairly proud of I don’t get a lot of readership. Time and again I have asked you guys what you want to read about and time and again the answer is almost uniformly the same. You want me to write about myself. You guys want to see posts about what it’s like to be me and go through the day to day of being me, dealing with the things I deal with. ‘

The problem is I am not that good at writing about that.

I see most day to day life as pretty mundane, and I find a hard time making that interesting. I wake up, I come to work, I work, I go home, I hang out with my wife, I go to sleep. Sometimes there is a band practice throw in or I have something going on at church but it’s pretty basic stuff. I have a hard time making that stuff seem interesting but that’s what my readers want to read.

I think another reason I have trouble writing about myself is because my internal life, the world of my fears and dreams, is pretty messy. It’s comforting to try and put some distance between that side of myself and you, my reader. Over the years of keeping a blog I’ve shared some pretty private thoughts and I’ve regretted some of the struggles that I have shared. But on the flip side of that when I do share some of the messy parts of my life I ultimately end up helping someone. I guess it’s true that it helps to know that you are not alone in the things that you are dealing with.

I recently had the chance to preach to my family at The Village Church and my sermon was about something that is all to real to me, anxiety. As someone with autism and an anxiety disorder some level of anxiety is present in my life on a daily basis. I was candid about my issues and I was just as candid in how I feel God has address those issues in my life. It was hard to share some of that stuff but in the end my comfort wasn’t what was important what was important was that people had a real encounter with the holy spirit while I spoke and that hearts were led to repentance. If the holy spirit can used my messy life to change other peoples lives than the sacrifice of comfort is worth it every time.

So perhaps I need to work even more diligently at being more personal on  my blog, to not only share the things that I think about but to share the real and honest story of my life. The good and bad stuff. That seems to be what people want to read and that also seems to be the words that God uses to encounter others. I will try and do better at this in the future.

Misfit?

Ever since I was a kid I had this sense that I wasn’t quite like other people that I knew. The things that drove me weren’t like the things that seemed to drive others, the things that were important to the world weren’t always in line with what I held as valuable. For entirely too long this distinction made me feel less than human, it made me deeply regret who I was and it made me hate what I saw in the mirror.

I believe that a lot of this comes from the fact that I am autistic, and like it or not autism has shaped who I am and how I view the world.

The other day I was watching Mercury Rising which is a fun romp of a movie if you’ve never seen it. That’s not the only reason I like it though, I like it because it has a kid that reminds me a lot of myself. It has a kid who has autism as the focal point of the picture. At one point the Bruce Willis character asks if autism means that “nothing gets in” to which a nurse corrects that in fact “EVERYTHING gets in” and that we(those of us who are autistic) have issues processing all of it.

I would say that Autism is really issues in two key areas, processing and expression. How we process the stimuli that comes in and how we react and express ourselves in reaction to that stimuli. I can remember during my first marriage that in the home we were staying in someone would be listening to an internet radio station at the very same time that someone else was watching a TV that was too loud. All while the two of them were having a conversation and even attempting to have a conversation with me. You can imagine that this would be overwhelming to anyone but to someone like me who has issues processing and expressing myself it was a living hell.

I remember when I had my job at McDonald’s when I was 18. I rarely was put back into the kitchen area for good reason, there were too many tasks for me to do at once. I was never very fast but if you had me doing too many things at once I was useless. I remember trying to accomplish so much during that job and getting so overwhelmed by it all I wanted to do was escape and go outside so I could cry. Being on Fry duty was the absolute worse because I couldn’t keep enough boxes of fries ready to go during a rush.

For these and many other reasons I have always felt like a misfit, someone who doesn’t fit, a square peg, an anomaly. You know when they say that 9 out of 10 people usually do this? Guess who the 10th guy is. I’m the exception, the cast out, the ostracized… you get the picture.

If I have always felt like that in life it’s only natural that that feeling would play out in my faith as well.

3 years ago I became a Christian again. It was a strange thing to happen, I’d never thought I’d ever have faith again even though part of me always wanted it. I found myself trying to figure out just what it was that I believed, how much of cultural Christianity was I going to adopt as mine and how much was I going to dump? Who was it that I was following? I was sure about Jesus but there were other things that I wasn’t so sure about it. Much of what I would consider my faith was in flux, I was wrestling with a lot of ideas and thoughts and beliefs. The only thing I knew was that I wasn’t sure about a lot of stuff so I started searching. Some of what I found and latched onto was in the vein of more liberal progressive Christianity. Idea’s about uncertainty especially with the nature of The Bible and where it came from. I said some things that I regret and I came off as arrogant and hurt some folks along the way but I was searching.

As I drew nearer to Christ I could see some of my worldview shifting. Teachers like Brian Mclaren and even Rob Bell whom I still have great respect for weren’t feeding me like I thought they did in the past. I started to search for deeper and richer idea’s and studied scripture a lot more exclusively. Still though I had a hard time with the hard line of fundamentalism, the ultra right wing sect of Christianity which has hijacked the faith that I love so dearly and turned it into a political war cry around an “us vs them” mentality that I just couldn’t get on board with. So instead of aligning myself with either a progressive slant of Christianity which can’t get Jesus or his resurrection right  or with a right wing fundamentalist mentality who refuses to see that the world they are warring against is the exact same world that Jesus came to redeem I’ve continued to just be on my own. Partnering with whom I can when I can but realizing that no single worldview will have it all correct, not even(and especially not) mine.

The one thing that has remained is that I have no desire to get it all right, I already know that;s impossible. My biggest aim is to know God, to love him and to be loved and enjoyed by him. I find that most of my study as of late whether in the bible itself or by other authors is chasing after that aim. My questions have less to do about what can Christianity do for me, can it solve my issues, can it take away my pain, can it bring me joy? My questions are more about what Christ can do THROUGH me. Perhaps that is why I feel such a strong call into the pastorate, if he would have me. I have a broken heart for hurting people and I wan t for them the same thing that I have discovered. The furious and absolute love of God through Christ. If that makes me a Misfit than I will wear that badge with honor.

 

 

Moving On

6 years ago I was living in an apartment with Corrie who was at the time my fiance. It was around this time of the year that my folks came up with the idea of us moving in with them for a while. There were positive and negatives on either side of this arrangement but in the end we decided to take our folks up on the offer, mostly because I knew they were having financial issues and by our paying rent we could help them out. I didn’t expect that we would still be living there 6 years later but losing jobs and other financial will cause that. It has been tough on us and my parents both but there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

I have talked about us moving out for awhile now but I haven’t really made any steps towards making that happen yet, until last Saturday. Corrie and I decided that we would head out and start looking at places that might work for us. We started with apartment buildings but I don’t think either one of us really want to live in an apartment complex, I’ve heard too many horror stories about that so than we started looking at duplexes.

Long story short we found the perfect place, it’s in the central part of town which is where we want to live, it’s only $600 in rent which I think we can pay, it has 2 bedrooms so the other big dream of becoming foster parents could happen there too. It’s crazy how close we are to this, when we went out to look we were mostly just trying to get an idea of what was in the area and planning to hopefully move by the first of next year but now it looks like we might be able to get a place even sooner than that.

I’d be lying to you if I wasn’t nervous about this, in a lot of ways this will be taking a big risk for both Corrie and I. What if we aren’t that great at keeping a budget? What if one of us loses a job and we can’t get a new one fast enough? There is TONS of risk involved here. But whenever you feel called into something in life there will always be risk involved. Last night at church we started a series in Luke and we had a sermon about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the risk she had to take of believing that God was going to give her a baby even though she was still a virgin. It was an amazing happenstance to hear this sermon about hearing a call from God and how do we react to it?

How did Mary react? Well she first reacted by stating the obvious.

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

You can imagine the dismay in her response. “I’ve never had sex before in my life, there is no way that I can become pregnant it’s not scientifically possible.” But The angel just spells it out for her

“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Then Mary does something that I wish we could all learn to do, she trusts.

 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Perhaps it’s strange to see the parallels between the story of Jesus birth and Corrie and I being called to move out on our own but it makes tons of sense. The larger picture of what Corrie and I are being called into also involves children. The deepest longing that we have is to be able to raise kids, in order to be foster parents we’ll need our own place so this initial risk  is really the beginning of a journey for us. It;s exciting to see what God is doing, and like Mary my response is trust. I am the lords servant and his word will be fulfilled with us.

When was the last time you were invited to really risk in your life? How did things turn out?

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