Monday, December 31, 2007

Awkward things that happen at church

  • Person next to you has eyes closed, you want to get by to take communion
  • You drop the body of Christ in the wine glass. What are you supposed to do in that situation? Always wondered about that.
  • Person next to you tries to lift up his/her arms to Christ, but hits you instead
  • You spot a person who pretended to put money in the offering
  • Singing the wrong words. Funny on any occasion, but even better when people are saying things like “lion and the clam”

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Thoughts from seat 11C

My flight touched down in Philadelphia at "approximately 6:26" on Friday morning. I put the time in quotation marks because the stewardess actually said those words ("...where the local time is approximately 6:26"). This baited the wrath of The Guy Across the Aisle, who was incredulous of her phrasing.

How can it be approximately 6:26? You can say approximately 6:25 or approximately 6:30. 6:26 is not approximate.

Soon thereafter, I heard him talking about the holiday season and inevitably New Years. "Resolutions don't work," he said, "My New Year's resolution is to not make any more resolutions."


Look, I know the guy was just trying to be funny (hunch: saying "see you next year" to people on December 31st is also in his joke portfolio), but it always distresses me when people say things like this. Why? Because it communicates a certain cynicism, a bored acceptance with life. Resolutions don't work. I'm XX years old and I'm not changing.

Here's the deal, folks: resolutions don't work because people don't put effort into them. By the time you've past adolescence, you have to actively work at changing things about yourself. It's the same basic thing with being a Christian: if you half-heartedly ask God to make you more patient (or whatever), it doesn't work unless you put effort into it as well. Doing that is essentially the same thing as resolving to lose 15 pounds in 2008, then continuing with the same eating/exercise habits.

I wholeheartedly believe that God wants to grant our prayers...but He also doesn't want to be treated like a genie. That's essentially what you're doing when you pray for something, then put no follow-up effort into it. So when you're praying for something (or making resolutions) actively commit to following up. God will provide you the strength to change, but only if you hold up your end of the bargain.

(Not that we can ever truly hold up our end of the bargain. But you know what I mean)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A great movie...

So I saw a movie the other night that I really loved, and I just wanted to recommend it, because it's one that looks very weird at first glance.  It's called Lars and the Real Girl (you can find the trailer at ...I would have put a link to it, but I still don't know how to do that yet).  Anyway, its about a guy with delusional disorder who's had some difficult things happen to him in life and he ends up ordering a "girlfriend" online (who is really a life-size doll)... The whole town is in on his recovery process and treats her as a real person to try to help Lars overcome the delusion; it really is a beautiful thing.  Very quirky, and very sweet movie.  I feel like it is profound because its only by the grace of God that we're not all in Lars' position of being too afraid to be hurt and resorting to delusions to maintain our sanity.  Although we don't have pretend girlfriends (as far as I know), we all have our own things that we hide behind and keep from taking risks out of fear and are held back from being the people that God created us to be.  Just throwing it out there...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Things to think about in Portland while you're alive

I was thinking today about how much I like using my windshield wipers. There's something gratifying in allowing the water to accumulate, then swatting it all away.

Thing is, I find it pointless to have the wipers on rapid fire. I want the water to accumulate, darn it. Wiping the water away as soon as it lands? BOR-RING.

It strikes me that I feel this way throughout life. What's the point of sweeping the floor every day when you can wait a while and feel a sense of accomplishment? Why vacuum regularly when you can put it off and then find gratification in a sucking noise?

I do this on a relational level as well. I need to see the progress. So, when I'm looking at my spiritual journey, I'm frustrated I can't become a "better Christian" (sorry for the cliche) overnight. When I'm sharing my faith, I want the person across from me to convert on the spot.

You already know the flaw in this logic: people are not like windshield wipers. You can't just wait for the "rain" to accumulate, then wipe it away by telling them about the gospel. Instead, we've got to do what we can to show them Christ's love and hope/pray that, over time, the water will be thrown from the windshield (even if it initially looks like the windshield will be wet forever).

I probably mixed at least one metaphor there. Hopefully you know what I mean.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


That's the amount of money Imago Dei pulled in during the first Sunday of Advent Conspiracy donations!!! That is so awesome!!! Think of how much clean water this is bringing in worldwide!! And this comes from someone who despises using exclamation points!

If you missed out, you can either donate at Sunday's sermon (put it in the basket on the Communion tables) or do so online online by clicking here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Under the Overpass

I'm reading this book Under the Overpass, which details two young Christians' voluntary six months of homelessness. One of these two was my friend Sam.

Why did they do this? As outlined in the first chapter (p. 19), they wanted to:
  1. Better understand the life of the homeless in America and to see firsthand how the church is responding their needs;
  2. Encourage others to "live out loud" for Christ in whatever ways God is asking them to;
  3. Learn personally what it means to depend on Christ for [their] daily physical needs and to experience contentment and confidence in Him.
I'm in love with this book's message and, even during an extremely busy period in my life, will probably finish it within three days of purchase. Here are some of my favorite quotes through the first half of the book:

  • "When you're sitting on a sidewalk, you're at eye level with babies and kids. It's a different world down there. As toddlers stumble past holding their parent's hand, they lock you in their unashamed gazes or they peek curiously out from their strollers. They haven't yet learned to ignore what they see, so they can actually take in the world as it is. While kids might pretend people who don't exist do, it's the parents who pretend that unwanted people who do exist don't." (p.65)
  • "I think I often pray 'Thy will be done' not really meaning that...I think I mean more often, in all honesty, 'Thy will be done because I already know what I'm doing today.' "
    (p. 85)

  • "What's your definition of a Christian? Is it broad enough to encompass the drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes, and broken people of the world? Jesus said that he came to heal the sick. Drug addicts are messed up just the same as liars are messed up, just the same as all humans are messed up. We all need Jesus. We all struggle with personal ways in which sin plays out in our lives." (p. 105)

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Pet Peeve

It used to just be wearing nice dry socks and then stepping in something wet, like on the kitchen floor, that was my #1 pet peeve. Then, it was walking by the microwave after someone takes out their hot food before the time was up, leaving, for example, "1:38" flashing on the screen. Today I just discovered a new pet peeve of mine. It goes like this:

You get a hair cut.
You like your hair cut.
You can't wait for people to compliment you on your hair.
You go to work.
You get a ton of, "Oh... You got your hair cut!" comments.

That means they are subscribing to the "If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all" rule. Or, the one that says, "Make your comment totally pointless by stating the obvious and avoiding giving a compliment altogether."

Next time you see someone who got their hair cut and you DON’T like it, just lie. Just say, "I like your hair cut." It will do worlds of wonder for their self-esteem.

How does this relate to the Gospel? It exchanges one principle (don't lie) for another (build one another up). The two cancel out and leave the person with the hair cut a much happier being.

Mis suenos and mis futuras

One of the biggest things I desire in life is to be a trusting Christian, one who knows that God will look after him. This mindset is in opposition to how I've lived much of my life, of course, but I'm desperately trying to stop worrying and instead trusting in Him (hence the SHeDAISY post). This, of course, is not easy. Sometimes I think I like worrying -- at least that way I'm doing something. Taking my hands off the steering wheel, sitting idly in the car as I blindly accept that God will take care of me...I mean, a big part of me just wants to do it for myself, ya know?

I think that's why I sometimes have trouble with dreams -- there's nothing I can do to change them. The closest I can come is to worry about what happened, what it meant and why I can't remember more.

Last night's dream featured a girl whose name I know but who I've never spoken to in real life. She was exceedingly kind and addressed me as Michael -- a term of endearment ordinarily reserved only for close friends, girlfriends and family members.

This situation always freaks me out because when I see the person from the dream-- as I did this morning at church -- I'm wary that somehow they'll know. Worse, they'll confront me about it. Why were you dreaming about me when we don't even know each other? Has this happened before? and that sort of thing.

Fortunately, I've consulted with my resident dream interpretor, Nerg, who assured me that the people in dreams are not actual people. Instead, they're symbols of something deeper. When I dream of my parents, for instance, I'm actually dreaming about comfort, security or socks without elastic. Likewise, when Person X was in my dream, she represented the unknown.

Using that logic, the unknown world was smiling at me, being kind and affectionate, calling me by my full name. I'll take it. Let's trust in the Lord that "the unknown" future will be welcoming and something I should look forward to, rather than something I fear. It's time once again to take the hands off the steering wheel and know surely and clearly that I'll be taken care of.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Please don't let anything happen to her

(Note: This is kinda long but I promise it eventually relates to the gospel.)

Talk to me for long enough and you're sure to hear about my toeing-the-line-between-healthy-and-unhealthy crush on Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles. Beautiful voice, perfect dressy/thrift storey style combination, always seems like she's both sincere and having fun, wonderful stage presence...She even plays the tambourine (how cool is that?). She had me the first time she said "ah" (I). I'm like a PG version of those early 90s black and white Denis Leary commercials on MTV where he would obsess about Cindy Crawford. And you know what? I'm fine with that.

What I'm not fine with is where I fear her career is headed. This girl is about to be wicked famous (not always a good thing). First there was the duet with Bon Jovi. Then the tour with Kenny Chesney. Suddenly they're receiving a standing ovation at this year's Country Music Awards, culminating in the CMA for Best Duet (an award Brooks and Dunn had won six years in a row). Now JN is being picked up in the non-country world, where publications like the Boston Globe are lauding her as being "poised for breakout stardom."

In short, we're only about six months away from google searches where half the results for her name bring back sites called "Jennifer Nettles is hottttttttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!" Sigh.

Have you ever loved someone you've never met? Where there's just something about him or her that speaks to you, that makes you think you could be friends? But the problem is that we're not friends. There's no advice I can give her, nothing I can do to keep her away from the lures of stardom and power. All I can do is sit here and hope that nothing happens to her.

It strikes me that this has to be similar to how parents must feel about children --
Please don't let anything happen to them.
Please let them stay innocent.

On a deeper level, it must be how God feels about us, at least to some degree. We're His children, people He loves, people for whom He desires the very best. He doesn't want anything to happen to us.

Somewhere along the way, we screw it up. We stop believing in His plans for us, we try to go our own way, we squander our lives on things we can't take with us to the grave. We grow proud in our own spirituality and lead others away from their faith. It's not always pretty.

Yet in spite of our selfishness, He extends us the offer: simply accept Jesus as our savior, and all will be forgiven. When I think of passages like the parable of the Prodigal Son, it warms my heart, makes me eternally grateful and filled with hope for others. Even when something does "happen" to us, we can find salvation in the Lord. We are saved.

I know it's cliche to write words like this but that doesn't make them any less true. It is so freaking awesome to feel that love. That's the most important thing of all. After all, if God is for us, who can be against us?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Get Rich This Instant!

I don't know. Is it breaking some un-blogged rule to post a post in one blog that links you to another blog? Well, hey, at least they're both hosted by Blogger.

I wrote my most recent This Instant! as I was thinking about the madness of the Christmas shopping season that is taking over my coworkers' lives. Not my church friends' lives, of course, as we are all (with a plumber still on the fence) 100-percent Advent Conspirators.

Anyway, it affords one an interesting perspective...watching the spending frenzy from "the outside" while sitting contentedly on the sidelines, just watching my bank account hold steady through the month that it typically dips dangerously low. I can't help but ponder the meaning of the word "rich" and how misunderstood it truly is.

Read my post if you so desire. And may your life be rich this Christmas.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Mars, Venus and me

So Sunday marked the first time that a woman has ever given a sermon at Imago. I didn't find this to be a particularly big deal, which is almost definitely because I wasn't raised in a slow-moving church culture. Apparently it is kind of a big deal (much like Ron Burgundy).

Anyway, I bring this up because I noticed a striking gender difference in the way Sunday's sermon was received (at least among my friends). Some of the ladies I talked to mentioned that "it was so amazing", that they "loved the message so much" and that "you could feel there a special energy in the audience today." When I talked to guys about this...let's just say I don't recall hearing anything about a "special energy" in the air.

To be completely honest, the sermon gave me more trouble than usual. I understood the basic thesis statement: God is with us. He's with us all the time. This is a good thing. This makes all the difference in our lives. I do feel like I missed the deeper meaning, which is troublesome.

I've had a few days to ponder why and here's what I've come up with:

If you buy into the whole "most women and men communicate differently" thing -- and I do -- you probably also buy into the idea that women tend to talk more about feelings and are more inclined to want the listener to read between the lines. Thing is, I'm not good at reading between the lines. I like things to be straightforward and linear. Basically I want each sermon to be a big outline. What had never previously occurred to me is that, with having only heard male-style sermons before, I was really only being exposed to one way of presenting the information.

Which means I hadn't thought for even two seconds about how difficult it must be for women to always have to cross-over to the male communication style for sermons,
Which means I'm plainly not thinking about how others perceive things,
Which means I'm only thinking of myself again.

Darn it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I think, therefore I am confused

Imagine you're reading along, and suddenly a common word catches your eye. Let's say, "stove," for instance. You might even ask yourself, is that the right way to spell stove? But of course it is. So why does it look so odd? You consider it, maybe read it over a few times. Every read, though, makes it seem more and more absurd.

It's funny how this can happen with the most mundane of words—think about it too much, and it just starts getting weird on you. Stove. What gets me, though, is that I do the same thing with real-life situations (and I imagine I'm not the only one). I have an uncanny ability to induce "analysis paralysis" by over-analyzing things, items that often don't even deserve a second thought. I'm not saying it's bad to be thoughtful, but obviously there is a point of excess—once again, you CAN have too much of a good thing.

"But I really need to figure this out!!" Shush. Maybe I don't.

Take this post, for example. I actually came up with it last week, but I thought about it so much on my run that I didn't bother to put it writing.

Feel free to draw connections between this and the previous post about worrying (sorry for omitting any supplementary country lyrics).

Lastly, a statement that I think applies here, from John the Baptist, about Christ: "He must increase, but I must decrease."

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Inspirational Country Music Lyrics of the Day

Courtesy SHeDAISY:
Life is funny, life's a mess
Sometimes a curse, sometimes a blessing
Don't worry 'bout a thing, don't worry 'bout it

Life gets sticky, life can bruise
Sometimes you win sometimes you're losing
No matter what it brings
Don't worry 'bout a thing
Rather than "bla bla bla bla" being the next line, as in the actual song (seriously...gotta love country music), I'll add this: instead of worrying, pray. As we're reminded in Matthew 6:25-27, all the worrying in the world cannot add a single hour to our life.