Category Archives: Honest

The End of Stranger in Rebellion

Strange Confessions: This opportunity in Denver and the subsequent reactions of my church family here in West Plains has affected me greater than I first thought.

I have been part of a discipleship group with three other men here for the past month, and have been discussing many things with them. The congregation that I am a part of now does not see discipleship as I always imagined it: sitting there with a book of doctrine in your lap or on the table and going over again what we have known but occasionally forget, forcefully trying to slam it into your brain for good. We take walks, and talk. We ask each other questions about what we would do in certain situations. There is discussion about how we are leading our family and ways we can do it better. We talk about long term relationships, careers, and ministries. We consider the immediate and grasp the consequences of the past. The Holy Spirit flows through our assembly as we do our best to honor Him in all our contemplations.

“Why do you call your blog ‘Stranger in Rebellion’?” I was asked the other night. I am quite proud that I came upon that name and all its connotations, stemming from the “Strange Confessions” and other strangeness that encompasses who I believe I am. Earlier that night I told them about my difficulty in writing over the past few weeks. I tried writing about the sermon regarding Friendship three different times. It seems as if I’m stuck in trying to convey the importance and value of what being a true friend in the full biblical sense really is. I get caught up in thinking about how I was so interested in getting out of West Plains, that I forgot about… relationship: family and friends that I’m not sure I’ve really had until these last couple of years. I don’t want to devalue our church family in Utah in any way, but this is so much different from what I knew back West. We also discussed the Youth Group that is starting up with me at the helm, and how I want to go beyond what is the other standard fare offered here in West Plains. I think about all the “wasted” time that has rushed by in the past and how now I see the world, God, and the gospel in such a brighter light, and I want to share that with these young adults so that they at least have the opportunity to understand all that before their life is in their sun’s declination phase. There is a passion inside me that wants to reveal the God that I now know, the gospel that is all about freedom, and glory that shines in us every day. I’ve missed the times when I taught Sunday School years ago, that is when I fully got into the Word. Yes, I struggle with giving my God the time He completely deserves, yet in teaching the desire comes fully alive.

The question posed to me lied more in the fact that I am no longer the “Stranger” I once was, and might be part of the reason I am struggling to write. They say people don’t change. We know, as Christians, that this is completely false. Others understand this in some superficial way. Sure we change our minds, our habits, our style, but fundamentally we are the same. I am new. In many ways I am the same. I stay quiet when I don’t feel what I say is important enough or smart enough or considered enough. I get very opinionated and loud when discussing our societal woes. I enjoy movies and pop-culture. I love my family and I miss the ones I am related by blood, who are far away. Yet, I am new. There has been a switch that went off inside me that I need to explore. This something is more… mature, you might say. It is more willing to Be where God has me. Resolve is changing to contentment.

I think my friend hears all this in me and, considers the Stranger to be no more. And to tell you the truth, I believe he is right. Change is inevitable. This considered move to Denver revealed how much I am attached here. Prior to these occurrences, I saw us moving and forgetting about all that we knew here, in West Plains, deleting contacts in our phone and on that one site. Now, as I ponder these possible actions, it almost brings me to tears. This place has become so much a part of what I am, who I am, that I can no longer consider forgetting it all once we are geographically gone, if that ever happens.

This change is not a new idea in my mind, for over the last few months I have thought things needed to change about the blog. Make it more about life and the gospel and our culture as it relates to us all and step a little bit away from it being about my experiences. Not stepping away entirely, because my experiences are about who I am, but in a more… generic(?) way. I don’t know, perhaps you’ll understand once I start going on the new name/site that I will develop… eventually, when I am ready. Writing is a desire in me that I can rarely contain when the spirit is upon me. So after 125 posts to this site, farewell. I will post a link here when all the newness comes about.

Thank you all for reading Stranger in Rebellion, I hope to see you all in my future endeavors.

~Friend

“Turn and Face the Strange… Ch, Ch, Changes”

In this episode of Stranger in Rebellion, congratulations and good wishes and hope for the future of our family are in order. Things sometimes move rather quickly around here, but then again, stop rather suddenly, and it can be quite the roller coaster ride if your orbit circles the center that is our mass. If you want to find out quickly what the congratulations are all about skip ahead to the bottom at, “Final Verdict,” but be warned that what happens between here and there is my true heart and reveals to you my philosophy that I have gained here in West Plains regarding truly knowing who people are…

Over the last couple of weeks I was surprised to find a company that really pushed towards gaining me as an employee, so much so that they flew me out to Denver to interview me. More surprising was many of the reactions from our friends here in West Plains. (Actually they have become more of a family than anything else.) When announcing our transition from Salt Lake City to West Plains almost 5 years ago, there was a resigned sigh from our church family. What I mean in that, is that people accepted what we told them and, perhaps regretted that it was so, but didn’t really fight the idea that we had made. Looking back now maybe they did see the Lord’s hand in it all, and didn’t feel compelled to question our motives. I know that the whole AWANA team and the kids that were a part of it, felt bad about the whole thing, but the only real question about it all was an older boy who came up to me and said with disdain in his voice, “Okay now, where are you going and why?!” That was the biggest regret in leaving Salt Lake; those kids I knew and loved… and left behind. Sure, they’re all doing fine and dandy without me, but just the fact that I’m not in their lives now just leaves me empty somehow.

When we told some friends here in West Plains, there were a lot of questions, a lot of statements about how they felt, and a lot of reminders about how much we should be praying. The last one was like, “Duh! How can we not pray?” Prayer was constantly, continuously, perpetually, uniformly, and weightily a part of the last week’s activities. To me, it was like telling me I possibly couldn’t understand what God was trying to say, so you better listen to us. I thought that if we did stay, that particular relationship would not be the same, but in talking a bit more to them I believe part of what was happening was shock at such a surprise announcement. I apologized and told them that I should have been more forthright and let them know we have been semi-seriously looking at a transition. I didn’t realize how soon such a great opportunity would come up. I should have explained more about our belief in West Plains as temporary.

One of the most compelling things I heard in this time from a friend was, “If this move is God’s will then great, but if we believe that it isn’t God’s will then we will do everything to stop you.” I mean, what? Really? You’re going to do everything you can to stop us? I was at first a little disturbed by this; how can someone hear more from God about what is best for us, than us? Then it became more and more comforting, knowing that if someone apart from the issue sees it different or hears or knows something that we can’t or won’t, that force might become necessary in the convincing of God’s will. I’m not talking him knocking me out, tying me up and putting me under bright lights until I see the truth, but I guess it would be strong, steady persuasion. I guess at this point I’m glad I am truly convinced of God’s will in all this at this point and can share it with them, and you now.

God’s will. It can be sometimes difficult to discern. This job for example: it just happened all so… perfectly. You remember me writing about how I needed to get my resume in order and getting it out there, well as soon as I did this, I applied, was contacted and she forgone the second interview so that I could fly out for a better view of it all. I was training up in St. Louis for the week she wanted me to come out and I told her I could fly out after training was over. Getting to an appropriate airport is difficult here, but being in St. Louis at the time? How… God’s Will like. I found out that my true spiritual mother and father were going to actually be in Denver when I was there. You see, we have family in Denver and my true spiritual mother and father, (Aunt and Uncle), live in Yankton, SD right now and just happened to meet back up in Denver after she spent 2 weeks in Salt Lake City watching some of her grandkids. Before the interview I found out we were flying out on the same plane! I wanted them to do the early check in, since I was going to be at the interview, and we saw the connection. My interviewer asked me when I wanted to fly back and I gave her several options, and she just happened to pick the same flight they were on!? It was a too much of a coincidence, too much of a sign.

Another friend asked me what this decision had to do with Perspectives. You may recall we had the opportunity to take this class last year. It was a wonderful time of learning and seeing God’s work and will in the world. We gained a more global perspective and the attitude to move anywhere He would have us go. I said that since Denver was so big that it would have a cultural opportunity to serve Him in many ways. I didn’t do much research on the fact, but I can figure it to be true, right? God is at work everywhere and anywhere. It seems like a great place to be, if truly God wanted us there.

The other thing I was told by the same man who said they would stop us, was that it is a good thing that you are going. Because in the going, you can hear God better. This was told him by his brother when he was told to visit colleges. Paul was stopped when he was going in a direction he desired or believe he was led to go, and turned in another direction. It was a good thing that I go. A good thing that I go. But this company spent around $700 dollars for me to go, that is quite the engagement ring, per se. Committing to a fly-out is serious business. What if I really, truly believed God was stopping us?

The other thing is my family. Being in Denver is only a slight day drive from Salt Lake. I very much so worry about something drastic occurring in SLC that needs my immediate attention or even my whole family’s. It is just a slight jaunt up and over the mountains to get there. Coordinating an immediate geographical change from West Plains to SLC would be overwhelmingly expensive. It ain’t gonna happen without some generous horizontal funding.

Final Verdict: Everything seemed to be screaming, “Move!” but in walking out of the interview and sitting in front of the shop until my ride came, God was slowly and reassuringly convincing me that this move was not His will. He wanted to show me that even in the midst of everything seemingly being a sign, that the sign in itself is not always what is revealing His will. I called my wife and told her my initial belief, but I had to see her face-to-face and talk before we could be certain. I have a long letter to write to the company regarding my decision, for in this decision I believe I have something to share with them in order for them to make a better decision in whom to hire. I haven’t even received an offer yet, but I know what my, no, our, no, God’s decision is. He showed me that what I was committing to there would not be Him, but would be a company. He showed me that what He has prepared me for all my life was not to be completely turned over and changed to suit a need and desire for myself and more so even my family in the immediate. I’ve made more of a commitment to Him over the last few years that I ever realized could be ten years ago, when I would have taken this job, no questions asked. The people in my life here have made me appreciate so much, I love them all and am more committed than ever to involve myself and my family in what God is doing here through His church and through us. That is not to say I won’t stop looking at opportunities in other geographical locations, but the examinations will now be more solid, more in line to understanding a greater need and purpose therein, and that is His ultimate will, is it not? Yes, I know we have disappointed many a family member, but it is not the end of all hope. Congratulations are in order because we heard what was to be. The future is and always will still be bright because He is there, He is here and He is.

~Stranger

Freedom vs. Condemnation

In all my constant thoughts about freedom recently, I’ve come to a great realization. In the past I have constantly dreaded what this earthly future holds for me. I can’t find a well-fitting job, be it paying enough nor enjoyable enough nor fulfilling enough. My head fills with sorrow at the failures of the past. Failing in school, in relationships, in determination, has made me look forward with dread. I consider what is going on with the world and am sure that Christ will come back in a blaze of glory and set all things right. That future is bright and has been my only hope. Yet when I don’t consider that He has me in His grip and I am His, and He has everything in the future just the way He plans it, and I only hope in His second coming, my attitude sells Him short. He is too small in my mind.

So then I see that, I mean really see, that nothing I do can gain the grace and mercy and salvation, that what I have is all because of Him, it humbles me, cheers me, gives me a sense of joy, of relief that I have never felt before. Here we are, the Church, focusing on all the wrong things. He has prepared me for this moment. It is not like I’ve never heard of these things before, for I have, but they have never truly resonated with me before. I have absorbed this teaching.

Galatians 5:1-2 says, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.” For freedom has He set us free. As I see it as opposed to condemnation. I am constantly condemning myself; looking at my failures of the past, my sins of the present, and the weariness I’ve built for the future. It is done. As I said a couple of days ago, this is a new and special time for me, in seeing all this and knowing that there is now no condemnation for me. That is what Paul was saying. Of course we believe that God doesn’t condemn us, but do we ever consider that we no longer have need of condemning ourselves. Sure we sin, but get over it. Get the unlimited grace He gives and move my brother.

On a walk today I considered these things and saw in my mind that it is freedom that creates a sense of eagerness when considering the future, and condemnation that creates dread. I am praising Him in my freedom. Come my brothers and wash yourselves in the purity of His grace and walk away from all the self-condemnation that makes us dread the future. Be eager in seeing what He has planned for you knowing that it all has been won, because of Him, because of our freedom!

~Stranger

The Era of Sisyphus is Over

A friend of mine gave me a very large tire so I could roll it up and down the slope in my yard. I was inspired by the show, “The Biggest Loser”. I’m not much of a TV watcher, but occasionally I’ll sit upstairs as my wife watches and I can write, or read, or do nothing. “The Biggest Loser” is a show that catches my attention more than most. It is inspiring to see people hitting a goal they set for themselves, or your heart breaks when they fall short and they have to make a choice to either give up or keep striving toward their goals. Some of the exercises they do involve a very large tire. They flip it over many times, they hit it with a sledge-hammer, they step or jump up onto it repeatedly. “I can do that,” I thought, and asked my friend if he had a tire. He wanted to know why and I told him. He laughed and said I wanted to play Sisyphus in my own backyard. Since then, my workouts with the tire have been off-and-on. There are weeks I consistently get up and work out, then months go by without the tire moving.

Today I was out in my yard striving with the thorn trees that continually spring up here and there in the places I don’t normally mow. When we bought this house four years ago, almost half of the yard was given over to the wild; our yard is 1.8 acres, so it is a significant change from the .18 acres I was use to in Salt Lake City. Over the years I have fought it back with push mowers, rakes, shovels, riding mowers, large trimmers, tractors and brush-hogs. The wild area now just takes up one small corner of the yard. This year I have gone out and hand-cut these 1-2 inch thick trees down with a pruning saw that has been in my possession since it was at my parents house over 30 years ago; I think it still has the same blade. They don’t make them like that anymore. Last time I was out there cutting trees, it was so hot and humid, I could only cut down about three sections: around 9 trees. Being a 45-year-old overweight man who can’t consistently push a tire around his yard, I quickly wearied myself. There was many more sections that I wanted to finish up before I came back in the house. After cutting about 5 trees down, I began to feel light-headed and took longer breaks in between cuttings. I prayed to God that he would give me strength to finish this job because He equips the called. I reasoned that I was called to finish this job, this goal, and He would make it so. At one point I was so weary, my vision started going grey around the edges and I didn’t want to pass out where I was, because of the poison ivy and bugs all around in this wild area. I quickly stood and half ran, half stumbled to a semi-clear area and threw myself on the ground. Finally, when lying, what I imagine to be a tick and chigger infested ground, became more terrifying than my weariness I rolled over and slowly finished the job.

Going through my mind was the frustration at how quickly I wanted to give up. I thought about the tire in my yard and how long it has stayed in one place. I thought about my job and how it is so much like being Sisyphus; I’m pushing this rock up a hill and it just goes back down, and I have to do it all over again with 8 people telling me 20 different ways to get the rock back up the hill. Well now more, sir; no more! It is done. I am done being a Sisyphus in my health and in my job. I have had some very fuzzy goals when it has come to them both. Well, that is over too. I’m done talking about how much I need to finish my resume. I’m done talking about how much I need to get consistent with my health. I need to set goals and strive for them. When I meet an obstacle, I must consider what must be done to get around it; and stop letting it let me give up quick flash in a hurry.

Take my writing for instance: This is my hobby and I let so many things get in my way to write down what I think needs to be said or shared or disseminated. I make excuses about others motivations and see no point in going on, but my point is to get better, to know myself more and to share that with you; being that I am the rebel that I am.

I’ve had a hobby of eating better and I have, except for the time that I suck down a whole bags worth of Dorito’s at a potluck, or guzzle that “last” Dr. Pepper because I desperately needed it.

Talk is cheap. Sometimes so is writing. I can write about this until I’m blue in the face. My goal this week is to finish my resume, finish a consistent beginning to a new workout, and stop drinking soda. If you are reading this, please let me know on that one site. I’m going to set a calendar date for next week, then I’ll let you know how I did, then start it all over again. Habits are built on repetition, and, most importantly for me, can not be done with out God. I have written recently about our freedom we have and that when we condemn ourselves it is of no use. This week it has been a focus for me. I have failed and almost instantly, I condemn myself, but I deny that this is not of the Lord, and it is not me sinning again but just myself displaying characteristics that goes against who I am in Christ. It is sin, but, I can’t continually condemn; that is of the devil. I need goals, encouragement, and just to stop condemning myself.

The era of Sisyphus, struggling and failing over and over again is done. Thank you God for revealing everything as a gospel story, and giving me the strength to be the man I need to be, for my wife, for my family, for my church family and co-workers. I need you every day.

~Stranger

Transitions

I am a thoughtful guy. I have been told that once in a while. My best friend from high school told me this. One of my best friends now thinks it chuckle worthy how much I ponder motivations, reasons, transitions, life. And in the immortal words of Paul McCartney, “What’s wrong with that? I’d like to know. ‘Cause here I go… again!”

I’m feeling like I’m in the middle of a transition point: It has been a little over four and a half years since we moved from Salt Lake City, and I believe those of whom I would call friend are truly beginning to forget me. No worries, I’m not bitter or anything, just pointing out the normal path of these sorts of things. I still see their stuff on that one site and I occasionally like or comment on posts and vice-versa them to me. This is not the way a hearty relationship keeps afloat, yes? Alas, things are winding down from that initial transition to a new place. I have been in West Plains long enough to finally figure out a large, parochial, baptist church is not a good fit for me and my family. We have been with another group of believers for almost a year now and I believe the mists of our comings and goings in the many buildings of our former gathering is dwindled to the point that people might not recognize the auras of our former selves lurking in the corners. We had no one come and visit us seeking the how’s and why’s of our departure, and there is fewer occasions of having to explain to people where we have been when running into them at some store or the library. The biggest shock of late is that one of my best friends, someone who was there with me from the beginning of being here in West Plains, has transitioned to Florida. He worked for the large church and because of shrinking congregational numbers, was laid-off. Thankfully he now has a job with Wycliffe, unfortunately our relationship faded the last couple of years because of hard circumstances that still remain unresolved. Praise God that all will be made right in heaven. The other jolt came from hearing that the pastor there had been voted out. I am saddened, but I understand that God is working in this whole situation to heal and grow those who need it. I pray that all involved will see His hand in all this, even when it is still sharp and stingy. Interestingly enough, it is hard to see that these sort of things happen because of what a friend calls pastoritis. It has been a couple of years since I’ve seen the construct of the modern society within the church, is doomed to a cyclical pattern of growth, loss, blame, transition, and hopefully growth again. Some never recover from the transition point here because they look for some man to have all the answers for their problem in the first place, when it should be each other we fall upon, and mostly God who bears the brunt of our sorrows. It is also interesting that I keep reading in 1 Corinthians about how the church there regarded the leaders as one of the most important things to follow, or be “of”. Put a man on a pedestal, seek the answers from him and he will always fail you. I love this man and I am sorry that he now finds himself in this situation of our making, of this Western church society we have built. Pray for that church that they would not seek the answers they need in a man, but find it already there, within themselves, that it is God who dwells in them.

We just got back from an eleven day “vacation.” I say vacation, with the quotes, because I don’t see the vacations we take as equal to what I normally see spoken of or pictured on that one site. Not that I compare. It’s just that I’ve always had in my mind the idea of a vacation as taking off in a jet plane, not seeing anyone you know, or thinking about work, and staying for several long, careless days at the beach, or camping in a National Park, or staying on a cruise ship, or visiting another country, or a high interest amusement park or site of historical significance. It seems that people posting on that one site have much more opportunity or availability or just plain cash to make those things happen. Also, I don’t want you to think I am unsatisfied with how our time off usually goes. It is visiting friends or family, hanging out or hanging in, going to places we are eager to go because of cheap clothes or good eats or cooling off, but always a place where we know someone.

Getting back to my point: our vacation consisted of visiting three kinds of family; family we chose, family of my wife’s, and family of mine; in that order. We went to Kansas City to be with some friends of almost 20 years, to eat and shop at the thrift stores and used book sellers. We then proceeded to Yankton, South Dakota, where my wife’s uncle is the interim pastor at a church that voted out their pastor, who then quickly went down the street, opened and new church and dragged a third of the congregation with them. (The pastor I refer to above has already sought to sell his home here, which I believe is a good choice, a hard choice, but the right choice.) There are a lot of broken people because of this and (for the sake of making it easier, I’ll call him “my uncle”) my uncle believes God has developed him for such a time as this; for over 45 years! I intended to rest and take it easy there but for some reason I was troubled and restless there. More of the family joined us from Denver, whom we haven’t seen for three years, and the husband is an active sort who likes to do lots of things, and I joined him in his endeavors, but that isn’t what made me troubled. I started to feel the pull of work, and the tension associated from being away, the dread of going back. This part of this last 4.5 years of transition has been the transitioniest. I can truly say that the defining aspect of this position in regards to point-of-contacts and managers, has been change, and never really for the better. The final stop of our tour was Des Moines, IA where my brother, his wife and family reside. My mom flew in from Salt Lake to see our kids in addition to his: it was a win-win for her. I really had a good time with my brother and his family and my Mom, but thoughts of transition began to invade my thoughts and made me more irritable than usual. I drank a little too much, which was probably a horrible choice on my part because of some transitions happening with my brother. I didn’t get drunk, but I had some of the hard stuff, and relaxed… perhaps, too much. I enjoy the tasty beverage when “vacationing” but this wasn’t the time or place. Some would definitely tell me otherwise, but I know, between me and God, that I was wrong.

On the way home, an 8 hour drive, I began to think and pray about my situation here in West Plains. I no longer want to be discontented with my work. I want to minister where God wants me. I have a calling to be creative and I want to get more organized when it comes to assigning myself a task to create, as well as to sell myself when the time comes. I thought of many different things I could do to fix my failures, uplift the listlessness of work, and create on the way. Many things that came to mind were practical, but impossible unless I invite Him to change me to make it a habit within me. I cannot go through this transition alone. I see my friend doing many things, but I don’t hear about God in a specific area he introduced me to (I will write about that another time). I see my uncle and diving into was God has involved him for the last 45 years. I see my brother desperately needing Christ, apart from the hour or so he may or may not encounter Him on Sundays. I see my former pastor being forced into figuring out God’s will for his life after it seemed that this town could be a place for life. I see a friend thankful to be released from a difficult position, that he was so content to be in, and hope and pray that all works well for Him, especially in the character building God may have for him now. I know I can’t do this alone, and I am so afraid, because I have jumped before in the past, in the wrong direction, but I have learned a lot. Does God have something for me 45 years in the making? Or am I to be content with the character building of the last 5? Transitions are happening all around me, all around us, every day, in every corner of the world, and He has His hand in every part of it. Am I to let go of the idea that I am His comic/cosmic relief, or see a God who truly sees me as I am and what I need? I am glad to have our Tuesday night fellowship group and look forward to sharing this time with them. I look forward to God possessing me and my life transitioning to a life of constant prayer, and hope and trust in Him. I will ever praise Him, ever praise Him.

In the course of the next few months, I will be transitioning away from that one site. I will be posting all my favorite posts and stuff from the “Stranger in Rebellion” Facebook site, then deleting my account. I have also found some old journals that I am going to transfer here. If you are a regular reader and appreciate my character on that one site, please let me know if there are some reasons I should consider not getting away from it, I would like to know and am not fully convinced, but I am transitioning in that way. This is a much better format for me in where I am going, so I hope you might follow me here if you don’t want to be forever away. Thank you, o constant reader, and fellow transitionist, hope to see you soon.

~Stranger

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Today was a completely fantastic day! God is at work in West Plains and especially through the fellowship of Township Line. I still am amazed and thrilled that He brought me into this group to see Him grow bigger and more incredible with every week. And this weekend has just begun.

Thursday we went to the West Plains Motel to hand out some flyers announcing our meeting at the park on Sunday night. The motel is almost all low-income residents and many of them need a little hope in their lives. Our family was the only ones going around and we decided that it might be prudent to ask the office if it was okay to knock on doors and hand out flyers. The lady at the desk didn’t give us approval as she wasn’t the owner, and I was able to leave some in the office. We walked around and talked to some people outside their rooms and told them about our gathering. (If you didn’t know, Township Line is gathering in several different places around the community this summer for meal and services, to get to know people and stretch out our leadership/relational skills.) Many people’s responses were positive and I hope many can come and see a people blessed and sharing the blessing of love and grace He has given us.

Today was another adventure with this group: A woman in our fellowship wanted to have block parties in differing places where some of the members live and serve and present the gospel to children. This was the first morning she had it and it was at her house. She was nervous about getting everything together and that kids would even come. There were a few kids that came and a little late at that. But she needn’t worry as God is at work in His people and what took place honored God and I believe got some of the kids thinking.

The puppet group was invited to do a song and skit that was supposed to be the majority of presentation of the gospel. The puppet group we were involved in at our former gathering, sort of dissolved after the leaders of the team started going to Township Line. (God has seasons in mind not only for His people, but also for those gathering in His name. I have no ill will towards the former fellowship we gathered with, it was just time for us to move on. I’ve never considered it a severed relationship, just a different one. I still love and see many of them and hope for growth and love to grow there.) So we have a few puppets and a new stage was built, so this was the trial run. It was a lot of fun as my wife and two youngest daughters helped out for a song. (My oldest, who started out in the puppet group with me, was taking the ACT, so she wasn’t able to make it.) My wife and I had a skit planned where she stood out front and interacted with a puppet in talking about “Whosoever” shall be saved. Well, since we had such a late start, my wife had to go pick up our oldest from The Test at the time we were going to do the skit. We had a back up plan of one of the guys replacing her. He stood in and was great. He did some ad-libbing; of which my wife was adverse too, and did a great job talking to the kids at the end.

Tonight we had a community dinner that we provide once every few months or so, that people from all over come and enjoy a free meal, and we get to meet them and find out what is going on in their lives. We got there a bit early and people were working and trying to get things prepared. Some kids were underfoot and I proposed to give them all a little walk before people started showing up. Walking down the block, we heard some loud shouting and raucous behavior down a blind alley. Three very tall, shirtless college basketball players came out and I put myself between the kids and these “boys”. As they were past us, I called to them, “Are you guys hungry?” They turned and looked at me and hesitated, then answered the obvious, “Yeah.” I told them we’re having a free meal of steak and hamburgers just down the street and they were invited to come. They said okay, but I wasn’t sure if they’d show. They did show up and brought one of their friends with them. It was great. I got all their name, although I don’t remember any of them, and found out one was from Dayton, another Pittsburgh, and another Atlanta. I wasn’t able to talk to the other one, but I find it incredible when I find out where people came from and then find themselves in little ‘ole West Plains. Some of the other guys from our group got to talk to them and it was wonderful that they came. At the time of their leaving, (with bowls of fruit cobbler and ice cream in their hands), one of them gave me a hug. It was incredible and I’m tearing up now as I type thinking about what a blessing it is to be blessed by someone you don’t even know, nay barely let them pass by as God used my voice to call out an invitation to them. What fun! I met lots of regulars who come to these community dinners and many new faces. This is such a great opportunity to meet people. There was an announcement about tomorrow’s services and some woman I was talking to asked me what denomination we were. I told her we were non-denominational and that we believe in the bible and that Jesus is our savior and died for us and we don’t have to do anything but accept His gift of mercy and forgiveness to be with Him forever, but that doesn’t mean we can do what we want, our lives should reflect the thankfulness we have and shared with those in the community and that is why we have these dinners. She was smiling and very interested, then told me she was a Catholic. I told her a little bit of my background, growing up Catholic in SLC. I told her she should come tomorrow and she said she would hope to.

God is so good. I’m reeling with joy. My cup overflows. I am so thrilled to be part of this work and I am continually praying for His Spirit to move in and through His people here in West Plains. I have shared with some of those in our former group about this summer movement and invited them. Many are enthusiastic and say they will come, some worry that it will look bad to gather with those not of their group. I praise God that one day all division will be wiped away and we can come to Him under His banner and praise His Name forever and always. Amen. And please continue to pray for this time, thank you.

Even in this dark time when there is so much uncertainty, and I watch the news and feel depressed and distressed, I know God is at work in the little things, the small bits, and it grows and grows. Thank you God.

~Stranger

(Author’s Note: I won’t be writing Sunday Scrutinizations for the summer because in addition to my flyer/dissemination leadership duties, I will also be with the kids during the actual sermon time, but I will be writing about what is going on and hopefully interview the people in leadership in this movement.)

Seeing Specks Through the Log

Strange Confessions: I grow weary of what others are critical of others for and thus grow weary of myself…

I know, I know. Sounds confusing, but I realize that I’m in a circular mess in which the thing that I’ve been bothered by lately is in turn something I should examine within myself. First, as always, a little bit of background and reasons why I come to where I am now.

I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, which as most of you know is a bastion of Mormonism. I, however, was a Catholic. Many of the things I saw my Catholic friends and family doing was done in direct opposition to what might be expected of a Mormon. For example, coffee, to a Mormon, is regularly regarded as a forbidden drink, so, perhaps, a Catholic, being a religious type person, and not wanting to be associated, thought of, or regarded as a Mormon, will regularly and in public consume mass quantities of the stuff just to show the world how un-Mormon they really are. (Wow that sentence has a lot of commas in it. I wonder if my English major friend will judge my work harshly by the mass quantities of commas used in that last sentence.) I assume that many a religion has an averse relationship to itself because of the culture that surrounds it, as it was in many ways that I witnessed in SLC.

When I became a Christian, I found out more about how Mormonism came about and their beliefs. As I talked more to Mormons I realized that many of them did not know what they really believed. A common remark that Mormons would utter when faced with a question they could not answer was, “You should talk to one of our elders.” Many Mormons understood life as presenting to the world a facade of goodness, pleasantness, rightness and a surety in all the those behaviors. Yet they couldn’t say why they did certain things, where those ideas came from, or whether or not those things were actually laws in their code or just things to try to do. They were in fact what I would call, a Cultural Mormon. I felt sad for them because they were as Reb Tevye, strolling down the ways, singing praises to Tradition, yet not nearly as flexible in their thinking as our sad hero of “Fiddler on the Roof”. They would not be moved. Which in some ways is a good thing, but when it comes to reasonable dialogue, there is a wall that is very difficult to breach.

As I moved to the “Bible Belt” I saw the same thing, yet from the Christian standpoint. We all hear about those who understand our faith to just be a Sunday-only, self-righteous and condemning belief system, but I saw a little more of it here than out in Mormon country. Mormons tended to judge each other by how much less their “brother” was doing the “right” thing. When you get into a culture that emphasizes a right way to live within yourself, you tend to get people who look at all others behaviors in minute detail. We as Christians should live in such a way that we know the right thing to do and understand the fact that we really can’t do any good in our own strength and so better the relationship with Him who works through us so that the natural behavior that comes out is improving every day because of how much we know our God and how thankful we are to Him. Many times though, unconsciously, we fail and fail, again and again in the same area that we forget our God and the power we can draw from Him. We begin judging ourselves against what others are doing or not doing, much as the Mormon is bound to do. They have a hopeless religion where more and more they have to compare and contrast themselves to others. We have a faith that says He is able to complete in us what He began; and that is our sanctification: the way we display the fruits of the spirit more and more the closer we get to Him.

And so comes to my point: One of the first examples, of what can come about in this culture, I witnessed, was a woman who left a church angry because someone wouldn’t give her the money she believed the person should have given her, because after all: he was a Christian. I see that a lot. People who are frustrated with another believer because they believe that those others are not fulfilling their Christian responsibility. “How should we deal with those who aren’t behaving like Christians?” I hear. Now, it is one thing to call someone out for committing adultery, it is quite another to call out someone for not giving money when they were called to. We do not know what other people are called to or not. It is not their story we are living out, but ours. We should look at our motivations, our attitudes. I see it on Facebook; how someone generally calls out people because they suck, or are evil, or are mean. Like we should be surprised. Posting a general statement about how evil people are does not help any situation, nor does it display any type of love, compassion or understanding that we should display as Christians. I say this not to hurt but just to remind you who you are, and that the world is watching.

There is one place in the Bible that it tells us about dealing with someone who may not see as clearly. It is when Jesus told us that before we deal with the speck in someone else’s eye, we should take care of the log in our own. It hit me today that it is not described as a log because our problems are bigger than others, but because dealing with our own issues if INFINITELY more important than dealing with others.

I see that I may be trying to deal with someone’s speck in their eye and not looking at my own log, but perhaps I need look at the situation in the same way I see my driving. I have come to view other drivers as an individual that is going through something I may not understand. Maybe they are slow because of a death in the family. Maybe they are rushing because this is the last opportunity to proclaim their love to someone before they fly off to Japan. I don’t know what is going on in people’s lives, and maybe they shouldn’t post generic angry stuff on that one site, but that doesn’t mean I should get upset with them. God deals with us all in a variety of ways. May I always be reminded to examine myself when I see the specks in others eyes.

~Stranger

One Year of Stranger in Rebellion on wordpress

It has been a while since I wrote anything on here, and today when I got on I had a notification award of one year of Stranger in Rebellion. Almost a month has it been since I wrote my last post, honoring my Mother for Mother’s Day. Usually I come back from being on hiatus for a while depressed, sorely needing something to say, and eager to get back on the bus. But not lately. Sure I’ve had a lot I’ve had wanted to write about in regards to popular culture and sermons I’ve heard and writing about all the stuff I see friends posting on that one site. It just hasn’t been pressing me as of late. Even as I sit here trying to remember all the things I’ve wanted to ponder upon through words, it just kind of fades like smoke, dissipating into a dark sky, and you’re not really sure if you really thought about it at all.

So, in the spirit of a writing anniversary, let’s do a quick Stranger in Rebellion year in review, and perhaps this little exercise will get the smoothies flowing again.

As a quick history, the “Strange Confessions” started on May 17, 2012 on my personal “that one site” page. On December 9 of the same year, I started the “Stranger in Rebellion” blog on that same, “that one site.” (Reminder: I say “that one site” because it drives me a little crazy when, in normal conversation, people give the casual aside, “I saw this (so-and-so) on Facebook.)

Then on June 2, 2013 this started. I have written 97 posts and have 79 followers. The most visits in one day was 68, which was December 1st, 2013, and that was when I wrote this article, but the previous day’s article, has the most reads, that being 24. I have an unfinished project in which I answer the 15 most ridiculous college application questions, inspired by this article, in which I am stuck on this question: “St. Mary’s College is casting for the incoming class. Send us your audition tape via the Web or DVD. Please provide us with the site for posting. Selection of this option will stand as your college essay. Consider your audience.” I’ve considered just skipping it, but that just wouldn’t be fair now, would it? Interestingly enough, this article, is one that most people come across when they do general web searches. I suppose it has something to do with the tags that include, aliens, dinosaurs and robots. That was one of my most favorite writes as well. Go ahead and read it if you haven’t. I am eager to get back to finishing this project, so I may skip the video, and then come back later.

Since I started writing I have had great spiritual growth due to a loving and open group of believers we meet with every Tuesday night, and have started going to a church that is small and challenging, which has inspired me to write summaries of what I have been learning. That is something I need to get back to again. Our Sunday group fellowship, or church as I’m uncomfortable in calling it, has taken on the challenge of going to the streets this summer. You can check it here, please do. Many of us have been called to be leaders in specific roles during this time, and I have been chosen as distribution/dissemination leader before we meet in various places in the community. We go door-to-door or where people gather and hand out flyers explaining our purpose. We hide nothing in this as it says that as followers of Christ, we have a duty to go into the community and share the love and joy that comes from knowing Him. It is a very exciting time and much prayer is needed as we will be reminded that we are at War. A war in which the outcome has already been determined, but a war nonetheless.

Writing about these things gets me going and I want to start sharing again. Thanks for you patience and remember to pray for Township Line Church. This is a watershed moment for not only the people, but also for this community. Give God the glory! Thank you Jesus!

~Stranger

P.S. Here is just a fun picture to gain interest as I re-post this on that one site.

Going Back Into the Cave

I consider myself a minor, if not ill-educated philosopher. To me a philosopher is someone who constantly considers their existence and ties what they have so far understood into their purpose, the way they live. I’ve always been interested in philosophy, but never had the patience, the fortitude, nor the astuteness to study and absorb classic ideas of philosophy in the traditional sense. Although, during my, um, ahem… illicit chemical using days, a friend and I had some very deep discussions solving all the troubles of the world. Funny thing is though, I don’t remember any of the solutions. I guess that is what some chemicals do to you. I’ve always been very introspective, which  is probably a qualification for philosophers, except for those epicureans. I imagine them to be quite the extroverts.

Being a Christian doesn’t automatically mean I’ve lost interest in my philosophic tendencies. I have come to the understanding that being a Christian just means you can see these ideas in a more bright light. I was given a book by a friend called “Sophie’s World,” which is an introduction and history of philosophy presented in a fictional account. I’m enjoying the read as it is revealing to me the connections of what those men have come so close to understanding. Many of them have seen that there is more than just this material world we all seem to be trapped in. Especially the early Greek philosophers.

Plato seemed to truly understand that there is a higher plane of knowledge or existence, and the trivial life that we lead outside of philosophic sympathies or in the truest sense, our Christian life is the only thing that gives us meaning and purpose. His explanation of this is played out in the analogy he wrote about a cave. Many ideologies use this story to show that what they believe is true and naysayers will use fear and violence to destroy truth. The truth about it is though is that we have to have the courage to go back into the cave, to reveal the truth to those still in darkness. Check out this cool animation I found regarding the allegory, and it even has the late, great Orson Wells narrating.

You can watch another couple of cool 70’s animations with Welles narrating at this link.

I have told you previously of a friend whose concern for other believers and their lack of obvious concern for the spiritual things of life. They have the answer to what this world is about, that there is something transcendent about our existence. Our previous mediocre mode should have made our life, now renewed, full of joy and pleasure, love and sharing. He understands that what we have a personal and wholly incredible being, a God, The God, inside us, guiding us, and we act like life is just as normal as it always has been. Many of us haven’t lived out our new life in the way God intended it to be. Myself, being a creature of habit and a slow learner, have come up to a strong sense of purpose and knowing how much I am missing only in the past couple of years, with much appreciation to this friend and the others in our current fellowship group.

He lived in Des Moines previously and was involved in a small group that met in each other homes on Sundays. Since he moved here, he has heard God call him to involve himself in a church that he wouldn’t normally be involved in, but that is his ministry: to call brothers and sisters out of the doldrums of what is currently the standard state of affairs of most of us. He has been regularly talking about this to those who show weak spiritual efforts and his discussions have been met with apathy. He is quite discouraged and it reminded me of the allegory of Plato’s Cave.

It is difficult to see people in darkness and know that the truth you have will be met with mocking if not violence. But knowing that your brother doesn’t even care when faced with the truth, really creates a dull ache inside you when that is truly your passion. We are the prisoners in the cave who have been released and see the world as it truly is. Many of us choose to go back into the cave, but not to convince the other prisoners. We look at the path, see what makes the shadows. We sometimes talk to the prisoners about the possibility of another life, but we are still living like prisoners. Sometimes we even stoke the fires, trying to make the shadows more clear. It is still comfortable in the cave to us. Involvement in sitting down and looking at the world as we know it sometimes even remembering how it was to know nothing more than we use to is a temptation we give into.

It is time to go back into the cave and pull those brothers and sisters out again, remind them who they are, that God still has great plans for them. We need to tell them about our great future of being children of God. Perhaps, we surmised, that we think Heaven is going to be one forever lasting church service. That the thing we experience, or sometimes just barely tolerate, on Sunday mornings is a forever thing that is the only thing we have to look forward to. Another book that I’m reading, “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn, is just the thing to reveal a grander heaven than that we sometimes imagine. If we just continue accepting status quo, we will always just wallow in self-pity, in mediocrity. Let us spur each other on to good works. We don’t want each other to be the most difficult task in our way. Remember who you are, where you are going. Remind yourself with His word and other good books.

~Stranger

Disillusioned: My “Final” Say on Politics

I am disillusioned by politics and I wish more people would become as disillusioned as well. The opportunity is there, they just have to snatch it and hold it close. There is no shame in that. I’m not calling for people not to participate in the political system, but to just not expect that your particular party is doing what you voted and/or expected them to do. I have been disillusioned since the middle of George W Bush’s first term. I would have considered myself a liberal by the time I became politically aware; sometime in high school. Calling myself, at the time, politically aware is a misnomer. The only thing I was aware of was that Reagan was evil, at least that is what I heard, or thought, or understood. Come to think of it, I don’t know where I got that idea. I just somehow knew he hated the environment, women, poor people and peace: of course he was evil. Opinions change.

My political understanding eventually came under the influence of my new-found faith as well listening to talk radio. I regarded life, and accountability and responsibility above all things when it came to politics, and I saw liberals as having none of those qualities. I went from one political spectrum to the other in a matter of months. When on one side, I dismissed any ideals of the other. That all started to change after GWB began throwing money at stuff to try to fix it. I soon realized that Republicans were no champion of the nation, the state, the individual. They didn’t provide the hope or ideal that they were supposed to be propagating to their constituents. Now that I see such a perceived failure of the other side, I expect many who follow the personality in charge to fall away in droves, following the tact of a reasonable person to realize no political party can truly accomplish what the ideals are set apart to be. It seems, that this is not the case. Many are sticking like the stubborn symbol representative of their party. Come on people! Step away from the politicking mass and fight for reason! Alas, in my disillusion, I seem to be standing alone. Nothing really changes, just the names and whether or not there is a D or an R following.

I see though that a healthy dose of disillusionment is what sets a reasonable, accountable, responsible person apart from a fanatic. Democrats are, it seems for the most part, fanatics. Yes, there are some Republican fanatics, but they are not trying to shut down the voice of the other side. Liberals are viciously trying to shut down conversations on abortion, on creation, on rights, on health choice, on religious liberty. They are unwittingly shutting down our freedoms. They don’t see that forcing people to accept what they are offering, that they are shutting down choice, and freedom. They are amazingly proud of their president, but can’t really say why, but don’t ask them, for it is an attack and you’ll be deemed a racist. You think perhaps I may be exaggerating a bit? I visit many popular culture websites, ones that deal with science and science fiction, fantasy and the “Con” life, movies and television, discoveries and history, comedy and the drudgery of life. Some headlines of articles that deal with the political stance of a cultural issue have words like “Idiots,” “Evil,” “Hate,” “Stupid” forgoing to end an argument by calling the particular conservative names. If you are any type of conservative you know what I’m talking about.

I really try to stay out of the arguments. In fact, on that one site, I have chosen to stay out of politics altogether, except for this one last political blog that I will link to. I’ve had some rather unfortunate situations occur with relatives and friends that I never intended. That one site is not necessarily the forum for civil discussion. So, what I want to say, needs to be said, then I’ll try to keep my peace.

First off let me say that I don’t hate anyone. I may get furious at the driver who is intent on not following any rules of spacing between cars at any miles per hour, but I don’t hate them. Nor do I hate your lifestyle choices. I don’t hate the person who believes life is less important than casual sex. In the same way I don’t hate the person who finds my belief in God and His creation, insane, and at the same time insults and degrades Him. No one is trying to stop you in your lifestyle or beliefs, at least no one who is reasonable. I want to encourage healthy debates. For me those choices are meted out on a personal and individual level. If you ask me what I think or feel or believe, I’ll tell you, and I’d like to know more about why you have chosen the way you think, feel and believe. If there is one thing I am, it is open, to hearing about you. I find it the most interesting thing, to find out why people believe what they believe; it is a part of our heritage, our culture.

Setting the healthcare issue aside, as well as foreign policy, wealth redistribution, immigration, non bi-partisanship, education, and Constitutional issues, this current president has done a fine job. I’d commend him on something specific that was worth standing up and cheering for, but one alludes me right now. The actions taken on the issue of marriage, of the current government, is what has brought me out of my political bomb shelter.

A conservative such as myself, may be seen by history as such a one as the KKK is seen now, if we do not bring the argument to a reasonable transcendence as to why we understand marriage in the way it was created. Within that statement lies the main problem: “created”. “One man, one woman,” we shout from the trenches. Others are more calm and willing to reason, but are rarely heard. For me, marriage is a sacred word. God gave it as a gift for mankind, as a symbol of what our individual relationship to Him is to be like as well as to propagate the species of man. If two women or two men are born or develop a strong sense of oneness between each other, and feel that someone of the same-sex will fulfill a purpose or completeness within them, then I am happy for them. I will not disparage or fight against what they deem fulfilling. Let us set aside why they may have come to be this way, for this conversation is about the term: marriage. Call their relationship what you will, make a new term, for marriage has already been taken. Yes, I understand the desire for acceptance of society and co-opting the word will hasten the day. The abuse that many have suffered in the name of religion, morality and normality is shameful, within all aspects of race, culture or creed. We should be just as loving and forgiving as our heavenly Father. Yes, I believe that actions and thoughts regarding what many a couple do behind closed doors or sometimes even out in the open is sin. I, am a sinner. A sinner who has been given Life and Life abundantly. God has and is still dealing with me in many areas of my life marred by my choice to sin, whether in action or thought. He deals with me on an individual level. What may be something I accept as good in my life may be seen as sinful to someone else. I fully expect God to deal with me or the person who sees me as sinning, to change our hearts and attitudes to His right and true way of thinking. If He does not do it here, than He will definitely in the life to come, when we will finally face Him. Many of my fellow Christians would never see a homosexual having the ability to truly come to Him, but I do not. God draws whom He will and those will have a choice, and God will accept them into His family, as they are. If God sees it necessary to change people after they come to Him, He will do so, or they will be in rebellion against Him. He is accepting and willing that all will come to Him and He has made it ultimately possible because of Him coming as a man and facing all temptation as man faces. It is on an individual basis that God changes, not corporately. He will never force you to come to Him, for that is not love.

Speaking of forcing, it seems that is what is happening to us conservatives. We are being forced to accept that what God has given as sacred is being used as political fodder to force an acceptance of what is sin. I hope I am not the only one speaking in such a way, trying to reason, to present our side. What I do think is happening is that some may see an article on homosexual marriage, find out the author’s perspective is conservative than dismiss it out of hand. I saw a video the other day of a conservative group on a college campus trying to interview participants of a Feminist conference. Someone found out the interviewer was from a conservative group and started telling everyone not to talk to her because of her background. She was followed around and as soon as she found someone to talk to, participants would tell the interviewees and mouths would close. Was that reasonable? It was a disgrace is what it was. That is what is happening today. Civil dialogue is being thrown out the window for shouting down your opponent. Battles are being won by insults. It makes me sad, very sad to what our freedoms has brought us: bondage. There is coming a day that what I say here will be marked as hate speech. It is already in some progressive European countries. Woe to us who have for so long given ground in the culture war, because of apathy and poor arguments, yet this is the way it was dictated to go. We have suffered too long contemplating self. This country was so great our only opportunity was self-examination. Let us look to the opportunities of not staring at our own navels. Go into the world and see what we so take for granted. Show the love God has poured out to us, if not for God than whatever you are thankful for and put it toward… not focusing so much on ourselves.

This started out as a statement I just needed to say regarding the horrifying political climate of today, but has grown into something I did not expect. I pray for this country and the relationship we have with each other, that we can talk again, share ideas and thoughts and why we do what we do or believe what we believe. It hurts me to think that so many relationships have been severed because of who is elected or what laws have been passed, but it doesn’t surprise me because even within the Christian community divorcing each other over the color of the carpet. I look toward the day when all will be made right. I look to the day where I am shown the error in my thoughts and deeds. I look to the day when all nations and cultures will gather at His feet praising Him and His works and His justice and His righteousness, in true unity and true diversity. I pray that we Christians will look beyond our own personal preferences and just desire to share the love that God wants us all to display, because He made us and loves us just as He intended us to be. Thank You God, thank You!

~Stranger

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