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The Ice Bucket Challenge and the Cynic

Cynic: a person who has negative opinions about other people and about the things people do; especially : a person who believes that people are selfish and are only interested in helping themselves

Pessimist: 1.an inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or to expect the worst possible outcome 2a.the doctrine that reality is essentially evil 2b.the doctrine that evil overbalances happiness in life

Hypocrite: a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs

It is so much easier to become a hypocrite when you are a Christian, than opposed to if you were, say, a Satanist. I battle my hypocritical tendencies constantly; analyzing what I say and do, trying to figure if they are in conflict with what I’ve said or done previously or at odds with the Christian life or expectations therein. I mean, it’s a constant battle between your self and who you truly are.

My friend, the Satanist, (I’ve told you about him, here, here and a little bit here) doesn’t  have to worry about being a hypocrite. I couldn’t guarantee the thought here, but it probably is a virtue to be hypocritical in the Satanist’s belief.

I enjoyed watching the classic television show The Addams Family, but was constantly confused by aspect of them enjoying the darker side of life while displaying attributes of loyalty, hospitality, friendship, patience; you know those things that are generally seen as positive or “lighter”. It was all so hypocritical and I couldn’t assimilate those conflicting behaviors in my young mind.

I still enjoy the “darker” things in life, such as reading horror novels or watching The Addams Family or listening to music that isn’t generally accepted by mainstream Christianity. I don’t think that makes me hypocritical, but some would disagree.

Which brings me to the point I have here. It all started with this whole “Ice Bucket Challenge.” In the early days of this summer I saw a few of these videos and it quickly reached a crescendo a few weeks ago. (Incidentally, I consider myself a sort of pop culture maven and will begin writing more analysis and thoughts here.) I found the videos fine and never really considered the typical/unpopular goofball such as myself to be challenged to do it. After all, these were cultural icons who were making a fool of themselves all for a good cause. Now don’t get me wrong, they aren’t fools for doing this, but allowing them to look the fool, being wet and cold and in some ways vulnerable, eventually brought about the idea of ALS to the forefront of international debate. It worked! Granted there are much more important causes to educate the world about; slavery, feeding the starving. But, that is just my opinion. Apparently this has raised over $40 million. These superstars are one upping each other on the creativity factor of which they can relate to the common man. This is now, officially, a cultural phenomenon. Even at my work’s social network site, they have a page dedicated to people dumping ice water all over themselves. Fortunately, I, nor my team, have been challenged yet because we are so far away from any corporate office that we are always forgotten. Always.

Then my brother challenged me. His boys dumped the bucket on his head and they had a lot of fun. I initially rejected the idea to do it, but thought that I could make some sort of statement and have my kids have fun with it at the same time. I wanted to say that who follows up with all these people who don’t accept the challenge. Is there some ALS Ice Bucket Police force making sure you get your donation in for not humiliating yourself. I saw the Super-Star as relating and us, and we, just humiliating ourselves. It needed to be more than just me dumping ice on my head. So, I did it and found myself forgetting all the things I wanted to say.

Sure, it was ridiculous and I knew that my participation in it would have the effect of nil or negative nil on the cause (that I necessarily didn’t care anything about), but my kids had fun and my wife even smiled about it. I posted it on that one site. I wasn’t going to keep it up long as I knew those I challenged would probably do nothing about it, (which was true) and it was just something that was a flash in the pan for me.

The next day my Satanic friend posts:

“I was going to ask someone what all this stuff about dumping water on people was about, but then, like an offensive Fbook post, I decided against it, as I don’t care. I reached this decision after concluding that humans are being led around like mindless sheep (as per usual), but probably never so bad as it is these days.”

Him and I agreed on one major point in High School: People Suck. This is what kept us together, our mutual feelings of how much better we were than everyone else. Nobody’s opinion mattered above our own. Since then, I believe I’ve grown the wiser in trying to understand people’s motivations and beliefs. Although there IS a lot of right actions with altruistic beginnings, people are still fallible and will make wrong choices even when they think they are right. I do believe we are all sheep. All of us. We have our own flock and do things for our flocks approval. He doesn’t realize the choices he makes are because of who he is, which is a series of experiences and related thoughts and actions he took because of them. He believes himself unique in his ideas and doesn’t realize that all those people agreeing with him are his flock and he is the mindless one seeking approval. I, wanting to answer, began typing something to this effect in the comments, but I didn’t want to start something that would never be finished. So I posted a general post regarding my thoughts on sheep and our sheeplike behavior. My Satanic friend then posts a huge rant about all these other problems in this world and how all these people think it is Obama’s fault, and how he never bashes religion, but makes scathing comments. It was basically our back and forth jibes at one another.

Then I see my brother-in-law going off on people who are dissing those who are taking the ice bucket challenge. And yet someone else as well. Who knew that dumping water on your head could cause such division and rants!? I deleted all the applicable posts and cemented the idea to get rid of my FB, that I’ve been toying with for a while.

My friend believes that being a mindless sheep is getting more prevalent these days, but he doesn’t consider division through this social media and snippets of news feeding the fire, as the main culprit for our increasing sheepiness. We need to read full articles. We need to consider differing opinions, (not meaning being so open-minded that we accept everything). We need to ask each other “Why?” in a sincere, inquisitive way. We need to stop being so offended and defensive. But, alas my pessimistic side believes that this will never get better, only worse.

After all this rigmarole, I posted this:

“Visited a youth group tonight that a friend is heading up and I enjoyed the discussion leading to seeking out Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT), and how that ties into the purposes of our life. Like a lot of the churches around here, most of the kids are bused in and are there mostly to socialize. My eldest daughter came with me and told me after, that it is hard to believe that she could relate to these other young adults. She is shy around new people, much like me, and those kids are brash, loud and seemingly overconfident. I told her that their behavior is an indication that deep down they are probably scared and uncertain. I went on to explain that most of these kids probably don’t have many good role models or possibly parents or even people who care. We can’t believe things about people by just what they choose to reveal to the world. We can’t think we understand who they are by what they do among their peers. Then I went off on a rant about how sad this world has become because we believe things about others without knowing them, and feel our anger, resentment and/or violence is justified because of how much we suffered in the past or our people suffered hundreds of years ago. Then we assume we could control ourselves in that situation and suddenly realize that we have never been in their shoes so how can we understand. “Some men just want to watch the world burn,” goes off in my head. Maybe all people don’t want to be understood, at least by those who aren’t a part of their group. I see those kids, and I pray for them that they will gain knowledge of who they are, what gifts they’ve been given, and think about life, and the world and their purpose in it. That is where I am the optimist. I believe that you can reach those kids through love and connections of a transcendent nature, seeing that the world is beyond them. But then I see the world and how we aren’t getting any better, so what hope do they have when we can just sit back and watch it all come crashing down. My optimism wanes… but in their eyes you see some connections being made, ideas being sprung, and there is hope. Love your kids, find those who don’t have a mother or a father. Be those people who care, bring hope into their eyes. Change the future for them. We can provide hope with an outstretched hand. We can provide hope with laughter or a tear. I see nothing new about what is happening in this world, but those kids are new, and we can make a difference.”

In all this, I wonder about cynicism, pessimism, and hypocrites. Although in many ways I am a pessimist, I realize that I am not a cynic; thank goodness. But the majority of pessimists are turning to cynicism, and that is what is dividing us. Find out people’s motivations, make your world a little more closer. A little more friendly perhaps?

~Stranger

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Sunday Scrutinization: Utah is a Far Away and Dark Land

This morning my eldest daughter and I made our way to a congregation we weren’t familiar with to listen to and hopefully meet a guy who was on his way to the deepest, darkest jungles of SouthCentralWestern United States, known as Salt Lake City. A friend from our current fellowship brought me into the know that such a one as this was speaking there, and since he knew I was intimately familiar with the locale, he correctly assumed the level of my interest.

In trying to find out more about this other church, I felt a pang of regret in not taking advantage of this summer’s foray into night services by visiting other fellowships and witnessing God’s hand in the goings and comings therein. And in that, I remembered a discussion with a couple the other night about “cherry-picking” your favorite stuff among the churches you live nearby. Our friends are ones that have come to the current fellowship we are a part of, as well as being members of the previous large group we were attending. They are still participating in ministries there as well as being a part of the new, and have even participated in other congregations activities when there was an opportunity and God was leading them there. *Gasp!* There was accusation that they are “cherry-picking” the favorite things to be a part of wherever that may be. They were told that if you have chosen your church, then you must minister within the programs offered by that church. They obviously, respectfully disagreed. We are a part of the Church of West Plains, and we want to be where God is, no matter the congregation, fellowship, or denomination. That being said, we really want to have that kind of vision, and hope that others see things in the same way. In passing out flyers this summer, inviting people as a community to the fellowship meeting we have been doing, one of these things that stuck out in my mind was people not accepting the flyer stating that they already went to church.

Ouch.

How can we envision His Church in this way? You have yours, and I have mine, and may the two never meet. So I was glad to sit in on a service that baptized a baby (*Gasp!*) and meet a man who has such a heart for the lost. People said they were glad I was there. And you know what? I was glad to be there too, even when they don’t believe everything I do. The heart of Christ was central to our gathering, to the reasons we were all there, that morning.

As you all know, I grew up Catholic in Salt Lake City and became an evangelical Christian in my early to mid-twenties. The people I knew there were all Christians. We were part of an Awana group that came from all over the valley. We had Bible studies, fellowship dinners, retreats, all with other believers. The non-believers I knew of were my family and my coworkers (about 4 guys). I grew up there, knew the town, the places and surroundings. It is a bright and beautiful place for me. So when I heard the introductions for this man and what he spoke about, they made Salt Lake City or Utah in general sound like this faraway foreign land where people have dark hearts and lead dark lives.

How could they speak of my hometown in such a way? Then he gave some statistics: only 2% of Salt Lake is Christian. Given that just a few years ago Salt Lake hit the one million population mark, that means that there are only about 20,000 people there are Christian. Hmmm… that sounds like a lot to me. So then there are at least 800,000 people who are not. Wow. Okay, I’m getting a little of the picture here. He said he was going to be in Lehi, which is just North of Provo, home of BYU, and that Provo only had about 24 churches. That sounds like a lot. I did some searching for how many churches might be in the Salt Lake Valley, but couldn’t find any exact numbers, but I would guess from around 150-200 churches, and again, that sounds like a lot to me. But then I did a search for how many churches are in the West Plains area, where I live now, and see that online I come up with about 50, some people have told me 75. If we take the entire population of Howell County, in which West Plains is the county seat, of 40,000 then number of churches in West Plains alone is 1 per 530 people, but just taking West Plains population it is 1 church for every 160 people! An incredible number. If my guess is right about Salt Lake, then they have 1 church for every 5,000 people, or about 1 church for every 100 Christians.

Looking up the estimates of Christians in China, they have about 3% of the population. It’s no wonder there is a trend to send Church planters there to my little hometown of Salt Lake. It makes me wonder why I left… oh yeah, it’s because I was so comfortable there. I needed to get out and get challenged, to grow and to trust in God way more than I ever could in Salt Lake. Those people who are being sent to Salt Lake to plant churches better be prepared to be uncomfortable. I admire them and hope that I can be a support to them, which I am trying to do now. There is an expertise I have when it comes to going to Salt Lake and I hope people might rely on me in little ways in that, and I hope those that I know there can support them as well. There is a great work of God happening there, what with Ravi Zacharias speaking for a second time in the Mormon tabernacle and the nations evangelicals turning their eyes to the lost, I pray for them and hope you will too. And if you are a friend in Utah and would like to be connected to these folks, don’t hesitate to let me know. We could all use some small bits of support.

Oh, and if I may interject the best resource here for witnessing to Mormons, it is this book. You can find it at the best resources for Christians in Utah: Utah Lighthouse Ministry. There is a right way, and a wrong way to witness to Mormons.

According to a Mormon, Contention is from the devil. Why would they listen to you with signs like this?

Don’t be these people.

Build a relationship first.

~Stranger

Sunday Scrutinizations: Freedom from Idolatry, Part II

There has been a question posed to me about how I get rid of the idols in my life. I realize that in the previous post I may have not been as clear as I always am in my own head. The response to idols in the sermon is to realize the love of God for you, dwell on it, read about it, make it your own. That seems to be the indication in verse 9 of Galatians 4: “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?” If we know or have known what God has done for us, how is it that we maintain our idols, our sin? We will never fully rid ourselves of the sin nor the cause for it until the great uniting, but our sin should be dwindling, growing steadily smaller, making itself less of a nuisance in your life than it did, say last year or twenty years ago. The thing about believing in the love of God and what it does for you is a difficult and yet simple thing to understand, and as I thought about the question that was asked of me, it became clear. So I’m a gonna dole out some fine wisdom to you right here and now…

But first, of course, a little background of thought that led me to these things. I am reading a series of books right now called the Codex Alera. Okay, you’re wondering how a science fiction series can explain simply about the how we fully grasp the love God has for us, but just be patient; I’ll get there. After all, God communicates with us in many different ways, which is sort of my point… So anyway, there is a race of people called the Marat. These people are divided by tribes in which they have a certain animal that they can bond with, they discover what tribe they are a part of in their teenage years. Their needs and desires, lead them to be a part of that tribe. They aren’t even referred to as male or female until a choice is made or a test given, they are whelps until they day they become part of a tribe. For example, Kitai is a whelp of the Gargant clan, (a gargant is like a large elephant I’m guessing). Her father is of this clan, he is largely built, strong, stubborn, is a homebody and is very much humor filled, much like the gargants. Her mother, who has died, was part of the Horse clan. Horse clan types are tall, muscular, and have a strong desire to roam, to see what is over the horizon. During a trial, Kitai’s life is saved by a human boy, Tavi, whom she has a strong contempt for, but still very much interests her. Because of the boy’s actions, Kitai’s eye color changes to match Tavi’s, indicating that she has joined a tribe, a unestablished tribe, but a tribe nonetheless. She is alone, brought there by her interest in Tavi and being saved by him. She now has a vast amount of knowledge to take in because no Marat has ever existed in human culture.

I was just reading this last night and it struck me how this connection of the Marat is similar to our connection with God. God does not connect with all of us in the same way. Some people make deep inner connections and reflections by keeping a journal. Some see God in the love they see in their children’s eyes. Others can just open the bible and make that strong connection there. Relationships with a spouse may be God’s redeeming connection to some. In all these things we see God, we are thankful to Him, but there is something in all of us that we have to find for ourselves that truly makes that ultimate connection in seeing how utterly in love God is with us as an individual. For me, it is the stars. Standing outside in the middle of the night, looking up and seeing the vastness of everything else that is not me, forces me to contemplate how completely worthy of awe my God is, and what it took for the Creator of the universe to visit my heart and make His residence in me. Stars. I can’t fully explain the amazing power God reveals to me by looking at the sky, because it is just for me. Just like you might not be able to explain how God connects with you. We are all unique in the way He created with us and we have to find the way He reveals to us who He is. That is probably why some people might not find that, or don’t see a relationship with God as something as life-transforming as it is supposed to be. They become Christian and someone tells them to start writing down what they learn, and they lose interest, and don’t find the Christian life that exciting. Go out there and discover what your connection is with the savior, think about how exciting life can be when you know the end, and that He is waiting for you in the place you can connect best with Him.

~Stranger

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

Sunday Scrutinization: Tomorrow Needs to be Today

I am overwhelmed right now. Overwhelmed by what God has done and is right now, doing in my life. Everything is connecting and meshing in a way I had not expected several years ago. This is something I feel inadequate in expressing. I can be self-deprecating. I can make excuses that it is hard for me to connect with others. I can manipulate. I can be humorous like dry white wine with a lemon infusion. I can hide. I can forget about my hope. I can do many things. But, explaining my love, my fear, my hope and my total amazement at what is going on in what I have been learning.

I recently learned that there have been several people who have been secretly reading this blog and especially this segment. I don’t know if they like the expression of what I’ve learned, or perhaps seeing a teaching from a different point of view, or they like my writings(?), or something else, so writing this jumble of thoughts might not connect with the normal reader. I’m just going to summarize some of the specific things I have learned and my thoughts on what they mean to me right now.

Funnels. Spirals. Sunday’s sermon started with funnels. One stem up, one stem down. Two church views. One view: the majority of Christians enter the large part of the funnel, the church, and make smaller, core groups that in turn minister to the needy church. The result: the church remains self-focusing, relying on the committed to keep a tenuous hold on the Christian community that could disappear like smoke. Second view: a committed, smaller core of community believers are part of the church that goes out from the church into the world to minister, to witness, to spread the gospel. Sure, it doesn’t stand up on all three legs, but you get it right? The spirals were introduced in the second lesson of Perspectives and is a very similar idea. One view: church in the middle an arrow spiraling toward it, the idea is the church is relying on its attraction so people will come and know God because of the people. Second view: church in the middle arrow spiraling outward. Obvious conclusion this is optimal because we go. We go. Which is the whole point of what I am hearing in my ear and in my heart. As John Zumwalt said last night, we are the only seed that resists being scattered. He made motions of throwing said and said, “Go!” and looked at his hand like the seed stuck. “Go!” he called and threw again looking at his unscattered seed. How long have I been resisting the command to go? He also spoke of the sower piling all his seed up for acres of field in the corner. How long have I stayed in the comfort of my own little pile of seed? We are the seed. We are meant to be scattered. My wife and I have talked about that we have possibly made the first and hardest step of being scattered. That West Plains move was being pulled from the plant in preparation for a more difficult scattering. This is our preparation. We are understanding that we need to go. I don’t know where, I don’t know when. But this is the beginning, the beginning of understanding that for too long we have been complacent and, this is hard, not obeyed the Lord.

Listening to John Zumwalt last night I realized something at one point and I wrote it down. Here it is: “My resistance to feel is because I feel I’m being manipulated. I have to understand that God will not manipulate me, but that I will move when I hear/feel You.”

How often have I felt God moving me to compassion and just understood that this person is just manipulating me!? Do you understand what I’m saying here? Someone spoke and I begin to feel compassion, mercy, understanding and shut it down because I felt I was being manipulated! That is Satan, and I rebuke this feeling and pray that the Lord would breakthrough and tell me the mercy, compassion and understanding is from Him, like He did last night. He spoke of the young girls in Mumbai, and whose feet are going to go there and save them from the sex-slave life they are doomed to live. Earlier in the night a question was posed, has God laid on your heart a country or people group to begin to pray for. He hasn’t laid any specific people on my heart, but throughout the night, young people’s situations kept coming to my mind, even before his speaking about the girls in Mumbai. During the break I was speaking with a couple of guys about this and we were talking about how the Super Bowl is a dark spot in our country right now. This weekend represents the highest sex-trafficking in our country. Where is the outrage? The news media? We ignore what is going on in our own country and once in a while talk about those distant parts of the world, that we might react to, may give money, or some care and good thoughts go out. Children are being bought and sold around the world and in this country. I have this bitterness welling up in the back of my throat right now, and I didn’t expect to dwell on this so, but perhaps this is where God is leading me, no manipulation needed. Shed a tear for all the innocence Satan has stolen, destroyed and killed. When am I going to say it is time to STAND? What is going on in my own community? Children are growing up in broken homes, not knowing a kind, loving and genuine word all around us. It may be time to get up, get off my seat, move my feet and do what He says. This can’t be tomorrow anymore. How long has God been expecting me to move? To be scattered and show His love, glorify His name, turn around, share His kingdom now!

God get rid of my excuses. Thank You for showing me that it has been You all along. Give me Your compassion. Show me where to go. I have had these works waiting for me from the beginning. You have revealed my gift of relation to younger people for a long time. It’s time to go to the darker parts of this world and reflect Your light to hearts that need Your love, that need purpose. Thank You for giving me Your heart in this. That I have this opportunity to grow with your church, thank You. That I have the opportunity to have my perspective changed, thank You. Get rid of all my excuses. We went through all the worldly difficulties of transfer in this world to train in trust, in trust more in You. You can do anything that needs to happen to this uneducated man, whose heart is growing more and more to glorify You. This family needs your guidance. Help us to know where to go, to know what to say. Guide our feet, be our tongue. In You, in you I find my peace. In You, in you I find my strength. In You, I live and move and breath. Let everything I say and do be founded by my faith in you. I lift up holy hands and sing: Let the praises ring! Oh Lord my God to you I give my hands. Oh Lord my God to you I give my feet. Oh Lord my God to you I give my everything. Take all I am.
Oh Lord my God to you I give my life.

Thank You God. Thank You.

Strange Confessions: My Current Spiritual Relationship Situation

Strange Confessions: I would much rather have a conversation, or hang out with those of the 6-18 year-old set. Adults make me very uncomfortable, and I seriously don’t make it easy for them to talk to me.

Since I became a Christian, I have always known that I have been blessed with the ability to relate with those of the younger type. Back in Utah I would try to recruit people to become an AWANA leader. One of the answers that really surprised me was, “Kids really intimidate me.” I’d stand there, shocked and amused, wondering how in the world kids could expose these people’s insecurities in such a way. Kids are the most honest people on the planet: they have nothing to hide, and they say what is on their mind. It has always been so refreshing to me, to not have to interpret what they are saying, whether or not they have some agenda, or are just trying to make me feel better. I have even had kids tell me that I am fat. It was annoying, but they told me the truth, as they saw it. I enjoy any time I can hang out with kids, finding out about them, playing with them, teaching them, learning from them. It has been a little different here in West Plains, but, you get right down to it, and kids are the same everywhere. I’ve held some pride in this gift and have given God the glory for it. I’ve always believed it was a blessing. Until last week… when I started to question my motivations for avoiding adults.

I’ve talked about in previous posts about another church family joining with the one we have recently become a part of, and  now there are lots of kids in our congregation. Lots of new names to learn. Lots of new friends to find out about. Another commitment I’ve made, when we have joined here, is for me to be more involved in people’s lives. You know, the iron sharpening iron deal, the relationship with peers, the making myself available for discipleship, the being an integral part of our congregation. Essentially, being the hands and feet of our Lord here on earth. I know, I know… perhaps part of that is having a great relationship with the children in the church. But, last week, I annoyed myself.

Before I explain about the crazy thoughts that went on in my head last week, I want to explain again, one of the many purposes of this blog: I write, to find out about myself. I get the idea in my head that I want to tell you something, something short and sweet. But, my brain works out things as I type, and I need to discover something that my subconscious keeps tap-tap-tapping away at my conscious part of the brain about. I need to understand this thing, and I need you to understand this thing too. I started this blog knowing that not many people would actually read this, and that is fine, so when I say “reader” or refer to “you” it just may be me that I am talking about. Well, whatever. I am a strange one, and I’ve never attempted to hide it. So, onward…

We have been having meals after services every week. It has been a chance to share a meal with those who have heard the same sermon we all just listened to, and to discuss our thoughts on it, sharing our lives, concerns and praises. I get my plate, look around the room and pick a spot that looks the most comfortable. The most comfortable is usually a table not full yet, but has people at it who can talk well and are already involved in conversation. I can sit, maybe answer a, “How are you doing?” question or two, but then I just blend in. I’m like camouflage: hidden among my surroundings, keeping the attention away from me. I am a professional conversation divertée: ask me a question, I’ll answer mildly, then ask the person next to me something a bit deeper, transferring attention with ease. I’ve been doing it for years. It’s not that I don’t want to really know people, or let them know me, it’s just that the standard situations we make to figure these things out are incompatible to my personality. Give me a pool table and a pitcher of beer and I’m a go! Set-up a game night where it goes deep into the night, to reveal Mr. Goofy-pants, and we’ve bonded. Take a hike on a strenuous trail together, friends for life… well, for a time: a good time I promise, maybe.

I suppose I had some more to say before I got to what happened last week. Remember? It’s about writing, about finding out more about me… Hmmm… sounds a bit narcissistic, no? Oh well, that was addressed in the last post. Whatever.

There is a lot more kids at church now than there was a few weeks ago, and they go out to play when they quickly eat up their meal. Since there are so many now, some might get in a bit of “trouble” out there. I’ve decided to make myself an adult chaperone. I go out and watch them, organize plays, have a bit of fun myself, talk to them, know them. It felt a bit like an excuse. It is a bit of an excuse. It is so much easier, so much more comfortable, so much more fun; to be with the youngins. My wife even asked me, “Are you ever going to be in with the adults?”

One of the reasons we came to West Plains, is because our life was “easier”, more comfortable in Salt Lake City. We only really knew, I mean, really knew that, was a few years of living here. Now, here I am choosing the easier, comfortable, fun way. Instead of the hard, uncomfortable, work that I need to do, to be the Christian God is calling me to be now; I’m taking the easy, wide road.

And I did it again this week. In fact, a couple of guys came out today to talk to me. They asked me how I was doing, what is going on… I gave the easy answers. I’m feeling a bit ashamed. One of them was the pastor, or head elder, (I still don’t know what to call him), I was about to tell him my thoughts, then my wife came out… probably to save me from some embarrassing statements on my part. I have to get out of this position. But, I have to admit that I don’t really know how to do it. Do I tell them this whole bit? Well, not the “whole” bit, but just my difficulty. I’m feeling like… no, I shouldn’t. I’m not like normal men. So I shouldn’t think that something that separates me from the others would be the thing that binds us. I appreciate where we are now, I just don’t know how to move on.

I have a very fulfilling relationship with the small group I have been a part of for the last couple of years. It has been only the last few months where I have truly been able to open up. Sometimes I believe I’m sharing myself deeply, but for myself, it might have been what I believe they may have wanted to hear. Which may account for some of the depression and lack of desire to attend for the first year or so. I protect myself by being open to the point of driving people away. I see that now… as I write. I do not want to be this way anymore. It is too fake for me. No, nevermind… I am moving beyond this, slowly.

One thing I do know, is that God knows what I need to do. He will lead me and guide me. I thank God that He is on my side, He is even on their side. I know there is no superficiality in their dealings with each other, I want it to be that way for me. Perhaps I do need to be a bit open about what I think, just limit it until things get… easier.

But not too easy.

~Stranger

Auto-Complete Culture

I came across this article the other day. Below is one of the pictures from the story. Yes, there is gender inequality in our world, even in this homogeneous culture in these United States. It seems unfair that the our culture points out this inequality in a Google search “auto-complete”.

The signs that our internet, influenced culture is bringing down the intelligence of this country is obvious if you’ve ever visited one of those Chatbot sites to see the development of artificial intelligence. I believe that these sites analyze responses real people give it from statements it has made. It eventually develops a “personality” reflective of those who “chat” with it. Your conversations with it eventually dwindles down to insults. You can’t expect too much from these conversations, but it is reflective of our culture.

So when someone wants to make a statement about inequality or how unfair it may be or is, in this world for women, using Google’s Auto-Complete is a trifle inaccurate. Especially when it comes to the horrible mistreatment women suffer in other cultures around the world.

Many of these auto-completes are used in comedy/fail blogs because of the ridiculous items that come up. Here is a culture that shuts down any criticisms toward a religion that treats its women like property, and yet can’t stand the traditional views many of us hold because that is what this country is founded on.

Yes, those Google searches may be common, but not because we are looking for reasons to defend unfair actions towards women, but because people ask us or we read about these things and seek answers, perhaps ignorantly, from the internet. I can’t tell you the reasons these searches are common, I can even admit that there are Christians who hold ignorant viewpoints strongly because they want to be right, but the way these are used, is wrong.

Yes, women shouldn’t accept the way things are, or be discriminated against, and they should make their own decisions, and should be seen as equal, as these posters point out: but so should men. So should we all. We live in a world of sin. No attitudes we hold will ever be perfect. Using ridiculous auto-completes to make your point will not take away the idiotic attitudes of us all.

There have always been and always will be people who have good intentions to try to change this world with pithy statements, but only one thing can change people on an individual basis for good. Yet, they will use His name for evil as well. I pray that those who would call upon the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, would share the good news, and He will change us, in His time, and each on an individual level.

I would hope that we could really focus on true inequality in this world, but alas, I read things in His word that tell me this world will get worse, that right will be wrong, that good will be bad.

Lord Jesus, I pray that you would hasten Your return. But that I could do Your work You have for me, while I am still here, joyously. Amen.

~Stranger

Strange Confessions: Destroying My Music

Strange Confessions: I’ve sold or destroyed my Iron Maiden collection several times over the years since I’ve been a Christian because I believed it was an evil influence for me.

Since then I always argue for them, that they are the most misunderstood band ever. I mean take a look at these album covers:

I mean, how did I get away with having this stuff in our house when I was younger? I don’t think my Mom or Dad came in my room while I was listening to my music, to check things out, to see if everything was okay. I, as a parent now, would never not know what my child was listening to.  The things I disapprove my children listening to is Mark Schultz. So why do I argue for Iron Maiden? Because many things I became interested in, in history, mythology, literature, science fiction and British pop-culture, came directly from their songs. They even played songs directly from the Bible. And the songs that did have a bad message or theme, which were few, I didn’t like anyway. I was in High School during the high popularity of the worst themed music ever: Glam Rock. Now take this next album cover for instance:

My older brother owned this piece of garbage.

If I had a son and he was bringing this into the house, then I’d be worried. These Glam Rockers and their ilk, sang about partying, women and their own stupid music. I stayed away from that stuff. Sure there were a couple that made it to my fave list then, some early RATT, a bit of Great White, a sprinkling of Autograph. But, most of it just made me sick. Give me Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, or Judas Priest, or Anthrax, or Grim Reaper, or early Metallica, or my favorite, and still is, Iron Maiden. So why did I sell or destroy my collections? I suppose I fell into some early legalism. I looked at the covers and thought that it wasn’t the kind of stuff a Christian should own. So I sold all my albums or gave them away. Years later, after my wife and I had kids, we joined the Columbia House Club thing, and I got all the Iron Maiden I loved back then, and then some. I still remember sitting at work, looking at the album covers once again, and thinking I don’t want my kids to be swayed by this stuff, or to think that it is okay for a Christian father to own this. I took the CDs in my hand and smashed them on the corner of my desk, breaking them all to pieces, so that I wouldn’t have any reason to keep the cases around. I still regret doing that.

Did you know that one of the members of Iron Maiden is a true Christian? Yep, Nicko McBrain, the self confessed ugly one of the group is a Christian. That’s all right isn’t it? To still like a secular heavy metal band because their drummer is a walking, talking Christian.

You know, it makes me laugh when I hear people say something like, “Did you know [famous person] is a Christian?” and with awe, the answer comes through all breathy, “Really? How wonderful.” And then they are lauded in the Christian community as someone to be upheld, someone to look to.

Yes, that is great and all, but we look up to them almost in an Idolic way. (Is that even a word, “Idolic”). Then they fall from their lofty perch and we say that of course they were never a Christian in the first place. How could that happen to them? If they really were a Christian. I do look up to Nicko though, and even more now that I’ve gotten rid of a lot of the residual legalism that I have been clinging to. But not as an Idol, not as someone to emulate. That role, that right is held solely by my savior Jesus Christ. Now if people are following Him, I will want to follow their example, but it is still Christ who I am upholding, right?

I’ve told my Satanist friend that it is easy to be a Satanist, it’s all about you. When you’re a Christian it’s all about Christ, and it is one of the hardest things to do in this world: to deny your self. These men and women who are in the spotlight are held to such high standards, especially when they claim some form of Christianity or other, they are bound to fail.

I see all these people I idolized when I was younger, now trying to live a life they are still trying to understand, because of all they have been through, but go forward, toward Christ, and I am amazed that they are still going. I admire them for their ability to still make great music and not necessarily have to be a or in a “Christian” band.

I was at the used bookstore the other day and saw this book. It looked very interesting and I almost bought it. I thought, what should I care about what these people believe, when I need to be focusing on what I believe and my relationship with Him. But does our understanding grow when we know the thoughts from those who believe and don’t believe? Why should we care? Are we going to say, guess what so-and-so said about God? Are we? I might. In fact I have. But, why?

I’ll leave you with a band that had one of the worst reputations from that era, my era, who now claims to be Christian. He won’t sing what was his most popular song back then, because of its horrid theme. But, I sure do love this song, and it’s biblical! Who cares? I do…

~Stranger

Should I Stay or Should I Go? A Christian in a Heavy Metal band? (long article).

Strange Confessions: The Inadequacy of Inadequacy

Strange Confessions: Unworthy of what a friend thinks I am, is a strange burden to better myself so I can measure up to his thoughts of me.

So I have a friend whom I greatly admire. He is older than me, I don’t know his exact age but I do know he was in the Vietnam War. He is one of the smartest men I know. He reads history, theology, philosophy. He also is very well-read in fiction; historical, classics, and science fiction. He has a great mind for recall, yet has such a great sense of self-deprecation toward his own memory. He is a part of the family I have gained here in West Plains, of which I am so grateful. Admittedly, he has made people very uncomfortable because of his way of speaking truth: quickly and bluntly. This is a trait that has made me, as well as my wife, love him all the more. I really don’t know what we would be doing without our Tuesday night group, especially him and his family.

I wrote about him on That One Site a while ago, that he has a thing he does to me which makes me want to be a better man. When he is talking about something and is trying to recall something he can’t quite remember, he’ll stop and look at me expectantly, as if I know the answer. If I know what he was looking for, what elation I feel that I met his expectation. But, if I don’t, then I must know it for next time.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to him on the phone, and he asks me if I’ve ever read any Tony Hillerman. I said that I did, but it was quite a few years ago. He told me that I reminded him of a character in the books called “Long Thinker”. I at first thought he was saying, “Long Finger” which made me laugh anyway. When I finally realized that he said “Thinker”, I thought to myself, “Why?” I mean, I am very introspective, but to me, “thinker” implies smart, which I use to think I was, back in grade school. But, he thinks I am a very deep thinker. I’ve come to the realization now, that I am just introspective.

Lately, he has emailed and talked to me about how he has been reading C.S. Lewis again, and asked me if I’ve ever read any. Now, you must understand that much of what I read is for entertainment, I try to grab fiction that I may learn something, but my tastes lean toward the thriller, or some clever, not too deep science-fiction, or the occasional horror. All the stuff that I’ve wanted to read, non-fiction wise, has been historical, social/philosophical, or Christian in nature. At some point in the book I feel like I get the “gist” of the book and can’t make myself go any further. I discovered my friend reading a historical fiction set of novels on Caesar by Conn Iggulden, and checked them out at the library. This stuff was just my style. But when he was talking to me about the essays by Lewis and that I should read them, I, of course, had to. Not out of pride, or some sense obligation, but, because he read it, and thought that I would get a lot out of it too. Well, I picked up one he suggested, and we actually had it: “The Abolition of Man”. I started reading it, and I am having a bit of a hard time with it. I have a hard time trying to connect what thoughts are connecting with what his points are coming across and if it is what he is opposing or for. If you didn’t understand the last sentence, then you have some idea of what I am going through.

I have another friend who is very smart; he is a professor of chemistry at a prestigious university. He may not say it is prestigious, but he’s teaching there, so that makes it so. He is one I greatly admire too; in many similar and different ways. He has figured out how to talk to me in ways I can understand what he is saying without making it sound condescending or that he is impatient in any way. He has so much going on in his world that he even has the time and energy to accomplish all his heavy labors at home, and some great hobbies to boot. Again, he would say that he doesn’t get half the things accomplished that he needs to, but it is way more than I do. A project he started working with me here at home, is still not done. Call me half project man. It probably has something to do with what my Mom always said to me that I wrote about in a previous entry.

Anyway, how do I get to like, befriend, and admire such minds greater than my own? I don’t know. It kind of has always been that way. Not that it has ever been beneficial… wait, that’s not true. I probably would be some doe-eyed doofus, in the closet, sucking my thumb, whimpering about aluminum foil, if I didn’t know these friends I’ve always been attracted to.

This is much the way I feel about God: That He is someone I want to be around because what He has, may rub off on me some. These men in no way think highly of themselves, because otherwise, why would they hang out with me? And, like God, who humbled Himself, just to know me, they have humbled themselves, to be my friend; have a relationship with me.

Thank you God for these men who I can call friends, who are there when I need them. May I be that kind of friend too.

~Stranger

 

Honest Comments On A Previous Post About Previous Posts

I posted a previous posts about how I would like, maybe expect a bit more comments/feedback on my writing. It was late and I was a bit frustrated. I realize that none of you really know me from Adam and could care less if my writing improves or not. Maybe you just like my blog so that I would like your blog.

I remember posting this one post that was extremely Christian in context and immediately I got a like. This post was nowhere near posted long enough for someone to read it, and yet there it was. I looked at this persons blog and realized that there is no way this person read what I posted. Their blog was the complete opposite in nature about what I was posting. There was no way I could read, follow or like anything this person wrote. Being a married, Christian man, with three girls, it would be irresponsible of me to do those things. Why in the world did they do this? For their own profit? Is it that the more you like the more people like your stuff? I mean did this person really have to go like fishing? There are plenty of people who would be interested in the stuff they were writing. I suppose people like that only want to corrupt everything. Someone sees they like such and such, they follow to where they are and, bam! They are lured in by lurid headings and pictures.

I’m sorry. I obviously forgot that in the world one of the main characteristics are to seek what pleases self. Perhaps that is my problem all along: that I forget what the world is like. We Christians might dwell in our own little world of other Christians, then we forget… we forget that this is a fallen world.

I get disappointed when people don’t like what I offered and dismiss it offhand. It seems that has always been the way it is with me, mostly. I’m a sensitive soul and dwell on hurts much more that when things have gone right. Like recently, my best friend told me he is reading a series that I have loved for years. I told many people about him and would enjoy talking to others about the books. They are a bit darker for the usual Christian crowd, so I don’t mention it often. But when I do, it is only to people I trust wouldn’t dismiss it right off, but that is usually the case anyway. So my friend tells me he’s reading this and it is so cool. I want to talk about it and to me it is just more of a connection than there was before. Maybe that is how I should connect with people here. It seems that most of the Christians on here just write and not really follow, or comment or make positive criticisms like I want. So, little by little I will reveal my likes, one at a time, maybe in some sort of creative way, a story or some such, to connect with others of similar likes.

I don’t know. I may be just throwing rocks at the stars here, but this is where I have decided to dwell. Like all other posts, it is an effort to connect. We need to do that. I need to do that. Rejection won’t hinder me. There is always someone who would like to connect. I also realize that I started this with the understanding that I may be writing to absolutely nobody. But, sometimes I hope too much in people. Is that wrong?

 

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