Sep 26, 2007

Posture of Prayer

Today my dad and I worked together to create a new "sacred space" with in the sanctuary at our church. It is a place devoted to prayer. I will tell you about it more in a minute, but as we were looking for the right seating for this space we came across an old chair. I plopped myself down on the chair I placed my elbows on my knees and folded my hands to test it out. My dad laughed saying I looked like I was going to take a dump. So apparently my prayer life looks a lot like his private life.
But then I thought about it as we set up the space and realized a few things. We created the space up front on the stage with a purpose, not to make people uncomfortable, but to move us from only praying in private, and to remind us the importance of prayer in our everyday life. Sure at first getting up after the service to pray on stage will feel awkward for some, perhaps just as uncomfortable as would be for you to go to the bathroom on stage. But I expect that soon it will become much more comfortable, way more comfortable than it would ever be to use a restroom on the stage. Yet they are both things that we need to be doing daily.

I don't think that we necessarily need sacred spaces in which we worship God, but I do find that for me they make prayer and worship that much more real. Our hope in creating this space at church is that not only will people be reminded to pray, but that as they take advantage of this space others will see them and join them in their prayers. Being the comforting body of Christ in the flesh. A shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and a mouth to join in praise.
Apparently Christy likes to pray like my dad :)

Sep 23, 2007

1 fish 2 fish now I have 4 fish

My apartment was feeling kinda lonely this weekend, so I went out and bought myself two fish. Two because leaving one along most of the day seemed lonely as well. They are quite spunky and active for fish. The problem is I am having a hard time settling on names for them. The Orange and White one looks like it is wearing lipstick and I was tempted to call it Pucker, but that has not really stuck. I thought about naming the black and gold one Mr. Jones, but I am not sold on that either. So I am asking you my readers and friends to suggest some good fish names.

Those of you who were paying attention to the title of this blog may be wondering how two fish became four fish. I am still not entirely sure either, but Brianna one of my High School Students informed me that I needed to have some company in my office as well. So yesterday we went back to the pet store and I selected two more fish this time little versions of the ones I had bought the day before. For whatever reason they were easier to name. The Black and Gold one is Dolce and the Orange and White one is Gabbana.They are my designer fish.

They are my first pets since childhood, and it is kinda fun.

Let those name ideas flow...

Sep 21, 2007

Feasting on Friday

A day of simply soaking up life is always my preferred way to spend my day off. So when my Friday went from sitting around my apartment to spending a few hours with a friend enjoying some delicious dishes, funky fresh atmosphere and of course conversation I was delighted.

My friend Melinda came over and we headed downtown and ended up at 515 Kitchen and Cocktails. It is the third time I have been there for lunch and it did not disappoint. While I am a huge fan of trying new restaurants, in fact prefer it, I often get stuck in a rut when it comes to ordering at a place I have been. That is not the case with 515, each time I have been tempted to try another dish, and each one has been more fabulous than the one before. Melinda also enjoyed a fabulous meal. Dining at 515 is only made better by the atmosphere funky chairs, couches, and lighting mixed together tucked into nooks make the restaurant one of my new favorite places to dine. From 515 we decided to go and search out another new addition to Santa Cruz.

Ironwood and Black China Bakery and Cafe. I discovered this place by watching Travels with Romney one morning this week as I was getting ready for work. I am pleased to say that we found the place to be even better in person than it appeared on TV. We both ordered a coffee drink and sat outside despite the iffy weather, the vibrant bamboo and garden sculptures were just to inviting to turn down.

My day ended with dinner with another one of my favorite friends Faith. We also decided to break away from our normal Friday night spots and tried a place we had both wanted to try for sometime now, Hula's Island Grill.
A great finish to a day of dining with friends. The food was great and we loved the island party atmosphere.

So if you are in the area and have nothing better to do check out one of these three new additions to the amazing collection of restaurants in Santa Cruz. If you won't be here anytime soon then I suggest that you grab a close friend and go find your own new spot to relish on your next day off.

Sep 20, 2007

It's All About ...

Today’s American culture is all about ownership and personal rights. The Bible seems to contradict the media driven message of Me, Me, Me. Stating over and over again a theme of putting God above all else and others before ourselves. So how do we as followers of Christ reconcile these two opposing messages?

Just today I got an email from a friend asking me to pray for them as they are struggling to overcome their selfish nature in various areas of their own life. They explained how they feel trapped in the cycle of doing what will make them happy or
bring them pleasure at the moment instead of relying on God to provide all that they need. As I emailed back and assured them that I would be happy to pray for them I realized that I myself struggle with the exact same thing everyday. I am constantly putting my needs and desires before what God needs and desires for me. And while many of my needs and desires are not sinful on their own, the mere fact that they draw me away from what God wants for me and my attention to God makes them sinful. Sin is anything that gets in the way of your relationship with God and his perfect will for your life.

There is nothing wrong with me wanting to go out and buy a new hot pair of shoes or the latest cell phone but if that purchase is putting me in debt, or keeping me from tithing or causing me to think more highly of myself than I ought to then maybe I need to reconsider my spending habits.

In 1st Corinthians Paul tells us we have a choice to make. While there are many things we may be able to “get away with” in life Paul warns about living life in that way. Legalism had led the Corinthian believers to take an extreme position towards freedom, getting them to abandon all sense of responsibility for their actions. They allowed their new found freedom in Christ to be license to do whatever it was that made them happy. Paul’s strong reminder to them is that freedom in Christ is not freedom to do as we please. It is freedom to do as pleases God.

But Jesus addressed another aspect of this issue in the Sermon on the Mount. In dealing with issue of revenge. Jesus takes this message much further than the constraints of Mosaic Law. Revenge is really an issue of pride. Revenge is all about restoring my sense of worth, dignity, and power by degrading whomever has hurt me. If I do not protect my rights, who will? Revenge says, “It is my right to force you to treat me with dignity and respect.”

I have to tell you there are times in my life where I have felt the need to avenge myself. Even last week after youth group, I felt my pride grabbing hold of me. I found myself frustrated that the lesson had gone so poorly. That I had to spend most of it asking the youth to chill out and listen. I wanted to yell “I have rights! You guys need to respect me” But, Jesus’ words bring that house of cards crashing down. Jesus asserts, rather, that I have no rights to protect. I only have responsibilities to fulfill.

What kind of message is that? He must have been crazy right? Does Jesus really desire for me to get walked over every day or get bullied around? I hate when the message of the week so directly steps on my toes, and forces me to look at my own selfish desires and emotions. As I look at Matthew Chapter 5 and the Sermon on the Mount, I really wish that Jesus could have been a little vaguer for once.

His directions are all too clear, direct and to the point. Maybe that is why we rush by them so quickly, so we may escape their painfully clear message. They definitely are not to be taken at face value, right? I mean that would imply that I am not as all important as I like to believe I am. It would mean that I am to let go of my pride, and I don’t really like the sound of that. That it is not all about me. So what do we do with these words of Jesus?

Paul got it, He says, “We are not our own. We were bought at a price.” I don’t particularly like the image Paul is painting here, as though we were nothing more than slaves up for auction, sold to the highest bidder. What about my “inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” We may hold these ideals but they do not seem to resonate too well with Jesus and Paul. They may stand to protect the rights of others, but not their own. Paul places little emphasis on personal rights. He stresses personal responsibility instead. “You are not your own. You were purchased at a price.” That said, we now are responsible to our Master and Lord. Slavery to Christ was not an “end all, be all” image for Paul, but it set the stage for grasping the import of Christian responsibility and stewardship. Just because God is a God of grace and love does not revoke our responsibility to serve as faithful stewards.

Sorry to burst the bubble of our American sense of personal rights and privilege but Jesus’ words on revenge cancels out any rights we may think we have to self preservation and self service. Jesus calls us not to simply state that our lives and possessions belong to God, but to live as though the needs and desires of others matter more than our own. As though we have no possessions or rights to protect. He pulls no punches when he suggests that we are to model God’s standard of loving and giving. God who gives to good and bad alike, who does not measure a person’s worth based upon what they have or how they act. He simply gives. Jesus raises the bar on what is an acceptable standard of giving. He is the standard.

We are not our own,that must affect our lifestyle. It must affect the way we react to the needs of those around us. Jesus said it must affect even the way we greet people. It must cause us to move towards those we might consider unlovely or unworthy of our time, energy, and resources. It means removing the distance and barriers between ourselves and the people around us who we don’t know.

This is not an easy mission but remember we are slaves, bought at a price. We are to be servants. This past Sunday I was suffering from some nasty food poisoning, so I was not in the service. But apparently there were some visitors. Some of our local homeless people chose to join us. But unfortunately they came pretty intoxicated. And at some point lost control of their bodily functions and ended up not only soiling themselves but leaving quite a mess in our church lobby as well. Not a fun thing for anyone to have to clean up. I have worked in Child Care for a long time and cleaned up many a kid who has had an accident but having to clean up an adults mess is even more degrading and disgusting. But Faith our ever faithful custodian went to work cleaning up, and our new base player Jon jumped in and helped as well, even though it is not his job. And then Dan Lockwood brought over a carpet cleaner that night and was here until 3am cleaning up other peoples crap. And you know what, I can’t help but think what a clear picture of what it means to be a slave to Christ, to serve Him and his people. To live out if only for a moment this picture that both Paul and Jesus were painting.

I am not my own. You are not your own. I am not the center of the universe and nether are you. The world does not revolve around you and it is most certainly not revolving around me. We are servants of Christ Jesus bought at a price. We are recipients of Gods many blessings, but they are not ours to own. They are for His use.

What happened to our inalienable rights? They never existed. What happened to God’s inalienable rights? Those ones we have tried to take over for ourselves?
Our society thinks much more of self than it ought and it thinks too little of God. We must place it all in the proper perspective. Jesus’ words are not those of a ravings of some mad man. They are the words of one who recognizes God’s ownership over all things, including material possessions and life itself. They are the words of one recognizing that love is not about protecting self, but about serving others. If we should become truly serious about serving God as faithful stewards of God’s gifts, we would not need to worry so much about our own petty issues.

Paul’s words were not empty they were words that he actually lived. He did not concern himself with his rights and freedom as with his opportunity to serve the Christ he called Lord. Grace for Paul became freedom to serve God as a thankful servant. Paul was not his own master. Jesus did not live as his own master. They both recognized the all-consuming need to serve God no matter what the cost.

Why is it so hard to give up my sense of rights and ownership over my life, and possessions, and rights? Why is it so difficult to accept the lordship of Christ Jesus? Do I not trust God to care for my needs? Do I not believe that God desires what is best for me? Why do the words “mine” and “ours” take such prominence in life? This life is not my own. Nothing is my own, except my sin.
When shall I learn to be a steward of God’s blessings? Not until I accept God’s complete ownership over my life. I have yet to understand and live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Do I have the courage to accept God’s inalienable rights over my life?

Sep 11, 2007

cut it off

My left leg is covered in little bumps. I don't know how many maybe twenty or thirty of these tiny little bumps. These bumps started out as nothing more than just that, but now they have mutated into a huge annoyance. They have started to itch, and when I say itch I mean I have considered hacking off the bottom half of my leg. Admittedly that thought did not last long, but it was quickly replaced by the desire to gnaw on my own leg like a dog with fleas. I now have sympathy for mans best friend. Although I will never understand lickings one's privates.

But back to my shin. It itches crazy bad, or at least it did this morning, and that got me to thinking...funny how things that drive one insane start out as a small almost unnoticeable and soon they develop into something that you cannot escape.

The questions that arise are at what point and for what reasons do the little things switch from something small and indistinguishable to the thing that you wish to rid yourself of no matter what the cost?

The itching has subsided at the moment, but not on its own. I had to dowsed each of the little bumps with Benadryl. If only riding myself of all the other annoyances in my life was as simple as a dab of Benadryl.

Sep 7, 2007


I have always clung to the quote "some people say movies should be more like real life, I say real life should be more like the movies." For whatever reason is resonated with me. There have even been those who have gone out of their way to make my life more like a movie, and while that was always fun, I am beginning to feel disillusioned.

Maybe the quote is wrong. Maybe I often miss out on life as it is because I am disappointed when it doesn't play out like anyone of a million movie scenes. I often find myself comparing any given moment in my day to that of a movie, or television moment. And while sometimes my everyday life seems like something right off of the silver screen I would be lying to say that most of my life plays out that way.

So have I let the multiple imaginings of Hollywood and the film/television industry totally taint my view of my own life? Yes, I think so. And I am still thinking about this and its implications, working out how to reconcile my love for the movies, and my desire to live my life to its fullest without setting myself up for disappointment.

quotes i love

  • "they will never care how much you know until they know how much you care."
  • "never be afraid to trust a well known God with an unknown future." - Corrie Ten Boom
  • "God doesn't need you, He loves you, that is much better."
  • "the world has yet to see what God can do through a man/woman who is totally commited to him." - D.L. Moody
  • "be who you is, cause if is ain't who you is, you is who you ain't."-
  • "some people say movies should be more like real life. I say real life should be more like the movies."