Thoughts on you and the Church

I’m working on a message coming up and the topic I chose is the Church.  It seemed to be a simple enough concept but honestly, I’m realizing how deep this topic can be.  To be honest, I was not surprised but still how deep does the rabbit hole go?

I know that there are things that people have said all through the years about what the Church is and what it should be.  But my take on it is that it is more about subtracting all the things Church is not than it is about all the things it is.

In today’s age, the Church has become so many different things.  It has become a social club.  An event.  A political agenda based party.  A check off item on your to do list.  A way to force others to think the same.  A way for you to have friends and keep them in check.  A way for some to manipulate the masses.  A group that holds the same views as you.  For some, it is way to play their type of music and have a little bit of power.  For some, it is the place to meet a nice girl or guy.  It has also been used as a way to look wholesome.  To some, it is a platform to promote their book or ministry so that they can go out into the world.  And to some, it is simply a tool to raise funds for their Christian vacations (mission trips that serve those sent more than those they were sent to).

You ask 100 people at one church why they are there and you could get 100 answers.  So what is the ultimate reason for the Church?  These are thoughts I’ve been thinking through.  And before you get to the end of this post, I want you to know that I don’t tell you below.  Mainly because I’m not done yet and I didn’t want to provide those answers here but honestly it is because I want you to think about it.  I want you to come up with your own conclusions.  Think of it as a choose your own adventure.

But…..

I will say this:

I was talking with someone recently about a group he’s in (not a church group) and he said that his group was the ultimate group for promoting individuality.  He even said that all other groups were really about molding people into what they thought was right and not about celebrating who a person is.  But his group was for you to become the best version of yourself.

What a tragedy if that were true in principle and not just function?

This idea has been on my mind ever since we had that discussion because honestly, that’s what I think the Church should be.  Simply the idea of a place that gets you back to who God made you to be.

God created you for who you are and not so that you turn into who other people are.  Yes, we are all called to be like Jesus.  In fact, Christian is a term that means “little Christ.”  But you’ll likely look a whole lot like you when He is done with you.

I feel that my friend is right but also a little wrong. Right in the sense that that is the way people tend to approach groups.  You become like us and we will accept you.  But he’s wrong in the sense that that is not what the Church is supposed to be.

Jesus told us to take up His cross and follow Him.  That’s a summary of His command.  And then He leaves everything else up to us (no I’m not denying the Holy Spirit just stay with me).  We get as close to Him as we’d like to.  There is no set amount of money we have to give to move up in Thetan status (joke for the Scientology nerds out there).  There is no check list we have to complete to get close to Him.  All He tells us to do is pick Him up in our lives and follow Him.  Seek first His kingdom and all these other things will be added onto you.

Or more simply, be the best versions of ourselves.  He wants us to be His representation to the world.  Some could be musicians.  Some could be writers or speakers.  Others could be plumbers.  Or doctors. Teachers.  Students.  Nurses.  Dentists.  Cops.  Librarians.  Sound technicians.  AT&T workers (but God prefers Verizon).  Blockbuster workers (sorry flashback to 5 years ago).  Pastors.  English as a second language teachers.  Truck drivers.  Firefighters.  Krispy Kreme Doughnut workers (the holy calling if you ask me!!!).  Managers.  Graphic designers.  IT workers. And a whole lot more.

But God doesn’t want you to be someone else.  Yes, He wants to make you like someone else (Jesus and only Him) but it’ll look more like you than you ever thought was possible.

So be the Church.  Just be you in the Church.  And if you don’t have a church you’re a part of, ask me and I’ll help you find one.

Heartbreak

We all suffer through tragic events at one time or another.  From one end of the spectrum to another.  It could be that your team suffered a buzzer beater loss.  Or it could be something like the struggle of paying your bills and then the car won’t start.  Getting laid off.  Having a miscarriage.  Seeing the doctor and being told you have inoperable cancer.  Or maybe it is that you will never be able to see your son or daughter again because of a custody loss or a harsh sentence by a judge.

Some things break us.   In fact, a heartbreaking moment can strike at any time.  You could be one day away from tragedy and not even know it.  But how do you get through it?  In what do you place your trust?  What sustains you through the heartache?

This time of year is tough for some people.  Honestly, there is not a time of year where it isn’t hard for some people so be on the lookout to help a friend in need.

I have a father-in-law who is now in heaven who passed on to cancer a few years back and it still sucks that he is gone.  I miss him but it is not the same heartbreak as his daughters, son, and wife, experience deeply every day.  I knew him for a few years but they knew him their whole lives.  Last night, I talked with a close friend who said that a year ago to the day, I was singing a song at his mom’s funeral.  Tragedy strikes everyone but not equally.  So what do you hold onto as the ship is sinking?

This is a tough conversation and I feel that if your faith is only strong when things are going your way, then you have not faith.  You have something else entirely.  You may have a theory or a philosophy or even just a thought but I would not call it faith or trust if at the first sign of trouble, you run away from it.

I surely hope that Harrison continues to trust me as he is riding his back when he falls off.  And I know that this is a trivial matter but sometimes, I see his fear of the hill up ahead and know that a time of testing is coming.  Will he hold on to me through this trial or will he flee?

One of my favorite authors once said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen:  not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  This quote is not just clever wordplay but it is the ultimate truth for me.  If I were to say this quote and apply it a little differently, I would say that I believe in Jesus not only because I see Him, but because by Him, I see or view everything else.

He is the lens to which my eyes operate.  And it is my hope that in everything I do, I look through His eyes.  That when tragedy strikes, I know just where to look.

There was a quote in the new Star Wars movie that really stuck out to me.  Maz Kanata, the short Yoda-type figure of the movie, said this: “I have lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people. I see your eyes…”

There is truth there because many people see things the same way and yet, we still struggle for hope throughout the pain.  You can know that many have gone through what you are going through and those same people can help you through this time.  But I believe that it takes you being vulnerable and opening yourself to them.

And I believe that it is those who trust in Jesus who have the most hope.  They ultimately have something worth placing their hope and trust in.  Granted, you may get comfort from something else but how fleetingly and sustaining is it?  I know many devout people who can gain comfort in the worst of tragedies and those people are so unbelievably strong that it is admirable.

I even know “Christians” who would say that they believe in Jesus but they do not have hope in their pain.  They throw their faith to the wind and cast it aside when, in those moments of suffering, Jesus wants us to draw near to him.  He wants us to embrace Him in the heartbreaking or heart shattering moments.

So as you struggle, or as heartbreak strikes, whom will you trust?  And who can you go to during those times?  Please know that they will come. They are a part of life and I do not want you to be unprepared for when they strike.

 

Nerd

nerd

I think the above quote speaks a lot.  I want to be more of a nerd because of it.

I know that in our day and age, this word can be seen as a negative thing and I know many who were called it or threatened with being called it.  In middle and high school, you’d do everything in the world to not be called this feared word but nowadays it is a trendy name.

There are shows built around it and it has become the new thing.  You can think Big Bang Theory but you can also think Top Gear (car buffs), Kitchen Nightmares (chefs), MythBusters (scientific nerds), as well as Louie (comedy nerds), etc….

There are many who are nerds and who are now proud of it.  In fact, one of my favorite podcasts is called the Nerdist Podcast (If you haven’t heard it before, stop reading and go listen now because they get some great guests and it is hilarious but there is some language so if that’s not your thing, find something else to enjoy).

I think it greatly matters what you are focusing on but I value people who are passionate about something.  I tend to be interested in too many things at once and I struggle to focus but I’d take it over having no passion any day of the week.  But let’s take this quote and break it down because it can truly become your mantra if you let it.

One
You.  Start with you and don’t worry about what others will think.  Spend some time finding out this for you.  Then encourage others to do the same.  You then them.  

whose unbridled passion 
What are you interested in?  What keeps you up at night?  What gets you up in the morning?  What do you get excited about?  What do people know you for doing?

for something
I know it is for something but what is it?  Jot down a few ideas and make a list of things you are interested in and then try to narrow it down.  Try and laser focus here.

or things,
It’s okay if you can’t narrow it down (I can’t) but start small.  Don’t say that you want to be a firefighter and the president.  Narrow it down.  For me, writing is a huge passion but ultimately it is the whole idea of communication so I can focus on speaking, writing, conversing, whatever.  These are the things that come out of my primary passion.

defines who they are as a person,
This is where it gets great because certain things can lead you down a destructive path and we don’t want that and you don’t need that.  Find the things that you want to be defined by.  They will be good things.  Not necessarily great things because that comes later but find wholesome things to do.  Find things that you can look back on in 50 years and be proud of.
But also find the things that you’ve been doing all along.  There is a tape recording of me singing at like 3 years old.  Music is in my blood.  But also, I was a very curious and creative kid and made up stories and adventures all the time and constantly asked why.  So it has become my mission to find out who I’ve been all along and let that continue and let it shape me for years to come.

without fear of
This is where you will struggle.  Just being honest.  Don’t let fear overtake you.  Embrace it and harness it because it will keep creeping up.  Why do you think God said “be courageous” so often in the Bible?  Because they were freaking sacred of everything.  Why do you think we value those who are brave more than any other?  Because we are all terrified of something.  You’ll be that way.  And that’s okay.  Keep moving.  Whatever you fear, because it will come in many forms, keep going.  Don’t take a pause.  Keep pushing and hustling.

other people’s judgment.”
This is tough because people will try and squash your ideas.  Some will make an active effort but most will just make subtle comments that you construe in a bad way or they will just discourage you with it for no reason.  Some will actively work against you.  Avoid these people. Some will passively work against you.  Avoid these people as well.
Find those who love you and support you no matter what.  Make sure that they are telling you the truth at every turn but make sure they love through it.

So ready to sign up with me and be a nerd?  I hope so.  This world needs passionate nerds focused on what they can do to make it a better place.  I hope that this quote (and some of my thoughts on it) has inspired you.

Bandwagon

Bandwagon fans don’t bother me so much.

The statement above will be seen as the most blasphemous thing I’ve ever said by some of my friends.  And I’m fine with that.

Actually in reality, bandwagon fans do bother me but only really at the moment.  I guess you could say I have done it in the past so I’m okay with it.  I was a huge Chicago Bulls fan when Jordan played.  D Rose can’t play without getting hurt so boo.  Or LeBron James went to Miami and I loved them but now that he’s in Cleveland, go Warriors.

This may be a little hypocritical but ultimately I was really bandwagon about certain teams in the past but I don’t care about those teams anymore so it doesn’t bother me.  I am even thinking of stopping to cheer on certain teams and just enjoy the games whenever they come on.  I love the game of basketball and the game of football so it is easy for me to sometimes not care about who’s playing.

This whole topic of bandwagon fans has struck me recently because of all those who have been cheering for the Tarheels recently.   There’s no way you are all Carolina Blue do or die.   But I’m willing to allow you to join my team.  I have certain teams that I love and have loved for a long time but you can read about those later*.

But back to this whole bandwagon phenomenon.  Urban Dictionary gives this definition for being bandwagon:  “When someone adopts a popular point of view for the primary purpose of recognition and/or acceptance by others.” 

Yes, the Urban Dictionary lays it all out and I concede to this idea of being a bandwagon fan and the bad ramifications that come with it.  Mainly because it is for the primary purpose of getting recognized and not because you are cheering for my team.  I don’t hate on you for liking something, especially when it is my team.

Also allow me this side tangent:  I hate it when certain fans become jerks to other people about liking their team when they’ve just liked them longer.  Who cares because ultimately we are all fickle when it comes to what we like.  And please stop the arguments about liking your local team.   When did geography become the most important thing in deciding what to like?  Haven’t you heard of globalization?  Since when did people choose Pepsi because it is based in NC?  I’m not writing this blog on a computer made by the closest computer company to me. It is an Apple from California.  Why?  Because I believe it’s the best there is.  It impacted me the most at the crucial age I needed and I will not go back.  Don’t hate things far away because you only want local.  I digress…

After all, as a fan of the Tarheels, I want you to support my team and cheer for them (yes there are spiritual implications here but I’ll leave those for you to consider).  But don’t go for a certain team because it is popular.  I won’t care either way and neither will most people (except for the jerks above).

Do it because you’re excited about what’s happening.  What Steph Curry is doing right now is unbelievable and I’m cheering him on 1) because he played in NC (I guess it goes against my whole local argument but hey I’m a hypocrite sometimes) and I saw him devour my alma mater multiple times in college, and 2) because I love dynasties and would love to see them take the Bulls regular season record.  Don’t do it for praise on the other fans’ end because that’s dumb and you won’t get it. Do it because you love what you’re seeing.

That being said, I invite as many bandwagon fans to join me in cheering on my Tarheels in the Final Four.

Ok, one spiritual thought to end – Jesus had many people follow Him for a little bit and then they left Him behind.  Probably because He was either too hard on them or He didn’t answer things the way they wanted.  So they left Him.  Spiritual application if you didn’t catch it:  Don’t be a bandwagon fan when it comes to Jesus.  Follow Him wholeheartedly all the way through victory and suffering (there, my Jesus Juke is over).

Go cheer whoever you want.  I will make fun of you in many cases but you can for me also when we lose (if that ever happens because I pick winners).
*I have been a huge Tarheel fan all my life (you can’t be bandwagon if you’re born into it).  Once I saw Brett Favre play, I became a Green Bay Packers fan and I have loved them every since.  One of my favorite NBA players was Magic Johnson and then Kobe and I still consider myself a Lakers fan but they suck right now, so I keep it quiet.  And I love nostalgia and my grandparents were Braves fans so I became a…..Cubs fan because they came on before Bulls games and Harry Carey fascinated me as well as the great shortstop Ryne Sandberg but baseball is too boring and lasts too long so I don’t follow it that well.  This fandom has lasted a long time for me so I don’t consider myself a bandwagon fan since I still pull for those teams.

 

Hope

Hope is a tough thing sometimes.

Because our circumstances can be extremely $h*tty.

Honestly, it is hard to live life when hope seems to run away every time you approach.

No amount of change can bring you hope.

Which is why

You need to change your perspective.

Don’t focus so much on what’s to come.

Focus on right now.

The joy you experience playing with your kids. The feeling of exhilaration when the clocks strikes 5 and you get to leave.  The end of a semester.  The simple presence of a child.  The fact that YouTube and standup comedy exists.  Your favorite superhero.  The chance to take a moment and see what Frank Underwood will do to his foes.

Focus on right now.

That’s one key to living that I have found over the years.  Yes, life gets thrown all out of whack and there is no clear way out of stuff sometimes but ultimately, at least you have a breath to breathe.  More than likely right at this moment, air just entered your lungs.

And if that is the only gift you get, there’s hope for another day.

And that’s enough to keep going.

See-through

I feel like I am an open book.  Probably too much.  I mean honestly I am not the most blunt person around but I am open about what I’m going through.  What the struggle is in my life.  What I am most excited about.

Whether that could be the pain of dealing with a job that I don’t feel completely satisfied with or the things that my son can build with his Legos all by himself.

I share it.

But I realize that there are a ton of people who don’t open themselves up to others.  This could be because of shame or it could be because of laziness.

Either way, in my opinion, it is a terrible way to live.

And there’s a better way.

I threw my wife a surprise birthday party a couple years ago and I was discussing it with some people I knew and they were shocked that I had to cut down my list because it was getting a little too big to handle.

They asked me how many did I picture coming to the surprise party who knew both me and my wife decently and I said that I was trying to limit it to about 30 people.  They were shocked because they said that they only knew like 2 other couples close enough to share this experience with.

This saddens me.  Not because I feel that you need numbers to celebrate something.  But because they are limiting their impact into the lives of others and limiting the impact of others in their life.  I’m sure that they are very close with those 2 couples but what if those 2 couples aren’t available?  What if those other 4 people are out of town on vacation?   Does their life just get put on hold till their friends are back?  No.  They’ll just have no one to battle life with during those times.

I have heard that sociologists say that as we get older, we get less friends and that’s fine but what about all those people who can be those on-the-surface types of friends.  Yes, these are not the ones you will do battle with.  But you need them just the same.  Because some of these friends/acquaintances/associates/co-workers/fellow students will be the greatest friends you will ever have if you just pour a little more time into the relationship.

All I am saying is that I think if you do not limit those who can see through and into your life, you will be the better for it.  Your life will be enriched in direct proportion to the openness you allow yourself to be.  So here are some reasons I think you should be more open (on top of the above blabber):

1) It will provide safety.
When you are alone, you are the most vulnerable and having others around you will help you be safe and give you great protection through any trial that you face.

2) It will lead you to be a person of greater depth.
You can only get down into the depths of your soul if you allow someone else in to help point out the flaws.  And if you believe there are no flaws, be prepared for a rude awakening.  This will be someone who can ask you the deep questions so that you can gain a better hold of your identity and therefore become the best person you can be.

3) It will bring freedom and liberty for you to be yourself.
Without knowing who you are deep down, you can’t be who you are all around.  So others can help you do more of the things you are made to do and focus on the relationships that you should focus on.  This will open you to stop doing certain things so that you can do the essential things more.

4) It will become necessary.
The Bible says that just as “iron sharpens iron, so one man must sharpen another.”  This is why you need people who will not disappear and can stand by you through all of your life.  I love taking on things with friends better than alone and I think it is because I’m consoled through it and can be encouraged throughout that time.

I hope you find people that you can be close to.  Whether it is one or 50.  Just find someone whom you can be you around because we need you.  The world needs you so let’s open our lives and let other see through it.  And if you don’t have anyone, I’m right here.

If nothing else, at least make a bunch more friends so your parties are more kick-ass.

 

What about the other half?

Going back through my life, I am very cognizant of my lack of motivation to continue.  I jump start on whatever passion I have in the moment and then eventually stop.  And as one of my favorite cartoon shows from the 80s constantly pointed out to me, “knowing is half the battle.”  But what about the other half?

I have known the fact that I stop after some progress for some time but I’m now beating myself into submission to stop stopping.  To continue.  To plow through the hardships.  And to reach for whatever prize or calling I’m trying to claim.

Knowing is half the battle but doing wins the war.  Or as the pastor in me yearns to say, “information is great but without transformation, it is worthless.”

And for that reason, I’m about to embark on some great things in my life.  I’m going to start a challenge group for those guys interested in moving through a program of workouts, whatever they may be.  Guys who are wanting to stop thinking about losing weight and to start actively losing a ton or as I’m calling it, to Lose a Bunch.  But it could also be for guys looking to gain muscle and eat right and finally get on track physically.

This is one area of my life that I have neglected for too long and honestly, I have started and stopped many times.  I did T25 (Shaun T’s intense workout) for about 6 weeks and got into great shape and lost a good amount of weight but then I had one Mt. Dew and thus brought down an avalanche upon my life.  I am still recovering from stopping then.  But for the past couple weeks I have done great.  I have gotten up super early to work out and do a program with tons of reps of weight lifting called Body Pump and I am even doing a Couch to 5k program right now.  I have done great but what I need is to continue.  I have huge aspirations (to lose 70 pounds) and I must have some great daily rituals if I am going to accomplish what I want and what I know I need.  And this is not only for me to get healthy and strong and to look and feel great, but also for my family whom I hope wants me around for as long as possible.  But it is also for you, the person who is struggling right now to continue.  The person who feels too overwhelmed to begin and to depressed to go after what they want.  I know you need this and I know that I can be a motivator for you.  Because I am going to continue.

A lot of this started by seeing my wife lead people to greater health and greater passion. She has been a huge inspiration for me and I am so happy to be a part of her life.  I know that she did it last year (when she lost over 50 pounds) and that has sparked me to believe that I can do it too.  I have seen firsthand, people in my community and church lose a bunch of weight by eating right, drinking right, and working out consistently.  If they can do it, so can I, and so can you.

And I am not trying to start this and let you think that I know everything but I do know that if I have this, I will hold myself accountable and can help spark something in my life and yours.  So don’t think of me as the person at the top (maybe at the scales though) but as the one who just started this, hopefully, huge movement amongst us.

So if that is you, please send me a message on facebook (facebook.com/musicbunch) and we will get started soon.  At this time, I am looking for just guys to join in this group.  If you are a female wanting this same thing, still send me a message but I can point you to someone much more qualified than I, my wife, Victoria.