Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Alone in the Darkness

Don’t know why it all stings so much….
In darkness I swallow pain,
Longing for kind touch,
Feeling alienated and alienating.

Missing my old self
And needing my friends;
Reaching for the top shelf,
Hoping darkness will end.

I am venomous;
Indeed, I wonder why.
Analyzing the tempestuous,
Trying not to cry.

Darkness reigns
Because peace is shattered;
Frustration rains
Because I don’t matter.

In darkness, I cling to God;
In darkness, I have no friends;
In darkness, I am beaten;
In darkness, I see no end.

Don’t know why it all stings so much;
As I miss my old self, I am venomous
Because darkness reigns – rains to no end.

For, I am alone in the darkness,
Shoving others away;
Yet, on the inside, I hope they stay,
So I don’t have to cry alone as darkness rains.

The Substance of Promise

I will never keep a promise I make to God. In contrast, God will never break the promise that has been made to us. First, why the sharp contrast of promissory ideas? There is a difference in the substance of a promise I make to God and the reverse of that promise. My purpose is not to argue that God always keeps a promise; instead, I contend that there is a reason I can never keep a promise I make to God.

Second, if there is such a difference in the idea of a promise, what, then, is a promise? In some cases, it is a covenant, a contract, an agreement between God and the people of God (1 Kings 2, 8; Hag. 2). In other cases, it is a gift (Acts 2). It is also a declaration of a fulfilled covenant (Acts 26). A promise can even mean the response to faith, over and above the law (Rom. 4; Gal. 3, 4). Yet, another form of promise, is hope (1 Tim 4). Promise even comes in patience and waiting (2 Peter 3). In all of these cases, it appears that God is the one maintaining the promissory agreement; nevertheless, all of these occurrences of the idea of promise are unique in form and function.

In turn, what sort of promises can I make to a God who holds and maintains such diverse promises? Truthfully, this is why I look to the ultimate promise of God, the cross event – death and resurrection – which fulfills justification. For, I am not capable of such diverse, numerous, or magnificent promises; conversely, I am capable of promising God that I’ll be more pious or whatever have you for the sake of personal gain. Obviously, I am not alone in the art of breaking promises to God, but grace has freed me from the shame of failure.

As a result of God’s promise through resurrection, the law has been fulfilled and my pious promises are outdated gestures. Thus, I no longer make promises to God because God’s promises to me – moreover, us – are undoubtedly more effective. “Lord, thank you for keeping, holding, and governing the promises that matter; so that we do not have to watch ourselves wallow in the grief of failure. For, you are the source of greater promise – by way of death and resurrection.” We are justified through the promises of God and forgiven for our trespasses. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Subordinate to Inconsideration

There is a difference between pity and understanding. One is inconsiderate and doesn't last; the other, is truly defined by redemption, tolerance, compassion, and respect. I feel like people can be truly inconsiderate of my feelings, needs, and emotions. Now, I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t mention that I’ve been guilty of this myself. In any case, here are my issues and concerns:

First, I have Cerebral Palsy and am currently rehabilitating a, slow-healing, hamstring injury. Please, don’t assume that I can keep physical pace with you. Frankly, I never could before the injury; however, this lack of consideration in light of the injury makes me feel belittled, disrespected, and inferior. This frustrates me. Nonetheless, I would hope that the average person can respect that there are some things I simply cannot or should not do and it is not because I’m lazy. Honestly, I hate even talking about my limitations because I’ll push myself harder to keep pace with other people. I’m sensitive about saying the words, “I can’t do that” or “I shouldn’t do that.” If someone tells me to, “suck it up,” the problem is, I will, and I won’t tell them that I don’t appreciate their lack of consideration

Second, I haven’t found a job yet and have, more or less, tapped out my bank account. I tell people this every day and I do not enjoy it. In truth, I loathe it because I feel like a leach and a broken record. I don’t want to put anyone in the position of feeling obligated to pay for me. I don’t have a job and went bankrupt; unfortunately, school loans are not easily covered under bankruptcy. I hope one can be considerate of the fact that the imposition of my situation on others causes me great pain.

Third, I joke about being an “asshole” or a “bitch” because it helps me deal with the hurt and because, sometimes, I actually believe those things must be true if people say them about me. Honestly, I’d rather not feel like I’m perceived to be an “asshole” (though I do accept that I can be and have been known to be arrogant). In relation, the term “bitch” has a similar effect to “asshole,” but it’s more because I feel like one – subordinate to the will of others – because I can’t bring myself to say, “No.” Frankly, I only have one friend who has ever truly acknowledged these realities, without me saying something, and I love him for it.

Forth, I have become more passive-aggressive than I ever have been because so many people told me that I didn’t treat people with diplomacy. In response, I drastically reduced my use of colorful language in my writings, I accepted responsibility for being unemployed, I swallowed my hurt and frustration when I felt offended, and I even censored one of my songs. In turn, I resemble someone who is passive-aggressive and cannot communicate their feelings. I keep more silent than one might think, out of diplomacy, tact, professionalism, and a desire to pay my bills again someday. “The Man” wins, I will play “the game,” but I ask people to consider the cost – I engage in the idea of diplomacy willingly, not because I like it, but because my will has been broken – in caging all that is “negative” about my personality, there have been many positive casualties.

Fifth, my lovely “liberal” friends, tolerance and diversity is a great pursuit, but one must be considerate enough to their more “conservative” opponents to achieve this goal (yes, I know I am guilty of failing to do this). On the flip side, my “conservative” brothers and sisters, if I disagree with you on ethics that does not make me immoral – nor does it mean I have low standards. It is one thing to champion for the acceptance and equality of the LGBTQ communities and individuals in the courts and the Church; it is another to single any group out, as if to say, the courts and the Church only alienate this one group of people. It is one thing to say or imply that homosexuality is a sin – a question I find irrelevant for a number of reasons – it is another to be a part of the Church and deny compassion, love, and grace to anyone for any reason. In a balanced, moderate, clarification, I love the LGBTQ individuals I have met, so does Jesus, they can and do produce amazing work in the name of God, and I’m not concerned with whether or not it’s a sin.

In juxtaposition, I want to extend all people groups the same love, respect, compassion, and grace because everyone needs these things. I will not place a greater emphasis on loving any one group (“liberal,” “conservative,” GLBTQ, Evangelical, agnostic, atheist, or otherwise). Love the sinner, love the saint, and leave the redemption of sin – and/or the perception of sin – to the Lord. Why do we hate when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a proclamation of love? In the words of Lady Gaga, “I want to love you, but something’s pulling me away from you; Jesus is my virtue, Judas is the demon I cling to.” This, my friends, is the result of Original Sin, which alienates us all more than any one sin or sins.

Finally, I share these things not seeking pity, not seeking rebellion, not seeking a fight, not indulging in immorality (or the perception thereof) Ultimately, I share with you so you may understand that I feel subordinate to inconsideration.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Fear of Money

The love of money may be the root of all evil, but what about the fear of money? It goes without saying that one needs money to pay bills, buy food, and survive. Unfortunately, money is not limitless and sometimes we do not have enough of it to make ends meet. That fear is my immediate future. I know I’m not alone in economic struggle, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared.

Honestly, it’s hard for me to admit that not being able to pay my bills makes me fearful because I’ve never liked being attached to money. I never thought I’d be out of work this long, with the interest on school loans racking up, and savings depleting because  bills are more than I bring in each month.

Thankfully, my dad is kind enough to let me live with him for free and feed me as often as he can afford (which he probably does more than he actually should because he doesn’t want me not eating). Also, many of my friends have helped me out whenever they could from meals to taking me traveling for a little piece of mind.

Recently, I’ve talked a lot about how the feeling of failure has weighed down on me mentally and emotionally, but the fear of going bankrupt is a different animal. I am so scared and so overwhelmed by the $108,000 debt that continues to grow in interest. I have tried virtually every avenue of finding employment that I can and continue to come up empty handed.

Thus far, the combination of savings and government assistance have been a blessing that has provided me with funds for three times the amount of time it should have. Nonetheless, if I do not land a job that can begin to rebound my financial deficit, immediately, the rubber will meet the road and I will be bankrupt (and school loans are not easily covered through such action).

In closing, I share my financial worries with you today because I know I’m not alone. I know I need all the prayers I can get and I’m hoping those prayers will bring about a miracle. I believe in miracles (some say I am one) and I haven’t been in such dire need for a miracle in a long time. Thank you for the support and the prayers. Lord, I’m crying for help, please don’t let that go unnoticed.

Trinity Lutheran College Saved My Life

About a year ago, I walked across a stage and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies, but the time spent at Trinity Lutheran College was about more than the degree. Earning a degree from Trinity is one of the greatest honors of my life. College was something that a lot of people, myself included, thought would never happen for me.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank Dr. Jeff Mallinson for inviting me to attend Trinity Lutheran College – the experience saved my life. In addition to an amazing education, I met a lot of great people along the way at Trinity. I can’t begin to tell you how much I miss them (you) all! Since transferring to Trinity, I’ve had one desire and that’s to make the people of Trinity proud because they gave me so much in such a short time. Today, one of my best friends in the world graduated from Trinity and I am so proud of him and have nothing but respect for him. Lance, you’ve earned this moment and I hope you enjoy it. Also, thank you for the impact you’ve had in my life.

When I think of the value that Trinity Lutheran College has had in my life, I get pretty emotional. Jeff, I know you’d probably rather I not sing your praises because you’re a humble man, but you really did save my life by inviting me to join the Trinity community. I’ll never be able to thank you enough and, sincerely, hope that I make you and the college proud once I get back on my feet.

At present moment, I’m going through the toughest financial season I think I have ever endured and need a job to pay for the education I have received. If it weren’t for my time at Trinity, I’d be in a different place today. Trinity Lutheran College was a door that opened for me in a time of need and struggle. Thus, Trinity holds a very special place for me, as a reminder that doors can be opened, when you least expect them, and if we have the courage to walk through the door who knows how it could change our lives. If I can express gratitude for the college and the people that changed my life – when I am more afraid of not being able to survive than I have ever been – then there’s no telling what I could do with the gifts given to me at Trinity.

Trinity Lutheran College, here’s to making you proud: thank you for the education, thank you for the revolution of faith, thank you for the many friends, and thank you for believing in my abilities.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Silent Shadows

Inspired by the film Listen to Your Heart.

What if I could not hear?
What if I could not see?
What if I could not speak?
Would beauty be the same to me?

I take life for granted,
In spite of all the miracles;
Selfish and lackluster,
In spite of being lyrical.

What if I could not hear?
What if I could not see?
What if I could not speak?
Would love be the same to me?

I’ve walked roads of faith and doubt;
Missing the point, as much as ever.
Treating love, like a selfish gain,
Causing its truth to sever.

What if I could not hear?
What if I could not see?
What if I could not speak?
Would sorrow be the same to me?

In the silent shadows, I sit,
Longing for a better life than the one that exists –
Something with this picture doesn’t quite fit.
How much havoc do I have to list?

If I could not hear, beauty would be the feeling of sound.
If I could not hear, love would be captured with a smile.
If I could not hear, sorrow, would still be sorrow.
If I could not see, beauty would be the feeling of a breeze or the warmth of a hug.
If I could not see, love would be blind to all that is tainting.
If I could not see, sorrow, would still be sorrow.
If I could not speak, beauty would be that feeling we get when someone treats us well.
If I could not speak, love would be an action; not a string of words.
If I could not speak, sorrow, would still be sorrow.

Since I can hear, since I can see; since I can speak,
Couldn’t beauty and love be all of those things to me?

I take life for granted, as we all do,
That’s why sorrow will always be sorrow –
No matter what we’re going through.
Yet, beauty and love could always change tomorrow.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Resounding Voice

Love knows no bounds,
As it reaches profound;
I’d quiet its sound,
If it weren’t all around.

Love isn’t always a choice;
Sometimes, love is the voice
That we can’t help but hoist.
Is love always something to rejoice?

This love is a prison cell;
One cannot toll this bell.
How many tears fell?
This love could be heaven, but it is hell.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Hidden Heart

Sleepless nights torment my soul,
A confused heart that won’t let go,
Escaping emotion I cannot show;
For, this love I’ll never know.

Hours fall without rest,
Does the heart, truly, know best?
I’ll hide it away, like a treasure chest;
For, this love I cannot test.

Nights pass into day;
Oh, restless heart go away.
Disappear, you cannot stay;
For, this love I cannot say.

Insomnia, it is treason;
The hidden heart hath no season,
Running from passion with good reason –
For, this love hath no season.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Behind the Ego

There have been seasons in my life where being alive was an accomplishment, perhaps, a miracle. There have been seasons where I did everything in my power to break through limitations and “the glass-ceiling.” There have been seasons where I did anything to shine and stand out. There have been seasons of arrogance where I wanted to be the best at whatever I did and I wanted the world to know it. And, there have been seasons where I have been humbled.

Born, three pounds, eleven ounces, two months premature, with Cerebral Palsy; I shouldn’t, for all intents and purposes, be here today. Growing up, it was enough to do things that I shouldn’t have been able to accomplish – it was the pursuit of normalcy. Rarely, did I want to be handed anything; I had something to prove and nothing was going to stand in my way. I wanted to be treated, like everyone else, and I wanted to do what was “normal.”

At some point, I abandoned the pursuit of normalcy and sought out “living the impossible.” I’ve skied down mountains without falling, I’ve hung off of mountains upside down, I’ve climbed mountains, I’ve overcome injuries that required surgery, and none of that was enough anymore – I wanted recognition – I wanted to do what other people did and I wanted to do it better than them. Regardless of the odds, I wanted live without limits, to shatter expectations, and stand atop that glass-ceiling. In some cases, I believe I accomplished that and I was satisfied.

Eventually, satisfaction wasn’t attained by defeating the odds – I had to show it off to the world around me. I used to tell stories like this to audiences of people, but I gave the credit to God. Internally, I wanted to “worship God,” but I wanted to shine in the process. I believe I authentically worshiped God and lead others in worship. Nonetheless, if I was going to do anything, I fed off of being a showman. If I was going to preach, I did it with the intent of being different than the rest, if I was going to lead worship music it was going to be different, and if I was going to be “holy” it was going to be different than everyone.

As a result, nothing was off limits in my mind – I would do anything to shine. In truth, I think it’s why my Evangelical roots quit working for me. I was too much of a control freak. The more I stood in front of a crowd preaching, the more I played music for people, and the more holiness I achieved the more it fueled my desire to stand out. One, by one, all of the things I did revealed an ego that kept growing – in many ways, my ego is a monster.

After I turned my attention to accomplishing goals in the academic arena, my ego became brash arrogance. On the inside, I knew this wasn’t how I wanted to be seen, but I felt like I was going places, and I enjoyed the ride. Once I felt comfortable in the ministry field, my non-conformist, degenerate, attitude became public knowledge. I rebelled against the world around me and it would drop me on my face. In every case, I’d get back up and rise to more rebellion.

In the midst of attitude, arrogance, “living the impossible,” shattering expectations, and standing out to the world; I have seen a lot of humility. Hindsight is twenty-twenty; today, I can see the good and the bad results of the competition I’ve carried with myself to never go unnoticed. I went from sitting at home watching Sports Entertainment (pro-wrestling), to being a theater technician, to being totally preoccupied with the ladies, to being stuck in a rut, to overcoming new obstacles, to being a rather pious young Christian, to entering college, to garnering rare attention from the ladies (a real confidence boost), to a lot of heart break, to loosing loved ones, to being extremely cynical, to believing nobody could walk a day in my shoes, to suffering through a faith collapse, to embracing a degree of atheism, to seeing faith through a different lens, to being the first in my immediate family (mom, dad, and sister) to earn a college degree, to landing my dream job, to watching it blow up in my face, to hoping to survive each passing day, and now I’m reevaluating my goals and desires.

Behind the ego, stands a man who thought he’d seen it all, who thought he could do it all, who thought he was the best, who made love his god, who felt he’d earned better recognition than was received, who broke every rule out of defiance, who paraded his intellect over others, who never really enjoyed the humility of Christ in his life, who was inspired, who wanted to inspire, who wanted to entertain, who lived without limits, and who has lived with a lot of attitude. Some people love me and some people hate me. The people that love me have kept my ego in as much check as possible – love has a way of showing us who we really are inside. The people that I hate me, I keep at bay because I fear their criticisms – anger, also, has a way of showing us who we are inside.

In reality, I still want to be admired, I still want to be loved, I still want to shine, and I still want to be the best; however, I want to do things in grace. A decade of attitude is being challenged, but this time, it’s me challenging my attitude. At this moment, simply, being alive is an accomplishment. Behind every ego, mine included, there is a human being hurting to find the best way to live their dreams – even if that dream seems simple to someone else.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

For Your Entertainment

If Sam Kinison (Google him) can go from preaching to comedic relief, why can't I? "Dude, don’t quit your day job." Since I don’t have a job, the jokes are for you.

The following is for entertainment purposes only, enjoy. 

Apparently, I don’t want to date anymore. I must be broken. What do people who don’t want to date do with their time? I could become a work-a-holic, but that sounds about as enjoyable as a frying pan to the head If that’s your thing, it’s cool, but I’d rather get paid for a job well done, not a job overdone. Seriously, what do the dating-disinterested or the dating-disillusioned do? I mean, they can’t all be nuns.

Frankly, I’ve never met a nun – they might be cool chicks – but I doubt we’d ever know because religious people aren’t funny. Have you ever laughed at a religious person? Okay, I have, too. But, it wasn’t because they told a joke. Relax, I’m religious – I have to be…tattoo removal is expensive.

Long story short, I’ve got these blood-covered tattoo crosses (people always wig out about the blood on them). One has Hebrew words, many Christians have asked me about, and the other looks like I drew it myself...oh, wait, I did. As for the Hebrew word, it’s “Yahweh” – it means Lord. I think Christians have heard that one before. “Ooh, you put vowels in it that’s not correct.” How else would people like to read it on my arm? “Y, H, W, H….” I can see it now, “what’s that mean?” "It means I’m tuning in radio frequencies, what do you think it means? You know I can’t spell."

Honestly, I’m a Christian. No, that’s not the joke. I’m a Christian who likes to make fun of myself a little. I spend all day speaking a different language. Evangelicals call it “Christianese,” but I don’t talk like that – I’m in recovery – so, it’s more like Theolo-vomit. It's a dialect of theological words that's become so second nature, the words spew from my mouth. It’s no wonder I’m disillusioned on dating. Naturally, chicks should dig me for my ancient-geek-speak. I’m disinterested in dating because I cannot fathom why a woman wouldn’t find my ego endearing. I mean, I do, but I’m full of myself.

Let me tell you, narcissism is an ugly thing and, no, it’s not because I have to look at myself in the mirror. Narcissism is ugly because I’m the only one buying into my own hype. I shudder when I think about it. Surely, I’ve told every lady on the short list of women I’ve dated, about how great I am. I’m great alright, great at being Good Luck Chuck. If you haven’t seen the movie, this is all you need to know; if I date you, your odds of getting married just went up. It’s not me you’ll marry – they’ll probably be cuter, far less egotistical, goal oriented, and athletic…all things that disqualify me.

If you’re feeling sorry for me, don’t. I think I’m decently attractive (when I don’t talk) and I have goals (now that I don’t date). Everything I said in here is true with moderate exaggeration (I’m a guy, it’s what we’re good at) but it was meant for your entertainment. Warning, no Christians, women, narcissists, nuns, or Evangelicals were meant to be harmed in the making of this blog entry.

Have a goodnight, good day, good life, wherever you are,

Go in peace and serve the Lord,

Thanks be to God.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Deeper than Blood

Most people that know me, are aware that Mother’s Day is a day of mixed and, usually, loaded emotions. This year was no different. Mother’s Day was the last time I spoke to my mom before she passed away, a few days later (that was three years ago) . A couple of my dear friends have made the anniversaries memorable. I want to say a few words of tribute to a select few friends who mean the world to me.

Beginning with Jake, a husband, and a self-employed business man, is my best friend in the world – not discounting the others on this list – he has seen me at my best and my worst and understands me in a way that cannot be taught. There is no truth that this man hasn’t heard from my lips and we’re like brothers for it – he gets me in a way I don’t allow others to see. Thank you for being there for me through moments of darkness and joy – I never feel the need to hide anything from you.

Continuing with Kellie; she’s a bright young woman that humbles me with her heart every day. If Jake has the eyes of truth in my life, Kellie has the heart that can beat for others when theirs cannot beat. She would say I give her too much credit, but I have to give credit where credit is due. The power of Kellie’s heart for others is awe-inspiring and humbling. I don’t have half the heart she does. Kellie’s heart defines her and has been a source of lifeblood for me (and others I’m sure). Thank you Kellie for making this Mother’s Day special; I couldn’t ask for a better, more dedicated, friend than you.

Allegorically, Jake is the eyes, Kellie is the heart, and Austin is the laughter in my body of friends. Austin and I have traveled a similar road, which allows him to understand parts of my life differently from anyone else. Humor and laughter is what brings our interconnectedness together. Thank you, man, for having faith in my ability to do ministry when I felt like the Church left me out-to-dry and thank you for all the laughter you bring to my life.

Additionally, my body of friends has its eyes, its heart, its laugh, and its voice of artistry. David (aka the good looking Jew) lives in my world of dreams: he can sing, he’s an amazing musician, and he’s happily married. Because David has lived out some of my dreams, he understands my desire to creatively express myself better than anyone. He inspires me to keep seeking my dreams.

Frankly, one can’t have eyes that see, a heart that feels, a laughter full of joy, and a voice that creates without a mind. Lance is the friend – more than all others – who brings intellect to my life. I would say Lance is smarter than me, but he usually tells me to “shut up” when I say that and provides a counter argument. The one thing I have never forgotten about Lance is how he made the first Mother’s Day after my mom’s death memorable. He had the presence of mind to just sit and talk with me (much like Kellie had the presence of heart this year to do the same). As the mind, Lance comprehends where I’m at in life, while raising the intellectual bar. Thank you, brother.

Graciously, the conscience that helps to keep all the other elements in check is Jeff. I like to think of Jeff as the guy who brings me down to earth, with a loving ability to challenge me towards growth. Jeff is, unquestionably, a blessing in my life. Thank you Jeff for all you do!

Exemplarily, Scott is the wisdom in my life. I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to take advice from others – even if I ask for it – and Scott has shared enough wisdom in my life that I try to never overlook the raw authenticity of what he speaks into my life. He fostered my faith as a youth, he’s cared for me like a second dad, and he’s become one of the guys. Scott’s been around for almost every major event in my life, helping shape who I am today – his wisdom is irreplaceable. Thank you brother!

In love and respect, I would not be who I am or survived where I’ve been without these people. I love Jake because I never have to lie to him or hide from him – he truly meets me where I’m at without any expectation – Jake is totally unconditional as a friend. I only hope I’ve been half as good in return.

In juxtaposition, I love and appreciate Kellie’s friendship because the heart has what it takes to help one feel, to be humble, and to sacrifice for others Kellie has been amazing at bringing out my heart. It’s not easy for someone, like me, to say that a nineteen-year-old young woman has what it takes to humble me in the most sincere and gentle ways. Kellie – and the heart that defines her – is a walking source of inspiration in my life.

Similarly, I love Austin because he gets to see me as a professional colleague and in the most relaxed settings. Together, we’re like youth, playfully, making the best of our journeys through life.

Likewise, I love David because he always knows where to find the best in me. He’s talented and good looking – just like me – but really draws out the best of my artistic desires.

Correspondingly, I love Lance because he understands the true gift of my mind and the most dangerous one of my mouth. However, he intellectually and lovingly challenges me to excel with these gifts – he raised the bar for how I think, by challenging my prior views.

Furthermore, I love Jeff because I think of him as an inspiration for balance in my life – he’s the kind of guy that can talk you through chaotic spots – and he lives out good ethics in a way that gets my attention (no pressure, man, it’s a part of your nature).

Last, but not least, I love Scott because without his imparted wisdom, I was lacking direction in my life for a long time – wisdom is the crux of life.

I love and thank you all for being my friends; it’s hard to single out who my best friends are (whether on this list or not) because every friend I have brings something special to my life. Nonetheless, these individuals stand out because they bring forth the very best of who I am – in spite of the worst of who I am – they are impossible not to love!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Challenging my Own Ideas and Adopted Views

Currently, I am reading The Science of God by Alister E. McGrath (which I will, likely, post on when I am finished with the book). At the moment, I want to focus on a quote from the book that has prompted some theological self-reflection. “If people are convinced of the rightness of their own position, there is inevitably a temptation to control or destroy those who disagree with them.” Herein, I will challenge some of my own ideas and adopted views.

Before I get started, it is important to note that I take up the practices, positions, ideas, and work of many who have come before me to develop the ongoing discourse of my beliefs. “I stand upon the shoulders of giants” (Isaac Newton). I have taken on the label Post-Evangelical Lutheran. Deconstructing that label, its implications, its meaning, and its purpose, do I claim to be a Post-Evangelical because I have completely moved on to another way of thinking or because I take issue with the Evangelical movement and culture, for the impact it has had upon my life? Yes.

Furthermore, do I take up the Post-Evangelical label because I think I’m better than or, somehow, smarter than Evangelicals? Honestly, yes. I held those views, at one point, and was driven to atheism. In my arrogance, I have said some harsh things about Evangelicalism and its followers. Admitting the things above warrants the label, "conceited." Ironically, hearing such personal character descriptions incited arrogant behavior (not to justify the attitude).

In retrospect, I’ve been so adamant I was right to abandon Evangelical beliefs that I ignored grace. How far have I taken my frustration with Evangelical Christianity? Further than necessary. Last I checked, hatred, control, and destruction are not the goals of a Christ-like worldview. Therefore, I apologize, but maintain the integrity of my current theological perspectives. Arguably, I’ve gotten my comeuppance for my anti-Evangelical propaganda. I know it’s not very “Christ-like” for me to spew words of hate upon anyone for any reason.

In conjunction, I turn to the Lutheran piece. After twenty-four years of being an Evangelical (a title I never acknowledged) why did I turn to Lutheranism? Becoming a Lutheran was a slow process. In the words of a former pastor (a dear friend, who happens to be Evangelical) I was, “a Nonconformist-Christian.” I didn’t like labels. Nevertheless, the concept of divine grace was the biggest challenge and, simultaneously, the biggest draw to Lutheran theology. I was in a place of asking questions, I wasn’t ready to rest on any one idea. Until, I learned about the Theology of the Cross, which is radically different from my Evangelical roots.

After twelve years with the Salvation Army, where I vehemently refused to take on a label, I adopted the Theology of the Cross and Lutheran traditions. Salvationist and a Lutheran views are theological polar-opposites. Regardless, I respect, applaud, and model the community service practices – the Salvation Army has the best outreach-mission I have ever seen in the Christian Church. However, the Theology of Glory is what drove me to deny the existence of God (at one point). This realization, prompted me to denounce Evangelicalism. Truly, I found freedom in the Lutheran depictions of God’s grace. Once I accepted that things would never be the same for me, I decided to explore the Theology of the Cross and teachings of the Lutheran Church. My transition to Lutheranism was an about-face, a declaration of newly adopted theology, and I had an outsiders understanding of Lutheranism and the Theology of the Cross. Ergo, I felt I could not ignore my Evangelical roots, but have no plans to return to them. Thus, I coined the personal label of Post-Evangelical Lutheran.

In the aftermath, do I think that everyone ought to be a Lutheran? No, the Church has different denominations to maintain balance and challenge one another. The Theology of the Cross, within Lutheranism, is the only view that makes sense to me. Today, I sit here pretty humble. I’m not better than anyone or their beliefs. I recognize that Lutherans, Evangelicals, Baptists, Charismatic Protestants, Catholics, and many others are a part of one Church – the body of Christ. We may not agree, we may not understand one another, and we may fall prey to the notion of rightness, but we are one Church and one body.

Finally, criticizing my own opinions and adopted views doesn’t negate that I have hurt many people with my words or been hurt by the words of others. Only by the grace of Christ will there be absolution and forgiveness. I am at peace with calling myself a Post-Evangelical Lutheran and hope that I can peacefully disagree with those who hold to different views. Totalitarianism isn’t the answer, destroying the opposition isn’t the answer, Unitarianism isn’t the answer. The answer I long for is a conversation of grace in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dancing with Anger

Anger used to dominate my behavioral reactions to situations in life. Since 2006, I have put in a lot of time and effort to improve that reality and make anger less of a factor in my life.  I hate being angry because it has so much potential to escalate to  unhealthy levels. I enjoy being kind to people and understanding of people. Occasionally, I find myself feeling as though that kindness and attempt at gentleness get mistreated.

Nonetheless, efforts to minimize my anger and be more constructive have, for the most part, paid off. I have noticed a lot less volatility in my life over the past five years. I’m very grateful to a short list of counselors for helping me establish boundaries and find constructive expression. Progress aside, I still dance with anger from time-to-time and when that happens I feel like I’m Dr. Jekyll, transforming into Mr. Hyde. I thank my dad for showing me, through his own stories and experiences, that being angry is not how I wanted to live and counseling helped me work that out.

Now, when I dance with anger, it’s almost hard to believe that I can still go into that anger zone. Dancing with anger is an honest reminder that I can make progress in my life, I can seek a low stress and laid back way of life, I can be as gentle as they come, and I will never eliminate the ability to tap into anger because of the sin condition.

Finally, consider this as a thank you to those who have paid me compliments, telling me that I am “articulate” and an “inspiration;” I’ve been really thankful for those kind words because they remind me there is decent stuff to fight for in life. Although, I may not combat my anger flawlessly, fighting against the dance with anger is better for my health.