Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

water + juice = no food

This morning finds me drinking my last glass of orange juice for quite sometime. But it is a joyous morning. My wife, Heidi, and I have been on a journey for the last 19 days that has been extremely challenging and fun and adventurous all at the same time. I’m even going out on a limb to say that it is rewarding. See, 19 days ago, we sensed God leading us into a fast. The idea originally started when a friend from down south had asked several guys to join him in fasting for 20 days as he prepares to uproot his family in order to take some Good News to Ukraine. I initially was opposed to the idea, thinking it ridiculous to fast with other people. Jesus fasted by himself, why should I do it with other people. Then God started showing me that there was plenty of stuff going on in my life that required seeking him, and I decided to join in on the 20 days. One morning Heidi said, “I think I’m going to do the fast as well.” She, too, sensed God leading us into it.

So, on December 3, we started taking in nothing but water and juice (and the occasional Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Chai for some extra protein). We also started praying and seeking God in a more amped up way. About four or five days into the fast, I was noticing that Heidi and I were praying regularly together. This is something that we’ve been hit or miss with ever since we’ve known each other, and over the past 19 days, it’s been good. I’ve also been looking at people differently…my neighbors, my friends, strangers on the street or in the mall (even though I dislike the consumerism of the masses and avoid malls if at all possible). I’m not even sure I can explain how it is I see them differently. I guess it could be rooted in the things God was showing me about myself…he’s brought out some selfishness that I deal with that I didn’t even know that I was dealing with. Maybe as I get my eyes off of myself I’m able to see people as they truly are…as God sees them. This is something that I will be striving for from here on.

And, while the reason that we fasted was not solely to see him move on our behalf, I feel like he has. Just four days into the fast I got an email from a friend of mine who used to play keys for me when I led worship at my previous church. He had to quit at the end of the summer because his course schedule at Calvin wouldn’t allow the time he needed to play. Well, he emailed me on this fourth day of the fast, said he was praying about it, and wanted to jump back in on keys once or twice a month. This may seem like a small thing, but when you’re a worship leader and need quality musicians to fill out the band, it’s huge. And, Christmas Eve marks the beginning of a new drummer for Origins Church. Nick, one of our primary drummers for the past year and a half, has recently moved to Seattle. Just a week after he’s gone, a new friend named Carl is sitting at the drum kit and he’s willing to help us lead worship as much as we need him. I’m excited about this new friendship and his willingness to lead others into God’s presence.

So, it is now about 8:15, and I’m hoping my wife wakes up very soon because I’m ready to down a Real Food CafĂ© breakfast burrito loaded with hot sauce and jalapenos with some American fries on the side. And, while I’m certainly ready to eat, there is a part of me that would like to keep fasting because of the extreme realness that I’ve felt with God over the past 19 days. It’s been nothing short of awesome. I guess the trick becomes figuring out how I can live with that same amount of intensity and authenticity with God while I eat, drink, and be merry.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

simple

nothing to lose, nothing to prove, nothing to hide. i wish more people would live this way. i wish i would live this way more. i've got the nothing to hide part down. i'm pretty good at the nothing to lose part as well. it's the nothing to prove thing that gets me every time. why do i feel the need to prove myself to others?

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Porn

Porn has become a big part of my life. That statement probably scares some, but it’s true. I should clarify, though. I’m not dabbling in porn. I’m not spending countless hours on websites. I’m not hitting the Red Barn adult theater that’s around the corner from my house. So, put your fears to rest. A funny thing happened back in July. This guy named JR moved in to a house two doors down from me, and he happens to be one of the pastors at xxxchurch.com. He and I have become good friends, and so I’ve been committed to praying for their ministry, helping out in any way I can, and we’ve even opened our house up as a place for people to stay when they come to town for various events, etc.

But, the thing that really has been good is that I’m starting to see how much sin really can destroy people. On a personal note, I never struggled huge with pornography. I remember as a middle-school student watching late-night Showtime and Cinemax at my friend’s house. I remember the stack of Playboys and Penthouses that my friend’s dad gave us. But that was short-lived. I remember from time to time stumbling upon a porn website over the past 12 years and staying for longer than I should have, but it’s never been a habit…I haven’t been “walking in this sin.”

My sin was and is different. I was rebellious…especially while I was at school at Cornerstone. Sitting in a Christian subculture was not for me. Thankfully, the only outward manifestation of my rebellion was a pierced tongue (which was against the rules), an occasional six-pack shared with some friends, and a few visits to some local night clubs. But, the fact of the matter is that in my heart I was bucking against the place where God led me. There was a time where I hated all things “Christian,” and I’ll admit that there are still times where this attitude creeps in. When I first met my wife (before we started dating), I was in a funk…I had walls so thick built up around me that no one could get in. Somehow Heidi got in…and I’m glad she did. 1 Samuel 15:23 says, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”

What I’m trying to say is this: It doesn’t matter what your sin is. It will cripple you. It will destroy you. It will stop you from experiencing life the way it should be experienced. The only way to stop it from crippling, destroying, and stopping you is to cripple it, destroy it, stop it. Whether it’s porn or drugs or alcohol or stubbornness or rebellion or adultery or…kill it. Cut it off at the knees. Don’t let it continue. Get people in your life who know you’re dealing with it. Do whatever it takes to get rid of it .

I just heard the story of a guy who had an addiction to porn. He came home one day after realizing that it was destroying his marriage and his life. He said to his wife, “we need to talk.” He sent the kids downstairs to play. He built a fire in the fireplace. He brought out his collection of porn and one by one threw them in the fire. I don’t know what transpired after that, but I’d imagine his wife cried because there was a glimmer of hope. I’d imagine he shed some tears because of the small taste of freedom that had just touched his tongue. I remember when my walls came crashing down and there was Heidi smiling at me how good it felt to let someone in. I’d imagine this guy is feeling the same.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Here Comes Santa Crap

Why bother with Advent? I mean, isn’t it enough to celebrate the birth of Christ by stopping for five minutes on Christmas morning to read the story of his birth? Isn’t it enough to attend the Christmas Eve candle-light service? This season is too busy to stop and think about Christ for the whole four weeks leading up to Christmas. And so we don’t. We go to the parties, drink the eggnog, fill ourselves up with Christmas cookies and shopping and wrapping paper and bows and credit cards. We count the birth of Christ as just another day.

What if that’s not what it meant at all? What if advent was really a time to stop. Stop the busy-ness. Stop the hustle. Stop the overtime. Stop our world. Christians get so worked up over people trying to take “Christ” out of “Christmas,” when the fact of the matter is that we’ve done a pretty good job of doing that ourselves. I’m stopping during the next few weeks leading up to Christmas. Sure, I’ve got to keep working and I’ll go out and buy some gifts for people, but I’m stopping for a bit. I’m just going to slow down and take in God as we celebrate the coming of something momentous…and I don’t mean Santa Claus.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Collision

Tonight was good. We did our every-other-week-downtown-hot-dog-cookout, where we go give hot dogs to homeless people and drug addicts. What was different about this week, however, was that it is “homeless awareness week.” Now, I don’t know if this is just something Grand Rapids is celebrating, or if it’s something that’s more on a national level, but it was good none the less. We’ve been doing this pretty much every other week for the past seven months, so we’re getting to know many of the people who stay at Mel Trotter Ministries.

Tonight, though, we were given the opportunity take a tour of the facility. Normally, our world collides with the world of the people in drug rehab and homelessness for approximately an hour and a half on a street corner in downtown Grand Rapids. But tonight we were able to step into their world…the place where they live and work and eat and share life with one another on a daily basis. It was good to see the impact we’re able to have on people’s lives. Everyone was so excited for us to go through the ministry center…to get to see how they live…they welcomed us in with open arms because they’ve had the chance to get to know us throughout the past several months.

Mel Trotter is working right now on an initiative to do away with homelessness. To me that seems like a lofty goal, but I wonder what it would be like if there were no more people curling up in the doorways of shops, sleeping under bridges, begging for money outside of restaurants, or collecting pop cans during concerts downtown. I wonder what it would be like to no longer have to feed homeless people hot dogs. It’s one thing to go set up on a street corner and give away food, but would we be just as comfortable having these people sit down around my dinner table? Because if we’re serious about doing away with homelessness, then we may have to open up our homes to people who need a place to stay. As welcoming as I am, I’m not sure I’m ready for that. I want to be ready for that, but I’m not sure I am.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Journey Continues...

so, i've used other blogs before. yes, i'm a part of the myspace world, i've used xanga. i'll still use those to keep in touch with people, but this will be my thought space. this will be my place to spill it all. this is where i will craft my writing. this is where you, my readers, will hopefully be challenged and entertained and changed. quite a dream for a modest blog. enjoy.

some people's lives seem to just happen without much heartache, without much struggle, without pain or suffering, without every questioning what's going on, without wondering what's going to happen next. sometimes i wish mine were that way. i wish i didn't have to struggle through leadership issues at church. i wish i didn't have to fight so hard to do what God has called me to. i wish i didn't have to wonder how long i will be in a certain position or how long i would have influence over people around me. sometimes i wish i could settle into security and stability without any hint of the unknown.

but then i wonder if i would really be happy there. i mean, my personality thrives on change. while i certainly value deep friendships, especially with my wife, i feel most alive when everything around me is changing. right now everything is changing. i'm in the process, with several other people, of starting a church. this is nuts. i just gave up a well-paying job to help pastor a new church, and we don't even know for sure if it will be able to financially support me and my wife. but, this is obedience...this is faith. i will see God move just as he has in so many ways with my past circumstances. maybe stability and security is not meant for me. maybe i would be miserable with a typical 9 to 5 job. maybe i was created for something different.

it's sort of ironic that i'm planting a church since i've come to have a love/hate relationship with the church. i think most of our churches have simply become a subculture of the society that we live in. the american church is typically a few years behind cultural and technological trends, and thus is always playing catch up with the culture around them. just when something is new in our culture, the church is doing something that was new three years ago and is now outdated and irrelevant.

in fact, why should we even try to be a part of our culture. Jesus' message was counter-cultural to the society he lived in, and as i look at the depths of his message, it seems that it is even counter-cultural to our society today. i mean, does our society really say, "deny yourself?" does it really say, "sell all you have and give it to the poor?" does it really say, "forget everything you've ever learned and become like a child?" no, it says, "look out for number one...save enough money to retire...keep climbing the ladder to maturity."

well, i say a life well-lived...at least for me...will be one where i don't stop fulfilling the burning in my heart to live the way Jesus lived. this might mean i'll never be able to retire. this might mean i'll never be able to buy a vacation home or a boat or a fancy car or a bigger, nicer house. but, i'm ok with that...i think.