28 02 2008

I have resigned myself to spending this summer at home

Don’t get me wrong, though. I don’t think it will be the worst thing ever. I would be lying, though, if I said I wasn’t somewhat disappointed. I really wanted to be somewhere else this summer. I wanted to be somewhere away from home. Somewhere new and exciting. It may still pan out…I am going to try a church in Kansas City to intern at. Maybe it will happen. I hope it does. Being home for the summer just makes me upset. I don’t want to be there, because it will be just like the last, except my parents won’t be getting divorced. It will be just as boring and as pointless, however. Aside from a few people, and they know who they are, I don’t talk to anyone at home anymore, so I know that it will be a lot of me sitting around the house doing nothing all day. I might go take a course or two at IUSB, and hopefully I will get an internship somewhere in town, but in the end, it will still be the same waste of time that it was last year. I need to get out and do something. I don’t know what. I just need to get out and experience things. Something new. Something I have never felt before. I want a complete and drastic change to happen in my life. To become new and refreshing again. I feel like I have been thirsting for something like that for so long and I want to get that thirst quenched and to feel rejuvenated.

Maybe I will be surprised, though.  One never knows what is coming around the corner.

The idea of home is a strange thing, isn’t it? What is home? Home can mean so many things. It could be where you live, or where you feel welcome, or the land you came from.

Home for me, though….I’m not really sure if Indiana is it. Sure, I grew up there and everything, but I don’t really live there anymore, and I don’t feel connected to it, other than in memories. It’s really quite strange. Technically, it is my “permanent residence”, but I feel about as connected to it as a person that lives 7 or 8 months out of the year more than 1000 miles away. (1063.93 miles to be exact) It’s hard to really miss a place you don’t really live at anymore. So…where is home for me now? I’m not sure. It’s not my dorm room…it’s hard to really feel comforts of home there. It’s definitely something I need to think about more. I think I miss the idea of home, more than anything else.

And my dog. I miss my dog a lot.

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My Thoughts on the Deep Shift Conference

23 02 2008

I am a warm, comforting blanket.

 So right now you are probably thinking, “Oh, Joel…what are you talking about?”. I’m also betting that you are not surprised to hear me say something so seemingly silly. (Say that 5 times fast.)

But, I want to challenge you to think about something. How are you living the life of Christ? What are you doing to live that life? Lastly, how do you embody that life? It’s not easy to think about. Maybe to some people it’s a dangerous challenge because they don’t want to think about it. Regardless, it’s so imperative to think about as a Christian because I have believed for some time now that to really live the message of Jesus we have to go and share it, speak it, and live it. If we aren’t doing that, we aren’t meeting the expectations and goals Jesus asked of us. This is what is required from us. It’s not a secret to be kept, but a glorious story to share with everyone.

 This is why I am like a warm, comforting blanket.

My image of Jesus is just like that. Blankets are so special to me. I can’t really explain it. I just love that feeling of being wrapped up in a blanket and on a cold Indiana night with the fire going and reading a book, watching a movie, or something like that. It’s the essence of comfort. The image I get of Jesus’s love is just like that. Jesus is that blanket that surrounds you and loves you no matter what. In the coldest of nights, you are safe and warm because of that blanket. It’s such a special, personal relationship.

So, when I want to embody Christ and be like Him, I tend to think about that blanket. I can be that blanket, or be the one who gives someone that blanket if they want to accept it.

So…I have this blanket or I am this blanket or whatever. Now what?

I get this sick feeling sometimes. It comes from deep in my gut and it compells me to react when I feel it. I get that sick feeling when I see people in pain and suffering. It’s so powerful. Maybe you know what I am talking about. It doesn’t take a lot. It doesn’t even have to be someone I know. When my brother got hurt really bad in August, I felt that pain so much, but I feel just as much pain when I think about the 2.2 Billion people on the planet living in absolute poverty. I have to do something about that. I refuse to sit and do nothing when people are dying of something so preventable. I see these faces on TV or magazines, and it pains me. Literally pains me. Yes, I sponsor a child in Peru named Karla, but I can do so much more to cause a DEEP SHIFT in the world. Admittedly, I can’t do everything, but saving even one life is saving one life. If everyone could save one life, we’d do some much. I want so much to be a blanket for Christ. I want to much to go and just hug those people I see that are in so much pain and tell them how much God loves them. Maybe this isn’t realistic…but it’s some I have to do. I can’t explain it any other way than that.

It’s just this mission I have. I have felt it for so long. Even as a child. But, only recently am I really starting to acknowledge it, and realize that I can go and DO IT. Nothing is holding anyone back from doing what they want to do, and that’s such a brilliant and satisfying revelation! Even disabilities can’t hold you back. Everyone can go and spread the Message. There’s nothing holding any of us back.

 So let’s do it. Go out and proclaim that good news! Go and live it! It’s too precious to keep to yourself, and it’s too powerful to keep silent. Go LIVE and EXPERIENCE what it is to be the hands and feet of Christ in our world.





14 02 2008

I had a little bit of an argument with my dad today. Basically, what I meant as an act of love and concern, he took as an insult.

 I had to write to my congregation at home in Indiana. I wrote to ask for money for the coming mission trip to Honduras. They wanted me to ask for money, but I felt weird about it. Since this past summer, after my parents got divorced, I have felt alienated by the congregation. So, when I sat down to write to them, I also wrote about how unwelcome I felt by them when I was there, and how I felt that they had missed an opportunity to come together as a community in such a bad circumstance. They forgot about Jesus’ unquestioning love that he shared with all people. I wasn’t saying that they were sinful, or that they were horrible people.

My point is this: Love is a huge and difficult concept. People know what love is, but they don’t always understand what it means. I believe that lovemeans having to come to people in a nonjudgemental way and tell them that they are faltering or not doing the right thing in any situation. That, in my opinion, is one of the hardest and most difficult responsiblities with love. Love is very easy when times are great, but in the hard times, love can be one of the hardest things to hold on to.

Maybe it wasn’t my place to say it, but it needed to be said. If I was faltering, I would hope that someone would come to me and talk about what I was doing wrong. Ultimately, my dad and I were fine. But, I think that as a minister-to-be, I need to build courage and wisdom in facing the tough obstacles that will be coming ahead in my life.

What do you think?





9 02 2008

            It’s getting close to my birthday. Tuesday is the 12th, meaning it will be two months until I turn 20. I know that seems so silly to be thinking about it. Not sure why I am exactly, to be honest. My birthday has always been really weird. The only ones I can really remember as a kid, I always went to Chuck E. Cheese and had a good time with my family. Then as I grew out of that, I just went to dinner with my family. It wasn’t until I turned 18 that I had a really good birthday. I skipped school and did anything I wanted. I went out to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I got my ear pierced, I got a full body massage, and I went to a movie. It was great to do something special for once. This past year blew. I didn’t really do anything, after plans were cancelled at the last second because of an emergency. I hated it.

 

I guess I have this idea in my head of what a birthday should be like, and my actual birthday never adds up to that picture.

 

I guess I have this picture where people really care and want to make my birthday special. But, this never happens. I never really poured into a lot of people in high school past a superficial level. My problems or concerns were just that, and they were no one else’s business. To a large extent, I’ve done the same thing here at school. I can relate to people well, but I never can really get to know people. I think that’s because I never had friends when I was younger. I was too shy and quiet, and almost all of the “friendships” were just acquaintances. Except Max, of course. Max and I were really close as kids. When he moved away, it killed me because he was the only real friend I had ever had. I wish it was still like that. You know, where you can be so simple minded and not care about complicated things. All you had to worry about was getting to the next level, or shooting the invisible bad guy hiding behind the tree with your orange blaster rifle. But, I really wish I would have had really close friends in high school that would have stayed with me. This is probably why I never really cared about high school, and why I don’t care to ever go back.

 

This brings me back to the first point: That I really just want to have a good birthday again.  I mean, birthdays are the one day of the year where it’s supposed to be about you for a change. And for me, it rarely has been. At least it’s on a Saturday this year. Next year it’s on Easter, which is pretty cool I guess. I guess all I want is people to care about it a little bit. I don’t even care if nothing really awesome happens. I just want a little something. Anything. Just not another lifeless one. I don’t think that’s asking for much. I never ask people for much. I don’t think I can ever depend on people for much of anything.

 

Sometimes everything can just drive you in the muck. You just get eaten alive. The muck just wears you down gradually and steadily until you get to a breaking point. You can choose to give in and submit, or you can fight on only to get pushed to that breaking point again.

 

After getting to that point for so long, I’m wondering whether submission is as bad as it seems sometimes. Or if I even really know what it is.

 

I just know that I’m tired and drained, physically and mentally, and I’ve got to do something about it. The trouble is, there’s nothing I can do about it. Where is the reprieve I am so desperately longing for? I need it now. I don’t think I can wait much longer for a short, little break. Just long enough for me to recover and then get back to working myself hard.

 

The work would be so much easier if it had any real meaning. At least I would know why.





4 02 2008

There are, or will be, times in your life when you become so sure of something. You don’t have facts to back it up, but you know regardless. You can’t back it up with anything but your instincts. You just feel it in your bones. It becomes such a simple, and obvious fact.

I’ve been lucky enough to have that happen twice recently.

 I had an awe inspiring religious experience today. I swear I felt God speaking to me. I’m so glad that the Lord could use me, and that I got to experience something completely Earth shattering.

I was walking back from class after I stopped by the bookstore to pick up some pens, since I had run out of ink. I was just listening to my Ipod, like I usually do. And then I saw a man in yellow say hello to me, and asked me if I could get him some food. I said that I could not give him money for food, but that I would be more than happy to take him to get some food. We started talking on the way to the Main, and he told me some of his story. He had been deeply affected by Katrina, and had lost his wife and home. We talked a lot about Scripture and the Bible, as well. We discussed the end of 1 Thessalonians, and he quoted from different parts of it. Then we discussed different sayings of Jesus, particularly from John, and he quoted several parts of that as well. I was impressed, not because he could quote the Bible, but because he understood their meanings. He also asked about my faith, and what I believed, and what I wanted to do with my life. He admired that I wanted to serve God with my life, and that he was doing the same. It was really inspiring feel like God was really working through him and that he was letting Him do what He wanted. I was amazed. We talked for a while about all this. Then he asked me if I could help him with a bus ticket back to Shreveport. I was cautious, but I just felt like he was truly in need. Needless to say, I got him to the right people, and they helped him out. After I got him a little more food for the journey, and got him to the bus stop, I hugged him goodbye.

I will concede that there is the possibilty that he was lying. There is a chance that he worked and trained to make up that story to sway emotions, and memorized all that Scripture to be persuasive. Even if he did lie, he probably still needed the food. When I hugged him though, it was not the hug of a man that took what he needed from you and was gone. It was the hug of a man who was in desperate need, and was eternally grateful. It was that moment when I felt God there again. I had felt Him when we were discussing Scripture, but even more so when I left him. I know that I did the right thing. And I know that God was truly alive in each of us at that moment. I felt that so much. It was overwhelming how much God was present. When I sit down to pray tonight, I will pray that he makes it safely home, and that he will get his life back on track.

I hope all of you see God in your life each and every day.