Unexpected Beauty

Every now and then, something gets dropped right in the middle of your nice little life that absolutely blows it up, and leaves you laughing like a kid standing outside while its raining Skittles.

Or, it brings you close to tears because you realize how much you don’t deserve it.

Every now and then, something does both. God tends to be good for that.

Is it possible to fall in love in 2 weeks? I’m not talking about first sight, I mean to know someone for a couple of weeks, and, after a handful of in-depth conversations and like 4 dates, to start falling in love? Tell me if it is, because I’m not so sure it didn’t just happen.

I looked into someone’s eyes today, and I saw something I had never seen before: the future. I’m not talking about having a vision, I mean I looked at someone and knew. I just knew. I’ve been able to say before that I could see myself with someone forever, but that was different. That I was trying to see. This time it found me.

In two weeks I have found myself in a relationship that has moved lightning fast, and, for some reason, it doesn’t scare me. But it scares me that it doesn’t scare me. I’m comfortable with it. Because I’ve talked in previous posts about how frustrated I have been because nobody could ever understand me, ever see things from my perspective. Well, now I can “until now” to that sentence. Because someone does. And she has blown me away.

The irony here is, folks, that she’s gonna read this post sometime in the next couple of days.

So I guess, in the interest of complete transparency, I should say that I am kind of scared. I’ve pulled a knife out of my back every time. Every time. I don’t know what its like to not have someone screw me over. And opening up completely makes me vulnerable to that again. But I have opened up so much already, and now the sirens are screaming in my head to stop, slow down, and examine things carefully.

But I don’t want to let unexpected beauty pass me by because I was standing still.

Decisions, decisions…

I’m scared, but I don’t think I can stop.

Thoughts, anyone?

A Basic Question

Let me preface this by saying that these thoughts aren’t rooted in originallity. Sometimes, though, you hear something that’s just too good to keep, and you have to shout it from the rooftops. I heard it this weekend. So now I’m shouting.

People who go to church like to talk about a lot of different things. We get hung up on useless things like theology and arguments about methods and traditions. We come up with an idea of how we think it should be done, and we put everything into that idea, whether it fits or not. And everyone. That hurts, I think.

We talk a lot about Jesus. Because it seems like you can’t go wrong there. Of course, if you ever want to be amazed at the minute little details about Jesus that can be argued about, sit in on a Seminary class sometime. It’s honestly pretty sad.

But what I heard this weekend rocked my little world, because it is so simple, and yet so crucial.

Jesus asked Peter a question. A simple question. You may know the one. Because He had been going around shaking up everyone’s traditions, claiming that He was the Son of God, and generally stirring up a lot of stuff. Stuff that ultimately got Him crucified. Since nobody knew exactly what to do with Him, where to categorize Him in their finite little human minds, they were saying all kinds of stuff about Him. Some were beleiving that He was who He said He was. Others were saying He was some other prophet come back from the dead. Some were saying He was a straight up lunatic.

So, Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13)

See, the profound thing here, though, is that everything in our lives is seriously as simple as that question. Jesus’ life, by any critic’s standard, was a turning point in history. Even if you believe that He was a complete fake or totally insane, you cannot help but recognize the way His life, actions, and teachings shook up everything in a way that nothing or no-one else had quite accomplished before. So we have an option: we can ignore that (which is the equivilant of shoving our heads into the sand and pretending it isn’t there), or we can recognize that, and wrestle with its implications. Which brings us back to that question, a question that leaps off the page and presents itself to us.

Who do you say that He is?

C.S. Lewis wrote that Jesus was either a liar, or He was Lord. But He can’t be both. If He was lying about being the Son of God, if the Bible is false in it’s account of His rising from the dead, then He was a “morally good” man by the standards of His time that wanted people to believe that He was something more. But, if He was telling the truth, and if the Bible’s account of His rising from the dead is true, then that changes everything.


So, if we’re going to see any history at all as being influential on our lives and society today, then each of us has to answer in our own hearts: who is Jesus to us? A morality that we once believed in but have forgotten? A cool concept to talk about on Sundays? A threat to our ability to have fun and be in charge of our lives? An historical figure? A divine King who sacrificed everything for us? The facts are there. We have to do something with them. The answer that you come up with will, for you, change everything.


Beginnings and Endings

Where does true faith and spirituality begin?

I left a traditional church several months ago. I tried something completely new for me. I left denominations altogether and stepped outside the box. Now, I can’t believe I let myself be in that box for so long, because for the first time in my life, I fit in at my church. No traditions here. Something completely different every Sunday. And, as a result, I encounter God on a regular basis. Really encounter Him. There’s no talk about new buidlings, or numbers. No high-pressure sales pitches for Christianity. Nothing normal. Really artsy and edgy. In a word: relevant.

I had lunch with my someone yesterday that still attends the same church I came from. She said she had always been “comfortable” there. Isn’t that the problem? Aren’t we too comfortable as Believers? We’ve forgotten so easily that our church was founded by people who were horribly martyred just for proclaiming the name of Christ. We shrink back if we’re accused of being too open with our faith at work, but Christians during Nero’s reign in Rome were mounted on the walls of the city and lit on fire to provide light for the city at night. We’re scared we may lose our jobs. We’re scared people will think less of us if we talk openly about Christ.

Well, something could be said for the way we do it. So often Christians get stupid and preachy, and decide to spend more time yelling at, and coming down on, those who are searching because they do stuff that we consider “un-Christian.” We get so caught up in our rituals and traditions that we become practically useless. We do things in church when we can’t even remember what they symbolize any more. We’re safe. We’re boring. We’re stagnate. We barely have a pulse.

And we wonder why people don’t want this?

Jesus was none of those things. He was a revolutionary. He offended people on a regular basis. He broke the norm. He stood outside of the status quo. He pushed the envelope. He spoke the truth pointedly, but He did it with love. Perhaps that’s what we’re lacking here…love. Perhaps our traditions have replaced it.

I saw some footage on a local Christian TV station from a really traditional church tonight. I was sick at my stomach. There are so many people there who went in with the right motives, and got lulled into a stupor with the same thing, over and over and over again.

They’re comfortable there.

I love my new church. But I’m not always comfortable there. Things happen every week that make me a bit uneasy. And I still encounter God. Every week. I think it’s great that I’m not always comfortable. Because that means I’m real. I’m embarassed by Christians who are constantly plastic and fake and judgmental, because they turn so many seekers from the most wonderful Truth anyone could ever imagine.

Where does spirituality begin? Where does true faith begin?

I think it’s where religion ends.

Factoring Fear

When I was in high school, I remember discussing the freedom of speech. I heard a quote (I couldn’t tell you who said it) then: “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll die to defend your right to say it.”

As an aritst, I place a huge value on free speech and expression. As a Believer, that gets filtered through the lens of my faith and God’s perspective, but that’s internal. The external freedom to say what I want is, to quote the forefathers, “inalienable.”

At least I thought.

So Tuesday evening, when two women with whom we are all familiar were removed (in one case arrested) from the State of the Union address because they were wearing T-shirts with political slogans on them, I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach. Not the kind of uneasy feeling you get when you’re irritated and trying to come up with something to do about what’s making you mad. The kind you get when you’re scared. Because, honestly, I am starting to be afraid of America.

Politics leave a bad taste in my mouth, as do politicians. But, as politicians go, I am a Bush supporter. I have agreed with nearly everything he has done, including his decision to go to war (although I’m beginning to question the length of that war). The only thing I’ve really disagreed with this administration about was the Patriot Act. Somehow, legalized spying seems to me to be one step away from the secret police that drag us from our homes at night. I take issue with the fact that intelligence officials can potentially monitor my phone calls and email. I have nothing to hide from them, I simply don’t want them in my business. Of course, this monitoring, including the illegal (yes, I said it) wiretaps that have recently attracted so much attention, are only done, as I understand it, when there is probable cause to suspect that there is a need for it in the interest of national security.

My question is, who assesses that probable cause? They do.

So, here we are, suddenly in a situation where Captial Police can remove and arrest people for wearing t-shirts that express their thoughts. Sounds like censorship of political expression to me. Sounds like one more step toward the secret police to me. Sounds like one more step toward religious censorship to me, or artistic censorship. That scares me.

I’m sitting on my sofa this morning, and watching that Bush signed a temporary extention on the Patriot Act. Of course he did. We rolled over and gave intelligence officials all kinds of power they shouldn’t have because we were scared. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Of course they don’t want to give it up.

And now we have so much more to be scared of.

Traffic Signs

Have you ever noticed how desperate we tend to be?

Seriously. At our core, when you break everything down to the basics, strip away any pretense of our having any clue at all just how this cosmic clock ticks, and try to wrap your brain around the fact that we just could be on the marble that some giant alien kid is playing with, we get pretty desperate.

Not that I believe in the giant marble, but it just occurred to me today. I had the revelation while fighting the urge to give someone finger in traffic.

I know, I know, that’s not very holy or righteous, but since I have moved to Virginia, I am struck the unapologetic inability of anyone to drive. Seriously, I think this place gives driver’s licenses in exchange for proofs of purchase or something. I was exiting off of the expressway today, when the person exiting in front of me all but stops to let the person in front of him, who had failed to see the exit in time, over. After that near-death experience, I pull into the parking lot of a grocery store to observe that drivers obviously have no clue that the parking lanes with arrows are meant to funnel traffic in one direction. Going opposite that direction causes issues. Except that the people who are driving opposite that direction really don’t get why everyone is staring at them, and why they’re having difficulty squeezing past all the other vehicles. My favorite is when they back out in front of you, and proceed to come back your direction, against the flow of traffic.

That was the genius that almost got finger.

After I repented, I was thinking about the look on her face. It was blank. Almost panicked. This kind of overstimulated, hypervigilant fear that something she couldn’t quite identify could happen. That look stayed with me.

And as I wandered into the grocery store, I was looking at the facial expressions of those around me in the checkout lines. Blank. Reserved. I smiled at a girl (she was hot), and she just blankly stared back at me, and turned around. Complete social anonymity. I don’t know you, I don’t want to know you, just leave me alone.

Let me go home alone to the television to do homework, be too busy to call friends, and secretly cry because something very basic is wrong.

Let me go home to a family that is slowly unraveling, act like the glue that holds it together, and secretly lose sleep because I can’t shake the idea that it’s broken.

Let me go hang out in a coffee shop with “friends” who may or may not be there when it really counts, talking about superfluous things that don’t matter, and secretly wonder when I go to bed tonight why something essential is missing.

Scared. Lost. Wandering. Trying and failing. We’re missing something. Something very basic. Something we can’t make it without. We can exist without it, be we can’t live without it. We can survive in an emotional and intimate vacuum, but we can’t truly have a pulse without it. It’s something that’s outside of us, because if it were inside of us, it would be no bigger than we are, and somewhere deep down, in a place we don’t talk about, that frightens us in a way we can’t describe. It has to be external. It has to be powerful. It has to be good. We desperately cling to and wonder about that.

By definition, the elusive idea that is missing from the hearts resting in turmoil behind the scared faces is God. But somehow, we’re too proud to admit that He could be it. Too knowledgable to recognize that He is that answer. Too intelligent to believe in Someone we can’t see, hear, or touch, even though we can see that, if He were that limited, He wouldn’t be the answer. Somehow, we’ve missed it.

I guess we’re always driving the wrong way, aren’t we?