Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Blogging: still cheaper than therapy

Bloggity, bloggity, blog.

I’ve noticed that I tend to update this thing LESS frequently when there’s not a huge issue in my life. When there’s a big event on the horizon, I tend to get all self-disclosure-y and willing to share my innermost thoughts and feelings. During the down times? Please. No one wants to read about my recent fascination with cleaning out my closet and giving away tons of clothes and books to homeless shelters here in Miami.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Be ye warned, Georgia and Mississippi. We are coming. Ash & I – along with Cricket & Maggie – will be hitting the road sometime on or around December 22 to head back to GA for four-five days and then to MS for just after Christmas until New Year’s – at which point we’ll be coming back to Miami. That’s going to be a LOT of miles logged on the car. Thankfully, the Jetta can handle it. …oh, and for those of you who care, the Jetta has been re-christened with the name Serenity. If I have to explain that to you, you’ve missed out on the best failed TV show of all time.

READING RAINBOW: For some reason, I’ve been tearing up the bookshelf lately. Some books (like Brennan Manning’s The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus) I’m reading for my own edification (and because it’s been sitting on my shelf unread for an unprecedented year), some books (like Kingdom Ethics) were recommended by my pastor, and some books (like Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship) I’m reading because I’ve never read anything by the author before, and I’m just curious what all the hullabaloo is all about.

Say it with me: nerd.

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING: This year, Ashley and I are foregoing getting…many…tangible gifts for friends, family, and even each other. Part of the reason is because we’re both at “that” age where getting a lot of toys seems to run contrary to what we both believe (yes; that was meant to be subliminal), but also because we both want to take part in giving to something…bigger.

Therefore, I present to you: Advent Conspiracy. Use it wisely. Use it powerfully. Use it to help restore the world.

But mostly, use it because it’s in your heart to want to.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cue Over the Rhine's "Latter Days"

So, here’s what’s going on down Miami way, for the – like – nine of you who regularly read this thing and like to live vicariously through my life:

On November 17, I celebrated the second anniversary of the tenth annual remembrance of my twenty-fifth birthday. Math majors, you may now commence with the figuring out of my age. As one might guess, this being the first birthday I get to celebrate being away from my family and the first of MY birthdays Ashley & I celebrate as a married couple…yeah. Deep thoughts, deep sighs, and introspection a-plenty.

Tuesday, November 20, Ashley and I played hooky from work and drove to Orlando to go hear Rob Bell speak as a part of his The Gods Aren’t Angry Tour. It was a great chance for us spend some much-needed time away from the office, and I felt…relaxed…for the first time in months. I actually began to feel okay with the way that life is going, and I felt okay with the uncertainty of many, many things that are coming up in Sonnyland.

Thursday, November 22 was – duh – Thanksgiving. Since Ashley was the Residence Coordinator “on call” for the week/weekend, we did not get a chance to travel to go see family and friends for the holiday…and this was the first Thanksgiving that Ash did not spend with her family. We instead helped to host a dinner for the residents of the building we live in that were unable (or unwilling) to travel home for the break. Mosaic hosted a plethora of events for the day that – sadly – we did not participate in. More so by nature of the fact we had this event to prepare for, but also because the aforementioned melancholy ‘tude of Ashley (away from family) and me (my life in transition, blah crap blah).

Friday, November 23 was the day we celebrated being bums. And just to say we took part in the insanity that is Black Friday, we made one (1) trip to Best Buy sometime around 2:00 in the afternoon just to see the chaos (we bought nothing, much to the chagrin of retailers everywhere). I also smirked like an idiot at the victory of MS State over that other college in Mississippi.

Saturday, November 24 we headed off to this HUGE freaking outlet mall about 30 minutes from where we live…where we bought nothing, but we began the process of making our lists and checking them twice. We also ate dinner at a Cracker Barrell (the first one we’d seen since moving here) for a little touch of home. We then went to OUR home to watch the thrill of victory (Auburn) and the agony of defeat (Kansas).

Sunday, November 25 we went out and bought our first REAL six-foot-tall live Christmas tree. I’m waiting for Maggie to either eat the bottom branches of the tree or for Cricket to try and scoot up under the tree skirt and fall asleep.

Today? I’m a little sleepy, a little sad, and a little in need of a roadmap.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

CAFFEINATED: Long-distance creative brainstorming (reach out and blog someone)

Ah, Compass Community Church. My home away from home (and where my heart still years for in many ways), and the place where I still get to take part in the Creative Team...especially when my "expertise" is needed.

Their current series? Caffeinated.

Something that I clearly have no experience with...

Read on, faithful blog monkeys:

So - in an effort to bring you broad knowledge on the subject of coffee into play...This week we are in Phil 3 - The Aroma of Life we're calling believing

As Caffeinated Christ Followers (CCFs) we will be known by our SMELL...AROMA

So, how do we safeguard this CCF Aroma/Smell...

Paul speaks to this in Phil 3by telling us to:
Resist Legalism (3:1-7) - Refocus Ambitions (3:8-10) - Reject Complacency (3:13-14)

Now the Sonny Part - Coffee Lingo aka translation...

As CCFs our Aroma can
Offend or Attract (3:1-7 -dealing w' the legalism)
???? Or ????? (3:8-10 - dealing w' the refocusing of Paul's live - trading in His Glory for God's Glory...Paul's Vision for God's Vision for his life...Paul's Passion for God's Passion)
Be Postive or Negative (3:13-14 - dealing w' complacency - either focusing on negative of the past or the positive of a future in Jesus)

Thoughts - Ideas (especially for 3:8-10 part - don't have that one yet) -Tweaks....


My responses?

YOU can't believe you're doing CAFFEINATED without me? Follow this up with a LORD OF THE RINGS series or a follow-up to LOST (FOUND 2.0) or HEROES 2.0 and we'll have words, Carpenter. I know you want me to come back, but you don't want me to come to exact my righteous vengeance. :)

Now - my thoughts:

- the aroma of coffee/the QUALITY of the aroma of the coffee can be measured in part by where it's coming from. For me, I go into a coffee shop and I immediately know that the smell I get hit with is welcoming and reminds me of why I'm where I am. Phil 3:2 is the hinge on this: same as with church - I go into a church that has a heart (aroma) I am going to connect with, I can easily sync up with the CCF's there. I go into, say, a truck stop that yes, sells "coffee," but the smell of the carafe that's been on the burner for HOURS and is now stale, acidic and has had the flavor literally burned out of it - that's a mutilator of the bean, not so much the flesh (verse 2).

Invert this with how many large, legalistic churches "look" like a church should look, but what you get there is stale, been warmed-over, and well past its prime. Finding a quality brew in, say, a church that meets in a warehouse is - for many - akin to finding a Fair Trade brew being served at a Texaco. It's not what you expect, and it's only because the baristas (the ministry team) care enough to brew the very best.

Plus - really. What IS more pretentious or proud of the culture in a coffee shop than the people who have, say...a Starbucks logo mug, keychain, travel mug, coffee scoop...they're all about the "pedigree" of the coffee - because it comes with a "name" - than they are about the coffee. Sometimes, the people who get a half-caf, no foam, skim-milk latte with a shot of sugar-free hazelnut sound like a pretentious jackass in line. The people at the local shop, for example, KNOW me and know that when and what I order, I know what I'm getting. If anyone tries to "call me" on not knowing what I'm ordering, I wind up spouting off a deal of information about the beans, the roast, the region they come from - but I don't just blurt this out willy-nilly because I'm not a braggart.

- coffee beans not used once roasted go stale and lose flavor and aroma, even if you store them in the freezer (as my parents like to do). Verses 10-11: I have experienced redemption in Christ and in the sacrifice of His life, so I want to share in those sufferings. I have roasted coffee beans that I want to enjoy, so I want to grind those beans up - and to somehow attain a buzz. :) Use it or lose it, really. Yes, some jackanape might want to argue the "once saved" debate, but really - it's more like getting saved and then moving to a commune because you want to keep that first connection/"salvation high" alive in your heart. If you don't USE the beans, you LOSE the beans. You're left with something mildly resembling that which you paid a high price for. Same as with your salvation - it came at a high price, so if you don't use your gifts/abilities as a CCF, you're putting that light under a bushel, so to speak.

Don't miss the HUGE point that for as good as coffee smells, it's not until it's crushed that it fulfills its true purpose. For as good as Christ's teachings were, it wasn't until HE was crushed that he could come into His true purpose.

- rejecting complacency is like moving from a pre-ground, sold-in-bulk cheap coffee to getting a bag of fresh-roasted, vacuum-sealed beans. Coffee drinkers are ALWAYS on the look for the next great brew. Why else would Jittery Joe's continually try to improve it's beans (having "not yet taken hold" of the best brew), not continuing with the things that didn't sell or were met with disdain by the drinkers ("forgetting what is behind") and they press on (even with a French press) toward "the goal of the prize."

- Sonny
taste and see that the brew is good...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Transcendental post-modern existential ennui

...has nothing to do with what I write here today, but man. That's one catchy title.

So, I'm feeling a tad melancholy. Between my looming upcoming birthday which edges me closer to 40 than to 30...to the, shall we say, moderately unclear status of my employment beginning in January and the wonderful baggage of meaning and purpose in life that this brings...

Y'ever have those days when you want to cry and you can't quite figure out why exactly? Or, you think you know why but you don't know why you want to cry? Or you're just so torn (cue Natalie Imbruglia) that the frustration and mental & emotional stressors are making you lose sleep, unable to focus, and you're emotionally bi-polar?

Kinda like being in love (except for the bi-polar bit), with the difference being that this insomnia and mental anguish doesn't come with a hug.

I just needs ta (a) meditate on the name of this blog (shut up, Bryan), and (b) get Psalm 46:10 and/or the song of the same title by Kim Hill embalzoned on my heart.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Much Ado About Nutjob

Well...it's been a few weeks since the latest update. Things in Lemmonsland have been moderately busy and full of intrigue, mystery, romance...

...wait; I'm confusing my life with the life of Chuck from NBC's new series of the same name (shameless plug, but whaddayagonnado?). My bad.

My life's been comparatively bland; Ashley and I have FINALLY gotten around to framing and hanging some of our wedding photos in our apartment, although we've not bothered to put the 67 jillion other photos in an album. Yet.

I have a beautiful first-degree burn on my left hand from where my ignorant self poured - not spilled; POURED - espresso on it as I was making Ash a latte at home. I think I invented a new language when I started screaming in pain from this.

My birthday is coming up soon, and this has me both melancholoy and sentimental. Growing older stinks.

This weekend, Ash & I are going to go through another round of DVD and book purges. We both feel like we've accumulated too much...junk...and in a move to simplify our lives, we feel the need/desire to unburden ourselves from some of the material possessions we have. So - we'll either give 'em away or sell them on eBay.

My work situation has taken a turn for the comedic, as I (a) have little to no idea what in the name of Mal Reynolds I'll be doing in January for a job, (b) I'm uncomfortably comfortable with that idea (?!), and (c) with every breath I take, I am reminded more and more why office politics give me a headache. And a heartache.

Ashley? Things are going great for her - she's applied for the Ph.D. program at Barry University and for the Ed.D program at FIU. So, soon she will not only have more common sense but also more book sense than me. I can still take her in a game of trivia, though.

See? Noone has missed anything. You may now go back to watching dancing unicorns on YouTube or whatever it is that passes for entertainment in your corner of the world.

Me? It's off to coffeeland for a much needed break.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

MOSAIC MIAMI: The Voice of Truth

While I'm still working on the audio upload (it's Homecoming week at the University of Miami, which means lots of late nights and little free time for Sonny), here are the written notes from the sermon* I gave October 28, 2007.

* = thanks and acknowledgement to Compass Community Church for the overt stealing of a few ideas...although, since I was on the Creative Team at the church at the time, I'm technically just stealing from myself...


MOSAIC NOTES – 10-28-07: the Voice of Truth


Pet lovers: show of hands. Who all here has a pet? We have two: Cricket (adopted, 1994) & Maggie (adopted, 2000). I love allegories, I love telling and hearing stories, and anything that has a deeper meaning just gets me pumping. Funny and humbling to me just how many times God has used these two little mutts to illustrate the ways He works in my life.

Ashley and I are “those” dog owners. We give voices to our dogs. Cricket, despite her age, still speaks like a puppy and we speak to her in baby speak and she answers us in baby speak. “Time go nite-nite.” “I go sleep.” Seems just natural to me to talk to her like this, but it sounds a little ludicrous to anyone who hears us speaking to them. Maggie sounds like the dog from OVER THE HEDGE “Play?” But still kid-like in her voice.

I could go on for hours over the lessons I’ve learned from these two mutts, but one struck me the other day while walking them. Normally, when I walk them in the morning, I talk to them – partially to wake myself up, but also to tell them “no, don’t chase the lizard, “no, don’t eat that” or something else that starts with “no.” This one morning, I didn’t speak while we were walking. Don’t know why, just didn’t. Was walking Maggie & Cricket at the same time – because of her age, Cricket “goes” more often than Maggie, so I’m usually standing like this [image] when Cricket stops. Was stopped with Cricket, staring off at nothing, when I looked down, because I felt Maggie standing on my leg. She’d some back and was standing on hind legs, one paw in front of the other on my leg, ears back, looking at me with this sad puppy look on her face, like “Daddy? Why are you not speaking to me?” I looked at her and asked something like, “What is it, baby girl?” Really genuinely concerned because she looked so upset. Soon as she heard my voice, she knew that I wasn’t upset with her, wasn’t ignoring her, or anything like that - she simply just wanted to hear me talk to her – she got that “YEAH!” look – dogs smile; those of you with dogs know this – and she took off to sniff again.

Cricket? She’s learned through the years that sometimes when I’m quiet, it’s because I’m angry. Frustrated @ work, life, etc. – but she internalizes it and thinks I’m angry at her. Until she hears my voice, reassuring her that everything is okay between us – she looks a little timid. When she hears my voice talking to her, she gets excited. In that same “BLEAH!” happy face/run that Maggie gets. It wasn’t enough that Maggie heard my voice; Cricket needed to hear it as well, directed at her.

Oh, to be sure there are plenty of times that they do hear my voice and will completely ignore me, just trotting off in their own little world (“Hey – there’s food on the floor!” “Oooh – what’s this dead thing I found in the grass, and what does it taste like?”). But I’ve discovered that whether it’s me saying NO or just talking to them, they need to hear me. Or, at the very least, feel the sound of my voice. I love these two critters with all my heart, but I know in my heart of hearts that they don’t really understand one word I am saying to them. There associate certain sounds (“NO!”) to an action (what Ashley calls my “angry daddy” voice), but they don’t comprehend the words coming out of my mouth. They take reassurance in the SOUND of my voice.

Mark 4:23 (NIV): If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.

Kevin last week gave us a pretty much break-neck comprehensive overview of “How do I know Jesus is who He says He is,” a fast & furious look at Christianity and the Way. One of the next most common questions is “How can I understand God’s will in my life?” How do I know God is speaking to me? Or, conversely, we often complain that we don’t “get” God’s voice, that we don’t hear Him/feel Him speaking to us.

I know NOTHING about babies, but I have learned that you talk to them in the womb. They grow accustomed to the sound, to the resonance of your voice. [STRIKE DRUM] If your hearing is fine, you can both hear and feel me strike the drum. If your hearing is fine, you can’t separate the two (hearing/feeling).

Sound travels in waves, in cycles… in fact everything in life can be boiled down to cycles… our days are cycles, our years, the season, are cycles, our breathing and even heart rates have rhythms that are cyclical.. we even call it a life cycle… so everything moves in cycles… these cycles are in the form of waves…waves all have a certain frequency… resonance occurs when one set of waves overlaps an original wave…sympathetic vibration occurs…. The secondary waves connect with the original wave and are amplified and become greater than they were originally…

So if culture resonates with us… that means there has to be something inside of us… an original wave to connect with..

Culture Resonates an Original Source… God is closer than He appears or sounds – those stories, songs, personalities all connect with the original source wave of God inside of us… in whose image we are created…

Resonance – hard to explain… even harder to see… it is undeniable that we can feel and hear it

Something within us resonates to know our origin… to know if there is something out there bigger than us… to know the what the why and the how of our existence… We can look back at these verses in Acts and see that as well…

Acts 17:22-27 (NIV): Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Paul knew about this resonance… Vs. 22-23… In every culture, in every society, man has created objects of worship – something bigger than themselves to worship… even if they didn’t exactly know what it was… this need for something bigger impacts us in every way… it is the biggest influence on how we deal with our past, how we live in the present, and how we face the future… Paul knew about this resonance when he spoke there at Mars Hill…

Paul knew who God is… Vs. 24-25… It wasn’t enough to just recognize the resonance… that happens all day everyday without God having any part or being any part of the answer… think about this… when you see the commercials that you see on TV… does it occur to you that they use this resonance to sell you things? They use emotions to get you to buy stuff… emotions that make us cry, that make us hungry, that make us lustful, that make us thirsty, and even emotions that make us laugh…

Without knowing the original source of the resonance, without understanding the original wave, the resonance has no meaning… it is much ado about nothing… So Paul tells the philosophers who this unknown God really is… this chord struck that makes you search any and everywhere for meaning and hope… He didn’t offer a debate.. but straight up told them how it was… He told them that he knew this resonance, and he knew who God is… And better yet, Paul knew what we need to know about resonance & God…

Paul knew what we need to know about resonance & God… Vs. 26-27… God did this so men would seek him… So that we could know that He is closer than we sometimes think He is or feel He is, He put a part of Himself inside of us… we are created in His image and resonate when we connect with His original wave in culture…

John 4:23-25 (MSG): It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.

So – how exactly do you develop this inner discernment (there’s a $3 “church” word for you) to sync up your own spirit to the resonance of God?

But before we begin – understand that nothing in the Bible is quick and easy. Your salvation came at a price, and God never said that the struggles in this world would be simple or easy to overcome. Quite the opposite, actually:

Ephesians 6:13 (NIV):
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Let’s start with asking God for guidance.

How many of you have been guilty of either driving around during the holidays and praying that God will give you a good parking space, or when you do find one that’s not in the next county, you immediately think of this as God has blessed you with a close spot to the door? Or there’s been a time when you go into a store and that certain something you’re wanted for a while (not something you need, just something you want) is suddenly on sale – and in either of these instances, you’ve remarked about how good God is? Yes, it is possible that God wants you to have that PS3 or plasma screen TV. HiDef Halo tournaments or viewings of LOST in our house may just be the path of salvation for someone. Not that I’m speaking from a want in my own life, you understand… Yes, it is possible that God wants you – and only you – to have that prime spot for shopping the day after Thanksgiving. But what about the times we ask for something – deliverance from a situation, a disease, or a huge problem in our lives – and we feel like those requests go unanswered – while we see and hear the celebration of the people who have saved 15 percent or more on their car insurance. Doesn’t God consider HIV & AIDS bigger than who gets voted off THE BACHELOR? Or who wins a sporting event?

I’ve heard it said that the single most dangerous prayer is “God, use me.” Because oftentimes we have an idea about HOW we want to be used, and that’s what we’re asking for God to do – use us in the way WE see fit and not the way HE might see fit. We need to be prepared for the fact that if/when we pray this, you’re opening the door for a world of possibilities – not all of them what you might classify as good. When Isaiah said “Here am I – send me,” I don’t think he was prepared for everything that was going to be said/done in his lifetime, and that he’d be THE prophet that would speak a lot about who Jesus was, what he was going to undergo, and what signs would point to the Messiah.

Or, we ask God for a confirmation, but then tell God exactly what that confirmation must be. For example, you might tell God, "If You want me to be a missionary in China then make such and such happen. If such and such doesn't happen then I will know that you don't want me to go to China as a missionary." We might call this a “cop out,” but the Bible calsl this "throwing out a fleece."

Judges 6:36-40 (NIV): Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised - look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said." And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew." That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

God does honor fleeces sometimes, but at some point He will probably require you to begin listening inwardly for His voice and He will probably stop honoring the fleeces that you throw out. Whether or not you choose to throw out fleeces is up to you, but at least keep this point in mind when you do so.

The clincher is that our prayers don’t go unanswered. We might not like the answer sometimes, because God will say “no.” You might think your prayer falls on deaf ears, but in reality, it’s God simply stating that the time is not right – YOU are not ready – for this to be answered. It is being answered, according to His will. In His time, in His manner.

To me, God does not sound like George Burns or Morgan Freeman. Or even Jim (Passion of the Christ) Caviezel. Ashley will joke that I’m the one who will stop and just be amazed by a sunset (she’ll never see a sunrise) or the look of the moon in the sky. It’s not that I look up into the sky and hear God, but I definitely feel His presence when I look at nature.

Fire + water = God speaks through both (burning bush/rushing wind).

Romans 15:13 (NIV): May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In order to hear God better, we need to get to know God better. Read Bible. Duh. “It’s too confusing.” Well, yeah. Sometimes it is. But the reality is that a lot of times we don’t struggle with the Bible, but with the clock. We live in such a fast-paced society that it’s not just our sins that are killing our souls – it’s our schedules.

Psalm 46:10 (NIV): Be still and know that I am God.

Philippians 4:7 (NIV): And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Voice of God: some people say if they could just HEAR God speak to them then they would either believe or they would not sin. Really?

Genesis 2:15-17 (NIV): The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

Genesis 3:8-11 (NIV): Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

Here were the only two people on the planet at the time, with no other distractions (no kids, no peer pressure, no TV competing for their attention, no sin to entice them) – they heard God, but did they listen?

Think about this when you speak with a friend/spouse – you can hear what they’re saying, but are you listening to them?

Look to the left, now look to the right – you’re looking at the face of God – listen to the voices of the people around you – wise counsel – the whole cultural resonance bit? Yeah. You can’t disconnect from the culture or from the people around you – God is not only in that person sitting next to you, but in the culture of the people around you. It’s why God speaks to my quasi-hippie-heart through nature, environment, through issues of social justice and equality – through the hearts of the people closest to me.

Proverbs 27:17 (NIV): As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Most of us probably won’t have a mountaintop experience with Christ where we literally hear the voice of God speaking to us (Matthew 17:5) nor will we ever have a burning bush just spark into being (Exodus 3:2-5).

In Exodus, when God called Moses, the verb used is qara – means “the enunciation of a specific message.” God was speaking directly TO Moses FOR a specific purpose. One way to know God is speaking to you is that when He speaks, there’s a reason behind it. When we speak to God (pray) it’s for a specific purpose, most of the time to ask for something. God speaks to us with a directness that we might not understand, but there’s a purpose behind it.

Deuteronomy 4:15 (NIV): So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire.

Bono: “Love your neighbor” is not a suggestion; it is a commandment.

Hebrews 13:1-2 (NIV): Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

But the voice of truth tells me a different storythe voice of truth says "do not be afraid!"and the voice of truth says "this is for my glory"Out of all the voices calling out to meI will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth
- “Voice of Truth,” Casting Crowns

Monday, October 29, 2007

Do I REALLY sound like that?

Yep. The recording yesterday worked fine. The audio is pretty good, and only the first, like, 30 seconds of the message is missing.

Audio link to go up sometime in the next 2-3 days, once I make it through some of the Homecoming activities planned around here.

Some people might wind up getting a copy sent to them in the mail, though...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Teaser Trailers a-plenty

Previously on 24:

Holy COW, but this season is going to rock...

And for the people who care about such things, here a few "teaser" notes about my sermon this Sunday:
  • U2
  • To me, God does not sound like George Burns or Morgan Freeman.
  • HiDef HALO tournaments or viewings of LOST in our house may just be the path of salvation for someone. Not that I’m speaking from a want in my own life, you understand…
  • Genesis 3:8-11 (NIV): Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

Expect the full notes and/or a link to the audio recording (!) early next week...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

As if one trip to the pulpit wasn't enough...


So, this coming Sunday (October 28, 2007), I have been asked to speak...again...at Mosaic Church here in Miami.

I keep trying to come up with some kind of cool phrase that sums up what I'm feeling right now, but nothing's coming to mind. Maybe it's because I'm in a little bit of shock; maybe it's because I'm thinking to myself "What the heck am I going to talk about THIS time?" (I have a few ideas rolling around already; one that seems to fit all but perfectly with what Kevin spoke about this morning); maybe it's because I can't really wrap my mind around the fact that I'm going to actually be doing something that I enjoy.

Maybe it's because I need coffee. ...hey, I've only had three cups today. Give me a break.

And yes. We WILL record this message, because the ususal tech gang WILL be in town this time out.

However, I draw the line at video taping the message. Only because I have friends (and I'm looking at YOU, Mitchell and/or Bryan) who would take great delight in turning anything I tape into an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. ...which would, of course, flatter me beyond words. But I'm just not going to give you the pleasure. :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Snippets and random thoughts

Nothing of any real substance in the ramblings below; but since this website has started to become more and more frequented by visitors, I figured what the hey - it can't kill me to put a few thoughts down.

* While in spite of the physical distance between us, I will actually be able to HEAR the snickers from some of my friends when I state that I've recently begun reading a book that I voluntarily bought this past weekend: Just Married: What Might Surprise You About the First Few Years by Margaret Feinberg (she who might be more well-known to some of you as the author of twentysomething). Now. Those of you who'd care to mock my decision to read from a female perspective some creative and down-to-earth ideas about how to keep my marriage to Ashley fresh, fun, and full of life...please step forward so that I can smack you upside the head. And then return home so that your respective partners and spouses can smack you as well.

* I've been on some kind of kooky return-to-the-1970's-via-DVD's kick as of late. Between The Challenge of the Superfriends and the live-action The Secrets of Isis -- it's like I'm seven again. I'm also beginning to wonder how in the name of the Almighty that I made it out of my childhood without being MORE socially awkward than I was. I well remember sitting in my PJ's watching these shows (and more; God is keeping me from going just completely nuts and buying up 67,000 DVD's of these collections) on Saturday mornings, all the while eating my Captain Crunch and being mesmerized by the flickering images on the 19-inch TV in the dining room. Why have I been watching these cheese-laden shows? Beats me. Lord knows that the writing on some of the episdoes was HORRIBLE, but there's something charmingly sweet about the innocence of these shows.

* As part of the weekly Life Group at Mosaic, we've been reading/studying the book of Acts. It's neat, because we simply read a chapter in a book of the Bible and then we talk about it as a group - what it means today, drawing parallels from our culture and the culture of the time, and the subsequent completely random and seemingly unrelated tangents that we find ourselves talking about within seven minutes of the conversation starting. While some of you might find this about as exciting as peeling a potato, it's actually...refreshing to sit and just read one chapter of one book and try to look at it as freshly as you possibly can. This week, we're discussing chapter nine, and I think I found about six-seven things in this ONE chapter while reading it this morning that I'd never discovered before. Don't presume that because you may have heard the story told in church before or that you may have had to read the verses aloud as part of a -- pardon the phrase -- "Bible study" that you know the story in question. For those of you who think you've lost any appeal of freshness or desire in reading the Bible -- don't start with something like Genesis and try to read through the whole Bible. Go read the book of Proverbs. Or Philippians. And if possible, don't go it alone. Remember that these stories were told aloud and studied in groups before we all were given little bound and printed copies of them.

* Ashley and I have started a home gathering called "That Thing @ 8:00." We're hosting a group of college kids in our apartment every Sunday night for a study on the Bible, life, coffee (you KNEW that I had to sneak that in here somewhere), and the struggles we ALL go through. This is something we felt pressed to do (and a friend of mine in Athens also suggested this as an idea for me and my ministry-driven self), and after we were approached by a student living in our building (within the same WEEK of our first talking about it)...well, God's got good timing. What can I say?

* This is just a little query to any and all who DO read this page - if anyone DOES log in to see this page -- either through a Google search for my name, Hebrew phrases, or childhood games -- I'm actually interested in learning who all DOES read Ye Olde Kangaroo. So, if you wouldn't mind shooting off an email to the address at the top or by leaving me a comment...me and my blogging self would appreciate it.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Isaiah 61: redeemed & reclaimed

All: This is NOT going to be the "Sonny's-thoughts-on-preaching-for-the-first-time" blog entry. That's coming later. This is just going to be the outline of the sermon I gave this past Sunday. ...yes. I said "sermon." It's about time I owned up to this.

So, get comfy, 'cause this is kinda in-depth. Grab some java, or another beverage of choice and read on. NOTE: sadly, the recording devise malfunctioned, so there is not an audio copy of this available. ...which SUCKS, because I know that I went into greater depth and detail than what this poor outline shows. Some things from this were cut, other things were added. Oh - and the running time of the sermon was 42:01, in case anyone cares about such stuff. :)


MOSAIC NOTES – 10-7-07: ISAIAH 61 – redeemed & reclaimed

Kevin first asked me to speak a few weeks ago. He knew exactly how to sway my opinion and get me to agree to this by asking me while we were in Starbucks. I would ask that you bear with me as this is my first time speaking to “BIG KIDS;” I’m much more accustomed to speaking to a high school youth group or college age – so, if I start to lapse into slang, or throw out some arcane pop-culture reference, someone please just remind me of my age. It’s always a nice slap of cold water in the face to bring me back to reality.

While I have been studying about what to say and how to say it, there have seriously have been moments where I wanted to just stand up here and talk for an hour about something pointless – like the history of cartoons or something else nonsensical. Mainly because it’d be something I’d be comfortable with and I doubt that anyone would call me on the finer theological point of Bugs VS Daffy, but also because this subject has hit a little close to home. While I’ve been wondering about why I am supposed to say what I want to say today – I’m finding out that the message is as much for me as a speaker as is for you guys as listeners.


We’ve been studying Isaiah 61 @ Mosaic for last few weeks – in-between Sundays a few weeks ago, I was listening to a Podcast that used a turn of a phrase that really hit me, and this is where we’ll launch today’s lesson from. Last week we wrapped up detailed study of IS 61, so I’m not going to re-hash or repeat – much – of what’s already been covered. This is kind of a “bridge” before the next series.

Please understand that I am not a fan of clichés or catch-phrases; things like “three point sermons” or “five points to salvation” really bug me, because last time I noticed, God could not be quantified. However, this comment really challenged me to begin to re-think how I personally saw redemption and grace: God makes all things new, not all new things.

Couple of things about me personally – I’m from the South (MS/GA), but never been really stereotypical – not so much a “good ol’ boy” – only really understood Legend of Ricky Bobby through cultural lens and not from first-hand experience.

I was raised to appreciate the “nicer things” in life – roots aren’t so much in the home w/fridge on front porch. Used to want to exclusively shop in stores like Pier One/Crate & Barrel/Pottery Barn (because CLEARLY, for example, wooden spoons are BETTER if they’re bought from a high-end market). This was the culture I was immersed in, and no matter how much we try to shake it, we always view our lives through the cultural lenses we’re given.

To illustrate history of culture – we had room in front of house no one ever used. EVER. It was the first room people saw when they came to our house, and it was used as a display room. Shut off by large glass doors – as a kid, I used to crack the doors open and put my bare feet on carpet just to see if mom would notice. The kicker was that my grandparents had same kind of room in their house. So, this was not just my mom being weird – she came by it honestly. These rooms had china cabinets, and the “good” furniture in them – I can’t recall EVER using that room in grandparents’ house. Even after they both died and we were getting ready to sell the house – felt weird to go into it to clean it out.

Once I graduated college, I wanted my apartment to look like it did in the catalogs or store floors. Pristine. Immaculate. Not really lived-in. Now? Feel sort of weird in expensive stores like ones mentioned. Not just b/c can’t really afford the stuff in there (no debt), but it’s so shiny. So new. Not earthy; no history to it.

Ever walk through a store w/really expensive BREAKABLE stuff w/a kid? Do you have that terror-filled moment like at any second, the bag of Skittles they ate last week will kick back in and they’ll just go nuts? Don’t you feel like you have to monitor them the whole time? How I feel now. Like I am afraid I will hit the shelf and something will break and the store manager will escort my ragamuffin self out. Not that I will go on a rampage like bull in china shop and intentionally break all kinds of stuff in these stores, but the shininess, the newness, the expense of it all intimidates me a bit. Not reflective of what I need in my life now/at the stage I’m in. I have grown past the “need” for the nice stuff, and have a deeper understanding/appreciation for the earthiness of life. Life is meant to be lived, not studied. Apologies to all the sociologists in the room, but it’s true.

Although it’s been a bit of culture shock moving from GA to Miami, I finally don’t stare slack-jawed at all the palm trees. Since I work at the university, the biggest comparison for me have been culture among students @ Univ of Miami, which is sort of similar in some ways to students @ UGA. For the most part – and although this is VERY stereotypical of the student body – thankfully not the ones I am fortunate enough to work with – but the newest/best/most $$ seems to be prevalent – (FOR EXAMPLE – TALK ABOUT my saggy-roofed & dirty Jetta VS immaculate Hummer on the highway @ red light).

JETTA: to look at it, wouldn’t know that it’s kind of new – wrecked over ago – VW commercial “Safe Happens” – new windshield, hood, front grill, bumper, etc. Only about $300 shy of being totaled. Wouldn’t take ANYTHING for that car – has character – I can see the newness of it and not the wreck that it was only a little over a year ago – I really can’t remember what it looked like beforehand (dents in hood, cracks in windshield, them the wreck) – God’s the same way – takes & recreates that which some would say has no worth or intrinsic value & sees the true value in it.

ISAIAH 61:3-4 (NASB): To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting so they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations; and they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.

God makes all things new, not all new things. This is sometimes difficult for us as Christ followers to “get.” We’ve been talking about in this in Life Group about the book of Acts – specifically in Ch 1 – how the people who were closest to Jesus (physically) for three years just didn’t get what He was talking about a lot of times (from the restoration of the kingdom – they thought military, He thought holy). The Twelve had the luxury of the benefit of not having the Spirit of God (the comforter) with them yet. How is it we sometimes don’t get the true essence of what the Bible says? Or that we buy into the misinterpretation that we’ve been told & sold throughout the years?

One of the reasons it’s hard to understand – we want a new start – new life – want to literally interpret 2 Corinthians 5:17 (compare NIV to MSG) – in Greek, the “new” is Kainos – means “qualitatively” new not “out of nothing” new. Many of us want, at the moment of salvation, to be able to take the life that existed beforehand and forget it. For example, if you were a murderer before your conversion, you might want to be able to think that everything you did before salvation can be erased. In God’s eyes, yes. He can and does make all things new, meaning your salvation – your spirit – is restored to that moment in time when sin didn’t exist in the world. You have been made new by the blood of Christ. But – your life is not a new thing. You’re not “Sonny 2.0,” where your life before did not exist. This isn’t like the FBI Witness Relocation Program, where you’re given a completely new identity and there are no ramifications of your life HERE.

Eternity has been secured, but the reality is that we can’t escape our lives here on earth.

2 Cor 5:17 (NIV): Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

2 Cor 5:17 (MSG): Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!

Take a closer look at a couple of key words found in verses in Isaiah: IS 61:3 – oil of gladness. Oil is SHEMEN in Hebrew - richness. In the midst of a passage talking about dealing with the oppressed, God is offering richness. Not RICHES, but richness. Something full. There might be something deeper there – we look for the literal, but God grants us more than what we normally would look for.

IS 61:4 – devastations. Word used is Shamem – the word used to describe Tamar after she was raped by Amnon (II Samuel 13:20). It is something so horrible that it can leave a person speechless. (Job 21:5)

Imagery in this passage is just immensely powerful – richness in the face of a people who’ve lost everything, and few words have a more commanding emotional gut-check than the word “rape.” But God is willing to state He will raise up and rebuild after a devastation like that.

Many of us have been there – some of us have hit walls of desperation, some have truly had those moments of where we feel stripped of our worth, our dignity, our essence of who we are. Sometimes it’s the circumstances of our lives that spiral out of control, sometimes we’re the architects of our own undoing. And we need to own that. Regardless, life can devastate. Life can tear us/wear us down.

No matter how together we think we might be – no matter how much of a veneer or façade we have on our life – we are all, in some way, broken.

Weren’t just born into sin and then kept in a bubble until salvation then isolated from the world after being saved – okay, some were (for example, Donald Miller tells the story that it’s possible that you CAN exclusively go to a Christian elementary, middle and high school, go to a Christian college, work for a Christian business, and exclusively eat Christian food at Chic-Fil-A). But for many of us, we have a very rich, very detailed storyline – that to negate and ignore the history of your life is a slap in the face against the redemptive powers of Christ.

"No one is beyond redemption. A converted terrorist wrote half of the New Testament. We have a God that loves evildoers so much he died for them. Can we look into the eyes of people we don’t like, and see the image of the One we love?" - Shane Claiborne

Ref: woman caught in adultery – today, might not be that big of a deal in society, but to the culture of that time, where women had little to no value socially, was very much a big deal – ever notice how the Bible never states if she was the married party in this or not? To Christ it didn’t matter – John 8:10-11 (MSG). Jesus stood up and spoke to her. "Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?" "No one, Master." "Neither do I," said Jesus.

Cool thing – word used for condemnation in Greek (katakrima) has two meanings: when Jesus asked “Does no one condemn you,” He meant in the present tense, the here and now. When He said “Neither do I condemn you,” he meant in an eternal sense. Reference part of passage where Jesus stood up. Others picked up stones, while Jesus picked up the woman. Saw value in her as a child of His, and reclaimed & redeemed her; saw true value in her where others simply saw a whore.

One of most beautiful prayers – PS 51 – taken from a broken spirit, a true prayer of redemption – v. 10: “Create in me a clean heart oh Lord my God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (MSG – God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week out of my life.)

Words key in that verse: clean heart. In Hebrew, clean meant “Tahowr” (taw-HORE) – ritually and ethically pure – people who were found to be unclean because of who they had been with or because of what they’d done had to be purified (ref: Good Samaritan, and why the Priest and the Levite did not stop)

To be purified – cleaned – in Jewish culture was not just a one-time deal – in battle, soldiers had to be purified after each battle – much like we do after each battle in our lives – not enough to just ask for forgiveness the day you commit to Christ; must make a conscious effort to be ethically pure in our lives. Salvation doesn’t just happen, it is happening.

Ps 51:12 (NIV) – Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant a willing spirit to sustain me.

Originally wanted to call this “God is Green,” mainly because my church/cultural lense makes me knee-jerk think that I have to come up with a catchy or marketable title. However, "green" evoked a sense of recycling to me. VERY much a proponent for environmental issues, but WE are not recycled: we are reclaimed. Restored. In recycling, the original form is not recognizable in the finished product. Recycling is the reprocessing of materials into new products. Restoration is the process of bringing an object back to its original state. Spiritually, we might not INTERNALLY resemble to person we were before, but we still EXTERNALLY resemble that person. God makes all things new, not all new things.

Among the many reasons Ashley and I felt drawn to this church was the facilities. We meet in older building, restored to use. (Used to meet in a warehouse across the street from a beer distributor in Athens, GA.) Like the furniture here: restored to and for a greater use. Heard the comment Mosaic was “progressive” for its use of couches. Kinda had to laugh – not only b/c these couches aren’t really what I think anyone would call progressive, but also because this just layout evokes and illustrates the commitment to community/shared living – shared life – template of what the church is supposed to be about.

Not that Mosaic is the church – has its flaws – but it’s living the idea of redemptive theology in life, in theory and in action. And we’re challenged to take these lessons out into the places that need to hear them the most.

Grace is a renewable resource. Never run dry (never thirst). Living water (ref. John 4:10, 13-14) Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

The challenge is can we operate and live our lives based on the hope and the promise of restoration of the destruction of our lives, living life like we ARE restored, and as an agent of restoration in the lives of others.

IS 61:4 (MSG) - They'll rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of the wreckage. They'll start over on the ruined cities, take the rubble left behind and make it new.


Friday, September 28, 2007

God/dog. Dog/God. The Sequel.

[NOTE: wow. It literally was over a year ago that I wrote the first of these. Man. How time flies...]

From my standpoint and limited perspective and understanding of heaven from this side of eternity…I think not only could forever be somewhat dull without animals, but we may miss out on a lot of what God shows us about ourselves without them around to help in the illustration. This is just an example about why I think dogs make for great spiritual object lessons, and for the value that I – as Adam’s descendant – see in being a caretaker of these critters.

Today’s subject: Maggie.

Ashley can attest to the fact that I’ve gotten much better about not referring to Maggie as “her dog,” especially since we got married and moved to Miami. However, she still thinks that I only call Maggie “her dog” when she acts “bad” (like, going outside to eat grass only to regurgitate it on the carpet that was JUST cleaned), but that’s not the case – in my mind, I call Maggie “her dog” because of the context of who raised her. Anyone who’s ever seen Maggie and me interact knows that there is a love between us that is just amazing, and she’s very much “MY dog” based on that.

I type all this only to say that it makes me laugh a little – and a little sad – when Maggie acts like she doesn’t trust me.

Maggie HATES going anywhere in a car. She will pace and whine in the backseat the second that the car sets off and is in motion. She is horrible in the way that she acts and continues this tirade whenever the car has to start and stop numerous times, such as if, say, the car is in traffic and gets caught by lights or behind other vehicles. It’s not so much the rocking motion that the car produces, but it’s the fact that we’re not GOING anywhere. However, if the ride is smooth and there’s no stopping and starting involved (such as when we make it out onto the highway after driving in the city), she’s fine. She’ll start to watch the world moving by outside the window, and because she feels so safe and secure (especially since she can see me & Ashley – dad & mom – driving or sitting in the front seat), the little punk will fall fast asleep and not whimper or cry once. She’ll snore, as a matter of fact. And as long as the car is moving along smoothly, she won’t say a word. But God help us if we have to pull off somewhere along the way. Any interruption to the smooth ride causes her to think the world is starting to end.

Once we get to wherever our destination is, once the car comes to a complete stop and she sees US starting to get ready to move, she will again start to stir in the backseat – pacing and crying, but this time with anticipation. She will start to get crazy excited, smiling as only a dog can smile, forgetting all about the “trauma” of the journey. “Trauma” is in quotes, because from my point of view, the journey wasn’t traumatic at all. I just saw it as the path we had to go on. Maggie will also get so excited that she’s at the end of her journey, that she will seriously forget about me, the one who got her from Point A to Point B – all she wants to do is get out into the world. – well, she’ll forget about me until it’s time to eat or go to the bathroom. Then, when the necessities are needed, it’s time to go crying to daddy again.

[Starting to see the parallel to, say, you or me here…?]

When Ashley was in graduate school, Maggie spent a good deal of time living away from her and living instead with Ashley’s mom. Maggie well remembers where Ashley’s mom’s house is, because she starts to recognize – purely by instinct – any time we’re driving there and we get about three to four blocks away from her house. Maggie goes insane in the backseat of the car, because she’s headed to a location that she knows, someplace familiar to her. She might’ve hated the idea of going on this journey – so much so to the point that she’d try to sabotage the trip to a degree by either getting sick in the backseat (knowing we’d have to stop to clean it up – and before you ask, yes she is both that smart AND that manipulative) or complaining a lot during the journey, both in an attempt to get me so frustrated that I’d stop the path we’re on and turn around to go home – but the joy of getting where she was headed completely overshadows the pain of going there.

Now, here’s the kicker: even though Maggie remembers this as a good place to be (plus, she’s so thankful that the journey is OVER), she also remembers that she was “left” here. Because of this, once we open the door and let the caged beastie out into the world, she will honestly try to dig her paws into the concrete outside the house to keep from going in, for – I suppose – fear that I’m just going to dump her here because I’m so frustrated after the journey of getting to this place.

I know where I’m leading her, and I know that it’s a safe place – a place to rest, and a place with treats for her. I also know that I’m not going to abandon her here. However, she doesn’t believe that. She sees this house, a place she’s familiar with, and she thinks that she’s going to be left behind. She doesn’t take into account that fact that – hello! – I am standing right there with her. As a matter of fact, were it not for me guiding her into the house, she would just run free with reckless abandon, probably headed out into the traffic.

There have been times that I have been led by God to go back someplace I don’t want to go – either to go physically or emotionally – someplace that hurts, and, like Maggie, I fail to notice that He is with me on the journey there.

There have been periods during my walk that I have left God to go frolic or play in the traffic – but He never left me. There have been NUMEROUS times that I have been on this journey and hated the experience of getting to wherever I am supposed to go – so much so that I have even tried to sabotage the experience by being lazy (never reading the Bible or talking to God or others He has placed in my life), complaining a lot, or ignoring God (just as Maggie is keen to do to me, especially when I say the word “no.”).

And, just like Maggie, I will be so thankful when the journey is over – that the long ride with all the starts and stops that made me complain and whine about the path is done with, that the smooth ride that I took for granted a lot of the time during the ride was for my own edification. I’ll be so gratified to see that the journey is “over” – only to find that God has one…more…place…in mind for me to go.

The difference and the challenge I’m learning is to actually let Him guide me, and to trust in Him. Me? I neither want to return to vomit or to folly.

‘Cause both of ‘em are gross.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Houston, we have a delay on the launchpad..."

So, my speaking engagement at Mosaic has been bumped by a week, to me now being the speaker the first weekend in October.

Just gives me an extra week to -- you know -- freak. :)

Honestly, I'm not nervous in the least bit. Which, this morning, I was trying to figure out WHY, when it hit me: maybe I'm NOT supposed to be nervous. Yeah, the honor/yoke of being the mouthpiece for God in this setting comes with it a set of serious responsibilities - but ultimately? The topic/idea/theme (whatever you want to call it) has been stinging my brain and soul for the last few weeks...so I know it's divinely inspired. And, I have enough faith that if I stood up and quacked like a duck for an hour, God could somehow still use that.

I mean, look how spiritually messed up some of those kids at the 706 wound up being after my influence for the last few years... :)

And truthfully, I feel...comfortable. Not complacent, but...at ease. Comfortable about speaking, comfortable about the responsibility, comfortable about...all of it.

This all but cements that whole "calling" thing, don't it?

Friday, September 21, 2007

24 + 9 + 30 + 11 = raised eyebrows

Time for two big revelations.

The first has been reported elsewhere. Not that this directly affects my life in any way because - you know - he and I are such good friends, but the announced return of Tony Almeida to FOX's series 24 has pretty much caused me to either be REALLY excited about this twist, or to start looking for the trampoline or pogo stick the producers are using to constantly jump over this specific shark of a show. I mean, I loved the first half of last season of 24, but I'm starting to wonder of the Lost guys have it all figured out right with a set beginning-middle-end in sight for a TV series. 24's not lost its full steam, but there were some major stumbles last year that they need to overcome.

Now. With the obligatory geek stuff now out of the way - the other big announcement?

On Sunday, September 30, I will be stepping out of the role of Associate Youth Pastor/Volunteer Staff Associate (or whatever title Bryan wants to assign me this week ) and into the role of -- well, minister at Mosaic Church here in Miami. Kevin, the REAL pastor there, will be out of town that Sunday, and he's asked me to step in and speak that morning.

So. For all the times I ask God to show me what I'm supposed to do with my life...for all the times I ask for guidance and clarity on "am I actually really called to the ministry"...for all the times I start to get frustrated, depressed, and moody over the holding pattern my life feels to be in...looks like it's time yet again for God to pull those shenanigans in my life that make me smile and laugh at myself in that He really DOES want to give me the best, what I ask for, and clarity and guidance in my walk on this planet.

And yes. Plans are afoot to record the sermon, either in audio and/or video format. So, I might just get YouTubed. Just a warning.

...and an invitation to anyone who wants to attend...

Friday, September 07, 2007

MICRO-MYTHBUSTING: A miniature missive

What can I say? The subject line is apparently alliterative just for fun.

ANYWAY -- the latest in the theological thought email trail (WHAT is UP with my rhyming/alliteration today?!?) is quoted below. Granted, this is in NO way as deep, meaningful or insightful as the first email exchange -- and this is due thanks to the
Univision Presidential Debate Forum that the University of Miami is hosting that has had me getting an average of, like, four hours of sleep a night. For the last week. Working from 7:00 am until 2:00 am for three consecutive days WILL wear you out.

On to the fun; the original question, as quoted below:

...I am working on this week's talk/Myth as we speak - ³If I Follow Jesus, He Will Nvr Give Me MORE Than I Can Handle²I believe rather sometimes He gives us the Gift of TOO MUCH to teach us to LET GO...LEAN on OTHERS...and take a LEAP of Faith towards HIM

And my response (Mosaic Miami? Shane Claiborne? Two institutions that are rocking my world and redefining my thoughts, both of whom have influenced sharply my response below):

Thanks for the kind words, cap'n. Kinda makes ya think I might actually BE cut out for this "ministry" stuff after all, don't it?

Quick thoughts re: this week's topic (ask BR as to why I've been so slammed this week -- I've been working with the US Secret Service on campus - I actually have gov't credentials and clearances now)

- Psalm 104:14-15. THAT is what God has granted us. We often talk in the metatextual about the life that God gives us, but how many times do we actually look at...life. The world around us as what we've been given as a gift and a challenge to sustain and maintain.

- God tends to mock what we think of as our strengths by instead using our weaknesses as how and where to drive the point home. Not mock in a "dude, you suck" way, but in the lesson -- the HARD lesson -- that parents often let their children go through and the kids think the parents are mocking or making fun of them by letting them suffer. Look at Paul - 2 Corinthians 2 - might it just be that instead of always looking at the situation as "I'm getting more than I can handle," we should look at whatever is thrown our way as a challenge to our weaknesses to (a) keep us humble (Paul could have boasted, but instead was reminded of his feet of clay) and (b) God has ALWAYS used the foolish things of the world (servant, not a leader; the gift of the widow versus the millions given with no heart) to drive the point home.

- when you and I have coversations with God and he begins to show you the life you are meant to live, it will TERRIFY you. It should terrify you. Give all you have to the poor? Leave your family? Not that everyone is called to take these actions, but if you ARE called to take up your cross, it should be uncomfortable. It's a symbol of death -- which is never comfortable for the dying or for the family it leaves behind -- and it's a symbol of life -- ask any mother who's ever given birth if new life is "comfortable." :)

- think about it like this: ultimately, we as Christians are narcissists. More often than not, we walk into church (or go out into the world) and it's all about us worshipping God, when in fact it should be more about God using the worshipper.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

MTYHBUSTING: Miami style

Okay -- time for a quick aside before I start commenting on how God's not only just radically freaking altering everything in my life from the ground up (and how I believe seminaries everywhere should stop worrying so much about theology and start teaching sociology) but opportunities for my life I though long dead and gone are just...blossoming everywhere (the first jaw dropping moment? September 30. Expect a big announcement soon).

So, anyway -- back when I was living in Athens, there was this little church called Compass that I was peripherally involved with for a few years (and that statement should elicit a few snickers form some readers). Compass has just started a new series called MYTHBUSTERS that is -- duh -- busting a few myths about faith, grace, and who this "Jesus" guy really is. Again, because just only so often I would open my big mouth and offer my .02, I on occassion would get asked for my expert opinion and insight regarding certain topics. Then, after we got finished talking about such topics (probably either The Lord of the Rings or Batman), we'd get into the spiritual stuff.

Case in point: I received an email late last week, which is quoted below for your benefit:

Miss you bro...especially with this week's topic If I Follow Jesus, I CAN'T GO DOWNTOWN

Working on talk - thought about you...would love a little "caffeinated" Sonny rant about now (maybe that's just my hearts cry for a good cup of joe)..Anyhow - the approach...

Downtown - synonomous - SINNERS
Therefore If I Follow Jesus, I can't be caught dead or alive down there -

alive...can't be up to ANY GOOD
Dead...wrong place to die right b4 I go see Jesus, right

If I Follow Jesus, there's a set of dos & don'ts/rules & regs/policy manual - dress, beverage choices, dating partners, music, got to go to CFA - the Christian fast food joint, etc.


If I Follow Jesus, there's the Black hats & White hats - Do Gooders - Do Badders - Sinners & the Saints - Righteous & unjust - those going to Heaven and those going to HELL

If we're going to BUST THIS MYTH - we've got to change the way we think about:
GOD - Was God a Legalist?
Genesis - Sin not God caused Rules
CHURCH - Whose It For?
JESUS - Who Did He Hang Out With?
ME - Where's My Downtown and am I really willing to go there, hang out, build relationships, and become Salt and Light?

You like...love your thoughts/rants on any of the above (especially the> legalISMS...)

And then, for good times, my answer is quoted below:

Sorry for the delay in a reply. So, this AM, it's you, me, and some coffee.

Before we fly headlong into the busting of somelegalisms, let's just go with the the obvious arallel: lepers.

Yes, while there are some people who don't go downtown because they're afraid they'll catch some communicable disease from going into a bar or diner late at night or from the homeless person asking for food on the street corner, that's not what I'm referring to. Let's look at Jesus for a minute.

To me, the higher-ups in the church(Scribes/Pharisees) couldn't really condemn Jesus for healing, even for healing on the Sabbath. I mean, let's be honest -- even at their worst, these men were servants of God (and their own egos, but that's another story), and as such, acts that honor God were to be revered and celebrated...but on THEIR terms. The healings that Jesus performed and the people that He spoke to --- it was because He TOUCHED them that made them unclean. I'm pretty sure that every lame person who walked again and blind person who saw again caught a cold at one time after their healing. It wasn't that Jesus cured them forever of everything - it was that He met them at that time and in that place and went to where they were because the church at that time was unwilling - but not unable - to do so. He touched their lives by being who He was called to be. Not with a protest sign of "I heal thee and now here's a tract" nor did he make a spectacle of it - it was always those around Him who drew attention to His actions, because they were pure, motivated out of love and not judgment.

Take Zaccheus (sp? It IS 7 in the AM) - after Christ changed His life, nothing in the Bible indicates hestopped being a tax collector. In fact, it explicitly states that from that moment on, he was an HONEST tax collector, changed in his ways and still interactingwith the people he had interacted with before, but now with a purpose, a promise, and the charity of Christ in his heart.

NOTHING in the Bible tells me that after I am redeemed, that if I am to follow Jesus, I have to put myself in a tower or silo and only insulate myselfwith people who think/look/act like me. As a matter of fact (a) we call those people "cultists," and (b) biology -- and numerous redneck jokes -- warn us ofthe dangers of "inbreeding" with the same family. Look at Uga, the bulldog. Fear of bringing in another, UNCLEAN bloodline to the existing family structure for breeding purposes has resulted in his shortened lifespan, because -- according to the American Kennel Association, the legalistic dog (not God) pharisees -- a bloodline must be of a certain percentage PURE and untainted from other bulldogs in order for the lineage to remain unbroken.

Last time I looked around, the world was broken. We're all already there and "unclean," and no amount of separation from the world can clean us. The Bible kind of compels us to do the exact opposite and --wait; what was that commandment? -- go INTO the world.

When I die, I'd rather have died BEING the church than simply SAYING I was part of the church.

[Understand that all of this has been typed WITHOUT the aid of a cup of coffee. Think about how this would sound caffeinated :) ]

The legalisms -- the yoke the church tried to burden us with by giving us a set of not even rules but prescribed condemnations and judgments held against others simply based on our PERCEPTION of who they were and how they lived -- this yoke again might parallel to the one Jesus told us to shrug off and exchange for His yoke. And loving is SO much easier than hating. It doesn't drain you.

I love how Mother Theresa actually told everyone,"Stay where you are -- find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering, the lonely, right there where you are -- in your own homes and in your own families, in your work places and schools." Or, in a more simple way, Steve Camp (yeah - the CCM singer; how's THAT for an old -school shout-out) said "Don't tell them Jesus loves them until you're ready to love them too." Salt is a great seasoning agent, but a chef can kill the taste of something by oversalting food. Light is amazing, but it can be used to blind. The movie SAVED has a AMAZING scene where one character throws - literally throws - a Bible in anger at another character while creaming at her "I am FULL of Christ's love!" Then, the character who was hit by the Bible picks it up and hands it back to her, telling her"This...this is not a weapon."

...whew. Hope that all that text above helps in some way. I should be relatively free today, so if you need to email me back for some other points/clarification -- feel free to.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sleep? What's that?

So, I’ve been awake since 3:10 this morning. And for those of you who got emails from me sometime between 4:00 and 8:00, wondering why in the world I was emailing you so really…now you know. It’s not that I was awakened by a fire alarm in the building or anything. No, nothing that simple. Heck I’d have been happy if it had been Maggie or Cricket – my dogs – complaining that they wanted to go out on patrol in the wee hours of the morning.

I just couldn’t get my brain to shut off. I’m not sure why, but I woke up completely cognizant, and…I guess the best term is “spiritually restless.” Funny how that term also applies to how my life’s been these past few weeks. Kind of how animals can sense when a storm is coming, I’ve felt…attuned…to a shift in my life coming. To be sure, some of the things I want to do would seem like insanity to many, and I think I’m just being prepped for the time of WHEN the shift will occur, not IF. I don’t know if any of this makes sense – partially because it’s so difficult to nail down in precise words an emption and a feeling…but also because I’m bloody tired and I’ve not had my requisite 87 cups of coffee today.


Of late, I’ve been listening to a lot of mid-to-late 80’s/early 90’s music. But not the type of music you might think. No, nothing so artistic as Oingo Boingo or Wham! I’ve been listening to a lot of older Christian music.

[insert gag reflex here for a great many of you]

Yes, it’s true: the synthesized drums and the layers of keyboards are musically cheesy enough to induce a panic attack for the lactose intolerant. The hair – oh, the hair – and the clothes make me want to burn all the old photos of me and my friends (hi, Wooley) as we would do our best to dress in similar fashion. And no, not everything that was churned out during this decade and a half qualifies as a thing of artistic beauty.

But there were some true gems to be found in this time. And not from the CCR mainstays, either. Yes, “everyone” knows Michael W. Smith. Amy Grant. Wayne Watson. Twila Paris. Steve Green. Margaret Becker. DeGarmo and Key. Petra. White Heart. The Imperials. And “everyone” knows the – for lack of a better term – hit songs and albums that these people produced. …and the way that they were played to DEATH on the radio, in churches, and in multiple youth group retreats.

For me, I come not to bury these songs or artists, and not really to mock or praise them either. To be sure, there were some clunkers (“Boycott Hell.” Eddie. Dana. Guys. WHAT were you THINKING?). But for every song called “Get On Your Knees and Fight Like a Man,” there was a “More Power To Ya” waiting in the wings to validate music with a Christian message as being musically and lyrically solid.

And for me and my friends? Yeah, we knew the mainstay artists and songs listed above, but the ones that stuck me and have stayed with me for LITERALLY over half my life were the songs and the artists who were…storytellers. Whose music and lyrics were hauntingly beautiful and inspiring: Dighayzoos. the choir. Daniel Amos/DA/da/Swirling Eddies. Absence of Ceramics. Breakfast With Amy. The Throes. Mad at the World. Mark Heard. Randy Stonehill. Phil Keaggy. Kim Hill. Ashley Cleveland. And God’s court-jester himself, Steve Taylor.

Storytellers. People who spoke about the struggles of life, and didn’t try to candy-coat faith or reduce Jesus to a mantra of “verse-chorus-verse” just to get airplay on a CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) MOR (middle-of-the-road) station, the equivalent of what the kids call an “adult contemporary” station these days – or, the stations that people listen to at work in an office environment. The artists listed above – for the most part – NEVER got airtime, because the frankness and complexity of their songs would probably have sent many listeners to the local Christian AM stations into toxic shock. It would be like hearing Phil Collins followed by Henry Rollins.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: That was not meant to rhyme. I blame the insomnia.]

Now, there are some modern Christian artists whose music seems to be cut from the same cloth Larry Norman used – Relient K springs to mind immediately. Mute Math. Flyleaf. Until June. Derek Webb for SURE. And others of this caliber. But…(and here’s where these ramblings seemingly tie together)…my little stroll down nostalgia lane has made me wish that today’s popular Christian music was a little less vertically focused and more towards the horizontal.

See, while I can appreciate and do have a thankful heart for the great worship awakening ™ that has taken place in many contemporary, emergent, or emerging or post-modern churches…I miss the bemoan the fact that bands like The Innocence Mission or Over The Rhine must be relegated to background music or “focus songs” if they are even used at all. Anyone who has ever experience the group sing-along of songs like “More Than Useless” or “Latter Days” can testify that some of these experiences can be just as powerful as anything Matt Redman has ever penned.

Maybe it’s just me, but I love the storyteller aspect of songs. Musically speaking, I can appreciate just about anything, provided it has some intrinsic musical worth. I can appreciate the music, but nothing sparks my soul like hearing a story come to life in a song.

Maybe it’s time we dusted off a few of the “gems” of bygone eras and cover them. The cycle is hitting for hymns, so maybe it’s time for Russ Taff’s self-titled album to be reissued. Or for Leslie/Sam Phillips to be welcomed back to our fold.

Parables were good enough for Jesus, after all. And I personally enjoy asking people about their life story as much as asking them, “So, how do you worship God?”

Makes for a less awkward pause in the conversations at dinner parties as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Just a thought:

Three minutes with God this morning is better than going two days without speaking to Him because I've been "too busy."

Trust me on this. I've just tested the theory for all of you.

If I'd not had those three minutes...man. The day's just about kicked me repeatedly anyway. Those three minutes? It's helped to make some of the headaches manageable.

And it's whetted my appetite for more, which shall be spent with Him tonight.

Monday, August 13, 2007

If bad things really do happen in threes...

It's Monday. Monday the 13th.

This is, of course, much worse than a Friday of the same date.

Not only did I not fall asleep until about 6:30 this morning (waking up at 7:45)...not only did I spill coffee on myself on the way to work (for which I was only about 10 minutes late; God bless having no hair -- it makes showering so much easier and time efficient)...and not only did I not get a chance to eat anything except for a sample box of dry Fruit Loops on the way to the office...


If this day doesn't improve, I feel the need to just declare today a mistrial and go home, put on some pajamas, and just watch some really goofy TV.

Not that the day so far is bad, per se, but...it's gonna be one of THOSE days.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

"Purpose-Driven," or driven with a purpose (Part Two)

Okay, let’s pull back on the road and get back on track.

So, without going into great details (because they’re really of interest only to…well, me…), when I was growing up in Tupelo, MS back in the halcyon days of the 1980’s, there was a bit of what we shall term a separation of church and church. Allow me to explain…

Just as I have come to see the division between colleges/universities that inhabit the same city, there was – and may still be, for all I know – a prevalent division between not just Christians in Tupelo (everything from Protestant VS Catholic to Baptist VS Methodist VS Nondenominational VS Presbyterian VS etc.) but also between churches in the same denomination. For example, if one lives in Jackson, MS, then one attends Millsaps College as opposed to Mississippi College or Belhaven College…you’re tagged as probably being a certain way. Each school, although all of them are private and religiously-affiliated, has a certain “style” of student it attracts, either due to the make-up and heritage of the school or by virtue of the fact that for so long, students of a certain “type” attended there and – voila! – suddenly, the campus is rife with them.

Same as it goes with churches. The cliques and sub-genres of Christians that attend a church of a certain style or slant are there because like tends to be attracted to like. Not that there’s anything inherently WRONG with that in theory – but it does run the risk of coming across as possibly being exclusionary of others. Should every church be everything to everyone? At the risk of sounding heretical…not really, because given the various ways we as humans differ and the various passions we carry…we’re all different, and in my humble opinion, only Christ has the right to claim a “one size fits all” tag.

We just need to not judge or look down at one another for the ways we celebrate grace.

Case in point (now that I’ve chased this rabbit for a bit): back in the mid-to-late 80’s when I was in high school, there was this one Bible study (yeah, we still called ‘em that back then; it was the 80’s. We were dumb) that was housed at the house of a lady in town that was…more or less, an interdenominational small group for high school students from various protestant churches (mainly Baptist – SOUTHERN Baptist, specifically) who came together to meet weekly and learn from one another. In a lot of ways, in hindsight, this was a bit of a forerunner of the emergent/emerging church mentality; we were young and brash enough to want an authentic worship experience that also took us deeper into a study of the Bible that was devoid of all the trappings of the “open your hymnal to 138 and we will sing stanzas 1, 2, and 4” rut coupled with the “walk the Roman Road, come forth, pray a prayer, and sign our membership directory” style-teachings of our home churches.

The only criteria to attend this meeting? You had to be in the ninth grade or older. This added an air of mystery to us little peons in Junior High who wondered what the “big kids” did at this thing. Did they sit around and talk about s-e-x and how evil it was? Did they talk about going to college? Did the boys get to sit by the girls? You know – the questions of a deep and complex spiritual nature.

Once I was of the appropriate age, along with my friends Dea and Aaron (if you guys are reading this, by now, you’re probably snickering), we started attending on a semi-regular basis. It was kind of cool based on the fact that we got to see some of the “older kids” we saw at high school in a spiritual light. Oh, to be sure, when we were at school, they were – almost without exception – too COOL to speak to us, but in this little pocket of equality, we were…respected.

And some of the older kids role-modeled to a fault what it meant to talk about one thing on a weekday night and then to completely destroy any and all street credibility of being a Christ follower during the other 6.5 days of the week. This was, of course, the exception rather than the rule, but still…when one of THE most “popular” guys was seen as a role-model at this Bible study and then during the weekdays was heard dropping the “F-bomb” left and right, was a known drinker (we were still all underage; don’t forget that fact) and was – at least, according to reputation – an experienced ladies’ man…yeah. In hindsight, not that I judge, but someone somewhere along the line should’ve done a better job of explaining the Pharisees to these people, and how the harshest criticisms Christ ever reserved were for the ones who claimed His name but dishonored God by their actions.

Not that this excuses it, but we didn’t have The Message translation to put everything into plain English for us. :)

Anyway – these last few weeks at Mosaic have made me all nostalgy for this Bible study. This past Sunday clinched it for me, and where and why I was drawing the positive analogies of my youth. The main teaching pastor (hi, Kevin) was on vacation with his family, and – with the apparent absence of a traditional hierarchical grouping of deacons, elders, leaders, associate and assistant pastors – so, instead of canceling the gathering for that day, the teaching cloak was passed on to one of the guys in the congregation (who, in addition to doing a phenomenal job, tossed out one verse that started sparking thoughts that I sent to my fellow windshielder for a possible night of teaching at the 706 sometime this Fall, because it just – to me – fit so well in the series that’s been designed).

See, the setup at Mosaic is designed to make you feel at home. Like it’s designed for intimate moments, intimate connections, and heart-joining experiences (not THOSE intimate moments, connections, or experiences, ya buncha friggin’ gutter minds). And the simple fact that everyone seems to know everyone, but for people who come in as an outsider (you know – the kids like me & Ashley), it’s not as if we’re intruding in on a closed gathering. It’s like we have just been invited to sit down and join in the celebration.

It makes me sit back and smile at myself when I see the patterns that God’s been making evident in my life. The way that everything cycles, the way that everything IS connected to everything else. (Or, paraphrasing the words of Chagall Guevara: welcome to Escher’s World.) The way in which a choice of a Bible study I went to in 1987 set in my heart an understanding and appreciation of the worship experience I would have 20 years later. It helps me to better understand and have the thoughts galvanize in my mind about how everything I have ever done, said, seen, acted upon, and cried over has led me to this point in time, here and now, and that the path my life has been on HAS been set before me and that…yeah. God knows what’s going on. I might not, I might disagree with it, and I might even openly rebel against it and ignore that still, small voice screaming in my ear.

That I can have faith and take comfort in that my life is guided, that my past does play a part in who I am and who I am to be, and that there’s a hope beyond my questions that gives me comfort.

My only judgment between the twenty years? Thankfully, the coffee has improved in the past two decades.