Thursday, September 29, 2011

Serious Humor

Some days you can’t write about serious things.  I think that there may be a grand chance that I think far more than any human being should, and more than not, my thinking usually results in serious things, serious thoughts, and ultimately, serious blogs.  And I find it extraordinary when writers are talented enough to have a mix between gut wrenching seriousness and gut busting laughter.  In Matthew Paul Turner’s book, “Hear No Evil”, at the beginning of one page I was crying and by the end I was laughing hysterically. (I remember this very well because I was sitting in art class and the girl sitting across from me has judged me ever since.  She must think I’m bipolar or something.)  I haven’t reached that medium yet and I’m not quite sure how I am supposed to either.  I mean, sometimes I try to add some humor by throwing in a witty sentence only to realize later that I am the only who saw the wit in the whole situation.  I often even doubt that I’m funny in the first place and I could be wrong here, but I’m almost positive that it’s impossible to make people laugh if you can’t make yourself laugh.  I really don’t make myself laugh much.  My friends do, so maybe I should try to emulate them?  My friend Michael makes me laugh until I cry and my friend Andrew sometimes makes me double over.  Maybe I should be more like them?  Or maybe I shouldn’t be.  If I’m suppose to be a good writer, I feel like Jesus will give me humor and wit like He so graciously blesses me with His fruit each day.  I believe that if this whole writing thing is suppose to go anywhere, than maybe one day, I’ll be funny.

Today my heart is full.  For the past month and a half I have started my journey to adulthood and I have already learned some incredible things.  Believe me when I say that I have seen the serious side of life the past year or so but I do believe that one of the greatest things I have learned lately is how to laugh my head off with no shame.  There’s something about being on a battlefield like college, where everything is so black and white, that makes you see with irrefutable clearness that Jesus and His disciples must have laughed like madmen.  I don’t really know how to explain it but with everything that has been twirling about me, all of my heartbreak for the lost and for the world, I have for some reason found that dancing may very well be my best medicine for sorrow. It doesn’t make any sense and I am completely okay with that.  I may not be funny yet, but at least I am learning to laugh.

The beauty of life is that we can laugh and dance just as much as we can mourn and weep.  Maybe even sometimes at the same moment. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

People Watching 101

Coffee shops are interesting places.  Tonight I am just sitting here at the on campus Starbucks doing what I am best at: people watching.  So far tonight I have watched a number of different social phenomenon and a vast array of interactions.  There is anything from huge groups of people walking together in workout attire to the one girl sitting alone at a table pouring over a notebook emptying herself into the mysterious pages.  I can’t help but sit in a weird sense of awe when I decide to sit and watch.  It’s like I’m a little kid again. 
Whenever I do this I always get really sentimental because I begin to ask questions about each individual.  Where did they all come from?  What is their aim today?  Why do they look so sad?  Why are they so happy?  The questions haunt me because I’ll never get an answer and the truth of the matter is that this world is full of people just like the ones I’m watching from my seat. 
There was a group of about 10 motorcycles that drove up Dickson earlier, each one with a leather-riddled rider who looked about 60 years old.  They were followed by a group of five runners who all had bright neon colored clothing on and one lady was bald, sporting a white bandana.  Why?  First, why are they all wearing neon but even more so, why is she bald?  Is she sick?  And if she is sick, then why is she running?  Were the other four runners with her also sick?  Were they her family?  Friends?  I’ve been watching a girl wearing rope sandals walk aimlessly around.  She has already come into Starbucks once and disappeared into the hallway leading to Quiznos only to show up and walk out of the front doors.  And then a short two minutes later, she appeared again from the hallways and once again, you guessed it, walked out the front of Starbucks.  Was she lost?  Was she looking for someone?  Something?  Trying to kill time? There is a middle-aged man with an old baby blue North Carolina Tarheels jersey on drinking an orange Fanta.  There is beautiful Indian girl getting coffee and a guy walking passed in a full suit, visibly uncomfortable from the massive amount of sweat that is finding it’s way out of his pores.
Whenever I do this, my heart screams at me.  Because I know that whenever I choose to sit and watch these people, then my sorrow will begin to soak into the empty places of my heart.  See the thing is that people break my heart more than anything else in this whole world.  Not because I don’t like them, but actually, just the opposite.  I love them.  I love them with a reckless abandon that may or may not be my downfall one day.  I am desperate to take each of them by the hand and tell them how much they mean to humanity.  I get this way everywhere I go, almost everyday.  It is really bad when I’m in Africa, but tonight it’s killing me.  I wonder if each of these people knows that their important and that they have a story, an amazing story and that each decision they make directly affects me as well as the person riding the motorcycle on Dickson.  I hurt because I yearn for each one of them to know that they are loved deeply and intimately by a God who is very real. 
Sorrow is a funny thing.  Jesus once said that the ones who learn to mourn will be blessed and be comforted.  So obviously it’s not such a bad thing that my heart tears within me when I see someone who is totally smashed stumbling around campus late at night.  So it’s not such a bad thing when I can’t concentrate while talking to my friends at lunch because there is a kid sitting alone staring at his food with stone cold eyes.  I learned to mourn a couple of years ago one night when I was watching Extreme Home Makeover.  I won’t go into the whole story but I’m pretty sure I blogged on that night a while ago, so if you’re interested in knowing the story, you can look back on the post “how I learned to mourn”.  But I since that night, things haven’t been the same.  My interactions with people aren’t the same and certain things hit me much harder than they ever did before.  I can’t read the death totals from the war or the revolutions in the Middle East in the newspaper anymore and I can’t watch the same war movies that I used to love.  I can’t pretend that the death penalty doesn’t bother me and I can’t look away from injustice any longer.  Ignorance stopped being bliss the night that I learned to mourn. 
I was just recently introduced to the idea that sorrow and joy go hand in hand.  At first, I was extremely skeptical and brushed it off, but as the idea kept being pushed, it started to make sense.  In the Prophet, Kahlil Gibran actually says “Sorrow is your joy unmasked” and “the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain”.  Those words were foreign to me once, but now I hold them close to my chest.  Because although my sorrow comes from people hurting and people not being known, my joy also comes from people loving and being found.  Jesus has, for some reason, given me the untold sorrow of the lost and the uncontainable joy of the found.  Gibran says, “When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.  When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
In Romans 9, Paul delivers one of the most haunting sets of verses in the whole Bible.  I can imagine how he said these words through gritted teeth with clenched fists and tears streaming down his face, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”  Paul loved people so much (they were through and through his sorrow) that he would have given up his place in Heaven, eternity with his soul’s once desire that they may know Christ.  Later in his letters he refers to church in Philippi, “my joy and crown.”  So Paul’s sorrow and Paul’s joy were both the people he was ministering to.  I can’t even begin to say I know the same sorrow that Paul did, and I really cant make the claim of willing to be damned for other people to know.  But I pray that as I continue to learn to walk with Jesus that He’ll allow me to one day be at that place, but today I can only let the Spirit continue to melt me and mold me and let me love people like He does. 
I wonder how different the world would look if the sorrow and joy of the Church was people. I think that is coming soon though. I feel very deeply that soon and very soon the foundations of this world will be burned and a fresh revolution will arise from the underground; a revolution painted and marked with the genuine love of Christ, a revolution free of the American dream and intent on reaching the Nations.  Mark my words, friends because Jesus is changing all of us. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011


This issue must, at some time or another, be not only noticed by everyone but addressed as well.  It’s funny because I go to a University where the majority of the 23,192 of us can be separated into two main categories: granolas and Greeks.  Obviously there are many subgroups in the two main groups, such as; climbers, hippies, athletes (usually lean towards the Greek side of things) and so on and so forth.  But what is interesting here that both groups, no matter who some might be all make fun of hipsters.  And I have to ask the question: why?  And then it goes father, why do hipsters exist?  What is a hipster?  What makes someone move from the rank of “insert group here” to hipster?

(disclaimer: I am not saying I am or am not a hipster, I am simply writing this from a Universal view.  Bear with me.)

Hipsters strive to be unique.  They go out of their way to make sure that they don’t look like other people, dress like them, or listen to the same music.  Hipsters are famous for their horn-rimmed glasses and rolled up jeans while sporting moccasins or rope sandals.   Why?  I believe that hipsters are a beautiful and intricate snapshot into the human desire to stand out.  We all want to recognized, we all want to be different, and we all want to matter.  

I recently finished reading Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, which is famous for the “space monkeys” of Project Mayhem running around repeating, “I am not special.  I am not a unique snowflake.  I am not my job.  I am not my car.”  I read those words with a sick feeling in my stomach knowing that, although this was just a book, people honestly go their whole lives believing that.  It’s as though people have those words subconsciously tattooed on their hearts, and it kills me.  If we weren’t supposed to all be different, special, and unique than God would have made all 7 billion of us exactly the same.  If we weren’t supposed to shine then why would God have so carefully crafted every single one of us differently?  He knit each of us together with completely different chromosomes and atoms and genes.  None of us are the same.  So how could we not be unique? 

Okay you theologians out there don’t crucify me for using this point (I’m using it simply because it paints a majestic picture of Love).  In Ephesians 2, Paul calls us the workmanship of God.  The Greek word for workmanship is “Poema” which we derive our word, poem from.  I know that I can’t take that point with white-knuckles, but the glorious and unshakable principle holds true: we are God’s poetry and He is writing us into existence.  I write poetry every now and again and with each poem I write, I can remember where I wrote it, why I wrote, and I have the majority of them memorized.  Not because I am a super genius, but simply because it is my creation. The poem formed not only from the movement of my hand but also out of the inmost places of my heart and mind.  I can go so far to remember when I scribbled the first rough verses of some of my poems on a napkin in some random coffee shop.  And if we are God’s poetry, then He knows each of us in an intimate and deep way that is incomprehensible to us.  We are known; wholly and profoundly known by the Master Poet.

If any of that holds a single strand of truth, then we have something monumental to live for.  We are special and unique and every one is sewed with a different color fabric by the fingers of the Living God. 

Hipsters might just be on the verge of something beautiful. 

It breaks my heart that most people on this earth go through each day with no intent.  When I walk into the cafeteria and see the ladies who swipe card after card with a blank expression on their faces, only to watch it illuminate when one student takes the five seconds to acknowledge their existence.  What if we let people know that they were worth something in this world?  What if we believed we were worth something in this world?  What if each one of us caught onto the irresistible dream that each of us has a distinct and creative role in God’s perfect plan for humanity?  What if we fell into the embrace of Glory and knew that we belonged there?

If only we knew, if only we believed that we were meant for amazing things.

If only you knew, if only you believed that you were meant for amazing things.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

living. not dying.

There has to come a point where we all must sit down and actually examine what the world has been saying about us.  Are we a chosen generation?  The generation that has finally had enough of injustice and is ready to put a stop to the wars, the poverty, the genocide, the evil?  The generation that is going to finally reach the Nations for Christ?  Are we the people who are going to stand firm and say “no more”?  It all comes down to the question:
Can we be a generation of shattered people who are alive and breathing simply for the bleeding hope of Glory?
 I think we can be.
And I am here to live and die for that Glory.  But I am here much more to live, for plenty of people are willing to die for a cause, any cause, but very few are willing to live.  Because to live for a cause is to give up everything you own, to sacrifice all that you hold for the greater good.  It means to look forward and forget your past, to loosen your grip on fate and to acknowledge that the world is much bigger than you are.  To live for a cause is to begin again; fresh, naked, and with nothing.
Just as my good friend Jedidiah once said, “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
I might still be too young and idealistic, or I might just be crazy, but I see no reason why we can’t turn the world upside.  There is nothing that holds ground on why the Church today is and should be so far away from what the Bible laid it out to be.  There is no reason every person on this earth should not be fed, clothed, cared for, and told about Christ.  And honestly the only reason I see for any of those things not happening can be summed up in our million dollar houses, the mad cash we dish out for computers, private education, the latest greatest junk, and because we are obsessed with everything about ourselves, anything but the welfare of others.
But I think that a new day is coming, truly it’s already here. A new day where we are not going to be okay with that reason any more. 
We are reclaiming Christianity for the name of Christ and reshaping how humanity sees each other.  Each person on this planet has a story, all 7 billion of us.  And each story is unique, each story is beautiful, each story is vitally important to the human race.  I really do believe that with my whole heart and people may look at me and laugh and point and remark on how off I may be.  And really, I could be wrong but I like to think that’s how Jesus loves people.  And if Jesus loves all 7 billion of us misfits, why shouldn’t we love each other?  And as soon as anyone gives me a good “reason” why not, then I’ll admit that I’m wrong.  But from the Scripture I have read and from the orphans in Africa that I have held, my conviction holds true.  Jesus loves every single one of us and therefore so will I.  And so should we all.
So with that conviction and all, the question has to asked, “how do we do this?”  Well, the best answer I have is to love people with everything we have, we hold, and we do.  To build authentic relationships with people around us regardless of any boundary of race or social limitations.  To give our time to people who need it.  To share what we own with people who need it.  To share Christ with every single person we meet with our words but more importantly with every act we perform.  To hold the broken, to cry with the hurting, to laugh with friends, to sing and dance with strangers, but to come and realize that we are all brothers and sisters.  To quit dying for our own American dreams and to start living for Glory. 
One day I will be face to face with Jesus and He look at me and ask me how I used what He gave me for His glory.  And as I stare deeply into the face of Glory, my Soul’s Desire, I pray that by the grace of God I will be able to show Him how I chose to not just die for Him, but to live.  I know that He will embrace me regardless, because I am washed by the blood of Jesus, but oh how dearly I long to hear Him say, “well done my good and faithful servant.”  There is nothing else I desire more.  There are no other words that I would live to hear. 

The word Hallelujah means “praise the Lord” and the most beautiful thing about this word is that it’s never been translated.  Its originally Hebrew and it’s been Hallelujah since David uttered it while writing the Psalms until now as I’m sitting here on this bench typing it.  Hallelujah can be heard echoing out of gathering in the slums of Kampala to the house churches in China and back to the mega-churches in America.  It is known throughout the whole word as one word.  It’s simple, profound, cross-cultural, and world changing.   
In October I had Hallelujah tattooed on my forearm.  I did this for many reasons, but one of those reasons was because it’s a universal word.  It’s the anthem of believers everywhere. When I in Africa this last summer, kids would come up to me and point to my arm asking me what it said and when I said, “Hallelujah” they would nod and respond, “Amen!”.  I had it written on me forever in order to remember that the old man dying on the war-tattered streets of Kabul, Afghanistan is just as much my brother as the kid sitting next to me in my sociology class.  One day every tribe, every tongue, and every Nation will sing Hallelujah together before the throne of God.  Why can’t we, as a human race, start that now?  I believe we can.  I believe we must because it’s simple: Jesus says to. 
So.  Who’s with me?