"Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over." -Ernest Hemingway

Ben Breedlove’s Courage

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These videos tell an amazing story of Ben Breedlove’s life. There isn’t much more to say except watch this this two part video.

Part 1

Part 2

It also tells an amazing story of his death. Ben Breedlove died this past Christmas, 2011, just one week after posting these videos on YouTube. To me, it seemed as if he knew there was another place for him; a better place, and that he was as ready as any 18 year old kid can be. What an amazing and courageous young man.

Ben, you’re my hero.

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Praying More Just In Case of Rapture?

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judgement day

Admit it. You’ve prayed more this week haven’t you? Give more tithe last Sunday? Indulged on chocolate this week? Called your mother/grandmother/siblings? Cleaned incriminating evidence off your computer? Put off work until next week?

No? Oh, well then, me either. That would be crazy, right?

So, you probably have seen the news or billboard or heard people talking about Judgement Day/Rapture/End of the World/We’re All Going to Die this week. If not, here’s an article for your reading pleasure. In short, Harold Camping, the President of Family Radio and the guy who predicted Judgement Day for sometime in 1994, has said that now that date is 2011. In fact, it’s May 21, 2011 at 6pm (all time zones). I guess if New Zealand is safe in roughly 9 1/2 hours, then we should be okay. From what I gather, it starts there–an earthquake or something–and makes it way around the world so that it hits each place around 6pm local time. Like I said, I think I’ll just turn on the news around 11pm Pacific Time and if all is well in New Zealand, I’ll sleep soundly.

No, of course I don’t think the world will end tomorrow. Why? Because of this:

(Jesus speaking) “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

-Mark 13:32

But all the same, I would love to take a big nation-wide poll of the above things. Are people praying more and repenting more this week? Was church attendance last week higher than normal? I think, even for me, in the back of my head, even though I’m confident in my faith and believe that Judgement Day isn’t happening tomorrow, there’s that small little voice of, What If? I mean, if so, I think it’ll just happen to be that day and not because Harold Camping was able to figure it out. Even so, I have a place in heaven, so I guess I don’t need to worry either way.

People think he’s crazy. People also probably though Noah was crazy for building an Ark. I can’t say 100% that I would have been totally on the Noah boat (literally). We have a tendency to laugh at people who get messages from God. I mean, unless it’s us or someone we know. Small messages seem to be okay, but big ones seem to make us call them crazy. I don’t think Mr. Camping has said he got a message from God though. I think he just thinks he’s smart enough to have figured God’s plan for Judgement Day out. You know, the one that Jesus himself said He didn’t even know, only God?

Then there is the fact that I have to answer questions from my teens like, “Ms. Melissa? Am I going to die on Saturday?” No, you’re not. At least not because of the world ending and I hope not for any other reason. And in the extremely unlikely case that it is Judgement Day, you’re not going to die. You’re going to be in heaven if you know Jesus, and I think you do. At least that that’s generally what I said. I’m pretty sure if he (the teen) throws in an extra few prayers this week, as he likely has, it won’t hurt anything. But why do we have to scare people into heaven? Fear is a terrible motivator. It works, but it’s terrible for getting people to do things for the right reasons. Sure, we should fear God, but out of reverence and not because of some man going around fear-mongering.

Either way, rapture or not, I’m going to be in heaven on Saturday. I’ll be at AT&T Park watching the Giants game. That’s about as close as you can get to heaven in the meantime.


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Celebrating Death, Justice or Just Closure?

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osama bin laden is dead

I’ve been getting a bit frustrated with some comments and judgement being  thrown out in the wake of the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden. I’ve seen a lot of posts from the Christian (and non-Christian) community about it not being right that we are celebrating the death of an individual. There are a ton of Bible verses both ways that people have thrown out. I won’t do that now. Let me be clear off the bat though: I don’t believe death should ever be celebrated. [Read more...]

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Who Was The Real Prodigal?

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[This was a sermon I did at church I think last spring sometime. It was while writing this that I actually came across the book called Prodigal God by Timothy Keller, but I just got around to reading it last month. It's a really good book--definitely worth a read. At any rate, it was good to see I wasn't totally off track with my thinking here either.]

When I was about 11 years old I decided to run away from home. See, I just had this terrible life. My parents had the nerve to make me do chores like wash the dishes. I had to share my video games with my little brother. But the worst offense, the one that pushed me over was that was I had to go on vacation every summer to Florida for one whole month! Can you imagine how terrible that would be? Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, Key West, Everglades, Daytona Beach, Miami. It was terrible. The only people I had to talk to for an entire month was my family! I got pretty good at making new friends quickly, but it was just torture. And of course, as fair skinned as I am, I’d always burn the first day of vacation, peel and then look like a freak the remainder of the trip.

So that was it. I had enough and I set off on a hot July day to leave home. I packed up some clothes and money and headed down the road. I made it about as far as the others side of the gate from my house…after all, it was pretty hot out, and I’ve already told you–I burn easily. I decided I could probably tolerate life with my family a little longer. [Read more...]

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Finishing Love Wins by Rob Bell

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I just finished reading Love Wins (affiliate link) by Rob Bell. I’m going to have to come back to posting my thoughts, but I will say this.

I am better for having read this book.

There were some undeniably brilliant truths in this book and he touched on many things that I think give a lot of Christians, and probably even more so, non-Christians a feeling of unease. Maybe they are supposed to makes us feel that way, but he starts the dialog all the same in a culture that, quiet frankly, isn’t generally open to questions.

There were some things that left my scratching my head and going, “what about when the Bible says this? We can’t ignore that.” Those things will require more research and probing by me and it could be that I just flat out disagree with what he says.

Most importantly though, this book challenged me to step outside of what I “knew” and make sure I really understand my faith. I’m not saying I was or wasn’t swayed by this book. I’m just saying it is a challenging book if you allow it to be and go into reading it with the attitude of wanting to understand what he’s saying rather than disproving it.

More later hopefully.

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Being Perfect

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I’ve been watching this video constantly over the past couple of weeks. It’s not been by choice as much as by chance. As I’ve been browsing my Facebook feed, I’ve noticed this video posted by several different teenagers that I know. The song, which is embedded below, is “Perfect” by Pink. This is the radio version. The explicit version is called “F@ckin’ Pefect” and uses that word in the song a few times. Whichever your poison, both versions have the same message: Don’t ever feel like you’re less than perfect. It’s a song about making bad decisions, screwing up, being mistreated, misunderstood and just not measuring up to other people’s or even your own expectations. The song is good, it’s catchy, and minus the language, and even despite it, it sends a good message to teenagers (or any of the rest of us) in a world that mostly tells us we’re not good enough.

I’ve personally been thinking about this issue a lot because I work with teenagers. Those teenagers, like most teenagers, are self-conscious and have different insecurities. Some have more than others, but they all have them. I have to constantly remind myself about that too. I’ve been fortunate to establish a close relationship with most of the teens over the past several years. My particular style of leading them is to treat them as adults and as much equal as appropriate. We make decision together. I don’t sugar coat things. I explain things to them as the rational beings that they are, or at least that they want to be. I have an amazing amount of respect for them. The thing is, I rarely tell them that. I sometimes forget that they are actually 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17.

Hearing this song, and seeing how much these teenagers relate to it, is a good reminder for me to continually focus on this. I think as adults, and particularly in ministry, we have to be careful about making others feel like they have more expectations to live up to. Yes, I want the teens to have spiritual and character growth, but my job is to encourage them and guide them down the right path when they stray, but not judge. I think we also do this as Christians a lot as well, we tell people what they “should” be doing (and it may well be things they should be doing) rather than helping them overcome the reasons they aren’t. We reinforce everything the world tells them, that they aren’t good enough. Yes, we may teach and throw out Jeremiah 1:5 that says, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations” (NLT), or Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (NLT). We tell people that they’re perfect because “God don’t make no junk.” But I wonder how much we actually show people this?

I’m guilty of it. I don’t consider myself overly critical, but I remind myself that teenagers are overly sensitive. We all probably are, so I’ve made it my goal to remind myself to not only tell people but actually show them how perfect they really are.

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Boogeymen and Ordinariness of Death

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“Death is terrifying because it is so ordinary. It happens all the time.” -Susan Cheever

If I had read this quote a year ago, or even six months ago, it would not have made sense to me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the thought of death has always been scary, but death itself had never been real. It was like the boogey-man. The thought of one is scary, but knowing that he’s not real makes it less scary. That’s what death was like for me–not real (mostly), and definitely not ordinary.

But I’ve learned that it is. I don’t know if I’ve just experienced it more in the past year, or if I’m just more aware and sensitive to it, but death is very real and very ordinary. I don’t like it. I suppose no one likes it.

I just feel like until this past year, I’ve been sheltered from it. Sure, I’ve lost a few people I knew and some great-grandparents that I was close with. Yes, those times sucked and made me sad. But those times, mostly, were expected. I was prepared mentally to deal with it.

I also never thought much about heaven until my mom died. That may sound weird for a Christian, but I just figured I’d get there when I get there and God would have it all worked out. I figured it would be this wonderful place, but for the most part, life on earth was pretty wonderful too. I didn’t care about the details and was in no hurry to get there. Then suddenly, after mom died, I felt this deep longing to be there. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to die to be there, but all of a sudden the urgency of being there with her seemed much greater. Life on earth didn’t seem all that pressing or all that wonderful and I was ready for Jesus to pop back down and take us away.

I still haven’t figured out how someone is supposed to deal with death. I can’t imagine the pain ever going away. Part of me doesn’t want it to go away. But it does give you this unique experience, particularly with a parent, I’d imagine with a child also, that you don’t have with anyone except someone who has gone through it. A number of people I know have lost parents this year. My co-worker just lost both parents in a matter of weeks of each other. What I have now is this unique knowledge that I actually know how they are feeling, generally speaking. It’s a feeling I’ve never really been able to compare to anything else. It’s this missing piece inside and knowledge that there is absolutely nothing I can say that is going to help. You say it anyway, but you know it’s not comforting. And every single time it’s happened since October (and it’s been frequent), I get that same punch in the stomach that I did when the doctors said, “I’m sorry for your loss.” I imagine that person getting that same punch.

So, ordinary? Perhaps.

Real? Definitely.

Terrifying? Yes–more than the boogey man.

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Letting Ourselves Cry

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never stop cryingvia The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus

I posted this along time ago here, but came across it again tonight. It kind of sums up how I’ve been feeling. In reality, it sums up how I almost always feel; how most of us probably feel a lot of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve cried. I’ve cried a lot. I think I’ve cried every day since my mom died. Sometimes it’s worse than others. But it is usually something that just comes. I rarely “let” myself cry. Is it just me, or are we just automatically trained to hold back our tears?

Is it because we’re afraid we won’t stop?

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Freedom of Religion: Why We All Get It Wrong

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Constitution of the United States and Feather Quill

The concept of freedom of religion is one of those topics that seem to push every hot button in every single person that has an opinion on the matter. I know that it does in me. So I’ve had these thoughts just floating around in my head for a while and felt inspired this morning to put them on paper (or in this case, in the blog).

Let me start with the US Constitution and the idea behind “Freedom of Religion”.

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. [Read more...]

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I Am Tiger Woods

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tiger-woodsTiger Woods. I’ve read the news. I’ve watched the interviews with his alleged mistresses. I’ve heard the jokes (some pretty funny ones I might add). I wouldn’t say I’ve been following the story, but in general, I’m pretty up-to-date on current events as I read Google News and my feed reader several times a day. You would pretty much have to be living under a rock to not know that something bad was going on with Tiger.

Here’s the thing though. I know that I should be disgusted by his behavior. I should think he’s a total scumbag. And I do think that his behavior was disgusting. It makes me sad for him, his wife, his kids and everyone around him who is having to deal with the consequences of his choices. However, I don’t feel the outrage that everyone else seems to be having or even that I think I should have.

Part of that is that I don’t think what he did was so abnormal for a sports celebrity (especially at his level). I think he’s getting more heat because we’ve always seen him as a “good guy” and because he’s managed to protect his privacy more than any other sports star that I know.

But the other reason is this: We all have a Tiger Woods in us.

[Read more...]

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