Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hey brain...GO TO SLEEP!

Why do I wake up in the middle of the night with a flood of thoughts in my brain? Some of you have probably experienced the same. Well it happened to me this morning. I woke up at 4 am with thoughts about what I'm going to say to JIVE students at my first official gathering with them. I was also consumed with thoughts about why I am a Christian. It probably didn't help that I watched The God's Aren't Angry (a recorded lecture/sermon of Rob Bell) last night. It left me with lots questions about God. That is for a later blog post.

If you suffer from thought overload when you're trying to go to sleep, or if you wake up in the middle of the night with the urge to put your thoughts down on paper (like I do at least a couple times a week) I think I have the answer to why. My answer comes in the form of a question or three. How much time do you spend with your thoughts during the day? Do you have regular time set aside each day or week to decompress and journal your thoughts? Do you take regular time to sit before God and examine your life? Maybe we lose sleep because bedtime is the only time we have to decompress. I really believe that every person should examine their lives and be alone with their thoughts on a regular basis. I find that when I have this regular time I actually sleep better. I'm able to go to bed without stressing over what's going to happen when I wake up. Give yourself time to fully express yourself while you're scheduled to be awake. 

I'm sure I could do a much better job explaining this, but I've been up since 4 am.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

God hangs out at Panda Express

Yesterday I was eating dinner outside of Panda Express when a man approached me and the group of middle schoolers I was eating with. He seemed to avoid eye contact with any one person. As he skirted by he asked if any of us would be willing to buy him dinner or at least help him out with a couple of bucks. I stood up and said I'd be glad to buy him dinner. He thanked me with many thank you's and and God bless you's. His name is Michael. We talked a little while waiting in line at Panda Express. But he mostly avoided conversation. He said he was from Echo Park but was crashing on a friends couch for a few days. He politely asked if he could order a 3-item combo to which I replied, "Get whatever you want." So he did. 12 bucks later we parted ways.

A few things about the encounter stood out to me. First I was surprised by my immediate willingness to buy him dinner. I didn't know him. I couldn't tell if he was really broked or homeless. All I knew was that he was hungry. I guess Jesus was right about asking. Second, I found myself wondering if he actually was homeless or broke, or if he did this kind of thing on a regular basis. If he did, I hoped he could teach me his secrets to free meals. But then I thought to myself that it didn't matter. I didn't care about his situation. I took the moment for what it was. Third, I asked myself (not aloud by any means) if I should tell him about Jesus. How would I bring it up? I could say something like, " you think Jesus would like orange chicken as much as the rest of us?" That seemed stupid. I had been trained as a teenager to share about Jesus with complete strangers, but now I was floundering. Sorry Troy (he was my youth pastor). Maybe I did share about Jesus with him in my willingness to help him out. He obviously already knew about God and that he likes to bless people.

Michael is a child of God just like me. If he is swindling people out of free meals God will deal with him. I hope his needs get met and that he knows how much God loves and values him. I'm thankful for Michael because he gave me an opportunity to be generous, and to put someone else's needs before my own. Michael, wherever you are, "Thank you and God bless you."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

LIfe of the Beloved

I finished reading Life of the Beloved by Henri (Just Me) Nouwen last night. I really enjoy books that only take a couple hours to read. Overall I was disappointed because Nouwen didn't come close to communicating to the secular world of his friend Fred. I was most impacted by Fred's desire to learn about spirituality in a way he and his secular friends could understand. I am asking of myself, "Can I communicate the story of God to the secular world as well as I can to those who share my beliefs, traditions, and vision?" 
At this point in my life I don't have any "secular" friends. I meet and hang out with "secular" students on occasion. As result I fear I may end up like Nouwen (that wouldn't be all bad), insulated by the walls of the church and unable to communicate to the outside world. I've decided to disobey my high school youth pastor, who told me not to hang out with non-Christians, and find ways to get outside the church walls to be among the secular. Maybe in the process some of the secular space will be reclaimed as sacred. 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

LIving Praise Indeed

This morning I visited Living Praise Christian Center in Chatsworth. Although it was 2.5 hours, it flew by much faster than the services at my church which are half the length. As soon as I walked in the door of the predominantly (95%) African-American church I felt like one of the family. I was greeted with more hugs than I'd get at a Cuban family reunion. I couldn't help but get wrapped up in the spirit of praise that filled the room. The gospel rhythms made me want to dance, so dance I did. Well a little anyway. I wished I brought my tambourine to join the band, which was far better than any I've heard at the House of Blues gospel brunch. As a first time visitor I received a blue ribbon to wear. If you've ever seen a flock of seagulls (not the band) attack some food on the beach, then you know what it looked like when a swarm of smiling faces noticed my blue ribbon. Fortunately I'm not afraid of personal contact and human affection. 

It must be said that I didn't agree with the theology behind a lot of the rhetoric, including the sermon, but there was no denying that the people wanted to praise the Lord with their whole selves. The pastor gave a message that was straight to the point: God has given us authority over created things, but we cannot use our authority in a healthy way unless we first submit to God's authority over us. After the service all the first time visitor were invited to meet the pastor and his wife, which I did. I let him know that it was the bus stop bench ad that brought me in. He praised God for advertising and let me know he is looking for some good Christian soldiers. I left feeling connected to a group of Jesus followers I'd never met before. I hope that is how people feel when they leave the parking lot of my church. I won't be leaving my church to join the army of LPCC, but I will take the orders I received today and march on, rooted in the love of Jesus Christ. 

Friday, July 17, 2009

It's about time

I finally have a blog. Didn't think this would ever happen, as I've never felt it was worth my time. Recently I've been flooded with so many thoughts about so many things that I need an outlet. I thought about going back to journaling with a pen, but then I thought to myself, "Maybe other people can benefit from my thoughts and experience." If no one ever reads this then I'll still have the outlet I desire.

You can expect me to share my thoughts on living like Jesus, living in community, youth ministry, MMA, marriage, the history and future of the church, and wisdom from my grandmother.