religion

A Hoarder’s Hors d’oeuvre: The Battle of Stuff

How do you spell “stuff” backwards? Well, that’s an easy one! It’s ffuts… as in, “Ah ffuts, I have way too much stuff!”

We all do it. Accumulating unnecessary junk is as American as a DVR taping of Storage Wars.

Stuff happens,” they say, and no one knows how. One day we check the garage and scream for help. In response, neighbors run to our aid to buy our picture frames on the front lawn.

“Will you take thirty cents?”

Consoling the Consolidating 

My wife and I just got back from a short stint in California. We’ll soon undertake a thirty-five hour road trip across the United States from Coeur ‘d Alene, Idaho to Rochester, New York—where we’re moving to.

We’re here in Idaho, our pseudo homebase, to situate the stuff we left behind. Our goal is to fit all of our belongings into one car load—specifically, a traveled Toyota Prius. No big deal. What did we leave behind? One, two boxes?

“Storage,” I heard my Mother-in-Law say.

“Storage?” I asked.

“Storage.”

“But… that’s impossible.”

Not impossible. Totally embarrassing. We had more ffuts than we realized.

A Hoarder’s Hors d’oeuvre 

People naturally respond to their upbringing in one of two ways: unapologetic acceptance or spiteful opposition. I hate stuff; I always have. It weighs you down and gets dusty. No thanks.

The house I grew up in was dominated by stuff, my Grandmother and her books and antiques and collectables. She isn’t a hoarder, by any means, but she’s getting there.

Pre-med is a good term.

In truth, my grandmother is a wonderful woman with a heart of gold, and I’ll be forever grateful of the upbringing I was given. That said, she could stand to get rid of one or two, or twelve or fourteen, boxes.

My wife had a similar upbringing. When we married, we agreed stuff would never be an issue. To us, clutter is a symptom, a sign of disease, and a storage-unit the sickness.

When I heard the s-word the other day, my stomach turned.

Genesis to Exit Us

The storage unit took two full truck loads to unload. Good Lord. 

Rummaging through, I opened a “childhood box” and found my old Sega Genesis. I smiled, remembering my ten-year-old self playing “Sonic.” I soon realized the cables, controllers, and games we’re all missing. In true hoarder fashion, I’ve been holding on to a useless Sega Genesis console for 16 years.

Why? Why would I hold on to this? I could’ve sold it for $20 ten years ago; the other day, I literally placed a $2 sticker on it.

The worst part? It didn’t even sell. I still have it!

Senti-MENTAL

We excuse ourselves by labeling “sentimental value” on junk that doesn’t matter. We then identify this junk as ourselves, equating it to a limb, and say, “How could I ever throw that away?”

Yes, some things worth holding onto—priceless, family heirlooms come to mind—but the Sega Genesis console, or the WWF flag from the toy wrestling ring, probably deserve a second look.

I spoke to my brother in-law the other day about this issue. Eventually, Buddhism and the act of “letting go of material possessions” came up. We also spoke of Jesus. To me, the principle of “letting go” seems just as Christian as it is Buddhist.

Jesus talked about living for each day, like the sparrows. He told people—not everybody, I know—to get rid of their stuff, to not worry. He spoke about having two cloaks and giving the other one away.

It’s time to come to terms.

It’s time to come clean.

It’s time to get rid of my ffuts.

God knows I’m no Saint, and I’ve got my own ffuts to work out, but…

Seriously, what’s up with all the cloaks, people? More importantly, does anyone want a Sega Genesis console? My price just went down.

picstitch

Your thoughts?

A Thick-Skinned Grin: My Reply to Your Response

Blog comments are a lot like yard sales, everyone puts in their two pennies.

(no?)

Blog comments are like yoga classes. It’s easier when no one knows your name.

(how about…?)

Blog comments are like crack. Writers lick lips, cry, and/or squeal at the sight.

(I tried. I’d like to see you come up with a blog comment joke!)

Getting Freshly Pressed was a big deal, but that sense of accomplishment didn’t even come close to the affirmation I received from the commentators of my last post, Professional Christians (and Other Oxymorons).

In that post, I spoke of my (and many others) discomfort over the some of the Church’s spending habits. I also shared my distaste for full-time, salaried positions—taking a stance but also looking for feedback and alternate perspectives.

The post came out fine. Sometimes I can clearly articulate the feuding religious thoughts in my head, other times not so much. Truth be told, it was the response of my reader community that made the experience so rewarding; I was absolutely floored by the vibrancy and the willingness people had to speak on such a tough topic.

Hey everyone, thanks for sharing, relating, and arguing. It means a lot.

Most readers were nice and understood the idea of a friendly, academic argument. There’s always that one unnecessary, negative comment that sticks; with each post, I think, I’m growing a thicker skin.

Here’s some highlights: 

-Regarding comfortable, salaried positions, people on both sides of the argument used the Bible—and Paul—to authenticate their position.

-I heard from an Atheist, a Mormon, a Vicar, a pastor’s kid, retired/former ministers, to name a few.

-I was praised, insulted, exhorted, and challenged.

-Anna from http://cannopener.wordpress.com/ gave an interesting comment about the connection between the apostle’s reaction to the pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet and my reaction to the church’s spending problem. I’m glad she brought it up; I think I might write a post about this in the near future.

A few stand-out quotes:

“I have to say that spending time on a Sunday with a cup of coffee, my kids safe in a bright, clean nursery, in a comfy chair really is something I crave, it has filled my tanks and made me excited to go to a church.” From http://thesisterslice.com/

“Go out and build yourself a great church. Then when people start complaining at you, you’ll have some context for what you wrote here.” Brian from http://www.fromnoahtohercules.com/

“Your post is part of the reason that I am Atheist. “Give us money so we can pray for the poor!”. Umm, what? Never makes sense…” Chuck from http://crowrath.wordpress.com/

“I’m tired of the “presentation.” Tired of the “show.”…  I simply want a church that provides a place for community and truly helps believers.” http://cognicide.wordpress.com/

“I come from a family of “professional” ministers. I’ve seen first hand just how taxing a job the pastorate can be, mentally, emotionally, even physically. I can tell you, it’s worth a salary…” Ian from http://churchified.wordpress.com/

“The full-time salaried, sit at Starbucks, read books and be on social media promoting yourself,/your service/your church./your good deeds pastor is nowhere to be found in Scripture.” BL from http://brianlen.wordpress.com/

“I was already fully committed to following God and trying to make a difference in the world in my previous job, but now I’m able to give all of my time and energy to facilitating that happening at the church I lead… ” Andy from http://baldvicar.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bernadettes-Art-Photography/196062867074019

Today’s featured image is a drawing by my friend, Bernadette. Click the link to see her other great work! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bernadettes-Art-Photography/196062867074019

The conversation is still going on. What are your thoughts?

Overcoming Spiritual Inconsistency: Me So Thorny

In 2 Corinthians, Paul vaguely writes about a thorn in his side. Most likely a personal ailment, or, as he puts it, a “messenger from Satan,” scholars have debated for centuries on what this thorn really was.

When it comes to faith and spirituality, we all have a thorn that tests our faith from time to time—a personal battle.

I love the Lord and His teachings, and wouldn’t trade my faith journey for all cheese on the Moon. Truthfully however, I show up for class roughly half the time; my spiritual thorn is inconsistency.

I know I should read my Bible everyday; I know I should serve fellow-man and spend more time in prayer. I know I need to worship. I know I need to love.

Yet, on a busy day, these desires are the first I give up. Heck, half the time I’m not even that busy.

Everybody Has One

My spiritual life is about as consistent as my bowling game is: Strike. Gutter. Spare. Grandma Roll. Punch the Chair. Gutter. Get a Hot Dog. Gutter.

I’ve had this problem for a while, you see. Years and years of inconsistent faith. I’d be on fire for God and then quickly fade, or receive a vision of helping the homeless, and then go buy a Playstation.

On January 1st, I committed to a read the “Bible in a Year” regimen. An everyday sort of thing. WIth two chapters of Old Testament, one Psalm, and a New Testament chapter everyday, I was excited to sign up. I even thought the daily structure looked a little light.

Then life set in. I got busy. My thorn started jabbing, and now I’m three weeks behind in the Old Testament and two weeks behind in the New. How could this happen?

Well, there are excuses, of course.

I was traveling…

I had a test…

I’ve been busy at work…

(Never mind the time spent on Facebook, Temple Run 2, and the NBA Finals).

Scripture is just one example. There are times when prayer is all I want, and others when I’ll do anything I can to avoid it. Consistency is just beyond me.

Simple religious guilt? To be honest, no. I sincerely desire a healthy relationship with God. I long for a day where my spiritual agenda can’t be easily shaken—when God’s will can be carried out in confidence—despite whatever my Facebook feed feeds me or the limitations I find in my schedule.

I see the inconsistency in other places, too. The more I look around, the more I see others who suffer like me. I can say this in confidence because of the state of the world we live in; we could all be a little more consistent in our faith and in the Gospel.

We are a generation of Christians who could spread the Gospel like wildfire if we would only light the match. We say things like, “I’ve been busy at work,” though inside, I think we’re all just waiting for a little push.

Some Thoughts

Is spiritual inconsistency a natural part of faith? Is this where, as they say, the rubber meets the road?

Is spiritual inconsistency another name for laziness? The more I write about it, the more I wonder.

Does the Church unintentionally encourage spiritual inconsistency? Showing up on Sunday is a popular (and shallow) way to keep each other accountable. Has the “one-day-a-week” mentality played a part in these habits?

How do we tackle spiritual inconsistency without encouraging empty religious guilt? Not all guilt is bad, but we need to be careful about labeling our own judgements as God’s.

picstitchDo you struggle with spiritual inconsistency? Any thoughts to share or advice to give?

Does God Leave?

God will never leave you. Have you ever heard that? I have. All my life, it seems. You could call it the core theme of my childhood spirituality. This idea—the one of an omnipotently present God—both intrigued me and frightened me as a child. The good news (back then), was that if God were always around then I’d be bound to catch Him sooner or later.

I’d walk around and flip my neck—like some sort of weirdo—trying to catch Jesus in the corner of my eye. I’d pray and strategically leave enough room for my eyes to peek through… just incase. The freeway held great potential. It made sense to me, “Angels ride on the back of motorcycles.”

“Those aren’t angels,” my dad would say.

The Guardian

My great grandma had the guardian angel over the bridge painting in her bathroom—you’ve probably seen it somewhere along the way. Slightly crooked, her painting rested comfortably in the wall above the toilet—as permanent as God’s Word. I assumed it had always been there and always would be. Most plausibly, the painting was a gift, given by the house itself and birthed from its foundation.

To me, the painting was nothing but a stark reminder—angels watched you pee. I blame my shy bladder on this haunting print.

Then there’s that Footprints poem. (Don’t get me started).

In 200 years, I’m curious if Footprints will be canonized into scripture. Maybe we’ll be giving piggy-back rides in church on Sunday as an act of worship.

“God will never leave you. There’s guardian angels and footprints in the sand.”

An Example or Two

From youth we’re taught the doctrines of our faiths and of God, as concrete as a grandmother’s painting. Then we get older and read scripture for ourselves; sometimes, our doctrines turn to sand. Sometimes we discover our beliefs were never written in stone, but passed down through magnets on a fridge.

A couple Bible passages have recently revealed some startling news. God does, in fact, leave. Often in the most troubling of times, too! I’m not talking Bruce Almighty vacation or anything, but it would seem apparent that He leaves us, individually, from time to time.

God left Samson in Judges 16. God left Israel in 1 Samuel 4.

I don’t bring this up to unnecessarily riffle any feathers. It’s in the Bible and I believe it’s worth talking about. Hopefully you’ll want to join in on the fun.

Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Maybe it’s in response to sin. Sin is forgiven under Christ; sure, but there’s still consequence. Does God temporarily leave as a consequence to sin? (These may read as rhetorical, but they’re not. I’m asking you).

Maybe it’s an assumption of the Bible writer. Regardless of what you believe about scripture’s origin, it makes sense that each Biblical writer had a cultural and linguistic lens through which he or she wrote.

Maybe God is incapable of leaving his creation. This feels most comfortable to me, though I hesitate saying it. God is not a math function; there is no limit we can assign.

Maybe this was Pre-Jesus. The smart readers/bloggers out there may have a verse or two (or a personal experience) to back this theory up. I’d be interested in reading those.

Whatever the outcome may be, we most likely won’t fully know it anytime soon. Until then, I’ll continue to look for God where I can—in the corner of my eye, in every blade of grass, on the freeway, in my heart, in my friends, in my family, yes, even WordPress.

Even WordPress.

Well, what say, you?

Freshly Pressed: My Favorite Comments

Last week, I found myself struggling with writer’s block. Yesterday, I was Freshly Pressed on WordPress. That kind of took care of it. If you’re not familiar with WordPress, basically, Freshly Pressed is their sort of… front page.

Alternate blog title: Freshly Pressed: How Keva Got His Groove Back

Just last week, I was telling my wife about some of my goals. Freshly Pressed was numero uno. So that’s cool. Now, I can move on to goal numero dos: hand model. Well no…

What a huge honor. The Freshly Pressed came at just the right time, too. My writer’s block has since been smashed, chopped, and blended… and digested.

Confessions of a Former Worship Leader was featured. I wrote the post straight from the heart, so it was nice to get such a wide array of feedback and responses. “Confessions…” seems to have struck a chord, no pun intended.

The internet is a strange place, and it gets a lot of flack these days (Facebook rants, mean-spirited debates and criticisms, message boards), but I’m continually impressed by the genuineness and civility of WordPress bloggers. It’s quite a special place.

Comments are still coming in (slightly overwhelming)! In truth, everyone’s comment has touched my heart. Some responses have been encouraging, some have disagreed; all have contributed towards my healing in some way. The best part is the overall, much-needed conversation of corporate worship has begun. It’s been an honor to have lead this discussion.

Here’s a few comments (from yesterday) that have, so far, stood out to me. A lot of these are just excerpts. I might add one or two more as I continue to read.

Comments, Comments, Comments,

Melissaraptor

During the few Christian services I’ve attended in my life, I’ve felt so confused and taken aback by the focus on modern music. The services were not what I imagined at all and frankly I felt more uncomfortable in those which relied heavily on the performance. Thank you for sharing the thoughts of someone behind the scenes, so to speak. It’s comforting to know that someone so involved with religion shares or at least reflects some similar input on a few of the topics I’ve been so confused by. Thank you so much.

Constance V. Walden

When people get up on a stage or stand up before the congregation and sing, with or without music, it it becomes a concert or entertainment. It becomes about them, really. Yes, they may be singing about the Lord, but, it’s really about them. When the church comes together to worship, they should sing together as one to the Lord on the same level. No one up front, no one on stage, and not drowned out by musical instruments. It’s OUR voices together in praise to the Lord. Thanks for sharing.

measureofagift

My heart broke last week when a dear friend told me she chose a church for the “worship experience” she told me it was “very spiritual” and that what she loved was that she could go there, feel blessed, talk to no one, and then return home, untethered to anyone in the congregation, or anything she needed to carry around with her all week. She could “just leave it there til next week.” We’ve turned worship into a gratifying experience, so much so that in “trying to serve God” in worship, we end up hurting those who come to our churches.

sandydog44

Hello, I quit the church for many reasons ….and the hypnotizing of the congregation by emotional music and all that goes into producing a good concert to move your feelings….it was called being moved by the Holy Spirit, but exactly the same feelings are produced at a “secular” concert. People are fooling themselves.

Carpenter’s Quill

Worship is: Dance, art, a prayer, thanking God by using our talents, helping people around us, or even singing in the shower. I agree that ‘worship’ isn’t just one singular act of service/praise. I also like your response about being ‘hurt by the church’. Too many people forget that the church is full of humans. We are individuals incapable of perfection. I’m glad it didn’t squash your faith, and that you’re uncovering hidden feelings. I think the mega church culture (as a whole) needs to get back to authentic ‘worship’

Kris

I appreciate your honesty with where you are at and think it was wise for you to pull back as you did. It seems to me, our spiritual life and our interactions with others and service ebbs and flows, inevitably produces flaws, retracts in disgust and renews itself in purity through the Spirit. It is not just this way in worship of course, but in any aspect we participate in communally. Anytime our faith goes public in service we drag along our personal spiritual fights and encounter those of others and sometimes we just need to pull back and regroup.

kevindeisher

I sang and led worship at my church for several years and like you suffered burn out. I left the church in search of something better and more genuine for me to believe in. I can so relate to your post and agree with it all. I am attending a micro church now where the worship music is by most standards poor, but it is genuine and heartfelt and I enjoy it more than the concerts of the past.

Thanks again, WordPress! What an honor to have been considered and chosen.

The Christian Dilemma of Disagreement

Do you remember your first time? I do. A bet a lot of Christians do. There’s nothing like the first time, the one where you expose everything and… share a theological stance when—worst case scenario—the ear on the other side of the table disagrees with you.

Disagrees? Can Christians do that? Should Christians do that?

My First Time

I’ve gotten better, since my first time that is. I remember it well. I was in youth group, in high school, and the hot topic of teenage dating came up. I argued for it; he argued against it. I hated him. Well no, but he was the type of Christian who always seemed to think the opposite of what I was thinking. I’ve grown to cherish people like this—because, well, it seems that everyone disagrees with me these days—but back then, I couldn’t really handle it.

I remember feeling so caught off guard, I didn’t know what to do. One of us is right, I would think, which means God is against one of us—obviously, not me. 

Processing disagreement has less to do with spirituality and more to do with maturity. At some point we become adults and our emotions dwindle down a bit. We learn to listen and smile—even when we feel like calling someone Mr. Poopy Pants.

For some reason though, spiritual arguments exist on a different level. Our beliefs are very special to us. We’re allowed to have political arguments, sports arguments, American Idol arguments, but when we disagree over spiritual arguments, we take real offense.

Offense/Defense

The reason we take great offense to spiritual disagreements is because we associate God with our beliefs. If I’m wrong then God is wrong then there is no God. I would argue that this is not healthy; however, we have all done it.

I’ve had to learn this lesson many times over. I remember singing along to the mewithoutYou classic song, “Four Part Letter Pt. 2” where the singer yells, “We don’t want our beliefs, God of peace, we want you.” I would sing along and think I knew what that meant. Then I would get into an argument over salvation and walk away with my faith shaken.

If we are one body, if there is one God, if there is one truth, why are we disagreeing so much? 

Our beliefs are not God, but we associate God with our beliefs.

A Dull Stab

Since I chose (yes chose) the route of becoming a slightly left leaning, emergent apologetic Christian—I’m only labeling myself, which I hate doing, for the sake of this blog post—I’ve signed up for my fair share of disagreements. To make things worse, I also dislike the majority of whatever the church does these days. There are other things, but you get the point. I’ve signed myself up for a lot flak.

I’ve grown a pretty thick skin, and I’ve also matured a bit. At the end of the day, regarding our spirituality, we are all just taking stabs. Some use a duller knife than others, yes. But we are all just taking stabs.

There are few things the Bible maps out for us very clearly. Most topics in scripture, however, are meant for a life of meditation, reflection, conversation, and argumentation. We are not meant to have the answer to every question in our pocket, not yet at least.

Is there predestination? Are homosexuals allowed in Heaven? Is there even a Hell—in regards to how we currently think of it? Is church suppose to be how it currently is? And yes, have we made a mess of worship?

We may get the answer in Heaven; we may not care when we get there. What I’ve learned is that it’s okay to ask; it’s okay to argue; we should expect disagreement from one another. Argument proceeds understanding and develops our faith.

Listen, learn, and share what’s in your heart! Be mindful and understand that God speaks to other people as well. Also, you are allowed to be wrong. I do it all the time.

Questions to Argue

1. Have you ever had a spiritual argument that shook your faith?

2. Is there danger in equating God with beliefs (denomination, translation, political views, etc.)? Or should they be one in the same? Is that even possible?

3. If we learn to disagree—to listen and respond in grace—could the Body build a tighter bond?