Easter 2017

It has been over five years and I am again brought back to N.T. Wright’s thoughts on Easter each time we gather to celebrate.

Despite a thousand Easter hymns and a million Easter sermons, the resurrection narratives in the gospels never, ever say anything like, “Jesus is raised, therefore there is a life after death,” let alone, “Jesus is raised, therefore we shall go to heaven when we die.” Nor even, in a more authentic first-century Christian way, do they say, “Jesus is raised, therefore we shall be raised from the dead after the sleep of death.” No. Insofar as the event is interpreted, Easter has a very this-worldly, present-age meaning: Jesus is raised, so he is the Messiah, and therefore he is the world’s true Lord; Jesus is raised, so God’s new creation has begun—and we, his followers, have a job to do! Jesus is raised, so we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world, making his kingdom come on earth as in heaven!

― N.T. WrightSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

How do we make His kingdom on earth as in heaven? By loving others. By caring for those in need. By campaigning for justice. By keeping your integrity. By taking care of the environment. By building hospitals and digging wells. By preaching, painting, singing, and sewing.

What we do with our lives in the now matters greatly because with them we are literally making earth more like heaven, or less like it.

Invisible Children to End in 2015

I had the pleasure of volunteering with this organization during highschool and throughout my college years, some served as campus president. From sleepouts, fundraising to rebuild Ugandan schools, throwing a few male beauty pageants, and even attending a congressional lobby in our nation’s capitol building, it was all exciting and life enriching. Invisible Children was created in 2004 to bring an end to a rebel army using children as soldiers, and over the last nine years that army has shrunk, fled from Uganda, and over two thousand abducted children have escaped to return home. I’m glad to see that Invisible Children hasn’t lost their desire for partnership with the organizations and people that have to live at the center of the conflict and will be handing off their resources and control to local groups that they have bonded with over the years. There is still a lot of work to be done rebuilding and rehabilitating, and with the good work these people do, it will continue to happen.

This interview with the CEO is honest and worth a read, organizations like this, ones that have the balls to carve out a change in this world are few and far to come by. But we live in an age that knows the most slaves, sex workers, and child soldiers than ever before, with the most serious atrocities going unnoticed or unreported. Invisible Children’s underlying goal was to correct the injustice in this world the best way they saw fit, I pray we all continue to do just that in our own lives.

“…cynicism is, in my humble opinion, a destructive force for progress in this world.”

Be loving, be smart, be wary, and be ambitious. But always have hope in what you seek to do, don’t fall victim to cynicism from within yourself or outside from others. Change the world.

//edit: Official word from Invisible Children

My Thoughts on: Sexual Compatibility

Article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/sep/24/moral-case-for-sex-before-marriage

The idea of ‘sexual compatibility’ gets a lot more attention than it should be.  The article suggests that you can’t know/be sexually compatible if you don’t have sex beforehand and that sexual compatibility is necessary for a great marriage.  Yes, sex is an important part to a marriage, but are people seriously saying marriage isn’t the right choice if two aren’t “sexually compatible”?  What does that even mean?  I just can’t imagine getting close to someone to the point of “Wow I really love this person and I want to marry them, but are we sexually compatible?”  That just seems idiotic to me.

I’ve it heard this view from a lot of other people, “I have to make sure that the sex will work between us”.  If marriage is just a precursor to sex then this makes sense.  If what I’m concerned with is getting a good romping out of my wife then yes, I should be making sure the sex is to my liking first.  But I don’t think that is what most people go into a marriage for.  There is a lot more to marriage than a sexual relationship.  If you’re at the point in a relationship where you are looking to get married, but you think the sexual compatibility might change your mind….don’t get married.  You’re not ready to marry anybody.

How do you even determine sexual compatibility?  What is the criteria for compatibility?  How many attempts do you need to figure out if you’re “compatible”?   Do you even need to actually have sex to figure it out?  And why just sexual compatibility?  Are these people also buying homes together, getting pregnant and raising children before getting married as well?  If not….how will they know they are financially compatible?  Compatible in the home environment?  Compatible as parents?  How will they know if they will still be a compatible couple during retirement?

Can’t these things can be determined through conversation and other indicators you get from knowing a person?  99% of any kind of compatibility is understanding each other’s desires, limits, and each person’s willingness to work together.  And if you can’t even talk about those things on a level deep enough to figure it out, how is actually doing them going to be more comfortable and a better indicator of compatibility?

Now, there are some GREAT points this article makes.

  1. Sex is good
  2. Sex is fun
  3. People like sex
  4. Sex isn’t a bad thing

I’m not going to stand on a soapbox here and proclaim that if you have sex before marriage you will get herpes, or become cursed with a terrible sex life, or try to slut shame you.  If you really believe sex before marriage is a way to determine this notion of sexual compatibility you want in your marriage and you have carefully considered what sex is to you, fine.  Go do it and get it on.  But don’t try to preach how it is the correct way that everyone should follow.  The article seems to be primarily frustrated with how American culture views sexuality(valid), wants to challenge it(valid), but then claims that pre-marital sex is the way to do this(not valid, or at least she didn’t make any valid claims for it).

Maybe the issue here isn’t that you shouldn’t or should be having sex before marriage, its what are we teaching ourselves about sex and how is that impacting us?  Generally in America there isn’t a good sexual education experience, we don’t talk about it, or its all hush-hush naughty stuff and sexuality in America is suffering because of it.

We have people who wait to get married before having sex, don’t understand that sex isn’t some magical 100% perfect thing and have their marriage suffer because of it.  We have people who are tired of seeing that and decide to preach the good news that pre-marital sex is “the best choice for nearly everyone.”  And we have people that haven’t really thought about that much(or are too young to!) who hear both sides and aren’t sure what to think; worse if they only hear one side and blindly follow it without thinking about what it means for them!

Sex and sexual health are important parts of being a human and are usually extremely personal private matters.  We should be stressing this instead focusing on shame or pride for whatever side you happen to be on.

Perspective

I’ve seen this picture around the internets a few times, mostly reposts on /r/atheism, but after a friend sent it to me for a laugh, it struck me a little differently.god and universe

Haha, it’s funny because we are so small and God(if he exists) is so big, why is he bothering to tell us not to masturbate?  It is such a stupidly small thing to care about in the grand scheme of things.  Ipso facto, the idea of God is ridiculous because he must not really care about the important things in life.  Hahaha.  I get it.

But if you think about it another way, the straw man example created to poke fun can be used to show how deeply God cares about humanity.  Whatever you believe about masturbation isn’t the point here, replace that instruction with “don’t lie”.  It’s the same thing for the purpose of the image.  While God is so so so so so so so SO much bigger than us, our galaxy, and the observable universe, He takes time to instruct us tiny things how we can better our lives.  Tiny things that seem insignificant to us but can impact the way we live and interact with others.  He does this in addition to handling all the other “big time God stuff”.  He cares about our issues, big and small.

And it is strange to me that my friend is incapable of seeing this side of it.  Anyone who looks at this image and doesn’t really know the impact of what a loving God can have in their minute life really can’t see anything else.  Both perspectives start with the same precept, a God infinitely larger and complex than we are tells us how to conduct small parts of our lives.  Some people stop there and call it meaningless and stupid, while others look to see if there actually is some meaning behind it.

Airplane Movie Reviews

I took a vacation for two weeks in New Zealand which involved flying over the Pacific Ocean-there and back again.  I usually enjoy plane rides long or short since I can finish off a book, sleep most of the way, or pass the time with free movies.  Virgin Airlines usually has a great choice of movies to watch for free.  My flight over I didn’t watch that many since I wanted to get myself on the proper sleep schedule.  Coming back I had the unfortunate middle seat along with people seated directly behind and in front of me who made it their mission to keep me from sleeping at all, so all I did was watch film after film.  Anyway, here is what I watched and what I thought about them.

  • Frozen – 4/5
    • Yes I know I’m late to this party.  I thought Frozen was a great Disney movie.  Fun plot, funny characters, good sing-a-long songs, and a happy ending.  It was a little bit of an issue at times how easily you could see insert song here story breaks.  Tangled was better.
  • Monsters University – 3.5/5
    • I’ll be honest, I only watched this for Nathan Fillion, and he was awesome!  A nifty prequel with your typical underdog plot.
  • Despicable Me – 5/5
    • Somehow I missed this when it came out and never got around to watching it.  Well I’m really glad I caught it on the flight back because I was blown away.  The animation was brilliant, the acting was top notch, and I was not expecting to have my emotions pulled out at 30,000 miles in the air!  After it was over I sat there feeling so happy for Gru, then I realized he’s an animated character, and then I realized there is a sequel I NEED to see.  It was good too right?
  • Fifth Estate – 4/5
    • A cyber thriller telling the debated story of Wikileaks and its creator Julian Assange, comes with a healthy dose of Benedict Cumberbatch.  If you like journalistic, uncover the truth, race against authority thrillers then you’ll probably enjoy this.  The film is probably more of a 3/5, it lacks as a whole at times.  But I’ve always found the whole Wikileaks story very interesting and could follow along with my own knowledge, so that might have made it more enjoyable for me.
  • Now You See Me – 3.5/5
    • A band of magicians start to rob banks during their live performances and the FBI is after them.  It is super fun to see the magic get executed, FBI outsmarted, and watch the plot twist and turn further.  It gets set up very well but it is only as fun while it lasts.  The ending is rather abrupt and didn’t do it for me.
  • Act of Valor – ?/5
    • I more or less collapsed in my seat from exhaustion half way through this one, finally thwarting the sleep barons surrounding me.  At best this is probably a 2/5 If I had to predict what the score would be.  The plot wasn’t anything special and the narrating was boring or exposition at best.  It felt like they came up with the idea, “Hey lets use real a real Navy SEAL team as the action stars”, and didn’t take it much further.

I’m pretty sure I watched at least two others but I cannot remember what they were.

Offering Too Much Advice

One of the things I do is give advice.  Sometimes I give advice when people don’t even ask for it, I just start explaining things.  Sometimes I’ll talk too much trying to explain my advice when they don’t particularly care or they already understand it and I end up annoying them.  Learning what annoys people is a never ending process.  It can be talking too much, how you explain your advice, or what subject it is on.

While it may be a way of expressing you care, you still need to be mindful of how others take it.  And that can be hard.

What ‘A Child Called It’ Taught Me About Stories

I read a book called A Child Called It during Highschool.  It’s a first hand account written from someone who was beaten and starved as a child by his abusive mother and played torturous games with him, or at least that’s what the author says.  I didn’t really think twice about the story’s exact validity because the point of the story was about how terrifying and real child abuse is.  A few months ago I read an article about how the story is under suspicion of being exaggerated, profiting off of the abuse story, or completely false.  I don’t know if the guy made it all up, apparently one of his brothers says he did while another one says it was all real.  That is one of the scary realities of this situation, a lot of child abuse goes on and we don’t know about it.  His own brothers can’t even agree if it happened.

But the point is that whether this particular story is true or false, the message of the story is still valid…child abuse happens; it is real; it is terrifying.  So what does that have to do with Story?  Two things I’ve been pondering in my head for a bit were brought out while I was thinking about this.

  1. Just because a story isn’t real doesn’t mean the point of the story is worthless
  2. I think we need to look into a story before touting it as 100% factual reality

Many times I see stories get thrown around to simply illustrate an idea.  If the point of a story isn’t that it actually happened but that it makes you think, it being a reality or not shouldn’t phase you.  Maybe you have heard some of those famous cheesy chain mail letters about the student who countered his professor’s proof that God doesn’t exist or that God is evil(and sometimes the kid conveniently turns out to be Albert Einstein).  Or parts of the Old Testament seem to be more metaphor or Hebrew allegory than factual history(or so I’ve been told be people more versed in this area).  In either of these cases I have encountered a lot of hostile reactions in two opposite directions: 1) they assert that since the story is “just made up” then it is not worthwhile or, 2) they try to prove that isn’t made up, is factual history, and therefore worthwhile.  I think both of these approaches are incorrect in the sense that they both hinge its worth on whether the story is real or not.  The addition to the end of the student-challenging-his-professor story about the kid being Einstein is actually an addition to prove its worth.  Since the kid is Einstein, a very smart man that actually existed, the story must be real and therefore worthwhile.  But this addition hinges the story’s worth on the fact that it is a reality, problematic!

Worthwhile stories do not have to be true.  Take Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings as famous examples, they are made up but there is so much truth we can learn from them about our world, desires, doing what is right, and love.

Easter 2013

In the beginning of this year, God taught me a very important lesson that I couldn’t have grasped by myself.  About six months prior I remember swearing to myself that this particular experience could not make any sense, I would never understand and it was stupid.  Yet here I am now, thankful for my newly learned lesson.  Its hard not to see the mystical side of life when something used to hurt can now be used to heal.  I’m not talking about a wound healing itself over time, but a wound provoking healing beyond what was initially damaged.  Whether it is the cross itself or a more personal experience, things that used to be signs of suffering, sadness, and loneliness can be used to help bring goodness, life, and hope.

Sometimes it is the little things that make it so evident to me that Heaven is actively crashing into, interacting with, and forever changing our world.  But we aren’t just supposed to sit here and watch it happen either, we are called to grasp ahold of Heaven’s tendrils and help pull it in.

…left to ourselves we lapse into a kind of collusion with entrophy, acquiescing in the general belief that things may be getting worse but that there’s nothing much we can do about them. And we are wrong. Our task in the present…is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.

― N.T. WrightSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

Easter blog posts

Ever Watched Something Come Back To Life?

I was remembering the Blue Like Jazz movie resurrection story the other day, I’m still blown away that we pulled it all off.

  • Donald Miller writes a great book called Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality.  It gets pretty popular among 20/30-somethings for how honest and personable Miller’s writing style is.  I would highly recommend you read it if you haven’t already!
  • Steve Taylor approaches Miller to make a movie out of Blue Like Jazz.  They plan, plot, and find investors for it to happen.
  • The day before pre-production, an investor backs out.  Miller announces on his blog that the movie is seemingly dead for now.
  • A band of fans got together and decided that this wasn’t going to stop this movie from happening.  We’d heard about it, read about it, and now we were going to save it.  The Blue Like Jazz Kickstarter was born, can you spot me in the video?
  • Ten days later the Kickstarter campaign passes its $125k minimum to fund the movie.  We did it.  Blue Like Jazz was to be the first major release American movie to be crowd sourced, and I, along with quite a few others, was now an executive producer with my name in the credits!  The campaign continued to raise money the next 20 days which helped afford better production.  Taylor and Miller were stunned at how quickly this happened and got back to work on it immediately.
  • The movie was finally released in April 2012 and it was awesome.

It was an amazing experience watching something we cared about come back to life after it had been declared dead.  I couple things I learned from this adventure:

  1. If you care about something enough, try to make it happen!  A few of us got over 3,000 people to join in and raise $125k.
  2. Institutions, precepts, and ‘The Man’ don’t have to be accepted blindly.  If people want to see something change, they should(and can) step up and change it themselves.
  3. Christianity continues to be ever relevant to our culture.

Two More of My Favorite Christmas Songs

Since I had two posts about Christmas music, I felt I needed to close it out with a third and final one.  I have two songs this time!  This first song finishes the loose narrative my last two posts kinda-sorta-connected together on: 1) Israel(and us) craves for Emmanuel to come, 2) Emmanuel did come, and 3) because of this, everything has changed.

In Like A Lion(Always Winter) is also by Relient K and is about Narnia’s ill weather.  I think that it was supposed to be on the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie soundtrack.  If it wasn’t then I really think it should have been…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksDBJIpqV1k&w=420&h=315]

Personally, I love winter.  I love the colder weather.  I enjoy the rain(for the most part) or snow when visiting the mountains.  I enjoy Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  I really enjoy bundling up and reading a book by the fire or window during the rain.  But, like most things, usually near the end of it am ready for winter to end and spring to show through.  Narnia(prior to Lucy Pevensie stumbling through the wardrobe) has been suffering a one hundred year long winter but never Christmas.  Some of the animals living in Narnia did not know what spring or a Christmas was.  It was a foreign concept to them.  Something wasn’t right.  Note that winter is not bad or evil.  Winter is just one part of the cycle that comes then goes and is just as important as summer, but something had abused winter’s purpose.

And then Aslan returns and sets the world right.  The green grass returns, the leaves begin to grow, Narnia is returning to as it should be.  As it was intended to be.

That is what Jesus’ mission was, to facilitate the restoration of His creation.  Throughout His life we were shown what this meant.  What truly living as God’s creation looks like.  Christmas is such an important event because of what happened afterwards.  If nothing happened after Christmas, if nothing changed, or if Aslan returned but the witch and her winter continued, there is no reason to celebrate.  With Jesus’ death we were allowed passage back to connect with God, this was the answer to Israel’s cries of O Come O Come Emmanuel.

 

I’m sorry if you’re tired of Relient K(not sorry), but they wrote a really good Christmas album.  This last song is entitled Merry Christmas, Here’s To Many More.  I’m not going to write too much about this one, I think the lyrics and pretty straight forward.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IE0s2cGVF10&w=420&h=315]

This last year hasn’t been the easiest for me.  A lot of changes, some ups, more downs, even more plateaus, and a whole lot of lets-just-get-through-this-Kevin.  When I sing I made it through the year and I did not even collapse, gotta say ‘Thank God for that’, I really mean it.  So here I am at Christmas, I made it!  Every year I think we all look back and think if we handled that we can handle anything, but it really sticks with you after a rough one.  I know I could not have gotten through this year without God shining through such great friends or family in my life(if you’re reading this then you probably fall under one of these).  He has provided me safe thoughts when I was alone, brilliant friends to hangout with, and a family to take care of me.  And He has promised me that He won’t leave.

So, from me to you, Merry Christmas and here’s to many more.