Friday, December 4, 2015

Gun Control and Jesus

As I get older and learn more about God and the world, I have started to see how things are rarely about what we think they are or what we make them to be.  The mass shootings are not really about gun control.  We are in a dead-lock because both sides are right.  More guns will probably increase the number of shootings.  Less guns will just make it so the shootings that do happen go unchecked by civilians.

So where is the solution?

The problem lies not with the weapon but with the heart.  The spiritual condition of this nation is degrading, and it shows.  People do not respect each other like they used to.  Ultimately, there is nothing we can do about that from a governmental standpoint.

Only Jesus can really affect change in people's hearts.

We ought to know this.  We ought to see through the deadlocked surface issues and dig to the deeper ones.  Instead of fighting with liberals about the gun laws--using one-sided data, straw-man arguments, and convincing ourselves that they are idiots and have no valid points--let's use the weapons of our warfare.  Pray like lives depend on it.  Spread the message of the gospel like it has the power to save people and change the world.  Because it does.

Are we so blinded that we are content to shout across battle lines we have helped to create instead of doing something about the real, more important fight?  It's not about gun control or the right to bear arms.  It's about Jesus.  I'm beginning to see that it's always about Jesus.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Journal Prayer

Have you ever written something really personal but ringing with so much truth that you just know you have to share it with others?  Yeah, that happened yesterday morning.  I'd just finished reading the chapter about God's eternity in A.W. Tozer's Knowledge of the Holy.

"O God, I am but a vapor on this Earth!  I feel it daily--the constant, unrelenting passage of time.  I want so desperately to grab hold and stop it for awhile, but it pays me no mind.  As the days and seasons slip past, the urgent question presses against my consciousness, 'Am I accomplishing anything that will not pass away, as I will?'  Has eternity taken note of my life in any way, or am I only living to live and be gone?  While I despair of a positive answer to my questions, I hear Your Spirit whisper in my ear.  "Yes, and there is more to come."  My hopeless soul leaps for joy and breathes again.  Eternity knows my name, and the Eternal One has further plans for me to be recorded therein.  How do I find them?  How can I ensure I do not miss an opportunity to make my mark on eternity?  Again comes that sweet voice, "Faithfulness."  So that is it.  Steady obedience to the call of the Eternal One.  So may You grant that my life is."

So may He grant that Your life is as well.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Writing and Pulling Teeth

Hi, guys.  It's been awhile.  In case you were wondering, the summer was fantastic.  I really enjoyed my jobs, the people I had the opportunity to work with, and all the crazy busyness that comes with summer camp.  That's not what I'm here to talk about, though.  I'm more interested in telling you what the last month and change has been like and what I am doing this year.

It all started when God began to put it on my heart to move back in with my dad this school year.  I thought it was a terrible idea at first.  After all, everyone says that moving back into your parent's house once you've been out is a recipe for disaster.  However, God will be God, and here I am, living in my old room with a two-month old kitten.  It's actually pretty great.

What am I doing with my time?  I'm so glad you asked.  A large part of my week is taken up by school.  I started my Associates Degree last fall, and I am scheduled to finish it at the end of April.  The real reason that I am living here is my writing.  I have been writing novels since I was about thirteen years old.  That's about eleven years.  I always wanted to publish, but my work either wasn't good enough, the market wasn't right for my genre, or I didn't have time to find a publisher.  Now I have time, and I have decided to self-publish.

Are you sure?  Yeah, I am.  I could go into all the reasons why, but that would be mostly boring.  The important part for you to know is that I need a fan base.  That starts with you--the few, the proud, the people I already know.  I just opened a facebook page for my authorly self, and you can do me a big favor just by liking it.  If you really want to go above the call of duty, invite your friends to like it.

What are you working on now?  Another excellent question.  Where do you guys come up with these?  At this moment I am writing a stand-alone short story about a prince who doesn't want the throne but can't abdicate, so he runs away.  It's a fascinating tale of identity, growing up, treason, and rebellion.  The target audience is 16 to ancient.  It began as a wedding present for my brother, but the characters demanded a larger audience, and they'll have my head if I don't agree.  I hope to publish it as an e-book in the next 2-3 weeks.

Your facebook post talked about incentives?  Yeah, I was just getting to that.  If you guys can get me to 100 likes by the end of the weekend (midnight on October 4th), I will release a snippet of the short story.  If at least ten of your friends message me and tell me that you referred them, you can get a copy of the final version for free.  Deal?

Here's a link to the facebook page.

Why is this blog post almost over and you still haven't mentioned teeth?  Oh yeah, good catch.  Because when you don't write regularly for three years, writing is like pulling teeth.  I know it will get easier as I stick with it, but right now it's frustrating to not even come close to how much I could usually write on a good day before I stopped.

See you on the flip side.  Happy reading!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

My Friend, the End

So this is it.  My last full day on seasonal staff at Camp Barakel.  Tomorrow night I become summer staff, workshop begins, and all the people start arriving.  I walked in the office yesterday and found that my mailbox label was gone.  I am bad at endings.  I don't like them.  Even when the end of seasonal staff means that it is the start of summer, I struggle with it.

I was reading C.S. Lewis' space trilogy a month or so ago, and something he said hit home.  One of the main characters in the third book comes to the realization that he has been spending his whole life jumping from one "in" group to the next, always finding that it was not quite so wonderful as he had hoped.  I have been doing the same thing.  Finally I was part of that elite, prestigious group known as the resident staff at Camp Barakel.  Sure, my time here was defined, and theirs was not, but I was still in.  I was so excited when I received my name tag back in September.  It said "Seasonal Resident Staff."  I was in.  Something in me said, "This is it.  The big one.  You've finally done it."  Maybe it wasn't conscious, but it was there.  More importantly, it was wrong.

I wasn't wrong about being "in".  No one excluded me from anything.  No one told me that though I was here, I wasn't really a part; it was just the opposite.  What I was wrong about was what it meant.  I was wrong about it being the pinnacle of achievement.  It didn't make me superior to anyone who has not worked here for more than a summer or a weekend or two.  It did not fill any kind of vacant spot in my heart.  It does not change my identity in any way.

My identity is set.  I am already a part of the most important "in" group in the history of the world.  And what's more, I didn't do a thing to earn it, and I can't do a thing to stay in or get out.  I am chosen and loved by the Creator of the world.  He makes me who I am.  He defines me.  The reason for being part of any group is not so that I can be fulfilled.  It is not so that I can feel better about myself and prop up my self esteem or pride (which is at all times both falling hopelessly and miserably unbreakable).  It is to shine.  It is to live out that identity that Christ has set for me.

Now all that is not to say that this has been any kind of a failure.  I have enjoyed it immensely.  I have learned a lot.  I have grown in many ways.  I think I feel a list coming on!
  • I started college.  Including the credits I earned retroactively through Ascent, I have finished 39 out of 63 credits for my program (Associates in Leadership and Ministry).  It has been both difficult and rewarding.  I spent most nights after work and days off at the office, writing assignments or procrastinating on writing assignments.
  • I learned how to be joyful on a regular basis and that I have most likely had persistent depressive disorder for a lot of years (very eye opening and still a struggle, but at least now I know what I am up against and a good way to fight it).
  • I learned and am still learning how to more easily accept change and see endings as new beginnings rather than as the end of the world.
  • I landed a job as an editor for a professional writer (okay, so it's my brother, but he has a degree in it, and he's been published, so it counts).
I learned a lot of random camp skills, too, but you don't have time to read that list, and I don't have time to write it.

This next school year I will be moving back in with my dad and a new step-mom (they'll be married sometime this summer).  I intend to finish my degree, edit my brother's writing, write gobs of my own, and try my hardest to publish my first novel.  After three years of living away, it'll be an adventure, that's for sure.  But God's on my team, and I'm "in" on His.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


The other day I was having a conversation with a coworker, and he admitted to me that he does not like the "normal" Christian radio station music.  No big surprise.  What stuck out to me, though, is that he prefaced this statement by saying, "I probably won't go to Heaven for this, but..."  Of course he wasn't serious, and we laughed, but it got me thinking.

The last four weeks, I've been studying worldviews.  Something this has driven home for me is that Christianity is the only worldview/religion where we can have absolute certainty of what will happen when we die.  We know that God loves us infinitely, and we know that if/when we trust in Christ as the redemptive Savior of our souls, we get our names in the Book of Life, and we will go to Heaven someday.

Nobody else has that.  Either they haven't thought about death, they believe that death is extinction, or they believe that they have to earn their way to Heaven (this includes certain "Christian" circles).  So while we joke about whether or not we'll go to Heaven because of little things, people all around the world are seriously thinking that way.  They can't mess up or go against the guidelines of their religion, or their eternal destiny might be in jeopardy.  Islam also falls into this category.

So then thinking about that made me think about this: what do we do with our freedom?  If Christ has set us free and guaranteed our salvation, how do we spend this life?  Just food for thought.  It made me think, so I'll make you think.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Living Hope

Sometimes I write blog posts and never post them, whether because I didn't have internet at the time then forgot about them or because I decided that the topic was too much of a rant or too personal.  Last April I wrote one that I forgot about but found recently.  Though a lot of the stuff in it is dated, there are still timeless truths I want to share.  So here's a #tbt post from April 2014.

This past weekend I had the marvelous opportunity to go back to Grace Adventures for a visit.  I didn’t intend to work (mostly because there was not a group in that weekend), but come to find out, Ride-a-Thon was on Saturday, and I couldn’t pass that up.

A little backstory to set this up: I haven’t been to Grace in five months, not since the FUEL Conference in November.  As I told someone at church Friday night, far too long to be away from home.  I’ve been aching to go back for months, and it was finally going to happen next weekend, but God surprised me with a visit a week early as well.  I could not have been happier.  When we hit Oceana county driving in, my face was permanently stretched in an absurd smile backed by so much joy.

So anyway, I spent the weekend catching up with so many people and playing with kids and crashing in the Vander Kodde’s basement.  I can’t describe the joy of some of those moments, like when AJ, my three-year-old best buddy told me he’d missed me.  On Saturday, I showed up at the ranch to see if there was anything I could do to help out and found that all but one of the Ascent interns from last year were all going to be there at some point.  I got to spend a large portion of the day with one of them, which was such a blessing.

The biggest part of the weekend had to be church, though.  Since circumstances have conspired against me to keep me out of church during this internship, it meant so much more than it would have to be able to go to the Good Friday and Sunday morning Easter service at a church with people I know and love and who care about me and have invested time and energy into my life.  To worship and listen to Pastor Mark teach and fellowship….  It was an amazing experience that was exactly what I needed.

On Sunday morning, Pastor Mark spoke on 1 Peter 1:3-4 – not your typical Easter Sunday message, but it was quite possibly the best I’ve ever heard.  He talked about how Christ’s resurrection has bought us a new birth, a living hope, and an incorruptible inheritance.  He talked about how Christ has beaten death and shared stories of martyrs who gladly went to death rather than feared it.  What did they know?  What knowledge did they have that made them kiss the burning stake and pray for gladiators before they died?  A living hope.  Accurate perspective.  Striving after the only thing that does not fade and is not empty.  They knew they were only strangers and foreigners in this land; they knew who their king was; they knew what lay on the other side of death.  And they lived.  Too often, the fear of death keeps us from living.  We play it safe and walk the shoreline, afraid that the waves might get too high if we venture in or that sharks may prowl below the surface.  The reality is that sometimes they do.  But the swim is worth the risk because what can they do but kill us and send us to our savior?

I often struggle with fear of all different kinds.  But I’ve found that life is always more fun, worth more, more impactful, more joyful, and all around better when I conquer those fears and just live like only Christ matters and nothing anyone does can touch me, when I live like there is a living hope inside me.  Because there is.

Monday, January 12, 2015

How BIG is God?

There has been a lot of talk over the last several years about whether God exists and, if He does, whether He is relevant to our lives.  Last year, Rob Bell compared God to an Oldsmobile—useful in its time but out of date in today’s society.  I think what is actually irrelevant to culture is our version of God, not God Himself.

The moment we reduce God to an equation or explainable phenomenon, what we understand and imagine is no longer God.  That’s not to say that we cannot have any knowledge of God, but we cannot understand Him, not really.  His ways are unsearchable.  Who can know the mind of God? (Job 36:26)  But we have tried.  In an age of exploration and science, we have attempted to explain away the unexplainable.  Let me give you a few examples of what I’m talking about.

•    God is eternal—never ending and never beginning, always existing (Deut. 33:27, Exod. 3:14).  Wrap your brain around that.

•    God’s justice is perfect, yet He is incomprehensibly loving (Deut. 32:4, Job 34:12, John 3:16, Exod. 34:6, 1 Kings 8:23).

•    God has chosen before the foundations of the world who has been and will be saved, and yet it seems to us that we have chosen Him (Eph. 1:4, Psalm 105:6, Isa. 41:8-9, Matt. 22:14, Acts 1:2, Rom. 11:5)

•    He is one God and yet three persons (Matt. 28:19).

•    He is perfectly holy and yet amazingly patient with sinners (Rev. 4:8, Rom. 2:4, Rom. 9:22)

Can anyone really explain these things?  To our finite minds, these seem like contradictions.  I have tried to explain how they are in perfect harmony before, but I can never reason it perfectly.  I have often come to conclusions about God and then had them blown to pieces by scripture and experience.  I don’t think many of the attributes of God are meant to be explained fully.  We are not like God.  He is outside our realm of comprehension, and that is the way the world should be.

I believe one of the failings of Christians in recent years is that we have not taught unexplainable things like those I mentioned because we did not understand them.  We told our children not to bring them up because it may cause arguments.  Instead of standing in awe of what we could not comprehend, we belittled God and made Him fit in our box of convenience.  As a result, people now see the God we serve as weak and unimportant to daily life.  For many, maybe he is.

As Christians, do we rely on the strength of our God every minute?  Are we constantly aware of His presence and will?  Do we believe that He is not only capable but actually handling and orchestrating every moment of our lives?  Do we trust our most secret and difficult things to Him?  What about our most mundane?  If we believe that our God is as big and amazing as He says He is, won’t the gigantic struggles of this life fade to tiny blips on the radar of eternity?

I can’t say that I have mastered a high view of God.  On the contrary, such a thing would be impossible.  Our view of God should be ever expanding, because He is infinite.  But I can say for certain that as my knowledge of God increases, so does my trust in Him.  And as my trust increases, so does my hope and joy.  I don’t have to understand and comprehend everything I learn.  I do have to stand in awe.  Because He is amazingly big.  As Steven Curtis Chapman put it, “God is God, and I am not, so I’ll never understand it all, for only God is God.”