Monday, January 30, 2017

A Tough Day for Trin

Almost exactly three years ago I heard Mark Charles, a Christian Native American activist, and author, speak on race and missions at the Calvin Worship Symposium and it changed my life.

Today, I, as well as many other members of the Trinity community, got to hear him speak on trauma, race and America and what we as Christians should do.  This lecture was very provocative and has caused a lot of controversy on campus in the few hours after it was delivered.  Many have taken his informative rhetoric and said it is hate speech against white people.  Mr. Charles did inject personal opinions, but the majority of the lecture (which can be watched here) was a fact backed breakdown of Church and American history.  I, as a white male, should be the most offended.  I, however, am not offended by what he said, in fact, I am inspired.

What I am offended and saddened by is the fact that our campus moved to divisiveness quicker than we moved to unity.  This applies to both sides of the ideology coin, myself included.  We took information that was portrayed to us in a peaceful way and injected our own personal thoughts and feelings, which is not only disrespectful to Mr. Charles but the art of rhetoric in general (comm major tangent, sorry).

One of Mr. Charles points that stuck out to me the most was when he was speaking on America needing a common memory.  As a diverse country and a diverse campus, we do not all lead the same lives.  My experience at Trinity is different from that of my black friends, my Korean friends, and even my Iowan friends.  We all have different backgrounds.  We all walk in our own shoes.  Mr. Charles gave us his shoes today.  Some took a brisk walk, some ran a marathon, and others threw them out the back door.

We need to practice empathy.  Our thoughts and emotions after this lecture were an opportunity for "common memory," which Charles spoke on being the framework of community. So far, our campus has wasted that opportunity.

Trinity Christian College is an interesting place filled with great people and in my few short months left here, I hope it can become a better place.  A place where we discuss and not argue.  A place where we debate and not yell at each other.  A place where Christ-centered pluralism can thrive.  We all need to start building a "common memory" for Trinity.  This is every student's job.  This is every professor's job.  This is every staff member's job. This starts with legitimately listening, especially to the things we do not want to hear.

I can understand why this rhetoric is very difficult for some and easy for others but it is our job as humans who dwell with each other to look at the world as a whole, not our own personal narrow lenses (I'M SUPER GUILTY OF THIS).

For those who are not a member of the Trinity community, I still encourage you to listen to this lecture and learn from it and see how it can impact the communities you live in.

Keep discussing people...and listen more than you speak.

(A good song for our country)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

What's Going On?

What’s Going On?

Wow, it has been a while since I have done this.  I had a massive case of writers block, summer laziness, and GRE study stress to even think about writing 500 or so words.  Ok, here we go.

So I have been reading a lot of Henri Nouwen lately and a lot has been put on my heart while reading his work.  One of the biggest things I read in his book, Here and Now, was about conversion.

This quote really stuck out to me and I think it was a good word in 1994 when this book was written and even still now in 2016.

Nouwen writes, “Once we start reading the events of our times as calls to conversion, our perception of history changes radically.”


How perfect is this right now for Christians in 2016 United States.  There is so much going on in our country right now that could drive us to insanity (and has driven many to insanity) if we took a few seconds to think about it.  Presidential races, ISIS, Target bathrooms…everything! 

There is a lot going on.

But think about that Nouwen quote again, “calls to conversion.” He does not say “calls to long facebook statuses.” He does not say “calls to biased news stations on both sides of the issues.”  He does not say “calls to boycotts of or standing in solidarity with company opinions.”

He says a call to conversion. 

How easy is it in a cultural climate like this that we can get caught in the mindset that God isn’t involved in what is going on?  We kind of forget that God knows exactly what is going on right now in the World and understands it a whole lot better than we do.  The omnipresent omnipotent Lord of the Universe knows that the United States is in an interesting spot right now.  He also knows that the world is a whole lot bigger than just the United States (but that is a novel and a half, not a blog post).

Maybe that is because he wants us to interpret why this is going on.

No place is ever Godless because God is everywhere.  I forget that.  We need to constantly be conscious of that.

God is at Trump/Clinton/Sanders rallies

God is in the Middle East

God is in the bathroom at Target

One of my favorite quotes is Abraham Kuyper's where he states, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

So why aren’t the people of God trying to reach every square inch?  I know I'm not trying. I am the guiltiest at this.  Why do we shy away from these difficult places where God calls us to spiritual change.  God knows what’s going on and he wants us to better understand him by having a better understanding of the World.  We can’t live a life for God if we are not willing to live a life with God. 
So very few of us will actually be called to these physical places.  I doubt that I will ever have a conversation with the CEO of Target, or an ISIS member, or one of the presidential candidates, but I will always have conversations about them. 

Am I honoring God in those conversations? Am I understanding God in those conversations? Am I growing closer to God in those conversations?

Or, am I honoring the left or the right? Am I better understanding the left or the right? Am I growing closer to the left or the right?

God is not a God of the left or the right, God is a God of EVERYTHING!

God knows what is happening in the world and the United States right now.  None of this is a surprise to him.  He understands why this is happening, and he wants us to too.  The way we better understand the world is we try to have a better understanding of God.

 We are called to live a life of constantly finding new conversions in our life.  So instead of seeking anger, seek the Lord. Instead of looking for a new department store, look for God.  God works in mysterious ways and works in even more mysterious places, seek those ways and find those places.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ice Cream and Broken Bones


It’s the week before finals week, some of my best friends are graduating and if I could eat Oreos for every meal this week, I probably would.  It has been one weird week of emotions so far.  I don’t want to write and am honestly forcing myself to sit down and write this because I can’t miss a week.  Here comes my study break brain flush, turn back now.

One thing I’ve really been thinking about is how little I love things.  Like I can say “I love ice cream” or “I love the Packers,” but that’s not true love.  

I was listening to John Mark McMillan’s Live at the Knight album tonight while writing this and in one of the songs, Guns/Napoleon; he pauses to talk about love and living a life of love.  He says,

“Love means sometimes you have to compromise. Sometimes you need to lay down something of yourself for something greater.  It’s not easy, but it’s the best way to live.  Love can break your bones, but broken bones tell stories and broken bones sing songs”

(I could probably write a book on the impact John Mark McMillan’s music has had on my life, but that is beside the point.  That quote is so beautiful and vivid.)

Ice cream hasn’t ever broken any of my bones, maybe it has for you, but I don’t think I’d eat ice cream for a while if it ever hurt me in that kind of way. 
How many things do I love enough where I’d let it break me to the bone and still love it more the next day?  Not many that is for sure. 

It’s probably just the anxiety of cleaning my dorm room and my Biology 100 Final next week, but life feels like it’s breaking me.  I definitely don’t love those two things.  How am I supposed to love those?  They’re the worst.

In reality, I don’t love a lot of things because I don’t want to get hurt by them.  I might like something, but once it turns on me I ditch it and go and try to find something else.  I don’t love the way the Lord teaches me to love because I am lazy, apathetic, and scared.  Love is work, work I am not always willing to do.  A loving life is an exhausting life.

Like most things in my life (cleaning my room), I don’t want to do it, but it is important to do it.  If I don’t clean my room, the mess will only get worse.  The other day we went to a local nature preserve and pruned invasive species.  If you don’t cut away the weeds, they will suck the life away from the good plants.  We need to fix problems early on before the problem grows so large that it overwhelms us.

Ok side rant.  How amazing of an analogy are weeds?  They look good, they look natural, but they   We invite weeds into our life so often, but they end up sucking the life out of us until they are removed forcefully and cut out of our lives.  They grow thorns and make it harder for us to get out.  It hurts at first, but life is much better when they are gone.  Definitely not the first person to see this analogy, but it is just so good.  Ok, analogy/rant over.
are so bad for the ground and surrounding plants.

I’ve never broken a bone, but I have been around a lot of people who have.  One thing that has always perplexed me about broken bones is the fact that the bone comes back stronger than it was before it was broken after the healing process. 

This is why a love that can hurt us is important.  Love is a war.  It is a constant battle between what will help me and what will help the person next to me.  Like makes us feel good, but love makes us feel cared about.  If the people around you truly care for you, and you truly care about and love them, you are going to get hurt. 

The best example, just like the best example for everything, is Christ.  We physically and spiritually broke Christ's bones on Good Friday.  Christ died a death that was physically crushing, but even more so spiritually crushing.  Christ was so broken down but loved us enough to endure it.  One thing I always forget when thinking about Christ's love is that he enjoys us.  Christ wants to spend time with us.  He always has time to hang out.  He doesn't flake out at 6:30 for your 7:00 dinner plans.  Christ loves us so much that even though our sins crush him, he wants to spend every single waking moment with us.  

That amazes me about Christ.  Someone could give me a weird look and I won't talk to him for a week, but all the wrong I have done, am doing and will do is known by Christ and he still wants us to hang out.

Getting hurt in love is ok, because if something hurts it shows how important it is to you.  We hurt Christ more than anyone could ever hurt us and He sees us as important and "very good."  

Love should break us down.  Love should be hard. With brokenness comes healing and with healing comes strength.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Kobe Night


Yesterday might have been the most historic day of the NBA regular season ever.  Not only did the Golden State Warriors finish their quest for a 73-9 record, the first team to ever do so, but it was also Kobe Bryant’s last NBA game ever…and it was one for the ages.  Kobe Bryant ended on top. 

Kobe’s 60-point showcase was vintage.  It felt like watching the young 20-something Kobe again, the one that I watched in some of my first NBA memories.  Being drafted in 1996, when I was one, made it so Bryant’s basketball career has eclipsed my entire life.  It will be really weird watching an NBA season that Bryant is not in.  But this weird phenomenon happened with me and Kobe this finale season…I actually liked him.

My whole life I have been an outspoken Kobe Bryant hater like the ones in that Nike commercial that was everywhere yesterday.  

Isn’t it weird how much more we like something when it is ending?  That’s how I felt about Kobe Bryant.  Once he announced his retirement at the beginning of this season, I all of a sudden found myself loving Kobe Bryant. 

It is really easy to celebrate the end of something.  It is easy to change our opinion at the end of something.  We become fans of something when the threat is over. 

One of the reasons I disliked Kobe Bryant so much was because he was really good.  I’m a cynic and critic by nature and can never find myself cheering for the best at something unless I have some other emotional attachment to them.  Kobe was a threat every night he played for 17/20 of the seasons he played.  That’s why I found the “Kobe Farewell Tour” so comical because it felt more of like teams weren’t just saying “Thank you,” but saying, “Thank you for retiring Kobe so you won’t singlehandedly beat us at least twice a season.”

I feel this same way about the tough times in my life.  We look back when it’s over and think of how thankful we were for it, but we never are in the moment.  Hard seasons of life are what shape us.  They are where we learn the most.  They also suck a lot!

Seasons of depression, loneliness, apathy, laziness (all the fun words) help us when we are out of them, but are the absolute worst when we are in them.  We need to be aware of these seasons and be thankful for them.  When we get to the end we need to realize that a difference is coming.

Just like the fact an NBA season without Kobe Bryant is going to be strange, so is the next stage after a season of loneliness, or whatever it may be.  Speaking from experience as someone who has battled loneliness my whole life, I know how to be lonely a lot better than I know how to be in community.  I never know what to do when community comes my way and I seclude back into my old ways.  It is hard to handle new and different, but we need to exert the effort to do so.

Did I compare the end of Kobe Bryant’s career to depression? Yes I did and it’s a little weird, but changes happen in our lives and I’m the worst at prepping for them.  We can’t fully prepare for them, but through prayer and scripture reading we can try our best.  We never know what this life is going to give us, but we know who gave us life.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Augustinian Joy of the Golden State Warriors

QUICK DISCLOSURE: This is an article I wrote for Think Christian magazine and I just wanted to archive it here and keep the weekly posts up since I missed a week do to illness.

Saint Augustine once wrote, “When large numbers of people share their joy in common, the happiness of each is greater because each adds fuel to the other’s flame.” I don't think there is a better example of this than the Golden State Warriors right now.

With five games left in the NBA regular season, the Warriors are four wins away from breaking the 72-10 record currently held by the Chicago Bulls. Way back at the beginning of this season, when the Warriors were 15-0, ESPN ran an article by Ethan Strauss describing the "joy" that surrounded the team. It caught my attention because joy is one of those "Christian" words. It is rarely used in the sports world. Strauss even acknowledged this: “Joy? Sports aren’t supposed to be about joy. …Happiness is viewed with suspicion in a hypercompetitive world.”

The sports arena isn't the most Christ-centered aspect of our culture, but it is not the least either. Christianity usually isn't spoken about in relation to sports unless there is a polarizing athlete — say, Tim Tebow — who is very outspoken in their faith. Steph Curry, current NBA MVP and star of the Warriors, is an outspoken Christian athlete, but it’s his team’s play, not necessarily his personal faith, that I want to consider (though of course they may be related). Why joy, exactly? Why is joy the motivator for this team and the word used to describe it?

The Warriors’ style of play reminds me of Christian joy in that it is not bound to individual success or happiness. Christians find joy in God, in His blessings and in the shared blessings of the people around us. Christian joy is self-giving. It is communal. It expresses gratefulness for God’s good gifts. Our joy is not our own because our lives are not our own. And neither are our accomplishments or our talents.

Why is joy the motivator for this team and the word used to describe it?

The Warriors are unlike any other team we’ve seen before. They (and Curry in particular) make long-distance shots far beyond the usual range. Their passing is especially fast, crisp and on-target. Draymond Green, who is 6 feet, 7 inches tall, plays center, a position usually reserved for 7-foot players. They celebrate on the court in ways that suggest a cohesive camaraderie. When Steph Curry recently hit a game-winning shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the celebration was almost as magical as the basket. Curry was the one who made the shot, but the reaction was collective and wonderful. The team joined together. They were joyful.

The joy surrounding the Warriors can also be experienced at the stadium in which they play. The Oracle Arena is one of the loudest venues in sports. The Warriors have lost only one home game this season. A communal, Augustinian joy takes place there, where thousands of people share a joy for their team, which in turn encourages the Warriors, adding fuel to the other's flame. The Warriors know how much they mean to their fans because of the joy the fans express for them. We know how much we mean to each other because of the joy we share with each other.

As the NBA season comes to a close and the playoffs begin, we can enjoy watching the Warriors’ unique brand of basketball and be reminded of the joy we have as Christians. Joy does not come from our own, individual efforts. It comes from the Lord, through His gifts and through others around us. When we are surrounded by such joy, our joy is only heightened all the more.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Apathy of Opening Day


Today, April 3rd, 2016 is what is known as Opening Day in baseball.  What comes with Opening Day is a lot of excitement and joy for baseball fans all over the United States.  What I am feeling this Opening Day is complete numbness to these next 162 games for my beloved Milwaukee Brewers.

The Brewers are currently in a rebuilding stage and traded away almost all of their players from last year.  To put it bluntly, they are going to be bad this year…really bad.  At least going into the season knowing that means I don’t have any false hope right? 

There is something really weird about the knowledge of being really bad.  

I had this thought the other day while watching the Oklahoma Sooners and Villanova Wildcats playing in the Nation Semifinal in the Final Four.  The Sooners got crushed.  It was embarrassing but not crushing to me as a fan.  It was the worst loss in Final Four history, but instead of feeling heartbroken as a Sooners fan, I felt numb.  If they lost on a three-point buzzer beater, I probably would not be able to write today and my emotions would be all over the place.

When we are closer to something, we have more of a connection.  If the Brewers were supposed to be contenders this year I wouldn't be able to sleep tonight thinking about their game tomorrow, but since they are projected to be the third worst team in Major League Baseball, it is easier to just enjoy the wins they do get and know they will be fun, but few and far between.  

If OU and Nova played a close game, the loss would have been harder to cope with.  

Since both of those teams got so far from their goals, as a fan, it is hard to not be anything more than apathetic.

How often do we do this in other areas of life?  The farther the distance we have from something, the more apathy that is present.  Think about it.

There's a band you kind of like, but it’s not your favorite so you don’t care that they broke up.

The TV show you watch the last 15 minutes of before your favorite one got canceled, but it doesn’t change your life. (Crazy to think this feels kind of like an outdated analogy because do people even watch live TV anymore?)

The acquaintances that come into our life who we only kind of care for, but they aren’t our best friend, so when one of their relatives passes away it doesn’t faze you all that much.

The biggest example of this in my life is my relationship with Christ.

The less I pray = more apathy

The less I read my bible = more apathy

The times I sleep in instead of going to church = more apathy

Christ is someone we need to be close to for the relationship to truly be substantial.  We can’t just kind of have a relationship with Christ and find true fulfillment.  Seeking a substantial relationship with Christ is a lot of work, but it is well worth it.

The apathy that comes from my times of not actively seeking Christ is infectious into other areas of my life.  I stop caring about school.  I stop doing my best at work.  My room gets really messy (it's true, ask my roommates). 

This is because Christ is the source of everything in our life.  He is the source of our success, which doesn’t always look like the success of the world.  He is the source of our joy, which doesn’t always look like the joy of the world.  He is the source of our strength, which doesn’t always look like the strength of the world.

The closer we are to something, the more it impacts our life.  The closer a baseball team is to the World Series, the more they will be driven to want it.  If a basketball team is in a four point game, a lot more emotion will be involved compared to if they are losing by forty.  If we are in an everyday seeking the Lord relationship with him, it will impact our lives much more than if it just a Sunday morning thing.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Selection Sunday vs Palm Sunday


As a college basketball fan (and if you are too) can we just acknowledge how amazing the tournament this year has been? Upset after upset, buzzer beater after buzzer beater, unless you bet your life savings on Michigan State winning it all, it is almost impossible to not love this March Madness. 

One thought I also have this time of year is why do we love underdogs and upsets so much.  This can be seen in so much more than just college basketball. 

Almost every superhero started as a loser before some freak accident.

We love Cinderella and she is probably everyone’s favorite Disney Princess (Mine’s Rapunzel in Tangled but I feel like that is cheating).

We cheer for the nerdy girl in the rom-com and hate the cheerleader.

The reason we do this is because we often see ourselves as underdogs.  We live lives and undersell ourselves and our experiences.   We compare ourselves to the dorky guy or the quirky girl, but not the other characters. Don’t tell me you didn’t watch 500 Days of Summer for the first time and be like, "This is too real. I'm just like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in this."

We can view ourselves as the underdog, but really we can be the exact opposite.  We can be prideful and jerks and not even notice it.  We can be cynical from afar and justify that it is ok because we are doing it from afar.  Sometimes we live like Duke basketball but think of ourselves as Mercer (Sorry Duke fans).  It is easier to want to be the sad person who succeeds than as the happy person who fails.

If we are honest with ourselves, the "big guy" in the tournament, and life wins way more often.

The lowest seed to ever win the tournament was an eight seed when the 1985 Villanova Wildcats did the improbable and upset Georgetown in the championship game.   One seeds in the tournament have won the championship significantly more than any other and the Final Four is usually built up of seeds one through three.

 Upsets do not happen that often in life either.  The strong get stronger and the weaker get weaker. 

The rarity is another reason we love them so much.  It is why we want a lot of things in life to look like an underdog winning because it is a lot cooler than what usually happens.

I think we do this with Jesus a lot.  We make it seem like Jesus' victories are an upset over the evil powers of the world, but they are not, because he will always have more power than the world.  God will always win.  God is a "one seed" and the world is a "sixteen seed," but I feel like we, myself included, sometimes flip that script.

Palm Sunday (which is today) and all of Holy Week are a perfect example of this.  During Holy Week, Jesus appears to go from a “one seed” on Sunday to a “sixteen seed” on Friday and back to a “one seed” on Sunday, or so it appears.  John Mark McMillan describes this in his song, Death in His Grave, as "On Friday a thief, on Sunday a King."

Christ was still a king on Friday, but human perception of him was as a thief.  During the crucifixion, it appears that Jesus is powerless, but that is when he is the most powerful.  That was when His love was greatest.  That was when His humility was the greatest.  That was when He had the greatest victory…the victory over death.

Maybe we make the appearance of the crucifixion and resurrection being an upset so it seems better because upsets in our human life are better. 

Upsets aren't really an upset, though.  Middle Tennessee for one day was better than Michigan State.  Before and after that day they most likely aren’t a better basketball team, but for that day, they are (sorry that was kind of meta). 

Most teams that have a first-round upset do not go on past that.  Middle Tennessee can beat MSU, but get beat by Syracuse in the next round, but Christ's victory is eternal.  Christ is strong every day.  That is what is so great about Christ.  Christ can, and does, beat death every single day and that victory is not an upset.  It is easier to see the power of death than the power of Christ some days, but just because that is what we see does not mean it is true.

We need to stop selling Christ short.  He has so much power; more power than we can comprehend.  Christ does not lose.  Our human perception might view his victories sometimes as an upset and other times as a predicted blowout, but they are always the later of the two.  Christ's victories are consistent and great.  Christ helps us upset the world with his love because we are weak and he is strong.