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.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Stop Hating Trump

Cool, I was a dumb blogger with a click-bate-esque title…time to go drown in self-hatred for a little bit!

So as 99% of America is aware of the riots and protesting in Chicago last night, I just had a few thoughts about this current election and the state of our country.

The events that happened in Chicago last night were very disheartening.  Most everything Trump has done has been pretty disheartening, but last night topped it all.  The riots between Trump supporters and protestors was sickening.  Neighbors fighting neighbors, friends ruining friendships…It makes me sad.

What is going on America? Just like in hockey, both sides involved in this fight need to go to the penalty box for five minutes.

The worst part about this is we are losing an unwinnable war as a country.  There is so much rhetoric filled with hatred on both sides of this fight.  I have said it myself that I hate Trump, but I am no longer going to put myself in that group.  I dislike Trump, I do not support Trump, a lot of things Trump does infuriate me, but I do not hate Trump. 

Hate vs. Hate is a war that only ends in a loss, but it is understandable.  We can't stop hateful people by hating them.  Hating a hater only makes more hate.

Hating is so easy.  It is effortless.  It goes without any time passing.  I can hate so many things at the same time and exert no effort.  Hate seems almost natural.  That is why it is so dangerous to continue to be in a country that seems to be filled with so much hatred.

Romans 12:9 says to "hate what is evil and cling to what is good."  But if you say "Trump is evil."  You need to admit to yourself that you are too because we all are terrible (Total depravity for the win). 

So if we are called to hate what is evil and people are evil we need to hate people right?

WRONG.  We are also called to "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," in Matthew 5:44.

Woo-hoo two stereotypical Bible verses! But the most stereotypical are usually the most important to remember because they are some of the hardest to actually live.

This week I told my friends that I was going to take a week off thinking about politics because I was just getting so exhausted by it.  This is the first year I am allowed to vote and I don’t know if I actually will, because I can’t get behind any of these candidates.  I was getting so riled up by the fact that our country is letting someone like Donald Trump continue to rise, but then I had a thought.  This is probably the most awfully cheesy, Sunday school sentence I have written in a long time, but my thought was this. 

Jesus loves Donald Trump. 

That felt weird to write, but it is also the truest statement I will ever write.  Jesus loves Trump, Jesus loves me, Jesus loves you and he loves all the people on this earth. 

The reason I know this (Besides the multitude of Bible verses on the fact) is that love is sacrifice and Jesus lived the most sacrificial 33 years anyone ever has, or will, ever live.

Love does not exist without sacrifice, but in hate the only thing we sacrifice is love.  To be able to love we need to sacrifice our opinions, our ideologies and a grocery list of so many things, but we don't want to because that is difficult.  We don't want to do difficult things.  It is against human nature.  It is why the Christian life is so difficult because it is a life with love and not hate and love is hard and hate is easy.

Love does not mean support.  I can love my friends, but that doesn’t mean I support everything they do.  Love involves condoning each other.  The only people you can tell they are wrong (outside of a comment section) are the people you love most. 

So as I saw America continue to hurt last night and have so much hate it just reminded me that this is understandable.  We can hate all the want, but it will never get us anywhere except to more hate.  As Americans, especially as Christian Americans we need to remember that there is another option and that option is love.  Hate is simple and that is why it is so attractive, but love is complex and so are the issues our country is facing.

Pray for America.  We need it.  We are hurt.  Christ is the answer to world problems, not politics.  RANT OVER.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Woah Woah Woah, DON'T Stick to the Status Quo


It is early March and I am currently sitting OUTSIDE of a coffee shop in the suburbs of Milwaukee, WI.  Anyone from the Midwest knows that this is not something that occurs normally.  As I sip on my iced coffee on this lazy, hazy and 65 degrees day I can't help but think one thing; in a couple months, a day like this might feel a little chilly.

We get used to something we have been saturated in for a while.  Weather is the perfect example of this.  A 40-degree day in October feels like I am going to die of frostbite, but on the same, or similar, temperate day in February or March, I'm ready to hit the beach.

The similarity in these two is that they both mess with the status quo.  I know this is the perfect time for a High School Musical reference, but I wasted my one for the month on the title.  When the status quo of our life is shaken it can either be really good or really bad.  65 degree when you’re used to 35 is awesome, but 65 when you are used 85 is a little different.

This happens a lot in our life.  Abnormality is pretty normal...we just don't always notice it.  We get texts sent all day every day, but getting a text from an old friend who you haven't talked to in a while is special.  Getting the "We need to talk" text from a significant other or parent is a little different story.  Both of these shake up the consistency of our inbox, but both send us in completely different realms of emotions.

The biggest problem with the two different status quo bumpers is that we dwell on the negative ones a lot more than the positive ones.  We are more worried about the negative text than we are thankful for the positive one.  We complain about it being cold more than thanking God when it is gorgeous.  We focus in on the negative instead of realizing that in both ways an inconsistency is being added to our life.  We think the good is a part of our normal life, but it is not.

Life is found in the inconsistencies.  If life was linear, it would be very boring.  It is about loving the highs and overcoming the lows.  We catch ourselves in linear motion because it is the easiest place to be.  Riding a bike uphill is much harder than riding a bike on a flat terrain.  Riding a bike downhill is easy and enticing, but what goes down must go up.

The problem with consistency is that we might not be going down, but we are also not going up.
Consistency is effortless. Christ calls us to a life of excellence and life of excellence requires exerting large amounts of effort.  It takes a crazy person to want the harder option than the easy one, but the harder option is the more fulfilling.  Times of consistency are needed for relief or we will be exhausted, but it is unrealistic for our life to stay that way forever.

The norms of life are a choice.  We can choose to live a life of ease and comfort, but the comfort will eventually run out.  When consistency in our life is shaken, we must look at it with perspective.  If we are shaken to a low, we must learn and grow to climb out, God helping of course.  If we are in a high moment, we must enjoy the view and thank the Lord for it, but realize it will not last forever.  All of what Christ gives us in life is for a reason: the good, the bad and the indifferent.