Today two members of our lifegroup officially joined Christ Church! It was such a fun experience. Not only did they both join, but Abby--the wife--was also baptized. Days like these are why I love Christ Church! I love that Abby did not just want her actual family there, but her lifegroup "family" there. It was great. We were all there sharing in this incredible milestone in Abby and Arnold's life. We are learning to love each other and to grow together! This semester has been so great. We are growing together...growing in our love for God and our love for each other. I love our church and a large reason is because of the folks within my lifegroup with whom I share life. Members of life groups are able to share times of deep excitement as well as times of deep sorrow. Over the past ten or so weeks, our group has shared some tough things with one another and I am a blessed guy because I am in a life group. I love my group!

Congrats, Arnold and Abbs; I love you both!

So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You've had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God's pure kindness. Then you'll grow up mature and whole in God. 1Peter 2:1-3 (The Message)

May we each be able to live lives that are free from malice. Malice--that desire to cause pain or distress to others--is a very real emotion. We may not want to say, but when people hurt us, we want them to hurt. Father, free us from malice. 

May we each live lives that are free from pretense. Pretense--that fake, phoniness that we all have within. You know pretense, that conjured feeling that you do not have. That need to "keep up with the Joneses". You know pretense; it says that all is well and fine, when your life is a tattered mess. Lord, may we not live fake and masked lives. May we have folks with whom we may remove the mask. Father, make us real.

May we each live lives free from envy. Oh, we all know envy, all too well. Envy is that sinking feeling that we get when we see our friend's or neighbor's success and we want it--and are somewhat pissed that they have it and not us. You know envy. Envy is when we hear of another of our friends expecting and instead of us being happy, we are jealous (a little pretense is needed here, too). Envy, you know. When yet another of our friends is engaged and we are not yet there... Holy Spirit, help clean us each of envy.

May we each live lives free of hurtful talk. We all are well acquainted with hurtful talk. We use it more as a defensive tool, if we are honest. We lash out in an attempt to keep others at bay. We use this hurtful talk when we are sad. When we have been hurt and when we are jealous of envious. Triune God, heal our hurts so we can stop hurting others.

Here is what I know: It is easy to pray these things; it is hard to live out these things. We need help each day to be real folks. I know that I am becoming so keenly aware of my pretentiousness. It reminds me of how much I desire to be liked and accepted. I honestly am not that conscious of how much that is in me; but it is. I want it vanquished because when the desire to be liked is so high, it makes for phoniness. Above all, I want to be a real and authentic person who lives loved and gives love. 

So, like many are doing this day before thanksgiving--in preparation for visitors--may we clean our spiritual house of these things that will ultimately destroy us. 

Happy Thanksgiving!
This week's occupy movement has been very active this week. The protesters across the world have faced some pretty harsh treatment in an attempt to stymie progress or change. The merits of the protest will have to be for another blog entry. Now to me being the 1%; I shall explain.

Here is why I am the 1%

One of the things that I think we take for granted most in our world are the people who are in our lives--the human capitol. I am so honored to have the human capitol that I indeed do have. For starters, I have such an amazing, supportive and loving wife. I am not just saying that because I know that she is going to read this either; she is great. Then I think about my family. I know that there are some families that really do not like each other (mine def has its moments) but for the most part my family is so loving and supportive. I have a mom who just calls "to hear my happy  voice" and would do anything just to be able to see me. I have a dad who loves me and gives me the space that I need and does not take it personally when I do not get over to visit him as much as I would like or should. I have siblings and their spouses and children who love me. I mean, they legit love me and care whether they do or do not see me. They seem to be happy when we get the opportunity to talk on the phone and more happy when we all get to see each other in person. This is huge. This is such a blessing. If that were all, I would feel abundantly blessed and content. Only, that is not all. In addition to my great wife, parents and siblings, I have incredible friends! I have friends who it feels weird to call friends because I feel as close to them as I do my family (and that is huge because I am hella close to my family). Tonetta, Jesse, Camille, Allen and Bethany are friends who I know would love me in my darkest and roughest times; because they have. I am so appreciative to have not just one, but five friends who I know have my back. Love me enough to be honest and will love me despite my fallen, broken self. Then I look to the burgeoning friendships and I get overwhelmed. I have told Kelly on more than one occasion that I sometimes feel guilty because I feel like a one "percentor" when it comes to human capitol. I love people strongly and deeply but I am also loved strongly and deeply. It is sometimes too much. For the human capitol I am eternally grateful and I am rich. I confess, I am the one percent...

Thank you each for loving me. Thank you each for making me among the one percent.
There is a fundamental discussion that needs to be had regarding the basic freedoms that we have as Americans.  Last night I tuned into the livestream at Occupy Wall Street. The thing that really got me was the blatant disregard for the freedoms that each American have by virtue of their birth in America, specifically.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
No matter if you agree with the sentiment behind the movement, each American should be outraged at the government, at any level, infringing upon the rights of Americans to assemble. They should be outraged at the impeding of the press to report what is happening. It is interesting that so many people are willing to go along with the police simply because they do not share the sentiments of the protests. When we set this precedent, we set a very scary one.

It seems that if we are not careful, we will awaken to a country that we no longer know. All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good folks to do nothing. Think about it.
My awesome church--where I have attended and served for a little over a year now--is in the middle of a series called "The Reason for God". It has really been a great series. I have especially enjoyed the life group discussions that we have been able to have as a result of this series!

It is no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am opinionated and like to explore and discuss things. For the past two weeks the subject of absolute truth has arisen. I agree that in the absence of absolute truth there is chaos. I agree with and embrace Jesus' admonition that he is the way, the truth and the life. I further agree that these exclusive claims seem as troubling to folks who do not embrace Christianity as they would to me as a Christian who is not a Hindu, Muslim or Atheist.

When speaking about absolute truth, we make the enemy (or antithesis) of absolute truth tolerance. However, the opposite of absolute truth is truth relativism. Truth relativism says that there is no absolute truth (to be overly general). Tolerance--on the other hand--is freedom from bigotry. Christians are often very strident and arrogant.

We act as if we live in a world where we have to approve of folks. We assume that we must either permit or prohibit folks from living their lives--whether they profess a faith in Christ or not. We are not called to be the moral police of the world. We are not to be "Junior Holy Spirit", as my dear friend Jeniffer would say. We are not. We are not the convictor of folks. We are not the judge of folks. We are not. We do not get to dictate to the masses what we will and will not tolerate based on our beliefs. Granted, there are social mores that we as a society expect to be adhered to. But, we do not live in a theocracy, Christian or otherwise and praise God for that! (Salem witch trials, anyone...)

What is my point? Be tolerant. Don't be strident. Tolerance does not say that there is absolute truth. Tolerance does not say that I believe as you believe. Tolerance says, even in my disagreement I will love and not judge you. Tolerance says that I may not think that you are striving for the highest or the best but take my hand and let's walk together.

A college friend of mine (I attended a fairly conservative bible college) said that he is not sure that tolerance is a Christian virtue. I replied, "I am not sure that it is not." Now, I know that he is tolerant (as are most of my Christian friends) because they tolerate me and my--often liberal and opposing-- views. Does he agree with them? Heavens no. But he tolerates my right to have them. They tolerate my different interpretation from them. Now, I am sure that some of them have written me off as unchristian (well, probably not any of my legit friends) but I know some of my facebook "friends" have.

Here is what I know, we make concessions and are tolerant everyday (as well we should). Tolerance should not be a swear word for Christian. I am a lover of Jesus. I am tolerant. I am proud.

I know that I don't take opposing views for the sake of being contrary (as I have been accused) but because I have this deep conviction. I love people. I love justice and I will never again go along to get along. I will never again keep quiet in the face of injustice and oppression. I will never passively go along with something because I kept quiet. I did that for far too long.
I have not written a blog entry in a while. The thing that I love about my blog is that I can write here when I want to release. I have not illusions of grandeur as a result of this blog. It does, however, excite me that I will be able to look back years from now (hopefully) and know where I was years prior. 

I am finding that my relationship with the lover of my soul deepens and grows as I age. Sorta like my love for Kelly. Almost immediately, I knew that this woman made me feel some kind of way. But even still now, she makes me feel some kind of way but more intensely. My love for her grows exponentially. I truly love her more today than I did when I proposed to her Christmas Eve 2004 in Jonathan's bedroom. The same is true with God. The dimensions of my love toward him have grown so much. Especially in this past year. The real grace, love and forgiveness of God have been incredible. In the time that I felt most unlovable and accepted I was wrapped securely in the love of God. I was shown that no matter my state that I am loved. I am known. I am forgiven. 

God, thank you that when these dry bones cry out you answer and bring life! Gah, Abba, I love you!

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