Friday, July 29, 2011

Those Beady Eyes That Watch You From The Shadows

We've all been there. Sitting on the train, in a park, at a red light, out at dinner, in the movie theater. You're sitting there, minding your own business, when you feel it. You turn to find out what has brought this sense of being watched on you and someone turns quickly away, hoping to avoid your notice of them staring at you. And the same is true that at one point or another we've been the watcher quickly turning our head in hopes that someone didn't see us staring at them. Certain cases of attraction will see a guy and a girl go back and forth, each checking the other out. Each turning quickly away when the other looks.

Sometimes it's not subtle at all. Sometimes it's just creepy. I was on the train going to church one Saturday and I had a woman just stare at me the entire time she was on the train. It was weird.

So why do I bring this up? In my recent metro rail adventures (And by adventures I mean I get angry and swear loudly about how awful WMATA is) I've noticed people trying to discreetly look at my tattoos. Peering over their paper, around other riders on the train, titling their heads in odd directions to try and look at my tattoos. Which is fine. I understand that my body art is awesome looking and other people should be allowed to enjoy it. Art is for the enjoyment of all right?

Side note: I do love when I'm sitting next to or near a girl on the train and she is checking out my tattoos and when she sees the bible verse on my arm, her interest vanishes. It's funny.

Anyway, people think they're being slick but I totally see them checking out my ink. It's not just on the train, but the train is such a small and confined space that I do notice it more there. And I know what those people are thinking.

"You were once a sane person. What possessed you to pay somebody to put you in pain and ruin your arms, out casting you from normal society forever?"

Now I love tattoos. I love having tattoos. I don't like getting tattooed, but it's a small, painful price to pay. I regret, and am grateful, that I waited until I was 22 to get my first tattoo. Ever since I started listening to punk rock and hardcore, I was always enthralled with tattoos. When I see people with tattoos, I always want to ask them about their tattoos. What they are, why they got them, etc.

Anyway, so people discreetly try and see what's on my arm. And I want to say, hey, you can ask to ask to see them. I love when people ask me about my tattoos. I like talking about myself. And better yet, I have scripture on my arm. Talking about my tattoos always leads to me talking about God and Jesus.

So if you're trying to secretly look at my tattoos just come up and ask to see them. If you want to know about them, ask me. I'll gladly talk to you about my tattoos.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Whosoevers

God does change lives. This is a great 11 minutes film about The Whosoevers. People who God has changed, bringing the word to people who need it. A great watch.

Beauty Everyday

I sent my friend Jenni Heather Zempel's message on God's beauty. As a fellow artist I figured it would be something that would interest and maybe inspire her. And it did.

She posted a 30 day challenge on her blog ( to keep track and recognize God's beauty around her, in her life, and in the lives of those around her.

She also challenged anyone else who wanted to participate to join her. I think this is great for a couple of reasons. First, it gives me something to consistently blog about. Secondly, it will help keep me focused on God's beauty and goodness. I've been pretty positive and upbeat the last month but I know sooner or later something will come along and derail me and I'll want to be all sad and bitter again. Hopefully this will help me focus on the good things and keep me going through the next month. Lastly, she did bribe me with cookies. And as I've stated, I LOVE cookies!

So the month of August will be full of God's beauty and goodness. Get excited.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Let Down

They say only two things in life are certain, death and taxes. Can I add a third? People will let you down.

We have people in our lives that influence and inspire us. People that make us want to be better then we are. People that help us become better people. And on the same side of the coin, there are people that we influence, inspire, and drive to become better then they are.

But the problem with people is they're human and sooner or later, someone whom we look up to or is looking up to us, will disappoint us. And we'll disappoint someone too.

One of the most heart wrenching experiences I had in high school was when a friend of mine told me how I inspired him to worship freely and be ok with lifting his hands and truly worship God without worrying about what other people thought of him. It's heart wrenching because my worship at that point in life was fake. My Christianity was fake. And he was telling this to me because he was disappointed in me. We weren't friends for a while after this.

Thank God my false witness didn't stop him from really serving God and continuing to follow Christ. God can use us despite us. But that's not my point. The point is I had let a friend down. And it was this let down that got me going on the right track with God.

But how do we respond when people who influence us or people we're influencing let us down? How do we respond when we let someone down? Honestly, I'm not 100% sure. But I know we can't give up on people. If we shut people out any time we're disappointed, we'll become cold and build up walls between us and others. And that's just not awesome.

I'll say, when we're disappointed or let down by people that we're investing in and trying to help them become better people, we can't give up on them and shut them out for falling or failing, or just not meeting our expectations. There was someone along the way who believed in you and didn't give up on you, so let's not give up on those we believe in. Failing today could mean success in the future.

We have to remember that no one is perfect and when people let us down, we can't let that destroy our world. I think that's where so many people go wrong. We put so much faith into other people and when they fail to meet our expectations and fail us, we are so rocked to the core that we begin to lose trust in people altogether and let all their good work count for nothing. When the people who inspire us let us down, I think it's the perfect opportunity to show the love of God and be there for them and help pick them back up, not give up on them.

I think it's time to see people letting us down as an opportunity to show God's grace.

Not in line with this post at all but Radiohead is a great band and since they have a song called Let Down...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Christian Art?

Back in May I had this question asked of me: "Can a Christian ever create art for the sake of creating art, or does all Christian art have to be a form of worship?"

My response was pretty simple.

"Art is an expression of ourselves and Christians should view their creative side as being ade in the imagine of God the creator. Art comes from the heart no matter what form of expression it is. The bible is full of heartache and disappointment and love and art. Song of songs is an entire book of the bible devoted to love poems. It's a highly sexual book and it's part of the bible. Is that worship? Is it art? Is it just an expression of the heart and what's inside. If our lives are supposed to be worship in and of themselves, then isn't any expression of art, even creating art for the sake of art, an expression of worship to God."

As I've been reflecting on Heather's sermon of God's beauty this question came back to me. I'd love to see other people's opinions on this. So, Can a Christian create art for the sake of creating art?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This Beautiful Mess

"God brings beauty out of the mess." - Heather Zempel

Sixpence None the Richer the Richer named an album on the concept, Rick McKinley wrote a book about it but it wasn't really until Heather made the above statement that I had really thought about it. God brings beauty out of the mess. Isaiah 61:3 says he will give a crown of beauty in exchange for ashes (I know I'm taking that WAY out of context but roll with me a little).

Heather talked about life being messy and gave numerous examples of biblical messes that God brought/found beauty. And in my reflection on this week’s message I started thinking about my own life and those people around me and how God has brought beauty into lives and situations that are messy. Most recently I've seen God help a friend let go of past issues that have held them back and kept them captive for years. I've seen hope restored, confidence gained, and God completely transform someone’s life in the last month. And they radiate a new kind of beauty.

I love Hookers for Jesus ministry. Talk about bring God's beauty to messy situations and lives. I know their name raises eye brows and offends a lot of people but I love their work. Annie Lobert is bringing God's beauty to people who need it.

But I just come back to this thought again; We have the power to speak beauty into people's lives. Whether I go back to Heather saying a few weeks ago that we have the power to speak potential into others lives or going back to Pastor Mark asking how does God take care of those around us, how does He swoop in, my mind comes back to how we interact and treat others. And I'm struck again with this thought that the ball is in our court and we have the power to bring God's beauty in people's lives.

Our words have weight and it's our responsibility to speak potential and to speak beauty into people's lives. We have to take personal responsibility for speaking truth, beauty, potential, love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and even rebuke from time to time into people's lives. Because if we don't, who will?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bad Art

"Just because you are a follower of Christ, does not give you permission to make lazy art."

Heather Zempel spoke at church this weekend about God's beauty. It was a great message and like the last time she spoke a series of blogs will be spawned. I took a lot of notes and I'm sure as I process things this week, I'll continue to post things.

But the statement above is one I completely agree with and I'm pretty sure I've soapboxed this topic before. And I usually come at it from a music angle and I'll probably do so again because music is my life and the art form that matters most to me.

And I guess because I've harped and harped numerous times about Christians making bad or mediocre music, I want to ask a different question; Why are Christians so willing to just accept bad art made in Jesus' name?

I know it's a big and unfair question to as and it's not entirely true. But I think there is a truth to this question. And it doesn't just apply to music. Anyone who's ever bought a t-shirt with the Pepsi logo but Pepsi was replaced with Jesus knows what I'm talking about. Well... I guess if you bought that t-shirt you're part of the problem and willing to disagree with me. So I'll rephrase that. Anyone who's ever seen someone wearing a Pepsi t-shirt but the Pepsi was replaced with Jesus and shook their head in mild disgust and embarrassment knows what I'm talking about.

Even though my dad loves it, I know there's probably a good chunk of Christian fiction flying off shelves somewhere that isn't worth the paper it's printed on. And I can't talk about bad Christian art and no bring up the Left Behind movies. There was another series of Rapture and most rapture films that my parents had at one point but I can't remember the name of that series. They were shitty bad films. One of them starred Gary Busey. Enough said.

And we all know there is some Christian music out there we wish would go away because it's embarrassing. I won't name names because I feel bad for picking on people who are trying to glorify God with their music and doing what they feel called by God to do. But I've heard music that's awful and worse, I've read lyrics that are so cheap and easy, and they honestly make me a little sad.

But someone is buying these books, films, albums, t-shirts, and so forth to give someone a reason to continue to make mediocre art. And people buy bad and mediocre art forms all the time. That's why Transformers can make a lot of money and Lady Gaga can sell out concerts (am I right?). I mean, Soulja Boy isn't really what I consider quality anything and people seemed to love him for a minute.

So what's the point? I guess my ultimate question is should we as Christians demand better art from their artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, etc? And I know this is a ridiculous example but we would never eat awful tasting cookies just because a Christian made them. Am I right? Of course I am. Who wants to eat bad cookies?

Like I said, I know it's a stretch to try and compare cookies to art but I think the idea works. I know responsibility should fall on the artist to create better, deeper, more meaningful art. But if people won't ask for it, demand it, then why change? Instead of complaining about how bad things are, why not demand better? Why not just create better ourselves?

Winnie the Pooh

So I went and saw the new Winnie the Pooh movie yesterday. If that still comes to a shock to some of you, I don't know what to say. I love Disney movies. It's time to accept that.

First off I want to say that I did completely enjoy the new Pooh movie. As soon as it started a got a huge grin on my face and I'm pretty sure it stayed there while I watched the entire movie. The short in front of the film was great too. Some short, simple, very classic in every way.

But... I love Winnie the Pooh. And more to the point, I love The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It's one of my favorite, if not my favorite, Disney animated classic. I could watch that movie at any time and enjoy it every time. It is a deeply rooted part of my childhood. I grew up with a stuffed Winnie the Pooh. I love that movie.

I was even a huge fan of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (anyone else remember that show?). I loved that tv show, even though they gave us the disturbing image of a stripeless Tigger.

And I guess this is where my issue with the new movie lies... It just didn't have that charm factor that The Many Adventures has. And they tried. I absolutely loved Zooey Deschanel's songs in the movie. But some of the other songs just didn't click with me. Maybe it'll be liked Tangled where after a couple of times watching it the songs will grow on me (and I will be seeing Pooh again). I loved the movie, but it was just missing that charm factor.

Go see Pooh. You won't regret it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Diamond in the Rough

God is awesome. It's been a pretty consistent theme in my life this last month and it still holds true. God is good and it's awesome getting to watch him work in my life and others.

I think sometimes we don't acknowledge miracles that are happening around us because it's not a healing or job or water to wine. We look for miracles that are of the instantaneous variety and we miss the miracles happening right around us all the time.

As I was driving the other and just thinking about my life, I just started to see things as miracles. One of my best friends has had their life change in a big way the past year and in the past couple of weeks had prayers answered and found a new freedom in Christ and has just been able to step forward in a a new way. It's been a blessing to watch and be a part of and I just had to thank God for the miracle of/in her life.

God is good and always performing miracles around us. Sometimes we just have to take the time to notice them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Spirit of '84

So I've been pretty sick and home the past two days. I haven't done much but I have listened to a lot of records and I figured it's time to update my travels through my iTunes playlist. Currently spinning Every Time I Die's Gutter Phenomenon. A killer record. Ending the G's and headed into the H's. I think I deleted more records in the G section then in any other to this point. Not really sure why. Just a bunch of stuff that held little interest to me.

Anyway, my next 5 albums are as followed:

H2O - H20
Radiohead - Hail to the Thief
Converge - Halo in a Haystack
Mortification - Hammer of God
Living Sacrifice - The Hammering Process

The Unnamable Name

Have we lost our reverence for God?

This question ran through my head this morning and so I'm just throwing it out there.

We're currently in the middle of the God Anthology series are church and it's been awesome trying to go over the different aspects of God's character and get a deeper understanding of who God is. During this series Pastor Mark and the teaching team at NCC has been clear that they can never truly explain or comprehend the character of God. God is a mystery and even our deepest understanding of him is so far from who God actually is. We'll never truly understand God. And that's ok.

But my question about losing our reverence for God comes out of this idea that he think we know God. We actually think we can understand how God thinks and how God loves, or judges.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

But somewhere along the line we think we have figured God out. I know there's a lot of things I don't understand and I'll never understand. I have some major hang ups when it comes to God and there are things that I don't know how to accept. But that's ok. My theology is ever changing and ever evolving. What I believe and think at 26 isn't anywhere close to what I believed or thought at 21. But I still have questions and I still don't understand things in the bible.

But I also "know" God is good and his goodness and love is so much greater then I could ever wrap my head around. And I don't need to have God figured out to love and follow him.

Just a thought.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Toy Box

Soap Box Blog Time! Everybody's Favorite!!!

So I was walking back from Starbucks and overheard a girl tell her sister she was too old for the toy store. First thing's first, that's wrong. You're never too old for the toy store. In fact, the toy store gets better as you get older right? Maybe that's just me.

Here's my bigger issue with this comment. How are you going to tell a kid that's probably between the ages of 8 and 10 that she's too old for the toy store? Are you kidding me?

I've said a lot lately about how we speak to each other and treat our girls and about the state of the human heart and growing up too fast and this is an instant that tears my heart.

Because I understand the older sister probably just wants to run her errand be done and going to the store is going to hinder whatever schedule she's on but these words could be really damaging. A harsh tone, yelling at a little girl, telling her she's too old for the toy store. My heart hurts... It doesn't seem like much but these words could have a damning impact.

You never know how the words you speak are being taken. Speak carefully. And go to the toy store!

Scream the Prayer

So I went to the Scream the Prayer tour yesterday. A day full of Christian hardcore and metal music. It was fun.

The first comment on this tour is, I'm old. I know I know, 26 isn't that old. But when I go to hardcore shows like this I realize just how old in that scene I am. I don't wear skinny jeans. I don't like bright colored t-shirts or shirts with tons of crap on them. Whatever happened to a black t-shirt with the band name? 808s and techno samples don't belong in metal. I'm too old to mosh or hardcore dance or whatever those kids were doing yesterday (I wasn't paying attention to them). I wore ear plugs for the entire show yesterday. That is old. On top of that, I wore ear plugs and my ears were still in a bit of pain this morning. That my friends is old. I will continue to go to shows because I love the music and I want to continue to support the scene which has given so much to me. But I am getting old.

At one point yesterday I went to tweet "Hey asshole, did you not see the expensive camera I'm holding? Watch where you're jumping." But then I remembered my little sister follows me on twitter and thought better of it.

I went over to The Great Commissions merch table to see if they had any physical copies of their new record. Their guitarist said they did not but tried to sell me on instant digital download card with a code for a physical cd pre-order. It wasn't my intention to be a dick but I was really only interested in picking up a cd so I said I'd think about it and walked away. He came up to me later when he found out they had actual cds. I felt like a dick so I got a t-shirt too.

I then spent some time at the Great Commission table talking about hair product. I like it when people who also rock cool hair are shocked to find out that I just use everyday, find it at CVS hair gel.

The Chariot are a fun band to watch play live. They are a super hard band to photograph live. Those guys do not stand still. They payoff is worth it because I think I got some super killer pictures of their set. But I took a ton of shots and most sucked.

Camera battery died right as Sleeping Giant started. So no pictures of Sleeping Giant or Norma Jean were taken.

Norma Jean played a killer set featuring tracks from all their albums. I wish they would've played more Anti-Mother songs and in general I wish they would have played longer. Norma Jean is by far my favorite band currently making heavy music and I always hope the headliners who have 5+ albums would played super long sets.

Close You Eyes is awesome. First band of the day I really enjoyed.

Another sign of my aging in the hardcore scene, beer. A lot of kids with X's on their hands. Not much work for the bartenders yesterday.

I don't think I have anything else to add. Yeah I do, I still dislike Baltimore. Just saying.

Pictures will be up on facebook eventually.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hidden Faces

I complain a lot. Just throwing that out there to start this off. And you, as the oh so loyal reader of these rambling that you are, know this. Because I think most of my ranting and raving and general displeasure that brings everyone a solid read starts with my bitching about something.

So as mentioned earlier, Pastor Mark spoke on God's sovereignty. And as all of the God Anthology messages have done, it got me thinking about various aspects of things said. The ideas of God as always faithful, or sovereign, or loving are hard to grasp with the reality that we live in. Bad things happen all the time and bad things happen to good people.

So Pastor Mark talked about all the terrible things we see around us and how we want God to scoop in and take care of things. Because he's God and if he was faithful, loving, and sovereign certain things wouldn't happen. But that's not how things work.

Mark asked the question, how does God take care of those things around? How does God swoop in? And then he said, "What if we started seeing with His (God's) eyes and feeling with His heart? Would we start to care like He cares?

I love that statement. Isn't taking care of people and loving those around us, also how we love God?

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!" ~ Matthew 25:34-40

I don't think it has to be a huge grand gesture. I think it can be as simple as buying someone a cup of coffee, or paying for a meal. And while we need people who adopt children, and go into the mission field full time, or do non-profit social justice work, all of which are awesome, but that doesn't have to be the aim. The aim should be to do what we can and take care of the little things around us to start.

"God is great because nothing is too small for him."


God is good. And it doesn't matter if life is going great or life just sucks at the moment. It doesn't matter if God is moving and doing great things in your life or if God seems so far away. God is still good. If it seems like a "duh" thing to say, I get that. But I feel like we all too often forget that God is good. And God doesn't have to be doing anything to be good. Because he's already done it. And out life situations don't change or affect is goodness.

Driving home from church Sunday night I was overcome and overwhelmed with a sense of God's goodness and my heart was filled with gratitude and praise. I'm embarrassed to share this because it was such a personal moment for me but there's a contrast and point I'm going to get to.

Pastor Mark talked about God's sovereignty this weekend. And he talked about how God orders our footsteps and guides us. He talked about how good God is. But he also mention that the world is full of evil and bad things happen.

So when I come home Sunday night, overwhelm and grateful for God's goodness and find out that my cousin's year old baby isn't going to make it through the night... How am I supposed to feel? It light or Pastor Mark's sermon, it was almost funny to see how that night progressed, from being so captivated by God's goodness to being heartbroken over the loss of an innocent child.

It was hard for me to move past God's goodness in that moment. There was no question God as to why it happened. There was no blaming. There was prayer for a miracle and outside of that, prayer that God would use an awful tragedy to someway bring glory to his name and some good would come from this.

But God was still good. Because God is always good.