Monday, October 31, 2011


A couple of days ago, my company had a Halloween costume contest. The day before the contest, I had this conversation in the breakroom:

Me: So are you ladies dressing up?
Chick 1: Nah. It's too much work.
Chick 2: OH NO! I'm a Christian, it is Satanic...I mean, just the origins of it. I can't dress up.

And then she walked away. My first thought: "Hey! I'm a Christian too!" was overshadowed by the thought: "a simple 'no' would have sufficed."

All the following is "in my opinion" (imo). But this is my take on Halloween:
  1. Witchcraft...seriously?- Some people say if you're going to do Halloween, avoid dressing yourself and your kids up as goblins, zombies, devils, witches, etc. because scripture speaks out against those (I've yet to find a goblin/zombie scripture, please let me know if you do). I don't have any kids, but if/when I do I'm going to dress them up as doctors year after year. I will dress them in flashy little suits with a white lab coat and stethoscope.  But why? Well, clearly, there is a relationship between what you dress your kids as for Halloween and what they will become when they grow up. Dress them like Hermione Granger and they will become a cute, loveable, but ultimately hellbound witch with crazy hair. Dress them up like Sanjay Gupta...and hey you get a kid who will take excellent care of you in your old age. It's a no-brainer.
  2. There are other Activities - You can have a "manly" Halloween by flinging pumpkins from a giant slingshot for the church harvest festival, you can have a huge bonfire at your church, you can attend a church "hell house" (which doesn't make Christians look crazy at all). You don't have to dress up, trick-or-treat, or attend a haunted house (like I did). Have fun as you one should care. IMO, you can do whatever you want because ultimately it's all about:

  3. Different Strokes for Different Folks - this is my overarching view, because we have to admit that there isn't a scripture that says: "And ye shalt not go from house to house, begging for candy, dressed as a zombie"... however, I think there are some things we can infer based on the following scripts:
    • Colossians 2:16 - this was most likely in regard to Jewish holy days (whether they continued to celebrate them or not), but I'll take it. IMO, we shouldn't judge or be judged in regard to Halloween.
    • 1 Corinthians 8:4-8 - this is my favorite. I feel like this has wide application. In this scripture there are people who can't eat the food sacrificed to idols b/c they think of it as being offered to a false God...and for them it is defiled. If you feel that way about Halloween DO NOT celebrate. However, if you know that Halloween is nothing (the same way the idol was nothing, and that meat was just food) then I think you are "free" to celebrate as you see fit, because nothing is defiled to you. 
But this is the part that is not my opinion: it is NOT "the devil's day." People who hide out, and claim that this day is Satanic, and that its origins are evil give honor where it is certainly not due. The true origin of every day is God. We don't have to "take back the night" or anything like that. God never relinquished the day. So for me, as a Christian, it's just an opportunity to have fun in a way I normally wouldn't (i.e. dressing up, making stuffed pumpkin for dinner, eating pumpkin cupcakes, watching scary movies just for the hilarity of hearing myself scream...all that). Psalms 118:24 says "This is the day the Lord has made" so every day belongs to Him...even October 31st. Just sayin...


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Prelude to a Diss: The Good Samaritan

So in the past couple of days, there was a story in the news about a Chinese toddler named YueYue who was the victim of a hit-and-run accident on a busy street. The hit-and-run by itself is tragic, but what outraged a nation, and caused global concern was that the little girl laid in the street for 10+ minutes, while people (18 in all) went right past her.

She was ultimately pulled from the road by an old woman, a "scavenger" the news reporter called her. She alone had mercy. But the fact remained: 18 people couldn't muster up compassion for a baby that lay bleeding in the street. Some people have blamed this occurrence on "jingshen kongxu" or "spiritual vacuum." But I think it's a love vacuum. It put me in the mind of a famous parable: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

We know the story, a man is traveling on the road, is robbed and left for dead. Two of his own kin (priest and Levite) pass him by, leave him for dead. Then a Samaritan comes, pulls him out the street, bandages him up, puts him on his donkey and takes him to an inn. Basically, the Samaritan loved him.

And so, I'm reading this article in the news, and I'm reading Luke 10, and I thought to myself: "Who are you leaving for dead?" One of my favorite sayings when I'm angry is "s(he) is dead to me!" Note: this person I'm speaking of is NOT actually dead. Parable guy in the street was NOT dead. YueYue was NOT dead, but they were treated as if they were dead. Treated as if they don't matter. Treated as if they don't deserve your attention.

I think a lot of time we focus on who stopped: the good samaritan and the scavenger. But here's the diss: I'm not like them. No, we need to focus on the people who didn't stop. That's who I identify with the most. I'm so busy trying to do EVERYTHING right. To live this holy and acceptable life to God. The Priest and the Levite--by virtue of their professions--were accustomed to living by the rules. But all 613 mitsvot are garbage...reading the whole Bible, going to church, attending small group, LEADING small group is garbage if we don't truly love. Every rule, every praise and worship service, every small group hinges on what?

‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Everything depends on love. And so again I ask myself: who am I leaving for dead? And WHY am I doing it?! Helping people who don't like's nuts. Helping people who make you feel small, bitter, and worthless...harsh. Do you know that Jews hated Samaritans? Oral Jewish law says "to eat the bread of Samaritans is equal to eating the flesh of swine." It defiles them just to eat their bread. Scavengers in China wade knee-deep in trash created by the affluent members of society. They are the super poor, looking for treasure in the trash of the super rich. YueYue was the daughter of a businessman. Businessmen walked over her. The scavenger picked up a treasure that other people walked over like trash. There is something to this...

I'm reading the parable, and I'm concerned because it doesn't mention an important element of what the Good Samaritan did: the DIFFICULTY. Why isn't there even a sentence about the difficulty?! It's difficult to help people who hate you. How do you love when you haven't been the recipient of love? How do you love people who have what you want...and who throw it away? That is difficult...when you're walking according to the flesh. And so...yeah., I'll admit, that I often have difficulty. And the excuse I often use is "I'm only human." And I totally am. But I don't want to be "only human." I want to be more than that. I want that supernatural ability to love. I'm still praying for it...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pack up! Move out!

I have moved a lot. I was born and raised in Toledo, OH. Then I lived in Indiana. Then in Chicago, IL. I moved 4 times in Chicago in 3 years. Now I live in the DC Metro area, and I've moved 3 times in 2 years. Like I said, I have moved a lot.

And every time I move, I throw things away. Usually, it's junk I know I don't need. But often, it's stuff that I once deemed to be "important" and that has outlived its importance and usefulness and needs to be in the garbage. The dumpster was always its destiny, but I kept delaying it. The following is a list of things that stick in my mind as stuff I had a hard time letting go of:
  1. Red Pants - So once upon a time,  I bought a pair of red pants. They fit great, they looked good.  But when I got them home, I couldn't think of a single thing to wear with the red pants. Then I couldn't even envision myself wearing the red pants out of the house. I kept those pants for 7 years, never wore them once before I put them in a donation bag (will anyone want those pants?).

  2. Get-Well-Soon Posters - When I was sick, a bunch of my friends made me get-well-soon posters. When I had them, I hung them up all over my house, as a source of encouragement. They hung for a LONG time. When I moved, I lovingly packed them up into a box to my next home. I never took them out to look at them, but I liked having them there. I kept those for 15 months.

  3. Letters from my Ex-Bff - This was my first big purge. These letters filled up a box (not of the shoebox variety). That was my first deep friendship, and we talked every day, multiple times a day...via little folded-up-origami-style notes that we passed to each other in the halls, or stuffed in each others locker slits. At one point, the friendship ended (badly), but I still valued the way it began in junior high, so sometimes...I read them, reminisced, and dwelt on all the feelings that created. I was 23 years old when I threw those letters away.

  4. TiVo - TiVo lost its usefulness (for me) when the channels switched from 1/2 analog, 1/2 digital to ALL digital. That was a prob. Then I got Fios, and Fios goes to sleep, and TiVo can't wake it I came home to lots of recordings of "Press the MENU button to view Fios cable." It was a disaster, but I still kept it b/c it held so many recorded TV moments (i.e. the episode of Guiding Light when Tammy dies). I just threw that out and got DVR.
And there are so many other things that I've thrown out but didn't want to. Stuff that had sentimental value. Many of these items had been holding on to me, more than I'd been holding on to them. Sometimes they represented a relationship that I should have gotten over long ago. Sometimes they represented an obligation, that I still thought I might make good on. Sometimes they represented memories that depict a me that no longer exists, or that are best forgotten. And sometimes they were just pieces of my past that I didn't want to forget.

But every time I move, I throw such things away.

And you know what? I never miss them. Sometimes I throw stuff in the trash, and I see it in there and think: I can still get it out! And that's when I immediately take it to the dumpster, or immediately throw something gross on top of it (like spaghetti) to keep myself from cracking. But once it's gone...I don't find myself wishing it was in my possession.

What's the point?


Sometimes the things we hold onto go beyond "stuff"in our apartment. There's something in your life that was (1) never "you" in the first place, it never quite felt right but you kept on with it; (2)  something that had served its purpose, and was no longer of use; (3) a reminder of pain, of loss, and of mistakes that have to be forgiven; (4) made obsolete by better alternatives, but you stubbornly held on to it. I'm talking about the broken relationships, habits, sins, negative thoughts, and crazy behaviors that should have been long gone. God is moving you, but you're dragging a trailer of "stuff." So we need to develop a new spiritual habit: every time you "move", throw something away. Scripture says so:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?... - Isaiah 43:18-19

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  - Philippians 3:13-14

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. - 1 Corinthians 13:11

There is a time for everything,  and a season for every activity under the heavens:  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build - Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

I really like the last one, because sometimes you're tearing down what you've built. Sometimes you're uprooting what you've planted! It's easy to tear down someone else junk, but my own? There is a time for that.

I think I'm ready to move spiritually, but I have boxes upon boxes of crap that I need to jettison from my life. I'm praying that I'm ready. What have you been moving with you from place to place? Is it time to let it go? I bet we won't miss that junk.

Food for thought.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Love: Prelude to a Diss

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails... 
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

If the Bible can be played, then this is one of the most played verses EVER. We hear it all the time at weddings. In fact, I've heard it so many times, that I have VOWED this will not be read at my own (wedding date currently unknown/unplanned). Today, though, this scripture was particularly hard to read because it's really quite convicting when you use it as a litmus test for the question: does love abide in me?

The first time I started writing this blog, it was all jokes and sarcasm. All plays on the different characteristics of love...but this is so serious. Perhaps we'd grasp the gravity of the situation if we read from the beginning of chapter 13. Why do people start at verse 4? Let's start at the beginning, at 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Let's de-romanticize the whole thing, by introducing what I call the "Prelude to a Diss." The popular verses 4 - 8 are not some mere commentary on what love is. When read in conjunction with the first three verses, it is about all the things we HAVE to be. It's about all the characteristics we HAVE to possess. And I find myself lacking.

And I've been writing and re-writing, trying to figure out what is my major issue. And I think I've found it: I simply can't get hurt. If you hurt me bad enough, every single thing in the chain of love breaks down. It makes sense: it's hard to love you while you're hurting me. Scripture talks all the time about loving your enemies, and turning the other cheek...but what does that LOOK like? I think it looks like this:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 
Romans 5:8 

While we were yet sinners. That means while we were still committing sins. That means while we were hurting God, Christ died for us. That's why John 3:16 is powerful; God didn't love just any world, He loved the world that rejects Him, that doubts Him, and that hurts Him with its sin. And so, I have to learn to love through the hurt. I'm talking major hurt (all manner of betrayal). I have to because I'm commanded to:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another
John 13:34

I heard a pastor say before that the command wasn't new. And it wasn't..."love thy neighbor" had been said before. But you know what was new about it? Now it had an example. Now there was a standard. A lofty, hard-to-reach standard. This is why love is a "fruit of the spirit" (see Galatians 5:22); because its a supernatural ability. Love in spite of crappy treatment is a supernatural ability. I pray that the Lord works that fruit in my life. In greater measure. I love, but I don't love as He has. 

Just some food for thought.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Night In

I haven't posted in a while. But I don't really have a huge I'm sure no one is bothered. In any case, as a brief update: my life has been a little topsy turvy. I'm moving again. Bah! I think I might move more than chess pieces. I've never moved twice within a 60-day period! I'm so ashamed, I didn't even ask my friends for help. I just hired movers. Also, the transitions from my old OLD home, and my old job have not been as smooth as I would like. I forgot that transitions suck. There is much to be said for "same old, same old." People say that phrase as if its humdrum and lame. This is dangerous and untrue. "Same old, same old" is victory. That's right: VICTORY. "Same old, same old" means I haven't been fired, evicted, robbed, dumped, played, tricked, or ultimately murdered. See? "Same old, same old" is good. I don't have "same old, same old." I have new crap.

However, I know that in 3 - 6 months, I'll have new routines that will lull me into a new false sense of stability and security. Don't get me wrong, there are some legit stabilizers out there: God. Your family. Yourself. However, I often build my stability on my home, my job, and my friend groups. As the WHOLE world knows, this is the epitome of "building your house on sand." So...the "rains" have definitely come and washed me out a few times. You would think that given this knowledge, I would stop "building" full-fledged houses, but rather make a shanty or a "lean-to." Some temporary dwelling that I'm less invested in...but we all have our patterns.

I've been kind of experiencing this "Murphy's Law" type existence for the past couple of months, and since everything is going wrong, I'm trying to apply Psalms 20 to my life these days. Especially, Psalms 20:7 - Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. Replace "chariots" with "job", and replace "horses" with "people." That's me!

Anyway, it's Friday...and I'm doing my favorite Friday night activity: NOTHING (recall my feelings concerning Friday night by clicking here...I clicked and realized I've lost about 60% of my humor. Sadness.) But I was sitting here, reading blogs, saw a poem...and decided to write a poem about my Friday night chill. Then I decided, I'd share it. Good luck to you readers, I hope you don't go blind or fall asleep:

It’s Friday night, but I’m not seeking Friday’s light
Because the day’s fight ends in surrender to my chill
Wherein I can get my fill of lounging, and of allowing
Myself some time to recline on the bed that’s mine and
Think…just think…I don’t need to go out for a drink,
Because I’ve spent the week waiting; it’s been a 5-day-countdown
To the very intoxicating pleasure of my own Company, I’m so into me,
Spent the workday waiting to surrender its insanity
To the calming oasis of my chill, where breezes don’t rush over windowsills
But rather over my heart, cooling down the issues that made it stop and start
Too fast for me to breath easy, ever since Monday I’ve been wheezing
But in my chill...the air is ridiculously fresh and I can exhale the rest
Of the madness that exists beyond it boundaries:
Those people, those things…they’re not here with me
Because time is sacred within my chill.

No formatting. No time for that. It's time for me to watch movies, read books, and otherwise disconnect from reality. Happy Friday!