Monday, May 18, 2009

Substandard Avatars

This is an old argument, and so I'll be as brief and concise as possible.

You may know that I work in a music store. My job description falls neatly under the moniker of Customer Service, and consists primarily of helping people find and purchase things.

A woman approached me tonight asking for a particular Christian artist, one I'd never heard of, but which she insisted was, "extremely popular". After looking for several minutes, and exhausting every method available to me in an attempt to locate it, I informed her as politely as I was able that I couldn't find it, we didn't have it, and I wouldn't be able to sell it to her. This sequence of events repeats itself often, and I am no stranger to the rigors of its execution. Normally this is where the story stops, and as one can see, is so unremarkable that it hardly warrants being called a story at all.

But this time was different, and it remains in the forefront of my mind more than two hours later.

Her demeanor was that of a person who's time is being wasted by someone far less intelligent than herself. She repeated no fewer than three times, "Well if you just check your thing I'm sure you'll find it." I explained to her just as many times that there is no "thing" to check, but that I require the correct spelling of an artist's name in order to look them up in the system. She was unable to provide me with said spelling.

Her two young children (aged perhaps six and eight respectively [this is a rough approximation]) were allowed to roam unsupervised throughout the entirety of my store, running this way and that while playing havoc with the organization of the CD racks. At one point I caught them rooting through the "adult" DVDs like pigs after carrots. It should not fall to me to stop the children of a "Christian" woman from burrowing into a stack of pornography, but I did it anyway.

After finally managing to convince her that the CD was nowhere to be found and that there was nothing more I could do for her, she dismissed me with, "well I guess you just don't carry the most popular artists." And then she just left.

Every single thing that you do serves as a representation of Christ's character, and whether or not it's an accurate one is beside the point. When you trump around a retail store like you own it, disrespect the employees, allow your children to run rampant, and do so in pursuit of a Christian album that you just have to get your hands on, you make us all out to be self-serving morons.

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that people like this are the ones which often serve as the face of Christianity. Never mind world hunger relief efforts or pregnancy centers when there are arrogant and irresponsible jerks to talk about.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Late night brain storming is a favorite of mine. If it’s on the beach, walking down the street (singing “doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo”), driving your car with the music blaring, lying in a hammock looking up at the stars, biking around the neighborhood while children are at play, or in front of a computer to compile them all…it’s great. Nothing flexes the mind more than a rigorous study of what you’re into. Let me manifest….

I love to ask myself the question, “What do you want?” Yes, I ask in third person to seem outside myself. This question arises emotions aplenty and requires an exploration of where someone is headed. My first answer is always, “I want a cookie.” But alas, this wish has not been granted. I will continue to create a ruckus until this indelible desire is placated.

The problem with asking myself this question is I never know what I want until it comes and smacks me in the face with blunt force trauma. Does anyone really know what they want? Wanting means “to be deficient by the absence of some part or thing.” That’s just it. At the point in time we ask ourselves what we want, we don’t know because it’s unattainable. When someone accepts Jesus into their lives, we always say to them, “your life will never be the same.” They don’t know what is going to change or how Jesus will interact with them, but they step out because they want something. What we long for cannot be something because something isn’t good enough. It needs to be someone. Jesus.

This isn’t about that though. Frustration impedes on me whenever what I want comes up because I just don’t know sometimes. Prior to this post I made a list of things I wanted. Anything that came to mind. After, I scanned through and checked the ones I’d experienced before but were wanting again. That was 50%. It included material things like violin strings, Publix green iced tea, and that cookie which still haunts me. The other 50% I’ve had before but wanted in a totally different way or on a deeper level. My relationship with Jesus is something that was on the list. I already have a good one with him right now, but it’s not good enough. I don’t know what’s coming next. Or else I’d already be there. A female companion was on the list also. I’ve had a few female companions, but the one coming won’t be the same as past. When love is ushered in with a relationship, it won’t be the same love I felt for the others. It will be an unknown. And like Jesus, the further we get in, the more we know.

Props to Ryan Olsen for filling the void. Thanks man.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

We're Sorry

This is important, and so I'll say it first; this entry is not for Christians. It is not to be answered with scripture references or church terminology. We're going to step outside of the believer's mindset (or at least try to) and look at things from the other side of the table. This is We're Sorry's namesake, and the whole reason it was started in the first place.

This entry is for the nonbeliever. This is for the person who doesn't believe in God, Jesus or any of that salvation hooha. This is for the person who isn't sure what they believe, or is sure that they don't believe at all.

That said, I promise you that I will not try to “convert” you. I will not try to convince or coerce you to my way of thinking. I will not force anything on you, and I will do my best to be sincere, and express my thoughts in a way that makes sense outside of a religious context. If I fail then I can only ask you to understand – I don't see things the same way you do.

Christians believe what they believe for a lot of reasons. The easiest one, and perhaps the most common is the “I was raised to” argument, which holds little to no water when debating the existence of God with someone who was not raised to. You can be raised to do just about anything, from hating black people to liking sauerkraut. I think religion is especially easy, because when it's presented to us from a young age, and (as it was in my case) is a positive thing, it is easy – too easy – to hang onto the belief of it for the rest of one's natural life. Kids break away from a lot of things that their parents tell them, but you put a kid in a class room on a weekly basis and tell him that an all knowing and all powerful being has a plan for his life, and you really convince him that it's the truth, then that's probably the belief he's going to roll with (it even says that in the Bible).

But you weren't raised that way. Or maybe you were, but it was presented to you in a way that repelled you, even disgusted you, and now you see the concept of Christianity or belief in God in general as being ludicrous. Or maybe you saw how nasty the world is, and decided that a REAL god, a LOVING god wouldn't let that kind of stuff happen. All of these attitudes are logical, reasonable, and make practical sense. A lot of us will never admit it, but it's not fair for us to say, “you're wrong, God is real”, when we don't understand how you feel and why you feel that way. I can say to an immigrant, “you should speak English, that's what Americans speak”, but if they don't speak English to begin with, they won't understand me when I say it. And I'm not from where they're from, I don't know what they've been through. Assuming otherwise makes me an arrogant bigot, and the same is true of us. We’ve no right to admonish you.

We cannot convince you to a mathematical and scientific certainty that God exists, and I know that for many people, this is reason enough not to believe. I think that even if we could, to do so might be to invalidate the entire experience, but that’s beside the point. It is not knowledge, nor logic which makes the thing we call faith. There are aspects of faith and belief which are very “logical”, but this alone simply will not suffice. It is inadequate, and a poor vehicle to convey the existence of something that cannot be touched, felt or seen (believers need not comment here - we are speaking in physical terms). There is something which runs deeper than "here is what I can prove", and it is difficult to describe.

I have never been an atheist. I've never experienced a life apart from a belief in God. And while I cannot say that I wish I had, I DO wish that I could relate. I do wish that I understood what that feels like. And allow me to apologize on behalf of us that can't understand how you feel, because we, the haughty and proud religious, find it hard to view things from an atheistic standpoint. We see the world in a manner that is quite often black and white, this way and that, with little to no middle ground, where every question can be answered with, "God says so" or "It must be his will."

But for those who don't believe as we do, these answers are simply not enough, and we shouldn't expect them to be. You who don't believe what we believe deal with and understand things in a way that is difficult for us to grasp. It frustrates us, and we are bad at hiding it. This frustration manifests itself in a variety of distasteful ways, and I don’t think I need to name them.

I do not say this to patronize or condescend. I do not condemn or criticize you. I cannot say to you, "you're wrong", because I am so often wrong myself. I can only offer my apologies on behalf of myself and those like me, for we have crafted a religious subterfuge that may very well be our undoing.

I am sorry for being a part of a group that makes you feel unwelcome. I am sorry for being a hypocrite. I'm sorry for being weird, unrelatable and irrelevant. I apologize for the times you've felt alienated, uncomfortable and awkward around us. We are sorry for trying to "evangelize" and "save" you, without first getting to know you, understand you, and take the time to invest in friendship with you. We are sorry for the crusades, inquisitions, the Salem witch hunts, the gaybashing, hate mongering, justification of slavery, and other atrocities too numerous to name. We are sorry for coming at you with rules, agendas, underlying intentions and false promises. We're sorry for bubble-gum superficial Christian pop sub-culture and an almost xenophobic fear of things that we don't understand. We are sorry for being overly defensive and closed to other mindsets. We're sorry for assuming that we know everything while being so ignorant. We're sorry for judging you, and expecting you to change without giving you a valid reason. We’re sorry for replies to this entry that detract from the point its message or dampen its impact.

It's an easy thing to say, and perhaps you've heard it before, but I'll say it anyway - none of this is what Christianity was ever supposed to be about. Jesus' message was simple; Love God, Love People. Doing the both of these, and doing them with honesty and humility, comprise the entirety of what we believe. We fail so often and so loudly that I wonder if you can see it at all.

I'll say this only to clarify; we cannot, and will not apologize for what we believe. The reasons that we have found to believe in God are myriad, and while I can think of a counter argument to any one of them, I want to make it clear that it is not WHAT we believe that we (or the very least I) want to apologize for. Rather it is the miserable way in which we've chosen to express it.

Normally this is the part where we might try to "convert" you, or convince you to "give God a chance." Not today. You've had enough of that. This is nothing but an apology, pure and simple, devoid of agenda and outstretched offering plate.

I will say only this; we desperately want to share the things we've come to believe with you, not to bolster our numbers or bring more money into the church. It's not so we can win brownie points in heaven or say, "I SAVED someone today." While these attitudes do exist, and should be done away with, they are not indicative of what we truly believe. We only - and I promise you - only want to show you what we've found because it's made our lives better. A lot of us (this may be hard to believe) care about the people in our lives (all of them) and this serves as our primary motivation in wanting to spread what we believe is the truth of a loving and real God. We just don't know how to show it yet, even after 2,000 years of trying to figure it out.

And for this, we are sorry.

Bumper Stickers

"A lot of people don't like bumper stickers. I don't mind bumper stickers. To me a bumper sticker is a shortcut. It's like a little sign that says 'Hey, let's never hang out.'"
-Demetri Martin

You can find them anywhere, and they say everything. From sexual preferences to your favorite color, there is a bumper sticker to express every idea, personality type, and mood. Your traits, likes and dislikes can be broadcasted via bold and gaudy text to motorists fortunate enough to find themselves behind you in traffic. Whether they like it or not, they will get to know you. Sort of.

Christianity is not excluded from this basic fact of modern life. Whether it be the subtle silver icthus or bold, militant phrases like, "If you died tonight, would you go to hell?", Christians love to plaster indications of their faith on the back of their vehicles. Every once in awhile one will see a minivan, it's rear hatch so thoroughly covered in decals that it begs the question, "are these things addictive?" In my personal experience, these addicts are usually Christians, and their bumper stickers make sure that you know it.

I've never quite understood the thinking behind the Christian bumper sticker. Perhaps it is believed that an aggressive tailgater will read John 3:16 in the middle of rush hour and come to a saving knowledge of the Lord. Maybe the silver plastic "Jesus fish" has a divine property that immediately causes people to believe. Or maybe we're just being bold, showing off our faith to the world and letting them know that we're not ashamed.

But let's be honest. Bumper stickers are about as bold as attending a mass protest; it's easy to be courageous in a crowd of 300 others who agree with you. It's easy to hide behind the tinted glass of a minivan while the person at your back reads, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." And personally, I believe they're both equally ineffective in showing God's character to the rest of the world. They're cop outs, plain and simple, and ask little to nothing of us as individuals.

I don't think most people really care what your bumper stickers say. Show me by the way that you live - and by the way that you drive - that you mean it. Don't cut me off in traffic. Don't go twenty below the speed limit. Don't block the entryways to gas stations and fast food joints. Doing these or otherwise driving rudely, when paired with a Christian bumper sticker just makes things worse. Imagine getting cut off in traffic and then immediately being presented with, "IN CASE OF RAPTURE THIS VEHICLE WILL BE UNMANNED." Maybe that's already happened to you.

Bumper stickers are too easy. Loving people? That's hard. But at least it means something.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

All the same

Gary's getting drunk to forget Sarah
Sarah's stealing money from her parents
Aaron's lying straight to John
About Megan and the things that went on
Jessica's a gossip
Laura's a slut
Derek hits Bridgette
Ben deals drugs
Seth spent all this money gambling
Joey stopped praying
It's all the same
We are all the same
People with sinning hearts
That make us equal

"Listening to Freddy Mercury" by Emery

Hi. My name is Aaron.

I'm 21 years old. I watch R rated movies, and I play violent video games. I listen to a lot of secular music, and I don't buy the edited versions. I curse a lot. I enjoy the taste of beer and drink a few times a week. I always forget to tithe. I make excuses for all the of the above, and am generally unrepentant when I say "shit", or judge someone based on what they're wearing. I am also a Christian, and I am just like you.

Christianity can be a messy, difficult thing. We each have our own opinions about what's right and what's wrong, and we spend hours into days debating the morality of this, the ethics of that. We argue over what the Bible says or doesn't say about grace and judgment, heaven and hell, and all the things that happen in the space between the two. We sit proudly on the general consensus that Jesus is the son of God, as well as the reason that we walk and breath (as well we should). When it comes to the details however, the little things, we often seem all too eager to decide the validity of each others faith based on a checklist of dos and don'ts. We over emphasize things that, when viewed from a broader, more enlightened perspective, might be called meaningless.

I say this not to excuse myself; my sin is no more acceptable than is murder or grand theft. I am no holier than the career criminal or the child molester. And while the purpose of this argument is not to debate the ethics of moderate alcohol consumption, or whether or not it was okay for me to see Watchmen (and enjoy it), these things bear testament to what this entry is really about.

Christians are sinners. We're as flawed as the world around us. We covet, lust, cheat, lie, have affairs and drink too much. Some times we read Maxim and Cosmopolitan, and we don't feel bad about it. We gossip, are two faced and dishonest. Some of us are gay. Some have had abortions. Some hate each other. We are not the shining, beautiful people that they taught us to be in Sunday School. From my side of the table at least, we look more like the world every day. You can say this is due to a decay in the fabric of society's morals, or blame it on unfaithfulness, or use fancy, churchy words like "backsliding", but in my mind it's all a part of the human experience. Like it or not, we live in the world. We're here, and until God calls us home, we're stuck here.

And of course, we should do our best to live the way we're called to live. We should do our damnedest, day after day to set an example and portray Christ through our actions. The problem is that we can't, at least not all the time. This, of course, is where grace comes in.

Scripture tells us to worry about the plank in our own eye before removing the dust from the eyes of a friend. This can be, and often is, taken as an admonishment against hypocritical nitpicking. I see it not only as being thus, but also as having another similar meaning: your relationship with God is for you, and not anyone else, to worry about. Your friend's relationship with God is their own business. We can't save each other. Only one man was ever up to the task, and he's already taken care of it. By comparison, our job is far simpler - love each other.

I promise you this, and I say it with stone cold certainty: your relationship with God is not dependent upon anyone else's. It will not damage your ability to believe if everyone around you isn't living the way you think they should. Of course, we should council and rebuke one another (in love), but council and rebuke are a far cry from judgment. We so often swing towards the latter.

And at the end of the day, if we're to be honest with ourselves, is the kid in your youth group who smokes weed really all that different from you? We're all made of the same chemicals, have the same maker, and one day, we'll all stand before the same throne. We all have the same task to perform, and we all fail in it.

We are all the same, Christians and non-Christians alike. The only thing which divides us is a single decision, and it is this decision which should bring us together. Not tear us apart. We are all the same.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Maybe we do have a chance.

Chic-Fil-A's sweet tea is a titan amongst modern beverages. For whatever reason I can't stop drinking it. Perhaps it's the balance between the sugar and tea itself. It may be the type of tea leaves that they use (for all I know it's Lipton), or it could be a psychological thing brought about by the fact that everything else at Chic-Fil-A is amazing. I don't know, and I don't care. I love it.

It was this undying and ever encroaching love that compelled me to stay at the mall for an extra thirty minutes after getting off of work last week. My shift had ended, but I braved the battlefield that was the foot-traffic lanes and escalators in order to refill my Large-size cup at the food court.

"It's worth it," I told myself.

If you've ever been to the mall in December then I don't need to describe the atmosphere to you.

The line to see Santa was longer than any line should be allowed to be. The crowd was thick to the degree that actual walking was impossible. You instead shuffled along at a maddeningly slow pace, unnatural and dragging enough that a Zombie could out run you. And I don't mean the 28 Days Later, "HOLY, THEY'RE SO FAST," zombies, either. I'm talking Vincent Price in The Last Man On Earth zombies. Though, really, they were more like vampires, I guess. Anyway.

After retrieving my Holy Grail I retraced my steps. Made my way back through the crowds to the opposite end of the mall, towards the exit closest to my car.

As I was descending the escalator, unable to simply walk down it as I normally would, I heard what is quite possibly, in my mind, the most irritating sound in the world - a young child screaming. And I don't mean, "Mommy, I want [insert item]" screaming. I'm talking blood curdling, it's-the-end-of-the-world-and-this-kid-was-the-first-one-to-notice screaming.

Due to the view provided me by the escalator, and the slow pace at which I was moving towards the ground, I had plenty of time to locate the source of the noise. It wasn't hard, given the volume and its proximity to me.
It was a young boy, four, maybe five years old. He had stubbornly planted himself in the middle of the crowd, and sat down. Probably mad about something, I decided.
Now keep it mind, it's crowded as all get out. I could just barely see him from atop the escalator. Had I been on the ground, I wouldn't have been able to.
Next to him was a girl, probably ten or twelve years old. From the color of her hair and the look of her facial features, I assumed she was his sister. She had him by the hand, seemed to be trying to get him to stand up.
"Well that's good," I thought, "he'll be fine."
But then, as I neared the ground and the pair began to sink out of my view, she did something strange; she let go.
Not only did she let go, dropping his hand as if it were a hot iron, she also walked away. Turned her back on the little guy and took off. It wasn't so much that she seemed to be trying to get away from him - more that she had better things to due than ensure the safety of her little brother. At least, that's how it looked to me.

I was annoyed, but not surprised. I guess that's something that can be expected of a ten-to-twelve year old, in that situation. She was probably embarrassed, and the child WAS being obnoxious. Surely he'd have a parent or grandparent, or another sibling standing by waiting to pick him up. I mean, that's the way things are supposed to work, right?

Since I was going in that direction anyway, I made it a point to walk to where I had last seen the kid. Figured I'd make sure everything was cool. I expected to see him standing up, with a grownup by the hand.

He was still there. Still sitting down.

I looked around, sure that there must be a flustered parent standing next to him, or at least making their way back through the crowd to retrieve him. There was no one.

The crowd had begun to thin. As I came within arm's reach of the boy I could see that he was entirely, and utterly, alone. No one was standing near him, no one was coming back for him. Whoever was responsible for him, be it the little girl I'd seen moments before or some unseen entity yet to reveal theirself, they were no where to be found.

A number of options flashed through my mind as I took my final steps towards the kid. I could ask him where his parents were, and try to take him there. I could stand and wait and hope they came back. I could call mall security and let them handle it.
I settled on options two and three. Figured I'd wait with him until one of the Allied Barton personnel showed up and then be on my merry way. Before I even had a chance to retrieve my phone, however, something interesting happened.

Apparently I wasn't the only one who heard the kid scream. Three other people had stopped as well, and reached the child at roughly the same time I did. An elderly woman stooped down next to the boy, setting her shopping bags down and placing a hand on his shoulder. She asked where his mommy was, if he was okay. It was then that I noticed the bruise below the kid's right eye, and she asked him about that as well. Another woman stood just behind her, and was leaning forward, listening attentively.

A middle aged man, probably in his mid forties came up alongside me, saying that he had seen the boy's sister, and described her flight as I had witnessed it. He pointed in the direction she had gone, saying,
"She went in there," referencing one of the nearby storefronts. One of the women nodded and said,
"I saw her too."
I offered, "I have Mall Security's number." as I fished out my phone. One of the other three nodded in agreement with my implied course of action, continuing to express their outrage concerning the boy's sister.
As I began to scroll through my contacts, frantically trying to find the I's for, "Ingram Mall Security", the man beside me lost his cool and said, "I saw where they went, I'm going to get them." and began to stalk towards the storefront he'd indicated a few moments prior. This is something I want to elaborate upon.

I don't mean to be unkind or judgmental, but this guy wasn't exactly in the best shape. He was a bigger guy, and seemed to have some trouble walking. Perhaps due to an old injury, or maybe he was sore from enduring the mall all day. In either hand he clutched multiple shopping bags from several stores. He'd clearly been there for awhile, and had spent at least a few hours shopping. The store he was en route to was several meters away - a distance perhaps equivalent to the width of a street in your average suburban neighborhood.

He was halfway between our little group and the store, when from it emerged the girl I'd seen from atop the escalator. Behind her was an older woman, late fifties, early sixties, also armed with shopping bags, a black purse slung over her shoulder. It should be noted that she carried only two bags, and small ones at that.

By this point I'm thinking, "all right, this is okay. She's just realized, in utter shock and horror, that her grandchild is missing, and she's coming back for him. She's still no legal guardian of the year, but she's coming to get him."

But there's still something wrong, and all four of us see it.

She's laughing. She's not crying, not angry, frustrated, or worried. She's laughing. She thinks this is hilarious. When the gentlemen who took it upon himself to retrieve her says, "Ma'am, you left him all by himself. He has a bruise on his eye. It looks like someone hit him.", She laughs. Maybe she knew something I didn't, but this is the scenario as I saw it, and as my ad hoc companions saw it:

Little boy. Three, four, possibly five years old. Left sitting alone, on the floor, crying, in the middle of a crowd, in the middle of one of the busiest shopping days of the year, in a mall. No parent, grandparent, or sibling anywhere in sight. We witnessed him being abandoned, saw the casual manner with which his sister stranded him on the linoleum. Kids get abducted all the time, and this is the ideal scenario for anyone looking to snatch a child with brown hair and blue eyes. They could have picked him up and made for the exit, and nobody would have thought anything of the fact that he was crying and screaming bloody murder - he'd been doing that already. Add to that the fact that he had a fresh bruise on his face, and then when Granny finally shows up to reclaim him, she thinks it's all a big joke.

My point here is not to admonish the lack of responsibility that I'm sure we've all noticed in a lot of modern parents. I'm not here to complain about the fact that people don't look out for their kids like they should.

My point, and the thing that I really want to emphasize, is that four strangers took the time out of their busy, hectic, chaotic day at the mall to stop and form a protective cluster around a scared little boy. By the time we all stopped walking and began to assess the situation, the kid was surrounded on all sides. No one was going to snatch him or trip over him, and he wasn't going to panic and take off into the crowd. He was, at least at that moment, safe.

It's a trait I think we all share; the protector's instinct. The thing inside of you that makes you get out of bed in the middle of the night to investigate the noise you heard coming from the living room. The thing that compels you to stop and help someone change a flat tire. The urge you feel to verbally destroy someone who you know has been gossiping about your best friend.
The innate, ingrained desire to protect, to take care of the people you care about and, some times, people you don't even know. Have you ever seen that video of the guy standing outside the Whitehouse, shooting at it with an assault rifle or something, and then out of nowhere this guy in a cowboy hat tackles him to the ground? Ever thought about the fact that we have volunteer firefighters and paramedics in this country? Volunteers.

People like to - no, need to - take care of each other. At least, that's what I think.

As disappointing as it was to see someone so utterly unconcerned for their child's safety, the reassurance I felt from seeing four strangers wordlessly unite towards a common goal was overwhelming. There was no prior meeting, no plan of attack, no, "Hi, I'm Aaron, wanna help me watch out for this kid?". We just did it. And the thing that's really great about it, is that we're not saints. We're just regular people, and I like to believe that what happened that night is indicative of humanity as a species. A lot of us - say, four out of five, as was the case - give a damn about what happens to everybody else, and think about what could go wrong if nobody does anything about it.

I walked away, sweet tea in hand, with a phrase on my lips, and uttered it to myself as I exited the mall and was greeted by the cold night air,

"Maybe we do have a chance."

Monday, December 22, 2008


by Ryan Olsen

My ears were grooving to the sounds of TLC’s classic song “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls”, when I figured I should alleviate some of AJ’s stress of writing posts for We’re Sorry. Hopefully it doesn’t suck…..

I’ll be blunt since that’s my personality…I’m not really in the Christmas spirit. Everywhere I turn, there seem to be people aplenty who are in a jolly good (I sound british) mood and are spreading the stereotypical emotions that Christmas is to portray. Giving instead of receiving…new hope….spending time with the family…loving one another…etc. I’m all for that kind of stuff. In fact, I’m glad we have seasons like these where those traditions and values are emphasized. And I’m not going to go into how people need to realize the season is about Jesus’ birth and we need to stop with the commercialism aspect. We’ve already had posts on that. This is more of a release of thoughts from my perspective.

There are a few reasons why I think my mindset is not in the Christmas mood.

First, it’s hard to celebrate Christmas when the weather outside is 70 degrees F and waltzing around in shirts, shorts, and sandals is considered the norm. I went to view the sunrise this morning since it was supposed to be clear and cool, and my attire consisted of what I just mentioned. It was gorgeous by the way. When the advertisements and decorations have snowflakes and parkas plastered everywhere you look, it’s not so fun when you’re just the opposite.

Second, I have no lover to share this romantic season with. I know….cry me a river. One of my favorite commercials this year is the guy who is learning sign language for his deaf girlfriend, and he gives her a necklace or some other cheap jewelry while he signs “Merry Christmas.” Real cute. I love to love and be loved in return, so it’s hard to express my feelings for someone when it’s my imaginary friend Judy. Totally kidding. I’ll just have to live with that till a woman comes my way. Focus on my Jesus all the more. J

Next, it’s hard sometimes to think that this Christmas is going to be any different from the ones before. We have all heard the stories and know the phrases, so how is this supposed to be an exciting time of the year? Don’t get me wrong, obviously the story of Jesus is the greatest of all. Not just his birth, but the entire life and death and resurrection. That’s the craziest shit I’ve ever read about and people don’t even get how amazing it is. It needs to be more. Reading the Christmas story out of a bible to your kids is great, but can we even begin to comprehend what this really means? I can’t. I need someone to scream it in my face, and it’s hard to find that. A friend of mine always says, “Sometimes I think I’ve heard it all.”

Finally, I know why I’m not in the mood. I go through this every year. I don’t get into the Christmas spirit till about 7-10 days before the actual day of Christmas. I don’t like forcing myself to milk out the feelings of the holiday. I want to go nuts in the last few days we have to celebrate it. It means much more to me that way.

So tomorrow after my last exam is done, I am finally going to whip out my Christmas music, pick a great new book, sit down with some peppermint mocha or mint hot chocolate, and go crazy. Yes…that’s my idea of craziness. HAHA There is one thing I can think of that’s really great about this Christmas….I don’t have to be creative about gifts for a woman. Thank Jesus’ birth for that.

P.S. If you guys want a great gift idea for your young lady, go buy one of those digital picture frames that are really hot this year, load it with pictures of you two together, and give it to her! Super cute and she’ll love it. Also, here is my favorite Christmas song. It’s massive. No one knows it to!

Peace and Love…

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Love Came Down

We're Sorry: Love Came Down
by Jen Rose

"Love came down at Christmas / Love all lovely, love divine..." - Christina Rossetti

It was the last weekend before Christmas, and the shopping idea was not going so well. After the kind of day where success is defined as navigating your way back to the car without getting killed (verbal hits and impolite hand gestures notwithstanding), I came to a somewhat cynical conclusion:

I have no doubt that love came down at some point. I'm not so sure it was Christmas though.

Don't get me wrong... I love Christmas. I love the music, I love sending cards, I love everything it is supposed to represent. (I don't love the frenzied shopping part, or the people who failed to get the "Peace on Earth/Goodwill to All" memo.) But something along the way has gone very, very wrong.

It's like our well-meaning ancestors said, "Hey! Let's celebrate this pagan festival, only we'll say it's about the birth of Jesus instead! Sweet!" And then somewhere along the way, more well-meaning ancestors thought giving gifts like the Magi would be a nice touch, and maybe some decorations would pretty things up, and dude, that St. Nicholas guy was pretty cool, so maybe we should figure out a way to let jolly ol' Nick in on the party.

And what are we left with now? Giving gifts becomes cold, obligatory ritual that we put off and go into grumbling all the way. Debt escalates, because we really do need to get something for Aunt So-and-So and a million other people on the proverbial list, and empty materialism and financial worries steal the thrill out of the giving and sharing. And so January rolls around with a mountain of debt in its wake, and many of us, like a frustrated Charlie Brown demanding someone tell him what Christmas is all about, realize something was lost in the whirlwind... something that was meant to define the season.

Joy. Good tidings of great, inexpressible, exceeding joy.

"The angel said, 'Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.'... As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us." They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing." (Luke 2:10-12, 15-16 The Message )

I always found it strange that our well-meaning Christian family can get so angry over what a chain store chooses as its greeting of choice, yet not rise up in indignation that the very things this season was supposed to be about -- love, joy, peace, redemption, sacrifice -- are lost in the frenzy of shopping and spending and to-do lists. But God never gave up on a stubborn, screwed up world, so maybe even in this it's not too late for change. I am grateful for movements like Advent Conspiracy that are challenging us to think about what this season would look like if we just attempted to live by that ideal.

And what if indeed?

What if each of us did our part to live joyfully, treat everyone we encounter with love and respect, and take the time to quietly experience the peace and the mystery of the Incarnation? What if we gave handmade gifts and service instead of that random sweater we picked up to check a name off the list? What if we celebrated and spent time together, instead of constantly running from errand to errand? What if we really meant it when we wished each other a "Merry Christmas" (or even "Happy Holidays")? What if we focused on spending less, but giving more, finding creative ways to love each other and make the season a little brighter for friend, family, and stranger alike?

Maybe it would take us one step closer to reclaiming the beauty of Christmas, seeing it for what it is: the celebration of a birth, life, death, and (ultimately) resurrection that changed the world.

This year, with all eyes on an ailing economy, many here in America are talking about cutting back and spending less. I somehow think this could be a blessing in disguise, a chance for us to step back and re-evaluate what Christmas is all about. God has used stranger things to bring his people around... why not this too?

So, Merry Christmas. Whether you have lights on the house and Bing Crosby's White Christmas blasting in your CD player before the post-Thanksgiving turkey coma has completely worn off, or spend the month of December muttering "Bah, humbug" at the chaos around you, I offer you a challenge: Take the time to slow down and reflect on just how profound the reason we celebrate is -- God as a child, sent to redeem a lost humanity and a broken, chaotic world. Then love and live and give deeply and fully, in any and every way you can, because you believe in it. It just might change the world.

Oh yeah. And do your sanity a favor... stay home and bake cookies on the last weekend before Christmas. That's where I'll be.

Special Thanks to Jen Rose for this update. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Reason for The Season

I must admit, I'm a bit of a scrooge during the holiday season. It's not that I don't like Christmas, in fact there are many things about Christmas that I love. The family, the food, the gift giving and receiving. Yet, there are things that I don't enjoy, like long lines at department stores, the same Christmas programs every year, and the commercialism. There are things about Christmas that I don't understand, like how they are already playing Christmas music when it hasn't even been thanksgiving yet.

I saw a sign last year that said "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" And I think this is what most Christians believe, and when I say Christian I don't mean a good person or a person who is an American or even a person that believes Jesus was a good teacher. When I say Christian I mean a person who has had a "born again" experience and has dedicated their life to following the way of Jesus. That sign got me thinking "Is Jesus really the reason for the season?" Is Jesus what we are excited about? Is celebrating the arrival of our savior what we most look forward to during Christmas? Isn't it strange that a word and holiday containing Christ seems so devoid of Christ?

The more of these questions I ask myself the more it becomes clear that we are the reason for the season, and not Jesus. I know it sounds blasphemous and I do believe that Jesus is the reason for the season, but if it wasn't for our sin Jesus would never have had to come in the first place. Jesus is the reason for the season, but so are we. We were the ones that needed saving. Jesus came to save the world from sin. His arrival was not magnificent, He didn't have a Macy's day parade to usher in His kingdom. He came because of our sin in the most humble of ways. And His act of love and sacrifice deserves more than just a season, it demands our very lives.

There is a great verse in the Bible that says "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." John 3:17

This means that the whole world was on God's mind. God had sent Jesus to be the savior of everyone and not just Christians, and not just Americans. Your Muslim neighbor is the reason for the season, your atheist relative is the reason for the season. Your enemy, your friend, everyone in the whole world is the reason for the season. Our savior is not regulated to our church or our hemisphere. He is not bound only to those you agree with. God has the whole world on His mind.

So the next time your Mother in Law is driving you insane with making Christmas all about her, tell her that she is the reason for the season. Because Jesus died for her too, just like he died for you. And He came with more than just this season on His mind.

(Special thanks to Ben Bowman for this week's entry)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Debunking Common Myths in Modern Christianity

1) The consumption of alcohol is not innately sinful.

2) EDIT: Jesus is not a Republican. Or a Democrat.

3) Reading Harry Potter does not make you a witch/wizard.

4) Homosexuals are not sub-human.

5) EDIT: The great majority of us disagree with Jerry Falwell.

6) Pokemon is not a tool of the devil.

7) "Secular" music is not a bad thing.

NEWS: The Facebook Group is up and running. We're sitting at 77 members right now, and the group is open, so feel free to join.

More coming later this week.