Look Up

I am a thinker. A ponderer. I grew up like this. My mother’s voice creeps in from time to time saying “Scott, you think too much”, to which I would respond “That doesn’t make sense”.

My mind is often swirling and shifting. I like to learn. I like to wrestle. I like to be able to understand. In recent fits of thought, my mother’s voice has been a voice of reason.
I can find myself staring at the space before me. If I am in a forest, it is the fern covered floor. If I am on a beach, all I ever see is the sand. I am starting to believe that this pattern is telling. I only go to these places when thinking and wrestling no longer serve me. I can get caught up. I get swept away in a tormenting wave of questions and anxieties.

I can get caught up. I get swept away in a tormenting wave of questions and anxieties. These fits are always to do with relationship. It could be any relationship. And since it has to do with relationship, it matters. It matters more than anything else to me.

I do not always find my way out of this place. I can go days feeling like my own heart is ajar. Recently, however, I have found a medicine. I have found an aid in my moments of embattled silence.

I first encountered this when I was young and was reminded of it one day on the beach. As I sat, literally hiding from the world of responsibilities behind me and my eyes on the sand, I felt like I heard God again.

 

“Look up”

When I looked up I slowly found my peace.

My eyes rolled to the sea, where nature’s power was on display.

And as the waves danced in blue and gray, I inhaled.

My eyes climbed to the mountain across the water and were caught by the poetry of hard rock covered in green and earth-tones.

And all while I was being sucked into the scene, I was becoming smaller.

I saw a line called horizon and it’s form was the legend of mystics and travelers.

I waited there.

This was all I needed.

Yet still, I felt my chin raise.

And there I found her.

The deep and wide.

The ancient conceivable.

The outstretched sky.

And she looked back as if she was wanting me to remember.

And I did.

I remember when I watched her all night

Either alone or with my dearest of friends

I loved her. I was committed to her.

I counted it a sin not to recognize her on a daily basis,

I had forgotten her.

I had forgotten the comfort she always offers but never forces.

I had taken for granted her expense for she was always there

And there she will be until the end of time.

She was my closest teacher.

She let me know of hope, dreams, creativity, love, and of her maker.

I am returning to her classroom as if I had never started.

I am learning once again to look up

I wonder how many others need her, even tonight.

I picture refugees in the need of hope and I pray “Look up”

I see a man as he slips into a fit of doubt and anger and I pray “Look up”

I see a girl hoping to see her love again and I pray “Look up”

I see the sand and I pray “Look up”

And as I look up I pray “Fall in”

 
Mom, you were right.
-Scott

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Donkeys or Death

I have to come clean. I am always tempted to write as a response to something I read or see. I am always wanting to seriously challenge the status quo of life, faith, and anything else I can get my hands on. I used to write about what inspired me, but I think I have been injected with a dosage of cynicism. That all being said, I write to you today in the balance. I do not come to angerly shake you up, but to challenge you. I hope my motive in writing is and continues to be love and love alone.

This past weekend I had the pleasure to hang around author and pastor of Word of Life Church, Brian Zahnd and his lovely wife Perry.  I put in a few hours of work with a friend and co-worker to plan events where Zahnd could speak in Belfast. It was my friend’s idea and I just simply helped implement it all. Zahnd himself is a great author and speaker, I do recommend his contribution as a valuable voice during today’s political hubabaloo. Check him out.

While with the Zahnds I sat in almost 8 hours worth of teachings and preachings. I re-heard a lot of his baseline points. The one I want to chat about is what he says about the four horsemen of the Apocolypse.

“These are the four horsemen of the Apocalypse that keep galloping across history. The white horse of conquest, followed by the red horse of war, followed by the black horse of famine, followed by the pale horse of death. Put it on repeat and you have world history. -Brian Zahnd”

In his preachings, he highlighted the first horsemen the clearest. He talked about how many “dudes on horses” he has seen at the center of almost every city in the world. He claims that “everyone has a dude riding a horse” and to him, they’re nobody special, thought hey may be special to that nation. In American history, we have many dudes on horses.

In American history, we have many dudes on horses. The horse is never black for the men of conquest. They are always the hero’s horse, white, and ever-so-pure. These are our nation’s pioneers and saviors.  From our perspective, they are worth revering. But if we dig a little deeper, and look a little longer, we know it is not that easy. We know there is always two sides to history. Behind every white horse is the red, then the black, then the pale.

The tricky part in all of this is that when our “white horsemen” set out, we put our hope in them. We put our hope in our politicians, in our generals, and our activists. These are the white horsemen of today. We even go as far as to claim that the support of this white horsemen is part of our identity. We become entangled in being defined by our political views and our political parties and to Christians, I say “Watch out”

Have you ever wondered why Christians were murdered in the first century? I have heard many people’s opinion on this matter. One is that the enemy wanted to snuff out Christians. That may be, but I do not think that is the whole picture. I think Christians were so viciously persecuted for their political views. It was not a question of what they thought about abortion or refugees but a question of who is on the throne.

Christians would go around preaching “Jesus is Lord”. To us now, this can seem like a simple spiritual truth. In our (seemingly) Christianized western world, “Jesus is Lord” is not a controversial statement. It is everywhere. The cringy street preachers have it painted on their chest. To the Roman Empire, these three words were a threat. To them Ceaser is Lord. Ceaser runs the show. For this reason, they murdered the men and women who dared to defy Ceaser as Lord and confess Christ. They understood something that we do not. Jesus’ Lordship is for today and now and is worth dying for.

What does this have to do with our first horsemen?

To break the cycle of the horsemen, we must not put our faith in anyone but Christ. We must first look to Christian policies put forth by the very mouth of God and live these out. By that I mean, Jesus has taught us how to deal with our enemies. Jesus showed us what to do with members of another belief system. Jesus exhibited how to treat men and women caught in their crimes. Jesus showed us how to respond to attack.

Jesus rode in on a donkey. He did not come as a hero to be praised. He came as a servant to die. His resurrection means that what he says shall be.

I grew up hearing that I must accept Jesus as my “personal” Lord and savior. I say amen to that. I would go another step further. Jesus did not come to be your personal savior, he came to save the world. How can Jesus save the world when he is only the Lord of my “person” and not the Lord of my world? Jesus came for all. Our hope needs to be in him.

I am not telling you to give up politics, but I am telling you to put your political viewpoints at Jesus’ feet and allow him to give what he thinks you should have back. If it is coming from Jesus, it’s worth keeping. If it looks like taking up your own cross and denying yourself, then you’re on the right track.

Bottom line, our white horsemen may offer salvation through conquest, but that will lead nowhere but death. Manifest Destiny is a murder campaign, not a nation innocently discovering more land that God has awarded to them because they like to pray to Jesus.

I do not want to pick on one white horseman more than another, they are all ugly. That being said, we have a clear picture of one as Commander and Cheif in the U.S. He is on a conquest to “Make America Great Again”. I do not think D.J.Trump is the devil, but he took the beautiful message of redemption and twisted it to serve himself and his tribe. The enemy loves to take a truth and twist it ever so slightly. I am not saying the other side is correct and righteous either. We all know that is not the truth.

We do not need any more horses and heroes. We need more servants and forgiveness.

Give me donkeys or give me death!

Will you accept Jesus as your Global Lord and Saviour?

A Voter’s Guide to Redemption


Disclaimer:I recognize that this post may be polarizing and I am certain it may anger some people. I want to respond to that anger preemptively in saying this; I do not claim to have all knowledge and understanding on this topic, but I do believe in what I am saying. I say that because, though I do believe in what I am saying, I am aware of the world enough to know I don’t know it all. I am a man, honest enough to admit I have been wrong so many times before and I could be now. If you have anger towards what I say, feel free to comment how you feel, but do not assume I will engage in an endless pissing contest of bible verses that look a lot like daggers and immature doctrine.

If you are a friend of mine on Facebook, you may have seen a post I wrote about America’s current political situation, and if you read it, I hope you could tell that what I was expressed is for every situation, not just America. If you’re my friend in real life, you’d know that I follow politics. I have my own opinions that are shaped by many different sources. I am actually quite passionate about politics, which is puzzling due to the fact that nothing can baffle me more than politicians and their followers. In this post I attempt to outline a bit of what I see and my commentary on America’s parody of a presidential race. I will express my opinion as it relates to people who share similar beliefs about God. I want to say this; I believe God is in the business of redemption. I think God’s intentions towards all of our world is not primarily to condemn but primarily to redeem and beautify. My views are influenced by this idea that Jesus really is good. Not only is he good, he is relevant. Not only is he relevant to our personal soul, but to our systems. I pray that whomever reads this post, and does not share in similar beliefs about God, may find hope in what I say. I hope I can redeem, what I believe to be, true Christian beliefs in your eyes a bit more.

I look around, to my left and to my right, and I must lament. 

On one side we have a man who is honest about his hostility towards his enemies. A man who requests the exclusion of Muslims from a safer life and a future for their bloodline and traditions. A man who calls for a ban on humans. A ban on fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, the elderly, infants, unborn children, and mentally disabled because they worship a different God. A man who wants a ban on those who are considered to be in the greatest need of help and hospitality. A man who is angry. A man who gets away with too much and claims he could literally get away with murder.

On the other side, we have a woman who is seemingly power hungry. A woman who is in the pocket of one of the greatest forces against humanity. Some would call that force “Big Business” but I call it greed and it’s the root of all evil. A woman who continually lies to the very people she claims she wants to help. A woman who manipulates the poor. A woman who panders to the highest voters. A woman who simply cannot be believed, do to her track record. A woman who has been proven to have forsaken her own people, and get away with it.

One of these two people (who obviously lack the credibility to) are meant to become “The Leader of the Free World”

So what’s my take on the situation at hand? That’s why you’re here right? Well I’ll tell you!

There is an issue with the angry crowd. The angry crowd on the right hates the left and the angry crowd on the left hates the right. The angry crowd (on both sides) chooses to believe lies. The angry crowd allows their leader to tell lies because “That’s how it is”. The angry crowd is driven by fear. The angry crowd is uneducated. The angry crowd is full of compromise. The angry crowd, by nature, can not assume it way be wrong. The angry crowd is always wrong. If you are a part of the angry crowd, step outside of the mob. Stop the search for the next lynch victim and breathe. Try listening to the other side. The Right Wing and the Left Wing are meant to work together. A bird with one wing cannot fly. A house divided will fall. They are not your enemy, they are your brothers and sisters. There is no “them” only us. Only human. Only image bearers.

The alternative is joining a group of thinking that seeks to build and progress. Enter into the redemption business. Think not how you can condemn and lynch but how you can make peace. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons and daughters of God. If you’re a peacemaker, your in the family business of redemption. 
Now that is out of the way, here is the topic I struggle with more. I see American church leaders endorsing these two. I find this highly dangerous and unsettling to say the least. I have seen a well known artist question his own listeners’ allegiance to God and their very salvation if they considered voting for Clinton. I watched as a preacher proclaimed that democracy and democratic values are the same of Christ himself. I’ve seen leaders, whom I have great affinity and respect for, endorse a lesser of two evils. Why is this a problem? I don’t think God takes sides.

The Church’s primary function is to reflect Christ. If you can tell me with a strait face that Christ would vote for Trump because he is pro-life or Clinton because she is taking care of the poor, than I am certain we do not have the same ideas about Jesus. I assure you, the Jesus of the Bible would not endorse anyone who’s resolution to an issue included a plan to “intentionally kill families” of his or her enemies. The Jesus of the Bible would not endorse someone whom lacks the integrity that he requests from us. 

Now, a person can endorse and vote for whomever they’d like. Some would say that voting is their duty. Still, as a leader of the body of Christ, I feel as if they should at least express that this is their personal opinion, not the opinion of “The Church” or even “Evangelicals”.

When I say endorse, what I really mean is to agree with that persons means and ends. To endorse is to definitively say that this person is the answer of this puzzling election. To endorse is to proclaim America’s 4 year savior. The person who gives an endorsement typically believe that either, this person is the best for the job or this person is better than the other person. Jesus is not looking for a flawed human to be the savior of America. Jesus is not looking for the one who “at least isn’t the other”. Jesus is not trying to get the right person in office to “Make America Great Again” and he does not belong to the school of thought that screams “America is Already Great”. I don’t remember Jesus preaching “Pax Romana”.

Jesus constantly preached peace. The “Pax Romana” or “Roman Peace” was found by squashing anyone who dared rise up to oppose the Empire. Roman peace was enemy hate. Jesus preached enemy love. Jesus told us to “bless those who persecute you” and “turn the other cheek”. It is plainly stated in the Sermon on the Mount. I’m sure you’ve grown up with exceptions to this. I myself, until recent, have made up exceptions that made me more comfortable as a “true blood American patriot.” In Brian Zahnd’s “Farewell to Mars”, I believe he hits this issue on the head when he wrote:

“Creating exemptions for the Sermon on the Mount and explaining when and where Jesus’s teaching does not apply is fine (in theory, I suppose); but at some point you have to decide what Jesus did mean with his kingdom imperatives on nonviolence and enemy love.”
And
“If our default response to this portion of the Sermon on the Mount is to craft exemptions, we might give the impression that we really don’t believe in Jesus’ ideas of nonviolent resistance and enemy love at all.”

If we do not take the whole Kingdom, do we believe in any of it? We grow up hearing we cannot pick and choose from other religions, correct? Well, chances are, you’ve been picking and choosing in your own. Be careful with this practice. When we do this, we are simply trying to fit Jesus into who we think he should be. We are comfortable with the Jesus who hates our enemies and wants us to bomb them, that’s easy, that’s even pragmatic. The Jews were also comfortable with the idea of a militant messiah, which is why when Jesus was revealed to be the messiah, they beckoned their government to murder him. The idea of a non-violent, enemy loving messiah simply could not be true. He must conform or die. Let’s learn from our spiritual ancestors and take Jesus as he says he is. There is a need for interpretation, but we must do so carefully and in context of the cross.

This is Jesus! He is the embodiment of God whom is defined on the cross, pleading for forgiveness for us as we commit the greatest sin of all human history! Diecide! The murdering of God! Rome’s way of solving issues was to lie to itself so that it could hang the problem on a cross, to murder the problem, to destroy the troublemaker, though he is not guilty! Jesus’ way of solving the problem is a Kingdom of Love based on radical forgiveness! Jesus established this Kingdom of Love not by killing the problem, but by dying for the troublemakers! It is as if Luke surrendered himself to the Emperor to die, instead of destroying the Death Star! It doesn’t make sense, unless we know what Kingdom is being established. If Rome was established by killing “them”, Jesus’ Kingdom of Love was established by the greatest act of love, expressed in forgiveness, so that “them” may become “us”. Rome was systematically xenophobic! Jesus and his Kingdom of Love is systematically xenophilic! Jesus’ Kingdom is, by nature, anti-empire! Anti-Rome!

Am I being clear? Rome is you and I! We think as the Romans did! The true blood patriots, like I once was, would be among those shouting “Crucify Him!” to Jesus’ ideas of peace. Yet, Jesus’ response to our beating of his weakened body was mercy. When we spat in his face, he chose to remain under the shame of the world. When we gripped his beard and tore it out, he took another step towards Golgotha. When we nailed him to a tree, raised him up, naked, and stabbed his side after mocking him and gambling for his clothes, he revealed the very nature of God and his kingdom. 

When we cried, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him”, Jesus responded with a cry of his own. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” This is the gospel! This is the good news! The lord is gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love! 

Knowing who Jesus is; an xenophilic, enemy loving, forgiveness addict. It doesn’t seem like he would be excited to endorse either or any of these candidates. The question then comes, who would Jesus endorse?

I don’t know. Obviously, not anyone this year. No, not even the surgeon. I’m leaning towards believing that Jesus wouldn’t endorse anyone for president, ever. I don’t think he ever has. I do believe, however, that God is involved in what happens in government. I do not think he appoints all leaders as Romans 13 1-7 seems to teach (doing more research may give you another idea). If you’re ok with believing that God appointed Adolf Hitler to judge the Jews, gays, mentally ill, mentally disabled, Jehovah’s witnesses, gypsies, and anyone who did not buy into his hateful rhetoric for their sins, than at least you consistent. If you’re like me, and that sounds fishy to say the least, than let me wrap this up.

 I know that might be hard to swallow, so let me elaborate. The only person, I assume, Jesus would endorse for President of anywhere and everywhere is Jesus. Jesus has brought his Kingdom and died for it. The resurrection was all of Heaven endorsing the Lamb. The overruling of death, the greatest law of the land, screams of a heavenly endorsement. Heaven sang “Jesus for president”. In other words, Jesus is Lord.

Jesus hasn’t run for president because Jesus is Lord! Jesus came to redeem our systematic flaws! Jesus came to give us a better way! The king of kings!

Jesus has not selected America as the second Israel either. Jesus cares about those Muslims as much as he does you, yes even the murderous ones (however few in comparison to the peaceful ones). Jesus cares just as much about Donald J. Trump and Hillary R. Clinton as he does your children. This is the Gospel! It turns out, God really is love! And love seeks the betterment and redemption of all things! Yes even America!

So, let me conclude. God cares deeply about America, and cares just as deeply about everywhere else. God cherishes man, and man lives under their own government. I think he cares about what happens this election season. God is love and I think he cares far more than we ever could. But, the God of love and his ideas are not able to endorse candidates that express the very thing he seeks to redeem the world from. Jesus came to save the world, and that doesn’t JUST mean salvation. It’s not only about the sweet by and by. Jesus has ideas for the now. Get aquatinted.

The voter’s guide to redemption is this: live out the ideas of Jesus and you will see redemption.

Vote for whomever you like, I really don’t care, just know there is no absolutely correct answer. There is only angry mobs and compromise.

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Put Down Your Stones

IMG_0635I am glad that I am a from a country that allows peaceful protests. When I see people protest on the behalf of Christian ethics or what they interpret as “God’s will”, I want to implode. Christians will protest anytime they feel like our community’s morality is being threatened by what the world sees as social progression. For instance, in America, Target (sometimes pronounced tar-shay) has moved to allow an individual to use whatever restroom they feel appropriate for their sexuality. Some Christians took to Facebook or even picket lines to express their disapproval. I know this isn’t exactly news to anyone but I am calling for some self-examination.

Once the news about Target hit, the Christian world went to an uproar. We all saw the Facebook posts. We all sat silently next to our pissed off relatives while they spewed their poison about transgenders and homosexuals. We heard the fear mongers dish up worst case scenarios about pedophilia, rape, and abuse of freedom. We all know someone who said, “Well, they lost my business”. A lovely thing about God is that he allows us to seethe in anger and hate and fear. It may not sound lovely at first, but the alternative is God smacking you in the back of the head because your response to something you regard as ugly or wrong does not reflect that of the one who has shown us how to live. Luckily, God doesn’t smack us in the back of the head. God made latinos, that doesn’t mean he is one. I’m latino, kind of, I can say that right?

To respond to the world’s brokenness with an outburst of anger and frustration is a response that resembles the very world we are discontent with. Heaven has offered another way.

Before I go on, I want to say that I am not convinced someone identifying with the opposite sex is inherently sinful either. The verses that Christians tend to bend into stabbing tools against homosexuality and anything they are uncomfortable with are typically talking about sexual sin. That is, sex being abused. Sex outside of marriage is stressed in the bible as a terrible thing for your soul. Sex outside of marriage is also what you do when you undress someone with your eyes and fantasize about them. All of this lands in the same boat called the “S.S. Don’t Do It.” If we place homosexual sex on a higher level of the evil scale than looking at nudie magazines and eating too much (gluttony), we are disillusioned, we are ostracizing people from the love of God and obviously missing the point. I’ll return to that.

 So if not boycott and protest, if not go on Facebook rants, if not tell off the broken for being broken, if not send a petition around to tera-form this fallen place into our perfect Christian world, what do we do? Do we support Target? Do we shop there? Do we just hold in our wee when we shop? I don’t know, that is your decision. I can tell you what we don’t do. What we don’t do is attack those who we view as acting in such a way that is not aligned with our morals and beliefs. We don’t inflict our perception of God’s will on our neighbors who are not following our God. This goal of social conversion via force is the type of thinking that got us into the crusades. We are not God’s anointed enforcers. We don’t protest on God’s behalf.

When we go down this route, I believe we truly have the best intentions. In our minds, we are helping them. In our minds, we are trying to save them. I would say some of us even have pure hearts in expressing our dissatisfied views in hopes of “opening the eyes” of “non-Christians”. There are a few things I want to address within this idea of social and political protest via a public display of discontentment and disdain for the direction in which our world is rolling. If you want to change the world from a place of pain and suffering into a beautiful place that has cultivated love, if you want to see hate and bigotry become a relic of the past, like I do, I do not think you are going about it the right way.

I believe the Christening of current politics has been proven to not be God’s response to moral social decay. There is a reason God did not send Jesus to politically overthrow the Roman empire. There is a reason Jesus did not send the angels to crush the Roman guard that came to lead him to his death. There is a reason that no leader has ever represented God in a true and pure way or ever will for that matter. God does not desire a better version of our faulty system. God does not want to beautify the Roman empire, he wants to build a new Jerusalem. God does not want to make America great again. God wants his Kingdom established, and that Kingdom is not built by a revolutionary war or an overthrowing of the old ruler, but it has been built upon this:

The very King, who is Lord of all, died for the hearts of those who oppose him. God does not desire political revolution but he desires the revival in the heart of Adam.


How will this ever happen? Well, it happened in the middle east about 2,000 years ago. Jesus not only laid the cornerstone down for this new Kingdom with his life at Golgotha, but this man came and lived differently in the world. This man chose not to live within the systems of the world. He chose to act outside of the systems of shame, condemnation, perfectionism (though he was perfect), power and racism. This man came and instead of protesting what he perceived as poor actions and dirty behavior, instead of condemning the different and mucky souls that made his community a bit less safe and a bit less holy, he said to the morally unacceptable “Come and drink. Come and eat”. He did the exact opposite of our silly little protests and demonstrations do and he saw the opposite results.

You see, when you protest, as in, stand in front of a state building and somehow express that you with the Christian God, you make God a part of your protest. When you go about holding posters of protest, or you call your friends and followers to boycott a business for their different views on morality and bathroom policies, it says to the world that God is against them. You may not want to convey this message, but once you identify with Christianity or even protest in God’s name, it communicates an incoherent gospel. It communicates that God is angry or discontent with them. It portrays the lie that God condemns them for their behavior. Thats how I would read it. That might even be how you are writing it.

God is not against them. He is not against anyone. I could scream this. There is no such person that God is against. He proved his love for all people on the cross. Love is not against anyone, that is not love, that is hate. But you may think you are trying to preserve order and morality. You might even believe this is what Jesus was asking you to do in saying “You are the salt of the earth”. So let me tell you a story about that man I was talking about earlier.

 So this man, he was ruffling feathers wherever he went. He was not ruffling feathers so that feathers would be ruffled, no. The feather ruffling happened because he was, because He Is. One day, the ruffled feathers wanted to make themselves more comfortable by tripping up this man. The ruffled feathers brought before this man, a girl. This girl had done bad things. She had adorned herself in immoral activities to cover her already insurmountable shame of existence. For the girl, this may have been the worst moment in her life. The feathers asked the man if they should kill her for her ugly actions. You see, to the feathers, this girl was deserving. She knew the rules, she knew what happens to people like her. The feathers wanted a public protest of her actions. They wanted to keep their societies moral and Godly. They came with their own posters and signs. Their signs looked a lot like stones, but they were raised just the same, pointed at the thing their misunderstanding of God must hate.

The feathers knew a lot. In their minds, they knew it all. Yet, they didn’t know a very important detail about who the man was who ruffled their feathers. This man was exactly like God. They were trying to trip up God. So what did this man do?

He told the feathers that if they didn’t have the same shame the girl had, they can continue with their public protest.

The older and wiser feathers knew that they were had. They were the first ones to abandon their signs that read “You are sinful and God is against you”. One after another, the feathers went on their way and with each step, became more and more ruffled. After some time, it was just the girl and the man. The man said to the girl “I know you must be hurting, I know you might even want to die. I don’t want you to die, I want you to live. I want to give you a new life. I want you to live a free life. Free from people with ruffled feathers. Free from your own self hatred. I know you have already been through hell, so I am not here to drag you through more. I hope you know that you are beautiful. I hope you know that your very heart and soul is beautiful. Please know that you are made for more than this pain and embarrassment. I know that you are worthy to be loved, and maybe one day you will learn that for yourself. Take care, little girl and keep your eyes open because your daddy is looking for you.”


Jesus’ response to sin and immorality is not protest, anger, or intolerance. We know that God is like Jesus. That Jesus is the perfect representation of God. Brian Zahnd says something along the lines of “Jesus came to show us two things. The first is, he came to show us what God was like. The second is, he came to show us how to be human”

I want to make it clear that this is not about being tolerant to sin. Rather, this is about being more than tolerant to sin, this is about truly loving people. I have grown tired of hearing that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. Show me the texts that justify such a teaching on the character and nature of God. It must be found in the character of Jesus to be valid proof.  I would love to see what parable or story involving Jesus you try to twist to save your feathers from being ruffled. If an attribute of God is not found in Jesus, it must be put on trial. Still, I get what you are saying, but I just don’t think God fits into your idea of him. Anne Lamott puts it this way, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” I don’t think God hates people.

I want to propose a different way.

God loves people. People can do whatever they want because God gave them the free will to choose. They can even hate God. The can spit in his very face, and he responds with loving them. There is nothing any person can do that would make God against them. If God is against someone, that means the cross didn’t work. People tend to do things that God wishes they didn’t. God knows that the hurtful things they do will result in their own pain, so he doesn’t want them to do those things. Yet, God is less concerned about the things people do, and is more concerned with their hearts. He wants their heats to be heathy because it would make heathy people. He loves people, so he wants them to be healthy. God loves people.

I think that when we raise our posters, we are only harming. I propose that it is simply not the best way for change. You want to bring real change? Step out of your pew and meet someone’s needs. Go and show the people who you are so tempted to judge that mercy has come for them. Go and stand before the very throne of God and ask him for some help with that plank in your eye.

So next time you are picking out the sharp and heavy arguments, next time you’re ready to raise your stones, remember that you are not helping them. You are hurting God’s image in the eyes of these broken souls. I am not talking about transgenders anymore. i am talking about us. Humanity. Redeemed or not, we are in need of mercy. Justified or not, we are in need of the correct view of God. Once we see what God is really like, we will be drawn into him because he is beautiful. Can’t you see that Jesus’ way is anti-the worlds? While the world goes on shouting at congressmen in coffee shops, Jesus is going to the tax collectors house for a sit down chat and some hummus. The world’s way causes isolation and condemnation, Jesus’ way causes men and women who need help to be drawn to the very source of true healing and restorative change. Be like God instead. Sure, you can choose not to shop at Target if you want, who cares? But do not be the one spouting off your anger and frustration with sin in the world. Put the stones down.

Stop wagging your moral finger. The only sin Jesus called out was those of the people who pressed on as if they had all the answers and none of the junk of their fathers. Take the 2×4 out of your eye, and love mercy.

Look at the life of Jesus, that is our answer.

By the way, I think this post proves I need to write more because I am as rusty as a computer generated tow-truck voiced by Larry the Cable Guy.

Much love,

Scott

Monsters, like us

12921098_1167167956629533_1231113242_n.jpgHere is my second post written in India. This one is by the end of my trip and I think it is a very different type of piece. India was a hard trip but when there is trouble, there is growth and revelation. Enjoy

I have been uninterested to write and post my writings for the last two months. That could be for a multitude of reasons. None of which I am willing to point out and dissect. It could be because I was in India again. The smells and colors may just naturally engage us to our surroundings more than usual. Maybe it was the new mantle of leadership and the pressures involved. Perhaps it was because my days, though beautiful and full of life, were long and I found myself at the end of them clambering for peace. Nevertheless I am here now with questions without clear answers. I came to India 2 years ago and had my first great adventure. Staying in one of the biggest cities in the world, Delhi had me confused. You have a growing metropolitan skyline trying to blend with an ancient culture and it’s ruins. You have some of the richest companies in the world and out of their front door are the most impoverished children in the world. They make eye contact everyday through clear walls called windows that have this magical way of making the members of both parties on either side of the dichotomy disappear. I loved and hated India. I loved the people and hated the evil things. I left and found myself calling this nation hell on earth. A hell on earth that I wanted to return to and love more. I was young and quick to judge. I couldn’t see beauty like I do now and I thought I had all the right answers. How foolish is the teenager with responsibility and conviction.

As I returned to India, I started in an entirely different place with a different culture, language and wonders. More coconuts, less street kids. At first I was worried that my trip would be too comfortable. But as you would know if you spent any real time with real India, you’d know that in India, nothing is as it seems. Even time itself stretches to the Indian. As I was acclimating to South Indian living, I was being challenged in the ways India seemed necessary.

South India taught me to be steadfast. South India taught me that Propaganda (artist) was right when he said that “Worth, value and beauty are not determined by some innate quality but by the length of which the owner would go to possess them.” That since Christ came for me, it shows that I am valuable and important and beautiful. Not just me but you too. All of us. The South Indians, North Indians and even Donald Trump.

I left the beauty and serenity of the South and headed north. First to Goa, I’ll touch on that some other time, then to Delhi. I was in Delhi for 10 days and the truth is I saw all of the things in me that would prove Propaganda wrong. I saw my anger, selfishness, pride, and the vile parts of me. I could be a typical son of Adam to blame India for the ways I was acting. It’s India’s fault I was angry because I was constantly being ripped off by the locals, or that I was selfish because the last 6 months of my life were about 20 other people and I didn’t have time to focus on myself. I could even say that it was because of exhaustion. I could say that I was so tired, I just shut off trying to be patient or kind. We all know that none of these things are really the issue. Just like I do not believe that power corrupts, rather, power shows our corruption. I believe nothing can make me an angry person, or a broken man. No, I think circumstances show us what we already are.

This played out most drastically when I had the pleasure to meet a few women whom suffered and survived acid attacks. An acid attack is when highly corrosive acid is thrown at a person’s face to scar them for life or even kill them. Since India is a shame based patriarchal society, this typically happens to women for whatever reason. I heard stories about in-laws throwing acid, husbands, and even strangers. I heard about young women watching their face literally melt off because they hadn’t produced male children. This horrific act baffled me.

I thought to myself, “Why would a human think that is an appropriate response to anything? How could anyone do such a thing? What evil is this?” But while I was wrestling with this, another thought shot across my heart. “What would I do to the man who did this to these poor girls if I had him in the same room?” Which lead to the missing piece to my questions. “What would I do to a man if he did this to the women I love the most?” And do you know what I thought of? I thought of going out, finding the place where he got his acid and getting my own. Then I would find him, if I had not already and I would slowly let that man recognize what he did to my friend. Maybe in one toss or drop by drop. I would give him a mirror and make him regret even having the money to buy the acid. I wouldn’t care if he lived or died, just that he knows he hurt my friend and that’s why he is hurting.

I thought all of this. Me. If you know me, you may be shocked at this. I am a man of piece and love. I get called a liberal and hippie every few hours. Just the other day I thought to myself “Why should I kill this fly? He is just trying to live like me, why is he my enemy?” Now I still would literally hurt a fly, but you get what I am trying to say. I do not have torturous or murderous thoughts on a regular or even semi regular basis. But here I am. Those thoughts were mine and mine alone. They weren’t of forgiveness and love. They were of vengeance and death. I recognized this while explaining to my team the truth of these men needing a savior.

When I finished this idea about humanity and our own depravity and darkness, I was side blinded by the fact that I am the same as them.

I wept. Right there, as the attention passed away from me I silently let tears stream down my face. They wouldn’t stop. My darkness could not hide in this moment, no twisting or turning from the light. I was exposed and broken for it. Broken not in despair but in thankfulness.

The truth is, I have a savior. I have an incredible King and friend who came down for me. Who came and lived among these ugly things that were just like me. He ate with us, taught us, and even washed our filthy feet. Then he said I want you forever. So he died. He subjected himself to forever love these ugly things he calls darling. He bled so we could be with him. He called these monsters worthy, valuable and beautiful. As Propaganda put it “And broken and ugly things, just like us, are stamped excellent with ink tapped in wells of divine veins” and so I wept. I cried for another half hour on my own time because I couldn’t get past the idea that God saw me in my darkness. And this murderous heart was the thing he wanted most. The God that died for love is mine. What do we call this concept? This revolutionary idea? There’s a few songs about it but the most widely known is a little number my mother would sing to me when I was afraid of the monsters in my room. She would come in, stroke my hair and sing “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found. Was blind but now I see.

I was interacting with grace yet again. Deeper than before, or perhaps from another angle, but differently nonetheless. When I feel like I get it, I’ll probably need another dosage. That’s our lives isn’t it? It is about us interacting with grace with the help of others and the Holy Spirit. So as tears streamed, my heart was being healed by changing, enabling grace. Use whatever metaphor you’d like; stone to flesh, broken being mended, dead being raised, they all work. (Also, I am no English major, I am sure you’ve all been able to pick apart my posts when it comes to spelling and grammar. That semicolon was me stepping out in risk. I hope I used it right. Don’t tell me if I didn’t…Or do. I don’t care.[Saying “I don’t care” is a defense mechanism that teenage girls use and it usually never works])

Even now as I look back on my precious interaction with the Holy Spirit, I am fragile. I want to go back to that place. God doesn’t want to take me back though. I assume that, at least. I think he wants me to move on to a better place. Whether deeper or different all together, God is always wanting more. I heard an amazing woman say “You can have as much of God as you want” and it sent chills down my spine. What a convicting thought. I won’t delve into the ramifications of that statement, but I can tell you my response. More.

Give me more tears. Give me more fragility. Give me more stretching revelation. Give me more understand of his heart. Give me more passion to love him. I don’t care about going to another nation or seeing another wonder of the world, I want to see him. I don’t care to swim in another ocean if it means I can’t dive deeper into his endless being. In part, this is because I know the good of it all and I know that’s where I belong but on a more personal and less theological note, I know that I still need a savior. I know the song Amazing Grace is almost correct. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful but it paints a picture of arriving. I am still lost, yes, less lost than I was and I am found in Christ but I know I am still lost. I am still blind, I see more clearly but my vision is not perfect. I am still a wretch and I am saved, but I continually need to be saved from myself. I guess that’s why that song is so popular. Maybe it’s more about being reminded of our need of this grace and less about reminding ourself that we once were monsters but now we are all peaches.

I’ll shut up now. Thanks for reading, that is if you actually finished this thing. If not, I don’t care (I do)

I’m excited to write more soon so stay tuned. Or don’t, I don’t care (Yes I do, tell your friends)
Scott Sotomayor

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Between Sand + Sky

   The following was written about 2 and a half months ago. I hadn’t the time or availability to complete it and post it until recent. I rarely reread my writings but I kind of had to today. I like this one. I’m a bit more romantic than usual. Hope you enjoy it as well.

I am here in India after over 24 hours of travel. It has been absolutely hectic so far. We have not even made it to our final destination for the next 5 weeks. We are staying overnight on the beach. Last night we stayed in a cheap hotel in Mumbai. The rooms we had were smokey and cold but we survived. I felt like I lead my team into a trap, I mean the place was so dodgy. I think they all lost faith in me the moment we pulled up to this hole in the wall with slums on all sides. Once we got inside, they regained what they lost, it wasn’t the ritz but hey we are alive and well. Nobody was robbed and I made a friend. To summarize, the last 24 hours have been exhausting physically, spiritually and emotionally. Leading a group of 11 total is some pressure you know? 

As we drove in to Kappad this afternoon, I couldn’t help but contain my relief. I saw what my heart needed. I saw the ocean. The Arabian Sea was calling my name about 2 hours before sunset. I checked in my team, gave them the low-down and went to the beach to swim. The sun was dropping on a perfect horizon with fishing boats speckled too-and-fro. The water was salty. The temperature of the water made it feel more like silk than water. 

When sun chose to sink into the night, she left in style. She painted with strokes of blood orange and passion fruit. She made sure there weren’t any clouds in the sky for tonight, she saw me coming I guess. She told me a familiar story. A story she has told me in different places but it always have a different ending. 

The story is about a young kid from an old town. He grew up good, heathy, and as he got older he became more alive. When he hit the age of decisions he chose to do what he thought everyone ought to do. He chose yes. He said yes to whatever his father had for him. When the time came, he entered a new season in an even older town, more like a wee village really. A green island whispered to him truth. Truth of him, and truth of the rest of the world. He was submerged into a gathering of people who loved who he loved. They grew together. They challenged one another. They fought for one another. They laughed and cried in the same sentence. They had love. They knew love well and when you have something like love, you want to share it. They broke up so they could cover more ground. 

Some went south. It was hot there, but they danced. They ate barbecue on the beach, and talked about what they had with people who didn’t have it yet. They saw people want Jesus for the first time. 

Another group went to a holy place. A place where they fried chickpeas and ate them with bread. A place with mint green tea and a love for community. They saw great works of reconciliation amongst a divided humanity. They saw people want Jesus more. 

The last group went to a far foreign place. They went to a city where the pollution pretended to be air. They went to a place where a child could be dying on the street while a man got richer. They went to a hardened place. The people there would stare unapologetically at the group because their skin was like ivory and their hair was like gold. The kid from the beginning was in this place with he polluted air and dying children. He found a lot in this strange and foreign land. He found that people are worth everything. He found that Jesus truly is greater than money. He found that Jesus was as real as he said he was. That men would be healed on the streets if we would just trust him. He found the deepest and truest of beauties that he has known. He saw a poor family give him what they had. He saw that God really was in this land of many lower-case-g gods. By the end of his trip he realized that though he gave these people everything, he received far more. He received from his father the answer to his burning questions. You know, the life sized ones. He was let in on the secrets that created philosophy and tears apart people groups. He found out what life was meant to be like. What it’s purpose is. He found out what his purpose was. He learned that all of life fits into the following words; to love God and to love others. The only variables left were where to do this type of loving and how to do it. Who to love wasn’t a question in his heart. The answer has to always be everyone. So with this new lifeblood he pressed on and his story continued loving God and loving people.

He went to the world to do what he knew he had to do. Time passed and he went from unfamiliar places to his home and back to the unfamiliar with the intent to make the green lush island his new familiar. He grew more each day. The kid was becoming a man. The hair on his face matched the growth in his life. He learned how to fight and what to fight for. He learned how to help anyone who wanted it and how to show those who didn’t want it that they needed it. He knew they needed it because he needed it. He new all of us needs it. With this growth he went to another place and swam in another sea. This place had misplaced people sleeping in banana plantations. This place had a need for stability. This place needed to reconcile. This place had the best meat. In this sea was the first time this man ever let the sun speak. 

There he was, suspended between sand and sky, surrounded by one of his first loves watching as another one went to sleep. And when the sun was half way in the water she whispered to him this very story. Again he was reminded that his life is as good as it is because of his principles. His passion to love God and love people lead him here and he knew that and he loved that. That the kid from the old town is now in foreign lands with beautiful people because he said yes. He found it baffling. He still does.

This story is my reminder. God reminds me that I came from small beginnings. He reminds me where I started and excites me for where I might finish. He encourages me to keep saying yes no matter the cost. To keep saying yes no matter the pain or loneliness or lack of belonging or lack of understand of why or how. To radically reply with a resounding yes, not because I think I can do it well, but because I know if he’s leading me there, that it will be good. I know that because I know he is good. I can’t wait to hear that story again.

The Petersens

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I have been sitting at my desk for almost 15 minutes trying to write some beautiful homage to the idea of friendship. I wrote a lengthy intro paragraph that was teeming with me trying to get to a point without stepping on peoples toes. The topic was going to be displayed by my recounting of my good friends, The Petersens. I was going to have all of this nice theology and maybe even heavy revelation on love and life and change and pain so as to impress you. Turns out, I hate that idea.

What I originally wanted to do is to write about a family that is so mysteriously for me that I am forever humbled by their words and actions. The Petersen family has blessed my life more than any other family outside of my own. Let me tell you about them.

Todd: Todd is the man. I met Todd on a winter camp trip. He was my cabin leader with another guy. Todd was cool as far as I cared, but I was so young and self centered, I didn’t care too much to let him in or ask any real questions about him. This changed in one story told by Todd. Todd told us about his biggest struggle in his life. That his family had a run in with death at the birth of his children. That his response was to hit the floor and cry for help. That help came. Todd told us that Jesus was real. I recommitted my life to Jesus not long after that. I think in all actuality, that moment was my truest conversion. Todd’s words may very well be the reason I am in missions today. Todd talked about love. Real love. Since then, Todd has been a mentor. A gentle person who simply believed in me in a real way. I am not going to puff him up as the greatest theologian or even minister I have ever known. He is most certainly gifted in these areas but Todd was bigger than those things. Todd loved. He cared how my week was. He prayed for me out of love, not obligation. He came to my football games. I can’t even write all of this without tearing up and thanking God for this man. One of the greatest men I have ever known is so because he cared. I have people in my life who have always cared. My family has always cared. Todd on the other hand is not family. Thats what makes him special to me, he never had to care. Nothing obligated him to me. No blood or covenant or history. He saw me for me, and wanted to be with me in life. He is a grown man with a wife and children, but he chose to be more than a husband and father. He chose to be my friend. I cried again.

Lindsey: At first, to me at least, Lindsey was Todd’s wife. I had many interactions with her on Sunday mornings that were pleasant but never life changing. It wasn’t until I came over for a meal that I really got to know Linds. Right away, Lindsey spoke my language. We could get caught up in talking about music for hours. What we loved, who we were listening to, who we were obsessed with and so on. She introduced me to Ben Howard, Bon Iver, and Sigur Ros. Bless Lindsey Petersen. The next hours would then be spent talking about anything film related. If you know me, you know this is my jam. The way that Lindsey has blessed me most is through gifts. I am not the best gift giver. I just cannot plan a gift for the life of me. I know people well, but when it comes to me taking time to think of the perfect gift, I am close to useless. Lindsey consistently gives the most thoughtful gifts. She is the Gift Queen. Gifts by nature are not earned. By nature, gifts are not won, exchanged for, bought, or taken. Gifts are given. Lindsey gives freely and it is a mirror of God’s heart towards man. She lavishes me with well thought out, heartfelt gifts. She teaches me that I am worth it. That I am worth her time and money. That I am worth spending hard earned money just to remind me that I am not forgotten. Lindsey is a super-mom and a friend.

Drew: Drew is my buddy. The dude is a rock star. He loves the things I either love now or once loved. He is a courageous young man who already fought for his life once and won. He came into this world as a warrior and a warrior he will remain. Warriors in the Kingdom of God are a bit more complex than warriors of the world. Warriors of the Kingdom fight with upside down weapons. Instead of rage, we use love. Instead of desire to destroy, we desire to build. Drew is this type of warrior. He fights with his masculine heart of flesh. A heart that loves to have fun, but I don’t think he likes to have fun just to have fun. I think he likes to have fun because usually its with people. Drew is a gentle guy, and I look up to him in that. He teaches me that people are worth taking the time to be gentle with, to be caring for. Drew has the qualities of a true leader. He carries the barring of a man people want to follow. They will follow him. Drew is a legend in the making.

Lilly: Lilly holds the softest place in my heart. She is an incredible human being. Lil is playing two sports right now, Basketball and Soccer. On the field, Lil is a force to be reckoned with. She is determined. Off the court, Lil is an artist and a professional giggler. If you catch her in the same room as her pug, you can probably see the joy dripping off of her smile and on to the floor. Lilly is a tender girl. She feels things deeply and joy is her gift. I learn from Lil that for the most part, life is really meant to be enjoyed. She teaches me to press in to the moment. To see the colors and feel the textures of memory making. Lilly is a light. She will one day tell the world that its going to be ok. Lil is destined for greatness.

So now that you know this. Let me tell you what prompted me to write this. Last Wednesday, a package came with my name on it. That package was from the Petersens and this is what was inside:

First. The greatest Christmas card to date. An obviously white family dressed as if they fell out of a rabbit hole from Wonderland and landed in a public park. It is awesome. On the flip side, we have the family on a beach holiday with Todd just asking for a sun burn from that Hawaiian sun. This one will be with my precious belongings along with everything else they sent me.

Second. I pull out a soft white blanket. Not what I was expecting from a Christmas package but I rolled with it. As I unfolded this blanket I notice a black blob in the middle of it. That black blob was California and in the center of this great state was the word ‘Home’. Last year, the Petersens sent me my favorite shirt that I bring around the world with me. Now they give me my favorite snuggle tool and foot warmer. Wait, there is more. The note with this gift was from Linds. It reads:

Merry Christmas to a very special person.

This is a bit of a repeat gift, but I liked it so much as a symbol

of warmth, comfort, and home.

And the blanket wrapped around me and I felt that what she wrote was true. Like I said, Gift Queen.

Third. I see a yellow creature of cuddling sorts. A three eyed, snaggletoothed, armless being of great mystery to my soul. Then I found the letter from Drew. He asked me questions about my life and gave me a quick update over his conquering of that nasty Strep Throat. Then he proved everything I thought about him right.

I wanted to give you Googly my stuffed animal for your trip!

I hope you sleep with him!

He will keep the bad dreams away!

Love Drew

That is self sacrificial love man. That is some Jesus level loving.

Thank you Drew. My life is good, thank you for asking. Strep is super lame and I am glad you could beat it up, I used to get Strep a lot. I had it so much that now when I have any soar throats I can just laugh because I have already dealt with the worst of their kind. I bet you’re a king at parkour man. You gotta send me some videos! Thank you for Googly. I hate bad dreams and I hope you have some other friends to keep you safe. I find that Jesus is pretty good at it too. You might want to ask him if he would do the night watch next time.

Love you man

Fourth. I see a work of art. A woven together piece of love that I get to keep for my entire life. Last year Lilly sent me a scarf and I still look at it almost every day. It cannot help but to catch my eye. good art will do that to you. In her letter she explains that what I am holding is a Sunset and Trees. I don’t think she meant to name this piece of art Sunset and Trees but that is what I am calling it. The thing about Lilly’s letter that leaves me a mess just two sentences.

I love you and miss you.

and

I really miss you Scott

Love Lilly Petersen

The sweet Lilly has the softest part of my heart for a reason.

Hey Lilly. Merry Christmas back! Thank you for Sunset and Trees. It is beautiful. It will hang in my room wherever I live. I love and miss you too, I wish I could teleport over and watch you play soccer and basketball. Basketball is my favorite sport to play, I bet you and I would have some good one on one games. I like Ireland a lot, you should visit someday. I love Indian food actually! It is spicy so you should like it when you try it. Luckily it does not rain every day in Ireland, if it did, I would be pretty wet ,like, all the time. Tell me how the Storm and the Thorns do this season. Practice hard so when it comes to game time, it is just fun. I really miss you too Lilly.

Love you sweetie

Lastly we have Todd’s letter to me.

He starts off as I would. Apologizing for the lateness. He then explains that he’s late because of this very letter. Then he encapsulates friendship in its most purest form.

You’ve been on my heart a lot Scott and I’ve been praying for you constantly.

As much as I miss being able to hang out with you,

I’m so excited to see how God is working in you.

You have such great leadership skills,

and to see Jesus develop them as you work to be more like Him is

amazing

and later on in the letter

Merry Christmas Scott. I’m blessed to be able to call you a friend.

I love you Scott

-Todd

Todd, thank you. You are so impactful in my life. I don’t think you will ever really know who you are to me. You have loved me so well, you have invited me into your life, you have fed me, you have communed with me. You didn’t have to. I was never your project. I was never your job. You saw me as friend. You never tried to fix me, you were just there. You have been Jesus to me. You have shown an aspect of God’s heart that we all need to know more. That he calls us friend. Jesus calls us friend. Just like you called me friend when you had no obligation to, Jesus calls me friend when I know there is so much in me that I think discounts me for such a title. If i can give you anything this Christmas, its this. You’re love has been influential in my life and I can honestly say that, without your loving me, I probably wouldn’t be where I am. And it is not just the Jesus in you. You chose love. You chose to let the Jesus in you affect the world around you and I was lucky enough to be there to receive. Thank you Todd

The Petersens teach me love. These guys show us all what love looks like. Word of the wise, if you have anyone around you that teaches you love, dig in to that relationship. I wish I had more time with them. Don’t get caught wishing like me. They’re worth a lot of your time and attention.

Bless

Scott

Stained Glass Faith

  

I was in a beautiful Anglican Church from Thursday to Saturday this week. It is called Christ Church Fulham. I say beautiful and I mean it. It is a church full of beautiful people who want more of Jesus. It is, just as well, physically beautiful. I wish I had pictures to show you. I have started taking less and less photos recently. I tell myself it’s because I’m living a more engaged life, but maybe it’s because I am too lazy. Maybe it’s because I am selfish with my experiences and feel that if you want it, go get it. Maybe it’s a mixture of all of these. That has nothing to do with what I want to communicate.

I’m a hardcore side-conversationalist. Put that on a bumper sticker. At Christ Church Fulham, they had these beautiful pieces of stained glass windows. Though I love the whole wood pallet, grungy, “come as you are” atmosphere that most modern pop culture churches have taken on, I also love the old bones of churches like Christ Church Fulham. I love the reverence it evokes. You can have massive alters, and beautiful ceiling artwork. You get your Romanesque columns with your golden eagles. Above all these, my favorite is stained glass. 

I find myself completely encapsulated by the intricacies. I’m captured by the different colors and shades. The beauty of seemingly broken, but delicate glass coming together to paint a picture is so poetic I want to barf. 

On Thursday we were at the church from 10am to 10pm. What a day. In the morning worship time, I had a moment of true intimacy with Jesus. I was dancing with him and peace and love was our lockstep. At the crescendo, a benevolent burst of light hit my blissfully shut eyes and I opened them to find it was coming from the very face of a stained glass Jesus. Let’s call him Stained-Glass-Jesus. It was just a moment, but it is seared into my brain, as one of the most tangible interactions with Jesus that I have had so far. It was glory.

It became darker, as days tend to do. And as we were fed with delicious food and revelation, we had come under what I like to call, “The Spirit of Post Thanksgiving Dinner”. Our spiritual and physical bellies were full and tired. The sad thing is, our worship started off very lackluster. Apathy is one thing I can’t tolerate (unless I have it of course). As we were standing around waiting for God to do something in our laziness, I looked up to the same Stained Glass Jesus. To my shock, all I saw was a darkened window. No beautiful light. No story of brokenness to beauty. Just darkness.

I cannot express the details of the recent hardships of my life but I will express what I am feeling. When a false world is built around you, you don’t really notice how thin the walls are. A good architect can build something to make it look real enough to believe. Take, for example, the speakers that look like stones. Ten feet in the distance, all you see is a stone. When you get close enough to really see, the lie is obvious. The revelation of a stone really beings a speaker is non-impactful. When that stone mirrors someone you love and spent time with, it is painful. I am in dark days.

A man who lives his life in a cave finds the light irritating. As he steps outside, the illuminating of his world physically hurts. The initial moment when true light and perception hits his eyes, he sees nothing. It’s actually darker than anything he is used to. We have all been to the movie theater in the middle of the day, I hope. When we come out, we can be blinded and have sore eyes, but we know what comes next. Clarity is beautiful, but can just as well be painful. The man who lived in the cave is starting to see true beauty and in color. He will never want to go back into that cave. I do not wish to speak in such ambiguity, but even more so, I do not wish to hurt those who have hurt me.

Dark days are here. Night has come and it’s here for a while. As I looked up to that darkened window, I chose to recognize the fact that Jesus is still there and I fear that a lot of us do not do this. Why do you think Jesus talked so much about faith? How easy is faith in God when it is not needed?

Faith is confidence in the unseen. I see Jesus all the flipping time. I see Jesus in worship, in the wind, in the birds that sing, in the people that pray, in every blade of grass and ever draw of oxygen I indulge in. When I am feeling great, I do not doubt the existence of God or even his goodness. I do not doubt his love when I feel loved. When Stain-Glassed-Jesus shone his face on me, he was giving me his heart. He manifested in light to say “Scott, I love you. I am with you. I want to be with you. I want to dance with you. I love you” and I could easily say yes and amen.

What about when my days got dark? Did I feel an overwhelming comfort from my friend Jesus when the fit hit the shan? No. So what do I do with that? 

One thing I am learning more an more in my life is that God is simply not as conditional as us. We have grown up in a transactional, conditional world. If I go into a shop and I want milk, I have to give money for it. You may say to this “Yea that how it works, what a profound thought you have strung together” and you would be right. What if I told you that in the Kingdom of our Father, we can walk into the store and grab a milk like it was ours to begin with? You’d give me a “no-duh” face when I tell you the God is different from us. Now what if I tell you that there is nothing that you could ever do to get God to be more or less in love with you than he is right now. 

There are times when you are at your highest and you feel as if every day is a beautiful poem to unfold by sundown. The fact is, you engaging more fully with God’s heart for you. God’s heart is still the same when you are at your darkest. Faith comes into play when you choose to believe that and walk in it. To dance in the rain is our greatest triumph over the enemy. When you feel like every breath you take could be your last and you use it to say “God is good” then you own the gospel. 

Randall Worley states in his book “Brush Strokes of Grace” that Jesus did not come to earth and die so that it would change what God the Father thinks of us, but rather, so that he may change what we think about God the Father. The more I read the bible, the more I come into agreement with that statement. Do we not sing about God’s faithfulness? He is faithful to love us. He chooses out of exuberant joy to love us when we are at our dirtiest. When you feel like you are not worthy of love, God thinks otherwise. What I am finding is that life is about catching up to what God already knows and sometimes that takes the humility to say “I’m so sorry, you’re right. Please tell me more”. Men, when was the last time you said that after an argument.

So when we see a dark window, what is the truth? Circumstances alone, if you let them, are a terrible teacher on who God is. If I only go on what I see around me, Jesus was not in that window. If I only go on what is around me, Jesus is not involved in my current situation. A new pillar of my life is that truth does not count on anything but God. That night at Christ Church Fulham, I hadn’t a moment of doubt that Jesus was still in that window. When part of my world hit the ground, I hadn’t a moment of doubt that Jesus was with me. Everything I knew about Jesus was not shrouded by my confusion and hurt, rather, the truth about Jesus in my life acted like a headlamp for me to go in and help out others before the dust settled.

This isn’t a fanfare of my great faith, it is a fanfare of Jesus’. He was faithful to me when I was stubborn. When I didn’t want to worship, he was faithful to put a song in my heart. When I had no interest in his word, he was faithful to tell it to me anyways. He has been faithful to raise me up in love and leadership and faith so that I can do the same for his friends. I am nobody’s Jesus, I am still his elected. He put in me a love for people, so that I may love his people into a deeper love for him. He put in me a love for writing, so that this may find you when you need it. He is faithful to you.

Do not go on being tricked by stained glass. Truth is true even when you don’t feel like it is. Truth doesn’t count on you. It is time to stop letting emotions and circumstance dictate our levels of faith. It is time to make emotions and circumstance reveal the things we already hold as truth. Like I said, circumstances alone are a terrible teacher on who God is. Circumstances, when you allow Jesus (who is himself truth) to guide you through them, are often our greatest points of triumph and revelation.

Where am I in my darkest days? I am a new creation that is full of joy and passion for the heart of God. I am still dancing with Jesus in corporate worship times and twirling with him when I am alone. My heart hurts, but it hurts with my sweet friend Jesus. It’s a lot easier to process hurt with someone who knows you better than you do than it is to process hurt alone while feeling like that same person is being distant and doesn’t want to be with you for your lack of faith in him. The ladder is just simply not who Jesus is. It’s time for you to recognize Jesus’ furious love. If you can’t, then pray.

Scott

Ps. I realize I used Jesus’ sweet name more than usual. If that makes you uncomfortable, pray into that. There is power in the name of Jesus, it makes the darkness uncomfortable. Maybe you need a bit more light on who Jesus really is. Just a thought.

Ramblings via Music

There is such mystery in music. I often wonder it’s roll in our lives. I’d be willing to wager that music is far more important to man than we think. Music cannot be fully defined in all of its uses. To call it a coalition of notes, pitches, and even words at a consistent tempo is like calling Lagavoulin’s 16 year old single malt a glass of malted barley. It’s not wrong per say, but how dare you sir! 

I find it hard to hear when people say that they do not like music. I twinge like I am allergic to their disposition. Music is so obviously engrained into our consciousness, I actually do not believe it when someone says it. To me, it’s like someone saying they don’t like someone I am very fond of, after they have had only few run ins with them, or they have seen them only on social media. It’s apparent that they just don’t know that person, or haven’t been introduced properly. I’m not sure if that makes sense, I don’t really care if it doesn’t, I’m writing this on a plane to England with a German who’s incredibly heavy head is lounging on my shoulder. I’m losing feeling in my right hand, oh the things you do for love. Someone just ripped one, filthy man. Filthy.

Back to music. Genesis, in my understanding, is less of a history book, and more of a narrative of the human condition and the inter workings of relationships on all levels. Before we got real barbaric, before Cain dropped his murderous hand on his brother, there was Adam and Eve. Their story is crucial to our understanding of us without a doubt. The way they relate, since they were pure, wholistic, and untouched by evil beings, is something we must take very seriously. So let’s look at Genesis 2. Here is the scene: God is creating the universe. Out of his mouth comes all things, like a intergalactic, lofty, beautiful, chaotic ever-expanding vomit of life. He builds a house to bring home his babies in. He makes Adam, not from life-spew but from the dirt. He built us, sculpted us and then put some eternal, holy, breath in our lungs. We awoke fully alive. We started doing our business and soon God realized that he was not finished. Good catch Dad. God avoids a never ending sausage-fest and puts Adam down for a snooze, and from Adam, came Eve. (I can’t tell you how fun it was to write that. I am highly romantic towards all of my theology, but sometimes, I like to challenge my religious spirit, and yours along with it.) By the way, God was not done creating until Eve. I think he realized that once he made Woman, he couldn’t do any better. Eve is the crown jewel of the created.

Ok, refocus. Have you ever read what Adam does when he sees that babe Eve. He hops up, eyes locked on his new partner and he naturally bursts forward into song. He sings “I can’t feel my face when I’m with youuuuuu, but I love it” ehmm no. To paraphrase his song, he sings “You are perfect, you’re for me, and I am for you, we are to be one!” He sings! He doesn’t say those words monotonous, but I’m sure he belts these words of love with full lungs and a swoon heart. He simply cannot contain himself, and his raw and real expulsion of his combusting heart, was music. 

We cannot actually believe that music is as simple as we think it is. Being a missionary who trains missionaries, one of my greatest tool for communication is music. Music is relevant in all cultures and all settings. I have found that language doesn’t matter all that much either. There is not a place, a nation, a people group that is barren of music. 

I think in context of how all things relate back to a relationship with God. If I didn’t, I would be a fraud. My very personal relationship with God is more than my lens in which I view the world. It is my very eyes and cognitive response which is registering what I see.(Well, I wish I was that perfect in my viewpoints. In this, I’m on my way.) When I think about the role of music in our relationship with God, I remember a friend in a far away home. I don’t wish to name him simply because I don’t know how this may affect him. Let’s call him Alan. Alan lives and works in Lebanon. He is a refugee who works with people in need. When I met Alan, he had just recently become a Christian. We did not speak the same language at all, he barely even spoke Arabic. Early on, I and another friend prayed for Alan and as we were blessing him, he felt a hand on his shoulder grab him and lift him up as to posture him. An angel, I assume, manifested in encouragement. In context to the prayer, Alan needed to believe in himself. After that insane experience, Alan and I had a great time loving one another without words. One night, I lead worship for a church for a few hours. Alan drove us to the church and stayed for the worship that was entirely in English. Fast forward months, and I return to Lebanon. My other friend tells me that Alan had recorded my music to the lord and listened to it EVERY DAY. Alan through a translator tells me that he can easily feel the Spirit of God around him when he watches that video of me. Wow. First off, what an honor to be recorded and viewed again. Bigger though, Alan, through music, can feel the Lord and it is not even live. Recorded months ago on a crappy little phone, by some truth about music I do not fully comprehend, God and his relationship grew and grew and grew. That’s incredible.

Music, there’s just more. I do not have answers to what that more is, but I welcome you to ask with me. The classic song “Hallelujah” by whoever wrote that song, sings “I heard there was a secret chord David played and it pleased the lord, but you don’t really care for music do you.” Well there is a story in the bible somewhere, probably after Genesis and before Revelation, the King David of Judea plays a chord and a demonic spirit comes out of a man. As they say in the business “That is so metal”. Yes, yes it is. With that story I stake this claim, music is multifaceted, and one of those facets is warfare. 

Warfare is a scary word for those who don’t want to wage it. There is a constant battle, there is an enemy of our souls who’s primary purpose is to kill, steal, and destroy. We are called to destroy the works of the enemy, that’s in 1 John. And ultimately we are victorious in Christ Jesus. Ok, enough of that, back to music. I believe music can be a tool of war, your axe is really an axe.

Breakthrough is warfare. When you are standing in your proverbial pew, and that excellent worship song comes on an you end up having a better grasp on the ungraspable, that, my friends, is warfare. Now I don’t think that is what happened with David, I don’t mean to try to explain something so that it will fit into your worldview. When we finagle God into what we think he should be like, we end up with a dirty little b-word. Don’t blaspheme, please. Please don’t say that “back then” it was “more like that” either. What a cop-out. David didn’t even have the Holy Spirit as we do now, yet he ripped a combination of strings in such a way, that evil was vanquished. My point is, music is powerful, we don’t get it, and if we took it more seriously, maybe this world would be better off.

I recognize this is not the most well planned or fully baked piece of work you’ve had the pleasure to read in chunks between checking your Instagram and texting back that boy you like, but bear with me here. I think there’s a bit more I want to say.

There is something about music that is beyond us. How can playing a song make us feel loved? How can putting on a sad song make us feel understood? How can a song about partying make us want to run naked in the fields because why not? Maybe you relate to the first two, there is probably some ministry time I need to do the figure out the third. Regardless of my urges to be in my birthday suit, music changes us. It doesn’t matter what country it’s from, it doesn’t matter if it was recorded a hundred years ago, or is happening right in front of us. Music has the ability to get past our heads and strait into our hearts. Read that again. One more time. If you didn’t catch it, take another glance.

I’ll finish this half baked thought with this. If music has the ability to get through our heads and strait to our hearts, that is great power. The bible doesn’t do this all the time, the bible takes devotion and time. Music cuts right through all of our crap and encounters us. If that’s true, if music can impact us on an insanely deep level seemingly effortlessly, then what are you listening to? Guess what, music is not benign, it’s not harmless, it’s not just music. Even listening to music unintentionally is not as simple as it seems. What kinds of things are we consuming. What are we subjecting our hearts to? How can we fight for a cleaner heart? How far are you willing to go to fight for an unhindered walk with Jesus? Are you willing to not listen to that new Yeezy album? Are you willing to stand before your friends and say “No, I didn’t hear the new Kendrick track” and when they talk about how incredible it is, are you willing to stick to your guns?

Now, I have nothing personally against any of those guys, I also don’t think everything they put out is not good for us. I also don’t think we should only listen to worship. I, for the most part, am a bit fed up with what we know as worship today. I see a carbon copy of songs that I am not necessarily drawn to. I am guilty of bashing big name worship, and for that I have repented, but I stick with my discontentment with the Christian music industry. What I am posing is that we put in our ears what we would tell our disciples, our children, our lovers, our best friends, our elders, and the people we don’t know.

Let’s listen to songs about real things. About hope, love, the human disposition, sadness, brokenness, our fickle hearts. There are artists who do this without puffing it up with things that wont jack up our hearts. John Mark McMillan, Colony House, Drew Holcomb, guys like these who face the reality of life full on. Songs like Borderland by John Mark McMillan talk about the points of life that we wrestle with consistently. Life, man.

Life is hard, and chaotic, and full of second guessing, full of love and loss and despair and regaining resurgent hope. I am not saying we need to have laws on our lives about what we do. We can’t go on making rules about what music we listen to, what films we watch, or what books we read. Each person is an individual. You need to find what works for you. An example from my life is my practice of checking iMDB’s parent’s guide before I watch a flick. I look at the nudity section and see if it is too much for me. If it seems to heavy laden with pornographic material, I choose to not watch it. There isn’t a handout that I gauge this decision on, I make my own call. I am realizing that the more I love Jesus the more I hate evil. Evil is evil is evil is evil. Don’t finagle evil to goodness, you’d just be believing the lie that it’s telling you.

That was a lot of thoughts. I wrote this over the span of a full week so I’m sure this is not the most congruent thing I’ve ever written. Just as well, it did not end as pleasant and my previous posts. I am unapologetic about that, we need to be offended every once in a while so we can see why we are offended. 

What would it look like if we let Jesus in on our entire life? I’m willing to bet it would be a lot less religious then you think.



Scott

  

Saturday October 24, 2015 via Finegan & Son

It has been a few weeks since I have had the urge to write, I made a promise to my self to not write unless I felt like I should. I’ve heard it time and time again, writing is a discipline. That’s all well and good when writing is your focus, but for me in this season of life, it just isn’t.

For this session I think I just want to process what my recent weeks have been like. As the legend John Mark McMillan said “I process things through music, that’s just how I do”, to be fair I process many different ways. Music is one, others include things like walks, prayer, focused thought, conversation, and even a dram of whisky. I am realizing my deepest of revelations come from the creative process of writing. Donald Miller talks about being “lost” in this process. I can relate to that in more ways than the obvious.

The question of what to write about dawns on me before I write, I know, shocker. But one thing I’ve learned is the practice of ambiguity. In Randall Worley’s Brush Strokes of Grace (highly recommend picking this up) he writes about one of his personal frustrations with the modern sermon framework. He stakes the claim that we have been force-fed truth about God but as we know, information doesn’t mean understanding. Similar to the idea that I can read loads of books about marriage, I could even give a sermon on what the meaning of it is, but I don’t have a bloody clue do I? Experience teaches deeply. Interaction causesu perception. There is a difference in knowing God and knowing God isn’t there? I’ve come to learn that there is a process for truth. Even the basics of life must be learned by process. This leaves me with a lot of questions. Do I really know what I think I know? My answer to that is, I guess we’ll find out. Daunting. All this being said. I will write whatever I want, I will give as much or little detail as I want, and I’ll leave things open ended more so now then I have. Why? 

See what I did there? Ambiguous, I know.

I’ve learned the closer I draw to God, the more I realize I may be more shake-able then I once perceived. Luckily, God does not leave us in our lacking. Sometimes we are lacking and want to leave God, and if that’s the case, lacking we will stay. Love does not insist on its own way, love does not impose.

I can’t afford to leave God. After writing that I laugh, the cost of discipleship is high. My bank account hasn’t been this empty since I worked 2 days a week taking out poopy diapers and cutting out shapes for my old preschool, shout out to Tiny Treasures. But I stand by my first statement. I cannot afford to walk away from God, I cannot afford to say no, I cannot afford to say maybe another time. The more I draw near to God, the more I realize that I am more like the beggar being dropped through the roof, than the friends dropping him in. I am learning how desperate I really am. I am going to take liberties with the word desperate. Despair-et. I despair for more of God. I am the cripple. I am the beggar. I am the blind. I am the bleeding. I am the one in need. 

How much truth is found in the tension of two realities? Often I find, when I look at where my heart should be, in lies between beggar and prince. Life is found truly when you realize that you aren’t just one or the other, but you are fully both. The more you become a true friend of God, the more you see that you can be a true enemy. Theologically, I think that this is part of us dealing with what the original us did. How easy it is to point blame. We are a compromised creation. We are a soiled perfection. Luckily, or rather, fortunately, God is not the God of comprise, but rather, The Steadfast. He is truth. He is furiously in love with us, no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. 
This is the beginning and end of our story. God is love.

Isn’t life simple? John Mark McMillan stakes a very familiar claim about life in his most recent release Live at the Knight. When talking about his personal loves, it’s like he’s reiterating my inner thought life. When talking about accomplishments he says,

 

“In the end, none of that stuff feels as good as sitting across the table from somebody telling a story, laughing a little, crying a little, raising a glass and hearing that little thing go ‘ting’. I’ve decided that all of life is inside that sound. ‘Ting’. Fellowship and love and laughter and all of the things that we live our life for and are alive for and are saved for and are healed for includes sitting down at the table and looking at a person and going ‘tiiiiing’.”


Well John, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Life is a lot like the picture below. It’s messy, blurry, but full of smiles. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to be on the dance floor and others you are just as happy to be watching. It ain’t perfect but it sure as hell isn’t as complicated as we make it out to be. 

  

God is relational. He is relationship oriented. Why else do you think some of our most telling metaphors for heaven include a huge feasting table where we all have a seat near him, and the most explosive wedding ever experienced. God is a romantic who doesn’t just say things to make us feel good. He doesn’t say “you’re the prettiest girl in the world” so we feel warm and fuzzy. He means it because he knows it. His word is never empty or void. He bowed down on his knee, with spikes in his wrists, flesh falling off of his body, a crown of torturous humiliation, and a spear in his side. Why? So that once and for all, we would be his. Just like my future wife to be will be mine. It’s not possessive or selfish, it isn’t about being right, or manipulating us. It’s about love. An unconditional love. By the way, a conditional love is not love, it is smoke and mirrors. It is an illusion of devastating consequence. God is not like that, and he has proven it time and time again. 

Randall Worley stakes the claim that Jesus did not come to change God’s mind about us, but to change our mind about God. How true is that. God is like a father who has laid out a feast of all of your hearts desires, and simply says “My darling, my world, my precious love, please come and eat.” He always has been and always will be. At first we indulged without question, then we saw a lie as questionable truth, and took a bite. Because of that, we figured that he wouldn’t want us anymore. That our mess repulsed him. That if we washed our hands enough we were welcome at his table. But we kept playing with dirt. What we didn’t realize is that he has been asking to wash our hands ever since we got them dirty, but we never let him do it. So he took action, he chose love and plunged his hands into the filth to pull ours out. He cleaned them by his own accord and decreed us clean. Now, most of us are at the table, and instead of feasting, we are taking the bread roll, and after every nibble, we look up at him as if we may have overstepped our bounds. Sooner or later, we will realize that he is not as conditional as we are. He’s not as obsessed with social norms as we are. That he doesn’t believe in awkward and that not having elbows on the table and not chewing with our mouths open and not wearing our food and not laughing to boisterously is a human invention. He is more that inviting us to eat, but he wants us to get up on top of the table, barefooted in all, and dance with him with the best food in one hand and the finest wine spilling out of our chalice the more we spin round and round. But we are too caught up in holding back our burps to realize. Though he desperately wants to dance, he is patient, he is kind. He is hoping for more, and he is sharing stories with us. He speaks in parables and this parable is called life, the more he tells, the more we understand the simple truth. The beginning and the end are the same, God is love 

Oh yes, God is love.

Scott Sotomayor

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