pay attention.

so i’ve been away from writing for a bit. not because i was underwhelmed with thoughts. that rarely happens.

i’ve been thinking a lot. probably too much.

there has just been so much going on, i haven’t figured out a way to get my brain to slow down enough to let me write some thoughts down. i’ll just call it a writing sabbatical.

since the last time i really wrote anything:

the president has been re-inaugurated and the ugly politics in washington has continued in its usual ugly fashion. the politicians who we elect through our beliefs and morals and consciences and then pay through our own paychecks have continued to thoroughly ignore the same people they took an oath to protect and serve. however, i’m at a point with this where i don’t know who to blame more, the politicians or the people who vote but turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to politics in america. we are the ones who let this sort of chaos rise up when we, in typical american style, pass off the sincere responsibility due to all voting citizens to pay attention, to care, to simply not be apathetic. it is not difficult for us to form an opinion on who the bachelor should give his roses too or what “kimye” should name their baby. yet when our nation faces a crisis, all we can muster seemingly is this dispassionate eye roll and say ‘dumb idiot politicians’ and flip the channel to duck dynasty.

now i can easily get sucked into a sunday evening marathon of ‘keeping up with the kardashians’ as quickly as anyone. that isn’t hard to admit, yet i know that our country functions at its peak when people from both sides of the aisle speak intelligently about their passionate belief systems. i’m not really talking about the gun control debate or whether we should nuke north korea. i will say that while i was raised to not really like guns, i have to hand it to the NRA. somehow they found a way to scare a whole bunch of people into buying a whole lot of guns and memberships to their club in a very short amount of time. it’s actually pretty impressive. but anyway, the point i’m trying to make here is this: pay attention.

for too long i’ve heard this “i don’t care” ideology from too many americans. “as long as it doesn’t affect me!” that’s another gem i hear from among others, good solid christian people. you mean to tell me that it doesn’t matter what happens to the little guy as long as you get yours? interesting theory.

in this country we have let the rich (corporate america) get richer, while the poor (middle-class and lower-class america) get poorer. we have done this by not caring enough about the politicians we elect. we haven’t done our homework. we do this by fighting any reform that allows for the crumbs of our tables to fall to the dogs of the streets. ( as long as i get mine!) sometimes we barely even notice the dogs. i’m not talking about the people who stand outside in the rain shivering while holding a “help me i’m a poor college student” sign while their buddy takes his break in the SUV around the corner drinking starbucks. i’m talking about the single mother who is working double shifts just to buy formula for her baby. the famous line i always hear from compassionate christians is “well she shouldn’t have gotten herself knocked up!”makes me think of the verse where Jesus draws the line in the sand. i’m talking about teachers who are saddled with crowded classrooms and lowered funding because well, “we don’t have the money for it”. i’m talking about the laid-off worker who just had his unemployment cut because, “he needs to stop being so darn lazy!” meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor has never been larger. CEOs on wall street are bringing home more money than ever before. for some reason however, instead of finding solutions, all we want to do is blame the other guy.

america was built on a premise that, here we can enjoy freedoms unattainable anywhere else. sure, that does allow for anyone to have the freedom to not care about a single thing. how prosperous will that get us if that becomes the prevailing opinion? our great country, has awarded us the ability to think freely and share openly a discourse not enjoyed in many parts of the world. yet we are more focused on finger-pointing and issuing blame. it’s never our fault. it’s always the other side who doesn’t get it. we teach our children to take responsibility for our actions and then when talking about taxes we nearly break a finger pointing so hard at the other party.

it’s about time now for us to start caring more, but in a way that cultivates a better relationship with those who have differing views. it’s time to actually care. to care about what the other side has to say. it’s time we start working toward a solution one issue at a time. some say that the problems facing america are too big to really care enough because well “we’re screwed anyway”. it’s like that saying: how do you eat a whale? one bite at a time. we won’t solve everything just by simply having an opinion or being more passionate. but it ‘s a start. it’s a way to begin our journey from here to there.

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What Would People Think?

this is not like me.

i promise you. i talk about a lot of things and write about even more but even this is a taboo topic for me normally. i don’t really like to talk about my personal thoughts about Jesus.

but.

i probably should.

usually i am most moved by music and most of my material for writing comes from songs i randomly hear. this is no exception.

i heard this song from the 90’s the other day… “what would people think if they heard that i was a Jesus freak?”

and i began to think about it. what would people REALLY think if i said i was a real Jesus freak? i mean, i have a rule, i don’t talk about politics or religion unless i know how the outcome of that conversation will be. why stir up the hornets nest if you don’t want to get stung?

but here’s the thing. i do love Jesus. a lot. why should i be afraid to say that?

it’s so much easier to argue about sports, because in the end, does it really matter? no one is losing sleep because i love the yankees more than the tigers. it is not going to affect anyone else. even in politics, will people really be angry if i am a democrat? even if i claim to be a Christian? that’s really not my problem. but talking about my faith? do i really want to put myself on a pedestal? what if people don’t feel the same way? worse yet, what if people expect me to live up to the expectations?

the song goes, “i don’t really care if they label me a Jesus freak, there ain’t no disguising the truth.”

i guess that is what has always made me nervous, that there might be some disguising of the truth. that what people see in me is not what should be seen. i am not always a nice person. i have little tolerance for things or people that annoy me. i don’t love the way Jesus loves. i don’t care for everyone the way Jesus does, so how can i call myself a Jesus freak?

i wish i had those answers. but i want to be a Jesus freak. it’s actually pretty cool. i don’t expect to live up to the high and lofty expectations everyday or ever. i am going to stumble and i am going to crack and fall. maybe that is what makes being a Jesus freak so enticing, because i know i can’t do it under my own power. i will never be the bible-thumping door to door Jesus salesman. i won’t always initiate conversations about the end times and whether there is a purgatory or wonder about the age of the earth. those things might be for some people. i just know that as a flawed person, there must be more for me than the everyday. and being a Jesus freak, it might just be the way to go.

what if i stumble?

“What if I stumble, what if I fall?

What if I lose my step and I make fools of us all?

Will the love continue when my walk becomes a crawl?

What if I stumble, and what if I fall?

I hear You whispering my name

 ‘My love for You will never change’ “

DC Talk

so sometimes i sing in the shower. no big deal. everyone does. this morning for some reason i found myself singing an old DC Talk song, “What If I Stumble”. if you don’t know DC Talk, they were pretty much THE Christian music band i could listen to back in the 90’s when i was in my teenage years.

this song always resonated with me for some reason, maybe because of the fear that was dripping from the lyrics, asking God, really… what if i did stumble… what if i became a “somebody” and my actions caused the walls to come crashing down… would the love continue?  i was always fearful that maybe i would lose that love if i screwed up or did something stupid.

i find that these days… in my seemingly never-ending pursuit of the suddenly incredibly elusive career job i desire so badly… that i become sometimes overwhelmed with that question. “what if i stumble?” what if i take a job and i can’t do it and i make fools of everyone? what if i am not smart enough, what if i can’t do it the way i said i could? what if… what if… what if…

i think so many of us think that way. what if whatever i try to do in this world doesn’t matter. what if i stumble? what if i’ve already stumbled? what if i don’t feel good enough?  what if the walk becomes a crawl? will the love continue?

when i was singing this song in the shower, i started singing the part where it says…

“I hear you whispering my name, my love for you will never change”

and i hesitated and then smiled, because i knew that the only fool is me… i am a fool if i think stumbling or failing is going to change anything. His love for me never changes, no matter what I do. that is pretty crazy. i worry so much about all the things i cannot control that i fail to recognize the one thing that really matters… is truly never ending. never changing.

as the song ends,  the singer states in his sing-songy voice… “you are my comfort and my God”

no matter what we go through in this life. no matter how many times we have stumbled or fallen, no matter how many times we have lied, stolen or cheated… his love for us never changes.

where has all the innocence gone?

when i was a little boy, i was very curious about the world and what it was, who was in it and where it could take you. I would daydream for hours about the different things that could happen in a lifetime.

one day i would be a top-5 basketball recruit on a straight path to the nba. the next day i was the next willie mays … a blast from the past baseball player who could do it all and do it with a smile the size of lake michigan. another day i was a world-traveler solving crimes like the hardy boys and busting up criminals like the dukes of hazzard while driving a van like the one the a-team drove.

i had a crazy imagination.

i think part of this curiosity came from the incessant reading i did as a kid.

i read everything

hardy boys to henry huggins to biographies about the great American heroes. Books about sports figures and Bible heroes and I would even memorize stats about athletes from the 400-page sports encyclopedia-like book my mom bought me.

books have a way of creating this imaginary world in a kid like me.

as I grew older, my curiosity about the world got stronger, but one thing that stood the test was my belief that people were inherently good.  i really believed the best about people. some of you who know me best probably laugh a bit at that, but it’s true. I always believed the best and thought that everyone would think the best about me.

i never realized that sometimes, people don’t have the same perspective. so now, in my early thirties, I have been struck by this new emotion the last couple of years.

disappointment.

when i was a kid, i could never have imagined that i would ever be disappointed in other christians. i never thought that my favorite sports athletes would let me down. i never thought that a local politician that i know personally and has helped me out in the past, could be considered a bigot and a racist yet shake my hand.

it never crossed my mind that people in positions of authority would take advantage of others. that in a normal day we would hear about sex abuse cases and babies disappearing and domestic assaults on women and foot-stomping athletes.

i guess it just makes me wonder… where has all the innocence gone? i used to love my curiosity and my need to know what was going on in the world. i don’t want that to change. but i wonder what this world has truly come to. how did it happen and where do we go from here? i wish i had a cute solution wrapped in a bow that made us all feel better.

i’m not sure a solution wrapped in a bow is attainable… but i would like to hope that there are still kids growing up with the same curiosity that i did.

mysteries of life.

i admit.

there are some things i do not understand.

I do not understand how simple things such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can be turned into a dream of crushing someone else to get what you want.

or how a melting pot can be stirred into a burning desire to build a wall to keep people out.

or how a segment of Americans can be so viciously opposed to one type of death (abortion) while cheering another type of death (war) and supporting yet another (capital punishment). when did we get to decide who dies and when?

it boggles my mind that a local politician, who claims to be a conservative and moral Christian, seeks to take funding away from programs that clothes children in low-income families. there is nothing moral about that. this politician claims to be a “public servant”yet hopes to deny his own constituents. where is the humanity there? 

it is a mystery to me that in West Michigan, where there are churches on almost every corner, the biggest of these churches seem to war with one another.

it is a strange and sad phenomenon that in trying to show a God that loves everything and everyone He ever created, a pastor is vilified for suggesting that there is actually hope for everyone.

i do not remember when Christianity became a members only club.

i admit, i do not understand.

i do not understand how a segment of Christianity can rail against all conventional theory regarding global warming, but in the same sentence can say that the earth is dying and it is their God-given responsibility to take care of it. isn’t the theory of global warming just a nice way of saying that the earth is in decay? if we already knew this was going to happen, why and who are we fighting?

there are many things i do not understand. these mysteries of life. i just wish there was not so much hatred and fear that captures so many people. just as that local pastor describes God’s love, he is besieged with hate from those who claim to have received that love. it is an unbelievable phenomenon. just as local politicians claim to be about the people, they cut funding that benefits the poorest and neediest of those people. many churches put up billboards and have signs stating that all are welcome. however when all show up, many feel anything but welcome. a sad cycle that continues down long roads with many twists and turns. is there any of this you understand? is there any of this that makes sense?

the streets are on fire


it’s all about the people. unless the people are the problem. it’s all about the people. unless the people get in the way.

right-wingers, left-wingers, tea-party activists and the Nader-ites. who is different from the other? one party says yes and the other says no just to spite the other.

Atheists, Christians and Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus. What is your claim? We sit and clamor about right and wrong and tell each other how much better we are than them.

Christians vs. Christians

we cannot wait to get in the face of the other. My belief is better than your belief. My God is better than your God.

Meanwhile, the streets are on fire.

Do I really have to remind you?

Rwanda.

Hurricane Katrina.

What about Darfur?

the AIDS epidemic.

The sex slave trade.

or the Tsunami that wiped out 250,000 men, women and children in Asia in 2005.

or Haiti last year?

now Japan.

and you want to argue politics? now? now is the time to argue about your belief being better than mine?

the streets are on fire. and you are concerned with being right? or more, you want me to be wrong?

what is the difference between religion and politics when both claim to be about the people but then deny the people the love and concern necessary for survival?

What is different about the religions of the world when they all claim to know God, but never stop to remember that God said He was in the people?The same people we fight with.

Christians cannot agree on global warming, “it’s a government money-making machine!” says one side, but forget that the God they say they serve commanded them to take special care of the world they say He gave them.

The issue at hand is the people. not politics or religion or why Al Gore claims the ice caps are melting.

The streets are on fire. The people are dying in them. and yes, the ice caps are melting. What are we going to do about our policies and beliefs and our opinions when the people are gone and no one is here to argue with?

The streets are on fire.