Thursday, August 16, 2007

"Be Sure to Write"

He sailed out to sea
To catch the wind and a dream
She waited by the door
With a baby on the way
And cried herself to sleep
From the weary wait

Over and Over again
Over and Over again

He caught that dream by the tail
And he lost it by and by
It took him 'neath the foam
And tossed him to the sky

Over and Over again
Over and Over again

He fell through his door
At some stranger's feet
"Where are my wife and my kid"
"Son, they've upped and vanished
Now you are searching for something again"

Over and Over again
Over and Over again

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Two Stories Converge

I was at Java Old City. A little coffee shop tucked into the older part of Knoxville. The Old City, Knoxville use to be where it was at when I first came to town five years ago. However, I have watched it decline into a shoddy club haven over time, but I'm still holding onto it. I love it still, and I'll visit Java every once in a while to write a spell.
After I had been working on various things at my table for forty-five minutes or so, two guys around my age walked in. They entered the room carrying tobacco to roll their own cigs and chess pieces. I heard them talking about the Old Testament and some debate between ministers they had attended. Immediately, I assumed they were Christians.
They played for a while, and I typed. They discussed different issues. Finally, one of them got up to get a refill, and the other was ten seconds behind. For no apparent reason, I asked "Are you guys Christians?" as the second guy passed by. He looked at me and then at the wall. He lightly jingled his mug in his hand, and stammered, "I...have been searching...and I like Jesus' answers the most. I just don't believe in the Church." We were then off to the races.
He sat back down, and he began to compare Jesus with Buddha and drew similarities between the two. He said that He respects Jesus the man, but wouldn't call himself a Christian. To call ones' self a Christian one would have to acknowledge the "Godship" of Christ. He said, "Yes, Jesus was God, but just as all of us our God. We all have that godship in us, but He was so enlightened that He attained to it more than the rest of us." We talked about the Old Testament God versus the New Testament God and postmodernism's vacuum of absolutes. It went on and on: the Christian who claimed Jesus to be God debating the Jesus lovers who wanted a good teacher. It was really a great conversation. I liked them a lot, and they liked me. They said they were grateful to talk with someone who didn't get offended. We openly disagreed with each other, but it was done in love. It was just such a heady conversation. SO very heady.
But it was the last five minutes that I'll remember the most. As it was wrapping up, the guy I had originally talked to said, "Well, I have a question that I like to ask Christians. How can there be so much pain in the world, if God is truly all knowing and all powerful? I don’t see how evil and God’s sovereignty can coexist.” He continued, “My best friend was murdered by his babysitter when I was 11. I don't get it." At another point in the conversation he said, "My grandfather died, and I started drinking too much. I started my journey then. I have a hard time thinking God is just."

And there…there it is.

That is where the theology finds its basis. That is the origin of the journey. That is where the wrestling match started between Christ (The God) and this human soul. It is here where all the heady answers come from.

I've only really done TRUE evangelism about twice in my life where I told the gospel message for what it truly is. They both ended in very loving debates about God. This was one of them, and in both of them the conversation swirled around and around like water down a drain until it was summed up in...pain.
It is the world's pain that leads it to wrestle with God and to either accept or reject Him. It was our pain, my Christian brothers and sisters, that led us to Christ. It’s their pain that turns them away.
When we evangelize and debate with the sinner, let us be very sure to lovingly strip it down to their pain. Yes, meet their arguments with your Christian viewpoint, but look for that ever so small window where the truth is shining through--the truth that the world is made up of individuals with individual stories of defeat, loss, despair, and it is that world Jesus is trying to break through to. That is the world He is trying to communicate with. Not the world of academia.

When I answered his question with my own stories of pain and loss, and talked about God's love in our pain, I saw the faintest of glimmerings in his eyes. It was amidst a conversation of concepts that Christ’s love faintly touched the broken heart of a sinner. It happened, however, as the concepts faded away and a personal story emerged.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Each Passing Day

I hate long lines. I get antsy on long road trips. I like quick answers and solutions. Stoplights are obstacles.


In our society waiting is considered wasting time. It’s a moment lost where we otherwise could have earned a buck, learned a lesson, or made a memory. Why does waiting eat at us so quickly, and why does it wear me out?
There is some magical/spiritual connection between our souls and the wait. There is something God digs about waiting, and I don't think He just likes seeing us squirm and lose our minds. There is this concept in the Bible about "waiting on the Lord," and about breaking free from our schedules in order to be still before the Lord.
Now, I know all the answers as to why God wants us to stop and wait. It forces us to depend on Him and surrender our will. It is healthy for our physical bodies to let go of worry. It forces us to stop controlling our own lives and wait for God's guidance. These are all grand things that I believe whole-heartedly in, but I feel as if my soul writhes like a slug under salt when I go through a time of waiting. Is there anyway for those cups to pass me?
This morning I woke thinking about this whole "waiting" issue, and as I drove to work I asked myself, "Why does God make us wait?" I began to think on how He wants our souls to rip and tear so they can grow back stronger. He wants us to persevere and press on just like one does when they lift weights. Then I chuckled to myself proudly for my play on words..."hehe...the wait is like lifting a weight...Oh, Taylor, you silly son of a gun."
But there is so much of my life that I control: my house, my money, my relationships, my talents, my ministry. It is rare that I am forced to truly surrender. However, every once in a while a situation in life arises where our control slips through our fingers that we tragically try to gasp harder and harder with every grain that falls.
At this point we are left empty-handed.
It’s these moments that cause me to finally surrender my life. I feel my soul pulsating from the pressure of waiting. I must wait for an answer, guidance, or healing; and it almost feels physically tangible. I can feel it on my shoulders as it presses down on me. Perhaps this is a cross that we bear, and perhaps this is how we learn Christ-like perseverance. With this wait on our shoulders, we learn to press on. When life comes to a halt and only time will tell, we learn to become a surrendered sacrifice. Let us not forget to enjoy the now as we wait on the then. After all, I believe that if I truly long for the abundant life, it is well worth the wait, my friend.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Theology of Dance

I use to hate dancing. I use to make fun of people who "JUST HAD TO DANCE!" Dancing was always funny to me, and I had always equated it with shallow weekends and guys with top shirt buttons down to reveal their chest hair and golden chains. I don't know why. Over the past several months, though, I have realized the beauty of dancing.
A few weeks ago, I attended the Tim and Courtney Fair wedding. They are both good friends of mine, and we enjoyed the weekend of celebration with one another. The wedding was beautiful. In fact, I've never seen a wedding that had a set design with lighting before. I though it was really great.
It was a morning wedding, and the reception was in the early afternoon. Now, I live in Knoxville away from some of my dearest friends in the world. There are a few of us who remain close to each other, and we have a lot of fun. However, we always miss the rest of our group. Within the first five minutes of seeing each other it is always a celebration. Things get borderline dangerous, because we feed off one another's energy.
So, at this reception, we ate some roast that was bigger than my face, and there were beautiful toasts given, with lovely music playing.

Then...came the dance...

There have been fewer more joyful moments in my life than when my dearest of friends gathered in a circle to dance to "Isn't She Lovely" or "Oh What a Night." I ended up on the floor and on people's shoulders. The DJ said that he had never seen a wedding in the afternoon that was not serving alcohol which was more riled up. We were sweaty and gross, but we had a reason to celebrate, so we danced. Celebration equaled dance. It just had to be so.
In the Church today, we overlook dancing so much. In Biblical times and in our world today, dancing happens when there is joy or celebration. I don't know why God made us with bodies that would start to convulse and sway and shake when we are excited.

I don't know what connection happens between a beat and a body movement. But we must not sit still. Our bodies must move.
I believe we have labeled dancing as sinful or eccentric in the Church while the beat of God is playing. We must not be still. Our bodies must move.

We are killing the natural desire our physical bodies have to move to the music. And we are stifling God's tune in our hearts, keeping our bodies from joining in on the dance. The music is always playing, and the drums are always beating. However, we allow the grinding gears of our pain and stress to drown out the melody. Can we strain our ears again, and tune into the sound of God's song. And
Dance, my friends. Don't be critical of these movements, and don't be bashful. Our bodies must move in the moments of celebration. We, above all people, have reason to party. Let's move.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Our Forgotten Sin

My generation has experienced a revival in grace. We cling to grace and we celebrate it. Reacting to the fire and brimstone preaching that has dominated American culture for far too long, we have admitted our brokenness and have begun to foster a new religion based on relationship. What a beautiful movement towards God we have made.
However, I see the pendulum swinging, yet again, to the extreme. Forgive me if you feel as if I am putting words into the mouth of my generation, but I'm speaking from my 22 year old heart alive and thumping in the year 2007.

I forgot about sin.

I have celebrated a relational God and a God so full of grace that I forgot all about the sin issue. Also, I have fallen so in love with the positive commands such as giving to the needy that I have chucked out all the "Thou Shalt Not’s." Freedom in Christ has become an excuse rather than a privilege. Let’s face it, our generation is reacting to fire and brimstone by dancing in the streets daring it to fall, shouting, "Oooohhh...God doesn't do thaaaat."
I'm a youth minister, and I love teaching kids about the relational God and freeing them from the adolescent legalism they buy into early in their Christian faith. I so often quote the verse where Jesus says, "If you love me you will obey my commands." I make the point that it is our love for Christ that makes us behave, not a mere duty we must fulfill.
However, in my personal life, I have clung to the first part of that verse and ignored the second. It's all about the love and with my mouth as I drink coffee during my quiet time I moan, "Mmm, yes Jesus I DO love You." Then, my spiritual amnesia kicks in and I forget about obeying the commands.
We are writing books and giving talks and we're getting angry when the positive commands are ignored. There are all these people being hurt and Christ's love is not being expressed. Therefore, we throw our fists in the air and call the Church to obedience. However, when a sermon is preached on sexual purity, we scrutinize and make darn well sure it is being preached in love, lest we feel our toes are stepped on.
We forgot about sin. There are things that we are not supposed to do, and we will be separated from God if we do them. God's grace is enough, but our foolishness is still enough to slowly cast us into Hell.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"Return Oh Traveler, Dear Son"

So, I'm drivin' through the country of Virginia where I use to belong
And I've been robbin' myself of joy for far too long
Well, I've been missin' answers to my right and left most everyday
All of dem habits have been gettin' in my way

I'm comin' back--back to where I belong

Dance, Dance like it’s your last time
Sing, Sing into this ear of mine
Lean, Lean on someone not around here
Who's breakin' through the sky
(Then we say, YES!)

I was thinkin' the other day, I need to get more exercise
All my vices drop, I'll let my spirit rise
'Cause I hear the train a-whistlin' and I don't want to miss this ride
Cause life is gonna happen whether you are ready or not

I'm coming back--back to where I love

Dance, Dance like it’s your last time
Sing, Sing into this ear of mine
Lean, Lean on someone not around here
Who's breakin' through the sky

Drums go crazy!!!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

One of the Girls

This past Friday night, I was hanging out at my house. All of my friends were busy except for a dear friend, Jamie Ketchen. When I called her to see what was going on, she was at a bachelorette party. The invitation was extended, so I figured, eh, why not.
And thus was the beginning of the BEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE EVER. We sat around and told some stories, and then the bride's sister pulled out some index cards for a game. Everyone had to say who their fantasy actor crush was for the bride to guess who's card belonged to who. Of course, I put down Ewin Mcgregor. There was some girly dancing that took place. And I giggled once. The end.