Friday, April 30, 2010

The Friendly Truth

Over a series of events and information lately, I've been taking a deeper look into my world (the world as a whole, my country, my city, my neighborhood, my world of friends and people around me, and myself). As far as the world geographically and socially, long story short, it is broken tremendously. Just see my previous post for just one example. As a result of taking survey of these things my hope in things has been shaken. Though I know the end is supposed to be bad before Christ returns, I also know that He has given me this trait of hopefulness for a reason (though I'm not always sure why).

[DETOUR] Yes, I'm what some would call a Christian, though I try not to be what you might think of as "Christian". What does that mean? That means I don't hate you and do my best (which is sometimes not great) to love you... either directly or indirectly. Is it because I'm trying to get you to "drink the kool-aid"? No. Whether you believe it or not, God is real and He really did send Himself in the form of man in Jesus. It's true and I don't mean that arrogantly, but just cut and dry fact. As a redeemed and adopted son of God, Jesus really only gave me one job. That's to love. Not collect money from you, tell you you're gonna burn in hell, not give you a bunch of rules to live by because my flawed self thinks their good, judge you or force anything else on you. Yes, I may honestly not like some of your actions or lifestyle choices, but I still care about you the person. Maybe that doesn't make sense, but how many of your friends, family or loved ones have a favorite movie, band, song, or food you just don't like, but you still love that person. Anyway... detour over. [pulls back onto the highway]

The funny thing is that God sees these times when my hope is fading and usually presents something to me to restore my hope and it's usually the most obscure of things. It's usually not some worship song, bible verse, or sermon but just some instance of life that just stirs me up. In this case it was just a friendly wall-to-wall exchange between two Facebook friends. Two people, honestly, I could not tell you what is going on in their life outside what I could discover from a profile page.

In our recent world of social networking, our world is becoming more connected and disconnected at the same time. Just focusing on Facebook, one can be "friends" with tons of people; actual friends, acquaintances, co-workers, strangers, companies, etc. Through that and actual human interactions I've been able to look around and look back assessing the idea of friendship. It's been eye-opening to say the least. Those who I would think would be my closest friends either have fallen away, never were, or I've done poorly at keeping up with... though there are a few exceptions. To be honest, most of them are Christian, people I call brothers and sisters. People I've prayed with, spent large amounts of time with, and shared life stories with. What better bond or common interest than the creator of all things, God. On the other side, I have the people I barely know, went to school with, work(ed) with or for, or only know what I know about them from their profile page.  What's strange and stirring is that between these two (minus of course my few close friends, a few exceptions, my wife and family), it is the latter that I have felt the most encouraged by and cared for... or at the very least recognized. It's crazy really, but not extremely shocking when I think about it.

We as Christians (whatever that may look like to you) tend to be the harshest critics and judges of each other. I know I'm guilty as well and it breaks my heart to know that I've done it. Instead of forming amazing bonds through Christ, we compete and put on shows. We're either too afraid to share our opinions for fear of judgment and not being "Christian-enough" or spend so much time squashing others' views. We're not raw and real because maybe if a church member were to see us curse, drink, listen to or watch something  secular, maybe we're not really Christian. Now, yes there are limits and moderation with those but add in the human judgmental nature of whose more attractive, has more money, or kisses your butt more and one begins to wonder what friendship actually looks like. Now, I'm not bashing everyone I've ever known who is Christian or painting myself as the be all end all of friends, but just sharing an observation of the last several years. If anything, social networking has shown me the people I missed way back when and their beautiful humanity, the people I've lost along the way, the handful that never were, the people I wish were back in or more in the picture, and the potential friendships ahead--both Christian and not.

So to the two Facebook friends mentioned above. Thanks. Our paths have not crossed for some time, but I was encouraged by your public exchange and sorry that I've missed out on some awesome people that I apparently seem to share a lot with.

The goal now is to do more beyond clicking "Like" next to your status and living life outside the box. Raw, real and in person (when possible).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What Keeps Us Alive Is Probably Killing Us!

So I've always had my reservations about big business and those with lots of money and power. I've also, over the last several year, been a little leery about food products, trying to find organic when I could, but not sweating it too much. I always figured I was just trying to prevent myself from eating extra preservatives my body didn't need.

Over the past several weeks my wife has been really getting into gardening and growing our own vegetables. Something that has been a progression from our joint plan of eating better and healthier foods. A few weeks ago, to compliment our growing observation of food, we started watching 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution' on ABC. While I've always known cafeteria food for students was crappy, it was amazing to see how much worse it has gotten and how the school systems and "powers that be" continue to force it on students. It didn't help that parents contribute by setting examples of poor food choices at home. Long story short, Amy and I were surprised how little people knew about healthy foods, eating right, and what food was what. One classroom of kids could not identify a potato!

Last weekend, Amy and I went to a Green Living Expo here in Austin, more out of recreation than learning new things. Before I begin, let me just tell you. Yes, I live in Austin, but have never considered myself some sort of Austin hippie especially having grown up in Houston. My pants are full length, my hair color is natural, I have no tattoos, no piercings, and most days am clean shaven. Now you know I'm not someone who is gonna go tell you to make out with a tree, let's proceed.

During the expo, we got the privilege to screen an independent film called, 'Fresh'. Later that day we rented 'Food Inc.' having heard about through various sources. I won't go into the details of the films, but I will recommend going to each film's site and reading up about it and watching them for yourselves. Needless to say I always kind of knew what modern day farms looked like and generally accepted it, but after these two movies I realized just how bad and criminal our food system really is. This isn't just call PETA and save the animals type of stuff. No, this is form a militia (because the government knows about it), call on God to rain fire from the sky type criminal. Forget terrorism, our own country (government and big business) is almost literally killing and abusing us (and others) and making the most profit they can in the process.

If you are new to this, I would recommend 'Fresh' first as it is a little lighter and more positive about supporting local farmers and seeking out local, organic foods while providing some of the truths I've alluded to. If you are ready for raw truth and a gut check to how you look at food, then proceed with 'Food Inc.' This is our food and the food of future generations. Unacceptable!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Emptiness of the American "Dream"

When I was a young boy I used to dream of being something or somebody special that made lots of money and had all sorts of cool stuff. I even remember promising to buy fancy sports cars for my family members. Not completely selfish right? Categorically and socio-economically I grew up and am still within the borders of the American lower middle-class. Just looking at the words "lower" and "middle" don't exactly scream "special". In fact, the only good things I think of in terms of low being good are golf scores, debt, risk of injury, death or disease, and calories. Middle. Well, middle is just average, not great and not horrible.

So throughout  my life I struggled with this idea of attaining some status that I was not born into nor groomed for. Seeing that sometimes attaining this required much sacrifice of self and many times, moral beliefs, I began to abandon this goal for bitterness towards it. As someone who is somewhat an introverted observer I have a strange ability to understand people and "see" them beyond the surface person they express. In my observations I've seen how the attainment of the American Dream and things like it yield little or temporary satisfaction. Knowing this and knowing that my richness is found in God and my wife, why do I still get sucked in by this false believe that I need to attain more or be better according to the world? Knowing that I am a son of God, I know that I'm taken care of and given exactly what I need, but I let the enemy deceive me and tell me that what I have is not good enough.

For Pete's sake (sorry Pete) I am like Bill Gates compared to so many in this world! That's not a boast, but a sobering fact I need to beat into my head. It's amazing how at our lowest with nothing, we consider ourselves rich in the Lord and praise Him with abandon... but give us just a little bit and we instantly want more. Sadly, not only does the enemy play this game with us, but we play it with each other. As a new home owner, I'm already feeling the draw of the mighty Yard Wars. Rather than be satisfied in my own mind, I have to compare. Is my yard better than that neighbors? Where else do we do this?

Is he a better husband than me? Is she a better wife? Is he or she better looking? Is their house bigger or better? Does their car have more features? Are their kids smarter, more athletic, or more popular? Are they a better friend? Are they better, faster, stronger, smarter, or more [insert anything] than me?

This is the cycle we often times find ourselves in. Not only losing focus on God, but making enemies of each other.

I look around my life and see a ton of blessings God has sent my way, but I have let myself and others taint that by creating doubt. Not doubt in God, but doubt in myself and what I have. Am I enough? Is this enough?

As a son of God, one of my many weaknesses is being diligent in studying the Bible. I tend to go out for a full sprint and burn out quickly, leaving it behind for long periods of time. In a recent attempt to reconnect, I decided to take a different approach. A long while ago, someone turned me on the convenience and structure of studying Proverbs daily. There are 31 chapters--1 for each day of the month-- and generally Proverbs is pretty straight-forward. I will say this though, being straight-forward doesn't make it any easier to live by.

So in this time of frustration, mostly at myself, for being led astray I decided I need to go into Proverbs. This was yesterday (the 22nd) and so I opened up to Proverbs 22.

Proverbs 22:1 -- A good name is to be more desired than great wealth,
Favor is better than silver and gold.

Bam! Verse one and God is right there. Now, some might read that and say, well isn't that what you just spoke against? "A good name", "Favor"? Is that like being a celebrity or public icon? I would say no. Why? The contrast to these is wealth, silver and gold... characteristics of many if not all celebrities and icons. Back then a good name and favor was not soley determined by your wealth, prestige, looks, or what kinds of friends you had. A good name and favor were based on the fact that you were someone of good rapor. You were respected for your character. Could you be trusted? Were you someone who was faithful to the Lord? Just, merciful, loving, kind, and dependable? Reading that verse and the rest of the chapter I stopped to think about my heart's desire. My longing is for me to be a man of good name and favor in the eyes of the Lord and my family. The square-footage of my house, my yard, the kind of car I drive, the capabilities of myself and my future kids, my bank account balance, and the superficial favor from others is all garbage and an unsatisfying race compared to what is true in the eyes of God.

I just pray that next time I let anyone or anything question myself, what I have, or who I am that I go and rest in the riches (both physical and spiritual) that the Lord has provided and praise Him without want... asking only that my name and favor are good in His eyes and ways I can make them better. For my goal is not to find favor with you, but with God and in turn my wife and family as that man of God.


Just 3 more weeks, 1 assignment, 3 chapters of notes, and 1 exam until I am officially done with college.

It's been a long time coming, but I am ready to be done. The best part is that I have no pressure, because if I completely bomb my assignment and my exam, I still pass all my classes.

I can't express how ready I am to be a normal adult who just works and comes home. I can have hobbies. I can spend time with my wife. I can develop friendships and all other sorts of things one can do outside the 40hr. work week.

I think when it's all said and done I will post a "What I've Learned" post from this long journey. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Revisiting This Thing

So after unsuccess and neglect (mainly for reasons of the prior), 'Around the News' has been cancelled like a great TV show that never really got it's legs and had too few viewers. It's all good though, I didn't need two blogs... and I probably don't need this one either, but I sometimes feel the need to share things or vent in a semi-private area. You might say, why don't you Twitter or write Facebook statuses? I would, but sometimes I have rants or vents that not everyone is a fan of. At least if you come here, it probably means you give a slight flip and it's up to you to read. It doesn't bombard you once you open up your favorite networking site. Plus, you are limited in text and sometimes I get long winded.

Anyway, I've come to revisit this blog. It's almost quitting time, but I think I have a few things coming soon.