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Faith

Do You Know Who You’re Voting For?

By | culture, Faith, politics | 6 Comments

I’ve spent alot of time in my car this month. Alot of time thinking, listening to the radio, and worrying about the future of the country. 14 days and 40 hours of driving in any normal circumstance usually brings clarity on life- personal problems, conversations gone wrong, or awkward moments that didn’t make sense at the time but now make total sense in hindsight…you get the point.

But I have no answers for you right now. No true clarity. Just opinions and thoughtful concerns that hopefully you’ll consider as we move towards November 8th.

Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

These very words have defined my year. Not just because I finished and released a song about it that took 4 years to write, not just because of the cool media coverage that came from the NPR Tiny Desk contest feature (if you wanna watch the original song and submission, you can check it out here). But more than anything I’ve found myself hanging my head lower and lower with each news report of a Philando Castile, a Flint, Michigan, or a Wells Fargo incident. Nothing surprises me anymore. If anything I’ve traded my surprise in for sadness (i hate to admit).

I remember sitting in a lecture at the Summit for Change in D.C. this past June listening to Bryan Stevenson break down the inequities of the criminal justice system. A rigged system with a disproportionate number of minorities involuntarily feeding a corrupt, money-making prison industry. I remember his words clearly:

We have a system of justice in this country that treats
you much better if you’re rich and guilty,
than if your’e poor and innocent.

It’s true.
Which brings us to November 8th. And for me, it all comes down to Bryan Stevenson’s words; because how we filter those words through our worldview determines exactly how we filter this ultimate truth of how we are to live:

Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly.

I’m not naive. I know most of the people reading this aren’t Christians and probably don’t recognize those words as Biblical text or an ultimate truth. I also realize there are alot of people who don’t hold justice, mercy, or humility as top priority…and I’m not faulting anyone for this. Some people are seriously just trying to pay their rent, put food on the table, raise kids who aren’t drug addicts, and keep their families together. Some people seriously aren’t thinking about saving the world or being Mother Teresa. And y’know I think that’s most of us  on most days – myself included.

But here’s the real problem.

The problem with America isn’t that we lack bankers who are competent with money, or people who know how to install lead-free pipes, or cops who can police fairly. It isn’t that our judicial systems are understaffed or filled with judges and lawyers who don’t know the law or how to use it properly. We don’t have a problem with under-educated college graduates who don’t know how to use their knowledge (at least I hope we don’t if we’re dropping 20k a year on tuition). No, the real problem with America is us. It’s our hearts. Corrupt hearts, love of money, love of self, pride, self preservation, turning a blind eye to injustice, living and maintaining our perfect little bubbles of normalcy and homogeny. Safe little bubbles where everyone looks like me, talks like me, and thinks like me. Give a sh–  only when I’m getting paid to, go to church so I can say I’m a good person, put in my time at work and get paid for doing the maximum when I only did the minimum, give to charity so I can feel better about myself, the list goes on and on.

If you want to know the measure of a man (man used in general terms here) don’t look at where he spends his money but how he spends his time. Who is he in public and, more importantly, in private. If you want to know the integrity of a man, listen to what others say about him. His reputation will precede him. Do you find trash or treasurer? If you want to know the character of a man, spend time on his history. Find out where he’s been, what he’s done, what he cares about and who he associates with.  If you want to know the heart of a man, listen to him talk. When he speaks does he encourage others, embody hope, admit fault, or tear down those around him and criticize others’ mistakes while diminishing his own?

By now (if you’re even still reading) I’m sure it’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Donald Trump.
As someone who often finds myself in the in-between about nearly everything, I’ve looked at this from every angle. I should also add that I do not consider myself a political person and literally left the room every time my sister would turn the news on for the first 8 months of this year. But eventually I gave in. And after giving in, and doing some listening, watching, and evaluating, I settled on something I’ve known for years:

Leadership has very little to do with competence and everything to do with character.

While knowledge is important, it only requires a very small sacrifice of absorbing information and regurgitating it when necessary. Good character, however, cannot be manufactured overnight. It is a life-long pursuit that demands  Wisdom (experiential knowledge), Honesty (not to be confused with blunt cynicism), Respect (not just for those in the same tax bracket), and Inspiration – because the people you are appointed to serve and the people who work under you want to believe in you and to be proud of you. They actually want to see your face on TV and not loath you or have a visceral reaction every time you open your mouth. Believe it or not, your people actually want to like you.

So let me break it down.

Nobody likes Donald Trump. Nobody as in 95% of the population (don’t quote me on this. Just a random guess).  Alot of people, especially those voting for him would never admit that he might be sexist, racist, xenophobic, and a narcissist (which, believe it or not, is the hardest one for me to deal with).  The truth is though, most of the people voting for Donald Trump, are not actually voting for Donald Trump the man. They are voting for Donald Trump the place-holder for the Republican Party. Which means they’re voting for the platform, not the person. As someone who comes from a very conservative background, knows a lot of conservatives, and still holds many conservative opinions, I get it. You want a party that shares and enforces many of the convictions you hold. As someone who is unapologetically pro-life, I get it. I really do.

But here’s what I don’t get.

I don’t get the insults, the degradation, the humiliation, the hatred, the sheer disregard and lack of respect for others, the proud, unabashed responses to accusations of wrong-doing. I don’t understand a heart that refuses to show respect for those he vows to serve, or empathy (key word) for those he vows to advocate for.  Most of all, my heart breaks for a Church that wholeheartedly stands by in support. My heart breaks for a Church that has now embraced a double-standard in our country – quick to call out sin but just as quick to ignore it in the case of Donald Trump. Were he running as a Democrat, this would be a completely different story.

I also find it hilarious, but again not surprising, that a culture that so readily objectifies women through its mass media is so quick to point a finger at Donald Trump because it’s convenient. Let’s not forget the billion dollar industry of pornography that quietly runs through the veins of our country. And nobody’s talking about it. Nobody! A lot of double standards here. This is one big game of convenience and everyone is losing.

Back to the Church.

Forgiveness. As Christians it’s what we do (or try to do), but as believers the very call on our lives is to be Christ-like. What does that mean? It means you’re washing everyone’s crusty feet even though you’re the most important person in the room. It means you stop to feed 5000 people when they should be cooking you dinner. It means you might actually be God’s gift to mankind but still you sacrifice yourself b/c you’d rather be slaughtered than see your own people suffer. That’s leadership. 

If we are not a people who can be brought down to our knees in humility, who can be shaken by injustice and compelled to address it, who can extend a hand of grace and mercy to those in need, we are not truly the Church nor should we support those who opportunistically embrace conservative political views for the sake of winning a race.  Because that’s what going on here. Tell the truth ya’ll! 

Of course, Donald Trump does not represent all or most Christians. And neither do the major Christian media outlets. Also realize that those voting for Donald Trump aren’t ‘bad’ people or bad Christians and the ones voting for Hilary Clinton aren’t the ‘good’ Christians.

Hillary Clinton?

Again, I’m not naive. I know this woman has as many battle scars and badges of honor as she does bad moves, bad decisions, and bad judgement. She’s been in the game a long time and knows how to keep a poker face. There is alot of stuff in Hilary Clinton’s history that I don’t like. Maybe in another post and another time I will talk about Margaret Sanger, eugenics, compulsory sterilization in ethnic communities through the mid 80s, and the history behind what we now know as the pro-choice movement…because history is everything and there are alot of things we aren’t talking about. And maybe just maybe, even if you don’t agree with me, you’ll see where I’m coming from. If you want a head start, you can read one of Sanger’s speeches.

Like I said, until September, I managed to stay apathetic about election season. But when I did begin to pay attention I noticed two very different dialogues within each camp. One offered ambitions for racial justice, gun violence prevention, and tuition-free college, while the other camp repeatedly used its stage-time (and social media presence) to encourage violence, belittle women, condemn the competition, and literally offer no game plan.

The decision seems pretty clear, right? Yet even now and over the past two weeks, the words of 19th century theologian Charles Spurgeon have been ringing constantly in my ear:

Of two evils, chose neither.

So let’s talk about what’s reaaaally going on here.

I believe writer Isaac Sharp described it best while writing in the voice of a C.S. Lewis character, Screwtape:

For those inclined toward great political concern, your task is slightly more nuanced. You must push them toward two important conclusions. You must first convince them that their preferred candidate is THE ONLY OPTION for true Christians, and that voting for any other candidate is not only wrong but also evil. They will see this binary model on display from the candidates themselves. The tendency away from moderation coupled with the seductive pull of extremism will prove too much for many Christian voters, and they will divide into opposing parties most naturally. Division is inherent in the system, and getting them to the furthest edges will be all too easy… And once they realize that voting is only one small and relatively minor way of bringing about their desired change we, my nephew, are more or less doomed. (The Screwtape Letters)

I am a firm believer that we live in two realities – what we see (with our eyes), and what we sense happening in the bigger picture. Macro level. The aeriel view. The Spiritual realm. You know what I mean – like that funky feeling you get when someone walks in a room and the whole atmosphere changes. That kind of stuff. 

You guys, this election has nothing to do with Hillary or Donald, Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, Black or White. This election has everything to do with chaos and confusion. The enemy, let’s call him Screwtape, is fostering an atmosphere of hatred discord, and distraction. The devil is in the details ya’ll, and he’s doing a really good job with them right now.

BUT, and I’ll speak directly to the Church, WAKE UP!!!  Vote for whoever you want…even if it’s no one (no seriously, you should go vote though). But wake up! We’ve lived in a nation where the Church has become a country club, existing for its members but largely irrelevant to those outside its 4 walls. And as the Church has sought to become more like the world with flashy stage lights, hipster-looking bearded preachers with lots of hair gel, saavy video-productions, digestible 75-minute services and its own Christian version of literally eeeeverything (especially music), it has lost its relevance. We can’t expect to stay at a comfortable distance, create our own subculture of music, books, and entertainment, and still aim to regulate the way others live through a political party.  I’m all for a more sacred lifestyle. I think we’ve lost something very special by removing prayer from schools and making Sundays yet another business day *lifts hands in guilt*. But our country is really changing, and while I’m not blaming the Church for its ‘demise’, I am saddened because the Church kind of forfeited its spot.

The days of complacency are so over.  I don’t want to be a good Christian. I want to be a Spirit-filled one! I want to walk in the truth and power of Jesus Christ. Take him everywhere I go. Live him out. Be the Gospel to those around me. Offer hope and healing, whether it be with my words or in my music. I don’t want to be a place-holder, warming the pew on Sunday morning, do my time and be on my way. I don’t want to go to the homeless shelter down the street, slap a serving of cream-of-corn on some old dude’s styrofoam plate and act like I did something for him.

If God is real. If Jesus is real, if I believe it, if I live it, then i take it out into the world every day and give Him to someone else. If I remember that my vote, while important, does not let me off the hook as an active world-changer, hope-bringer, ambassador for Christ, then I don’t ultimately place my hope in ‘my candidate’Instead I wake up in the morning and decide not to be apathetic or judgemental, or condemning. Instead I wake up ready to serve others. Instead I wake up and stop being so comfortable in my perfect little bubble.

This year has been craaazy, ya’ll! And we’re all tired. Tired of black men and cops dying, tired of hustling to find work, tired of ridiculous nightclub shootings, tired of uncertainty. Vote your convictions. Vote for good leadership. Dare I suggest that neither candidate has stellar character and maybe one of them just hides it better. I dunno. But one of them is going to be the President whether we like it or not. Oh yea…there’s that 3rd guy too.

At the end of the day, if we don’t realize we have sin in our own hearts and that we condemn others while begging for mercy in our own lives, how could we possible expect our leadership to be any different?

Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

p.s. i really wanted to use this photo up top b/c it looks like they’re singing a duet, but i was afraid you wouldn’t take this post seriously :)


Here are some lyrics from a Sara Groves song (Second Guess Girl) that helped me process
alot of these thoughts while driving in my car for countless hours thinking about all of the above…
 
Is it time for a speech or for silence
Are you calling for peace or defiance
Is this darkening counsel or wisdom
Are we all perpetrators or victims?

Is this childlike simple rote history
Is it complex deciphering mystery
Is this blessing or ill gotten wealth
Am I speaking for God or myself?

Is this confidence born of a calling
Is this ego and pride before falling
Are we standing to fight for what’s right
Are we angry and hopelessly blind?

Are we companions of Job or prophets of God
Are we not of this world or just painfully odd
Is it time for free grace or tough love
Or a little of all the above?

Sooner or later we’ll know more about it
Sooner or later we’ll understand why
We’ll understand why

It’s a hard world for a second guess girl
With one hand and another
I try to take it in and it leaves me spinning
Trying to love my sister and brother
It’s a hard hard world for a second guess girl
Trying to love my sister, love my brother

listen to audio

Why We Don’t Give

By | Faith, food, questions, world | No Comments

hands photo

After a brief talk I did about Food for the Hungry at my show this weekend, I had a really great conversation with a friend about the actual, real, possibility of ending poverty worldwide. It sounds absolutely impossible, absolutely daunting, and absolutely foolish to think that it’s possible. But it is.

I think sometimes we don’t give b/c we are afraid we will run out of money or that we won’t be able to take care of our own needs. But we live in a culture of wastefulness. We take more than we can finish, and waste more than we can afford to. We spend more than we have and we complain about not having the things we don’t need. Giving isn’t something we should do to make ourselves feel better or more generous. Giving should be a lifestyle. We should give because it comes naturally…not because someone guilt-tripped us with the photo of an exploited, starving, homeless kid sitting in the middle of dirt road. We should give because we have more than we need and because it would be absolutely silly to keep it for ourselves when we see others struggling. We should give because we’ve been given so much.

In my very short life, the one thing I have noticed is that the people who are most giving are the people who are always taken care of. They don’t trip over not having enough, don’t stress about running out, and are always willing to welcome others into the fold and share what they have, even if it’s not a lot. I am reminded of a verse in the Bible that says, ”Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phillipians 2:3-4). Doing ‘nothing out of selfish ambition’ is a very tall order. In fact, the whole chapter is really challenging, and very counter-culture b/c in many ways, its more human to be selfish than to be giving. It’s more human to operate in survival mode – to wake up asking ourselves, ”ok, how can i make it through today without dying, or killing someone, or thinking about killing someone”. No one really wakes up saying, ”ok how do I make someone else happy? How do I help someone else make it through the day?” And if you do operate that way, most people think it’s a front…and sometimes it is. Because that type of thinking doesn’t come naturally…at least not to me.

So how does it become second nature? In a culture where our cups are perpetually overflowing, is it possible for a shift in mentality to take place? Because that is the real question. The question isn’t can we end world hunger or poverty as a whole. The question is: can we be less selfish?

The 5 Things I Am Most Thankful For

By | Faith, life, quotes, Uncategorized | No Comments

 

grateful

In every day life, it is not happiness that makes us grateful,
but gratefulness that makes us happy.

 

1. My family

You wouldn’t believe the stories if i told you. It has been a trying 2014. With some near-fatal stuff that wasn’t trivial enough to stick on Facebook, I am most thankful for my family and the gift of their lives. God is so good! We are like blades of grass, blown by the wind. Life is so fleeting and we walk around every day thinking we are invincible. Praise God for every day He gives you – good or bad!!! Amen!

2. A Place to Lay My Head

I am forever grateful for the people and families who have opened their homes to me this year (and the last several), fed me, given me a spare bedroom for a night, and given of themselves more than is required. It’s like I never cease to be amazed by the kindness in people’s hearts – their desire to give in the form of a meal, a care package, or just a home away from home. And they never want anything in return. I feel so absolutely blessed by these brief, yet profound encounters; and forever changed by the friendships that have developed by the many families that have welcomed repeated visits.

If  I could remember all the names of the people I want to thank, this would take forever to read.  But here are my shoutouts: The Edivans, The Kazarians, The Haydens, The Bazers, The Oguntemein family, The Annis’, The Azure Family, Obehi and her roommates, The Baldanza Family, Charlene Chow, The Bustards, The Scobies, Nancy Deckant, Canyon, Ito Osaigbovo, Heather Lloyd, Nicholas Denham, Lola’s cousins, The Aspers, The Olsons, The Kenyons, The Cunninghams, Crystal McGee, The Socrates’, The Colemans, The Adewales, Eliza Hechmer, Alaina Kleinbeck, The Brackbills…and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

3. Life!

How can we possible see everything, go everywhere, know everyone?  We can’t!  But we sure can try!!! I am so thankful for the ability to experience this thing we call life. To explore, to feel, to encounter new faces at the turn of every corner, and to learn something new each day. While tuned into an NPR interview last week, I heard the Interviewer ask his guest if he felt he was missing out on the life he ”could” have had. The guest responded saying Every day is an adventure. There is no such thing as missing out. You pick what you want to do and you do it. Once you finish that, you pick something else and do that. Life is an adventure ya*ll!  Dont miss out, just do!

4. Hope

It has been a discouraging year in world news. It would seem, based on reports, that evil is winning. But it’s not. Evil NEVER wins!  Justice is always served and death cannot and will not prevail!

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18  

Wow, that verse couldn’t be any more true. In the midst of trial, man continues to rise, trust, and hope for better! Evil never wins. Evil tries, but it keeps trying and it’s growing tired. Hope believes in things it cannot see. That is the VERY definition of hope!! Hope doesnt believe in what is. Hope is all about seeing potential – trusting and knowing that what IS can be better! This is why hope deferred makes the heart sick. ~ Proverbs 13:12

So my call to action for anyone reading this is to HOPE! Don’t lose heart. Don’t let your heart grow sick.

5. The Things We Cannot Touch

As I sat down to write this, I wasn’t sure what #5 would be. But isn’t it funny that the most beautiful things in life are the things we cannot touch. I think God did this very strategically. After re-reading #1-4, it’s an eye-opener when we realize that what matters most can’t even be touched – faith, hope, love, health, freedom, gratitude, joy. During this season of thankfulness (my favorite holiday of the year, by the way), I am asking to be reminded of this every day!!!

Happy Thanksgiving to You All!!!

-Joy

#365 Days of Eeeeeverything

By | art, beauty, culture, Faith | 2 Comments

Everything Matters

When i set out to write 1 post every day for 365 Days, I wasn’t sure why. Honestly, no one was holding a gun to my head, and it’s not like I was bored. I was already very sleep deprived and had plenty of other things on my plate. But I knew I wanted to talk about things that I never get a chance to talk about in 4-minute songs, 1-hour concerts, or 140-character tweets. And when All or Nothing (the album) came out last year, I kept getting this nagging feeling to share the themes of the album by telling the stories of other people living out those themes. I also wanted to talk about the intersections of faith, art, and culture within that context. 

For the first month, I was pretty consistent. 1 post every day meant staying up a bit later (i think clearer at night) or cutting out other activities to get the post up by 2am-ish so people would see it first thing in the morning. And within the first week I noticed that writing about “All or Nothing” (or AoN as I like to call it) made me see it everywhere I went. Sorta like how you start to see Honda Civics everywhere when you’re shopping for a Honda Civic. I started noticing things about how people work: like the difference between someone who cares about their job vs. someone who doesn’t. I wrote posts like #4 – about people in my life who were stepping out on a limb and becoming Entrepreneurs. I wrote posts like #47  –and #327 about absolutely terrible days on the road when i just wanted to quit. And I posted song lyrics like #287 – by artists whose music has profoundly shaped my life and young music career. I even talked about my favorite food chain (Chipotle) in #116 and why their business model has made them as successful as they are.

Over the course of the year I came to wholeheartedly appreciate and write posts about small business owners whose venues I was playing in (#326), and everyday people who never get recognized for the wonderful things they’re doing in their neighborhood (#334). And then of course there were posts about those people who cared a little too much…to a fault (#26). Prepare yourself  :) I wrote a Eulogy for my Honda CR-V (#114) – the one I killed due to overuse and bad maintenance. And then I wrote a much more serious Eulogy for my late older brother on what would have been his 35th birthday  (#200).  I learned and shared how to love (#342) and also talked about challenging art (#126), challenging movies (#318), and the challenge of making meaningful music (#297).

Was it worth it? Yes! I mean on one hand, I was getting much much less sleep (still bitter about that) and I spent hundreds of hours maintaining this blog. As in hundreds! I was committing to 7 posts every week, not to mention the 2 posts I was writing each week for my marketing blog, Grassrootsy. I was, staring at my computer screen even more than I’d already been, and I often felt completely depleted of energy and creativity by the end of the day. I suffered most in my songwriting. I only wrote 1 song last year. Yes…1 song! And I stopped journaling for myself. I also began to get confused between what was worth writing about and what would be a waste of breath. Ultimately I started to skip days and post less frequently. This blog could actually be called “415 days of All or Nothing”.

Regardless of all that, YES it was worth it! This last year of writing has been one of the most rewarding and worthwhile endeavors I’ve ever burdened myself with. For one thing, it brought tons of traffic and new fans to my website! hehe :)  But more importantly it has made me see people and art in a whole new way. It has made me a better writer, and, based on emails and comments, it has hopefully touched the lives of its readers. As I kiss this 365-day blog goodbye, there is one thing I am absolutely sure of: What we do matters. How we care for others, how we spend our time, how we choose to use the talents God has given us…it all matters.

The Glory of God is Man fully Alive.

 

THANK YOU ALL FOR READING!
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#338 Jubiliscious! Changing the World One Passion at a Time!

By | art, beauty, Faith, purpose | No Comments

It’s that time of year again! Time when I get to spend a whole weekend with thousands of college students all across the Northeast and Midwest – praising God, listening to incredible speakers, and connecting with students! My favorite thing!

Jubilee has always been the highlight of my year during my last 5 years of involvement.  It is unique in the sense that it is not just another Christian Convention.  You would be terribly mistaken to think that. Jubilee is the one and only thing I’ve ever been to that encourages Christians to live outside of the Christian subculture bubble. It’s a conference that exposes students to new NGOs, challenges students to think outside the walls of the church, and brings in athletes, business men, artists, teachers, politicians, scientists, writers, and more to talk about what they are doing in the world.

It where I first heard about KIVA.org – the first ever micro-loan venture, it’s where I met Charlie Peacock, heard a compelling talk from Bill Strickland about education in America, learned how PNC Park was designed, and watched Emily Adams teach an Intro to Dance class.

Jubilee fuels me and keeps me going b/c I get to hang around and sit under the lecture from creatives from all different disciplines. It makes me remember that music-making can change the world. And so can other disciplines…that is, if people are passionate about sharing what they love with the rest of the world.

p.s. Jubilee is for student and adults alike. If you’ve got a FREE weekend, you can still register.

#302 all i want for Christmas…

By | Faith, family | No Comments

Today my sister had a little fun on Facebook by making fun of my measly Christmas tree. Admittedly its pretty pathetic. Ok…very pathetic! Its got a few candy cans, some gold beads, and ugly gold frilly thing at the top, and Christmas lights that are currently wrapped up on the red cloth because they weren’t working! A few people have now dubbed it the Charlie Brown Christmas tree :)

In my defense, Samuel and Emmanuel helped put this tree together..and even if they had slapped mud onto my tree, it would have been perfect :) Also in my defense, this tree actually looks super cute when the lights are on and the living room is dark. And also in my defense, I dont normally put up a tree because my parents have one at their place. But i don’t need to defend myself *chuckle*.

Anyhow, in the midst of all the laughter and facebook jokes today, I thought back to my childhood and how plenty of years went by where we didn’t put up a Christmas tree or buy gifts. In fact, my family hasn’t done Christmas presents in the last 6 years now – ever since my brother died. These days, and back when we were kids we were taught to appreciate the Christ of Christmas and not to buy into the world’s commercialism of the holiday. We also saved loaaads of money :)  In fact, Thanksgiving quickly became my family’s favorite holiday because it was a time of getting together, eating tons of food, sharing what we were each thankful for, and simply spending time with each other. But you already know what i think about Thanksgiving :)

Anyhow, my friend and I got into a conversation today about the holidays and what it means to celebrate without overdoing it. I am all about gift-giving. Planned gift-giving isn’t necessarily my thing, but i do think its worth making people feel special…especially when they cross your mind. This year i got Samuel and Emmanuel a few things because I couldn’t resist and kids make Christmas awesome!!  In any case, I guess I’m writing all of this because i’ve really come to value how my parents raised me. Its made Christmas a completely stress-free season and a time of focusing on Christ, God’s gift to man, and preparing for 2014.

All-in-all, I guess I’m simply saying that we can’t allow ourselves to get caught in spending ridiculous amounts of money because the calendar says we should. It feels like a trap. Spend time with the ones you love and just enjoy the holiday. Also, don’t let family drama suffocate your experience. Nothing worse than family drama *shrug*

Merry Christmas! :)

 

#275 Noah’s Ark, Evan Almighty & The Bible: A Brief Study on Hollywood + Christian Entertainment

By | Faith, movies, Uncategorized | No Comments

I’ve just finished watching The History Channel’s The Bible.  It been a loooong time since Ive seen a  Biblically-based Hollywood-made film that got it right. And this was finally right! In 1999 NBC put out a TV mini-series of the story of Noah’s Ark. Ever since that release I have had absolutely no faith in mainstream media’s ability to honor the sacredness of the Bible while still creating something that’s quality.  I remember my sister and I got sooo mad at how bad NBC messed it up. Half of the movie was not in the Bible and the other half was so confused that you couldn’t help but laugh b/c it felt like a sick joke. In 2007 Hollywood put out Evan Almighty – the sequel to Bruce Almighty. It was terrible. This came out right around the time when Hollywood began to  realize that they could really make money off of Christians – that there was a huge market for clean, family-friendly entertainment that was not animation. But, i repeat, this movie was terrible! And this is coming from a girl who likes everything Steve Carrell is in! Don’t get me wrong – yea, it was good in the sense that Carrell was in it and that any 6-yr old would get a kick out of it. But i felt like my intelligence was being insulted on this one. The writing, the cheesiness, and the overly blatant Biblical references made for a watered-down experience that was a major step down from Bruce Almighty. You cant make 1 movie for the 20+ audience and then make its sequel for people under the age of 10!!  That’s all wrong! So naturally you can understand why i was skeptical about The Bible.  It seems that when Hollywood puts out a Christian or Christ-centered piece of work, the artistic quality is there, but everything else is missing. And when the Christian entertainment industry puts something out, you’ve got plenty of content, but no quality. So for me, this is one of the first modern films that hit the nail on the head – great content, great quality. Created by Christians who value the Scriptures, but backed by Hollywood, hence good funding If you’re several months late (like I was) and don’t have TV (like i don’t), then I’ll quickly cue you in. The 10-hour miniseries highlights stories from the Old and New Testament. It literally brings the Bible to life by pulling out characters from The Bible (Moses, David, Daniel, Sampson, Saul, Jesus…etc) and sharing their stories as told in the Bible. It feels very much like a history lesson – a snapshot that brings these characters to life. Because of the chronological retelling of these stories, the series does an excellent job in explain the entrance of sin, the implication of sin over the course of thousands of years, and then the introduction of Jesus as man’s redemption. The series gave me a really fresh perspective and more cohesive understanding of the Old and New Testament. So, while its certainly not perfect, I’d like to give it a 4.5 out of 5 because its just really well done! I’d also like to say that I am highly anticipating the Noah’s Ark movie that will be coming out in 2014 – starring Russell Crowe! I’ve got high hopes for this one.

#264 The WHY

By | Faith, family | No Comments

Tonight I played a potluck event at a church in Cincinnati, OH. My friend who is their youth pastor put the evening together for his students. It was a show for the K-12th graders and their parents…and it was so much fun! Throughout the evening we talked about expectations, parent-child communication, and following dreams.  I played a few songs, we talked, played some more, talked, and played some more. The parents broke into groups, the kids broke into groups, and we all came back together in the end for a debrief of sorts :)

Tonight the comment that stuck out to me most was by a kid who asked “Why do we go to church?” They said, their parents make them go every week but thy don’t understand why. They don’t talk about Jesus at home during the week but they go every Sunday. I’ve been thinking about that question all night and also wondering what the answer is.

Parents, if you have convictions, you need to tell your children what those are. You need to tell them WHAT you believe, but more importantly WHY you believe it.  The Why will eventually matter more than the What. And if kids don’t get a Why, then your convictions and values won’t matter to them in the long run. No need to go to church if you’re just filling a pew or doing it out of routine. There’s no life in that and no meaning. That’s religion and religion is boring. Instead, share with your kids the story behind your faith. Why its important to you, why you want it to matter to them, and why God matters.

I have alot of friends who could care less about the church. They grew up in the church – went on Sundays and sometimes midweek, but their parents never lived out their faith in front of them. Their parents never talked about or lived out the Why. And so now its too late to ask questions, because they don’t care anymore.

I guess I’m just saying that following Jesus doesn’t makes sense or mean anything if you’re simply a placeholder in a pew…or if you’re doing it to make yourself feel less guilty. I guess what I’m also saying is that that’s not even really following Jesus. Following Jesus is all about the Why: why we put others before ourselves, why we put less emphasis on our possessions, why we put more significance on who we are not on what we do, or why we love when hate is easier.

All i know is that when we understand the WHY, the WHAT makes so much more sense.

 

#246 Like A Child

By | children, Faith | No Comments

I talk about my munchkin brothers allll the time. In fact, I’m sure that if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re sick of it. But today while spending the evening with them, I had another one of those moments – that moment where you ask yourself “How could they possibly be so fully alive without actually knowing anything about life?”

But while watching them I realized that they are happy and joyful because they trust. They trust that we’re here. They trust that we’ll feed them, cloth them, watch them, and do every other thing that a little kid’s heart could possibly worry about. In other words, they have no reason not to be happy. They know they are well taken care of.

And this reminded me of why there are so many scriptures in the Bible that talk about the Kingdom of God being like a child. What if we trusted God to the point where we didn’t think about what we would eat, wear, go, do, (etc) because we know He has our best interest in mind. It would be complete freedom! It would be like watching cartoons all day! It would be great!