I wrote up a page about the Alabama Christian freaks get-together on January 30 in Birmingham. (In this theme, pages get special treatment at the top, and I want to always have the latest up there.) Check it out, and join the Facebook group or comment to be kept up to date on details.
January 22, 2010
January 18, 2010
I feel like my life is traveling in circles. I feel like my brain is traveling in circles. It’s not an unpleasant journey, and in some very fundamental ways I’m blessed. But it sure is confusing. God has some purpose in all of it, but he hasn’t really shared it with me, and I’m sure that must be for the best.
Here are some things whirling around in my brain:
- Almost finished with the Chap Clark / Steve Rabey book When Kids Hurt. It’s inspiring and overwhelming. I want so badly to be part of pushing forward their vision, but by the week I have less and less idea how. I’m in their conclusions chapter, and just read the item on youth ministry. They seem to think youth min. people need to overhaul the model. But my old plan of becoming a professor of youth ministry appears to be dead on arrival precisely because I don’t fit the old model (or at least, because my resume doesn’t scream success under the old model). So a professor of youth min. writes a book advocating change, but institutions are apparently resistant to change. Like any other field, I guess.
- I’m looking forward to going to see a few bands I’ve never heard before play at a church in Madison on January 29. The only reason I even know about this show is because they were flyering for it at that benefit show I went to in Athens last Saturday. Still, fun and anticipation.
- I just checked out a new coffee shop in NE Huntsville. Nice atmosphere (except for the smoke alarm that needed a battery), relatively inexpensive coffee, less crowded than Olde Towne. I’d go back, but I’d take headphones and my own mug.
- Heard a patron there, apparently a veteran teacher, say something like, “People don’t realize that teaching is a calling.” Indeed.
- On the way home, heard an NPR story about outrage over the money college presidents make. Maybe higher ed is a great field to be in after all. Michigan, here I come!
- After that, heard an NPR story about a struggling school in Pasadena hoping for California to win some sort of “sweepstakes” grant. So maybe secondary education / guidance counseling isn’t a good field to be in.
Yeah, lots to think about.
January 16, 2010
How is it that North Alabama can support 500 kids at a Christian hardcore/metal show in Athens, but apparently not half a dozen creative or subcultural-leaning Christian adults? Or do I just not know where to look? Seems to me the Christian church is more conventional and strait-laced here than the population of North Alabama as a whole!
January 10, 2010
January must be the fourth or fifth month straight that I’ve had a few days of a cold that’s just making me feel lousy. It worries me a bit, although I think it’s partially that my worries are impeding my defenses and partially that the lack of a conventional work schedule is giving me an excuse to sleep 12 hours a day and sleepwalk the other 12.
But I’m trying to use my down-time wisely, and I think God has a way of forcing me to slow down “doing” so that I can focus on growing spiritually. I wouldn’t want to claim that any of the following is special revelation that others should take as a word from the Lord, and certainly none of the following insights supersede Scripture or anything else one might hear from wise teachers. But I do think the following is some insight that I’ve distilled from various passages, sermons, etc. lately.
- For me dying to self means setting aside my need for accomplishments. I won’t lie. I crave plaudits from others. I don’t spend my life running around after wealth or material toys (as seemed to be a big theme in today’s sermon at Southwood). I run around worrying that everyone considers me a terrible failure and a bum. I blogged about this form of idolatry a couple of months ago, but it’s going to take a long time for me to get away from it.
- I can’t compare God’s work in my life to God’s work in others. This is a huge problem for me. I have sort of a recurring theme in my conversations with my mom. She’ll say something like, “God’s just got to bring you to the point of total surrender,” and then I’ll flip out in frustration. But it occurs to me, my frustration isn’t because I really think I’ve reached the point of total surrender. My frustration is because I don’t think anyone has reached the point of total surrender, but other people don’t seem to require this same “education.” I resent that they’re allowed to crave approval as much as I do, but still have productive, ego-stroking careers. Actually I just put together that this is the reason for my resentment, as I was typing #1. Well, my subconscious knew why I was resentful, but I just now reached enough awareness to type it up as a list item here.
I don’t get upset that Mom thinks I’m not at the point of total surrender. I get upset that Mom thinks that God needs to teach me this lesson more than he needs to teach other people. But what occurs to me now — God forbid, maybe it’s my ego speaking, but I think there’s some truth here — is that the mission for my life somehow requires me to internalize this truth more deeply than most people have. At least that’s what I’m going to believe to stay sane.
- Tremendous freedom comes when we don’t think anyone’s judging us for our accomplishments. I know that, “God helps those who helps themselves,” isn’t in the Bible, but the associated mindset has always been in the back of my mind as I thought about the topic of life-goals and accomplishments. Today I’ve been trying to imagine what it would be like to live an entire life literally not caring about measuring up or not measuring up. It’s really amazing. I think in the back of my mind, I’d always feared that I’d use true freedom as an excuse to just lie in bed all day, maybe getting up to check sports scores or engage in some stupid battle on Wikipedia or something. But I don’t really want to do that. I still want to do something significant to help people, even without the negative reinforcement of imagining God shaking his head saying, “What a disappointment!” to motivate me. Since that negative reinforcement is neither necessary nor helpful to motivate me, I should discard it.
- Boasting in Christ is healthy, and isn’t the same thing as boasting about following Christ. I think I’ve mentioned how disgusting I find it when Christians make faith into a work and start to act superior just by the basis of their faith in Christ. Perhaps this revulsion has blinded me to just what Paul is saying in 2 Cor. 10 when he talks of “boast[ing] in the Lord.” Honestly, I’ve always thought this passage was a borderline ego trip. Maybe so, but I’m coming to see that boasting in the Lord means filling that craving for accomplishment with wonder about how God is working worldwide. If I’m really taking pride in God, so to speak, then it really doesn’t matter whether my role in that work is large or indetectable. I can die tonight and still feel proud to be a part of redemptive history, because God is still doing huge works.
- I need to get back to where I was in 2000-01, praying for Harvard Square. Sometimes ignorance forces you to rely on God. Before I had any experience hanging out in the Pit, back when I thought that I was in constant danger of gutter punks beating me down for saying the wrong thing, I spent about six months praying. I thought my prayer was so outlandish that I couldn’t imagine how God could possibly want me to reach out in that context. I certainly had no clue that a few faithful brothers and sisters from another Cambridge church already had a method to reach out, or that I’d be joining with them in a few months, let alone co-leading the effort within a couple of years Reading Clark and Rabey makes the need of youth today seem overwhelming. All I know to do is pray. I need to get back to where I was in 2000 and 2001.
- God can be trusted in the afterlife. I’m not going to develop this right now, but it’s something I’ve struggled with, and I received an insight today that made me feel a lot better. If this bothers you too, I hope you’ll get a similar insight.
- Bitterness and other emotional pain is analogous to physical pain. This could be number 2A, because my friend Laura suggested it in an IM conversation after I shared item 2. I certainly don’t want to justify my own bitterness and other unholy attitudes, but they do serve a purpose. They make me aware something’s wrong, and given my tendency toward pensive reflection, it seems likely I won’t really rest until I’ve worked the proximate cause up to consciousness, like a splinter. Anyway, that helped me a lot with item 2 above, and it helps to think that these triggers are triggers for a reason, to make me aware of the underlying issue.
That’s all I got for now. Hope this is helpful to posterity.