Okay, I admit it.  The title’s written mostly as an eye-catcher.  I can even hear some of you right now thinking, “There’s no way of knowing whether the president will be re-elected or not.  It’s still too early to tell!”

You’re probably right.  But frankly, unless something major happens between now and November 2012, I’m convinced Obama will get four more years.  And I don’t even have to know who the Republican nominee will be.  I’ll get into that in a just a bit, but let me say before we get any further that I’m trying hard to write this post from a reasonably non-partisan, “just the facts, ma’am” perspective.  So regardless of what I want or don’t want, this is just how I see things going down.  Now, without further ado:

Reason #1:  Polls

Okay, again here, I’m sure there will be those of you who say that polls mean nothing at this point.  And to an extent, that’s true.  But sometimes we can look at things historically and get some insight as to the trends of the political environment.  In this case, I’ll first point out Obama’s approval rating.  As of the afternoon of July 13, 2011, RealClearPolitics, a website which compiles polling data (and offers news and commentary), has the president sitting just short of 47% approval.  The disapproval measures about 47% as well.  Now let’s look at some history.  Obama is actually pretty much on par with other 2-termers of the last several decades, at least by this measurement.  At this point in their presidencies, Clinton, Reagan, and Nixon were all hovering just below 50% approval, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Bush 43 is an outlier, sitting higher due to wartime (back when we thought Iraq would be a quick and easy fix).

Well, even if his approval rating seems to be in decent shape, maybe he’s vulnerable to one of his Republican competitors, right?  Personally, I think it’s very telling that the only opponent that even comes close to consistently running ahead of Obama in a general election matchup is “Generic Republican.”  (In fact, the most recent poll from Rasmussen Reports has him trailing by 5%.)  This is happening for several reasons, but mostly I think it speaks to a lack of cohesion and leadership in the Republican Party, reflected in the fact that one survey after another indicates a general dissatisfaction with the Republican presidential field as it stands.  Regardless, without Mike Huckabee in the race, Mitt Romney seems to run the closest against Obama, and even though he’s led the president in some polls, they’ve been few and far between.  And this is the man most people consider the front-runner for the GOP nomination, and perhaps the best chance the Republicans have got.  All the other candidates are running on average at least 10 points behind Obama in head-to-head matchups.

So it looks like the president’s got the upper hand for now, especially given the fact that the economy continues to languish, and his approval rating has stabilized in the mid-to-high 40s — which brings me to my next point.

Reason #2:  “It’s the Economy, Stupid”

 Unemployment is pushing 10%, the national average price for a gallon of gas is $3.65, and still nearly half of voters approve of Obama’s handling of the presidency.  So it seems many voters are willing to continue to blame the previous administration for the country’s economic woes, believe the stimulus has worked or will work, or simply overlook it altogether (or perhaps some combination thereof).  I can sum up Reason #2 pretty simply.  Basically, my point is that even though the economy is pretty bad, even worse than the last days of the Bush administration by some standards, an impressively high amount of voters remain loyal to President Obama.  I suppose the economy would have to get significantly worse for that to change.

Reason #3:  The Tea Party

The Tea Party has been characterized variously as a backwoods strain of right-wing extremism, an offbeat libertarian resurgence, and concerned citizens of any and all political leanings who are tired of the same old politics in Washington.  Whatever the truth, I would posit that the Tea Party movement will ultimately work in Obama’s favor in 2012.  This may be hard to swallow for some of you, but hear me out.  Some of you might wonder how the Tea Party could lead to a second Obama administration when the movement helped elect so many conservatives across the country last year.  I would remind you that while some Tea Party candidates were successful, others suffered defeat, even one in solidly Republican Alaska (Joe Miller – he was even endorsed by Palin).

The real problem with the Tea Party is that its candidates and leadership are ideological purists, whatever else they may be.  These are the people who believe Obama was elected in the first place because the GOP “abandoned its principles” when John McCain was nominated for president, not because the American economy suffered its worst crash since the Great Depression a mere two months before election day 2008.  In response to a liberal administration, these folks believe the best chance of beating Obama is to offer a candidate who differs from him as much as possible – meaning, the more conservative, the better, as far as most Tea Partiers are concerned.

Let’s take a look at how that strategy turned out in Delaware’s Senate race last year…http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2010/senate/de/delaware_senate_oadonnell_vs_coons-1670.html…Are you back?  In case you need a recap, long-time Republican Congressman Mike Castle was heavily favored to win the election for Vice-President Joe Biden’s old Senate seat.  But enter one hockey mom from Wasilla, and next thing you know, perennial candidate Christine O’Donnell gains the backing of the Tea Party and upsets Congressman Castle in the primary.  She went on to lose handily to Democrat Chris Coons.  So what happened there?  Apparently, enough of the Republican electorate got behind a candidate that heavily appealed to their conservatism that the candidate who appealed to a broader coalition (read MAJORITY) of voters was denied a shot at a general election he was expected to win because he was not ideologically pure enough.  Predictably, independents broke for the other side and delivered the seat to the Democrat.  And the exact same thing could happen in next year’s presidential election.

Some will say they’d rather lose an election than compromise their principles.  Me, too.  But there’s a difference between agreeing to disagree about the little things and compromising one’s principles.  The fact is, it almost always takes a majority vote to win the American presidency, so the Republicans will either have to nominate someone who can build bridges (to nowhere?), or take their lumps until 2016.  Yes, believe it or not, in order to beat Obama, the Republican presidential nominee will have to be someone who can win a general election (which requires getting a significant number of independents to vote for you).  In an unfortunate irony, in their efforts to win the country back to conservatism, the Tea Party may become one of the greatest obstacles to its advancement.

 

There you have it, folks.  That’s my breakdown of the top 3 reasons Obama will be an 8-year president.  It has little to do with any of his specific policies, and nothing to do with how I will cast my vote.  Now I want to know what you think.  This is the first political post I’ve ever made, so as usual, let’s keep things polite.  Any comments I judge to be inappropriate or hateful will be deleted.  Bearing that in mind, I’d love to hear from you.  Do you agree with my points?  Am I totally off?  You don’t have to be a member of WordPress to comment on this blog, so go for it.

Satisfied

February 26, 2011

So it’s been a very long time since I’ve posted, but I wrote a journal entry earlier this week that I’d like to share.  I’m really interested to hear other people’s thoughts, responses, and advice, and hopefully this will encourage somebody else somehow.  It’s not necessarily well put together, so forgive me if I seem to ramble at times.  Please bear in mind that I was in a rather melancholy state when I wrote much of this.

Annoyance.  Frustration.  Struggle.  Despair.  These are the phases in this vicious cycle which seems to lead inevitably to my destruction, for this is the way in which I lose the battle against sin and self.

I suspect that when this happens, it is a result of my efforts to fight in my own strength.  I know this will never work, because at my core, I am desperately evil (see Jeremiah 17:9).  The breakdown happens between the phases of struggle and despair.  It is there that I surrender to my flesh instead of my God and do one of 3 things:  give in and immediately regret it, usually feeling very guilty and even condemned; go on a binge of sinning for a chunk of the day, then regret it later, like a delayed reaction; or shift into a rebellious mood, which could last as long as a few days before I admit what I’ve done (thankfully, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve done that last one).  At least all these roads eventually turn back to repentance, which is, in a sense, encouraging evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.

Right now feels a bit different, though.  It’s as if the sin came as a result of despair.  So where did the despair come from?  Well, here’s some speculation.  It probably has to do at least somewhat with my consistent Bible reading dropping off over the past couple of weeks.  Actually, I’m sure of that.  If I’m not taking in a steady diet of the Word, I’m taking in a steady diet of the world. And the funny thing is, the more you feed off the world, in some sense it becomes harder to desire the goodness of God’s Word.  It’s like eating fast food all the time — it’s cheap, convenient, and tastes good, so why go to the trouble of eating healthy foods?  But then the junk you’re eating will eventually make you fat or sick or both.  So I have to turn to the Bread of Life, Jesus Himself.  Yet I lack even the strength to do as seemingly little a thing as that on my own.  I can only hope to live under grace.

God created me with an astonishingly strong capacity and desire to worship (although I don’t know if it’s more or less than anyone else’s).  However, that ability is gravely misdirected much of the time.  I have the tendency to make people my idols, elevating relationships with others over my relationship with God.  This creates several problems.  People are made to give worship, not to receive it.  So not only is my idolatry sinful and dishonoring to God, it also places the person being idolized in a position they can never fill — to be worshiped is too overwhelming and demanding for any mere mortal human being to handle, because, being finite, the idolized person can simply never fill the infinite void of needs of the idolater.

What I’m struggling with (when I wrote this) is the question of how to tell when I’m committing idolatry versus when I am simply making a close friend.  Perhaps the key is to focus on glorifying God (no surprise there) and on what is needed by the other person, trusting that adopting these objectives, I will simply find that my own needs are met.  This is far easier said than done.  With such a strong appetite for love, it’s hard to trust (due to my stubborn human infirmity – God is so obviously good), and it becomes difficult to tell where the line is drawn or even whether or not I have crossed it.

I can recognize at least one line of perverse thinking which leads to relational idolatry, or at least passes through it.  At times I try to convince myself that my “deep, dark desires” are not really that bad, but it’s the context which makes this particular sort of desire evil and twisted.  Wanting to be like another person can be inspiring, edifying, and encouraging as it spurs us on to better praise and glorify our Christ.  But when such a desire is so strong that it causes jealousy, possessiveness, or even wanting to be that person, the line has been crossed into idolatrous worship, and the Lord is not glorified until I die to that desire and rely on Him for freedom to withstand temptation.

So how do I stop obsessing over people?  How do I get past the overwhelming hurt, pain, and hunger for love?  So many times I have cried out to God for mercy and grace, pleading with Him to take away my darkness or lead me through it.  Yet I continue to fall time after time.  I desperately desire to walk in the light, but fail over and over.  Am I missing some divine truth?

Well okay, here’s the truth.  If Jesus is the Bread of Life, then what I get from other people is just crumbs.  Don’t get me wrong, crumbs are nice when you’re starving, but they will not and cannot ever be enough to sustain you, let alone come anywhere close to filling you up.  In the same way, I should not be surprised to find that Jesus is the only person who can fill the emptiness in my heart; not only that, but He does it so well, He’s all I really need!

I am so frail and helpless.  I can only plead for God’s mercy to miraculously transform my feeble and failing efforts into demonstrations of His incredible love and grace which go far beyond my wicked, treacherous betrayals of my greatest Friend and benevolent Father.

Truly, I long to see the face of Jesus in His glory.  This must be the hope to which I cling — after all, I really don’t have anyone else who can give me any genuine hope.  Finding I have reached the end of myself, it’s as if I have no choice but to hope in the words of Christ.  Despite my current state of distress, I can remember shining glimpses revealed of the radiance of His glory and truth.  As Peter said to Christ, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.”  (John 6:68-69, ESV)

Since this was just me scribbling in my notebook, I didn’t devise any conclusion to bring it all home like I usually would for a blog post.  But last night my mind revisited a beautiful hymn I learned growing up that seems to fit my heart’s cry perfectly, so I’ll just leave you with those lyrics.

“Satisfied”

All my life long I had panted,

For a drink from some cool spring,

That I hoped would quench the burning,

Of the thirst I felt within.


Feeding on the husks around me,

‘Til my strength was almost gone,

Longed my soul for something better,

Only still to hunger on.


Poor I was, and sought for riches,

Something that would satisfy,

But the dust I gathered ’round me,

Only mocked my soul’s sad cry.


Chorus

Hallelujah!  He has found me,

Whom my soul so long has craved!

Jesus satisfies my longings,

Through His blood I now am saved.


Well of water ever-springing,

Bread of Life so rich and free,

Untold wealth that never faileth,

My Redeemer is to me.


One of my friends mentioned last night that there seems to be a cult forming around Fox’s new musical comedy, Glee.  And I’m pretty sure she was right.  I’m not part of that, but I have enjoyed most of what I’ve seen of it so far, and I recommend that most people give it a shot, if only just to see what you think.  But I got this review of the show in an e-mail from my mom.  Before you read any further, I must stress that the views expressed in this article do NOT necessarily reflect my mom’s views.  She’s not even on the e-mail list for the writer or organization.  The article was forwarded to her by a friend.

‘GLEE’ is not another ‘High School Musical’

There is singing and dancing in FOX’s new television program “GLEE,” but this is no “High School Musical.” It is far from a family-friendly program. “GLEE” is another show targeting children and teens.

From Ryan Murphy, the creator of “Nip/Tuck,” comes “GLEE,” a new series which follows an optimistic teacher attempting to save their high school’s Glee Club. “GLEE” is not as graphic as “Nip/Tuck,” but just as offensive.

The music chosen for this show is extremely inappropriate especially for school activities. The choreographed routines are obscene and contain vulgar dancing which they perform for the student body.

The writers mock Christianity when the principal tries to discipline the Glee Club by having them select their music from a list of songs with either “Jesus” or “balloons” in the title which they translate as punishment.

Similar to most teen shows today all the students can talk about is s*x. Male students discuss grinding, erupting, and how girl’s skirts are so short they can almost see their ovaries.

Students show disrespect to their teacher and guidance counselor by telling them to “get a room.”

This is only a few of the high points or should we say low points of one episode.

TAKE ACTION

If you are outraged by this new series send Olive Garden, Chili’s (Brinker International), and InventHelp an email asking them to pull their support from “GLEE” and no longer sponsor this program through advertising. Your email will also be sent to FOX Network.

Send Your Letter Now!

Thank you for caring enough to get involved. If you find our efforts worth supporting, would you consider making a small tax-deductible donation to help us continue?

Sincerely,

Monica Cole, Director
OneMillionMoms.com

Sounds to me like an EXTREMELY conservative review that is blowing a lot of things out of proportion.  There is a scene in which the glee club performs a routine in front of the student body that was inappropriate, but they get in trouble for it and recognize that their behavior was wrong and went against what their teacher told them to do.  The music list with all the songs that have either “Jesus” or “balloons” in the title – I actually thought that was funny.  This writer is being WAY too sensitive about that.  I didn’t take it as an affront to Christianity at all.  And it’s absolutely false that “all the students can talk about is sex.”  There is some allusion to…male body functions, shall we say, though not in a graphic or blunt way.  Plus, when the students tell the teacher and guidance counselor to get a room (these faculty members were only talking in the hallway, no PDA happening) – frankly, that could totally happen in high schools today, so it’s not so farfetched from reality.

The only things that came close to offending my sensibilities were when they seemed to put down the idea of sexual abstinence during a meeting of the school’s “celibacy club,” and this past week when one of the characters came out as gay to a trusted friend and it was treated with the typical worldly “express yourself, it’s all okay” attitude.  Naturally, this conflicts with my ideology that sex is for marriage and that homosexuality is wrong.  But I respect people who disagree with me, and these moments definitely don’t ruin the show.

101glee_sc-79_6149.jpg

I recommend that people actually check out what the show is like for themselves, especially before “taking action” as the end of the article suggests.  Glee includes several really fun, awesomely choreographed, high-quality arrangements of songs which have lyrics that are NOT offensive, and I often find myself enjoying the Glee covers of these songs more than the original versions.  There’s something to be said for a show that can take Kanye West (someone I find pretty despicable most of the time) and make one of his songs catchy and fun.  Kudos to Fox for bringing together a group of very talented performers and bringing us a series about finding joy in music, and in life for that matter.  If you’re a fan at all of singing, dancing, or most genres of contemporary music (Journey, REO Speedwagon, Rihanna, and more to come), chances are you’ll be a fan of Glee.

Reborn: It’s Finally Here!

September 16, 2009

avalon reborn cover

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, Avalon’s first completely original new release in three years is now available on iTunes!  Why am I excited about this?  Well, first of all, this album is where the blog gets its name (see post “What’s in a Name?”), but besides that, Avalon is pretty much my favorite contemporary Christian group ever.  These two couples have incredible vocal expression and range, tight harmonies, and awesome hearts for the Lord.

avalon b&w

Their latest release is pretty different from what they’ve done in the past.  Its guitar-driven beat sounds a bit more rocky than any of their previous releases, but the signature Avalon vocal style is still there.  It sounds like Avalon, just updated, which showcases the versatility of these artists.  Over the years, they have been through some personnel changes, which adds to the somewhat different sound.  But their voices blend together so well, sometimes people don’t really hear a difference in who is singing when!

The only thing missing from this release that some longtime Avalon fans will miss is the usual pop ballad.  I have my theories as to why the group decided not to produce another of those.  That style was Avalon’s comfort zone in the beginning (way back in the late ’90s), but I have seen them grow away from that, and with each new release came more upbeat, pop rock “anthems.”  The track that probably comes closest to this classic Avalon trait is “Holy,” (a remake of Radiant Worship’s “You Are Holy”)  in which Greg’s (far right, above) and Jeremi’s (far left, above) soaring vocals carry the chorus as well as a message of powerful worship and reverence for the holiness of God and thanks for revealing Himself to us even in our sinful state.

Probably my favorite tracks so far (in the approx. 36 hours that I’ve been listening to had the album) are the title track, “Alive,” “Stay,” and “California.”  That last title might have raised some eyebrows, but yes, it is a Christian song.  It’s a song of submission to the Lord’s will, definitely reminding me of Isaiah 6:8:  “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’  And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!'”  The Lord has made us for great purposes, and when we submit to His will in obedience.  It also makes a great point with the line:  “Lift my feet from where I stand, down the street, to foreign land; anywhere You lead me, I will go.” Every Christian has a mission, whether that mission lies down the street or in lands far away, to obey Jesus’s Great Commission.

Maybe you didn’t expect a music review on here, but I’m kind of reaching for making different types of posts on various topics.  Of course, the main reason I chose this topic is my love for Avalon and their music.  Some of you have probably heard me talk about Avalon before, but whether you think my opinion is biased or not, I would encourage you to give this album a shot whether you like what they’ve done in the past or not.  If you want to sample some of their music, check out the link to their MySpace page at the bottom of the blog.  They’re pretty awesome if you ask me, and as the news release from the record label points out, “This is not your mother’s Avalon album!”

The New Song(s) We Sing

September 6, 2009

A few weeks ago, I sang a song for special music at my home church (hereafter referred to as First Baptist, or FBC) called “The New Song We Sing” by Meredith Andrews.  It’s pretty cool (duh, or I wouldn’t be singing it, right?), but this morning I started thinking about that concept of “singing a new song unto the Lord” as it relates to styles of music in churches today.

We had an interesting morning at First Baptist, which is where I attended this morning since I’m home for Labor Day weekend.  Lately, the choir director (aka:  my mom) has been introducing some new contemporary music for the first time in quite awhile.  A couple of weeks ago, an entire Sunday evening service was devoted to bringing the church together to learn these new songs.  It seems, however, that one will always run into reluctance, at best, when introducing this style of music to a crowd with demographics weighted such as they are in this church.  It also takes a little while for even the most willing learner to pick up on these songs.  I could tell that, whatever was going on in the hearts of the individuals gathered, the congregation was not yet totally comfortable with this material.  But that’s okay.  Some people warm up to new things more than others, and with time, things will almost certainly get smoother.

Thinking on this has brought me back to the question of what a music ministry is for in the first place.  One can simply say that it’s for worship, which, in extremely generalized terms, is true.  However, the concept of worship is too often limited in western, or at least American, culture to music.  Worship is a lifestyle of devotion, surrender, and an inner act of dying to oneself so that the object of these actions can be expressed through you.  In this case, we’re talking about worshiping God, although it’s been said that everybody’s worshiping something.  But back to the question at hand here; that is, why do we have a music ministry?  I would express the mission of a Christian music ministry as this:  to facilitate interaction between the created and the Creator in such a way that there exists open, two-way communication, ultimately resulting in the glorification of our God through this particular act of worship.

When churches find their music ministry in confusion, disarray, or even chaos, it is likely an indicator that true worship is not taking place.  A dangerous trap that is easy to fall into is to become a “people-pleasing” music minister, which often leads to such a problem.  A line must be drawn between facilitating acts of worship for as many as possible, and simply choosing music based on what congregants want to hear.  I’ll use First Baptist as an example here.  The age demographics themselves suggest that there are likely a number of people attending on Sunday mornings who would rather have a steady diet of “southern gospel” music than sing any contemporary songs at all, ever.  There are also members who would prefer contemporary music only, or classic hymns only, though many (like myself) prefer a blend of all of these.  In an effort to bring this body together for real engagement in corporate worship, all of these styles are used.  But does that mean the music ministry is just placating the people?

I think the difference is a matter of the heart.  Frankly, many churches that do not include contemporary styles in their music ministry are likely to close their doors within the next twenty years because of a lack of younger members to carry on the life of that ministry.  Once again, it’s simply got to do with demographics.  Those who are moved to worship by traditional styles must allow for the accomodation of the typically younger Christians who are moved to worship by contemporary styles.  Like I said, it’s a matter of the heart, and when the body of Christ comes together being of one mind, as Paul exhorted the Corinthians, worship will come easily and earnestly.  We must realize that when the words of a song speak truth, there is power in those words regardless of the musical style.  And once we reach that conclusion, we can’t help but be more open to “sing unto the Lord a new song.”

Psalm 96:1-9 –

“O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth.

 2Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.

 3Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.

 4For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods.

 5For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.

 6Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

 7Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength.

 8Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts.

 9O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.”

Summer Recap

August 29, 2009

I realize I haven’t written for awhile, but it’s because a ton’s been going on this past week or two, the most significant thing being that I’m now back at school.  Thursday was the first day of classes, but I came back here on Monday so I could see some friends and help with some outreach events for CCF (Campus Christian Fellowship), the campus ministry I’m involved in, before diving right back into school itself.

Being back here has caused me to reflect on the past summer’s developments.  Of course, the question everyone asks around here right now is, “How was your summer?”  So despite the fact that many of you readers were around me this summer, I thought I’d share the answer to this burning question with the rest of cyberspace.

Let’s face it.  Most college students consider themselves adults (myself included) and are not completely thrilled with the whole idea of going back to living with mom and dad, whether it’s for a summer or after graduation.  This was definitely true for me last May when I reached my wit’s end of searching for something else to do for the summer.  It seemed like no matter what I tried to find to do, the doors to the other options just ended up closing (wonder Who’s behind that, right?).  But I ended up going back to the little town of 1,789 people that I have grown up in my whole life.  That corner of the world is, in my opinion, home to the embodiment of many of the stereotypes of “small-town America.”  But I digress.  I do like my hometown, probably more than most people coming out of there my age, but I spent the previous summer there and felt ready to move on to something cooler different.  I prayed that God would open up opportunities for me to help with some program, camp, get an internship, really just about anything, but even as I investigated those options, He wouldn’t let my heart get into them.  I finally realized that He wanted me to go home again, and not-so-incredibly, my choice to obey was the best decision I could have possibly made.

My home church is without a pastor right now.  I come from a Southern Baptist background, and in that denomination, when a pastor moves, there is no human authority such as a bishop with the ability to bring in a replacement.  So the church has to form a “Pastor Search Committee” that sorts through a lot of information and listens to a lot of extra sermons from the men interested in the job.  In the meantime between pastors, they also have the unenviable task of finding guest speakers to preach from week-to-week.  As a result, the continuity in the church does not lie in the sermons or headship of a pastor during this time, but in the ministries already established in that body.  So in turn, when I arrived back at home, the Lord placed in my heart the desire to participate in a few of these ministries.  This led to some great learning experiences, and a major end result was falling in love with my home church and the traditional church structure (as opposed to a “parachurch” environment, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parachurch) all over again, or in some ways, really for the first time.

I had some incredible opportunities there this summer.  The one that comes up in conversation the most here at college, since I think it’s one that’s easy to explain and relate to for several people my age, is that I got to be a part of the Youth Ministry Leadership Team and serve as the worship leader for the youth group these past three months.  This was extremely fun, but also a challenging learning experience.  I hold the view that worship is not limited to music, or even the time one spends in church, but that it is a lifestyle of surrender to the object of that worship (in this case, God).  This results in a great deal of care going into the selection of the music I would put into worship sets and a sincere effort to submit to God as an instrument of communication from Him to the youth.  I used to talk about having a passion for worship, but after this summer, passion doesn’t even seem like a strong enough word.  Calling, maybe?  But that doesn’t exactly fit everything I’m feeling either.  It’s certainly a very special condition of the heart.  I’m just not sure quite how to communicate it yet, or even if there are really adequate words.boomerangexpress_logo_color

Another aspect of the summer that turned out to be fantastic both for my spirit and the spirit of the church was Vacation Bible School.  The theme this year was “Boomerang Express.”  I’m not sure who had the idea of randomly combining Australia and train engines, but the kids really enjoyed it.  I led the music for the week with Lisa, an awesome woman from that church who has a great heart for music, children, and the women’s ministry.  Those little guys will wear you out, but it’s so completely worth it to see them learning about the Lord with an enthusiasm and sense of innocence that only a child has.  I was often reminded of Matthew 19:14 when Jesus said to His disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for such is the kingdom of heaven.”  I am convinced it’s of immense importance that these children were loved unconditionally, as Jesus loves, by the people who worked that week.  I’m reminded that we should strive to approach the throne of God with such innocence, that we may receive the love of Christ, because, I think, in that innocence is a kind of purity that allows an understanding that—but for God’s grace—we could only reach less and less often the more we live in this world.

Returning to the subject of experiences in the youth ministry, another incredible opportunity I had just earlier this month was substitute teaching the high school Sunday School class.  It was a really exciting experience, being able to experience serving as this kind of teacher for the first time.  It was also definitely a challenge.  But everything about it was awesome, because it was like traveling somewhere new with God leading me through every turn and showing me what to look at and what to say.  I think it’s been a big help in building my confidence and giving me peace in preparation for co-leading a small group Bible study this fall.  Funny how the Lord works things out so well like that.

Though these events of the summer were fun and exciting, the people who walked beside me were also hugely instrumental in making the summer great, especially my friends Jeremy and Rikki, who I’m still convinced don’t realize what a blessing they were to me during my time back at home.  I’m really thankful for those relationships, as well as those with my high school friends I saw this summer, and my own family.  On the whole, Summer 2009 is definitely one to remember, and the results of it, I believe, will be relevant to my life for years to come.

coffee-posters

***WARNING:  The first paragraph of this post is mostly extraneous material just to fill in the background for the main topic.  If you do not wish to find out about my recreational activities last Friday and Saturday, please skip to the second paragraph.***

Last weekend was a blast!  Much of the credit for this can be chalked up to spending time with good friends – in this case, mostly my friends Jeremy, Rikki, and their extremely verbal and amusing four-year-old son.  We went to Kansas City on Friday (after seeing Bobbi—the same Bobbi who has commented on this very blog!—taking the last and only chicken salad croissant from Casey’s gas station!  *sigh* We are parted again, my sweet, sweet poultry sandwich…) and went shopping for most of the day.  I found myself some good deals on new clothes for the new school year (holla!  Just so you know, I love shopping for clothes).  The fun didn’t end there.  Saturday was a back-to-school pool party for my church’s youth group, a ministry I’ve been helping with this summer.  Jeremy and Rikki were there, too, and invited my brother (Phillip) and me to their place to goof off the rest of the evening after the party.

Okay, so all of that was to set the stage for my first (major) experience with coffee.  It should be noted that last May when I visited a friend in St. Louis who worked part-time for Starbuck’s, he hooked me up with a caramel macchiato in an attempt to turn me into a coffee fiend.  Even though this was a tasty beverage, I didn’t feel motivated to make it a part of my morning routine.  So Saturday night, Phillip and I arrived at Jeremy and Rikki’s house a little after 9:00, ready to play some video games, pig out on popcorn, and chill for the rest of the night.  Two energy drinks later, I was high on life, baby!  (Or more accurately, caffeine.)  But of course the boost ran its course and by around 12:30 Phillip and Jeremy decided they wanted some coffee.

I’m pretty sure Phillip and Jeremy both consider themselves coffee connoisseurs on some level.  Whether or not that’s true, they’re both pretty used to the stuff.  I, on the other hand, have had only a handful of experiences with coffee.  Unfortunately, I picked that night to give into peer pressure and have a cup.  Only later did I find out that Jeremy brews his extra strong.  In order to even stand it, I’d have to make it “fru-fru” style, meaning I’d have to add a bunch of creamer to dull the coffee taste, no matter how he made it.

So I dumped in some french vanilla Coffee-Mate and guzzled down a whole mug, then another half of one before I knew it.  When the other two were ready to call it a night, I was still very much awake.  No, not just awake, I realized—I was jittery!  My hands were shaking and my heart was racing!  I couldn’t believe I had reacted this way, especially since I didn’t have such a noticable reaction to the stuff I had in St. Louis.

When I walked through my door back at home at 2:45 in the a.m., I knew there was NO WAY I was gonna get to sleep anytime soon.  It was such a strange sensation, feeling sleepy from the neck up, but ready to do anything but sleep from the neck down.  So I stayed up and watched T.V. for awhile before going to bed.  I saw an entire episode each of Little Bear and Gullah Gullah Island.

  gullah gullah

Needless to say, it was a trip back to the glory days (about 1995 or 6).  I also got to hear a hilarious bit of dialogue from Little Bear in which the title character accompanies his friend to visit her grandmother, they bring a toad with them, and the little girl explains to Little Bear that, “Granny understands toads.”  Maybe you had to be there.

The next morning I had to get up for church and felt like I had a hangover or something, which is an interesting thing to say, since I’ve never had a hangover in my life.  I felt so weird the rest of Sunday, and whether it was the sleep deprivation or the possible caffeine overdose, I decided one thing for sure:  Coffee is only for emergencies.

(Stay tuned for the post later this semester in which I’ll probably use coffee to pull an all-nighter.)

What’s in a Name?

August 11, 2009

As I sat at my desktop trying to concoct a fascinatingly witty way for me to make my debut in the world of blogging, I was confronted with the text box in which I had to choose a name for my online headquarters.  I knew this was gonna be a toughy.  I felt like the title should not only communicate something I wanted to convey to the virtual world, but also be a short and simple reflection of a part of me.  So I flipped over to the other tab I had open on my browser to seek some inspiration.  I remembered that my favorite CCM artists (that’s contemporary Christian music, btw), the Grammy-nominated vocalists known as Avalon, would be releasing a new album next month.  (September 15…mark your calendars!  lol)  The title of the album is Reborn, since they are going through a change in personnel and are taking things in a bit of a different direction musically with this release.

That’s practically the story of my life, since a lot of things going on with me have been headed in a new direction in the past few years.  So it seemed completely right to make that the title of this page.  I feel as though changes have happened in my daily habits, reflections on life—my very thought processes!—since I started college and subsequently became a Christian.  Perhaps the single most famous verse of the Bible, John 3:16, quotes part of Jesus’s explanation in a conversation He had with a Jewish leader, Nicodemus, who asked Jesus how one could be “born again.”  I can also testify to the power of the words Paul wrote in II Corinthians about becoming a new man in Christ.  I know I’ve been reborn.  In fact, it’s the truest and surest statement of my life.

All that began nearly two years ago in September 2007 during my first semester of college.  I grew up in the church, but I think the reputation I established as a “good little Christian” early on when I started school (and for future reference, I’ve always gone to public school), and pride became a major hurdle to finding a true relationship with Christ.  But praise God, He brought me through it!  One result has been getting involved in a great college ministry that’s been an incredible environment for my spiritual and personal growth.  And for the first time in my life, I found myself surrounded by people my own age who share passions for God, learning, and loving.  How did I ever get to be so blessed?!

Well, that’s probably enough to get the ball rolling and let you know a little about where I’m coming from and why I’m here.  Not every post will be so spiritual in nature, but some will.  If you want to know anything else, there’s a tab at the top of the page that says “About,” which will take you to a brief descriptive statement, or just leave a comment.  I hope you’ll share this journey with me as I discover the consequences of this rebirth, the plans God has for the future, and seek to learn from my experiences and those of others.