Katrina...Two Years Later

I was watching Anderson Cooper 360 last night, a program that I frequent at nighttime, and it was a special edition on Katrina. It has been two years from yesterday that hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana and Mississippi areas and later hurricane Rita followed. Although, the problem was deemed "the single worst tragedy of natural causes in American history." A fair deduction, but how have we forgotten it so soon? Immediately after the storms aid came from churches, schools and organizations country wide, but thousands of people, children and mothers included are still displaced, living in cramped trailers, waiting for their homes to be built or not to be built at all. The need is still great people.
Habitat for Humanity is an organization that deals with those in need of a new home. The organization has been around long before the Katrina disaster, and it seems that it would be the biggest advocate of the need that is still in New Orleans and surrounding areas. Since Katrina, Habitat for Humanity raised over $141 Million as a whole. What percentage of that money should go to New Orleans? Some would say 40, 50 or 60% and some would even say more. The fact is that New Orleans as only received $14 Million...that's only 10%!!! What's wrong with this picture? They have spent over $30 million on advertising and promotions...that's twice as much money that New Orleans has received. There is a problem here.
I think the biggest problem is not Habitat for Humanity, however. The problem is US! The American citizens that turn a blind eye once the disaster isn't fresh anymore. We don't hold these companies accountable and we don't offer our services or money. Instead we worry about our own homes and how good they should look, when there are those who don't have them. We worry about our families and make sure they have expensive cars when there are children that don't have a room or a desk to do their homework on. We sorry about our vacations, some of them probably consisting of a trip to Bourbon Street, a rocks throw away from people who have nothing! What are we doing? What am I doing?
"To the least of these," Jesus said. I'm such a wretch.


The Band...

So my band has a show on Sept. 29th and through that much stress has been mounting. Between our equipment failure, getting members to show up to practices and trying to make ourselves prepared, tempers have flared and last night was the kicker.
This most certainly was not our first fight as brothers (Josh and I); We spent most of our childhood at each other's throught, on the verge of pummeling one another. However, since we created the band, it seems that it has brought us even closer, almost like a bond that must be their for the sake of something greater than our own egos. Last night showed me though, that this bond does not come without its territory. We were already both cranky, him from work and me from the stress of the upcoming show and Jason, our drummer, was tired from a long day that started at 5:00 am. To make it short, I had to walk away for a few minutes and gather my thoughts. When I came back, I decided it was best for the practice to end a little early and that is when things started getting hot. I voiced to Josh that he was being a jerk, (in not so kind wording) and he said to me that I was being sensitive. Ok, if you know both of us both of these statements are true but last night they were at their peak for both. If a girl had been standing there she might have been a little scared with two large young man in each other's face, but we both knew that it wouldn't come to blows. I left angry, halfway knowing he would call, only because I threatened him with leaving the band. I know, that is not a good thing to say. Anyways, Josh did call, much to my dismay and was very humble which is also uncharacteristic of him. But I know he did it for the sake of the band and how much he does want this to work.
I can't help but be reminded where God is in the midst of this. I don't give this issue to Him because I look at it as MY project that I must make work. I know I need to start letting him intervene, even in this and even if Jason, Josh and Charley aren't where I am spiritually.
Forgive me Lord, for not putting you first in this situation. Have you way with it, whatever it be.
Josh, I love you man, and I do want us to do this TOGETHER. You are my best friend.


Small Group 8/21/07

I finally got the internet at my apartment so I can blog now.
Small Group was really good the other night. There are so many people now and others keep on coming.
I had a pretty good outline set up but most of the conversation was taken up by my good friend Cory Ayers, telling us about his experiences during the last few months. I have to say that is was a little frustrating as a leader, trying to keep things on track with the outline, but the inspiration of his words, that were closer to a testimony, silenced the group as well as myself.
I have known Cory since freshman year when he moved on my hall. If you know Cory, you know he is a little over the top sometimes. But ever since freshman year God has been telling my to put up with this guy and I am glad I did. It is amazing to see his growth as a man. He never ceases to surprise me. I knew that when he went to England on a missions trip this summer that he would come back changed, and he did. Thank you Cory for your testimony the other night. Thank you for being an inspiration to me more than once. And thank you for seeking God continuously every day.

I am really proud of you man.


Baptism 2 - Small Group 8/14/07

I am reluctant to write anything about small group right now because I just got off work and am getting tired. I will, however, push forward, through the sluggish laziness and reflect on what happened last night.
I tried, last night, to begin a practice that has been very apparently lost in translation during this past year: starting on time. All of you other small group leaders out there can probably relate, punctuality begins to loose its important once people begin to become familiar with one another. One thing that spurred me on to re-emphasize this practice was something that pastor Neil touched on at church. He said something along the lines of "If only we could be as punctual to church as we are to our business meetings." It was really funny because it is true. How lackadaisical we become in the presence of such a glorious God. How much we take for granted the opportunities we get to worship Him or study His word. Its funny because there are those who are so serious about being there that they might be 15-20 minutes early and then there are those, well, I guess that don't come at all sometimes. Why can't there be an even medium??? Well...I guess I am done now, but the whole starting on time thing failed miserably last night but I hope that it will get better.
During our discussion time we talked about Baptism, of course and I feel that it went pretty well. I wanted to bring up some verses that others had brought up to me when they found out that I have not been baptized. With these verses, however, it was not my goal to rebuttal them with my own argument; if anything I agree with the verses in the context that they should be understood in. Instead, I was just offering the other side of spectrum, playing "devil's advocate" you might say, something I very often do with my group.
One of the verses was when Jesus was baptized in Matthew Three. John said to Jesus, " you should be doing this to me?" and then Jesus said, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Now, I am no bible scholar, but could Jesus be saying we must do THIS (as in the baptism of Jesus) to fulfill all righteousness? Some would say that he is saying both: that they should do it then and take it as a command. I don't buy it. People don't say one thing and mean two different things. I don't take this as a reason not to get baptized; I just don't think that we should use this verse to backup why to get baptized. Some would say we should do it because Jesus did it and that is good enough. Don't buy that either. Those very same people that say, "we should do it because Jesus did", can't even follow his greatest commandment, "love thy neighbor."
We also talked about the great commission as a verse to back up baptize. I really had to hold it back on that one. The commandment of the "great commission is not to GO, not to BAPTIZE, but to......MAKE DISCIPLES. If we are just going around baptizing everyone with discipleship we are castrating our church and setting it up for failure. That is why I don’t believe in guilting people into getting baptized, as some are trying to do to me :)
I am not trying to sound mean or harsh in my approach, I just want to speak from my heart and to be as real as possible.
I have decided that I do want to get baptized but unfortunately I have decided not to do it at the beach. I want to be a part of what my church does, but I just really feel that these past two sermons and other things that have transpired have all been one big plug to get as many people to do this as possible. Don't like it, don't believe it is right. I still love my church and still want my minister to baptize me but I want it to be genuine and from my heart, not some surrendering compliance.


What if...

What if what you thought you wanted you realized you didn't want at all?
And what if what you thought you didn't want had already built a wall?
What if the things we feel are actually what we know?
And the things we think we know are actually all a show?
A show not meant for the likes of the very ones you love,
But for the pointless and judging minds of a mocking crowd above.

Feelings come and feelings go, but I think this one is staying here...


Baptistm 1 - Small Group 8/707

So last night we had small group at my new apartment. I got a nice fica plant/tree from Andrew and a mystery gift from Josh and Amy. Thanks you guys. During church service last week pastor Neil (or Mr. Neil, as Brad would call him) spoke about Baptism and it was evident from the beginning of the message that it is a subject that he is very passionate about.

I want to thank my small group for the amazing discussion that we had last night. I learned a lot from what all of you had to say and that is truly a great experince. However, I know not all of you love to get into those heated discussion and sometimes would rather just share about life and struggles that we may be going through. I apoligize for not having a prayer and share time last night to those of you and I promise I will try to do a better job in the future of getting deeper and, as Sandals would say it, more REAL.

As many of you discovered last night, I am not baptized and, at this moment, have no intention of doing so. Up until about two weeks ago the issue of Baptism had never crossed my mind nor the many spiritual conversations that I tend to get myself involved in. Because of this the idea of Baptism simply never appealed to me.
A couple of weeks ago I was reading a book by Brian McLaren and he brought up baptism, calling it a "public...ceremonial washing-symbolically expressing your belief that you have previously been dirty and now you are clean." I agree with McLaren that it is ceremonial and symbolic and nothing more. I don't believe that anything super-spiritual or magical happens when one is Baptized. However, I do believe that anything, symbolic or ceremonial, that is intended for our almighty heavenly Father is to be done with the upmost sencerity and commitment, with a worshipful and sacrificial mindset, just like when we are praying or worshiping Him with song on Sunday. He deserves nothing less than our complete devotion. If I was to get baptized this very instant, I don't think that I could honestly say that I was doing so. Although, baptism is a public confession of faith, it is not about the people watching, nor is it even about the one getting baptized. It is about something greater, something that we should be striving for in every action that we take throughout the day (work, school, putting your shoes on) and that is glorifying Him who saved us from our transgressions. On the day that I get baptized I don't want the people who are watching to say, "Wow, look at the man/Christian that he has become." No, I want them to say, "Wow, look at what Christ has done in him. What an awesome God!"


My New Apartment

So I don't have a cool picture to post with this so you will just have to be entertained purely by reading. Today is the day that I moved into my new apartment and I have to admit that it is consuming almost all of my thoughts. Not that I didn't absolutlely enjoy my previous three years on campus at CBU, but there is something liberating about moving into a place of your own. There comes a with it not only a certain freedom, but a responsiblity that you have something of your own, something to take car of. I can speak for all men by saying that that is a good feeling to have. It can be a two-edged sword, however, and I hope that I can wield it appropriately. We don't have much furniture yet but I have spent most of the day on ikea.com and I have decided that I will make a pilgrimage out to Costa Mesa tomorrow. :) I hope you all don't think I am going "metro" because of my obsession with the decorating process.
A gi-normous thank you, thank you, thank you to my mom, Shelly Marx, for everything that she has done to help this process go ever so smoothly. Thank you so much mom, I love you.
Anyways, I am going to begin my process of living on my own...well, with my roommate Daniel who I am so thankful to have, WE are going to begin this process with optimism but also with a sense of skepticism. With this great freedom will come many traps and pitfalls and I can only pray that God will be the head of our house-hold and guide our actions and thoughts.
I am going home now to begin putting everything together. Hopefully, in time for small group tomorrow so it won't look like a tornado just touched down.
A song that has been playing in my car repeatedly is Keith's Urban's,(very old song) "Out on my own." The title is about the only part of the song that fits but it is still a good song. Check it out on iTunes or Limewire or whatever...


Small Group 7/31

Here are some more pictures from Turkey. I hope that I have will have more soon.
I have decided that I want to blog about all of our small group meetings. A lot has changed since I got back from Istanbul, small group being one of those things. I hold everything that we talk about during these times very dear to my heart and I would hate for the discussions we have to be lost somewhere in time. This will also give everyone in the group a chance to see what my thoughts are and it will give them a chance to respond if they would like.
Last night we began group speaking about Dr. Nancy Heche’s message at Sandal’s on Sunday. I enjoyed Dr. Heche’s message on homosexuality and I felt that it would be a good topic to talk about. It wasn’t the first time we talked about this issue as a group but one thing that surprised me was the fact that a few individuals don’t personally know any homosexuals. I do, of course, so it was interesting to see that dynamic. The discussion led to other issues that Christians often have a hard time dealing with such as drug addictions, crime, abortion and somehow we got on the issue of the death penalty. I have a particularly controversial view on the death penalty for a Christian so that was also a fun topic.
I was glad to see that everyone had a view on something that we talked about last night. It is very hard to get that every meeting. I want so badly for small group to be a time of discussion and sharing rather than me or Chelsea teaching, which we are not capable of at all. I have also found that people might not want to share their opinion because of their fear of rejection or others getting defensive. It has happened before in the group and I hope that we learn to accept others opinions and also learn to sometimes agree to disagree. Everyone has a valid opinion and there is no reason they should have to wait to share it.
In the end, it is important to remember as followers of Christ that we are not perfect. I am reminded of that every day. Often times, I am the most critical of those who struggle with the same things as I do. It may have something to do with my inability to deal with my problems, however, if anything, I have to be more understanding to those people. I think we are even called to more than just being understanding with others struggles. Perhaps we are called to interact and even sometimes hang out with these people. Hey, Jesus did it all the time with the tax collectors and the prostitutes. And it doesn’t mean that we are going out of our way to hang out with a heathen, we are all sinful and capable of horrible things, and we should view ourselves that way a little more often.