Ferguson, I’m Sorry.

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So it’s been a crazy time in Missouri for a lot of people. Citizens of Ferguson are clearly super pissed and fed up with youth in the black community dying at the hands of police. This is not a new issue, sadly. Bradley Nowell sang about this in his band, Sublime’s song, “April 29 1992″. Though, at the time similar expressions of violence and looting were happening, it was in response to the Rodney King beatings in L.A. It really wasn’t about Rodney, however, but more so about decades of abuse at the hands of supposed public servants who had been lashing out at citizens in the poorest sections of the city.

Now obviously there are a few common threads in these situations. One is that Rodney King was not innocent. He was being arrested and the manner in which he was treated by the police was absolutely horrid and a crime against humanity. This thread had been woven into present day Ferguson as the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the police officer, Darren Wilson’s acquittal, come to a head. Surveillance camera footage from minutes before Brown was shot shows the 18-year-old robbing a local store and aggressively interacting with the store owner . Obviously not an innocent citizen going about his own business but nevertheless was shot, while unarmed, allegedly once as the gun discharged in a struggle at the officer’s patrol car window, and then shot six times when Wilson pursued Brown down the street as he fled.

None of this is new information to the public to date. As these events have unfolded, Ferguson, MO is in a desperate state of affairs with looting, gunshots, fires and violent protests to the violence done to unarmed citizens at the hands of the police. Again, as Sublime reminds us, not a new situation, but a new passion and general feeling of disgust with media, govt and police has risen up.

I believe that this is the result of obviously several issues but it brings to light an issue many of us have here in America. We have decided, long ago & we are not the only culture to do so, that violence is how we communicate. The issue in Ferguson is one that will and has split this country in half. Both sides are behaving badly but one thing that I have learned is that behavior is communication, no matter how unjustifiable it is. Violence communicates something immediately that many of us feel isn’t being heard through normal means. I believe that the police and govt need to listen very carefully to the citizens in Ferguson but I also urge the citizens of Ferguson to respond peacefully; Violence begets violence.

Now that I’ve said all that, I would like to communicate that as a white, European-American in this country, it is very difficult to know how to support either side of this issue. There are good, white cops, I know some. They don’t deserve the violence that they are being forced to react to. There is no community that I hold more dear to my heart than the black communities that I am connected with. I have never felt more loved, appreciated and honored as both a person, a human being and as a minister than when I’m with my friends at City Harvest International Church in Newark, NJ.

This issue has made it extremely difficult to know what to say and how to respond. There has been an atrocious injustice done to the people of Ferguson, MO and my prayers are with them. God help us know what to do and how to heal this open wound in this country between two colors that should just be colors of crayons and not a separation of people. My fear is that these issues will keep increasing until the United States finds themselves in another great civil war.

It’s Not Cool to be Introverted… Or Extroverted

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There has been an annoying rise of introverted personality celebration lately. I guess I’m just lame or I’m just not an introvert. Based on pictures of people who only exist on the social internet, the world has painted a very magical picture of how amazing it is to be utterly alone and super dull. If I wanted to lay in bed all day reading and drinking tea, I’d check myself into rehab. Being introverted, contrary to tumblr posts and numerous eleven-teen year old’s blogs, is not a list of trendy activities like some sort of loner craft book. It is, put very simply, how you get full, right in your freaking heart. Some people get filled up and fueled for life by having time alone, musing, reading, whatever, but not from the things they do while they’re in solitude.

I am anything but an introvert, mainly because I’m awesome. I say that in all humility. Our society has a huge issue with making things “cool”. We have even come full circle and made things that are not cool and never will be cool, cool. For example, I remember when being “punk” in my hometown of Reno, Nevada was anything but cool. It was even less cool to be Emo. Not bright hair Emo, but polyester pants and big Adam’s apples Emo. That was not cool but ultimately Weezer made it and that morphed and became cool. Though I got mocked and targeted less, that was part of the rush of being in that scene; for once you really felt unique.

I am an extrovert. Beyond that, I am an extra extrovert. That doesn’t mean that I’m annoying and loud, just that being apart from people sucks for me. I love community and talking with and touching hearts with people, even if we don’t agree on much. I think that people are all very unique and always worth knowing, no matter how screwed up they are.

If you’re an introvert, own that, be that. But don’t let Buzzfeed galleries and Facebook promoted quizzes tell you its cool; being who you are is cool. If you’re an extrovert, own that attention, that knowing people and processing out loud and in the moment. That’s actually pretty epic!

My last thing I’ll say is that there has to be a model of church or spirituality that fits both of these. We don’t all learn the same or like the same shows, maybe we need an expression of worship and/or prayer that can benefit from these different types. Even though I am an “extra-extrovert”, I prefer the prayer room setting over a traditional church setting. Not totally but on most days, I can easily be in a prayer room for a few hours vs be in a long church service. We need to understand as ministers that not everyone is the same so lets provide options and outlets. Maybe the people who don’t attend church aren’t all rebellious or bitter or lost; maybe they’re introverted folks who need something different and the church is too stubborn to make room.

Upside Down Mountain by Conor Oberst

I have been a huge fan of Conor Oberst for many years. Probably the first album I ever listened to of his was Fever and Mirrors. I listened to that record so much so that when I was in a band with some friends, it became obvious when I started singing. I loved the intensity of Conor’s voice which held heartbreak, sadness and profound longing.

That being said, the most recent offering from Conor, titled “Upside Down Mountain”, is completely different. From the onset of the first track, Time Forgot, you can hear a sense of hope and satisfaction. These aren’t like the usual ballads that have come from the Bright Eyes camp. If you remember the Digital Urn record, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. Conor has always had a way of writing songs with beautiful lyrics that explain perfectly what your heart has been struggling to make sense of for years. These new songs are different. They express a sense of hope and settling that hasn’t been present in some of his earlier work.

My favorite track has to be a tie between the sentimental story of a dad and his kid growing up to be a better man than he in “You are your mother’s child” and “Double Life”.

I really recommend this album and if you haven’t listen to Bright Eyes in a while, go back and listen to Digital Urn or Lifted.

Family is the Call

So many times, as a minister, the needs of many people can become the audience in front of you as you prepare and gather revelation. I have recently come to the realization that sometimes choosing ministry over family is not as obvious as I would think it would seem. For me, I have come to the point in my marriage and in my life, where starting a family is something I want and that I feel I’m ready for. Obviously the last part of that sentence is a lie. I don’t know if I’m ready or if anyone is ever truly ready. However, I think I’m ready to realize I wasn’t ready. Maybe that’s the best way to say it.

I am feeling a shift in my heart towards ministry. I feel such an emphasis on making sure that in pursuing God, I don’t stop pursuing building a family. First of all, both of these things are going to happen. Second, a distinction should be made. Pursuing ministry and pursuing God are two different things, though they can and should be the same. Sometimes we pursue ministry based on a call or a word God has spoken to us but neglect to plan life and family within it.

God is, and in my opinion always will be, a god of families. He created a family, He passed down commands and blessings through families and established covenant through these families. Family is obviously very important to God. He even has a son and is a father. Why would God speak to us in such terminology if this wasn’t a concept He wishes to extend and work through?

Therefore, any ministry that I do or function in, which does not come from and pours into the family structure is temporal and already fading.

It’s for this reason that it’s a good time for the body of Christ, and for me especially, to take an examination of what we’re doing and to what end. Why do I minister? Is it for me? Is it for others? Is my family included and do they come before the ministry?

I used to say that I would sacrifice anything to fulfill my calling which God spoke over me. I would word this differently now as I have come to learn that my calling is for God first, then my family and then for others.

If I am called as a prophet, I am first God’s prophet, then my family’s prophet and lastly a prophet sent to the people. 

This changes a lot of things. Family is the call. It always was.

The Few Beautiful Things

A moonlight night, starved for two souls who walk in unison.
The sunrise over a mountainous treeline, with a dew mist settling like a blanket.
The shimmer of a child’s eyes, innocence sparkling in the radiance of thoughts pure and untouched.
A heart that writes with no agendas but seeking only to express what is often left unspoken.

Knowing You

With every breath, I inhale beauty; the sapphire and the ruby pale in its shine next to you.
Gold and silver are of no consequence to me when you’re upon the landscape of my mind.
I’ve searched the deserts of the world for a grain of sand that contained more complexity in the simplicity of its design.
No, you are simply made and immensely complex in your making; who can grasp you?
Who can hold your essence in their hands and know you fully and deeply, as if there is a bottom to the chasm of all that is you?
Every day, I stand amazed, yet in my amazement I shrink back, terrified of being fully known by one whose own journey of knowing is a trek that even the most courageous of adventurers shy from.
Alas, I journey on, into the great unknown that is you.
For if I do not stand courageous and find your heart I will judge myself unworthy of the prize of your soul.
So I brace myself and embark into the caverns and the mountains of you.
I will know you and with every transparent knowing, I will abide in more beauty and more discovery of the treasure of monogamy.

Destroyed

I approached, stricken with my sickness and my dirty robes
My lips were filthy, coated in dirt and grime, as such was my soul in life
I came like a mud ooze, a creature that the most diseased of bogs would reject
His judgement never came
His look of scorn never appeared
His disgust and dismay at my condition was not mentioned
But here comes one, draped in light as if the sun was its tailor, with coals in its hands
The touch that came extinguished all my guilt, all of my self proclaimed illnesses
In this light, my true crime was revealed; the degradation of my own royalty
The arrogance proclaimed in the defilement of the image of the One I was created in
All that has qualified me has been destroyed so that I may live free