There is Good in the World

I never thought my life would be what it is today. I have recently been looking at the darkness that we’ve been experiencing as a culture in the United States (and I know the disdain for other people isn’t isolated to the US, but it is my context).

What is happening to families seeking shelter and opportunities makes my heart grieve to the core. It’s not right. There is no justification for a young child, or any minor child for that matter, to be separated from their family.

It reminds me of one of the events during the crucifixion of Jesus:

“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?””‭‭Mark‬ ‭15:34‬ ‭ESV

This moment is a moment of excruciating separation between the Father and the Son for the first and only time in all of eternity. This just shows the true bond between families.

The bond between families is not a bond that should be forcefully pried apart and drenched in uncertainty. Rather, this is a relationship that should be honored and glorified.

It is so easy to look at the horrible actions of a corrupt system and ignore the big picture and the small victories we have in this life. That story I told about the separation of the Father and the Son was not where the story ended, and, so it seems, the story of families being separated at the border will not end there. People see how wrong these actions are.

This shows there is still hope, just like the hope found in the message of the Gospel. After the Jesus and the Father experienced this deeply painful separation the world was flooded with the love of God and, eventually, God’s Spirit was unleashed on the world. This was the free gift God gave us. His never-ending all-encompassing life-giving love.

That is why I can have moments like the one pictured above and feel the deep love I feel for my beautiful wife, and, eventually, it will be why I will be able to feel the love I feel for my children.

There is good in the world. It is the life we share with our family and the world. The little moments where you realize just how blessed you are.

Cherish those moments.

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Moving to Los Angeles

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Not long after my trip down to Mexico I moved to LA. I wanted to change my life, so I went to a house to live with other young men who were also looking to change their lives for the better. We didn’t drink or date women, and we focused on a strict schedule of “spiritual” living. We did chores together, we ate together, we lived together, and we grew together. I think this place helped me become the man I am today.

I look back at my time there and, on a lot of levels, I miss the simplicity of the living I had. There wasn’t a lot that I had to worry about. But the memories are bittersweet. You see, the place ended up not being the healthiest place  for me emotionally or spiritually. Some of the problems were of my own making and others, I now believe, are part of the design of that house. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change the path my life has taken. I know God was there every step of the way.

The problem is that there was an confrontational aspect to the whole program and I was a sinner not yet freed from the bondage of sin. The lessons that may have helped many of the young men there were not helpful for me. When we stepped out of line there was a reckoning. I didn’t understand was how a mistake was grounds for a group of my friends to go around the room and yell at me. I still don’t. This wasn’t a place where I felt ruled by respect but rather I felt ruled by fear. Believe me, I followed the rules after that for fear I would be yelled at again. Even though I tried to fly under the radar, I still was confronted from time to time.

Eventually I was led to a place where I was the one yelling at the other people in the house when they “stepped out of line.” I remember the director telling us that some people called the home a place where brainwashing occurred. His response was always along the lines of, “Well, maybe your brain needs a wash.” I think on some levels I needed better motivations and a different direction from the path I was heading before moving to LA, but in the end the route this house sent me on was not the right one either.

After, I left that house and I moved in with other former members of the house. I stayed involved up until I left Los Angeles. I was afraid to leave the community because I would lose all my friends. When I went to the house I had to give up all of my old relationships, whether they were good or bad. There were people who separated from the house, and I remember it well because everyone would stop talking to them, and if they were welcomed back it was only after one of these reckonings. Before they were welcomed back all their peers would, for the most part, ostracize them, even when they were trying to “follow the rules.” I was never formally ostracized, but there were times I was probably close.

Everyone I knew was either a friend of someone from the home or someone from the home. I had no one else. Leaving was not an option. I still love the people I went through all of this with, but I don’t think I share the same fondness for the house that they do because it impacted me in a different way than it impacted them.

I don’t think it is the fault of anyone involved. The leaders were raised up to be this way, and I am sure the founder only had good intent. He wanted to help immature men become responsible adults, but no one is the same. I didn’t take it the same way as others.

It took physical separation, the falling away of one of the leaders I respected, and the sanctifying blood of Jesus Christ to give me a new outlook on life. I remember making the decision to leave LA and come to Colorado. It as a hard decision. I was scared that I was giving up everything, but I was in love with the woman who would become my wife. I knew I had to go, and I’m glad I did because I love it here.

After I moved, I learned that a leader I had once respected, a mentor, was abusing opiates and his authority at the home and that he had been almost the entire time I knew him. That was the end for me. I made a decision not to be in bondage, self imposed though it may have been, anymore.

Making that decision sent me on a path of self discovery separated from the identity I had created in the house. That journey wasn’t without trials and failings. The removal of the structure and connection I had in my mind to the house combined with a wavering faith sent me on a emotional roller coaster.

My journey didn’t end there, though. I recommitted my life to the only living God, Jesus Christ who sits at the right had of the father in Heaven with all power and glory. I wasn’t perfect when I was at that house nor was I perfect after I left. I had my own failings, I was still a slave to sin.  I was living a life of self imposed fear and insecurity from going to that house. Jesus helped me live in faith and peace, And he covered my sin with his grace. He broke my bondage to sin. My failings didn’t matter so much anymore. I was a different person then.

Change doesn’t happen overnight though. Even to this day, I still have an unhealthy fear of authority from this period in my life, but every day I seek more after my creator and the freedom that comes from that is incredible. Jesus spoke these words of freedom and every day I try to follow after him for a taste of his peace:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 KJV

At first that house gave me important life lessons, but eventually that house wasn’t enough and I turned it into an unhealthy place. my sinfulness used the house to nurture my fear and insecurities,  but now I have peace in the loving presence of Jesus Christ.

I love how the psalmist describes living and walking in the presence of God:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

Psalm 23 KJV

The vivid images and peace from words is indescribable. I never deserved anything I had in life. I never earned God’s mercy through being a holy man. Nonetheless, He gives me Mercy when I stray. i let go of my will and surrendered to God. I wasn’t perfect after that, just ask Arianne. She’ll tell you that I’m still not perfect. I never will be. But I do everything I can to stay faithful to God and spread his message of love and peace. It is the least I could do for a God who cared so much that he sent his only Son to die for me.

Ash Wednesday

 

“From dust you came and to dust you shall return.” What was what the priest whispered as he put ash on the foreheads of the parishioners of St. Matthew’s Episcopal in Laramie. This Valentines Day I went to my first Ash Wednesday service. This is also the first time I am fasting during the lenten season.

NO MORE SOCIAL MEDIA! OR TV! These are the things I gave up for lent this year. I always liked the Idea of Lent, but I have never actually taken the 40 days to fast and reflect on the Death and Resurrection, the celebration of which concludes the lenten season.

I walked in right about 12:15pm MST when the service was scheduled to start. The Bishop and some deacons were there waiting to start the procession of the wooden cross staff and the book containing the four Gospel accounts.

Aside from my brief delve into Catholicism, my cousin’s Greek Orthodox wedding, and a Christmas Eve service at my church, I never go to the divine liturgy. Every time I go I remember that the service has a more boring feel to it than a holy feel. This service was no exception. I know that there are people who highly prefer a high church feel, but I am not one of them. I like to have an informal feel. I want to go to church and sing songs full of passion and that is just how I worship God. Liturgy just isn’t for me.

After the procession there was a singing of the hymns. I enjoy hymns, but I was distracted by a the voice of an angel coming from the back of the room. My initial feeling was that this woman was just showing off, but then I reminded myself that she isn’t singing for me or anyone else, but she is lifting her beautiful voice to praise and honor God. Well, I don’t know her heart, but that would be the less cynical view.

After the hymn I was throughly uncomfortable. I read a book in College about the different types of worship and I remember the guy who liked liturgy explaining that they love to see the uncomfortable expressions on the uninitiated. well I definitely had an uncomfortable expression on my face.

The next phase of the service was the reading of the Gospels. Now, I knock liturgy. I think it is a little weird. I prefer a more relaxed and informal service, but I can’t say that the  liturgical churches don’t place a high value on the Gospels. At the church I went to there was a book that only contained the gospels. The book was a sort of brownish red leather binding with a foil gold cross on the front. It was a beautiful book. And the woman in charge of the book was holding it over her head like it was a trophy that she just won. I snickered to myself a little because I remembered recently reading a book about a muslim, and he gave the Quran the same treatment after being scolded for letting it touch the ground. It was very reverent, a little showy, but reverent.

With the Gospel book there was a procession of the bishop and the lady holding a wooden cross staff. When the reached the middle of the room, the bishop ceremoniously opened the book and read a passage from Matthew:

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

 And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”

Matthew 6:1-8 

I know there are many people who love this type of church. It is their favorite type of worship, but i thought it struck me as a little bit silly that they were doing this big show then reading about not being like the hypocrites by making a big religious show. That doesn’t mean that the people in this church, and all the other liturgical churches in the world, are hypocrites, but i do think they ACT the same way that Jesus is talking about here. I’m not saying they are hypocrites in their hearts, but I am saying they are making a big religious show.

After the gospel was the homily. It was great. The Bishop talked about love. I mean what better message of love than the martyrdom of St. Valentine and the sacrifice of Jesus that concludes the lenten season.

Then came the main event. Well, for me it was the main event. Every Ash Wednesday I see people with the ashy cross on their forehead and think to myself that I want to do that one year.Well this was the year, and I felt like a giddy little kid. So I waited with much excitement for the mark on my forehead. I thought it would be this great feeling. Like a holy experience.

It wasn’t

I got the cross and was reminded that I came from dust and to dust I will return and that was it. In fact, I always think of the liturgical church as a holy and reverent place. I mean the beauty of the church itself is a testament to the fact that what goes on in there is Holy. I felt that this is true particularly during the liturgy. It was not that way for me. Rather it was a sort of boring experience for me. Again, I want to reiterate that this is all my own opinion. I just felt like the whole thing fell flat.

I have had some time to reflect after attending the service. I am glad I went. I always tell Arianne I want to go to a high church service, but now I remember the truth. This is not for me. This was the first, and it will likely be the last, Ash Wednesday service I will attend.

The one thing I will say is that this church is a testament to the dying church in the US. To me it seemed that in 20 years there won’t be any church members there anymore. I went to the service at 12:15pm, so maybe it would have been different in the morning or the evening, but the church was empty and most of them were in their golden age.

It’s sad to me because the church here in Laramie is beautiful. The Art and the stained glass. I only hope that even if the people don’t attend that church anymore that the leadership of the Episcopal Church maintains the building as an historical site.

God Bless, and I hope you all have a beautiful Lenten Season.

 

 

 

Celebrate Love

When I was growing up Valentines Day was not the romantic holiday that everyone celebrates; it was always just my dad’s birthday. I when I was seeing someone I would try to be romantic and express love, but it was never a big event for me. It took a long time for my mentality to change. And it didn’t change just because I met the woman of my dreams. I only thought Valentines Day was important because I wanted her to be happy, and I made the mistake of letting her know that the day is not important. this conversation didn’t end the way I thought it would.

What Arianne taught me was that it wasn’t only important because it was important for her. She taught me that Valentines Day was the day where we could express our love for each other. Before, I thought that every day was just as special as Valentines Day, but the problem with that mentality is that we don’t make a celebration of our love every day. I may celebrate in my heart, but I certainly don’t have an actual celebration where I dedicate an entire day to my beautiful wife to show her how much I lover her. I try to be a loving husband every day, but it just isn’t the same.

This year I am the most excited I have been for Valentines Day in my entire life. I love that every year I have the opportunity to try hard and be creative in how I show my love.   This year I got what I think is the best gift I have ever gotten Arianne, and I am going to make her a delicious meal. The thing is that this year I am spending less money than I usually do, but I am more excited. I feel closer to my wife than I ever have.

This is particularly interesting for me because I have also felt closer to God. Every day I have been seeking after Him and trying to be a better man. Now, I’m not perfect and Arianne can tell you that. What is remarkable, though, is that through seeking God I feel a better more wholesome relationship with my wife and everyone else I encounter in this life.

I’ve always loved 1 John 4:7-21 and I think this explains why getting closer to God helps me love my wife and everyone else more.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.

If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”

Happy birthday dad and Happy Valentines Day everyone! A special Happy Valentines Day to my beautiful wife, Arianne.

Truth is a Conversation

 

I was an awkward 8th grader. I mean, if you know me now, just like times that by 100 and you have 8th grade me. Despite this, I had some awesome friends and some great experiences in 8th grade. It was during the 8th grade that I first kissed a girl. It was the first time I was broken up with. It was the year that I memorized most if not all of the Sir Mix-A-Lot classic “I like Big butts.” These were some good years in my life. This was also the year that I had a brief conversion to Catholicism.

While I was in 8th grade I was talking to a neighbor and we were discussing God. He must have just come from some kind of creationism seminar. We were talking about how the earth couldn’t be more than 6000-10,000 years. I remember him telling me about the dust on the moon or something weird like that. Frankly, conversation was unremarkable and basic Creationism. I don’t remember it well to this day. What I do remember, however, was the impact it had on me. I decided that I wanted to go to church after that conversation.

I told my parents and they agreed to take me to Catholic Church , probably because they had been raised Catholic and that was all they knew. It was during this time that I got my first rosaries. Two were from my grandma Jane and one was from my grandpa Doc. My grandma also gave me my first Bible.

Later that year, It was suggested to me that I open up that Bible and actually have a read. In my zealousness for my newfound faith I had neglected to actually learn what it was that I claimed to believe. So, I opened the Bible for the first time in 8th grade. Without having any real guidance, I started reading the Bible like any other book. I opened it to page one and started in Genesis.

I was awash with begats and thous and thees. That was an unsustainable endeavor for a young man who would rather be doing anything else than reading a boring and alien book like the Bible. So, I put the Bible down, and I wouldn’t open another one until I was 22. I would still attend the Catholic Church, but even that got tired eventually and I stopped going altogether.

Here is the truth as I see it. I think that Truth is a process, a conversation. I don’t mean that the truth isn’t a fixed thing, but rather I mean that the truth is revealed in a particular way. That little 8th grade mind was so completely lost in the Bible, but eventually that little boy would grow up and come to love the Bible and even prefer the Bible translation with all the thees and thous. What needed to happen to get to this point was for me to have an ongoing conversation with the Bible.

I believe in my heart that that conversation is how God and I grow in relationship every day. In my engagement with the Scriptures God opens my eyes to truths new to me that have been there the whole time. What I believed to be true as a budding young Christian is different from what I believe today.  That isn’t because I was somehow deceived or ignorant. Instead I was in the process of growing in relationship with Jesus. In the Gospel of John, Jesus has a lively discussion with some Jewish people about this process.

Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:28-32

The Gospel of John was the first book of the Bible that I studied through.  I highly recommend anyone starting out to read this book first, or any Gospel account for that matter. Here there are two pieces I want to point out from this passage. First, Jesus makes this statement, “When ye have lifted up the Son of man”. This statement references back to a book in the old testament that calls the messiah the Son of man. Jesus says that the Son of man would be “lifted up”. Jesus is foretelling of His crucifixion, He was foreshadowing His death on the cross. I point this out to say that none of the people he was telling this to could have known what Jesus meant by this. This was a truth in process. This was something true, but it would be revealed to the disciples later.

Second, there is this famous part “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”. Well what is often left out of this beautiful quote about the truth is the condition “if you continue in my word, then ye are my disciples indeed”. This is Jesus telling His disciples to walk in his footsteps. He is telling us that it is in that journey following after Jesus that we have the truth revealed to us. In our case in modern times it is through that process of dutifully searching the Scriptures that truth is revealed. It is that conversation we have with God while reading his story that the truth is revealed. And in knowing that truth we will grow in the freedom provided by Jesus through his resurrection.

How glad I am for that!

Love Thy Neighbor

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Photo Credit to my cousin, Everette.

I have a confession to make, I am a self righteous angry man.

When I was in High School I was a marching band kid. There is a part of me that thinks about it and is a little embarrassed because I know that it wasn’t the cool thing to do. High School in general wasn’t my favorite time. I went through it with a lot of angst. I was full of fears and insecurities. I think I probably had an experience like most people in High School. I wasn’t bullied or anything like that, I was just a hormonal teenager.

Even though I wasn’t a model student and citizen, I still went to all the marching band events because, while I had my misgivings about my reputation, I loved music and preforming in front of other people.

During freshman year I remember being in the band bus going to one of these tournaments. Some of us were sitting in the bus talking about whatever it was that I talked about as a high school freshman. I remember very distinctly complaining about something I did not like, whatever it was. This girl in the bus then told me, presumably to shut me up, that I didn’t like a lot of things. I had been talking about a lot of different things that I disliked on that particular trip.

I remember I felt that hot feeling in my face, and I am sure my face turned beet red. Needless to say, I shut my mouth. I was embarrassed. Despite my embarrassment, I didn’t stop being negative after this happened. No. There are many times that I am still embarrassingly negative. Those fears and insecurities from high school never left me even as an adult.

I think it is a life long battle to look at the world through a lens of love. It is probably more natural for other people, but for me it is hard. Especially now that I’m older and I can recognize things that evoke an anger that I perceive as righteous. Every time I read a story about a person who is undocumented dying in an immigration detention center it pisses me off. I blame everyone. Trump, His Supporters, GEO, ICE, etc. Every time I hear that there was another shooting I get mad at Republicans and Democrats for doing nothing about this problem. Every time I hear a story about what I perceive as an unprovoked assault on Christianity I feel that I have a right to be angry. Arianne could tell you that the thing that probably makes me the most upset is when Christians attach to Christianity decidedly non Christian things.

Arianne knows all about this because she usually gets the full extent of my rants all about the injustices in the world. I think I have had this feeling of self righteous anger my entire life. I would even go so far as to say that I consider it part of my personality. I used to say that I’m an “idealist.” It is part of who I am deep down to my core. The truth is that I have a lot of anger in my spirit, and none of it is righteous.

I spent a long time after Donald Trump was elected being angry. I was angry at him. I was angry at the people who voted for him. I was especially angry at the Christians who voted for him. That anger lasted a long time.

Finally it died down when I stopped going on Facebook. Slowly it went away and I was able to remove the vail that had been cast over my eyes for so long.

I was during this time that I really thought about the people who voted for Trump. They were people too. They had their own life experiences. They have had all kinds of struggles that shaped them into the people that they are today. I am sure it was a combination of all those life experiences, good and bad, that made them decide that Trump was the best option. I finally realized the fact that anyone who I harbored ill will towards had their own significant experiences that formed them into who they are. To take this even one more step… GOD helped form them too.

They were just like me during all my phases of life. I hated Jesus and Christians before I met Arianne. She opened my world to loving Christians, the truth of the Gospel, and the love of Jesus. I hated Christians because I thought my interpretation of the Bible was correct and theirs was wrong. I had insecurities about how Christians acted because I thought that others would view me in a false light as portrayed by other Christians.

then it hit me, Jesus wasn’t just an advocate of loving the people you like, and He sure wasn’t concerned about how others viewed him. When asked what the law entailed he said:

“The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namelythis, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:29-31

There is no greater commandment than these two things. Love God and Love Neighbor. That is from the mouth of Jesus. But he didn’t stop there. He also taught this:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48

This is quite a radical teaching for today. Jesus says that it is through loving your enemy that you become perfect. This is a way God is and he has called us to also be defined by the way we love. Jesus even takes this idea that Hate is the wrong paradigm by equating hate with murder. (see Matthew 5:21-22).

If you are like me you may be asking yourself, “So what do I do from here?” Well I was asking myself the same thing for the last month. How do I take this anger deeply engraved in my being and separate it from myself without shutting myself off from the world like a desert ascetic? The answer came to me this past Sunday. I was at the Church I have been attending for a few years now and the pastor was talking about vows. For him, A vow is something you can only do with God’s divine help. You cannot accomplish these things on your own. He gave some vary practical examples of action in the service.

When he gave the church an opportunity to bow our heads and consider what our vow would be, the thought of shedding all my anger was the first thing that popped in my head. My initial reaction to this idea was, “No, that is something I have to do on my own.” My second reaction was “No Sean, that’s nonsense. You NEED God for that more than anything.” So I gave it to God in that moment that I would no longer let my “self righteous anger” take control of me. Some people say that insanity is trying the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. While I am not sure I agree with that sentiment, I do believe that I was being foolish to think that I could get rid of something that I have always struggled with. I need God to help me. It is such a freeing feeling to let these things go to God.

I have thought for a long time that we as Christians need to manifest our faith in a very different way than many of us do. We ought not to tell people what to do. We ought to take up our cross and follow Jesus every day. That means sacrifice and love. not dissension and anger and fighting and murder in our hearts. We need to meekly go to the cross gently, slowly marching towards our own deaths, saying to our God, “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” I still have a lot of work to do before I will show that kind of love for everyone, but I know God is here to guide me to a place where I can emulate him. Where I can take up my cross and follow him on the path of love.

The Crux of the Matter

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If you think about it when the sun is setting in one place on the earth it is also rising in another. I wouldn’t say that my life has had many defining moments in it, but there have been a few times where I can look back at my life and see how these defining moments have shaped me. Meeting Arianne. Marrying Arianne. Graduating from Law School. These have all been vastly important times in my life. None of them had the same impact that accepting Christ as my savior had on me. It wasn’t an easy road, however.

I am not referring to the evidence that the story of Jesus was true. I think any person who truly examines the claims in the Gospel accounts and the history of the Church will eventually come to the conclusion that the stories are true. I have known many people who denied the existence of a creator. I always liked them, but I found their logic flawed.

I don’t think the block to the Gospel message is ever an intellectual one. I think any open observer will see the truth. What I really think blocks most people from the Gospel is wholly emotional. It was for me. I have known people who, as children, were severely beaten in the name of Christianity. I know people who are in the LGBT community who were hurt by churches in the past. I have known people who were hurt or wronged by people at the church. In fact, I was just reading today about a young gymnast who stood up against sexual abuse in the church and was asked to leave a church because of it. There are people who have been abused by people in the church.

I honestly see that these people are hurting, and they have every right to hurt. They have been wronged in one way or another by people who are meant to represent the Gospel. My story was never as drastic as that, my big emotional hold up was that I was frustrated by the wrongs that had been committed against others. I was frustrated by the abuse scandal in the Catholic church. I was frustrated by the abuse, physical and sexual, that “men of the cloth” perpetrated against vulnerable people. Most of all, I was worried what my family would think of me being a Christian. One of “those” people (they didn’t care when I finally told them—at least if they did care they kept it to themselves—my fears here were all in my head). It was in my best interest to convince Arianne to leave this abominable religion.

My first tact was to discredit Christianity. It didn’t take long to give up that endeavor. There is more evidence of the death burial and resurrection of Jesus than the life any other historical figure of that time. What’s more, the men and women of that time sacrificed their own lives to proclaim the resurrection. Now I’m not an expert on human behavior, but you better believe that I would NEVER die for a lie. I don’t think there are many who would either. Most of the origional followers of Jesus died sharing their hope.

The evidence kept pouring in. Theses were men and women who thought about things prudently before accepting a story as true. They investigated this story and found it to be true. All you have to do is read through Luke to see that the people of that day were inquisitive about these kinds of things. Luke was a doctor who traveled around and researched the story. He found compelling evidence for the resurrection by the eyewitnesses of the day.

I hit a dead end here, but there was a nagging feeling that I could not become a Christian because of all the wrong I perceived the Church had done.

Thank God for my mother-in-law. All the time I was trying to discredit Christianity, I was going to Arianne’s house. I don’t know if they knew what I was doing during this time. Nonetheless, They were praying. They were excited about their faith. they were always helping people more than just sharing their faith. Arianne even one day brought a homeless man she met at In n’ Out to a Church Thanksgiving event. They had a sincere faith that I could really feel. I always expected Christians to be these weird bigots. That couldn’t have been further from the truth with Adelina, Arianne, and Ted and the other people I encountered during this time. They were all trying to follow the example of Jesus, and I could feel it.

It was that sincere love and spirit of giving that made me realize that I was wrong to judge the church by the people I heard about in the media and through other means. Besides, I was not the best person in the first place and I knew that. All this time I kept reading the Bible and going to a Bible study at Arianne’s house and I began to understood why the Gospel was good news. I had a savior and a father in heaven and they loved me. And I couldn’t go on pretending anymore that I didn’t love God.

At this time I was working in Malibu and commuting form the South Bay (the real one in LA… I’m talking to you San Fransisco). On my way to work I would listen to pastors on the radio. I don’t remember what the guy preached about in that thirty minute sermon, but at the end he made a call for those who wanted to become Christian to pray a prayer with him. I finally let go of my pride and prayed that I believed that Jesus is the Christ, The Son of God and I asked that he would forgive me.

The Son had finally risen in my life. I began to see life in a new light. There is a quote that C.S. Lewis coined that really gives the perfect understanding of how it felt to finally accept Jesus Christ in my life.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

In the Gospels, Jesus does a lot of healing of blind men. Well, I was one of those blind men. I was reaching around moving through life in the dark until that fateful day where I encountered Christ and asked him to heal me. And he did.