Religious Fanaticism

I’m currently working through Tim Keller’s book, “The Reason for God.” There’s an amazing quote I ran into in the chapter titled, “The Church is Responsible for So Much Injustice.” In this passage, Keller is addressing the supposed spectrum of Christian belief, one end being nominalism (being Christian only by name, not practice) and the other end being fanaticism. Addressing the issue of fanaticism as an issue for many non-Christians against Christians, he says:

Think of people you consider fanatical. They’re overbearing, self-righteous, opinionated, insensitive, and harsh. Why? It’s not because they are too Christian but because they are not Christian enough. They are fanatically zealous and courageous, but they are not fanatically humble, sensitive, loving, empathetic, forgiving, or understanding — as Christ was. Because they think of Christianity as a self-improvement program they emulate the Jesus of the whips in the temple, but not the Jesus who said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (John8:7). What strikes us as overly fanatical is actually a failure to be fully committed to Christ and his gospel.

Lord, help us to emulate the true love of Jesus. Help us to not focus on Jesus’ wrath, but his much more often demonstrated love, empathy, mercy, and compassion.

Eternity on the heart…

I stumbled across a great quote as I was re-reading Rory Noland’s book, “The Heart of the Artist.” It’s a great book if you are an artsy/creative person seeking to understand yourself better. Or if you just want to understand that creative person in your life better…

Anyway, here is the quote:

…Much of the art of thoughtful non-Christians expresses a longing for God…When artists reach into their colours or to the notes of a musical score, into the developing solution in a darkroom tray or to the flow of words on a page, they are interacting with the eternity God has placed in their hearts. They are trying to be significant in their universe — trying to mean something more than a random collision of molecules. Though modern philosophy tells them they are nothing, their heart tells them something else. Because their minds cannot fathom what their hearts know, they feel the weight of the God-placed burden. Art often seems irrational, because the heart is reaching beyond the mind. A modern art museum displays the heart reaching beyond what the mind knows, trying to find the meaning of its existence.

- John Fischer

NEWS FLASH

FYI, unless otherwise specified, I’m going to try and shorten my posts on average. Some may still be long, but I’ll let you know! ;)

Back to Jesus

Christian life is hard.

In fact, I think true Christian life is much more than something to be admired by usually mediocre Christians such as myself; true Christianity, that is, the literal following of Jesus Christ, may just be the hardest lifestyle in the world.

I struggle to get into Scripture and prayer. I struggle a lot. It’s the strangest thing because I truly feel a strong part of me that desires greatly to be diligent in those areas. I WANT to be a super-Christian…or at least part of me does. The other part is lazy, distracted, easily fooled, and too easily entertained. I’m going to boot my theological training for a second and pull a verse straight out of it’s original context and say that Jesus nailed it in Matthew 26:41:

For the Spirit is willing, but the body is weak!

Don’t fear, Bible snobs, I think the idea of the quote remains the same.

I need to be honest. Sorry if it’s uncomfortable sometimes.

In the Christian spectrum, I’m closer to the traditional side. I was raised Pentecostal conservative, and though I wouldn’t really describe myself as such, I still believe in the active gifts of the Holy Spirit in church, especially the baptism, and I still get excited in worship: singing, hand raising, shuffling, and maybe the occasional jump if my rotund figure is in the mood to cooperate.

I know Christianity is losing popularity in many parts of the West. I would even go as far as saying I don’t always blame those who write us off. Heck, sometimes I want to write myself off. I know it’s not comfortable to talk about the Holy Spirit and such, even in certain Christian circles, so I apologize if it’s you who is uncomfortable. I also apologize if you have no idea what I am talking about.

What I’m getting at here is that I was raised Christian, and in most ways, I’m so thankful for that. Unfortunately, one part of being raised in the church is that if you’re not careful or guided by the right people at the right time, it’s very simple to take everything for granted REAL FAST.

I did. I do. All the time. I know exactly where I want to be, and I also know where I am. And that’s a harsh reality because:

Where I am is not where I want or should be.

Lately I have realized how I think Jesus is pulling me towards a powerful epiphany; a revelation, if you will. And here is that epiphany:

Back to square one; back to Jesus.

Jesus. The most influential, controversial, sacrificial, argued, misunderstood, misquoted, world-changing individual in the history of our earth. (I wasn’t in the mood for listing 50 adjectives. Sorry.)

I’m not a professional writer, so I’m not going to try to sound like one here. All I’m going to say is that I have been having a serious pull back to Jesus. It’s not just me. I believe there is a Jesus revolution on the way. I believe true revival (yikes, scary word) revolves around the adamant pursuit of Jesus Christ.

NOTE: I’m fortunate to serve under one of my pastors who is extremely Jesus focused, especially in his preaching and teaching of scripture. Yes and amen. His influence was no doubt part of God’s plan to get me here.

Anyways, back to Jesus.

It started with the book of Mark for me. Actually, that’s how far I’ve progressed so far in total….but whatever. I plan on going further. One day I just decided to read a bit of Mark because it was by far the one of the four gospels that I had read the least. And Mark wastes no time getting into the intensity of Jesus’ ministry years, with Jesus’ baptism being covered as early as Mark 1:9.

All this being said, the point of this post, other than to get some traffic back on this page, is to encourage you to join me in going back to Jesus. Just Jesus. No more, no less.

We serve an incredible God. It’s amazing. I love movies that have decent enough depictions of Jesus in them, even though the movies are usually B-list quality, because it’s the closest I can get to visually experiencing my Saviour. But THEN I realized that He is equally as tangible and more available in His word than any movie.

Just look at some of these passages in the early chapters of Mark (NLT):

Mark 2:17

Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.

Mark 2:27-28

The Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!

Mark 3:32-35

There was crowd sitting around Jesus and someone said, “Your mother and brothers are outside asking for you.” Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mark 4:13-20

Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things so no fruit is produced. And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Mark 4:24-25

Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given – and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”

Absolutely amazing…isn’t that someone you want to follow? This is just a few tastes from the first few chapters. Maybe it’s just me, but all of these portions of scripture deeply impact me.

That’s all…just kind of venting my own feelings!

The Accident

This is just a short update concerning a car accident I got in a few weeks ago. One thing I can say before I even get started is that God’s faithfulness doesn’t run dry, and I fully believe that it was His miraculous hand that sustained me through the harm that should have befallen me. Glory to God.

The weekend of Dec. 6-8, 2013 was a very busy one, as was the week leading up to it. Friday night, I was playing guitar for a COGIC church’s gospel Christmas concert alongside some exceptional local musicians, which is always a joy. That weekend was also my home church’s big Christmas production with three showings: Saturday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday night. Needless to say, it was a pretty crazy week….I believe every night of that week I had a rehearsal, as well as 3-4 work shifts mixed in there.

I’m basically just trying to set up the fact that I was completely exhausted.

 So after the Christmas concert on Friday night, which was a success, I went out for Chinese food with some of the people involved. We had a good time laughing and hanging out, and since I was already downtown, I decided to go watch some friends play some jazz. I stayed for a little while and then decided I should go home to get some sleep…apparently my body was already a few hours ahead of my brain.

THE INCIDENT

I left around 1:30AM and began driving home. I live JUST outside of the city in an area enveloped by farm fields with vast ditches that make you feel like you’re driving on the edge of the abyss…unless they are filled with water from a hard rain, in which case it feels like you are driving next to mild rapids. Much to my retrospective delight, they weren’t.

I was roughly a kilometer away from my home when I apparently nodded off while driving. When I opened my eyes, I was on the gravel shoulder of the opposing lane. Immediately the shock felt by my brain adamantly yanked the wheel back towards my lane; unfortunately, in true fashion of someone in shock, I had over-corrected the turn sending my Ford Focus careening towards the ditch in my lane. Looking back, this actually would have been much better because the ditch on that side is only like 1-2 feet deep and leads into a farm field. Bummer; I over-corrected again in an attempt to avoid that ditch, which sent the car squealing back towards the scary ditch. The car went airborne into the ditch for a brief moment before coming into direct, head-on contact with a concrete-topped culvert. At this point, it would seem (from observing the wreck after-the-fact) that the car flipped back-over-front while also doing a slight 90-degree barrel roll.

I don’t think I was unconscious at all; if I was, it was only for a short period of time. I remember every slow-motion moment in vivid detail, including the thoughts going through my head as it happened. When I opened my eyes, the car was on it’s side with the passenger side down, which means I was hanging from my seat belt. That didn’t feel good. I noticed that my pants (my brand new $50 dress pants) were shredded beyond repair, my phone was nowhere to be found, and my right leg felt numb and useless below the knee. At first I thought I might be in the scary ditch, which I thought might be full of water…I didn’t want to drown, so I went into survival mode and lifted myself up out of my chair enough to undo my seat belt. I then found myself thumping down to the passenger seat, being covered in glass, CD jewel cases, and other debris. Much to my surprise (and gladness, may I say), I was not in the ditch, but rather the car had finally rested on top of the culvert after all the commotion: I ascertained this by looking out the roughly foot-wide hole in the smashed windshield.

The moon and stars were actually shining quite beautifully down on the black, semi-frozen water of the ditch; the farm fields, as well, were liberally illuminated by the late-night/early-morning, the brown turf undisturbed by my situation, save for a few pieces of projectile glass, plastic, and metal. As I sat there briefly admiring the beauty, my next fear surrounded me (literally): I saw what looked like smoke or steam filling the interior of the Focus. Again, my brain leaped into survival mode and began looking for a way out. The back window was too far and near impossible to get to unless at my uttermost need and my door above me would not open; whether it was jammed or too heavy, I do not know. My only option quickly became the 1-2 foot-wide hole in the windshield. I didn’t have enough room to kick, and my dominant (right) leg was still feeling numb and useless below the knee, so I took to elbowing. The results were apparent, as the windshield began giving way and folding back, but it was still not enough to fit a large man such as myself. So, for freedom’s sake, I took my bare hand to the remaining piece of window between me and liberty and pushed as hard as I could. Eventually, the window peeled back enough for me to begin to crawl out.

I stuck my head and torso through the space in the windshield and put my hands down on the cold concrete. I was very close to the edge of the culvert which drops off into the deep, dark abyss/ditch…okay, that’s slightly sensationalized….the ditch is maybe 8 feet deep and was currently holding maybe 1 foot of water…but I didn’t want to add to my struggles. I carefully tried to pull my feet out of the car without falling off the edge. I don’t think I was very successful because I just ended up pulling them through, regardless of all the sharp glass. I was desperately tired of sitting there looking like an idiot trying to do the wheelbarrow pose. I shimmied my way around the wreck to the road and for the first time, I observed the wreck.

THE WRECK

The car looked PREEEEETTY banged up, with twisted metal poking here and there, and glass strewn hither and yonder. But the craziest part was the large object sitting right in front of me in a small crater of smoke and dirt, an object closely resembling an engine (SPOILER ALERT: it was the engine) that had popped clean out of it’s cavity.

I can’t say shock set in yet….not that I knew of. To be honest, panic set in. I was terrified of what my mom and dad were going to think about no longer having one of our cars. I knew somewhere inside me that my mom would be purely euphoric that I was alive and well. I knew my dad would be too, but he is…how to say this….a little more of the “occasional hardass” persuasion (pardon the brief language). But I had to get home…I couldn’t find my phone, but I knew exactly where I was, and my right leg, though numb and useless, didn’t hurt, so I decided to be pragmatic about it all and limp miserably home, rather than lying down in the fetal position in the middle of the road and crying (don’t worry, that happens later).

THE REMAINING JOURNEY

I’ve milked this story long enough. So basically, I limped home pathetically, woke up my mom who held me and comforted me as shock set in and I turned into an emotional tornado of ugly sobs and even occasional laughter. We called my dad, and my bro woke up to help out in whatever way he could. Long story short, we went to the hospital and found out that nothing was broken, and other than some mysterious trauma to my legs and feet, some good bruising, and a few cuts and pieces of glass here and there, I was fine. I didn’t feel fine, but I believed the doc.

Shock was a weird feeling…I had never been in shock before, to my knowledge. It felt very uncomfortable to have little to no control over a flurry of emotions coursing through my brain.

My wonderful fiancee came over eventually, which I was so grateful for, and we all sat around together and relaxed before going to bed again at 6AM.

It certainly was an experience.

Bottom line, I felt that God had physically and tangibly reached out His hand and held it around me as the car rolled. This was not because I was special or because I had any grand purpose left to accomplish. We all have a grand purpose left to accomplish for the Kingdom of God, whether that’s the salvation of one or many, and it’s Biblical that YHWH protects His saints. A thought that has really kept me up a few minutes longer than usual (I wouldn’t say “Kept me up at night” because as you have seen, when my body is tired, it sleeps) is this: “How many times has God already saved my life with me having no knowledge of it?” I’m inclined to believe that there have been many times that God has intervened. I don’t believe this is only true in the physical sense, either; I believe God has been fully active in helping me avoid stupid decisions, or in restoring my path after I have already made a stupid decision (which is more often than I should like to admit).

I don’t need more practice rambling. Let me just finish by saying that God’s faithfulness does not run dry. He extends His grace freely to His children, and I am happy He extended it to me in that moment. HA. Happy….what a lame word to use here. Meh…whatever, I’m tired of using the Thesaurus app for this blog in an attempt to sound smarter than I really am ;)

Peace, love, and recycle, y’all. Keep serving our God of truth, who is near to those He loves.

And Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

TySharron

I’m Engaged!

Well, my life has received a beautifully violent shove onto the path of marriage and I could not be more excited!

Tanya, my fiancée, has always loved Chicago as long as I can remember, as well as the Navy Pier! So, long story short, Tanya and I planned to go to the windy city with our very close friends, Andrew and Kristen (who were in on the secret of my imminent proposal). We explored the city a bunch and then we went up to The Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock center for a dressy, semi-formal dinner just as the sun was going down over the city. It was INCREDIBLE….also incredibly expensive. Thanks for your sacrifice, Drew and Kris ;)

After that, we taxied over to the Navy Pier. What a beautiful spot (*wink wink to all the guys)! So, the four of us walked out to the end which was blocked off by security guards and fences. My immediate thought was, “CRAP, NO! That’s right where I wanted to do it. What are we gonna do!” I think I held it together well, though. Drew got talking to a security guard who ended up letting us sneak through!! So cool! His exact words were, “You know what? There’s a broken door over there that doesn’t lock….I didn’t see you guys.” THANKS, PEREZ!

SO, we got out to the end and there was almost NOBODY there! ANDDD that’s where I did it! Right out at the end of the pier by the water and lighthouses at night. Drew and Kris trailed off and snapped some pictures and filmed a bit of it. I sang her Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” and danced with her after she said yes :)

Believe it or not, she said yes to this messed up, crazy, hefty, road-raging 21-year old. And that started our more official history together! It’s so surreal and really cool! We already started planning, which is wild. The wedding is going to be on August 2nd, 2014, as stated in our official wedding hashtag, #TNT2014 ;)

I thank God so much. God was all over that trip and the proposal. It was raining earlier that day, even as we went for dinner. God helped us out by calling off the rain. And then the thing with the security guard, Perez…just such a divine happening. We even ran into him after and thanked him, and he gave us some great marriage advice (oddly enough, coming from the place of just capping his second divorce).

God made it so that my proposal to Tanya was exactly the way I pictured it in my head. It was exactly the way I pictured it when I dedicated it to Him in prayer.

God cares about everything in our lives, no matter how little. The ramifications of that are mind-boggling and don’t make a lot of sense to me, but I’m so grateful for it. Wow.

Now for marriage….

TySharronImageImage

Be like LT (On Contentment…)

Howdy y’all!

I’m gonna try to shorten my blogs….my tendency is to ramble and to be an over-detailed individual and I want to start to develop the art of brevity mixed with clarity ;)

I want to talk briefly about my opinions and ideas on the topic of contentment.

I recently read an article by Huffington Post entitled “How to Raise a Kid That Isn’t Whiny and Annoying.” Since I am recently engaged (I had to drop that in somewhere) to a wonderful girl, and just based on the title itself, I figured I would give it a read. You can to if you just follow this link: http://huff.to/17PplQi 

It was one of those articles that leveled me and caused me to realize how ungrateful of a society we live in. Yet even more so, it caused me to once again have the realization that I am a very impatient and often ungrateful person. It’s not like I need to prove it to you, but I’ll give some examples for the sake of this blog post:

- I get frustrated when my phone is slow.

- I lose it when I can’t grab wifi or 3G.

- Try driving with me at least once because on a bad day…heck, even an average day, I am a road-rage infused, impatient jerk. Thanks for putting up with me, Tanya!

- I think everyone needs to function on my timing.

- I constantly want more…especially when it comes to guitar stuff.

- I whine when I am hungry.

- I can’t stand the girls soccer team currently next to me as they blab about who knows what while I am trying to write my blog.

As if this isn’t bad enough, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to travel to some very impoverished countries and I’ve seen the poverty in my own city…yet, I complain and I am never satisfied.

I would try take it easy on myself, but it’s the truth…and the even greater truth is that there is a God out there who loves me anyway and thinks I am worthy saving, even at the cost of death. Wrap your head around that!

God uses the coolest and sometimes strangest things to speak to my heart, and yours too.

I am a direct support professional who works with the mentally handicapped for an awesome organization called Christian Horizons. This job has been such a blessing in more ways than one. One of the recent ways God was speaking to my heart on the subject of contentment was through one of the men I support whom we shall call LT. LT is dual-diagnosis and confined to a wheelchair. He can speak and crack some good jokes, but other than that, he cannot walk, he cannot eat on his own, and he cannot support himself in any way. He is a man of not too many words (unlike myself), but there is a phrase he utters every once in a while; sometimes it seems to come out of nowhere. He will just simply state:

“I’m so happy.”

Wow. This man has taught me so much. It is such a blessing. I’ve heard people say terrible things about how the mentally handicapped are useless and don’t deserve our help…besides that idea being messed up on more than one level, I strongly disagree. In one simple sentence, God is using LT to teach me the value of being happy with what I have, or to be happy with the mere fact that I am alive and breathing, not to mention that I am typing this on my MacBook Pro that I got after enrolling in a fantastic music school, while wearing a nice T-shirt and pair of shorts, drinking a Tim Hortons coffee and listening to The Civil Wars on my iPhone 4s.

Man, I wish I had an iPhone 5.

TySharron