Thanks to recent events I have had to consider things unimaginable. The thoughts
 of what had to occur in the previous decades to allow such heinous acts, such unspeakable evil to occur
to the most innocent. The repetition of such evil frustrates me. Yes, the loss
of innocent lives angers me, but I cringe after each event for another reason.    
     We hear stories of evil acting out in third world countries in ways that
scare us like demons and witchcraft. We hear of miraculous healings and people
coming to know God in amazing ways as well. There they call detestable things by
their rightful name: evil. Here we say let’s get more laws, more security, less
guns, more guns, mental health programs, etc… but things continue to get worse.
Evil more boldly shows its face in America with each passing day.            
     Yet after all of these current events I read in Ecclesiastes that says
there is nothing new under the sun. So why does it seem that our culture is
fading quickly into the moral abyss?  I look at the founding fathers of our
once great nation and see dozens of men of integrity who gave everything for the
freedom of all the people. Today I see millions of people who give little (if
anything) and expect more handouts. The founding fathers did everything they
could to uphold what was right, not what was easy. I RESOLVE to do what is right
no matter what the level of difficulty. I will work. I will love. And I will grow.

Darkness cannot exist where light shines. So let your light shine before
men, and watch them glow in your presence for they see a glimps of God's love.
 Here is some light to shine into your day: my nephew Liam
You don't have to watch the video just listen as you read.

    Have you ever thought about how much your senses are attached to your emotions? Why is it that when we smell the perfume of a significant other we are filled with warm tender feelings, or if we make a tackle in football that gives us a headache we are glad we made the hit. But if those same senses are applied to different situations we get angry. Like if you catch the scent of someone from a past, bad relationship we get mad, or if someone drops a book on our head on purpose we are fuming. It goes with the saying "if someone spits in your face does it make you angry?.. (answers yes).. No it makes you wet.
    The song Amazing Grace is a powerful song. I have heard it often during my 24 years on this planet, but it is only when it is played with the bagpipes that it makes me tear up. When I hear that version I automatically think of the man I was named after; my Grandfather. He passed away eleven years ago. My dad's family is very proud of their Scottish heritage and this song is no acception. We love bagpipes, especially Amazing Grace. It incites powerful emotion for me.
    At the core of it, really all we hear is wind moving through a specially crafted instrument of cloth, wood, and plastic. But my emotion goes wild still. Logically we know movies are not real, but we still feel tense, excited, scared, love, joy, or anger when watching. When someone flatulates (farts) some get mad, others laugh. All this tells me emotion is volatile. So should be try to erase them?
    Emotion is like a hammer. It can be used to build up great things or tear them down. God has given us this gift of emotion to use properly. We have to power to build others up through encouragement and affirmation, inciting good emotion into the lives of others. Let us build a foundation worth building upon.
    There are some things in life that just make you wonder. The sign to the left was one of those for me, but it was in China, so I shouldn't be that surprised! The instructions here draw a great parallel to our mind. 
    First instruction: Do not stand on the toilet seat. This simply means use the facilities properly. In China, many people still use "squatty potties". This place had a stool, so people might get confused... Our minds are made for great things. If we don't use them properly we can damage them. We soak in anything and everything that goes on around us. God instructs us to be surrounded by good people who will pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace.
    Part two is about smoke. There are many things in this world that fog our vision (or lungs). We should run from these things! Things like TV, music, movies, and the internet all have large amounts of crap that distort the truth. We're often living in a fog of pop culture. I mean, why would you give someone your phone number after you just met them and say "call me, maybe"? Rant begin:  IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE IN THE REAL WORLD SO WHY PUT IT IN YOUR BRAIN THROUGH MUSIC!!! end rant...
    The world is broken and sinful. Things will happen to you and you will interact with a bad influence at some and several points in your life. The phrase I once heard that I will sensor: S#!t happens, so wipe! My apologies if that was a bit too crude for you, but it gets the point across. Discard all waste that is not beneficial to your life and walk with God. Quickly to follow that statement is the last instruction: FLUSH. We should make it a daily habit to flush our system of filth, and clean it with God's word. 
    This sign has the instructions for righteous living... never would have guessed huh?! Aloha means hello and goodbye in Hawaii. So Aloha Management means (to me): hello good life, goodbye harmful waste!

    I want you to think for a second about your reaction to a few situations. The first situation is that you get instantly sick and throw up all over the couch at your friend's house. Most of your friends are there, and you are not sure how your stomach could have held that much food. How would you feel? On the flip side think about what it would feel like to be an onlooker. One of your friends just yacked all over in the midst of a good summer hang out. How do you feel for them?
    The typical response if the person didn't feel good, is embarrassment. You would feel sad or embarrassed for them or for yourself. If it was you, you might feel ashamed for eating too much. Needless to say there would be no enjoyment out of that situation. People would help and ask if the sick one was feeling better the next day.
    The next scenario I want you to imagine is a bit less realistic. You get a phone call one day and the person says, "take off your clothes and continue your normal daily routine." 
    You laugh and say "yeah right." Then a bullet hits the door next to you and you hear again, "you have embarrassed the wrong person, now you will be embarrassed."
    So for the sake of your life you do as they say. You walk into work or school naked. Any time you hesitate a bullet hits nearby, reminding you of the sniper's presence. Sheer terror flows through your body, yet you are completely ashamed walking around like that. Again you most likely would feel embarrassed.

So what do these analogies have to do with anything? How can I possibly tie this back to the topic of community that we have been talking about? Simple...
    Add one thing to the puke story and it changes everything: alcohol. Shift the setting of the second story, make it streaking because you are drunk and someone dared you. All of a sudden the situations become funny, entertainment, and the event of the weekend. One way is horrible. The other is normal. So why do people find it ok to do those sort of things at parties? These acts of individuals, if done sober and in public, would be considered awful. 
    Drunken parties are a community. People have a deep desire to be part of community. These arenas where you can do whatever you want and blame it on alcohol are perfect for anyone to feel accepted. The shyest person can show up to a party, get trashed and become popular (whether good or just the butt of jokes) with one stupid act. People desire non-judgmental community. You cannot judge others when you are doing dumb things too. But God intended us to be non-judgmental in Christian community. We must show the world they don't have to do shameful things in order to be accepted. "

"Judge not, or you too will be judged."      Matthew 7:1

"Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character."
-I Corinthians 15:33

    After talking about one of my favorite subjects of community, I began to connect more of the pieces of the puzzle to the benefits of Christian brother/sisterhood. Though I do not personally believe we evolved from a lesser species, I do think we have a tendency as humans to want to blend in with our surroundings. We have a chameleon nature about us, wanting mostly to avoid danger and eat our share of the food, breath our share of the oxygen. We tend to shift our existence around pleasing others or ourselves.
    So why is it so important to be around like minded believers regularly? We all are connected to a community of some sort, whether Facebook, church, Twitter, or any club one could possibly join. Most will seek out community, even if it is just a few members of their own family. Once this community is found or formed, the members connect. Though one cannot choose their family, most still tend towards being similar to their family. All this to say, the probability of becoming like those you are around most is very high.
    Everyone is different. I am not sure if you have noticed this yet or not. But they are. So if people who are around each other the most become like each other, why are we all still so different? I do not want to share words, thoughts or intentions of God as if they are fact, for I cannot know the full extent of them, but here is my perspective: God made us each unique, so that as a whole, we represent what He is/loves. How can we possible show the world who God is? Each individual can show wonderful glimpses of God, but the whole Body of Christ reflects God. 
    Yes we are sinful. Yes we are broken. God uses us anyway. One of Satan's greatest victories has been in dividing the church. If the Body of Christ pooled their resources on a local level, they could accomplish unthinkable feats. Now imagine the potential of a global connectivity of Christians pooling their talents, gifts, resources, and will. I have seen small groups of teenagers do phenomenal things when they got inspired to accomplish God's work. What could we do as a whole? A body missing parts does not function as well. It still works, but not to maximum potential. Let us be the best at what/who we are. Be the best finger, or toe, or elbow skin you can possibly be. We won't be the same without you.

    Every once in a while we come across concepts that blow our minds. I have one of those for you:

    If you and I both looked at the same strawberry we would probably agree that the color of it is red. Why do we both agree that what we are looking at is the same? The answer is that we have both been told our whole lives that the title of the color of the strawberry is red. How do we know though that we see the same color? What if my color spectrum is flipped? What if my eyes actually reported to my brain a blue color for everything that was red. How would I ever know? How does one know what the other person actually sees?
    The answer is we don't know. If I saw the world in negatives like the picture above, I would not know the difference unless someone could see the world through my eyes. This is where a person's "worldview" comes into play. Most of us never try to think outside of our own worldview, even though we might have a skewed perspective from what the rest of the world sees. In fact, we all have a skewed perspective. 
    The situations and events that occur during our life shape how we see new situations. No two people see every situation the exact same way. Some people may think very similarly, but not exactly the same. Once we begin to understand that simple fact, we can start to view situations differently. The hard fact to swallow as a Christian is that we are not the main character in the story God is telling.
    Here is a confusion statement at first glance: God is NOT the author and perfecter of our lives. We are not the hero/heroine in the story. We are merely role players. He IS the author and perfecter of our faith. Our faith is a small part of God's overall redemption story. He redeemed us from our brokenness, and gives us guidance to perfect our faith through His word. Our goal should not be for a perfect life, but perfect faith. Lest we forget: Jesus is the hero. Jesus is the main character.
    So as we go about life inevitably interacting with other people, just remember they, as well as you, have a skewed view of the world. God is the only one who can perfectly see the big picture. Let us take a step back from ourselves and try to see the world through God's eyes. It will inspire you. It will free you from giving others the ability to hurt you. It might even help you see God. But it might scare you. Let it.

What if these colors were all I ever saw...

    "Do not have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." - II Timothy 2:23

    It is amazing to me how millions of uninformed people have loud verbal OPINIONS of political happenings (I am also guilty of a lack of knowledge in politics). I am as passionate as the next guy about getting this once great country back to the standings of days since past. America was once the source of hope worldwide. It was built on the foundations of freedom and liberty, rooted in Christian morals and work ethic. Much has changed since those days of old.
    I hear stories of the old days when teenagers worked full time in brutal factories to support their family. I read the Federalist Papers from America's founding generation that were written to the commoners, knowing the majority of Americans today couldn't understand most of it. I see political debates today that thousands on Twitter and Facebook voice what they believe to be right. But I see no change. At least no change for the better.
    How many of us still stick to the standards of "if you won't work, you won't eat"? How many of us spend time learning what the Constitution or Declaration of Independence says? And how many of us know what God says about how we should live? I hear far more foolish and stupid arguments today than I see people trying to do something that will actually help our current situation. We (myself included) spend more time complaining and arguing than doing and learning. I am equally frustrated with my own lack of Constitutional knowledge as I am with the political vomit on the web. The fact is our strong religious foundations are on the fringe of vanishing in the United States. Our country that gave us the freedom to be this complacent is falling quickly. 
    I am NOT trying to have a political debate on here. I am calling my fellow Americans to (figuratively) pick up arms and fight for freedom. But more than that I am asking Christians to stop the chatter and start the learning. Know your Bible, your government, your rights. Then fight.
    The picture is round two of "I want you"... but this time from Uncle Duncan, not Uncle Sam.

    I must follow up my last post. There are always consequences to our actions, to our words. Sometimes those consequences are good, other times bad. I frequently pray that the words of my heart and the meditations of my heart are found pleasing in God's eyes. Little did I know that my words could bring healing and forgiveness. 
    I meant what I wrote about last week. I work on being forgiving. I work on being non-judgemental. I often fail, but I seek God's forgiveness anyway. Forgiveness is a one person event. It doesn't take mutual agreement between both parties to gain forgiveness. I have forgiven those men who hurt my family. My times of struggle come when Satan tries to make me relive those old feelings of anger and hatred. I fight them with love. My words here are one form of that love.
    A battle was won through these words. It was not the content of what I wrote that did something. Just being faithful and sharing my heart caught someone's attention. I received a message a few days after that last post from one of the two men I wrote about. He shared his desire for forgiveness of past issues. I did not see that coming at all. Healing is a powerful thing.
    I don't know where he is at in life. I do know that he is probably reading these words. There are two messages I want to get across everyone reading:
1) I am no better than anyone else. I used to look down on people who called themselves Christians but got drunk often, or slept around, or cursed like a sailor. But then I realized that all sin, including my more socially acceptable sins like pride, anger, and envy, deserved the same punishment. It is only through Christ that anyone can be saved. I am not the one to have the final say in their salvation, so I should never judge their current struggles.
2) This cool situation came about because I asked a few friends to share my blog. I am not expecting something like that to happen often, but know that sharing words you agree with could help others. So I have a request that if you agree with what you read, if it was meaningful to you, repost.

With that I bid you farewell. Go and be blessed this week. John 20:21-23

    I have often sat and tried to think of things I struggle with so I can get better. I have some pretty standard ones like pride or putting someone down, but it wasn't until Rick Dake talked about "Why Jesus" that I really found my deep rooted sin. He said something to the effect of "if you hurt my daughter, I'll kill you." Those words triggered a memory I had stashed in the filing cabinet mind of mine. 
    I have often thought of how I would respond if someone hurt my daughter (if I ever have one). But I know from similar past experience that I would really struggle with anger and forgiveness. The experience I speak of is learning of two different men at different times hurting my sisters. I won't go into details, but I saw the actions of these men wound my sisters deeply. I always said (in my mind) that if you hurt my family, I'll kill you. They seriously hurt my family.
    In the days and weeks following those events I fought myself internally in a battle of drastic proportions. I have heard the great stories of forgiveness and healing that have occurred through the ones hurt revealing their forgiveness to their oppressor. I had also heard of men being a real man and standing up for his family. Punishment for them would have been just. I had many people offer to drive and bring their shovel.
    "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." -Marianne Williamson. I know that I am a powerful man in a physical sense. I have had years of athletic training to make me so. I also know I have the potential to be far more powerful in a spiritual sense if I give up my self-righteousness for Christ-righteousness. So the original question was "why Jesus?" Because my capabilities would be directed in ways unholy if not. Because I would probably be in jail or at least have a record if not. Because I want to fight the spiritual battles of this world to help prevent others from experience my sisters' (and my) pain. My sisters have moved on from these issues of past. It is time for me to move on as well. I must forgive. We must forgive.

    Ephphatha is quite an interesting word. The first time my eyes passed over this word nothing struck me about it other than its oddness. It was not until Rick Dake explained the story in the book of Mark that I was able to understand the great meaning. Jesus told the deaf mute in Aramaic to "be opened". 
    Can you imagine having never heard a sound before in your life and first thing you hear is Christ saying "be opened". I like to think it was something like the experience Lucy had in the first book of the Narnia series as she had only known a drab old room with a wardrobe in it. Little did either person realize that on the other side of the opening was a world full of excitement and danger.
    Without the ability to hear, this man never experienced things like music, the ocean's crashing waves, or birds chirping. He also never experienced the harshness of mean words, shreaking screams, or cruel whispers. Jesus opened this man's world to exponential new possiblilities. Some of which would be very uncomfortable. He was accustomed to a certain way of things. The ability to hear was something this man had probably dreamed of,  yet when God granted him his heart's desire, he had plenty of new uncomfortable things he had to get used to.
    When entering into a relationship with Christ, we are opened to a whole new world of possibilities. To be opened to Christ is to be opened to life. One thing to remember is that with new life in Christ come the death of your old life. We don't change into a whole new personality. We change into a whole new life perspective and pursuit. The beauty in being opened by Christ is the gain of purpose in life. Without that purpose we wander aimlessly, making decisions based on feeling and short term gratification. My aimless wandering is over. Time to let the new me Ephphatha!