Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Life of a Christ-Follower on American Idol

If I have one regret about my time on American Idol, it is that I didn't sing some Elton John. If I have two regrets (and this is the real regret here) it's that there was more time to connect with a local body of believers while I was on the show.

On the show, we work 7 days a week, and our work days are never less that 7-8 hours and usually more around the 10-12 hour range. I didn't have a problem with that...I actually enjoyed it...for the first time as an adult I got paid to do something that I loved (music). But it didn't leave a lot of time for extra-curricular activities. The one activity that I would not call extra-curricular, but just didn't fit into the schedule was attending a local church. During my 8 weeks out in L.A. this time, I was only able to get to a church once, and that was visiting the mega church Saddleback, where Rick Warren is the pastor.

I can't explain the emotions I felt as I worshiped with 10,000 people in that auditorium that Sunday (the 2nd week of semi-finals before I sang "Trouble"). It was as if I was coming home so to speak. Worship music is so often so cheesy, and when you take part in it every single week, it can become monotonous and easy to take for granted. But that Sunday, I sang my lungs out and a feeling of refreshment washed over me. It was absolutely strange.

The message that Pastor Warren gave was so touching....the message of it didn't really touch me, since it was all about how to get sin out of your life, and literally my pastor back home had just done a series with the exact same points...but the heart of Pastor Warren coming through was incredible refreshing.

I came away from that service (after taking about 4,000 pictures with church members and after meeting Pastor Warren and receiving a bear hug from the man himself) recharged for the next few weeks.

Honestly, I can't wait till Easter Sunday...I'll be with my home church for the first time in 2 and a half months, and I know the refreshment will wash over me even more so than my time at Saddleback. Plus I get to see my friends again.

Boy, I can't wait!

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Traveling Sucks

Originally posted 1-2-07

Germany is 6 hours ahead of East Coast Time. Sarah and I went to bed on New Years Morning at 1 am German time. We knew we were flying back on New Years Day, but we just couldn't bring ourselves to not stay up to welcome in 2007. But the problem with that is that we had to wake up at 6 am to get ready to leave the house at 7:15am to get to the airport in time. Now, just to put this in perspective: we woke up at midnight New Years Morning East Coast time.

We loaded up the car and headed to the airport. Our plane left at 12:30pm German time - we had to wake up so early because it was a 2 hour trip to the airport from my parent's house, and you have to get to the airport now 2 hours before your trip. Anyway around 11:45, we loaded on the plane and at 12:30 we took off. As we took off, I thought we were going to die. The first 10,000 feet up were the bumpiest I have ever had in my life. We were bouncing around in a 767 like a little prop plane in a tornado. It was horrible.

The next 9 1/2 hours wasn't bad. We had 2 movies and they were both ones that I had wanted to see, so that was nice. We got a little sleep: I think I got about an hour on the plane, total.When we got to Philadelphia, apparently, we were a little early because the plane simply circled the airport for about an hour. All along the way of doing circles, we got bounced around by turbulence. People were throwing up all over the plane and even I started to get a little sick. We weren't allowed to listen to music because we were on our "initial approach", so I was bored and nauseated. Not a good combination.

We finally landed. Then we had to go through to 2 lines of Customs. Then we had to wait in baggage claim to get our luggage, only to wait in an astronomically long line to go through another customs line that then lead to another long line to re-check our recently claimed baggage. After that line, we were sent to another terminal. However, in order to get to our new terminal we had to go through yet another security check. Unfortunately, the line at the next security check was about 500-600 people long and they only had 1 line. We literally stood for a half hour without moving a step. That line took over an hour and then we still had to find our shuttle that took us to our terminal.

When we got to our gate, they announced that our flight would be a little late. A little late ended up being 4 hours late. So, instead of getting home at a reasonable 8pm, we got in at midnight. By the time we reached home, we had been up for 24 hours straight. That sucks.But to top it all off, they only got 3 of our bags to us. The 1 bag they didn't get on the plane wasn't the bag that help all of our miscellanious items. It was the bag that literally holds all my entire wardrobe.

Traveling Sucks.

Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane

Originally posted 12-28-06

Well, at this moment, I am sitting in a Swiss hotel typing on a Swiss computer. Apparently, the Swiss have a different keyboard, and a lot of stuff is out ofplace on it, so it will probably take me a lot longer than usual to type this blog, but that is no worry for you, since you aren't reading it in real time. Anyway.

A coupla days ago, we left my parents house outiside of Graf, Germany to head towards Switzerland. We decided that we could go by Weisbaden, the town in Germany that I lived in from 7-17, while only making our trip about an hour and a half longer. My dad asked if I wanted to go and said that I would love would be great to take a walk down memory lane, so to speak. We left about 7:30am and reached Weisbaden about 4 hours later. It was a nice dad and I spoke about a bunch of stuff while my wife spoke with my mom on only God knows what and my brother slept.

We reached Weisbaden and went to the little town called Erbenheim where my dad's church had been located all those years. We drove around that little town and it was a little odd to see the changes that had come. Where the church parking lot had been all growing up is now an apartment complex, which is attached to the building the church was located in. Apparently, the owner made the church into a series of apartments. Smart. Very smart. He's probably making ten times the rent we were paying back then.

From there, we went over to the Army base where I literally spent much of my formative life. I have so many mermories from Weisbaden Army Base it's not even funny. During summers, in my teens, I would spend almost every day 6, 7, 8 hours a day on base playing baseball or basketball. I remembered everything like it was yesterday. It was kind of funny as I had to direct my dada round base, as he couldn't remember where certain things were. And I didn't even drive back then.

After that, we drove over to the PX, which is the Post's where the soldiers eat, shop and shop. It's the army's version of a mall. It's pretty crappy compared to what we have in the States, but for people overseas, it is awesome to have a little taste of home. In the food court, they have Popeye's chicken and Taco Bell, as well as some AAFES restaurants. I decided on Anthony's Pizza, which is the Army's best pizza. I hadn't had it in years, and it was as tasty as I remember.

We then drove up into the mountains about 35 minutes out where I lived from the age of 8-15. It was surreal to see this little mountain village that holds so many memories for me. We drove down a little bike path that lead to the large forest that was behind our village. It was on this bike path that I left much of the skin from my left side after a horrific bike accident that nearly took my life when I was 8.

I guess this blog really has nothing for anyone else, except a little insight into me. I have a lot of memories of my childhood. A lot of them were bad. Those of you who know me well know that those memories still haunt me from time to time.

But it was great to be reminded that there were good times, interspersed with the bad.

Dachau: the original German concentration camp

Originally posted 12-20-06

I flew into Germany yesterday to spend time with my family over the Holidays. My father had been sick and had been put in the hospital for a large kidney blockage, so he wasn't able to come to the airport, and because my mother had to go get him from the hospital, she needed us to go do something to pass some time until she could get back home.

About 10 years ago, in between my sophomore and junior year of high school, my family took a trip to Dachau. At the time, I was very interested in Jewish history and especially the horrors of World War II. In saying that, I wasn't interested in finding entertainment, but to remind myself of those horrors. We couldn't get enough time away to go all the way to Auschwitz, so we went to Dachau, which is another famous concentration camp in Germany.

Yesterday, we needed something to do, so we decided that Dachau was on the way, and my wife had never seen anything like that and she really wanted to see it, so we headed to Dachau.

Dachau was the original German concentration camp. It was with Dachau that the Third Reich found their model for what other concentration camps would be. Originally, when the camp opened in 1933, it was simply for political prisoners: people who took an active, vocal stand against Hitler were herded up and put in this camp. And it wasn't pretty. Then, when the Third Reich began what they called their Final Solution (i.e., let's kill all the people who don't look like us), the concentration camps that had been for political prisoners now housed - and killed - everyone.

As we walked into the camp again yesterday, I was struck, again, with a feeling of oppression. As I looked across this open lot with gravel grounding - these wide open spaces where I can only assume men were shot and killed for simply being different - I told my wife that it just seems evil. The whole place seemed evil.

We walked into the main building that had once housed the headquarters for the Nazi the building holds the memories of so many men who died in that place. We walked in and followed the story from the beginning. The story is told in English and German on giant easels that hold the prose and pictures. The prose and pictures all communicate one thing: men were killed for believing and looking differently than their German counterparts.

The story started in 1933 when the chief of police in Munich thought of the idea of a camp that would house political prisoners. Several hundred were originally placed in the camp and actually finished building the camp as they went along. Nutrition was horrible, conditions were bad (no heat, very little clothing, etc.) and over the first year several were killed and several died from lack of food and sickness.

Things continued the same until the late 1930's, when Hitler introduced the Final Solution, which was basically an attempt to rid the world of Jews, mentally handicapped, the cripples and the old - basically everyone he saw as useless. Men and women were shipped off to camps across the Third Reich and treated horribly, killed and then had their bodies incenerated to keep the Germans from having to bury millions of bodies.

When the Jews became a major part of Dachau, the conditions got even worse. Guards would take target practice using human targets for fun. Men would be thrown into "no-man's land" - a small section between the open area and the fence that lead to freedom - and would then be shot for "attempting to escape". Men would simply be shot while standing in line for role call because some German soldier felt a little pissy that day. Yes, all the horrible things you have seen in movies like Schindler's List and The Pianist were real.

Then things even more horrifying began to take place. In 1942, the director of the camp came up with the bright idea to use human research to attempt to help the Germans win the war. So, they would put Jews through horrible experiments to see how the human body could hold up. One of the experiments involved pressurizing a room as if the person were 500 feet under water, then quickly de-pressurizing the room to see how fast the human body could recover. If the person in the room died, then they would burn the body and try again with another subject until they found the timing that didn't kill the person in the room. Another experiment would put a Jewish man in an army parachute get-up and then place the man in varying degree of freezing water to see how long a person could last in freezing water before they died. The doctors experimented with different aspects of cutting out pieces of men's brains while they were still alive. Horrible, horrible things.

And as I walked around this exhibit, then as I viewed the gas chambers and the rooms where dead bodies were piled up before being burned in the ovens in the next room, I wondered how a human could possibly do this to another human. How could one person with a beating heart and fully-functioning brain possibly do these horrible things to another human with a beating heart and a fully-functional brain? How could German soldiers line men up, weaponless, against a wall and walk down the row, putting a bullet in each man's brain. For simply being Jewish.

These men must have somehow believed what their leaders told them. Maybe they bought into the rhetoric and bullshit (I apologize for the use of language here, but my anger over-runs and I can find no better word). Maybe they bought into the propaganda. Maybe they simply killed to survive themselves. I don't know.We live in a cynical, cynical world. We live in a world where the media constantly questions everything our leaders tell us. We live in a world that never simply takes anything a government says for granted. We live in a country that is at war.

But I would rather live in a cynical world that questions the morality of the Iraqi War than to live in a place and time where atrocities like the Holocaust can happen without questions.

Holidays, Schmolidays

Originally posted 12-5-06

I have never been a big fan of The Holidays. Call me crazy but the chubby kid doesn't like all the holiday foods. I hate Turkey. It's so dry it makes my mouth dry just thinking and writing about it. I despise dressing. It makes me want to throw up every time I attempt to place it in my mouth and swallow. Even thinking about that chalky stuff, it makes me ill. I hate holiday food.

So, I have decided that if I am ever in the position of great fame and/or fortune, which you never know, could be sooner than later, that I would like to propose some general rules and some changes for the holidays.

1) Buffalo Wings & Pizza should replace Turkey & Stuffing, respectively.
Come on! Turkey is outdated. We all know that killing a turkey is cruel while killing a chicken is all right! And you don't have to kill anything except flour to make a pizza, unless you have meats. Which I do!!! Pizza - the poor man's dressing!

2) All Thanksgiving Get-Togethers should include the watching of football, and the women should sit and learn about the beautiful game.
My wife still thinks that kicking a field goal is a freaking touchdown! Come on! Turkey Day is called Turkey Day for one reason: football!!! So, everyone should be forced to watch football and understand the nuances of the games, like why the players pat each other on the butt after good plays and why certain players have their groins massaged after a tough play on the field.

3) Christmas decorations and/or music should not be whipped out until 1 week before Christmas.
Since we all know that Jesus wasn't really born in December any way, then why the freak do we start to celebrate his birthday a full 5 months early (or 7 months late, depending on how you look at it). Sure, let's celebrate Christmas, but, God, please, no freaking Christmas music until a week before. It's all I can take to turn on my radio and here "Simply having a wonderful Christmas time" and it's a full month before the big day. Sure, most pop music at this point is ultimately more annoying than that song, but that isn't the point! We must have standards!!! Christmas music is for Christmas. Not the 5 weeks before Christmas. AND DO NOT PUT A WREATH ON MY DOOR!!!

4) People should not have it on their agendas to give other people the freaking Christmas spirit.
I don't like the Holidays, okay? I'm not a Scrooge, I just don't like all the hullabuloo. I love to focus on the fact that Jesus came to earth and the story of His birth is amazing. I do NOT want to have to think about all the presents that we have to buy for everyone or worry about the presents that I hope I get. Why not just celebrate Christmas all year long. If you see someone that needs something in June, buy it for Christmas time they won't need it. I get really, really tired of people being all cheery and whistling Christmas music then making pouty faces when they find out (from my friends) that I don't like Christmas. "Awww, is someone a little Grinch?" they inevitably ask. And then I bite their heads off. Literally.

5) All presents should be at the recipients request.
Oh, sure it takes the fun out of it if they know what they were getting, but at least people won't get presents that they will never use. I have someone in my life who buys me a lot of crap every Christmas that NEVER gets used because it's just that: crap. I'm sorry, but argyle socks went out like 11 years ago, and they're not making a comeback any time soon. And that tight jean jacket? Well, I'm chubby and tight doesn't work for me. So, this Christmas, go to your loved ones and ask them, "What do you want?" Then buy them one of the items they request. Don't think that maybe you know better. You DO NOT.

Well, I hope that helps you gain some Christmas spirit.

Thanksgiving Day

Originally posted 11-23-06

Well, we all have things to be thankful for, if we so desire to be thankful. Sometimes it's harder than others to find things to be thankful for. Sure, we can always go for the "at least I'm not in Africa starving", but let's be honest when you try to use that on yourself it makes you more depressed that that's all you have to be thankful for.

This year has been a year of blessings. A lot of tough times ended up working out so well that it has truly been a blessed year.

This year, my band broke up and that was incredibly tough. Though the breakup wasn't horrible and we are all still friends, it was difficult to simply let almost 3 years go...with Daniel (bass player) it was almost 5 years. But the blessing of it all was that I came away and began to make music that I wanted to make with guys who were interested in being successful with the music. So, Adam, Cole and Skid - you guys have been a huge blessing for which I am thankful.

I went a few months over the last year without work. The roofing company that I was intending on purchasing closed soon after I started to buy it. That sucked. But through that, Sarah and I have made some of our closest friends in Will and Alison Gray. It's amazing that through a hardship in both of our lives (his more than mine, grant you), a friendship could foster and grow. I don't deserve friends like these. So, Will and Alison, we love you and are thankful for you.

In May, several months after the roofing company fell through, I finally got work at BMW Manufacturing. It was a miserable job and I went my entire stay at the job without writing anything. So, I quit and found a job that I enjoy at LevelOne. Then the whole American Idol tryouts happened and as I progressed past the first round, I realized that I could not have taken a few days here and there off if I had been at BMW, and my dream of American Idol would have never taken off. So, I am thankful for LevelOne and how they have worked with my schedule.

This year, the church I work for part time as a worship leader decided to bring in someone else to act as worship coordinator. It hurt my feelings a little bit at first, but I tried to see past that and the person who they brought in has quickly become my best friends and my American Idol "good luck charm"...and my BFF (sorry, inside joke). Don Chapman has become a friend for the ages: always encouraging, always laughing at my stupid jokes, and for the most part not trying to convert me to liking robots. So, thanks for your friendship Don.

Last and certainly not least is my wife Sarah. This is the first year of our marriage where we had some tough times...a lot of it due to the financial pressures that come along with not having work for 6 months in a 12 month time. But we made it through. I could not have made it through this year alone, and so I am so thankful for my beautiful wife. So, Sarah, thanks.

Well, those are my thanksgivings.

Humans & their Inherent Need for Answers

Originally posted 10-21-06

I recently entangled myself in stupidity. I don't know why I did it, but I was drawn in like a moth to a flame...or perhaps a better metaphor is that I was drawn in like me to Guitar Center. I don't know why I do stupid stuff like this, but I chose to entagle myself with the highest form of stupidity.

I guess we all have this inherent need to have the answers. I don't think anyone in their right mind would ever actually claim to have the answers, but I think that all of us in our right minds still have thoughts of needing to know the answers to the questions of life. We have to be absolutely sure that we're not living our lives in pursuit of something stupid or false when we could be pursuing what is the best thing for us.

For some, that pursuit is money and fame and fortune. For some, the pursuit is just pure joy or hedonism. For some, the pursuit is God because that's what we feel is truth. In doing all of these things, we all hope that we have the right answer to the question. A lot of times, the question we have is wrong in the first place, so of course the answer is wrong...but that's neither here nor there.In my experience, which is somewhat vast (though obviously not all-inclusive), I have found that Christians many times are the worst about feeling the need to have the answers. Perhaps it is because we are taught from the beginning that we have the answers to life's biggest questions, so we inherantly need to feel as though we have said answers.

When it comes to any religion, when someone "buys" into it, then, if it is serious, then it is a complete life change. Because of this complete life change then it is easy to fall into the trap of suddenly feeling as though you know everything or that you have to know everything in order to not look like a fool to all of your friends as you try to convert them.

The problem with all of this is that life in and of itself is inherantly devoid of real answers.

Uh-oh...Christians are freaking out! WHAT?!!! WE DON'T HAVE THE ANSWERS?!!! WE HAVE THE BIBLE!!! THAT IS ALL THE ANSWERS WE NEED!!!

Well, that may very well be true for you, but for a person unfamiliar with Christianity or Christian dogma, then that is a hard pill to swallow. Especially when the Christian who introduces them to Christianity assumes that they (the non-Christian) has none of the answers while the Chrsitian has all the answers. Pride being pride, that usually doesn't bode well.

Now, before I move on, I should qualify what I have said thus far and define what I mean by answers. The dictionary gives this simple definition: "a correct response ". I think the "answers" that I'm talking about are perhaps a little deeper than the simplicity of that definition. What I am talking about as an answer would be more along the lines of not having the correct response, but having the knowledge that goes behind the correct response, or a surety that the "correct response" is indeed correct.

As I said before, life is devoid of this surety, of this knowledge that the correct is correct. When it comes to God and heaven and hell and a belief in Christ, we can not be absolutely sure. There is no scientific test that could prove that God is real. We can measure the scientific distance to the sun, but we can not define the distance to heaven or hell. There is no scientific means to measure salvation, as there is to define how much blood is in the human body. It all comes down to faith. And along with faith comes a degree of uncertainty that the things that we have faith in are somehow not quite right.

I have read of magicians/stunt artists having complete faith in a wire system or a board, only to have those things misfunction as the artists fall to their (what I would imagine) painful death. They had faith in something and their faith was misplaced.

As Christians, we put our faith in a book written by a bunch of men who claim to have been inspired by the Spirit of God. Okay, I'm a Christian and that sounds both fishy and spooky to me...just try to explain that to someone who has never heard that God is more than something that follows "oh my...". It seems a little fishy that these men who are trying to spread a religion would then back their claims up by saying, "No, I was inspired by the Spirit of God!" In order to believe what we believe, we must have faith that these men really were inspired.

The point of all this is that we as Christians must understand the frailty of our faith. We should never be arrogant about the fact that we have the answers - or that we think we have the answers. Our goal should be to admit that, though we don't have all the answers, we do believe that the answers we have come to are correct and make the most sense.

It doesn't "make sense" to believe in something that we can't see or touch or hear or feel. But it makes sense that this world could not have just happened by chance. It makes sense that if someone did create the world it would have to be a higher being and if their is a Higher Being, then it is natural that I should want to be with my Creator. If God is that Creator, then how do I get to Him? Is it by being good? Well, it makes sense that I could never be good enough because my bad certainly outweighs whatever good I can do. But when I hear the story that Jesus lived a perfect life and died, came back to life and all I have to do is believe that and I can spend eternity with my Creator...well that makes sense to me. Are there holes in what makes sense and what simply takes faith? Heck, yes! But no matter what you believe in, there are holes between logic and faith, it's a simple fact of life. At least that makes more sense to me than simply trying to make my good outweigh my bad.

Recently, I found a website claiming to be the top500 Fundamental websites in the world. Of course, being a former conservative fundamentalist, I decided to check it out. I found forums where fundies discussed certain aspects of life, and other forums where the "Fighting Fundies" came out in droves to display their idiocy. As I read through different thoughts, I found myself being sucked into these discussions on the King James Version and on issues that I haven't throught about in years. I even partook in a discussion on the KJV-only issue. I'm such an idiot! I had forgotten how moronic and dead-set these people are in their ways! It is simply amazing.

Then, it occurred to me that for these people it easier to hold on to a list of rules because it is easy. If you know all the answers then you have nothing to worry about...your faith is dead set. If you have all the answers (and your answers are the only answers) then perhaps it is an easier sell (though I highly doubt it). Then it made me wonder about my own life and how dead-set I am in my ways...wonder how dead-set I am that I have the answers and I had to remind myself faith is frail, and though I honestly believe that the things that I believe are absolutely true, it still takes faith. And because it takes faith, there's a measure of unsurety. Perhaps the Fundies are right.

But I doubt it.

My Crash

Originally posted 9-22-06

Perhaps one of my favorite films of the last few years (if not my whole viewing history) has been last year's Best Picture winner Crash. The film, which stars a variety of mid-level stars, as well as some former huge stars, relies on its ensemble cast to put across a message without coming across preachy. The glue that holds this film together is racism. It follows several different story lines, all of which somehow focus on racism from every different angle imaginable.

Racism is still a touchy subject in our world today. I recently have become more interested in the career of U2 and especially the life of Bono. As I have learned more of the band, I've learned how Bono held the civil rights activists of the 1950's & 60's in such high esteem. There are several songs in the U2 catolog that reference Martin Luther King, Jr, the most popular of which is, of course, Pride (In the Name of Love). Also, as a Christian (and yes, I think Bono is a Christian), Bono feels like the A.I.D.S. epedimic in Africa is being ignored by the rest of the world because of racism...and he can't understand how the church which was founded on love could in any way hold racism as a way of life.

I grew up in a missionary home, which most people know. In Germany, our church was different than a church here in the states would be. My dad really focused on making our church welcoming to anyone and, at one point, our church was actually about 40% African-American, which I think we all know and understand to be quite a feat, no matter where in the world you are. Blacks and whites simply do not worship together.

I grew up admiring African-American culture, and, much to my parent's dismay, I wore my pants backwards and, for a while, hung out almost solely with my black friends. I was a basketball player, and all my basketball playing friends were black, so it was natural for me to simply hang out with the people who had the same interest as me.

I wrote about my friend James, the G.I. I hung out with. Besides James (who was as white as they come), there were several other G.I.'s that I hung out with over the years, many of which were black. I loved the way that African-Americans had a common bond...I don't know how to explain it as an outsider, but, at least as I saw it growing up, a black man can meet another black man and almost instantly there is a bond. Perhaps, they see themselves as having the same struggle, or maybe the African-American culture is more warm and inviting than my culture, but it was interesting to me to see that immediate bond happen again and again.

So, with all that said, I grew up with race never being a point of contention. In the military, it seemed like it was different than the world I live in now. Perhaps the military attracts a certain kind of person, and perhaps because of the discipline that is the very nature of the military, it weeds out certain personality traits in those who make it through more than a short time in the military, but it seemed I never saw racism rear its ugly head during my childhood.

Then, I went to college. Perhaps I was naive, perhaps I was just dumb, but I couldn't understand how a Christian college could be racist, and because of that I think I ignored the fact that there was a reason the school I went to was only less than 10% black, and actually most of the black people who went to college were not African-Americans, but simply Africans.

We were fed the line that the ban on inter-racial dating was for our own good and it wasn't racist because all the races were treated the one race could date a different race...I mean, it wasn't just a rule against white people dating black people! I remember the President of the college at the time going on a very high-profile television show to discuss the rule and he mentioned that it had originally started not as an affront to black people, but because the parent of an Asian student didn't want their son dating a white girl. Oh, so making a racist rule because it was from a different race than African-American makes it okay, I guess.

Now, it was great that the President lifted the rule, but there is a part of me that still wanted to hear an apology. I understand that many state colleges didn't lift their ban on allowing blacks to come to college until just a few years before Bob Jones University did. I understand that the whole world, at one point, believed a racist credo, but as we were told many times during my stay at BJU, just because the world believes a certain thing, we need to focus on the truth and truth doesn't change! Well, why then was it okay to be racist 30 years ago? If truth doesn't change?

After leaving the school, I have found different things that are disturbing to say the least. I found a message that Bob Jones, Sr. preached in the 50's where he used Scripture to prove why segregation was not only Bibilical, but the only way for God's people to be preserved. There were comments made by Senior, a typically racist Southern man (but again, is that an excuse?), about black people and their place in the world in his mind.

The University took a stand AGAINST Martin Luther King in the 60's and as recently as a couple of years ago, Bob Jones III wrote and editorial degrading the character of MLK, saying that no man who was an ungodly, philandering man should have a national holiday...paid, nonetheless!!! Proving again that The Third has no earthly idea how he comes across, nor does he seem to care. I mean, when your University is already seen as a racist institution, you're really not helping your case by taking a stand against a holiday for the man who singularly made more of difference in the civil rights movement than any other person, through his life and his death. Just let it go.

But it's not just Bob Jones University. It's the church. The church is as segregated (or more so) than the world at large. It is rare to see a church that is succesful at reaching all races. I personally do not care for Redemption World Outreach Center here in just isn't the type of worship I long for nor enjoy. However, that church has done something special in reaching a multi-racial congregation. Why are more churches not able to reach beyond the boundaries of race?

I don't think that the sole blame is on church leaders, if we're honest with ourselves. A lot of it is the people themselves. I have been to several services and predominantly black churches (several times I was literally the only white person in the room). While in college, I found that type of church fascinating and I wanted to know more. As I saw how these "black churches" did things I wasn't turned off and I didn't think the way they did things was stupid, I just didn't enjoy didn't resonate with me. I'm sure that when many African-Americans come to Seacoast, though we are multi-racial, the music and the way we do things is foreign to's different and I'm sure doesn't resonate with their souls the way their church does.

But, I think that the church should be able to reach beyond those boundaries. Many times, I have had black friends who I have never invited to church with me because I knew they wouldn't enjoy it...or I assumed they wouldn't enjoy it. I think it would be safe to say that many Christians have done the same thing. What does it hurt to invite someone? The worst they could say is no.

As far as this particular point goes: one day, preference on worship isn't going to matter anymore. We'll all be together up in heaven and we'll be worshiping. Now, I think there's going to be several electric guitarist (Phil Keaggy, Bob Dylan, the Edge) up there playing and at least 2 drummers (only 1 bass player, since more than one bass player gets a little muddy) and we'll be doing modern rock for all eternity with Bono, Michael Tait (definitely not Bob Dylan). But I also realize it may be Bob Jones-ey type worship. But, please, Lord, I hope not!

Moving on from that little rabbit trail.

Since college, it has been a different race experience than ever before. I have found myself working in jobs with African-Americans who are some of the most racist people I have ever met. I delivered pizzas for Dominos for 5 years and dealt every day with people who would isntantly change their demeanor when they realized the person delivering their pizza was white. At times, it was not easy to keep my attitude correct and allow my love for these people to be evident.

It is in our nature to be racist. It is built in to all of us to dislike anything different than us because we're fallen and we're broken. Someone who looks different than us makes it difficult to see how they are the same as us because our scope is so small. But what is in our nature is not always right. Sin is in our nature, but our goal should be to weed out the deep-seeded roots of sin and replace them with Christ. And we're all the same: red, yellow, black and white...we all have sin in our hearts, we're all hurting, we're all sick.

The reason I love Crash so much is not so much the cast or the acting, though both of those things in this film are amazingly done. It isn't how beautiful the film is, though the film is beautifully shot. The things that gets me is the's a message that all of us are the same...we struggle with race just like the next guy. Black men are just as racist as white men. Asians are just as racist as black men. It's how we are, it's who we are. It's how we respond to our nature that proves the kind of person we will ultimately be.

Forgetful of Grace

originally posted 7-29-06

When does grace end and responsibility begin?

I had a friend several years back who made some huge mistakes in her life. She was a beautiful, lively girl who had gotten married seemingly because that was what good Christian girls are supposed to do. Unfortunately, the love she felt for her husband apparently wasn't "enough", whatever that means in our culture today. From what I know, she loved her husband, loved the Lord, but made a poor choice and had an affair. Her husband suspected but never knew of the affair, but suddenly felt this person he had married start to draw away until their marriage was a semblance of the picture of Christ it should've been.

In speaking to my friend long after the divorce finally happened, I started to realize pretty quickly that she left her husband not because she loved the man she had fallen with, or even because she didn't love her husband or because she didn't love the Lord. She left her husband because she didn't understand grace. In her mind, her fall was the unforgivable sin, it was impossible to recover from, either from God or from her loving husband.

Perhaps grace is the hardest thing about Christ for us to truly grasp with our infinitely human minds. For us, there are boundaries that can be crossed; there are places that our forgiveness simply can not run; there is no such thing as constant, unconditional love. Ultimately, we make the mistake of believing that Christ's love is no better than ours.

In Christendom, we hear songs that proclaim that "His grace is enough" and it has almost become a cliche, because we sing the words, but we don't understand what they mean. How is His grace enough for me? When is it enough for me? Why is it enough for me? And how do I possibly live in this grace?

The big question I've always had is this: when does grace end and responsibility begin? I think we as Christians have to struggle with this. I've never had a Christian friend who is honest who doesn't struggle with the balance between grace and responsibility or consequence. When do we cross the line of abusing grace and discarding liberty for freedom?

But in asking these questions, I think that we miss the point of what grace is. Grace is not overlooking sin and poor choices. It is looking those poor choices straight in the face and saying that His grace is enough to get past them. It is being able to forgive without forgetting, because as humans we don't forget. We don't have the ability to seperate it as far as the East is from the West. Yet Christ's grace is so much better than my feeble attempts to explain it. His grace does seperate it from his memory; He doesn't remember my faults.

You see, I'm a lot like my friend. Fortunately, I've never physically "cheated" on my wife. But I've lusted after another woman, which Christ says is the same. There have been several times in my marriage that I have felt like I couldn't continue - not because of anything my wife had done, but because I didn't know how grace could cover my mistakes. Yet somehow all the things I thought could never be overcome have somehow been covered by grace, both by Christ and by my loving wife.

It is when we embrace grace that we truly understand that grace is responsibility...and there is no disconnect between the two.

Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Youth

- originally posted 7-29-06

When I was fifteen I had a good friend named James who was twenty-five. James was the epitome of cool: he was a single GI who lived on his own, listened to the kind of music he wanted to listen to, and after leading a life of sin had come to Christ. James took the time to befriend me and hang out with me and for the 2 years that he was there, we were good friends.

I remember thinking that at twenty-five, how old James was. He was a man. Sure, his room was still messy and, looking back on it, his life was in shambles, but I remember looking up to him because he was an adult...yet still cool.

Now, I'm about the age that James was when I admired him and I still feel like the 15 year old kid, admiring the adult. I feel so young. I don't feel like a grown up. I feel stunted. I feel like something is missing or perhaps was missed a long time ago.

I guess there's this checklist of things I've always thought you have to do in order to be an adult:

A) go to college (okay, I did that);

B) Graduate from college (crap!);

C) Get a good job after you graduate from college (Um, I chose to be a musician, does that count? Or maybe the 7 jobs I've had since college - do those count?);

D) Get married (Okay, I did this, but most of the time I feel so unsuccessful at being a good husband that I don't really count this as part of growing up);

E) have kids (please, God, not for a while).

Great, on the grown up scale, I'm 1 for 5.

I still like to play Madden on my Playstation2 (a step up from the Super Nintendo I had in high school). I still listen to Hootie and the Blowfish, as well as Ben Folds Five, Counting Crows, BoyzIIMen and Mariah Carey on a regular basis. I like to drink orange juice from the carton. I abhor household chores. I love my dogs, but hate the responsibility of taking care of the dogs. I like to take naps in the middle of the day, and if I had my way I would never go to work again....I mean I really like to sleep. In fact, I'm really wanting to open up a market for jobs that require you to sleep for 10 hours straight and get paid for it.

I guess I'm just trying to figure out when I'm going to grow up. I still find so much joy in the things that make me a kid, and at the same time find myself frustrated by the fact that I find joy in those things. I find myself still looking to people who are few years older than them and always looking to them as the "adults" in my life. I always think that by the time I get to where they are, I will feel like an adult. But every new year brings a disappointment with where I am in life.

And on top of it all, the thing that makes me feel most like a child is the thing that I love the most: music. I know that eventually I'll have to give up music, if I haven't found some success by some time in my life, but I still have this silly optimism and the ability to daydream while my head tells me that pessimism is the adult response to my current status in the music industry.

I'm James. My room is still messy. My life is in shambles. But somehow I'm happy. Sure there is some disappointment and there are some regrets, but I find myself happy with the fact that I still love life, I have a beautiful wife who loves me, I have a church of people who love me and I love in return; and I get to do something that makes me feel like a kid.So the question remains: when do we grow up? I hope it's not for a long time. But I'm sure most people in my life hope it's soon. But we can't all get what we want, can we? We'll see who wins out.

(I have a pretty good feeling it's going to be me)

I Moved A Bunch of Stuff Over Here

Well, I decided I wanted my main blog to be pretty much just my music and movie reviews, and stuff about the band. This blog will become my new thoughts on life and my theological digressions.