A deadly disease

In his book, Desiring God, John Piper quotes Ralph Winter saying: "America today is a 'save yourself' society if there ever was one. But does it really work? The underdeveloped socities suffer from one set of diseases: tuberculosis, malnutrition, pneumonia, parasites, typhoid, cholera, typhus, etc. Affluent America has virtually invented a whole new set of diseases: obesity, arteriosclerosis, heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, venereal disease, cirrhosis of the liver, drug addiction, alcoholism, divorce, battered children, suicide, murder. Take your choice. Labor-saving machines have turned out to be body-killing devices. Our affluence has allowed both mobility and isolation of the nuclear family, and as a result, our divorce courts, our prisons and our mental institutions are flooded. In saving ourselves we have nearly lost ourselves."

I thought that I would write something after this, but now that I have typed it I have nothing else to say. I am silenced in the realization of two things; the first being that I am a carrier of this deadly disease and the second being that I, as a believer, have a larger responsibility than I have ever realized.



"Everyone’s counting on you
Save for yourself what to do
Life is a card that you lay down sometimes
To search for the best way of all
Is finding the best way to fall
Keeping your head in the clear

Like an instrument for a song
Like the sun for tomorrow’s dawn
Every moment of time’s just an answer to find
What you’re here for, what you breathe for
What you wake for, what you bleed for
What you hope for, what you live for..."


Chinese torture

Today was a whirlwind. After getting a trailer hitch put on my car in big city Florence, SC, I decided to partake in a ritual I have yet to understand or find delight in, eyebrow waxing. I mean what else does one do after getting a trailer hitch put on one's car? The next logical stop is the Chinese owned nail salon for a good torture session (and they are ALL Chinese owned by the way). So I find one in one of those strip malls (this is because those strip malls ALWAYS have nail salons right next to their cell phone building, which is right next to their credit union, which is right next to, if you're lucky, their dollar tree store). I pull up and through the glass, staring out with her arms crossed is this middle aged Chinese woman in a pink suit with tightly fixed hair. I step out of my car and she is still staring at me, so I look over my shoulder and unfortunately for me there was nobody else their to receive this ladies glare, it was all for me. I pumped myself up, "You can do this A.J. You're a strong 22 year old." I opened the door, all the while feeling those two little slanted lasers burning holes in my neck. As I took my first step inside I heard a deep, Asian, male voice from my left say, "Can we help you." I looked over and a young Chinese man with a sleeveless shirt and a tattooed arm that was slung up on the side of the couch was staring at me waiting for me to answer. It had happened. I had been teleported into a Jackie Chan mobster movie and I was about to die (or so I thought). I waited for them to take me to the "back room" to speak to the "big boss" you know because that is what happens in every Jackie Chan or any other type of mobster movie. I, not being very confident that this man could answer my inquiry or that I wanted him to, asked how much it cost to get your eyebrows done (mobster grandma is still burning me with her lasers). He gave me "the stare down" then spoke wildly in a language not English and a younger girl appeared out of nowhere and dragged me to this chair, the chair we will from now own refer to as the chair of death, and began her work. She looked at me, opened a drawer and then casually slapped some flaming hot, sticky liquid on my eyes with a popsicle stick, then slapped a piece of paper under each eye and ripped it off like you would rip off the top of an envelope containing a million dollar check, no mercy. I had tears rolling down my face and a tight grip to the underside of that chair. I wondered a few things at this point, the first being if they had any novacane and the second, what the crap was I thinking. I paid the lady and walked to my car as quickly as I could, with my eyelids burning all the way. As I got in Mobster mom was still looking at me, arms folded. It was a bizarre experience and I believe a suttle from of Chinese torture.



Take the time to start a new
Maybe its in front of you.
Take the time to walk down the street
Heaven knows who you might meet...


Life is happening

"I'm trying to make you sing
from inside where you believe
Like its something that you need
Like it means everything.

And I'm trying to make you feel
That this is for real
That LIFE is happening
And it means Everything."
I can't exactly put my finger on it, life that is. It is the strangest feeling that I get in the pit of my stomach at night (when I am in my bed and I have actually stopped to think) that I am experiencing something unbelievabley bizzare and that I have very little understanding of it. It is those moments where I almost have an out of body experience and I take a step back and marvel at how crazy all this is. I look at my hands and watch them move, I attempt, without success, to look at my face without the use of a mirror or mirror like object (this is impossible by the way), I watch as people pass by in cars or on foot or in planes and I think about the fact that they are headed somewhere to their totally seperate, but just as real, lives that I will never know anything about. This feeling that I get in the quiet parts of my day is something that I can't even begin to put words to, when life begins to look like the movies in the sense that it all seems fictional. It is then that the stars come to mind and the sunset comes to mind and the lyrics of this song echo in my heart and shed light on life. You see whether I like it or not, or whether I understand it or not, LIFE is happening. Its happening to me, yet moving past me. The only thing I need to know is that I am here and that that makes all the difference in the world. The simple fact that we are alive means everything and maybe the understanding of that life is found in that. That life is happening and it means EVERYTHING!



I love my brother and sister!!!


The Covenant of Life

You hear it a lot this time of year, "I wish we got to have a white Christmas." I have said this myself and yet now I wonder what the significance of a white Christmas would be.
I come from a very small extended family and we spent the day at my Aunt and Uncle's house in Irmo, SC. We had made several comments about the strange weather throughout the day. It was cloudy then sunny, hot then windy, rainy then clear. As we walked to the car to leave around 5, I looked back and there it was, the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen. It started as just one side then grew from end to end leaving no color unaccounted for as if it had been waiting for us to come outside to show itself fully. As if that wasn't enough, within minutes there was another coming alive right above the first.
In Genesis 9, right after the largest human massacre the world has ever known, God makes a covenant with Noah. He says, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and every living creature on earth for all generations to come. I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant and never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood."
How appropriate, on the day we use to celebrate LIFE coming to earth, is the sign of a rainbow, the promise that never again will all life be "cut off" by death? I haven't seen a rainbow in a long time. They are as rare to me as the sunrise (although the sun rises everyday) Like the unmatchable beauty of the discrete sunrise, I believe that rainbows are also a privileged glimpse into the presence of God as life in the world. Something happened today as I stood outside and watched the half rainbow grow into a whole rainbow then become two rainbows on Christmas day, something with much more significance than a white Christmas.


"The First Nowel"

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

Everything about Jesus' life from start to finish is incredibly irrational. He and his ways go against everything that we know and everything that we seem to live out on a daily basis. At first glance people are turned away maybe because it seems impossible that Jesus was really like everything says that he was. He is easily cast aside into that group of childhood fable characters along with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, as soon as a child is old enough to reason for himself that no such thing could be true. "A man from the North Pole arriving in a sleigh.....ha." "A king arriving on earth in a stable, yeah right." Jesus lived his life completely disregarding the influences of politics and religious law, peer pressure and stereotypes, social class and sin. How is that possible? And yet, if the bible is true and Jesus is who he says he is, then Jesus living his life any other way would make no sense. Suddenly a man with no regard for social stigmas and acceptance makes perfect sense. Suddenly a manger seems a perfect place to lay the head of the one who will bind up the broken hearted and rescue the poor and needy.


God and life, death and destruction

I rode down the coastline of Gulfport, MS. the last night we were there and to my left was the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen and to my right was total destruction, and God was the author of both. I spoke with a man who had stayed through both Camille (the last category 5 hurricane to hit Biloxi) and Katrina. He said, "Camille was bad, but Katrina was not of this world. There was something other worldly and evil about that storm. It was nothing man could have ever conjured up."
I tried to imagine what it would have been like to lose everything, to be scrambling for my life. These people are running around searching for food and family and water and survival. I can't imagine what it would be like to know wealth and to know comfort and consistency and then have all of that ripped away from me. But it hit me as we drove down the coast that I know exactly what that is like. Everything inside of me is daily scrambling for love and acceptance and approval and life. I search for consistency and stability with everything that I am, like I knew it at one point and managed to lose it. That is what happened at the fall of man, total devastation, total loss. And now, we scramble for life. When I was walking around in the devastation of these people's lives I got the feeling that I was experiencing all the things that Jesus experienced as he came down and walked around in the devastation of our lives on earth. I bet he stood in sadness still knowing what it was to have everything and watching those who had nothing try to rebuild. Maybe the sun still rises to get us to look up from our devastation and believe that it hasn't always been this way and maybe it still sets to make us believe that it won't always be this way. I have never seen anything like what we saw this past week in Biloxi. But I am more sure than ever that "God" and life, death and destruction were coexisting in everything I laid my eyes on.

Biloxi Pictures

Let's hope that the church is more than just a building.

McDonalds Cabana style?


Jonathan's Song

I went to eat dinner in downtown Greenville last night with the three most amazing guys ever, these happen to be the guys I am traveling overseas with for the month of January. This was a very important time that we had set aside to fellowship together and plan out all the last minute detials of our trip, since the next time we saw each other would be time to go. Then we met Jonathan outside of Barleys and he came to dinner with us. A homeless man in his late 30's, Jonathan was weathered by life. He told us stories of where he had been, what he had done and what he wanted to do. He sang some songs for us, hard to hear because he didn't speak loudly and the restaurant was noisy. He had lived his whole life in Greenville and he wanted to go to Hollywood and become a musician. Jonathan sat accross from me and I watched as he gazed out of the window by our table between bites of pizza, giving you the impression that his thoughts were more satisifying than his free meal. I never could determine whether the thoughts that he was entertaining as he gazed out were over the regrets of the past or for hopes of better days, because I have learned that both of those seem to be stronger than the present. If the present was on his mind he would have been scarfing down his pizza. This is music. Music speaks more strongly about the past and the future than we ever could about the present. Jonathan sang to us last night "from his heart" he said. But I have a feeling that if his heart could sing it would have much more to say than any song could contain.



Closure? What is the big deal about closure? Saying goodbye when simply leaving an apartment, that is closure. You can't just leave, you have to say bye, shake some hands, maybe give some hugs. You can't send a letter without a stamp. You can't finish a semester without exams. You can't finish college without a graduation ceremony (or can you...?)
I am done with college. I walked into my professors office on Tuesday to hand in my last paper. She wasn't there so I stuck it in her box and stood there for a minute thinking, "Okay, welp I'm done." It was highly anticlimactic and I was feeling rather bummed. Sad that I might walk out of here and nobody would notice, not even me. Then a blessing happend. We had worship night at my apartment last night. Some of the most amazing and fascinating people came. We sang together and when it was wrapping up David Goodman said, "Hey. I think that we should take this time to prayer for the people who are graduating and going out. Daniel, David and AJ, yall get in the middle and we are going to pray for you, for the next chapter of your life. As all three of us knelt down on the floor close together and held hands, 25 people gathered around us, laid hands on us, and in unison "closed out" our time at Clemson. As 25 voices raised to a God I have yet to understand, I couldn't help but cry and feel that I was so incredibly blessed to know these people and that everything was going to be okay. I couldn't help but believe that my time here had come to an end in a very significant way. That is closure.

The Sonrise

"I believe in Jesus like I believe in the sun, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else" C.S. Lewis

I can't help but believe that there is much significance to the beauty of the sunrise. I woke up this morning, with much reluctance might I add, to go to work. I rolled out of bed, got dressed, pumped myself up and walked out the door. This is what I saw. I stood in the middle of the road awestruck. Within minutes the beauty was creeping back down wherever it is that the colors of sunrises go. I see God in that in such a real, visual way. I think it interesting that God would show his display of color in such a discrete time. Few people are awake, many have yet to stir and yet the sun still rises, mostly unnoticed. It rises and yet few people ever see it. It makes me think that the sunrise is something very special, something I should wake up for more often. The Son has risen and many times the colors of that are shown in such special, discrete ways. If you look hard, you can see it, but if you don't hurrry you might miss it.


A Kaleidoscope

This is my Kaleidoscope. It is the place where all of the seperate, seemingly unconnected, pieces of my life converge and begin to fit together like little pieces of light. Some are bright and others are dark and dreary hues. Whatever the shade they fit together to from a story, my story. Life is about color. Death Cab for Cutie sings a song called Lack of Color. In it they say,
"If you feel discouraged
that there is a lack of color here
Don't worry darling
Its really bursting at the seams."

This is life, it displays every color on the Creator's pallete. There is love and hate, pain and joy, tears and laughter, lonliness and fellowship, gain and loss, hope and hardship, good and bad, change and consistency, struggle and triumph and change...lots of change. Each of these little fragments combine to create life. LIfe is a Kaleidoscope.