Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Man in the Mirror

When I look at myself in the mirror, I used to wonder how many ways I could change myself to be better and look better in the eyes of the world.
When I look at myself in the mirror, I started to see that I wasn't beautiful, not when there is someone who conquered the grave, not when there is someone who lived a spotless life, blameless..not marred by the sins of this world.
Now when I look in the mirror, I try to see what you found in me that was worth bearing the weight of my sin, bearing the sins of this world. I try to look past the person who may be beautiful in the eyes of the world, but ugly with the sin painted across my face.

I see my sin everytime I face myself with the truth, but I'm sure you see it too.

Why do you look past that?

Here's the truth, when I continue to look at myself the way you see me, I see a new world of opportunity. There's something freeing about that. Even when I fail, the closer I pull towards you the more I continue to form into your image. A child of Christ. I won't forget what it looks like. It's beautiful, not because of who I'm seeing on the surface, but because of the completeness of the work of my Savior in me. This complete person, stays within the confines of my bathroom mirror, and the more I roam the world the more I forget what he looks like. One day, I won't forget what he looks like. One day, I won't have to remind myself every morning of the man I'm meant to be. I will always remember what it looks like to call myself a follower of Christ. A child of the Father who was, and is, and is to come.

Here's another truth. I'd rather spend my days hating the ugliness of sin within me than emulating the beauty that man renders sufficient because the beauty of man isn't sufficient. A body is vacant, a corpse,without the completeness of christ. To edify the ways of this world is a never ending tragedy-a war of want, to edify the Spirit of Christ within you is a divine romance-a conquest of the human condition.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Jesus on the Curb

I was outside of Panera Bread, the other day, eating some dinner when a strange, homeless man came up to me and asked me for some spare change. I did the curteous thing and told him that I had no change to spare, even though I knew I had a couple bucks in my pocket. I lied, but can you blame me? I think I've been trained to refer to a series of mental processes to handle situations just like the one I was in.
1. Who is this guy?
2. Is he telling the truth?
3. How do I know if I give him the money, he won't just spend it on drugs or alcohol?
I don't know who this guy was but, after I left him on his way, I couldn't get him out of my head. I felt guilty. The one thing that kept poking in the back of my head was the verse, "The King will reply,'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40) Why wasn't this the first thing that I thought about? What's more is that I thought of this man as an inconvenience to me. More than just a homeless man, I see them all around Tallahassee, this man became a neusance to me the moment he approached me. If someone with nice clothes, a fresh shave, and a maintained hygiene came up to me, I would've probably given him more of my time and money. But this man, with tattered clothes, scruffy beard, and aweful body odor not only asked me for money, but he made me uncomfortable and apprehensive.
I would like to say I went back to this guy and bought him a meal or gave him the shirt off my back, but I didn't; however, I do think I accomplished something. I think God is showing me that I can't just arbitrarily choose who I am going to help and who I am not because I will always choose to favor comfortability. No, I need to be uncomfortable. I have to stop viewing my life as MY life and my time as MY time. I belong to the King of Kings. If He is truly the Lord of my life, than I have to lay down my life for His glory. That man asking me for change was the proverbial Jesus of the gospel. If I turn my back on him, I turn my back on the one who paid my debt on the cross.
Lord, you hear my thoughts and you know my heart. Make me less and you more. I may not be at a place where I can comfortably chat with a homeless man on the curb, but I can do all things by the strength you provide. If I turn a blind eye on the very people you came to save, then I never knew you.I may be blameless in man's eye, but only you can redeem a sinner of his debt. Grant me opportunity.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I camp funk


You'll notice that I didn't express any endearment adressed to the reader or readers (hopefully) of this post. In fact, there is no endearment in the fact that I'm inviting people into my folly, my insecurities,and my ineptitude; however, catharsis tugs on my heart more than pride, so I'm lead back to the keyboard...hoping to bring glory and honor to the King of Kings who provides endless mercy and gace to a sinner such as myself. May His love continue to pour out of his wounds and into my soul.
I spent this past weekend in Auburn with people I love dearly. They are more like family to me at this point. They know a lot of my fears and struggles and still long, just as much as I do, for my life to be a mold in the potters hand. For that weekend life seemed to stand still. Any stress I had before I arrived in Auburn lifted off my heart. It's as if the events that happened over my summer are objects placed on a canvas, like a still image of sorts. Everytime I meet with these people I call family, it feels like we all assume the same position we had in that still image. Of course, life resumes and we go on, and that is when I'm reminded of my folly, my insecurities, and my ineptitude. The weight of sin falls heavily upon my heart.
I drove. I drove with a heavy heart-This is where the story gets thick, revealing the incomparable difference between the strength of our Father and the depravity of the human spirit.I drove. I drove through the back country of Georgia. A three and half hour journey that feels like it takes an entire day. I didn't have a map, I didn't have a gps, and cell phone service was at best scarce. All I had was a slim sense of direction and a couple of road names that I was supposed to look for. It was raining periodically shifting between a heavy down pour and a light drizzle. The clouds cast a gray shadow on everything around me. I felt lost, I felt alone, I felt angry. I was angry with the Lord. My heart was heavy with all this and I didn't know why. I spent an incredible weekend with loved ones. How could that not be enough? It wasn't enough because I felt deprived of the Spirit. I wasn't- I am not- where I wanted to be with the Lord, and I knew it immediately when I left.
I knew that I needed this time on the road to spend with God. This funk had to be sorted out immediately. I threw on the Passion soundtrack in hopes that it would help me sort out my thoughts. I guess I felt like singing praises would help bring me to a place of honesty and humility with the Lord. The Lord showed me everything I needed to know. This is what I know: meeting up with family from the summer put me back into the still frame that characterized my summer. The summer was a time where I felt one with God, where I felt one in community. For that one weekend, things vaguely resembled that one"ness" that I think we all had over the summer. When I left, it was like I had just removed myself from the picture again, revealing all the flaws and imperfections that are so vividly stained across myself. This revelation destroyed me. I could see my stains.
My camp directer, Brad Barnett, told my team that after the summer was over most of us would have what is called a "camp funk." This camp funk encompasses everything that makes us miss the summer, all the memories that remove us from our lives we live today. That moment on the drive where I could see my stains, was the same moment that I realized my camp funk. I realized the difference between who I am and who I want to be. I want to be stuck in the picture of that person I was in the summer, but I can't. I am a sinner. I talk too much, it's mostly unwholesome and not constructive. I hate this about myself. My tongue can start fires, and it scares me because I choose not to tame it. I disobey the Lord when He asks me to keep His word in my heart. I have barely kept up with my scripture reading. I disobey, I disobey, then I disobey again.
The amazing thing about the Lord's grace is that it keeps pouring out like water even when I think it's run dry. My three and a half hour journey was figuratively the manifestation of my walk with Christ. I was alone on the road, a narrow path, with no cars in sight. The rain was my anger and confusion. I was a little lost with only a sense of direction. The Lord showed me, in every way possible, that He wanted me in there to show me His majesty, His power, and His grace. I am a life in the potters hand. I recognize, now, that my camp funk isn't a bad thing. It doesn't allow me to settle for anything less than what the Lord requires of me. Act Justly, Love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. I know when I am not doing this because I know how it felt at one point or another. My life isn't a still picture frame, but it is a moving picture that will hopefully one day display the glory of our Father. He showed me in every way that weekend that it is only by His grace alone that I will ever live the life I am called to.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Post-It: Compassion

Evelin Argentina Reynosa,

I don't know what it's going to be like when someone informs you that you are a sponsored child. How does a nine year old process something like that? Joy? Praise? Shock? We are on an adventure together, Evelin. From now on it's me and you. I will sponsor you with my money, and you will sponsor me with your heart. Together, we will give glory to God with our lives. There's so much I want to tell you, but you're only nine. Nine years old, and you are the child God is using to free me from the chains of sin. I can't tell you that I come from a family that is a slave to money. Money is the source of our strife, our fears, and our security. How could you understand? How could you understand that we are starved though we eat like gluttons? How could you understand that money is crippling us from being free from this world? I want so badly to tell you that I am running, running away from all the things that are keeping me attached to this world, but somehow I always find myself back in my own fortress of comfortability. A fortress that seperates me from the Almighty God. Our God who sent His Son to the cross to carry the weight of my shame. I build my fortress with the same money that He has blessed me with. I buy and buy and buy until the walls of my fortress are so high they thwart the Son from relaying the light to my soul. But you, you Evelin are the hammer God has chosen to break those walls. He will use you to free me, but how do I tell you that? A nine year old? God has chosen Evelin, a nine year old, to free me from my idols, and maybe one day free my family as well. So how do I tell you that? A nine year old? I guess I'll start with this:

"Hello Evelin, my name is Alex. I want to tell you that Christ has brought us together in His great love. My prayer is that we grow in faith together. Jesus loves you, and so do I. You are beautiful in the eyes of our God. Don't ever forget that. Know that I am praying for you and your family as you guys are now my family as well."

With all my love, Alex

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Post-It: Monophobia

I have to say these listless days and restless nights in the intermission of my life have been most perplexing. I'm scared to be alone. Physically, it wouldn't bother me either way if I was next to someone or not, but if I was spiritually stranded, my heart would be in chaos. I've been learning how often I substitute your spiritual presence with the companionship of fellow believers. I suppose everyone has their own stimuli that keeps them from feeling alone. People may say that they don't mind being alone, but they must have never thought of it in the big picture. Everyday we surround ourselves with things that link us to people in this world. Facebook, Twitter, Email, and text message are new and extremely effecient ways that we can easily stay plugged into this world. Still, if anyone has managed to avoid the pull of social networks and instant messaging, than they most ceratinly haven't felt the anchoring feeling of mentally being isolated. Feeling like you are truly alone does not exclude the comfort of knowing someone out there cares about you, someone is thinking about you, someone out there would care if you were gone. Monophobia: the thought of being alone, or even the irrational fear of thinking you're alone or being away from a place or person that gives you a feeling of safety and security. The want in my heart is for me to recognize how deep your love goes. Even in my darkest place, your light shines. Heres my looming fear: if everyone around me were to all of a sudden forget about me, would I be left with a weak faith barely standing on solid rock. I spent a whole semester last year telling myself that your glory would be revealed in my loneliness because I would realize my need for intimacy for you. Well, now I realize my need for intimacy with you, but I haven't done anything about that. I haven't marinated my heart in your word, I haven't filled my cup with your water, I haven't fully taken on your yoke. This whole time I've been supported in my walk through the fellowship of believers, but it's time I practice more fellowship with my father. My love for your creation will only go so far as my love for you. Hold my heart, oh Lord. Father, take my heart and seal it. Thank you for the blessing of community in which I find encouragement, and thank you for your faithfullness in which I will never be alone.

your son

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Post-It: The End?

To whomever,
You ever get that refreshing feeling after you have just finished an awesome book you've been reading for a while? You know, the feeling of accomplishment mixed with pride and add in a little relief? Or, most importantly, maybe you feel enlightened or rejuvenated because you've just closed a book that taught you so much about life? Recently, I have been entertaining the idea that our lives might just be like a book. Filled with protagonists, antagonists, themes, plots, foils, climaxes, beginnings, and ends, it's the story of our lives.
In just a few short days I am going to be saying goodbye to a lot of people who, throughout the course of three months, I've grown close to. It's not easy for me to say goodbye. In fact, I dread it, but it's a part of life. It feels like this is the end of us, or as we like to say the end of "OT10." Sure, I may see some of these people again, but I will not get to serve with them in any respect like this summer. We traveled over 11,000 miles together, we ministered to thousands of students in the name Christ, and we spent almost every waking moment in each others midsts. Indeed, saying goodbye is going to be hard, but not impossible.
I've started cataloguing the events and memories of this summer and sort of processing them into the grand scheme of things in my life. Specifically, I've tried to bookmark all the things I will walk away from this summer and say "I am stronger now." My heart is at peace with God. Walking in step with 25 wonderful people who are walking in step with the God who reigns has a way of bringing you closer to the Kingdom. Back to my goodbyes. Goodbye van world: Backstreet Boys, Man Van, and NeedtoBreath; goodbye late night dance parties: krumping, swinging, and whatever Tucker wants to call his dancing; goodbye to the laughs and smiles of everyone OT10: jam sessions with Brett, Trent, and Ryan, volleyball with brother and sister, and Fourth of July with the most patriotic people I know. I completely agree with Alyssa Atkeisson, "Camp is what you make it," and we made it great. I will look back with nothing but fondness and laughter.
I'm turning a new page, and I'm leaving one of the best chapters of my life. If my life was a book, this would be the chapter that would recharge the plot of the entire book: a love story with the prodigal Father who loves me. Instead of closing the book on this summer, I hope to see where the story goes from here. God is creating a novel, a work of art, that is going to reflect his glory. My only hope is that we all allow this summer to bring us closer to the way God wants to live our lives.
So maybe this goodbye will be hard, but I wouldn't have it any other way. God is growing my capacity for love. Hopefully one day I will love like he loves. It should be difficult to say goodbye to people you love, not because you can't let them go, but because you have allowed yourself to be vulnerable with them and God has blessed that. My heart is leaving this summer with 25 more people to love. 25 more people to encourage and be encouraged by. 25 people to call brothers and sisters in Christ. In my opinion, my heart is now 25 times stronger and 25 times bigger. Thanks OT10.
- Alex