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Are you a DC or Marvel Christian?

Whose side are you on?
Whose side are you on?

I’m a big fan of comic books.  I grew up reading them, and to me, DC Comics was always my favorite.  For the unintiated, DC Comics is the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman – basically all the characters we think of when you think of iconic superheroes.  I occasionally picked up a few Marvel books, playing around for short times with X-Men and Spiderman, among a few others, but the characters and the stories never resonated with me much, so I stuck with DC by and large.

It wasn’t until adulthood, when a post by Jeremy Pierce got me thinking about it, that I realized what the fundamental difference in the two universes is, and perhaps what that says about people in terms of how they view themselves in the Kingdom of God. (It’s a stretch, I know . . . humor me)  There are tons of other differences, and tons of exceptions, but the basic fundamental difference is this: in DC Comics Superman is Superman, Clark Kent is a facade.  Superman is the core of who he really is.  In Marvel comics, the masks and tights is the facade.  Spiderman is really Peter Parker, at his core.  He’s just a kid trying to make it, and help some people out along the way.  A good kid, but Spiderman is a mask for him to do good works.  Ponder on that a minute, and let’s continue.

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Uncategorized

A Look in the Mirror

I always know when God is trying to show me something about myself, that I’m uninterested in seeing.  My showers get much longer in the mornings, so I have to rush through Bible/Prayer time.  My prayers get very “surface” and short.  I decide I should read a book about how to live for God better, instead of seeking God for what he wants me to do each day.

This pretty much sums up the last few days.  Apparently I also get irritable, since I’ve been accused of being in a bad mood not a few times since the weekend.

I’m generally what I would call a “closed” person.  I like people… so long as they leave me alone.  I like them as long as they don’t interfere with my plans or encroach on my life in any kind of bothersome way.  I can see personally that this is obviously not the way to live, if I also intend to live my life in a way that shares the love of Jesus with people.  I certainly don’t recall Jesus ever saying, “What?  You want me to pray for what?  It’s 8:00 at night, I worked all day, and I’m tired.  Don’t bother me.”  Because that’s the way I view people: bothersome.  When all of this was working it’s way into my attention, my wife frustratedly exclaimed, “That’s why you don’t have any friends.  People are scared to talk to you.”  My quick and rather hateful response back was, “I have NEVER complained about not having friends.”  Upon saying it, I realized that I take a little perverse pleasure in every time someone says that people find me intimidating or unapproachable.  I found myself smiling when my wife told me that people are scared to talk to me, because they think they’re bothering me.  For some reason, I’ve developed an attitude that people are to be kept as far away as possible, at all costs.  And the more foreboding and intimidating I can be, the less I actually have to talk to any of them.

I recall, as a child, a particular incident where someone I considered a friend said, “Nobody likes you because you’re so smart.”  It was elementary school in the 80’s.  I was one of the few kids that had a computer, and my dad had found some silly program that let you make crossword puzzles.  I thought it would be neat to make one of some of our vocabulary words, and had him make it, so I could take it to class.  Teachers are typically very thankful for anything that helps pass the time in a class, so she copied it and passed it out.  A lot of kids thought it was neat that I (my dad) made it, and some didn’t.  Looking back, I can see that perhaps my little friend was jealous of the attention, or perhaps hated schoolwork, and didn’t want to do the crossword puzzle.  Maybe she just enjoyed being the “good” student in the class, and I had taken her out of the spotlight.  Either way, those words stuck with me.  Nobody likes me because I’m smart.

Now, I know many of your are reading this and thinking, “Really?  Get over it.  It was elementary school.  You’re an adult now!”  But in order to change the person we have become, I think we have to take a long look at what made us this way.

I’m not bragging about my intelligence here . . . I consider myself to be of relatively average intelligence, however sometimes people make me reconsider that idea. 😉  I did make straight A’s in school, and generally enjoyed (and still do enjoy) learning something new.  Anything new.  I rock at Trivial Pursuit.  But the perception was there, at least for that little girl, at that moment.  And at that moment, I embraced a very dangerous way of thinking, to ease the pain of the idea of nobody liking me.  I embraced superiority.  People didn’t like me?  That’s fine . . . it’s because I’m smarter than them.  She said as much.  It may be lonely at the top, but it just means I can look down on everyone else.  That began the wall building project in my heart.  And it didn’t stop for many years.

Now, I didn’t go around acting and claiming to be smarter than anyone.  It was the window through which I viewed the world.  Who needs friends and other people?  Not me.  Why would I?  I don’t need their help.  I was, and still am, for a large part, an island unto myself.  The foundation was laid for the walls around my heart.  And we know that our enemy took every opportunity to continue building them.

I never made friends easily.  I was pretty shy.  But probably as a result of this self-righteous and arrogant view of the world, many of them parted ways with me.  Each time adding another brick to my wall.  I remember when I was 15 having a friend that was one of the few I had personally gone out the way to make throughout my life.  On a school trip, his entire attitude changed towards me.  To this day, I’m not sure if or what I could’ve done to illicit that type of response from him, but we never spoke again.  We sat next to each other in a few classes.  The next day at school I turned around to try and see what was wrong, and he told me to never speak to him again.  Ever.  Ouch.

I did finally find some good friends, that I’m still friends with today.  So this isn’t a total pity party.  More of a “bringing you up to speed” explanation.  By the time I was an adult, however, I typically preferred being alone, and enjoying whatever things I found to pass my time.  My walls were complete.  Few came in.  The gates were way too guarded for that.  Too afraid to be hurt, too proud to open the gates, and walled in from all other sides.

Which brings us to today.  I’m a know-it-all.  But I’m seldom hurt, because few people get that close.  I can even admit to holding my wife at arm’s length occasionally.  The situation, at this point, requires more than my decision to go out and be nice to people.  I need God’s help to tear down the walls that I’ve built up.  It’s ugly to see myself as an arrogant, self-righteous smart-alec who believes he is never wrong.  I’m ashamed of my attitudes towards other people.  But I’m thankful that God showed me this in prayer, and is giving me the opportunity to change rather than causing circumstances to come about in my life that would force me into it.

I’ve let the cares of the world choke out the love of God in my heart.  It’s still alive in there, just small.  But luckily, if I let it, there’s nothing that can keep something that powerful walled up.  Now . . . I think I have a few relationships to mend, and perceptions to change.

christianity

A Relevant Gospel for a Web 2.0 World

I’ve been working on some new features for the main site, and haven’t really had much time to sit down and collect my thoughts recently.  If you’ve followed me for long, you know how fervently I strive to be a “witness,” whatever that may entail.  And as a self-professed geek, I feel that these internets can and should be used as a tool for evangelization.  The question is: “How?”

I teach the Teens’ Sunday School class at my church, and have a mission for it that I believe is somewhat unique to a class of that age-range: to teach them how to read and understand the Bible for themselves.  Somewhere along in my life, I got a pretty decent understanding of the Bible, how to study it, etc. . . and that was before my brief and disappointing stay at a Bible college.  So, we go through a book of the Bible, taking our time, reading, and learning how to take the story, and apply it to our lives, how to read it in context so we don’t get wacky with things, how to study a topic throughout the Bible as a applicable one arises through our reading.  Most of the kids didn’t even realize there was a concordance in the back of their Bible before it started, and they’ve really learned how to dig in and find answers to tough questions in the Bible.

We recently began studying the book of Acts, and while we’ve only talked about 2 verses in it in depth, so far, it’s really started changing the way I view my witnessing activities.  In Acts 1:8, we see a mandate that represents an almost insurmountable slew of cultural barriers.  Not only should the disciples witness to their own kind, but to the Samaritans (gasp!) and eventually even the Gentiles!  We’re studying the book in this light: as a manual for reaching across barriers and winning the lost.

In my class, I used  the example of me and a redneck.  I am, at my heart, a city boy.  I don’t hunt.  I don’t fish.  I don’t really even like to be outside, except for perfect, cool days, with no bugs.  I like the hustle and bustle of a city.  I don’t particularly care for country-style fried foods (they do fry everything…ever had a fried twinkie?  I have).  I don’t like football.  Basically, it’s nearly impossible for me to connect with the traditional southerners of small-town Arkansas.  However, I have the mandate to do just that, to spread the Gospel.  And to be effective, I feel, I must do it in a way that is relevant to the person receiving it.  I think, here, is where we lose a lot of effectiveness has Christians today.

Paul famously (infamously?) said when he was in Rome, he did as the Romans.  That he becomes all things to all people, in order the spread the Gospel.  I think I can surmise, that this means if I’m going to witness to rednecks (and I don’t use that term derogatorily) then I have to “become one” . . . so to speak.  I have to be willing to show them I care about them, and that usually means showing that I care about the things they care about.  That I “get” them.  I mean . . . seriously . . . what country fellow, who hunts and fishes, and loves the outdoors and all the stuff in it, is going to take a look at a pale, pasty, computer nerd, who is never parted with his iPhone and think, “This guy really gets where I’m coming from . . . and I should listen to what he has to say.”  I’m not saying be fake . . . I’d be ridiculed pretty fast if I went around with boots talking about shooting animals in the woods.  But I can engage Mr. Redneck in areas where we can connect.  I can show I care by saying, “Hey . . . you been fishing lately?  Catch anything?”  I think the working premise here, is that I care enough about him to engage him in his culture, if I can’t engage him as part of his culture.  Maybe even go fishing with him.  Believe me, he’d only invite me once. 😉

We’ve become so accustomed to “church-centered” evangelization, that we miss out on the true secret of church growth in Acts: personal evangelism.  They were at each other’s houses, breaking bread, and believers were added to the church daily.  That means that on a daily basis, regular believing Jews would have to go out of their way to befriend Gentiles and Samaritans.  To love them.  Care for them.  Looking at churches today, we’ve evolved into our own brand of Judaism.  We don’t reach to the world, we look down on them.  We don’t go to the lost, and pull them up to where we are, we look down on them and expect them to come to us.  I believe that the relevance of evangelistic crusades for this generation just isn’t there.  Basically, we’ve gotten a little too self-righteous.

So, for today’s generation, the internet is obviously a relevant way to engage them, but I haven’t seen it used effectively (yet) to reach anyone.  I have an idea, but I’m interested in hearing your opinions.  Leave some ideas in the comments, or share a new way to engage anyone in a way that is relevant to who they are.  One way I think the internet can excel, for us, is to provide a place for us to encourage each other to go out and win the lost.  To share ideas, stories, and testimonies of how to be an effective witness.  That’s why I started TheLimitless.com, and that’s especially why I opened it up to a community of bloggers to host their own blogging site on, or share their current blog with a new audience.  Hopefully, we can all help each other become real and true witnesses.

christianity, Church

The Era of Mega-Preachers is Over.

I’ve been noticing the trend lately, amongst the charismatic/pentecostal circles to focus on something our movement has ignored for quite some time: service.  Full Gospel denominations and movements have had their voices overshadowed, intentionally or not, by the mega-preachers.  The Benny Hinns, Creflo Dollars, Joyce Meyers, and (God help us) the Joel Osteens of the world.  I’m calling it today, and we’ll reconvene in a few years to see how right I am (Hint: very).  While we’ll probably see Benny’s giant hair, Joyce Meyers man-pants, and Joel Osteen’s impossibly large teeth for on TV for quite some time, I believe their influence on modern churches is waining.

Recently, I was encouraged to hear Dutch Sheets really ripping into modern churches today, and he said something I found incredibly interesting, “It’s my goal to keep as many people out of the pulpit as possible . . . from what I do . . . it’s my goal to ordain lawyers, and doctors . . . to go out into the world and share Jesus.”  According to Matthew 11:10-13, we are a kingdom at war.  We’ve always been at war, and we will continue to be, until Jesus returns, sets things right, and hands the Kingdom over to his father (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).  We can’t win a war with the troops sitting around marveling at the equivalent of super-solders showing off their strength by ripping phone books.  We win a war by training and equipping soldiers to fight, and then sending them out to defeat the enemy.

I believe this celebrity-focused Christianity we’ve experienced thanks to TBN and the like over the last few decades has created a dangerous set of circumstances in the church.  We have people praying for hours, to get deep revelations, just for sake of praying for hours and getting revelations.  To impress friends and church members.  To share with other Christians, who are also sharing their “deep revelations” to the same group.  Never leaving the church… never venturing outside to a world in need of salvation.  We have more and more dramatic church services, with people being slain in the spirit, getting one deliverance after another.  It’s bred an inwardly-focused body of Christ.  This is clearly not conducive to gaining new converts, winning the lost, or impacting this world for Jesus.

But, during this time, I’ve also noticed a movement among young people and college students towards what I’m calling here, “new-radicalism.”  They have an understanding that the ministry is not about being in a pulpit.  That revelations are practical knowledge from God for one purpose: to aid in preaching the gospel to the utter-most parts of the earth.  These young people are embracing something I did several years ago: you don’t have to have a ministerial license, or a theological degree, to be in the ministry.  We’re in the ministry because we’ve accepted Jesus Christ, and have committed our lives to serving him, and spreading his Gospel everywhere we can.  I work in the business world . . . a place many traditional preachers can’t reach.  I meet people regularly with very comfortable lives, who are seldom confronted with the Gospel.  How do you show someone a need in their lives, when they believe they have every need met, and plenty more laid up in store?  A preacher can’t . . . but one of their own can.  Doctor’s are notorious know-it-all’s.  But who can reach a doctor?  A better doctor.

So, while I’m boldly proclaiming that the era of Mega-Preachers is over… I do expect to see them on the Television for several years to come.  But always catering to the same crowd…an aging crowd…a self-indulgent crowd.  And as they die out, and retire to their mega-mansions and yachts, I believe we’re going to see a movement dramatically rise to fore-front of Christianity that is starting right now – a movement of regular people, in regular jobs, who are sold out to God.  A movement of regular people who boldly preach the Gospel on streets, brokerage floors, board rooms, hospital rooms, court houses . . . the list can go on forever.  I believe this is a group that won’t compromise with the seeker-sensitive movement, and will call sin sin.  I believe this group will be empowerd by God to do greater works than the televangelists ever thought about.  I expect healings, miracles, signs, and wonders to happen…in ordinary lives, in ordinary circumstances . . . through extraordinary and yet totally average people.

The next time you see Joel Osteen’s grin…the next seeker-senstive service you attend…the next time Joyce Meyers tries to make you believe it’s okay for women to look like men…just smile and realize that they’re on the way out.  A revival of a church similar to the Book of Acts is happening.  And I’m joining in.  Are you?

christianity

Where have all the posts gone?

It’s been quite an ordeal, lately. I say “it,” as if I’m referring to a single issue, but that’s quite the over-simplification. My posts from the last few months have disappeared, due in large part to my failure to back things up, and in small part to a rough and bumpy ride taken by my web server. This has also encouraged yet another look on this page…which is not yet complete, and a reinvention of TheLimitless.com . . . again. I’ve learned an awful lot about web servers, and php, and the dreaded CSS, and how not to cook microwavable pizzas lately, so it wasn’t an incredibly taxing endeavour, except that the front page of TheLimitless.com lots all its modifications, such as they were, and is now a relatively blank slate, waiting for my clammy and cludgy fingers to manipulate it into a somewhat presentable affair.

Now, I know that the few people who still visit my blog (very few, after over 2 weeks with no site up at all) don’t come here to hear me prattle on about web servers, and CSS, and all that crap. Oh no, you come here to watch me get all red faced and rant about politicians, or to see me be a bit too honest, and make a fool out of myself, in the attempt to share a little truth about life and Godliness.

So, I must be honest, I don’t really keep up with political news anymore. Tabitha, or Pinky, as I call her behind her back, and the slightly unwelcome tweets of the #TCOTers are about all the news I force myself to consider, and I typically read the headline and never click through on the link. So guess what that leaves us with? 😀

I recently lost a mentor. Not only a role model, but possibly the single most influential person in my spiritual life. And I was okay with it, as she was a woman of God, and a person who lived the fullness of the Gospel in every area of her life. She has a great reward in Heaven that I’m sure she’s enjoying right now. However, a few days after the funeral, I found myself perusing job sites, and I thought to myself, “Uh-oh…I don’t have anyone to ask if this is right or not…I better pray and know the will of God before I go off on a job hunt.”

A sound idea, at any time. But I realized what an unGodly burden I placed on this person, to be my conduit to God, my oracle. And how spiritually lazy I had been to think like that. Wow.

But don’t wag your finger, my friend, because I’m not the first person to think like that. The only difference is that I’m portraying as an unrighteous behavior. This type of spiritually damaging dependency is not only tolerated, but encouraged in many churches. Either because the pastor is controlling and self-aggrandizing, and wants to be able to take credit for every victory in his member’s lives, or because the pastor is a poor and lazy shepherd, and allows his people to use him up, abuse him, and leave him out to dry, instead of teaching them how to be profitable Christians.

In saying that, I obviously can’t blame pastors only, or even mostly. We Christians are a lazy, self-absorbed lot. Instead of reaching out to help others, with an honest eye turned toward ourselves enough to realize we’re no better than anyone else, we choose to spend our time self-analyzing, and fault-finding, and asking for help and prayer over the little things we go through. I’m not suggesting that what you’re going through isn’t important, but there’s one important difference between you and sinner in the same situation. You have hope. Act like it.

It’s been a dangerous and selfish practice of Charismatic/Pentecostal circles over the last century to experience “More of Your Glory, More of Your Power, More of Your Spirit in me,” simply for the sake of experiencing it, and impressing other Christians with how spiritual we are, and sharing our deep revelations with other Christians so they can marvel at our wisdom, while the world goes to hell. There are great deep things of God, and they need to be searched out, but there is always a purpose to it: souls.

And yet, we’re still babies needing to be weaned off the pastoral nipple. Something is dreadfully and horribly wrong. In being forced to “grow up” through my loss, I’ve had my eyes open to what a pitiful little infant I was. And I’m concerned that as much as I thought I was spiritually mature, there many more out there who believe the same, in the same situation, who may never see the truth, because they believe it’s the right way to be.

I think that God is shaking things up in the church worldwide, to allow us to see this, and take on our mantle of servanthood and ministry. And I’ll talk more about that soon. Welcome back readers. I hope to see you all a lot more soon.

linux, Technology

The Final Guide to WordPress on your Ubuntu LAMP Server

I’ve gone over all the setup and nit-picky details of setting up my own web server. However, the one thing I could never get quite right was my WordPress install.  If you peruse the WordPress (and Ubuntu) user forums, you will see countless examples of people trying to get their permissions set right for one reason or another.  WordPress recommends, rather irresponsibly, CHMODing everying 777.  To compliment that, you should really find a theme with a large header saying “HACK ME.”  The problems range from being unable to upload pictures to having serious trouble with plugins, some of which won’t work at all without (again) CHMODing several parts of your WordPress Install to 777.

I’ve lived for several months with my blog like this…balancing usability with security, and totally unable to use the “Upgrade Automatically” feature in the plugins page.  If you’ve setup your own WordPress Server and worked with plugins much, you know how the process typically goes.  You Upload your plugin to the plugins folder.  Then via terminal, chown -R your new folder to www-data, perhaps chmod 777, depending on the plugin, and then go into your WordPress Admin page and activate.  Time for an update?  Same process.  Such a pain, with nary a solution in sight… at least that I could find on the forums.

The problem lies with this:  your files are uploaded (via ftp, or whatever) under your Ubuntu user name.  Apache owns web processes under the user name and group www-data.  So when WordPress tries to work on a folder owned by your username, it gets denied, because it is trying to work with it as www-data.  To fix this, I attempted to add my username to the www-data group, but that was unsuccessful.  And then I discovered the envvars file under /etc/apache2.  In this beautiful file, is the designated Apache username, www-data.  It looks something like this:

envvars – default environment variables for apache2ctl

# Since there is no sane way to get the parsed apache2 config in scripts, some
# settings are defined via environment variables and then used in apache2ctl,
# /etc/init.d/apache2, /etc/logrotate.d/apache2, etc.
export APACHE_RUN_USER=www-data
export APACHE_RUN_GROUP=www-data
export APACHE_PID_FILE=/var/run/apache2.pid

Just change the information to match your user name and group for Ubuntu, restart Apache, et voila!  Permissions and Ownership issues are resolved.  Now Apache is working with files under the same ownership and permissions set they were uploaded with.

One important caveat here:  I’m unsure about the security issues with this.  I’m going on the assumption that it is significantly more secure than CHMODing everything 777, and it certainly makes your Ubuntu/Wordpress Web Server much easier to use for upgrade purposes.  Plugins install and upgrade with no hassle now!

Hope this helps all of you with these issues.

Pontifications

Regrets

It’s that time of year again.  The time of year when we all gather together, to eat good food, spend time with family, and think about all the things we regret about our lives.  What?  That’s not Christmasy?  Well screw you, this is my blog.

I always chuckle to myself (not the amused chuckle, the “This person is stupider than me chuckle, and although I’m angry, I can revel in my intellectual superiority” chuckle – my wife says I’m arrogant) whenever I see some schmuck on MySpace send around some ridiculous questionnaire bulletin (these are why I use Facebook now) and among the hodge-podge of brain-hemhorraging questions is this one: “What do you regret most?”  To which some little twit is always apt to respond: “I DON’T REGRET ANYTHING I’VE EVER DONE!”  You little sociopathic punk . . . of course you do.  You’ve just mistaken the deep hatred you feel for yourself as apathy for what others think.  Or perhaps you live in a drunken stupor and believe all the things you’ve done in life “Totally ROCKED!!! YEAEAAAEAAAHHH!”

There are tons of things I regret.  I regret getting into debt just about as soon as I graduated High School.  I regret going to Bible College and then transferring to a regular one after dropping out complete for a year, and incurring even more debt that way.  I regret that I didn’t go to one of the several schools offering me a full-paid scholarship, and majoring in something I would’ve actually enjoyed doing.  I regret that I didn’t switch my major to Pre-Med, and become a Doctor.  I regret not making more friends in school.  I regret making fun of fat people in the mall, even though they couldn’t hear me.  I regret quitting a good job for one that only looked better, and ending up poor, and taking my family with me.  I regret not taking all those major decisions before God in prayer, to know His will about things, so that I wouldn’t end up regretting them later.

People who purport to have no regrets often use the excuse that even the bad things they’ve done have made them into the person they are today.  Seriously?  The person you are today is that great?  Sure, some good has come out of many of those things.  And learning from those bad decisions, and their repurcussions, has made me into the person I am today, which is not all that bad.  I’ve learned to take my decisions to God, and seek His will.  I’ve learned that debt is really bad.  I’ve made some good friends in places I wouldn’t have been, had I chosen some other path.  But none of that lessens the fact that I truly do regret those things.

I suppose it’s human nature to look at your circumstances and consider where you could be today, had you done things differently.  Combine this with the desire to be better, have a better job, make more money . . . all that, and it makes sense to feel that way.  The difficulty is in seeing success, and failure, how God sees them in me, and not how I see it myself.  I’ve never been too concerned with how the world / people view me.  However, there are things in my life that I consider to be success and failure, and mostly my regrets center around missed opportunities to have an easier, more comfortable life now, and a more enjoyable job.  But the things I enjoy most:  my wife, and children, are always there.  And I have the feeling that even my own conceptions of success are so far from God’s, that it’s scary.  Especially since I think I’m probably far away from anything resembling “success” in God’s book.

Ramblings

Holidays = Awkward Family Time

I’m going to avoid the trite little jokes about how you’re forced to spend time with and act interested in people you see once a year.  I’m also going to avoid going on a tirade about the mind-numbing number of churches with some quip about “Thanks-Living” on their oft-abused signs (You already pervert the Gospel, much you also massacre the English Language?). I’m going to bore you with tales about my sun-shiney happy times in Louisiana with estranged family, and force you to like it.  . . because that’s what Thanksgiving is all about.

For some reason or another, that I’m sure sounded perfectly reasonable at the time, my mother raised me to resent my father’s side of the family.  You would expect this behavior from divorced parents, but mine are happily (now anyway) married.  I’m sure there were some conversations taken out of context, mild offense, blended with the typical awkwardness of “involved” parents and newly-weds learning to flesh out their new relationships.  But for whatever reason, not only was I not allowed to participate in this side of family, I was encouraged to resent the 2 times per year I went to their house.  Opposed to my maternal family, my father’s family is one with some attachment to its history and culture.  My Grandfather moved to America during WWII from Germany, and still speaks with a very noticeable accent.  My father himself has been to Germany several times.  But along with this situation, I was also banned from discovering or learning anything to do with Germany.  Other than Hitler . . . because, you know… he’s German.

I’m not turning this into a pity-post, just giving the background.  Of course, at some point in my adult-hood, I realized that they probably weren’t so bad, and were certainly not the evil cloned spawn of Hitler himself, and made very real and reasonable attempts at building some form of relationship with them.  I made sure to visit if I was in town, staying even after the awkwardness became tangible in the room.  I barely know them, even today, so conversation was . . . fitful, at best.

However at Thanksgiving this year, with, I believe, all of the family in the house for the first time since I was a child, I realized how truly deprived I was.  I have several cousins, some of whom I can’t name.  But what struck me was how incredibly similar to them all I was.  My mother’s side of the family is filled with typical southerners (no offence . . . not that any of them read this… because only 1 family member knows how to use the internet over there).  I love them all, but am obviously the black sheep.  At Thanksgiving I’m typically the only male to not show up wearing camouflage, straight from a morning hunt.  They’ve long-since given up trying to convince me to freeze my buttocks off on a deer-stand with them, and now don’t bother much with asking about what I’ve been up to, since they won’t really understand anyway.  My lovely and dear Grandmother makes an effort though . . . and that’s all anyone can ask.  I have no real friends there, and nothing in common with any of them.

But at my father’s family’s house (is there a more convenient way to phrase that in type?), I glanced around when I got there (I was told the wrong time to arrive, thanks Opa) and saw nearly every person there surfing the net on a laptop!  People were emailing pictures back and forth to each other.  After catching up a bit, one cousin asked me, “Oh, do you have a facebook account?” and it dawned on me:  these are my people!  Geeks, every last one of them.  Geeks, and strangers.

It’s been literally years since I’d seen some of these people, although I once saw a cousin at a shopping mall and didn’t recognize her until after I left, I think she still thinks I’m rude.  I’ve been left wondering if there really is a way to make up for lost time?  I mean, my cousins all seem relatively close, and all enjoy relationships with my grandparents that I am envious of.  But with all those times lost, memories, childhood experiences, the natural bond you form with a grandparent as you grow, can I ever have a similar familiarity with them?  Only a couple of them talked to me there at all.  And who can blame them, I’m not sure I’d act much differently, especially if I believed the only reason was there was out of obligation, and was sure to leave immediately.

So…all of that added together with my arriving late and missing dinner (not my fault), and my subsequently hungry children, made us have to leave sooner than I would’ve liked.  My daughter loves to play with her cousins at my other grandparents’ house, so we spent all day there on Friday, and didn’t get to go back.  I’m doubtful that I’ll ever truly know any of them.  And that’s a shame.  I think we would’ve been good friends, and had great relationships.

christianity, Christians Gone Wild!

Prosperity Flakiness

If you’ve read my stuff for any length of time, you’ve no doubt caught me defending the message of prosperity being taught in some Christian circles today (and on TV), and encouraging you not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.  However, after a recent event at Books-A-Million, I’ve come to realize that maybe my exposure to certain teachings in this doctrine have been limited.  I don’t watch Christian TV (TBN, etc), and my views on God’s plans for prospering his people have largely come from my own study, and from my pastor.  Because my Pastor is so Biblically sound, and makes so much sense, I assumed everyone else did as well, and were being unfairly criticized due to the loud, but few, flakes out there.

Maybe I was wrong . . . I overheard an apparently lonely, middle-aged, obese man acosting a Books a Million Employee in between the Christian Section and the Comic Books (I was in the Comic Books, thank you very much).

Fat Christian:  “Churches have really gotten away from reaching out to people and from being mission-oriented, and instead have built large mega-churches”

Employee:  “That’s right.”  (While putting books up on the shelf)

At this point, I thought the Fat Christian might be a good Christian, and was making a point about Charitability.

Fat Christian:  “But God doesn’t want to make us rich just for Mega-Churches, he wants to make us rich so we can use our mega-churches to reach out to people… tell them how to become rich also.”

Employee:  “Uh…Yeah, God wants us to help people.”  He was clearly uncomfortable, and left a sitting area and walked to my aisle in the comic books…Fat Christian followed

Fat Christian:   “People think that we’re preaching that we’re all supposed to be like super-rich billionaires, but I don’t think that’s really the case.  I think God just wants us to be well off.  God may not give me millions, but I could sure use 100,000 or so!  God wants to give his people money, so that while everyone around us is losing their jobs, and getting their homes repossessed, we can come right in and buy them up for really cheap.”

The Employee the left and the Fat Christian followed close behind, clearly ambivalent to the fact that the guy just wanted away from him.  I finished making my comic book selections and went to other side of the store, with a new understanding of why Christendom, at large, hates the prosperity preachers.  Jesus wants us to teach people to be rich, so we can really screw the people who are already victims of the predatory bank lending.  YAY JESUS!

Sheesh.