White Noise

I can not tell you how long I have wanted to write a piece on Donald Trump. Maybe this is just an example of laziness but my first draft  was started well over a year ago. Yet again and again I seem to stumble. The point I thought was so vivid just a day ago tends to be overcome by something different the next day. Why is this? The key I believe revolves around Trump’s true source of inspiration, chaos.

Our President thrives on chaos. He dines on it morning, noon, and night. He is a master at distracting the audience in order to avoid being pinned down on anything. I am not simply talking about policy. He avoids being called out in regards to his personal practices, beliefs, and principles. He gets away with it due to our nation’s inability to address the lies over the insults. It is a typical bullying technique. As soon as you confront the bully of his manipulation he shields himself by spewing accusations and insults at his accuser. Before we know it we find ourselves five degrees of distraction away from addressing the original issue.

Trump is a pathetic example of a human being. I do not say this lightly. I have studied him in great detail ever since he started running for president. He is a tragic figure, broken beyond repair. Out of the now hundreds of hours of hearing him speak I’ve never heard him acknowledge any weaknesses or build anyone else up at the expense of himself. He is the classic narcissist who has lost all perception of a world without him as the center.

The narcissist can only function through the energy of others. Because his world revolves around himself, he must have the rest of us support his narrative. Trump couldn’t care less whether we acknowledge him through opposition or support. All he needs is the spotlight. Watch his rallies. See when he becomes the most alive. His energy is fed just as much through those chanting against him as those for him. His single function at the moment is to be a vacuum. All our nation’s strength is being sucked up by a man who will never be full; never translate the energy he is sucking up into any kind of substance.

When Trump lies it is for the sole purpose of bending the narrative toward himself. Our job as a society is to change the trajectory of the narrative. We must push through Trump’s deception and redirect the truth toward change and growth. So far the problem has been,every time someone finds the truth they are knocked off course by the power of Trump’s vacuum.

The good news is, we are entirely in control of deflating the monster that is Donald Trump. Once we figure out how to turn off the white noise that is TRUMP, we can address the real issues.

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Empty Seats

I watched a documentary today called Bully. It was a sincere look at bullying in America. The film concentrates on the immediate victims of bullying. Some of the cases the documentary concentrates on are with families who have already lost their child to bullying. We see how hard it is for a family to understand what their child is going through, we see how ineffective the school system is in stopping bullying, and we see how the bully isn’t any one person as much as it is a general movement of indifference for one’s neighbor. The movie devastated me emotionally. What caused the devastation was not the harsh acts shown and talked about through out the film. We heard and saw plenty of examples of cruel things being done to kids who only seemed to want to get along with their peers. What devastated me was the silence. The inability for the parents to be personal with their children, the lack of presence the school system gave in working to stop bullying, and the lack of friends stepping up for the victim when he was getting pushed to the ground.

I was never Mr. Popular in my school. My mother chose to home school me until 8th grade and when I finally went public I was greeted with a fair amount of neglect and indifference. No I was never physically shoved in the locker, hit or pushed in any way. However I was told at times to find another seat because someone didn’t want to sit next to me, given notes commenting on how stupid I looked, and not given the time of day by many of my teachers. I was an awkward boy who wasn’t very physical, couldn’t read or write well, and had the social ability of a rodent. However, though I struggled I never felt inferior. I never felt like I deserved to be picked on or wasn’t as valuable as the person next to me. I always felt like there was a meaning to my life, that even though I failed in many of the areas my peers succeeded in I was an influence in this world and if I harnessed my strengths I could do wondrous things.

I had self confidence as a kid because I had people around me who gave a damn. When I went to school in 8th grade a friend from my childhood sat with me at lunch and introduced me to his friends. He was one of the most popular kids in school yet loved to come to my house and hang out. There was my 8th grade math and science teacher Mr. York who spent the extra time getting me organized, going to my meetings, and encouraging me in my strengths even though they were not always found in the subjects he taught. I also had my mother. My mother was always honest with me. She was willing to talk about personal things even though it sometimes meant for her to address personal demons in her past and she trusted in who I was and pushed me in my dreams. Because of these people and my faith I was able to go from middle school to high school, and from high school to college with a self worth that only became stronger.

Towards the end of the Bully documentary Kelby, one of the bully victims and a lesbian, talked about going to school for the first time again in the fall. She said she thought it might be different this year and views might have changed. She went to school and when she sat down in her class room all the kids around her got up and found different seats. Right then I could clearly understand why so many bully victims end their lives. They find themselves humiliated and hurt. But the pain does not come from the bruises or the humiliation. The pain comes from the empty seats. It comes from looking to the left and the right and seeing no one to shed a tear with or to extend a helping hand.

I wonder what I would have done if I was in the same classroom as Kelby. Sadly there is a good chance when I was in high school I would have felt bad for her but looked away and excused the situation by telling myself, “That’s life”. However, I am writing this blog because I am stronger now. I am tired of looking at abuse and being okay with it. Albert Einstein once said, “The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil but because of those who look on and do nothing”. I am who I am because people looked at my loneliness and befriended me. People saw my low self esteem and gave me a sense of worth. They saw me in my pain and helped carry my burden. If you don’t do anything who will? It is time to do something. It is time to be that light that gives way for a better tomorrow. It is time to sit in the empty seats.

Leap of Faith

I remember a few years ago having a vision. I was standing on a high cliff on the top of a mountain and a voice whispering in the wind seemed to be telling me to jump. Logic was disagreeing with the voice. Logic told me if I jumped I would fall into the abyss and never be heard from again. Logic told me I shouldn’t be anywhere near the cliff, let alone considering to jump. However, part of me felt like jumping and seeing exactly what might happen. Part of me knew I would not be free unless I jumped. For some illogical reason I felt like if I jumped I just might fly.

This vision came at a time when I was leaving organized church. I had already deserted a few key doctrines held by the church, such as woman not being able to hold a position of leadership and the belief in eternal damnation where all who were not Christian were destined to go. I felt like I had already jumped. I was in the process of falling into the abyss and wondering when God was going to come and give me flight.

The actual jumping part was not hard for me. I didn’t know where I would go if I jumped but I knew I wanted no part of where I was at. I hated how we as the church seemed to think “faith” was just about making it to a building every Sunday morning and going to one or two small groups during the week. I hated the double standards of the church, how they preached for us to help the needy and love our neighbors yet had hardly any ministries supporting those areas. We were told to rebel against abortion but did nothing to help those babies who were being born under abusive situations. We were told to rebel against homosexuals and their lifestyles without ever trying to understand who those people were. The idea we were supposed to give our offering to support our pastors salaries also bugged me. Being told this money was going to God seemed to be slightly misleading. Very little of the money seemed to be making any difference what so ever. The organized Church was just supporting the constant routine of coming on Sundays and a few nights during the week to talk and agree with a bunch of like minded people.

So there I was falling into the abyss, finally liberated from all the double standards and hypocrisy of the Church. When was God going to catch me and give me flight? When was I going to finally be free? I had been waiting, and falling, for quite a while before I finally realized, my God would not tell me to jump if he did not already think I could fly. It was up to me to choose to rise up and fly above the mountains. Then I realized, the hard part was not the jumping or “letting go”. What was difficult was the “being free” part, aka– flying.

Letting go of doctrines and organized Church has opened up many things for me. I feel free now as if I can look into any religion and talk to any type of race or class and find good fruit in them. However, the hard part is being able to choose to take advantage of this new freedom. I personally find “flying” to be quite difficult. Maybe it is because I am scared of heights and rather have something solid below my feet so I don’t need to rely so heavily on God. Letting go of doctrines and structured religions forces one to need to rely on God more. If you stop relying on God you will just fall into the abyss. Flying away from where you have felt safe and going to new places with different philosophies and views is scary. During my flights I have seen some of the pain and suffering my ignorance has created. I have seen how blindly holding onto one view can deeply effect other peoples views.

We will not get anywhere unless we choose to let go and start relying on God. Being open is the only way we are really able to be free. However, it is important we do not be rebellious of one established view only to fall into another.  We also should make sure we are not jumping off a structured view only to fall into the abyss. Where ever there is life there is also Jesus. True freedom is only achieved when you are able to fly and see life in all the places it reigns. God never wanted us to get stuck in one point of view. God is infinite and we will always be learning more about Him. I have not yet come across a person who does not have some kind of knowledge on who God is.

If you want nothing to do with this world then jump and go into the abyss. If you want to feel safe and comfortable stay on solid ground and don’t jump. If you want true freedom and to make a difference then choose to jump and fly above the mountains. You will need to see things that might hurt and offend you. You will need to rely on a God who might feel all but absent at times. But things will not change unless we stop nailing each other down and choose to search out the one True God; who can be found in every person and religion and who is whispering for you to take the leap of faith and rely completely on Him.

(This post is part of a Synhcroblog I am doing. I apologize for being so late on this post, I was supposed to have it done about 4 or 5 days ago. Anyway, better late then never and here are the links to the other synchroblogs)

To Question The Church

Is it okay to question the Church? I personally would have to answer this question yes, especially if I consider myself part the Church. In the past I have been taught a lot of doctrine from the Church that has never really been questioned by those who taught me. When I began to question this doctrine I found out quickly that I was not supposed to. With some friends it seemed that every time I asked a question I was accused of “arguing” and told my questions were not legitimate.

Throughout Churches history we slowly treated doctrine (our theories about what the Bible says) as if it was actually what scripture says, or “the infallible word of God”. When I get into a debate about a doctrine, such as the existence of eternal Hell, the main argument I hear is something like, “The Bible clearly says that there is a eternal Hell”. However, when I point out verses from the Bible, that counter what my debaters say the Bible “clearly says”, I am told, “I guess I will need to trust God with those verses”, even though the verses clearly contradict each other. It is not a matter of not understanding. It is a matter of choosing to give a specific interpretation of a verse more weight because it lines up with what we have been taught the Bible says AND saying the contradictory verse just can’t be understood and therefore must be left to God. This makes me quickly realize that it is not the Bible that most are using to support things like eternal hell. Besides, there are many other things that the Bible “Clearly speaks against” that a modern day Christian is just fine doing. Things like: cutting your hair, women speaking in Church, or people getting tattoos, are all accepted now a days, even though parts of the Bible clearly speaks against such behavior.

Doctrine is what the Church relies on to determine its identity and guide its behavior all the while calling it the Bible. The reason why there are 2000+ denominations of Christianity, is because very few agree on all the same doctrines (interpretations of the Bible). Sadly, the reason why most denominations can not work together for the betterment of society, is because each of their doctrines can not be questioned. If everyone thinks they are right, they must think everyone else is wrong. And, another doctrine most of us are taught is: we should not be unequally yoked (or in other words, we should not work with people who don’t think like we do).

I have found that the Church gets away with ignorance because it is willing to be exclusive. On the outside we claim that our God is willing to accept and forgive any sinner, but on the inside we build our church on foundational doctrines that are described as “infallible”, and as soon as someone starts to reject or question these “foundational doctrines” they are quickly excluded. Making our doctrine god allows us to be in control. When our doctrine is the ruler however, we can quickly become ignorant  through denying any other points of view.

I am convinced more than ever before that my God is absolute. However, we must come to the realization that none of us know God absolutely. Questioning and testing faith is one of the best ways to separate the truth from the lies and find out who God truly is. If I believe that my doctrine is truth then it is up for debate. When others come with different views I will truly try to listen. When used in the right way, testing and questioning are like fire. If we truly have faith in our doctrine we will allow the fire to test it. Through constant questioning and testing some of our views will change and some will burn away, but the truth will hold and get stronger through this refining fire of testing and questioning.

If the Church is to be a beacon for the World, we must come together and build on strong foundations. Strong foundations can only come from vigorous study and questioning. Questioning is a crucial aspect to the growth of the Church. Everyone has a mind of their own, everyone sees things from a different angle and sometimes in a different light. I have found that many non-Christians are able to see my faith in a way I can not, their insight can be greatly helpful. We as Christians have made statements to what Christianity is about, such as loving others, providing for the needy, and showing the outside world Jesus. However, when we are told by non-Christians that they are not seeing this “Jesus“ we claim to be representing, we need to take them seriously.

One of my core beliefs is that my God is strong enough to be questioned. I have talked to people who are scared of questioning interpretations of the Bible because they think that if we drop one doctrine we need to be willing to drop them all. I agree that we need to be willing to drop everything we have come to believe. If my goal is to seek Gods heart, anything is up for exam.

To question the Church means questioning ourselves and that means opening ourselves up. If we let down our walls we will show others who we truly are, full of strengths and faults like everyone else. However, if we as the Church are willing to open ourselves up, we stop being exclusive. I believe truths like: God is a loving God, will last through even the most intense questioning. When someone is faced with a undeniable truth he is forced to own his prejudices. Even if the person with the prejudices is stuck in his ways, he is severely crippled when it comes to gaining followers. True questioning reveals truth and truth is what will change this world.

Questioning will not break my faith in God, it will only strengthen my knowledge of Him. The lie is when we make doctrine more important then God. To question the Church is something I must do. I am part of the Church and although my individual faith has flaws, through the Church as a whole (if the rest are willing to engage in questioning with me) we can create a very accurate representation of the one True God. But, we must be willing to seek Him out, no matter how vigorous the questioner or how numerous the questions.

Faith

“The emptiness in your heart will only be filled by Christ” is a comment usually made by Christians when talking to non-Christians about God. Sadly, very few Christians are close to knowing what the statement means.

I have been talking about Hell lately, or the lack of it. The doctrine of eternal Hell (which I do NOT think is biblical) brings many frustrations up for me. One of the greatest frustrations I have is what the concept of Hell does to our concept of salvation and evangelizing.

Many Christians think that there is a black and white line. We either believe in Jesus or we do not. So many Christians think it is a perfectly good answer to say that the only way you will be fulfilled is by “accepting Jesus into your heart”, without going into any more detail of what that means or how to really do it. With the doctrine of Hell, we create a “in or out” concept of salvation. You either know God or you do not. This “in or out” concept creates a sort of evangelizing where the Christians think that they have complete truth and non-Christian views are completely false. Thus we Christians are able to ignore the non-Christians while trying to throw our beliefs at them. We as Christians do not allow ourselves much growth. The concentration is on whether you are in or you are out, rather then on the continual growth of our faith.

Our unwillingness to see what may be true in another person’s faith is yet another reason why someone would not be too interested in Christianity. Christians have become a bit “holier then thou” based on the principles of their beliefs. I personally would not be interested in a friend who did not care about what I had to say because they thought I was completely false and deserving of an Eternal punishment. Through out the years I have found out that true friendship can not be built on a relationship that only goes one way. If you do not consider the person who you are talking to as significant, it will show.

I refuse to think that Jesus took pity on us because we were completely evil. I think that Jesus saw good in all of us and that is why He chose to save us. When I look at friends who are non-Christians I can not help but see some of God through them. I have been taught my whole life that they are nothing without becoming “Christians“, but I see the opposite in front of my eyes. I have just as many non-Christians friends as Christian friends that help at the local food bank, are kind to those around them, and seem to be following their God given dream.

I want to break the concept of one group being more superior then another. That line of thinking will not help either our evangelizing or our personal growth in our own faith. I am tired of Christians thinking answers like , “The emptiness in your heart will only be filled by Christ”, are good enough. The truth is that many people who claim to be following Jesus are not and many people who have not even heard of Jesus are choosing to follow Him. Truly following Jesus goes farther then just a few words. It is a life walk and everything needs to be taken into consideration.

Faith is a constant growth, not a black and white line. Just telling a friend, “you must choose Christ”, can NOT be good enough anymore. We need to know what “choosing Christ” means. We can no longer ignore the evidence of God in those around us, just because they have not claimed themselves as Christian. Shallow outside looks will not suffice we need to be willing to look deep into someone’s soul. This will call for you to be willing to open up to others just as much as you want them to open up to you.

Accepting Christ means that you are accepting what he did. The revelation of what Christ did on the Cross is simply indescribable. It has been a constant journey for me. I see more and more of the power of Jesus’ sacrifice every day, it is a revelation that will never end.

Accepting Christ, also calls you to act. I am accepting Jesus’ sacrifice through the way I am choosing to live. It is more then just a few words, it is about picking that belief up and choosing to walk with it. I have a responsibility to follow Him, for He is alive.

I think that everyone sees part of the revelation of Jesus Christ. When I see people pursuing their God given Vision such as art, writing, film, medicine, etc… I see them pursuing Jesus. We can NOT ignore God in others anymore. When it starts to be more about discovering God and less about who is right we will begin to see true change in this world.

It is true, “The emptiness in your heart will only be filled by Christ”. But, we need to be willing to look into what that means. And we can no longer deny faith where it clearly stands.

The Complex Language of God

Man it is hard to understand God. Or so I have been told. I mean, how could I understand “GOD“?!?! He is just too Great, Powerful, Overwhelming, Vast, Tremendous, Incredible, Spectacular, Glorious, Holy, Divine, Pure, Righteous, Marvelous, Magnificent, and Complex to ever be understood by us mere humans, right?

Through out my life I have been introduced to many opinions about the complexity of God. It seems darn near impossible to be able to communicate with Him. So many people have differing opinions on how to hear from God. Most say that you need to be a Christian to hear from Him. A lot say that you have to pray. There is the argument that says you can not know what God wants unless you have read the Bible. I often see people who do not “go” to church treated as though they can not know who God is. Of course the major argument is that you can not know God unless you have accepted Jesus “into your heart”. But, many would like to know what that means?

Because we have so many different opinions on how and what it takes to communicate with God, we have even more opinions on what we think God wants us to do. Many Christians would say that the answer is found in Matthew 22:34-37:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

What does that MEAN though? I feel that many people use this passage as an excuse to waste their lives by putting their potential on hold while they try to “hear” from God. To me, what they are looking for is right in front of them.

I feel as though we spend so much time making God be so Great and Powerful that we look past one of the greatest qualities of God. I realize that God is a Great and Powerful God and He has earned all the adjectives I wrote at the top of the post. But, I do not choose my God above all the rest because I am awed by the Power of Him (at least “power“ in the common sense of the word). The quality that most impresses me, is my God’s Humility.

I serve a Humble God. A God who washed His Disciples feet. A God who has told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. A God who is relational, and know-able.

I would agree that Jesus is a complex God and that we will never be able to understand His infinite wisdom. But, I think that God’s language is clear. He wants us to be humble as He was. God wants us to use our lives to walk out the commandment of loving our neighbors as ourselves, I think that it is one in the same as loving Him.

When God tells us to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind, He is telling us to carry out the second commandment of loving our neighbors as ourselves. If you love God you will be showing love to others. It is not too complex at all.

The Man Who Listens

I am about to partake in a huge study on Steven Spielberg. I am a filmmaker and one of my greatest teachers through the years has been Steven. Through the countless behind the scenes looks, online interviews, and TV specials, I have learned A LOT from this Master filmmaker.

My “huge study” consists of going over several of Steven’s films on “mute“, and studying how he composes shots, directs acting, creates emotion, and tells a story. For each of the movies I will write a small paper on what I have learned and post them on this Blog for whomever to see.

This particular post will be devoted to what I think of Steven Spielberg now and why I am choosing to do this long and draining study.

Steven Spielberg is a story-teller, and naturally that interests me. Through out the years I have seen movies directed by this man that include many genres. That in itself is very unique. We have been introduced to completely new world, with movies such as Hook, Artificial Intelligence, and Jurassic Park. Steven has thrilled us with movies such as Indiana Jones and Jaws. He has brought us movies full us clever entertainments with The Terminal and Catch me if you Can. And, he has reached deep into our emotions with movies such as E. T., Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List. These movies have span through more then three decades have all been hailed as great and powerful pieces of work.

Indeed, it seems as though I have chosen my teacher well.

What makes this man able to tell stories in so many genres, so well? Why are people so effected by this man’s movies? What has made Steven Spielberg one of the greatest story-tellers to walk this earth?

A few months ago I watched a interview with Steven Spielberg on Inside the Actors Studio. Through out the 2 + hour interview, Steven was asked some very compelling questions. One of the last questions was along the lines of, “If there is a God, what do you want Him to say to you when you show up at the gates of Heaven?” Steven answered, “thanks for listening”.

Right there Steven told me the secret to his success. With that answer he told me the reason why he has been able to effect me so greatly.

Steven Spielberg listens. God gave Steven a great gift and told him to use it. Steven chose to listen. I believe that Steven has been able to make so many great movies through so many different genres and over so many years, because he has heard God speak about the heart of what makes a story great.

Steven’s movies accentuate Life.

Whether it is a boy on a bike flying across the moon, a once corrupt man learning to live again, or a uncommon liberator crying out for one more soul. All powerful examples of the Life that comes from Steven’s movies.

God is the essence of Life and he speaks to us all. Steven is a man who has chosen to listen. It is amazing the power that comes from a man who is able to listen. It takes patients and guts, but the results are worth it.

The world has truly changed through one man’s ability to listen. I have been truly effected by Steven Spielberg; he inspires me to make stories of my own. Steven was once quoted saying, “I dream for a living”. This quote rings true through out his life.

I only hope to follow in his footsteps and become another man who chooses to listen.