This is Not what I Wanted

I can’t believe Jesus has the nerve to not give me what I want; He’s not the savior I thought He would be and yet He still calls himself good.

Growing up attending church, I consistently felt strange and uncomfortable on Palm Sunday. The Sunday before Easter Sunday, the Sunday we dressed up like first century Israelites and waved fake palm branches and shouted Hosanna while one of the guys in the church with a beard walked down the center aisle of the sanctuary (we didn’t have the budget or approval for live animals). I had a difficult time wrapping my mind around the people in Jerusalem were so excited about Jesus’ arrival to turn on him five days later. Living in Southern California, I also thought it strange we didn’t just pull real palm branches down from the tree outside, but that is beside the point.

I know the story of Easter. Jesus gets betrayed by his friend, He is tortured and killed as punishment for sin, but because He was pure and didn’t deserve death, because He gave up his blameless life for the broken life, taking punishment, He broke the punishment. Jesus didn’t die. He came back to life. Some have viewed this as the first recorded incident of a zombie, but there’s no record of Him feasting on brains, so I don’t give credence in that. From my own study, I think He was alive again, with a better bod.

I digress.

Palm Sunday. Celebration. Director’s notes, “let’s have a lot of energy. This is the guy that fed five thousand, turned water to wine, brought dead people back to life. He’s the Messiah, let’s get jazzed.” So the scene is set. We’re celebrating the entrance of the King, the redeemer. Get into character. I found it extremely difficult to get into this character, finding the motivation when I thought about this same role I would play Friday night. Here I am on Sunday praising this guy and I know Friday I’ll be screaming “Crucify Him” with the rest of the extras.

Why?

Hosanna?

Let me start there.The commentary section in my Bible says that this word is transliterated to English. Transliteration is taking a word in it’s original language and spelling the same word in another language, rather than translating it, which would be to use a corresponding meaning. So, Hosanna is the Greek word used here, but it was also transliterated to Greek from Hebrew. Specifically Hosanna was the Hebrew word, meaning “Save now” found in Psalm 118:25 which was a prayer asking for deliverance from enemies, deliverance from oppression.  According to this Bible Dictionary Hosanna was part of prayer used in reference to the Passover and Feast of Tabernacles, an active prayer of gratitude and askance for salvation from oppression linking to the Exodus from Egyptian Slavery.

So, the Israelites are excited and using this prayer/praise word from their holiday tradition in reference to Jesus as the Messiah. Deliverance.

The Israelites had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Christ, the Messiah, the one to free them from oppression, and here comes this Jesus into Jerusalem the week of Passover, the week they celebrated and remembered what God did through Moses when he led them out of slavery into their promised land. As Jesus entered this town there was an expectation of deliverance, of freedom, from what, or rather from whom?

A quick google search reveals that the Romans conquered Jerusalem just under 100 years prior to this moment. While Rome is known for it’s achievements and prowess as a conquering kingdom, it’s not quite known for kindness and generosity. Some reading through the Gospel writings reveals that the general populace were not fans.

It doesn’t take a lot to figure out now why the people are so jazzed about Jesus. Redeemer. The one spoken of to take the people out of oppression. He’s their contemporary Moses. He’ll lead them out of under the thumb of Roman rule. Perhaps not a great Exodus from Jerusalem, but an ousting of military might. A would be king to replace Caesar.

What could possibly go so wrong?

Now the Roman rule allowed the people to still worship in their synagogues and follow the leadership of the religious teachers of the time, but it seems the odd government allowed for a power dichotomy from the religious rulers and the lay people (everyone else). It is the unfortunate pattern that people will use whatever is at their disposal to gain power, control over others, even something that is disguised with benign belief. There were a few individuals who were not super stoked about someone overthrowing the current regime which allowed them to wield such power.

The first story told after Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem is everyone’s favorite Jesus story with turning tables. Jesus is angry. He’s so incensed He causes a scene. The religious leaders have been levying their power to line the offering baskets. At Passover the people of Israel had to make a sacrifice in the temple of a pure lamb, but not everyone had a perfect lamb, so they could purchase one at the temple. Basically these offering shops were set up to abuse the poverty of the people. It perpetuated a system of economic disparity. The church remains wealthy and the people are poor. Jesus gets upset.

Okay, so off the bat Jesus is showing that things are changing. I’d assume that for the general public this is welcome, but for some of the church elites, this is problematic. Jesus also tells the story of the sheep and goats during His time in Jerusalem, another win for those in need. Jesus makes it clear that those that know Him, know His father (YHWH) are definitely caring about those in need.

So, why still did we not have Jesus as the populist King of Israel borne on the backs of the down and out itching for political reform.

John mentions a time where Jesus knowingly avoids some people because they try to force Him to be their revolutionary (John 6:15). Within the parables told between the Triumphant Entry and the Lord’s Supper, Jesus shows more of His intentions, of the specific nature of His kingdom and what the Messiah came to do. One of the most notable moments comes when some of the Teachers of the Mosaic law come to Jesus to trap Him in a bipartisan argument (Mt. 22:15-22; Mk. 12:13-17; Lk. 20:20-26). They ask Jesus if taxes should be paid to Caesar. Should the “Kingdom of God” pay fealty taxes to a conquering King? If Jesus was to say no, siding with revolutionaries, He would be committing treason. If He said yes, He was acknowledging Roman right to rule, and not the “redeemer” that people wanted.

He basically said yes and no. He called them out on their hypocrisy. The denarius was the money utilized throughout Jerusalem by Romans and Israelites alike. How could they use the common currency without themselves acknowledging Roman rule. He said, give them taxes out of the Roman currency they used. He was also cluing the people into what kind of King he was not.

I think Jesus reveals His intentions again when He is anointed in Bethany as told in Matthew and Mark. The disciples are frustrated that she would waste so much money that could be shared with the poor. Even the disciples think they know what kind of Messiah Jesus is, upturning the waste of the wealthy for the spreading of funds.

Jesus says something upsetting, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them anytime you want.” (Mk. 14:6).

I used to think Jesus was being a little hypocritical here, uncaring about poor people. But in context with the rest of His work and words, I don’t think Jesus is saying not to help the poor, in fact far from it. I think He was actually calling out the disciples and their smug, judgment. In this moment Jesus also makes clear that though we are to help the poor (obviously should do it whenever we can) that His Kingdom is not solely about public works and infrastructure.

Hosanna!

Save us! Thank you for saving us!

Hosanna!

Jesus came to save. Messiah!

Revolutionary.

But not in the traditional sense. He’s not Che Guevara. He’s not Moses. He’s not George Washington. He’s not Cesar Chavez. He’s not William Wallace. He’s not Maximilien Robespierre. He’s not Malcolm X. He’s not Martin Luthor King Jr. He’s not Vladimir Lenin. He’s not Mahatma Gandhi. He’s not Toussaint L’Ouverture.

And historically that made people mad.

It would’ve been simpler, if He was. His death may have still been imminent, perhaps later, but it would’ve been less remembered.

He arrived the first day of the week to adulation, but He wasn’t what they wanted. They wanted to have the world change for them, but He said people had to change for the world. What’s worse, He said they couldn’t do it on their own. I think that’s what really bothers people about Jesus (I know it bothers me a lot). There’s not a five step process to save myself. I need Jesus.

That’s it. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the redeemer. Savior. Salvation. But from what? A flaw, not in the design, but in application of design. We are creatures made of physical body, mind, and a spirit. Our lives are dependent on the life force, the spirit of creator. Made for community, for love, for communion with creator. But we have to choose, that’s key in love, in relationship. There has to be freedom of choice. Which means we are free to sever ties from life, from good.

History is evidence of the choice.

If every decision we made was circumvented because it brought  us or others harm, that would not be choice. That would not be freedom. Which means for now, “the poor you will always have with you”. That means separation from good. While there is separation, a broken agreement, there cannot be communion. We can’t engage with someone we’re estranged with until someone does the work to bring unity. In this case, takes the result of separation, death, in the stead of another person. It’s like shooting up but someone else takes the kidney failure, the heart failure. We chose a high over life, and there is an effect.

Jesus did that.

So, this Sunday we celebrate His arrival. By Friday we’ll be crying for his death because He’s not what we want, and you know what, He’s definitely not what we deserve.

You know what else is crazy? He knew. He knew riding in where He was going. He went anyway.

This is why Palm Sunday makes me uncomfortable. I am in that crowd praising Jesus for being a cultural revolutionary, for upsetting the establishment, but I am also in the crowd on Friday. Angry and upset that I am not getting my way. To follow Him means I have to allow those things go. My plans. My wishes. My way. My perception that I can do it on my own. I have to allow Him to take those things with Him upon the cross. I have to admit that I should be the one with nails in my hands. I should be the one eternally separate from life, from good. And I’m angry because He loves me, does this for me willingly. He’s better than me.

I cannot save myself. I am not self-sufficient.

Once I let this go, I can live. I can rise.

Palm Sunday is a lie. It is a celebration of perception. Friday is when the lie dies. Sunday, Easter, is where truth comes to life. Throwing off the dead things that hindered me, I can run my race. I am not in control of my destiny, and I never was, but now I know the one who is and He is good.

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Insufficient Funds

*Insufficient Funds*

Again. MetroCard. Add time. Unlimited 7 Day, thirty-one dollars. Debit Card.

*Insufficient Funds*

It was enough to make me want to quit. I had spent the weekend wonderfully with friends from college celebrating the marriage of two of our friends. It was a nice break from the city life routine and visit where I used to live, making a small trip down memory lane. We explored parts of LA, we spent the day Saturday running around getting last minute details ready, and all of Sunday was for wedding events. I had forgotten how much I loved having my close friends around.

Living in college, especially where I went to school, you end up spending a lot of time with the people you go to school with. When you leave the safe folds of college, you go out into the wild world and no longer have the tight community you’re used to and if you’re like me and “escape” Bible college without a serious significant other and you don’t return home, you go out into the world alone. As it is, I didn’t realize how connected I felt with these people until I saw them again when I visited the school again, after that I saw them less frequently, typically at weddings, but after every time I would get a little sad that I would be leaving again.

It’s all part of this dream, the calling i have on my life, and it’s probably the cost I feel the most.

I think I’m addicted to the feeling of having close friends around, friends that have watched you grown and have helped push you to be better, friends that genuinely care for you. Outside of school I haven’t felt that depth of connection and it feels as if when I leave them I go through slight withdrawal. As these are the things that I have been feeling, returning home to New York was daunting.

All weekend people keep asking me, “You’re living in New York! Are you loving every minute of it?!” You see I’m living my dream, so why wouldn’t I love it? That’s the thing about dreams though, they take work, they take time, and they take character development. Yes, I love it, but I don’t always like it. I’ve lamented enough on the internet for people to know how much of a struggle this life is and how money has been tight. Coming home meant coming back from the dream, the memory, to the present reality of struggle and process.

I have trouble living in the present, because I over glorify the past and pine for the promises of the potential possibility, but that is to be discussed another time.

This time, coming home I was determined to be more vigilant, to be proactive in my faith, and to carry on fighting well. I wanted to talk about how I will persist in my calling, regardless of what it looked like to the outside world and regardless of the circumstance. It seems as if the city was ready to test my resolve, pushing back on me. This city will do that, it pushes you to your limit.

On the plane ride over I spent half the time praying. I have been reading Hebrews these past few weeks for my devotional time. The whole book is about how Jesus is the perfect sacrifice and the perfect priest, sacrificing himself and setting himself up to bear the cost of our sins so we could interact with the Father. So we could be free of sin. Hebrews says that a life of those who are saved, of those who walk with Christ and know Him is characterized by faith.

Hebrews 11:1 says that, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” This is the basis of being a Christian. A personal assurance the the Bible is true, that what is says about God, His character, and what Jesus did is true. A conviction that God is working things together for the good, not necessarily for what I just want, but what is good for me. The difficulty with faith is that it is difficult. It’s using what you’ve read and what you’ve experienced to believe in what will be that is not tangible, it’s seeing a guarantee.

That’s the thing though, God always comes through with exactly what I need, when I need it, but it just doesn’t always look the way I want it to.

So, I come back from this trip, determined to look at the “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb.12:1) and walk in faith. Circumstances may not be ideal, bills may not be paid, opportunities may not be evident, the raucous waves may be rising higher, but I will not be found without faith. God provided amazingly for this weekend, that’s evidence enough, with the plane tickets, the tux rental and all the transportation and housing.

I get off the plane, tote my luggage to the AirTrain, transfer to the NJ transit (which the train just arrives perfectly) and when I stroll up to the Metrocard fare kiosk, follow the directions prompted,

*Insufficient Funds*

I felt all my resolve crashing.

I can’t do this, why did I even move to this city? Why did I even think this was my calling? I can’t make it in this city. All my friends are gone, spread to the corners.

All my fears, all the lies, came bubbling up, threatening to unhinge me.

“Where is your faith?”

I know I have friends (perhaps different than before) but I still have friends. Money is tight, but God will provide. I am in process. I will continue to trust Him, I will continue to believe He will take care of me. I will fight. I will carry on.

I managed to finagle my bank accounts (you see I have a checking and a savings and I had to transfer) and I stopped by work to get my tips from last week to buy enough peanut butter to last the week. I’ll make it, God will provide, God will meet my needs. I can trust Him, I will continue to trust His plan no matter how crazy it looks. Watch, one day you’ll look at me and say, “If God took Greg from that to this, perhaps I can trust Him, too” and that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?

Giving Up: Coming to Terms with No Longer Trying

Trying too hard not to try.

No.

Working too much at not working?

What I’m endeavoring [how many words in the Thesaurus can I find for attempt] to accomplish is to not work like I can accomplish what I want to accomplish.

Nope, that sounds wrong, too.

Here’s the problem. I have this desire at the very core of who I am, to matter, to do something worthwhile in the world. It’s the manifestation of wanting to be well liked, I think. You see, if I do something so amazing, people will have to stop and look to say, “Wow! What a guy, he has done something. I wish I could’ve done that”.

The problem is Jesus.

Jesus, for those of you not familiar with Him, was this great guy who did the biggest thing possible. Not only did He live a perfect life, loving all sorts of people along the way, but He also died for a crime He didn’t commit to break down a barrier between God and man. He accomplished something by dying, that men everywhere had been attempting for centuries, for millennia. Then He came back to life, as the piece de resistance. 

This is why I can’t be great, because what could top that?

Now, I’m sure you’re saying that I’m setting myself up to an achievable standard. I’d agree, but to me how can you say anything else is great when  such eminence (fancy word for greatness) exists?

Nothing I do can compare.

But I can try, and try I do, but you know what? When you stand next to perfection, everything looks shoddy.

What’s worse, He wants me to be great too, that’s the whole purpose behind the amazing life He lived, so that I could live similarly. But, as I have said, I cannot do it. He must do it for me, He must set me up and I have to in turn trust Him for this to happen. If I get my ruddy fists on it and try my might, it will only amount to dust.

I have a desire to be worthwhile to the world, to make some difference. I have to stop trying and start trusting.

This little rant came about from a recent rerevelation. I made up this word to signify that I have had this revelation multiple times and try as I might, I always forget it, if I don’t consistently remind myself. I believe I am a pretty skilled individual and I know I have certain talents. One of my biggest strengths is my aptitude for learning. I absorb information very quickly and I am able to typically understand it well, just as fast (apparently not in this life lesson, though; I digress). I also believe I am charismatic or charming. Having these skill sets it may be a wonder that I have never gotten a job that I was interviewed in.

Looking at my work record, none of my work opportunities came from a traditional: application, call/check to show interest, interview and follow up call. I find this odd knowing my mother worked so long in Human Resources and knew well what companies looked for and how to be hired. The only jobs I have worked have had miraculous circumstances, whether it be knowing well a senior level boss, being hired off an application, being hired living a state away, being chosen for a more desired role over the one I applied for, etc. All of my work life has been miraculous at the start. In fact, many of the opportunities I have had I did nothing to warrant receiving them. The places, the roles that I have pursued and did deserve, I did not get.

It would be a wonder why, after looking at these patterns, I’d try at all.

The voices in my head. The voices telling me that nothing is owed to me and that I must work to achieve or earn anything. The same voice that tallies gifts from friends, money from strangers, and favors from loved ones, tallies to pay back eventually. I haven’t had a difficult life, but one of the lessons I have known a long time is you need to work to achieve a goal.

While I am learning that the world is not always so black and white in that way I am still trying to reconcile this idea. I am trying to do enough good to outweigh the good, or even just meet the weight of the good done that I don’t deserve. To even try and earn the grace given to me. But Paul is very clear that you cannot earn a gift, and grace is a gift.(Ephesians 2)

I think God is expanding that viewpoint for me, but I’m scared, and this is where it gets ridiculous; I am worried that if I finally come to terms with the free grace of God, how much He wants to give to His children, then people would think I am not doing as much as I ought to. I am worried about what people think. I am worried that I will live my life with so much freedom, expecting my God to do so many amazing things in my life, that people will call me crazy and delusional. That I will be seen as lazy and living off the gifts, the bleeding hearts of others, that I can’t manage life on my own.

Here’s the rub, it’s true. I can’t. I wasn’t meant to. Neither are you!

I will never be great, I was never meant to. It’s hard to let that die, that image of being worthwhile. Jesus will always outshadow me, and the more I live in the freedom He provides the more attention He’ll get for it. People will see how little I am doing and as a result see how much He is. That’s what life is all about.

I can’t handle life. God can. If I admit this, allow Him to run the course, life is easy. I no longer have to try. I’ll just take each day in and walk it out.

So…I guess that’s it. I’m giving up. I am done trying.

You’re Wrong, I think

I have a problem with the concept of safe spaces.

I’ve been toying around with this idea for a while. Letting these ideas ruminate. I didn’t want to share my thoughts if I was feeling particularly incensed about something. I tend to neglect someone’s perspective or feelings. when I’m upset or angry. My next move was to share following the conference I served at last week, I’ll share more on that later. The turning point was yesterday when my anxiety spiked again for no reason, well a reason I can’t quite pin down.

Safe Spaces. From what I’ve seen, heard, and read. Safe spaces are places where people can feel free to express themselves without disagreement. Now, as long as I am not vastly misunderstanding the premise, I have a problem with this in practicality and conception.

We live in a world of many different people each with their own identity and thought processes. That’s honestly one of the most beautiful aspects of humanity, or so I believe and have been told. When we are all different that means we will not all agree. One could argue that the existence of difference does not necessitate conflict. How can you tell me you have conviction in your beliefs and thoughts if it once does not ever cause you to come into some conflict?

You only need to look at the current political climate here in the USA to see how contentious disagreement can be, how differences can cause dividing lines. While it is nice to say that everyone should live in disagreement and not contention, I think it is a pipe dream, unrealistic and like I mentioned it means that people show little or no conviction. A personal observation on the polarization of the country: as long as we keep vilifying people based on information provided by those who are paid according to sensationalism, we will never see eye to eye.

Safe Spaces. While it would make life easier to have a “safe space” where only my opinions are shared, where everyone acquiesces to my particular frame of mind, it would severely limit me, my life, and in turn my world around me. More than just unrealistic, safe spaces lead to lives stunted, growth in egoism and as a result partisan factions. In fact, I’ll say that “safe spaces” are mini fascist communities.

Before you grab the pitchfork, think about it. All those novels and movies about dystopian societies feature similar narratives: sameness. No one like’s the sameness that is imposes on them, but if all conflict is stymied, then those with differing opinions to the popular thought are silenced.

Conflict on the other hand provides opportunities to learn, to see a situation in a perspective distinct from your own. Conflict brings a challenge that either helps you fortify the way you see a situation or amends it. There are so many metaphorical examples in nature that reveal this to be true. When a smith forges he (or she) uses intense heat and force to bend metal to the shape that is desired. Diamonds require heat and pressure to form. Purity in gold comes through heat and time. People are refined by conflict, if they allow it.

A bird will never learn to fly if it never leaves the nest. A caterpillar will never become a butterfly if it does not endure metamorphosis. I will never become stronger if I do not push my limits. I could never learn to swim if I left the shallow end.

We are refined in fire if we allow it.

No, conflict doesn’t feel good and oftentimes it requires time, but the things in life that are “worth it” need both. Our active participation allows the difficulty to change us for the better, whether that means our perspective is changed or strengthened. We have to be willing to face the difficulty and walk through it.

Well, I suppose this is unfair to just say “I walk through difficulty and grow every time” when in fact every time I face conflict on my own I buckle under the pressure. You see, I cheat. I depend on someone that is capable of so much more than I am able and He does the heavy lifting making sure I know I’m not alone in the conflict.

Last week I served at a rather large Church conference in Brooklyn New York at the Barclays Center. I was put in a role in which I was not prepared. My experience going in was on a much smaller scale, so this was beyond my skill or ability. And you know what, I soared. I felt, in an indescribable way, that I did well, despite the circumstances. I could regale you of the pressures of trying to seat about 5,000 (one night nearly 8,000) people in a venue within 30 minutes with very specific instructions, leading others who lead others, listing out every struggle from lack of sleep and food to rude and inconsiderate guests, but it would pale in comparison to the experience of it.

I was out of my depth, but I came out with stronger skills and intuition. While I believe anyone and everyone can grow in their lives, in character, in whatever way by being open to risk and trying, I believe I was able to make great strides because I had someone bigger than me helping me along.

But this is why safe spaces are harmful, we are not allowed to be tempered by fire.

Yesterday was a difficult day. It would have been nice to shut myself up and demand that no one require anything of me, but that is not realistic. We live in a world of people and responsibilities and we cannot run from them to shelter our precious psyches and personal comforts. I was forced to face life, to face my difficult situation and I’m still breathing. The circumstances haven’t changed but I have to allow myself to be tempered.

Now, to those who have serious psychological maladies (self-proscribed or clinically diagnosed) I believe the same is true for those. In my own experience, when I give into the anxieties, when I shelter myself from the world, there is no improvement, perhaps a slight abatement, but now growth or progress. (Now is when I would get told I don’t understand, or my struggle obviously couldn’t have been awful enough or else I wouldn’t say such. My challenge is twofold: 1. Using your logic, you cannot tell me what I have experienced is not significant 2. Before you get defensive take a moment and process my thought before disagreeing. I don’t have a problem if you disagree, I may be wrong, but please listen to what I have to say before you shout).

A safe space.

Now, I’ve hinted at how I cheat, now I will give you the full breakdown. If you immediately disagree, you have understood nothing, and there is nothing that I can say to change that. I hope one day, you will be able to digest someone’s words without immediately disregarding them.

My safe place. Jesus. It may sound cliche, but it’s real. I am not always so good at going to Him, but I am getting better. You see, in the Bible, He promises that His burden is light (Mt. 11:28-10). Now that doesn’t mean we get to disregard the conflict, that we ignore it. Contrarily, there are many times when Jesus says life will be difficult, but if we walk with Him, if we seek Him, if we talk to Him, cry out to Him, trust Him, argue with Him, find rest in Him, then we can face the furnace and come out stronger. I cannot face most conflict alone. I need God there with me every step reminding me who He is, who I am and that these situations just mean I am being refined, becoming better.

I believe Jesus is the best and final solution to life’s troubles and I will tell you that, but I will also listen. How else can I grow?

Not Yet

This one is a doosie, so bear with me for a moment.

Yesterday was rough. Looking at the day itself I don’t know why, but I think given a larger context and further prayer and thought I am beginning to understand.

Part of the reason why I write is to understand. Understand myself that is, understand my situation from a bigger picture, understand what I am feeling. I have this great superpower where I am very good at understanding other peoples’ emotions, so well that it goes beyond understanding and becomes empathy. I feel along with them. The drawback, I don’t get me, I don’t understand my own feelings and I have great difficulty sorting them out.

Typically the best way for me to get a grip on what I am feeling is writing it down, which is why I do these posts, why daily devotions are a must, and most of all in sharing with someone. I pack up so much, my own emotions and often those of others, that I need a way of exhausting these emotions out. Venting helps. The problem with venting for me is that equal to my need to get my feelings off my chest is my desire to not burden those around me. So, in an effort to preserve those around me, I don’t share. I’ve been getting better but it’s a process.

There’s a lot going on in my life right now, a lot of stress.

I’ve lived in New York for 10 months and the only acting I’ve done is a bit part in a student film.

I’ve been working at Starbucks which (though I love the coffee business) it is draining and has been difficult between harsh managers, difficult customers, long commutes, and an erratic sleep schedule.

Money has been gradually been getting tighter and tighter. God has consistently providing but from the way it looks I don’t know how much longer I can be on this path unless something drastic changes.

When looking for ways to pursue theatre/acting all I come across is “Take more classes, invest in this photographer, spend money, spend money.” See above.

Recently a discussion with my manager rose up about the potential for promotion. Now while this appears so solve some problems, which is exciting, but it provides difficulties. One I think it will take much too long for it to solve some more immediate issues, but in the long run I don’t want to eventually manage a Starbucks, and it will limit flexibility for auditioning. I think I am supposed to decline this opportunity.

I’m scared. I know the truth. I know if God wanted me to be here, He’ll provide a way. I know there is nothing to fear, but I am still scared. More than anything I want this to not to be everything that is at the forefront of my mind. I hate that this fear is crippling me, stealing my joy, my passion.

Yesterday I was able to spend time with friends in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, which was amazing. They begin to ask about the acting thing and work, I briefly lamented my plight, but I thought that my lament had gone on long enough as they kept providing options (that I had thought of, mostly) and I kept explaining the difficulty with such options. I didn’t think I was adding much to the dialogue so I capped with, “I’m sorry I don’t want to keep going on about this. I hate that this is all I talk about”.

One responded with, “But that’s what you’re facing right now. It’s part of what you’re going through”.

I need help, I need friends to lean on and my reaction is to push people away because I don’t want to burden them with my problems (I’m even reticent about posting this, because I don’t like feeling helpless and needy and asking for help).

I’m going to keep going because I don’t know what else to do and I am believing and hoping God is already developing something because I don’t know what’s next. I want to speak positively. I don’t want to be negative. I want to be uplifting. I just need to figure out how. I know people will say I am crazy. People will say I am irresponsible and selfish to keep pursuing this and not just accepting what life is showing me. I just don’t know any other way. I cannot give up yet. Not yet.

Sidekick & Friend

A little over a week ago I was able to serve at Hillsong Conference here in New York. One of the greatest benefits of serving was being able to sit in on the sessions while we were serving. There were a lot of phenomenal speakers and I already mentioned how impactful Christine Caine’s session was for me,but there was onespeakeri was really looking forward to hearing, Judah Smith.

Judah Smith is a pastor in the Seattle area with a church about as big as Hillsong NY, plus church plants in LA and in Mexico that are thriving. He also wrote a book titled “Jesus is _______” (and more recently “Life is ______” but I haven’t read that one) which focuses on, simply put, the identity of Jesus. He explores a little of what culture views of Jesus, what the church views Jesus is, and then he really hones in on what the Bible says about Jesus and how that should be informing Christians on who Jesus is and how we ought to live as a response.

Now because of how little sleep I had gotten that weekend and because I had to open at work the day after conference, I elected to leave early on the last night. Much to my chagrin, that was when Judah would be speaking. After deliberating a bit I decided it would be most beneficial to everyone if I went home and slept before work.

Bummed as I was, I appreciated the sessions I was able to be a part of. I honestly didn’t think anything of it until a few days ago when I got an email from Pastor Brian Houston that thanked all the volunteers for serving and as a thank you, they attached the last session to the email. I was excited but decided leaving it until a later date. Today I listened to it.

Judah spoke about John, as he put it, “Jesus’ Bestie”. He spoke about 1 John 2:1-6. He explained that often the church understands John’s call to obedience as him saying that obedience is indicative of Salvation. That a true text of Salvation is obedience to Jesus. Emphatically, Judah made it clear that this was not the case. How could the guy who said, ” For God so loved the world, that he sent his son to die for all who believed” (my abridged version)? How could the guy who said Jesus was the one who stood for the sins of all the world (v.2) a few minutes later say Salvation is only evidenced in obedience? Rather, as Judah proclaimed obedience is the evidence, the proof, the visual representation of friendship. Jesus did not come just to save us, button be our friend.

He gave an example,

imagine you are saved by some cape wearing Superhero and the next day someone comes and tells you the Superhero wants to meet you, more than that he wants to be your friend.

Now, it may appear odd in the wording “obedient to friends” but imagine you are the Superhero’s sidekick, you ow e a lifedebt to this hero, so when the Superhero says, “lets go on an adventure today! Let’s save lives” you’ll get up and go tottering after him. Now John is speaking from experience, everyday for three years he got up uncertain of what the day would hold and totter after Jesus. Where Jesus went he, and the other disciples, would follow, whom he showed love to, they would mirror.

This simple thought was a perspective shift, this is what relationship with Christ looks like, getting up each day, “Alright Jesus where do I go today? Who will I love today?” We get to be his sidekick. Which will be evidenced. How could we claim to be his friend, to know Him well, and our life not look this way. This is the evidence of your relationship, that you’ve spent time with Him, that you’re starting to look like Him.

Now the tough question, what have I done today that shows He’s my friend?

Random Thoughts, Random Things

I love craft stores. Now, before you get judgmental I have this long dialogue planned to combat gender norms in order to explain away my fascination with them. Or I am just going to accept that I like this thing which not everyone likes and you’ll go along with it as you read. Accept it like some aspect of a TV show you love that seems out of sync.

I love craft stores, and here’s where it gets interesting, not because I love crafts. I mean I enjoy them just as much as the next person, I enjoy the craftiness of them, how unique and personal they are, but honestly making  crafts usually irritates me. I am a perfectionist so as a child when my crafts weren’t as good or better than the teachers craft I sulked away. Again yes, please don’t judge too harshly. I was a precocious child and I knew it to my detriment.

I digress, I have always enjoyed craft stores, because no matter what time of year there will be something in the store that has something Christmas related. And Christmas has always been a sanctuary of sorts for me. A place where I can relish in the sweet charms of good family time. Christmas is when everyone comes together and tries to be good and kind to one another. To love one another. Christmas is the time of year when people are okay with referring to Jesus, because he was a cute baby. Christmas is the time of year where people who don’t believe in God hum and sing worship hymns throughout their day.

Christmas gives me all types of feel goods, and it always has. It’s funny because as I was reminiscing about this, I remembered how as a kid I asked my parents to take me to this huge craft store (mostly filled with Christmas regalia through the year). You know what’s funny, they did. Not all the time because I’m sure it got old fast, but my parents, especially my mom would take me to this craft store in the middle of June so I could dream of Christmas. What a peculiar child. And they encouraged and loved me through it, I don’t think I’ve thanked them enough.

I also shared this special bond with my grandma (Granny) with craft stores and Christmas. She would take me to craft stores as well and we would talk about her various Christmas trees and their specific themes. We would talk about foods to make and decorations to put up. She would even send me her Christmas magazines and I would devour them, imagining Christmas.

Christmas has always been that place in time where everything is okay.

Don’t you think its cool how we can have those memories and times to go to that can fill us up with euphoria? Sometimes there are antagonists that try to take them away, but if you defend them they remain those good places. As I grow up I understand that reality is not always pleasant of kind and sometimes even those memories are rose hued but I think as long as you learn to grow and persevere through hard times there will always be those pockets of pure warmth and that’s okay.

Abide

I suppose today would be a good to share.

There’s been so many opportunities to write and potential prompts that I have passed up. There was the snowy walk around the school’s campus that I could have talked about, walking in step with God, making our impression on the world, leaving a legacy. There’s the fixing of my iPad and how it’s symbolic of being healed from brokenness and still having little things that remind you it was once broken. Then there’s my sickness, handling that, but no today I’ll talk about what I learned from speaking to a small crowd of people.

Every Wednesday at our school we have a chapel service where a student, RA, or intern will speak. I have felt the need to speak, we’ll share my story with my school since Winter Break and I didn’t move to New York. I wanted to talk about dreaming with God, holding onto the dreams that he has given us and trusting Him. When I was doing service prep I came across I was directed to John 15 where Jesus tells his followers how He is the vine dresser and we are the vine branches. We are to be attached to the main vine in order to bear fruit. We must abide in Christ and He in us.

In order to pursue life with Christ and to have Him give us he desires of our heart we are to abide in Him, to live every moment, good and bad, with God. It’s so important to live out the moments with God, to dream we him and learn to be content in knowing that God has you where you need to be right now.

I’d like to say I rocked the sermon, and others who heard it might say that, but really it was God. He had been preparing this message for me to share and then He gave me the words to say. It was later this afternoon that I got the most insight on my dreams than I had ever had. This afternoon was so good for me. On one hand, I had a meeting where I was told and directed to delegate more responsibility for the dinner theatre so I wasn’t caring most of the wait. This was such a needed piece of advice. I’ve been trying tondo it on my own for far too long.

Then I had a second meeting. This was one of those conversations that you remember for the rest of your life. There is a gentleman who just joined the staff of our school and his education background is in production. Needlessly to say he has been given authority over arts and worship at the school. We met together to talk about my role at the school, but it became more about me as a person.

I began to tell him more of my dreams (I had already shared a lot in the message earlier). As he sat there listening he nodded a lot and added little words of affirmation. Then when I stopped talking he said,

Greg, it sounds like you have two callings on your life. You feel called to the city, or at least you believe you do. You want to be in this city and you may feel called to live here. Far be it from me to tell you what you’re calling is, but it just doesn’t sit. The second calling, the one I have no question about is you have a calling to a people. You seem to think that you can only reach these people in this city, you are linking these callings. Word of advice don’t limit Gods calling to a place, limit it to a people. You feel called to share the gospel with and share love with the people who are lost, who are trying to find themselves, the artists and if I’m not mistaken in the way you’re talking, but young people at that.

It made so much sense. I do feel called to New York, eventually at some point in time, but more than that I feel called to the weird people the church doesn’t know what to do with, the artists and creative types. And as this many reminded me, these people are not just in New York.

I have been trying to reconcile these two for so long and it never clicked. I think I am afraid to let go of New York in the now because then it won’t happen, but I just need to remind myself that God will fulfil his promises and I am still young. I’ve realised I don’t know where I am going next, but right now I will continue to do what I have feel called to do: reach out to the lost who don’t know who they are, who don’t know what it means to be God’s creation.

God is God, I am not, I can trust that he is good and that he will come through with his promises, no matter the manner in what way, it will come.

Remember, God is fighting for you.