a theif on the cross: restoring my vision of grace

There is a student that knows she has a test coming up and she is a good student and a hard worker so she studies ahead of time. She is prepared and goes to class the day of the test and she walks in a the other students in the classroom are doing some last minute cramming before the teacher comes in. the teacher comes in and says I hope all of you are ready because we have a test today that will determine whether you pass or fail the class, I hope you are all prepared. The professor instructs the class to not turn over the test until after all of the test are passed out so it is fair to everyone. After a few minutes he passes all of them out and while this is happening the girl is very confident that she is going to do well because she was a dedicated hard worker that was diligent with her work, so she is expecting to do well on the test. When everybody received the test the professor told the class to flip over the test and on the bottom of the test the girl read “ all the answers are filled in correctly for you, you have received 100 percent on the test, and all the work you have done is good in my eyes” all the students had the same thing written on the bottom of their test and they all looked up at the professor with astonishment and the professor said to them “ your professor has already done the work for you, there is no extra credit needed, no answer that is going to be more correct than the ones that are already on your answer sheet and no matter the amount of work you have done you will all have the same grade” the students were overfilled with joy
This past weekend this story was told to me and really helped restore my vision of grace. I come from a background where the word grace is not commonly used and is hardly lived out. You can imagine coming to understand grace may take a bit of time for me. I think I had sort of a break through this weekend if that is even possible with grace, but it was really helpful in clarifying what love is. Grace is one of those things that I think we will never fully know and experience. We may say we have experienced it or that we know what it is, but I question if we can say those things in their full capacity.
I have another story it is about 3 people being put to death for something they did. depending on what side you are on you would argue that some were innocent or guilty. All of them were revolutionaries in their own regard and as they were all there awaiting their death two of the persecuted convicts said something to the other convicted person. They each said something different. Person 1 had mocked person 3 because he thought he had enough power and strength to get himself free and out of the dire situation and person 2 said to person 3 remember me. 1 was mocking and 2 was pleading for help. person 3 had said to person 2 you will be remembered and because of the plead person 2 was accepted for eternity. If you could not tell already this is the story of Jesus on the cross. I do not want the focus to be on Jesus, though.
The other two people being put to death had two different responses in their last words, in the place where they could do no more in their life or try any harder to face their fate after their time on earth. each of them knowing this and from what is known they understood who Jesus was, but yet both of their responses were different. When a sacrifice was made for the sake of restoration one person was ignored and the other was brought into paradise. This man was convicted of a crime and in the last hours of his life he was accepted into eternal life. some may say he got the easy way, but I say he received grace.
This grace that is given when it is not deserved is what I hope my vision can be restored to someday. If I am honest I do not see grace fully in that way yet. This grace shows me that I am fully justified and thought about. All the prayer rituals and bible studies are just add one’s in know the restorer in a deeper way. Just like the girl that studied for the test, she had received the same grade that the students had received that were studying for the test right before class. For her benefit she had a greater knowledge of each component that the teacher was going to test her on that allowed her to see into the core of the teacher’s purpose. Just like the students that did not study or the man being put to death next to Jesus we need to recognize that we do not deserve what was done for us and even when we are staring death in its face we can call out for help and ask to be remembered. You have the choice to accept or deny the restorer. Seeing grace from the vantage point of these two stories has really helped my comprehension of grace and refocused my vision on returning to my heart to its original state.
When you are faced with the test what are you going to do?

Will Frozen continue to melt hearts: see how our need for forgiveness is displayed in Frozen

            Now that the song “Let it go” is engrained in our minds by either the little children around us singing it nonstop or the hundreds of different versions of it on You Tube, it is undeniable that Frozen has hit a phenomenal level. With the movie release upon us and after the first day of being on sale it sold 3.2 million copies. now , I wonder how lasting the phenomenon will be. whether it will continue to make it into homes at the same rate that it has been consumed while in the theaters. The ability to experience the movie all over again vicariously through the soundtrack allows the connection from Frozen to be felt in a continuous way. Folks that are sucked into the witty, warm, authentically real entrapment that the movie have been stirred emotionally, mentally, intellectually, and for me spiritually. After seeing the movie the first time I left the theater wondering if a Christian screen writer wrote this movie. Yes I know Jesus was not in the movie and it can be picked a part in many ways for having worldly influences in it, but I felt like this was the closest analogical illustration of forgiveness and graceful reconciliation that I have seen in a while. I think this is what will make this movie a lasting mark on the people they have been encapsulated by Frozen.

 

          The title of the hit song “Let it Go” says it all about the way people are connected with the movie. It hits home with people. we all need to forgive and should forgive others just as we have been forgiven. forgiveness is freeing just as you imagine letting go would’ve. You do not have to follow Jesus to know this about forgiveness because we have all experience in some small way, but yet we still keep coming back and wanting more of it. We all want forgiveness because without it we don’t have relationships that are strong and restorative. forgiveness is the foundation of restoration and without it we are just in isolation like the queen and the princess.

          So here are some things we can learn about forgiveness from Frozen, maybe you will be able to relate to some of these and see that your stirring during Frozen was not about a princess being swept off her feet but about the need for forgiveness in your life.

 

  1. Things that we need to forgive are often revealed to us by unintended actions by others
  2. Forgiving yourself is important but not as important as knowing you are already forgiven
  3. To forgive, we need to see where the other person is coming from and not think that our way is the best way
  4. Meeting someone in their pain does not mean confronting their pain
  5. Forgiveness is a state of heart, it is something that does not have to be stated
  6. Reconciliation and restoration can not happen unless you have forgiven
  7. It is best to have somebody walk with you through the path of forgiveness
  8. Receiving repentance from the other person is easier achieved when accepting the person and their pain as one
  9. Our past hurts compound if they are not dealt with
  10. Pointing out how big of a problem the persons hurt is causing will make things worse
  11. If the motive for reconciliation is not selfless then it won’t work
  12. Sacrifice is the best way to start the path of reconciliation

          One of my favorite lines in the movie was “the mind can be cured but when the heart is hit then it can be deadly”. I think this is so true and why forgiveness is in such demand. we often get hurt but we often forget to do the work to restore the relationship. what happens to the heart can not be undone and that scares us so we build walls. luckily those walls can be broken down, but it is going to require selfless sacrificial action. this is what accomplishes reconciliation and restoration. Unfortunately the movie did not touch on these themes too long, but I hope for this in the supposed sequel movie.

Restoring “the word”: how words cause us to disconnect by having a lost meaning

words can become so ambiguous and misleading in their usage that they become unusable in their original meaning, 

I was reminded of this today when is read an article that was about how a particular group of people want to be disassociated with a category of people but the author was displaying that the attributes that the people from this particular group  were putting down were minor things compared to the defining characteristics that were at the root of what it was they were trying to disassociate from. This is all about word play and a label that people do not want to be titled under. A relatable sediment would be like a person claiming to not be a racist and still support slavery or a person claiming to not be a  sexist but still have no problem with prostitution. it is the title that the person is trying to avoid because of the negative implications that are tied to it. the negative aspect of this is that particular words become so abused that they lose their meaning. words need to be restored because it has come to a point that folks are getting hurt because of misused and ambiguity of words.

 

Sticks and stones break my bone but words will never hurt me. this is wrong! Words do hurt and they have great power.  And the miss use of this power leads to hurt and is the result of much pain and suffering. I myself recall when I was younger my peers and I would throw around words like poser, biter, loner, retard and other derogatory’s that we did not know the full meaning of. These words had left myself and other peers that I had with a deep sense of inferiority due to a label that we had heard daily. These words cause a disassociation to take place, not only by the person misusing the word, but by the person it was used towards. Fortunately for disassociation there can be re association  and that comes through restoration from the bad to the good.

As a friend of mine says in a song he wrote “we need to know the bad before we know the good”, so that we can see the need. in this case it is the need for the restoration of “ the word”. “The word” can be different for all types of people and one key way that you can find out what “the word” is for you is to recognize what some trigger words may be that make you feel distant from somebody or what are you extremely enthusiastic in making sure your stance is known because that will probably be pushing away other people. people want connection with people not idea’s or arguments and when we have the disassociation caused by a misuse of the word then that leads to rejection and eventually isolation and that is not love.

Common conception have been built around  the misuse and ambiguity of common words. Popular ones that I recognize in the culture I come from is: liberal, republican, feminist, racist, missionary, Christian, Muslim, and homosexual. This is a non-extensive list of  words that I have noted to use in a mindful way and even sometimes choosing to not use them at all because I have noticed that the use of the word would not be baring its intended meaning. I have realized this does not help  restore these miss used words but instead leaves room for the demonization to persist. 

Words become lost and when something is lost then its purpose is not known. One of the ways I am seeing this play out in my life right now is with the word missionary mainly because I am going to South Africa to work with a nonprofit, but it has got me thinking about how the use of this word has become lost. It seems the annoying door to door  trying to sell you on their personal revelation or hand you a flyer in hopes to convert you or bring you over to their side has falsely conceived what a missionary is. if you asked me a missionary is someone with a purpose, so you can see how we can all be missionary’s in a way. This is a common misconception taking place. the question is  how can we break the misconception without arguing a point or telling somebody they are wrong. We reject the idea but not the person. We are in charge and have the ability to choose what we believe. When we stand for what we believe in that takes pride, but pride is the enemy of acceptance. We cannot accept everything so we need a basis and the basis I prescribe is love.

This may take effort, but we need to change our words to be more about people instead of a stance or argument. One of the easiest and best ways this has happened for me is simply by asking what do you mean so that there is clarity. this shows you want to learn and that you have a stance of humility and surprisingly when this happens to me it is refining and challenges me to think about what I am believing in. it is alright to say “I don’t Know”, you don’t need to know it all and it actually opens the door for others to inform you about a certain topic so that a word or idea is not misused again. Don’t put the person down for their ignorance or arrogance  because that just shows you do not care about them as a person. Words are deeply relational and can bring people together or break them a part. Restoration of “the word” starts with restoration of the heart, Be accepting of the person that is where the restoration happens.

What words cause you to  disconnect and need to be restored?

why mainstream sucks: a look into restoring creativity

Ok this is for all you people that love generalities, well not really because I was  being sarcastic about loving generalities. It is interesting that I planned to write this post today because just this morning there were two other interesting articles that were posted on creativity. One of the most striking points came from a commenter that  said” All of us were created with creative potential – because we are made in the image of our Creator God.” When we don’t live up to our potential then we get this feeling that things are just not good enough. This is where we can turn back towards our created state. I guess you can call this creative restoration. 

There is a popular critique of mainstream things either it be music, clothes, toys, or fonts. We all want to have our little touch on something and I think at the core of it we want to have our creative expression acknowledged. Creative expression can happen in so many different ways and I think the one that sticks out to me the most is living a life of love to make every experience beautiful for this is when life will become a work of art. I think The mainstream critique comes from a place of not having the creative potential completely fulfilled, so we critique or extend our measures to express ourselves in a greater way.

We often get stuck in a certain formula or structure for what we like or how we live and it often takes the creativity out of things and this is why mainstream sucks. Yes this is the generality and there will be exceptions, but for the most part we live in a silver Honda civic blue jean kind of  society. We stick with what works and for the utility purpose this is good, but for the creative potential this makes us complacent and we start to loose connection with ourselves and the world. One of the biggest ways I see this decline of creativity happening is through mass production and the homogenization of culture and society.( making a norm or a standard) well sorry to break it to you folks that don’t like generality’s but this decline of creativity is because you have been generalized and told what to like by media and corporate driven interest. I am not saying that consumption is bad, but that we should creatively consume and simply by that I mean express yourself don’t let somebody else express you.

One of the most common markets that I hear critique’s about is music and admittedly I am one of the critic’s. music is easy to critique because you can easily get the feeling that you are listening to the same thing or things sound repetitive. Weather it is a beat or a plot of a song they can stop seeming creative after a while because we instinctively realize that we have heard it before. We do not want to be able to guess what is going to come next because we want something new and something creative. Unfortunately for the mainstream music industry they utilize a new sound or style until it is used up to the very end so they can get all that they can out of it and then often it will even be reused again. One of my favorite critiques of the music industry came from an artist named Gungore and he said it is pretty bad when you can turn on a song  by going to a random station on the radio and not know the artist or station and know what the song is going to be about in the first 3 seconds of hearing the song. Gungore was talking about a specific niche in the music industry but I think his point hit the nail on the head about our state of creativity. What I realized after hearing Gungore’s point was that we rely on others to get our idea of who we are or what we should create and that diminishes our personal expression of creativity and the presentation of who we are.

We have the ability to be creative because we were created with it, but unfortunately we are not tapping into it. we have value fitting in and sticking with the mainstream  instead of creatively expressing ourselves. Yes creativity takes more work and it even takes practice, but it is worth it because that is when you feel alive and connected. Restore your creativity it is worth the investment.

As I continue to grow in my creative expression and think about ways that I can connect in a more meaningful way I will encourage you to do the same by leaving  you with: 

-a question, How could you step into a new way of being creative? ( let me know I would like to listen)

-a link to a great article on the calling of creativity

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/are-you-called-create

refocusing the purpose of repentance on relational restoration

I recognized a few years ago that I would get really frustrated when people would say “I am sorry” and it took me a while to figure out why that was. I knew it was something I did not like. The words felt hollow to me, like there was not any backing or meaning behind them. .  I recently discovered this through a few conversations with some close people in my life and through further discovery of my great interest in restoration. I noticed the most frustration whenever somebody would say they are going to do something and then do not do it. That is falling short, or missing the mark. Some call it a lie, some call it not keeping your word, or some call it a let down. I would say at the core it is all of these things. A very famous person named Jesus once said, “Do not swear upon anything not even your father or mother because you can not tell what is going to happen tomorrow,” and in a similar instance he said “let your yes be a yes and your no be a no.” We will all fall short of this, including myself, but it is extremely relevant to restoring our vision. Keeping your word and having integrity behind your actions is difficult in many ways but it will bring clarity to how you view life. 

One of the ways that I want to show this is through repentance. This I realize is a difficult and sensitive topic, but I feel it is a necessity if we want to walk in a restorative way. For some, I recognize that repentance can bring up feelings of condemnation, guilt, rejection or self-righteousness. These things I hope can be restored in you. Repentance is a big word and there is much meaning behind it, but I am going to be working with the specific part that looks at the action part of the definition. What I am speaking of is the act of recognizing what is being done or has been done and turning away from it to move towards a direction of love. 

The reason that I bring up this action part of repentance is because repentance is a necessary step in restoration. We often do not keep our word when we say that we repent, but we merely treat it as a way of saying sorry or contemporarily “my bad”. This is not enough because we forget the part of turning away and walking towards love. We can not lightly throw around repentance, but we should do the opposite and embrace it daily and routinely. As Tim Keller says, “repentance is a way of life.” What I am not saying is that we should be ritualistic or religious with our repentance because that would make it a behavior modification and repentance is about heart transformation, which is why it is a necessary step in restoration. 

The reason we need to keep our word or value our integrity is because repentance is the step after forgiveness and before reconciliation in the restorative process. It is the middle ground that brings the two parties back together. If we do not mean what we say when we repent then it is empty, weak, and meaningless. In the great words of Michael Franti, “say what you mean and mean what you say”. For those that have been hurt by people that have used the word repentance towards you in a hurtful way or for those who use it in a ritualistic way, I hope this restores your vision of repentance and gives you hope in the purpose of repentance. Remember if you recognize you are doing something that is missing the mark and do not turn towards love then that is not love, but is rejection and pride. If repentance is not bringing you back into a restorative relationship with love then it is not being used the right way. Open your eyes for the Kingdom of God is here, so now repent. Repentance is the path to restoration.

my second chance: how I came to believe in redemption and restoration

 

a chance is always given, but is it always taken. a second chance can only be made a send chance when it is accepted, received and enacted upon. I would say there are better second chance’s than others some may find their second chance in drugs, school, rehab, but the one second chance that will not have to make you look for another one is Jesus. I did not know that right away when I was looking for my second chance. You see I was only able to get through my onset of my disease that would soon make me blind because of the strength that I found in my sister. at the age of 16 when most kids would be getting their driver’s license, going on first dates, winning championships, getting good grades to get into a good college, getting their first job. well those things were not able to happen for me. I did not have the mind set or the adherence to take this push back in stride. as a teenager that was still forming his identity I took this as a step backwards instead of asking myself what can I do with this, I asked myself what does this make me. to my friends at the time felt it made me lesser of a person because well they left me. at first emotionally, but then physically. I had already been battling not being able to do things the way I had before. I was pretty much lost in school, was not useful at work, hockey team could not use me, I did not know what to do at home, and girls that I desired wanted nothing to do with me.

I was grasping for something to give me a hint of life to keep me above water. I did that, but I did it to a point where I was just getting through the days, not caring to much about life, disregarding it had any meaning, but just caring about feeling good . I thought I found my second chance when I met this girl that I feel head over heels for. I thought I found meaning and reason for my disease. it was to led me to this girl. it was my second chance that was going to redeem all my previous relationships and finally find someone that would accept me for me. well that fairy tale did not come true. Some the next 11 months I was heartbroken over that girl and continued my voyage of trying to feel good and keep my head above water. to sum up the next 2 and a half years, I spent it trying to find my second chance in girls, mainly one abusive one that I kept giving the better part of my heart too. needless to say my second chance efforts were wearing thin. I had become desperate in my efforts to find a girl. I had never been a spiritual person, but I always felt life had more of a meaning that what I was being raised to believe, even though spirituality  was not a big topic in my house I still could not break away from this idea that things happen for a reason and there is meaning for what happens in life. my pursuit of girls had distracted me from thinking about this any deeper and once I met “the” girl my mind and heart was just focused on pleasing her, sweeping her off her feet, and making sure she did not leave. well I was successful in that, but little did I realize there was a meaning and purpose for being with her because she had played a role in my drawing near to Jesus. I would soon find out when I would move away to go to UCSB and Jesus would finally show me it is time to give my life over to him. this was the beginning of my second chance, but I did not yet realize it. I was still learning that I was accepted and did not have to try to be anything or do something to please anybody which included god. I think acceptance is the basis of a good second chance. my second chance was built on finding meaning for all the things that happened earlier in my life. the loss of friends, not being able to drive, not being able to go away to school and play hockey, all the heart breaks, the emotional void I had with my parents. there was all a purpose for those things. they were intricately woven to make sure I knew I was deeply and long fully thought about and loved. it took a while for me to understand this, but once I did I started to make sense of all the things in my life. the biggest thing I realized though in this process is that this second chance is not a fresh start or a reboot, but it is a sort of redemption. I still had all the things that happen to me in the past and the impact that it will continue to have on my life, but I was now able to see that the second chance allowed me to put a new meaning to those things that happen to me. this had not only allowed me to be grateful for the hardships, but it allowed me to view and love people in a different way. I was hopeful which is something I could never say before. I was able to find meaning and purpose in my life like there was a reason for me being in Santa Barbara, me having the major I did, and meeting seemingly random people. living this life full of meaning did not only give me peace and hope for what was once broken, but it allowed me to life for something other than myself. I saw others and the reason that I am was to do something bigger than what I wanted to do earlier in my life. something bigger than playing hockey and sweeping girls off their feet. it was to make known this restoration and redemption that happened in my life and show others that they are surely loved. I was able to see where I was at had a reason, where I had been had a reason, and where I will be will have a reason. the only question that is left is what am I going to choose that reason to be. that is the thing about a second chance, it is a choice and you have to choose it and you are responsible for that choice.

the choice that I am making now is to love my past, to love my core, to love myself, and to love my god, so that I can love others. I am a firm believer in the restoration process that I went through. my impairment has allowed me to be prepared to invite others into that process, so they too can have justice with their past. I would like to be able to join both of these things together and teach and implement a restorative justice program that redeems sociological and personal problems, so that others can have hope too.

daily lessons 2013: idea’s, teachings, and experiences in valuing life in a greater way

Last year at the beginning of April I decided to log a daily lesson per day. I was inspired to do this by my friends photo project. I wanted to be able to capture a part of my day each day that left an imprint on me through something I heard, learned, or experienced that caused me to value life in a greater way. At the beginning of each month I will be releasing the coinciding month. These are lessons from the year previous, so this will be April of 2013. 

April 1: it is better to often talk about the impact of somebody else’s story than to talk about your own story “ 

April 2: “an inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered

April 3: the recognition of one’s own possessions as not their own  is the beginning of the distributing process of blessing”

April 4th: we always have to be ready to surrender our comfort, desires, and pleasures to bless others”

April 5:  there is not an absolute formula to share the gospel there fore there is not an absolute formula to live the gospel  

April 6 petty arguing is cute especially when it is done between old people “ 

 

April 7th:  letting the holy spirit guide your words is so freeing  and effortless, it just feels so natural like it was what we were created for. 

April 8th if you have a good idea write it down, good ideas are not worth forgetting” 

April 9th: I wonder what Jesus felt like walking around Jerusalem and seeing all the people far from god with their idols in other things than God “ 

April 10  there is no formula for liking somebody or specific or magical reason for wanting to be with them, but just what attracts you to them and your reason for loving them

April 11: Jesus is our friend and we often forget that gift, so we should pray for it. 

April 12th:  so many blessings of gifts and wisdom are for god to show us he loves us, it is  proof he provides love (

April 13 the culture of Christianity and what it means to be a Christian  are often misunderstood  and it is our duty to live a life that corrects the misunderstanding because we as a communication to God’s lost people

April 14  just because you have words to say does not mean that they are going to helpful or show you are caring

April 15:  use critique sparingly, but walk with people constantly

April 16: to hear from god requires a quieting of our desire to have god tell us our future, but instead a greater understanding of who he is  and desire to hear him instead of trying to know what is going to happen in our life 

April 17: when we fear something before we even take action, we are disallowing ourselves to see God’s faithfulness. 

April 18th:  we are commanded to follow Jesus in the same way that he tended to the flock of sheep

April 19th the relationship with Jesus is something that is under preached and is not referenced enough so be relational, 

April20th  joy is contagious and it gives strength

April 21: sometimes I wonder if I am just one phone call from my knee’s “

April 22: passion is contagious, so be passionate and others will follow and be excited for what you are doing

April 23: it is quite easy to give a blessing, just tell somebody to have a blessed day, often a blessing is just waiting for us to open our eyes and see that it is in front of us

April 24thhearinga  laugh of a loved one is very under rated, 

April 25th: just being you are seeking righteousness does not mean something is going to work to favor your immediate situation

April 26th: be real, be real real son

April 27th:ourselves often get in the way of allowing us to be who we really are due to our of our self-focus

April 28th: the idea that time fixes everything is a cop out to see God move in your life and to go to him 

April 29: just do it, like Nike. Big things happen by just starting something and allowing others to join with you. 

April 30th: truth is something that needs to be used specifically, but love is something that should be used constantly