One Person's Trash... another's treasure. There are some people who can see beauty in anything. I want to be one of those people, though I admit I struggle to remain grounded in such a mindset. Life is filled with trash. No doubt trash fills our landscape everyday through our constant consumption of stuff. But physical trash is the least of our problems. Worse, we are barraged by idea-trash and this is even more tragic because our imaginations are stolen. Through our televisions, through our smart devices, through our work place banter, through our own inward self-talk... we are surrounded by and filled with junk--and encouraged to keep throwing out more and more of it.

And then come along those rare dreamers... who see a work of art in all this trash. We call these dreamers "artists" because they remind us that our greatest purpose in life is to have our eyes opened--to see the art hidden in everything, even seeming disappointment.

I want to be like that... a dreamer who refuses to be discouraged by all the trash--an artist who creates beauty out of the rubble. I want to see what can be, even while I acknowledge soberly what is. I want to inspire others to recognize the work of art within us--even despite our failures. Because if we will see through the trash--literally--we will discover a person, people, and another's treasure.

Oh, and this is why I love the gospel... because the good news says we are treasured by God regardless of our trash. Those around us may define us by our worst, or we may even define ourselves by the trash we have consumed... but the gospel says Jesus is the Great Artist, the Rare Dreamer who sees through the junk heap to Another's treasure. Jesus tells us that if we will come to God the Father through God the Son, we will become like Jesus, sons and daughters of God--His treasures.   

Something New is Happening...

My wife and I are getting ready to welcome our little girl into the world. 24 more days... This song/video is probably old to many, but was new to me and more relevant then ever. I pray something new is happening in your life too.

Do NOT try this at home...

By now, surely you've seen this 'most epic of splits'. jean-claude van damme, the man, the legend, the split-master and the childhood icon? yep, easily i watched every one of van damme's movies. my grade school and middle school friday nights often consisted of 2 or 3 movie rentals from blockbuster with my best childhood buddy, dave brengle. and over the years we saw the dozen-or-so martial arts dramas that always had a "training" scene where van damme would showcase his splits. ouch! probably the best known of these dozen is called 'bloodsport' (the popularity of which likely was the first domino to fall in the acceptance of mixed-martial-arts as a viable American juggernaut).

It's interesting to note that van damme lost his way somewhere along the road of movie stardom in the mid-90s. his movies began to bring in fewer dollars and his recreational habits may have become addictions under the stress created by lingering success. sadly, it is an all to common tale amongst the elite entertainers. today it strikes me that it may also be a tale we all have some experience in. relevance in the eyes of others can become something we chase in many areas of our lives--work, home, facebook, leaving-a-legacy etc. we want to be seen a certain way and when we feel we've lost control of how other people see us, we look for ways to intensify our presence and numb the pain of feeling lost. and in this van-damme story there is a reminder, maybe even a parable, that has a happy ending. you see, when van-damme was at his peak, he simply did what he loved to do...entertain through martial arts (and his epic splits). and here 20 years after his mega-stardom, we see that 'getting back to basics' is what propels him into relevance again. simple thought: who you are is enough--no acceleration or additives needed. continue patiently doing whatever you do best. recognition comes and goes in waves and has nothing to do with whether you're valuable. we get in trouble when we try to be more than we are (as channing tatum so vividly illustrates below :-))

Human Puppet

i think this is one of the most creative and funny (and clean) comedy bits i have seen in years. Nina Conti is a master ventriloquist who has pushed us outside the box of dummy puppets to, errr, human puppets. no doubt, one of the scariest experiences in the world is when we feel controlled by someone else but this is a refreshing example of when control is mutually beneficial for everyone--the audience, the controller and the controlled. this got me thinking about the idea that we are all controlled by someone. oh sure we're free people in a sense, but make no mistake about it we've all been influenced profoundly by significant figures. in a way we've all been dressed with a mask and voice of someone else's making. depending on the positive or negative traits of our influences we then act out the same behavior. just think about how easy it is to reflect your parents' behavior (or how hard it is to break the habits they passed onto you :-/).

paradox alert!!
what if the only way we can become free and non-determined is to surrender ourselves (behaviors, habits, addictions, good and bad) to the control of someone who has purely beneficent designs for our lives? if we could, like the human puppet above we would know that our lives would be controlled for the greatest possible good. AA (alcoholics anonymous) participants have embarked on this philosophy for over a century now--that to be free from control, we must be under the control of a Higher Power, who by definition has our good in mind. Step 1 & 2 read: "We admitted we were powerless over our past...Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."

i'm not for being controlled by Nina Conti--though she is super funny. i'm definitely not for being controlled by my past or by my circumstances. i'm hopeful that as our nation wrestles with civil liberties and security i'm not required to be controlled by my government. and yet, all these controllers (minus, Nina :-) will have their say in how i live my life. the good news is, there is a beneficent Sovereign greater than them all for whom i can bow my knee and offer my voice freely. i actually like the results when i finally admit that i am powerless and surrender to the Power that seems to set me free--and those whom i encounter. wherever i go, He seems to liberate those around me because liberty is contagious. paradoxical as it may seem, when i enslave myself to The Higher Power, i am free, funny, creative, joyful, able, peaceful, and filled with love. 

Creativity... being able to look at things upside down. sometimes the most inspiring works of art come to us in the most unexpected ways. we're talking about Christmas today @ MSC and it reoccurs to me how upside down Christmas truly is. the uncreated God of heaven, born on earth to Mary, fully human and revealed as the only begotten Son of God. woah.

there's so much there to digest...

in simple terms: Jesus is uncreated because He has always existed as God.

in more complicated terms: Jesus is begotten because though He is fully God, He is also born of the virgin Mary--therefore Jesus is fully human AND fully God.

in even more complicated terms: Jesus, the One and Only Begotten Son of God, like His Father is God. Jesus and His Father are One. They are God. as One God, They are still eternally distinct persons with One essence. Unlike His Father, Jesus became fully human and like His Father, He has always been fully God.

So, you see how upside down the story of Christmas is??? Jesus who has no beginning, allows Himself to experience the beginning of life as a baby in the belly of Mary. If God has always existed, why on earth (pun intended) would Jesus allow Himself to be born??

we LOVE creative reveals showing us what we could not otherwise see, right? wait for it, wait for we see!! and what if our God--the Creator Himself--knows this? moreover what if our Creator, uses this same upside down reveal within the story of life itself. His creative love is all around us but the drudge of life wears us down, and we become cynical, skeptical and blinded by the hurt of a broken world. and now, an upside down birth leads us to a right-side-up cross and reveals to us a God who experiences our struggle with us, and rescues us from blindness by showing us that though we cannot always be instantly delivered from our pain, God's love is right in front of us in the pain. and God's loving promise, through Jesus, remains the same "whoever believes in Me will not die but have eternal life."