Tuesday, November 24, 2009

INTERN BLOG: Indie Hipsters (Or Why I Dont Fit In)

Currently Enjoying: Andy Gullahorn, Drew Holcomb, Mat Kearney, Jars of Clay

I am not an indie hipster. In fact, I am not really hip or in style at all. There are many reasons for this fact. The first and perhaps foremost is my fashion sense. Believe it or not, I actually like the hipster vibe (although I don't think I will ever think skinny jeans for guys is a good choice) but I am simply too cheap to buy new clothes to fit that vibe. And, though I am not fat (or at least I dont think I am), I am not skinny or muscular enough to wear tight shirts and jeans. Perhaps I am just not confident enough to pull it off, but it just doesnt feel like me, it feels like a fake me, a show. My musical tastes also don't fit the hipster bill. At first blush, it may seem like I could fit in; I like a lot of the music Relevant likes, I think fun. is a great band, I enjoy creative hip-hop like QTip, and I know a hecka lot of good (but unknown) musicians. But then again, I am also currently listening to the new Casting Crowns, think the latest Steven Curtis Chapman is one of his best, and I own a lot of country cd's. That is an immediate disqualification.

I dont fit in with indie hipsters. I don't fit in with the gospel choir I sang with in college, the jocks I played with in high school, the church people I hang with currently, my frat boy college roommates, or really any other social cast that I have been around in the past few years. It has been something I have felt all my life. In high school I was on the football team but hung out with the God-squad (my sweet Bible study filled with my best friends). I didn't really fit in perfectly to either. In college, I was involved with Campus Crusade but also hung out with a lot of people who really weren't big fans of Christianity (read most of my dorm-mates). I wanted to fit in everywhere and found out I didn't really fit in anywhere. Post college was Rome, Italy and Agape Italia; though I found a family in this group, I also struggled frequently with inferiority issues. And around my Italian friends, I was often the Protestant among the Catholics, the American among the Italians, the outsider.

I think it is something I need to get used to. This desire to fit in isn't a bad thing; God created us to live in community. I am pretty convinced that the feeling that I don't fit in completely is also not a bad thing; to quote an old hymn, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through." The writer in Hebrews 11:13-16 says, talking about some All-Stars of the Old Testament, that "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." I want my attitude to reflect theirs. Instead of getting bitter, to look forward to the Heavenly country. I think if I do, I will be able to live better here on earth.

Monday, November 23, 2009


This is a video that my buddies at Ole Miss made of my dear friend Davide, from my past year in Rome. This video is pretty fantastic and makes me miss Davide a lot. Check it out.

Friday, November 20, 2009

INTERN BLOG: Prayer and the Facade

You can also find this post by clicking HERE

Have you ever heard of someone described as a prayer warrior? Probably used far too often, it is something that my Mom excels at. My brother Ben used to joke that he has found about 10 wallets because my Mom prayed that he would (including one that fell through a hole in the floorboards of his old beat-up truck and was returned by some random motorist). I got a letter from my Mom this week that says "What a resource prayer is - how awesome the power and privilege of prayer!" and then goes on to talk about the 50 million prayer requests that come from having 7 kids (add in another 6 in-laws) and 11 grand-kids.

The thing about my Mom is that she says something like that and backs it up, shows with the many hours on her knees that she believes it. I far too often say I believe in the power of prayer and offer up selfish prayers or none at all on any given day. Do you do the same thing? Far too often my view of God is full of the right things in my head and that distance from head to heart is a couple hundred miles. My experience this week taught me, yet again, how much I have to learn about trusting God and having a right view of him. Turns out, as I learned, when you get your view of God right, it doesn't simply fix the situations and conflicts in life, but it takes away the anxiety that comes from being a selfish punk and trying to fix it all myself.

When I was a senior at Miami University, I remember a leadership team meeting for Campus Crusade for Christ. In a time of confession (which was absolutely beautiful and soul-baring, but that's another story), one of the kids confessed that he was simply having a hard time trusting God that God could or would heal his Mom, who had a debilitating stroke. As he broke down, he asked for prayer (or maybe one of us asked if we could pray for him, I don't remember which) and so we all gathered around him and began to pray. I opened up and starting praying for my friend Pat, that he might be able to trust God. I realized as I was praying for him, I didn't believe a word I was saying. I was just saying empty words, not believing they would have any impact.

Have you ever been at that point where you just break? I am not a guy who cries a lot, maybe averaging one good cry a year, but I just broke. I was done with putting up the Christian facade, the happy face that trusting God was easy and if I prayed in a solemn, serious and somewhat passionate voice, that I could convince others, that I could convince myself, that I actually believed what I was praying. What should have been a prayer for Pat turned into a confession to the Lord that I wasn't believing Him for His promises. I didn't have anything profound to say and I didn't have answers. As tears poured down my face and my voice cracked, I simply told God I was having trouble trusting Him. I told him that I didn't really believe what I was saying at the time. I asked for help. And I finished praying without a tidy resolution.

The circumstances didn't change. As far as I know, Pat's Mom is still having a rough go of things. Prayers dont always get answered and I sometimes get scared to pray them. My doubts and insecurities and attempts to put up a mask still creep in. But in that moment, and many subsequent moments, my heart was refreshed, was breathed into, was lightened. Honesty can do that to you, especially when it is honesty in front of my Creator. Who am I kidding anyway? He already knows whats in my heart. I need to operate with a right view of God every day, every moment of everyday. When I take a minute to step back and take in the sunset, thanking him for his glory and holiness, it puts Him on the level He should be and me on my level, which is much lower than His. And it once again helps me believe, let go, and fall into His arms.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More Duets

What can I say, I am sucker for duets between sweet singers. Check out The Civil Wars music video for "Poison and Wine." If you like it, head on over to their website at www.thecivilwars.com and download a free live CD that is pretty rad.

My Modeling Career

Relevant Magazine just published a college guide, including one that is a guide to choosing Seminaries. If you are looking into Seminary, I would imagine this is a worthwhile read. However, in a bit of shameless (and humorous) self promotion, check pages 13 and 17 for the start of my modeling career. I am definitely going to ad these to my portfolio :) To check out the guide, CLICK HERE

Monday, November 16, 2009

I Lost My Job... Now What?

No, this is not a statement about my life but it the title of an article that I wrote today for RelevantMagazine.com. So if you have lost your job, or if you are simply interested in reading what I wrote, go on over the THIS LINK HERE and check out "I Lost My Job...Now What?"

Friday, November 13, 2009

INTERN BLOG: Don Miller and Vulnerability

This is also found on Relevant's website by CLICKING HERE

Today Don Miller stopped by the office of Relevant Magazine. I am a big fan of Miller's style of writing, finding it highly engaging, easy to read and with nuggets of Truth told in story. So to turn around and see him talking with others was my geek out moment of the day. To add to it, in a hilarious stroke of coincidence the exact same minute he walked in (and this is not an exaggeration) is the fact that a friend has just sent me a gchat message asking if I had read his new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The same minute! Go figure.

All this Don Miller-ness in my life prompted me to go to his website and check out the latest on his blog. In doing this I ran across this quote: "2. Confession: Half the time, if not more than half, I am full of bullshit [sorry if you are offended by the language, but it is a quote and I though an accurate use of the word]. I share what will make me look good. If I am vulnerable, I share just enough vulnerability to be perceived as vulnerable, rather than to actually humiliate myself so that others can talk more openly about their own insecurities. I also leak in my accomplishments, and I’ve become a master at it. I don’t even know I am doing it half the time, and the other half I strategically list my accomplishments so that they come off as dismissive or “in passing.”

Oh the truth in this statement for my own life! I completely and totally know what he says about sharing "enough vulnerability to be perceived as vulnerable." It is quite a shameful practice. In fact, I had my own moment with that last night at the small group I am a part of from my church. In the Bible Study, I had written something down to the effect that "I know that my life without God is messed up so I pursue God for peace and comfort. In essence, I am pursue God for selfish means, I focus on God because really I am focusing on me. How do I pursue God for the sake of pursuing God?" I shared this with the group and everyone started chiming in. And a funny thing happened.

As people gave me their two cents on how to pursue God as an end goal and what they thought about pursuing God for "selfish reasons", I found myself being slightly put off. The thought that ran through my head was, "yea, I totally know this guys, you dont have to tell me." And I realized that I was being completely arrogant and being vulnerable enough just to be perceived as deep, as vulnerable, but not willing to let people speak into my life. What a shame! For the record, one of the girls shared a beautiful point that "The more you pursue God for whatever reasons, the more you see Him for who He is, the more you will be compelled to worship." Profound.

I want to be humble, but I admit I can be a slave to checking how many people have read my blog or my articles I write for Relevant. I need practice at humility. I want to be vulnerable but I dont allow people to see the truly ugly parts of my life, the times I lose my patience or curse or am a proud punk are well camouflaged . I need practice with vulnerability. I want my life to give glory to God, for those to read, see, hear what I say or do and say "What an amazing God he serves," not "What an amazing kid he is." And I need practice. I am thankful that God forgives when I fail.

Musical Candy

I like these people, I think this is beautiful.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Heads Up

My brother is passionate; he is passionate about his family, about his church, about his faith, and about helping others. This passion led him to start something called Heads Up, a program to help urban youth in Lancaster PA unleash their potential. Through the arts, they draw kids out and show them that they are worth something, they can succeed, that they can be a force for change, that they can be who they are created to be. It is a big endeavor and I am proud of him for doing it. Like any non-profit, they are looking at creative ways to raise money and one way they are doing it is a raffle. They have some sweet prizes (made even better if you are from their area) that anyone can use, the obvious best being the Grand Prize of PRS Custom 22 Electric Guitar (I have no idea what that means other than its estimated value is around $10,000). So, as my public service announcement, click on the banner below, educate yourself about the Heads Up programs and buy some raffle tickets to help support. Who knows, you could end up with something sweet.

Selling Jesus

Two for two! For the second day in a row, I have a piece published on RelevantMagazine.com. This one is called Selling Jesus, and focuses on the always controversial Christian products industry. I interviewed Aurelio Barreto of the clothing store C28 and clothing line Not Of This World and Mark Bontempo of the company Testamints. After interviewing these guys, I want to be clear that I have a lot of respect for their companies, their hearts, and how they go about business. You may not like what they sell but I have a lot of respect for them. So go on, CLICK HERE to read the article, and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Switchfoot - Hello Hurricane

I reviewed the newest Switchfoot album on RelevantMagazine.com today. It truly is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, album of this year. Check out my review and let me know what you think (both of the writing and of the album). CLICK HERE to link directly to the website.

Friday, November 6, 2009

INTERN BLOG: The Forgotten God

This is also found on my INTERN BLOG with Relevant Magazine.
Currently Enjoying: Ives the Band, PW Gopal, Luna Roslyn

A while ago we reviewed a book called "The Forgotten God" by Francis Chan on the subject of the Holy Spirit. Recently I picked up the book to check it out myself and it is challenging me in many ways so I thought I would challenge you with some of his thoughts. How often do you think about the Holy Spirit? I interned with Campus Crusade for Christ, a group who considers the Holy Spirit and living a "Spirit-filled life" essential to the Christian walk. Yet it is something I don't consider nearly enough.

I am currently attending a church plant here in Orlando. I have been a part of young churches before, some great, some not so great. I was challenged by Chan's thoughts on churches; "Even our church growth can happen without Him. Let's be honest: If you combine a charismatic speaker, a talented worship band, and some hip, creative events, people will attend your church. Yet this does not mean that the Holy Spirit of God is actively working and moving in the lives of the people who are coming." How challenging is that when thinking about why we even attend church? Do we go for the speaker and band or do we seek out where the Holy Spirit is moving and active?

Chan gets more personal later, challenging a common view that I am guilty of, the need to "cover for God." He highlights that many people have the fear that, "What if I pray for the Holy Spirit and nothing happens? What is I ask for more of the Spirit's fruit in my life and don't see any apparent 'results.'" I know that there have been times in my life that I have prayed for this, for good things, and nothing has happened. That hurts. "It's scary to pray boldly for change or freedom from sin, because if nothing happens, then doesn't that mean God failed?" Chan points towards God's promises; am I truly praying for what God promises or what I want? And what are my motivations, really, when I am praying? For my comfort and convenience or God's glory. "It really comes down to trust. Do you trust God that when He says no or "not in this way" to you, you still believe He is good and doing what is best?"

Just a few paragraphs later, Chan challenges if I even truly want to know what God's will is. If God's will for me is to move to India and live among the untouchables, would I want to do it? Would I be willing? Perhaps, for me, an example a little closer to home... If God wanted me to break up with my girlfriend whom I love very much, would I be willing to listen to His Spirit? Would I want to hear His Spirit tell me that? I want to say yes but there are days when I think, "No God, there is no way you could ask me that, that is an area of my life that is too good to change." And while it is an area of my life that is amazing, I bet Abraham thought the same thing when God asked him to give up Isaac. "The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be. The Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be." I dont think that God is telling me to give up my girlfriend, but the question is would I be willing if He was?

One of the challenges that I have felt as I have read this is why I want to experience the Holy Spirit working in my life. Chan asks "Do you want to experience more of the Holy Spirit merely for your own benefit? When the answer is yes, then we are no different from Simon the magician, who tried to buy the Holy Spirit's power from the apostles." Right now I am looking for a job and have found myself asking for the Lord's direction in what's next. Yet I am realizing that more often than not, I am doing that to try to get my life in order and not to glorify God with what I do with my life. It is not wrong to want to get my life in order, but when that is the end, well, it's not a good thing. Why do you want to experience the Holy Spirit? "The Holy Spirit was given to direct us. Desiring the Holy Spirit means that we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. By definition, it's ridiculous to desire the Holy Spirit for our own purposes. The Holy Spirit is not a passive power we can wield as we choose. The Spirit is God."

I am not done with the book but I am thankful for the challenges it is throwing my way. One of the last things I read talked about the reasons we can't hear what God is trying to tell us; the volume of our life drowns Him out. Jesus didn't have email, voicemail, iPod, text, twitter and whatever else yet he still found it necessary to escape to a silent place. "Our lack of intimacy is often due to our refusal to unplug and shut off communication from all others so we can be alone with Him." It is a challenge that I want to learn from and grow in this weekend.

Another amazing recipe

Thanks to Ella for yet another beautiful recipe to post on my blog. Stolen from a very old Betty Crocker cookbook, this one is perfect for a cool fall day.

4 medium tart cooking apples, sliced (4 C)
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C flour
1/2 C oats
1/3 C butter or margerine
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan.
Spread apples in pan. In medium bowl, stir remaining ingredients until well-mixed; sprinkle over apples.
Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender when poked with a fork.

Fantastic Video

Some of my Agape Italia friends that are still in Rome made this video. I love it, it almost brought me to tears. Watch until the end and catch my dear friend and brother in Christ Giuseppe speaking. I love this.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thomas Merton

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"

Ben Rector

You have to check out this guy. I just returned to NoiseTrade.com after not being there for a long time and was delighted to find one of my new favorites, Ben Rector, front and center. The widget to download it for FREE is below. He has the best song for an uncle to a nephew ever written... seriously, the song Hank is fantastic. So please please please, if you like music, help this guy out and download the goodness he is offering. You can pay or simply tell 5 friends. Do it. You wont regret it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Brick vs. Cornerstone

Every day I drive 40 minutes to work. It could be a shorter drive but working an unpaid internship forces me to save money where I can; toll roads are an easy thing to cut out and simply add more traffic lights and time. Then I drive 15 minutes to my second job (on days that I work both) and at 12:30 am, I drive another 45 minutes home. I spend a lot of time in Baby Blue, my trust car that is the color of Babe the Blue Ox.
I listen to quite a bit of music on this drive and lately have been listening to a podcast of sermons by Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mark yells a lot, gets pretty passionate, and dives into Scripture. I like it. I have been listening to his sermon series called "Trial", focused on 1st and 2nd Peter. The one I listened to most recently was quite challenging. He talked about Jesus as the Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-8) in a sermon called Trial: Temptation from Worldliness (you can find it online HERE). The thing that he said that challenged me was "Is Jesus the Cornerstone of your life or is he just another brick."

You see, the Cornerstone is the thing that a house is built around. Remove it and the whole thing crumbles. A brick is kind of like Jenga; remove it and chances are you are still doing ok. So is Jesus the Cornerstone or a Brick? Is he the thing that, if you remove, the whole thing crumbles? Some people might see this as a bad thing. They might say, "Jesus is great and we should have him in our lives as a positive influence, as a moral guide, possibly even saying the Jesus Christ is the Son of God and should be in our lives because he is the only way to God. BUT dont build everything on top of that." I think there are a lot of people like that, even a lot of people who call themselves Christians.

But can you be a Christian is Jesus is just another brick? If your life, every aspect of your life, isn't dependent upon Jesus Christ being the Messiah and the one that we follow, how can we call ourselves Christian, disciples of Jesus Christ. I know that I am not perfect. I know there are times that I try to relegate Jesus to a brick, that I say "It's just my choices in music or movies, its entertainment and Jesus doesnt really care what I listen to or watch." Or perhaps I live as if the Bible is just another book, as if Jesus wasnt speaking literally when he said "If any man is to come after me, he must take up his cross and follow me. He who seeks to save his life will lose it and he who loses his life for my sake and the Gospel, will find it." So I dont really need to be lost in him.

But I do. I have to. If I call myself His disciple, I have no other choice than to follow, even when I dont understand. This doesnt mean that it is wrong to question or doubt or seek out answers. We are told to do that, being "wise as serpents yet innocent as doves." Questioning but following in faith. So how about it. Is Jesus just another brick or the cornerstone?