Hey friends! This is a spoken word poem I wrote about identity for a spoken word competition Propaganda is doing with I Am Second. The 5 videos with the most views move on to the finals, so WATCH IT, SHARE IT, and let me know what you think!

(un)defined – (spoken word)

LIVING THROUGH THE FOG

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I don’t own much, as a single 25-year-old with roommates, but I’m currently downsizing.  I’m currently in the process of cutting out the excess. And this involves a lot of cleaning.

Yet this isn’t normal cleaning. It’s not ‘pick up this and that, vacuum, and do some laundry’ cleaning. It’s honestly less like cleaning, and more like abandoning the useless. This is the ‘pull out the old, find the discarded, get everything you own in front of you, this may take weeks’ type of cleaning. And in this cleaning, the mess just seems to accumulate. The floors become covered, the junk becomes scattered, and, yet, through it all, progress is made.

It’s a funny thing how a deep clean first leads to a deep mess. How a real cleaning must start with making a real mess, and getting everything you’ve been hiding out in front of you. It seems counterproductive, yet it’s necessary. It is the first step. It is a part of life.

As we go forth in this life, and we try to clean our lives up and simplify; as we try to find clarity, we first run into messes and fog. The key, I believe, is seeing these moments as necessary – as the first step towards progress.

Our mess. Our confusion. Our chaos.

It all must be experienced. Without living through the mess and confusion, we feel no relief when the fog lifts, and the road ahead can be seen as straight and smooth.

Without the mess, we won’t know what to do when the fog lowers once again, and confusion sets in. Yet because we have lived, and our lives have already had moments of clutter and fog, we will come out of the other end stronger each time. Wiser each time. Because with each bout of fog and chaos comes a bout with clarity, where we can feel the sun on our faces. And each time, that same sun feels warmer, and looks brighter, and that same fog seems lighter the next.

Through the fog comes the sun.

Through the chaos comes the calm.

And what a worthwhile fog it is.

What a worthwhile chaos it becomes.

 

-a pitiful masterpiece

THE WORSHIP FOUND IN THE PROCESS

ImageAs a worship leader, I’ve had many different internal experiences while leading worship. I’ve had nights where I feel like I failed afterwards, and nights where I’m on the verge of tears because of the love I felt in the room, pouring out to God. And I’ve reflected on all of this. I’ve reflected on what happened during the day when I have a bad worship experience, as well as a good, and I’ve recognized something that, like worship itself, is bigger than singing. I have found that whenever I’m able to lead a worship session – whether it’s with 100 people or ten people, the worship is always easier when I’ve been living truthfully that day. It’s always easier when I’m living as a human, rather than trying to live as God himself. It’s always easier when I’ve spent the day worshiping God for continually renewing me and refining me, and it’s always more difficult on days spent focused on being a ‘good Christian.’

 I think as Christians, far too often we worry so much about being seen as good people that we forget to live like actual good people, and instead end up living a life focused on ourselves, and worried about where our evil desires are going to lead us next. This is an ironic problem to have, because when we worry about looking like a ‘good Christian,’ we end up worrying about ourselves. And being a Christian is the exact opposite of that. Being a Christian is living a life where you are never focused on yourself, and always thinking about everyone else. When we have to think about being a “good Christian,” we usually end up being a bad one, because we end up living a life focused on the person Christ has transformed us from rather than the person Christ has transformed us into. We end up living a life where we’re so aware of ourselves, and how many times we’ve failed to be good, and how many temptations the devil is putting in front of us each moment, that we ignore the world around us, and the good people in it. We fail to recognize that these people around us every day are people who are equally as good as us, and equally as loved as us, and there is a God who longs to rescue them just as He rescued us. We fail to recognize that Christ lives in us and through us, and in turn we fail to take confidence in this fact. Instead, we live as if the devil has control of us, and we have to constantly look out for the next sin he’ll force us into.

Let me ask you this: Have you ever worried about sinning when you’re thinking about someone other than yourself? I’m not talking about when you’re thinking about what someone else can give you. I mean actually, truly thinking about them with God’s interests in mind. Have you ever sinned while taking a genuine interest in other people?

Have you ever sinned when you’ve thought about not sinning?

What are you doing to keep realizing you are already someone Christ has made good?

One of the best prayers we can pray is to ask God to continually refine us and match our mind with His, because as we pray this, we can take confidence that God is doing it. We can begin to live outwardly instead of live focused on the turmoil within, because we can take confidence in the fact that God has done what He has said He’s done: made us a new creation.

Pray for constant oneness with God. Pray for His mind, and as you grow more and more in Him, you may find you also grow more and more interested in others, and less worried about yourself and your next failure. And as we take the notice off of our own imperfections and brokenness, we may find ourselves more able to help people in theirs.

ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE . . .

*As a Christian, this is a topic I have largely stayed out of, and the main reason is I’m still in process of refining exactly how I feel it needs to be approached. This is simply an attempt at transparency about the questions and struggles I deal with regarding this issue. This essay is not meant to be a lecture or a manifesto, but rather an open discussion, in which I hope to learn from you – Christians and Non-Christians, gay and straight – as well helping you gain a deeper understanding of me, with the end result being respect from both sides. Keep in mind this is written from a Christian viewpoint that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

If you are looking to start a personal attack, in either direction, look elsewhere. I am required to approve all comments, and yours will be deleted.

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I am a Christian. That is not to say I am a better person, but simply to say I am in recognition of the worse person I am, and have been freed from being, which is not of my own accord. In my mind, a Christian at many points in life is almost synonymous with a hypocrite, because recognizing Christianity as your belief system and putting your faith in Christ is essentially saying you are incapable of living to His potential for you without His intervention, and saying that you will never be able to abide fully in Him at all times until you are in heaven, yet we are still expected to strive towards this goal of righteousness through the Holy Spirit’s leading, while helping fellow Christians do the same. (If you disagree, look at Romans 7:14-20 describing Paul’s troubles, or look at the stories of David and Solomon.) That being said, I believe I am on equal ground as anyone in the LGBT community in regards to sin, and have only been rescued from myself through my personal recognition of Christ’s sacrifice, and through the belief of God’s promise through Christ and renewing by the Holy Spirit. And because of this, I believe God knows better than I, and the bible is the inspired word of God, which means I must believe that homosexuality is a sin. I wish I didn’t have to believe this, as it would make my life much easier, but I do because being a Christian without believing all parts is not being a Christian, but rather simply being a Monotheist. Christianity, or being a Christ-Follower, is much more complex than that, as the devil himself is a monotheist and is obviously not a Christ follower.

With that being said, I am very conflicted about Christianity’s role in same-sex marriage, because although I do believe same-sex marriage is a sin, as is homosexuality as a whole, I also believe judgment is meant for within the church, and our role outside of the church is simply to love, and point others towards Christ and His radical redefining of love. And this is where I am at odds, because although I do personally believe same-sex marriage is a sin, I also believe marriage has already been tarnished by the broadening of its definition to become a union outside of the church (I am still in conflict with myself here as well, as a person who believes in romantic love and our innate desire as humans, not only Christians, to be joined together, although I have seen the sanctity of marriage crumble because of our other innate human desire – which is selfishness.) and become defined as an entity of the state.

And this is where my view becomes muddied.

Same-sex marriage is obviously not accepted within the Christian church (and because of this I can’t see reason why a gay couple would want to be married by the church), and therefore is an entirely state-ordained affair. And in fear of sounding like a bigot, I find myself in great conflict, because I do greatly wish all humans to have the same state-governed rights, yet I do not wish for same-sex marriage to become a topic which undermines the righteousness and justness of God, because as Christians we know God does not change his mind, and only humans attempting to play god can make such a change. Which, if the world was led to believe God had changed his mind on same-sex marriage, the entire credibility of the Christian church and God’s righteousness would be questioned by those without a strong understanding of our God or a strong understanding  of the human condition of sinfulness which Christianity teaches.

So the question is this: When does the battle for equal state-ordained rights meet the battle of preserving the public view of an unchanging, righteous God and the marriage He has ordained? (I say public view because God does not need us to defend the claim of His righteousness, although I believe it is an important claim to defend because of the easily persuaded nature of humanity as a whole.)

I fear this may be a never ending, chicken or egg paradigm, yet I will attempt to expand on this question. In my mind, the argument cannot be won by either side because of the state-based, rather than Christianity-based, center of the actual law regarding marriage. I understand that marriage grants the family certain rights and privileges regarding taxes, among other things, so I will focus my attention here by offering a seemingly offensive hypothetical. If marriage was a covenant offered by the state which did not offer any extra tax or other incentives, traditional or same-sex, where would same-sex marriage stand on the priorities of this nation? Also, if the term ‘marriage’ halted usage in state affairs, and all marriages were dubbed ‘civil unions’ by the government, and only ‘marriages’ within the church, treating the two as separate entities (and unfortunately adding paperwork to the process), where would we stand on this issue?

With these questions in mind, which are my attempt to basically see the views on the other side of the argument, I will address the questions I have often pondered regarding my Christian faith in this debate. I have already discussed the importance of God’s decrees due to His unchanging, just nature as understood by the church, so my questions tend to regard my own personal responsibility as a Christian in this debate.

As a Christian with an understanding of reserving judgment for those inside the church, when does same-sex marriage become my cause to fight against, and when does it fall under the Christian foundation of retaining such judgment from those who, for lack of a better term, are naïve of God’s law and His desire for us to live accordingly? I think the answer lies in one basic question, and that is this:

What does the love I strive towards – and my call to love as Christ loved (John 15:12) which is to love through sacrifice – call me to do? Does it call me to love through acceptance, or to love through the observation and identification of the behaviors God sees as sinful in others?

This has brought me to this realization: We are to love people in a way that points them away from sin, and towards Christ, because, as Christians who believe sin results in death except through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23), if we do not love people by pointing them away from sin, we are loving them by pointing them towards death, which cannot be love, while Christ made it abundantly clear that it is our duty to show Christ to others and bring them closer to Him. So with this I am led to conclude with these questions: Will the legalization of same-sex marriage increase the sin present in humans, especially since we as Christians already view homosexuality as a sin, and homosexuality is gaining acceptance in our society daily? Or will the often-times misunderstood, sometimes hateful condemnation of same-sex marriage within the Christian community cause more people to run from Christianity than the number of people within the LGBT community who would be led to Christianity through a love-based pursuit of the LGBT community after the fact and the acknowledgement of equality regarding sin as well as redemption through Christ?

Seeking God’s wisdom, and in need of His grace,

J.

DO IT ALONE (<< this is bad advice)

Independence. It’s a big word in our culture. It’s what we long for while we live with our parents in high school. It’s what we finally get, and have no idea what to do with, in college, and it’s the day each year that we celebrate by blowing stuff up. I think just the fact that “independence” is the word we chose to call our biggest American holiday says enough about how important we view independence in our society.

Yet that day never could’ve existed if it was fought for by people who believed they were independent. That war never could’ve been won if it was fought by people who were independent of each other. As well as independence, we are also a culture which loves irony.

Lately, this is exactly what God has been trying to drill into my head. I am not alone. I can’t go it alone. His plan involves cooperation – whether it’s with Him, or with others. (It’s with both, by the way.) And I keep on running, acting like if I trust the success of the idea He has given me to the people around me – some of whom may be strangers – it will never get done because they won’t be as passionate as me. So here I go, still believing I have to do everything in order to reach success, and in turn, stalling because I’m overwhelmed by the amount I would have to do. Ironic, huh?

Yet the quicker I truly realize in my heart what I already know in my head – that we must be in everything together – the quicker I can truly become the man God has made me to be, and the quicker you can become that person as well. The quicker we realize the word “friend” is a synonym of the word “helper,” the quicker we can make ‘awesome’ happen. Breakthrough happens often at keyboards.

Jon Acuff has really been drilling me in this lately. (and no I don’t personally know him. He just writes about it a lot). His general challenge is to go and get started on your dreams, yet he has realized we are often paralyzed by our fear. So he started a website called No More Voices, which is basically to remind us that we’re in everything together – our struggles, our fears and doubts, as well as our triumphs, adventures, and other crazy ideas. (check his website out, please, at www.nomorevoices.com)

In hindsight, it’s kind of funny that God is telling me to get started on my grand adventure right now, because I had the idea and the money to get started about a year and a half ago, and now I’m about the most broke I’ve ever been. But more on that later. Just thought I’d let you know I won’t be able to do it without you’re help, and it’s been made more and more obvious that I’m supposed to do it anyways. Just saying I might need everyone’s help.

Sorry this isn’t the most eloquent blog I’ve ever written. It’s 1:15 am and I’m basically just throwing thoughts on paper at this point with the sole intention of getting them out there.  Meaningful is coming. And it’s coming as a crowd. (see what I did there? You are never alone, nor are you intended to be.)

Goodnight everyone.