Neil - Changes and Growth

Growing and Discerning...After the Heart of God

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sacrifice and What I do...Derek Webb and Thoughts

God is good...Let me start with that.

It was a rough day at work today...just alot of things going on, people being discouraged, etc. But all in all, I love every day being a challenge, and I love adversity, because it gives us the opportunity to persevere through it, and rely on things greater than ourselves...which, in my opinion, is essential to living a fulfilling life. a call from one of my roommates LANEYYYY at about 5 pm asking if i wanted to go to a Derek Webb concert, and I then said "I love Derek Webb!" and agreed to go...of course I'd only heard the song everybody has heard by him (Wedding Dress) so I wasn't sure after hanging up the phone why I'd said that...but Oh well. I have pictures, maybe I'll post them up later. HE actually played through his entire new album, called "Mockingbird" - it really was amazing, and is worth buying.

It was a great show...He is a very talented musician. He wrote some great songs that I will probably write about later, but Lane was talking on the way home about some things that I just found myself nodding my head about...Sacrifice and the absence of temptation. Webb's songs spoke lots of sacrifice, and the giving up of possessions


What does it really mean to sacrifice?

Jesus tells men 3 different times in the gospels to sell their possesions and follow him.

Matthew 19:21 - Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

Mark 10:21 - Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

Luke 18:22 - When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

Let's think about this - what did it mean to sell all your belongings and follow Him? Did He really want these men to sell EVERYTHING they had and follow God?

I got to thinking about what it would mean today...Think about it. Think about the TREMENDOUS confidence you would have to show in God to be able to do this. To sell EVERY possession you had - your car, your clothes, your TV, your IPOD! your computer(that's right, no instant messenger), even your house. No money, no savings, no accumulation of wealth - and give ALL of what you had to the poor. And just taking what you have and following. Now that is trusting God. That is saying to yourself, "God, None of these things are things I have for the right reasons...and none of it matters. They are yours, you gave them to me, and I use them for my pleasure, and I am giving them back...


Think about how MUCH you would have to trust God to do that - And I need to do this more than you let me make this clear. Flat out, I can't do this right now. In my mind, I don't think I can do this. And thinking about actually doing it, sounds ridiculous doesn't it? "It's a different time then back then...bla bla bla." But is it? What do you think Jesus meant by this? Should we accumulate any wealth at all? In me putting money in my savings, saving for the future, am I really saying -

"Sure God, I could give this to you now, but I'm not confident that you'll always provide me with what I need, so I'm gonna have a backup plan just in case there is something I want or need in the future that you can't provide for me."

When I thought about this, I got scared, because, is this true?

I was listening to Laney talk about going down the right path, and the wrong path, and he made a great point. If we are doing what God wants us to do in our lives, we are not doing what god does not want us to do in our lives.

If we are doing what God wants us to do in our lives, we are not doing what god doesn't want us to do in our lives.

Think about a dot...there are 2 lines, going in opposite directions. You can't be going in both directions at the same time right? The same goes for us. If we are truly seeking what it is God wants us to do and ACTUALLY doing it, we can't fall into temptation, we won't be doing what God doesn't want us to do. Sounds so simple doesn't it?? Think about that though...maybe it really is that simple.

And what about action? I find myself SO many times in my life saying to people, "Yea I screw up occasionally, sure...but for the most part I don't steal, I don't lie, I don't kill, I treat others well, I'm nice. I'm a Christian."

Sure I am. I do all of these things...well, I don't do all of these things...but think about love. What about love? Where is love in that equation? Where is loving your neighbor? Where is feeding the poor, trusting God, Sacrifice, and so many others. Where are they in that statement I always say to myself to convince myself I'm doing the right things...but here is the underlying question I'll leave for you to answer...or, I guess for me to answer...After I've decided what I don't do, which makes me a Christian, I have to start thinking -

What do I do??

Maybe We should sacrifice SOMETHING - take what we have, sell it, pack a bag, FOLLOW HIM, and go out and do something "stupid" - like Trust God...But can I really do that??>>>>

Monday, April 24, 2006

The "Perfect Pump"

Alright...ya know about 10 years ago when you were filling up on gas, and you would try to get the fillup right at the exact amount - the "Perfect Pump" was about $12.00 for a fillup then, but you tried desperately to hit the number right on the nose? You could pump really slowly and watch the pump move a penny at at time and hit your mark.

My roommate Aaron pointed this fact out to me yesterday. Well I usually pay for gas with my credit card(Actually, i pay for everything with my credit card). Well, this morning i had some cash, so was going to pay in cash. I the gas "clicked" and stopped pumping at $37.62, so I figured I'd try to get it up to $38. SO, I click it as slow as I can, and it just isn't the same. The same small pinch that used to be a penny now causes the meter to go up about $2/second! So after one pinch instead of seeing $38, I was seeing about $45 buck. Well, not that bad but you get the idea. If you want an exact pump, GOOD LUCK! Alright that's all I have...

Pray for me if you are reading this...big decisions are to be made in the next month or so in my life,Also I fell into some old ways lately...need to kinda NOT do THAT anymore! I haven't worried about it much(the next month, decisions, moving, etc.), which I don't know if it is a good thing or a bad thing, but I truly feel comfortable in saying I believe God will take care of me! I'm so excited about it, about change, about new opportunities. I love it! It's in my blood I think to LOVE change and freedom, but I'm trying to listen... Thank you so much!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I am who I am

Alright, I know this is about the 3rd post I've had today, but whatever...just doing my nightly ritual of reading/prayer...and my mind is freaking twisted as per usual - so now its the midnight rambling...

Look at this verse(Exodus 3:13-15 for those who are interested):

"Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"
God said to Moses, 'I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.' "

Donald Miller(Searching for God knows What) put this verse in my head...and I came to a conclusion, which he later elaborated on that I have really felt for a LONG time, and I know I talk about it alot...

John once said in John 21:25 that all the books in the world couldn't contain all of the works of Jesus..meaning there are so many more we don't read about, maybe because they can't be explained, and we can't understand. I understand the purpose of Jesus. I understand his life, his death, his resurrection, his seat at the right hand of the father, how he loves you, me, and all, and how he was sent as a living sacrifice for all of man's sin. I get it.

Take a minute...think about Jesus. What is Jesus to you?

I spent alot of time in Chicago's Midway Airport on Sunday contemplating this question. I came to the conclusions i made above...seeing Jesus as this baby in the manger, or this great looking guy, walking barefoot or in sandals through the sand, with a large group always following him, teaching, performing his miracles, and truly loving people. I don't question what he did...simplifying Christianity...And I fully understand that Jesus was the Son of God and the Son of Man as well...I get all of that. And Miller points this out as well...

But here is where I stopped when I began thinking about the gospel, and I always stutter here and I just don't get it. It's kind of embarassing even...Shouldn't I just 'get' this? If you can help me understand this, I'm always ALL EARS!

Jesus as God? Jesus as some great "I am?"

Christians believe Jesus was God...but I don't get it...I just don't/can't understand Him as that in my head. I don't know why, I just can't. I wish I could, and I try to, but I can't see it, and I've never been able to have somebody explain it to me to a point I could understand. Does Belief require understanding? Miller doesn't think it does, and at this point obviously I sure hope it doesn't either, I'm trying - but I'm not gonna lie and say I undesrstand it because I don't. As Christians there is no doubt we view this as truth because it is scripturally supported. But we don't understand everything as is, which is an encouragement. Jesus doesn't offer some "formula" - he offers himself. And Thank GOD, because if there is any hope...and Miller made this quite clear...for you and me, our hope has to be in this man who claims what I can not understand...He claims to be not of us, but with us, and simply is...

"I am who I am"

Alright time to go read a bit more, and either clarify or spin a little more! In a way I love it, I'm not gonna lie.

Adam and Eve

Alright, I'm gonna ramble now about the Fall...those two little rascals that caused all sin! Adam and Eve...

Here's what I've always struggled with...WHY didn't God tell them and counsel them on Satan's deception?? If He did, we don't have any record of it...yet now I find myself angry at them because all tragedy can be traced back to that decision they made in the garden. But then I start to thinking about sin in my life...and what it teaches me. Donald Miller's OTHER book(Not Blue Like Jazz) is called "Searching for God Knows What"(Which I have borrowed from Mark Steffey for about a month and a half now!) dicusses this. Why didn't God just tell Adam and Eve that things such as a lie exist? Wouldn't that have been the easy thing to do? Then I went back a little bit further in Genesis...

First there was Adam right? Miller touches on this point and it struck me right in my ass -forgive the language, but that's how I felt because it sort of hit me when it was right there the whole time. So in the beginning there was didn't go right to Eve...What probably happened is this - When God made Adam, he wanted Adam's devout attention...yet something in his human nature created a need for a companion, and God of course knew this. SO, God made Eve right then right? Wrong. First God gave Adam the job of naming all the I don't know how this was done or anything, but going by the number of animals in the world, it probably took him a LONG time, maybe even a hundred years. This was done before Eve came along...his "Flesh of his flesh." Think about it - all that time Adam was walking around feeling lonely..even though he had the open relationship with God...And after this long time, God finally gave him a companion, Eve...which was the start of the fall...all of the sudden Adam, in his lonliness, felt he wanted to be equal to God...

Maybe God was trying to teach Adam Patience by not creating Eve right he would learn to appreciate what he didn't have when he got it...the same way he teaches me patience nad other things through my sin. AND, the same way we go through sadness and struggles only so we can fully appreciate and understand what joy and happiness can be given to us through Him. I don't know if this makes sense...I'm gonna end hear and write on something else now!

Better off Naked?

Alright...sort of building on my last incoherent response to Donald Miller's book, I reflect on the life Jesus lived trying to compare it to me and my search of a vocation!

Jesus liked people, nobody would argued with that. He was ALWAYS with people...his entire ministry revolved around people. Think about the religious system of Christianity - if you were going to start a religion, what would you do..

Sit down and write it out right? That's what Muhammad did, and Joseph Smith did...this seems a logical way to communicate new ideas...but not Jesus. What did he do - he made friends, recruited followers, and disciples, and left the writing to others...writing didn't interest him. He didn't sit down and write a mission statement. He let other people write, testify, and witness HIM. He didn't have anything to prove...he knew what he was. All of the Gospels reveal Christ, a Christ who attended parties with people, ate and drank with people, prayed with people, traveled and worked with get the idea. Here's what Miller says:

"I can't imagine He would do this unless He actually liked people and cared about them. Jesus built our faith system entirely on relationships, forgoing marketing efforts and spin."

Jesus essentially let people decide for themselves what they thought of him, which gives me grate comfort that Jesus would probably like me if we sat face to face.

This all goes back to my Life dream of authentically loving people...which Miller puts out beautifully when he points out in Matthew what the greatest commandment is - Love the Lord your God right? Well yea, but...:

Mat. 26:36-39

"'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

It's simple, but think about it - WHY would He say this? We know how important it is to love secret. BUT the 2nd commandment is JUST as important...he doesnt say this about any other commandment.

"Love your Neighbor."

We must make a relational commitment to God and to other people. We are supposed to be this "Christ-like" term that we hear all the time. Think about how great it would have been to be with Christ. Somebody who loved you, believed in youand saught closeness foreign to skin-bound men. He would make you feel significant, and because you are a human, you would like that. You liked to feel worth something. I LOVE to feel worth something. We all do. The thing is, we are all CONSTANTLY comparing ourselves to other people, all the time, whether we know it or not. Is there a mirror in your house? Then you do it. Do you have a shower? then you do it. I do it all the time. I care what other people think. I know I do. I say I don't but I do. We all do. Obviously we don't like to smell bad, or to have chocolate running down our neck, or to have messy hair, or to walk around naked...but think back to Adam and Eve. No bathing...why? because THEY WERENT AWARE that they were naked! Our sinful nature makes us 'conscious' of these of the first thing God says to Adam and Eve after they eat from the tree is in Genesis 3:11:

"And he said, 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?'"

God knew they were aware of their nudity, as they were not before...immediately human beings began to be self conscious of EVERYTHING in a social setting - particularly in appearance. Miller often talks about the "hidden" conversation going on between two people. next time you talk to somebody, really try to pay attention to what is going on in your head..."is this person really listening to me? am I saying the right things? I don't think he really understands me. Did the cubs when today?" - I don't think the mind did this sort of thing before the fall, when God and Man had a open channel of communication.

And I don't think these things going through Jesus' mind were he to take me out to lunch today.

Here is what I learned from all of this - It is in my nature to be dependent on God, but It is also a responsibility to build my life around people. My ministry is with People, Just as God's were. We aren't to become isolated from the World too much, except to worship and pray to God...we should surround ourselves with people as much as we can...Jesus' ministry was with people, so should yours and mine. This doesn't mean we all have to be preachers, or psychiatrists...vocation is a different subject...but socially, we can try to train our minds and our hearts to open up and be to other people the way we think Jesus would be to us.

Jesus didn't look favroably at everybody all the time, sure...but those were the arrogant. So I'll try to open my arms to everybody and embrace everybody I can as much as I am able - I can't do that on my own, and neither can you.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Chicago, Chicago

GEEZ i have so much to write...Did a bunch of reading and writing in my journal this past weekend...I went to Chicago for are some pictures. I got in Thursday night, and had an authentic Gyro at one of my favorite places growing up...Yorky's. There was greece and Cucumber sauce "dripping down my neck." I love it. Yorky's is right across the street from my Grandma's. If you didn't know, I was born in Elmhurst, IL, moved to Tulsa, lived there til I was 13, then moved to Kansas, now I live in Pittsburgh, PA. So, The house you see in the picture here, where my grandma has lived for the past 30 years, is pretty much what I think about when I think about my youth...and the places around it, because I've been there probably 100 times I kid you not. . My other favorite spots are Nancy's Pizza(stuffed baby) and "the Spot," where you can get vienna beef hot dogs, and Itallian Beef Sandwiches, with juice dripping down your neck. Heck, they have CHIPOTLE there, and I didn't even THINK about going...and if you know how much I love Chipotle, then you can figure out how much I love these other things. CHicago isn't the 2nd fattest city in America for nothing!

Friday I went downtown to my sister's place. Yes, I have a sister if you didn't know, her name is Michelle. The guy here is her fiance, Dom, who is the man. The other guys are some of his friends. They scored us some free tickets to the White sox game, 3rd row right behind home plate. They're getting married over Labor Day...and are having their reception in the VIP lounge AT the stadium...we went up there after the game and there is a picture below of the view...I can't wait! Despite my dislike for the white sox, being as I am a cubs fan, I still had a great time. I got a Beef sandwich there, and when ordering actually told the guy making me the sandwich to dip the whole thing in the beef broth, so I would be ensured to have some juice dripping down my neck! Dom was pissed off in the last picture..the sox got beat 13-7 I think? THere were around 7 home runs. I was watching the Cubs score on the scoreboard the whole game so I wasn't sure. And the guy on the left here had a cross on his I talked to him for about a half hour about it...then he had four more beers and started yelling at everybody - may have been the funniest thing I've ever seen.

On Saturday we went downtown and checked out millenium park, which I havent seen yet because it is new. If you've never been to Chi-town, you have to go, its amazing. We met my mom, grandma and cousin Erin at what I like to call "The Bean." THe big giant metallic Bean looking thing. I'll never understand art. Good weather always helps of course. From the park you can see the Art Institute, which posseses many famous paintings including Van Gogh's "Starry Night." Growing up my favorite museum in Chicago to go to was the Museum of Science and Industry. Oh, and of course, we got lunch - Dom and I split a stuffed pizza, which, of course, involved sauce dripping down our necks. The Sears tower, The Library, The lake, all trademarks of the Windy City. I took a few pics because I never really have!

On Sunday, BUFFET time. My grandma, mother, COusin and her Fiance, Brian, all went to Drury Lane, a historically famous place in Oak Park, to a $30 a person Easter dinner, after Catholic mass of course(My grandma is a devout Catholic, and probably the sweetest woman you could ever meet). I took pictures of it, that's how amazing it was - and there were LOTS of sauces for dripping...and of course, my grandma bribed the Easter bunny $5 to come over and hang out with us...yea, I'm "that guy" giving the Easter bunny Bunny ears...get it? Random Thought: Did you guys ever have that saying that if you gave somebody bunny ears when you were a kid it meant you liked them, or had to kiss them, or something like that? Anyways just ignore me .

ANd last but not least, the Culhane(mom's maiden name...obviously the "Rabi" family Bible would be a Quran...Yes, they're a little "different" than the typical Americans, being from Palestine and all). This was really neat though...its from the 1800s, and lists births, deaths, and marriages of those in our family. It was great. I didn't even know it existed!

Alright next time I promise I'll get into the more important things that happened to me spiritually and mentally on my fact at one point I was sitting in an airport, just watching people, writing about a few things...kinda crazy what was going through my mind...Ya know? EVERY person walking through there had a life of their own, a couple parents, somebody that loved them...just sort of made me feel small. Oh, and At one point I was dancing around some water singing Frank Sinatra I'll stop there.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Cubs win!

Well, It's April 10th, and Spring has finally we're gonna hit the 70s tomorrow. Today, I am getting ready to head down to PNC Park in Downtown Pittsburgh to see the home opener of the Pirates, who are playing the LA Dodgers. BUT, my heart is in Chicago, where I'll be going on Thursday.

If you know me and my brother, you know we're die hard cubs fact...I have spent a small fortune to see cubs games in the past...and I'll be doing it this summer as well(I already dropped $600 on tickets at Wrigley!) I am still on a high seeing Michael Barrett's grand slam in the bottom of the 8th inning last night to lift the Cubbies to a SWEEP of probably the if not one of the best teams in Baseball, the Cardinals.... But this is the year of the Cub!

Just a little taste of things to come...Harry Caray is coming back...CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN!!it's gonna wait and see.


ANd yea, it kind of worries me that they put on this "facilitated" cover the fact that Elvis was sighted...Everybody knows he was a drug addict and is dead. Now Harry coming back? That's a'll happen!


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Serving, deserving, and Crash

Alright this is going to be more of a "rambling" than a blog...just so everybody knows....I was up late last tired...and am rambling...and probably look alot like this...and yes this is my facebook picture as well.

The first thing is love and "acts of kindness"...I'm not gonna quote the Bible(although I probably should), I'm not gonna preach, I'm just going to express my thoughts based on my beliefs. What "good things" do we do for other people? Alright, we hold the door open for people sure...we give a couple bucks to a homeless person...we help out at a shelter...we are active with a youth group...we go on a mission trip...we say hello to anybody we know...we strike up a conversation with ANY clerk we give money to, or any other person in a line, on an airplane, whatever. Alright, these are the things I do...and I consider myself a "nice" person - heck, most of us, with the exception of my brother, consider ourselves to be "nice" people. Well, I used to. Here's the problem...I look at Jesus as an example, and the things He did...and I compare it to the things I do. What is going through our minds when we do nice things for people? Well, I can't speak for everybody...but what I think is probably what most if not all people think.

"I just did something nice for somebody."

Not every time, but some if not most of the time. Am I right? After we do things, we realize we are doing something "out of our routine" for somebody else. Which is fine - there is nothing wrong with that...we are still using what we have to help other people - Jesus would be accepting of that. But here's the problem - how does it make us feel? It makes us feel great. It makes me feel great. I LOVE doing things for other people - which is fine...but ask yourself the question....and before you answer, just think about it for a few seconds...

When I do things for other people, Why do I do them?

Because God wants us to, because we are called as humans to, or because it makes us feel better about ourselves? For me, it's all three. Absolutely it's all three. I don't do things because I want to feel better about myself all the time - but the fact that it makes me feel good makes me want to do it again, right? When we fall in love, it feels great right? THAT'S why we like to do it! When I eat one or two Gushers out of a pack, I keep dipping into the bag for more...because i like them! In fact, I once ate an entire box WHILE in walmart and had to buy an empty box!

So here is what I'm striving for. I don't want to be somebody who does good deeds for people because of any of these...I don't want to do things as an obedience...I want to do things as a habit. I want to help a less fortunate person get a meal because it's in my nature. I want to reach into my pocket and give five dollars to somebody without a thought crossing my mind. I want to go to another country and do missionary work because I HAVE to, not because I want to or think it's "the right thing to do." Is this achievable? Maybe not, - but i KNOW it's not possible on my own. Jesus did this. And He is the only thing that can help me do the same.

It all comes back to love. We have to figure out how to LOVE every human being...can we do this? Not on our own. I want to...and I am going to spend the rest of my life, no matter where I go or what I do, learning to do just that. I'm gonna screw up a hundred thousand times on the way, but I'm not gonna stop trying and stop learning. I love this sign - it says "Love in Disguise" Chocolates. I don't want to be an example of Love in disguise...I want to be I need to go find some chocolate because I'm hungry.

So I'm going to try to love as many people as I can. Remember...

The people we serve don't always have to be deserving.

Alright, Subject #2 - more of a cultural and less heavy thing - and MORE of a rambling! haha...

Last night(and this morning...i was tired!) I watched Crash, the winner of the "best picture" award at the Oscars. If you didn't know this about me...I always try to watch movies that are nominated for best picture...and...don't tell anybody, but a lot of them aren't good! Crash however was a good movie. It was about racism...and other than the fact that Ludacris was in it, it was a very real movie. I don't really know how bad racism is in this country...I don't think it's as bad as the movie portrayed it to be, but, I don't know, because I haven't lived in LA...I haven't experienced it to the extent that some other people have...and I don't think any of us can say we know how bad racism is in the U.S. unless we've actually seen it. It drives me crazy when people I KNOW haven't seen it walk around and say "Racism is worse than you think" or "Racism isn't as bad as people make it out to be." Why, because you saw Neil Cavuto on Fox News talking about it? We don't know...flat out. Because racism is a disease of the mind. It's something that goes on within our corrupted minds, and we can't 100% know what is going through another person's mind.

In the movie, there are Mexicans, African Americans, Persians, Puertoricans, Caucasians, and others. Here's my problem - they're all the same race! they may not be the same ethnicity, or religion...but we're all human beings. The part of the movie that caught my attention was when the Persian family said, after being referred to as Arabs "Since when did Persian become Arab?" Think about that for a second - the family themselves was trying to say "we're different than the Arabs." this is a problem that won't get fixed - and that's what the movie was trying to say...the movie ends the same way it began, except with 2 different people in the same situation, symbolizing an endless loop. It sucks. Flat out, it sucks. We can Pray, we can shape our own minds, but when it comes down to it, we can't make another person behave a certain way. We can encourage, we can spread the Good News, but when it comes down to it, this is a God thing. Human beings are faltered, and..

We will always see differences with our eyes instead of seeing similarities with our Hearts.

I'm the same way at times...When I see somebody of a different race, the first thing I think is...that person is...Asian, Mexican, Italian, etc. And I know this isn't necessarily racism...but here's the point. A 5 year old kid doesn't see the difference...our society shows us the difference, and we acknowledge it.

What I plan to do about this is what I wrote about above - focus on love, and Looking to J.C. as an example. Do what he did, shape my heart, and shap my mind to love in a way that is natural and complacent - God, hear my prayer...this is what I long to do.

On a lighter note...It's freaking finally warming up! Spring is here!(even though it snowed here this morning...just a one day's getting warm!)