Jesus Loves Muslims

I walked into the post office today and an older lady was standing in line in front of me. As soon as I walked up behind her, she turned around with a smug look on her face and said:

Sir, I'd like to ask you not to buy this stamp today. It is supported by our president and it celebrates a Muslim holiday.

She showed me a printed out email she got with a picture of the stamp on it that was clearly one of those outrageous political forwards that people stopped sending me a while back. I asked her what was wrong with a Muslim stamp and she said:

It's not right. It's just not right.

I laughed a bit, just loud enough for her to hear my disagreement, and said nothing more. She gritted her teeth and stood a little further away from me in the line, way too close to the lady in front of her.

She went through the line and and when it was my turn, I asked to buy a book of "those Muslim stamps", which they didn't have. I later found a picture of the stamp online and realized that it is not even real. It was made on a website that allows users to create and order custom stamps with anything on them.

Beyond that, I don't read arabic and I have no idea what the symbol on the stamp means, but for all I know it could say Spongebob Squarepants, or Go Hogs, or Praise Jesus. Arabic does not equal Muslim, and more importantly, Muslim does not equal terrorist.

Regardless, I did find out that the US Postal Service did create a stamp this past holiday season celebrating a Muslim holiday, so I guess this fake stamp doesn't really make any difference.

Either way, it is this kind of ignorance that saddens me to the point of near deflation. It is this kind of hatred that makes extremists out of people practicing a harmless faith.

Jesus loved people.

Jesus loved people.

Jesus

Loved

People.

Jesus loved dangerous people - people that ended up killing him, in fact.

When are we going to start loving people?

When are we going to start loving Muslims?

Restricting "Christian"

I'll try to keep this short, but I think I may be onto something here:I would like to propose a new restriction on using the word "Christian".

People should no longer be allowed to self-apply the the term "Christian". Instead, it should be up to everyone you interact with to determine whether you are a Christian or not. Your spouse, your kids, your boss, your employees, your plumber, the guy at Subway, homeless people, cops, black people, homosexuals, everyone.

What would they say you are?

An Apology:

Guys, I have to ask you to forgive me.I've forgotten what it is I am doing here.

I've alienated many of you with my brutal ramblings about things I simply do not care to debate.

I am not here for that. I am not here to push a political agenda. I do not completely align myself with any political party, not because I am rebellious but because we live in a broken and weary world and no one has things completely figured out. Including me.

The last thing we need to hear more of is political argument.

So forgive me. I have wasted your time and unnecessarily raised your blood pressure.

What I do care about is this:

Someone please remind me of this next time I start barking about insignificant bullshit. I need more of that in my life.

The Gospel According to Me: Bad Friday

Below is my paraphrase of Luke 23, a recount of the worst / most necessary event in history:A bunch of jerks snatched Jesus up in the middle of the night and brought him to a guy named Pilate (some local politician/judge), yelling all kinds of crap about him. They told Pilate that Jesus was causing all sorts of trouble and telling people he was god.

So Pilate asks him "Are you god?"

and Jesus is like "You better believe it."

And Pilate gets totally freaked out cause he's not completely sure what's going on, and he really doesn't want to try to mess with anyone that might be god, so he tells the people "This guy isn't guilty of anything."

And the crowd of people, which was growing larger, just goes completely crazy and keeps on yelling out bad stuff that Jesus had done. One guy yells "He's a troublemaker! He started this whole deal in Galilee and brought it all the way to Jerusalem!"

And Pilate goes "Wait a second, this guy is from Galilee? Awesome, he's not my problem. Send him to Herod." Cause Galilee was under this guy Herod's jurisdiction.

So they take him to Herod, who happened to be in town. Herod thought he was going to get some kind of magic show from Jesus, like a bunch of stupid miracles and stuff, but Jesus just stood there, silent. Herod asked him all kinds of questions and kind of did the good-cop, bad-cop thing for a while, but Jesus didn't say a word.

After a while, Herod and all his cronies started to get pissed, cause Jesus was just completely ignoring them, so they started calling him names and just basically being complete assholes to him. They dressed him up like an idiot and sent him back to Pilate.

Pilate really didn't want to have to deal with him, so he got all his top leaders together and told them that Jesus had pretty much done nothing wrong. He said he would basically slap him on the wrist and let him go, and the leaders were like "Alright, cool."

But the huge crowed that had gathered was getting out of control and acting all bloodthirsty, shouting for Pilate to kill Jesus, which seemed completely insane since he had really never been convicted of any crime.

Pilate was like "Woah, okay everybody just chill out. I'm not going to kill this guy, alright? He hasn't even done anything wrong. You people are nuts."

But the crowd wouldn't listen and started getting really crazy. It was like they just wanted to see somebody get off-ed. After a while Pilate realized he wasn't going to change their minds, so he was like "Alright, fine. I'll kill him. Are you happy, you freaks?"

And the crowd was like "YEAH!! MURDER!!!! YAY!!" Like a bunch of crackheads around a dead possum.

Pilate handed Jesus over to them and they got started with the whole murdering ordeal, nailing him up on a big wooden cross and all that.

By this time, basically everyone in the town of Jerusalem had come out to see what was going on. People were screaming and crying and going crazy and it was just city-wide mass hysteria.

So Jesus yells down at the crowd "Hey, don't cry for me down there, cry for yourselves, cause if this is how they treat me - you guys are really in for it. I feel sorry for you guys. It's about to get real bad down there."

And all the people around him were like "Oh, shit."

Then Jesus looks up at the sky and goes "Dad, don't hold this against them, they have no idea what they're doing."

While all of this was going on, they brought out two other guys to be killed along with Jesus, and hung them up on crosses too.

One of the two guys says to Jesus, "Hey man, since you're god and all, why don't you do something about this?"

And the other guy was like, "Dude, shut up. We're here because we got busted man, you know the drill. This Jesus guy didn't do squat and he is getting it way worse than us" and then he says to Jesus, "Hey, don't listen to him, he's an idiot. Just don't forget about us when this is all over with, okay?"

And Jesus is like "No problem man, I got you guys covered. Just tell em you're with me."

Then Jesus looks up at the sky again and goes "Okay, that's all I got."

And he drops his head and dies.

One of the guards that was supervising the whole thing was like "Hey, uh, I think he might have seriously been god." But most everyone else was too stupid or crazy to realize it.

After that, everyone kind of scattered and went home, leaving Jesus and the other two guys there hanging. Some guy named Joseph had asked Pilate earlier if he could take care of Jesus' body, so he went and got Jesus down from his cross. He wrapped Jesus' bloody body in some nice cloth and put him in a small cave and rolled a giant boulder in front of it with the help of some other people.

And that was it. That's how they killed god.

It was a Friday afternoon.

Flat Broke - In The Spirit of Holden Caulfield

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.// The Catcher In The Rye - J.D. Salinger

Salinger died yesterday at the ripe old age of ninety. I read only one of his four books, but it was good.

So - in this attitude, I give you:

Flat Broke

I got no cash man. Straight up none.

Honestly I've been trying to keep it quiet because I am running my own business now and I feel some need to keep up appearances. I need people to know that I am doing very well. A lot of businesses only survive off their survival. Get me?

Like Joe Gould said in Cinderella Man: You gotta keep your fists up.

Anyway that's not the case with me. I'll drop my fists because it wasn't my fists that saved me to begin with and they're not going to keep me afloat now, either.

Don't get me wrong, JSP is rocking and 2010 is going to blow the roof off 2009. Problem is, 2010 hasn't really gotten up and running yet - at least not wedding season. Hence, I'm got a barrel scraped dry.

Regardless, I'm not fully distraught. I've got a decent stack of cash on its way, it just hasn't hit the mailbox yet, so don't get the idea that we're going under, we're just learning where the dry spells are in photography, albeit the hard way (which I am starting to learn is in fact the easy way).

Despite this future payday, discovering what the bottom of the bucket truly looks like is no less disheartening.

What I have learned from this experience however, does bring some color back into the flesh:

1. You ain't broke until you're flat broke. If you're not sure what broke really means, try this: Go to the ATM and liquidate your accounts into real cash. Throw it in a trash can and light it on fire. Now you're broke.

2. You're still not quite broke after you burn all your cash, because you've likely got a roof over your head and some amount of food in the pantry. Dry your eyes.

3. Even if you really are truly broke and you've lost your home and all your food is gone and you've got swine flu, you probably don't live in Haiti. It could be much, much worse.

4. If you do live in Haiti, you know far better than any of us what the bottom of the barrel really looks like, and to you few lonely souls who die in the tents as the world watches on, all I can say is: the Lord is with you in your pain and in your dying and in your starvation and your thirst and your sadness.

If there's one thing I am certain of, its that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted.

The holy ground shook. Splanchnizomai.

I do feel it.

The womb of YHWH.

I don't expect you to be a Christian

Unbelieving people seem to always have the same (or similar) viewpoint towards Christians and the "secret agenda" of all Christians: To make disciples of all people, everywhere. That viewpoint being one of disdain and total annoyance, because people don't want to be Christians, so leave them alone.And I understand that completely.

And I know that Jesus did tell us to make disciples of all people, but bear with me here:

I don't expect you to be a Christian.

How could I? It's a totally insane thing to suggest, really. That someone should feel pressured to pretend that there is some sort of perfect all loving all knowing all forgiving god inside and behind all of everything.

It is ridiculous, I know. I agree. We are on the same page here.

And why would anyone care if a guy named Mike forgave them for all the crap they've done? Why is it any different if the guy's name is Jesus? Why would I care what any dead guy thinks about me? What difference does it make?

Oh, it will magically save me from hell? Well what if I don't believe in hell? Why would I care if I am saved from it or not? It's like telling someone they can be saved from the Easter bunny tearing them to shreds some night while they sleep. I'm really not worried about it.

Then the Christians might ask something like

Well, what if you are wrong?

Which is a completely stupid question. What if anyone is wrong about anything? What if I win the lottery? What if giant lobster falls out of the sky and lands on my roof? What if I married the wrong person?

It's just a bunch of stupid speculative questions. It's not philosophy, it is a kid saying "I know you are, but what am I?" It is pointless banter. It is the Monty Python "I'd Like To Buy An Argument" sketch. Waste of time.

The sad thing is, a lot of people out there have become, and will continue to become Christians, because of this nonsense.

So I say again: I do not expect you to be a Christian.

Why?

Not because of any of these stupid attempts at "evangelism", because you and I are both smarter than that.

No, I don't expect you to be a Christian because you've never had an experience with the Living God that, despite all your greatest efforts, you were embarrassingly unable to deny.

Most Christians don't really believe God has any power at all. Most Christians hold way too tight to the obscure verse that says something about not testing God, like it is the 11th commandment.

Well I am not so easily convinced. I don't believe anything until I've seen it for myself. And neither should you. If God doesn't want to lift a finger to show himself to me, then I don't have any interest in God.

This must be where I pissed him off, because the moment that concept really hit me, he jumped out of his nest in the clouds and rocketed towards the Earth, smashing into me at terminal velocity.

And now I can't get rid of him.

You see, he won't be denied.

But you have to open up the conversation. You have to put the money on the table. You have to brace for impact. Or don't. It is going to hit you either way.

And my friends, my silly dimwitted friends who don't jump into waters, who don't taste new foods, who don't run with their eyes closed, who don't smile in the rain, you'll never know what it's like if you don't shut your blabbering mouths and do it.

You don't need a Bible, you don't need a preacher, you don't need a rosary. You need to have a raging bloody fist-fight with the Living God. And trust me, you'll come out of it alive.

Busted, bruised, spent, and euphoric.

Another One Bites The Dust

Unless you live on the moon (or outside of Arkansas, perhaps) you've probably heard about the most recent church leader who went down in flames when a 15 year old kid came forward claiming to have had a sexual rendezvous with the dude. The cops stung him, and he admitted to it. Game over, game over, too cold.This is really no different than any other pastor/kid bullshit scenario you might have heard, except that I went to the church.

It comes like a punch in the gut to me, and to everyone else who went there.

I thought about ignoring it as far as this blog is concerned, cause I just want to get as far away from it as possible, but I just can't. This is the place where I talk about real stuff and this is real stuff. I am not afraid of anything that might come out of this. I believe Jesus brings good through the burning embers of bad.

This obviously doesn't change anything for me. I am still in the exact same place I was at before this happened, and my king is still the one they call Liberator. They guy that once led our small and fickle church is not Jesus, he was never Jesus. He was and is just a dude, like me, and like you. Jesus hasn't changed.

And that's what I really want to make clear to anyone reading this who might think something has changed because of this. To someone who might try to use this as an excuse to slam the door in Jesus' face for good. I understand, I would probably do the same thing, but like I said, a fallen pastor is not Jesus.

Jesus doesn't touch kids inappropriately. Jesus cares about people, not himself. Jesus weeps over things like this. He wept when it happened and he wept when it came out in the newspapers. He weeps all the time.

He's just sitting there, weeping.

It breaks my heart, really. I want to comfort him and let him know that I am never going to leave him. That I'm never going to break his heart like that. I know it doesn't make sense to most people, even most Christians probably. Well I am not a Christian. Christians generally make me want to have nothing to do with them. Christians continuously disappoint me, to be honest. So I don't know what you should call me. Honestly, I'd rather there not be a name for it at all. We don't need a name.

Call us whatever you want. But don't throw us in the pit of lunatics most commonly known to the world as Christians.

I'm sure Muslims don't want to be known as Muslims either, now that I think about it.

If there is an enemy in the world he is not in the gutters, the strip clubs, and the crack houses, he is sitting in the front row at churches and mosques. Looking great. Smiling. Handsome. Knowledgeable in the Bible and the Koran.

Well I reject all of it.

The Jesus I know lives on a mossy rock at the Buffalo River.

He sleeps in a hammock in a tree.

He shows up when the stars come out and the clouds drift over the moon.

And he always has.

Not Sure What To Think

I've been reading lately. Old stuff. Really old stuff.The Bible, actually.

Ever read it? Me neither (not completely).

Anyway, I am reading this new translation called The Voice. If you don't know about The Voice you probably should not go to sleep tonight without owning it. And you certainly can't continue to claim that you don't identify with the Bible. If you like stories, you'll like this one. Or, you can keep avoiding it. I don't care.

If you do want to continue avoiding it, you should stop reading this now, because I am about to hit you with it.

Luke 24, I recently decided (this morning), is my favorite chapter in the entire Bible. It is, in my opinion, the only one that you really need to read. Without it (and it's counterparts in the other gospels, boring though they are), we could really throw the whole Bible out the window. It would make no real sense.

So, here is my paraphrase of that chapter (The Gospel According to Jacob):

Early Sunday morning, a couple days after Jesus was executed, a few of his friends went to the cave where he was buried to mourn and lay flowers. When they showed up, the big rock that covered the entrance to the cave was pushed away and Jesus' body was gone, and these two other guys were there, glowing.

The ladies that came to pay their respects totally freaked out and fell down.

The two guys that were there were like "What made you think Jesus was still going to be here? He's gone, you just missed him. He left like ten minutes ago."

The ladies were like "What?"

And the guys said "Yeah, didn't he tell you? He said he told you."

"Yeah, I mean, he told us that but, you know - they killed him."

"Yeah well, he's not dead anymore."

"He's not?"

"No."

"You sure?"

"Yep."

The ladies got up and went into town to find the rest of Jesus' gang. When they found them, they told them the whole story. But the guys were like "No way. They killed him on Friday, we were there."

One of the guys though, Peter, had to see for himself, so he took off, running to the grave. When he got there, it was just like they had said. Jesus was straight up gone.

Later that day, a couple of guys who were also friends with Jesus were walking outside of town and Jesus himself walked up and talked with them for a bit. They didn't recognize him though, so it was no big deal.

They talked for a long time and then Jesus came over to their house for dinner. Right when they were about to eat, Jesus took a roll and buttered it up, then he said a quick prayer and just disappeared. Totally gone, again.

The two guys immediately realized it was him because he was the only guy they knew who could just disappear like that. Then they were both like "Dude, I totally knew it was him the whole time, I just didn't want to freak you out."

After that they thought they should go tell the rest of the guys, because they felt really cool that Jesus showed up to them first and they wanted to brag about it. So they ran like seven miles into town to another guys house.

When they got there the rest of the gang had already been there a while, and the two guys started to tell their story, but the rest of them didn't believe it. Before they even finished talking, they looked up and there was Jesus, standing in the back of the room chillin'. And the two guys were like "YEAH!! I told you guys!!!" And whole room was half amazed half freaked out, because they all saw Jesus get brutally murdered like two days before.

Jesus came up to the front of the room and gave the two guys he almost ate with earlier a fist bump and they were like "Nice."

But the rest of the group was still totally freaked out and Jesus was like "Okay, everybody chill out, what's the big deal? I told you I was going to do this. Remember when we had that meeting a few days ago?"

And the guys were like "Yeah, but..."

And Jesus goes "Remember? I told you guys there were going to kill me? But that I was going to use my get-out-of-jail-free card and just totally come back to life?

"..."

"Well? Do you remember that?"

"Yeah."

"Well I was being serious."

"Okay. But, like, they really did kill you. We watched. They were totally stabbing you and stuff."

"Yeah, I know." Jesus lifts up his shirt "Check this out, this is where they stabbed me a few times."

And they guys were like, "Holy crap, that's freaking crazy." And they still didn't believe it, because they literally watched him die.

And Jesus was like "Whatever, you guys got anything to eat?"

One of the guys threw Jesus an Oatmeal Creme Pie.

"Okay, sit down." Jesus said. "We need to talk about phase two. Now that I am back alive, I'm going to do some traveling. You guys are driving me crazy."

Then Jesus realized that the guys have absolutely no clue what is going on, so instead of spending forever explaining everything, he just telepathically makes them understand it. And all the guys get totally brain-zapped and then they are like "Ahhhh. Okay, continue."

Jesus continues. "So, like I've been telling you guys, I had to get killed and then come back to life. Now that I've done that, we can move on to phase two. I am going to take off for a while. You guys need to stay here and keep telling people the same things I've been saying all along, but now that this last part has happened, you have to add that. Got it?

And the guys were like "Wait, what?"

And Jesus says "Just keep doing what I have been doing. Tell everybody that they don't have to go to hell now."

"Why not?"

"Because I took care of it."

"You did?

"Yeah."

"Sweet."

"Yeah, so since you guys have seen all of this firsthand, you are really the only ones that can keep it going. You've got to tell everyone that they can stop worrying about everything because I got it covered. Now that we've gotten my death and resurrection over with, all the bad crap that people have done in their lives can be erased from God's memory, so that when you get to heaven, he will be like 'Whaddup? Come on in.' How cool is that?"

"That's awesome."

"Yeah, I know, me and God totally came up with it the other day."

"Word."

"Yeah, that's what you can call it."

"Oh, yeah. Good call."

"Yeah. Ok, I better get going."

And then Jesus and the rest of the group walked out to a big hill, and Jesus said a little blessing, raised his hands up to the sky, and then shot off like a rocket into outer space.

All they guys high-fived and went back into town, jumping and punching each other.

That's what happened. Don't ask me, I don't understand it either, but I'll take it.

Waterdeep @ The Prophet Bar

During the show we didn't speak to each other at all.Immediately afterwards, as the band was packing up the stage, and the crowd was returning back to the surface of the Earth, all I could manage to say was

That was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my entire life. I don't want to talk about it.

It is a waste of time to try to explain to someone who doesn't listen to them how majestically beautiful they are. How do you explain a sunset to a blind person? It makes no sense.

Waterdeep is really just Don and Lori Chaffer, and sometimes they tour as a full band (with drums, bass, keys, etc.), but this tour it is just the Chaffers, which is exactly how it needed to be the other night in Dallas. I can't be distracted by a drummer when something much more amazing is happening at the front of the stage.

They opened up with one of their more fast paced songs Life of the Party and I think it put everyone in just the right mood for the rest of the show. During the first song most of the crowd picked up their chairs and moved them up front for a more intimate feel. After that a lot of the people that were in the back came and sat on the floor right at the foot of the stage.

2420

It was obvious that Don & Lori were warmed by the crowds warmth. It was love being sent up to the stage and love sent right back down. The Waterdeep crowd is the kind of crowd that doesn't just kinda like the band, they know all their music. All of it. They've got the records and bootlegs and stickers and they know Don & Lori's kids names (Miles & Ruby). They've watched the YouTube videos of them in their PJ's doing silly cover versions of their parents songs.

So when a band that is really just an extension of your own family takes the stage and sings things like

Oh God it hurts so bad to love anybody down here

there is no hesitation of love or sympathy or honesty. It just permeates the room. The bartender even seemed to soften up to it.

Don's writing style is so clear and obvious that you might think you've heard the lines somewhere before, and then you realize that you've only heard them in your own head as the jumbled mixed-up confusion of thought that never makes sense to anyone else when you try to say it out loud. But Don writes it and there it is. All laid out for your to add to the database of your mind for quick and easy reference when you have no idea what else to say. Its just true. Some things need no further discussion.

And Lori.

How do I say this?

Lori could sing anything, literally anything, and it would instantly vaporize your heart into a buttery pool of emotion lying vulnerably on the floor. She could open up a biology textbook and just start singing it and I would cry for years. At certain points during the show, if you can manage to take your eyes off Lori while she is singing and look over at Don, you can easily tell from the expression on his face that he is just as awed by her beauty as the rest of us, sitting there breaking to pieces in our cheap bar chairs as the outside world moves by all around us. I think a rhinoceros could have busted through the back wall of the bar and no one would have ever noticed.

And then, just when you think you are at the pinnacle of glory and beauty, she starts to loop her voice. One of top of the other, climbing and building like a Chinese pagoda made out of cheese and sausage and love and wine. Ten or twelve tracks deep, Lori's voice charges from the stage like a tidal wave of ___________ (there is no word for it).

I can only hope the second coming will sound anything like it.

After the show we got to talk to them for a few minutes, which was nice. They are just regular people like us, really. Taylor and Peyton and I walked out of the bar dazed and high from the ambush of glory we had just experienced. We each got a beer in a bag and sat in the parking lot to debrief, but we ended up just smiling and staring at the stars, satisfied.

A Room of Dudes

So I've been going to this thing at a church here in town called Men's Fraternity. It's basically a three semester thing for guys that essentially guides you into a more meaningful life of being a man.The first semester is all about what it means to be a man, the second is about "Winning at Work and Home", and the third is called "The Great Adventure". Right now I am doing the third one.

Anyway, as you might suspect, the third semester deals mostly with enjoying your life to the fullest and living the adventure of life with excitement and great expectations. Its strange to me, although completely unsurprising that this many guys would gather this early in the morning, every single week, to hear some other guy talk about how to enjoy your life. Its sad, really.

Look at all those backs, all those heads, all facing the same direction. There are doctors, teachers, lawyers, construction workers, managers, cooks, students, and everything in between. Guys of all ages wanting desperately to figure out why the hell life is so hard and how in the world can we figure out how to relax and enjoy things a little more.

This semester we are only three weeks in and all three sessions have been about how difficult it is to go to work day in and day out and never ever see the light at the end of the tunnel - retirement. Or, if you actually get to retirement without having a heart attack, how difficult it is to do anything at all other than rest now that you are probably in your sixties and simply worn out from having to work so hard all those years.

I can only imagine what it must feel like to be one of the high school guys that come every week. If I were them I would be planning my escape from the real world as soon as possible.

There are basically three categories of guys at Men's Fraternity:

1. Students

2. Workers

3. Retirees

I obviously fit into the second category most easily, but I don't really consider myself a "worker". I am in a very unusual group of people who actually enjoy my job and life so much that I literally feel like I have been on vacation for almost a year. To some guys this sounds miserable, but to me it means rest, relaxation, and enjoyment. If any of you reading this have ever wondered what it is like to do something that you truly love, please believe me when I tell you that

it

is

fucking

amazing.

Please believe. If you are sick of your job, GET OUT OF THERE.

No one should ever have to be a slave, especially to money. Do what you want. Do it now. You are currently wasting your time. If you don't know what you want to do, figure it out.

Figure it out.

Please don't end up like the gray haired dudes in this picture. I'm sure a few of them have lived a happy and fulfilled life in their job, but not many. Most have lived a long life of struggle and toil and have nothing to show for it except (hopefully) a happy family who appreciates their hard work to provide, which is a noble thing, no doubt, but I submit to you that there are all kinds of ways to provide for your family, millions even, and if you are lucky enough to end up in a career that allows you to do so while completely enjoying yourself, you've got it made.

My greatest fear in life - seriously, my greatest fear - is that I will have to go back to work.

The life I live right now is one of total uncertainty, fear, worry, anxiety, and satisfaction. I went to the ER the other day because I had so much anxiety that my stomach was completely flipping out and going crazy on me. I thought I was having a heart attack. I actually passed out Monday morning because of it. No kidding.

The only reason that I have made it a full year doing what I love is because I lost two jobs in one month, and after frantically trying to find some realistic way to make some money for my family, Jesus threw me off a cliff with a parachute called photography.

I have never been happier in my entire life.

I WIN.

So, basically my favorite writer is Donald Miller. He wrote Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What, To Own a Dragon, and Through Painted Deserts - all of which I have read and enjoyed thoroughly (which says a lot because I have only read 26 books in my entire life (post to come later).Anyway, Miller's new book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" comes out next month, but there were a few ways to get an early copy.

1. Sign up on the Thomas Nelson (publisher) website to be a book review blogger and then try to score one of the 250 books that would be pre-released at an unknown date for review (for free).

2. Find one of the hidden manuscripts that Don's friends were stashing all over the country.

3. Go to Michael Hyatt's blog (CEO of Thomas Nelson), read/watch his interviews with Don about the book, and score a free copy by submitting an awesome comment on the post.

I tried the first two, and failed.

On to number three: the instructions said that winners of the free books would be chosen based on who submitted the best and most creative comments. Mr. Hyatt would select the winners "based solely on [his] arbitrary and subjective evaluation of their comments." Here's what I wrote:

Comment

Then, yesterday, I got this:

AMillionMiles

I can't wait to read this book and I can't help but feel a little proud that the CEO of Thomas Nelson liked what I wrote.

I WIN.

Burning Jesus

Lately I find myself constantly trying to suppress something that begs to be let out from deep within. I suppress it because I am not completely sure what would happen if I let it go. I am afraid I would turn into a raving madman and lose all mental credibility with anyone I know, which would undoubtedly snuff out the flame immediately, I imagine.But it doesn't stop.

This seems to me to be the kind of thing that causes normal people to become complete lunatics. Normal people can't often relate to lunatics because they are so far removed from "real society" that they simply can't take anything they say to have any significance whatsoever. This is precisely what happened with a guy called John who apparently let go of his raging fanaticism, lost his mind, ran crazed into the wilderness, and came out later wearing dead animal skins, and submerging people into the Jordan river in the name of YHWH.

When he was first ambushed by Jesus (who was in fact his second cousin) while the two babies were still developing in their mother's wombs, his only response upon being born was to immediately flip out and lose touch with all reality. After all, how could anyone have any semblance of normalcy when they've been attacked in their minds and hearts by the one thing that will stop at nothing in its relentless pursuit of mankind.

So here's where I am:

I've had this exact thing happen to me. I've been taken captive by the single most powerful, compelling, and magnetic force known to mankind. It is, unfortunately for me, unstoppable.

So what do I do? Where do I go from here?

Is it possible to carefully release the floodgates?

Can a bullet be gently shot from a gun?

O Generation Faithless

I have been reading through the first few books of the second part of the Bible recently (I am on page 127) and I have stumbled upon something that is very surprising.The Jesus of the Bible has very little in common with the Jesus I was told about as a kid. In fact, I have never heard this Jesus preached at a church in all of my adult life.

I wrote about this once before, but the deal has officially been sealed for me. I now know of a Jesus that I was previously unaware of.

To contrast this amazing difference, let me explain Jesus A:

Kind, loving, tender, meek, etc. This is the Jesus that, as Rob Bell describes, walks calmly along beaches wearing a white bathrobe and a light blue beauty pageant sash - and his hair is blow dried - and he's Swedish. This is the Jesus that does very little other than pet goats and pat little kids on the head and read books to them. He is weak.

Now. The Jesus of what we now know as the collected works of The Bible:

He is fanatical. Tireless, yet tired. He is rude, brash, sarcastic, blunt, and frustrated. He seems constantly sick of the stupidity of the people that follow him around and attempt to learn from him. He expects people to see or hear something once, then believe it, and then do it. He expects it. He is continuously throwing his hands up to the sky and (apparently) asking God how he is supposed to work with these people.

A few examples:

O generation faithless, twisted and crooked, how long must I be with you? How much can I bear? Bring the boy to me." - Jesus, after returning from a night of camping with a few guys, and finding out that the rest of his guys had failed to do their jobs as they were instructed. | Luke 9:41

They had no idea what he meant by this; they heard the words but missed the meaning, and they felt too afraid to ask him to explain further. - The disciples feelings after Jesus had explained that he was going to be arrested and killed. | Luke 9:45 (why would the disciples be afraid to ask for an explanation of a meek and gentle person?)

You just don't get it. - Jesus, in response to a disciples question of whether Jesus wanted him to call down fire from heaven to destroy the people who have rejected his teachings. | Luke 9:55

These are all from the same chapter of just one book in the New Testament. I would challenge anyone who doesn't know this Jesus to re-read a few Jesus books in the Bible and decide for yourselves which is the real and which is the manufactured. But, even if you don't do it, just know that ignoring it doesn't make it any less true. It's in there. Sitting on your bookshelf. Waiting. It's all there. Written in black ink in plain English.

The sad part is - people just don't want to know the real Jesus. They want the weak, powerless Jesus that sits in the passenger seat telling you everything is going to be OK. There was a guy in the Bible like that, but his name wasn't Jesus, it was Adam.

The guy in the picture? That's Jesus.

A Revelation

The kingdom of God does not throw all guilty people in jail.But I do.

Re-read through all my old blog posts and you'll see. I've got very little forgiveness in my heart for people. Judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one, that's what I am.

And for the most part it is not the people that I am close to, it is the people I do not even know. People on the street, in coffee shops, at stores, anywhere. If I see someone slip up or do something wrong or even slightly annoying, I'll be the first to condemn them straight to hell in my head.

It's sad, but it's true. Does anybody else do that?

I'd like to think that we all do it, cause it makes me feel better about it, but what's really sad is that we don't all do it. Some people are actually kind to one another in their thoughts and with their eyes, but not me.

I am self righteous

conceited

arrogant

unforgiving

heartless

careless

thoughtless

mean

judgmental

and unapologetic.

But today I was crushed by my own depravity. I read that line:

"The kingdom of God does not throw all guilty people in jail.",

and I was stopped dead in my tracks. I could read no further without registering a deep public confession of my own. My heart is remorseful for my words, thoughts, and decisions about people.

I've not been thrown in jail for my crimes, and neither should you be, by me.

This is meant both for specific individuals and the whole of mankind.

You'll be convicted by me no longer.

Thanks Jesus.

- so be it.

Several Pressing Things

1. American Apparel is stupid. Actually, it's really just the ads that bother me. They are everywhere online and they always have some half naked girl that looks like shes about 17 posing in a bow-tie and a pink leotard. I mean, who really wears that stuff? It's like they started a company where they just find the worst fashion ideas ever and try to bring them back by making them super expensive. I don't get it.

2. Dr. Dog is my new favorite band. A lot of people have attempted to take The Beatles song style and formulas and re-make them into something original and Dr. Dog have done it. Oasis was a little too close to the original Beatles tunes, but Dr. Dog is different, yet similar enough to make them really stand out. There is so much crappy new music coming out it's almost a complete waste of time to ever try to find anything good, but Dr. Dog is the best new band I've heard since My Morning Jacket. Go here or buy their new CD "Fate" on iTunes.

3. Julia said something last night about building altars to remind yourself of the big moments in your life that caused you to turn your eyes back towards Jesus. They used to do it all the time in the Bible but now I think its sort of stopped. They used to build them really high so that if they ever ventured away from home they could turn around and see it standing tall above their town as a reminder. This is an interesting idea. What if we could wake up every day and remember all the major things we've learned in our lives, all the times we were saved or rescued by God, all the big decisions and how he pulled us through? How would our days be different? How could we remind ourselves of that every day? Tattoos, that's how.

4. Am I an asshole? I'm starting to think that I might come off as an asshole. Which is not cool with me because I am generally a pretty mellow guy. They say there's one in every group and if you don't know who it is, it's you. Huh. That's weird. Maybe it is the beard. Is the beard intimidating? Cause it's supposed to be.

Beloved, These Are Perilous Times

Listening to Derek Webb again lately, although I still do not have his newest tunes. I am rocking She Must And Shall Go Free like it was brand new.He breaks me heart sometimes with his cutting voice. He just sounds like he is telling the truth, he is very open and readable.

Anyway, he (and Jesus) inspire me to do more, be better, live fuller, and change myself.

I have never read anything by John Piper, mostly because his writing is way inaccessible for me. I generally like Don Millers casual style more, but regardless, I know what Piper stands on and I agree with him (as far as I know). He is all about the thing called Christian Hedonism, which sounds bad, but I rather disagree. It's the idea that we can best glorify God by being fully happy in our everyday lives and experiences. He is most happy when we are truly happy. It makes sense too, especially if you have kids.

So with that in mind I am happy to say that for the last several years I have organized my life in an effort to be extremely happy with where I am and what I am doing. I'll not waste my time being discontented with this difficult world.

So what do I do?

I drive with the windows down

I sing, I jump, I laugh

I travel

I photograph

I love my wife

I love my kid

I wear Chacos

I sit on the porch

I do all these things on purpose. I don't accidentally find myself traveling somewhere awesome and think "Hey, this is great, who would have thought?" I know it will be good, I know I will like it, so I do it.

So here are my two questions:

1. What do you want to do?

2. Why aren't you doing it more?

The first question is very important, because you have to evaluate what you really want most, but the second question is the most crucial, because a lot of people probably know what they want to do, but most people never do any of it. I would bet that the answer to the second question, for most people, is money.

Well guess what.

You are never going to have enough money. No one ever has enough money, so just enjoy your life and forget about being on a tight budget. Have you ever gone hungry before? Ever died of starvation? No. You haven't. And you're not going to.