Category Archives: Faith

Coping skills.

Just though I’d share a quick update on some of the ways that i’ve been coping with the death of my friend, Ben Schone. For the past two years, I’ve been seeing a great therapist to help me grow as a person and to work through issues that I believe have held me back from being all I can be. Needless to say, I’ve really appreciated my time with him since this has all happened. I know my self well enough to understand that this definitely wasn’t going to be something that I was going to be able to just hide deep down inside and not deal with. I chose early on to confront my sadness head on and try to learn from what my emotions and pain could teach me. That being said, here are some of the ways that I’ve found effective in helping me honor my friends memory and move through my grieving process.

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First, I bought a pair of shoes that reminded me of him. Chuck Taylors. I was already considering buying a pair for the summer, but knew this would be a way for me to remember him daily as i got dressed and to say a prayer for his family, our friends, and to seek ways to honor his memory that day. 

Second was to listen to music that reminded me of him, and to check out music that I remember him wanting me to listen to. Ben was a huge Muse fan and so I’ve listened to more of their music. I’m also very excited  that Muse will be opening for U2 when i see them in concert in October in Atlanta. I look forward to enjoying my favorite band and his together in one great night of music. 

Last has been watching South Park. Although I have found bits and pieces of South Park funny in the past, I’ve also found it to be in bad taste from time to time and so never really became a fan. One of the things that I remember Schone doing was impersonations of characters from the show. In particular Cartman and Jimmy were two that he could really get me laughing with. I watched the episode called Krazy Kripples the other day and smiled the whole way through. It was like hearing Ben sitting next to me again, doing his impression of Jimmy.

I know people deal with grief in many different ways and with much different timing. Hopefully in some way this can encourage all who have lost loved ones to find ways to remember with fondness the people who have left us too soon.

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The passing of a friend…Ben Schone.

My friend Ben Schone has left us as of April 7, 2009.  I guess when someone you love goes in such a tragic way; it is always scary, haunting, and shocking. As I think about his death I really want to get some ideas out. I’m writing this mostly because I feel like many people will be asking questions that pertain to this and also because it is helpful for me to write it.

When someone commits suicide do they go to hell? First of all to be completely honest, I don’t know. I cannot give an answer to that question no matter who the person is or how they die. What I can give an opinion on is according to my faith, does someone who commits suicide go to hell because of the act itself. My thoughts…suicide does not mean that someone will go to hell.

The idea that suicide is a damnable sin has come from the idea that life is to be valued and that we submit our lives to our creator. It’s thought that when someone commits suicide that they are in fact, by their actions, saying “screw you God, I don’t trust you with my life” and then ending their life. In this way the person would be defiant and turning their back on God.

For any of us who have lost someone in this manner, I highly doubt that this is ever the case. Usually, from my experiences in life, suicide is someone feeling overwhelmed with emotions and circumstances and finding themselves not able to deal with them through typical coping skills. Chemical imbalance is much more often the cause of someone ending their own life, not someone being defiant of God. 

A second part of the idea that if you commit suicide you are going to hell comes from the fact that it is a sin to take a life even you own and so if it’s your last act, you aren’t able to receive forgiveness and would be damned. I strongly disagree with this as well. God isn’t limited by our mistakes. Imagine if you were falling off of a cliff on accident and on the way down cursed God out of loose lips as you were panicking on the way down. It’s a sin to take God’s name in vein; do you think you would go to hell? I certainly don’t think that God’s ultimate judgment of my life would have anything to do with a slip of the tongue being my final act before death. Neither do I believe that doing something as harmful as suicide as your final act would lead to damnation.

I guess I’m saying all of this to ease people’s minds and to hopefully help us to focus on what I believe we should focus on when someone that we love passes. I believe we must focus on moving through our sadness and cherishing the life of the one who has passed. To take what that person has meant to us and be sure that it never dies in us. Make sure that the person lives on in the way that we live, love, and relate to others. May the beauty and wonder of our friend Ben Schone live on in us.
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Losing the taste.

Tomorrow night Blitzen Trapper is going to be in town at the Orange Peel. I’m excited to go check them out, and tickets are only $12! Now the only song that I know of theirs is “furr” but it’s made its way onto my most played list over the past few months. Here’s my favorite lyric, it’s really affected me lately…blitzen_trapper

“And I lost the taste for judging right from wrong
For my flesh had turned to fur, yeah
And my thoughts, they surely were
Turned to instinct and obedience to God.”

The way I hear it, the guy has gone to live among a pack of wolves.  When he does he loses the taste for judging right from wrong and instead turns to instinct and obedience to God. Instead of being concerned with judging those around him, he wants to live the best life possible and obey God. Maybe I’m totally wrong on the meaning of this lyric, but I find it so beautiful.

If you haven’t noticed, lately I’ve really been stuck on the habit that I see in the lives of myself and others to judge other people constantly. I don’t know if I’m trying to find a cure or just understand it better so that I can live better. It just seems that at some point during each day I observe, partake, or ponder on the idea of judging. Immediately words of Jesus teachings flood my head that speak to how judging is not healthy or wise.

…do not judge or you will be judged…
…in the same way you judge others, you will be judged…
…I came not to judge the world, but to save it…

Still over and over it seems to me that “religious” people are the ones that are the quickest and best at judging others. It seems that many people are far more concerned about whether or not someone else is making a mistake than working on correcting the mistakes in their own lives. I’m constantly reminded that if I really want to effect change, I need to be the change I want to see. Still so many want to shove things in someone else’s face instead of showing the mercy that we would like to receive. It’s almost like we feel like we don’t deserve mercy so we never give it to anyone else. We don’t think that others will be forgiving of our mistakes so we don’t forgive others. I am so thankful that those that love me don’t shove my mistakes in my face all the time. In fact, those that care about me usually show me the most love when I mess up. They remind me that I am not my mistakes and that it is possible to grow and leave them in past. I’ve found that their love in the face of my imperfections is what motivates me to move beyond my faults to a better way.

The choice is always there to judge or love.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
– 1 Cor. 13:13

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Show me…

Running has been coming along pretty well. Having my friend Trent training for a half-marathon and using my new toys (Run keeper app on iPhone) to help track my training has been very effective.  This past Saturday I went to run in an addition that someone had recommended I run some of my longer runs in called Biltmore Forest.  She told me that it was a low traffic area and that it was a beautiful addition as well. I was excited to check it out and it was cool to finally run somewhere new. It was a little hillier than I had expected, but I was focusing on keeping my head up and breathing correctly so i wasn’t too distracted by the obsticles and instead enjoyed the new scenery. It turned out to be an amazing run and today was a good run was well. My time is improving and I’m seeing progress in all areas.

Today during my run I spent time reflecting on a movie that I started watching called Lord Save Us From Your Followers. It’s a documentary style film about the division that faith is having on America. Although I haven’t seen Religulous yet, I gather that it might be in the same vein except with the end point being that faith shouldn’t be given up on. Religulous is next on my Netflix cue, so I’ll be checking that out this week as well. As I ran I just kept thinking about how different this world might be if Christians were as passionate about loving others as trying to win arguments. What if we stopped trying to convince people that we are “right” and instead lived what we believe. How different might things be?

Today was Ash Wednesday. Last year I decided to participate in Lent differently than I had in the past. I decided to focus on doing more spiritual emphasis than abstaining from something. This year I plan on doing the same. Of the four New Year resolutions I have taken on, I’ve done really well with three of the four. Reading, running, and blogging have been very regular but blogging hasn’t taken off as well as I’d hoped. I really think that for me journaling is an essential spiritual discipline. It is where I can be totally honest with myself and really express myself in though and prayer. This year for lent my plan is to journal every night, reading through the gospel of Matthew, and reading Jesus wants to save Christians by Rob Bell and Don Golden. To make time for this I’ve limited myself to only two TV shows a day. Although I don’t like to admit it, TV can be a real time waster for me. I guess my computer can be as well, maybe next year I’ll reduce my computer usage.

Favorite song of the moment…Use Somebody by Kings of Leon.

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Tearful performance.

I’m reading a book called Divine Nobodies by Jim Palmer and tonight I’m absolutely crying. I mean I’m not much of a crier, you won’t probably ever see me cry. Don’t let that fool you though, I’m a softy, and I do cry often when reading books or watching movies alone. Well, actually even then I don’t cry often, but I definitely tear up and get a little emotional. I’m not bragging that I don’t cry in front of people, I know that it’s the machismo culture that men have been brought up in that makes me this way. I’m fully aware that crying is not a sign of weakness and there are several men that I admire that I see cry often at sentimental moments, but still it’s engrained  in me to not cry easily in front of others. I know it’s silly.

Anyways, tonight I was really hit by a story that Jim shared about a young woman who was sitting in the library with her father as he read her a book. She was an angelically beautiful young woman who had cerebral palsy. He talked about how she sat with her face against her father’s shoulder, enamored as he read to her. By no fault of her own, she can’t express to her father all that she feels in the ways that a typical child would, yet by her father’s actions, it is clear that he adores her and loves to be with her. It’s a beautiful picture and I believe Jim’s point was that the father’s love for his daughter has nothing to do with what the daughter can or cannot do. He related this to the fact that so many people are caught up with trying to “perform” for God instead of loving God and loving others.

I wonder how long I will keep trying to perform for God before I realize that what God really wants is for me to just live life in love with Him. I believe we will bring more of the kingdom of God to this world out of response of living in love then in trying to perform for him. When will I ever realize that there is nothing I can do to make God love me more?

C.S. Lewis expresses it like this in Mere Christianity.  There’s a story where a child asks his father for a sixpence to buy his father a gift. The father gives the son the money and is happy with the gift that he gets. But he realizes that he’s not any richer, because he gave the child the money in the first place. It’s a reminder that we can never really “do” anything for God. He has made us, and we are just to live in response to that love, by loving God and loving others.  I’m done trying to perform.

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Change the world?

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world.

As I grew older and wiser I discovered the world would not change –
So I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country, but it too seemed immovable.

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.

And now I realize as I lie on my deathbed, if I had only changed myself first, then by example I might have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement I would then have been able to better my country,

And who knows, I might have even changed the world.”

– inscription on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in Westminster Abbey

I really like this thought, and yet tonight, for the first time, I’m realizing that my entire adult life has still been lived trying to change the world. I feel bad about it, the fact that I’ve lived trying to change everyone else instead of trying to change myself more often. It’s not like I’ve grown up never hearing this sentiment.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Ghandi

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” – Jesus

Still I find that I’m so quick to try to change the world and others instead of focusing on being who it is that I believe I’m meant to be, who I’m trying to be. The crazy part is that at this point in my life, I feel as though I really have something to say, something to contribute to the conversation of life, but realize that most of us are too wrapped up in our own lives to have the conversation anyways. So for those of you that I’ve tried to change, instead of enjoying the conversations in life that are worth having, I’m sorry. I’m working on it, and I’m learning to listen and understand before trying to be understood. This will be an ongoing process though, so please be patient. I’m learning how to live life all over again. Learn how to live as I believe is best and yet to not impose on others. Learn to live my life in a way that hopefully does inspire others and yet be ready for when no one takes notice.

On the other hand I’ve been pretty excited lately and for several good reasons.

1) My half marathon training is going well and I can already feel and see a difference with my running and weight lifting. My blisters are healing nicely now that I’m using two pairs of socks. I have changed my training program though; I’m using Runners World smart coach training now.

2) I’ve just got six new books and I’m excited to read all of them. (authors: Jim Palmer, Shane Claiborne, Rob Bell, Mark Steele and 2 by N.T. Wright.)

3) I got information on Noe Israel, the kid I’m now sponsoring in the Dominican Republic, and his family, along with a photo. (I’ll scan it soon.)

4) The next two months of my life continue to blossom with more and more fun excursions with great friends who will be coming to visit me and of course Lesley and Bruce’s wedding.

5) I found the blogs of two authors that I’ve really enjoyed reading lately: Jim Palmer and Brian D. McLaren.

The sum of these things has really kept me in pretty great spirits. That being said, here’s to being a world changer, the right way.

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Ain’t no party like a Souper Bowl Party!

This weekend for me, and for many others, was centered on the Super bowl. For my friends, this weekend has always been a party weekend with lots of food, friends, and a great time for those watching the game as well as those who aren’t into the game. Althought this weekend wasn’t lacking in the food, friends, and fun department, this year was a little different for me.

This time around I really threw myself into a service project called the Souper Bowl of Caring. Along with about five thousand other groups across the country, I worked to try to make a difference this weekend for those who possibly weren’t able to enjoy a weekend the way that many of us are accustom to.

 

It started on Saturday when I went with six teenagers to Ms. Maylee’s house. She is a widow in her 90’s who lives alone. Looking at her house it was obvious that it was in need of some repairs and when we arrived there, smoke billowing out of one of her windows. Ms. Maylee had been without heat the past few days because her chimney was clogged and because the power outlets in her room weren’t working. So we split up and joined the others who were already there helping make a difference for Ms. Maylee. Together we cleaned out her chimney, cleaned up and mulched around her place, cleaned her kitchen and bathroom, and got her heater and wood burning stove back to working. I got to spend some time talking to her about the past few days, her dog Blister, and how thankful she was that people were there to help her during this difficult time. As we were leaving to head over to the Rescue Mission, people from her church showed up as well to check on her and continue the good work. When we got over to the Rescue Mission, we lead a small chapel service and then ate with those who were there for a nice warm meal.

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On Sunday, we had been encouraging our church members to bring a can and a donation to give to IAM and the Rescue Mission. In the past we had raised as much as $700 and 300 cans. This year the response was amazing. Our church and community responded by giving $1742 and 542 cans. Whether it was because we had an article in the local paper about this service opportunity, or because people are very aware of the needs in the current economic situation, the giving to those less fortunate was really inspirational.

I think that this weekend was such a meaningful time for me because over the past year I’ve really been struggling with what my faith means to me. Like I’ve said before, I don’t think that it’s me losing my faith, but me rethinking my faith. During this time I’ve repeatedly remembered the words of Pastor Rich Pagan who always says “You will get more happiness from helping others than you will ever get trying to make yourself happy.” I fell as though I’m on a journey to become a different kind of person, someone who truly looks to take care of those around me, not just look out for myself.

What if everyone committed to having only what we need rather then everything we want, and then gave the surplus to the needy amongst us? – Scott Phillips

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. 
– James 1:27 (NAS)

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