June 2016

June 28, 2016

As Long as it is Called 'Today'

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13)
I've always been plagued by procrastination. I don't know if it's my rampant indecisiveness or a poor concept of time, but I tend to put tasks off far too often. Even fun things escape my daily grasp, and here's an example.
I look at development through the lens of a skateboarder, and so my eyes are always open to new skate spots. Some areas are better than others, but in Los Angeles, there are too many to count. Nonetheless, whenever I saw something that looked skateable, I took notice. Most of the time I would be driving by in a hurry or passing through with the family, and so I couldn't just grab my board and start skating right away. And so I would take a picture on my phone, write it down or even add it to my GoogleMap documenting many of the skate spots/parks in town.

Unfortunately, that's usually as far as it went (these are a couple spots that were at the top of my list).
As the time came to exit Los Angeles, I felt the need to hit these spots, and so I tried to make time for it, knowing there were some I'd likely never have a chance to skate again. But as time goes by and needs pop up (particularly in preparing to move), life gets busy and before you know it, it's too late -- you've missed your chance. There are many spots I passed by a hundred times that were never touched by my four wheels. And so, as I imagine all the ledges, stairs and gaps I hoped to hit, all I can do is wish some other better prepared skater will have the chance to potentially do what I never did. (If that's you, check out that GoogleMap and send me some footage!)
Of course this same concept applies to everything in life: do what you have set out to do today. If you wait too long...the art, the music, the renovations, the dates, the job, the playgrounds, the car, the girl, the vacation and whatever else you have on your list will slip through your fingers, and these dreams, goals and tasks will remain nothing but a little scribble on a list called "Someday."
For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

June 6, 2016

See That Light Shine

Here's a tune with a fun folk sound that I'm pretty proud of. It came about while on a long walk with my daughter one clear evening. As we crested the hills of Redondo Beach, California, I noticed a light on a mountain in the distance. There are ranges that line the north side of Los Angeles, and it's really a beautiful skyline when the air is clear enough to see that far. While watching the flicker, the melody that became the chorus for this song popped in my head (see below).
I liked the words, and so I thought about what that might mean and how it would apply to life. The idea of past struggles in my relationship with my wife came up, and eventually turned into a history of our dating life together. In any relationship there are ups and downs, and sometimes it just feels like you're walking in darkness; but then you see that light shine, coming up over the horizon, and you're reminded that there is morning and with it, hope.
When you're there, don't give up, and don't forget that somewhere, light still shines, and will soon shine on you.
(Many thanks to Alex Barker for help on this video and in the album version, which you can hear in the background here. Edited by John So.)

I see that light shine, coming over the horizon
I think it's bright enough to shine on you and me
And though we walk through the darkness now, pretty soon we'll both be reminded how
That light shine, when we began our journey

It was a rainy October, the evening that we first met
We'd met before, earlier but we'd forget
I thought that you were taken, and had it all figured out
But I misread, everything that you were about
And in that fire light, we opened up our lives
And we haven't stopped since, ain't no reason we should stop right now

It was Valentines Day, when we both confessed our love
But by the summer, I said that mind had faded some
I moved west, to follow some dreams of mine
You moved too, to see if our lives aligned
And by those city lights, we started a new life
And we haven't stopped since, ain't no reason we should stop right now

It was a warm winter, when I decided it was time
To go ring shopping, and see if you would be mine
I made a plan, and sent you all over town
By the time you found me, I had one knee on the ground
And by that sunset light, we opened up our lives
And we haven't stopped since, ain't no reason we should stop right now

It was a Southern Christmas, when we got up before our friends
And promised God, we'd never let our love end
Through the good times, and bad we would walk in stride
Hands together, taking life side by side
And by those Christmas lights, we started a new life
And we haven't stopped growing, ain't no reason we should stop right now
And though the world may try, to slow us down at night
I see that light shine, to guide us on to the daylight

June 1, 2016

Stay Salty

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched." (Mark 9:42-48)
Whenever I read these verses I imagine all the people that have maimed themselves over the centuries because of what Jesus said. Were they right? Was Jesus to be taken literally here? Most of us would agree that's probably not what he meant. But then what does he really mean? Why use such extreme language?
I think what Jesus is saying here is to take sin seriously. I mean, really seriously. Serious as in it may be better to lose a limb than keep on sinning. Apparently, the Kingdom of God and eternity must mean far more than a comfortable life on earth. However, even that can be misconstrued into severe legalism or an incredibly stressful life. It would be very easy to put all our focus on avoiding sin, but we all know that's impossible. So then what? Should we just be stressed out and afraid all the time? I would argue that a good way to take sin seriously is to let it affect you, and as we read on, I think this matches up with what Jesus says next.
Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other. (Mark 9:49-50)
This salt analogy has always perplexed me. It's not hard to derive some kind of meaning from it, but how do we narrow down exactly what Jesus meant in this context? It's no secret that salt was used heavily in Jesus' day -- for taste, preservation, trade and more -- and so I will make a general statement and say that salt is useful. And so, if this salt loses whatever quality makes it "salty," it's not much more than sand, right? But what does this have to do with sin?
Jesus says, "Everyone will be salted with fire," right after he makes these extreme statements about sin. Here is the connection between the two: we all sin ("everyone"), but it can make us useful ("salted"); and I would argue it makes us useful when we let it affect us. How? We learn from our mistakes and try not to do them again. However, if we stop learning, or stop letting sin affect us, we become much less useful ("salty"), and it becomes more and more difficult go backwards to a place where we are malleable people again.
The last verse confirms it: "Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other." This seems a bit random -- what does unity and peace have to do with our own individual sin? When Jesus says that "everyone" sins, we are immediately united and have common ground in our struggles, as well as our collective need for a savior. If we then start to think sin isn't important, or don't let it affect us, we are breaking ties with mankind in a haughty statement of self-righteousness. Furthermore, the sin that once taught us lessons in life (made us "salty"), which we could then go on to use in helping our brothers with their own struggles, has lost its significance and made us stagnant, useless, bland.
 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)
But let's take this one step further: Examining our sin and letting it affect us is indeed important and makes us useful, but there's one thing that can affect us more -- the Cross. Think about the times in life when you were the closest to God? How focused on sin were you? Probably not that much. How focused on God were you? Probably a lot. If we keep our focus on Jesus and what he has done for us -- the magnitude of God becoming human to atone for mistakes he did not make to redeem a people who did not deserve it, all in the name of love -- does that not strike a chord in your soul that changes who you are from the inside out? Let it steep. Let it sink in. Get quiet. Meditate on it. Jesus sets up a pretty high standard here, one that none of us can meet, and then obliterates it through his own sacrifice. How incredible is that? Has anyone ever done anything like that for you?
To lose sight of that and stop letting it affect us is a far greater loss of saltiness than sensitivity to sin; but how easy is it for that to happen? How rarely are we taken by the awe of God and his acts, when busyness and productivity controls our life? But when we are, and our spirit is lifted up to his, we are changed, and love for God and love for others pours out through the cracks of our heart like salt water rivers, bringing with them healing and vibrancy and life.
And that is how to stay salty.