Olympics, Ed Sheeran, and Finding Community in the World’s Identity Crisis

Broken for more

We are all broken people

The Olympics Closing Ceremony and Ed Sheeran

Did anyone watch the Olympics Closing Ceremony? Thanks to a friend’s text, I got to watch Ed Sheeran sing at the Olympics, just in time. She asked me, “Wait, I thought you didn’t like his stuff”, or something to that degree. I decided to evaluate.

At first, the song “A Team” by Ed Sheeran bothered me a lot. I thought the lyrics were really demeaning and repulsive, despite the fact everyone else who heard him liked it. Then I listened to a cover version of it…and it seemed to really hit me with a new perspective. The song reflects the state of our world, in a sense. Its a powerful song. Check out the lyrics here. I gleaned that “the worst things in life come free”, and I really began to see, that it was true. Especially when it comes to love, friends, and any relationship.

If you turn on the news, right about now, you may hear about yet another shooting spree in the USA. You’re heard about the Colorado Shooting and now, there’s the shooting that happened at College Station. Our world is–and always has been– in a state of chaos, change, and quite frankly, an identity crisis.

So many people in the world are hurting right now. We all want answers. We all want something real. As a Christian, who also struggles with the daily futilities and frustrations of life, I realize there’s a whole lot more people who crave security and aren’t getting their needs met. Our very close friends and neighbors and coworkers are hurting, because of rejection we get daily from others. We were made for community.

The Story of Community

Talking in a Starbucks today with an old friend from high school brought up many good questions about true community. She said it best:

“Community will always be just like a sit com, unless Jesus is in the center of it.”

I never thought of that. Looking back to high school, I see it was true, though. People had cliques that they belonged to. That was their “community”. But, its very hurtful to people outside of it. People feel excluded and made less of if they can’t hang out with certain people or groups. You can see how this kind of “community” is like a sitcom. Exclusive, fake, and/or surface level. Its like being on “Friends” but not having any.

However, when we have TRUE community, Jesus is truly at the center– I believe it is the only way to finding real and deep community. What that looks like is this: when we love Jesus, we really love and care for other people, and have unity, and therefore, community. “Unity equals community” is what my sister said to me. When we have one purpose, to love others like Jesus, we can go deeper and really have a chance to invite more people in.
photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photo pin cc

Response to Chik-Fil-A Gatherings (Part 1)

Recently you’ve heard Dan Cathy, CEO of Chik-Fil-A, speak up about his beliefs that marriage should be between a husband and wife. You’ve doubtless heard the remarks made from all sides of this issue, either from the LGBT community and/or supporters, or else from the conservative community.

As a concerned citizen and follower of Christ, I wanted to not only see first hand what was going on, but really get some perspective. I had a small video camera and some questions all made out to ask people about the event, so I hit the road and prayed for courage and boldness.

The lines were massive and non-stop. Im talking, traffic-stopping from 7pm (when I got there) until 10pm (when it closed). People were spilling out into the parkway as well, standing in line and waiting for over 30 mins to order. As a Christian who believes that the full Word of God is the Truth and Light, I had to take into account: “What would Jesus really do in this situation?”

CFA Line

Cars still in line at 10pm, closing time

So many people were in line… and there were only 4 people out in front of CFA advocating pro-Gay messages. I asked a few people in the CFA line some questions about why they were there that day. Most all of them said they were there to support what Cathy said and keep them in business. Later I heard even Mc Donalds wanted to help by closing down for the night so all the traffic could go to this cause as well. CFA said that wasn’t necessary.

I started to go up to people of various ages and stages of life: older women, college students who went to Baylor, women married with children, and then… a thought struck me. Had anyone even talked to the people in front of CFA holding the rainbow flags and a “Gay is Okay” sign?

I got to talk to an energetic young man from the group who openly said he was gay and a Christian. I asked him some questions, (stay tuned for a video about the night’s events) and he told me his story.

They had been outside CFA since 4pm and they mentioned that people would usually honk or show support or else flip them off. They said someone mooned them, and one guy even parked his car, quietly got out, and attacked them, trying to take away their sign. They said one of them got punched in the face… I think the police came to take away the man assaulting them, they said. I could almost not believe it.  Despite the man’s apparent disagreement with their message, that was not justice. If he disagreed there are other more subtle ways of doing that. Say, going inside CFA for instance.

This leads me to ask fellow Christians, “What Gospel do we spread?”. Would Jesus have subtly stood in line to make a statement that homosexuality is wrong? Or would he have gone over there and talked with these broken people who wanted to share their own views freely as Cathy had earlier? People are people, and sinners are sinners. Jesus loves us all and wants us to be free from sin to come to Him! How can we show that in a tangible way? Certainly not by screaming anti-gay propaganda and hate. Which is what was going on at many points.

As they kept telling me about the hate (and love) they had received from the Church and others since coming out, a man and his dog came up to the group and handed us a huge bag of food from Raising Cane’s chicken next door. Must have been $30 worth of chicken, fries, and sweet tea. I took that as provision from God :-). So, I ate Cane’s Chicken that night, with fellow sinners, just like Jesus would have.

Eventually I got to explain my testimony to them and how even when I felt like I would be judged by exposing my sins, my church received me and prayed for me and loved me through it. Thats the kind of community we were made for. Then, we prayed. I got to pray for them, even the ones who weren’t Christians, and I believe the Holy Spirit met us all. We were all touched.

Later, as I was heading back to my car, I noticed a small group of people singing worship songs right in front of where I parked! I joined in for the rest of the song, “Blessed Be Your Name”. Turns out, they were the youth group from Robinson’s First Baptist Church, and they were super encouraged someone came up and started to sing with them. Before I left we all prayed together too.

There is so much more to this story: its all a part of God’s story. I’d like to encourage the Body of Christ to take a look at our actions…we can’t be going along with the masses unwittingly or else we are hurting other people, rather than helping them. I am not saying it was wrong to eat at Chik-Fil-A that night, by any means! But we have to first look into the eyes of Jesus. His character was eminent in the Bible– He was a passionate, caring man who’s heart would not stand for injustice.

What do you think about any of this? Were you there at Chik-Fil-A, experiencing the even first hand? As the Body of Christ, how can we better show love to everyone while maintaing our values?

The Exley Farm and Apiary

Have you ever experienced life on a farm? Me either. But, I got to experience a day in the life of a farm-life kind of family. Enter the Exleys.

Nathan Exley, another intern I work with, invited us to come see his “farm” and Apiary ( he is a Beekeeper!).

When I first got there I was immediately greeted by the cutest 10 year old boy with a grin the size of New Hampshire, surely. He introduced himself kindly, and then we got to meet yet another Exley brother. There are 4 brothers in the Exley home, but one was at a summer camp.

Exley Brother holding a Hen

My new friend and his chicken little 🙂

First thing we got to do was look at the animals. Chickens. Check. Goats. Check. Chinese Multi-color Pheasant. Say what?! Yup. They had them all, and then some. I got to catch a few critters; I caught the “Big Brama” Hen and held her and met Goliath, the tiny rooster (who is actually quite old!). Paul and Andrew explained the different types of chickens and what kind of eggs they lay: there are brown, white, and even green eggs! “My name is Sam, I like green eggs and ham.” comes to mind…

Big Brama Hen

Petting the nice chicken.

Exley Brother holding eggs

White, Green, and Brown Eggs

A "Show Pheasant"

So pretty…never seen one like him before!

Next thing we got to discover was the garden. Cue epic music. Mrs. Exley, AKA Mama Exley in my book, took us to the garden and let us try fresh cow peas right off the vines. Very tasty. I can imagine them in a good stew with some oregano and parsley. But let me tell you– they grew it all, practically! Spaghetti squash, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, bell peppers, and I think I saw even a few marigolds. I think you could have a garden salad in your fist by the time you finish taking the tour.

Tomato

Fresh and ripe!

We went inside and the Exleys divvied up the garden spoils and offered to send us home with some. Yes, please, and thank you! This led to us trying some homemade dill and sweet-and-crunchy pickles! I am so glad I gave up being a picky eater, because even though I used to not like the sweet pickles, these were an amazing treat! Next wonder in sight was of course the honey. You cannot imagine how flavorful and magical honey fresh off the press is. So to speak. I was told to try it with some of the wax-honeycomb. It was like chewing gum, almost, ‘cept you got to spit out the wax. Doable, and delicious!

The whole day, I kept saying I wanted to see the bees. We almost didn’t get to because it was hot, but they made it work. I got to try on the Beekeeper helmet and see where the bees live! The Exleys are so brave… they didn’t even use a smoker on them when they opened the lid. Check it out:

in a BeeKeeper's Helmet

Stylish Bee-Keeper-Wear

Bee Home

This is the open box where the bees live! An “Apiary”

Next on the checklist (there really wasn’t one but let’s say there was for the sake of the story) was to see the boys’ beds. They were hand-carved cherry or maple wood, sanded and primed to perfection. Excellent craftsmanship– or should I say, Exley-lent? (Let us have a moment of silence for that bad pun) Anyways! They are fine craftsmen in many ways– they hewed their own wooden swords as well as arrows for their bows. Did I mention they do archery as well?

"Robin Hood"

They taught me how to shoot a bow and arrow! Yahoo!

After a rousing few turns of archery and shooting arrows into funky places, the lovely lads of the household played the fiddle and guitar for me. It was some wonderful music, let me tell ya: Lord of the Rings theme song, a few danceable folk tunes, and then some classic worship songs. By “classic”, I mean Rich Mullins was involved, and of course, “I’ll Fly Away” ended the medley of melodies.

By that time it was dinner, and the Exleys invited me to stay a bit for supper. I was floored. The kindness and generosity of this family blew me away, and I was very thankful indeed to learn so much about a farm and its facets in a family-friendly lifestyle. I am forever thankful for this excursion, and I implore you as you read this, to pray for this lovely family as they head out to Belize August 4th.

Thank you, Exleys, and cheerio!