Archive - June, 2008

NYC.

I1203630018_a31f62245e_b.jpg‘ve never been to New York City.

The farthest east I’ve been is Weirton, West Virginia, where they brew and bottle their own beer and make steel like it’s their job. Because it is.

I’m going to New York City this week with my wife and my family-in-law (mother-, father- and brother- to be exact.) I’m really curious to see if all the stereotypes of New Yorkers are true:

“They’re all rude.”
“You’ll get mugged. Wear a fanny pack.”
“All the cabbies smell.”
“They’ll stab you if you go into the Park after dark.”
“All they eat is pizza.”
“Bums urinate on the subway.”
“The city never sleeps. Wait, that’s Las Vegas. Isn’t it? Shoot. I’ll just have a bagel with lox and call it a day.”

You get the idea.

Have you ever been to New York City? What should we see? What should we avoid? Where’s the best place to get pizza? Best place to get coffee (if you say “Central Perk” I will kindly respond by saying, “it’s not a real place. Trust me, I’ve already looked into it.”)?

My father-in-law is from this area. He even played college football for the Syracuse Orangemen. I must say, I’m glad he’ll be with us, leading us on our maiden voyage to what could be a “strange land” for this Midwestern guy. I’m glad he’ll be there, a.) because it will be fun to get to know him and my mother-in-law better and, b.) he will serve as our interpreter/guide/overall thug in case any New Yorkers give us guff. (After I asked for his blessing to marry Kerry – my now-wife, his daughter – he gave me a hug and slapped my back so hard I thought a vertebrae had dislodged and fallen out the bottom of my shoe.) Skadoosh suckas!

So, I bid you all farewell and shall return to this glorious blog on Monday, July 14th. Follow my trip via Twitter at www.twitter.com/JustinWise.

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Sigur Rós.

Have you ever listened to music that simultaneously makes you want to praise God you have ears to hear, yet turn it off because the sheer beauty and majesty the music possesses is almost too much for the human soul to handle? Yeah, me neither.

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Not enough time.

makes_eat_time.jpgYou know what I love? I love it when people will utter something like the following:

“I don’t have time for ______”

You know exactly what I’m talking about. You may be in a discussion with a person and as you mention something going on in your life, you hear the reply, “Oh, I don’t have time for ______.”

“I don’t have time for TV.”
“I don’t have time for blogging.”
“I don’t have time to watch movies.”
“I don’t have time to read.”
“I don’t have time to….”

Here’s the thing about that statement – about the, “I don’t have time…” statement – you do have time. You have plenty of time. You have time to do the things you need to do, and you have time to do things that you want to do. You just choose not to spend your time doing the activities I spend my time doing. Which is okay, but let’s get honest about it.

You have time.

Unless you work in a sweatshop for 20 hours a day (with no breaks), you have time to do the things you need to do, and some time to do some of the things you want to do. You have time.

I think we have created a culture in the West where busyness equates to importance. In other words, the more busy I am, the more important I am. For instance, if I mention to you that I enjoyed watching the season finale of “LOST” and you respond with, “Oh, I don’t have enough time to watch TV (insert hoity-toity, condescending laugh here)…”, you have just emerged as being more important than me.

Because you don’t “have enough time.”
But you do.
Because you spent three hours playing “Guitar Hero” on Wii last night.

(For the record, this mindset runs rampant in our churches. If you aren’t running around like a chicken with your head cut off, you are “lazy” or “inefficient.” Blech.)

Can I get an “Amen”? Does anybody know what I’m talking about? What has your experience with someone who “doesn’t have time”?

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What makes you so sure?

quizzes1.gifI was listening to a talk show today. One of the guests was a businessman who made it abundantly clear that he wanted to beseen as an Evangelical Christian who had a very clear set of political views.

The more I listened, the more I wanted to ring his neck.

He was arrogant, brash, rude, and disrespectful to anyone who did not share the exact same views as him. Anyone who wasn’t lock, stock and barrel with the way that he saw the world was misinformed at best, ignorant at worst. The tone of his voice was condescending. His attitude towards another person on the show who disagreed with him was dripping with arrogance.

Here is a man who verbally spouts a set of doctrinal beliefs, yet the words of his mouth betrayed the very life that he, as a self-confessed Christian, is called to live. The last time I checked, Jesus did not say, “blessed are those who verbally berate others who do not agree with them, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”

As I listened, I found myself literally asking the question, “what would Jesus do?” How would Jesus respond to someone who respectfully disagreed with him? Would he respond like this self-confessed follower of Jesus? With arrogance and selfish pride? With a religious spirit so thick it gave a tangibility to the radio waves beaming through the air?

If I ever had the chance to speak to this man, face-to-face, I think my first question to him would be, “what makes you so sure?”

What makes you so sure that the way that you see the role of the Church in politics is correct?
What makes you so sure that the disconnected way in which you live your life of faith is correct?
What makes you so sure that you are right and everyone else is wrong?
What makes you so sure?

I can tell you this, I love Jesus Christ more than anything in my entire life and I did not agree with one peep that came from this man’s lips. So I ask again, “what makes you so sure?

Christian or not, have you ever experienced someone like this? What was your response to them? What did it make you feel?

A conversation with a friend yesterday surfaced these prophetic words, “God will change the entire face and expression of Christianity in one generation.” Maranatha, let that generation be ours!

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Cheese.

Slogan in most desperate need of an overhaul: “Persnickety people. Exceptional cheese.”

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The Hoff.

David Hasselhoff referring to NY: “It’s like Sinatra said, ‘if you can’t make it here, you can’t make it anywhere!”

Frank Sinatra referring to NY: “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” Oh Hoff, how wrong you are.

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New commercial.

Has anyone seen the new U.S. Cellular commercial? The one with the smiling man on a cell phone walking through the streets of a big city? He smiles and everyone smiles back at him. The tagline of the spot is, “the world is full of beauty.” I am inspired by this commercial as I believe it reveals something of the way God has created the human heart. We, as God’s image bearers, are crafted to enjoy and desire beauty. Thank you, Jesus.

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Hitting a nerve.

134_5_3.jpgSo last week I posted on ignoring a homeless beggar that I saw on the side of the interstate when coming into work. He was young, comfortably dressed, and smoking. I chose to ignore him and not give him money because in one hand he held a sign that said, “Hungry – Please Help,” and in the other was a lit cigarette.

He chose smoking over food.

I think many of you felt the same way I feel – struggles and all. This is what some of you said:

Andrea: “In those moments I have to think not of the earthly person “begging” but of the Heavenly Father who for whatever reason has allowed them to cross my path that day. For me to keep driving (and I sometimes do) would move me one step further from being the life of love that I so desire to live. Whether they need it or not is none of my concern.”

Dave Sandell: “I used to have similar struggles with this issue, and after much soul-searching, I think what’s most important is that I believe Jesus works with your heart’s intent. So if you give the beggar with a cigarette $5, you’ve given Jesus $5.”

jwagnerdsm: “Regarding professional beggers, they provide a service by assuaging our guilt about not doing more to help the poor by making it easy to slip ‘em a few bucks and then get on with our uncomplicated lives.”

It looks like a lot of you have experienced this phenomenon of beggars and the struggles that follow. My question today is this, “does it really matter if they use the money we might give them for food or shelter or cigarettes?” In other words, even if they say they will use the money for food and instead go and use it to buy a beer/cigarettes/meth, etc., should that really matter?

I seem to be revolving around the fact that those who are truly less fortunate would welcome a hot meal over a few bucks any ol’ day. But, does kindness happen when we give or when what we give is used to benefit said person? In other words, is kindness when I place $5 into the hands of a beggar or does kindness happen when that $5 is used to buy food/beer/cigarettes, etc.? Is it in the act or the benefits of the act?

What do you all think?

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No love for Babylon.

Of all places, today I heard from God while listening to a song from Sublime.riverofbabylon.gif

The song’s called “Rivers of Babylon,” a re-make of a Bob Marley song by the same name. The lyrics go something like this:

“By the rivers of Babylon
Where he sat down
And there he wept when he remembered Zion.
Oh from wicked, carry us away from captivity
Required from us a song
How can we sing King Alpha’s song in a strange land?
So let the words of our mouth
And the meditations of our hearts
Be acceptable in thy sight”

This is taken almost word-for-word from Psalm 137, a psalm that tells the heartache and pain of the Israelites when they were taken from their homeland and forced to live in a country that was very much not their home.

The concept of feeling a divinely-inspired allegiance to a geographical location is something that I’ve come to only appreciate as I’ve grown older, and especially as of late. My friend Dave loves Chicago. My friend Drew loves his home in Colorado. Another friend of mine declares that the city in which she finds herself now “saved her life.” Clearly this is something that is not a new concept.

I’ve come to feel a love and appreciation for my city, Des Moines. I love this place. I love it even more after watching her go through the drama and pain of the Floods of 2008 in the last few weeks. I felt the pain of the Psalter as I watched the Des Moines River nearly consume the downtown area of Des Moines. As I thought about what it might mean to have the coffee house where I grab my Tuesday morning Americano destroyed, my heart reflected these words:

“How can we sing King Alpha’s song in a strange land?”

How could I enjoy the things I enjoy about downtown Des Moines somewhere else? Where would I get sushi with my friend Lincoln? Where would the Farmer’s Market go? Where else would I get that incredible view of the Capital when strolling down E. Locust? Phew.

All that to say, I heard someone say this past week on the news, “it’s just stuff – all this stuff can be replaced” when trying to rationalize the tragedy of losing everything they had to the flood waters. I understand their heart, but all that “stuff” makes up a “place” and a place makes up a “home” and multiple homes make up a “city.”

So take heart wherever you are, and thank God for the place you reside. Chances are, he’s knitting you to your home in ways you can’t even imagine. Do you see this in your own life? Where’s your “homeland”? Are you unable to sing because you find yourself in a “strange land”? Let’s hear it…

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Babylon.

I’l explain more later on the “Big Blog,” but read these lyrics from “Rivers of Babylon”:

By the rivers of Babylon,
Where he sat down,
And there he went
For he remembered Zion.

For the wicked carry us away.
Captivity requireth from us a song.
How can we sing King Alpha’s song
In a strange land?

So let the words of our mouth
And the meditations of our hearts

Be acceptable in thy sight over I.

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