Monday, January 24, 2011

Finding God everywhere: "Praise Habit: Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi" by David Crowder

Nothing screams "Praise
God!" like raw fish
God is everywhere. He is in the mountains. He is in the trees. He is in your most trusted friends and most venomous of enemies. He is even in those little pre-wrapped sausages that you find at Wal-Mart. But how often do we actually see God in life?

Oh sure! He is apparent in the miracles. He is apparent in death. He is apparent in close calls. And sometimes even, He is apparent in church. Yeah, we like to find God in church. I liken it to charging your cell phone once a week... You can make it, but it's pretty dang difficult.

David Crowder is one of the foremost artists in the Christian music industry. His iconic hairstyle, reedy tenor, and melodically addicting tunes set him apart from most within any music industry, Christian or not. But what most people don't know is that he is also a writer. A really talented one, actually.

In his book Praise Habit: Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi, Crowder attempts to teach even the most raw and unpracticed of Christian hearts how to find God in everything. According to Crowder, people have lost the inherent ability to praise. As children, praise comes naturally. From acquiring new toys to seeing their daddy throw the perfect spiral, children just know that they are witnesses to the greatest thing on Earth. And they're thankful for it!

As we age we seem to lose this ability. Our care shifts not towards how awesome other people can be, but instead upon our own self-images, comfortable lifestyles, and personal pleasures. We become "I." With this change comes an inability to see beyond one's self. And Crowder hates that! He instead encourages each of us to find things to be thankful for. Once we run out of ideas to be thankful for, we continue to praise God just for life! It is in this constant joy and searching for God that we rediscover our own inherent "praise habit."

I encourage each of you to take this message to heart. Find God in everything. Find him in snow, or tea, or books, or video games, or stilt-walking, or music, or the habitual kindness of others. Learn to praise, and learn to be thankful in all things. There is more to praise than the rockin' worship tunes you sing on any given Sunday. Praise so much that it becomes habit. And then you will recognize God's voice in your life as the ultimate source of joy. "Praise is something we are, not something we do."

Sharing the reason we were created,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kicking it off: Music discovery days!

They love love love love
poppin' a wheelie!
Reading the blogs of other people, both friends and famous, is one of my favorite pastimes on the internet. Stimulating the mind is an important exercise, and sometimes it is important for us to look at the views/opinions of others so that we might form our own beliefs. So today, I'm going to kick off a new feature to the site!

Donald Miller is one of my favorite modern authors. Yes, I know many people like him, so I'm sorry to disappoint all of those hipsters out there informing me that I am much too mainstream (I still wear plaid from time to time... We can still be friends, right?). Every Sunday, Miller features music on his blog. His "Sunday Morning Music" vignettes support local musicians, famous musicians, and even a classical tubist! I think I'd kind of like to imitate Mr. Miller, and start sharing music with you on Sundays.

To celebrate the release of their new album Hi-Five Soup, today I would like to laud one of my favorite bands from my youth, The Aquabats! Originally a third-wave ska band in the 90s, the Bats! have changed their sound to incorporate ska guitar, Devo-esque synth work, and the catchiest melody lines on the planet. So today, I leave you with a taste of the MC Bat Commander and his band, The Aquabats!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A myth regarding creativity

Sure, it looks nice. But so
did the Sirens in the Odyssey.
Excuses exist for every feasible reason on this planet. There is just something woven into the proverbial quilt of the human psyche that prevents us from failing without a second thought about it. We cannot be wrong. If we are wrong, we justify it in some way... Even when that justification is an enormous load of bovine excrement.

Some people have been asking me why I have not posted anything on the blog for nearly two weeks. I didn't even let creativity play in to my answer. I threw 'em the old standby of "writer's block." And that seemed to satisfy. Even I believed that my creativity was beyond some invisible barrier that I had yet to unlock in the past few weeks. For a time, I believed myself to be a struggling artist that molded his creative palette slowly, waiting for the right moment to spring some literary masterpiece (Yes, blogs can be regarded as masterpieces. If Victor Hugo had had a blog, he would have been big.) upon the world! If I knew very many angst-laden poets that still lived with their parents, I'm sure they would all be proud of me.

There is no such thing as writer's block. Trade secret I suppose. Two components make up the ridiculous false concept that is "writer's block." The first of these is the writer. Having a subject is rather important when trying to ascribe the "block." Otherwise, it would just be "block." The second component is laziness. Pure, unadulterated laziness.

Had I sat down, turned off my phone, and shut down Facebook for any decent amount of time over the last several weeks, I'm sure I would have written something. But alas, I am lazy! I did not ponder anything deep, nor did I attempt to grow in my relationships with the people who play roles in my life. Every thought and/or action in the life of Troy for the past two weeks can be tied back to these three statements:

1. Troy is comfortable.
2. Troy is easily distracted.
3. Troy is lazier than Billy Liar on any given Summer day.

The all-consuming behemoth of laziness is indeed a savage beast. It can creep up on us at any given time when we are not already preoccupied with any task that requires more than 2% of our brains. And nothing, I repeat, NOTHING else will steal your soul from doing the things that truly matter in this life as laziness will. Being constantly comfortable drags us right back into an apathetic lifestyle that drains us of meaning and instead fills us with "OKness" (totally trademarking that word).

To my few consistent readers out there, I apologize for the laziness. I promise that it will not happen again. Watch out for laziness in your own lives as well. While I believe myself to be King of the Lazies, I also know many others who struggle with the same issue. Go outside right now. Get coffee with someone you haven't seen for awhile. And for Pete's sake, do your homework!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Rob Bell ruined my life!

I still don't understand this
cover, and I've read the
book 6 times!!!
My family and I first attended church when I was in the 2nd grade. It was the huge baptist church that had (and may still have) one of the largest influences in my quaint hometown of 6,000. Seriously, 600 people is a pretty large majority in a ranching town (For the record, average attendance was between 300-400, but holidays brought in up to 600). The funny thing is... I loved church! I could partake in mischief with friends, color tiny paper cutouts of famous Jewish heroes, craft little treasures that I still cannot find to this day, eat gratuitous amounts of candy, and school my "less educated" contemporaries in Bible trivia (I was a very arrogant child. I'm still pretty arrogant today, actually. Some things never change). The church became my home away from home, and I loved going! And when youth group came around? Ha! I was a man, by golly! A man who could go to concerts on his parents' money! How could it get any better!?! This was my equivalent to a church life for many years. The theology? Irrelevant to someone my age. The Bible? Easy-train to looking smarter than everybody else! So the church was the go-to place for fun and finding my own selfish worth. In all of my years there, Christ probably did in fact speak to me. I'm sure he did. But when you're eating snacks and going to amusement parks, who cares what Christ has to say?

Nothing lasts forever (scratch that, Twinkies last forever).  I was a freshman in high school during "the split." The church suffered a schism... Not over an extra-marital affair. Not over a crime. Not even over disagreement with a church doctrine. My church split over a call to reach out to the community. And, even more ridiculously, a single book wrecked what was left after that call... Something so trivial as a book destroyed the decades-long relationships within my church. That book was Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell. So let the record show: Rob Bell ruined my easy-going, comfortable life!

This book is a difficult read for one reason: Bell dares his readers to ask questions. His theology is ambiguous and is not really given clarity at most points. The writing is very simple, which isn't really a bad thing I suppose. Just too seemingly simple for a difficult topic, the claim that he is trying to "repaint the Christian faith." And the organization is pretty scattered. I do not claim to agree with much of what Rob Bell says, whether in this book or others, but I do like his tendency to make a person ask questions.

Questions are how we grow. So often, unfortunately, we are taught to not question within the church. The view of pastors as having perfect knowledge of the Bible is far too prevalent within the faith. Trust me, I know! I grew up in that! But there comes a time when one must read for oneself. There comes a time when one must ask questions of oneself. And finally, there comes a point when one must choose what they believe and know why they believe it!

I guess this post is just a ridiculously roundabout way of conveying this: question things! We grow in questioning. It is in the process of searching for answers that we become the humans that we are meant to be. Don't believe the myth that somebody on this Earth has all of the answers for you. Nobody does. Trust, pray, and ask questions instead. Our God is a big god... He can handle your inquiries. Also, read Velvet Elvis sometime. While I may not agree 100% with what Bell has to say, he has a heart for people. How can I frown upon that?

Maybe Troy, maybe not... Nope, still just

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The bullet train to maturity

Good thing they aren't European...
You'd need a whole new cord
Over the past couple of days, this site has started to bustle with activity. The last post, my own inquiries into transgenderism, was broadcast to a much larger audience than any section of the blog thus far. Both positive reviews and negative critiques were left in the comments, and when the subject of the very entry I wrote was kind enough to leave her own sentiments, I was flabbergasted (another huge thank you to Robyn, the inspiration behind the most difficult post I have ever had to make).

Age is kind of an issue here, however. I'm still very young. Not even out of my teens, to tell you the truth. This brand new exposure to my own writings has been beyond exciting! There is a ridiculous giddiness to it entirely! Unfortunately, I do not know how to handle it. All of it is a new experience in the life of one who has had little time to even figure out who he is, let alone how he views the world.

I want to be a writer. Many obstacles stand in my way before I ever achieve a sense of professionalism. Grammatical error, inadequate literary knowledge, and lack of experience serve as the colossi that barricade me from the world of the professional writer. Of course there will be schooling and new stories that develop every day within life. I will get better... Maybe even decent!

Do not mistake this for me saying "Whoopie! I'm famous or something!" A few hundred views and a dozen comments does not make a star. And I'm really thankful for that. My ego is enough of a pain! If your head/hair was as large as mine, I think the sheer gravity of the two of us would suck the Earth out of orbit! The message I am trying to convey is that my exposure did grow, whether by leaps and bounds or by a few. There is a difficulty for me to process it all, and I am doing my best. Here are a few somethings coming in the near future that will (hopefully) bring me closer to maturity.

  • Less about me, more about life. How can you be drawn into relationship with life when this blog is all about me?
  • More interaction with the comments. What you have to say is far more important to me than what I have to say. Just please! Speak up!!!
  • A more interesting form of writing... Perhaps some stories! A blog is about you, the reader. If it were not, I would just write it all in my journal. Entries are made public because I believe you will enjoy them. If you do not, I am not doing my job.
Please forgive me for the selfishness I tend to adhere to in my writing. There is progress being made, I can assure you! Instead of a challenge today, I have a request. Send me your stories! Tell me what books you read! How do you click? If it is to be about more than me, I need help living new experiences... And I cannot do it alone! Know that you are all important to me, in a higher capacity than you know!

With far too many "I's"

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Love>Logic: How a brain can kill something genuine

Don't let your brain do this!
You can always just switch the stickers...
I am a member of a Facebook group known as "Thruway Christians." Started by famous blogger and LGBT activist John Shore, the TCs are a group of modern Christ-followers dedicated to a fairly progressive (but ultimately roots-deep) model of following Christ. A couple of the tenets (being sick of the strict issues for the Christian right, but also being sick of the theological ambiguity of the Christian left) assist in creating an environment that is fairly loving towards those who reside outside of what a majority of Americans would call "normality."

One of the members is transgender. My own personal life has rarely consisted of truly provoking my brain into my own beliefs towards those who are afflicted with the burden presented by a transgender mindset. This particular member believes that she is a woman trapped within a man's body. Totally awesome, however, was the encouragement provided by the members of the TCs. They totally loved this person for who she is! That is a beautiful thing!

I myself, sadly enough, was not without struggle. The idea that God would make a mistake and create a soul to reside in the wrong body... How could that ever be so? God does not make mistakes! Of all of the struggles for my brain as of late, this one was definitely the most challenging. First came trying to logic around the issue. Then I sought some pleasant debate with a friend who has struggled somewhat with this issue.

Eventually a conclusion came to me. I will choose no side. It is irrelevant. A person who takes issue with how they feel gender-wise is already living with a struggle. It is not my place to make his or her journey any more difficult. Instead, I will genuinely care for and pray for this person. Just as we all should for everybody.

Will I ever find an answer to this on Earth? I don't know. Do I care? No. God did not make a mistake, and I know there is a bigger reason for the struggle that this person has to fight through. So my challenge to all of you is to mill this thought over in your head, put yourself in the shoes of someone different than yourself, and, when all is said and done, to genuinely love and show gratitude towards every single person you come in to contact with.

Thankful that this is an issue I don't personally struggle with, and proud of those who do struggle with it,

(For far better writing than my own, and much more on similar issues, visit John Shore's Blog)