Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Peace without coffee

Now that's advertising!
My daily haunt is a little coffeehouse smack dab in the middle of my college town. The building is made to replicate the cafes of old, with giant brass espresso mechanisms, cracked bricks, old bicycles, and creaky wooden floors. Like most folks, the fragrant aromas of coffee and chai draw me from the “world outside,” in which I live life as a disheveled undergrad, to the world of “coffeehouse,” in which I am instantaneously at ease.

I think this is an atmosphere of peace. Everything, from the consciously chosen mood music, to the continual bombardment of herbal fragrances on our persons brings some semblance of calmness to each of our senses. It is all meant to produce a micro-environment of peace so as to draw our busyness out of life… and maybe turn a profit.

It’s funny how we as people can invent our own version of pseudo-peace. We crave this quiet environment now more than many other sources of sustenance. Life is loud, and our worries are urgent. To cloister ourselves in a giant coffee box from the constant upheavals life tends to throw at us is now a viable business model.

Peace is commercial. Peace is consumable. Peace is now “supply and demand.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love the social possibilities coffee joints offer to us as communal beings. A warm drink and a strong sense of comfort have been of utmost importance in many powerful interactions, revelations, and epitomes in this short, idealistic life of mine. I’m not attacking the coffeehouse industry itself, nor am I leveling anything at any individual shop. Instead, I feel it important to examine why I, and so many others, manufacture peace as a commodity.

There is no command more repetitive in Scripture than “do not fear.” In fact, those exact words are used nearly 365 times throughout both Testaments. For the Christ-inclined, life is meant to be in a constant state of anti-worry. Lack of restraint gives birth to life in its fullest, most meaningful form. Faith in God and trust in humanity save us from fear.

I’m sad that I forget this so often. I’m sad my consumptive, anesthetized culture draws me away from the satisfaction and contentment that is produced from living for others. And, most disappointing of all, I’m sad we settle for peace in consciously constructed environments.

Find peace in who you are, and in who God made you to be. It’s never bad to be active, but life isn’t about doing every single task in existence you can before you die. It is instead about doing the small things for others that build upon themselves until they crash into society as a giant wave of contagious love. There you will find peace everywhere you go. You no longer have to rely solely on a coffeehouse for your soul’s refreshment.

Stupefied at how much he spends on coffee,

Saturday, March 17, 2012

No Small Dreams

He dreamt big enough to write a book...
so that I might rip the photo off for my blog
Am I the only one who envies those select few who, no matter what the circumstances, always dream big? Or more simply, does anybody else envy the work ethic required to continuously strive for leaving this world a better place than when one enters it? This rare talent propels the world into meaning and beautiful stories. My dreams seem so sad and small when compared to those dreamers who refuse to cease dreaming.

I have a friend who dreams big. He possesses a plethora of V-necks and wears cardigans during the summer… definitely one hip dude. More striking than his wardrobe, however, is his desire to bring meaning to others in big ways, and, as a consequence, find meaning in his own life. He wants to open a coffeehouse in a community struggling with… well, community. He dreams of mentoring youths through corporate worship and informal teaching settings so as to raise up a loving Church. And, most powerful of all, he dreams of travelling to all the world’s countries with a camera to interview and document religious minorities. This guy dreams big. I can only imagine the process of a mind in constant search for ways to bring meaning to the lives of others. This dude is the real deal!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe best illustrated the importance of dreams when he suggested all should “dream no small dreams, for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” Goethe understood how reaching the hearts and passions of those around him was of utmost importance, and that none can truly bring others into a place of passion and drive without a life-changing, terrifyingly risky dream. These dreams don’t bore us into the comfortable stupor that keeps the majority of us desensitized from the plights of others. Real change, according to Goethe, can only come about when we refuse to fear risk and dream big enough to cause excitement in others.

When we speak of dreams, we must realize that the dreams that bring true meaning are never fully realized. The profoundly enormous dreams are the ones that will be set into motion so as to last far beyond our own lives. When we dream big others will join in that dream, and passion for changing the world will grow exponentially. I pray that each of us grow into uninhibited dreamers who risk all for the betterment of those we can serve, and, in doing so, we live lives of complete fulfillment. May you never fear risk, nor allow society to numb you to the plight of the oppressed.

May your dreams be oases of life!

Friday, March 16, 2012

It's all about the "Me"

It's not all about you! It's all about Apple... right?
If reading this blog has left the reader confused as to how I see the world, I think clarification may be required to maximize understanding. I am comparative in nature. On some days, I see the potential good within the Church, yet am also quick to see the evil and the misguidedness of the modern faith in the very same context. Or what I should do, but, as is nearly always the case, what I actually do. "Hows" and "How-Nots" have long been my modus operandi in regards to expressing my world views. In pursuing this method for self-expression, I have developed two habits that may be categorized as both healthy and unhealthy.

1.) I like reading lists.
2.) I like compiling lists of my own.

Paul is one of the most profound list-makers of all time. The NT is littered with Paul's frank and explicit lists. Think fruits of the Spirit, armor of God, spiritual gifts, etc... What many are also quick to notice is how Paul is just as plain in listing the things that God hates. These lists tend to run the same rhythm from letter to letter and serve to communicate the stupid ways that Paul had seen many lead their lives. Practices like debauchery, drunkenness, sexual immorality, and idolatry were common practices in the Greco-Roman world (... or America) that Paul sought to inject faith and love into. I tend to communicate in lists like this as well (see nearly every last paragraph in nearly every post on this site). But I think, deep down, these lists hint at something that is ungodly:

I tend to write for attention, just as almost all of my actions seek attention.

Striving for community is not a bad thing. We were created for it! But one of Paul's common evils listed is "selfish ambition." Selfish ambition drives us in nearly everything we do (I can't speak for all of you, but I CAN speak for many). Lists are used to compare the things we see and do, and so I use lists to compare my thoughts or beliefs to others' viewpoints. But over time, this has devolved in my life to the point where now I compare myself to other people constantly. Ambition drives me to be above, better, far more "awesome" than those around me... and that is a terrible way to walk.

To combat selfish ambition, one needs to hear Paul speak of freedom in Galatians 5: "1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." and "13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." Selfish desires for attention, sugar coated as "selfish ambition," is a yoke that serves to blind us from serving others. We are called to love, which requires empathy. The development of empathy can only come from serving others (especially when we would rather do anything else). 

Paul knows that Jesus came to liberate through servitude via love. If we want to live (and love) as Jesus did, we need to learn to serve others in everything. In doing so, we will live life to the fullest in genuine community, and our selfish ambitions will become instead the realizations of something meaningful. No longer will we compare ourselves with others for our own sense of self identity. Instead, our Christ-like walk will lead us into the identities we were truly meant to own. 

I leave you with Paul:

"2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load." - Galatians 6:2-5

Would love to hear your freedom stories!