Thursday, September 27, 2012

Monday, January 17, 2011

God Doesn't Want Your Life

I'm not sure where it came from or when I acquired it, but somewhere along the line early in my Christian faith I began to believe a devastating falsehood that I think most Christians share. The lie was that when making large decisions, God required me to go through an overtly spiritual, divine-will seeking process one can only describe as... well... pure hell. Allow me to describe it for you...

It began whenever a noteworthy decision with two or more options would present itself to me. Should I major in Religious Studies or Business? Should I ask so-and-so out, or should I not? Are they 'the one'? Should I take the youth pastor position in small-town Indiana or start a rock band in Cincinnati? The moment I realized a necessitated decision lay ahead, I would descend into a spiritual malaise of utter confusion that would usually end in extreme frustration. In short, it was a sort of spiritualized waiting game designed and implemented by me to gain God's attention and demand He point me in the right direction. Because after all, I just wanted what He wanted for me, right? I wanted to please Him by awaiting His will, and not blindly pursuing my own. And above all, I didn't want to go against His will for my life. It all felt so wonderfully spiritual to me at the time, and I thought surely it would work. Sound familiar? For many of you, I'm willing to bet it does, which brings me to my next question... How's that working out for you?

For me, God's almost total non-responsiveness to my 'What shall I do next' questions left me feeling like the details of my life weren't important to God; that I wasn't loved enough by Him for my problems to matter; that maybe God wasn't there after all. Over the last 10 years of my spiritual journey, almost nothing has been more damaging to my faith than the conclusions I've drawn from these erroneous, self-imposed requirements for determining God's will. As I've matured however, I've begun asking whether my questions were right to begin with. And as I've done this, I've rediscovered the Gospel all over again and clarity where once only confusion reigned. What in fact I've come to realize is that there is far more freedom in Christ than fear-mongering for those who would wrestle to find God's will for their lives. Not only was my process NOT what God required of me, but it was in most ways the precise opposite of the faith and responsibility He hoped to see me demonstrate. In fact, it was sin ... plain and simple.

Wrestling with God's will is all-to-often sin because for most Christians, the searching doesn't stem from faith and confidence in God's goodness and plan, but rather a lack thereof. It doesn't stem from belief in the Gospel's message that we are powerless to earn a right relationship with God apart from Christ's work, but rather the fear that we must choose each step we take in life correctly to maintain God's blessing, avoid His eager displeasure, and earn His favor. We think if we overtly spiritualize our decisions, God will actually be impressed with our overt spirituality! Furthermore, we think if we disregard or de-prioritize cognitive reasoning and material factors we'll be more holy in our decision-making, as if God didn't create our minds and the material world with the same intention for good and glory as the spiritual. What I'm describing in fact, is in essence the very definition of 'man-made religion' and the opposite of faith and relationship with Christ. The torment Christians subject themselves to in decision-making is more likely than not a religious ploy ... nothing more. We do genuinely want God's will for our lives, but we also lack the faith to believe He'll be with us wherever we go. So we wait, and we pray, and we wait, and we stress, and we lament, and we mope, all the while believing this will get God's attention and motivate Him to interject. The hard truth however is this process neither impresses, glorifies, nor pleases God.

God doesn't NEED your life ... He is fine without you. That's not to say God doesn't VALUE your life, He just doesn't need you for His Kingdom to hold together. But that's what we as Christians often believe isn't it? We often see ourselves as TOO important in the big picture of God's Kingdom. This view is pretty arrogant if you think about it and demonstrates a similar lack of faith that it is God who builds His church and not man. That's not to say we shouldn't view our calling to serve our local church, community, and God's Kingdom with the highest of priorities in our lives and hold others accountable to that, but there's a big difference between elevating the calling we all share and elevating the person called. Bottom line is... God's Kingdom is bigger than you or anyone you know or any building you visit on Sunday mornings. He will be glorified and He is in control. Even when people go out of their way to disobey or blatantly resist His expressed will, even maiming His Kingdom and people, He goes on building it none-the-less and works all things for the good and glory of those that love Him. What would your next decision look like if you really believed this?

God doesn't WANT your life ... He gave it to you. Now certainly God does want to come INTO our lives and conform our hearts to the image of His Son. But what I'm saying is, in doing so, He doesn't want to turn your life into that of a drone or puppet that no longer thinks or expresses its own singularity. He doesn't ask us to check our brains, personalities, preferences, or individual giftings at the door, but rather asks us through faith in Christ to now wield them for His glory instead of our own. That's amazing! God wants to REDEEM your life and personage, not throw it away or take over responsibility for it. Belief in Christ offers far more than fire insurance. It offers the restoration of our lives (namely, the divine gifts of will, talent, and personality) and grants us the privilege of using them to participate in the spreading of His Kingdom. We should use God's gifts. We should take full advantage of this privilege.

Lastly, God is not RESPONSIBLE for your life and how you choose (or fail to choose) to live it ... You are the responsible party. Yes, I said the dreaded "R" word ... responsibility. I think it's imperative for us Christians to understand that while Christ has taken away the ultimate penalty for our sin, He hasn't removed the yoke of being fully accountable to God for our choices. God is not responsible for our decisions, nor does He want to be. But when we ask God to direct our every step without simultaneously stepping out in faith, that's precisely the arrangement we attempt to create. We'd rather God treat us like robots in order to dodge the responsibility for the hardest decisions life brings, but in doing so we miss the weightiest of His blessings ... the opportunities to exercise faith. We hedge ourselves against failure by casting the responsibility for decisions and their outcome upon His shoulders, rather than believing that in either failure or success God is good and He is with us, even to the end of the age. When decisions we've made don't go well or opportunities we'd hoped for never come, we blame God's sluggishness or our lack of spiritual performance rather than praising Him nonetheless and readying ourselves to step out in faith all over again. In doing all this we judge Him. We hold Him accountable for that which He is not. We believe lies about God's love for us. And in short, we don't believe the good news of Christ. Fortunately there is a better way.

Though shalt love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27). We are freely called to wield everything we've been given for His purposes, and to do so with the stamp of our personality all over it. Our decision-making process doesn't need to be robotic nor religious if it's been redeemed. Whether we go to the right or the left with His purposes at heart, God is faithful enough to be with us always, gracious enough to correct us if we make a mistake, and big enough to use it for His glory and our good regardless. Now that's good news!

Monday, June 14, 2010

7 Reasons Why You Should Watch The World Cup

The 'Off Sides' rule is one of the trickier in sport, and I think a large reason why many Americans fail to understand soccer and its low-scoring yield. This makes it an odd choice for my #7 reason to watch the World Cup tournament. That being said, I feel once properly understood, this rule can be greatly appreciated for the clever tactics players must adopt to work stealthily around it.

In a nutshell, the rule currently states that at the time a pass is made in the opponents half of the field, any offensive player actively involved in the play must be equal with or behind the 2nd defender on the field (the 1st being the goalie).
-----This necessitates teamwork, strategic positioning, and most importantly, precisely-timed cuts and passes.
-----It eliminates 'cherry picking'
-----It makes the SIDES of the field the most strategic area as opposed to the CENTER. From the sides, the ball can be kicked across the front of the goal while 'on-side' players try to dart ahead of their defenders in an effort to make contact and hopefully deflect the ball in. This brings me to the next reason to watch...


The goals in the World Cup are often breathtaking; often a thing of beauty to behold. It's true, it doesn't happen many times throughout the game (usually just once or twice), but this adds to the pent-up excitement and euphoria when it does. Because of the difficulty involved in achieving one, and the dramatic dynamics created by the 'off-sides' criterion, the emotional reward for a goal is higher than almost any other in sport.


Whether it be really annoying horns, or incessant national chants, or just the ugliest costumes you've ever seen, the fans at world soccer events are extremely entertaining to say the least and bring an indescribable intensity to the games. Even watching on TV, one can sense the electric excitement in the air, rising and falling with each play.


Because the soccer game is divided in to two 45-minute halves in which play never ceases, commercials during game play would be unheard of. It's extremely refreshing to watch 45 uninterrupted minutes of play.


This rule wont engage until the later rounds of the tournament, but when it does, there is hardly a more exciting conclusion in all of sport. With the chance for ties removed, the exhausted players are given alternating opportunities to go one-on-one with the goalie and win the game for their team. Beyond thrilling!


Any global sporting event that occurs once every 4 years should at the very least peak your interest because it means you'll only have the opportunity to see about 20 of these in your life. It takes an insanely colossal amount of planning and work for host nations to prep for these events; for adequate infrastructure to be built. Similarly, national teams go through rigorous selection processes to elect their final roster, and there are numerous preliminary games throughout the year to determine which 32 nations actually qualify. The tournament is a huge culmination of these efforts and truly grand in scale.


Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and the World Cup is its crowning crescendo. It is by FAR the most exciting and meaningful event in the sport, and THAT would be true if it happened EVERY SINGLE YEAR, much less every 4!!! You have the best players in the world playing not for the team they were drafted to or for a paycheck, but for the pride of their country and for glory. You have the most fanatical, international crowds you've ever seen rooting not for their favorite player or squad, but for national pride on the world stage. If you are a fan of sports AT ALL, you should be watching this event with great attentiveness and enthusiasm. If you don't yet understand all of the rules and game-play, you should strive to. Just like the Olympics, the World Cup of soccer offers one of the rarest of opportunities to see the peoples of the world and all their beautiful differences and similarities. How could one justify missing such a sporting event? I know not.

And so, friends and readers, I beg you ... watch the games! Give soccer a chance. Not for me, and not just so soccer will become more popular in the US, but for you. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

So many ideas ... so little clarity
So much fear ... so little hope
So many people ... so little charity
Can someone please throw me a rope

So much emotion ... so little consistency
So much anger ... so little peace
So much devotion ... so little persistence
I'm wondering will it ever cease

I wondering will it ever cease

Friday, May 30, 2008

Lost Party Poems

For the LOST Season 4 Finale, our group reassembled (as only we know how) to flex our creative muscles in the form of a poetry contest. In the end, all the poems were so good we couldn't pick a winner. See what you think...

By Jeffrey Cross

I am Jin-Soo Kwon
I've always spoken English
I'm sorry I lied

I have some secrets
Secrets which no one can know
Why should I trust you?

You have convinced me
I have chosen to confide
Please don't let me down

I must first tell you
Something you might not believe
I swear it is true

I am from Hanso
I was never on the plane
You better not tell

The truth is simple
I must kill all of my friends
And reclaim what's mine

I'm only kidding
I would never kill my friends
They shall be my slaves

By Sarah Cross

I'm not a monster,
Nor am I a dinosaur,
I am the black smoke.

I killed the pilot;
I tossed him up in a tree.
I am the black smoke.

I can not be tamed.
Ben thinks he can control me.
I am the black smoke.

I almost killed Locke,
But I had mercy on him.
I am the black smoke.

And Mister Ecko?
I ate that guy for breakfast.
I am the black smoke.

You think you know me?
You have no F-ing idea.

By Brandon Stark

O Kate, why Jack? Why Sawyer? Why such a bad, bad girl?
O Kate, can't you see my potential?
Is it Kate? Monica? Lucy? Annie? Katherine? Maggie?
O Kate, who are you?
O Kate, I'm so glad you survived.
But that doctor will have you counting to 5
O Kate, I'm so glad you're alive.
You know where to find me ... 3362 E. Potter Drive.

SAWYER'S LOST HAIKUS (For the Oceanic Six)
By Jay Silverman

Oh son of a bitch,
Oceanic Six Haikus?
Snappy nickname time.

Too much pain for lidocaine.
Pill-popping jackass.

Oh my sweet Freckles,
No more afternoon delight?
Engaged to the doc?

'Twas taken from Claire,
To be raised by another.
Kate now has The Kid!

Madame Butterfly,
Safe at home with Ji Yeon,
But where is Sulu?

He fears the numbers.
My New Otherton Roommate.
Stay Puff is loco.

Captain Falafel,
Bug-Eyed Bastard's assassin.
All for Nadia.

By Lauren Marie Kutsko

Lead me down slowly weaving storylines that leave me at a cliff.
Lead me into islanders dirty secrets that leave me miffed.
Lead me towards the power of the island then drop me in the ditch.
Lead me above the mess and tell me what the hell is going on, bitch.

By Loren-Jack Kutsko

I never want to leave this island in the sun
So many new friends and so much fun

Kate and Hurley, Jack and Sawyer
Sayid and Jin, Sun and Juliet

A television obsession, but for what cost?
It's worth even getting dressed up to watch LOST

Desmond and Michael, Walt and John Locke
Benjamin, Aaron and Vincent

You think nothing changes, but what's this a flash forward?
Even during an appendectomy you'll never get bored

So many new friends, but now they all want to leave
They'd better hurry, sooner or later everyone gets bereaved

Charlie, Eko, Ana Lucia, Paulo and Shannon
Boone and Nikki, Libby and Claire?

By Todd-Carson Joyner

I once was told in tales of old that nothing's ever free,
And I have found this wisdom sound for true it's proved to be.
For who would think a simple show, the title just ONE word,
Could claim my life, my time, my nights, and make me such a nerd?

The show is 'LOST' and oh the cost, I hardly can describe,
The hours I lose in search of clues to explain why Charlie died.
Late night chat-rooms, forums, polls ... the answers never come,
More QUESTIONS do! And now I'm screwed 'cause look, it's half-past 1:00!!!

I never sleep, but when I do I dream of crazy islands.
I've started using nicknames and hear whispers when there's silence.
I've canceled meetings, shrugged off friends, and hung up on my Grandma,
To bake pink 'Fish Biscuits' and build a friggin' diorama!

It's really sad, and yes, I'm mad at how much time I'm losing.
But if you dared to watch, and cared, you'd understand my choosing.
Though I may never grasp the ever-escalating cost,
I've surrendered, payment rendered to the gods of LOST.

So here I am, and addict fan on another Thursday night.
Thank God I've got some addict friends who understand my plight.

By Kacie Koch-Joyner

There once was a man who's a surgeon.
The girl he liked was no virgin.
Found Adam & Eve,
Who the crap is Steve?
He wants off the island, it's urgent!

There was also a preggie named Claire.
She sat in a wood rocking chair.
She abandoned her baby,
Without even a maybe,
She supposed to raise Aaron; she don't care.

John Locke is a cripple no more.
He's a hunter and killed a few boar.
Went looking for the cabin,
Some jumped on his bandwagon,
Now he's knocking on destiny's door.

(to the tune of Billy Joel's 'We Didn't Start The Fire')
By David Ciminello

Time travel, John Locke, Richard Alpert, Black Rock,
Mr. Eko, comic books, Appendectomies.
Backgammon, Michael Dawson, spinal surgeon, Kate Austen,
Hugo Reyes, US Marshall, flash-back memories.

Book of Laws, Mikhail, dynamite, Henry Gale,
Vincent and Desmond Hume, Shannon kissed her brother Boone.
Oceanic Eight-Fifteen, Is this all a bad dream?
Sayid Jarrah, Little Annie, sail the raft at fool moon.

We couldn't leave the island,
Physics always changing, time was rearranging.
We couldn't leave the island,
We tried to sail away, but we were kept at bay.

Mr. Clucks, 'Cabin Fever', Benjamin the Great Deceiver,
Orchid Station, bad vacation, sending out flares.
Whispers, Abbadon, Sawyer is the long con,
Golf course, Kate's horse, jungle-polar bears

Hydra, Pearl, and the Flame, Sawyer loves his nicknames,
Marvin Candle in the Hatch, Apollo bars, Cyclops patch.
Rousseau, James Ford, Mittelos, wild boar,
Mr. Paik, Heroine, Who is Mr. Widmore?

We couldn't leave the island,
Physics always changing, time was rearranging.
We couldn't leave the island,
We tried to sail away, but we were kept at bay.

Jin-Soo Kwon, Looking Glass, Charlie's band 'Driveshaft',
Smo - kie's racket, Who is in the casket?
Hanso, Kevin Johnson, Who is gonna be your constant?
'Live Together Die Alone', How does Sawyer make Kate moan?

Man of Faith, do not doubt, Locke goes on a Walkabout,
Bernard, Rose, Morse code, Walt, Jack, things explode.
Films by Edgar Halliwax, Dr. Shepard fixes backs,
Season 4 has been a ball, I can't wait until the Fall!

We couldn't leave the island,
Physics always changing, time was rearranging.
We couldn't leave the island,
We tried to sail away, but we were kept at bay.

By Susan Gruenling

Oh how I adore this show
And I shall sing its praise
LOST is such a special word
Oh let me count the ways

L is for the lady on the lam in love with the good-looking leader Doc
The lustful ladies man and the liberated no longer lame Locke

L is for large and loveable 'Loco' Hurley's unlucky lottery loot
Learning life's lessons in a land littered with lean-tos built to suit

L is for the list and those left behind literally facing life and death
The island life force and the laws of nature leading them through the test

L is for the loss of life's little luxuries their loathsome location steals
And last but not least, L is for the likelihood that little will be revealed

O is for the Others and the original occupants of old
Our overjoyed over-eagerness on when the outcome will be told

O is for the omnipotent and obscure Orderly overseeing all are well
Observing the odd Orientation films that occasionally don't gel

O is for Oceanic 815 obviously not on the ocean floor shelf
The outstanding object of our obsession with this show you've outdone yourself

O is for the ornery, the overweight and the optimistic of this ordeal
The ominous obituary and the oasis that can heal

S is for the stranded ones secluded on the secret scientific shores
Where self-seeking, skillful and serious soldier Sayid hunts for boars

S is for swaggering Southerner Sawyer's smug remarks soliciting a smile
Sweet and supportive sincerities are simply not his style

S is for the sexy spinal surgeon, shipwrecked sailor, sacrifices, symbols and scotch
Your spellbinding series and stimulating storytelling is surely why we watch

S is for scary stormy smoke monster savagely searching and stalking its prey
Successfully safe, the six survivors are surprised and shocked by what they say

T is for topsy-turvy twists and turns that torment your target audience
Thought provoking theological time travel theories not to mention my two cents

T is for the treachery, the targeted, the tyrannical and the taboo
The troubled; tough and tender, oh whatever will they do

T is for my thankfulness towards Thursday night TV time
And thankfully the time has come to terminate this terrible rhyme

By Christie Cowles

There once was an island babe named Kate,
Who couldn't decide who she wanted to date.
She flirted with bad-boy Sawyer,
While dear Jack secretly adored her,
Although Juliet despised her,
The other girls admired her,
All the while Kate was planning her escape.

By Mandy Cross

Tonight I did laundry and flossed
As I sat and watched some LOST
I was partly amused
And severely confused
Perhaps it'd help to get sauced.

By Lauren Marie Kutsko

Hurley is confused and sweet,
I just like the way he eats,
He's always scared to go too far,
Unless he's in a beat up car.
Just because he sees the dead,
Doesn't mean he needs to be in bed,
He freaks jack out and makes him drink,
And this is why i like Hurley i think.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

How To Throw A 'LOST' Themed Party

Well, last month for the Season 4 premier of LOST, we decided to throw a themed party and pull out all the stops. It was such a success I figured, 'Why not share it with the whole world?' So here you go...

The first thing any self-respecting LOST party needs is 'DHARMA' food logos ... especially on the beer. The beer labels are already available online here. Simply print and affix to standard longneck beer bottles (will work best if you remove the existing label with a razor blade).

Next, if you're really serious about surprising your guests, the food itself needs to be LOST or ISLAND themed. In our case, for dinner we did 'Taco Night' with mango salsa & chips as an appetizer. For desert, we painstakingly created 'Fish Biscuit' cookies and served them with tropical flavored sorbets from Costco. All I can say about the cookies is good luck! I used Pillsbury pre-made sugar cookie dough, dyed it the right color using mostly red & some yellow dye, and cut them out with a 'Fish Biscuit' cookie-cutter that I hand-bent from what was originally a large heart. Lastly, when the cookies came out of the oven, I cut the fish mouths out (for authenticity) and quickly used a cake-icing letter-guide to imprint the word 'DHARMA'. This was truly a pain in the ass, but in the end ... worth it. So, like I said, good luck! Here's someone else's post about making the cookies that I found to be helpful.

Here's the stuff you'll need along with the final product

Decorations are a must and you can get as creative as you want. We did quite a few things including: Placing SUITCASES full of clothes and BACKPACKS full of dynamite around the television, Scattering COCONUTS, MANGOES, and PAPAYAS around the house, Stacking DHARMA BOXES in various places like supply drops, and Taping 'QUARANTINE' signs on all the exit doors. I even re-created a few Publisher Images from the BRAINWASHING scene and loaded them into my digital picture frame.

The dynamite was created by wrapping red paper mache around candles

The large logo was printed on multiple sheets of paper and taped together.

Poster board painted first with metallic, and then black over letter stencils

Lastly, if your group is totally obsessed and awesome like ours, you can open it up to LOST-themed costumes and props. In our case, we held a 'Prop Contest' and voted on the winner. Some people came dressed up and the props were awesome. The winner won a Beanie Baby Polar Bear.

Pictured: A diorama with real sand & power cable along with the 2 characters that found it.

Pictured: Pearl Station Pneumatic Tube, Tropical Fruits, Hurley's Comic, Connect4

Pictured: Backgammon, Bottle w Notes, Ranch Composite, Handcuffs, Kate's Plane, Virgin Mary Statue w Heroin Bag, Apollo Chocolate Bars, Golf Ball, Charlie's Guitar, and yes ... MUMMY YEMI !!!

Nice job on the 'Dexter Stratton' ring! You can't see, but she's wearing Charlie's checker board Vans too.

I love the syringe!

Now I know you're thinking we all need to get lives, but c'mon ... you only go around once. And when all was said and done, everyone had a blast being TV geeks for one night. To view an entire gallery of pics, click here. Also, to be as helpful as possible, I'm including a brainstorm list of Party Props & Decorations. Have Fun!

Handcuffs (Spencer's)
Toy Plane (toy store)
Sand & Shells w Power Cable (Home Depot/Lowe's/Michael's)
Luggage w Clothes
Backpacks w Dynamite (spray-paint or paper-mache candles)
Tropical Fruit (coconut, mango, papaya)
S.O.S. Bottle w Hand-Written Notes
Dharma - Ranch Composite, Beer, Supply Boxes, Cans, Boxes, etc
Other Hidden Dharma Logos (toilet paper, remote control, etc)
Stuffed Polar Bear
'Driveshaft' album
Guitar w 'Driveshaft' Stickers
Pearl Station Pneumatic Tube & Notation Booklet (create using a large water bottle)
Stuffed White Rabbit painted with 15 or 8
Diorama scene (sand & shells for beach)
Digital Photo Slideshow (screenshots & pics using your computer or digital picture frame)
Quarantine Signs on Exits (use a textured spray-paint for cool effects)
Boardgames: Backgammon & Connect 4
Hurley's Comic Book (purchase online or re-create)
Download Hatch Computer Clock (recommend Yahoo widget version here)
Fish Biscuit Cookies
Apollo Chocolate Bars (print and wrap around Hershey bars)
Virgin Mary Statue w Heroin bags (obviously fake)
Hurley's Golf Flag (long branch with red surf shorts)
Caged Sawyer & Kate cut-outs (dog kennels work well)
Strap a homing beacon to your dog
Eko's stick (good luck)

Fresh tropical fruit (pineapple, mango, papaya)
Themed drinks (daiquiri, pina colada, mai tai, mini liquor bottles, MacCutcheon Scotch, served in halved coconuts)
Taco Night
Mango Salsa
Mr. Cluck's Fried Chicken (slap logos on KFC or Church's)
Dharma products
Apollo Chocolate Bars
Tropical sorbets
Sushi (sea urchin? ...eww)
Airplane food trays (could use frozen dinners)

Dharma workers (jump suits, syringes, beer)
Charlie (F.A.T.E. on fingers, 'Not Penny's Boat' on hand, hoodie, checker vans, guitar)
Kate (plane in envelope, handcuffs, orange juice w white powder, wedding dress)
Jack (shaved head, scratches on face, mini liquor bottles, black suit)
Locke (khaki pants, bald head, large knife, bowl of orange paste, wheelchair)
Sawyer (long hair, suitcase full of monopoly money, hoard of medicine, hand-written note)
Sayid (long curly black hair, tank-top, transmitter, pictures of Nadia)
Rousseau (rifle, tank-top, music box, notes)
Ethan (crazy hair cut, Wisconsin hoodie, syringe)

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Amazing Statistics