Converge Tue, 25 Nov 2014 16:04:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Denying Jesus to worship Allah Tue, 25 Nov 2014 12:00:11 +0000 Denying Jesus to worship Allah by Benjamin Mack

Allahu Akbar… The sound was haunting, arresting, as it wafted through the warm desert air of the Omani capital of...

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Denying Jesus to worship Allah by Benjamin Mack

Allahu Akbar…

The sound was haunting, arresting, as it wafted through the warm desert air of the Omani capital of Muscat. It was the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, recited five times per day as a confession of faith.

I wasn’t surprised to hear it: Oman is about 75 per cent Muslim, after all. What did surprise me, though, was how intoxicating the sound was. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. And it was praising God.

In Muscat, a teeming city of over 700,000 located along the southeastern end of the Arabian Peninsula, I had found myself amidst the city’s labyrinthine main market, located near the postcard-perfect corniche and the azure waters of the Indian Ocean. I was in Muscat to investigate its history and culture for a New York-based magazine, and was enraptured by the exotic sights, sounds, and smells all around me.

Near the beating heart of the marketplace, I stepped into a taxi. I already knew my next destination. For the purposes of an article about things to see in Muscat, there was one place I absolutely had to write about: the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in Oman.

“Ah yes, the mosque. I know it well,” said my young driver, Hamed. Dressed in a traditional white ankle-length robe with long sleeves known as a dishdasha and a type of turban called a muzzar, he paused. “Are you Muslim?”

Like Adam when he ate the fruit Eve offered, or Samson when he allowed himself to have his hair shorn, I acted without thinking.

“I respect Islam.”

The next thing I knew, not only had we driven to the mosque, we had removed our shoes, washed our bodies in a practice known as wudu, and were inside the mosque’s massive men’s prayer hall, which contains both the second-largest carpet (containing 1.7 million knots, weighing 21 tons, and 4,343 square meters in size) and second-largest chandelier (at 14 meters) in the world.  Never mind the mosque had a large sign that clearly said “Muslims only” — we were performing salat, the act of formal worship that includes bowing towards Mecca.

What was I doing?

As Peter had denied Christ three times, I had denied Jesus at a time when I could have shared the good news. After all, isn’t evangelism something we are called to do?

Given Oman’s laws, foreigners are a way to help spread the gospel, since it can be difficult for Omani citizens. Oman’s Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs (MERA) recognizes just three Christian organizations: the Protestant Church of Oman, the Catholic Diocese of Oman, and the al Amana Center (an interdenominational Christian group). Although MERA claims that there is no limit on the number of groups that can be licensed, churches must be built on government-owned land, meaning planting new churches is all but impossible.

In the face of such obstacles citizens face, I had quaffed at the chance to spread Christ’s message. Part of 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) says:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

It appeared I was the one who needed reproof and training and righteousness. I was like the man in one of Jesus’ most famous parables, pointing out the speck in the eye of another while I had a plank in my own.

I knew bowing down to Allah was wrong. Muslims don’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah, who can forgive us of all our sins, after all. So why had I done it? Fear, mostly: fear I might offend my host, or fear I might be ostracized for confessing my faith in Christ.

The Bible tells us not to fear, that Christ has secured our salvation so long as we believe in Him. We all fall to sin, but know that those are forgiven if are truly sorry for what we have done and through the sacrifice of Jesus. I would later ask forgiveness for what I’d done in the mosque, but missed the opportunity to spread the message of Christ’s love and to profess my own faith.

I had failed the test.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Rafiq HMZ.

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How patience has lost its virtue Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:06:28 +0000 How patience has lost its virtue by Becky Hansmeier

As a new patron to a grocery store, I have realized that I have an incredible amount of power when...

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How patience has lost its virtue by Becky Hansmeier

As a new patron to a grocery store, I have realized that I have an incredible amount of power when I walk through the doors. And even more so when I get to the checkout line.

Any sign of impatience (glancing at my watch, scanning the other aisles), and out of nowhere, a new cashier’s light goes on.

Last week, after stocking my cart full, I tried hard to look as calm as possible. It was early on a Monday morning, and the store was quiet except for employees stocking the shelves with new products.

There was only one cashier line open, and only one woman ahead of me in line. I had several hours until I had to get to work and I was done with my errands.

I was in absolutely no rush, and it felt nice to stop and just be still for a minute.

But before I knew it, a cashier appeared out of nowhere, and I was rushed through the checkout. 

The customer service is nice but this experience reminded me of some alarming changes in our culture. We have been trained not to wait. We are engrained to believe that we deserve everything instantly. The art of patience is slowly fading not just from our vocabulary, but also from the fibres of our being.

Starbucks has just announced plans to trial an app to allow customers to order their coffee ahead of time. You can purchase your Tall, Non-Fat Latte With Caramel Drizzle at home, and it will be ready by the time you arrive. No waiting. No need to be patient in the long morning line for your jolt of caffeine. No need to truly interact with the human behind the counter, except to grab the cup of coffee and bolt for the door.

Other fast food chains are also moving in this direction. A way to make fast food even faster. Because aren’t we are entitled to instant service?

As patience becomes a lost art in our everyday life, it is easy to feel that patience isn’t needed in our faith life either.

This is the exact stuff that makes people leave the church, to turn away from God. We have all heard it before, or said ourselves: “I pray, but God never answers. So what’s the point?”

Because we live in a culture that enshrines instant gratification, we expect God to do the same.

The very heart of prayer is waiting. Being still. Listening patiently for God to answer. Patiently waiting sometimes for days, weeks, even years.

God’s plan is revealed in His own time.

I’ve found this to be so true in my own life. Praying for a failed relationship to work out, and it doesn’t. Praying to land a dream job that I don’t get.

In the moment, I feel anger and grief and frustration. But I know deep down that I need to trust. To be patient for God to reveal His plan.

And every single time, as I patiently wait for His answer, He responds. Many times it’s months and years later, but looking back, I can see His answers woven amongst my despair, how He used my rejection for His good.

Waiting is never easy. But it does bring us closer to God. And no matter how much our culture tells us that patience is something less than virtuous, trusting in God, in His plan to restore all things, is worth waiting for.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Alli.

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Adventure: the art of living awake Thu, 20 Nov 2014 12:00:21 +0000 Adventure: the art of living awake by Michelle Sudduth

Predicting the future. Many of us spend a considerable amount of energy trying our hand at it, because ultimately we...

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Adventure: the art of living awake by Michelle Sudduth

Predicting the future. Many of us spend a considerable amount of energy trying our hand at it, because ultimately we want to create systems that will protect the things we desire, and ward off the things we wish to avoid.

Our constant attempts to direct our lives one way or another often require wisdom; but sometimes wisdom just doesn’t cut it. We end up in a mess that we never planned for, proving that being wise isn’t the same as being in control.

Control. We don’t have a lot of it. Or maybe more accurately, we have a lot of it, but we don’t have control over very much. So, engaging our knowledge-to-date and seeking wisdom help us survive these conditions, we forge ahead into the great unknown.

Life is, experientially, so two-faced, carrying with it the potential for goodness beyond our imagination and sorrow we never thought we’d have to face. While we long for adventure, we also fear the negative possibilities that come our way. The adventurer within can easily become resigned to walk the familiar and proven path — not out of wisdom, but out of fear. Then we begin to feel stagnant and trapped in the systems we have created, no longer dreaming or taking real risks that would break us into new horizons in relationships, work, health, and involvement in our local and broad communities.

But could the voice of the adventurer within actually be the wise one? With that thought, we are tempted to ask, “Don’t adventure, exploration, and pushing the limits lead to a life of risk-taking that would change our dependency on the systems, the ones we create to give order and generate safety? How could taking risks be wise for my future?”

My hunch is that the perspective needed lies in the foundation of what we believe existence is all about, and practically, if those convictions win our allegiance as we engage the day-to-day.

At the heart of what theologians call the “meta-narrative,” which is the main storyline of all existence, is the incessant agenda of flourishing — people, dogs, plants, icebergs, and the rest of creation. If we share the conviction that at its core, reality is in a process of renewal, we become participants by purposing our lives to be in harmony with God’s redemptive heart.

Aligning ourselves with God in this work entails growth, healing, creating, and a lot of courage because reclaiming everything for good is an adventure — the most purposeful one we can have!

Adventure is becoming fully and only yourself, and subsequently inviting others to do the same. It is taking what is unformed and creating, or what is broken and mending.

Adventure is being present to this moment, not to the future or past in self-protection. It is a life of faith and trust, where getting caught up in God’s loving restoration will take you to regions within yourself you didn’t know existed, and to people and places in the world you had never known before. Adventure is trading control disguised as learning, improvement, systems, and rightness in exchange for trust in the protection that comes from God’s companionship and faithfulness, no matter what happens.

Adventure is an inherent element to living awake. Listen to your desire for it. Consider what may be in the way of freely trusting. Pay attention to the sleeping and dying in their various forms around you, and join with God to invite it to presence and aliveness. You will need courage to walk into these new horizons. Because God’s heart is to bring life to all things, we can rest, knowing we’re never alone in our adventurous partnership.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Josh Haroldson.

Originally published in Issue 19 of Converge Magazine.

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Ello collaborates with Threadless in next move Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:00:58 +0000 Ello collaborates with Threadless in next move by Michael Morelli

It was only a matter of time until Ello made its next move since declaring themselves a public benefit corporation....

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Ello collaborates with Threadless in next move by Michael Morelli

It was only a matter of time until Ello made its next move since declaring themselves a public benefit corporation. Now it seems that move has been made. As of yesterday, Ello will be partnering with e-commerce site Threadless to sell t-shirts featuring reformulations of Ello’s monochromatic smiley face logo, with the first shirt designed by Chuck Anderson of NoPattern notoriety.

“Ello is about freedom. Freedom to be who you want to be, freedom to create, and freedom from advertising. Working with brilliant artists like Chuck is another part of Ello’s mission to support the creative community,” says Paul Budnitz, Ello’s founder.

Jake Nickell, CEO of Threadless, echoes his sentiments: “Threadless has partnered with countless organizations, but what’s truly special about us teaming up with Ello is the incredible commitment to supporting the arts.”

That means the Ello x Threadless e-store will release limited stock, artist-created Ello branded t-shirts twice a month for $35 each. Each design will be on sale for 14 days and 20 per cent of the profits will go to the artists behind each design. It remains to be seen who the other contributing artists will be, but Anderson will be curating the collection after kicking off the line of smiley face threads.

According to Todd Berger, one of Ello’s founders, this project was more the product of a spur of the moment brainstorm session among colleagues and friends than it was the outcome of a concrete corporate strategy.

“We were driving around Vermont one night while we were there working with Paul, and the notion of t-shirts came up. Then we thought of Jake from Threadless who’s a mutual friend of ours. And then we leaped from t-shirts, to artist series t-shirts, to, ‘Holy cow, Chuck would be a great artist to do the t-shirts and curate the artists for this program.’ So it really was all in the matter of two minutes.”

What’s most interesting about this partnership is that nobody is afraid to admit that this project is as much for profit as it is for art. Anderson comments: “Ello’s formulated a different kind of company. I just really respect Ello’s dedication to being profitable with their users rather than as a result of having and using users.”

Which is to say, this partnership project represents a different way of combining social media, art, and business; one that generates profit but is equally focused on developing an online community that features and financially supports artists in a horizontal rather than vertical way.

“It seems simple to us,” says Berger. “It’s the only way we’re going to do anything as a social network. There’s no alternative.”

The ultimate results will be unknown until the project is underway, but the idea behind the effort is worth noting in the meantime.

Can Ello break from the ad ridden, data mining, way of being in the social media business and survive — flourish, even?

Berger and his colleagues are hopeful that it will. “The overwhelming majority of people believed that there was no way we’d even get close to this far with Ello,” says Berger. “And we were pretty confident from the start that with the right stance and the right product we could.”

So let’s see if Ello makes it even further.

Artwork by Chuck Anderson.

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Are you a Christian (adj.) or a Christian (noun)? Wed, 19 Nov 2014 12:00:56 +0000 Are you a Christian (adj.) or a Christian (noun)? by Jon Weece

I nearly flunked English grammar. Ask Mrs. Harding, my seventh-grade grammar teacher, and she’ll validate that. But this much I...

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Are you a Christian (adj.) or a Christian (noun)? by Jon Weece

I nearly flunked English grammar. Ask Mrs. Harding, my seventh-grade grammar teacher, and she’ll validate that. But this much I know: The word Christian is a noun. A Christian is a person who follows Jesus. Follow is a verb. And I’ve learned over the years that nouns need verbs.

Jesus loved verbs. Verbs like love, come, rest, learn, hear, die, give, and go. So wouldn’t it make sense that the people who claim to follow Jesus would love the same verbs Jesus loved?

Somewhere along the way someone tried to make the word Christian an adjective. So now people speak of Christian (adj.) books and Christian (adj.) music and Christian (adj.) T-shirts and Christian (adj.) schools. When people use the word Christian as an adjective, instead of a noun that loves verbs, it loses its meaning. Maybe this explains why so many churches have lost their meaning too.

If a Christian is a person (singular) who follows Jesus, then the church is made of people (plural) who follow Jesus. And like a Christian, the church is a noun too—a noun designed to love verbs. Specifically, it is a noun that should love the same verbs Jesus loved because the church is a picture of Jesus.

I don’t mean this as an indictment, but it seems as though some of us have lost our verbs.

When we lose our verbs, we become what the world claims we are: hypocrites. A hypocrite is nothing more than a noun without a verb. Lovers who don’t love . . . Givers who don’t give . . . Followers who don’t follow . . .

We need fewer adjectives and more verbs. Have you noticed the adjectives we put in front of the noun Christian?

“She’s such a loving Christian.”

“He’s such a giving Christian.”

Loving. Giving.

Is there any other kind of Christian? Can a Christian be a Christian without loving and giving? If a Christian doesn’t love or give, is that person really a Christian? Maybe a better way to ask the question is: Can a Christian be unloving or not a giving person?

Or have you noticed the adjectives we put in front of the noun church?

Baptist church
Lutheran church
Traditional church
Contemporary church
Black church
White church

The word appearing before the word church in the New Testament more than any other word is the word the.

The church.

The church at Philippi . . . The church at Thessalonica . . .The church at Ephesus . . .

I like the word Jesus put in front of the word church.

Jesus told Peter, ‘The gates of hell will not prevail against My church.’ (Matthew 16:18, author’s paraphrase, emphasis added.)

I really like that.

His church.

In the same way that the church belongs to Jesus, I belong to Jesus. And you belong to Jesus.

We belong to Jesus.

He is the leader.

We follow (v.) Him.

When we follow Jesus, we don’t need adjectives to  describe us.

I am a Christian. We are the church. Period.

When we follow Jesus, we will love the way Jesus loves. When we follow Jesus, we will give the way Jesus gives. It’s not the adjective before the noun that matters. It’s the verb after the noun we need to pay attention to.

If we love the verbs Jesus loved, I’m convinced we will love the people He loves. That’s when life gets fun! And a fun verb to start with is the verb jump.

When I was in the fourth grade, I was invited to a birthday party at Chris’s house. I was excited because it was the first birthday party I had been to where girls had also been invited. Specifically, Sarah Grossnickle had been invited.

Her last name is a bit unfortunate. But she was stunning, and she had braces. I don’t know why I was so enamoured with braces as a kid, but I was. Maybe the thought of having rubber bands in my mouth seemed so handy to me. Or maybe it was the thought of having a girl in my class with straight teeth someday.

I just know I was head over heels in love with Sarah Grossnickle. I sent her several notes in class with a box to check. Yes. No. Maybe. On two separate occasions she checked the box that said Maybe, but I was about to give her a reason to check the box that said Yes.

Everyone in my class was standing on the deck in Chris’s backyard. His parents were putting in a pool and had dug a huge hole, and there was a large pile of dirt about ten feet from the deck. So as ten-year-old boys do, a dare was thrown out.

“Who wants to play Follow the Leader?”

I was eating a box of Junior Mints when I accepted the dare. (It was easily my third or fourth box.) I wanted to set the bar high—so high no one would be able to follow me. So I marked off my steps. The drumroll began. And Sarah smiled at me, which was all the motivation I needed.

I could actually hear the song “You’re the Inspiration” by Chicago playing in my mind as I took off running. With speed and momentum I planted my right foot on the railing of the deck to jump. However, the railing gave way. Instead of going up, I went straight down.

Fortunately for me, a nail caught the edge of my pants and slowed me down. Unfortunately for me, that nail ripped my pants completely off and I went sailing headfirst into a pile of bricks stacked neatly below the deck.

When I came to, I was headed for the emergency room. I was sitting in my Fruit of the Looms in the back of a Cadillac with leather interior. And let’s just say the ol’ Junior Mints were not agreeing with me. The only tactful way for me to put this is to say I “relinquished ownership” of the Junior Mints, and no product on the market could have cleaned up the mess I created in the backseat of that luxury automobile.

No one followed me over the railing that day. I was the only one who jumped.

Somewhere between that deck and the desk where I’m sitting right now, I lost the courage to take risks. Some might blame it on maturity. Others might point the finger at intelligence. But I think the more birthdays we have, the fewer verbs we have. Our verb vocabulary shrinks with time.

Somewhere along the way, I went to college, got married, had two kids, got a grown-up job, bought a house, started a 401(k), and somehow ended up driving a minivan. (I’m still not sure how that one happened.)

In the midst of the have to, it’s easy to lose sight of the get to.

I get to follow Jesus.

He is the leader. He is my leader. He is your leader. He is our leader.

He is the leader. He is my leader. He is your leader. He is our leader.

We get to follow Jesus. What a privilege! And when we follow Jesus, He doesn’t lead us to places as often as He leads us to people. That’s why there is nothing safe about following Jesus. Following Jesus is simple, but it’s not safe.

My prayer for you is simple but not safe. So simple it’s a single word. It’s a verb.


It’s a verb that is looking for a noun.

I think you are the missing noun. Insert your name here: ___________ jumped today.

It may seem safe to stand on the deck with everyone else. But standing on the deck is not safe. It’s boring. So go for it.


Set down whatever you are holding, or whatever has hold of you.

And jump.

Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

Decide today that you are going to follow the leader.
Decide today that you are going to be on a first-name basis with the emergency room staff in a hospital near you.
Decide today that you are going to trade what is for what could be.

I dare you to jump.


Adapted excerpt used by permission. Jesus Prom, Jon Weece (Foreword by Bob Goff), 2014, Thomas Nelson. Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved.

Photo (FlickrCC) by Daniel Stroebel.jesus prom

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The Truth Behind Kim Kardashian’s Behind Tue, 18 Nov 2014 20:00:17 +0000 The Truth Behind Kim Kardashian’s Behind by Bradlee Locke

Breaking more than the Internet I have seen Kim Kardashian’s rear side more than I care to think about. And...

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The Truth Behind Kim Kardashian’s Behind by Bradlee Locke

Breaking more than the Internet

I have seen Kim Kardashian’s rear side more than I care to think about. And I’ve brought up her name in conversation in the last couple of days more than I ever will again.

Last week, Kim attempted to “break the Internet” with nude photos she took for Paper Magazine. Although she didn’t break the Internet, she still did plenty of damage — to our society, to our culture, to our minds, and to our morality.

With more than 24 million likes on her Facebook page, 21 million Instagram followers and 25.5 million Twitter followers, Kim has more influence than most congressional leaders. So when she posted a nude photo of herself, there was a massive audience ready and waiting.

There are several ways I could take this. I could question why someone like her has such great influence. I could be angry that she has forced her naked self into the minds of millions. I could even talk about how much this sets women back in trying to attain respect and equality with men. But instead of venting my anger and frustration towards her, I’m going to vent it towards myself — and toward all of us.

Celebrities are celebrities because we put them there. People aren’t famous or in the tabloids because no one likes them. Whether we pick up a magazine to worship a celebrity or to mock her doesn’t matter. We still pick it up.

Kim Kardashian is one of the most followed celebrities on social media. But no is forcing people to follow her; they are choosing to follow her. They double tap her selfies, her modelling pictures, and now her nudes.

As much as I would love to point the finger at Kim for Thursday’s chaos, I have to turn my finger right back at myself. Did I click on an article about the picture? Did I vent about it on Facebook? Did I bring it up in every conversation I had that day? Then I have accomplished her goal for her. In fact, I’m accomplishing her goal by writing this.

Sometimes, when a child throws a fit, the best thing to do is to not look at them. They want attention, and if you don’t give it to them they will most likely stop. Am I arguing we should treat Kim Kardashian like a child throwing a fit? I sure am.

Ignoring wrong in this world will not make it disappear. Someone needs to act. But in the case of the Internet, sometimes by not acting on something we are making a stand. Media outlets tailor their stories to what their audience wants. If their readers want more celebrity gossip, they will give it to them. And if their readers want more articles with a positive message, they will publish more of these kinds of stories.

There is no governing Internet authority to take this issue to. We are the ones who control what becomes popular online. So if you don’t agree with Kim or what she does, then don’t give her and the people behind her the attention they want. Every click, every article you read about her is a vote that you want to hear more about her.

Let’s take it a step further, though. This concept doesn’t just apply to Kim. It applies to anything on the Internet that you disagree with. If you don’t want to see it or hear about it, then stop giving it the attention it needs to thrive. Stop voting with your clicks and double taps.

Yes, Kim Kardashian has released some inappropriate photos that made me angry to my bones. But if she thought no one would care, do you think she would have posted them?

Kim didn’t get any money for flaunting her privates. What she was looking for was influence. And that, my friends, is something we gave to her with abandon.

Photo (FlickrCC) by Joanne Tolner.

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Redemption: it only takes a moment Tue, 18 Nov 2014 12:00:37 +0000 Redemption: it only takes a moment by Lauren Sotolongo

My chest felt like a suitcase had been thrown at it. My lungs were mixing concrete, and I tried to...

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Redemption: it only takes a moment by Lauren Sotolongo

My chest felt like a suitcase had been thrown at it. My lungs were mixing concrete, and I tried to take deep breaths without the success of actually doing it. Earlier that day, I had received an email that struck like a knife. I was angry and defensive and hurt. I wanted to cry, but adults don’t do that.

I left the office and took deep breaths — real ones. The trees and cement came together as I walked, nearing the Metro entrance. And that’s when I heard it. The unified sound of cymbal and brass melting together like that Pocahontas river scene. A trombone, two trumpets, and a percussionist, playing pop songs jazzy.

I stopped. My heart started bobbing its head and dancing — badly, I might add, because neither my body nor my soul can consistently keep time. I laughed at the tiny child, blond hair, jumping, running in circles, dancing. Her grandmother laughed with her. I took a picture and recorded the sound.

Thirty minutes later, I left the metro station and began the walk home, up a cement-hill. My eyes blinked and saw him, the same way you flip through TV channels and notice.

There he was, a man in a wheelchair, moving his legs like a drunk mouse at the base of the hill. His dark head rose slowly, defeated. I winced. And I couldn’t help it.

“Sir, you need some help? Want me to push you up?”

“I’m trying to get across the street up there.”

“Can I push you?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

His name was Keith, and he smelled like hard liquor; he’d had the wheelchair for two weeks. He slurred. People watched as I put my weight behind the man, and pushed.

When deep pain meets deep joy, it rarely stops to care what people think.

So, I helped Keith. I pushed his wheelchair across the street. To the liquor store. I didn’t pray with him. I didn’t ask if he knew Jesus. Maybe I slipped up. But I got him to point B, even if it was a liquor store.

You can’t know where everything — or everyone — goes. But you can do the work in front of you.

Because if you’ve known deep pain, and have seen it defeated in simple ways — perhaps by a jazz band outside the metro — you don’t think about the end point. Not always.

The point, overall, is presence. Beyond an email that cripples, or a poverty that feels too steep. When deep joy meets deep pain, it doesn’t care — it acts.

Because if Keith would’ve died on the way to the liquor store, or I had gotten hit by a car as I pushed him there, he would’ve known one thing: not that I was enabling him to drink more, but that I was with him.

Every noble and saving act begins when someone decides to walk with you, whether it’s Jesus or your grandmother, your brother or your teacher. The addict doesn’t get clean by being ignored. The child doesn’t get saved by a distracted social worker.

People see darkness — poverty, lack of education, access, or opportunity, depression, and pain — and they choose either to let light in, or not. And to bring that holy, redemptive light into the caves of our own self-deception is difficult and uncomfortable.

But Christ tears through the veils we wear; He defeats darkness. God works mightily through each of us.

A jazz band didn’t redeem me, but it did provide a redemptive moment: a place where I came face to face with the wholly freeing, just, and merciful God.

And in the same way, I didn’t save Keith. I met him and I looked him in the eye. I pushed that damn wheelchair up the hill and across the street. I offered a redemptive moment, and I shook his hand. For those minutes, he was known and seen.

With a God like ours, all you need is a moment — or maybe a melody.

Photo (Flickr CC) by philippe leroyer.

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Braving the break up: 5 tips for getting through it Mon, 17 Nov 2014 12:00:06 +0000 Braving the break up: 5 tips for getting through it by Natalie Floyd

Your weekends are filled with showers and bachelorette parties for newly engaged friends, your newsfeed is dominated by your exes’...

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Braving the break up: 5 tips for getting through it by Natalie Floyd

Your weekends are filled with showers and bachelorette parties for newly engaged friends, your newsfeed is dominated by your exes’ wedding photos, and you’ve just gone through a break up. It’s enough to make you want to grab the nearest spoon and eat your weight in Ben and Jerry’s.

Break ups are no fun, and neither is the acute awareness of your singleness that follows. There’s no quick fix or easy way to fast forward through the pain like a bad scene from a chick flick, but here are a few ways to lean into those break up blues (without emptying the ice cream carton) and practice a little self-care while you’re getting back on your feet.

1. Let your closest friends in on how you’re feeling.

There will be days when you feel like a weight has lifted now that you’re out of a relationship that you knew deep down wasn’t quite right. But there may also be moments when you just feel like crawling into bed to self-medicate with Dove chocolate and Amy Winehouse. The ups and downs will co-exist. Acknowledge both, and don’t try to keep up a poker face for your best friends. Embracing that newfound freedom? Let them celebrate with and be proud of you. A little teary that things didn’t pan out the way you’d hoped? They probably know the feeling too. They are your best friends for a reason, and they may have that much-needed word of encouragement when you need it most. Or, bare minimum, a Kleenex to spare.

2. Mourn the loss.

Grief is real, even (and maybe especially) after a break up. A relationship that you have invested precious time, energy, and emotions in is now over, and a person who had become a staple in your life has suddenly been removed. That’s worth acknowledging. It may feel tempting to prolong the denial phase by gritting your teeth and playing it off as just another minor scrape in the game of love, but go ahead and recognize that loss sooner rather than later. When you run into your ex a year down the road at a crowded party, you’ll maintain composure when you have allowed yourself to grieve his absence in your life and move into acceptance. Your former boyfriend, however, will most likely pine for you from afar — or at least that’s what you’ll choose to believe.

3. Don’t jump back into the dating scene too quickly.

Give that heart of yours a breather. You’ll get back out there soon enough, but dating on a broken heart rarely produces positive results. Right off the heels of a relationship, it’s easy to spend too much time comparing someone new to the last guy, or to wind up with another Mr. Wrong because the distraction feels kind of nice. Take some time to process on your own and don’t pile onto the hurt of that broken heart by making choices you might later regret. You’ll be more ready for a fresh start and a new relationship once you’ve had some time to heal.

4. Avoid unnecessary rehashing.

Nothing sows bitterness more easily than too many voices echoing that you were right and he was wrong. Now that the relationship is over, the over-analyzing and dissecting every detail can subside. It’s easy to find a willing listener who will listen to your story and sympathize with you at every turn, but it doesn’t take long to end up casting your ex as a villain. Process through your lessons learned with a trusted few, and consider what you would do differently moving forward. And then, allow yourself the freedom of leaving the past in the past.

5. Set a new goal for yourself.

Especially one that gets you moving. Run a half marathon with a friend or take up kick-boxing. Sure, working out might not be comprehensive therapy, but a few extra endorphins sure aren’t going to hurt anyone. Identify those new extra hours in your schedule that aren’t tied up by 9 p.m. phone calls and drinks after work and invest in those hobbies and activities that you’ve been neglecting. You may find that yoga is a huge stress reliever after that extra long day at work, or that you’re a much better artist than you ever gave yourself credit for. And, the feeling of accomplishment when you’ve mastered a new skill or reached a goal is a great way to boost your confidence.

Break ups are never easy, so give yourself some extra grace through those rough patches, and ultimately embrace the reality that you’re a whole and complete person before and after that relationship. After the dust settles you’ll realize you’re a little wiser and just bit stronger. And you’ve been able to perfect a great recipe for homemade New York Super Fudge Chunk, so there’s that, too.

Photo (Flickr CC) by amanda tipton.

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To procrastinate, or not to procrastinate? Fri, 14 Nov 2014 15:33:49 +0000 To procrastinate, or not to procrastinate? by Hannah Lin

Some pros and cons to every student’s frenemy Scroll through a student’s newsfeed, and within seconds you’ll likely come across...

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To procrastinate, or not to procrastinate? by Hannah Lin

Some pros and cons to every student’s frenemy

Scroll through a student’s newsfeed, and within seconds you’ll likely come across a status update bemoaning the vices of procrastination. According to business blogger Brandon Gaille, this putting off of one task in favour of doing something of lesser importance affects more than 20 per cent of the population. It’s virtually ubiquitous among millennials.

Procrastination is detrimental when it goes unrecognized as a coping mechanism for deeper rooted issues — like perfectionism, insecurity or apathy — but it can be put to good use.

Pro: Ideas get better with time.

When it comes to creative projects, inspiration, like good writing, typically goes through a few “drafts” before it is ready. Sitting on an idea may seem pointless, but taking a break and coming back with fresh eyes is crucial to the development process. Sometimes, the mind needs a change of scenery in order to see problems in a new light and find solutions.

Con: Good ideas take time to realize.

Starting on something too close to the deadline leaves little margin for error, troubleshooting, or refinement. An ambitious project is bound to run into problems, or require a few additional steps along the way. Without ample time, it may fall short of the original vision.

Pro: Pressure aids productivity.

The adrenaline of an impending due date supplies extra oxygen to the brain, allowing it to operate more quickly. On deadline, our body’s natural survival instincts can curb those perfectionist tendencies and finish a paper more quickly and efficiently. Certain people are wired to perform better under pressure and produce a better result for it.

Con: Excessive stress is physically and mentally damaging.

Doing everything at the last minute can be overwhelming. When work piles up, the accompanying stress throws off our diet, sleep patterns, and immune system, leading to hormonal imbalances or anxiety. Giving in to procrastination also weakens our self-control and encourages the brain to make impulsive decisions.

Pro: Procrastination gets other things done.

Unproductivity is not always the default mode. Often times, when avoiding homework, completing smaller mundane tasks, such as reading e-mails or washing the dishes, become the distraction. Then, once a few things are checked off the to-do list, there is motivation to keep going.

Con: Procrastination can become a bad habit.

Like trying to stop at watching just one episode of an exciting TV show, controlling the length and frequency of study breaks can be challenging. Procrastination quickly becomes a necessary step in the process of doing work. When it trickles into other areas of our lives, such as making appointments, or filing taxes, the consequences could be more significant.

Photo (FlickrCC) by Brianna Saba.

Originally published in Issue 19 of Converge Magazine.

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For all the Christian introverts out there Thu, 13 Nov 2014 12:00:23 +0000 For all the Christian introverts out there by Veronica Fetzer

I don’t make friends very easily. In fact, it can take quite a while for me to feel connected to...

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For all the Christian introverts out there by Veronica Fetzer

I don’t make friends very easily. In fact, it can take quite a while for me to feel connected to someone. I don’t mind the quiet and being by myself; sometimes I prefer it to the alternative. I enjoy just being in other people’s presence without feeling the need to make small talk.

The list could go on, but you’ve probably guessed it by now. I am an introvert.

And I’m not alone. Studies show that at least one third of the general population is introverted. But I think the church has been following the cultural trend of upholding what Susan Cain refers to as the “Extrovert Ideal.” There’s the expectation that we should join every small group, go to every church event, greet every person who is sitting within a six-foot radius of us, and be very gregarious and vocal about everything that we believe.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but it seems a lot of these ways of practicing faith are geared towards those who tend to be more extroverted, who thrive on social interaction.

But what about all of the introverts who stayed at home rather than going to church because they didn’t have someone to go with, and didn’t want to have to meet lots of new people all at once? What about the introverts who worship more deeply in silent meditation and reflection on the Word of God, along with other believers? What about the introverts who connect better when doing things with other people, rather than getting together to talk for an hour or two?

Do you ever feel like your faith isn’t as legitimate if you aren’t as extroverted as other believers? That you need to change your personality in order to be a “better” Christian somehow?

It may be subtle, but if you feel this way, it’s critically affecting the way you view yourself, your place in the church, and your own faith in God.

Does the fact that I live out my faith differently as an introvert mean that my faith isn’t as valid?

The obvious answer is no, and yet I’ve still felt pressure to live up to a certain standard.

Over time, I’ve eventually come to realize and accept the positives of being an introvert in the church. Like how it may take me a while to form connections, but when I do, they are deep and lasting through the thick and the thin. Or how I may feel awkward keeping up small talk at times, but my home is always open to helping others find a place to belong (and where we might have a game night rather than catch up over coffee). Or even how not being the one who is always talking allows me to observe others who may be left more on the fringe in social situations and reach out to them..

I’ve slowly been coming to accept that God has created me the way I am, and that I don’t always have to be around other people or be a socialite to please Him and prove the legitimacy of my faith. Instead, He has shown me the different ways that I am able to live out my love for Him.

And yes, sometimes that does mean going outside of my comfort zone and striking up a conversation with someone when I normally wouldn’t. But other times it simply means accepting the gifts that God has given me as an introvert who loves Him.

So for all my fellow introverts out there, here’s the truth: we are not less-than, our faith is not less worthy, and we don’t have to compare ourselves to whatever the current social and cultural ideals happen to be.

He delights in who we are, just as we are.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Mars Hill Church Seattle.

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