Is There Grace for Brock Turner, Omar Mateen, and Bill Cosby?


In this last week’s Lectionary reading is Luke 7:36-8:3. While Jesus was eating at a Pharisee’s house a notorious prostitute came in and begins kissing, anointing, and washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and ointment. The Pharisee, Simon, responds “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” Jesus responds with a parable about two men who owed a creditor a debt, and one of the men’s debts was ten times larger than the other. The creditor cancelled both of their debts, and Jesus asks Simon which of the men will love the creditor more. The answer, of course, is the man who owed more. And then Jesus says this brilliant line as he turns toward the woman and asks Simon: “Do you see this woman?”
Jesus is always flipping it on people who try to place people in hostile categories and under shameful labels.  Simon sees this woman for her sin, while Jesus sees this woman for who she really is. And he even suggests that there is more passion for God when it comes from someone who has more sin. That completely flips how so many of us see the world.

I want to take this even further. It’s easy to have compassion on certain “sinners”—those who get caught up in destructive paths that mainly bring harm to themselves. But what we see throughout Jesus’ life is that he has compassion for both the sinners we all rally around with open arms and the ones we all push away in disgust. The passage ends by describing those who followed Jesus from town to town: a squad filled with crooked tax collectors, zealous anarchists, women who just had seven demons exorcised out of them. This was a messy bunch. Jesus literally even had the nickname “friend of sinners”. Jesus associated with all the people you would refuse to associate yourself with.

So now that we have that perspective let’s think about today. When I think of the type of sinners we push away in disgust I think of people like Brock Turner. For those that don’t know the story Brock Turner is a 20-year-old Stanford student who recently raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, and is only getting 3 months in jail for it. The initial outrage for the story was the way the media covered the story. Instead of showing his mugshot they showed a happy and innocent photo of him. And instead of referring to it as rape they referred to it as sexual assault. People quickly criticized the media for this since we’ve seen several times where a black man convicted of the same crime would be represented by his mugshot and the label of “rapist”. Then there was outrage at how the judge gave him such a short period of jail time: 6 months with the possibility of 3 months with good behavior. The judge was influenced by Brock Turner’s father who talked about how great of a person his son was before the incident, and how much he has been devastated with an incredible amount of guilt for his actions. The judge bought it and gave him a soft sentence, while the public went crazy and made sure everyone knew how horrible Brock Turner is; whether that was through taking away future opportunities, to countless articles written to make sure everyone remembers his crime, to groups of witches putting hexes on him.


Now, before I continue let me say that what Brock Turner did was absolutely awful and yes, evil. And yes, the way he was convicted unfairly compared to everyone else who had been in a similar position is also awful and unjust. And yet, when I read this story of Jesus accepting the most unacceptable of sinners I imagine Brock Turner in place of the sinful woman.

I imagine Brock Turner crying at Jesus’ feet as we look in disgust and say “If Jesus really knew what kind of person this guy is and what he has done then he wouldn’t let him touch him.”

This is what so many of us are doing with our merciless condemnations on this kid.

I think of people like Bill Cosby, who used to be seen as a wholesome Christian role model, and has now had his reputation ruined with dozens of rape accusations. What Bill Cosby did was disgusting and awful, but imagine him crying at Jesus’ feet. What would our reaction be?


What would our reaction be to see Omar Mateen—the man responsible for the largest mass shooting in US history at an Orlando gay nightclub—crying at Jesus’ feet?


And Jesus would turn to us and say “Do you see this person? Do you actually see them?”

Who loves Jesus more when he forgives all of our sins, the one with the least amount of sins, or the one with the most? The one who spends their life criticizing the sinner, or the sinner buried in their shameful reputation? Which one will love and cling to Jesus more when Jesus says: “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Personally, it’s hard for me to have that level of compassion. And it’s easy to condemn people for certain evil, especially when everyone around you from all different perspectives are ganging up together on it. I don’t think I want to be that kind of person though. Even several of my Christian friends love to gang up on the latest oppressor, but I keep finding myself less interested in siding with Christians, and more interested in siding with Jesus. And Jesus had radical compassion for everyone he met. Yes, he called them to more just and loving lives, but it began with a loving embrace of mercy and forgiveness. That’s the type of person I want to be in the world. I want to stand up for victims of all type of assault but I also want to be able to stretch our reach of grace to all sinners, even the ones who don’t deserve it. It’s painfully difficult, especially when we hear stories about Brock Turner, Bill Cosby, Omar Mateen, etc. but that’s the direction I’m trying to stretch my heart open. Perhaps a heart that wide could change things.

Open Up That Heart


Today in the traditional Church Calendar is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This has been historically celebrated mostly by Catholics, Lutherans and Anglicans, but I have always found a tremendous interest in the Church calendar.

So I want to talk about this heart.

The heart of Jesus.

It sprang from the Franciscan devotion to Jesus’ wounds he received on the Cross, including his wounded heart. It was a way of focusing on the humanity of Jesus.

Yes, Jesus had a heart. It wasn’t a special glowing heart, or one that pumped extra nice blood into his body. Nope. Jesus had a heart just like ours. It pumped blood through his circulatory system to provide nutrients and oxygen to his body, and help remove metabolic waste. It beat faster when he was excited and beat slower when he was calm. You could hear it if you lay on his chest.

In many cultures and religions the heart has always symbolized the seat and fountain of all human emotion, passion, and will. It represents the innermost and most intimate center of a person.

Think of the expression “to open one’s heart”. Jesus shows us what it looks like when a human heart is at its most open. He shows a heart wide open to the poor, sick and needy of the world. Wide open to everyone kicked to the edges of society—everyone yearning for an open heart, faced with nothing but closed hearts by everyone around them. Jesus shows us a heart wide open for love of the enemy—of the people we were told to hate as the good and righteous thing to do.

This heart was also wide open to be wounded. Wide open to face rejection, betrayal, and absolute hatred from people he loved. That’s how it works in life doesn’t it? Many of us are afraid to open our hearts wide because we don’t want to be hurt again. Yet at the same time we know that we can’t experience the love we once experienced with a heart only halfway open. Sure, it’s safer and without much risk, but is that how we’re supposed to live? A heart that isn’t open to the most difficult pain also can’t be open to the most transformative joy and love. That’s how it works. You open it all the way for both to come in. This is what a full human life looks like. And Jesus came as a human to show us what it looks like to live fully human. He calls us to live in our full humanity.

In Ephesians 2 the apostle Paul talks of Jesus’ death on the cross tearing down boundaries and bringing together enemies. He says “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” Like an overwhelming magnet Jesus’ wide open heart draws everyone together. Isn’t this why so many people hate Christianity but really dig the person Jesus? They are drawn to his wide open heart, and often despise the closed hearts of so many Christians. This event was meant to tear down our walls, reconcile all humanity, and end the hostility. Then a group of people took this idea and built a new wall with it to keep the hostility going. Crazy, right?

Today let’s focus on that wide open heart of Jesus that calls us to live in our full humanity. Yes, we’re going to get hurt, stepped on betrayed but we also get the joy, love and grace that also comes with living a risky life of a heart wide open. This is so difficult for me because I’d rather be picky about who gets me at my widest and most caring. But I also understand that if I do that I am also closing myself off a whole world of possibility.

Jesus is the exemplar. Jesus is the archetype. Jesus is the model. Jesus shows us we can live this type of life, and tells his followers that they’ll do even greater things than he did. Let us follow that example and try to stretch those hearts just a little wider today.

More on Catherine, My Theological Crush


I want to write more about my theological crush, St. Catherine of Siena. Last time I wrote about her life. This time I want to talk about a quote of hers. Now, I am particularly fascinated with the way Catherine talks about love, and the way she talks about the obligation of love. Remember, for Catherine, to love God and to love others is one and the same thing, and one is not possible without the other. The more you love God the more you love your neighbor, and the more you love your neighbor the more you love God.

To not participate in this love is to deprive yourself and others in the worst way. In her Dialogue she speaks from the perspective of God and says “you harm your neighbors by depriving them of the prayer and loving desires you should be offering me on their behalf.”

Imagine living like that: believing that loving others, praying for others, and doing good for others were not special deeds, but a natural obligation. We care for others not to be a good human being, but to simply be a human being period, because that is what a human being is. To choose to participate in this kind of love is not a journey toward any sort of advanced humanity, or enlightened humanity. We learn to become more simply human by loving others. And that means embracing all the ways you and others are not advanced and enlightened, and loving those parts anyway.

Think of the people that have been a huge source of love and support in your life. If you have gotten the opportunity to express your gratitude to them you usually find that this person was never looking for any sort of thanks or reward for loving and supporting you. And they usually persist that they’re no more special than anyone else even though in your eyes this person is obviously way more special than everyone else, and you wish more people would follow their example. The people that do seem to insist that they are more special than others, and that do strive for thanks and rewards are usually the people that we don’t seem to recognize as loving and supportive. It is the people who live as if loving others is the most natural obligation to being simply human that we recognize as true sources of love.

On my desk I have a post-it-note that says “PRAY FOR ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING UNTIL YOU FIND YOURSELF PRAYING FOR MARS.” It’s kind of a hyperbolic message to myself to pray for everyone and everything you can think of—so much so that you find that there’s nothing left to possibly pray for except for the planet Mars. It began as a way to just remind myself to carve out time in the day to pray more since I found myself ending days wishing I had more time to pray.* It encourages me to think beyond myself.

Catherine would pray in her room for hours and hours every day. For Catherine praying for others was just as much of an obligation as loving others. Imagine living as if you believed that making petitions to the God of the universe on behalf of those you care about is a natural obligation to being human. I feel like that would radically transform the way you see others.

Catherine inspires me to choose love for the reason that it is simply what makes us human. And the ones I choose to love shall be chosen to love simply because they are human too. Living this way can shatter the boundaries and boxes we put people in all the time. As a member of society I am obligated to all sorts of identities and in-groups (which as we all know, in-groups are usually more defined by who is outside of the group than who is inside). However, as a Christian I should be obligated to love first, despite all the ways we say who’s in and who’s out.

I wish I knew people as radical as Catherine, and I hope that I can be just as radical myself. Now the word ‘radical’ come from the root word rad, which means root. It’s where we also get the word radish. This radical way of participating in a kind of love that flows between you, God, and others is actually the root of Christianity. This is where we should begin and end, and where all of our choices and desires should flow out from. Now, who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?



*it’s kind of odd how so many of us talk about not having time to pray, because the first official clocks were the ones in the church that would ring the church bell each hour of the day as a way of reminding people to pray at those times. Then over time we found several secular uses for keeping track of time and ended up breaking it down to minutes and seconds. So you can’t fit prayer into your schedule? Well, schedules were invented to give you time to pray!

Catherine, My Theological Crush


I don’t know if it’s possible to have a theological crush on someone, but if it is then I have definitely have one for St. Catherine of Sienna. She was born in 1347 in Sienna, Italy during the plague. This is a woman who, as Suzanna Noffke described as “a mystic whose plunge into God plunged her deep into the affairs of society”. How does that description of a person not excite you? This is a plunge that desire to take. Catherine is a hero to me. Catherine: saint, mystic, philosopher, theologian, peacemaker, preacher, writer, missionary, monastery founder, Church reformer…bae.

This woman took a vow of virginity to God at age 7! I imagine the other little girls talking about their dreams of being a wife and mother one day and this sassy little girl Catherine sitting there like: “…that’s dumb.”

At age 15 her sister died and her parents tried to make her marry her sister’s husband but she refused, and even cut off her hair and fasted so that she can look less attractive. (…as you do.)

At age 16 she joined a female branch of the Dominican order despite much protest, since they had previously only accepted widows. She served in the Order from home and committed herself to prayer and serving the poor. She would stay in her room for hours praying, only leaving the house to go to Mass, and not coming back until much later. She gave away everything she owned to the poor, and would even give away some of her family’s possessions without asking permission. (“Honey, I can’t find the new silverware we bought last week. Do you—wait…Catherine!”) On top of this she would reject her parents’ food and say she preferred the table and meal she would have with her real family in Heaven (which sounds like the saintly equivalent to the modern day teenager protesting at the dinner table: “Mom! I told you I refuse to eat animal corpses! I’m vegan!”)

So this story begins with Catherine sounding a lot like any other rebellious teenager, cutting her own hair, stealing from her parents, always stuck in her room, going out too much and for too long, refusing to live out the life anyone want for her, and remaining stubbornly independent. But what do you do with a teenager who acts this way only because all they care about is dedicating their life to Jesus? What parenting book could possibly be of any help to her poor mom and dad? Geez.

Then at age 21 things get even more interesting. She took her independence to the next level, and left her family in order to seek a life of solitude. What’s interesting about this time period is that you saw several people choose to live out their divine calling by getting involved in society and surrounding themselves with people they can serve. Meanwhile, others chose to live out their divine calling by living a life of solitude outside of society in deserts and caves where they can live like a hermit in constant prayer and meditation. While Catherine had sought to follow the latter example in the confines of her room she decided to leave her city for the first time in her life and find herself a cave of her own.

Her desire to live as a hermit ended when she had a spiritual experience of what she referred to as a mystical marriage to Christ. Within this experience Christ told her to return to public life and serve the poor and sick. So she returned with a new swagger and a new commitment to the poor and sick in society.

This is what I’m talking about when we talk about a plunge into God that can plunge you deeper into society. It’s beautiful. Catherine believed to love this God meant to love people, and to love people meant to love God. Both were just as true for her. There is no separation. There is no fork in the road that many people of her time and ours that people create for themselves, of: “dedicate my life to serving and loving God”, OR “dedicate my life to serving and loving people”? It is one and the same thing and one could not be possible without the other for Catherine.

Personally, I’ve gotten to an interesting place in my life as a Christian. I’ve always been able to relate with people who rant on about how terrible “the Church” is today and how so many Christians are giving it a bad name. Totally. I know what you mean. I’ve seen it just as much as anyone. Yet, when someone acts like that kind of stuff is what Christianity is, I’m simply dumbfounded. I think of people like Catherine. I think of some of my family and friends who live the same way; who believe that loving God and loving people is the same plunge that Christians are called to fully jump into. And I think to myself “THAT is what Christianity is!” The stuff they’re ranting about hardly comes on my radar anymore. I simply don’t have time to worry about everyone else who is making a bad name for Christianity. The tradition is more alive than ever in places that you’d least expect.

I read the words of St. Catherine of Siena (which we’ll get to another time) and I just want to say “YES!” and give her the biggest hug, and serve alongside her. She emulates a type of faith that is beautiful and exciting and a type of faith that our world needs more than ever.

Some Thoughts on Loving


Love is a difficult word to describe, especially in the English language. You can say you love tacos, you love your cousin, you love your spouse, and you love your life, and in all those statements you are talking about different kinds of love.

The Greeks had four words for talking about love:

Storge – enjoying someone for their familiarity, whether that’s family or old friends

Philia – the strong and unbreakable bond between best friends

Eros – sexual desire; the root word for erotic

Agape – unconditional love; to love with no bounds, even without reciprocation

We experience the first three loves all the time, but it’s this fourth kind of love that can revolutionize how we love others.

Agape is the type of love that none of us deserve and yet we all need. It’s the type of love that chooses to forgive endlessly, and embrace people for the simple fact that we’re all human.

We can start by no longer seeing people as a means to an end, but see everyone as an end in itself. In other words, don’t treat people as something that’s going to get you something you want later. Approach all people as if just interacting with them is the final and most perfect goal you could ask for. Appreciate people for simply being human.

Another beautiful way of describing love is a Japanese concept called Wabi Sabi.

It’s not easily translatable to English, but it refers to the value and beauty of all things that are imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It’s even an aesthetic in Japanese art. A Wabi Sabi art piece would present a vase, but highlight the crack in the vase—or perhaps even fill in the crack with gold.

This is a beautiful analogy for how we can see each other. We’re all broken and imperfect. Our real beauty is in our unique quirks and imperfections that can only be seen and appreciated when we slow down and pay attention.

All things are impermanent.

All things are imperfect.

All things are incomplete.

And that means we all have room to grow and learn, so be more gracious with others and celebrate any small movement of growth or learning experience however you experience it.

You’re lovely just the way you are.

So is everyone else.

So love yourself and others a little bit more today. We all can use it.

What David Bowie Can Teach Youth Ministers

Processed with VSCO

My first thought when hearing of the passing of David Bowie was that even though David Bowie grew to be old he will be remembered as forever young, like many icons that passed too soon. You usually hear this said about legends like James Dean, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain who will be forever young because they died young, but David Bowie still seemed younger than ever during his last days and his legacy carries that on.

So what was it about David Bowie that drove that youthful spirit of his? Was it because he behaved like the young people of today or in the 70’s? Not at all. And he definitely didn’t follow the trends of young people of today or in the 70’s. I believe David Bowie’s spirit stayed young because he able to consistently be vulnerable in all his strangeness.

The myth that says the older you get the less out of touch you get with the youth is only true when it comes to surface behaviors and interests. But there’s something much deeper that connects the young and old. I’m talking about radical authenticity.

Even though all of David Bowie’s characters can’t exactly be labeled as his authentic self, each of those characters were each authentic fragments of the complexity that is David Bowie. Philosopher, Simon Critchley put it beautifully in his book Bowie: “Identity is a very fragile affair. It is at best a sequence of episodic blips rather than some grand narrative unity. As David Hume established long ago, our inner life is made up of disconnected bundles of perceptions that lie around like so much dirty laundry in the rooms of our memory.”

I definitely believe in some sort of concept of a true self, but I don’t think it’s accessible enough to ever be understood or explained. All we have is brief brushes with fragments of ourselves that combine somehow to make us who we are. What people like David Bowie do for young people is permit them to more freely explore all the fragments of their identity without shame. Bowie helped generation after generation feel comfortable in their own skin by being revolutionarily comfortable in his own skin.

Bowie was a voice for and to the young weirdos and freaks of the world. And when weirdos and freaks are given something to gather around outside the large circle of normalcy we try to fit into, that circle becomes smaller and smaller as you see how many people are actually outside feeling the same as you.

People like David Bowie are able to teach something to youth ministers who are currently struggling with helping youth feel safe and able to express themselves. It’s very important to pay attention to what connected David Bowie and youth underneath all the characters, make-up, and controversies.

I’ve grown tired of youth ministers who believe their ministry will work by following the trends of present day youth. I’ve seen it fail miserably, whether it’s through the minister being so current in pop culture that they end up making references over students’ heads (just because it’s popular among youth doesn’t automatically mean it’s popular among your youth), or on the other end they come off as fake and trying too hard. And youth don’t need yet another person in their lives who is more up to date on trends and memes than they are.

Face it. Following the trends of wearing oversized t-shirts and growing a man bun isn’t going to do anything for your ministry. It’s cool if you want to do that (I’ve started wearing slightly oversized t-shirts myself, but I don’t have the patience to grow out my hair) but it’s not going to make people feel more comfortable connecting to you. That comes through something a lot deeper than the references you make, and the ways you look and dress.

It comes through radical authenticity.

It comes through being vulnerable about your strangeness and fearlessly expressing it.

After all, we need less youth feeling like they need to be “cool” or “up-to-date”, and more youth permitted to be vulnerable turning and facing their strangeness, and embracing it.

In 1974 Bowie was asked about fans putting on costumes to look like him and he said that it was like that in the beginning but people were also discovering things about themselves that had nothing to do with him. “If I’ve been at all responsible for people finding more characters within themselves than they originally thought they had then I’m pleased,” Bowie explained. “Because that’s something I feel very strongly about: that one isn’t totally what one has been conditioned to think one is; that there are many facets of the personality, which a lot of us have trouble finding and some of us do find too quickly.”

I believe the reason there is so much confusion concerning identity in young people today is because society gives us labels with distinct interests and behaviors attached to each of those labels. Confusion comes when a person experiences behaviors and interests that spread across many labels and feel that something is wrong with them, instead of the weirdly strict nature of today’s labels. We should be allowed to both fully be ourselves and reinvent ourselves without labeling it.

There is something profoundly Jesus-like about all this.

Jesus’ entire ministry consisted of boundary breaking and label smashing whether that was taking the role usually filled by female slaves by preparing and serving his disciples food, or by hanging out with everyone kicked to the edges of society. Jesus was authentic at his core, and his authenticity brought out the authenticity in others.

Perhaps the constant ch-ch-ch-ch-changes in culture today demand not a trend following formula of youth ministry but more of an avant-garde, formula-rupturing approach to youth ministry, sprung forth from the beautiful strangeness of all those personally involved. This is the type of youth ministry that can actually make a difference in the lives our wonderfully complex young people. Let’s make things less ordinary, and more exciting. It is truly a gift, after all, to be able to live in such strange times as these, isn’t it?

The Dangerous Way (Mark 1:14-20 from the Lectionary Gospel Reading)


A Roman coin with the face of Augustus Caesar circled with “Imperator Caesar, son of god, consul for the 6th time, defender of the liberty of the Roman people” in Latin.

Today’s passage is Mark 1:14-20. Last time we were in Mark Jesus had just been baptized by John the baptizer, letting John take the superior role. After this event Jesus went into the wilderness where John the baptizer had emerged from. Matthew and Luke tells us he fasted for forty days while he was there. Fasting was a common practice for John’s disciples who were awaiting the arrival of the Kingdom of God.

It is possible that Jesus had become John’s disciple before beginning his ministry, at least for a short time. After all, the Gospels make it clear that John the baptizer’s purpose is to prepare the way of the Lord. What if that preparation was more personal? What if Jesus’ message of “Repent and believe in the good news” was influenced by John’s proclamation of “a baptism of repentance.”

After John is arrested Jesus goes back to Galilee to take John’s ministry to the next step, “proclaiming the good news of God, and saying ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near (or is at hand); repent, and believe in the good news.’” John’s message was about the kingdom coming and Jesus’s new message after leaving John is that the kingdom has now arrived.

Mark says Jesus goes proclaiming the ‘good news’, or ‘gospel’, or in Greek: euaggelion. Historical Jesus scholar, John Dominic Crossan says something along the lines of “Trying to understand Jesus without the context of Roman imperialism is like trying to understand Martin Luther King Jr. without the context of racism and segregation in America.” The prefix con- means with. Con-text must goes with the text; it’s not just interesting background. So we must also address the political dimension of Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God.

First of all, I am not trying to turn Jesus into a political figure. Rather I am saying he already was one because in the 1st century there was absolutely no difference between religion and politics. They didn’t have any such categorization. To proclaim that you are ushering in the kingdom of God is to be simultaneously proclaiming the ushering out of the kingdom of Caesar. This was an act of high treason, and the reason the Roman government executed Jesus. Every religious statement he made was also a political one, in subversion of the imperial cult that worshiped Caesar as God. After all, we have plenty of evidence that Augustus Caesar was given titles like Son of God, Lord, Liberator and Redeemer of the World much before Jesus began his ministry. Even before Jesus was born the leading Roman poet, Horace, proclaimed that Jupiter (or Zeus) had assigned the task of atoning for the guilt of generations of sin to Augustus Caesar, who was Mercury (or Hermes) incarnate.

A euaggelion is what Roman soldiers proclaimed each time they gave the ‘good news’ of Caesar’s latest military victory, furthering his control over the world; which from the Empire’s point of view was furthering global peace under the rule of Caesar.

Even Mark’s quote of Jesus’ euaggelion is placed within the text like propaganda. This quote isn’t put on Jesus’ lips as a quote in any particular scene. Rather it’s put in there as a summary of the larger message, even ending it with “believe in the euaggelion.” Mark is using the same strategy as the Roman Empire, but proclaiming a better euaggelion, under the rule of God; bringing peace through justice, rather than Caesar’s peace through victory.

Continuing the passage, Jesus recruits Simon and his brother Andrew while they were fishing along the Sea of Galilee. “Follow me,” Jesus says, “and I will make you fish for people.” In this scene Jesus is not just being witty about their profession as fishermen. He is also referencing a prophecy in Jeremiah 16, which dreams of the restoration of Israel, and bringing them back to the Land God had promised them (the land that Caesar now ruled):

For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their ancestors. I am now sending for many fishermen, says the Lord, and they shall catch them…

Shortly after, Jesus recruits James and John, the sons of Zebedee. We saw how John the baptizer prepared the way for Jesus, and now if we pay attention we see that the rest of the story is Jesus preparing the way for his disciples. Jesus is recruiting these fishermen that Jeremiah prophesied  would help restore Israel. After all it is not Jesus who starts Christianity. His followers do.

Like I’ve said in the previous posts, the Gospel writers are evangelists, so their main purpose is not to write what happened, but to show how this story tells what it is happening ever presently. The life of Jesus is the model that we step into. In the way that John the baptizer prepared the way for Jesus, Jesus has prepared the way for his disciples. From there the disciples prepare the way for Christians in times to come by spreading this Way through writings such as The Euaggelion According to Matthew, The Euaggelion According to Mark, The Euaggelion According to Luke, and The Euaggelion According to John. You get it.

This Way, however, is dangerous. Believing in this counter-euaggelion would get you killed. John was arrested, and eventually beheaded while preparing the way. Jesus was tortured and executed while preparing the way, and most of his disciples were executed while preparing the way as well. This call is one of absolute selflessness. It’s a call to sacrificial love. It’s a call to give all your energy to this radical kingdom of God. The kingdom of God has arrived and it is a present reality that we step into. Yes, it’s risky and counter-cultural but it’s about bringing the world back together through justice and peace rather than victory and domination.

The invitation to believe in this counter-euaggelion is a challenge to which path are you going to choose: the Way that Caesar and powerful men like him have prepared? Or the Way that John the baptizer, Jesus and his fishermen prepared? Are you going to choose war or peace? Domination over the weak or justice for all? Revenge or forgiveness? Arrogance or humility? Selfishness or generosity? Indifference or love? The kingdom of Caesar or the kingdom of God?

To live in the present reality of the kingdom of God is to simply believe that intentionally engaging in acts like peace, justice, love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, generosity, etc. is a better way to live. Will it get you in trouble? Yes. Will it make you have to swallow your pride and put aside what you think you deserve? Absolutely. Will it require you to sacrifice a lot of what you hold dear? Definitely. But will it make you a better person, who is at peace with yourself, the world and God? Yes, yes and yes! And that is the Way, prepared for us to follow Jesus into, and we’re just getting started.

Three Praying Portuguese Children and a Hope for Global Peace


As a part of my new daily routine to obtain and sustain intentional hope in my life I have begun praying the Fatima prayers every morning. Here’s some background on the prayers:

World War I cost Europe the lives of many sons; over 37 million in fact. Portugal was in political chaos. Then after a revolution the monarchy was replaced with a republic under the influence of Freemasonry. Even though the new government was not sympathetic to people’s Faith, the Faith was the only reason for living for the majority of Portugal. In the small and dusty town of Fatima three children were committed to their Catholic faith with every part of their lives. Then in Spring of 1916 when the children were only age 6, 7 and 9 they claimed to encounter a heavenly messenger who taught them a prayer: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love you.”

Later that year the angel came again and taught them another prayer: “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. And by the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”

The next year they claimed to start seeing the Virgin Mary as well and that she started teaching them more prayers, such as the Eucharistic Prayer: “Most Holy Trinity, I adore you! My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”, and the Decade Prayer: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen.” The Decade Prayer was later added to the official Rosary.

The two youngest children Francisco and Jacinta Marto died in the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1919 and 1920. The eldest, Lucia Santos claimed to have encountered the Virgin Mary again in 1931 during World War II and was taught the prayers: “By your pure and Immaculate Conception, O Mary, obtain the conversion of Russia, Spain, Portugal, Europe and the whole world!” and “Sweet Heart of Mary, be the salvation of Russia, Spain, Portugal, Europe and the whole world.” These children believed and convinced others to believe that praying these prayers would lead them to world peace.

Now, what really happened in Fatima, Portugal? We can use our modern enlightened intellect and scientifically explain the experiences away. We can even accuse the children of lying about it, or even the Church silencing the true accounts the children gave, and changing the story to one that makes the Catholic Church look more appealing (which has been a common accusation). Or we can even be typical quarrelsome Protestants and say it’s impossible because no one can encounter the Virgin Mary, because that’s a bunch of ‘Catholic hullabaloo’; or even worse, mark it up as an encounter with demons.

What really happened in the dusty roads of Fatima almost a century ago is not really important to me. In the middle of a terrible war where peace seemed to be nowhere in sight a group of children began praying and teaching others to prayer prayers of radical hope for global peace. And I think we can all use a little bit more hope for peace. For me, the only difference when praying these traditional prayers is that I either take the Virgin Mary out or I just replace her with Jesus. That may sound dangerously counterintuitive, since she had apparently asked the children to use her name in the prayers, but no matter what you believe I think we can agree that there’s nothing that Mary can do that Jesus can’t do. So the prayers still work.

Yesterday was the memorial of the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11th, 2001. For many people this event was a wake up call that there are people out there that don’t like us and believe that we are the villains. We have two choices when we realize this. We can become cynical, bitter and defensive or we can choose hope for peace. We can choose to slander other countries out of fear, or we can choose to pray that Jesus would be the salvation of the entire world, asking pardon for those that do not believe, adore, hope, and love Jesus, and praying that Jesus would lead all souls to Heaven. This changes us how we look at the world. It’s interesting that the children claimed that these prayers would lead us to global peace. Are they saying that if Jesus hears enough people praying these prayers enough times then he’ll comply and provide global peace? Or perhaps if we got more and more people praying these prayers their outlook of their enemies would change. These prayers melt away the division we put up between our friends and enemies. And I know things are chaotic in the world right now but we must be careful that despair does not divide us further and further. That’s what despair does. It gives us the opportunity to divide further or find a way to make peace; and more division will just make things worse. You may say we can’t do anything about it since we don’t have a hand in global affairs but you can change how you see your enemies by praying for them. Perhaps this hope for peace will spread. It starts with us.

Trying Intentional Hope


So basically I’m tired of being a pessimist. I’m tired of being so critical. I’m tired of complaining so much. I’m tired of being so judgmental. I’m tired of being hopeless. I’m tired of being so easily discouraged. I go online and see a bunch of stuff about Ferguson, Isis, Christians being beheaded, over-generalizing Muslim hate, Obama hate, the California drought, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and complaints about the sincerity of everyone’s videos. The little hope that I do find when I go online nowadays is the hilarious memes that make me forget about my problems. In fact, this is usually the main source of hope that so many of the people I know seek: something to just make them forget about everything that’s wrong. It’s an intentional naivety.

Now I’m trying to figure out if there is way to find hope without intentional naivety or just ignoring everything that’s wrong. Is it possible to be positive without lying? Is it even possible to be positive without looking with disdain on everyone who isn’t positive? It’s starting to feel like positivity is easier to find amongst stoners than it is to find amongst Christians. That isn’t right.

I want to become a person of hope. Wikipedia ended up having the closest (but not exact) definition to the type of hope I’m talking about: an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.

Of course I have to be very intentional about this. The important thing to understand about the nature of everything and everyone is that everything and everyone is a process; in a constant state of becoming. Once you realize that then the important thing to know is what you are becoming. The choices you make, the words you use and the thoughts you entertain all play into what you are choosing to become. So…I want to become hope.

And I want to become an absolutely genuine hope that doesn’t ignore tragedy. I want to become a hope that can fully embrace the whole spectrum of human emotion and events but can see what others don’t see. I guess I want to see, most importantly, and never lose that sight of radical hope.

This is also important to me because I am currently trying to raise money and develop a team to move with me to LA and start a church. I’ve been having many conversations about this with friends and strangers, trying to get support and I’m realizing how much I need to keep myself grounded in intentional hope while doing this. Talking to people about starting and pastor-ing a church as a 21-year-old with no major institutional support leads to being constantly questioned about my motives and my qualifications. It gets exhausting and draining. I’m fine with people questioning me but it keeps showing me that I need to do something about my personal life if I want to stay sane.

So I’m writing this because I want to embark on a personal journey towards hope. I also want to write more about hope from several different angles. The first thing I want to do is create discipline in my life by doing specific things that build hope every morning and night. I’ve done each of these things periodically throughout the last year but I haven’t done them all together at the same time. I want to start each day in prayer. I have become very fascinated with historic traditional prayers and I’m choosing the ones that give me the most hope. I want to start each morning by reciting the Shema, an ancient Jewish prayer compiled of three sections from the Torah. Then I want to recite the Fatima Prayers with the pattern of the prayer beads that I just realized were gifted to me as a baby. These prayers are seven prayers focused on the hope that Jesus would “lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of [God’s] mercy”. After that I want to pray Pope Francis’ classic Five Finger Prayer. I then want to end by reciting St. Francis’ Prayer of Peace. I’ve been praying all these prayers separately over the last year and they all give me the most hope so I now want to begin and end each day by reciting them all together. I’ll be writing a lot more about these prayers, what they are and the stories behind them soon as this journey progresses.

On top of these daily prayers I am also going to start wearing my Complaint-Free-World wristband again. The idea is that you are supposed to go 21 days without complaining since it takes 21 days to break a habit. If you end up complaining then you have to switch the wristband to the other wrist and start over until you complete the 21 days. I’ve tried to do this about four or five times before over the years, personally and with large groups of friends. I’ve never been able to complete the full 21 days.

I may include more daily routines but this is what I will begin with. Only when your candle is lit can you light another’s candle. If I am planning on leading people toward the hope I know we need then I need to be disciplined in hope myself.

Expect “hope” to be the primary topic of upcoming blogs and keep me in prayer through all this as I attempt to discipline myself in intentional hope.



[portions of this are re-appropriated parenting quotes from the Internet]

    This is a call for us all to take responsibility and re-parent the Internet. The Internet was our creation and now we have neglected it and disowned it whenever it has done wrong. Like a child the Internet does not forget every wrong we have committed towards it. And in this case the parents are the ones to blame. Always.

We may not be able to prepare the future for the Internet but we can prepare the Internet for our future. Leave your pride, ego and narcissism somewhere else. Reactions from those parts of you will reinforce the Internet’s most primitive flaws. The Internet is not the place for you as the parent to project your own inner filth. Your job is to be the parent the Internet needs. Understand the Internet just wants to be loved. Loving the Internet doesn’t mean giving in to all his whims; to love it is to bring out the best in it.

Becoming a parent is a life-changer. It gives you a whole other perspective on why you wake up every day. We should all care about the well-being and welfare of the Internet. Think of all the things you can say and do to influence the Internet. It’s a tremendous responsibility. What you do with it can influence not only the Internet, but everyone that uses it, and not for a day or a month or a year but for time and eternity. The Internet may supply the power but we as parents have to do the steering.

Think of the Internet as a child of billions of abusive parents. Do not join in the abuse. Do all that you can to heal the Internet of its wounds. The Internet will raise your children. It no longer takes a village but it takes an Internet to raise a child. How will you choose to influence that which will influence your children? Parenting is about guiding the next generation and forgiving the last. We can’t make it perfect but we can do our part.

Giving in to making the Internet a cold, dangerous and disgusting thing is like abusing an abused child simply because that’s all you see happening to the child.

The future of the Internet needs us. Do not give the Internet things you would be ashamed of if your children saw. Give to the Internet what you want your children to have.

The Internet does not need anymore abuse. Access to the Internet is a privilege, not a right. If you cannot handle the responsibility of being a positive influence to the Internet then unplug from it and walk away. If you choose to stay, then stop the abuse and re-parent the Internet. It is our responsibility.