Friday, May 30, 2014

The Inception Exception (Level 1)

One of my favorite films of all-time is Christopher Nolan’s 2010 classic, “Inception”.

In the movie, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, an industrial spy, who has mastered the art of extraction (i.e. stealing valuable secrets from the subconscious during the dream state). As a professional in illegal espionage, Cobb prides himself as being the best at his trade and ultimately teams with Saito, an energy magnate, who encourages Cobb to dissolve the corporation of his business rival through a reverse process known as “inception”.

**Warning: Spoiler Alert**

As the case with any praiseworthy plot, the storyline is only as good as the conflict resisting it, and in “Inception”, we find Cobb repeatedly pitted against his biggest nemesis: his subconscious

Unknown to his colleagues, Cobb locks memories of his deceased wife within himself, partly due to the shame he feels for planting a fatal idea inside her when the two had previously lived in Limbo (an expanse of infinite raw subconscious). As a result, Cobb’s projection of Mal sabotages Saito’s mission, fatally wounding him in the process. 

It’s only when Cobb owns his mistake and chooses to search for Saito in Limbo, that he finds catharsis and makes the turn for home.
After a recent viewing, I couldn’t help but marvel at the parallels between the movie and real life.

For one thing, we’re all impacted by our subconscious and its effect on our dreams. Obviously, one doesn’t have to be a dream science practitioner to preserve the past through subconscious safeguarding. It’s something everyone does in one form or another.

For instance, I can relate to Cobb’s struggle in the sense I often create my concept of a better world through my subconscious. If there’s a person I wish I could be closer to, a desire I fear may go unrealized or a past decision I wish could be corrected, the dream state becomes a place I can experience the unknown as if it were completely verifiable. 

Granted, a dream is the product of the imagination, and thus, contains no real substance; however, this doesn’t mean its content is unrealized.

You see, there’s a difference between what is real and what is realized. And this contrast becomes increasingly significant when we talk about the things we sense and what we don’t sense. Often times, our biggest battles involve elements we can’t directly experience. Perhaps this is why Paul said, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood…but against principalities…and powers of darkness…” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV).

Think about it. In every mind there's a unique set of acceptances, whether true or false, real or unreal. But regardless of their potential, the truth (or lack thereof) behind them as well as their origin can have an immense influence on what is believed and how it manifests. It’s only when we start to entertain the counterfeit ones when we find trouble and risk a hiatus in Limbo (which we’ll define here as a toleration of destructive “arguments… lofty opinions [and deceptive thoughts]…not taken captive to obey Christ…” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5).  And honestly, who would want to spend any time wrestling with an oppressive stronghold in Limbo, especially one that distorts an understanding of what is real?

Bottom line: the content of our dreams may not be real, but what can be realized from it certainly is. So don’t underestimate the power of what you can glean from your subconscious. For me, a dream can be an open door to a necessary conversation with God, my wife or a certain person I need to reconcile with. Other times, a dream can expose an insecurity or place of idolatry, which in turn, leads to repentance and renewed faith.

Whatever the case may be, God can use our dreams to help guide and direct our paths. My advice? Let God plant His ideas in your heart and don’t worry about extracting your perception of identity or worth from any other source. And if an unpleasant memory is interfering with your peace, don’t run from it. Deal with it. Take every hostile strategy, every vain thought captive and replace it with whatever is good, whatever is righteous, whatever is holy, whatever is noble, pure, lovely, etc. (Philippians 4:8). However, don't stop there, but rather continue to think about such you let God incept your heart, refine your thought patterns and transform your subconscious.

So ditch the totem (i.e. anyone/anything apart from God telling us who we are and what is real), delight in the reality of God’s dream and let your mind be the scene of the [sublime]. 

To be continued...

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Friday, May 23, 2014

The Hipster Church

A few weeks ago, we discussed the uniqueness of God’s “hipster-ism”…and why it makes sense to follow the trends He’s set for us.

We also identified Jesus as the original hipster and that we are cool because God was first cool and made us in His image (which is the hipster paraphrased version of 1 John 4:19 & Genesis 1:27).

So if God’s cool and you’re cool…how’s a cool church supposed to function?

To answer this question, we’re going to investigate how the early church looked before it became known as “the church”.

Let’s look at the first few chapters in Acts…

In Acts 1, Jesus ascends into heaven. Immediately, the disciples are without the physical presence of the man they’d been following for three years of intense ministry. Yet, after the disciples return from Olivet, we find them back in the upper room, devoted in prayer.

Not only does this provide evidence to the fact Jesus was the ultimate hipster, but it also sheds light on the type of faith the disciples demonstrated.

You see, Jesus paved the way for his followers to know truth and live with real faith. The disciples weren’t praying with the mindset of, ‘This is the ‘happening’ thing to do’. They did it because they loved Jesus and wanted to be faithful to the example He had set. They also did it as an act of declarative faith into the future, since they believed the promise Jesus made in John 16:4-15 – the coming of the Holy Spirit (which is what the Day of Pentecost is all about).

Now, maybe you’re still confused about Jesus being referenced to as a hipster. If it helps, Jesus wasn’t a hipster in the urban dictionary sense. He didn’t live so people could conform to His trends, but He lived so people would conform to the trends He was obeying. He wasn’t obedient to the Father in order to be a likable, attractable guy. Rather, Jesus was obedient to His Father because He loved Him and the people He wanted to see transformed. Jesus knew the attention would come by how His faith manifested. The difference was He established trends out of selfless love as opposed to self-centered desires.

In other words, Jesus understood the difference between faith being a trend and faith being real. Even as the ultimate hipster, He could’ve cared less about being socially acceptable.

When we continue into Acts 2, we see a concentration on self completely out of the picture. What we find, instead, is true community (koinonia):

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the communion, to the breaking of bread and to prayer...All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” ~ Acts 2:42-47 (ESV)

Note the final six words of Acts 2:44 - "[they] had all things in common.” Apparently, not only were early church believers unified in core values and beliefs, but also in daily priorities and behavior patterns. To them, every day was a chance to worship together, commune together and live out Isaiah 58 together. How awesome is that?

You see, the strength of early church unification was enhanced by the consistency of its giving, the frequency of its fellowship and the quality of its joint participation, all helping to establish koinonia in its purest form

As for the disciples, they helped anchor this movement because they believed in what they knew to be true and lived it out. They did not care about what was mainstream at the time or what the Pharisees or religious scribes were doing. They cared only about what Jesus had made real to them.

Bottom Line: So how does this relate to the 21st century church? Well, many would say hipster Christianity is the product of church and cool colliding…when young worships are composed of artistic searchers and bookish intellectuals. But if we are truly following the trend Jesus set, we will be moving in spirit and in power…not just in hollow singing, empty prayers and being socially aware.

Often, faith in Jesus is boiled down to how it makes you feel. But have you asked yourself what Jesus means to you…not about how he makes you feel, but how he makes you different? Does your faith make you feel like a better person, or does it truly make you better (i.e. a more loving, more compassionate, driven to act person)?

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Friday, May 16, 2014

The Other Side of Grace

We deserve the best in life…
                                                                             …at least that’s what many want to believe.

After all, we live in a “work hard, reap the reward” culture, where everything is predicated on self-fulfillment.

But whatever happened to the idea we live to become, not to acquire? Whatever happened to the belief we live by what’s been divinely given, not by what we temporarily earn?

And what if people gave thanks not only for what they’d been given, but also for what they hadn’t been given?

You see, we often think God’s grace is subject to us receiving what we’re unworthy of.

Whether it’s a promotion, a house, even a relationship, we tend to perceive grace through the lens of gain.

But the flipside is just as equally true: what God doesn’t give us is just as strong a measure of His grace as anything else.

Now, you may be thinkin’: This sounds like mercy to me. Isn’t grace getting what you don’t deserve and mercy, not getting what you do deserve?

Well…yes and no. While there is some merit to the phrase, when you dig deeper, the idea doesn’t completely add up.

Here’s why…

Mercy centers on redemption (deliverance from judgment), but grace is fixed on compassion (extending kindness to the unworthy).

Thus, we can discover the deeper places of God’s heart when we understand His grace can be demonstrated through what He gives and withholds from us.

For example, we were created to enjoy community with God and one another.

But let’s get it real: chances are we’re not going to feel a strong sense of belonging every season of our lives.

But this doesn’t mean God has forsaken us. Contrarily, He can use such voids to teach and grow us.

For what we don’t have often reminds us how we were created to be.

Feel alone? Fear not. Not only will you find desirable connections in the near-future, but you’re going to understand the need for community in an entirely different way. How awesome it that?

Same thing with love or influence. We crave its existence to the point we will do almost anything to feel its vibrant pulse resonating within. The question is: Are we compromising our appetite for God in our pursuit of these drives apart from Him?

Bottom line: It’s grace that enables us to know how God is moving in our lives. Maybe He wants to help you learn full dependence on Him. Maybe He wants you to rest after a season of chaos or busyness? Maybe there are strongholds God wants us to address before we pursue the next phase of our journey? The possibilities are endless. But the common denominator through it all is you never have to fear feeling empty, when He’s just around the corner ready to fill you up with exactly what you need.

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Friday, May 9, 2014

10 Reasons Why Your Mom is Freakin' Awesome (Mrs. Goldberg Style)

Dedicated to my wonderful mothers and grandmothers, Nancy Fry, Peggy Fry (Mimi), Nana Oak & Jan DeWald Ferguson, all who embody the heart of this piece.

Well, it’s that time of year again. Mother’s Day. The one day a year we praise our moms for all the awesome things they do, despite the fact we should be doing this all the time. No doubt, moms are the most underrated people on the planet considering all the work they put in without any expectancy of gratitude. case you still need the evidence and/or content fodder for your next Mother’s Day card, here are ten reasons why your mom is freakin’ awesome.

1.  She squeezed you into existence. Yeah, yeah, your mom did plenty of post-labor nurturing…and was probably pretty good at it. I get that. But let’s not forget she carried you nine months in her womb…and you didn't even need to pay rent! Her love for you is so strong, she would gladly endure another round of morning sickness, cramping, bloating, constipation and swollen extremities if it meant she could have you again.

2.  She actually listens to you. A mom’s voice is only as good as knowing yours. And let’s just say hypothetically she can’t give you her full attention; at least, she still has your absolute best in mind. So what if your dad is cliché? You got an ally in your mom and her ears are bigger than they look.

3.  She’s not afraid to try. It’s like Pink dedicated the heart of her 2012 hit to her mom. Whether it’s acquiring a new skill on the fly or learning a new dish in the fry, your mom considers you worth it.

4.  She’s everywhere. Granted, this carries a creepy undertone. But think about it. If your mom was omnipresent, chances are this would better our behavior, right? Now thankfully, we have God for this, but still…nothing like a pleasant reminder pointing to a transcendent reality that, in fact, does exist.

5.  She’s not afraid of human contact…a very important quality when you consider it’s necessary for our existence in the first place. But let’s not underestimate the times when her hands meet our head, our back, our shoulders, etc. We’re talking about a supreme example of gratitude expressed through physical affection. If you let her, she will hug you. On second thought, she’ll probably find a way to hug you anyway, so might as well grant her the access and make her feel like a million bucks.

6.  She goes grocery shopping. For sake of word count, we’ll let this be a microcosm for all the major life errands she runs almost every day. To the man, the grocery store is a jungle, but to the money-saving, coupon-cutting mom, it’s a piece of [delicious chocolate] cake…ironic when you consider she’s probably ringing one up at the counter now!

7.  She can keep a secret…or at least make an applaudable effort. Of course, if she were to fail, it would only be because her brilliant attempt somehow backfired. But that’s okay; after all, we live in an ‘A’ for effort culture, right? So forget mum. When it comes to the parental confidant, mom’s the word.

8.  She’s cooler than you think. Want to bless your mom? Give her a couple hours a week to shred the “mom card” and hang out with her in the process. You’ll actually find there’s a hip person under there.

9.  She never takes a day off. I mean, how can you when you’re instilling discipline, dealing with drama and teaching core values while doing all the little things like cooking, sewing and sanitizing. Basically, mothers make parental education a moot point given they are parental education!

10.  She’ll never let go of you. This may sound overwhelming at first, but within the context of horizontal love, there’s no greater expression. There’s just something about a love that not only supports you, but sticks by you as well.

Sure you may not always see eye to eye with your mom, but this doesn’t mean she will ever revoke her “open arms policy”. She made you, she birthed you, she practically slaved so you could have the best upbringing humanly possible. No way she's ever giving up on you.

So as you spend time with your mothers and grandmothers this Mother's Day, remember to honor them as the superheroes they are and the legacy they continue to leave.

"She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many woman do noble things, but [mothers] surpass them all."  ~ 
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Sunday, May 4, 2014

LEGACYouth: Hipster Jesus

No matter who you are, chances are you like to be known. I mean who wouldn’t want to be recognized as hashtag-worthy, a trend-setting hipster or some form of cool. #firstworlddreams

But let’s face it: these desires can be rather murky.

For instance, what does hipster mean anyway? 

A hipster, by definition, follows the latest trends and fashions. They believe the world can be run better and look better at the same time. And best of all, hipsters don't need a crystal ball to see into the future. Instead, they can rely on an innate sense to recognize what will be culturally acceptable years down the road, while still knowing what's currently 'in'.

Pretty cool, right? 

Unfortunately, many hipsters are so busy maintaining an identity set by the world, they lose sight of what truly matters. 

But what if the secular definition of "hipster" was flipped on its head? What if "hipster" included people helping others become who they were meant to be?  

After all, isn't that what a hipster does?  See the potential and live in the hope of its reality?

Now here me, I'm not bashing hipsters or trying to discourage anyone from being one/wanting to be one. In fact, I'm saying quite the opposite.

The question is, 'What trends are you following? What are you trying to emulate? What is at the heart of what you want to be?' 

See we were all fashioned by the greatest hipster of all-time! In the beginning was the Word (John 1), and from it came everything we experience today. So when we look at creation, we know it’s good because God saw it to be so (Genesis 1). This tells me God knew from the beginning the very best He had for each and every one of us.

But God isn't hipster just because He can see the future. He's also hipster because He understands the difference between need and want and knows how both apply to every single person.

Bam, now that is cool!

Plus, God is perfectly chill. To those thinking He is a fidgety tightwad, consider Luke 12:22-26:

"And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?"

Now, you may think God is anti-hipster when you hear this, but in fact, the opposite is true. For God knew everything we needed to live a life of goodness and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) before it was cool. 

As for Jesus, well, he's pretty hipster as well. I mean…he turned water into wine, has copies of the New Testament on vinyl and was a fan of Nine Inch Nails before they were a band! 

But if that doesn't impress you, consider the fact he a) boiled down the entire Gospel into two powerful principles - (1) Love God, (2) Love your neighbor as you love yourself…and b) knew the trends of God and how to be obedient in all types of situations. As a result, God used him to heal the diseased, raise the dead and ultimately redeem humanity by death on a cross.

Bottom line: In a world chasing what's trending, we can rest assured in what's been trending since the beginning of time: you already are what you desire to be. Why? Because you are loved. The master creator of the universe considers you the coolest thing not just since sliced bread…but bread period! 

So why not allow what God thinks/says to be what trends in your life. For our hipster ways? They come and go as the relative pishposh they are. 

But God? He's absolutely, 100% cool…and His ways will never become outdated.

How wonderful it is to know that out of God's perfection, He makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17), and as recipients of divine change, we don’t have to strive for our worth.

To be continued...

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