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Magician’s Magic (a love story)

I have been into magic for almost 20 years. I love the art and mystery, but mostly I love the interaction with my audience. I live for that moment when I get a smile, a laugh, or a gasp. Sometimes a stunned silence can be even better. This is why I study magic. This is why I perform magic. This is why I love magic.

Its easy to forget the reasons we first fell in love. In my day to day life I often have to stop and think about the first night I realized how in love I was with Jes. We stayed up all night talking about our family, our future, and our faith. I have to force myself to remember the things that made me fall in love with her, because its so easy to forget. Its so easy to only think about the here and now.

I never thought about it like this, but I can also remember the first card trick I learned. I read a simple trick out of a self working card trick book and for the next couple days I showed everyone who came within a 100ft radius. I was hooked. I had fallen in love with magic.

No, I’m not saying I love magic like I love my wife. I actually love it more (just kidding Jesalyn).

It is the same way with anything that we commit to for a long time. We forget why we originally fell in love with it. Magic reminded me of this. Last week I watched a young guy (14) perform on the street and get some screaming reactions. He did simple effects that were clear and easy to follow. They were good, not because of the difficulty or the hidden skill, but because of the reaction. The spectators saw a miracle. A 14 year old just made the card in their hand switch with a card in the deck.

AMAZING!

Magician’s break down effects to make them symmetric, linear, framed, etc, but we often miss the simple beauty of the trick because we don’t see it like a spectator. We see it like a magician. We concentrate on fooling people who know every trick in the book. We concentrate on heavy misdirection because its hard to misdirect our eyes. We forget that spectators are easily misdirected, easier to fool, and at best they have only seen page one or two of the book.

Here’s a clip of Shawn performing downtown last week. This is just one of the great reactions he received.

So magic has taught me another great lesson. Sometimes we need to take a break and look at the original reasons we fell in love. It could be a person, a hobby, or a career. Take some time to remember why you first fell in love and remember what it was like to realize your passion and start out on that journey.

Perfect Church (Part 2) – Theocentric

I began this blog a year and a half ago. I started writing part 2 just a week after part 1 and forgot about it. I was going through my saved drafts and found this unfinished thought. So here it is, all pretty and revisited. Please read the first part to get you up to date.

No seriously, go read it.

Really, It won’t fully make sense unless you click here and go back and read it.

Its not that long, just a quick read to get you caught up. Please…

Ok, now that you have read the first installment, read part two starting… now!

What does God want for the church? As we look at the early church we will find church in her purest form. No big budgets, or large auditoriums, and no coffee or doughnuts . I’m not saying these things are wrong for the church. I’m just wondering what the people of the early church did without thousands of dollars in equipment and coffee to get them going. It must have been a boring service.

How did the early church entertain people, keep people interested, and make them feel welcome without these things? Well the answer is pretty simple. They loved…

Misconceptions*

I cringe when I hear people talk about going to a church because they feel good when they leave. That couldn’t be any further from the point.

A little less obvious misconception is the idea that we should go to church to “get fed”. People choose a church because they learn a lot or the church serves some need of theirs well, like childcare, art, business contacts etc. A good thought, but not the reason for church, and definitely not the ultimate goal of the church.

We also hear that people love their church because it is entertaining and they love the music/dramas/videos. OK, I think you know where I’m going by now. I’m sure Paul hired a band and rocked out to some killer worship music before he spoke to the people of Ephesus, or Rome.

I don’t think God’s intention for the church was any of these three things. All three of these things make church a “me first” concept. It wasn’t until our generation that church even considered being entertaining. The church was started to be centered around God or (if you would like me to use big words) theocentric.

At the heart of the church should be connecting with God, doing the work or God, and spreading the  radical love of God. Anything else is extra gravy on the potatoes.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  -Hebrews 10 24-25

In Ephesians Paul explains the purpose of ministry to the church body, he says ministry is meant… 12to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  -Ephesians 4:12-13

In other words, the church is built to serve. We are a community of believers that “spur” (as the ASV puts it) each other on to love deeper, reach further, and ultimately serve our community, our nation, and our world.

One interesting side note*

Notice in the verses from Ephesians that Paul says it in this order. To equip people for works of service so that they may be built up until we reach unity in faith and knowledge. How do we get to faith and knowledge? First we serve. How does our church grow and build up? First we serve. Paul does not suggest that we study the scriptures so we know enough to serve. He does not suggest that we become a large church so that we can serve. He says to serve to become wiser in the scriptures. He says we serve to grow our church. He says, first we serve.

The perfect church is not “me first”. She is “Christ first”. She is centered around us (the Christ followers) utilizing our gifts, strengths, and passions to love as Christ loved, by serving our community, our nation, and our world. She is theocentric.

Ice House

No, not the beer. We just received our first full month gas bill. Let me preface this by saying that we live in a 1300 sqft ranch house. I close the vents in all the rooms except the master bedroom, kitchen, and living room. Its just me and Jes and we leave our thermostat on 69. Our bill came and it was $217!!!

So Jes and I are making some changes.

1. Thermostat stays on 65… yes 65

2. Hot showers are now warm showers

3. Dogs sleep in the bed so they don’t freeze at night and to provide extra body heat for all of us (kinda like we’re foreigners)

4. Thermostat goes to 63 during the day while we’re gone. Sorry Jake.

5. All doors and windows stay closed when dogs are outside.

So, we aren’t quite that cruel. We put a heating pad in Jake’s bed and a little electric heater by his crate in the bedroom. We also added blankets to every possible place in our house. I never knew one family could own so many blankets. I counted 9 blankets for two people. This doesn’t include sheets and comforters. This is just blankets.

9 BLANKETS! Really…

So we are all huddled together trying to keep warm and here is alley, stretched out on our freezing cold floor.

She loves it. It takes a lot to keep her from being happy. That’s why I love my Alley.

I’ve only found one thing that makes her sad and that is being left alone. She hates being alone and I hate having to leave her, but every time I get home she is waiting on me with a huge smile. It makes my day.

Are You Religious? (Part One)

Re-li-gion: a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

It bothers me when people ask if I’m religious. I usually bite my tongue and want to respond by saying, “Aren’t we all?” Until we really know the Truth of the Universe (never) we will all be “religious”.

When you meet someone who claims to be “non-religious” they are usually basing that on the fact that they don’t go to church or believe in The God of Abraham. I usually follow that type of statement with this questions, “Well then what do you believe?” Because we all believe something, right?

We all believe in something.

We all have a religion.

“NOTHING!”

I rarely get the person who answers this way. They believe in “nothing”. Usually these people are the proudest in their nothingness. They seem to answer with more pride than most Christians. It seems ironic to me that they are proud of nothing.There are generally two things they might mean by this statement.

I don’t care…

I don’t believe in a god…

When the person says, I don’t care. What they really mean is I want to live my life the way I want to live it. We are born with a curiosity of nature. A desire to find a purpose. If someone claims they don’t care. They are either lying or they are covering up. WE ALL CARE! They just don’t want to know, in fear or in conceit. The best selling books of all time are books that explain our existence. The most searched terms on the Internet are “religious” terms (even more than porn). Why? Because we all want to know. We all have this built in curiosity. WE ALL CARE!

When the person is saying, I don’t believe in God. They are saying, I just lied to you. They are just as religious as anyone else. Can they prove that there is no God? Of course not. Then they are the perfect definition of religion. They live their life on a belief that there is no God just as I live my life on a belief that there is a God. Regardless about what they believe created the world, or how they believe the world will end. They believe.

“Aren’t we all?”

We are all religious. It is built into our DNA. We all worship. A person who believes in no God still worships. They can worship knowledge, nature, themselves, etc.

Wor-ship: Reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred.

Worship is also built into our DNA. We all regard something as sacred. Usually its what we spend the most money on, what we spend the most time on, what we hold higher than ourselves. It could even be our selves. We put value in a belief. We were born to worship. WE ALL WORSHIP!

TO BE CONTINUED>>>

Who are You?

Suffering so soundly
Peacefully fading

Who are You?
Why are You waiting?

Praising the past
Forging the future

Who are You?
Why aren’t You closer?

Struggle so silent
Fighting the night

Tomorrow so dark
Yesterdays bright

Suffering so soundly
Peacefully fading

Who are You?
Why aren’t you saving?

Where were you,
When I created the sun?

Heart so broken
Mind so young

Who am I?
Where have I been?

Laying in bed
Right next to him

Suffering so soundly
His soul in hand

Waiting and waiting
For his life to begin

Where were you,
When his life was laid?

His soul is mine
I’ve already saved!

God only listens to Christian Music.

OK…I admit it!

Jes and I were on vacation last year to Myrtle Beach. We went to the dueling piano bar at Broadway at the Beach (because we love Jokers in Mooresville). We finally got a seat up on the railing and the guys broke into a 15 minute Prince concert. We were sitting beside a couple who wasn’t really talking much but looked to be having a good time. As the pianists broke into “Kiss” the guy beside me leaned over and said, “I know my wife loves this crap, but when are they gonna give us something to listen to.” I guess he had not noticed I was singing along with every word. So I leaned back over to him and said, “Real men love Prince.”

Most people that know me know I am not ashamed of what kind of music I listen to. Justin, Prince, Mraz, Buble (I don’t know how to put the accent over the “e”, but if I could, I wouldn’t, because I call him Michael Buble) Where it gets really interesting is when I tell people I mix that in with some T-pain and there’s my playlist.

Several years ago I had a friend ask me a question when we were talking about me putting my faith in Jesus. He said, “How do you listen to Christian music all the time?” It took me back…

I don’t, should I? Should my playlist be Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, and in stead of T-Pain should I mix it up with T-Mac?

So here it comes…close to 5 years later I finally have an answer to that question. I know you’re wondering how it took so long, but that’s not the point. The point is, it took God 5 years to get it through my thick head and now I’ve got it.

What is Christian Music? No, really…what makes some music Christian and some not? What makes some Companies Christian and some not? What makes Chick-fil-a a Christian restaurant and McDonald’s Secular? Is it because they aren’t open on Sunday? Is it because the owners are Christians? I know, it must be because they over abuse the term “my pleasure” and that is what God would want from “His” fast food joint.

Sorry about all the sarcasm.

So what classifies music as Secular and Christian? It’s not that the artist is Christian because you can’t tell me that Josh Turner, Bono, and many other “secular” artists are not Christians. It’s not that they sing about God or Jesus, because Carrie Underwood would have had a Christian hit with “Jesus take the wheel” if she released it as a Christian single. There are tons of songs written by Christians singing about Christ that aren’t considered “Christian Music”. I know, it must be the over abuse of the words “love” and “above” and that is what God would want from “His” music, right?

Enough sarcasm.

Are Chick-fil-a sandwiches any more Christian than McDonald’s? Is a Cook-out shake any more blessed than a Wendy’s Frosty because they have scripture on the cup? NO!!!! In fact, the idea that Cookout prints scripture on their STYROFOAM CUP is kind of ironic to me.

Ok seriously, no more sarcasm!

So here is what makes some music Christian and some not…It’s self proclaimed. The artist says, “I am playing Christian music.” Does this make it any more “Christian” or any less “Secular” than any other music? NO!!!!

All music is created by God, and therefore it is good. Yes, all music! Not just self proclaimed Christian music. All food was created by God, the chicken and the cow. So next time you pray to God to “bless the food” remember that it is already blessed by God. He created it, blessed it, and it is good.

Are you a Christian?

Is the tree outside my window Christian or Secular? Is the box of mac and cheese in my cabinet Christian or Secular? Is my dog Christian or Secular…the couch…the car…etc. Doesn’t this sound ridiculous! It is! It was all created by God, it is good, but it is not Christian or Secular it just is.

Music just is. We as humans can alter it, manipulate it, change it, but it was created by God, it is good. It just is.

Food can be pumped with steroids, flavored, fattened, packaged, and preserved, but it was created by God, it is good. It just is.

So are all people Christian people? We were all created by God, right?

Kinda…

We were created by God, but we are different than the music, the food, and the tree. God gave us a soul and a decision. My dogs have no decision to make, they just are. The tree has no decision to make, it just is. We have a decision to make. We can choose to accept the truth and be as we were meant to be, or we can deny it and be apart from God.

We were created by God, we were good. Then we were separated from Him. We have a choice to accept who we are and be “Christian” or deny it and be “Secular”. That’s the difference between music and people.

So my answer, “I am a Christian, but I listen to music, not Christian, not Secular, just Music.”

Tonight – Charlotte- Prayer – Join.

http://www.Charlotteprayer.com

Tonight, Saturday from 7-8pm at the corner of Trade and Tryon. Check it out!

A Disconnected Generation

CONNECT – verb (used without object) – to become connected; join or unite.

This word has been plaguing me for over a week now. Its like when you hear a word for the first time in your life. You may have been around for decades and never heard it before, but for some reason when you finally hear it, you hear it over and over again. Or when you buy a new car. You love it because its unique and you haven’t seen anyone driving it, but then you start seeing them everywhere you look.

God definitely has a sense of humor. He seems to show me things in ways that wouldn’t make sense to anyone else, but me. I guess you could say I have a twisted, or maybe a more P.C. term would be unique, sense of humor. God puts things in front of me and and I walk right over them without noticing, but once I find it, I never forget what it was, where it was, and why it was there.

I have been going to a new church for a few months now. I just started back to school and went from being self-employed for almost 3 years to full-time hours in a classroom. I am in a new apartment (since December) in Uptown Charlotte, a little change of scenery from Concord, NC. So I guess you could say I’m in a transition phase in my life. As the country is experiencing “Change” so are Jesalyn and I.

If you haven’t been on a college campus in the last 2 years you probably wouldn’t know this, but the new trend is to wear your ipod. You wear it to class, from class, and sometimes in class. In stead of walking to class with a friend or finding someone to talk to, you look down, put your earbuds in, and walk to class while listening to the newest T-Pain song. If you aren’t listening to your Ipod there is only one thing you could be doing. No, not talking to your friend, or even talking on the phone…texting. It’s said that calling someone is a simple communication and emailing is pseudo-communication, then texting must be the lowest form of communication possible. Its too much to actually find out how someone’s doing, we have to get to the point in 100 characters or less. BTW, if u no “txtin lingo” u dnt need 100 characters…10 will suffice.

In World Religion we were discussing how disconnected we have become. Disconnected from nature, disconnected from each other, and disconnected from God. I couldn’t help but walk out of that class with my head up. Watching everyone walk around with their heads down. It really began to bother me. My mind began to think about the day of a 21st Century American…TV, Video Games, Internet, IM, maybe a phone call or two, between all that we are lucky to get in a genuine hug from a friend, kiss from our family, or an actual conversation lasting longer than this paragraph.

We have reserved areas for trees and nature, and we usually have to drive to get there.

We know people on TV Shows better than we know the person we are watching the show with.

We spend 10 hours a day in artificial lighting and maybe 10 minutes in the sunlight.

What’s the problem?

We are born to connect. We are here for that reason, and that reason only. To unite with God, to unite with each other, and to unite others with God. That’s it! No, really…that’s it!

In Genesis God created Adam and Eve. The Garden and everything in it was blessed, in total connection with God and each other. That’s why they were here. To be with God and with each other. Adam and Eve experienced a connection with God which in turn connected them to everything He made. Then it went down hill… They chose to be disconnected. They become ashamed and covered themselves. They were disconnected from God, which disconnected them from nature, and then each other.

NOW, we live in a DISCONNECTED world.

In Rob Bell’s book “Sex God” he points out that this could be why babies cry. The first thing we experience in life is being severed. We feel alone for the first time and we weep.

Separation…Disconnection…Loneliness.

So if we are born disconnected and we live in a disconnected world, then how can we connect? How is it even possible?

JESUS!

When God sent Himself to Earth as Jesus He was connecting us. He was sending us a cable that will plug us back into Him, nature, and each other. And here’s the best part. We already have this cable…all we have to do is plug it in. This is what makes it so amazing. In every other belief or “religion” we have to do something to earn the cable. We will never be truly connected unless we get it ourselves. The Bible says that we are already connected. God has done it for us! All we have to do is…

LOOK UP!

The letter to the Ephesians says that there is, “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and IN ALL.”

And in Hebrews, it’s says God is the one “for whom and through whom everything exists.”

Do you see God in the grass you walk on? Do you see God in the person you are sitting next to? The God of The Universe, the creator of EVERYTHING! If you saw Him in that person, do you think you would put down the ipod a minute and talk to Him? Do you think you would open your eyes, look up, and see what He has done/is doing around you?

So that day after we talked about connecting in my World Religion class I put away my Ipod and walked with my head up. I came home from school and decided to connect with God by reading. I picked up the Rob Bell book I was reading months ago and started from my bookmark that was on page 36 of “Sex God” which starts, “We’re disconnected from the Earth and we know it.” I kept reading in amazement as Bell goes on to talk about connecting with ourselves, the earth, and each other. I then started thinking about connection, realizing the church we are now a part of is Connection Church and the small group study we are doing is called, Just Walk Across The Room, about connecting with other people in your life. It was right there in front of me. I had walked right over it without noticing.

I guess you can say God started laughing.

Are you connected? Yes, you already are! You just have to realize it. God has already connected you and all you have to do is look up. It doesn’t matter where you are, what you are doing, or who you are. He is already above ALL and in ALL! He has already given you the cable…just plug it in!

Soul = Sponge

Today at church Jerel spoke about stress. He had a bucket of sand and a rock on stage. He talked about Matthew 7:24-30. To build our lives on God is like building our house’s foundation on a rock. To build it on anything else is like building our house on sand.

That is not what this blog is about.

Relating this parable to stress Jerel used the analogy of a sponge. How do you find out what a sponge is full of? You squeeze it. When we are stressed we are under pressure. When we are under pressure we are like a sponge. Whatever we have on the inside comes out. You really find out what you are made of. If you have built your life on God you will see it come out when you are under stress. What a great analogy!

This got me thinking. Our souls are a lot like a sponge. Not just in this way, but in a lot of ways.

1. You see our true character when we are under pressure/stressed.

I already mentioned this, but want to make sure it is emphasized. When you are under pressure to get a project done on time, do you cheat or work harder? When you are stressed about money, do you get angry, blame others, or trust God to provide? How about when you are in a fight with your spouse…you get the point. When we are pushed to our limits our soul is exposed. Do we flow with goodness, joy, and love, or is that when the anger, deceit, and sin prevail?

2. We absorb what is closest to us.

What do you surround yourself with? What/who do you watch, listen to, and hang around with? These things define who you are. Why do companies spend billions of dollars on advertising. Not because you will see a commercial and immediately run out an buy what they are selling (unless you are my wife and mother). They spend huge money on repetition and prime ad spots so it will slowly sink into your soul. So next time you think of the Panthers you hear, “Gotta Wanna Needa Getta Have a Bojangles” and can taste the chicken. Or the next time you feel a little sad you know you need those new shoes because those women sure looked happy in Cosmo.

In the same respect. You become like the people that are around you. If you hang out with negative people you soak up their attitude and begin to see their point of view. Proverbs 12:26 says, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.” It also works the other way around. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

So just as a sponge soaks up whatever it is near, our souls soak up our surroundings. So be careful where you set your sponge.

3. If we are not moved or used for a while we become stale.

Our soul is designed to take a beating. To be squeezed, shaped, and molded. We need to be careful that we are allowing it to be filled with the right things, but even the right things, if not used as intended, are pointless. If we just sit around and read the Bible, pray, and worship all day it means nothing if we don’t do what we were intended to do. A sponge is intended to clean. If we use it once and then set it on the counter and never use it again it will become stale. Just the same, if we do all the right things and don’t serve God and build relationships then our soul is being wasted. It is becoming stale.

Make sense? It does to me. See, sponges are made to be pliable and fit into hard spaces without breaking. They are designed to be tough and delicate. Sound familiar? Our souls are designed to bend, but not break. They can be put through difficult situations, but will always be strong enough to make it through. Even if our soul is filled with good things, if we don’t use it, it becomes stale, breaks easy, and sour. Just like our soul. We have to use it regularly or he good things we put in it go to waste.

4. Most importantly a sponge is made to clean the things around it.

How do we effect our surroundings? If we are clean ourselves then we should make the world around us a better place to live. We should use our gifts to make our neighborhood/world better. Just like a sponge. If we are not clean we just smear the filth around and are not really serving the purpose we are meant to serve.

But there is nothing like a clean kitchen freshly scrubbed down by a clean sponge. That’s the kitchen I want to live in.

Check This Out

This is a new documentary that shines a light on “Science”. I just finished watching it and am more excited than ever to lead in this war of worldviews. There will be a blog to come about the problems with Darwinism.

Love,
Mike

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