Sunday, March 29, 2009

the church

today is sunday and i did not go to church. nor will i. i work tonight, but this morning i was free and clear, i simply chose not to go. as i was trying to decide whether to set my alarm last night, i thought it'd be a good idea for me to stay home and explore some of the questions i've had about church lately.

since leaving my job at christian community church in october, i haven't really felt any particular need to invest myself in a church community. i had become pretty sick and bored with participating in ministry after doing little aside from leading Bible studies, playing on worship teams, and making plans for ministry in pittsburgh and mars. the whole meaning of everything had become stale and distant. i knew all the answers (Jesus) and could easily teach other people what the Bible wants us to do and how we should live our lives, but these answers were nothing other than simple answers anymore. i'd reached a point where my faith had become nothing exciting or interesting anymore. a stalemate.

so this morning i wanted to take time to examine what the point is, why i should go to church, what am i missing out on, where does this void come from? i woke up and started to have my own personal service, complete with a time of prayer and a time of worship. then it was time to explore the Bible for the first time on weeks, maybe months. i googled for answers to "what is the purpose of the church?". i was trying to figure out why i should go to church on sundays instead of worshiping on my own right there in my bed. what was i missing?

the answers were what i expected. the greek word that translates to "church" essentially means the people. not in that many words, but that's what the real meaning of church is. the church isn't the service we go to on sundays or the building they're held in, but rather the body of believers who gather. the church is about the people who come together to build one another up, to instruct one another, and to break bread. while it is important to have individual time of worship and prayer, it is the church body that is the important aspect of what we do on sunday mornings.

i have said recently that i tend to feel like i am getting my church fulfillment from my interactions with close friends only a daily or weekly basis. all of my closest friends are Christians, so our conversations and interactions inherently are based on Christianity in some way. whether we actually talk about the Bible or the church, or whether we simply show love for one another and people outside of our friends, we can't avoid the fact that we're Christians and live our lives accordingly. but the fact is that it is important for believers to come together and intentionally share their faith. it is important that our meeting contains instruction, worship, prayer, and the breaking of bread. sharing meals was regarded as a sacred act in Jesus' time and place, so the breaking of bread among believers has become of the utmost importance to our faith.

this is just a brief look at what i've considered this morning, but i think the conclusion that i've come to (or will eventually come to) is necessary. that conclusion is that the church is important to Christianity. "the church" as a whole may have come off the path once intended, but when we evaluate the simple importance of being a body of believers, that's where we find our answers. i cannot experience the love and faith in Christianity without experiencing the faith of other believers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


sometimes i like to think of my life as a movie. a slow-progressing, often boring, usually only comedic to a certain demographic, movie. today seemed like just another day in the developing story of my life. i thought about this as i walked in to the olive garden from my car after a short break between serving and hosting. i chewed my gum, tightened up my previously loose tie, ran my hand through my disheveled hair, thought about how this day could possibly be significant in my life. and then i realized that this day happened in a way that exactly pertained to the story of my life.

in a few weeks i won't be able to remember any details about this day. i worked, made an insignificant amount of tips, had no particularly interesting interactions (except a gray-haired lady telling me that she's had everything on the f-ing menu), came home and watched tv. it wasn't a memorable day. but as my life continues i can see that my timing is slightly different than God's timing. i frequently think about how i am ready for something big to happen in my life. i suppose the "something big" is landing a job that will allow me to move back to the city or start a new relationship of some sort or finally write that song that i can deem worthy of taking to an open mic. but the fact is that i may not be ready for those things and God knows it.

the clearest example of God setting me up with exactly what i needed rather than exactly what i wanted came in this past year and has resulted in where i am today. this time last year i was interviewing for youth ministry jobs because that's where i felt i was being called. i had interviews with three different churches; one full-time position in trafford, one full-time position in robinson, and one part-time position in mars. as i evaluated the situations (location, potential salaries, church beliefs, overall situation) i had decided that the church in trafford would be awesome because i'd be offered to live in the house next door to the church (short commute), i'd live far enough away from home to be independent but close enough to still see my family. the same situation would happen in robinson except i'd be in a more affluent area but without the housing option. and finally the part-time job in mars was closest to my home so i could save money by living with my parents.

to make a long story short, the churches in trafford and robinson went in different directions and i convinced myself that the church in mars was the right fit, which it seemed to be at the time. shortening the story again, i quickly learned that i did not have a heart for working in a church as the youth minister. since the job was part-time, i already picked up another job at the olive garden. as i left the church i was left in an advantageous situation; living at home and already having another job to fall back on (two things that would not have been available at the other churches).

so here i am, still working at the olive garden, wondering when i'll get to "move on" to something better. well, i think i've finally realized that God will give me the opportunities i'm ready for when i'm ready for them. i haven't dated anyone in two years because i haven't been in a strong enough mindset to take on someone else in my life. i haven't been handed a job in pittsburgh because i'm not supposed to have moved out yet. and once those sort of "big things" start happening in my life, it'll make sense. it'll be the right time and place and a lot of things will make sense. for right now i'll have to be satisfied knowing that i have no idea what's going to happen or when, just that when it does happen it'll be right. it'll be divine.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

the economy and other things

i don't really know what to think about life. living at home has given me more alone time over the past 9 months than i had in the previous few years. that's not really a good thing in my mind. it's always been easy for me to make time for myself, but it's much harder to find people when you're alone than to find alone time when you're surrounded by people. long-story-short, i have been thinking a lot. this isn't necessarily a good thing.

let me explain a bit about my personality. i like having a lot of friends. i like having a lot of variety in the people i can spend time with. since high school i have enjoyed having friends in various groups. in high school i spent significant time with people i'd met in band, my advanced classes, sports teams, work, and other activities. it was nice to not be tied down to one specific group of friends to spend all of my time with. as i've grown older, and gone through similar development in college, i find myself in a position where a lot of my close friends are moving on. many of them are graduating and moving way from pittsburgh, many who remain in pittsburgh are involved in serious relationships which have or will or might lead to marriage, and that's left me with a select few friends who have no other priorities but their friendships. not to say that i'm no longer friends with those people, it's just that the dynamic of those friendships has changed.

i find it disheartening to think that we won't be able to relive a lot of the good times that have happened over the years. most significantly i think about the many relaxing nights spent at 356 atwood last school year and summer. playing friscup with ed in the backyard, jammin with everyone on the roof, sitting around armstrongs room drinking beers and listening to the composure, sleeping in robs room after a night of lovenotes performing at off 5th, casino/dress-up night in west virginia and of course the sweatfest of goldeneye in 90+ degree heat with ben. there isn't much that can beat the freedom of being able to pack up and head to philly to dj a wedding for the weekend without hesitation.

today i sit here worrying. worrying about this economy, about our government, about my current job, my future jobs, spending time with people, my health, everything. when i sit around by myself without talking to people, i start thinking, and i start worrying. and that's not the way it's supposed to be. i get depressed and upset when i hear my dad on the phone talking about obama and how untrustworthy he is and how bad of shape the economy is in. it makes me worry. but why? why am i worried about anything?

at some point i realize that money isn't much. we need it to provide necessities for ourselves, sure. but in the grand scheme of things, can't we do without it? the greatest lesson i learned during my internship last year was how to do without money. i was pretty broke all year and sometimes it felt overwhelming. but after a while i learned how to live a life of frugality. i cut corners, didn't eat out much, when i did it'd be subway or fast food in moderation. i'd exercise to balance out the less-than-stellar diet. instead of constantly driving and using gas i'd take the bus as much as possible. i basically avoided frivolous expenditures.

the fact that i learned these things makes what i see every day harder to accept. i work with a lot of people who are wasteful. they drive SUVs, spend their money on eating out, doing drugs, buying clothes, getting their nails done. i don't really understand how someone can act like they don't have much money when they do decide to treat themselves to these novelties. maybe i'm being hypocritical (i still spend a good bit of money on CDs and concert tickets), but sometimes i feel like these life lessons i've learned from being a poor college student and a poor intern have set me up to survive during this economic downturn. maybe that's why i shouldn't worry about the economy. or maybe it's really not important enough to worry about. regardless, i always know that there is a greater power looking over me. and His sacrifice has allowed me to remember, at the bottom of everything, that this world has nothing for me.