Friday, March 27, 2015

Calling Out to One Another

It seems apparent that I have a new job. As of late January, I am an official Registered Nurse for Palms West Hospital. I won't bore you with the gory details, but just like any other job, this puts me around a new set of people - coworkers, if you will. Because of this, I've been dwelling a lot on how to most effectively approach sharing the Gospel with this group of people that I now have time to build relationships with. I've become conscious of what I say and how I act around these people, and the thought of misrepresenting Jesus is somewhat terrifying.

The content of my speech is of special concern. I told one of my colleagues recently that I had just been to Nashville to see my girlfriend. She then proceeded to ask me in a muted (and very suggestive) voice, "Didja get you what you went there for?"

"Uh... what?"

"Y'know, didja getcha what you went there for?"

Now, I didn't want to acknowledge the fact that there was a good possibility that there was some sexual innuendo undertone-ing happening in her voice. I wanted to avoid the fact that my brand new coworker was asking me something very, very personal, so I resolved to acknowledge that I did get what I went there for - quality, honorable time with my girlfriend. And I told her this. I don't think that either of us were thinking along the same lines, but I know what I was thinking!

Either way, the content of my speech has become heightened in importance.
"I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!'"
Upon reading this passage in the past, it never occurred to me that these angels were talking to each other. Now, upon first thought, that might not mean much to you. But think about this: when you pray to God and praise Him for Who He is, it is one thing. But when you talk to someone else about how great God is, it is another matter entirely. When you tell someone else about the character of God, you're not motivated to make up fancy words and embellish your speech to make yourself look better before God. Instead, you're just one buddy telling another about what you've observed in the nature of God.

Therefore, it is a matter of great importance to me that the angels are telling each other the story of God's greatness. It makes me wonder about what my words sound like when I tell others about God. What is it that I'm calling out to my fellow human? Is it, "Holy, holy, holy," or are my words much more insignificant?

What are you calling out to others today?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Nothing to Say

My nose is dripping right now. And I don't mean like a stuffy nose that I occasionally have to blow - no, there is not a single moment in which my nose is not pouring forth its delights. I don't have a sore throat, body aches, or fever. I am not more sleepy than normal. There is not a single thing tipping anyone off to the fact that I have some kind of disease other than the nostrils on my face.

In the course of a day, I have rubbed my nose so much that the ends of my nose-holes have become raw to the touch. Therefore, the most I can do to keep myself from leaking is to gingerly touch my finger to my nose and then wipe it on a napkin.

"Why, Nathan?" you may ask. "Why are you discussing the grodiness of your face-holes at 4 o' clock in the morning. Why?"

Well at this point in most of my blog posts, I would delve into how some ridiculous aspect of my life relates to the message of the Gospel. Then, in typical fashion, I would abruptly insert a verse into the mix, hopefully catching you off guard to make you lean in a bit and take closer attention. You ask me why I talk about my dripping nose.

The answer is, I don't have anything else to write about.

I have no witty anecdote as to why drippy noses remind me of the truth of the Scriptures. I have no great revelation to give you on the comparison between drippy noses and the ugliness of the church or something like that. Sometimes, there is nothing to say. I do believe everyday life should remind you of the Gospel, but today, I am saddened to say it does not.

I guess there are moments for silence. Moments for recognition of my own emptiness. Times to see that maybe I should just stop talking if there's nothing good to say.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Hero Moment

Keanu Reeves isn't in a whole lot of movies nowadays, and I appreciate him a lot more than your common man. Gimme the wooden acting and scarcity of any real dialogue - I think it's cool. This might also partially have to do with the fact that my brother looks a lot like the guy, but, whatever the reason, I got really excited when John Wick came out.

It's your typical "you-killed-my-dog-so-I'll-destroy-your-entire-mafia-empire" type movie. Literally, they kill his dog. And then he kills all of them. Oh, sorry spoiler alert. I probably should have told you that earlier, but let's be honest, you knew that was the case from the trailer. In any case, John Wick made it into one of my top man-movies. Y'know, the kind you watch with your dad when mom's not around with you (even though my dad actually hates this shoot-em-up kinda stuff).

Anyway, there's this one scene in the movie where the bad guy catches him. There's no hope for escape and John will be killed. In fact, they start suffocating him with a plastic bag. Then, at just the opportune moment, we see a man outside the building fire a sniper rifle and one of the baddies who's killing Keanu gets killed himself, giving him just enough leverage to be able to kill the one other guy who's choking him out.


This happens a lot in these types of movies. It's formulaic in a way. Good guy attacks bad guy. Bad guy catches good guy. Bad guy tries to kill good guy. Then, good guy is saved by something totally out of his power. I call it "The Hero Moment." Essentially, salvation occurs totally out of the hands of the protagonist, who is helpless to save himself.
"And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, 'Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!'" (Mark 15)
Man, that would have made a really cool movie - the guiltless Hero releases His supernatural strength and destroys His enemies! Talk about a man-movie. But here's what's maddening about this whole situation: Jesus, unlike any other protagonist in history, was not saved by any Hero Moment. In fact, He was the only one Who never needed a Hero Moment because He's God and He could just take Himself off the cross at any second!

No, instead He saw that the one who needed a Hero Moment was you. Was me. Was humanity. However, in this situation, we're not the good guy. We're the bad guy. At this moment in history, Jesus decides to reverse roles and forfeit his Hero Moment to give it to us, because He knew that there was no way that we were going to get out of the sin and eternal destruction that we are doomed to.

And so, yeah, maybe it would have made a cool movie for Jesus to show His strength there up on that cross by taking Himself down and destroying His enemies. But I think He knew that even better than a good movie is a Victorious Eternity.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Proverbial Bean Surprise

I recently had a few days off of work, and I had planned on using them to surprise my girlfriend by showing up at her doorstep unannounced. Believe me when I say that I did pretty much everything that was in my power to keep this thing a secret. I really, really, really wanted to surprise her. And if you know much about me, I often go to great lengths to pull stuff like this off.

So I told only told the people who needed to know. I live in West Palm Beach, a whopping 848 miles from Nashville, and I didn't even tell my friends at home that I was leaving. I only talked to her parents about it, to make sure that it was gonna be all right for me to stay at their place while I visited. And since she knew my schedule, I came up with events that I "had to" be at home for during my few days off of work. She was genuinely not expecting it, which is great because she's pretty intuitive about that kind of stuff.

To make a short story shorter (and to not throw anyone under the bus), the proverbial beans were spilled the night before I showed up. Don't get me wrong, my girlfriend loved that I came and was super stoked about it, but I have yet to see her truly-surprised-face.

So a lot of you may remember Harold Camping from a few years ago. He was a man who claimed to know when Jesus was coming back. According to Harry, it was going to be on May 21, 2011. A lot of us have (hopefully) realized that he was wrong, and there was a lot of bad PR that came out of the error of that prophecy. Many Christians, in light of Camping's doomsday message, tried to remind the world that, 
"concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." (Matthew 24)
A lot of the talk during that period had to do with apocalyptic destruction and end-times tribulation. It was about the great pain that was going to be unleashed on the world in God's fiery judgment. And look, I believe all that stuff. I've been reading through Revelations - that stuff about destruction and doom is all true, and a lot of points could be made in regards to the urgency we should have as Christians in telling the Good News to the world. But that's not why I'm writing this.

I'm writing this to talk about the character of God, and one of the greatest attributes about Him is this: God is enamored with mystery. The fact that He gets to surprise us with the return of His Son at a moment when nobody thought it would happen probably makes God very, very happy. And it should do the same to us.

Just imagine, you're drinking your coffee, getting ready for the work day when BAM, you're standing before the Jesus you've struggled your whole life to get near to. Or you might be sleeping, when all of a sudden, you are immediately surrounded with the perfect rest of the presence of God. Or you might be in the middle of a battle against giving in to a great temptation, when Jesus shows up and you suddenly completely understand how he fulfills everything you were made for.

Friends, we have a great surprise coming for us. And this time, no one will be able to spill the proverbial beans.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Why Those Letters Don't Mean That Much

And so, play the trumpets! Yours truly has entered the workforce. Yes, I am now on "the grind." I've turned in my tasseled hat for a blue collar. Just call me a regular working man. The weirdest part of this whole thing is that I've spent much of my life working so that I could one day make money, and now that there's a regular paycheck coming in, I'm all like, "OOH, MONEY!?"

The even funnier part is that, just as I've made my dramatic exit from college, my brother has recently re-entered. He's going back to get his Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner. 


Titles have always fascinated me. Now, I get to put the initials RN at the end of my name (a liberty I took full advantage of when buying plane tickets recently. Well, how else will they know if I don't tell them!?). Soon enough, my brother will get to put ARNP at the end of his. (Adult Registered Nurse Practitioner) One day, I hope to be able to as well. Today, I sat in a work meeting and made sure to dress my best because I knew the CNO (Chief Nursing Officer) would be there (I wore a blazer and slacks!). 

So what's the deal? Why all the hubbub when it comes to letters of the alphabet and titles? Well, in my case, I really respect the work that it takes for people to earn those titles. In some cases, it takes a lifetime to get a couple of initials at the end of your name, and I'm all about people working hard to get to that place. 
"Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’" (Amos 7)
I've been going through the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament lately and in my journey, I've bumped into Amos. Amos was a shepherd and a farmer who told the people of Israel to turn from their wicked ways of oppressing the poor and practicing injustice and to turn to the God who could restore them to righteousness.

Maybe you glazed over that first part because it didn't sound that important: Amos was a shepherd. A farmer. No alphabet soup after his name. No fancy title. But the words he spoke were immortalized for, well, eternity. What mattered here was not his background, his past successes, or his climbing up the ladder of Ancient Middle-East power. He had no status on which to stand so that he could tell everyone to listen to him, but he did it anyway, because God gave him a whole different kind of platform.

Look, titles are great. There's usually a lot of earned respect for a man with a title, and rightfully so. But friend, the Kingdom of God has very little to do with your title and a lot more to do with your testimony. God doesn't want people with status, He wants people with a story. Which is everyone. So what does this mean? Two things:

Friend, wherever God is giving you the medium in which to tell the world how your story has collided with Almighty God's, do it. Even if it's out of your pay grade. And if you ever avoid the opportunity to learn from someone who doesn't have any letters after their name, shame on you. You might be missing a little shepherd's big words.

Don't forget, it was a Nobody from a nowhere town that caused the world to follow.

Friday, January 23, 2015

An Angry Walmart Employee and The Difficult Transaction

Y'know life is good when your girlfriend gets you a GoPro for Christmas. In light of this magnanimous (I took the SAT's five years ago!) gift-giving, my mom got me some GoPro accessories to complement her gift. Well, it turns out that I needed some other accessories for it, so I decided to return them (a 64GB microSD card and a GoPro mount package) so that I could get some other stuff for my new camera.

The problem is, I could not obtain a receipt to give these back, but I was under the impression that they would be taken back regardless. I go to the customer service desk, and when I ask the nice *cough* lady at the desk if I could return my items without a receipt, she curtly tells me I cannot. I walk away, go online to Walmart's Corporate website to see what the policy is and find that I can, in fact, return products without a receipt. I walk back to the counter, and say, "Can I return these for store credit possibly?"

To which she responds, "Sir, you can't do anything without a receipt."

At this moment, I ask her, "Ma'am, do you not follow Walmart's Corporate policy on No-Receipt-Returns?"

As her frustration builds, she replies, "Sir, every Walmart has their own policies with this stuff. We don't take anything without a receipt. I'll get somebody for you."

Nathan's mind: *Every story has their own policy differing from national Walmart standards? Baloney.* Nathan's words: "Thank you so much ma'am."

I then waited for a few minutes until her supervisor came. "Hello," I said, "do you follow the No-Receipt-Returns Policy?" 

She quickly pokes at my stuff and says, "Yes."

I am relieved. I look back at the cashier and after a few minutes she responds, "Can I help you with something else?" I guess there was some kind of mis-communication and neither of them were truly listening to me. I get her to call the supervisor back, and wait another few minutes for her return. Upon her arrival I ask, in plain English, "Can I return these products?"

"No sir," she says, "you can't return these without a receipt."

Enjoying my own propensity to sound like a broken record, I once again ask, "Do you not follow Walmart's Corporate policy on No-Receipt-Returns?"

She then adds, "This is an electronic and I can't return electronics without a receipt."

Oh joy. I was hoping she would say that. I then proceeded to be an educated consumer and whip out my phone to read off to her the specific list of electronics that do not fall under the policy in question - a list of about twenty items which I read in rapid succession to show that microSD cards did not fall under the policy.

"SIR, I'm not doing ANYTHING for you without a receipt. NOTHING."


At this point, things are somewhat comical. I guess it's hard to be confronted with information that you're supposed to already know. Anywho, this whole time, I have set my mind on killing them with kindness, so, at this point, I'm trying to hold back some choice words in the noodle. She proceeded to call the next person in the chain of command. This is now the third tier of administration in my local Walmart. I'm making friends!

After waiting for about twelve minutes (the matter had become quite important to me at this point), no one showed up. The supervisor eventually just got really frustrated (as if she wasn't already) and told the cashier, "Just RING'IMUP."

Thank you, Walmart supervisor. They gave me my store credit and I responded, "Thank you for your understanding."
"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us..." (Ephesians 1)
Do you know what redemption is? It comes from two words in Latin: re(d), which means‘back,’and emere, which means ‘buy.’In other words, to redeem something is to buy it back - exactly what I was trying to get the Walmart employees to do with items that we're in perfect condition. It was a transaction that would have cost them nothing but their own pride.

I think you know where I'm going with this.

Not only did Satan not want to return us, Jesus, the highest in chain-of-command sought us out in order to buy us back. Not only were we defective products, but Jesus had to sacrifice everything He knew to be precious in order to make the transaction. But, friends, we have been brought back. 

What does that mean for your life today?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Does That Compliment Sandwich Come on Pumpernickel?

So I have a confession. If you've been any type of long-time reader of this blog, you'll know that I like to write more about conviction than about edification. If I could choose between rebuke and encouragement... well, let's just say that my favorite part of action movies is when the good guy is about to kill the bad guy and he gives this great speech making the bad guy feel like crumbag. That speech of justice will make me cry way faster than any kissing-in-the-rain, Nicholas-Sparks deal.

However, maybe I'm realizing that it's also necessary to lift people up by letting them know what they're doing well. You ever heard of a compliment sandwich? Essentially, when you tell someone something that's difficult to hear, you're supposed to surround the difficult part with compliments, like so: "Hey man, I just wanted to tell you that you have a truly unique sense of style, but there is never a time when it's ok to wear those shorts. But I guess that's what it's like to be trailblazer - you gotta try new things!"

See? Compliment sandwich. The rebuke is the meat and the compliments are the bread!

Well, I think it's been a while since I've given any compliments, which must mean I'm missing a ton of bread. So, without further ado, let's dive into some compliments, or rather, some cool things I'm beginning to see. Here's thy loaf, dear reader:

Encouraging Trends in the Church

#1: People are getting serious about Gospel-centered community.

I think that a lot of my generation got sick of the seeker-friendly, big-show production that dominated a lot of churches we saw growing up. Mega-churches sprang up all over the place, and any initial thoughts about the coolness of the concept was overshadowed by seeing tons of people get lost in the flood of superficial relationships that being a part of a crowd generated. So, as a response to this, I've seen much of our generation get serious about not just growing wide, but deep. We've become intentional about knitting ourselves close together as the body of Christ, and for that, I'm proud.

#2: Christians are rediscovering age-old wisdom.

I'll be the first to say that I think every era is marked by its own unique brand of characteristic sin. However, every era also has its own particular, special things to share. A lot of the people growing up in my generation are getting back to literature by some great men like Martin Luther, St. Augustine, A.W. Tozer, etc. Once again, this may be a response to the self-esteem, self-help, Joel-Osteen, substanceless putrefaction that we grew up with, but either way, I'm really stoked that people are starting to learn from the ancient words of some men greatly used by God.

#3: We're learning to drop the theatrics.

I think the church is beginning to learn the greatness of transparent, drop-the-nonsense honesty. We're learning that it's ok to be straight up with God by telling Him that you're frustrated with Him (as long as you seek an answer to your frustration). We're figuring out that it's pointless to put up a white-picket, All-American-Dream, 2 1/2 children facade of idealism when our souls are burning alive. I think we're starting to show that, as Matt Chandler said, "If you're dying on the inside, die on the outside." The world that looks in at us wants to know that we'll be as honest about the truth of unvarnished, painful reality as they are, and I think we're catching on to that.

I could go on and list more things that I'm stoked to see in the church nowadays, but I think that's enough loaf for one day. That being said, be patient with me - I'm still figuring out how to dish out the dough.