A Love Story

So it’s been 10 days since I last posted!  Stephanie and I are moved into our new place (though still working on unpacking) and we finally have a working internet connection which was a hassle and a half but it’s all good!  I’m back now.

I decided to do something a little different for today’s post and share a song but also some thoughts on it.  The song I chose is “Buttons” by Lecrae and it has been on my mind recently because it seems like everywhere I turn there are more weddings being planned!  This summer will be crazy busy and I wish all the happy couples well.

Before I got married in 2009, I thought I had it all figured out; I had read countless books on the subject, listened to very smart public speakers give their thoughts on how to have a “happy marriage”, and talked to a few close friends who were married.  That delusion that I had it all figured out changed pretty much the day after the wedding.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my wife, I would do anything for her, and I don’t regret getting married at all.  But I knew zero-zilch-nadda-nothing about being married back then (and I’m learning more every day); the simple truth is that no book will fully prepare you for having a female roommate.  A big hurdle for me was that I was under the impression that to have a happy marriage, you couldn’t fight or argue; I have come to the conclusion that that is simply not true.  Steph and I disagree ALL THE TIME (the fact that we are both stubborn first-borns probably has something to do with that).  I don’t believe that disagreeing with each other means you have an unhappy marriage though: it means you’re human.

To reappropriate something my dad told me once concerning faith, you can’t rely on your feelings.  They go up and down and sideways constantly – being “in love” is a choice that you make every day regardless of how you’re feeling.  This is why I love this song: “For better or for worse, I’m going to make it work.  I’m not going anywhere.”

So to all my friends who are getting married this summer, I give you this encouragement: commit to stick by your spouse and be “in love” not because it is how you feel sometimes but because it is how you chose to act every day.  You’re going to push each other’s buttons and you’re going to get upset at times but that doesn’t mean your marriage will fail – how you respond afterwards determines that.  Love is a verb.

– – –

For better or for worse
Make it work
I ain’t goin nowhere

Verse 1:
Yeah, I messed up, but you hurt me, blew it like it’s yo’ birthday
And you love me baby on Wednesday, but I make you sick on Thursday
And I know I’m wrong and you shutin’ down, and I touch down like “What now?”
Why we going through all this? Why things gotta be rough now?
But you had so many break-ups, you can’t believe
You go and break my heart that I forgive and I ain’t leave
Don’t define you by your faults, ain’t going to push your buttons either
Everyday we startin’ fresh, this is how it’s suposed to be
Never try to take advantage, you respect me as a man
But every once in awhile you get to poppin’ off and say stuff you shouldn’t be saying
But I’m with you, I ain’t playin’, if it’s thick or if it’s thin
Both the times and your figure, girl, this is who I am
I love you baby, that’s real talk, and this life we live is a real walk
I ain’t goin’ nowhere, tell your girlfriends that it’s still on
I love you baby, that’s real talk, this life we live is a real walk
I ain’t goin’ nowhere, tell your friends that it’s on

Hook:
For better or for worse
Sometimes I make you sick, and you get on my nerves
Make it work
I ain’t goin’ nowhere, and I give you my word
I will be right here
So though you push my buttons
I ain’t leavin’
You can keep on pushin’
I ain’t leavin’

Verse 2:
I be makin’ you mad, girl
But you said you’ll never leave me lonely
So I had to put a ring up on it, ‘cause our commitment ain’t no game
Yeah we laugh, but we ain’t playing, I’m a always be yo’ man
And I know sometimes I upset you, be pushing all of your buttons
We be fussing, fighting over nothing, you can try to leave, but I’m coming
We going work it out with no running, pushing, shoving
I know sometimes that I’m selfish, but I jump in front of yo’ bullet
Cause you everything that prayed for, plus a little bit extra
Even when you get you an attitude and you act a little bit extra
Listen, you make better, babe, you make better, babe
You got my heart and you can have it for forever, baby
And though we’ll never break up, I hate it when we mad
But love it when we get to make up, no lines that I could make up
To let you know how much I got you covered, girl
And I only be pushin’ yo’ buttons because I love you, girl

Hook:
For better or for worse
Sometimes I make you sick, and you get on my nerves
Make it work
I ain’t goin’ nowhere, and I give you my word
I will be right here
So though you push my buttons
I ain’t leavin’
You can keep on pushin’
I ain’t leavin’

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What about Jared?

you got mail

I’m old enough that I remember when my “social network” only consisted of those who were on my email contact list.  Back in the good ‘ol days of 8th grade (2000-2001), the popular thing to do was to email “friend surveys” back and forth which contained an assortment of random questions.  Also, everyone had completely random email addresses because they were trying to be clever.  My first one was “gecko24j@home.com”.

I decided to bring the classic friend survey back this week and, as a way for my new church family to get to know me and current friends to expand their knowledge, fill one of them out.

About Me

———————–
* NAME: Jared Bennett

  1. WHAT TIME DID YOU GET UP THIS MORNING?
    9:30am
  2. DIAMONDS OR PEARLS?
    Diamonds are more handy in Minecraft so I’d have to go with those
  3. WHAT WAS THE LAST FILM YOU SAW AT A THEATER?
    “Star Trek Into Darkness”
  4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOW?
    Doctor Who
  5. WHAT DID YOU HAVE FOR BREAKFAST?
    Bowl of cereal
  6. WHAT IS YOUR MIDDLE NAME?
    Thomas
  7. HOW BIG IS YOUR FAMILY?
    In my house it is just me and my wife (adding my brother to that in a little over a month).  Growing up I had myself, 3 younger siblings, and my parents at home.
  8. FAVORITE CUISINE?
    Italian
  9. WHAT FOOD DO YOU DISLIKE?
    Cooked Vegetables
  10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COLOR?
    Blue
  11. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CD AT THE MOMENT?
    3-way tie between “Heroes for Sale” by Andy Mineo, “Gravity” by Lecrae” and “Innermission” by DC Talk
  12. WHAT KIND OF CAR DO YOU DRIVE?
    1988 Jeep Comanche
  13. DO YOU GO BY ANY NICKNAMES?
    People have a hard time spelling “Jared” so I go by all the misspellings unfortunately.  I also started going by “JT” in college and it has stuck around.
  14. WHAT WEBSITES DO YOU VISIT THE MOST?
    Facebook/Twitter
  15. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PAST-TIME? 
    Disc Golf
  16. WHAT IS A SMELL THAT TRIGGERS A STRONG MEMORY?
    Burnt wood (not campfires or fireplaces); I immediately remember the night my family had a house fire.
  17. IF YOU COULD GO ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD ON VACATION, WHERE WOULD YOU GO?
    Australia +New Zealand
  18. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE SINGER?
    Lecrae
  19. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE ACTOR?
    I have a lot!  Currently I’d have to say Leonardo DiCaprio as he has had some amazing roles lately.  It’s a shame he still hasn’t won at the Academy.
  20. FAVORITE BRAND OF CLOTHING?
    “Big Dog” though I’ll wear whatever fits and is affordable
  21. TO WHERE WOULD YOU RETIRE?
    Somewhere that has a moderate climate and fast internet speeds
  22. WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BIRTHDAY?
    20th.  It was my first without family around which meant nobody made a big deal about it.  It was then I knew I had reached boring adulthood
  23. WHEN IS YOUR BIRTHDAY AND DO YOU SHARE IT WITH ANYBODY FAMOUS?
    June 20th; John Goodman and Nicole Kidman
  24. FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH?
    Football!
  25. FURTHEST PLACE YOU ARE SENDING THIS?
    If recent blog stats are to be believed: Poland
  26. GOAL YOU HAVE FOR YOURSELF?
    To fix up my Jeep this summer – it needs to be lifted and get some new tires installed
  27. HOW MANY WEDDINGS HAVE YOU BEEN IN, INCLUDING YOUR OWN?
    3 – I’m adding 2 more to that number this summer
  28. ARE YOU A MORNING PERSON OR A NIGHT PERSON?
    After working graveyard for the last 2 months, I’m not really sure anymore.  I know I love to sleep though.
  29. WHAT IS YOUR SHOE SIZE?
    Depending on the brand, either a 10.5 or 11.  Odd fact: I’m right handed but my left foot is longer than my right which goes against the norm
  30. DO YOU HAVE ANY PETS?
    Our cat, Lilah.  My wife and I have had her since right after we got married.
  31. ANY NEW AND EXCITING NEWS TO SHARE?
    I’m becoming a Washingtonian tomorrow!
  32. WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE LITTLE?
    I wanted to work for Microsoft.  I then grew up and realized Apple was superior :p
  33. HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?
    Overloaded with the need to pack but excited for what tomorrow brings
  34. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CANDY?
    Red Licorice/Haribo Gummi Bears
  35. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLANT OR FLOWER?
    I’ve always liked Bonsai Trees
  36. WHAT DAY ON THE CALENDAR ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO?
    May 28th is when I start my Youth Pastor position at our new church; June 29th is my little brother’s wedding
  37. WHAT IS THE FURTHEST YOU HAVE EVER BEEN FROM HOME?
    Germany
  38. A SMALL THING YOU REALLY ENJOY?
    Walking barefoot on a clean floor
  39. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK?
    I haven’t read a fiction book for fun in years due to school so I’m not really sure anymore.  I grew up reading Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Robinson Crusoe, and others like them so I’d have to go with those
  40. WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
    Finishing my college degree
  41. WHAT MAKES YOU CRINGE?
    Blood.  If I see large amounts of my own, I run the risk of passing out.
  42. IF YOU COULD DO ANYTHING, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
    Take a trip on a Zero-G plane
  43. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN THAT YOU WILL VISIT AGAIN?
    Discovery Cove in Florida.  I would love to take my wife there someday.
  44. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE?
    This is impossible to answer as I love film.  My favorite depends on the genre, the medium, the day, and so on.
  45. WHICH CAME FIRST, THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG?
    Either way, both are delicious
  46. HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE YOU MADE SMILE TODAY?
    None as I haven’t left the house yet.  Though I think the cat smiled when I put food in her dish.
  47. WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE WORLD, WHAT DO YOU SEE?
    People with stories worth listening to
  48. CATS OR DOGS?
    Both
  49. GOOD OR BAD?
    Obviously good.  I’m not a supervillain
  50. SOMETHING PEOPLE PROBABLY DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
    I didn’t learn how to talk till I was 4 years old and had to have speech therapy after that for stuttering; basically I will hear words but somehow they get lost in translation and I have difficulty in repeating it back.  I still struggle with public speaking and this is apparent when I combine two different words or phrases into one because my brain can’t figure out which direction it wants to go.  When I teach I usually have my entire lesson written out word for word which almost completely alleviates this problem.

Spiritual Growth: Identity

“Hi, I’m an Apple.”

Almost everyone remembers those “Apple vs PC” commercials from a couple years ago.  They featured a cool, hip, young guy as an Apple computer and an uptight, all-business, old guy as the PC.  When I made the switch to Apple back in 2007, I thought of myself as that image of a Mac user.

Everything else took a back seat.

A few years ago, a friend at church said off-handedly that when he thought of me he thought of an Apple fanboy who knew a lot about computers.  This gnawed at me because, moments earlier, we had been discussing our identity in Christ.  What I was hoping he would say was “church leader” or “Christ-follower”; at the very least, “Christian” had to make an appearance in that description, right?  It was at that moment that I realized that my outward expression of faith had become clouded somehow – it wasn’t on purpose by any means but I was not as clear with what I believed as I had originally thought.  I had proudly claimed to be a “geek” for awhile but it seemed that that particular title had supplanted “Christian” in my friends eyes.

Changing gears: I have talked to many Christians over the years who are homosexual and the most common title those individuals placed on themselves is that of a “Gay Christian”.  Every theological idea or cultural opinion is colored by their sexual orientation and place in society; their identity did not seem to be found in Christ but in what they decided was truly important.  I believe it says a lot about your priorities when you define yourself as a “______ Christian” (or “Christian ______”).  Substitute anything in there and it still applies: feminist, vegan, athlete, filmmaker, musician, etc.

Let me be clear: this post is not meant to be about the morality or scriptural support/condemnation of homosexuality.  I’m merely using this as an example as I feel it will be understood by the broadest number of readers.  If you are interested in that topic, I suggest checking out the Christian Ethics book I mentioned in a previous post.

The title of “Gay Christian” has a tremendous amount of cultural baggage; many who practice homosexuality define themselves by that one aspect of their lives – the problem with defining yourself like that is that if you have already found what defines you – be it sports, tech, entertainment, gender, or sexual orientation – is there room for anything else?  It doesn’t seem like it.

I often say I’m a geek; it describes the social practices that I most often partake in (gaming, movies, comics, legos, etc).  However, I am more aware now than I was a few years ago that it is incredibly easy to lose focus and let our other pursuits overtake what should be #1.  No matter where you are in life, remember this one truth: There is nothing as important as Jesus.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” – Colossians 3:1-3

So, just to clear up any misconceptions, let me redefine myself for you: I am a Christian; a “little-Christ” who has made a commitment to follow Jesus, the son of God and Savior of the world, and am striving everyday to serve him with my life.  I love my wife and I like technology, movies, and disc golf but none of those things define me in as big a way as being a Christian.

What are you defined by?

“I’m not the shoes I wear; I’m not the clothes I buy; I’m not I house I live in; I’m not the car I drive.  I’m not the job I work; You can’t define my worth by nothing on God’s green earth; My identity is found in Christ.” – Lecrae

Unmerited Favor

New House

I recently heard a definition of “grace” that I haven’t been able to forget: “God’s grace is his unmerited favor towards us”.

We haven’t earned it.  We don’t deserve it.  But He gives it to us anyways because He loves us.

This last week has been incredible and full of God’s unmerited favor toward me and my wife and it came at just the right time: his time.  After 7 months of searching, we’ve found a church to call home where I can also serve in Youth Ministry.  Shortly after getting that exciting news we found a house to rent that was nearby the church and then received a washer and dryer from some good friends.  Again, unmerited favor.

My wife and I could not be more excited about this next big development.  We don’t know what’s going to happen next but whatever it is, it’ll be better than anything we had planned.

Lyrical Friday: “Shifting Sand” by Caedmon’s Call

My roommate from freshman year at Multnomah introduced me to Caedmon’s Call and I’ve been hooked ever since.  I love this song because it so perfectly describes how our faith tends to not stay at the same level all the time but, thankfully, grace does not change.

– – – –

Sometimes I believe all the lies
So I can do the things I should despise
And every day I am swayed
By whatever is on my mind

I hear it all depends on my faith
So I’m feeling precarious
The only problem I have with these mysteries
Is they’re so mysterious

And like a consumer I’ve been thinking
If I could just get a bit more
More than my 15 minutes of faith
Then I’d be secure

(Chorus)
My faith is like shifting sand 
Changed by every wave 
My faith is like shifting sand 
So I stand on grace 

I’ve begged you for some proof
For my Thomas Eyes to see
A slithering staff, a leprous hand
And lions resting lazily

A glimpse of your back-side glory
And this soaked altar going ablaze
But you know I’ve seen so much
I explained it away

(Chorus)

Waters rose as my doubts reigned
My sand-castle faith, it slipped away
Found myself standing on your grace
It’d been there all the time

(Chorus 2x)

Being Holy: Environmentalism

Calvin & Hobbes - Environment

It seems that a large number of Christians I come across are against being environmentally conscious.  I’m not exactly sure why this is and the attitudes seem to range from mocking those who recycle to being outright hostile towards those who try to be “green”.  And that’s not even counting the anti-global-warming crowd who are offended that anybody could even think that the world is being affected by how we live – apparently it’s all some liberal conspiracy.

This isn’t a post about the benefits of being “green”.  I’m hardly the one to speak on that; however, I do want to share some theological pondering on the issue which will hopefully get you to keep thinking about this topic long after you’ve finished reading my thoughts on the matter.

When I posted on my alma maters Facebook group about this topic, one student said: “I think this is one of many areas that Christians could take ownership on but we have largely left it to others.”  I think that insight hits the nail on the head precisely.  To be perfectly honest, I have never heard a good reason as to why Christians should not care about Creation.  I’ve heard many opinions over the years but none of them compete with the reason why we should care.  The simple fact of the matter is that stewardship of the earth…of God’s creation…is not an option for believers.  It’s a biblically mandated job – and we are failing at it.

Genesis 1:28
“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'”

The most popular reasons I’ve heard for why Christians should put their focus elsewhere besides the environment circle around politics, bad theology, science they don’t agree with, or the fear of “being liberal”.  The worst part of it all, in my opinion, is that American believers seem to think it’s ok to stay quiet or even be actively opposed to “being green” because we assume someone else will take care of it.  We think some other group or government will do our job.

I think it can be boiled down to fear; we all (myself included) are afraid of what the ramifications are of recognizing that God commanded humanity to take care of his creation.  We’re afraid of how that job will impact how we live which means we may have to actually think about what we’re buying and where it comes from or about what we’re eating and how that food was cultivated.  If we think about those things, we may have to examine how we can be so ungrateful for all the blessings we have.

That thinking may force us to do more than recycle cans or drive an electric vehicle.  And that’s not a bad thing.

I’m not saying all fear is bad though: there is legitimate fear in taking “being green” too far; we don’t want to come across as “Gaia is Earth, our Mother”, New Age people who take our job of being stewards of the planet and turn it into Earth worship.  Authors David Clark and Robert Rakestraw in their book “Readings in Christian Ethics: Volume 2” said the following about our reactions to that fear:

“Because of deep ecology [worship of the earth], some conservative Christians wrongly associate any environmental concern with New Age thought.  Some cult detectives, probing every viewpoint for New Age influence, reject any ecological viewpoint.  In other camps, those with interest in end-time biblical prophecy question any activity except ‘soul-saving.’  If Christ is coming back soon, why waste energy slowing down pollution of an earth that is destined for destruction anyways?” (p.383)

In my opinion, we have under-reacted to some issues and over-reacted to others.  Out of our desire to not make the earth into a false god, we have swung to the far other side of the spectrum and forgotten that the very first command God gave humanity was to rule over what he had made: to care for creation.

We are temporary stewards of this place and I firmly believe we can fulfill that job without failing to keep God as our center.  Being “green” won’t turn us into earth worshipers as long as we don’t put the creation before the Creator.  Being environmentally conscious will, however, honor our Father in Heaven .  As Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

– – –

If you’d like to read more on this topic, I highly recommend the book I mentioned above.  Volume 2 specifically has essays written on both sides of hot-button topics such as environmentalism, wealth, abortion, and more which help the reader to think more clearly about the issues.  Little bit of a warning however: it’s not light reading.  Also, buying used is much, much cheaper.

Spiritual Growth: Prayer

Prayer

I think I took life at Multnomah University for granted. I was constantly around others who loved God and that rubbed off on me – I didn’t have to try hard at keeping my focus on spiritual matters. Now that I’ve graduated and am not on campus anymore, being purposeful in my daily spiritual walk is not as easy as it once was; I had never understood why people would put such a heavy emphasis on having a daily devotional time or starting out the day in prayer or other spiritual growth habits because, honestly, I was already doing those things regularly for school. I didn’t have to think about it – it was a requirement to get good grades.

“Spiritual Life” was a college class. No, really…it was. I took a class my freshman year that was called that.

I’m reminded of a sermon I once heard at a church I was attending back in 2006. The pastor was preaching about “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:5-14) and said that Jesus wasn’t teaching his disciples “prayer 101” but “prayer 401”: advanced prayer. These were men that knew about spiritual matters – their whole society was focused around being spiritual. He stressed that too often we look at that particular passage as something for children when in reality it is much deeper. That message has stuck with me over the years but over the last couple weeks it has really sunk in: prayer is an advanced spiritual growth practice.

I’m currently a security officer and patrol multiple big warehouses and office buildings; thus far, I’ve only been scheduled for graveyard shifts which means that it’s dark and I’m on my own while on patrol. I’m not going to lie: my job scares me – I already don’t like the dark but being in those giant buildings can be terrifying when you let your imagination run wild! To cope with one particular building that is full of twists and turns and general creepiness, I started doing what now seems like the obvious choice: I started praying while walking around on patrol. A few weeks ago, my thought process went something like this:

I do not want to be working here. I have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours over the last 6 years going to school in order to be trained for youth ministry. That is what I want to be doing with my life. That is what I have been working towards. I’m not going to be happy until I am working in a church again.

Looking back, I can see just how incredibly narrow minded I was being. Don’t get me wrong: I still desire to work in a church and minister to youth. I very much do. But to take the attitude that there was nothing good that could happen in life unless it was by the course I had laid out in my own head is just…stupid. Prayer helped me realize that.

I’m thankful to have my current job and I’m happy to see growth happening in my understanding of God even though I’m not currently in a “ministry” role. I hadn’t thought about it at the time but it’s been on my mind recently: during my interview, I mentioned that I was still looking for Youth Pastor positions and one of the bosses said

That’s cool that you want to do ministry. God knows there are people around here that could use a little of that.

Even when it’s not our plan, God still has a purpose and a role for us to fill; perhaps, for the time being, mine is to simply be a reflection of Christ towards my coworkers. I think what we all have to ask ourselves is this: are we so focused on what we want (no matter how good that plan seems to be) that we don’t see the opportunities right in front of us?