Most people that know me, KNOW me. I’m not shy about sharing my past and who I’ve been. Although, it’s hard to squeeze 36 years into a few casual conversations. So, for the first time I’m going to attempt to come clean for any and all who may care. We all have stories… this one’s mine.

  My life began and there was confusion… immediately. To this very day I have no idea who my real father is/was or how many siblings I have/had. The story is ever-changing. But once upon a time, there was me…

   I was born in Mtn. View, Missouri to a mother who had intended to have a daughter. Strike one.Five months later my older brother died tragically in a house fire began by lightning. Immediately I became the second rate replacement child, Strike two. I spent most of my young life being raised my my grandparents and my aunt and uncle because my mom couldn’t cope. At age eight, the sister I was supposed to be was born. My services were no longer required. Strike three. I’m out!

   Though my childhood was far from ideal, the Lord graciously equipped me to be a loner… and I was. My dad (not birth father) was a truck driver and would be gone for a week or more at a time. During that time, I could walk to my friend’s house a mile and a half away and stay there for a  couple of days without ever really being noticed. Although from time to time I would be almost indifferently asked, “Where were you?”

   Somehow during this time, I managed to attend church almost every week. Sometimes it was the Assemblies of God church that my aunt and uncle attended (or that he preached at for a time), but most often it was the little white Southern Baptist church near the train tracks. In either case, I genuinely enjoyed it.

   By age thirteen I found myself convicted under the preaching of the first Reformed pastor I ever know, Brother Larry. In true Baptist fashion I walked the aisle after feeling my knees kicked-out from under me and knelt at the alter. Immediately I felt the loving arm of my grandma around my shoulder, holding me, praying, and crying. It was all very surreal.

   Not long afterward we made the convoy-like trip down to the stream for me to be baptized. The event began with a potluck and one of my clearest memories thereafter was sitting in the backseat of my friend’s parents’ car and reading wrestling magazines on the way to our destination. All said it was a pretty good day.

   Two years later my parents, or most likely, my mother had a falling-out with one of the families in the church and we moved to the Christian church down the road. While there I was an active member of the youth group, but like the rest of them I was a teenager attempting to find myself. I cannot even begin to guess how many teen conferences and such would end with members of the youth group confessing who they had sex with just before the event. On a really interesting day it was with someone else in the group! And thus were the ’90s…

   During this time, I attended church more as a social gathering than as a place for worship and spiritual growth. Though most of the blame fell firmly on me, I can’t help but think that church is due a bit. Our existence was consumed with teen conferences, lock-ins, concerts, canoeing, camping, and everything but the discipleship we all needed.

   Eventually I began doing the things I was best at. Beating people up. Petty crimes. Attempting to charm pretty girls to think I was way cooler than I was. This was my life six days a week and church happened on the the other one. Even when my name would show-up in the newspaper, no one ever said a word. Of course, nothing was ever said about the “hanky-panky” in the church van or on youth trips either… We were all relatively left to our own devices.

   At age 18 I was kicked-out of the youth group and essentially kicked-out of the house. The day after I graduated, I found a job at a local grocery store and an apartment complex with a manager that didn’t do background or credit checks… thankfully. I lived in an apartment with two other guys and a cousin that never went home. We survived on a strict diet of professional wrestling, late-night adventures, and primarily stolen groceries. Oh, the times…

   Amongst our favorite activities were polluting the Mormon (LDS) missionaries that lives adjacent to us. At final count we got six of them in enough trouble that they were sent home.

   It was also at this time that I began convincing myself that my destiny was to be a pro wrestler myself. I was 6’3″, 215lbs, and had a 335lbs bench press. By all accounts I was impressive as a grocery clerk… not so much as a wrestler.

   It was here also that I met my friend’s sister… and was annoyed to do so. Years later, we’re quite happily married. But when we met we were both seeing other people and were very, very messed-up. She was a very attractive drunk and I was a very unpleasant (and very violent) jerk. Almost twenty years later she’s very attractive and sober, and I’m still an unpleasant jerk, albeit less violent.

   We were married in and attended the same aforementioned Christian church until 2008. It was around this time that the Lord began to open our eyes to some things that we could no longer ignore. False teachings had began to creep-in and eventually it simply came time to leave.

   I had continued to do battle with myself for the first several years of our marriage in a losing cause. Every time I would think I had finally changed, I proved myself wrong. Fortunately, the Lord blessed me with a wife who didn’t give-up on me, although she had every reason to. She carried the burden of our marriage for both of us when the easy thing would have been to just give me the finger and send me packing. I’ve always been very, very good at hurting people, and sadly I know I hurt my wife far more than I’ll ever know during the early years of our marriage.

   Then came the night… In early 2011 while sitting at my drawing table late one night, the Lord drove me to my knees and quite literally crushed my spirit. Over the span of a few hours, what seemed to be every horrible, thoughtless, vile thing I had ever done came back to visit me. It was as though I could feel the pain of what I’d caused so many others, but most of all my wife and children. I stayed curled into a ball on that cold floor, sobbing uncontrollably until nearly 5am. I had believed all along that even though I did some bad things, I was still a good guy. That night I learned that I was the dregs of humanity!

   Then, at once it all stopped… A calm fell over me and I felt peace for the first time in my life. All I wanted to do was to wake-up my family and hug them, but I didn’t. I vividly remember just saying “Thank you.” and passing-out from exhaustion.

   After years of living a lie, I awoke feeling like I’d been given a second chance. Shortly afterward the Lord made clear that even though it was impossible, He wanted me to go to seminary. My wife and I sat in amazement of the reality of the acceptance letter that should have never came…

   In January of 2012, with no place to live, no money, and no sensible plans to speak of, our family set-out on faith and made the move to Kansas City and to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Shortly before we arrived I received a call saying that our apartment was ready and just that quick we went from being homeless to… home.

   God has clearly had his hand in this entire adventure as time and time again we have been taken care of when situations appeared bleak. Above all else, the Lord has shown Himself through taking a marriage that should rightly have been long-over to creating a marriage that that is rock solid!

   Today I have a wonderful home, with amazing kids, and a wife who means more to me than I can even begin to articulate, great friends, a terrific church, and a bright future in the ministry. All that I lack is the guilt and self-loathing that was taken from me that night on the floor in my drawing room. God is so good… and so very patient.

   As the Doctor says, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?” This is my story and it’s only begun. What’s yours?

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   I’m bored far too easily. I really am. It’s something I’ve tried diligently to repair within myself, but have thus far found no success. It causes my concentration to easily wane and unfortunately it either leaves many projects I start unfinished or it finds me begging for death’s icy embrace the longer it takes to see said projects through to completion.

   For as much as I hate it, boredom does at the very least have one redemptive quality. It ranks one easily bored with some of the world’s greatest minds. Bearing in mind of course, that they too hated being bored.

“Perhaps the world’s second worst crime is boredom. The first is being a bore.” -Jean Beaudrillard

“I fell asleep reading a dull book and dreamed I kept on reading, so I awoke from sheer boredom.” -Heinrich Heine

“Sooner barbarity than boredom.” -Theophile Gautier

“I am terrified of being bored.” -Marie Antoinette

   One could even make a case that boredom itself killed the great Winston Churchill:

“I’m bored with it all. (Last words)” -Winston Churchill

 

   … just kidding. Churchill actually died shortly following a severe stroke. Also, he was old.

   All that to say this: Seminary is a hard place to be when one gets bored easily. People tend to think that the boredom comes from the subject matter of Scripture and that by being bored with it one is most likely on a slimy snot-soaked slippery slope straight to Hell. Well, let me be clear… Scripture doesn’t bore me. Evangelism doesn’t bore me. Practical application doesn’t bore me. It’s actually all quite enjoyable.

   So, what bores me? Subject matter I will rarely, if ever put into practical application. The mathematics and sciences of the world. Also, research papers. Especially research papers with extensive citations and bibliographies and blah, blah, blah…

   Okay, so sure, if I were to pursue a doctorate (which I shan’t) then I would indeed need all of the knowledge of rigorous research for my impending dissertation. But what about the rest of us..? I feel much the same way about this as I feel about calculus and the Periodic Table of Elements. In my nearly 36 years there has yet to come a day when I was in a real pickle, needing to know the elemental symbol for Potassium (it’s “K” by the way, which makes no sense). 

   As a result of the fact that I guess the school needs to remain accredited or something and therefore require that I take (and pay for) courses that really have no lifelong impact, I’m forced to make the best of it. Unfortunately, some things are just beyond help. Calculus? Yeah. I could be doing it in a sequined leotard while yodeling and waving pinwheels all around as Parliament Funkadelic blasts from the speakers of a mint green 1976 Ford LTD and you know what? It’s still boring.

   Research papers though… If you’re fortunate enough to have an instructor willing to step outside the box with you, then there’s hope! I lucked (I don’t actually believe in luck, just go with me here.) into such an instructor this semester. So, I will not be doing “Jerome’s View of Baptism” or “The Typology of Jonah”. No, no no… I will be contrasting Doctor Who and Jesus! The working title is, “Physician, heal thy self. – How the Savior From Galilee Is Superior To the Savior From Gallifrey”.

   I know, I know… it sounds irreverent, but I assure you, it’s not. There are characters all throughout the history of fictional literature that are in some small way a Christian allegory, even if unintentionally. Some are obvious like Aslan and Superman, while others you really have to think about. I happen to think that’s the case with The Doctor. Clearly he’s a type of messiah. He defeats his own death. He preaches a radical message of peace. His hand is present in all of history. He has willingly sacrificed himself on a number of occasions. The possibilities are vast and plentiful! The best part? I can forgo the drudgery of boring library research for additional study of the Gospels (which I genuinely enjoy) and the watching of copious amounts of Doctor Who episodes (which I’d watch anyway!)

At least just this once, boredom is thwarted! Also… I bet I get an “A”.

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   As an aside, yes I will be acknowledging that Christ is indeed real and that The Doctor is indeed a fictitious character, although if that were my only argument for why Jesus is better, this paper too would be boring!

   Anyway, apart from those mentioned in this blog, where have you found a case for Christian allegory of types of Christ in fiction? Let me know in the comments!

   Let’s be careful out there!

 

 

It seems to be commonplace these days for my ideals, standards, and preferences concerning church and Christianity to be knocked on its ear. If you met me today you’d probably never know that two years ago I was a stiff-necked Fundy who believed that anything other than a traditional, (at least somewhat) liturgical church service with hymns, neckties, and thundering doctrine could not possibly honor God. Essentially what I was saying was this; “Hey, ya know all those church services that put me to sleep and cause me to drool all over my Authorized KJV? Yeah, that’s the only right way to do church. True story, bro.”

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Then, last year I found myself in a unique situation wherein I was able to experience church and worship in a variety of unfamiliar ways. This Southern Baptist found himself worshiping amongst Lutherans, Presbyterians, non-denominationals, multi-denominationals, Charismatics, and Catholics. Almost immediately I discovered that I was far more excited and worshipful than I’d been in a long, long time. My Fundy-head was confused… Is it possible that church can actually be fun and entertaining without being irreverent? Really?

About a year after visiting with these other churches, the Lord graciously decided to place us in a new church for the purpose of training for a future ministry in church planting (as well as building new relationships and again, worshiping Him in a different way). Gone was the organ and faux potted plants. Gone was the large wooden pulpit and (leaky) baptistry. Gone were the neckties, the always difficult hymns (this of course, does not include the Blue Grass style hymns I grew-up with), and the rigid KJV-ism. Instead God placed us in a dance studio which is converted into a church each week, by way of a handful of pews and several rows of folding chairs. With it comes a praise band with contemporary music, coffee during the service, and an unapologetic, casual style of dress. But do you know what else comes with it? Real, sincere worship and something sorely lacking from before, genuine relationships.

Fast-forward to today and the guest speaker in my Sermon Delivery class. This guy epitomized everything I believe[d] to be wrong with preaching! Videos and props, engaging real-life illustrations (see: stories), adapting to fit the audience, telling jokes, and a slight, subtle hipness. I was locked, loaded, and prepared to hate this guy! But then he started speaking… He started speaking and I was completely drawn-in. Worst of all, the things he said made an unbelievable amount of sense!

He spoke of engaging the audiences with multi-sensory experiences so as to hook them and keep them interested, rather than losing them after the first 5-10 minutes, as is typically the case. He spoke of specific body movements and the utilizing of props. He even spoke of not hiding behind the pulpit (gasp!). He spoke of methods and principles to do things that not that long ago I would have considered irreverent. However, maybe they weren’t…

Perhaps there’s a fine line between interesting and gimmicky. But as the pastor speaking to the class stated, “Even Jesus used props (primarily within nature) to drive home a point and keep people engaged.”

However, it must also be stated that anything that draws AWAY from the Word of God instead of pointing TO the Word of God must be avoided as Scripture must always take center stage.

So, I have some things to think about and some judgements to reconcile. What do you prefer; traditional preaching or something with a bit more pizazz? Let me know in the comments.

Live long and prosper.

   Sitting in my Christian Doctrine II class today, I was exposed to some interesting schools of thought on varying views of creationism. It occurred to me that (somewhat intentionally) I’ve never put a terrible amount of thought into this.

   I mean, yes, I believe in a literal six day creation, not that we came together as a smattering of somehow sentient stardust to form everything from humanity to bamboo to beets and everything in between. I believe Scripture in the most literal way. But I’ve never really considered that in the minds of others there may be more.

   Let’s take a look at some options and see what we discover. Shall we?

Young Earth Creationism– Simply, the belief that biblical accounts are totally accurate and that the earth is approximately between 6 and 10 thousand years old. Carbon dating and such being as notoriously inaccurate as it is has yet to imperialistically disprove this. Essentially, this is the creation story of Genesis.

Gap Theory Creationism– This surmises that between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2b there was an indeterminate amount of time in which all sorts of things could have potentially happened. The reason for this is that in Genesis 1:1 we see that In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” But by Genesis 2:2, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

   These guys would ask, “If God created the heavens and the earth in one verse, why the blazin’ blue weasels is the earth formless and void in the next verse?!!” An interesting question for sure. Although admittedly, I’ve always just pictured God creating these things in their most blah, boring, and basic form and then afterward, beginning in Genesis 2:2 He began to cut loose with the creativity. Big crayon time!

   In short, this “gap” allows for a time of dinosaurs, Neanderthals, the fall of Lucifer, and whatever catastrophe wiped-put prehistoric life.

Time-Relative Creationism– This one is kind of wacky. According to and based upon Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the time at the beginning of existence flowed much more slowly than our modern time. Therefore it could allow for a literal, biblical account of creation, but here a day could have been hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years.

Old Earth Creationism (as well as Progressive Creationism and Day-Age Creationism)– Simply this says that a day, according to Scripture was a non-literal term of indeterminate time. What we know as 24 hours could have been millennia. Apart from that, the Genesis account stands as truth.

Theistic Evolution (with Adam and Eve)– This one gets more complicated. Here God created all He would create and then let the natural flow of evolutionary process bring His creation to what He would deem a good starting point for history over millions of years. Some parties allow for a special creation of Adam and Eve to make them the starting point for modern mankind, while others take Scripture less literally and suppose that God just chose two existing humanoids to represent humanity as a federal head going forward. Huh?

Theistic Evolution (without Adam and Eve)– The same process, but here Adam and Eve are fictional literary figures used in an almost fable-like manner to explain man’s sinful nature.

   These are just a few of the slightly less wacky perspectives. If one were to read more deeply, theories really start getting preposterous!

   Where do I stand? I’m not much of a man of science, but I am pretty darn intelligent. Therefore I can say without the slightest concern for being judged as ignorant that I am indeed a Young Earth Creationist. What about you?

   That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

  

 

 

   There was a time, not all that long ago, when all I wanted to do was make a living as a comic book illustrator. It was the one true passion I had in my life. I would eat, breathe, and sleep the hope that one day I would get my big break and the annals of history would find my name next to men such as Jack Kirby, John Romita, Will Eisner, Neal Adams, Wally Wood, and so on. I would begin to gain forward momentum and time and time again, something always stood in my way.

   People with common sense would say things like, “Have you ever thought that maybe God wants you doing something else?” To which I would reply, “Are you stupid?!!” I mean, clearly I have the tools and ability to do so. It was quite literally the central focus of my passion. Only a complete dunce would dare suggest that God would waste His time equipping me to work in the comic book industry and then make me do something else! Right? Right..?

   Sure I’ve done quite a bit of comic book related work. Some writing, some coloring, quite a bit of illustration. Yet, it’s always seems laborious. But why? I’m naturally talented, well studied, oft practiced, and completely in love with the medium. Why should it be hard? I always blamed it on my short attention span.  Well, okay… maybe that had a little something to do with it.

   Twenty-two years since I began trying to make a living in comics, and I still can’t completely let it go. To clarify, I no longer desire to make my fortune drawing dynamic heroes with extraordinary powers and poor fashion choices. But I still want to hold to the thought that God wouldn’t equip me to do something only to have me not do that aforementioned thing.

   Clearly this is flawed thinking. God also equipped me with well above average strength, the ability to fight (as well as win), and a mean streak that manifests itself not with violent rage, but methodical inhumanity. I have no problem believing that God doesn’t want me utilizing this “gift”, so why do I argue the other?

   I do love to draw. I really, really do. When not done as a means of income it’s very soothing and therapeutic for me. My mind can wander and think about other things, all the while I can create my own world full of adventure and fanciful nonsense. However, when done vocationally it becomes an idol to me. It is my focus, above virtually all else. This, I believe is why the Lord has never given me the career I desired.

   All this to say that I am currently working on a comic book for pay. Good pay actually. I’m grateful for the added income, but I am so miserable… Perhaps God doesn’t want me to keep trying. Perhaps it’s a part of my life best left behind me. Who knows? Of course it could just be a poorly written story with a paper thin plot that doesn’t challenge me in any way. I guess there’s that too.

   Anyway, be careful where you place your passions. Idols are easily forged.

   Good night, John-Boy.

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   I grew-up in church. A good church even. A little white Southern Baptist Church in a town of 600 people, located right next to the train tracks. I learned so much in that church. It essentially set the framework for my theology from a young age.

   Through various circumstances, the details of which I’m not entirely clear on, my family and I left that church and joined a church just up the road. It was billed simply as a Christian church, presumably of the independent variety; which as a rule, are loosely associated with either the Church of Christ or the Disciples of Christ. Either way, they maintain a more liberal theology than the SBC.

   Near the end of my almost sixteen year run with the aforementioned church, the theology of my wife and I began to charge (or perhaps evolve) and so did that of the church. As they began adopting some of the teachings of the Emergent movement of that time (specifically from Rob Bell and his Nooma video series), we began to take hold of a very Calvinistic view of Scripture. The two views clashed quite violently and we ended-up back at the SBC church I’d left years before (which coincidentally, was non-Calvinistic).

   So, what am I apologizing for, as per this post’s title? During the early days of our foray into Reformed theology, we (specifically me) fell headlong into the ditch of Calvinistic elitism. We believed that  because we had what we felt was a deeper understanding of the person of God that we were in some way superior to our Arminian brethren. I picked many, many fights and honestly, was a real jerk. Unfortunately, being a jerk seems to be the rule more than the exception amongst Reformed believers.

   So, for all the people I was a complete schmuck to, I’m sorry. To anyone I was a theological bully to, I’m sorry. To anyone who’s spiritual walk I questioned or assaulted, I’m sorry. I’ve done a lot of growing since that time. Please forgive me.

   So, where does that leave my theology?

   Oh, make no mistake, I’m still very much Reformed. Although maybe not enough to really consider myself a Calvinist anymore, at least not in the 5-point sense. I’ve just chosen to no longer make that fact the hill I die on or the standard by which I gauge someone else’s salvation. I am completely over viewing Christianity as a divided camp. We’re either in it or we’re out. Division amongst Christians does nothing but cause a weakened defense against the enemy, and we need all the fortification we can get!

   If we can agree on the essentials of the faith (which we’ll address another time), the rest will work itself out and you are my brother or sister in Christ.

   Say goodnight, Gracie.

 

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   Seminary, while not inherently necessary, is in many ways beneficial. Moreover, seminary is egregiously expensive. So, so, so very expensive. As such, one would perceive that it would be in one’s best interest to get one’s money’s worth and pay vigilant attention to class lectures and content.

   However, what happens when your brain doesn’t work quite like that of most people? Amazing things, that’s what! Mind you, amazing does not necessarily mean beneficial.

   In most cases I find matters of theology interesting enough that they retain my attention. Although it may be presumed that because I’m doodling or typing or some other such thing, I’m not paying attention. I am. I assure you. These things actually helps me focus. But I digress…

   Non-theological classes don’t tend to hold my attention nearly as well. I try. I really do. Problematically though, my brain allows me about 3 minutes of undivided attention per hour. Once that threshold is crossed my brain floods with imagery of food I desire to consume in mass quantities, episodes of Doctor Who, or random song lyrics from the 1980’s. I find myself pondering issues such as why the thumbs always snapped off of my G.I. Joe action figures, why occasionally you can still find people sporting a mullet, and other such random tomfoolery. I’m gone. Lost in the woods. It’s as though my brain has fled my body for more adequate stimuli.

   What makes matters worse is that the harder I try to pay attention, the more vivid and preposterous my thoughts and daydreams become. Is it that I should be heavily medicated? Is it that I am actually just that disinterested in non-theological classes? Is it that I was exposed to water with trace amounts of radiation and/or lead? I just don’t know.

   How do you focus? What’s your best tool against mind-numbing boredom when confronted with matters of syntax, algebra, or the daily monotony? What do you do to help absorb and retain information? Let me know. In the meantime, I see something shiny over there…

   Good night and good luck.

 

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