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This photograph was taken at the Noxubee Refuge on a day where I was needing to get away from civilization and find some peace and solitude.  This lookout presented a perfect place for me to rest, both mentally and physically, and focus on the things that I love – God’s creation and its recording through the lens.  I hope you all enjoy!  🙂

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“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.”

Most evangelical Christians have sat under a sermon that went something like this:

“I Corinthians 13 = TRUE LOVE! Love isn’t something you ‘fall’ in to! It’s not an emotion! Love is a conscious decision – a dedication – a commitment – etc., etc., etc.”

Well, I contest that this needs to be taken even one step further. That even knowing Love is a choice, not an uncontrollable emotion, we are still incapable of operating fully in it. Why do we assume that because we have deciphered the true meaning of Love, that makes us experts in practicing it? I would argue that those who seek to intentionally pursue the practice of Love fall more into the practice of devotion or loyalty. But mad, passionate, deep, self-sacrificial Love? That is too potent a draught to be drawn from mortal wells.

In Ted Dekker’s Circle Trilogy [WARNING: NERD STUFF], salvation in the parallel universe with Thomas of Hunter is represented by drowning in the waters of Elyon – this world’s synonym for God. These waters are lakes that have been anointed with the blood of Justin – or the Christ – who had been murdered by The Horde – the unregenerate. The person who dove into one of these lakes would aim deep and breathe – despite every carnal instinct screaming at her to hold the air within her lungs. Dekker describes the experience as one of complete terror as she feels the water slamming into her lungs.  This is closely followed by an ecstatic feeling of Presence as Elyon kills the old creature to make way for the new.  It is a drowning in Love that often invokes shrieks of intense painful pleasure from the convert. And on rising from the waters, alive in more ways than one, the Redeemed has been changed.  Not only is she now completely and utterly devoted to the One who drowned the Horde within her, but she is able to see the rest of the world through a completely different lens.  She is able to LOVE now in a way previously considered ridiculous.  The waters of Elyon have not only cleansed her, but have infected her and put roots deep into her soul. She can’t help but Love her Justin and the Horde that murdered Him.  Like a freshwater spring that can’t help but flow. Like the bough of a grapevine that can’t help but produce according to its roots.

So when it is said that one must work for Love, the foundation must not be merely mortal effort. The best that we can produce on our own is Horde – ugly, crusty, fallen, dead. Rather, implore the Author of the Eternal to drown you in His ego-crushing flood – a fount of Love that can never run dry.

‘Dive Deep. Drown Willingly.’

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Love, etc.

I LOVE peaches. Especially the locally grown, Costco-brand kind, all sliced up into juicy wedges of perfection, sprinkled with raw sugar to draw out the nectar. But do you know what makes peaches even more perfect? Perfect with whipped cream and a cherry on top?  Well, actually, just that (perhaps minus the cherry). Fresh, homemade whipped cream direct from the Summit Kitchen. I call this the “et cetera” effect. It is the extra ‘something’ that elevates a thing from merely ‘preferred’ to ‘favorite’. From a ‘hobby’ to an ‘obsession’. From a love of ‘convenience’ to one of ‘self-sacrifice’.

Paul first described the ‘et cetera’ effect in his first letter to the church of Thessalonians. In his call to sanctification (chapter 4) he writes:

“About brotherly love: you don’t need me to write you because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. In fact, you are doing this toward all the brothers in the entire region of Macedonia. But we encourage you, brothers, to do so even more.” (vs. 9-11 HCSB, emphasis added)

Love…et cetera. The call to love never stops for the believer walking in the footsteps of Jesus. How many times throughout the day do we stop? Stop short of unconditional? How often do we listen to the ‘reasonable’ councils of the world when it postures that as long as we perform the bare minimum so as to APPEAR selfless we have fulfilled our societal duties?  How many of us love because it is the RIGHT thing to do, versus “loving” because we know in the future we can cash in their debt for a good deed?

It is the difference in a soccer game between playing the game “well” and leaving your bleeding heart out on the field.

“What is your love really made of???” is what the Devil screamed at Jesus as He stood on trial before the High Priest. And Jesus responded with an ‘et cetera’ to His love that shook the foundations of the world and changed it forever.

In the form of an old rugged cross.

And He calls us to follow in His footsteps. To make the ultimate sacrifice EVERY TIME. It is not a goal that we achieve and then move on with our lives. Rather, our strivings to love others as Christ loves them should DEFINE our lives.

So, today, when inconvenience and busyness tempt us to only do what is EXPECTED of us, remember the ‘et cetera’ effect that stretched the expanse of a roughened wooden cross.

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Reading Beyond The Lines

For those of you who haven’t actually read Amendment 26 being proposed for the State of Mississippi Constitution on the November 8th ballot:

Initiative #26

“Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Mississippi:

SECTION 1. Article III of the constitution of the state of Mississippi is hearby amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION TO READ:

SECTION 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

This is the WHOLE amendment, “fine print” and all!!  And as you can see, there is nothing mentioned in this amendment of abortion, contraceptives, problem pregnancies, or miscarriages. The amendment simply affirms what has been scientifically supported for years – that human life begins at conception, and therefore he/she should be treated as such.

The Personhood Amendment will not ban in-vitro fertilization. It will, however, outlaw the discarding of unused embryos. Why? Because it is human life that we are throwing in the garbage heap.

The Personhood Amendment will not outlaw contraceptives. It will, however, outlaw the “morning after” pill, or RU486. Why? Because RU486 allows a human life to be conceived and then expelled – it is intentional murder. As usual, the rape/incest argument rears its ugly head here. But again, this all boils down to the question that this Amendment legally seeks to answer – What is the unborn?

If the unborn is not human, if it is merely a blob of tissue, then why not legalize abortion to the first, second or third trimester?

But if the unborn is fully human (as science is continuing to demonstrate), then despite how horrifying the experience of rape or incest, the life of the human baby is to be protected. He or she should not be punished for the sins of the rapist.

The initial backlash reaction to the Personhood Amendment is to cry that a woman will “lose her right to choose”, but I believe this is a backwards and ultimately selfish perspective. The purpose of the Personhood Amendment is not to suppress women or take away their rights, but rather to protect and affirm the rights of the unborn human being who has been given the same inalienable rights to life, liberty and happiness as every other U.S. citizen.

 

 

Sources

http://www.sos.ms.gov/Elections/Initiatives/Initiatives/Definition%20of%20Person-PW%20Revised.pdf
http://yeson26.net/amendment-26/frequently-asked-questions/

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Media Fasting…It’s Not Just For Introverts

Most of us have gone through a “media fast” at some point in our lives. It’s that momentous occasion when one, usually under duress to a higher authority, turns off his iPod/iPhone/iPad/iHulu/iYoutube/iRecluse’s and focus on interacting with reality for a while. And it is amazing to discover (perhaps for the first time) what else goes on in your head when you don’t have Owl City and Disciple drowning you out 24/7. I am all for these fastings from the constant barrages of entertainment. My apartment has not seen a television during the whole 2.5 years I have lived there. A “big night” for my roommate and I involves an extra episode of M*A*S*H on a computer as we crochet, knit, embroider, or do other “old people” stuff. But recently God has shown me another way in which I have been guilty of allowing the entertainment of the world to warp my spiritual plumb line.

What I am referring to is the all-important Facebook status updates. You have all done it. Something happens to you, or you do or say something brilliant, and you think “that would make a great Facebook status!” I have actually caught myself just skipping the middle man and mentally expressing my emotions and thoughts in Facebook status-friendly form:

Tiffany is…so delighted that people in Colorado know how to parallel park.

Tiffany…just bought two cartons of soymilk for seventy-five cents! Sweet!

What is so bad about sharing your life with your Facebook world? Well, it isn’t so much who you ARE sharing the daily drivels of your life with, but who we ARE NOT sharing with. Instead of thanking God for the intelligence and aptitude of Colorado drivers, or for His providence at providing my daily sustenance at little cost, I turn these events into taglines for my own personal commercial. Instead of praying to God and asking for His continual blessings and guidance, I pray to Facebook for the blessings of “Likes” and “#Comments” – each one a puff of air into my already swollen ego.

Romans 12 admonishes us to present our bodies on the altar of sacrifice willing and with praise. And how do we do that? But serving the members of the Body of Christ humbly, remembering that we all belong to each other, and by giving honor to only those around us – never ourselves.

So, for the time being, I am fasting from Facebook status updates. It only brings glory to myself – not others, and certainly not to God. Some could argue for the posting of Bible verses in statuses. I guess I cannot argue against that, but personally, I find it nigh impossible for me to keep a pure heart when posting even those. The temptation is simply too strong to commend my own spiritual prowess for daring to ping the world with something so controversial as the objective Word of God and accordingly checking “evangelism” off my to-do list.

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The Clarkston Chronicles – Korean Prayer

I heard the heart of God today.

In a little town in central Georgia, one MARTA-ride away from Atlanta, in the basement of a rundown apartment complex where the floor is concrete and shared with the roaches, a group of 19 Korean-American youth met with God and pleaded for the people of North Korea.

Have you ever been the victim of paralyzing beauty? You round a corner. You crest a hill. You open a door. And the scene that greets you is so magnificent, so splendid, so shockingly marvelous that all you can do is stand with your knees locked and your arms outstretched. You open your mouth but you can’t make a sound – but inside you’re screaming. Joy rams through your soul like the sharp shooting pains of a thousand knives.

This passion is what led the prayer meeting of these youth – but it was not beauty or joy on which they were expounding. No – their hearts burned within them for the plight of the downtrodden of North Korea. A people group in abject poverty on the brink of starvation – a starvation so severe that they are forced to cannibalize their very own. A country where most of its citizens seek to flee south – and where most don’t make it. A staggering 80% of these refugees are forced into the sex trade slave market. A most despicable evil, the most degrading sort of ugliness.

These Korean youth grappled with these painful truths and lifted them up to the Father. They prayed for mercy for their people, for Christ to shine His light of Truth upon them. They prayed for North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, that his heart would be broken before God, that he would make an international proclamation that God is everything and that he is nothing. They asked forgiveness for their own triteness and begged for a heart for the nations. They confessed materialism, consumerism, hedonism, egoism.

“Break us! Convict us! Heal us! Heal North Korea! Bring unity back to our war-ridden countries!” they cried with one voice.

They continued to intercede for quite a long time, bemoaning the ugliness of Satan’s dominion in the northern country, crushing themselves with pleas to God to move in their kinsmen’s land.

This meeting of souls does not end in despair, however. A wise Christian Korean woman brought our focus back to eternity as she, in closing, thanked God for His everlasting faithfulness. For His grace in that He determined to save any of us from our own desperate wickedness. She expressed our hope – a hope that rests on Truth. It filled our hearts and lifted us up – it reminded us that the Fight is long and the Journey is hard. But in the end God’s purpose prevails.

 

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Butterfly

A classmate of mine made the comment that he couldn’t believe some people actually think that there is a God “up there” who is meticulously planning the end of our puny, insignificant planet which happened to sprout up on the edge of the universe.

Indeed.

This claim – that there is a personal Being who is intimately involved in the fates of mankind and his inhabitance – is indeed incredulous.  Unbelievable.  Mind-boggling.

But does the incredulousness of this idea prove that it cannot be true?  Of course not.  It would be parallel to claiming that a butterfly can certainly not come from a grub, for a grub is so base and a butterfly so ethereal – how could one derive its existence from the other?

In fact, unless someone had taken the time to observe a caterpillar weaving its house of transformation, taking notes and pictures, practicing patience for the many weeks, until finally the coffin breaks open to reveal the transformed treasure, he would have never have hypothesized such a theory on his own.

In the same way if, through careful study and scrutiny, it is determined that a Personal Being, who very much cares for and sovereignly influences the fate of the human race, did in fact exist, this conclusion would have to be accepted – despite any emotional response such a conclusion may generate.

Not only that, but just as the concept of “metamorphosis” had to be drawn out of the discovery of the origins of the butterfly, the implications of the existence of such a Higher Power demand consideration.

This post is not about those implications, nor even about the evidences pointing to a Personal, Sovereign, Omniscient, Omnipotent Higher Power.  Rather, it is simply an observation that incredulousness is no substitution for Truth.  I am amazed and humbled every day that I am reminded that a Perfect God thought it worth His while to reach down and pluck me out of the miry slog of my own degenerate making.

And that is what makes it so beautiful.  The Undeserved being rescued by the All-Deserving.  The Imprisoned being set free by the Creditor.  The Whore being pursued by the Groom.

So, dear reader, I invite you – nay, I challenge you – to approach the metaphorical laboratory of your human reason, to lean over and peer into the body of evidence, and to watch the closed chrysalis of your assumptions slowly break down as the radiantly rich Truth of your Maker and mine is revealed.

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Alone Together

A friend of mine shared the following article on his Twitter account and it caught my attention.  This is slightly ironic considering this article is about the isolating, maddening societal effects of online social networks such as Facebook, MySpace (if such a thing even exists anymore), and *ahem* Twitter, but we’ll let that slide for now.  😉  Predictable impressions aside (such as how this reminds me of Neil Postman’s book “Amusing Ourselves to Death”, or David Platt’s book “Radical”), what struck me as I read this article was that even though I fully agreed with the points made in the article about how we as Americans are inventing the very things that are killing us as a culture, I still find myself here – sharing this with you via an online network of sorts.

The idea of a blog is appealing.  You can reach more people and oftentimes it gives you a medium through which you can express your opinions without fear of peer review or censore.  But is that really beneficial in the long run?  Yes, it may allow one to “get everything out of her system” in a sense, but in doing so it removes any motivation to discuss thoughts and feelings and beliefs with other real human beings – face-to-face.  So, there is a loss of interaction, and with a loss of interaction comes a loss of dialogue, and then a lack of accountability.  With no accountability one becomes more comfortable saying whatever she wants however she wants with no regard for such things as “line of reason” or “intellectual honesty” – things that fellow human beings who are similarly committed to dialogue would demand.  This leads to “sloppy language, which makes sloppy thought possible” (Michael Bauman).

So, as you read this post and the article, think about how many real conversations you have in one day.  Are you just a passive consumer?  Taking in whatever drivel happens to float by on your Twitter or FB feeds?  Or are you intelligently engaged with the world around you?  Able to distinguish the Truth of the Christian worldview from the deceptions of the philosophies of the human tradition?  I challenge you to take one article, one piece of news, and don’t just consume it – investigate it, dissect it, discuss it with a close friend (or better yet an enemy), protagonize/antagonize it.  I promise the results will surprise, if not intrigue, you.

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Chosen Oblivion

I just had an interesting conversation with a fellow student who said that he doesn’t care about politics because politics doesn’t affect his everyday life. He doesn’t see how it has any bearing on his day-to-day decision making, and thus could care less.

Granted, it may be hard to see how the decisions and intentions of men up on a white hill somewhere could have any direct impact on our “daily lives”, but my next question is:

If we wait until the consequences of the politicians’ decisions trickle down to the extent of affecting our everyday lives, won’t it be too late for us to effectively do anything about it? Wouldn’t you want to know beforehand that the train is coming versus finding out as it bears down upon you? Contrary to the misguided adage, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance doesn’t protect you. Ignorance costs lives.

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Grok On!!

Heya!!

So, if you have any regular contact with me, you’ll know that I’ve been ranting and raving about this thing called the ‘Primal Lifestyle’ for a few months now. Well, during the month of September, my sister, a couple close friends of mine, and I are getting serious and will be striving to eat 100% Paleo as part of the September Primal Blueprint Challenge on Mark’s Daily Apple.

(If you have no idea what I just said, visit http://www.marksdailyapple.com/primal-blueprint-101/)

So…if you want to follow along as we break all the dietary rules of Conventional Wisdom and have more fun than a human ought to have, please head on over to my Tumblr accounts and subscribe!

http://primalwench.tumblr.com

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