Thursday, October 13, 2011

Count It ALL Joy...


"Count it all joy when various trials come your way..." That what it says in the Bible book of James, first chapter, second verse.

Seems a bit ridiculous at first glance. Consider my problems as something to be joyful about? Are you kidding? Do you know what I've been going through?

I've sat through many sermons on this particular topic and all of them end up going down a very similar path: life's painful experiences test your faith in God and refine you much the same way fine metals are refined in fire... therefore, be happy about what you go through.

Really?

Have you ever gone through anything difficult and maintained a smile on your face? Who does this? And don't say Tibetan Monks - because there's a part of me that wants to believe that even those robed ethereal types wince a bit when something bad happens to them - say, burn their tongue on the soup, or something.

The reality of life is that things are difficult. For you, for me - for all of us. Shit happens, as the bumper sticker says.

I used to misunderstand this verse. I read it as saying "God is testing your faith and that's why all this bad stuff is happening to you." But I don't believe that any more. I don't believe for one moment that the Almighty God of all we will ever know actually sets out to make my life hard. He loves me - unconditionally, completely and totally. He wants the BEST for me. Always. Therefore, God does not orchestrate the calamities of our lives. I also don't believe that God is a magician who waves a heavenly wand and simply zaps us free of pain. That would also not be loving. What He does do is allow us to learn from the mistakes we make as well as from the circumstances of life we encounter which are sometimes the results of mistakes those around us make.

So, the way I now view this verse (concept) is that life is difficult - sometimes it's my fault, sometimes it's your fault - sometimes it's the simple result of unpleasant and unexpected circumstances of life that impact us even though we have nothing to do with the cause. And what this verse does is remind us how we are to respond to these events - with JOY!

Responding joyfully in difficult circumstances is not easy to do. Anyone who tells you it is easy is either a liar or not living on this planet, walking among other human beings. Bad things happen all the time. And those bad things impact us. They can do everything from bend us, to break us, to destroy us. And it's in the course of those events - the on-going, the day-by-day, that we learn what it means to BECOME people who are able to consider such life events as moments of refinement, maturing, shaping, crafting... and THAT is what leads us to choosing to live JOYFUL lives rather than lives of bitterness, anger, despair and hopelessness.

Jesus did not look forward to being hung on a cross. The Bible does not seem to paint a picture of Him gallantly marching forward to face his death with heroics. He was not afraid - don't get me wrong. But Jesus Himself stated to His Father (God) that he'd rather not go through with this type of death. I can't imagine Him being "happy" about this. He knew it had to happen as the culmination of his ministry on Earth and the birthing of salvation for the rest of us. So, I can also imagine Jesus being somewhat "joyful" knowing what was COMING, though what he was going through was certainly not a "joyful" experience.

There is something to be said about endurance. Perhaps you have gone through days, weeks or even years of enduring - enduring painful life experiences you never thought you'd encounter. And now, today, you are still alive. Scarred, scratched and perhaps a little scared. But you are alive. (I know this because you are reading this blog!) Apparently, those events you never thought you could live through - well - you've lived through!

Here's that verse again... let it sink in...

Count it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This Post Has No Photo

Just a quick post before getting ready for the rest of what the day has to offer me.

The TITLE of this blog is COMMON SAINTS. That's by design. It's to remind ALL of us that we are just simple humans, prone to messing up, who are created by a God who loves us so much He sent His Son, Jesus to be our Savior.

It's a pretty cut 'n dry plan, when you think of it. Our (man's) sin has kept us from enjoying the intended relationship we are to have with our Creator. So our Creator provided a way to restore that relationship - allowing His only Son to be the one-time (that means once and for all - not on a continual basis) sacrifice for our sins.

We commoners who accept that gift from our Creator, and choose to call Jesus our Lord, will live forever in His presence after we leave this earth.

Yeah, this common saint is okay with that arrangement. : )

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tastes Just Like Chicken


There's a story in the Bible about a fellow named Jonah. Whether or not you officially attend church or call yourself a Christian, the chances are pretty good you've heard or read the story of Jonah.

In a nutshell, Jonah was a prophet. He relayed information from God to the people of his day. And right out of the gate, in the opening lines of this story, God instructs Jonah to travel to a city called Ninevah and warn the people in the town that God is displeased with them. Jonah, who apparently had not figured out that God is everywhere, decided to trick God. Rather than do what God said, Jonah hopped on a boat and headed to a totally different town called Joppa. In essence, he chickened out, disobeyed and ran away from God.

During the boat trip, a huge storm occurred and the men on the boat began harassing Jonah begging for his God to save them. This made Jonah nervous - so much so that he decided to leap into the sea. No sooner had he done this that a "great fish" swallowed him up and, for 3 days, he lived inside the belly of that fish until God made the fish burp Jonah up on to dry land.

Yuck.

Whether it's running from God, or simply running from life's problems, we all run the risk of "tasting like chicken" at times, don't we? Life is difficult - for different people in different ways. But all of us face stuff we'd rather not have to face. And the story of Jonah shows us that if we choose to run, chances are pretty good that something even bigger might overtake us - whether that is guilt, or fear, or even a more uncomfortable circumstance. In other words - facing our problems, though not always desirable, is usually the best way to go.

For me - I have had to arrive at a place of finally and truly deciding, once and for all, that ALL of the "problems" of life are there for a reason and I happen to believe those reasons are based on something God is trying to teach me - for growth and refinement - much the same way a sculptor chips away at the marble until the intended figure comes to life.

I remember as a kid, arrogantly and smugly laughing at Jonah for being such a jerk and running away from God. As an adult, I find myself relating more to Jonah than I care to admit. And while I've never been eaten by a whale - I can honestly say that I've seen them on the shoreline with bibs around their necks from time to time wondering if I might taste like chicken...

We are designed to be brave, courageous, faithful and hopeful regardless the situation.

Psalm 31:24 puts it this way: "Be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord."

Peta won't like this - but from where I'm sitting... a hungry whale is fine with me!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Facebook = Blog-Robber


I want to blame facebook for keeping me from blogging. This is because I spend so much time on the social network site and simply forget that I have launched a blog to offer deep thoughts and commentary on the stuff of life.

But I can't really blame facebook. That's like blaming hot dogs for keeping me from eating apple turnovers. Both are probably not good for me - but both are so yummy!

Anyway, here I am...

And today's amazing philosophical point is: Life is hard. (Yes, you heard it here first, folks!)

Blaming, as was my idea with facebook or the hot dog, is such an easy "out" in life, isn't it? I think, for the most part, everyone has blamed someone or something else for why they are where they are in life.

> The company promoted the wrong guy!
> My parents never taught me how to get ahead in life!
> My husband snores!
> Why do they sell 10 hot dogs in a pack but only 8 hot dog buns in a pack?

We blame because we don't like feeling uncomfortable, disrupted, annoyed, agitated or any number of a variety of inconvenient feelings that should not be a part of our prosperous American way of life. It's not fair! (Have you ever said that?)

I stood in our local supermarket the other day... I was playing the "role" of "husband waiting at the cart as wife meanders through the aisles in search of just 'two more items'..." - - as I stood there, I was gazing around and was suddenly struck with just how much "stuff" we have in our markets here in America. I read somewhere that the average market in American offers around 45,000 different items for sale. That's not a misprint... 45-THOUSAND different items. (No wonder I can't decide on Special K, Special K with almonds, Special K with berries, Special K with less sugar added, Special K with chocolate bits or Special K with enzymes...)

Last night I was on the phone with a friend who has left her husband. In short, because of her huge salary (he was a stay-at-home dad), they lived a luxurious life complete with a huge home in a very nice area, they had a nanny, a cleaning lady and other amenities to make life amazingly comfortable. The husband never worked. His "job" was the kids - which makes sense. Except that in most cases the kids were off with the nanny or at school. According to this friend, her husband found fault with the lifestyle - it was not enough. He lashed out at her for not working harder to bring in more money - eventually that anger turned into all out emotional abuse and she ended up taking the kids and leaving him.

Perhaps blaming isn't the answer. I'm just sayin' - -

What if - and I'm just tossing this out there - what if life really IS hard? What if, sometimes, the circumstances we find ourselves facing really are incredibly difficult? What then?

What if - even in a world where we have EVERYTHING at our fingertips, as close as a mouse click, a short drive or a phone call - things are STILL difficult?

For me, as a Christian, I rely on what The Bible teaches me about the God I choose to believe in and follow. That He "will never leave [me] and He will never forsake [me]." (Hebrews 13:5,6)

As the title of this blog states, I am just a "common saint" - a man with flaws, failures and a future - all at the same time.

And, praise God, He's there with me every step of the way!

Monday, January 24, 2011

BEEN A WHILE

It's been over a year since I posted anything on this blog...

I suppose the fact that I stepped away from professional ministry might have something to do with that... I'm just not surrounded by "professional" Christians any longer and feel less of a need to comment on the ups and downs of "church" stuff - since I don't deal with that anymore.

My focus has been on two areas this past year - comedy and radio.

COMEDY
I am very appreciative of the many comedy gigs I had in 2010. I can tell I have improved in my ability to present material that I believe is funny and, based on the responses of most audiences, they also think is funny. That is a great feeling!

RADIO
I am very grateful for the opportunity to be dabbling in morning radio here in Denver. Being a part of a great station like KYGO 98.5 has been an amazing learning experience. There are parts of this gig I am great at - other areas where I need to ramp up a bit - but overall, I love it!

So, stay tuned - hopefully it won't be another year before I return to this blog site!

Friday, December 4, 2009

the vinacular of the saints

I guess after 30+ years of being immersed in "the organized church" system, I've grown a bit tired of the various ways we churchy-types talk to one another. Like, even right there - "one another" - even THAT sounds a little stiff... well, to me.

For those who've been keeping up with me, you know that in May of this year (2009) I walked away from full-time music ministry to pursue a new life direction in entertainment, primarily comedy but with acting, writing and songwriting still tagging along for the ride. Since May I have had the chance to meet with a few churches for more of a part-time position - just to see if there might be a need to have an on-going regular income - albeit, at a smaller pay rate than a full-time job - but just to know that every 2 weeks we would have "X" amount to count on. Thus far, God has not seen fit to bless us that particular way - and, to be honest, while it has really stretched my faith, and while at times it makes me nervous, I am also feeling VERY taken care of by God - in ways I never really imagined. I've moved, I believe, from the "talk" aspect of being a Christian more into the "walk" aspect.

As I spoke to a few churches, I was met, once again, with the unmistakable way we churchy types communicate with each other. Honestly, it's rather icky on many levels.

Phrases like "ministry fit" and "God's will" fly around as if there is some huge gavel of ordination that will be THE determining factor in someone being hired to work at a church. Often times, the main reason we churchy types talk like this is because it's EASIER to blame GOD for things "not working out" than to blame ourselves or take responsibility for our decisions. If I don't like you as a candidate, for whatever reason, it's a lot easier to say, "Well, this is just not God's will" rather than, "you know, I just don't think you are the right person for this church." Just today I received a "rejection" letter from a church that did a very good job of attributing their reason for not hiring me to some sort of God-ordained reasoning. Bottom line - they wanted a rock band leader - not a 50+ piano player. Honestly, I would have felt better had they just said, "Gee, we really want an electric guitar player with long hair and hip clothes..." but then, that would make it more of a HUMAN decision, right? And we just can't have that in a church... or so we think!

Another side aspect to this - they also wanted me to supply a DVD of me "leading worship." I made the decision many years ago to NOT provide this. Ever. I have my reasons and I believe they are not only valid, but biblical. I will never send an "audition tape" of me leading a gathering of people that is supposed to be focused on GOD - and not the one doing the leading. Churches that don't like that should simply not call me. End of story. I understand the current trend - I understand that this is "how things work" these days. For me, it completely undermines the actual purpose of the position - and bases selection on PERFORMANCE rather than on WORSHIP. I am sure that part of the reasoning to not hire me had to do with my decision to not offer a DVD that they could watch.

I believe churches TEND to fail in our true ability to really reach people with Kingdom love and that one of the main reasons we are failing is due to our lack or normalcy in how we communicate with each other. Jesus was transparent and real. He calls us to be the same. We really need to trash all of our churchy talk and simply meet people and love them where they are - today - now. Otherwise, we are simply continuing the role of Pharisee...

Hint - Jesus didn't like the Pharisees very much...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


FEAR is a terrible thing.

I'm aiming this note primarily to all my Christian friends but all are welcome to read it because I think we all deal with this issue at times.

See that picture attached to this note? Isn't if funny? It's President Obama - you know, the president of our country. He's the man whom this country elected - like it or not - to reign as the leader of The United States of America. Granted, there are things about him that I don't like. Some are huge. Some are not so huge. But, the bottom line - Mr. Obama IS our president.

A lot of conservatives are afraid of him. Well, not him. But what he is "...doing to completely destroy our country..." They are so afraid, in fact, that they are relentless in their on-going attacks of the man. Some of these conservatives must actually believe that their constant Obama-bashing will magically get him kicked out of office. If they call him the anti-Christ enough times, eventually the moniker will stick and we can "...get the rat out of office..."

They were afraid of "the message" he would bring to our children on Sept 8. So they reacted by yanking their kids from school that day. (That'll show those socialists!) They yank their kids because they are AFRAID of what their children might HEAR...

LISTEN - - I'm MORE afraid of the "FEAR MESSAGE" being taught to our children by that action!!

Yep. Those damn conservatives live in fear.

Oh - guess what - so do the liberals...

They were (and many still are) in FEAR of Sarah Palin becoming "... just a heartbeat away from the office of President..." They FEARED her policies and did all they could to drag her through dung in order to make their point.

They are AFRAID of "...the right wing agenda..." So they FIGHT to ensure that we remove the words "Under God" from the money. They are doing all they can to silence Biblical teachings. They are AFRAID of their children hearing a philosophy they don't agree with... hmmm - sounds familiar.

The CONSERVATIVES fear...
The LIBERALS fear...
The CONSTITUTIONALISTS fear...
The INDEPENDENTS fear...

And for you Christians who happen to dwell in any of those camps - FEAR is a completely unbiblical way to live. Call it "concern" or call it "wisdom" - RATIONALIZE IT ANY WAY YOU LIKE - if you are SPREADING HATE-FILLED messages ABOUT either side, FROM either side, to WARN America in any way, shape or form - then guess what - YOU ARE AFRAID!!

Some will say, "Damn right, I'm afraid! Look at what is happening to our country, Dan!"

Yes, the country is in trouble. Surprised? If you're a CHRISTIAN, you should NOT be surprised. There is evil all around and the darkness is on duty 24/7 to DESTROY. And you're FEAR-based campaigns are NOT HELPING!

The evil one (who does exist) destroys in many ways - but most recently it has been through seemingly insignificant ways such as divisiveness, anger, hatred, finger-pointing, slander, gossip, political party loyalty over a loyalty to God, arrogance and, yes, FEAR!

Go ahead America... live in fear... it's your EKG...

Go ahead Oprah, and Beck, and leftists, and right-wingers, and conservatives, and liberals, and Christians and "sinners" - go ahead and continue to live in FEAR! Let's make sure we Christians teach future generations of Christians that the FEAR OF MAN is far more important than TRUSTING GOD.

Maybe it's time to just take a step back - and consider the following...

"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
- Isaiah 41:10 -