Testing before the blessing.

Today I put an offer in with Joe Rico on a house. We plan on filling it with renters and living there ourselves. (By the way, I’m still straight). We bought it because we believe wholeheartedly in the value of community, and many of the girls in our group of friends are moving in with Rachel, who lives 2 blocks away. We look forward to having meals, parties, and ministry together. We also look forward to sharing our hard times, and being more real with other human beings. I already found renters for my condo, so I actually may save money in the process.

Financially, I’m a hurting unit. It’s time to find a supplemental job. I’m even considering moving overseas and teaching English for a year. Would be a cool adventure, and I would be able to save some money at the same time. Work gets hard once a year or so, but God always comes through. Usually with something bigger and better. And I’m looking forward to the next stage!!!

Personally, I’m doing extremely well. I feel so close to Jesus!!! I feel like I’m seeing more of Him every day, and seeking him more every day. I’m willing to put into the time to seek him and listen to Him. And I can feel his presence as a result.

A thought- ambition is great. You are able to prove yourself and get a lot done. But nothing is as important as relationships. If you achieve all of your ambitions, but sacrifice relationships, or even love, then you really are a being to be pitied. On my deathbed I hope to say, “I loved, and was loved.” Both about my God and everyone I encounter in life.

I don’t care about money. I don’t care about fame. I don’t care about ambitious goals, when compared to the intimacy of two souls truly encountering each other. Nothing in life is more valuable than that.

I haven’t eaten much today, and am a bit tired, but I am happy.

Thank You, Jesus!!!

War. Huh. What is it good for?

Shane Claiborne has ruined me. He has shown me, once again, what it means to follow Jesus. What it means to lay down my life for even my enemies. He has shown me out of the Bible what it means to love those who persecute you.

I am no longer supporting war in Iraq. I don’t know if I support war, period. I look at WWII and think, yes, maybe there is a time when a nation needs to rise up to stop the mass killing in another. But I just don’t see that in Iraq. My respect for our soldiers is greater than ever. I see them, at least, putting themselves in a position to get killed for what they believe. That is more than I can say for myself and most Christians.

What the world really, REALLY needs is Jesus followers. People who are willing to go places and love their enemies. Even unto death. THAT is what changes the world. God, here is my heart. Take it and change me into a willing follower for extreme grace.

What would have happened if, after WWII, America would have risen up and said to Osama Bin Laden- “We hurt tremendously. But we love you. And we forgive you.” How would the Arab world have responded? Would Al-Queda have grown? I have a feeling everyone would have been better off. But in the cloud of shock we resorted to “shock and awe”. The odd thing is, what TRULY would have shocked and awed the world is exactly what we didn’t do. Forgave, as a nation, our enemies. Of course, this cannot happen so easily, because many, no, most people do not follow Jesus. Even myself, in that instance.

God, teach me to love!

I STILL don’t believe in the angry protesters that commonly accompany the “Give peace a chance” movement. I don’t respect a person who will scream for peace- as long as they are safe and secure.

But Jesus, thankfully, has shown us another way. A way of loving our enemies, while still standing for what is right. The way Shane Claiborne has chosen to follow- traveling to Iraq while we bombed them, and simply loving the people. The way Paul, and James, and all of the New Testament believers chose to follow- loving and honoring their enemies all the way to their deaths.

I think of China. I think of how the protesters are disrupting the torch’s march across the world for Tibet (by the way, why don’t they mention Darfur??) I saw a picture in the paper with a protestor shouting at a smiling Chinese woman’s face. Is THAT really the message you want to portray, dude?? Is THAT how you want fearful China to see you?

I want China to see something else. I want it to see people who are asking it, humbly, for peace in places like Darfur. Who is seeing signs that instead of saying “No Blood for Oil” say, “We Love You, China, But Please Help Darfur!”

It’s funny. The Romans never wanted to kill Jesus. Usually it’s the religious “devout” in one way or another, be it the Catholic church or Islaam extremists.

I’m starting to ramble now, but I think the time is now. The time for the new Ghandi, the new MLK Junior, the time for the Christian who wants to look like Jesus. Only I hope that this movement is not marked by a current human leader. But by a group of people so affected by grace and so in love with Jesus that they cry out for even their enemies and fulfill, truly, once and for all Jesus words, “They will know you by your love.” God, let it start with me!!!!

Southerners have NO idea!

Today I did my normal walk from Salvation Army street parking to Sopra Sotto. But today it was different.

Today, I wasn’t freezing. On the way back, I wasn’t in a hurry. At least, my body was still in the habit of being in a hurry, but I was able to slow it down and enjoy the walk!

On one street corner, while waiting for green walk sign I just lifted my head and closed my eyes and drank in the sunshine.

Southerners have no idea how that feels. To suffer through a lifetime of Minnesota winters, only to emerge in the sunshine yet again. In an odd sort of way, our own climate teaches us hope, and faith, and how to be content in all situations. And it teaches us a unique form of community victory. Something we are privileged to experience every year. A bond that ties us together in a way, sorry Southerners, you just can’t understand unless you’ve been through a few of these.

I’m still amazed at how being outside centers me spiritually, physically, and emotionally. It’s no wonder Jesus always identified himself with light.

Oh, My, What Friends I Have!

So, it’s my turn. My turn to tip my hat to the incredible network, no, not network, at last I can use the word community of friends I have and have been given.

I use the word community because network is way to formal, far too detached for the love I have started to feel in and for this group of people. We eat together. We pray together. We worship together. We dance together. We party together. We even minister together in a growing number of ways.

What makes it so special? Really, I DON’T KNOW!!! It just IS!!! I mean, ultimately, it is Jesus and our collective love for Him, but really, I think we all just are open to loving each other. Sure, we may at times have our own secondary motivations (that sometimes become prominent?), but ultimately, we really, I think, love each other, and are committed to truly trying to love each other and learn more about God love for, and will in, community. Yes. That’s it. As I’m writing I realize that is exactly it. We are committed to the idea that Jesus values relationships and community, and we are committed to trying to live that out. And hey, it’s FUN!!! 😀

This community keeps on growing. It started what seems like long ago with just a few people who read or were reading the book “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne. Before long, people reading this book started meeting each other- sometimes randomly at coffee shops (thanks Dunn Bros.!), sometimes at church young adult groups, but always with the same zeal for the “real life Christian” life that Shane seemed to embody.

Before long, this community started bringing in lots of other people, all of whom offered something unique, many of whom may or may not have read the book, but all of whom were incredible in their own way. I honestly don’t know how this is happening, but in our efforts to be intentional in our relationships, I am finding more of God then I ever have in possibly any group of friends I have ever had. I am opening my heart to people I never thought I would, and quicker than I ever thought I would. I guess maybe that is what God intended, eh? People I may have first looked at and thought “oh boy, here we go” have quickly become some of my favorite friends and some of the most intriguing people I know. This has happened to me in the past on occasion, but never so quickly and with such a growing number of people.

And so our little group is growing. Into a community of believers from different churches, who all really just want Jesus. A community that recognizes we have our own faults. And also recognizes that we all have our own gifts. And that celebrates, oddly, both of those facts. Is that frickin’ awesome, or WHAT!!! 😀 That’s the REAL church, ladies and gentlemen!

We have farther to go. I hear the girls cry frequently when they get together. I have yet to cry in front of a guy or a girl in our community, but I pray for, and look forward to the day it happens.

We are not yet close enough that we will correct each other when we feel another person may need guidance. Or even ask the questions that may be on our heart because we care about another person and their relationship with God. But we’re getting there! And in our culture, even that fact deserves a big “Hooray!” There will be a day, praise God, soon where every girl who I know well and every guy to whom I am accountable will approach me when they think I may be in the wrong. And they will do it not out of anger, not out of envy, or jealousy, but they will do it out of love. Won’t that be amazing! Be GONE, American culture! Enter, passionate Godly love for another human being!

There will be a day when we are totally free, and able to completely be ourselves in the midst of worship- just like Tiffany was the other night reading a poem at a particularly great night of prayer and fellowship. There will be men marching around and praying like holy warriors, proclaiming victory. There will be women so burdened for people’s hearts, they cannot help but cry in front of everyone. And the opposite will be true for both genders as well. Man, when that day comes, we KNOW we’re close to God’s heart!

And, when we are finally free. When we are FINALLY free, here on THIS earth, who knows what it will look like??? Maybe the devil will persecute us like we’ve never seen. I wouldn’t doubt it. The devil hates freedom. He persecutes it like nothing else. But the point is, we will not be ignorant, and nor will we care. We will stand up, and say to that old satan, “Stand behind me, satan!” And we will continue on, not motivated by ego, or pride, or anything else- but LOVE.

And when we are given the choice, to either die and love, or live and continue the status quo, we will chose to die and love. God, help us to love!

I can’t wait for the day when I truly love people!!! It may cost me everything. It may cost me even my life, but I just plain can’t WAIT!!!

It’s about Jesus. He sets us free. He show us WHO we are.

Happy.

There are some people in life that you just don’t want to lose their friendships. I have been healed from my choices of last year, and decided to contact Jessi. She graciously called me back and we were able to reconnect. I have been more blessed by her today than you can imagine. It is just good to hear that she is doing good, and that God is working in her life. I may not even see her again, I don’t know, but at least I’m connected with her in some way.

Jessi, thank you for your courage, and your incredible friendship with me over the years. We both know it has been unique, and I am thrilled that it was not forever stuck on my shelf of fear and consequences. You will ROCK this life! 😀

In other news, it’s nice outside. I want to go camping. We’ll see if I can make it out tonight or not!

God bless you all!
Justin.

Jamaica!

WOW! Lord! Wow.
That’s all I can say!

Few trips have left me with such a strong overwhelming sense of beauty and of finding something new in myself.

Thank you, Parul!