To Go To Nicaragua

Kids Playing in Nicaragua
Kids Playing in Nicaragua

God, please send someone else. This is what Moses said to God in Exodus 4:13 when he was asked to lead the people out of Egypt into another land. When I was first approached about Nicaragua back in January 2016 my reaction was similar, and I quickly came up with more excuses in my mind than I knew I could think of at the time. I’d been to Uganda a few times, and that’s where my heart was, I reasoned. But God has a way of being patient with us, and I was asked again in June to join a trip in July. There was less time to think about it, less time to find a way out, so I relented and joined the team going in July.

My purpose on this particular trip was to capture the photography and video needed to explain the ministry partnership in Nicaragua to our congregation, and to show a little of what it would be like to leave the comfort zone of home and actually “go” to Nicaragua. This was not a “light-switch” moment in my mind; it was just the first step of saying “ok, I’ll go” even though my mind and body were telling me otherwise. My reluctance to go didn’t abate until I woke up on the first full day in Nicaragua. Then God reminded me once again about the diversity and beauty of His hand, which reaches to every nation and race on the planet.

I could list reason after reason why everyone who can physically go, should go. In reality though, God may not reveal to you the why until after you say, “ok, I’ll go.” We live in a hyper-instantaneous world today. There is virtually nothing we have to wait for anymore. But God’s time is not our time, and investing in something or someone takes time, sometimes a long time, and the “why” isn’t always crystal-clear up front. Someone has to plant the seeds, and someone else has to water them. But ultimately God makes them grow. In Nicaragua, they have been planting a lot of seeds. In fact, it took more than 10 years of people planting seeds before the time was right for me to show up in July and attempt to tell the story. So when the myriad of “why” questions come to your mind about what difference can I make, how can God use me, remember that even Moses asked the same questions.

Our church is currently in a teaching series called “Ordinary People,” which takes a look at a host of ordinary people God used throughout scripture to do amazing work; work God had prepared for them before the foundation of the world. And God is still doing that today. Our culture would have us endlessly comparing ourselves to others, which only serves to deflate and diminish our effectiveness. God isn’t comparing us to each other, He is comparing us to Himself. We were each made in His own image, to do the unique work God has prepared for us in advance to do. He consistently chooses those ordinary people who take that first step and say, “ok, I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’ll go.”

M25 Mission Camp in Atlanta

There are several entries that have been sitting in my drafts for a while that I’ve trying to get posted, and this happens to be one of them. M25 Mission Camp is a youth missional organization in Atlanta that works with the homeless in a way I’ve rarely seen over the years. It wasn’t the first youth trip for me, but it was the first one in a while, and I was amazed with every aspect of the experience, mainly because it changed perceptions and perspectives on life and serving others well. This video we produced can explain it better than I can here. For now, there are some images that shows a little of the week we spent trying to love others well.

The Cornerstone M25 Team
The team on the last day as we prepare to head back to Auburn
Playing with the Kids in Atlanta
M25 Mission Camp in Atlanta serving the kids.
Overlooking an Atlanta Freeway
Walking across the freeway in serving the homeless in Atlanta under the freeway
Playing with Kids in Atlanta
M25 Mission Camp in Atlanta serving the kids.
Visiting Apartments in Atlanta
M25 Mission Camp in Atlanta serving the kids.
Preparing Meals in Atlanta
The Mission team making lunches in preparation to serve the homeless
Prayer Before Heading Out
Our group prays with Seven Bridges before they head out to serve the homeless
Serving Under the Bridges
Seven Bridges leads the group in how to serve the homeless well under the bridges
Playing Games at the Shelter
Our team joins the shelter in loving others through conversation and games

Senseless Act of Poetry

As the Newtown “anniversary” approaches I came back to this poem I wrote on the day of that tragedy. It seems our world is confronted with the realities of these shootings almost every day now. The likes of Newtown, Roseburg, or just this week the San Bernardino shootings, are all too frequent. For most part, there really isn’t any good or “proper” way to express thoughts or feelings about these events. Historically, in times of great joy or sadness this is poetry’s job, to express the inexpressible. That is what I love about poetry.

I’m not sure why I even picked the Newtown tragedy to write about three years ago. As far as I can tell, there have been ~85 school shootings since Newtown, and I have no connection to any one of them. No connection of course other than being a citizen of this country, disgusted at the face of evil, and at the time found no other expressive outlet other than poetry. At the time (September 2012) I had watched a live news broadcast showing a typical “car chase” in Los Angeles that ended in a visibly paranoid [perhaps mentally disturbed] man committing suicide, mistakenly broadcasted live over the air in real time. For some reason this incident was still fresh on my mind on December 14th. The face of evil has many disguises, but I think it probably feels the most horrible, the most evil, when it surfaces among our schools and children. Those lives we try to protect the most from situations in the world just such as Newtown.

The verse below has gone through some revisions over the last three years. Not many, but enough that the day it was written is still fresh on the mind, yet time has allowed for perspective. The name of the poem could have been Columbine, or Roseburg, or any number of names. The words seem to ring true to me no matter the title. Evil may have won on this day, but ultimately it’s time is fleeting. So, here are the words I penned that day.

tree-in-fog

Newtown

our wounds come at first breath
in the blood of a garden at rest
     toil cursed upon our commute
     commissioned to die in our youth
society held captive by the terror
     fame and fortune look at me
     skill not on merit my cowardice be
     i am the shooter set me free

All i Want For My Birthday is an Iron Bowl Win

Iron Bowl for the Kick 6
Iron Bowl for the Kick 6

All i want for my birthday is an #IronBowl win.
A reminder of a day that we can re-live again.

All i want for my birthday is an #IronBowl win.
A play, oh what an hour that once Gary gave spin.

All i want for my birthday is an #IronBowl win.
A “there goes Davis…” that one-second grin.

All i want for my birthday is an #IronBowl win.
A call… Rod, take us, that possible to do again?

All i want for my birthday is an #IronBowl win.
Oh my Lord in Heaven This’s but a game? Since when.

All i want for my birthday is an #IronBowl win.
A deafening roar, the muff that Tiger come alive within.

All i want for my birthday is an #IronBowl win.
A chance to make history that Spirit soars never dim.

All i want for my birthday is an #IronBowl win.
A future moment to revisit that glorious day back when…

All i want for my birthday is an #IronBowl win.
A mere man ran back pigskin that all who has ears to hear…

Auburn wins!

The photo was taken from our regular season-ticket seats we’ve sat in for 20 years, just after Davis ran back the 109 yards to score the game winning touchdown to send Auburn to the 2013 National Championship game. It was quite possibly the greatest game ever played in college football history.

Five Reasons The Behemoth is Art and Poetry in Theological Prose


The Behemoth MagazineThe Behemoth Magazine

The Behemoth Magazine

You may not understand The Behemoth’s orthodoxy because you are viewing art and poetry, not a theological exegesis or apologetic argument.

I have not been all that excited about any particular faith-based magazine publication in a long time. Even so, I do read many of the most popular ones in some form or another. I don’t read any of them in paper form anymore (yet, most companies still snail mail an issue out to me every month in a colossal waste of paper, but that’s another topic altogether). Most publications are pretty good. They range from hard hitting news around the world all the way to fluff on whether the church should use Twitter or listen to U2. Many of them have hard hitting journalistic and editorial articles, but they seldom conjure up thoughts like, “I just can’t wait until the next issue hits my iPad.” Never has one actually brought me to the point of wanting to write a review about the publication itself either, until now.

Enter The Behemoth. What actually drew me in to this publication was this article, Hitting a Major League Pitch, Looking at the physics, you’d have to say it can’t be done, not its namesake article based on the “Genesis giant.” My first thought was, “could it actually be that someone of faith pulled in the statistical grace and beauty of baseball as might be written by a Roger Angell, and the poetic dance of words as might be felt by a Mary Oliver, and then tied it, weaved it, knitted it into the story being lived out here on earth?” For the most part, yes, that is my overall opinion and review of The Behemoth and that was all it took for me.

So, from a reader’s perspective, what is it that makes The Behemoth a successful publication? Why do I look forward to each issue?

1. Typography

In our world distraction rules. I look and seek out those things that have gone the extra mile to create a clean, clutter-free, pleasing, distraction free experience. A brilliant use of “typography” is one that takes me deeper into the task at hand, not one that conforms to the rules of distraction. That’s what I love about the iAWriter app and even Apple’s native notes app. It’s why I’ve been writing on Medium since it was introduced, it’s what I love about reading on Instapaper, and it’s why Helvetica still conquers all. They all created an experience using intentional design through sophisticated simplicity ideas. In this case, when referring to typography I use the term in the general sense. That is to say, I refer not to a typeset they chose, but how the designers intentionally choose to interact with their consumer. The designers created The Behemoth with intention, and it shows. On the iPad, The Behemoth is periodical typography eye candy.

Highly important to me, The Behemoth is an all-digital publication (no paper-waste-clutter-junk). Each issue contains four articles, a web-gem-type piece, and each article is around 1,500 words or less, and some much less. Word length is very important today. At 1,500 words it’s a real sweet spot that allows a reader to find enough depth to sink in and become briefly lost among the words, but short enough for our small attention spans and brief periods of uninterruptedness. Once you are in and among the 1,500 words, there are minimal headings, no clutter, no flashing boxes, no bolded outtakes, no bullet-pointed tidbits, nothing distracts you from the words themselves. The typography has allowed the story to take over the words.

2. Curation

One of the specifics I noticed early on is how carefully the editors choose each article, and how each article plays on the other. In short, they removed all the noise and choose with intention. The articles for the most part are a mix of high tech and tradition making for many timeless pieces. These can be read years from now and still remain readable not dated. With only four articles to work with each issue they must go through a crazy culling process of possible articles that fit the mission and vision stated for The Behemoth (summed up as Plumbing the depths of God’s mysterious creation and beauty). The articles included often come from an excerpt of a larger work. At first as you read you may think, “all they did was just copy a piece of this book and stick it in here,” but the result has been like reading a carefully chosen anthology of the best of the best of the unknown. In a day where content is still king, curation of content must be its’ master.

3. Wonder

We reside in the age of information and usually think every single thing about every single topic should be a known. It is pretty amazing how the more we know, the more we realize how little we know about how much we actually do know. Scripture is still filled with this awesome wonder. There are great mysteries packed deep into scripture and The Behemoth chooses to display those mysteries to its readers while remaining comfortable with those mysteries, and then allowing them remaining mysterious. After all, we do not have the mind of God, and we should be able to celebrate those mysteries, not always having to explain them away or theorize about them endlessly. Some things God has hidden from view, and without compromising an orthodox view, we can look at those mysteries with the awe they deserve.

4. Theology

This is where it gets possibly muddy-ish, at least as far as an “Answers-theology” is concerned (see footnote [1] below). Answers in Genesis is a theological site dedicated to apologetics, and a defense of faith. I love apologetics, it was one of my favorite areas of study in my masters work. But as far as I can tell, apologetics is not the main theological focus The Behemoth aspires to achieve, and that’s fine. Not everyone is gifted in apologetics and/or theology. Yet make no mistake, The Behemoth is packed full of rich, deep theological issues. They often view these theological issues from a 35,000 foot level (or even a 135,000 foot level). At that distance, theology can become filled with the beauty of God’s creation in painted colors and glorious views, instead of drilled down to a divisive pinhole debate. I have come to appreciate this stance more and more. In a world of endless criticism and debate you can’t always show the sheer beauty found in sound theology from the micro level. The Behemoth often seems to try to fly high above the fray.

5. Art and Poetry

The previous four points have now crafted this last point into being. To this reader, the greatest contribution The Behemoth makes to the body of work out today is the art and poetry it has crafted into being. Its as if they are curating a series of watercolors with four new pieces being released every other week. This is why if you look at The Behemoth as a theological treaty you will miss the point. It wasn’t until the eighth issue that I realized what gave this publication the intangible beauty missing in so many things today. When I read Hurrahing in Harvest by English poet Gerald Manley Hopkins the artistic beauty bled through the canvas.

When you combine beautifully designed, well curated, theological artistry that points beyond itself to the greatest wonder of all, our Creator, you get something really special. Kudos to The Behemoth staff for coming up with this unique perspective, this artistic expression in words. It brings the reader to a still meditative reflection proclaiming the enormity of God. It really isn’t the words or the editors or the writers or the platform, it is of course that they point us back to beautiful words like these:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Reading is truly a privilege, and I’m thrilled The Behemoth has made it such a pleasure to read with each new issue. Let’s keep moving forward. I’ll keep reading and keep telling all my friends to go read as well.

— — —

[1] Please indulge me with a few footnote qualifiers to this article below.

First, I purposely let time test out this publication for a bit. The first issue of The Behemoth was first published July 24, and now having published their eighth issue time has allowed my ideas to be more formally identified. Anyway, who can really judge a periodical by just one issue, regardless of the baggage one might theoretically think is being brought to the party.

Second, to be transparent, this review is partially a counter-review to the Answers’ article written back in September fresh off the first article in the first issue. While I love Answers own publication, and Answers in Genesis as a whole, I think they missed the mark as far as understanding The Behemoth. I wanted to offer up a different point of view.

Third, this review is not intended to be read as an apologetic defense of all theological issues presented here. It was written to parallel the publication itself. Are there things they could improve? Of course, but that wasn’t really the point either. (For one I would love to see an iPhone 6 Plus version released on Newsstand.)

Fourth, this review is penned without any prior discussion or compensation with any party at the time of this writing. The words here are my own, the opinions stated can be attributed to my own rationale.

Now, if you still have comments or questions, by all means, let’em fly, I’d love to hear your opinions as well. .SF.