Heard at Café: 10/28/14

How do you treat yourself? What is love? Why do you treat yourself well? Poorly? Do you love yourself? Is that important? In this book of the Bible called Matthew, there's this thing Christians are told to do. It's pretty famous. Most people have heard of it. Here's the story: some people asked Jesus, essentially, what are we supposed to do in life--what's the most important thing we are supposed to do if we consider ourselves followers of you? Easy question, right? He says you should love God and love others as yourself. Interesting. People usually take that excerpt and turn it into two things: loving God and loving people. But what about that part that says as yourself? My question is when did Christians start leaving that out? Have you started leaving that out? Think about it, if you loved people like you love yourself at times, how would other people feel? Probably not good. In a world of terrible grades, comparison around every corner, and negative self-talk, I think it's more important than ever to remember we have been told to love ourselves. and love ourselves well. Its so crucial. Why do we need to love ourselves? I think it helps us receive love better. I think it helps us give love selflessly, not expecting anything in return. Whether you get behind this Jesus guy or not, I think we can all agree those are good things to strive for. For you Jesus following people out there, I think another reason to love ourselves is because God loved us first. He loved us first while we were still laying in dirt surrounded by all of the things we messed up, and the hurt we caused ourselves and others. Jesus took on all of the things we messed up, all of the hurt, and gave himself up--died for us. He did this so that he could make the impossible possible; he made a way for things to be right again--the way God intended them to be. He covered all of the things you've ever done, all of the things you are and ever were ashamed of, all of it. It's all so far gone. That's how much he loved us. And that made a way for us to love ourselves and to love others in ways that seem impossible. Listen guys, its possible. Let's embrace that. Let's accept what God has done for us and start loving ourselves. You don't have to be perfect. You don't have to have other people to make you whole. You don't have to be ashamed. It's not easy. It's hard. And it's probably messy, like most things in life are. But let's together start this journey. And start with the negative thoughts. Try these instead: you are beautiful. You are lovely. You are whole. You are so lovable. It's possible to believe these things. They are so true.

"You are told to love your neighbour as yourself. How do you love yourself? When I look into my own mind, I find that I do not love myself by thinking myself a dear old chap or having affectionate feelings... I might detest something which I have done. Nevertheless, I do not cease to love myself... You dislike what you have done, but you don't cease to love yourself... Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained." -CS Lewis

Heard at Café: 10/7/14

Enemy. That's a word we don't use very often, right? Who are your enemies? It's hard to think about. How about this: who's mistreated you, asked too much of you, hurt you, insulted you? Does that make it easier to think of some specific people? I think that for most of us, it certainly does. These people may be perfectly nice people, not bad people, but they did something maybe even once that changed that.* They broke our trust; they left us out. Somehow, you are faced with this person, and there is conflict. What do we do with that? Biological we have this fight or flight reaction. Which one do you lean towards? Does conflict always escalate to some sort of confrontation? Or is it something you avoid at all costs? Last night, we talked about the idea that maybe there is some middle ground, some other way. A way to look past our desire to settle the score. A way to take the focus off of ourselves and what we think is best, or right, or fair, or just. A way besides giving people what we think they deserve. We talked about the idea of living out grace. If grace is this concept that God hasn't given us what we deserve. What if we turn that around, and rather than fighting or flight-ing, we decide to cancel the debts, to not give people what we think they deserve, or what they maybe do deserve? What if we let the cycle of hurt be broken? What if we don't get caught in the pay back? What if we act out grace? And not just to the people who are easy to love, the ones who love us well. But to the ones that are harder to love to. Because then we can be different kinds of people. We won't just love the ones who love us--that's what everyone does. Let's try to do something hard. Something different. And for those of us who gel with this idea of Jesus, maybe that's a better representation of what he's about? Maybe it's a better representation of him than what's out there. Maybe that's what Georgia Tech, Atlanta, the world, needs.

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. -Gilbert Keith Chesterton

*We are not trying to say at all that you should re-connect or allow yourself to be a victim of someone who has hurt you, abused you, physically, mentally, emotionally. Those situations are not okay or acceptable ways to treat people, and we would never want you to insert yourself in an unsafe situation.

Heard at Café: 9/30/14

What are your identifiers? Georgia Tech Student? Male? Female? Straight-A student? Straight-C student? Tomboy? Artsy? Dancer? Athlete? Atheist? Christian? Fraternity Guy? Sorority Girls? Skeptic? Dog Lover? Engineer? Scientist? Roller-blader? The list could go on and on. This week at Cafe we talked about our identities and what we find them in. Where do you should find your identity? What if that thing changes? Let's say you want to be a doctor, but you don't to get into med school? Is that bad or is that just time to find something else? What if you are dating someone, if you identify yourself as a girlfriend/boyfriend, and your significant other breaks up with you? What happens then? It's hard, isn't it? Let's say we want to find something more stable, something that won't change, something constant. We talked about the idea of finding our identities in how God identifies us. Does that concept make sense? Is it easy? Is it that something you do easily or is that confusing and hard? Let's say we do identify ourselves how God sees us, as people he loves, even his children. How does that affect what we do? Should we do whatever we please or does what we do somehow relate to our identity? We talked about the idea that what we do flows out of who we are. If we are God's children, and identify ourselves as such, maybe what we choose to do could be the things he cares about. In a book in the Bible called Matthew, he makes it pretty clear that he wants us to love him and love others. Is it that simple? Maybe so. Maybe its something worth thinking about.

“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, "Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody." ... [My dark side says,] I am no good... I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the "Beloved." Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.” -Henri J.M. Nouwen

Heard at Café: 9/23/14

Think of a time when you've gotten what you deserved? Did you like it or not? What if you were given the choice to only get what you deserve or to get nothing that you deserved? What would you choose? What kind of world do you think we live in, the first or the latter? How do you view the world: that people get the things they deserve or no? What about yourself? This week at Cafe we looked again at the book from the bible--John--chapter 9. It talks about this guy who was born blind. The people who were following Jesus around ask Jesus why this guy is blind. They ask, is it something he did or something his parents did? These people viewed the world through a 'you-get-only-what-you-deserve' world, a world of karma. Jesus says, well, none of the above. He says that's not important; he's says the important thing is God gets to show up and work with that. What's important is that we don't get what we deserve, that God wants to give us so much more. He and we call it grace. So often we want the 'why' of the situations around us, and its like God is saying to us that's not what's important. It's not why your mom has cancer, or why you struggle with anxiety, or why you don't like yourself, but rather that God can use those situations to display the most powerful force in the world: grace. God is saying there's this thing that is good, and you get it regardless: grace. He tells the people following him around to let go of this karma idea, and grab hold of grace--because it is good. Let go of low self-esteem, insecurity, guilt, shame, maybe these things we feel like we deserve; instead, grab freedom. There's hope for better, to not be defined by those things, because of this other thing: grace.

“…It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the Universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma…You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics – in physical laws – every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “As you reap, so will you sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff...I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep [crap]. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my [crap] and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.” -Bono

Heard at Café: 9/16/14

Trust. That's a heavy word. When we start out in this thing we lovingly refer to as life, we trust so easily, don't we? (Most) little kids will trust anyone. They believe everyone wants the best for them. Why don't we? Are we so jaded that we feel that's not a negative way to be; do we feel like no one should be trusted? That being closed off is the smartest way to live. What happens along the way to make us feel like the people around us aren't worth trusting? We've been broken; we've been burned by people. Who do we really trust, if anyone? What about God? Do you trust him? Do you think he's worth trusting? Do you think he even exists? At Cafe, 'tag line' we go back to talks about connecting life and faith. But when we talk about having faith in God, or faith in anyone, what does that look like? Does that relate to trust or belief? This week we talked about a story from a book in the Bible called John. It's about a man who was born blind, and he trusted Jesus to heal him. He didn't know Jesus before, but here's what Jesus did. He spit in the dirt, made some mud, and put it on the blind man's eyes. Then he told him to go wash it off. And the guy was healed. He didn't believe anything about Jesus until later in the story, but he choose to trust this guy who promised him sight. He took the baby step, if you will, to go and wash. Maybe that what God wants from us, for us to be involved with him. To go take the baby steps. To choose to trust. Even when we don't believe. Maybe that's what faith is: choosing to trust. Maybe he doesn't want solid belief, but he wants us to trust him above everything else. What do you trust in more than God? Anything? Everything? Money? Intellect? Logic? Do we trust that God might be bigger than our disbelief, questions, doubts? Could faith be so much bigger than all of that? And if you can choose to trust amidst disbelief and confusion and doubt, maybe that means you can choose faith amidst those things, too.

"Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation." -D. Elton Trueblood

Heard at Café: 9/9/14

Yesterday at Cafe, we talked about this idea of home. Hold on, wait a second, don't move on just yet. Home can have a lot of different meanings for a lot of different people, and a lot of the time it doesn't look how we want it to. It's okay; we can all relate to that. If you will, take a second to think about what you consider home to be. What is home for you? Where is home? Who is home? What do you want to be different about your home ten years down the road than the one you grew up in? We're not talking about the color of the bathroom tiles or marble countertops or even bay windows. We're talking about a home. Maya Angelou describes it like this: "... a safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned." We're talking about relationships, people, family. What causes you to feel like you don't have a home? We live in a world of broken families and broken relationships. What is missing from the relationships you have that make them not feel like a safe place? What makes you not feel secure? What makes you feel 'homeless'? To you, is Jesus or God someone who makes you feel at home? Does that make any sense to you or is that a totally foreign concept? We talked yesterday about how Jesus is inviting us to be part of his family, that he offers a place where we can go and always belong. Jesus offers us what so many of us lack--a mended family that feels safe. But how do we do that? How do we be a part of that? Maybe it's just having an inclusive attitude. We've all felt the sting of exclusion. Let's let that motivate us to not be that for other people. What are other ways we can be a part of this God sized family? This week, and even this semester, let's think on that.

“Everybody has a home team: It’s the people you call when you get a flat tire or when something terrible happens. It’s the people who, near or far, know everything that’s wrong with you and love you anyways. These are the ones who tell you their secrets, who get themselves a glass of water without asking when they’re at your house. These are the people who cry when you cry. These are your people, your middle-of-the-night, no-matter-what people.” -Shauna Niequist

Heard at Café: 9/2/14

Yesterday at Cafe, we talked about 'the means'. What do I mean by that exactly? I mean how you accomplish a task. Do you talk to long road, or do you take the quickest route? We talked about whether we think it's about the journey or about the end goal. At one point the question was posed, if Georgia Tech told you they would hand you your degree now, no strings attached, no more class, no homework... would you take it? In a world of instant everything, it might seem hard to pass up. Do you think there's any advantage to that? Disadvantage? We also talked a bit about Jesus and what he thought about all of this. This one time, Jesus was out in the desert being tempted--being tempted to take the shortcut, the quick way out of his purpose here on earth. But he didn't take it. He took the long road, that led to the cross. We think maybe he took the long road for a reason, because for him it was about something more that finishing the drill. We think maybe he took the long road because he was thinking about you and me, and everybody else. So that's something to ponder this week. What're your opinions on that? Do you agree, disagree, or does that not make any sense? What do you think it looks like to take the long road as a student of Georgia Tech? Is there any beauty in the journey. Just something to think about.

"I've learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while climbing it." -Andy Rooney