Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Post that Applies to You 1/365 Days of the Year

I am 20 years old today, in the... Gregorian, Julian, Persian, Indian Civil and Hebrew Calendars. I'm 21 in the Islamic calendar.... I've seen 247 full moons, and 7,305 days.

It took me a long while to become at peace with my birthday being so close to Christmas - simply being near to this holiday means I miss out on the simple joy of a birthday party of any regular scheduling. I celebrated my seventeenth birthday party along with the prior three years' (which I had forgotten to celebrate) in June two years ago.

It is very much a difficult thing to talk about, because the humility culture I was raised in told me not to complain about my birthday being shafted by the birth of our Lord and Savior. Thus I kept silent about many of my misgivings, and I can attribute a great deal of my cynicism to the fact that, since my birthdays were always lesser affairs, I was quickly disillusioned to the thought of celebration. Or, perhaps the correct phrase is “I was quickly turned off...” no matter.

Thus, my birthday's always been spent being the most corporately awake with the rest of my family on any given day, with no party, while other people have parties and revelries on their own days. Thus, as an outsider looking in on these celebrations, I must make a quite apt observation of the moment.

Observe the average person celebrating their own birthday. It seems that they are celebrating themselves, but in reality many of my friends are celebrating the fact that God gave them breath and charged them with the task of spreading the Gospel. But, as with practically any good thing God intends, we (and by “we”, I intend to accuse the average celebrant; if you feel this does not apply to you, then by all means drop this accusation from your offense) quickly make it more garish, lavish, and selfish. No longer is God in the picture, but simply.... “me”.

I will change my scope to another target, to avoid playing the “selfish world” fiddle again, as its strings are so overplayed as to make its melody cliché. My birthday this year will be mostly spent with the fine people at Passion City Church. Serving alongside them as we park, guide and lead people to and in worship. I think this will be a quite fantastic day, precluding an equally fantastic year, friends.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Suffering, and the Video Game effect

Today a frustrating concept came to mind, considering the suffering and pain in this world – specifically, that wrought by one human upon another. The Boston Marathon bomber was found rather fast, and his demographic was sadly what I was expecting: nineteen, white. Several images flashed to mind, most of them of the way violence is portrayed in the media. Then I hit a roadblock; surely CNN and Fox news do not portray violence in a good light. Thus, I cut out a great portion of people from my search; most people's perusal of the media ends with the big news outlets. Let's say 25% of America only sees violence in a negative light – the elderly, executives, and more sensible of the population (of which I don't count myself part of).

I then further delineated the sources of “positive” violence – comic humor is often slapstick (though the sickening violence portrayed often is dulled by the artist's brush), video game action gets more and more graphic with every new generation of gaming, and practically every major television pundit has humor many would deem unwise to display on their network.

Another clarification was then needed; what separated me and the roughly 330 million Americans from the small amount of horrifying monsters we call murderers? All of the examples I brought up are engaged with by millions of people an hour. So, I further narrowed the reasons for this violence – certain media outlets are far more edgy than others – some I don't even know about. Now we're getting closer to a source of this.

I recalled back in 2009 a game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I didn't enjoy the series, so I didn't buy it. I hard stories of a certain, unrelated part of the game (fully passable, no achievements or glory for finishing it) which had you go through an airport murdering everyone. I saw a friend play it, and was pretty well mortified for the first thirty seconds. The scene begins with you and six of your allies walking into a pretty well-crowded checking area; twenty or so people were between you and the metal detectors, all in a jumbled mess, with no real order. As your weapons become visible, and for the instant before your allies open fire, the game silences everything, and everyone's face has a conglomeration of horror and confusion. Then the slugs start burying themselves in the first few people, piercing through into the next people behind them. As the screams erupt, I noticed a child falling to the ground with blood spurting into the air. The next minute and a half my friend walked through the airport, destroying hundreds of people. The music was intense, and your allies were hurrying you on, talking about a deadline to make.

I couldn't keep watching it. My friend kept playing, and I was horrified. I asked him how, and he responded, “it's just a game... this isn't real”. And it hit me: for 330 million people, it's just a game. Most of this world can separate the game from reality. But that game sold over 10 million copies. The way people share games, I’d say this game has been played by over seventy-five million people in America. I bite my nails in concern over the five or thirty people who cannot see the divide between game and reality – whose lives, effected solely by their willing isolation and indoctrination by a media unaware of its effect, find no divide in their only experience with the world (violence and immortality of the player) and the real world which the media mocks.

“But JHBlancs, you're being a parent. Video games don't make people violent, there are other factors! Leave video games alone, man.” (read: let me be comfortable in my denial.)

My friend, You are probably alright. I'd guess the demographic that reads my blog would be the demographic which would not commit an act of violence. I'm not even saying that video games are the only source of this condoning; it is in the jokes between people, in the humor over this world. Violence, when the catch is made that “nobody is harmed permanently”, is hilarious in this day and age. This generation finds a thrill in the escapism of the game and the humor. It is when the very few decide to enact that humor in real life that people back up, look at each other, and call him a monster.

And that is the crux of the matter. It is the small bit of monster in all of us, the once-in-a-blue-moon monstrous behavior that finds its way through the darker channels of the internet and media to these potential murderers. It is the cold shoulder we give to that one random person, and 99% of the time goes nowhere. But that 1% of the time, the rejection sticks with the person.

So where to go from here? A bomb seems to have set this country askew; a spray of bullets did the same thing last December. Through all of this, this world seems to be coming less stable; as if the violence perpetrated in our own lives sinks into the soil. Iran suffered a 7.8 magnitude earthquake; China just got hit with a 6.6 magnitude an hour ago. The vegetation recedes as deserts grow. The life of this planet seems to be choked out by the inevitability of climate and the stubborn advance of humanity.

In this darkness, oh could there shine a hero?

Yes. You. Me. We cannot change the Earth's attitude, though we can change the people's. We can show that a bullet will not change this world, nor will a bomb. An Earthquake will not shatter the soul, though it may break the bone and body. So how do we effect change?

In a word, grace. Do not let the evil push you to apathy. Do not let the hatred in this world bring you to nihilism. Stand firm against a wave of hate, meet rage with open arms and kindness. Find the broken, and show them a firm foundation. Be the change you want to see. You don't even have to be Christian, just be humane. Don't honk the horn when you're angry; don't ignore an angry face; do not leave debts unsettled; do not ignore a person going through hardships; do not be apathetic.

Just because we're broken does not mean that two or three people cannot operate together to become a force for good. With a God behind us, we can change the world. Or, if you wish to do this without one, then go with a group of friends and show kindness to strangers. Either way, the challenge of our generation is to shine kindness in a world of dark hatred. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Glory of God - I Am A Door Holder.

Hey guys, I don't commonly urge things upon people, as I usually don't involve myself with things that are both beneficial to the soul and universally enjoyed. Passion City's the difference. This night at 6:45, i was outside in the rain parking cars, and i had the most intimate moment with God that i've had in a while. While a particularly intense parking situation (bus was coming, cars were piling up, nobody was moving), God came to me, and filled me with joy.

The cold rain turned warm, and my happiness tripled as i began singing that good old song, I'll Fly Away. I had no rain jacket, and was wet to my skin. The cars went through, and we got in early. As i was a pneumonia magnet, i took off as many layers as i decently could and got my poetry book out, and cranked out a beautiful 5 lines of grace. I saw two of my friends that I haven't seen in a long while, and heard a beautiful message. The exit of the crowd was smoother, due in part to my having a rain jacket then. One the way back home, i listened to Tomlin's "Shepherd Boy" song all the way back, and after dropping him off, proceeded to praise God for the next half hour.

I'm not a hero of the faith,
I'm not as strong as i thought i was,
I'm just a shepher boy,
Singin' to a choir of burnin' lights...

Guys, my week is crowned by my being on the parking team, bringing God the glory rain or shine. Being a Door Holder has strengthened me in my walk with God, and I've grown to love him more and more every week i go. The amazing part is, the tougher my job is as a parking team member, the better - because that means more people are there. If you're not a Door Holder, Then let this be the one time I urge you to drop everything you do and become one. His glory shines through you, friends. It *shines*.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Preparation for Freedom Speeches (Jan 19th)

January 19, 2013

Awake, awake, awake my soul!
God, resurrect these bones,
From death, to life,
from You alone, awake my soul!

I'm going to go a little in-depth about what I’ve done so far; by no means is this all I’ve done. Today I’m doing nothing but homework, so I might as well work on this for an hour.

As soon as I realized I could use my voice, I typed up a fiery sermon, all on my own, using the information in my head. The caustic nature of the sermon was birthed from my deepest hatred of slavery, and I rejected the sermon (I put it up on Reddit and my blog, to general fanfare) due to its unsavory nature.

It was at this moment I realized (a week ago) that I needed other people's help. I thus went to my campus ministry (KSU-SPSU BCM) and asked their help. On the 14th, I got a wealth of information from my campus minister (Dave Stewart), and said that I would start Wednesday.

The 16th was the busiest day I've ever had on my own accord. Sure, I’ve had busier days because of other people's prerogatives, but this day had me going all across the campus getting information, and quickly categorizing the types of need per campus. I never have before made a checklist, let alone *completed* one.

Advertisement and reservation information: I need to know where and how I can put up advertisements. This means I need someone to talk to the campus student services center (at my school, it's called Student Life) to get the papers to allow this. Most reservation systems are online, and only take a faculty member to allow for it; others require only a student's signing up (SPSU's system is thankfully lenient). Advertisement policies generally get more strict as the campus size increases, as I have deduced from comparing SPSU's and KSU's policies.

Body of believers: I've only seen one college where Christian organizations get their own page (Reinhardt, I love you for the simplicity. Now, if your organization student leaders can get back to me, I can get the ball rolling). In most cases, you simply must connect to a larger body (a church, alma mater, and your own college ministry) to find a connection into a campus. Otherwise, you must go to the campus itself cold, as I did with Life University, and find the organizations yourself via said Student Services center. I have not yet found a campus without a Christian Organization; if none exists, feel free to create one, and let God order your steps in its managing.

The speech itself: I feel this is what I will be least prepared for, no matter how much work I put into the presentation. This is all on me, and thus I am most unsure.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Story from the Redditubes

I come with a praise today. A friend of mine on the /r/Christianity subreddit posted two days ago that he was going to kill himself with his rifle. Yesterday, he didn't say *anything*. Last night, i was awake all night with cold shivers, terrified of his fate, praying to God that he'd be saved from this mistake. 

This man's pastor called the man when his rifle was in his mouth, and instinctively knew something was wrong. He stayed on the phone the entire way till he knocked on the man's door. He was shown the love of God, and this morning he looked at my and my friends' declarations of prayer and consolation. He's now given his life entirely over to Christ, saying, "My life is no where near done, at least by my own hands."

God is alive and saving people, for His mysterious and glorious aims. I'm grateful for God's work in this man's life, and pray that He continues to save millions of people who's stories don't make it to the news as a body, but whose stories touch the hearts and lives of simple, depraved men such as myself.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


My friends, today I come with a brutal, cheerless introduction to my message. God has aligned my heart to the cause of freedom, and the spreading of this cause. Many of us went to Passion 2013, and were awakened to a very brutal, horrifying truth in this world. I was awakened last year, in Passion 2012, though I was so stunned I pushed it from memory, fearful of its truth. Many of you know already what I’m talking about, but don't know the severity of this issue. The disgusting truth I speak of is modern-day slavery. Let me throw up some statistics, though I’ll ask you not to think of them later.

27 million: a ballpark estimate, which I am convinced is higher. All over the world, these people are oppressed – silenced, their bodies becoming someone's profit, their hands becoming someone else's factory, working twelve-to-fourteen hours a day, with no breaks, every day with no respite in sight.

80% women – half of which are children – are oppressed in the sex trafficking of this world.

$32 Billion – that's the number of a black market whose revenue is greater than Google's.

But these statistics don't really effect you. Numbers can be ignored. There are stories, though; several people have been rescued, their voices raising to call out other instances of this horror. I'm sorry, but this is the only way to really vocalize this:

Children are being raped. Little girls, fifty percent of which are younger than any of you in this room, are being sold for sex. There were women who were saved recently from a brothel dungeon – a dark, damp clay basement, where they only left to be raped and thrown back in – these were thirty girls. There are entire families bonded by heredity, working in a brick factory, for their entire lives. A woman who went to France for work was sent over the border and told she would give sex to men for someone else's profit. For her entire life. Yes, this gets very, very disturbing.

I don't need a Bible verse to tell you and I that this is wrong: its very nature is disgusting, depraved and debasing of the very basic nature of humanity. But here's an imperative God gave to a man named Isaiah. In chapter 61 of this book, it is spoken: (speak)

Don't you see? It's not just freedom; these people who were enslaved will rise up, take control of their countries under God's banner, and rebuild. India, Nepal, the United States of America... that last on hit me hard – there're slaves in America? Indeed, friends. Atlanta is a hub of sex trafficking – an estimated 17 thousand people are trafficked through America annually, and only thirteen other American cities beat us out for the top hub. We may actually be higher on that list – the numbers aren't available on the web.

This is on our soil, this ain't an isolated thing over in India because India is a horrible place. In Kentucky, a month ago (change this to however long ago Dec 21 is), a man was arrested for enslaving three young girls. These girls had tattoos on their necks and left breasts, put on by himself, that has his name. They were ordered to call him “daddy”. The neck tattoo was placed here, and was meant to control the girls: tell them that no matter where they went, they would be his. On their backs was a full back tattoo depicting this man's twisted creed, binding these girls to servitude in him – as if his vile ink could make them his. This man was imprisoned with three life sentences, though I’d give him more.

So how do we respond? The cause of freedom is fivefold: Awake, Prevent, Rescue, and Restore.

On the awakening front, I’m standing before you. America is still quite quiet to this atrocity, and we've got a mission to awaken them. And America's the land of the free. Engage in Slavery Footprint, which will tell you how many slaves you have working for you, based on the products you wear, use, and eat. I have 34 slaves working for me. After that, it gives you many options for engaging in ending it, and awakening other people.
The Polaris Project has a slavery hotline, which right now, I’m going to ask every single one of you to pull out your phones and put this number in: 1-888-3737-888.

From that point comes prevention – that many organization are already doing: the A21 Campaign and Not For Sale in Thailand, Free the Slaves in Ghana, World Relief in Cambodia, Stella's Voice in Moldova. America, being the land of the free, can prevent without the need for organizations, but that slavery hotline will mean that I may have just saved you guys from slavery. Share this with your friends, and we can lay a mat of prevention, stopping slavery from taking root in an more victims.

Onto Rescue: International Justice Mission is all over the world bringing freedom to everyone. Thursday, January 3, 2013, 61 people were freed in India. Other organizations that do the same are Tiny hands International, Bombay Teen Challenge, Out of Darkness, and Free the Slaves.

Recovery's another issue, and one that I can help you help immediately. There's a petition online to pass a Safe Harbor law in Georgia, allowing for girls who are arrested in brothel raids in Georgia to be sent to recovery centers, rather than the juvenile detention centers they would go to. Right now, minors and women in brothels in Georgia are simply criminals, not given a voice. They are tried and incarcerated. This law would allow for leniency: if slavery is implied in the crime, the women will be given recovery. In America, this means Wellspring Living's houses, where women can readjust to the world free from slavery. Warm Blankets Orphan Care, Ratanak Care, She is Safe, Love146, Hagar International, 10/40 Connections, and the A21 Campaign all offer the same protection.

I can go on for hours about each of these campaigns; these are only nineteen of hundreds. They all need your funding. But all of these campaigns have stressed awareness over funding, for they know that it's more important that we know. As Gary Haugen said, “Awareness is action”

But I have one more step in the Cause of Freedom. Prayer. We can't do this without God. Judah Smith made a comment at Passion 2013, talking about shark week. One show featured the behavior of sharks: they tossed out rubber seal mimics into the sea, several clustered together, the other all alone. And they waited. After a long while, a great white came clean out of the water with the lone seal mimic in its mouth. I can't do this alone, which is why I’m here. I'm asking for your help. More importantly, I’m asking for God's help. Together, we are a force for good. Let's pray.

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