Category Archives: Perspective

Ticket

The kingdom of heaven is like Chuck E Cheeses.

For anyone who may not have ever been to a Chuck E Cheeses, it is basically a place parents take their children to play in ball pits, various tubes, and slides.  There is pizza and a cast of animatronic characters.  It also features an arcade with a variety of skilled and video games.

When I was young, it was a common staple of birthday parties to get to go to Chuck E Cheeses.  (Henceforth abbreviated as CEC since it’s ridiculous to type.)  At the time, it was a blast.  I’m sure if the day comes that I have kids of my own, I’ll be over it by then, but most of my memories of the place are fond ones.

I’m forgetting something though…

The tickets.

You see, there was a prize counter, and if you played the right games you would earn tickets at the end of the game.  You would collect the tickets and turn them in for prizes just before you went home.  Each prize cost a certain number of tickets and it was often my goal to earn enough for a Nintendo or a bike or one of the cooler, bigger prizes.  The problem is that the amount of tickets you earned was directly related to how well you played the games.  A perfect performance would gain you far more tickets than the performances I was able to turn in.  So while I wanted the Nintendo that was 1000 tickets,  I was usually able to scrap up about 72 by the time we left for the day.  Enough to get me some sort of fake gold ring, and maybe some candy or some other equally worthless trinket.

It seemed like no matter how hard I fought to win tickets…I couldn’t earn enough to get what I really wanted.

No matter how hard I try to be good enough, I’ll never earn my way into heaven.

An imperfect performance in the games meant I wouldn’t get what I wanted.  An imperfect performance in life has separated me from the life I could have lived, and the future I could have had.  A game is a game, but this life thing…it’s serious.  This ‘sin’ thing is serious.

Sin isn’t messing up in a game of skiball, but any time I’ve disobeyed or deliberately hurt someone, that was an act of rebellion, an act of sin.  I’ve been found in rebellion against God and his commands in my life more times than I can count, and the end result is that I will not earn my way into heaven.

That’s why Jesus stepped in.

Imagine a father taking on the games in our place.  Earning the tickets we could never possibly earn.  Imagine this battle to win tickets costing him everything.  (Probably not too hard to imagine if you’ve ever been to CEC)  The father finishes the game victorious and walks up to you to hand you all the tickets you’ll need to redeem for the desire of your heart.  He hands you so many tickets they have to bring you a bag to keep them all in.

Imagine a father, sending his son to fight the battle for perfection on our behalf.  Earning the reward we never could, never will.  Imagine the son giving everything to earn this perfection for you.  The son, hanging on a cross, bleeding and beaten, hands you a white robe and tells you you’ve been made clean as he breathes his last and closes his eyes.

Now imagine you take that bag of tickets and go home, hiding them in your closet.  You leave them there until it’s too late to redeem them, and they are thrown out into the garbage.

You see, you didn’t redeem the tickets.  They’ve done you no good.  Having the tickets is one thing, but you can turn them in for something far better.

Jesus has bought your forgiveness, but will you redeem it?  Will you accept the new life that he is offering you, that he fought for and bought with his very own life?

Turn your tickets in.

Be redeemed.

Observed

I stumble around Youtube from time to time, and occasionally something really captures my attention.  I was wandering about Youtube yesterday in fact, and found a compilation video of a theoretical physicist named Michio Kaku.  To summarize and simplify the first few minutes of the video, Michio shares that everything in the universe is like Schrodinger’s famous cat problem.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, Schrodinger posits that if a cat is placed in a box and unobservable, it must be both dead and alive simultaneously.  It is only when the box is opened and the cat is observed that it becomes either dead or alive.

Schrodinger’s cat is known for seeming to be illogical but theoretical physics has found that it is a viable interpretation of how our world is working at the atomic level.  MIchio takes this concept a step further and talks about how nothing in the universe can even exist if it hasn’t been observed.  He states that the observation of something is essential to it’s creation.

Creation.  Perhaps the biggest argument of science and faith.  How were we created?

Genesis 1:4  And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 

God saw the light that he created.  God observed the difference between light and darkness and then continued creating, seeing that each new thing was good.  God “sees” 7 different times in the first chapter of Genesis.  In the beginning, God created, God saw.  He observed that which he had made, and called it good.

Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

God saw me when I was unformed, when he brought me forth into this world.  He saw me then, and he sees me now.  I am seen, and I am known.

Perhaps one day we will see that science itself points to our creator, and perhaps in that day we will no longer only know in part, but instead see the entirety of the truth that God has created for us.

Empty

We are always trying to live full lives.  Everyone is fighting to fill their wallet, to fill their stomachs, to fill their homes.  Everyone I know tries to fill their time with as much as they possibly can, racing from one activity to another, making sure to squeeze in as many episodes of their favorite TV show, or spend just one more hour at work.  Many people like to fill their life with experiences or new adventures.  Everyone wants everything to be full.  FULL.  FULL.

I must admit that I am constantly pursuing a state of fullness as well.  I want to have a full relationship, filled with adventures and excitement.  I want to be full of feelings, until they are gushing out from my lips because I can’t possibly hold them in.  I want to have access to whatever I need to fully fill myself.  So I fill my days with work so I can buy new toys, I fill my time off with social media so I can feel loved.  I fill my quiet moments with news so I can be well informed.  I fill my stomach with food so I can feel safe from famine.

I’m always trying to fill myself up.

TheQuarry

The Fort Wayne Quarry on Ardmore. Canon 5dMKIII and Rokinon 14mm. Copyright Joshua Stairhime 2017

There is a concept in art known as negative space.  Negative space is space that is not filled by the subject of the art, but is essentially the nothing that something exists in.  Good graphic design demands that you pay attention to the negative space.  If your artwork is full of stuff, then the whole purpose of your creation can be lost in the extra fluff surrounding it.   Your work goes from something like the Mona Lisa to a  “Where’s Waldo”.  Creating something without negative space makes it hard to really appreciate the beauty of what you are creating.   It makes it hard for others to appreciate what you are creating as well.
One day I was shown the quarry down the road from where I work, and ever since then I keep going back to it.  A quarry doesn’t sound that interesting, it is a place where people dig up rocks and sand.  Instead of filling up, a quarry is a place where people work to empty something.  As the quarry is dug deeper, more and more of the quarry is removed, but at the same time, more and more of the quarry is revealed.  I’ve not yet been to the Grand Canyon, but I know that you don’t go there to see the things that fill it up, but rather how empty it is.  Yes, there are boundaries, but without those boundaries you couldn’t know how empty it is, and you couldn’t be moved by how incredibly large it is.  When something is emptied out, a beauty that can not be taken away remains.

AnightwithStars

A secret location in northwestern Ohio. Canon 5dMKIII and Rokinon 14mm. Copyright Joshua Stairhime 2017

God is a master of using negative space.  He created the sky, something inconceivably large, but something that seems so incredibly empty.  Or at least it seems empty as we run about trying to fill our lives with something.  It isn’t until you stop to appreciate how empty the night sky is, that you start to see the beauty it contains.  It isn’t until you turn off the lights, and slow down that you can see the stars poking through the inky blackness you’re surrounded by.  We couldn’t see the beauty of the stars if they were jammed in tightly next to each other.  It is in the negative space of the sky, that those little pinpricks of light can shine out from and make us feel so small.
I’m hoping to start accepting that emptiness isn’t the curse we’ve made it out to be.  It is, after all, a still small voice that speaks after the wind, after the earthquake, after the fire, that is the only voice that can truly fill us.  After Elijah had confronted the prophets of Bail, after he had won the Superbowl of spiritual confrontations, he had to go somewhere to be emptied out.  He couldn’t handle being full.  He needed a rest, so he hid himself away from the world, and it is in those moments that God spoke to him.  He found peace in those moments.  He found himself in those moments.

So maybe it is time for you to stop trying so hard to be full, and to instead allow yourself to be empty.

Make room for something bigger.

Make room for the breath of God to fill you.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

To be hungry, you must be empty.

Be empty.





Snake Bite

I wasn’t supposed to be there.

I knew I should leave.  If the growing sickness in the pit of my stomach wasn’t an obvious enough indication of the danger I was facing, then I suppose my brain never had a chance as it begged me to stop, to turn around, to run the other way.

I didn’t.
Not only did I not turn around, but I moved closer to the danger.  I drew the danger closer to me.  They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but there is very little reason to hold a poisonous snake by the tail.  I wasn’t just holding the snake by the tail, I was putting it in my lap, expecting it not to bite.

I had been warned.

I didn’t listen.
Continue reading

Understanding (DOP #2 2016)

25 Days of Peace is back for another year of compelling posts from nearly 10 contributors.  This year you can check out the action on Facebook, or at 254peace.org!  I can’t wait to hear from some of my favorite voices as they wrestle with peace, and what it means in their life during this Christmas season.  As always, subscribe to get my latest posts delivered directly, and head over to the Facebook page to connect with the rest of the contributors.  


I’ve (very) recently started trying to learn Spanish.  I’ve been to a Spanish speaking country several times in my life, and I currently live in an area with a reasonable number of Spanish speakers, a coworker who can speak Spanish, and I’ve recently met someone who has inspired me to finally make an effort to learn.  I’ve learned just a few words over the past few years, mostly just enough to apologize, or ask to be excused.  I might be able to ask how old you are, and if you are less than 10 years old, I might even understand your answer!  (Thanks to Seasame Street!)

I’ve often marveled at the ability of others to speak another language.  As someone who struggles to communicate in English, to me it is a miracle to be able to communicate with people from another culture.  Even though I can’t speak Spanish, when a situation would arise requiring me to communicate with a Spanish speaker, I would just make gestures and repeat the English words until I made myself understood.  It is a crude method, fraught with frustration, but it is usually worth the effort in the end.

When I have to gesture and point my way to communication, it reminds me that we as people often don’t put in enough effort to really understand the people around us.  When you speak my language, I automatically assume that you use words in the same way that I do, that my thoughts must be your thoughts as well.  Obviously, this is not true, and misunderstandings happen regularly in my life from a lack of effort on the part of both parties to really communicate.

When I take the time and effort to try to communicate outside of my own language, I find there is a connection that happens when meaning is finally communicated from one person to another.  The struggle and confusion can absolutely be worth it.

So why do I want to learn to speak Spanish if I can usually make myself understood when necessary?

I want to fully understand.

As our nation becomes increasingly polarized along nationalistic lines, l want to be available to be a bridge between two cultures that are not at peace.  I want to use my ability to communicate in English to tell the stories of those around me who can’t make themselves understood by those who won’t put in the effort to listen.  When a whole people group is maligned, made out to be the enemy of our success as a nation, I know that unless people are willing to stand up on their behalf, there is a genocide of sorts, lurking around the corner.

In every culture here in the United States, you can find good and bad.  In the same way that not every immigrant comes here illegally, I understand that not every immigrant obeys the laws.  I hope to celebrate the good, and expose the bad.  Dividing rightly the truth of the matters at hand from the false and terrible rhetoric.

In the pursuit of peace, sometimes we all need a little help understanding.  I hope to one day learn enough to be the beginnings of that bridge of understanding.  No lasting peace has been found without dialogue between the parties at war.
No lasting peace has been found without reaching understanding.

Feliz Navidad!