Should I get a tattoo?

tatoo

Original Picture (C) 2014 pattharp.com

Tattoo’s have come a long way baby. They use to be something sailors got on long deployments overseas, or something a convict got in prison while doing time, but today they are mainstream.

Tattoo’s have been embraced  by our culture as expressions of art, faith, fantasy, life, music, pop culture, tributes, memories, and nature.  Younger people have them as well as older people. It has been said that behind every tattoo is a story. And for the most part it is a story you will carry for the rest of your life.

Once I was in a band and all the guys got our band logo tattooed on their arms. It was our band name, “Slingshot” with a bullseye behind it. ..everyone except me. I thought it was a dumb idea, because one day, we would break up and you would be left with this mark for the rest of your life. We broke up  within the year. Band names and relationships are bad tattoo themes.

Many of my friends and family members have been “inked.” (This picture is my youngest brothers arm and my arm. He actually has a tattoo of Nicholas cage, which reportedly “saved a girl” from suicide…true story.)

As a Christian, I see no Biblical prohibition against tattoo’s but we do have some guidelines. 1 Cor. 10:21, is one. “…whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” If a tattoo can be done for the glory of God, make it count bro!

Here is why I have not been inked yet…

  1. I don’t like needles and I don’t like paying for pain…(Ha!)
  2. Finding something you want to have marking your body for life seems like an agonizing process. ( Its not like choosing shirts, shoes, or lunch!)
  3. “If” I ever got a tattoo, because of my extreme personality, it would have to be a full-colored arm sleeve of “creation, the fall, Christ, the cross, redemption, and the reconciliation of all things” which would be so painful and so costly that I wince right now at the thought of it…(I’m a wimp.)

So…Enjoy your tattoo’s my friends, no judgement from me. May you glorify Christ with your ink and needles. If you got a dumb tattoo because you didn’t have enough money (had a friend who did that) or you had to much to drink, like Robin Williams in “Old Dogs,” I would advise removal or simply leave it as a testimony against impulse or idiocy.

I will watch and cheer you on with un-inked arms.

 

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The racism in me…

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 9.46.08 AM

Original Photo by Emzee Lynn

Once again, a tragic police shooting of a young black teen, Michael Brown, on August 9th, 2014 in Ferguson Missouri, has sparked national outrage, civil unrest, and the re-opening of our countries racial wounds often forgotten.

There has been much said in the media, which is often hard to discern the fact from fiction, but nonetheless there is much pain, angst, and rightfully so, a demand for answers and justice in this tragedy on both sides of the issue.

I have read many helpful blogs on how we as Christians, should give pause and consider this sad event. Collin Hansen from TGC has a great article and interview with two Pastors who live near this area and their perspective’s as a Church. John Piper, wrote a heartfelt article on a plea to pray for Ferguson. Finally, Pastor Bryan Loritts wrote passionately a piece entitled, “Its time to listen.”

As a white suburbanite, much of the tensions and struggles that our brothers and sisters of color have faced, and do face are things that “don’t touch us.” We don’t live in their world. I still am amazed when I think of the racial segregation that our country has historically struggled with even in the last 50 years. Here in Rochester, 4 years before I was born, we had riots and racial tensions between police and residents during a very hot month of July in 1964.

Personally, as a young boy I grew up in the 19th ward section of Rochester. It was the city; my neighbors were Yugoslavian who had their grandparents from the “old country” live with them, we had white neighbors, black neighbors, old neighbors, and Asian neighbors. Most of my childhood friends were black and we played ball together, went biking, got into trouble, laughed, went to the movies, went swimming, went to the park, fought, made up, and lived like normal kids do.

One time my friend, Chris Corbitt, who was black, invited me to his birthday party at his house. My younger brother and myself were the only white kids there; but he told me it would be better if we didn’t go roller skating because we might feel “uncomfortable” being the only “white kids” there. Maybe he was sincere, but that was my first encounter with personal prejudice, though trivial, I’ll never forget it.

Working in the city for over 20 years in low-income housing repair has shown me the despair, the poverty, the abuse, and the hardships of those trapped by choice, by circumstance, or by ignorance in a welfare state. I have also met godly, hard working, and the kindest of people in similar life situations because of their love for Jesus.

All of these life lessons and life perspectives have shaped me and my view of race and perspective..and yet..when a situation like Michael Brown or many other tragedies occur, I come face to face with an ugly reality…the racism I despise…the racism that is on display…the racial fingerprinting…and the racism that I detest, is found right within my own heart…

We all have found these feelings in our hearts, even if they aren’t verbalized. It can surface in many subtle ways on the inside of us. I remember once, not too long ago, standing at an auto shop counter with a large amount of cash in my hand, and as a black man approached the same counter I clutched it a little more tightly, “just in case he might try and take it.” (This man was actually a Pastor from a local church there to pick up his church van.) I allow racism to thrive when I am silent at the racial comments or innuendos made by others around me when they say “them” or “those people.”.When 99.9% of my friends and social circle are white suburbanites… why is that?

These triggers and tendencies show me that as “slight” as they may be, in comparison to these more tragic events, I am a sinner in need of great grace and a soul that needs Gospel truth to view these hard topics that confront us on a daily basis. As much as I must fight any other sin that grows or seeps into my heart, I must fight, as a Christian, the racism within me.

Some things to consider…

  • Racism is first, a heart issue…Mark 7:21-23 (It needs to personally be repented of)
  • Racism and prejudice are not just modern issues, they appeared in the Bible. Peter played the religious and racial hypocrite with the Gentile believers, and Paul rebuked him to his face…Gal. 2:11-16
  • Unequal treatment and favoritism were things the church needed to address between the wealthy and the poor members, and the free and the slaves…James 2:1-8
  • Silence  by the church on racial issues is a sin of omission which equally needs to be repented of.
  • Only the Spirt of Christ can break down racial walls, and the blood of Christ unite divided people.
  • We must be biblical, intentional, and honest about this topic. (This is not a government mandated “diversity” course..it is Biblical)

The bad news is that there are many wicked things that get exposed in my heart, including racism…the good news is that Jesus Christ paid for my sins on the cross by His all sufficient and atoning death and made me, a rebel by nature and by choice a son of the King. (Eph. 2:1-10)

As I have been forgiven by the blood of Christ I know I can now love my brothers and sisters bought by the same blood, regardless of their color, and I can love all of God’s image bearers, regardless of the state of their soul, and I can seek to be a minister of reconciliation that reflects Christ’s love, compassion, mercy, and eternal justice that only comes through the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus my Lord. (2 Cor. 5:18-21)

On my part, I am seeking to speak with my brothers and sisters of color to understand these issues and their concerns better…to listen more…to pray for hurting hearts…and to lift up the Name of Jesus who can, who will, and who has promised to ultimately triumph over this broken and fallen world shattered by sin, with His Kingdom of love and power which will one day ring our in anthemic and cosmic eternal choruses by all people redeemed by the blood of the Lamb…

“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
and has made us kings and priests to our God,
and we shall reign on the earth.”

Revelation 5:9-10

 

 

 

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8 Things I learned from vacation

vacation

Original Picture (C) 2014 pattharp.com

Monday is almost over and it is the day after being away from work, social media, and any of the daily rhythms that I got use to over the last 7 months.

I honestly felt very refreshed starting the day, and it felt like I was away for a million years. (That is a good sign) It took a week away to learn a few things.

  1. I needed a vacation more than I realized.
  2. Being away helped me re-establish some personal morning disciplines that in my previous busyness I had neglected.
  3. Creating memories as a family are some of the best treasures you can gather in this life.
  4. The world of social media kept on running without me..in fact, it looked pretty much the same.
  5. I was more tethered to social media than I had imagined.
  6. The space enabled me to make a list of priorities for September that I can focus on and complete.
  7. I journaled scripture, song lyrics, an outline for a leadership e-pub book, prayers, and some business plans.
  8. We are already planning next years vacation!

It’s always good to go, and its great to be back! On with the year!

What take-aways have you discovered this year on vacation?

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You Need A Vacation…

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Original Picture (C)2014 pattharp.com

By the time you read this, I am already enjoying time away on vacation. I must confess that I have been itching to set my “I’m away” setting on my e-mail, and I’ve loaded up my Buffer app to time and date release posts while I am away.

Getting away on vacation does not have to be costly or extravagant, but you do need to be intentioanl in preparation and the execution of your plan.

Here is why you need a vacation:

  1. You are not God…While He does not “sleep or slumber, ” You and I are mortals who do not have an unlimited supply of strength, stamina, vigor, or days. The fact that we age and time flies by is proof that we are shadows and vapors. Down-shifting is wisdom.
  2. Rest and relaxation is a mercy… God gave His children a “sabbath” to rest, recharge, and enjoy Him apart from the demands of weekly work, Exodus 20:8. It is holy or separated from other days because it is from and for God.
  3. Space is a grace… Vacation is a space…it is a measurable location that allows for other things which don’t typically flow into our lives during a regular work rhythm. There is time for contemplation, prayer, reading, dreaming, reconnecting with loved ones, making memories, laughing, discovering, rekindling, and rebuilding. It gives us space to forge resolves, to repent, to focus on what really matters apart from the distractions, demands,  noise and social chatter that often surrounds us.

Here is how we planned for our vacation:

  1. We scheduled it at the end of a big, busy, crazy, life event… for us, it was our oldest daughter getting married. For some it could be at the end of a busy school year, work project, or even a tragic life event. More than a “reward” it was  a”light at the end of the tunnel that we looked forward to.
  2. We saved our money…as hard as it was, on top of the wedding. we budgeted for a week off and we were blessed with a free house to stay in while we were away.
  3. We  were intentional about the details…as much as I am a “free spirit,” when you don’t plan, there is confusion and chaos. We have our food planned, our eating out planned, our clothes packed, and everything in order. All my work related responsibilities are covered and set.
  4. “I” am unplugging from all social media… No email, no Facebook, no Twitter, no texting…nothing. The world of social media will go on without me. I am thankful for Michael Hyatt’s blog on “How to unplug while you are on vacation.” It helped me take the plunge. I want to be “present” with the ones I love, not distracted by telling others what I am currently doing or thinking. You need to “recharge.” (Great article)

If you don’t take a regular time off to vacation for either a weekend or week you are robbing God of opportunities, others of memories, and your self of necessary refreshment. make the space and receive the grace.

Where are you planning on going and when?

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How should Christians respond to illegal immigration?

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 1.09.17 PMMaybe you’ve noticed…”illegal immigration” is a hot topic with many opinions on the subject matter.  Often these opinions are fused with political and social rhetoric that is broad brushed, biased, and bombastic.  The “left” and the “right” have chosen their sides and staked out their positions on the topic.

Recently I got caught in the middle of a rant on illegal immigration and the evils of our government from a fellow Christian. Looking at scripture, everything he said was wrong…but he refused to be wrong, and thus refused to be biblical on something that ran against the grain of his political persuasions.

This “conversation” got me thinking more deeply about the “lens” by which I view my fellow man, this fallen world, and my politics as a Christian; particularly this hot button issue of “illegal immigration.”

 I will say upfront that I have not experienced any of the fears that residents of border towns or communities have voiced,  and I do not have any or many of the answers to the questions on this topic. I am not a politician, but  I am a Christian.

And as a Christian, the answer should reflect scriptural guidelines that are consistent with the word and heart of Jesus as revealed in the Bible. Politics should not ultimately shape our social concerns and reactions, the Gospel of Jesus Christ should.

I thought about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his stance against the Nazi regime, William Wilberforce and his stand against slavery, and the many Protestant Reformers who stayed in Geneva during the Black Plague to minister to the physical needs of their fellow man. Many others have stood against evil and stood for others because their faith and obedience to scripture was the lens by which they saw and acted on issues…regardless of the culture, political climate, or loss to themselves.

As I prepared to look at what scripture says about responding to “the orphan, the stranger, and the foreigner,” I came across this blog post from Félix Cabrera. He writes for “Coalición por el Evangelio, which “provides gospel-centered resources for the Spanish-speaking church in Latin America, Spain, and the United States. Originally written by Hispanics for Hispanics, this article opens a window to the Spanish-speaking church, context, and worldview.”

Felix said it so well, it is better for him to share it with you all. I am just the delivery boy. After you read the article, think about this.

Christians can either “play church” or “BE the Church.”we are ambassadors for Christ, 2 Cor. 5:20, we are the visible means by which Christ manifests His love to all people. Our citizenship is in heaven, Phil. 3:20, and our ultimate allegiance is to King Jesus as subjects of His Kingdom.

The bottom line is that we will either let scripture be the final word and guide to issues and ethics or it will our own selves and the influence of the talking heads of media and culture that shape our world view on any tissue.

Looking and acting on  issues  with the compassion of Jesus will truly preach the Gospel we “really believe.” Will the Church arise or will the Church retreat? Time will tell.

May we be joyfully bound in conscience and conduct to ALL of scripture as sons and daughters of King Jesus for God’s glory and the good of ALL people.

 

 

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When A Friend Commits Suicide

Pat and ChrisWith the recent death of actor/comedian Robin Williams, and the revelation that he died from an apparent suicide, we all come face to face with heartbreaking questions that have no obvious answers…the biggest question is “why?” Suicide always leaves a trail of questions  behind its victim.

In suicide, the most insidious tormenting is not inflicted upon the dead, but rather, the living.  It comes to the hurting heart as guilt.

When suicide is committed by a celebrity or a person unconnected to us, we are sad. We will re-watch their movies, listen to their music, and try and connect with the art or memories left behind. But when suicide hits home and it is up close and personal, the most crushing blows are those of guilt heaped upon the living for not intervening more.

Listening to a news cast on the life of Robin Williams, the commentator ended his tribute with an apology to Robin for what “we should have done to be there for him, and how we failed.” That is the voice of guilt…and that is a lie.

This past July marked the anniversary of one of my closest friends, Chris, who died from suicide. Having served with him in Christian music ministry, seen people come to Christ, toured the country, and released music that changed lives, I know what it is like to hurt from the loss of a friend from suicide…I also know what it is like to battle guilt.

The reality is that I could not control the situations and circumstances that led to Chris’s life falling apart. People made choices that affected him…he made choices that affected his life…and his choice to kill himself affected all who knew him. There was nothing anyone could do…but suicide always whispers in your ear that “you didn’t do enough” to help. That is a lie.

Many times I would have dreams of talking with Chris and wake up in sorrow all over again because it was so real and he was still gone. Music and pictures would stir up sorrow and sadness. I even wrote a song called “I wish” that reflected my desire to some how turn back time and be there for him. More times than I can remember I would just cry all over again from passing memories. Suicide always leaves a deep wound for the living to deal with.

Though it has been many years since Chris died, and my wound has healed, I still have a scar, and whenever someone commits suicide I grieve a little more than most for those who are living with the guilt that rolls in like waves.

I have to say that suicide is probably one of the most selfish sins a person can commit.  (This is hard to say about someone who just killed themselves, but it is true.) There is no love, no virtue, and no heroism in such an act. It is cowardly. It inflicts punishment on the minds and emotions of loved ones far past the act of death. The problems a person seeks to escape are simply multiplied upon the ones that love them and are left with shattered hearts and unanswered questions. Regardless…our love for them sees past these things.

The only hope I have found in the shadows of suicide has been in the love, mercy, and faithfulness of Christ’s comfort and care.

Jesus said of Himself in Luke 4:18,

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to
 the poor;
He has sent Me
 to heal the brokenhearted, 
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to
 the blind,
To
 set at liberty those who are oppressed;”

Jesus healed me through the hearts, hands, and ears of patient, loving, and caring Christians who hugged me when I needed it…listened when I had to vent…prayed for me when I was down…and wept with me when I wept. Love does heal a broken heart.

This shattering life event has made me more prayerful and more compassionate to those struggling with suicidal thoughts and those still picking up the pieces when a loved one dies.   Jesus is the God of all comfort, 2 Cor. 1:3.

If you struggle with suicide, think of the pain you will unleash on the living after you are gone. If you truly love them, talk with them for help and prayer. If you are bearing the wounds of the death of a loved one, release the guilt that binds your heart..seek godly and compassionate councel to walk with you through the stages and places of grief.

Jesus is faithful.

 

 

 

 

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Do You Smell?

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Original Picture: (C) pattharp.com 2014

No really…what is the atmosphere when you arrive and when you go? Not physically, but spiritually…and quite literally. Some people have stinky attitudes, foul tongues, and and a cynical stench that pollutes everyone around them. They complain, criticize, and compare. They are the last person you want to stop and talk with and the very person you try and avoid. Every been around a person like that? Sometime we are “that person.” The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 paints a picture worth a 1000 words. “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.” Translation: We have the victory in Christ…ALWAYS, and our lives reveal and release with word and deed, the knowledge of Christ wherever we go. Our words, our deeds, our tone, and our tongue will all effect the “air ” wherever we go. It can be changes for good or for bad. It matters not if people cherish or chide our aroma, but let it not be because we wrongly represent Christ. This isn’t an issue of pores and perspiration, its a heart issue. Do we smell of Christ who is the sweetest fragrance of all, and draws people to Himself by our witness and word…or do we reek of self, hypocrisy, and arrogance? You will smell either way, but you can choose the fragrance you use.

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