A Threshing Sledge

This will be kind of a part 2 to my last post, so check it out if you haven’t. I’ve realized that I use music to process my thoughts/emotions, so I will once again be using lyrics by The Oh Hellos to tell my story since I’m all about that band right now and they inspired me to write this. Enjoy.


If I were to describe the person I wanted to be by the time I left college, he would be buff. His eyes calm, yet they pierced your soul with his caring gaze whenever he looked at you. Mature beyond his years. He was a good friend, always lending a shoulder to cry on and dropping wisdom to sooth weary hearts. His words carried much weight. Above all, he was spiritual, every day striving after things not of this world. He never worried, for he knew all of his afflictions were temporary. He could slay his struggles so well that he may not even have had any, almost sinless, yet humble. He stood atop a mountain, doing all in his power to help those still stuck in the valley get to the top also.

I was young and naive
as I was told, so I believed
and I was told there’s only one road that leads you home

and the truth was a cave on the mountainside
and I’d seek it out until the day I died

The four years of college came and went, and I grew to know the person who emerged from it very well. Success, right? I found what I was looking for and became a man, yeah?

Nah. Unfortunately, the me I knew was nowhere close to that image I had of myself. That image was still only real in my head, but I wanted to believe he was the true me. Despite having absolute knowledge of my struggles, I wanted to believe and live like I was more capable than I actually was. My solution was simple: don’t tell anybody. Not my friends. Not God, like He didn’t know. Just pretend and try to figure it out by yourself.

When you live a life like that, knowing yourself doesn’t matter. It’s useless, actually.

I was bound and determined
to be the child that you wanted
but I was blind to every sign you left for me to find

I so desperately wanted to be that person other people looked up to and God was lucky to have on His side. The eyes of super Daniel were always on me, glaring with disappointment. The weight of his gaze was crippling, and I became so frustrated with myself and with God. I wanted this process of sanctification to be easy, but it usually involves swallowing your pride. I didn’t want it to cost me anything. I hoped that I would just become better without having to lift a finger, just like everything else in life (sarcasm).

and the truth became a tool that I held in my hand
I wielded it, but I didn’t understand

I got tired of giving more than you gave to me
and I desired a truth I wouldn’t have to seek

I finally realized that I had wasted four years of college and then some pretending to be somebody I wasn’t, and it truly cost me. I missed out on deeper relationships and lost friendships and intimacy with the only One who can perfectly love me. I finally let go and decided to be honest with myself, my friends, and my God. I allowed myself to be known. Every struggle, every insecurity, every sin, every joy. My relationships have not been the same since. I’ve never been so close to my friends. Sometimes I feel like I barely knew any of them until recently, yet I have lived with them for years. With God, I had to realize that He is not “lucky” to have me and won’t be. I don’t say that out of self-depreciation. I say it out of truth, which I spent my whole life proving, yet He delights in me. I allowed Him to take His rightful spot on top of the mountain, and He watches. His eyes calm, piercing my unworthy soul with nothing but love and compassion. The weight of His gaze is light and so gracious.

but in the silence I heard you calling out to me

Since then, I’ve had the privilege of getting glimpses of who I used to be. I thought that it would cause me to crawl up in shame, but instead all I could do was rejoice. The person I was is unrecognizable to me now. I can actually see that I am a new creation, and for the first time in my life, I am pleased with who I have become. I don’t mean to sound prideful. It’s just the truth. The valley is now far behind me, but still, I shall not grow content with my current view. Slowly, but joyfully, I ascend.

we were born in the valley of the dead and the wicked
where our father’s father fell to the crimes he’d committed
we were young when we heard you call our names in the silence

still you lead me, never leave me
never leave me

Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge,
new, sharp, and having teeth;
you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,
and you shall make the hills like chaff;
you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away,
and the tempest shall scatter them.
And you shall rejoice in the Lord;
in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

Isaiah 41:15-16

on the mountain

Courage, Dear Heart

I have this thing about feelings, which is that I don’t really like having them.

Up until this past year, I think I lived the lie that seeking what made me feel good was what was worth chasing. As it turns out, this can lead to living a very selfish life. It can cause a lot of pain and very bad decisions, but by the time I realized that, it was too late. In an attempt to not repeat the past, I tried not to ignore what I felt.

The Oh Hellos will help me tell my story.

Hello, my old heart,
How have you been?
Are you still there inside my chest?

I’ve been so worried,
You’ve been so still,
Barely beating at all.

It became a beast I was unwilling to let loose again. I rationalized this, thinking that it could protect other people from what I found I was capable of doing. I was being selfless! I could do anything and make any decision not based on emotion, flying around, hoping to protect people from me. Spock! I was Spock.

I give myself too much credit, though. People don’t need protection from me. I was really just trying to protect myself, being selfish and trying to pass it off as being righteous, but it kept me safe, invincible, though a little cold.

Every day I add another stone
To the walls I’ve built around you
To keep you safe.

Hello, my old heart,
how have you been?
How is it being locked away?

Don’t you worry.
In there you’re safe.
And it’s true, you’ll never beat,
But you’ll never break.

I’ve had lots of conversations with a good friend of mine about how we deal with our emotions. What we usually conclude is that hers overflow from her, which, to me, sounds exhausting. I, on the other hand, just ignore them, which, in retrospect, sounds unhealthy. I did not want to admit that feelings need to be dealt with whether or not a decision is based on them, but that would have required more self-examination than what I was comfortable with… which is usually none. I was placing feelings in a space outside of reality, like they were something that was optional and should not affect everyday life. Unfortunately, this does not prepare you for when that box you keep so well hidden starts to overflow and becomes very real.

I’ve come to see that I can’t just ignore this. When I’m hurt, there’s a real, bleeding wound. Ignoring it will be life-draining. I want it to be tended to, perfectly sewn, made stronger. That cannot happen if I’m ignoring this core part of who I am. I want to become a man who loves radically, weeps unashamedly, laughs uncontrollably, agers without sinning. There is joy in all these things! There is life and freedom, even when it hurts. Indeed, it comes with that risk of suffering, but even then I pray that I consider it pure joy. What a marvelous opportunity.

Nothing lasts forever.
Some things aren’t meant to be.
But you’ll never find the answers
Til you set your old heart free.

Til you set your old heart free.

Relevant Quotes:

“…for the first time, let’s just allow ourselves to be whatever it is we are and that will be better. OK? I think that will be better.” – Andrew Largeman, Garden State

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” – God, Ezekiel 36:26

Halloween Special: My Night as a Pokemon

I don’t know the exact history of Halloween, and I’m too lazy to look it up right now. I will say that as a Christian, I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with going trick-or-treating, and this is why I hated going to my church every Halloween when I was in elementary school.

I remember being in sunday school at my super conservative church and another kid telling me that on Halloween demons reach up from the ground and drag you to hell. He probably just heard this from his older brother trying to scare him, but hearing such things was not uncommon. One of the kid’s fathers wrote a book about how Pokemon was demonic, and the kid told me he would get me a copy of it for free, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, in an attempt to keep kids from going trick-or-treating, my church would throw an annual fall festival on the night of Halloween.

This festival was filled with mini games, inflatables, and raffle drawings. The reward to most of these was a piece of candy, but by the end of the night my pillow case would have only a handful of sugary delectables in it. When I got home and checked my loot, I had a similar feeling to opening a Lay’s bag of air and finding potato chips inside. Every year got more and more disappointing, especially because my costumes were pretty dope and I couldn’t show them off in their rightful place on the streets. When Pokemon was all the rage, there was a very popular charmeleon costume that was sold out everywhere, so my mom made the costume with her bare hands. It was better than the one that was sold in stores, complete with a fire tail made out of red and yellow cellophane.

Bow down to me, plant-types!

Bow down to me, plant-types!

I confidently walked through the parking lot of the church, looking down my nose at the other Pokemon.

“Look at all these dumb pikachu costumes. FLAME THROWER!”

I decided to test my powers against the closest thing we had to real Pokemon and headed straight toward the petting zoo. All these creatures were inferior. I was at least a level 16, and these goats and chickens were all levels 3 and…

munch munch munch

I turned around and saw a goat eating my cellophane flame. If you know anything about charmeleon, you know that he dies if his tail goes out.

I was dead.

That experience pretty much summed up every festival experience I had. I walked in with burning hopes and desires, walked out with nothing. Moral of the story: take your kids trick-or-treating. They’ll be okay. I promise.

Once I was in middle school, I stopped going to that festival and never returned. My mom finally let me go trick-or-treating in our neighborhood with some of the other kids. My pillow case runneth over.

Happy Halloween.

God’s Not Dead is a terrible movie

I was against the movie God’s Not Dead from the beginning. I saw the trailer and hoped nobody would ever go watch this, but, miraculously (hah), it made millions of dollars at the box office. I could tell it would be bad, and I read that it indeed was bad. I vowed never to give that type of production my money, but I kept hearing fellow Christians say stuff like, “It was good.” I was brought to my breaking point when somebody finally said, “it was so good.” That type of language is some Guardians of the Galaxy type description. I could no longer stand idly by. I needed a way to substantiate my claims that this movie should not be praised.

I immediately watched that movie. Luckily, I did not pay for it.

After the deed was done, some people questioned my actions. My good friend Thomas (also a Christian) was incredibly concerned:

I worry about you sometimes Daniel. Watching “God’s Not Dead” is definitely red flag behavior. If you need to talk about stuff, I’m here for you.

The overall message of this movie is very offensive and just wrong for several reasons. I’m going to do this buzzfeed style because that seems to be the only thing that people read nowadays.

6 Things God’s Not Dead Wants You to Take away from it:

  1. Everybody who is not Christian is amoral, insecure, abusive, selfish, greedy, and a complete douchebag.
  2. All atheists are atheists because God did not answer one of their prayers, so they are actually just mad at Him.
  3. Every atheist is on the verge of becoming a Christian.
  4. The best way for somebody to be converted to Christianity is if they are put in some sort of mortal peril (ex. cancer).
  5. Arguing is the best way to get people to believe in God.
  6. Christians don’t need to talk about Jesus when trying to make a case for God.

The main issue is that if I were to change the title of this list to 6 Things Christians Should Stop Thinking Are True, most Christians who knew what the heck they believe in would agree. But no. People see a movie that is supposedly “Christian” and think that it is speaking truth.

Here are some specific reasons this movie does a poor job of portraying true Christian faith, misrepresents other people groups, and tells a bad story:

  1. One of the character explicitly says that all atheists got that way because they are mad at God. Not true at all.
  2. The rich and greedy atheist hated his mother apparently because she had dementia and prayed.
  3. The ministers tried to rent a car. The rental guy drove the car to them and sat stranded as they drove off.
  4. The professor had a change of heart and decided to go find his Christian, live-in girlfriend at a Newsboys concert with thousands of people in attendance and no ticket.
  5. The atheist reporter lady only comes to Christ once she finds out she is dying because why not.
  6. What happened to the main character’s girlfriend after she dumped him. Probably died. She was actually a horrible character and actress.
  7. The guy from Duck Dynasty is in it.
  8. There was a fobby Asian student literally says, “I have placed out of all my core classes, including math and chemistry.”
  9. The Islamic father beats and kicks out his daughter once he finds out she’s Christian.
  10. A freshman in college doesn’t really put up great arguments against his professor. He just gets his professor to admit that his mommy died and then pokes at that nerve until he breaks in front of the whole class.
  11. The movie asks you to text everybody in your phone, “God’s Not Dead.” I’m sure that will go over very well.

Christians are already portrayed negatively in the media by many non-Christian productions. It’s very sad that even a Christian production can’t get it right either. God’s Not Dead leaves out the grace, love, and compassion that Christ came down to teach us while we were still sinners. This movie would be much more interesting if the protagonist struggled with the fact that people who do not know Jesus are just as moral as he is. It would be a humbling and true story, and it would also give the film a chance to explain what Christ has done for us. We don’t need more Christian propaganda that more often than not turns people from the church. For now, I’m just going to keep watching The Prince of Egypt until something better comes out.

TL;DR – God’s Not Dead is a smug Christian movie made for smug Christians to get them to believe that everybody who isn’t Christian is a smug, insecure prick. It barely mentions Jesus, is unbiblical, and insults every group of people that it wants us to reach out to and save. God help all the sunday school classes that will show this to their kids.