I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy… By: Charles Westerman

January & February have offered a lot of opportunities to build character– breakups, lost wallets (finally found after a week and a half!), flat tires, seasonal depression, dainty paychecks, running out of gas because the gage broke, quitting smoking (again), hellacious colds, watching Colin Kaepernick make the Packers defense look like devouring a creme puff, our cheap vacuum breaking…

Needless to say, I’ve been thinking about Job a lot lately. But at 22 you don’t have time for pity parties. You’ve got an identity to find, a career doing something you love to make happen, muscles to build at the gym, and a healthy relationship with Christ to maintain.

Luckily I’ve got an amazing sister-in-law who challenges me to rise to the occasion. Thank you Tara for helping me remember the importance of stocking a heart full of thankfulness.

Below is the 101-things-I’m-thankful-for list. Written by a school bus driver living in Portland who bums around coffee shops in between routes trying to write his first book.

1- When parents go out of there way to stop and let me make my turn leaving the school.

2- The names in my “favorites” on my phone.

3- That moment when I drop my kids off and crank up Colin Cowherd.

4- Having a best friendship like Turk & JD.

5- Spotify. Spotify. Spotify.

6- Living four blocks from a cheap seat/indie movie theater (2-for-1 Tuesdays: tickets $2/piece).

7- How I never get sick of bananas or homemade sandwiches.

8- The “Right Away, Great Captain!” Trilogy– where literature meets musical form.

9- The loyalty of the Westerman-brotherhood.

10- Spending twenty hours a week doing what I love.

11- Eavesdropping on conversations in coffee shops.

12- Driving by the Rose City Skyline every morning before the sun comes up. Donald Miller described it as, “the Willamette River wears the skyline like a queen wearing a beautifully jeweled crown” or something to that effect. The imagery is amazing.

13- Imagery.

14- That moment once a month when all I want is a can of coka-cola.

15- Reading a book that makes you forget to look at the page numbers when you turn them.

16- The first day you wake up and realize your cold is gone.

17- The steam room at my gym… Or as I like to call it, “the think tank.”

18- Gas in the tank.

19- How every time I walk out of a good action movie I can feel my testosterone pumping and my confidence boosted.

20- Daniel Craig: my favorite James Bond.

21- The only piece of clothing I’ve bought since I moved to Portland– my golden-brown corduroy Levi’s.

22- True moments of wit.

23- Flirting with cute baristas.

24- The moment you realize you’re going to be able to pay your bills for the month.

25- How putting on cologne makes your posture better.

26- Old men talking about old music with a youthful gaze.

27- The lack of boring people in Portland.

28- Working to master the perfect School Bus Driver wave.

29- Great art on album-covers.

30- Swanky Christmas sweaters (with elbow pads) from Aunt Katie.

31- When my kids get my jokes.

32- Watching the ways people display their love for each other in a school bus yard.

33- My new friend Manny.

34- My super warm brown hoodie I’ve had since junior year of high school.

35- The comically looking naked fairy-lady riding a bike on a pack of playing cards (I mean… Who came up with that?)

36- Similes and metaphors.

37- Stories in the Bible that involve prostitutes.

38- Deep breaths.

39- My $15 queen sized fleece blanket from Target.

40- When people ask me what my tattoo on my wrist means.

41- My super functional $20 pair of big headphones.

42- Hour-plus phone calls with TJ.

43- People who genuinely want to listen to me play a song I wrote.

44- Capturing your mood with the perfect pizza toppings.

45- New pictures of Beck on Facebook.

46- When old people talk about my generation optimistically.

47- A hot shower in the dark of Winter.

48- When Brendon calls me out for being a lame human being.

49- Sally– our grandmother in Portland. Every time I walk away from an interaction with her I feel better about myself and life. I hope I have that effect on people when I’m old and wise.

50- Tossing the pigskin with Trav and Bren in the big empty parking lot next to our house and mastering the back shoulder throw.

51- The moment in the morning when the heaters finally get warm on my bus.

52- Places where you can see for miles.

53- Ted Talks.

54- Waking up everyday knowing my mom’s already covered me with the blood of Christ.

55- Not having homework.

56- Driving bus in neighborhoods that look like The Shire meets Beverly Hills.

57- That Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow.

58- Breakfast sandwiches.

59- Well-made documentaries.

60- The dictionary app on my phone.

61- Wordplay.

62- Still being able to get a good men’s haircut for $9 (thank you Jenny the super noble/humble Asian lady).

63- Putting on a thermal shirt at 6 a.m. on a winter morning.

64- For reasons that would take too long to explain, my parking stall at the bus garage.

65- Days when my mood is copacetic with the typical gray winter day in Portland.

66- Blowing my nose.

67- Rooms with lots of windows.

68- A good bouncy ball.

69- How Travis can’t help but sing in a country twang.

70- Writing songs with my two best friends and how that’s a healthy way we can bond with each other.

71- Days where it’s clear enough to see Mt. Hood.

72- Moms Valentine’s Day cards with ridiculously long, genuine notes written in them about how much she loves me.

73- Everything you learn at 22.

74- The sound of myself typing.

75- Getting kissed on the neck.

76- The grumpy old man at the bus garage with the glorious, bushy Gandoff-white eyebrows.

77- Being reunited with my Mr. Rodgers cardigan after two years.

78- When they FINALLY call your number at the DMV.

79- Alkai Beach.

80- That “Fun.” won two Grammies this year.

81- Getting to be one of the only people in the world who witnessed Trav eat Indian food for the first time.

82- Extra crispy hash browns.

83- Having a spare tire.

84- Getting together with old friends from college.

85- Having a nice big room to pace around in while I talk on the phone.

86- A well written hit pop song (rare, but beautiful when it happens).

87- Taking the perfect dump.

88- Charles Woodson’s time in a Packers uniform.

89- Lebrons hot streak.

90- Pacific Northwest Architecture.

91- Three day weekends.

92- One on one chats with Max over video games.

93- Taking the Wandering Summer Road Trip and being blessed with the financial resources to make it happen.

94- Lunch meat.

95- Shooting pool.

96- The $25 Chipotle gift card Jonah’s parents gave me for Valentine’s Day.

97- Arthur’s Automotive and their $22 oil change services four blocks from our house.

98- Getting a free donut at Starbucks today

99- The way Brian Regan pronounces the word “volcano”.

100- Crushing an open mike night.

101- Faux blue roses.

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A Simultaneous Farewell to the Murrow College and Resonate Church– By: Charles Westerman

This past semester I’ve had the privilege to work as a communication intern with my college church of four years in order to fulfill my six-credit Murrow College internship requirement. It was a “two birds with one stone” experience and I’m so grateful for how God used these two entities to shape me into who I am today: someone who has a relationship with Jesus and knows that his purpose in that relationship is to write for His glory.

Here is an excerpt from my final paper — neigh final assignment — in college. This assignment asked me to write a 12-15 page report on my entire intern experience. The final question in the paper guidelines was this: Analyze how your internship site performs in regard to social responsibility. And below were the sub-questions to that question

            –What is the purpose of your agency in society?

            –Did your site measure up in an ethical sense?

            –What is its contribution to society?

            — Was your time spent there of educational value?

             — Would you do it again?

            — Is the internship a fitting capstone to your university experience?

Here is my answer to these questions and my thank you to Resonate. Without them, I honestly don’t think I would have graduated college:

Unlike many churches in 21st century America, Resonate is not only socially responsible, but socially competent as well.  From our Lead Pastor Keith Wieser, down to the people in charge of setting up and tearing down for services; it is a well-organized, hard working, practical and visionary organization. They absolutely know what their purpose in society is and the fact that they have 700+ in attendance at their two services every Sunday is a testament to that.  Resonate seeks to give students an ‘authentic community’ to be a part of throughout their college experience.

Resonate’s model for building authentic community is a successful one, and I feel qualified to say that because it was the model I personally experienced.  The Resonate model for authentic community consists of three parts. Obviously, the Sunday service is one of the parts, however they constantly stress that Sunday gatherings aren’t more important than the others. In fact, if anything, they’d say it’s the least.  It is the second and third components of the model that has made Resonate so successful in their purpose.  In just five years Resonate has gone from their first service of less than 200 people, to a church of over 700+ in attendance every week. Not only have do they have a quantity of members, but a majority of the members they have are quality. I don’t mean this in the sense that they are perfect people who never do anything wrong, I mean it in the sense of how seriously members take their role in helping Resonate fulfill their purpose.  This is evidenced by the participation in the second and third components of Resonate: Village and Ethos groups.

Village is Resonate’s version of a Bible Study, but it’s different than any Bible Study I’ve been to, and I grew up in a strong Christian home. Every week, groups of 12-20 people gather in a Village Leaders home. The members take turns making meals each week and the first hour of Village is spent breaking bread and just getting to know each other.  There’s almost no better way to build community than to have people eat a meal together.  After that, everyone gathers in the living room and the Leaders facilitate a conversation about Sunday’s sermon.  This does two things: it gives people different viewpoints and exposes them to different opinions on all kinds of topics. From forgiveness, to social justice, to personal identity, to sexual relationships; people who regularly attend a Village get a chance to talk and listen to conversations about some of the most important aspects of life.  The second thing the Village conversation accomplishes is making the message on Sunday sink in, feel relevant, and ultimately be effective. Being reminded of the essence of the message in the middle of the week prevents it from having the “in one ear and out the other” effect.

The third component of Resonate is Ethos groups. The Sunday service unites the entire body with one message and one commonality: The resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Villages give members a more intimate community and a chance to process the message with multiple perspectives in mind. Ethos is where the next level of intimacy comes in.  Ethos groups are made of two-three members of the same sex. It is this group where members have a chance to be free to share the deepest desires and fears of their heart.  It is a group that stresses unfiltered honesty, complete vulnerability, true accountability, unending encouragement, and ultimately, friendship that defines brotherly and sisterly love.

I would absolutely do my internship with Resonate again. What I’m about to say is no slight to the Murrow College, but a testament to Resonate: I have learned as much about good communication from them as I have in school.  Because good communication is the only explanation for how an original staff of three guys from Texas and their families could come to the most un-churched region in the country, to a college town of a very un-churched generation and grow in both the quality and quantity they have in the last five years.  I would go to my grave saying that Pullman is a better place with Resonate than without it.  Student’s who attend Resonate faithfully will ultimately have their character shaped for the better. That’s not to say other organizations can’t have a similar affect, but this was the one that affected me and I’m eternally grateful it did.  My internship with Resonate was a fitting capstone to my university experience, but my four years being a member of it turned out to be the foundation of that experience.

We All Have a Voice – By: mOUNTbRENDON

I wrote this the other day while planning on writing a paper. I didn’t start on the paper, but I think it was worth it. The plan was to edit and revise it, but now the paper, along with another paper, have caught up to me, so I’m just going to post it as is. Uncut and uncensored…and unedited. You got me at my most vulnerable. 

Quick note. We have an opportunity that has never been presented in the history of mankind. Let’s take advantage of it…

 

I read an article for class last week that talked about how television does not report news, it creates news. This is becoming more apparent to me with every passing day. Obviously it’s more of a complex issue than I make it sound, but I am a hypocrite and don’t want to bore you with the details…

I have come to admire and respect public figures who strive for a simple life. The Henry David Thoreaus, Sufjan Stevens, G.K. Chesterton, etc. These people detect the fakeness that can come from technology. Everything is a representation. Relationships are built off of a series of pictures and short status updates. They realize a life truly experienced is a life away from technology, immersed in the reality of our world. But to live and experience the reality of our world, one must be aware of and immersed in technology. It cannot be ignored.

It is an extremely difficult balance to embrace technology and fear its influence at the same time. Technology is not evil. The internet is not evil. But it most certainly can be and allows for evil a booming voice.

For the last two or three years, I took a hiatus from popular television. Not fully, of course. But I have tried to avoid it as much as possible. I couldn’t put it to words, but I detected that something was broken. Sure, I watched the occasional episodes of various sitcoms and other shows on Netflix, and still do. But, other than weekend visits to my parents’ home in Cheyenne, local and national news stations were invisible to me. I even let SportsCenter drift away from my consciousness (something I spent hours watching every day in high school).

So, if the theory I read about television creating news instead of reporting news is accurate, the media has to be the single most influential aspect of our culture. It forms the way we think. If we surround ourselves with media centered around sex and booze, we will find ourselves almost literally molesting each other at the local bar or club, which will lead to bigger things. We will find ourselves holding onto unhealthy relationships because of the sex, or just the idea of being in a relationship; or going to the bar for an easy hook-up, a quick fix to one’s loneliness; or idealizing celebrities and their glorious lifestyles and finding ourselves spending money we don’t have as a result of our desire to live like them.

I have news for you. Happiness is not found in wealth or sex. Fulfillment cannot be instant.

Though I may be criticizing right now, that is not my intent with this post. It turns out I have been encouraged by technology lately.

Why?

Because it gives everyone a voice and everyone an opportunity to be heard.

If we allow it to be, we can use it to undermine those who are trying to control us with their advertisements and their celebrity. We can turn this world around on its head.

Thanks to the internet, music, movies, art, and subcultures that otherwise would never have been realized are finding homes all around the world. Musicians can record on their own, without being forced into a product by record labels; independent movies without sufficient funds can find a passionate and loyal fan base with the will to sacrifice their own money for its continued production; sports has found the importance of the fearless role player – the one without the big shoe contract and without the big billboards.

There is a ton of deception and artificiality found on the internet, but there is equally as much passion, genuine spirit, love, and hope. We have an incredible opportunity, because we can decide what succeeds. We can decide what we are influenced by.

We can recreate this world.

a few words on Faith By: David Landrus

Song: Explosions in the Sky – Last Known Surroundings
Post:

everything is derivative, everything except one

Cause and effect, one situation to another, and that my friends is how babies are born. When thinking of existence in all of its wondrous expanse, the details of why and how get very jumbled up. This is why many prefer to not think about the “deeper things”, or sum everything up and happily call it random chance or dumb luck. This, I know, is a simple solution that at the surface seems harmless, but when you don’t care to count the details many things you wish not to happen arise out of ignorance.
I believe there to be a solution though. Faith.
As stated in Hebrews 11:1-3 NLT
1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
2 Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.
3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.
The first thing I find interesting in this translation is that Faith is the combination of hope and confidence.
Today hope has become a very weak word, lacking much of the desire that it originally commanded.
For instance, if you were to tell a friend heading home for spring break, “I hope you make it back safely”.
Now, it is understood that you will not see them again until after they have traveled may hundreds of miles. And through their traveling of these numerous miles you will not be able to see to their safety first hand. So this leaves the question, are we really certain of their safe return (do we have confidence) or do we just hope that dumb luck will land them back into your company one day.
Enter Faith.
It gives us sureness. But where does sureness come from? Perhaps a promise, and from whom does this promise come? And if so, why does this promise give us assurance. There are many times that I promise my friend that I will meet up with him for coffee, but when push comes to shove, sometimes it doesn’t always work out. But the truth of Faith shatters all of these doubts, as verse three comes roaring in.
By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command.
One command, one Word, one God.

everything is derivative, everything except One

Some words about Grace– By: David Landrus

Song: Devotion – Hillsong United

Post:

There has been something following me, hiding behind every corner, just waiting to approach me. This thing has no ill will towards me but Love. It stays at a close distance so it can keep its ever watchful eye upon me, ready to approach and lend me a helping hand. Grace.

Rarely do I find myself truly acknowledging its presence but mistake it for that of a foe. As humans we are constantly weary of turning the corners of life because we expect to get beat up, get hurt, get let down. We think that if we turn that corner and meet what is waiting for us that we are going to face something that will put us into worse shape than we currently are. I encourage you friend, don’t listen to that lie. It may be reproof, or chastisement, or having to let something go, but the Grace that will present itself to you will be more than enough to get you through the pain.

This week has been one of emotional ups and downs, as I am sure it has been for us all. Embarrassment, regret, frustration, guilt, happiness, uncertainty. Admittedly I do not approach those corners in life with the confidence that I will meet grace every time. But, the joke is on me. Grace watches as a shepherd looks after his sheep. He doesn’t always stand within petting distance but He is ALWAYS within a staffs length. Accepting grace has been my big take away this week and I want to share that joy with you.

Just yesterday I was hanging out with a good friend. A man that I would say is close to my heart. In this lifetime we will all have two types of friends: repentant and unrepentant. Both are very similar, prone to the same actions, the same decisions, but the difference in the two is one says “Fool me all you want” while the other says “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” This friend is one of the prior notion. He is a self-made man who builds his life one accomplishment at a time with heart pats to his own back. This is not something that I look down on with distain but rather something that I look at with pity.

During our conversation he brought up the fact that he had read his Bible the previous day and even said a prayer. Oh how I would love to hear that prayer. And on top of it all he’s going to church this weekend.

“Thud Thud, Thud Thud”

The sound of a heart starting to beat again. In this small act my friend has by no means established an eternal justification but he has done something just as powerful: accepted grace. Wether it is unbeknownst to him or not his heart has been softened. And how I plead with my maker that it is the beginning of a vibrant, healthy and eternal heartbeat. How can something that is so hard for me to do, even with the saving knowledge that I have, be the knee jerk reaction of my friend. That is truly Grace at its finest. The small, still whisper that calls us all home.

Encouragement:

Pray today. Pray that the fortresses in your life that holds Grace out would open its gates and embrace Grace as its friend. Pray that same thing for your friends. And heck, maybe cry a little bit for those who you see desiring it the most. Take a note from our Lord

John 11:35 “Jesus wept.”

Weep for your friends.

Why Do Bad Things Happen? An Attempted Explanation – By: mOUNTbRENDON

The one really rousing thing about human history is that, whether or no the proceedings go right, at any rate, the prophecies always go wrong. The promises are never fulfilled and the threats are never fulfilled. Even when good things do happen, they are never the good things that were guaranteed. And even when bad things happen, they are never the bad things that were inevitable. You may be quite certain that, if an old pessimist says the country is going to the dogs, it will go to any other animals except the dogs; if it be to the dromedaries or even the dragons. … It was as if one weather prophet confidently predicted blazing sunshine and the other was equally certain of blinding fog; and they were both buried in a beautiful snow-storm and lay, fortunately dead, under a clear and starry sky.

– G.K. Chesterton

 

Bill does not believe in God. He believes that all life began randomly from a single-cell organism. Bill believes that the human race is the height of all existence and that there is nothing greater than the human will. He has always been a very moral person, striving to make the lives of those around him more pleasant. It is important, according to Bill, to take care of your fellow human in order to make this world as pleasant as possible for everyone in it.

Larry believes in God. He believes that God created all existence and that everything, both good and bad happens according to God’s plan. God, to Larry, is the ultimate puppet master, only stepping in for good if asked to while allowing bad for punishment for not asking. Larry raises a good family, strives to show kindness to those around him, and knows that, if he continues to pray, everything will work out for him and his loved ones.

 

Once, while driving in traffic, Bill got a terrible case of road rage after another driver cut right in front of him, causing him to slam on his breaks only barely avoiding a crash. Bill flipped the other driver off.

Larry caught his son, Sam, with a stack of Playboy Magazines underneath his bed. Larry took the magazines away, had a stern talk to Sam about the consequences of porn addiction and he grounded Sam from friends for three weeks.

 

Bill’s wife just died in a plane crash because of a miscalculation by the pilot. He finds himself asking the question, “If God was real, why would he allow such bad things to happen? If God really loved us and really cared for us, he would not allow such terrible circumstances to emerge.” Therefore, he thinks that God, particularly a loving God, cannot logically exist. This causes Bill to blame the pilot for not doing his job properly and resentment builds. Other people’s imperfections become more and more glaring to him causing him to act frequently in bitterness. He does not know what else to live for. He’s not sure he can put his trust in other humans, even if they are the height of existence, which only adds to his bitterness.

Larry’s son just died in a freak hunting accident. He finds himself asking, “Why me? Why Sam? Why did God choose Sam to die this way?” He tries to stay faithful to God though, trusting that God wanted Sam to die for a larger reason, but then becomes bitter toward God for placing this burden on him. “I don’t deserve this,” he says. “I am faithful to you and this is what you have done in return?” Larry no longer has anyone or anything to have faith in and therefore no motivation to overcome hardship and temptation.

 

Bill and Larry are not unlike each other. Bill and Larry, along with all other creation, are flawed.

Neither of them, because of their views toward God, understand that bad things are simply a part of life. There is more meaning than what Bill believes, but less meaning than what Larry believes.

God did not choose Sam’s death. The dropped shotgun did that.

The pilot made a mistake which resulted in the death of Bill’s wife. But he made a mistake that probably any pilot could have and has made. It just so happened that it amounted to a crash and Bill’s wife was unfortunate enough to have been on that plane.

God made the world in a specific way. A way that is inherently broken. And all life is broken.

But this is where will comes in and this, to me is the motivation behind life. To overcome brokenness.

Plants such as cacti have evolved to live through long droughts of water, bears have evolved to survive long winters when food is scarce, and humans have evolved and continue to evolve to overcome temptation.

Sure, some people experience far more difficulties and temptations than other people.

A lot of really bad things happen to a lot of undeserving people.

A lot of really good things happen to a lot of underserving people.

But the ability to overcome what ever situation a person is placed in, results in greatness and inspiration.

A rich person with the ability to give and remain humble.

A poor person with the ability to feel grateful when he or she receives fortune as opposed to bitterness when he or she does not.

These are the most inspiring people in existence and they are found on any class level.

God gave us all free will and included in that free will is the will to overcome.

Why does an alcoholic turn to alcohol? Because he or she does not know how to cope with whatever bad things have happened.

Why does a rich business owner exploit his workers for his own personal gain? Because he feels entitled to it and does not want bad things to happen to him. He wants his money and his possessions to secure his happiness.

Instead, the alcoholic should overcome the temptation to try and escape reality by facing reality head on, no matter how painful it may be.

Instead, the rich man should get rid of his excess and learn to appreciate the necessities in life.

Perhaps the two most dangerous questions in the world are, “Why not?” and “Why me?”

 

Bill fails to see living and nonliving things as part of something. Instead, he sees all living and nonliving things as the something.

Larry sees humans as nothing in this world, and God as everything.

 

“I was chosen by God to have been born into wealth,” the rich man says. “So why not spend it on an unnecessarily large yacht?”

“I was chosen by God to have been born into extreme poverty,” the poor man says. “So why not turn to drugs? I was doomed to begin with, so I might as well find happiness where I can.”

“I earned this wealth on my own accord,” another rich man says. “So why not spend it on a new jet? I deserve it. It’s my money.”

“I wasn’t blessed with wealth to begin with,” another poor man says. “Why don’t I have the things I want? I will steal it from others because I deserve just as much as anyone else.”

 

Think of the most inspiring stories you have ever heard.

Every single one of them center around either a poor man refusing to say, “Why me?” or a rich man saying, “Why not?”

Both are tempted equally and both have the ability to overcome the temptations no matter how difficult and painful it may be. We do not give ourselves enough credit. Each one of us is built to fail and to overcome. It just depends on how we handle it. Overcoming is just the more difficult option, which is why, unfortunately, it seems to almost be a rarity.

 

I do not believe that God micromanages. He does not trigger earthquakes as punishment for our disbelief in Him.

He created the food we grow, catch, hunt, and herd, so that we have to work for it. He created childbirth to be painful so that we can appreciate what we went through to give life. He created temptation so we can overcome it.

 

The Adam and Eve poem was created to show us that God made the world to offer temptation. Adam and Eve had temptation right off the bat: to eat from the tree of knowledge, something that they failed to overcome. And God punished them to show them that giving into temptation is wrong and overcoming temptation is right, just like Bill flipped the other driver off to show him/her to drive more carefully, and just like Larry grounded his son to teach him that porn is not something to be taken lightly.

Without temptation and experiencing the bad that comes with falling to temptation, there is no good.

There is no ability to overcome. Because there is nothing to overcome.

God punished us initially, by sending us to an imperfect world. To show us what is good.

Now, we punish ourselves by failing to overcome temptation.

 

An earthquake will occur, killing numerous people in its wake, not because God commanded it to do so, but because God placed us in a world where earthquakes occur and death and suffering is a part of life.

God did not choose the situation that you were born into or what parents you were born from. Your parents chose that when they had sex. But He did choose you.

God created beginnings. He created the world to be imperfect and to a certain extent stepped back from that world. And then He created people to live on that world with the capabilities to do both right and wrong. And then He stepped back and said, “I gave you the ability to overcome and I love you and trust you enough to do just that.”

 

What bothers me about Larry is that Larry does not have faith in himself or the people around him. He only has faith in God.

But God has faith in us. God gave us free will and left it up to us to do what is difficult. To overcome the temptation of what is bad. To not ask, “Why not?” and “Why me?” So like God, we need to have faith in us.

 

What bothers me about Bill is that he does not have faith in God.

He only has faith in himself and in others like him. And because we are broken people living in a broken world, our faith in ourselves and in each other quickly becomes disrupted.

 

So, to answer the question, “Why me?” I say, that’s beside the point.

All you can do is try to overcome. To find a passion that contributes to the world and follow that passion with all your being, with all your will, and with all your ability, no matter how seemingly big or small.

 

To answer the question, “Why not?” I say, that’s beside the point.

You are not entitled to anything. You lucked out with ease and excess. But at the same time, you did not luck out at all, because the easier life becomes, the less meaning life has. What should you be grateful for when you do not have to work for anything? You have to work for gratefulness and humility.

You have to overcome the temptation of saying “Why me?” and “Why not” because every time you overcome these questions, you pump good into this world. You live up to God’s trust in you. It is your responsibility to God and to everyone around you on this Earth and all of its living things, to overcome and to make the most of the situation you were thrown into, whatever that may be.

Jesus, in a sense, had it the worst of anyone. He lived in poverty, He was homeless and he had to struggle and overcome just for a good meal. But He never said, “Why me?”

And Jesus was also God. He had to overcome entitlement and to struggle for humility. He never said, “Why not? After all, I am the Son of God.”

And that is why He did not write down His message for us to read word for word. That is why He left it up to human mouth.

Because He trusted us. He trusted our ability to see right from wrong. To see what is unhealthy about the lifestyles we were pushed into and to overcome as many temptations as we can and bring a glimpse of heaven to earth, rather than submit to them and bring a glimpse of hell to earth.

It is our choice and our life because God trusts us.

It is our choice and our life because God loves us.

 

It’s silly to say good people don’t know what temptation means. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.

-C.S. Lewis

Introducing a new series: Lazy Saturday Poetry– By: Charles Westerman

When I started this blog, I said I was going to write a little bit of everything I really like to write.  And there is some stuff that I get absolutely jolly writing.  There’s nothing like capping off a sports column with that perfect last sentence, that last neat little stitch to bring it all together.  There’s nothing like learning something big about your faith and then finding a way to put that life-lesson into words. There’s nothing like inventing a new fictional character in your mind that even you yourself find interesting, funny, complex and mysterious.

But to be honest, sometimes my column feels like a chore.  Sometimes I go months without telling people what’s going on in my walk with God.  And most of the time, I want to punch my main fictional character in the face, because he’s just a bad metaphor for my life and he can’t gain his own independence and have his own unique personality (which is what good fictional authors can do).  When it comes to those forms of writing, I often have to dig down deep and pull something out of myself… and though it’s exhausting, when I find the discipline to do it, it’s always very rewarding.

Yes, readers, I’m going to finally admit one of my most awful secrets to you: my favorite writer is myself, and my most loyal reader is me.  I get a tingling feeling when I read my own stuff; I’d imagine it’s sort of what doing crack is like.  Nobody thinks I’m wittier and craftier with words than I do.  Seriously if anyone has a good shrink they should call me, because as you can see, I’ve got some ego-issues going on.  But hey, admitting it is the first step right?  But even more seriously I think all writers have to have this confidence and satisfaction on some level (although my levels are admittedly are a little high).

Personal Hamartia aside (if you don’t know what Hamartia means, Wikipedia that bitch) I’ll get back to the point.  That a lot of the writing I do sometimes feels like pulling teeth.  But even though it feels like I have to dig a lot of this stuff out of me, there’s one form of writing that has always just flowed out of my pen onto the paper, or came in a text message to myself, or that taps itself out on a little document I’ve had open on my computer for four years saved under “Playonward– Cause for Effect” (playing on the phrases ‘pause for effect’ and ’cause and effect,’ you have no idea how much I stroked my ego when I came up with that one).”

What I’m talking about is the writing form of poetry and lyrics.  Since my freshman year of high school it’s something I just have to do or I’ll burst.  Come to think of it, it’s a lot like peeing.  I never really know if I’m writing poetry or song lyrics, but when it’s three in the morning and my mind is roaring like a Harley, I know I won’t be able to get some Z’s until I grab my phone, open a text to myself, and see what knots my head is trying to untie.

What happens as I furiously tap those little button on my En-V3 is a rush I can’t explain.  A kind of trance or orgasm of the brain.  What I’m left with is an explanation to myself I’ve been working out for days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years.  I wrote a poem about my relationship with my late-father on the 20th anniversary of his death that I’d been trying to capture the complexity and feeling of since my freshman year of high school.

If my other writings are what crack is like, poetry is to me, the brief moment of clarity I’d imagine someone gets when they smoke meth.  I still remember the first truly satisfying poem/lyrics I wrote in a text message to my brother one day the summer after my freshman year helping my Dad fix fence on the ranch.  Back in 2005 I’d just got my first iPod and was finding my own unique taste in music– listening to a lot of Dashboard Confessional, Fall Out Boy and The Starting Line.  That angsty teenage music about how girls are the source of all their pain and all their joy.  And though it’s childish, I remember thinking that Chris Carrabarra (the lead singer of Dashboard) was like the Hemingway of angsty teenage music. So naturally I wanted to be like Chris (I don’t so much anymore).

I opened a text to ‘Mitch’ and wrote the following lines, “What goes around comes around and kicks you in the back of the head, I’m chasing your tail, which has me chasing mine instead.”  Yes it was very 15-years-old of me. But hey, that’s what 15 year olds do right?  I had officially started my mission to figure out how to deal with this angst and ultimately conquer it. Once I hit send I didn’t stop the rest of the day.  “Alright bro, here’s another one: ‘Your skating on thin ice and I’m under water with a blow torch to bring you down.'”  It was a bad imitation of Chris Carrabarra, but had Mick not been a good older brother and texted me back telling me they were really good, I’d probably still be looking for some form of my identity to this day.  In fact, I owe most of my confidence as a writer to Mick (and for that bro, I can never repay you).

Eventually I became competent enough with a guitar to start writing songs.  I wrote my first song the second semester of my freshman year at WSU and haven’t gone three months without writing one since.  I’d estimate I’ve partially written about 40 songs and have finished about 25 of them, putting me at about a completed song once every six weeks.  It’s something I have to do to keep my sanity.

With that in mind, I’d like to start consistently sharing with my small handful of faithful readers, where my true heart for writing came from.  I’ve posted a few poems on here before, but I’d like to make it a more regular occurrence. So I’m going to start a series title, “Lazy Saturday Poetry.”  One poem will be posted by yours truly at 12 pm Pacific Time every Saturday.

And when you read them, know that the writer your interacting with felt nothing but bliss and exhilaration as he wrote the words.  That he was refreshed and not drained as he hammered them out.  That even though writing his sports column was like doing layup drills, or writing about his faith felt like practicing free throws, or the short story your reading came from countless hours studying film– the poetry your taking in, was to him like all that hard work paying off as he took the court for the big game.

Below is the first ever edition of the Lazy Saturday Poetry series.  I wrote it in church last week.  It by no means stands out from the dozens of other poems I’ve written on this exact subject; trying to motivate myself to conquer my pride, and remind myself that only Jesus Christ has the power to do that.  But in a way it’s kind of a classic Charlie poem.  A good way to introduce you to my style: pure, flowing vulnerability.

Lately I’ve been trying to write some poems that have a rhyme scheme that’s more complex than my natural Mother Goose style.  I’ve been playing around with structure, punctuation and capitalization more, and learning how to make something flow that doesn’t necessarily rhyme, or at least rhyme all the time (you see, I can’t help myslef).  And though I’ve made strides in this department, I’ve come to the realization that sometimes a poet just needs to be true to himself and his natural style. I hope you enjoy it.

Why The Wine is Red 

See your face, and I shake like a quake.

The center of the flock breaks,

And the lambs disperse in every which way.

But the shepherd speaks a stern command:

We can be united again,

When you come back and feast from the palm of my hand.

Will you wait for me to find you or will you wander in the land?

If you’d ever stop screaming you could hear me calling back.

Calm down and come back.

You get a little closer with the tiniest of steps.

Deliverance will find you when you eat the bread,

And remember why that wine is red.

Go back to all the times where you thought your soul was dead.

And you prayed that sweetest phrase,

“I swear I’ll start living it.”

I don’t want another start, I just need another chance.

One more day to sing a song, strip off my clothes and dance.

Another night to ponder stars and praise how small I am.

I’m just a man without a plan because instead I chase my dreams,

That Christ would take my life until there is no more of me.

So I bid good riddance to that sore in my eye.

That swollen, black, pride.

There’s Nothing like a Long Hard Talk– By: Charles Westerman

One of the things that happens in college (especially in the later years) is you start to realize the difference between friends and acquaintances.  At least I think the people who successfully make it through college do.  You realize that you had a lot more acquaintances in high school than you did actual friends.  You realize you hung out with some people in the dorms, not because you were great friends, but because you both liked to play video games and they were right down the hall.

That’s not to say friendships haven’t been formed this way.  You’ll find out the next year when you move off campus and they move off campus out of walking distance from where you moved…  and either you built a meaningful enough relationship to make the effort to stay in touch, or you didn’t.

If you didn’t, you’ll come to a few realizations on why you don’t hangout anymore: you’ll probably realize that neither of you ever really learned about each other’s families. You didn’t ever talk about a truly difficult time in your life.  And though there’s probably more, the last one I’m adding to this list is the epiphany I’ve had about friendships in the last month— you’ll realize that you hardly ever– if not never– disagreed with each other.

The more I think about it, the more it rings truth.  Good relationships are built on honesty right?  So let’s be honest: we humans disagree on things constantly; most of the time we’re simply too frightened to voice our disagreement, but tell ourselves we’re just being polite.

Take my friend David for example—he is the friend at college I’d say I just flat out have the most in common with: we’re both the youngest children of big families.  We’ve both lost a parent at a young age.  We both like sports and competing.  We both have hauntingly similar taste in music (even the stuff we listened to in high school when we didn’t know each other). We both like good beer and cocktails, economically feasible fashion and have similar approaches to the way we approach dating.  Most importantly we both have the same beliefs about Jesus.

Yet even with all that in common, it seems like David and I have disagreements all, the, time! Sure we both like the same music, but we gripe about which song in particular should be played during a particular mood and moment.

David and I didn’t start seriously hanging out till last semester, yet he’s become one of my closest companions, and will be one my lasting friends from college.  Why? Because we can be honest with each other.  We can disagree.  We know each other’s major character flaws (and everyone, everyone has major character flaws) and we feel comfortable calling those flaws out when they’re out of control.

You see, I think my generation, in the culture we grew up in, thinks that good friends live their own lives and only help each other up when the other is hurting.  I’ve definitely done and thought this.  And though the intentions are good, I don’t think it makes for a truly good friendship.

In college and your mid-twenties especially, it’s hard to flourish if you live separate lives.  You have to do life together.  It’s a scary, but exhilarating truth that in college, your friends really become your family.  It’s a unique opportunity in your life, because it’s the time in between your actual families.

So is it better to have friends/family that will warn you when you’re going down a road that will end up in you hurting yourself and others, or to have a friend that will stand by and watch you go down that road, and then be there to tell you everything will be alright when you get to the end of it and you’re not alright?

Why is marriage the most intimate human relationship we have?  Because it holds you accountable.  You have to work through disagreements.  You constantly have to sacrifice your selfish desires for the greater good of your relationship.  I know this not because I’m married, but because I’ve been around good marriages (my parents and my siblings).

The same goes for a good friendship.  My friend Brendon—who happens to co-administer this website with me—is a lock to be in my wedding party.  The reason I have such confidence in that is because when we have to, we will have the tough conversation.  We’re planning on moving to Portland next year to try and make a living as writers.

But over Christmas break, as we drove back from Denver after our New Years fun, Brendon confronted me on some of my deepest issues—mainly my desire for life to be all fun all the time, even if it came before a time when I needed to be more practical and disciplined.

Neither of us our confrontational people, so I know the last thing he wanted to tell me was that if we were going to go out in the world together next year, I was going to have to make a few major changes in my life.

It was the last thing he wanted to tell me, and it was the last thing I wanted to hear.  But the conversation was necessary for a couple reasons: One, it was what I needed to hear for the benefit of my overall long-term happiness—and though I didn’t want to hear it, I did, because I knew Brendon was coming from a place of love.  Two, if we hadn’t talked through the issue, it would’ve come up in our apartment in Portland and it would’ve been a bigger, stinkier, angrier issue that might have seriously jeopardized our friendship.

So I’d encourage you to take stock of the friendships/acquaintances in your life.  Are there tough conversations you need to have with a person you consider a close friend?  Are there acquaintances you’d like to become friends with and you need to make the effort to have a few vulnerable, breakthrough conversations?  Are their relationships in your life that are meaningless and unproductive?  Do you need to do the unpleasant, but beneficial thing and cut them out of your life?

Don’t make snap-decisions about these questions.  Reflect on them, pray about them, think about what you really want to say before you have the hard talk.  Ask God for courage if you’re into that sort of thing.  We all have beautiful, but incomplete personalities, (only Jesus’ had the whole package) and they all need to be balanced out with honest, sometimes polar-opposite viewpoints.  It’s why God gave us this unexplainable desire to not be alone.  To crave community.  He wants us to do life together.  To be accountable to each other in order to find his perfect balance of truth and grace.

 

Show, Don’t Tell– By: mOUNTbRENDON

 

There is statement that has become a cliche in about every writing class, seminar, workshop, etc. “Show, don’t tell.” It is perhaps the most significant advice a writer can receive, and I don’t think a writer can be reminded of this enough.

If you’re writing a poem about love…

Show, don’t tell.

If you’re writing a novel and want your main character to have a certain character flaw, say maybe obsessiveness…

Show his obsessiveness, don’t tell it.

If you’re writing a song about a man dealing with brokenness…

Show it, do not tell it.

It’s a simple statement, but it is extremely difficult to actually apply to your work. That is why we read Steinbeck, Frost, and listen to Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. They mastered this craft and learned the art of great storytelling.

People respond and react to stories that give them the room to respond and react to. If you are telling a story and not showing a story, the audience is left little room to connect with it, and any  connection that is experienced is only surface-level.

Therefore, when you think of your life as a story, why would this not apply?

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t say things, that would be severely misinterpreting the statement, but even when you do say things, you should be showing. If you want to help attract other people to live great stories and live a great story yourself, you must show and not tell.

I had the  fortunate to grow up under one of the best dad’s anyone could ever ask for. The guy radiates greatness and anyone who has been around him long enough to get insight into his character immediately recognizes this. He is a freaking general in Army National Guard. And anyone who has been around him at all, will also realize that he is a man of few words. It’s kind of a Mount thing.

And so, growing up under his mentorship, leadership, example, etc. I was shown how to be a great man in a way that telling never could have equalled. I think I owe a lot of my understanding of this concept to him.

One of my fondest memories of him was when we were preparing for what was called the Half Pint Rodeo. I think I was around twelve years old at the time, maybe slightly younger, and this was my second year participating. The previous year, I had won what was the equivalent to the middle-weight event, the shetland pony, bare-back riding event. There was also the sheep riding and the cow riding. Looking at it now, the cows probably didn’t do a whole lot of bucking, but at the time, they jumped ten feet in the air with every stride. I was terrified of getting on one of them, but my dad knew that I was capable. He tried to talk me into it, but I wouldn’t budge.

“They’re HUGE,” I said something along the lines of. “I like the size of the shetland ponies better.”

My dad knew that words just wouldn’t do it, so he jumped on the back of the cow, grabbed the rope, and had his friend open the gate. He rode that thing like it was child’s play.

Unfortunately, I still didn’t budge, so it was all for nothing aside from a good laugh from all of us bystanders. I still regret not even giving it a try, especially now that I realize the implications of his actions. But it was just one small example of millions other like it.

And it was because of such actions, that I was able to see what he was serious about. It’s one thing to tell your kid that you’re proud of them for the numerous hours spent in the driveway playing basketball, it is another thing to try and learn the sport yourself when it was something you had very little knowledge of beforehand, so that you can show your support and your pride.

And I am ever thankful for that. Because I think I responded to such actions in a way that, at the time I couldn’t explicitly recognize.

Every little boy wants to be just like his dad. My dad may not have articulated what his values in life were as much as other dads, or what he might have wanted mine to be, but he was an expert of showing me those values.

And in not being explicitly told many things in life, I was forced to observe and to think about his actions. The moralities taught by my dad did not go in one ear and out the other, instead they started with my eyes and became deeply rooted in my brain. They became something more than language could articulate, which motivated me to live not by words, but by action, something I’m still and always will be trying to improve on.

I think that’s what well-told stories do and why I have found a love for reading. There is no music to queue you when to feel empathy and sadness for the characters. There are no special effects that allow you to sit back and have the intentions of its makers thrust upon you like a giant queue card. The readers are trusted to make that connection themselves. You put yourself into the story and that story, in a sense, becomes a part of you and vice versa. You invest yourself into it.

It’s personal and it’s intimate.

As a result, the influence is stronger and, once again, more deeply rooted.

There is a youtube video that has gone viral the past week or so. It is a man reciting a spoken-word poem. It’s title is Jesus > Religion. I think that this is what he is trying to get across and why it’s topped over fifteen million views. Because he is calling people, amongst other things, to show and not tell.

There seems to be a subtle movement creeping out of the American Christian church, because people are sick of others talking about being “a good Christian” and talking about loving others as they love themselves.

They long to for it to be shown.

Talk alone is not genuine, just look at politicians.

Actions are genuine, and that is where a large portion of the church has begun to fail. Because no one on the outside of any way of life where talk trumps action wants to join in.

Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see.” The key word is “be.” The more individual stories we have like my dad, where showing takes priority over talking, the more we are inspired to do the same and the quicker this overall story improves.

And so, my message to you,

Show.

Don’t just tell.

The Spoiled Little Prick– By: Charlie Westerman

One of the biggest things in my life that distances me from having an intimate and trusting relationship with God is restlessness.  Over the past two months I have once again gotten into a mindset that it’s never fun enough, it’s never easy enough, it’s never fast enough.  It is a spirit of discontentedness and it makes it almost impossible to hear, trust and follow after God’s own heart.

Then I had an epiphany the other day: this summer on my forty-day backpacking trip I had finally shed that mindset, and oh how free I felt!  I knew then that I have to get that mindset back.  I thought about how thankful I was for the littlest things at the end of a long day of hiking with a heavy pack.  One time in particular I remember thinking the juice from a can of tuna tasted like the nectar of Eden.  That’s right folks—TUNA JUICE.  A few weeks ago I had a Mac n’ Jacks (my favorite beer that’s brewed in the northwest, and quite possibly just flat out, my favorite beer), and I think I enjoyed it about as much as I would a glass of spoiled soymilk.

As I’ve investigated the source of this discontentedness I’ve found that three factors have played a part in it.  The first is that I have been excessive in partaking of the things that are special to me in life; this makes them not special.  I mean it’s not an organic chemistry test– having a couple microbrews almost every night while I wind down is exactly why the Mac n’ Jacks tasted ordinary while I shot some pool with my friends.  Going to wing night every Wednesday makes eating the last one seem more like a chore than an accomplishment.  Watching Netflix every night instead of reading doesn’t help me truly relax when I do it.  Not to mention it makes me a pretty piss-poor excuse for an English-lit major.

The second reason for my restlessness is because I wasn’t winning another key battle of mine: my laziness.  When you’re not being productive to an honest level of satisfaction with yourself through the week, you’re not going to enjoy the time you get to be unproductive because you don’t feel like you’ve earned it.

For me to feel productive each week there are some very tangible battles I can win.  I’m trying to emphasize simple, tangible things we can do in our lives to grow closer to God, because if not, in our culture we get easily overwhelmed.  For me tangible battles against laziness are things like working out 3-4 times.  Making my own meals and eating out less.  Keeping my room clean.  Doing a couple blog posts.  Getting the coffee ready the night before.  Getting to bed before one and waking up before nine. Budgeting my money.

Again, this stuff isn’t like doing Chinese algebra.  It is simple, but at the same time it’s not easy to follow, especially when you don’t develop them as consistent habits.  You can’t do it on your own.  You have to rely on God.

The more I go through life, the more I realize that you have to be in constant communication with him.  This doesn’t just mean praying for ten minutes in the morning; in addition to that you have to constantly be chatting with him throughout the day, and for me especially, throughout the night.  It doesn’t always have to be deep and complex.  Sometimes just finding a way to remind yourself that God is present with you can be an extremely effective method for fighting your battles.

A lot of times I find a good way to stay in communication with him is to be thankful.  Which brings my to the third source of my discontent: I have been living an entitled life– a life of ingratitude.  Just doing things like praying before meals, thanking him for music when a bitchin’ song comes on your shuffle, praising him that I have the physical ability to go for a run: these all develop a thankful mindset and keep you from feeling entitled and discontent.  I’m sure my Uncle Beej—a quadriplegic, and has been for almost 40 years—would kill to go for a 15-minute jog. How’s that for perspective Charlie you spoiled little prick?

The more you train yourself to have God on your mind, the more you start thinking outside your selfish self, and the harder it is to disobey him.  The Holy Spirit speaks to us, more often than not, in a whisper.  And if you’re not listening closely, you will always take the advice of your deafening pride, which is right about the time when you start getting yourself into trouble and start thinking that everyone else is the enemy.  When this happens you don’t even realize your biggest one is the face you look at in the mirror every morning; and when that happens, you have been snared by one of Satan’s most classic traps: there’s nothing wrong with me, there’s everything wrong with everyone else.