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On January 18, 2009

Anniversaries

So I am not one of those guys who remembers every special day in a relationship, or brings flowers on every holiday invented by Hallmark…but today is special to me for a pretty memorable reason.

On January 18th, 2001 I met Leslie for the first time at a Harding basketball game. I wasn’t very smooth or suave (I actually tried flirting with her by pushing her out on the court). I had not gotten past the whole Jr. High way of showing a girl I liked her. All I knew was that I really, really liked this girl.

I liked her so much in fact, that I went back to my dorm room and told my roommate that I had met the girl that I was going to marry. He immediately sat up in his bed and made me write down this statement:

I, Jonathan Storment, will marry Leslie Maas, January 18th, 2001.

Sounds romantic right? My roommate and I told a couple other close friends, and here is where it gets sticky. One of those friends, told her a couple of days later about what I had said and written about her.

Did I mention that I had just met Leslie?

So I go from being some guy who might have some sweet way to propose in the future, to being a really, really creepy guy who is moving way too fast…and she thinks I’m too short.

Needless to say, it was an uphill climb for a bit in our relationship.

But despite my good friend’s betrayal of trust (Josh Harriman you know who you are), things worked out and 8 years later I am so thankful that I bumped into her at that game.

Leslie has only gotten better, she has been better to me than I have been to her. She exemplifies selflessness with the way she serves others. She encourages me to be the man that I am not, but that she believes I could be.

I don’t know how God works with bringing people together. Whenever I hear someone say that God told them to marry this person I am always skeptical. But whatever gave me that impulse when I first met Leslie, I thank God for. Because after 8 years of knowing her, almost 6 years of marriage, and one beautiful daughter, I am one lucky man.

Happy Anniversary Sugar-Britches.

On January 12, 2009

Deuteronomy

So I recently finished reading the book of Deuteronomy during my personal time. It’s the book that Jesus quotes more than any other, it’s one of the main books about Justice in the Scriptures, always telling the Israelites to take care of the poor, foreigners, widows and orphans.

But one of the things that really stood out to me was how barbaric it sounded. For example one of the things God commanded the Israelites was that when they entered a town or village that they had beaten in war, the men may take the women for their wives, they must allow them to shave their heads for mourning, they must give them 30 days to mourn the loss of their family, and if they are not pleased with them they must let them go, they are not their property.

What? Does that sound strange to anyone else?

A couple of observations here; First, Deuteronomy was written first and foremost to the people of Israel for that time and that place. Second, that time and that place was a culture dominated by war. And back in that day men didn’t look for “wives” during their raids on defeated villages. They weren’t wanting to wait thirty days, and despite how bad it sounds to our 21st century ears it was a huge statement for them to hear that these women were not their property.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know this sounds bad, really, really bad. The entire book of Deuteronomy is hard like this. It’s peppered with God commanding mercy and destruction, war and then kindness to the hurting. It’s hard to wrap your mind around.

But I think it helps to remember that this was God’s word to His people, in that culture. In that time God was calling them to take a huge step forward. He meets them where they were at, and calls them toward change. There was a reason that later books in the Old Testament sound so much different. God was developing a people.

He wasn’t going to leave them where He found them.

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin says that one of the things about our modern sensibilities to these passages is that we have a conscience that was developed by the Scriptures. We critique that which brought us to the point we are now.

God has the ideal, the lion lays down with the lamb, no more death, no more pain etc. But God also knows the reality of the world. He knows that systematic evil picks up a head of steam, and takes something significant to end it.

Something like self-sacrifice. Even to the point of death.

I think Jesus is so central to understand the Old Testament, and the Old Testament is so central to understanding Jesus. Because Jesus comes and re-interprets all of Scripture. He says to them You have heard that it was said eye for an eye…but I tell you turn the other cheek.

He’s calling them forward.

This is why sometimes when I hear people quote Scriptures for their own ideas and agenda I get sick to my stomach. Sometimes people talk about war, or slavery to justify their own anger or racism and totally miss the point.

That was a word to God’s people for that time and that place. But you have heard that it was said…

God called His people forward, and I think he’s doing the same thing today. It’s time to stop living in the past, because you have heard that it was said…But that was then, He doesn’t want us to be exactly like them, back then. It’s time to move forward.

On January 8, 2009

Rick Warren

I recently watched this video that Rick Warren, the preacher at Saddleback church did for his congregation. I found it pretty insightful on Rick Warren’s political action for the past few months. It’s long but worth watching…I especially liked his point on how the need for conflict makes our nation so polarizing, and the need for civilians to operate with civility toward one another.

Here are some questions that Warren’s video raised:

1. Do you agree with his explanation of Homosexual Marriage/Partnership?
2. How about his reasoning for praying for the Obama inaugaration?
3. If the media’s portrayal of public figures are just characterization of the actual people, what good does watching CNN/Fox/MSNBC really do?

Anyway, this is not trying to drum up another political conversation, I think we are all tired of that. I wanted others to see Warren’s statements because I think that Warren shows what it looks like to have convictions without being dogmatic (whether you agree with him or not).

I feel like I have a political hangover ever since November 4th. I said things that I regret to people who I had differences of opinions with. I was so passionate about things that I don’t really care that deeply about. I appreciate Warrens humility and candor and I think next election year I will take a lesson from him.

P.S. Thanks to my friend Philip for this link.

On January 3, 2009

Limits

I would like to apologize to my reader for not having written for a while (sorry Mom) having a new kid at home I decided to take a break from the blog and should have told you, but now having some footing for what life is like with a baby, I intend to start back writing.

With that said…

So when God creates the world he starts off by dividing the night from the day, the dry land from the water, the firmament from the sky (whatever that means). Before he ever gets into the dicey business of making monkeys and pomegranates he divides and orders the basic elements setting limits on how far they can go.

Rabbi’s said that God divided the light from the darkness and it has been mankind’s job to do that ever since. Maybe they are on to something. The basic idea in Genesis one is not a scientific treatise on exactly what went down, I believe it is much more. God is calling the world out of chaos and into order.

And he does this by setting limits.

The book of Job describes this a bit more clearly where God is sort of having a God-off with Job, reminding him of his place in creation. God says to Job:

Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it  and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?

In other words, God is describing the limits he set on Creation as a way of reminding Job who he is not. Job is challenging the way God runs the universe, and God is letting Job know that there is a bit more going on than he thought. And he cites as evidence of his power, his ability to set limits.

For the last decade or so, the structure of how we live in a modern world has changed drastically. It started with pagers, suddenly people could get ahold of us even when we were away. Then it went to cell phones, the internet, email, and PDA’s. It is no impossible to fully unplug. Everyone became on-call, and to not be so was rude. Globalization kicks in and suddenly we are just a call or message away from the other side of the world. And even if you aren’t wanting to be located, you will be found by Google.

6 Billion people can now get in touch with you.

For the last few months I have been going through a pretty tough time. I have had a low-grade anger boiling just beneath the surface, I have had little to no joy in my job, things that used to fun were just becoming tasks. My family, my work and just me as a human being has suffered. And for the past two weeks I have been trying to figure out what was wrong.

It’s easy to blame others, to say it was because of difficult people in my life, but the truth is the problem is me. More blatantly, the problem is that I don’t know where I end and where others begin. I don’t know what I can and cannot do, I did not know my limits.

On the average day I come home after work, to work. Even if I don’t need to. I check and send emails night and day, and answer my cell phone all hours of the night. And I was beginning to resent everyone, especially myself. I found that I was never fully present anywhere. Even when I was trying to help people, I couldn’t really help one because I was feeling pulled in so many other directions.

I wanted to quit several times over the past month, even though I loved my job, I thought it was my job that was killing me. But I recently realized it was me that was killing me. I have always been bad about knowing what my limits are, but  I am not in the same season in life that I was a few years ago, I can’t do everything I once did, nor should I. I am learning how to embrace the gift of limits. God didn’t make me to be available 24-7. And he didn’t make you for that either. So Leslie and I have decided to do something drastic. We are no longer answering our cell-phones or checking email after 7 p.m.

We are unplugging.

We hope that this will make our ministry better, that this will make our family time better, and that we can work well when we are working, and rest well when resting.

This is not just a therapeutic post or a resolution blog. I am guessing that if you have the technological capacity to be reading this right now, you may have the same struggle that I do. You weren’t meant to available for everyone at all times, God didn’t make us with limitless resources.

And that is a gift.

You can sleep well knowing that you are inadequate for many things.

We can do what we can do, and do it well, and let someone else do the rest.

Maybe God’s word to Job is still a word to us. You are not God. The limits are already set.

It’s time to embrace them.

On November 4, 2008

Allegiances

So today is a historic day for Americans. We are called by every part of our society, from our media to Starbucks, to let our voices be heard, and stand up for our values. But what does that mean for a follower of Jesus?

I grew up seeing Republican and Christianity in almost identical categories. Theologically we believed that Adam and Eve ate the fruit, and in their fallen state their first act was to register as Democrats and then carry on with their lives.

But then I went to Harding and one of my good friends was a Democrat (possibly The only Democrat). And I learned that they weren’t necessarily 100% evil.

I learned that the hard and fast rules drawn by political parties weren’t always right, or justifiable.
I even learned that in other parts of the country people assumed that Christians would vote as Democrats.

I began to see that even in the Bible there were different political ideologies, like in 2nd Kings, King Uzziah is a King who did the Lord’s will till he died, but in 2 Chronicles, he is a man who God struck down with leprosy and he died outside of God’s will.

Shane Claiborne points out that it’s like the vision that Scriptures has for the Kingdom of God is big enough to have varying other political ideologies, and so everyone has a voice at the table. Liberal, conservative, even the green party.

But that got me thinking why were we letting other people tell us what it meant for a Christian to be involved in politics?

Recently Dr. Dobson, (a man who has done a lot of good in his life) wrote a letter to Christians as a imaginary letter from a Christian in 2012 who has lived through an Obama presidency.

It’s ridiculous.

He writes about how the world has now crumbled into chaos, and now everyone’s getting abortion’s, porn has replaced Christian cable television, far right-wing Conservative talk shows like Rush Limbaugh and Shawn Hannity have been censored (so it’s not all bad) and they have taken away everyone’s guns.

Seriously? Our guns? That’s what you think Jesus’ followers political platform should be?

The same day I saw this letter from Dr. Dobson, I saw another letter, written from other Christians from another politically charged time in our country. And from a very different perspective.

It’s from Harding University to the War department of the United States during the draft for World War I. And it impressed me. These men saw the way of Jesus as incompatible with the act of war against anyone, even with someone like Hitler. And what I really appreciated was what they said about why they would not go to war. They said that their allegiance to God must come first.

That’s refreshing.

They said they would serve as non-combatants for their country but they would not serve as soldiers. They would die for their country, but they would not kill. Because they had a deeper allegiance to a bigger Kingdom, and a better King.

Now whether or not you agree with their stance on war, I think it’s important for Christians to understand their order of allegiances, because when those get out of order things get ugly.

And the biggest indicator of what order your allegiance is in, is how you feel about today. I hear people talking about the possibilities of what would happen if Obama/McCain got elected, and they say they are terrified about how things would change. They are scared of an election. Fear is one of the things God seems to be the hardest on. Fear at it’s base is mis-trust. It’s indicative of mis-placed hope.

I remember on September 12th, 2001 walking into an 8 a.m. Bible class at Harding with a professor who was one of the first calm people I had seen in hours. (we all assumed that Searcy Arkansas was next on Bin Laden’s hit list). And we asked him what a Christian’s response was to the attacks of September 11th. This professor reminds us of Hebrew 12, where the author says to people who are looking death squarely in the face, since you are receiving a Kingdom which cannot be shaken, don’t fear.

A Kingdom that cannot be shaken.

Now I am going to vote, but I realize that it is at best an imperfect choice that must be made for the common good.

I am going to give this good country my vote but not my hope. I will not give my primary allegiance to secondary things, it belongs to a Kingdom that cannot be shaken.

On January 8, 2000

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