Saturday, October 31, 2009

22 Years of Reflection...

I turned 22 yesterday and I was hoping someone might be able to answer some of my questions.

For example, I spend nearly everyday of my life alone so why do you make a big deal about it on my birthday? Why is this the day you care?

If we have not talked in over year, probably since my last birthday when you posted happy birthday on my wall, why thy sudden interest in my life?

I guess my real question is this, are you really my friend?

The English language is vague in the way we use words. I am friends with Ande Thomas, whom I consider my best friend and I am friends with people on facebook whom I am not sure I have ten minute conversation before.

In Greek and Latin and almost every other language, the word friend is much more descriptive. The words they used for friend is best translated to lover.

I guess the real question is do you love me because I do not think you do and if you do, you suck at showing it.

Happy Birthday...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ode to Old Mellon...

I was there.

The Guins were down 3-0 in the series against the Flyers and everyone in the old Civic Arena knew what was riding on this game. If we did not win this game the season would be over and our dreams of drinking once again from “Lord Stanley’s Fabled Cup” would be prolonged until next season. Not only had this hung in the balance but two of our biggest stars, Mario Lemieux and Joey Mullen’s career where all but over, everyone knew of their impending retirement, everybody but me.

I was 11 and I loved hockey. I remember those good old days of Pittsburgh Hockey before it was such a “fad.” The stands where filled with true fans of hockey, not the corporate business type trying to woo their customers but big guys in overalls and mullets. My grandfather had taken me to the game and our seats where on the Penguins side, above the goal. We got their early because I loved to watch the warm-ups. I felt like a scout as I watched Philadelphia take their practice shots against their goalie, Garth Snow. Leaning over to my Pap I said, “He is letting up some easy ones.” I remember feeling confident that Penguins would easily defeat the Flyers and I was right, we won the game 4-1.

Details of the game are blurry. I do not remember who scored what goals, who hit who and even who the three stars where (besides Mario). The thing I remember the most was the last minute of that game. The Flyers where trying desperately to put another one on the board. They dumped the puck into our zone and gained possession and started cycling the puck to one another. Mario deflected a pass that found its way onto Ian Moran’s stick. Moran fired a pass to the blue line where he found Mario Lemieux on the break away. By the time Mario entered the Flyers territory he was a full stick lengths away from any defender, he glided from left to right. Standing on my seat to see past the sea heads of all the other fans that were standing on their feet, I saw Mario fire one over the glove hand side of Garth Snow. The puck hit the twine, the lamp lit and old Civic Arena erupted with cheer.

After the goal my Grandfather had seen enough and we started to exit early from the game (against my protest). I remember hearing the announcer announce the three stars as we reached my grandfathers Ford Expedition and number 66 was announced as number one. As we left Civic Arena’s parking lot, I remember the noise the most; Cars honking, air horns blasting and the most dominant noise of all; “MARIO MARIO MARIO!!!” The noise did not cease until we were well out of the Squirrel Hill Tunnels. My pap turned down the post game on the radio and said to me, “Zachary, remember this night as long as you live.”
We all know how this story ends. The Pens would lose the next game in Philly and Lemieux retired.

Recently I have moved to Philadelphia to attend Eastern University and when people ask me about what they view as a strange obsession with hockey and my beloved Penguins, I tell them this story. I tell them about how Mario saved us, not once, not twice but three times. I tell them of the days of the Student Rush line and how Georges Laraque handed me a pizza. The old Igloo will be missed but let’s hope the Consol Energy Center will be the site of many more good memories.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


I am not the same person I was a year ago.

I am not the same person I was 6 months ago.

I am not the same person I was a month ago.

I am not the same person I was a week ago.

I am not the same person I was yesterday.

I just changed again...

I used to say I was so messed up before I met Christ but right now I am messed up. Not in the same way, not in a bitter and depressed drug induced way. I am not in a suicidal trance, floating through life but something is not right.

Christ is messing me up. I re-read the gospels and it troubles me, frightens me and excites me. It makes me wonder...

"Can I do it?"

"Why do we war for peace?"

"What am I getting myself into?"

"If 33% of the world are Christians, why are their still hungry and homeless people?"

"Am I the only one who believes that Jesus meant what he said?"

Am I alone? Do you really believe what he said, what he called you to do?


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Finding my Calcutta...

"Calcutta is everywhere, you just got look for it." Mother Teresa

Many of you know that I just got hired at Oakland United Methodist Church in Johnstown, Pa to be the youth pastor for the summer. Also you probably know that I have looking for my own "Calcutta" to serve in and well I think I found it.


34.5% of families that have children under 18 are in Poverty

43.9% of families that have children under 5 are in Poverty

60.3% of single mother families that have children under 18 are in Poverty

71.3% of single mother families that have children under 5 are in Poverty

20.9% of individuals over 18 are in Poverty

12.6% of individuals over 60 are in Poverty

37.5% of individuals under 18 are in Poverty

Needless to say one of my first sermons will be on Matt 25:41-43. Wish me luck, I am out to change the world!

Monday, April 27, 2009


God said to Moses, "I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

What amazes me about God is his unrelentless interest in us. His love is so powerful, so amazing, so crazy for us. It does not make sense for God, who has no problems, to concern himself with us. We are broken people, with real problems but God wants to know us. What is more amazing God identifies himself through us.

Early in the passage God introduces himself as "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." He could of very well said, I am God the most powerful, creator of all things now worship me but he did not. Instead he identified himself with his people, the broken and flawed and then invited Moses to take off his sandals, in an act of worship, if he wanted to come any closer, if wanted to experience God more.

Again, God is not your ordinary immortal entity of this time. When Moses wanted to know God's name God replied, "I am who I am." A lot smarter people than I want to make this out as a divine title for God but I think God was so caught up in the moment, he did not care what Moses called him.

Look "I am who I am" but Moses I have seen my people suffering and it "concerns me".

Our suffering concerns God. Again God could have went on a tangent exclaiming Holy names for himself but rather he just said "I am who I am." I am is a God who is more concerned with knowing us than us knowing him. I am not saying God does not want us worship or it is not necessary for us to believe in him to go Heaven. Rather I am saying God wants to know us so intimately that he does not need some huge elaborate introduction. He is content to reveal himself in humble ways, like being born in a manger.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I am still the man...

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, "Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?" Some claimed that he was.

Others said, "No, he only looks like him."

But he himself insisted, "I am the man." (John 9:9)

This passage of the bible is one of my favorites, for many reasons. For one, Jesus explains why God makes us disabled, so the glory of God may be shown through us. You may be thinking that their is nothing glorifying about being mentally challenged or blind or being in a wheel chair but tell that to Aaron Fotheringham (check out this video of him) and do not be deceived by my word choice of disabled. We all have a disability, whether it be a physical or mental, we all have one.

Another reason why I love this story is because Jesus healed this man. There is something about passages of scripture where Jesus heals that get to me. Maybe it is this hoping inside me that one day I can believe so fully that my deepest scares will be erased by grace or maybe it is the way Jesus heals, it is always hands on. He never snaps his fingers or writes out a script (then tells you take all the pills even if you feel better), but rather he touches those he heals. This account is just funny and where one my friend's believes the phrase "oh Jesus" originated.

The last reason why I like this passage, is the way people are in disbelief about what Jesus just did. How they believed that the man was not who he said he was, that he could not be himself because he was so changed. I have experienced that and I still do to this day. When I came to Christ I changed (still am changing) and people did not believe it, they still do not.

It has been three years since I have smoked that "sweet leaf" (April 22nd 2006) and I still get phone calls asking if I want to smoke. It is an awkward conversation when I explain that I choose Christ's love over any type of inebriation these days.

"But you put the HIGH in high school?!?!"

"Not anymore. I grew up and found something better, something fulfilling."

Day by day Christ is workingim me to heal me. I still have problems and plenty of them but I am still the man who Christ healed so many years ago.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I know...

In life we are forced to deal with situations that we cannot see coming. Like stepping out into the street in front of oncoming bus, life hits us hard when we least expect it. We are left with a self doubt that can be so crippling; it seems we will never “live” again.

What if?

The question haunts us night and day, besieging our dreams and turning them into nightmares.

Things could have been different!

Our minds race to possible outcomes that would make things different and through our narrow scope, perfect.

This is all my fault.

In the video above you see Dr. Cox deals with losing three of his patients, which he feels responsible for their deaths. After losing the third he cannot take it and walks out of the hospitable. Then JD reminds of his own words by saying, “The second you start blaming yourself for people’s deaths, there is no coming back.”

“You’re right.”

How do you think Dr. Cox knew this piece of advice he told his friend?

Dr. Cox is misunderstood character, most of the time, on the TV show scrubs. He seems to be the “hard ass” that hates his job and does not care about anybody but himself. Perry seems to be a complete narcissist, who in his own world cannot make a mistake. Yet when he does, he takes full blame. His mistake haunts him to the point where he cannot function. This is not a defining moment in Dr. Cox’s life. No, he has been blaming himself for a long, long time.

It is so dangerous to blame ourselves for things that are unavoidable. Things could be different but do we really want them to be?

When my mom passed away I blamed myself. It sounds stupid because she died of cancer but I found away to blame myself. It probably does not help that several unnamed people also put this notion into my head.

“You are running your mother ragged, this is not helping her. You are killing her.”

Nonetheless my mom died but what came out of it was the single greatest thing in my life. I came to accept Christ and there is nothing that is not worth losing to know Him.