I have these two groups of friends, and one half doesn’t understand why I keep writing things about Jesus, and the other half doesn’t understand why I go places like Vegas.
In fact, someone actually said to me, “My sister would never go to Vegas with you. She is doing more important things with her life like building houses in New Orleans.”
Why do we do that to each other?!
I believe in Jesus and in building houses. I’ve been side-winding along this one-step-forward-two-steps-back journey toward becoming a better “neighbor” to the entire world, or to my coworkers and friends, or to Indianapolis or Belize or whatever, and also trying to articulate what that looks like to everyone else. FYI (or FMI): Jesus is what that looks like. That’s why I keep writing about Him.
Also, I believe in vacations: bright lights, fancy rooftop meals, chicken-fights in the pool, time with friends and family, 20 bucks in the slot machine, a musical light-and-fountain show, singing pirates, an exact replica of the NYC skyline or the Eiffel Tower, and, I EVEN believe in alcohol and dancing, when the time is right.
Like it or not, Las Vegas has truth and beauty. The sun rises and sets, mountains surround the entire city, and the Grand Canyon is one short helicopter (or low-flying plane) ride away. It is also has lots of sin and depravity. But so does Cleveland or Tokyo or Paris or California or Florida. So does New Orleans. So does Fort Wayne. You can find mostly anything you want in any city if you look for it. You can build a house in New Orleans and be a depraved person. You can go to Vegas and be a moral person. And here’s the real shocker: Jesus is EVERYWHERE. Even in Vegas. I saw a piggy bank there in a gift shop that said: I love Jesus. If that isn’t proof, I don’t know what is. I took a pic with my phone and sent it to my mom. But I misdialed because I was too drunk. Just kidding.
Now for the daily excerpt from Velvet Elvis (I know, I know, why don’t I just marry it?):
I can’t tell you the number of people I know who experience truth outside the boundaries of their religion and abandon the whole thing because they think it’s a choice.
But it isn’t a choice, because Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” If you come across truth in any form, it isn’t outside your faith as a Christian. Your faith just got bigger. To be a Christian is to claim truth wherever you find it.
It is dangerous to label things “Christian”. Something can be labeled “Christian” and not be true or good.
In the same way, something can be true and not be labeled “Christian.” Paul quotes Cretan prophets and Greek poets. He is interested in whether or not what they said is true. To be able to quote them, Paul obviously had to read them. And study them. And analyze them. And I’m sure he came across all kinds of things in their writing He didn’t agree with. So he sits and sorts and separates the light from the dark and then claims the parts that are true.
It is as if Paul is a spiritual tour guide and is taking his readers through their world, pointing out the true and the good wherever he sees it. Notice what he does in the book of Acts. He visits the city of Lystra, which hasn’t heard of Jesus or the God Paul believes in, and he tries to figure out how to explain the Christian worldview to them. He tells them “[God] has not left himself without a testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
Paul essentially asks his audience: Have you had enough food? Who do you think it comes from?
Has it rained so your crops could grow? Who do you think did that?
Have you ever laughed? Who do you think made that possible?
Have you ever heard missionaries say they were going to “take Jesus” to a certain place? What they meant, I assume, was that they had Jesus and they were going to take him to a place like China or India or Chicago (or Vegas!) where people apparently didn’t have him.
I would ask them if people in China or India or Chicago (or Vegas!) are eating and laughing and enjoying things and generally being held together? Because if they are, then Jesus, in a way that is difficult to fully articulate, is already present there.
Now, I’ll be honest. I had a good time, and by good time I mean I drank too much and spent too much money on danceries where people were flying around on trapezes from the ceiling. But I looked at my friends and understood deep in my soul that these relationships are real and true. Two of these people showed me Jesus 8 years ago when I couldn’t discern up from down or light from dark. The glue between us IS Jesus. And we just happen to be in Vegas this weekend.
Footnote: I’m not advocating moral relativism here; the key is balance and self-control. I don’t have either of those qualities, but Vegas is not really my vice. Pastries are. People should be more worried about me in France. I’ll eat those beignets in sinful glory.
For the Vegas crew:
Best meal: dinner on the 64th floor of the Mandalay overlooking the strip at sunset (3 words: coconut curried Lobster).
First impressions: How are you at chicken-fights?
Most used quote: Hey bay-bay (that’s my song, turn it up)
Second most used quote: Where’s Erin?
In the words of Melissa: I LOVE her!
In the words of the waitress: Thanks, Marlena.
In the words of Myllisa: No really, what’s your room number? That was only 4 digits.
In the words of Best Dad Ever: you guys need to find me a 50-year-old to take to dinner tonight.
Theme of the weekend: magical
Worst moment: falling asleep at Raffles in the middle of breakfast
Most absurd: How much is that picture? 17 dollars.
Most rad: private stalls with floor to ceiling window views of the Mandalay pool complex
After the fact: I don’t have any pictures. My camera broke on the first day. It has spots all over it. I think it had unprotected sex with another camera.
Magical: champagne toast at midnight (or quarter after, whatever)
Next Year: Elaine?!
Biggest loss: (say it with me) Wheel! Of! Fortune!
That’s all I can think of.
Looking forward to next year. I hear Hard Rock has a swim-up bar and blackjack table. And a swim up church, too. Kidding, kidding.
Love you guys.