Monday, December 15, 2008

what now?

sorry i haven't written in a while. i know there have been tens of... people waiting for my next post. it's been a crazy few months for me in a lot of ways. sometimes i have so many thoughts at once that it is hard to land on one coherent enough to write about. so to get me back in the creative mood, i decided to just write out my thoughts at the moment.

i don't know what happens now. i don't know what i am supposed to do when i thought i knew where God's path was leading me and now i come face to face with a big detour sign. i don't even know what i feel right now. i'm not angry. i'm not depressed. i'm not disgruntled, which is weird, because previously circumstances like i am facing now would have resulted in emotions like that. but i am closer to being emotionless lately. not numb. just still. waiting. expecting. seeking. it's like that moment at the top of the hill on the roller coaster where you know something awesome is about to happen, but you are just frozen for that split second. just think about stopping in that roller coaster at the top of the hill. imagine the things you'd see. the beauty of the view. the anticipation of the unknown in your future. it would be unsettling and calming at the same time. hectic and placid. unnerving and serene all at once. now imagine that split second lasting for 3 months, and that's where i am. in the roller coaster of my life, i am sitting at the top of the hill, just taking in the view. i look back and see the valleys i have risen from. i see the valleys ahead. but i see the excitement ahead too. i see the potential to move on from my past and into a new start. being on top of this hill has changed my outlook on many things. i'm finding contentment not in circumstances, but in the knowledge that God is there, and in control even when my finite mind can't grasp that. it is like the instability of my life is the only thing that could have possibly led me to being secure spiritually. sins have lost their luring power. people never seem like distractions or burdens anymore, they seem like opportunities to experience God. and now i am beginning to see what life can be like if it is lived to glorify and serve God. so while i don't know what state i will live in next month, where i will work or when or if i will ever get married and start a family, i feel more positive about my life than i ever have. maybe for the first time, i am seeking God's will first, instead of asking Him to come alongside me and bless what i have already decided to do. and that in itself is more of a blessing than i could ever imagine. so i thank God for the breathtaking view that only this pause could bring into my line of sight.

Monday, September 29, 2008

it was the best of times, it was the worst of times

God's will is a sticky subject. it's so easy to sit in towers of ivory with intellectualized theories about how God leads His people. i confess that i have done that. at different times in my life, i have had drastically different thoughts about this subject. at times i have thought God has it all mapped out for us. other times have led me to believe that God doesn't really have a preference as to exactly what we do and where we do it, as long as we fit within the general framework He gave us in scripture. other times, i have had nothing intelligent to say about it, cause i had no idea what to think.

i am a big proponent of the idea that we too often allow our experience to shape our interpretations of scripture and our view of God. i suppose it is only natural. it is difficult to see beyond the tangible to the 'other.' for example, many think that if life circumstances are bad, God must be unloving, uncaring or unable to fix things. if life is good for people, God is loving, caring and powerful enough to bless his people. or, when times are bad, God is still loving, caring and powerful, but must be trying to teach us something through our trials. but the issue with this mode of operation is that, just like job, we are not privy to what goes on 'behind the scenes.' thus, our ideas of what God's will could be are only, at best, educated guesses.

i say this not to downplay seeking God's will in the least. i believe we must always pray to that end. i believe we should constantly search for God's leadings and urgings in our lives. i believe thinking about God's will is a good thing, but i also think life experience removes us from the ivory tower and forces us to not just think about the hypothetical, but put our beliefs into practice. but what do we do when nothing seems to jump out as God's path? do we follow the poetic words of frost and take the road less travelled by? do we throw out the fleece like gideon did? do we roll dice or play paper rock scissors? do we seek and follow wise counsel of Godly people? do we just step out and believe God will bless whatever choice we make?

all of this has become so pertinent to me because it is exactly where i am right now. i don't often write about specific things in my life, but i feel like i need to, so here it goes. as of october 1, i have no job. my time as a full time employee of rochester college has come to an end. the full time ministry job i thought i had lined up is not looking so sure anymore. so now i am very unsure. this is different from a few months ago. this summer, the church job seemed like a lock. i was basically told it was a lock, but then things changed. in the midst of my conversations with the church, i found out my job at the college had been cut from the budget. however, i viewed this as a confirmation that the nearly done deal church job was where God wanted me to be. now i am facing unemployment and have no job to step into. so i feel as though someone has found the cosmic remote and hit pause. i don't know what to do- should i collect unemployment or get a job in a grocery store? should i look into other ministry jobs and schedule interviews? and the ultimate question i have is where is God in all of this? is it His will that this is happening, or is satan trying to thwart God's plan by placing doubts in what i thought was a sure situation? don't misinterpret me- i have no doubt whatsoever that God is right here in the middle of this. but my desire is to look behind the curtain. i want to see God pulling levers and pushing buttons like the wizard of oz. i want to be able to read the narrator's commentary on my life and eavesdrop on God and satan chatting, just as i get to when i read job.

but that is what faith is about, isn't it? pushing on even when we have no explanation or see no obvious path. people can call religion 'the opiate of the masses' or foolish or whatever they want. to a degree i would agree that 'religion' is a less than desirable thing. but i don't want to be a religious person. i want to be a person of faith. i want to be a person who follows God, not just shows up to a building and consumes crackers and grape juice. i want my life to reflect what i believe- that God is faithful to His people and loves His creation enough to be a part of our lives. i just pray that when i look back at this chapter in my life, i will see how God's poetic story was being written in my life. i pray that i will have chosen the path less travelled by- the path of faith.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

i'm sorry and i'm thankful

i am sorry for the fact that people who call themselves Christians act nothing like Christ.
i am sorry that people try to be what they think people want them to be instead of just being ok with who they actually are.
i am sorry that kids have to be raised by parents who don't care.
i am sorry i can't help people completely deal with their pain.

i am thankful that Christ is still worthy of praise even when we misrepresent Him.
i am thankful that i have friends, family and a God who accept me for who i am, not some facade i put in front of them.
i am thankful to have parents who loved me and wanted the best for me.
i am thankful that God can still comfort those to whom i can only offer a listening ear.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

top 3

warning- this post requires replies and comments.

here is the inspiration-
i was driving along to indiana a few weeks back for work and didn't have my ipod (the rental didn't have an input- tragedy, i know). so i was relegated to listening to the radio for the whole trip. once the detroit sports radio station was out of range, i opted for the scan button. as i determined if a song was or was not worth my time, i thought about the songs i never like or listen to and the songs i love or cannot pass up if i hear them. also, as i stopped on a few songs, i realized i would have been embarrassed to stop on them had anyone else been in the car. so, it made me want to write a blog and see what some of your entries on the following top 3 lists would be. (i included movies because i like them and my sister and i have talked before about movies you watch whenever they are on tv no matter how many times you have seen them.) feel free to reply with any or all of your entries.

(i would never stop on these songs unless it was to mock them or if i had a person in the car whom i wanted to torture)

1. anything sung by rod stewart
he is terrible and sounds like he swallowed glass. forever young particularly makes me want to puke and ironically makes me want to be old, so that i could be closer to death and have less of a chance of hearing that song anymore.

2. i want to live like animals (or the animal song) by savage garden
i don't even think i have to justify this one. listen to the song. i can't explain how, but i am pretty sure it is the cause of people choosing to be vegetarians and vegans.

3. summer girls by lfo
new kids on the block had a bunch of hits, chinese food makes me sick, and i think it's fly when girls stop by for the summer, the summer. note to the lyricist- please just have one coherent thought. just one- is that too much to ask?

4. simply having a wonderful christmas time by paul mccartney

i had to include this one. it makes me want to ram q-tips into my ears. paul mccartney should be removed from the beatles somehow for providing the musical equivalent of pooping in a box, wrapping it and placing it under a christmas tree.

(i would never change the dial if these songs came on)

1. california love by dr. dre and tupac (moment of silence please)

i don't know what it is about this song, but i have to listen to it when it comes on. maybe it is that inner thug coming out of me from my days on the mean streets of ashtabula. or maybe i relate with being out on bail, fresh out of jail- california dreaming.

2. elvira by the oak ridge boys

i used to love this when i was a little kid and would dance around in my diapers whenever it came on. i guess some traditions never die. (not saying i wear diapers and dance around my house to this song now *nervous chuckle*)

3. tie- anything sung by christina aguilera, lauryn hill or kelly clarkson

i am just melted into a little puddle of goo when i hear an awesome female voice, and these three can sing in a way that would make paint fall off of walls. three particular songs would be beautiful by c.a., ex-factor by l.h., and the live version of beautiful disaster by k.c. (by the way, kelly, if you read this, i am ready to marry you whenever you want.)

(i would not start out a blind date by saying i liked these songs)

1. one word, two syllables- boybands

i pretty much know every word to every n'sync song, most nkotb songs, and several backstreet boys songs. you can even throw in stuff like bbmak, 98 degrees, all4one and color me badd. i even created a genre on my itunes called boy bands so i don't have to weed through all that normal manly music guys listen to to find it. (related topic- i also love justin timberlake's solo stuff and listen to it all the time.)

2. the one that you love by air supply

in my defense- i am a high tenor. it helps me exercise my vocals. although crying as i scream it at the top of my lungs as i normally do doesn't help me sing much better.

3. careless whisper by wham

this is one of my favorite songs ever. what can i say, i am just a sucker for george michaels and... that other guy in wham.

(i like music so much that it was hard to limit to 3 so i had to at least give these songs a shout out)

1. what might have been by little texas
2. one last cry by brian mcknight
3. true by ryan cabrera
4. fly me to the moon by frank sinatra
5. mozart's requiem
6. worlds apart by jars of clay
7. she's got a way by billy joel
8. the freshmen by the verve pipe
9. inside out by eve 6
10. under the bridge by the red hot chili peppers

(i will not watch these movies unless i have no choice)

1. any star trek movie

i don't get into sci-fi. if you do, more power to you, but it is not my cup of tea.

2. superman returns

this movie had cheesy dialogue. it was way too obvious with its messianic parallel. i was sad to see one of my favorite actors, kevin spacey, be a part of such a disaster.

3. pearl harbor

leave it to american film to take a story about one of the most intriguing events in american history and focus on a fictitious love story. it was everything the makers of saving private ryan strived to avoid.

(i could watch them over and over again and still enjoy them)

1. dumb and dumber

classic slapstick comedy mixed with some very witty writing and great comedic timing. i laugh every single time i watch this movie without exception.

2. seven

pretty graphic content, but excellent thought-provoking dialogue concerning sin, religion and tolerance in american culture.

3. forrest gump

i don't know what it is, but i cannot get enough of this movie. the story, as unbelievable as it is, just draws me in every time. also, it makes me cry every time i see it, which leads into the next category...


1. dead poet's society

when the guys all find out about neil and todd (ethan hawk's character) just loses it, i can't help but cry.

2. mrs. doubtfire

ok, i know this seems stupid, but i have good reason. i am sure he would deny this if confronted, but this is the first movie i remember watching with my dad and seeing him cry. we went to the theatre and when robin williams is giving that speech in court about not losing his kids, my dad started to cry a little. every time i see that film now, i cry at that part.

3. patch adams

again, this is kind of a corny movie, but when patch is reading the rest of the love poem to corinne, i lose it. also, the scene on the edge of the cliff where patch is talking to God doesn't make me cry, but it is very emotional. you know, maybe i need to quit watching robin williams movies and i won't cry as much, cause i cry during good will hunting every time too. (it's not your fault, it's not your fault)

(i would for sure recommend that you watch these if you have not already)

1. gladiator
2. stranger than fiction
3. crash
4. american history x
5. what about bob
6. the usual suspects
7. ray
8. waiting for guffman (or any movie with that cast)
9. gangs of new york (and there will be blood- daniel day lewis is awesome in both)
10. wayne's world

ok, that's all for now. i hope to hear some of your favorite music and movies, too!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

i stand... somewhat impressed

i don't recall all the peripheral details, but i remember the moment itself like it just happened. i know i was with my parents in the car. i believe we were on the way to visit my sister in michigan. if i have to guess, i would say i was about 12 years old. as we drove, we came to an area close to an airport. high above, a plane soared. my mother turned from the front seat to tell me to look up and see the plane. and here is the moment i remember so well- unbeknownst to her, i rolled my eyes and said 'i see it mom,' but in reality i had made no attempt whatsoever to look at the plane. i mean, come on. i was 12 years old. i had seen tons of planes in my day. that was only cool and exciting to little kids.

i think about that day all the time. no exaggeration- i really do think about it every time i hear or see a plane. in fact it just happened yesterday when i was driving by the columbus airport and saw a plane fly overhead. i think about it because that is the precise moment i lost my sense of amazement for modern technology. in fact, nothing amazes me anymore unless i really allow myself to think about it long and hard. even though i cannot explain how a plane flies, it is just commonplace now. no need to get all worked up over it, right? thousands of them take off and land every day. despite the fact that i cannot even begin to give a scientific description of how we are able to record sound onto a tape, or video into a camcorder, i view it as simple. technology adapts and changes so quickly, it seems like nothing that could be invented would really knock me off my feet at this point. the childlike sense of wonder is gone. but yesterday, when i saw that plane, i let myself drift into thought. i considered how awe inspiring it truly is to see an object that large fly through the air. i thought about how awesome it is that God has given man the intelligence to engineer, pilot and build these machines. i let my mind go back to the days before that trip, when i was a young boy and the world was filled with incredible inventions and discoveries for me to experience. it was very freeing to feel that again.

there is a song i love called 'i stand amazed.' it goes like this-

i stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene
and wonder how He could love me- a sinner condemned, unclean

He took my sins and my sorrows, He made them His very own
He bore the burden to calvary and suffered and died alone

how marvelous! how wonderful and my song shall ever be!
how marvelous! how wonderful is my Savior's love for me!

i could write for a long time about this, but i will keep it short for now. i think i had, until recently, stopped thinking of grace as all that amazing. i didn't stand amazed anymore. God's mercies are new to me every morning. His grace is extended to me over and over again, so i sat in the back seat rolling my eyes, thinking "oh here comes forgiveness again..." i think the frequency of that gift being given made it less impressive to me. even though i could not explain why or how God had forgiven me, it became standard and even mundane. recently, i had an experience that opened my eyes to just how wonderful it is to be forgiven and redeemed by God. my simple prayer is that i never go back to the days of feeling like forgiveness and grace are anything less than awesome and inconceivable.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

why can't you be more like me?

ok, let me set the scene for you...

date- april 6, 2008. it had been winter for like 8 months- a relatively short winter for michiganders. during those 8 months, if it hadn't been snowing, it had been about 2 degrees outside. so, on the first REAL day of spring, when this odd thing called the sun came out, i met a friend at the local park (or the duck pond as the kids call it.) picture the placidity of this park- trees swaying in a light breeze, couples cuddling in the freshly cut grass (except for one couple that was totally taking pda to a new level- it was disturbing), bicycles whimsically passing, dogs frolicking, squirrels chattering and children squealing with joy because the temperature had finally released them from their wintery prison. it was so beautiful that i'm pretty sure i even saw a unicorn flying by and some elves making cookies in a nearby tree (but not harry potter- he is from satan). despite all this beauty, as we walked her dog and chatted, we found ourselves completely enthralled by something that i can only attempt to describe. my description may never fully allow you to capture the awesomeness of what we witnessed, but i will give it my best.

this summer playland was totally invaded by the last group of people i expected to see that day- emo kids. that's right- long sleeve-wearing, black jean-clad emo kids. keep in mind it was like 65 degrees out. but these kids refused to allow a hint of summer to change their wardrobe choice. and to make it even better, these emo kids were wielding homemade swords, presumably made out of cardboard and duct tape, or pvc pipes and duct tape for the more advanced fighters. additionally, amongst all these battling young lads was one queen giving instructions, her green hair flowing in the gentle wind. so, imagine this upper class suburban community being juxtaposed before our very eyes with the running and screaming and fighting of emo kids. (things got even more interesting when one very pale emo kid decided to take his shirt is all i can say.) we were able to take in this wonderful dichotomy until the emo kids called it a day to head for the land of the frosty- wendy's.

i wish as a 'mature' Christian i could say i did not make fun of these kids, but i did. it was so funny to me that this whole group of 15 kids would choose to spend their day running around, sweating and whacking each other with fake swords. i don't know if there was a point to this game. i was not able to determine what kind of role the green-haired queen was playing. oh, yeah and i forgot to mention they were taping some of this, which puzzled me even more. were they taping it to review later? did they sit on the couch during the week and critique their form like nfl players watching game film? anyway, my friend and i laughed at this. in fact, i am laughing now as i recall this event, because it was ridiculous to me.

making fun of these kids made me realize that i have a tendency to belittle or ridicule the things i don't enjoy. for example, i live with two guys- riley and clay. riley and i like a lot of the same things, such as sports, sports video games, certain movies, eating, etc. clay and i have music in common, but beyond that, not a whole lot. the biggest difference is clay's involvement in a game called world of warcraft, which i maliciously call zelda because it makes him mad. he plays this for hours. riley and i make fun of him pretty consistently for this because neither of us think the game is at all appealing, let alone cool. so, clay becomes the nerd in my mind because i do not like the thing he is spending his time doing. the other day clay was playing and riley made an insulting comment about it. clay's reply was completely in jest, but it really made me think. riley was settling down to watch a show on our dvr called the most dangerous catch, which is about extreme fishing, etc. when riley made fun of clay for playing w.o.w. clay responded with the following- "i am playing a game that 9 million other people are online playing right now. you are about to watch a recorded fishing show by yourself on the couch. why am i the loser?" i laughed out loud pretty hard on my way to my room to go to bed. when i got to my room, i started thinking about this comical exchange. i came to the conclusion again that we really do have a tendency to make fun of what we don't like, don't we? granted, clay plays this computer game that i do not play, but why is it any different for me to play nba 2k8 for an hour or read espn articles for hours on the couch? why do i think of him as the nerd and myself as normal? because manly men like to watch sports? guys with chest hair and muscles can't possibly suspend reality and play a role playing game? and this made me think about the emo kids at the park. why is my attire right now of khakis, a shirt and tie and a sweater more normal or acceptable than long black jeans, long-sleeved black t-shirts, lip rings and dyed hair? who defines normalcy? has normal become whatever media portrays as normal? do individuals or communities or nations decide what is or is not normal?

then, as i always do, i began to really internalize this and think even more about how this applies to my relationship with God. have i included a place in God's kingdom for emo kids? is there such a thing as a normal Christian? where is the bullet point list of qualifications for that? should the church have an "in crowd" or the "popular people?" (i think james addresses that issue, does he not?)

then i thought about how this influences my views on salvation and sin. ok, just do this little experiment with me. i want you to think of the 3 worst sins in the world. sins that just make you cringe and uncomfortable and must certainly be painful for God to see in the world. ok, go ahead and think of them (cue jeopardy music). now, i can guarantee with amazing accuracy that i can identify the three sins you just listed in your mind. ready? they are three sins you do not struggle with. am i right? we can throw stones with the best of them, but we hate looking in the mirror. i don't like to think that having wandering eyes or lustful thoughts is a sin, because i struggle with that. i don't like to think that lacking discipline or overeating is a sin, because i participate in those. but pre-marital sex? sure i'll condemn that all day because God has given me the strength to not fall into that. enjoy hell, drug users and alcoholics- i'll be in heaven because i never used drugs or got drunk. such a twisted logic, isn't it? yet we all fall into it in one way or another. in fact, there have been times that i have had thoughts that my sins "aren't all that bad" or because i was raised in church i don't have as much stuff to repent for. God forgive me for that! sometimes i wish God hadn't put stuff about david and saul/paul in the bible. i think we use examples of the broken people God worked through to make ourselves feel better about our sin. the result is that we do little or nothing at all to change. "well david had a man killed after he slept with his wife and scripture called him a man after his own heart. saul killed christians but paul's writings fill the new testament! what i am doing isn't nearly as bad as those things, so i don't need to worry about it. God can still use me." there are a few problems with that line of thinking. 1. we are not called to just do the bare minimum. instead, the language scripture uses concerning our call as Christians is "to have not even a hint of the following list of sins" and "live lives that are above reproach" and "live such good lives that people would never believe false charges against you." there is no room for apathy and laziness there, and we cheapen grace when we ignore or minimize our sin. 2. as good as they were, we are not called to follow david and paul and others. we are to be a "little Christ." that's what it means to say we are Christians- that we are a smaller version of Christ. 3. loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength leaves me no part of my life untouched by His cleansing fire. there is no compartment in my life labeled "acceptable vices." God does not owe me a few slip-up areas so i can cope. instead He calls me to "be holy as He is holy." a compartmentalized life doesn't fit into that call.

i guess what i am saying is that i need to quit looking at everyone else and determining how they need to be different or more like myself. my sins are no less sinful than those of the people around me. my hobbies and interests are not abundantly cooler than those of others. so i ask you to join me in trying to get the compartments out of my life. no more categories of people i can and cannot accept. no more sins i lock away and refuse to give up. no more bad sins and really really bad sins- let sin be sin. no more labeling people based on my very relative definition of normalcy. instead, i will attempt to embrace holiness and repentance and acceptance. amazing what emo kids and world of warcraft can spark inside, huh? just further proof that diversity is a beautiful thing which God uses every day to teach us lessons...

Monday, April 7, 2008

messianic math

i love a good ol' cliche. it just makes me happy for some reason to hear a cheesy phrase thrown into a speech, or better yet, just a random conversation. one that i love (maybe this is just on the tip of my mind because it is almost 70 degrees out today) is any variation of this phrase-

"it may be raining outside, but the S-O-N is shining in here."

how can you not at least smile at that? not because it makes me think deeply about the presence of Christ in our hearts and minds at all time, but because it is just so corny.

here's another of my faves-

"let go, let God..."

note the dot, dot, dot at the end, because it never specifies what you are letting God do. so cryptic, yet so applicable to all situations. i can just see people's reactions to professionals using this advice tactic in their jobs. imagine going to a dermatologist and hearing the following...

don't know what to do about your dandruff problem? don't turn to head and shoulders- let go, let God.

or to a motivational speaker or seminar and hearing...

having issues passing that test or getting ahead in the corporate world? don't try harder- let go, let God.

or to a therapist and hearing this...

now i know you struggle with depression, anxiety, amnesia and dementia, so here is your prescription- let go, let God.

now with all due respect to those who use these phrases with good intentions, i do not mean to poke fun. i just think they have little value. i will gladly explain why i think that. life circumstances are too complicated to be explained away by black and white, cliche answers. furthermore, being a Christian is far too complex to be reduced to a rubric comprised of platitudes, sins that are a major "no-no" and helpful hints. while these inspirational sayings grandmas around the world cross stitch onto pillows lift the burden of the soul momentarily, they by no means have the spiritual girth to carry people through real spiritual crisis. in my mind, we practice theological reductionism by trying to use quips and quotes to negate lament and pain. for instance, how can we believe that Christians are supposed to be smiling and happy all the time and still have the story of the prophet jeremiah in our bibles? how can we say that bad things should not happen to good people and thumb through the pages of job? and how can we say that it cannot be God's plan for a Christian to suffer? do we not then have to ignore the path that took Jesus from gethsemane to the cross? that's why although i am entertained by these phrases, they really do nothing for me. it seems that these little nuggets of wisdom some people throw around are more like bandaids being placed over a gaping wound.

we are equally guilty when we try to reduce living a life of discipleship to bullet points and highlights we pull out of scripture and slap onto a track we pass around the neighborhood. (and here is where i get into trouble) following God is so much more than voting a certain way. it annoys me to no end when people think that someone is a good candidate to run this country just because they claim to be a Christian. it also annoys me when people think someone who is not a Christian will send the country straight to h-e-double hockey sticks and must have no morals at all. it's as though the sermon on the mount included a checklist of voting pro-life and anti-gay union. now before i get lambasted, please read this next part... do i believe abortion is ok? no. do i support gay marriage? no. but i think there is a big difference in standing up for Jesus and standing up for issues. when we stand up for issues, we ignore the people involved in the issues. God's creation- our neighbors and co-workers and friends- become statistics. how do we love a statistic? how do we extend grace to someone we view as "just another homosexual" or "that tramp who got an abortion?" where is the heart of Christ in that? i believe there is a way to stand up for God and the statutes of His kingdom without pushing others down and labeling them as projects, rejects or defects. there is a way to love the sinner while hating the sin. i believe God invented that when he saved you and i, and we are to follow Him in the way we live. i am not saying i have this figured out. what i am trying to point out is that we cannot just make God into an equation.

don't have premarital sex + pray before meals + go to a church building every sunday + vote correctly = heaven

that's not what i believe God had in mind for His plan of salvation. what i do think He had in mind was for us to be like david- to be after God's heart. i mean not only to reflect God's heart but to chase after God's heart. to never get enough. to never be close enough. to never settle for a watered down faith, but to always seek to learn more and be sharpened. i believe he sent Jesus to the earth not only to offer the gift of His death and resurrection, but to give us the gift of His life. to see how God would interact with people. not with judgment and malicious evangelism, but with love. not with blind acceptance and no accountability, but with a call to more than we often settle for.

so i know i went on and on, and even talked about politics for the first time on here, but i hope you can hear in my words my heart to be more than a cliche-wielding, bible thumping Christian. i am not nearly as interested in fitting the mold of a western Christian as i am in fitting the mold of my Savior and my God. i pray for His strength and mercy as i shave off the sins of apathy and reductionism that keep me from fitting that mold.

Monday, March 31, 2008

angry words

i am angry and frustrated right now. the problem is, i never know what to do with that emotion. i am by nature afraid of confrontation. i avoid it at all costs. for example, my friend made fun of me for the way i very timidly asked him for some money he owed me. "uh, do you think possibly you could pay me back for that dinner the other night? is that ok? if not, blah blah blah blah blah.." i am just a big wimp when it comes to being honest and confronting someone about even the slightest matter. i think at the core of the issue is that i think it is wrong for me to be mad at someone. it took me months and months to be upset with people who have wounded me more deeply than anyone else in my life. i displaced my anger on people on the fringes of the situation or on myself, most of the time. i would think that i messed something up and be mad that i didn't get it right. for some reason, i could never allow myself to fully express my anger, hurt and frustration to the person it was actually directed towards. as a result, frustration fermented into bitterness and cynicism, and i spent well over a year of my life not being me, but rather being this angry, irritable, cynical person.

so now i am stuck, because i am frustrated again with someone and don't know what to do with it. i am even more stuck, though, because i am frustrated with God right now. if i can't muster up the guts to tell a person how i feel, how am i ever going to express that to God? i am angry that there is this one thing in my life i want more than anything else, and i consistently do not get it. seemingly all my friends around me have it. people younger than me have it. people who have no respect for this gift at all have it, but i, despite trying to approach this gift in a Godly way, do not. in the past, and in weaker moments, i have expressed my anger to God by knowingly sinning. rebellion, i guess, would be a good label for it. this doesn't help. it drives me further away from God and just makes me angry with myself for messing up. i was doing this because, to be honest, i felt that God owed me this gift and i was going to show my disapproval of not receiving it. God is supposed to give us the desire of our hearts, right? so why is my wish not being honored? i do not want to fall into the traps of depression or sin again, but reiterate that i just don't know how to deal with these feelings.

as i pray about this and try to work through it, this scripture keeps popping into my mind about paul's thorn in the flesh. paul prayed three times for it to be taken away, and it was not. keep in mind also that this was the same writer who had learned to be content in all situations. another scripture that came to the surface was Jesus in the garden, asking for the cup to be taken from Him, yet submitting to God's will. so, now i feel foolish for expecting God to grant my desires when He even denied the requests of a powerful witness like paul, not to mention the request of His own Son. it helped put things into perspective for me, that just because God is not my personal genie does not mean He doesn't care for me. also, it made me wonder if i was wanting this gift more than i was desiring intimacy with God, or allowing my possession of this gift to dictate my relationship with God. writing all of this and wrestling with these issues brings several monumental things to the surface. God's will- what is it, how do we seek it, how do we learn to be content within it, how do we find the patience for it to be revealed? sin- why do we choose it, how does it change us, how does it influence God's decisions to bless us or not bless us? lament- do we have a place for it in our lives, do we allow church to be an outlet for it, is it scriptural, how honest can you be with God, what is the difference between lament and just whining? contentment- are content and happy the same thing, can you be content and still desire something you do not have?

i do not have the answers to these questions, but i have been thinking about them a lot lately. also, i have been reminded a lot lately that i have not blogged for a while, and would like to be more consistent with that. so, i have decided to tackle some of those issues in the coming weeks, hopefully writing once or twice a week. feel free to comment and get some dialogue going.