New Year, New Beginning

•01/01/2011 • 2 Comments

So it’s the first day of the first month of a new year.  I wish I’d started out fresh.  I had all the best intentions, cleaned everything around me, tried to mend any strained relationships and just try and start over on the right foot, I even helped plan a get together that would allow for a quiet night among friends.

I always have New Year’s Resolutions, and looking over them- they’re all self-edification and none are changing my patterns to allow for God to edify me… read more books, but nothing of the Bible and so on and so on.  As a Christian, God is supposed to be the raison d’être and my only raison d’être is myself.

Well, despite my best efforts, the worst version of me was first to see New Year’s Day.  I’m embarrassed to say that, because this day is symbolic for me of the rest of the year… guess I’m superstitious that way.

T-6 hours to midnight, and I was proven a fool.  And instead of reaching for something that would improve the situation, I took the easy way out and proved myself a fool even further.  But I do want to change this year.  I want to make better choices.  I want to give myself time to grieve my mother as well as my mistakes.  I want the best version of me to be the first to see each new day, and I want God to be there with me.  Easier said than done… Just, HOW?  How do I get there?  Where do I start?  (not rhetorical!  Comment, email me, text me…. ideas please)

Revelations on light that didn’t come from Thomas Kinkade

•12/14/2010 • 1 Comment

Week two of December and I’m already late on a Sunday post.  I’ve been under the weather.  My theory is that since I’m using so little of my brain, it’s melting down to battery acid inside my skull.  And since I sleep on my back, it’s been leaking down my throat and causing chaos.  So I either need to start challenging my mind somehow or find a new sleeping position.  Mucinex helps.

I have some ideas on how to change my mental posture, but very few on how to change my religious one.   (Warning: the following is going to be very long and scattered.  Stick with it, I have a good feeling about it being ‘worth it’ in the end)

I stumbled upon a verse today that I loved,

“See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.” – Luke 11:35

I am stagnating in so many areas of my life… sitting on the couch when I should be exercising aspects of my life that are deteriorating.  I know that the spiritual light within me has nearly, if not completely turned to darkness, and I can’t reignite it myself.   Looking over my notes, Kris said yesterday in his sermon,

Ultimately the gospel is not about us being in the right place to find God- it is about God penetrating the darkness with his light.

Last week in small group, we talked about the metaphor of clearing the rubble out your driveway so Jesus can come in, clean house and fix what’s broken.  I love that metaphor(, and I usually hate Christian metaphors).  If we are a creation of God, he can easily clear out the rubble himself, but opening up the line of ingress is our decision and responsibility- thus, free will.  And even though we can’t fix what’s broken, we can’t achieve perfection, we can open that line up to someone who can.  And another beautiful thing about this metaphor is that it implies work.  It’s not easy to shovel the driveway clean, and it is a continuous battle against the line being obstructed.  But once we open ourselves up and submit the contents of our lives/house to Jesus, He has agreed to change us, to wash us clean and accept us as his perfection can only accept likewise perfection.

So there.  Faith and Action.  Believing in God, giving your life up to Him, and following through- living a good life.  Just as a guy is said to only lean in most of the distance between him and his lover for a kiss, God leans in and lets us choose whether or not to love Him.  Jesus invented leaning in 90% (or maybe 99.999%), but the remaining .00001% on our side is what makes it free will.

V asked me for a link to my blog a week ago.  Ironic, since I blog about her and how I’m going to tell her these things.  I might as well do it here and now, since I’m a total pussy and plus if she’s reading it, she actually cares.

V,

You asked me if I actually thought that God would send good people to Hell.  How could anyone love and serve a God who would do that?  Why serve someone who would keep from Heaven Buddhist monks; humanitarian atheists; my own caring, giving aunts and uncles; good people who just can’t believe in this God who is so near but feels so far;…

…and you, my only friend who has ever received impoverished-child-sponsorships as a surprise birthday gift, who cried with me over the loss of my mother, who is thoughtful and kind, always compassionate and giving, who spent months travelling to orphanages in far off places and now works longer hours than she needs to see out a dream of sponsoring her own orphanage, who supports her family financially and emotionally at 24 years old, and who lives fully and loves others wholeheartedly.

It might be the most difficult aspect of my faith, but making up my own theology in which every good person will join God after death is not only believing a lie, it’s an incredible insult to the perfect design of life and afterlife set up by God.  I believe it is as it says in the Bible.  I don’t like it, but I believe it.  I believe that God is Love and the origin of all love we see in this life, but in order for us to have the freedom and power to choose to love Him back, He had to create an antithesis- another option.  If I were God, I would have made myself an easier choice for mankind, but for some reason it’s the hardest one.

I don’t know if Adam and Eve is a literal story, but literal or figurative, there is something to be drawn- I think originally light and darkness were set up to be a fair decision.  We were created good with the option of evil, thus free will.  The problem is perfection is no parts imperfection/evil, and God is perfection.  The God cannot be united with imperfection or He would no longer be perfect.

God gave the first man and woman of the story a decision in the form of a command; [If you want to love and follow Me,] don’t eat fruit of this one tree.  Choose to align yourself with the God or choose to go against Him.  What is the point of creating someone to be in love with if you don’t give them the choice of whether or not to love you back?  The first man and woman chose not to follow God’s command, and they were severed from the God.  Since then, the decision between God and not-God has become infinitely more difficult.

But either way mankind has shifted from perfection to imperfection, we’ve changed earth from a world of God with a loophole of not-God <to> a world of not-God with a loophole back to God.  The original loophole back to God was sacrifice.  The God decided to accept the death of an animal in place of our own spiritual death, and allow the sacrificial animal to atone for our imperfections.  Maybe it was the sign of the act of repentance… maybe it served as a smoke signal to indicate that someone had decided they wanted to love God, and He could come near without imposing on our freedom.

But if it ended there, it would seem to me like God kind of gave up… like He didn’t try hard enough to get us back.  The God isn’t passive about our return to being united with Him, so the history has just begun.

The God found a loophole, split His divine self and birthed himself into the world of not-God.  Clothed himself in a human body so that he could live among us called Jesus.  He walked around and showed us how to live in a way that would enable God to come near.  And then he allowed us to brutally kill him and then accepted himself as a sacrifice for our sins if we approach and accept his death as our own sacrifice, thus becoming the Christ (the redeemer as prophesied in the earlier texts of the Bible).  Jesus. Christ.

I believe that no matter who you (general) are, you (general) are too imperfect to be reunited with God.  And it doesn’t matter how good of a person you (general) are, although I believe you (V) are helping make the world of not-God look more like the world of God without knowing it.  You (V) are furthering the kingdom of God without being a Christian.  You (V) are helping to make this world more like the world of God than I do.  Which is convicting and hard.  But the God and creator over everything is perfect and has chosen to only accept us as perfect if we love and believe in Him and accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as factual and powerful.

So that’s the long answer of how I think God can and must reject some people from eternal life.  The Bible says the only just punishment for sin (which is anything not-God) is death (which is the same as separation from God).  There is one loophole: death has to happen to atone for each of us, but it doesn’t have to be ours.  Since Jesus Christ was crucified, we can call upon that as our death.

I wish that I had told you that when you asked in New York.  The Gospel story isn’t about us being good people or not, it’s about light (Jesus/God) coming into the darkness (world of not-God) and suddenly we can see.

I hope when you read this story you see love.  Love from a God who would create you in a way that you could choose whether or not to love him in return, then would fight and die to give you the opportunity to change your mind.  And Love from me, who believes this all enough to think it’s important to tell you.  Because I do believe it is the difference between life eternal and death and believe you’ve got just as much of a chance as I do at being reunited with God in the end.

And if you didn’t read it between the lines, read it here: I love you (and I sincerely believe that a God you may not believe in loves you too).

Jesus and other men

•12/06/2010 • Leave a Comment

So small group has been wonderful for me, and I’m really starting to get in the swing of things.  I don’t know if you’ve ever stopped going to church and felt like starting up again is seriously the most draining and difficult thing to do… but that’s how I feel about a lot of things Christian.  I want to want to be there, but I can’t want it sometimes.  I get ADD and ADHD in church services and get nervous to go to small group.  But I do anyway, and lately I’ve been loving my small group.  The people there are on the right page, and I hope I don’t drag them down with my cynicism and my inferior spiritual walk.

On Tuesday, I don’t even remember what the passage we were supposed to discuss was.  There was a wonderful guy there, a new guy that is friends with most of the people there… he was just a light.  He talked about what it meant to live to further the Kingdom of God in us and around us… one of my favorite things he said was something along the lines of “If it was said of a evil ruler in history that he had so many people beheaded or harmed, do you think that he was the one doing the beheading and torture?  No, it was his loyal servants that probably executed the plans to further his kingdom.  So that ruler, think of him as a King of Hate.  If God is the King of Love, and we are his servants, what does that look like?  How do you think we go about executing His plans to further a kingdom of love?”

I am ashamed to say that when people go Bible on me I tend to listen with non-Christian ears.  But I was all ears when he spoke and was able to fight the cynicism and seriously feel moved.  Being in that room with some of the Christians I most look up to in the world, it changed me just being there.  I wanted to be a better Christian and start trying.

The group leader challenged us to take time and ask for the areas in our lives that we didn’t see God to be changed and that Christ would enter those areas to use us to create as much heaven on earth as possible.  Spiritual jargon and metaphors are difficult for me in the bitter cynical way… basically I sat there and tried to think of aspects of my life that are different because I’m trying to do things like the Bible says Jesus did.  I couldn’t think of any differences in my life than my friend V’s life of humanitarian service apart from the reality of Christ.  This was so difficult.

One thing that stood out to me as I sat in a room full of great Christian men was that romantic relationships are the area of my life furthest from my relationship with God.  And I honestly don’t want to change.  I don’t want that kind of deeper, challenging biblical discussion to happen in my love life… and the guys I have chosen to date in the past look so unlike the guys in that room that trying to interest myself in one of them would feel like trying to interest myself in a llama.

So yeah, I haven’t figured out where God and sex tie in.  I haven’t figured out how I can become a servant for the cause of love, or if I’m ready to commit 100%.  I haven’t figured out where to start to let God change my life and how to get that ball rolling.  I haven’t figured out how to really love God, and I haven’t figured out how to fall for a Godly man.  I feel like I’m aware of all the issues and shortcomings, just completely at a loss for how to change them.   Sorry I’m so comcastic.

But I am trying.  And I am closer.

That’s all for tonight.

 

Brave New Persecution

•11/28/2010 • Leave a Comment

I have goals for December.  They include a weekly post on Sunday.  Get excited.

Last week at small group we talked about a passage of the Bible I have easily skimmed over all of my life- Jesus talking about the trials that the Christians would face in the coming day, when everyone would hate them and they would be persecuted for his name.   I don’t know how to interpret this passage, and I am not sure anyone else did either.  Wye used to talk about the difference between things Jesus said that were literal for the time versus things he would say that would transcend to our time somehow.  All of it was very confusing and seemed like a way for us to pick and choose what to maintain in the modern church, but at the same time you don’t see me wearing a head covering to church every Sunday, so I guess I buy into it…  I just have had to stick to what people smarter than me consider relevant to now.

But this persecution thing was a difficult thing for the small group.  If we were Christians as God intended, would we be more persecuted in America?  I don’t know, but honestly, I don’t think so.  I do believe that Christianity is about Love.  If it’s about God, it’s about Love.  Our society only hates and persecutes those who are intolerant.  Intolerance is the face of the modern church in America, but I think that is not how God intends it.  I do believe that I am right in believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, but I am not and will never be righteous, which is the point.  If I focus on the humility that comes with that perspective, I imagine that the idea of absolute truth and the fact that I am putting a generous amount of stock in its existence, will be easier to swallow for those around me of different beliefs.

But I do believe I am right.  And I hereby promise to tell V that this month.  More on that in later posts.

I read an article… okay, it was more like a comic strip… about Aldous Huxley’s projections of future society (Brave New World) in contrast to George Orwell’s (1984).  And it was fascinating.  George Orwell feared that books would be banned, but Huxley projected that there would be books everywhere, and no one would want to read them.  Instead of Orwell’s ban on information, we have Huxley’s inundation of media to the point in which we can ignore a thousand flashing neon 48-foot billboards on the highway, or not hear that there was a devastating earthquake in a third-world country because we were waiting with bated breath for the next winner of Dancing with the Stars.

Both authors projected that people would be controlled- but one projected it would be by inflicting pain, and the other projected pleasure.

We don’t need a ban on Bibles to keep them from being read.  Now banning something only makes it go ‘viral’ (see ‘Telephone’).  Why would we need to be persecuted for our belief in God when our society says who and what you believe in is trivial.  Why would anything anti-Christian persecute Christianity when it can belittle it and make it feel like a system too insignificant to pay any attention to?  I honestly believe that actual physical persecution in the American church today would only make people pay more attention and remove those turned apathetic.  But almost everyone in the South calls themselves a ‘Christian’, why remove that confusion inside and outside the church?

In this day and age, we don’t need guns to our head to decide we don’t want to follow Jesus.  Having cable tv would make that decision for me every day, and I wouldn’t even know I chose.  Who needs purpose when you have distractions?  And distractions are endless and won’t bond the church together like persecution did in the early church.

I don’t mean to say that the physical persecution that Christians have faced for as long as there have been Christians and even today in other countries is not a huge deal… I’m just saying that I think that we don’t have an easy ride into eternity either.  I do need to realize that this is something I need to be willing to suffer and die for because it IS that important that I believe Christianity is right.

I want to get to a place in which I value going to church like people who have to do it secretly in underground churches, treasure the Bible like people who would be imprisoned for owning it, and live so sure of my convictions that I would die in any way for them.  All in a place and time that says I have a right to my own opinion, but not a right to say what that is… especially not while The Bachelor is on.   So that’s the goal.

New York state of mind

•11/15/2010 • Leave a Comment

So I have wanted to visit NYC for as long as I can remember.  I’m a designer, love big cities, am enchanted with good public transportation, enjoy a good cuisine or hole in the wall, could live on live music, follow runway fashion, and don’t get claustrophobic in a crowd… so obviously I’d love New York, right?  There’s even murmurings (in my head, of course) of me moving there next year.  So obviously I have to go scout it out and to visit a couple of my best friends from college that have moved there.

So T-8 days before I leave, I have a breakdown.  It dawns on me that I have stayed moving since my mom died- interning at some 80 hours a week getting treated (and treating myself) like I’m not a real person with emotions, then moving to the other side of the world and touring.  Ministry was an easy way to run away, but travel is even better.  Ministry is listening to other peoples emotions and issues 110% of every day and taking them on without fully feeling them.  Travel is starting over where no one expects to talk about parents, beginning friendships too new for subjects like death and cancer, and even going to a religious culture where I don’t have to expect God to have the answers… now that’s an emotional vacation.  But suddenly I find myself back in Atlanta, surrounded by actual friends, and suddenly I’m sitting still.  And that’s where I was when it all hit me.

T-1 day to NYC, we’re broken up for prayer at a small group at a house in my neighborhood.  Five girls on the couch sharing whatever they are feeling like talking about.  After every pressing issue, we pray.  It’s a strange tradition, even for someone who has grown up with it.  I decide I will tell my friends that I am thinking about moving, and that I have a meeting with someone while I’m visiting about a potential job in May.  But as we start praying for the girl before me, about family, I just begin to cry.  Am I trying to run away again by moving?

I get on the plane, wondering how I will ever see God in the overpowering grid of man-made beauty.  Will the city be fast enough to hold my attention on everything else?  If I really believe that the stories are true, how should that affect the way I live my life?  Will I be able to live my life with the right focus if I have to work 12 hour days just to pay rent?

Not to mention all the things that makes New York great are things that I could easily see myself turning into my life purpose.  I love fashion.  If you know me, I love sleeping in.  I used to wake up every weekday to watch fashion file at 6am.  The obsession with beauty and expensive clothing is an obsession that is never far enough away.   Neither is my enchantment with new experiences, trying new things.  Neither is my idolization of people in the arts… authors, musicians, artists, actors.  And when I am working, I am working.  I have let go of a lot of the ‘obsessed with being the best’ I used to carry, but in a city like New York, it promises to come back.  All of these things plus the next big party or night out… would there be room for what I am trying to consider most important?  Or room to drink the cup of grief until it is gone?

I loved the city.  I don’t know how specific I believe ‘God’s Plan’ is for my life- like if he cares where I live or what I do.  But maybe I’ll start praying about whether or not to move anyway.  I have hesitations, but I can see myself living there- starting a life and career there.   And one of my favorite things about NY was that even though the buildings were spectacular and the lights were enchanting, the most beautiful and breathtaking parts were the parks.

Maybe you can clothe a person in J. Mendel, but the intricacies of the person beneath are always more spectacular than the furs and sparkles.  Maybe you can build up stories and stories of one of the most powerful cities in the world around a patch of original beauty and still not trump the impact of the green space.  Here’s to hoping no matter where life takes me, I pay attention to the person in the clothes and the God in the city.  …And that’s just a cheesy side note, I guess.

The Call

•09/07/2010 • 1 Comment

Today a friend of mine got the worst phone call you can get.  The same call that I got early April 9th, 2008 that shook my world and my faith.  I don’t remember getting my own call, it was such a blur, but I remember that call happening to my best friend one morning in December 2006.  It can’t be more horrific.  From the silence to the “What?” to the gasp before the first sob,  I can’t imagine anything worse.

Saying goodbye to someone you love is pure hell.  Especially if they don’t get the chance to say it back.

When you lose someone or see someone you love go through pain, everything changes.  Life doesn’t feel livable.  In the four months my family waited for the death of my mother, my first thought of every day was, “can I handle it if she died today?”  Whenever the answer was no, I would pray “Please, God, just not today.” and go to check on her.  I didn’t have a chance to ask myself that when the phone call woke me up.  And everything changed for the rest of my life.

I’ve led a charmed life.  I love it.  I have the best friends, roommates, and family.  Since high school, I can’t think of a time I was remotely unhappy with my life.  When mom died, it felt like it all got taken back.  I didn’t relate to my friends who, naturally, were going on with their lives, my family was suddenly one too few, and my heart was broken.  I went from being high on life to hating my life.  I didn’t want to get out of bed in the mornings.  Everything hurt for a long time.

The sermon this week was from Luke 14:25-33:

25Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. …33In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

Three chapters later in Luke, Jesus says, “33Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it”

According to Kris, when God says we must ‘hate’ our loved ones and life, he means love Him, the infinite God, so much more that you let go of the temporary things you have once held too close.

This may sound sick, but stay with me.  As the pain has subsided, I see- the truth is, we all have to leave our perfect, safe lives that we’ve created for ourselves and pick up our ‘crosses’ and follow Jesus.  (I feel the need to break stride and say before going on that since my last post, my attempts at following Jesus have unfortunately been abysmal.)  The more comfortable and happy we get with our lives, the harder it is to leave behind.   (Which, I guess, is the current dilemma)  Mom dying leaves me one less thing to worry about now, and one more incentive to follow Jesus.  It’s been two and a half hard years and there are many more milestones and years ahead of missing her, but sitting right here, I rejoice in the fact that God has freed me of one less thing to let go.

Following Jesus…

•09/01/2010 • 1 Comment

I’ve been brought up through the church, baptized at 7, been a missionary kid big time with no rebellious phase, attended a campus ministry through college, gave up drinking to be in its senior leadership group, gave it up again after college (along with a decent salary and all semblance of life boundaries) to work as an intern for the same ministry for a year.  My mom died in a horrifically long, drawn out, and painful way my senior year, and then, after a year of postponement, I guess I went through a “why me, God?” phase, which, combined with hypocrisy in the church and a life of getting the ‘safest place is in God’s hands’ doctrine,  and I guess a little love/friendship/betrayal drama worthy of at least The Hills… I got the hell out of Dodge to see if living a life paved straight for Hell would be a little less Hellish.

Here’s the key: I believe it really is.

So I’m 140 hours deep and have already decided that I do believe there is a God.  I also believe the account in the Bible to be accurate and Jesus to be real and personal, but where I get hung up is that I prefer my vices.  It’s hard to see God as trustworthy when he dropped the ball on keeping my mom alive.  God or no God, there was no avoiding her death, but at least my plan includes a lot more getting my everyday desires and wants and affords a few more escapes.

What I’m trying to set up is, if Christianity really is the way- if following Jesus is the best way to live, why does it suck?  It is basic human instinct to avoid something that is unpleasant.  Take your hand off the hot stove, if you will.  All this time I thought following Jesus was supposed to make life good and, when life just stayed painful and difficult, I tried not to question it.  And this is because the little things about following Jesus get rationalized (and often not well) apart from Jesus.  As if the Bible is a guide to how to have the easiest life.  Honestly, I think there are things it clearly says in the Bible that don’t make sense nowadays apart from Jesus- rules I don’t get.  And when I’ve tried to explain them without Christianity, no one was convinced.  I wasn’t convinced.

But I’ve been reading The Jesus of Suburbia, and I had a ‘why didn’t I think of this before?’ moment.   Following Jesus… is supposed to suck.  It’s supposed to be tough and counterintuitive.  Christianity doesn’t have to promise ease-of-use and safety, because it is designed to prove and sharpen a belief in a spiritual world and an eternal life to make up for this one.  It doesn’t have to be easy, it just has to be true.

This is the point where Christians are probably thinking ‘duh’,  ‘wow, this post is getting long’, or ‘following Jesus doesn’t suck, I’m outraged!’.  I understand that there are benefits to living the Christian life and that a lot of what the Bible says does make for a better lifestyle, but I feel that following Jesus for me probably means that I will have a totally different and less comfortable set of adventures and need to let go of a lot of the things I currently count as most important.

I am confident that if I choose to live the way the Bible outlines, my life will suck as seen through my current point-of-view.  I am choosing to anyway.  Here’s to hoping God changes my point-of-view too.