Why?

The other day while walking in my apartment complex, I heard the disturbing screams of a man clearly in anguish. And I think the whole building heard it as well. He thundered out a “why!” and it just kind of echoed in the courtyard, hanging there because he wasn’t the only one thinking it. Then he yelled things I don’t care to repeat. Surprised and a moderately mortified, we asked a neighbor sitting in the lounge about it, since we are new to the building. She explained that the guy is “slow” and lives with his parents. He does it from time to time. Weird, but you know, no big deal… right? 

Naturally, people worry about the noise. What if he does it at night? A logical concern, to be sure. But I can’t help worrying about him personally, hoping he will get help. A reminder that there are so many lost souls out there. Most people try to put on a brave face, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are so many struggles in the world. Why do I worry about trivial things? That is a a question many people ask themselves, while secretly wondering if their domestic issues are not so important. But truly, I have to constantly stop and remind myself that nothing traumatic is happening to me outside of my imagination (for now at least). Yet all around me, people are being oppressed  and told vicious lies by the devil. If only Jesus was here to heal the sick and preach to the masses! Oh wait, He kind of is…

Scared of My Own Shadow

Here is an issue close to my heart, but a little taboo. Thought I’d share it because I have a feeling I’m not alone.

Fear. Fear has held its icy grip on me for quite some time now. But before I get into this, let me just say one thing. I have never been diagnosed with any kind of mental illness or the like. And I didn’t have a “rough” childhood either. So retrain yourself from pitying. What I am about to get into is mostly a personal problem.

I think I began life normally enough, healthy and strong. I was a large and vigorous baby. In early childhood I was outgoing, bold, and delightfully naive. My parents tell me that I used to greet strangers in a loud voice and even strike up conversation. People responded well because I guess I was cute and not too obnoxious. I don’t remember disliking people in those days, besides my arch nemesis, a kid named Mitchell. You know kids and their arch nemeses… but generally I was cheerful and easy going.

Then something changed when I was around eight. It wasn’t just that I leaned out and grew taller, something drastic was changing inside of me. I moved to a new school in a strange new place. Removed from my suburban dream bubble, I learned many things about life way too fast. For the first time, it was hard to make friends and become accepted. For the first time, through means that I cannot fully explain, I was beginning to see the dark side of my world. In school they taught us about drugs and why they were bad, and in the foggy, dirty streets of downtown, I saw just the tiniest fleeting glimpse of their influence. The experience was not constructive for me. As stupid as it seems to a rational person, I became afraid of drugs, even though I had no reason to be. I was afraid of their residue in public places, things like that. I also became afraid of alcohol, smoking, sex, everything that I was just beginning to understand. But mostly, I was afraid of myself, afraid of my own shadow. I was afraid that I had weaknesses and a great potential for evil. I was afraid that there was something wrong with me, and there was, but the problem was mostly the fear. I felt hopeless and unwell. Sure, there were still good days, and times when I could forget, but when I think back on this particular time in my life, I remember mostly the bad.

I started going to a Christian school in sixth grade. I was never opposed to the idea of God. I liked having a savior. So I started accepting God into my life, but it began quite superficially and progressed gradually. My fears still existed, and middle school was still hard because of social stuff, but I notice a change in my life for the better during this time. The insanity seemed to be waning, and my fears became more rational.

Today, my fears are much more rational than when I was eight years old, but still unjustified. I worry about what people think of me and my popularity. I am afraid that I give off an awkward vibe and people can notice it right away. I am also a little scared of people in general, though I usually like them and want them to like me back.

I admit to growing quite tense on the freeway. I am also a germaphob at times, but it kind of makes sense because I am always sick.

And, like everyone about the future, what I will do with my life, etc.

Why I need to worry about these things, I don’t know. It just proves how lousy I am at trusting God. Why does it matter what people think of me? Why do I let them determine my self worth?

Instead, I should thank God, because He is continually saving me from insanity. Where I would be without His hope and grace, I don’t know. Maybe in some mental ward screaming my head off. Instead, (for now at least), I’m here on WordPress or writing my novels, letting the angst of my soul and the quirkiness of my essence spill out on virtual paper, an outlet that is less frowned upon and counterproductive. It’s a good place to be. God is good, all the time.

I could be dead right now

If it weren’t for God’s mercy and modern medicine, I would probably be dead right now. My immune system is like a two foot tall chain link fence. It kind of taunts the bacteria, but they know that they can easily get in. So a lot of my time has been spent being sick. When I was three or four, I even contracted salmonella in Thailand, and was lucky to get back to the states in time for treatment.

I can’t say I’ve had real near death experiences, but I can say that under modified circumstances, I could have died a long time ago. Is that a clear distinction?

God could have gotten rid of me anytime He wanted. He can snap his fingers and my horrible driving or my inefficient immune system could do away with me, among countless other possibilities. Am I being too morbid here?

My life is supported by a thin thread, really. Though I often feel bored and sulky while insulated in artificial, superficial layers of protection, skeptical of whether the commonplace things around me are actually extravagant blessings directly from God, it is true that my life is a precious gift. Sometimes, I don’t like to believe it, but it’s just the truth. Are the things that surround me actually good for me or necessary? The answer is that I must be grateful. Is my existence mediocre? Maybe, but through my own fault. Is my living on earth justified? Yes, by God, but only for a limited time! Don’t ever feel like your living isn’t justified. It doesn’t matter what people think of you or what you think about yourself. Don’t waste your time stamping labels on yourself, like I did for so long. Just recognize that you have a chance to live and a chance to hopefully see the truth.

Jesus, the idiot box, and an age-old quagmire

I’m not exactly a Puritan myself. My life has always been centered around the arts. Since I was a young child, I’ve been writing, first stories and now novels. I enjoyed acting in plays in high school, and secretly hope to be a voice actor some day. I have a special place in my heart for Disney movies, but the last one I saw in theaters was “We’re the Millers” which had its share of ill timed cussing and thematic weirdness. I watch more TV than is good for me, but don’t follow new shows very much. Usually I watch reruns or whatever else is on at random times, and try to critique and over analyze it. I especially appreciate it when shows make fun of comedic conventions or their own techniques. When I was around 11, I even wrote my very own pilot for a sitcom called MELicious Intent. It was to be about a rebellious runaway girl with a bit of a quirk- believing that she was a fugitive. The teen would make many attempts to commit crimes and even kill people, but to keep it light, all but the most petty infractions would fail to be carried out. Sadly, while looking at my old script, I realized that the writing wasn’t that much worse than some of the things that actually go on the air.

What was my point to all of this? To open up a heated discussion about the relationship between Christianity and the arts. A few days ago, I read an interesting post here on WordPress about just that. Christians who condemn secular art for its inappropriate content and Christians who try to find positive, Jesus-compatible values in everything.

I think there are good aspects to both approaches, like many other modern Christians, I’m sure. I hate it when I try to be controversial, but end up agreeing with a majority.

Puritans- good for you for being offended by the trashy stuff that’s out there. Why do we want to embrace things that God hates anyway? On the other hand, why be so aloof and judgy? We’re not entirely above the things coming from the tube or the screen. I’m sure all you churchgoers out there secretly relate to the things you see. Why not learn from it? Why not interpret it the way you want to and make something worthwhile out of it? Take the wheat, forget the chaff.

Sometimes I wonder how to illustrate God through art. I always wonder why secular art seems more appealing and of better quality. I wonder why Christians can’t use the same techniques for their agenda. I wonder why Christians must always use the same rhetoric. You know the rhetoric I’m talking about. “Forgiveness, grace, healing, blood of Chirst.” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, all of those things are true, it’s just that I wonder why it can still seem boring when people are trying their best to shake up the scene and put things in different perspectives. I don’t know if I can do any better. I want to use the talents God gave me, but I’m not sure how. Is it possible to reinvent art, making it believable and extraordinary without using the same techniques as everyone else out there? As you can see, I’m a little confused, but I’m going to keep trying. I don’t want to make God cheap and palatable, but I also want to draw people towards Him in a new and exciting way. I have a feeling this is going to be harder than I ever would have imagined.

 

The Love Affair with Freedom

Americans like their freedom. We are used to our freedom, it is inherent in our culture. Children here grow up wanting to be free, and expecting it. As children they shun bedtimes and assert their food-related demands. As teens, they go crazy and usurp freedom that their parents won’t give to them. Then, as adults, they generally leave the nest early to go to college or get their own place as soon as possible. They lead their owns lives, marry whom they want, and make their own decisions. Sure, parents often continue to play a role, but in other cases, the kids move to a different state or become estranged.

Asian culture is a little bit different. I was raised in a mix of the two.  Asian parents have more control over their kids, it’s a common stereotype and mostly true. There’s a little more emphasis on the family than the individual. Just go to an Asian restaurant, and what do you see? Families kind of share their food, or at least that’s what we do. The parents order sushi or whatever, and everyone shares. Sometimes if it’s a Korean BBQ type restaurant, they won’t even give teenagers a menu, because really, it’s not their decision. But in American restaurants, it’s a very different story. Everyone needs to have their own food, and only grudgingly will you allow your Mom to eat your fries, and reluctantly will you accept a taste of someone else’s chicken. They even make special menus to cater to the kids, who are too picky to eat normal food.

As a kid, I didn’t raise temper tantrums over cookies. I was always a little afraid of my mother. But I did eat my first hamburger when I was six, and secretly they are probably my favorite food. I never learned how to use chopsticks the “proper way,” but I can get by without dropping things, and the food will make it to my mouth. I attended and held a few sleepovers, but they were regretted by my parents :D. Shortly after my sixteenth birthday, I was allowed to go to the DMV to get my license, but I didn’t drive alone for a couple more months. And when I did, I had to text my parents every time I arrived from/left a place, and I virtually only went to school, dance lessons, and Starbucks.

Freedom is still a big issue in my life, especially as a Christian. My parents still want me to do certain things with my life that I may not like at this point. I want to live the American ideal and be a free person, able to make my own decisions, and go places that I want with people that I like. But I know that I am essentially not free, that I am property of God. I know that life is not about making myself happy. I know that I have a higher calling, to make disciples and serve my fellow man. I know that freedom often breeds sin.

But as an American, I believe in freedom in a slightly different sense. People can’t be told what to do by government. People must make decisions for themselves, and you can only hope that they will choose to listen to God. As Roger Williams put it, “Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils.”

Going Deeper

As promised, I think it is time for me to begin posting things that are controversial. Ladies, keep your hats on. Gentlemen, try to restrain yourself from making too many of those sexist jokes about women staying in the kitchen and not driving, etc.

Let me start off this post about gender roles by noting that I believe that most women, occasionally, and in passing, wish that they were men. I’m not talking about being lesbian necessarily, I’m just talking about how women have to deal with monthly surprises, childbirth, and “the glass ceiling,” while men over there on the other side of the fence seem to have it easy. There they are grazing on their verdant pastures, doing whatever they want, and no one makes any bones about it. They can work on cars, shoot guns without being judged (except by liberals), fight battles, earn more money than their female counterparts. I am not saying that they have perfect, easy lives, but I guess it seems that way to us hens in the coop at times. 

For those reasons and others, I have a hunch that most men don’t have the same fleeting desires to trade places with the opposite sex. After all, God created Eve from Adam. Men were first, and I think it will always be a “man’s world.”  But please, correct me if I’m wrong about men not usually wanting to be women. These are just my impressions, I’m not necessarily correct. 

In the Biblical times, women were entirely under the thumbs of men, from fathers to husbands, and so it remained for centuries. They had to marry to sustain themselves, or become prostitutes. The way I understand it, there weren’t very many other options. And God didn’t really do anything about it. In the writings of Paul, women were charged to be quiet and modest. Whether this applied to the church or everything else, I’m not exactly sure. 

Now, of course, things are entirely different. Women can do almost anything they want. There’s always the fact that men are generally stronger, and a little smarter (or at least think they are), but women compete, and very often succeed. And still, the glass ceiling remains, thinner but still existent, and the age-old resentment lingers.Image I myself am not a crazy feminist. I like things the way they are now. If I ever feel oppressed, I don’t blame society, I blame God for making me the way I am, and then He tells me to shut up and trust Him, like He has every right to.

I understand the resentment of women and why they began their movement towards autonomy a long time ago. Sometimes I wonder if God approved of our usurping power, but at the same time I believe it may have only been natural for us to want more. Why did God give us the same kinds of talents as men if we were not expected to use them? Aren’t we capable of greater things than domestic work. I think so… I myself aspire to be a writer. That would have been a ridiculous pipe dream back in the day, but now I can do it. 

So to conclude, I must say that I’m a little torn. I want to go out there and make my mark on the world, but I also don’t want to be all pushy and have men hate me. I’d rather put myself in my place than have a man do it. I want to have a good career, but I don’t want to go against God’s wishes!

The Bare Necessities

Before everyone gets all excited, let me begin by saying this is NOT a communist rant. I consider myself more conservative than liberal, actually. Just keep that in mind as you’re reading.

I wonder about many things, mostly because I have a lot of free time right now. I worry about myself sometimes, and our society as a whole. God has blessed a lot of us Americans very much, but I wonder if we are not responding to the blessing in the right way. I am probably more guilty of this than many. I have a computer, as you would imagine, a smart phone, a TV, many clothes, and a good house, among other things. I probably eat too much, including restaurant meals, while others around the world are starving. I find myself worrying about things that are insignificant, and feeling entitled to the lifestyle I enjoy, as if it was not the product of God’s mercy and generations of hardworking, innovative people before me. I know I can’t be the only one who takes it all for granted.

I wonder if God wants me to live an alternative lifestyle. I wonder if I should be a minimalist- having nothing but food, water, a place to lie down for the night, and cooking utensils. Is that how people should live? Do we need all the other distractions?

Look, don’t get all upset, please. I’m sure that you worked hard for what you have. Maybe you even appreciate it, you might even be a very generous person who helps the community. No, I don’t want a commi-one-world-government. I’m just thinking out loud here. I’m not condemning. I’m not even saying that I will do it. I’m not sure if I’m capable. You don’t need to go to super duper extremes to live a healthy, modest life.

But I do have one point to make. I know a lot of people who are really snobby, and I can be snobby too. Snobs look down on people that don’t have what they have. They judge people based on their cars or clothes, things that won’t even matter when all is said and done. What’s more important, possessions and positions, or eternal souls? Sadly, we don’t always chose the latter.