And Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Funny, how just a few days ago, I would have told you that I didn’t care about certain things at all. “I have more important things to think about, like writing, my faith, school, etc.” 

But then arrived Temptation. I told him to go away, but I didn’t mean it completely. So he stayed in my presence, and I even led him on a little. He said, “Look, don’t you want this? Don’t you want that?”

I said, “Maybe, that does seem fun.”

“Yeah, it does, doesn’t it. Don’t worry about what He thinks. Your life would be so much easier without Him around.”

“Yeah, I guess it would. It wouldn’t be right, but…”

“Who cares?”

“No, no, no, no, get away. This isn’t what I really want. This isn’t what’s good for me. I mean, maybe I want it. Just for a little while, but… and why are you insulting Him? He knows what’s good for me.”

“But you know you want it now.”

“No, that’s base, that’s stupid, that’s superficial and wrong in every way. By common sense alone I know it to be false and vain and hopeless.”

“Why are you denying yourself. You know you want it. You know you like it.”

And he choked me with smoke and blinded me with mirrors.

“So I do want it, I do like it, but I can’t have it.”

“Maybe you could.”

“So what if I could? And I think I’m doing wrong just by admitting I like it.”

“But it’s the truth, and you can’t help it.”

“So, maybe I can’t help it. But I have a friend who can help me.”

“Oh, you do, don’t you? Your imaginary friend?”

“He’s not imaginary.”

“Maybe not, but he’s kind of a square.”

“God, God, please help me! Get rid of Temptation.”

“He’ll never hear you.”

“God, please, get rid of him. I want to only love You. Oh, God, don’t you hear me? Could I cry any louder? How long must I anguish with this awful creature and feed off his lies?”

“I hear you, daughter,” said God.

“Then please, get rid of him, why won’t you?”

“You must let go, first.”

“Well, it’s easier said than done.”

“You must let go, and hold on to me.”

“Oh, okay, okay then.”

“Are you ready?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What It All Comes Down to

I have decided to start listening to podcasts from Lighthouse Bible Church, and last night I listened for the first time. It was very dense and thorough, covering many topics while still sticking to a theme. I would highly recommend it, unlike some of the movies I’ve seen lately. Here is the link
http://lighthousebc.com/sermons/

When I saw the topic, which was Hannah, I was kind of excited, because I explicitly remembered reading about her. I remembered how she asked God for a child while she was barren (who would be the prophet Samuel). And I remembered how sweet and humble she had been, referring to herself as a “handmaiden.” Man, that killed me. I’m trying to imagine an American woman doing that. It’s pretty hard. (Don’t worry, I am an American female, so I think I am qualified to make stereotyping jokes like that every once in a while 😉 ).

That was most of what I remembered. I didn’t remember her prayer really, but that was the part that the pastor focused on in the podcast. Pastor Patrick emphasized that what’s really special about the passage is that she doesn’t make much reference to her particular circumstances. What’s special is that Hannah gives God his due praise. Because He is the same in all circumstances, He is still the rock and the fortress. (By the way, he explains that rock actually refers more to a cliff face. Doesn’t that make so much more sense?)

It’s ironic because what I remembered was the story of Hannah and the particular circumstances. That is not to say that the circumstances are unimportant. No, God reveals himself through circumstances. That is why the stories of the Israelites are recorded. But the stories are not ends of themselves, they are for the purpose of glorifying God.

So I guess it would have done me some good to remember the poetic language and the pathos as well as the actual story.

But I am reminded of the point of writing, the point of music, the point of everything. I am reminded that in my own writing, I am supposed to be glorifying God too. Does that mean I have to do it very explicitly? Should I be in the business of hymns or something? I don’t know. Should I try not to concern myself with great matters?

Again, I don’t know, I am afraid of saying the wrong thing. But the real takeaway is that God needs to overpower my writing, and God needs to be the reason for it. It can’t just be a theme or a motif or a “pop.” It’s got to be the whole deal. So far, that’s not happening. Am I taking too long to work up to it? Who really cares about those literary techniques, those insights on modern life, those in it of themselves are nothing! Lord help me to just write, write well and write for You. That is the prayer of undergroundvoices.

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A Metaphor Explained- Why this blog is called “underground voices”

It has a lot to do with the fact that I liked the name, to be quite honest. But there’s much more to it than that.

It’s not all that important where I am, what my name is, or what the exact circumstances are surrounding my predicament. But here is what I think that you should know about me.

So the title of the blog. It’s not because I work in a subway. It’s not because I’m trapped in a well. And it’s not because I’m the founder of some kind of Neo-Underground Railroad movement to free African Americans from modern forms of oppression. But that would be kind of interesting if it were true. 

Simply put, I am a Christian who is not allowed to freely and openly express my views and practice my religion. The reasons surrounding that are private, but it is the reality. Does that mean that I am being tortured and imprisoned? Absolutely not. Show up with some food and water and an escape plan for me and I’ll just laugh (after thanking you for your concern, of course). And it doesn’t even mean that I have no opportunities to do what I believe God wants me to. It just means that my life is a bit different. 

If you would like to call it persecution, it would be considered the mildest possible kind. I am not the Apostle Paul here. But I am a Christian who has to undergo different kinds of obstacles than some other Christians, but that doesn’t mean that I necessarily have it worse off.

Sometimes, being forced into the underground is a blessing. It makes you more passionate, more appreciative; it is the ultimate antidote to indifference and stuffiness. But you must guard your heart, of course, and make sure that you are not just doing it for the thrill. And you must also make sure that when you dream of your own freedom in the distant future, you are thinking of the right kind of freedom, and for the right reasons. Galatians 5:13 puts it nicely: You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 

So there’s a couple caveats. But I wouldn’t say that my life is all glamor and sleuth. I’m not just an onward Christian spy. I too get complacent, indifferent, and doubtful. And I have experienced being in a real Christian environment, which was my high school. So I know what it’s like to be mainstream too,  surrounded by people who agree with you, but not always with their whole heart. Which is, at times, just as frustrating as concrete opposition. So this in itself has its own set of problems. 

The point of this was to let you know what it feels like here in the underground. If you are experiencing something similar and want to talk, or if you just want to talk, shoot me an email mlr96@rocketmail.com. Otherwise, have a great day, and remember to keep pushing on while resisting the myriad of temptations. 

 

 

 

 

 

Free the Whales!

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I have never been an animal rights activist, PETA gal, or whale whacko. I believe that the problems that humans face should be addressed before those of animals. No offense to the animals or activists who have genuine concern.

Last night, I tuned into the last half of the documentary “Blackfish.” I can’t say that I went in biased towards the whales. Last summer, I visited SeaWorld for the third time (the second that I actually remember). I enjoyed seeing the dolphins, the sealions, turtles and yes, Shamu in all his corny amusement park splendor. I also enjoyed going on Journey to Atlantis and riding this really dorky kiddie ride with my father. I think we got some looks.

But I don’t think I’ll be going back to SeaWorld. It is tainted for me now, along with many of my good memories in ignorance. I’m not even all that disappointed that I can’t find my SeaWorld hat.

It truly amazes me how SeaWorld can get away with lying about things. How can they call themselves educational (which is their justification for keeping animals in captivity) when they deny biological facts, like that whales in the wild can live up to human life spans and that the flabby Shamu dorsal fin is not a normal whale attribute?

And how many trainers need to die before some important changes are made?

If whales are kept in captivity, can’t they at least have the opportunity to roam around more and have more food to eat, isn’t there a way? Clearly, something is wrong if SeaWorld trainers are dying and Dorsal fins are collapsing. Why doesn’t anyone care about anything but profits? What about having some respect for God’s creatures, huh?

SeaWorld, according to their website, does not acquire its dolphins through the inhumane Japanese method anymore as documented in “The Cove.” But why should I necessarily believe what they say?

I never thought I would say it, but here it goes: Free the Whales! Or at least make their lives a little easier. I believe that an American business is capable of at least that much!

Why I Should Start Wearing Polo Shirts

In my playwriting class, there is a girl who reminds me a little of myself in a way that I can stomach. She is a little shy and always looks a bit nervous. I would like to talk to this girl sometime, but there aren’t very many opportunities, since I must leave that class in a hurry. She sports polo shirts, long socks, short pants, and old tennis shoes. And I find myself thinking, “Well, at least my clothes are cuter than hers.”

Really? This is what the love of Christ has taught me? I shouldn’t be judging this girl by her clothes. How can I be so shallow, so superficial, so Godless? Why in the world does it matter what she wears? She’s not showing half her breasts or her butt crack, which oddly is much more socially acceptable than wearing polo shirts. Sheesh. I think I’ll wear my polo shirts too. 

But at the same time, why does it hurt me and cause me to be bitter when people judge me (if they ever are, which can’t be proven)? Why do I get weirded out when people look at me like I’m an alien when I run to class with my backpack and tennis racket strapped to me (running is absolutely necessary if I want to be on time). Why do I care when a girl doesn’t want to answer my homework related question? Or when I get dirty looks for being myself, which is, at times, unpolished and frazzled?

It’s true, I grow bitter towards people sometimes, especially the normal “popular” people who are clearly way too good to look at me. But I should just love them and forgive them. The Bible says to love your enemies. So what if my enemies are pretty and charming?

And it’s also true that even more than I could ever hate someone else, I hate myself. Yesterday, I was sitting in a lecture, annoyed by this girl behind me who was having a lively conversation with her friend the whole time. She was a little off-beat, of course, and I wish I could have told her to stop swearing, if only for the reason that it sounded so ridiculous coming from her. I quickly realized that she annoyed me because she reminded me a bit of myself. I do the same thing when I get to know people- I become obnoxious, over zealous, jocose. In high school I used to spend entire class periods talking and joking with this girl, I suppose the most popular of all the people I’ve really come to know. I suppose my behavior screamed out, “I’m so glad you’re talking to me, I’ll do whatever to please you.”

I shake my head now. If only I could treat everyone justly and fairly, and love everyone I come across. That would make all the difference. It says in the good book not to regard the rich greater than the poor.

And yet the world continues to turn round and round, thanks to money and charismatic leaders. Or so we think.

That Intellectual Garbage

Sometimes, I think I understand why the Puritans thought that literature and drama are inherently sinful. Not that I agree, but I think there is a tendency for us creative people to get carried away by our own eloquence and “insight.” If you’re a writer, you probably know what I’m talking about. We get all crazy, talking about themes, symbols, the human condition, modern life, technology, it could go on and on forever. All of a sudden everything is art as long as it seems original and reveals a certain truth about people, no matter how trivial.

I’m writing a novel now about a somewhat dysfunctional Christian family. The point, of course, is not to ridicule God, even though maybe it seems that way because so far I, the author, have not interjected too much of my opinion, besides subtly satirizing the things that the characters do. I don’t think this is necessarily wrong. Even the best of us handle certain situations wrong, and maybe laughing about it can help us to realize our folly and turn away. Or, if you’re from the other point of view, it would be making light of sin, which is bad and leads to ankle-showing and high teen birth rates. 

So, I’m a little confused about it, naturally. But I’m confident that my characters are sincere people and will figure it out in the end. I hope I can say the same thing about myself. In the mean time, I suppose I’ll try not to pretend to be too intellectual. After all, I just found out yesterday that my IQ is only 109. I doubt I even have the right to act intellectual. 

 

Doubting Again

It is a fact that every Christian doubts from time to time. It is a fact that every Christian falls into sin from time to time. But exactly how far they can fall until it becomes the point of no return- that is very debatable. Of course, it seems like that point doesn’t exist. Doesn’t God’s mercy have no bounds?

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And then, there’s always this verse that scares us. I probably almost wet my pants when I read it:

Hebrews 6:4-6 (NIV)

“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted of the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subject Him to public disgrace.”

Of course, there are more than one interpretations of this verse. If you are interested, you should check out this article. Basically, it talks about how this verse is taken out of context, and that it refers more to the impossibility of saving ourselves when we have fallen away rather than the impossibility of being saved. Because all things are possible with God, right?

But now I will abandon this discourse and talk about my own doubt, assuming that I have not been cast under eternal damnation already. Even though things have been going well lately, I have been doubting a lot, thanks to Satan. I am reading 1 Kings at the moment (KJV), and I find myself getting annoyed at times. Like, why did God express it that way? Why did God bother with Israel for so long under such interesting circumstances and evil kings? Why wasn’t He more literary in his narratives? Why does He repeat Himself?

Of course there are answers to these questions, but what God really wants me to know is: HELLO, WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH? I mean really, who am I to be critical? Who am I to be blasphemous? I can feel God telling me off right now like he did to Job, except that I consider myself guiltier than Job. God has been blessing me more than usual, and this is what I have to give Him in return?

I don’t want to be phony, I don’t want to misrepresent myself. I have questioned the merits of following God, I have questioned His word. I have blasphemed, stumbled, been irreverent, ungrateful, disobedient, indulgent to whims and wild emotions, and have probably committed idolatry. Some people say that it is okay to question God, but I think that so easily that gets out of hand. Questioning is normal and natural, to be sure. We see it all over Psalms. But so easily, I think, can it become criticism and bitterness. So we must be careful so that does not happen. We should definitely think about the things that we believe in. We are not mindless robots, because God didn’t make us that way. We should “know how to answer every man.” But don’t get too carried away, too pedantic, too intellectual, too scarf-wearing. At the end of the day, we are all children of God. There are some things we will never understand while we are on earth, and probably some things that we will never fully understand. But we must trust God, I must trust God, because I know that He created the universe and I know that He created me.

PSALM 131

A song of ascents. Of David.

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.