The Two Edged Sword That is The Truth

“Tell the truth, honest is the best policy,” they say. “The truth will set you free,” they say. Well, who am I to contradict that? But the truth is just not fun. Think about it, why would the truth be pleasant? The things we do aren’t usually good and the things we think aren’t all that noble, so why would anyone want to disclose more embarrassing facts than absoulutely necessary for practicality and sanity? Isn’t one of the basic aims of humanity to make every effort to escape from the crueler realities of life, whether through the bottle, the screen, the crack pipe, or, in some cases, the book?

Don’t deny it. Denying it won’t get you anywhere.

One of the Ten Commandments is you shall not lie. “Fair enough” we think. “Surely no good can come out of lying. But why do I need to tell my neighbor about every skeleton in my closet, every secret fear and agony that haunts my soul?” So most of us don’t attempt to disclose that stuff. Because it’s only true- who really wants to hear all that? No one.

So then we try to be very judicious about what we reveal. Just yesterday I was covering up, oh, a pretty important trespass against someone. I thought it was okay, since I wasn’t really lying, at least a vast majority of the time, just withholding important information, that’s all. But I started to feel really bad about it yesterday. I would deliberate and deliberate in my head, endlessly. I’d come to the decision to keep up the charade, but I never felt good about the decision, so the process just repeated itself. The Golden Rule, that was my justification, the golden rule. It’s amazing how good the enemy is at helping you justify your wrong actions, even when you start to get that “sinking feeling,” which I believe is really God tapping you on the shoulder. So I tried putting myself in the shoes of the trespassee. I thought, “If I were them, would I really want to know?” Wouldn’t it be better if I just fixed it, saving them the heartache? Yet I came to realize the impossibility of rectifying the situation without them knowing about it. I suppose I sort of knew  it from the beginning, I just choose not to acknowledge it, since I was just so focused on trying to save myself. But anyway, back to the narration. So I asked for a sign, and I thought was going to wait a couple more agaonizing, guilt-ridden days. But then I got my sign, much sooner than I thought, which convinced me once and for all that the deception absolutely needed to end. And that was the moment that I came clean.

What can be learned from this story? Not necessarily that you need to tell people everything. Even if you were insane enough to want to do this, come on, you wouldn’t be able to. I suppose the lesson is that you have instincts, as a believer, and as a person. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll regret not listening to instincts (God’s whisperings)  more often than not, impeded my pride, laziness, or a myriad of selfish concerns. And then, you have to just stop beating yourself up.

What Does the World Have in Store For Me?

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I suppose the basic answer to that question is nothing. However, I’m sure God has some things planned for me, and it’ll sure be interesting to find out just what those things are. Maybe not what I think.

I have mixed feelings about what my parents have always wanted for my life- to go to UCLA law school and be successful and classy from there. Pictured above is the beautiful smog-filled LA skyline from a congested freeway.

Currently, I am an economics major, and am about to declare an accounting minor (actually, of late I’ve been reconsidering it). The only thing is… I don’t know if I like accounting. It seems a little boring. At this point, economics seems a little more interesting to me, more fluid and relevant to the world around me. So I’m not sure exactly what I want to do. Sometimes I wish God would just whisper it in my ear. But this would be a little scary, and also, I wonder if I would listen to Him if He did tell me. Maybe He doesn’t care all that much as long as I give Him the glory in all things. But come on, it must matter a little? Surely he doesn’t want me to be an engineer, because I’m not good at math. I would imagine that He would want me to do something that suits me… but what does suit me? And don’t say being a writer, because I will always be a writer, and there are reasons that I don’t want to do that full time.

Well, on a slightly unrelated note, I just sent out an email to inquire about the position of staff writer on a university newsletter. We’ll see where all this takes me, and I suppose I must have faith that I’ll be taken to the right place. It’s time to get out of the driver’s seat.

 

The Same Old Religious Debate

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I must be honest, lately I’ve been a little troubled by the age-old question of “why so many religions?” This never puzzled me much before, but recently, it has been a nag. So this morning, I did some research on Islam, because I feel like I should know a little bit so I can at least have an intelligent conversation if the topic ever comes up. Why Islam? Well, Islam has similar roots as Judaism, and consequently, Christianity, and I thought that some people on the internet would have a lot to say in defense of it. I was right, and much to my dismay, it wasn’t all of the usual, emotional stuff. I read an article about how supposedly there were scientific things in the Quran about biology that couldn’t have been known at the time through humans (El-Najjar 3). Similar claims are made about the Bible too.

But the more I researched, the more I realized the flaws in this religion. Of course, people also point out flaws in Christianity, but those are of a different nature, and as a believer, obviously I am rightly biased towards the validity of the Good Book. It turns out that many of the ancient mosques, instead of facing towards Mecca, are actually pointed closer to the direction of Jerusalem (The Quran’s Archeological Evidence). If you are interested, you can read more about it in this article. Of course, that isn’t conclusive proof that Islam is whack, since there is no conclusive proof, it just kind of steered me in a personal way back towards my own faith, towards Jerusalem.

Another interesting thing that maybe you didn’t know is that Muslims also believe that Jesus walked the earth, but they claim that he was a prophet who was not the resurrected son of God (Godlas 1). Now this gets interesting. Why would Muslims claim that Jesus existed, just not in the same way that Christians believe? Why these commonalities? Wouldn’t it be easier for them to just deny Jesus altogether? If there is agreement between the Judeo-Christian camp and Muslim one on something, where strife has existed for centuries, then couldn’t you conclude that there’s something there, that one of them is right and the other, wrong? And which one has really stood the test of time? Now you decide that. I know I’ve decided.

I think there’s a rather reasonable explanation for the supposed scientific evidence in the Qu’ran, even if it isn’t just a coincidence. God has definitely had relationships before with people who later disobeyed Him. Solomon, Samson, just to name a couple that I am familiar with. Isn’t it possible that part of the Qu’ran was divinely inspired, possibly through some kind of prophet who later went rogue? Or perhaps some kind of mix-up? Look, don’t get mad, it’s just a theory.

The purpose of this post was is not to put down Muslims and accuse them of things right off the bat. I don’t have too many logical reasons for what I believe either because I’m not some kind of Biblical scholar. However, I would encourage anyone to think about why they believe what they believe. Don’t overthink it, because overthinking leads to dark places. Think about it, because you’re bound to think about it eventually, and if you didn’t think about it calmly, you’ll think about it in emotional state where it would be better if you didn’t think about it so much. Know why you believe what you believe, but don’t go looking for conclusive proof, you won’t find that. However, one thing that many people come to conclude is that the universe could not have been created by accident. Along with it being unlikely, it’s depressing to think of things like that. So then, who did create it? I would imagine that whoever did would want to communicate with his creation, either directly or, I don’t know… through a book maybe? Just thinking out loud here. Prophets? Yes, that makes sense. So which one is it, now that I’ve gotten this far? Is it Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism (which I still need to research), Judaism, or Christianity? If you choose Christianity, well then, you have to choose it on a much deeper level than that, but it’s a start. It’s a start of a relationship based on redemption, a relationship with the one True God. So it’s not just a religion, and if it is just a religion, then you’re probably approaching it the wrong way.

 

Works Cited

El-Najjar, Hassan Ali. “The Scientific Evidence That God Exists and the Holy Quran is His Message to Humanity.” Aljazeerah, 2007. Web. 4 Nov. 2013.

Godlas, Alan. “Jesus: A Summary of the Points About Which Islam and Christianity Agree and Disagree.” Web. 4 Nov. 2013.

“The Quran’s Archeological Evidence.” Debate.org.Web. 4 Nov. 2013.

 

Image: religioustolerance.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Moral Predicament (And you can decide!)

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The life of a Christian is wrought with all kinds of moral predicaments, as it should be, I suppose. Do I talk to this homeless guy? Get a divorce? Confront the annoying person? Take this job? Marry him/her? Forge that signature? Tell the lie or spare the embarrassment? Well, I don’t need to tell you about all the kinds of decisions that a person will face, I’m sure we all have enough examples of our own.

My latest moral predicament has been centered around a short play that I am writing as an assignment for my playwriting class. I went in thinking that, somehow, I was going to glorify God through this play, find a way to “witness” if you will. It wouldn’t be easy, but I was going to do it. Not in the most obvious way, of course, because that probably wouldn’t work for my assignment. So I thought, “maybe I’ll do some kind of allegory.” Take a page from CS Lewis, yeah, won’t that be clever.

Now, instead of that great idea that I was going to mysteriously bring into fruition, now I have just kind of an ordinary play, but with some creative twists, the kind of trash us writers live for. I have four college kids in line for Space Mountain at Disneyland. All of them are Christian, but they’re not exactly exemplary people. One is a girl named Lizzie who is a new friend of a bubbly creature named Jeanine. Then there is a couple, Natalie and Jay. Throughout this interaction, Lizzie feels excluded and wonders why she was invited in the first place. But Natalie and Jay, the perfect couple, suddenly engage in a nasty fight, and Lizzie, too, explodes. The themes in this play are mainly hypocrisy, human nature, and social position. Oh, and by the way, the word ‘bastard’ is included in this play. I tried to avoid all other language and borderline language. How do we feel about that?

Even though everyone is a jerk, Jeanine, at least, realizes her imperfection, and the voice of reason, or God, if I may be so bold, has the last word. In a subtle kind of way, of course, because us writers are continually trying to be subtle and at the same time, powerful with our words.

Well, I’m not so sure about this whole thing. Is this the way that God wants me to bring him glory, or should I just shout the message from the rooftops instead, as they would say? Mind you, Jesus spoke in parables to deliberately confuse those who were not willing to understand, but well, he was Jesus. And He always spoke most directly about the kingdom of God. So I don’t know if that applies to me at all.

Well, no one said that life wouldn’t be difficult and filled with conflicts of interest. If anyone has any suggestions for this play and/or my soul, they are welcome. I have already made some changes that I think are favorable for my purposes, but I still wonder if I should just scrap it.

 

Media: notoriousspinks.com

The World and Me

I’ve posted many a time before about social anxiety/self esteem issues. I just feel like a fool sometimes in public. It’s not that I don’t talk enough, usually. It’s that I talk in order to spare awkward silences, and I wind up saying stupid stuff, and then when awkward silences do come up, I feel that they’re my fault. I perpetually fear that I am offending others or annoying them. I feel as if my very presence is a burden.

The worst part is, I have no way of knowing whether these things are true or the extent to which it is true. But I believe it, even though I know that it’s possible that people don’t see me as as much of a moron as I do.

The thing is, I have very good reason to believe this is true. Very good reason. Growing up, my friends always told me I was awkward, even if they didn’t exactly use that word. And, as I’ve written about before, this hurt me deeply. I don’t want to blame these people for saying it. It was only true- and that’s why it hurt me so much.

I had friends in high school and middle school,  so it could have been worse, but they always seemed to have their own lives,  carefully separated from mine. They always had at least one other friend that they clearly liked far more than me. And how can I blame them for that? Good for them, what right did I have to be jealous? I had the great relationship with my dad, and no one could have taken that away from me. But why did it hurt me so much when they would talk about their other friends, like what they did on the weekend without me?  I suppose it was because I knew that they regarded me more than I them. So now I’m writing about it and maybe someday I’ll be in therapy talking about it.

The thing is, I’ve come to realize that I need God’s help. There’s no way that I can ever navigate the social world, let alone the spiritual world, without it. I can try and try until I’m blue in the face to do the right things, to be the best I can be and so on and so forth. But after a while, I realize that instead of trying to do things for God, I should do things through God and for God. I know, the distinction seems insignificant, but I think it is possible to draw on strength other than your own. Possible, but difficult and mystical in practice.

Day 2 of the Apple Detox

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So today is actually Day 3, but I couldn’t post this yesterday for technical reasons. Anyway, stay tuned for Day 3 later!

If you’re unfamilar with the apple detox, it’s basically a thing where you eat nothing but apples for three days. Apples of the jenneting variety are recommended, like red delicious, but I myself am using the Arkansas Black as pictured above . It is supposed to detoxify your body, and hopefully your soul a little as well, leaving you refreshed and rejuvenated when it’s all over. On the night of the third day, you’re supposed to drink a couple table spoons to half  a cup (Edgar Cayce, who originally discovered the apple diet through divine intervention apparently, recommends half a cup). And this is suppose to flush out your colon, if you catch the drift.

On day one, I had a grand total of 6 apples. I felt okay in general, just a little weak and tired, but able to function. There where times when it was difficult to be cheerful. Only one bowel movement occurred, in case you are curious about the effect of the detox. This morning I have a darker yellow urine to report, which was a little alarming. “Why isn’t my body happy? I haven’t been giving it any junk!” is what crossed my mind. But I am trying to remain optimistic.

But I feel that I need to focus on reaping the spiritual benefits of the detox. Along with literally cleansing your body, I believe it can also cleanse your heart of a lot of the unnecessary junk that has built up over the years. It can be seen as a conquering of the flesh, that is, the desires of the body. The flesh can drive us to do crazy things, and if it is not tamed, it will control us for our whole lives. That is why Jesus died- to free us from this

to free us from this unfortunate reality.

When Jesus was wandering in wilderness for forty days, he had a familiar visitor, the Devil. Here’s a little snippet of their conversation:

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: “ ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

-Matthew 4:3-4

Man shall not live on bread alone, I’ve always thought those were such powerful words. It is somewhat intuitive, but at the same time, it is a little contrary to our base desires. So what does this mean? It means that we must make every effort to tame our desires (I am definitely talking about MUCH more than food) and to “Die to ourselves.” I would not advise trying to fast for forty days. You’ll probably just die. If you read the rest of Matthew 4, there’s also a sentence about not “testing” God.

I’m not trying to make out that I’m all righteous because I’ve decided not to eat normal food for three days. I just think that there’s a lot to be learned from fasts and detoxes, as well as health benefits gained.

So probably the first lesson is to trust God. If you read the rest of Matthew, there are so many great illustrations of this principle. Matthew in general is just dense with information, not to say other books aren’t, but I think Matthew is one that is easier to decipher and appreciate for those of us who may not have the longest attention span (thanks to the media and pop culture).

Does this mean that I should stop stressing about the color of my urine? Probably. That I should stop worrying that the detox won’t work for me because I have some kind of disease? Yes. Because what is disease, but an abnormality of the flesh? And who healed diseases, um, Jesus! And what can separate me from the love of God (as it is written)? Nothing….

Well, I’ll tell you what happens tomorrow, God willing. Happy apple munching to all!

 

The Problem of Giving

It was early afternoon on a college campus in the Western United States. Bright, sunny, and warm. I walked to the chain fast food sandwich shop on campus. I was in a good mood, generally, becauae I have no reason not to be and am at least smart enough it. I found out the day that I got an 82 on my management accounting midterm, which is a good outcome considering that I forgot my caluculator (who forgets their calculator when they know they’re about to take an accounting test?)

Anyway, I meet a man from Feed the Children while going there. I always end up listening to spiels from nonprofit volunteers. Do I seem like a giving person? Some kind of sucker? Of course, I’m kidding about the last part, hopefully.

The thing is, I actually would like to help children who need food. I believe that God calls us to provide for the basic needs of others. Because if they can’t even survive, how can they ever come to know Christ? But it just so happens that I have heard of scandal in the Feed the Children organization, it was a couple years ago and I think they’re doing better now, but that kind of thing does make you wary.

I would like to give, and I know that it’s right to give, but I always wonder how! I don’t want to give to the wrong people and have the money be wasted. I don’t think it’s something to be paranoid about, it just means that you must be vigilant. Also, I think it’s important to actually help people, beyond just having good intentions and taking some kind of action. The situation in Africa is a good example. A lot of people say that all the humanitarian aid that has been provided over the years has not reduced poverty.  I think I will be reading a book soon on this subject, called “Dead Aid.”

Well, I’ll be posting more on this topic in the time to come. But for now, God bless! Try not to do anything too crazy this Halloween!

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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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.