Calling all Musicians

I have written a soul-train sort of Gospel song, which makes little sense because

1. That is not even my taste in music

2. It’s not like I sat down and tried to write a song. It just came to me when I was lying awake in bed

3. I’m not a songwriter!!!

So I’m going to need some help, and I thought I would ask my readers first.

The vision I have for the song is a very theatrical, black-church choir sort of thing. Not to be racist, but that is the only thing that comes to mind when I look at the song, it’s that style. But I really can’t be all that picky. It’s not like I even wrote the song, God just sort of gave it to me, and now I’ve just got to find a way to show the world, or at least, a few people. Hard as it is for me to give up the reigns of anything, even things that are not mine, I suppose I’ll give up this song, and it can be whatever God wants. 

Please email me if you think you may be interested or if you know anyone! God bless you all!

mlr96@rocketmail.com

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Jesus Is For The Weak Part 2: Meeting the Mental Illness Stigma in the Middle and Finding Joy

For a long time, mental illness has been haunting me. I feel that I cannot speak openly about it anywhere, or they will bind me in a straight jacket and lock me in a padded cell for the rest of my life. I don’t want to be institutionalized, and I don’t want to eat jello every day. So I want to open up, but not too much. And the reason that I don’t want to open up too much is this. If you yourself are not well and you are reading this, I would not want your condition to be exacerbated. Everyone has enough of their own crazy thoughts. Those are not something that we need to be spreading to our brothers and sisters.

Why hasn’t this problem just disappeared since I started to believe in God? How does this stuff in any way contribute to a Christian lifestyle? Aren’t I a raging hypocrite, a hopeless lunatic? I myself wonder the same thing all the time.

It’s easy to talk about the past, but it’s difficult to talk about the present. Very painful. I can’t help but wonder what you will think of me when you read this. I fear that you will despise me. Nonetheless, I am compelled to go on.

The truth is, Satan often tells me to hurt and destroy, probably because he knows that I am weak mentally and he thinks there’s a chance I’d listen. He wants me to kill myself, and he would prefer it if I took others down with me. I will be no vaguer than that nor more specific.

Jesus was tempted by Satan too, for 40 days in the wilderness. Not that I am sinless like Jesus. Satan told Jesus to jump off the cliff, to turn stones into bread, etc. Satan even used out-of-context Bible verses in his argument. But Jesus always had a relevant come-back line, and he effectively repelled Satan. I wish I was as good at it as Jesus. I am convinced that I am not without sin, even though, apparently, temptation itself does not constitute in sin.

I ask God to heal me. I have done this on many occasions. And it’s true, sometimes this problem does get better. I should be thankful for that. But why has it persisted? And must I continue to torture myself with feelings of guilt? Why do I have to keep guarding this skeleton in my closet?

Should I continue to feel like the scum of the earth? Should I continue in tearing myself down? I feel that I must punish myself in order to justify myself. And yet, however right it feels, however you may agree or disagree, somehow this is not right. We can’t justify ourselves anyway. Only the blood of Christ can.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

What should I do in the mean time? I am afraid of myself. I am afraid of Hell. I am afraid of the truth and freedom of the Lord as well. I feel like a hypocrite almost every moment of every day. I wonder how in the world I have the nerve to judge anyone. And maybe I should wonder this. But I also wonder how in the world I have the nerve to preach the Gospel when I myself am so screwed up. Suddenly I am brought to tears because I am remembering yesterday, and how good I felt.

I was at a church picnic type thing. It was supposed to rain yesterday, and it did, but not hard enough to force anyone to cancel it. And thank God for that. I can’t easily describe to you how it was. If you are not a Christian, or if you are, like me, skeptical at times, you will likely see this as little more than phony, emotional, snake-charming, throw-your-baby-at-the-altar Christianity. Still, I will try to make you understand. I’ve already revealed an embarrassing secret. There’s no sense in stopping now.

It’s cold and windy. We are under a gazebo in some park, our bellies filled with carne asada. There’s people from all around the area here, people of all colors, ages, shapes and sizes, united for the sake of Gospel. And it’s an open microphone share-what’you-learned this-year type deal. It sounds boring, but it really wasn’t, until the end when I got so cold and tired I could hardly concentrate. And young people around my age are sharing things- they are proudly proclaiming their faith, saying the most profound and spiritual things. What stood out to me most was a girl saying, “I am not here because of my love for God, but because of God’s love for us” and someone else saying “The church is not a social organization.” And so many other things that I would love to repeat, but they just sounded so much better in person. It was as honest and genuine as it gets in our world. I’ve been with Christians before, but I’ve never seen anything exactly like this. And for a moment, as I was sitting there, I felt so complete. I knew that this was the real thing. All that I’ve heard about the Bible in college lecture halls, that wasn’t it. All that I’d ever seen on TV, all that I grew up believing, that was a lie, and this church, this body of Christ with all its beautiful members, this was real. It didn’t matter what I’d done in the past. I didn’t matter that I wasn’t perfect or that it was cold outside. My circumstances were good. There was nothing to keep me from proclaiming the Gospel myself. All this I felt, but if I were to have spoken, I’m sure it wouldn’t have come out as eloquently.

Unfortunately, these feelings pass. They pass faster than the temptations, or bad feelings that I have. But I know that they are “more than a feeling.” I know that that’s a song. I know that just because I feel these things doesn’t mean that they are real. The Kingdom of God exists outside of human feeling. Feeling is only a channel through which this truth passes.

Jesus came for the weak. I am weak. If you’re from a Christian background, you probably get tired of hearing things like that. You get tired of hearing people describe themselves as “broken” but Jesus “saved” them. It all sounds so painfully boring and meaningless sometimes, but I tell you, it’s true.

Some people think that the Bible is dangerous, that it’s a breeding ground for fanaticism. And I tell you, it is fanatical. Maybe not burning-down-hospitals fanatical, that’s Satan’s area of expertise. Yet I believe that if we took what was in the Bible and put it all into practice, the world would be a terrifyingly different and beautiful place. So the Bible is dangerous in a political sense, but in a spiritual sense, in a real sense, the Bible is our only hope, confusing as it may be. If it wasn’t for the love of God, for the blood of Christ, I would probably be dead, dead or eating jello. What meaning would my life have without God? I am weak. I can’t delude myself with high-flown phrases. I can’t subjugate myself to the rules of society, I just can’t force myself to love humanity. I am weak, physically and emotionally. I am a failure. I am socially awkward. I am unwell. I am a worry-wart. I am not a good person. But thank God I am weak, and thank God I find little comfort in the things that pacify most. For if I was strong, if I was “wise” and self-controlled and normal, I wouldn’t have any reason to put all my faith, all my being into a perfect God.

Everyone has weakness and everyone has strength. God will find you in your weakness and He will find you in your strength. He will find You in the lowest depths, He will find you on your highest mountain. He will find you in your humility, He will find you in your pride. He will find you in the margins of society and He will find you in the midst of it. He will find you in the 99% and he will find you in the 1%. There’s no escaping Him. Wherever You are, there He is also, watching. So it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are. If He can forgive me, He can forgive you, and now you know that. You know that I am not just some goody-goody. You know that I have no right to look down on you. It doesn’t matter who you are, it matters who God is, and it matters if you want to have anything to do with what God is.

 

Praying for People, Even the Perfect Ones

It’s hard to run out of things to write about when there are 66 books in the Bible. 

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 

-1 Timothy 2:1-3

I didn’t know that it was specifically in the Bible that we should pray for rulers, but well, there you go. I stand corrected. It’s even says that we will have “peaceful and quiet lives.” Does that mean world peace? Who knows.

That brings me to my next point. I know its fashionable nowadays to curse Obama, even among Christians, but come on, is it really necessary? Maybe we could pray for him instead, that he might be saved (if he isn’t already) and make wise decisions… just a thought. I really don’t think he’s the Anti-Christ or Satan as some people think, even if he’s not Abraham Lincoln (who, by the way, wasn’t perfect either). Obama is a person. God wants all persons to be saved. 

I know this all sounds simplistic, but I forget it constantly. I think it’s especially easy to avoid praying for those people who seem to have it all together. You know what I mean. The people who seem to know everything, powerful people, popular people, rich people. We don’t always pray for them, especially if they’re mean or bossy. We think “Screw you, you know everything already, why should I tell you the truth? It’s not like you’d listen.” That’s probably why Paul brought up powerful people in particular. They might fall under the cracks simply because no one bothers to help them out, out of jealousy or fear. 

Maybe it’s not a good idea to singlehandedly undertake your Congressman or favorite celebrity’s salvation  with weekly letters. Has anyone tried that? I’m sure there is a point where we should re-strategize our evangelistic undertakings. Yet, we can always pray for people, even if they’re hundreds of miles away, and we can always think good thoughts about them. It’s God who ultimately saves souls anyway- not us. Let’s do our part. Let’s not presume to know someone’s fate or true character. Let’s not obsess and agonize. We’ll do our part, and the rest will just happen. 

 

A Response to My Former Ramblings

If you read my last post, it was about a personal struggle I have with self-esteem and the like. It really wasn’t all that great, if I may say so myself. But now, I am a few hours wiser, I think, so I would like to attempt to explain where it all went wrong.

The root of all my problems is, of course, not loving God enough, and not loving my neighbor as myself. I know, that seems unrelated to what I was talking about yesterday, self-esteem, but it actually is related, I can see that now.

Sometimes, in our interactions with other believers, especially in formal settings, we get into the mindset of “What’s in it for me?” I know I’ve experienced this so many times, and if you are a believer, you have probably experienced it as well as heard of the phenomenon in sermons or discussions. What can I get from this friendship, this chapel, this class, this church service, this worship song, this meeting, etc. We seek fulfillment, encouragement, validation, enlightenment, explanation, teaching, advice. Personally, and this goes back to the self-esteem thing (see, I told you there was a connection), I find myself worrying about my social image and how I am conducting myself. But why is that important? Wouldn’t it be better to just ask God to help me contribute to the group? Where was that idea my whole life? Can’t I just try to set a good example for others (following the Titus 2 model) and encourage my fellow believers? That’s not to say that I can’t gain something, however, that shouldn’t be the main focus and the end to all means. Because we grow to give back. We don’t just mature and improve and ripen in our holiness so we can be on a good footing with God, so we will be prepared for salvation. We gain skills and knowledge to help others along, and in doing this, we serve God. That’s what it’s all about, God. And nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not even social anxiety. Not even death or sin.

Nice try, Satan, with trying to blind me with shame and self-loathing, I am sure that all of Hell applauds the effort, but I am afraid that I have been saved by grace once again.

 

 

 

One of the Good Days

Last night, in one of those blissful in-between states between being awake and sleeping, the times that I feel most close to God (and now my atheist friends will use this as evidence that belief in God is irrational because I feel closer to Him in a half-conscious state), but I felt that I made a very important connection, or rather God showed me an important connection, and I thought it was so important that I absolutely had to blog about it. It was a spiritual click, something that seemed quite brilliant. And now, I can’t remember it. Well, I hope I remember it if it was important, but if not I’ll leave it at this and talk a bit about my experiences today instead.

So, if you read my blog, you’d probably get the impression that I’m someone who is naturally kind of down, but doesn’t want to be. You would be right. It is part of my nature, but I try to fight against it, even though very often it seems like a loosing battle. But I know that God can defeat my absurd emotions, and I look forward to the victory.

But today was one of the good days, truly. I feel generally happy and fulfilled, like I have a good life and I am grateful for it.

Today just got off to a good start. I woke up early by my biological clock, even though I forgot to set my alarm. I thank God for that now. I had time to make myself look presentable, which is unusual. By the way, I need to go into a thing someday about whether or not makeup and fancy dress is a sin. But I’ll leave that to another day.

The morning commute was manageable, and I made it out alive, so I considered that a success. So I go to my classes, and I am able to focus a little better because I came more prepared. And they seemed like generally productive classes. But here is where the real game changer came in. And I think God put this in my life on purpose.

In my playwriting class, we were asked to write scenarios for possible one-scene plays and share them in class. A scenario is basically an outline of a play. Anyway, one of my classmates scenarios involved a Christian boy and a diva-ish, preppy popular girl who was very ungrateful. She would complain about not having a car and little things like that. Meanwhile, a friend of hers had real problems, like a father who got a heart attack among other tragic incidences. Anyway, after the scenario was read, we talked about it. People in the class expressed how they knew people like the first girl, and how they hated those kinds of people. And that’s when it hit me, that I can be like that sometimes. Not the popular and preppy part, but the ungrateful part. I realized, as I was sitting there “I don’t want to be like that at all.” It’s so counterproductive, not conducive at all to the things that I want to do in life. And how does that reflect on God if I can’t be grateful?

So, things went well after that. I mentioned the campus EV I was going to in my last post. Well, I showed up at the designated area on campus, and there was no one there. So it seemed, but then I saw a boy sitting on a bench. I sensed that he might have been there for the same purpose as me, so I started talking to him and turns out he was leading the EV. He didn’t actually think it would be good to evangelize with me, but he talked to me to get a feel for what I’m about, which is understandable. And then I met someone else from the group. They seemed very nice, maybe a little judgmental about me not going to church, and maybe they emphasize the formal church experience just a little too much, but I understand them, and I think they’re sincere. No one can be perfect, after all, you just pray that we’ll all get a little closer.

So then after that, I had dinner with an old friend and went to see her dorm, which was fun. We went to this thai restaurant on campus. I got curry noodles and thai iced tea, which really helped me power through my last class of the day! It’s also funny how caffeine helps me so much with my self expression skills. It just makes me feel like my brain and my mouth have a much better connection, as opposed to a lot of the time when they don’t seem to communicate that much. I hope one day the Holy Spirit Himself will give me that kind of energy!

Well, I’m very sorry if this seems a lot like a journal, and that I didn’t get to do any actual evangelizing today. Hopefully surrounding people who walked by picked up some snippets. It’s just that I’m happy! No, things are not completely resolved, and no, my life is not perfect, but hey, it’s close enough for me. I can work with this! Yes, God has blessed me and I can more than work with it, I  feel like I can live, like I can go on, and keep on going and thrive forever. I feel self-confidence, can you believe it! I not only know, but at the moment I feel that God created me for a reason. I’m not a worthless, awkward alien, but I’m a human being, a child of God, and so are you.