The Bigotry is Real; The Love is Realer

Christians are persecuted every day, that is an unfortunate reality. But the other unfortunate reality is that Christians also persecute every day.

And who am I talking about? Me, of course! Sure, we all know those annoying, judgmental people, but I”m here to talk about me. I don’t know about those people, maybe they mean well, but I’ve been inside my own head and I know it’s not pretty. There’s jealousy, there’s pride, there’s hatred.

It doesn’t come over night, the fall from grace. The darkness seeps in, colors your perception, disguises itself as light and truth. And pretty soon you’re all mad at those sinners who are really your brothers and sisters, and you realize that you’re the worst sinner of them all, but you just stop caring in a way. That is a bad place, don’t go there.

You read in the Bible that you should love your enemies, and you half-beleive it, and you half doubt it, so basically you’re just doubting it.

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to accuse you of this too.

I know this all sounds really depressing, but it’s not the bottom-line. I’m sorry that I’m so real on this blog- sometimes I feel like I should tone it down a little and just talk about salad recipes. Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.

I’m not saying that the Bible turns people into jerks. I’m saying that Satan is a clever little _____ and he knows how to twist things around. He can even use  scripture verses. Remember this?

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:

‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’

and,

‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’[b]

Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”[c]
Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you,[d] Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”[e]

Matthew 4:5-10

But if I truly believed into the Lord Jesus, I would never think of using the Bible as a way to judge other folks and be a bully. I would be humble, compassionate, joyful, and loving. Oh, if only! I know it’s true, but why do I doubt the whole thing even as I’m writing this! And yet, it’s my only hope. Must bling to it. Must cling for dear life. It is life, friends. Take my word for it- I’ve seen what death and destruction look like. I know that’s what Satan wants. I don’t want to give him what he wants anymore.

A Repose in the Battle

Madness disguises itself as reason

And robs me of my joy, my compassion, and life itself

Passion alone is a dead end

Ruminating is my ruin

The only joy and peace is involuntary

It comes upon me against my will

It laughs at my silly thoughts

And my soul, for an instant, bursts open

 

I’m tired of the wrestling,

I don’t want to play the game anymore

I just want to exist, and feel, and be blessed 

And I don’t care if the best part of me

Is the part that comes not from me

The Brood of Vipers

I’ve never been a particular fan of snakes, much less a brood of them (that just sounds disgusting), so if someone called me that, I’d be pretty offended. And that’s just the thing- Jesus is talking to me too.

“You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”
-Matthew 12:34 NASB

We often see the kind, compassionate Jesus, but many are uncomfortable with the angry one. We need to keep in mind that He is God. He has the authority to punish us. This reminds me of a mother or father who hates to watch their child screw up, so they eventually resort to name-calling and anger- anything that will get through to the stubborn kid.

So who is the brood of vipers? The Pharisees. The hypocrites.

Me.

It’s not the prostitutes or thieves that Jesus yells at, but the religious people of his time. The goodie goodies. Why do we think that is?

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.”

The other day, I looked in the mirror, and I did not like what I saw. This literally happened, by the way, not just a soul-searching thing. The face that stared back wasn’t the happy face on my student ID or in my old pictures. It looked tired and anxious at the same time. Robbed of joy and the glow of youth. It looked like the face of someone who was very unwell.

What happened to me? Shouldn’t I be holy by now? I’ve been abstaining from stuff, working more, trying harder, eating better…

But in the process, I missed out on something very important. I lost joy, hope, peace, love, sense of humor, energy, and quirkiness. I’d cleaned the outside, but the inside was still very bad and empty, in some ways worse, because I was allowing pride, jealousy, fear, and wrath to remain.

I am beginning to understand all kinds of hypocrisy. I am beginning to understand the Inquisitions, Holy Wars, oppressions, divisions, and squabbles. I am beginning to understand why gossipy church wives have remained gossipy and why many would rather be burned at stake than call themselves a Christian.

But I still don’t blame God. I don’t blame the Gospel for turning people into jerks. I also understand why people don’t want to be Christian. Because I know that I myself have fed into these negative images. I know because someone told me so in a very un-subtle way.

So I’m not going to point out that it’s some kind of logical fallacy to claim that because Christians are bad, Christianity is bad. But I will defend the message and believe in it. I will say that it is not the balmy love and mercy of Jesus Christ that causes us to act like jerks, but it is the cold, self-righteous religion that we impose upon ourselves without even realizing it. It is going through the motions and dressing up the ugliness with a facade of meekness and piety. Cleaning the outside of the cup while the inside is all moldy and gross.

It’s amazing that it’s so easy to get on the wrong track. You get on the wrong track, you realize it, you want to go back because it’s getting dark, but you keep going because something tells you it’ll pay off.

It’s so easy to get caught up in little rules and miss the boat on the big stuff.

“…Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”
Luke 10:41 NRSV

But what, what exactly is that one thing? Don’t we already acknowledge that thing, every time we pray and say things like “With the Lord’s help, with Christ who lives in me, etc?”

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭19-20‬ NKJV)
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭19-20, 23-25‬ NKJV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭8-10‬ NKJV)

So if I love God, I must prove it. It’s as simple and impossible as that.

Another Lonely Summer?

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Thank God for the sunshine. I need sunshine more than most people; fog seems to exacerbate my depression. Thank God that the summer months when I am the loneliest are the ones filled with sunshine and watermelon.

I know that loneliness is one of the major themes of this blog. I complain about how I feel lonely in both crowds and isolated crawl holes. I have approached it from many angles, dissected it with various tools, given a myriad of reasons, I have tried against my will to be positive, I have experimented with various coping mechanisms… yet I am still here, addressing it again. I still feel alone, in not much of a different way than I felt last year.

What does it all mean? The sun continues to rise and set, dancing along the tops of the beautiful trees around my house in between. The world goes round. People make money, get married, and eventually die. Babies are born, children play, teenage girls giggle and gossip just as mindlessly as ever. Other children starve to death. Politicians keep lying. What does it all mean?

But I know that I’m not really alone, even though it feels that way. Maybe that’s what’s different about this year- that I am a step closer to not feeling lonely. I have the company of my parents, which really counts for a lot. My friends are somewhere, maybe thinking about me, maybe not, but I believe that in heaven we are laughing and singing together. Enemies who in this life won’t even give me the time of day will be singing and laughing in heaven with me. And for now, I am joined by many people who are also feeling lonely, whether I see them or not, and there are many brothers and sisters even on this blog space feeling the same way. If worse comes to worse, I can call up one of my fictional characters to get coffee with me at any time.

But more importantly, I have the friend of all friends, Jesus Christ. The friend who always understands, is never too busy, and will help me with absolutely anything (if I let Him, which I usually don’t because of pride). If He was here, I know He’d help me move or drive me to the airport.

The light is dancing on the leaves, the steaks are on the grill, and the birds are chirping. Even though I can’t go to the beach now because of my foot, I know that it’s calm and majestic as ever. I know that somewhere, somehow, girls my age are talking and laughing and having a good time in spite of it all. And that is enough.

I know that, by the grace of God, I will get though this month, and maybe even rack up some good memories, or at least some trials that I will learn something from. I know that there is eternal life, and that is where I put my trust. I know that I don’t need to cry. I know that I am not alone, even if I feel alone. And that is enough.

 

Photo

blogs.imediaconnection.com

 

 

In Defense of Contemporary Christian Music

I know that I have probably used this blog in the past to rant about how Christian art is dry as a desert and blah blah blah, but Iately I have felt blessed by the Christian pop on the satellite radio station The Message. Call it cheesy, but if you asked me, it’s kind of sweet (and not all of the songs can be called cheesy). You could say that the melodies aren’t as good, but really, it’s the same style as all the other music out there. Just saying. Maybe I’m a little out of the loop because I don’t listen to most current music anyway, being a 60’s fan.

The songs get stuck in my head, and believe it or not, the lyrics spiritually convict me. That’s right, the Lord works in mysterious as well as obvious ways. The songs encourage me to give it all up to God.

But like many before me I suppose, I wonder what it really means to “give it all up to God.” I think it’s safe to conclude that we should be willing to give up our very lives to God, and of course, everything that we have. But the fact is that one does not simply give their life away… that is usually suicide. So then what do we give away? Is there a percentage? 

In Luke 19, Zacchaeus gives away half his possessions. That is a fraction. But the confusion doesn’t stop for me, unfortunately. 

Sometimes I feel that it is my calling to give everything away and live in the most simple way possible, eating only the simplest and most wholesome foods. And, ironically, I worry about this decision. I worry about what people will think, what I would do, etc. I wonder if it would be right to leave my family behind in pursuit of the life that I have planned, whatever it will look like precisely. 

In many ways, I am misguided. I think that I will attain spiritual growth through self control, but self-control is only part of it. To get anywhere, we must abide in God, the vine (see John 15). Ultimately we won’t be able to change our behavior if we don’t change our hearts. And only the love of God can truly change a person’s heart, this I believe. I am also misguided because I don’t truly want to give everything up. I still love the world when I should be loving God and using the world for God. 

God, I know I can’t let my life pass me by while I stand around, but I can’t make a 180 now either. I’m stuck physically. Help me to take it one day, one hour, one precious moment at a time. Let me share in your gift of peace (John 14:27). Do not let me agonize over fractions and doctrines. Let me know that what is done out of love is not done in vain. 

 

 

 

Being Baptized

Since I’m going to be officially baptized next week, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my faith has evolved, for lack of a better word, over the years. Even though I feel like I just became a Christian, it’s really been about seven years since the seed was first planted. When did I really start taking it seriously? I can’t put a date on that, of course. 

In many ways, it seems like I haven’t made progress at all. Old demons still haunt me. I still screw things up and get stressed and angry. I still don’t know how to communicate through my Spirit. I still shake in my boots at the very thought of sharing my faith, although I do make more of an effort in that way (not that effort is really the right concept). 

At the same time, I do feel something changing deep inside of me. I have this inner peace that somehow coexists with the constant turmoil in my soul. Satan seems to be pulling out all the stops, but instead of feeling utterly hopeless, I feel that God is pulling for me even harder. 

I know at least that a new dawn is approaching. The hopelessness of my pre-Christian days is over. I know now that it doesn’t matter how bad my “old man” was, because I am getting a new being just the same. I know now that this world is just a cosmic pitstop. I know that my life is not going to be perfect or “normal,” ever, but that’s okay. It’s not like Jesus lived what we would consider a normal life either. He didn’t have two kids and a mortgage and a job in the city. He had 12 disciples and many unsavory characters as his friends, all the rejects of society. Oh yeah, and then the Jews crucified him. That’s not normal. So why should strive for a normal life?

Not that you can’t be a Christian if you have two kids and a mortgage and a job in the city. Please don’t be offended! I’m talking more about the inward conformity that our society expects from us than the outward life. I think you know what I mean.

Well, I’d best go and study for finals! Thanks for reading! 

 

 

How Do You Get Divine Love?

1 Corinthians 13
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Gift of Love

13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Okay, so I have quoted the first part of 1 Corinthians 13, but you may know what comes next, the love is patient, love is kind verse. I would recommend reading the whole chapter (if not the whole book or the whole New Testament). It is so empowering and rich!

I also find this unsettling. Why is it unsettling? Well, it seems to imply that you can have faith without love, that you can prophesy, give to the the needy, and speak in tongues without love. What?

Isn’t faith a gift from God? Isn’t love also a gift from God? Aren’t all those things gifts from God? Why would God bestow you one without giving you the whole package? It seems almost cruel to give “Christian virtues” while withholding love. Why would God withhold love? Why do we withhold love?

I constantly struggle with loving people that I don’t know or have anything in common with. I find very it hard to love people that think that they’re better than me. Sometimes I find it hard to love anyone, even the people closest to me, even God. Sometimes I want to hurt them rather than help them, judge them rather than have compassion on them, ignore them rather than value them. I ask God for help, it’s not like I don’t. I look at faces and I tell myself, “Hey, you should love them.” But the fact that I am telling myself to love must mean that I do not truly love. Love is natural, it flows from within like a river. It should not be a game or a ritual, it should be an unstoppable force of nature. Why doesn’t it feel that way at all?

Is it really so simple that one must simply open up their heart to divine love, and then simply let that love gush forth freely? Yet how is this accomplished? Where are the floodgates and how do they open? How can you ensure that they won’t simply close back up once they have opened? Where are the keys to the kingdom of heaven? Someone tell me!

Does it just take a lot of time? But I don’t have time, I am on a tight schedule, the natural life is so short, Jesus will be coming down on clouds at any minute. But now it’s been a while. Somebody tell me, where is the love? I am parched and weary. Apparently I have moved mountains for nothing.

I would like to provide a neat answer to this, I really would. I am sure that if one perseveres in humbling themself, they will eventually find it. But what can be done in the mean time? Maybe the first thing to do is calm down. Maybe peace can be found even in imperfection and struggle. No matter where we are, God is. Maybe when anxiety fades, it will be easier for love to find its way in. It is hard to love when your heart is under stress from beating so fast. There is no sin that can’t be forgiven. There is nothing God won’t do to help you. Breathe if you can (it’s actually hard, I know because i suffer from anxiety/depression/mental issues).

Love has already been discovered. The collective human population searches and searches through various mediums: art, sex, philantropy, culture, etc. But it is already found, it is already here, right under our noses, and at the same time, infinitely out of our reach.

The Head of Woman

I used to be a little bitter towards God for making me as a female. I didn’t know what my eternal soul had done prior to birth to deserve such a punishment. How is it fair, God, that some people are simply born weak and inferior and there’s not a thing they can do about it? Why have I been cursed with the prospect of childbearing, of subordination? Why is it that for the rest of my life I will always feel uncomfortable in leadership positions? If I am successful, I may be labeled as a “power hungry ______.” What kind of a life is that? What is the true place for a woman?

Thus, it was not a lack of women’s rights that I resented, not the order of the world, simply the fact that God placed this burden on me.

I did not always enjoy being feminine. Being feminine meant I was weak. As a child, my parents used it as a reason to shelter me from the world. I fell in love with this ideal of someone who was strong, competent, rational, someone the opposite of myself, essentially. I wasn’t completely sure if I wanted to have a person like that or if I wanted to be a person like that. I wasn’t lesbian… just very uncertain and uncomfortable about life.

Playing the part of a “strong, vigorous man” in a high school play may have further complicated things.

I bring this up not for the sole purpose of making you uncomfortable. Maybe you can relate to some of my thoughts. I’m sure most women have casually expressed wishes to be a man. It seems to us that men get to do whatever they want without having to worry about monthly inconveniences or pregnancies. And maybe some men entertain thoughts of what if would be like if they were women, because we seem to have it easy. The grass is always a little greener, isn’t it?

Since then, things have improved. Not that I have come to completely embrace and understand womanhood, but I think I am on better terms with the idea than I was previously. I found it comforting that there was a female prophetess, Deborah in the Old Testament.

Seeing the consequences of a woman taking complete control of a marriage has also helped me to understand why man is the head of woman and God, the head of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 11, which may also convince you to wear head coverings). But not that the husband should completely control the marriage either. Is that love?

The fact is that sometimes we are a bit irrational  (and with all the hormones, who can blame us?) And we are, on average, of course, weaker than men. But guess what? Men are just a little better. In this life, at least, they have the upper hand. And that’s okay.

They can characterize us as mindless creatures who just like shiny things. But the joke’s really on them, because they can become so obsessed with us that they make total fools of themselves.

Should Christ be ashamed that the Father is His head? No! Does that make Christ nothing? No! We are not servants of ourselves anyway, but servants of God. Why is it so awful that man is our “head?” It is just a channel through which God is our head.

And let’s face it, maybe at times we could use another head.

We are important. We are beautiful. We can multitask. The population would die out without us, and no one would talk about their feelings. The world has shown us that we can do whatever we set our minds to. But God has shown us the importance of humility, which is important for everyone, really.

On God, Love, and Hobos

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Love. It is one word in the English language that means so many things. Leave it to English to squeeze multiple beautiful meanings into one short, choppy word. This word is printed on t-shirts and handbags, uttered by clueless teenagers, used in the same sentence as food items, and exploited in a million other ways. People can spend their whole lives searching for it and come up empty.

What is true love? Is it just one of the forces that mysteriously compels people to go on awkward dates with the opposite sex, and, if all goes well, leads to picking out curtains and changing diapers? If not, then what is it? Just the passion that we have for life and all it has to offer? Or is it mostly about sex? I suppose it depends a little on who you ask.

Didn’t you just know that I was going to start to relate this to God’s love for us? Couldn’t you just feel the preachy coming on at that loose end?  But don’t get too cynical. It’s gooey, but it’s true. Jesus loves you. God so loved the world, as it is written. Why else would He bother with us after His people continually disobeyed Him? Why else did He come down to the earth and give us cryptic messages and commandments? Why did He die for us in quite a painful fashion? Because He loves us, and in that love, He helped us. We need it. We’re not all that. There is something wrong with human nature, no matter what anyone says. If the mere the fulfillment of selfish desires is not wrong, then why do we feel the inexplicable need to suppress ourselves? Why are there laws? Why do we try to combat things like racism, greed, and violence? Why do we have a conscience? If man’s highest calling is to fill his stomach and get what he wants- then why do we continually feel like there’s something more?

I used to have a government teacher at my Christian school who always talked about love. True love- a love for mankind. A love for people who would spit in your face. A love for people who would kill you. A love that shines in the darkness for all to see.

This love is hard to come by. As I was reminded today, many people are excluded from any kind of love. Many people are rejected by society, living either on park benches, in trailers, or mansions. They may have a hard time relating to people, saying the right things, or controlling themselves. Or maybe they were just hurt in the past. It’s actually really hard stereotyping reclusive/lonely people. There are a millions of reasons and millions of stories.

Nonetheless, the problem exists. Just this morning I was thinking about homelessness in particular, trying to think of ways that I could help out. It’s funny how God gives us signs when we least expect them. I was at school today, eating my lunch, wishing I had someone, anyone, to share the food and the sunny weather with. I went to go and throw away my plastic bag, and this crazy hobo lady (and I mean that in the most affectionate way possible) said something to me that I didn’t fully hear, but I was sure that it didn’t make much sense. I wanted to talk to her, but wasn’t sure if the opportunity would come. And then it did-  she sort of struck up conversation with me in her own way. I could tell immediately that this woman was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. She claimed to have seen me the day before in the most mysterious way. I definitely wasn’t on campus yesterday.

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I do not mention this story to talk about my good deeds and make myself out to be some kind of super Christian with a halo over my head. There were probably some selfish reasons involved, since I found this lady so intriguing. I can see myself writing a book or play about her, it was that good. But at times, this  interaction definitely seemed strained, even though a part of me really wanted to talk to her, and I knew that talking to her would be the kind and loving thing to do. Not that I am always fond of the kind and loving thing to do. And it was  a little awkward. There were so many things I wanted to talk to her about, but I kept feeling at a loss for words. You see, I rarely talk to people who are crazier than me. And even with perfectly sane people, I am not the greatest conversationalist. She babbled a lot about things that either didn’t make sense, made too much sense, or were completely irrelevant.Also, I was kind of embarrassed because I was walking around with a  hobo woman who was carrying around a pillow and a cigarette lighter and basically some of her only possessions, as it seemed. Hard as it is for me to admit that I can be shallow.

So it was a hodgepodge of emotions. But my real point here is to raise awareness. Prepare to be aware. I mean, there I was, thinking about how I wished I had someone to eat with- and there was that woman lying on the grass, with nothing. Not her sanity, as far as I could tell, not a whole lot of love, not the greatest health, not money… There are lots of people like that. And it should make us sad. We’ve created a system in our society to create order and reward people based on what they do. It could be much worse. But there’s always going to be people that fall through the cracks. It’s easy to say that it’s their fault for being lazy bums. Maybe some of them are lazy, but how can you tell, and how can you so easily blame them? What if they don’t want to work because they feel like they have nothing to work for? What if they’re too mentally ill or mentally challenged or have some other kind of handicap?

So we have our nice little rules for behavior in society. You have to act a certain way, dress a certain way, have at least a little bit of money, have a job or a good excuse for not having a job, make yourself look decent, avoid certain subjects. And then, once we master all this, we think we’re golden. But our society isn’t always right, let alone perfect. We’re not perfect. But our God is. And God wants us not only to “help ourselves” as the popular saying with no Biblical basis goes, but to help out our fellow creatures.

This woman I met today said she was Catholic. I hope I’ll see her around again sometime. And I pray that she will get to know God better and find a job or something. I hope next time I see someone in need, I’ll do a better job of “loving” on them, like my government teacher always said. Because that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. Sometimes we get all caught up in the technicalities of the Bible and forget the theme, which is love. And love will go a long way.

Photo Sources:

baconaddicts.com

459fall11.wikispaces.com