Las Vegas State of Mind

Contrary to what the title of this post might suggest, this is not me in a dark, strange hotel room with a splitting headache wondering how I ever got to this point. But if you know me at all, that is probably obvious.

I went to Vegas as a family vacation/business trip. I was excited because the last time I went on vacation was four years ago, and it was to, you guessed it, Vegas. But you always see things differently when you’re older. I was also a little reluctant because it’s not exactly a holy pilgrimage going over there. 

Although I’d seen the sight before, it didn’t cease to amaze me. One minute you’re in the desert, surrounded by nothing but Joshua trees and interstate and what appears to be the same little mountain over and over again… and then, with not enough warning, you are in the entire world at one time. People from everywhere, beautiful, larger-than-life buildings, eye-catching billboards. 

The buildings really caught my attention. As we drove up to the Bellagio, I was simply breath-taken. All day, I was in a sort of contemplative ecstasy (not because of drugs or alcohol… although I did drink a lot of iced tea). I wanted to take the people around me who looked less-than-content and shake them by the shoulders crying, “Look where you are, man! Isn’t it pretty!” As inconveniences and problems sprang up, as they always do, I was hardly able to muster any negative feelings. When they almost put us in a room with a king bed instead of 2 queen beds, I could only pay attention to how courteous the hotel worker was and how pretty the fake flowers looked. When we got stuck in rush hour on the Las Vegas strip, I could only laugh because it was all so absurd. The chaos, the frustration, the inefficiency (how long it took to go less than a mile)! It was just funny to me. I wonder if my unusual optimism succeeded in cheering up my family members or if it just annoyed them more. 

I guess what I saw was mostly the innocent side of Vegas since I’m not old enough to do the things that most people would consider fun. There were glimpses into the darkness, which I responded to with a strange cocktail of indignation, self-righteousness, pity, and indifference. But these were brief. What I really saw a lot of in Vegas were families. Ordinary tourists. An old man putting an arm around his wife as they filed out of the theater. Two little girls, probably sisters, sharing one small chair, hugging each other. Families clinking glasses at a restaurant. A little girl on her father’s lap. Three generations sharing a buffet, caring for their little baby by bringing him fruit and showing him pictures in a book. Smiling faces standing in front of landmarks. Elevator banter with strangers. In general, people who seemed happier than usual, not unlike me. These scenes of humanity made me feel better about Vegas. Sure, I can’t help but wonder if my joy and theirs was genuine, feigned, or just as real as the Eiffel tower and pyramids there. True joy or intoxication? 

Is it all a dream? Like that show I saw with the water, acrobats, and unexplainably awesome scenery called “O.” You can’t argue that Vegas has an artificial quality, more so than other places. It’s like if you just push it hard enough it’ll fall right down like a cardboard facade. What would it be without the air conditioning and delicate water supply? What would it be without the slot machines and naked girls? How could it have even sprung up without the gangsters?

I suppose that’s a depressing way to look at it. I know I’m an over thinker. But it’s true, and the truth stretches farther than we might think. Many pleasures of this world are fleeting and superficial. But there are some things that are real too, like those precious hugs, laughs and memories shared by families and friends that I was glad to witness. That Jesus billboard north of the strip. 

I can’t help but be reminded of this verse. Jesus and the disciples are walking around, kind of sight-seeing I guess you could say:

24 As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Then he asked them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

I’m not trying to be too prophetic and weird. I guess I’m just saying that while the great buildings of the world may collapse, and while the chocolate fountains and water fountains may run dry… the Kingdom of God is here to stay. 

***

I wonder why it’s been difficult to adjust to ordinary life. I was gone for less then 3 days! Don’t get me wrong, it feels good to breathe fresh air and eat fresh fruit. It’s good to work, to eat cook and eat real food, and be in a place that came about just a little more organically. It’s good to sleep in your own bed and use a shower that makes sense. But why do I feel so strange? Why do I feel that it’s hard to push aside the memories? 

I’m sure that I don’t really want to go back. I’m sure the charm of the place wears off pretty quickly. It’s good to quit while you’re ahead. And a life of idle leisure? That sounds horrible to me!

I’m sure it’ll wear off soon. I guess that’s the price you pay for having fun- it’s hard to do work again. But I believe that it will pass. I believe in the power of the Spirit. I believe that God is everywhere. Even in Vegas. 

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Wonderful Blessings When I Least Expected Them

I wrote this a couple weeks ago and forgot to post! Reading it now has been a comfort.0

I was in the desert for a while. It seemed that the whole world was just ignoring / judging me. I grappled with it. I tried to understand it in any way I could. What’s wrong with me? Is this a punishment or a trial? Should I discard hope? Love myself? Reach out- no, they’re all better off without me.

I finally came to the conclusion that I should stop thinking about myself so much. 

Then, starting a couple days ago, everything seemed to change for the better. Old friends whom I thought I would never see again started texting me. A family member was nicer to me. An email I sent out a long time ago finally got answered. A couple people very sweetly reached out through the internet. I even had an employer ask me for my resume in an email! 

I was happy yesterday- not just that “Christian joy”- but I was really happy in my own unusual way because I was thinking about how God is taking care of me. After all, all these things happened without me lifting a finger. To me, it’s a sign that He cares and He listens, and yes, that He loves me. 

Where is this all going to lead? I don’t know. I’m sure that it can all end as abruptly as it began. Perhaps my old friends just felt obligated to see me, and it won’t even come to fruition. Maybe the same resume request was sent to everyone or it’s some kind of scam (I don’t really believe I’ll get the job, by the way). Maybe my family will get mad at me and I’ll feel lonely again. 

But you know what? Why should I care? Why does any of that matter? Why can’t I allow this happiness and blessing to bring me closer to God? Why can’t I feel good even though I know that at any moment it can all come crashing down and I’ll feel depressed again? Why do I need more when I already have so much more love than I deserve? 

Why can’t I believe in people a little, for a change? Do all those good times mean nothing? Should I just forget how I feel now and go on feeling disillusioned and bitter? I think not! 

If being content with the pathetic, fleeting joys of this world, that God is merciful enough to let me experience is foolish, then I don’t ever want to be wise. And if rejoicing in the unchanging and all-powerful God even in the worst of times is silly, then shove me in a tiny car with twenty other clowns and call me Bozo.

I only hope that when the inevitable happens, I will be just as happy or even happier than I am now.  

 

Trust: Does It Always Need to Accompany Love?

....why should I trust you?

“Don’t trust anyone. Never let your guard down.”

This is something that I hear all the time, even from other Christians. And it’s not like it doesn’t make sense.

Many of us learn this “lesson” around middle school (or earlier, if you weren’t quite as lucky). I know I learned it somewhere along the way, and I learned it too well. My little friends disappointed me, left me all alone, and since then I haven’t been able to look at other people, or myself in quite the same way. Over time, I went from happy, carefree child to quiet, awkward adolescent (although I can be fun with certain people).

So I can’t really say that I trust people a whole lot. I just wait for them to disappoint me. And when they do, I take their “rejection” personally. “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t they like me? What’s there not to like? What can I change?”

Let’s revisit the love verse. If you are Christian, you’ve probably heard it a million times, but I’m going to post it again because even though I’ve been hearing it for years, it has taken on a new meaning for me lately.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 RSV

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastfulit is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The fact is, people are going to disappoint us.  People are going to downright screw us over.

But you know what? In all probability, we will disappoint others as well. Maybe we will even do our share of screwing over.

So here’s an idea. Maybe instead of always wondering what the other guy is going to do next, maybe we should focus more on our own heart, on what we are doing wrong. Maybe it is better to be a naive little fool who trusts people and believes in humanity and isn’t afraid of the devisings of men because her faith in God is positively overflowing.

But how, how is this accomplished? Should we “trust” that our fellow motorists won’t cut us off? But that’s crazy!

Should we “trust” that the creepy guy in the alley won’t mug us?

Should we “trust” that thieves won’t steal our belongings?

Should we “trust” the credit card company?

Should we trust our friends to be there for us? Our family? Our spouse?

Should we trust God?

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this. Personally, I have a hard time believing that people will come through for me because of past experience. My philosophy is, “they probably won’t, but hey, at least God will be there.”

And indeed He will. But should I believe in others too? Won’t that just make it more painful when they don’t come through? (because they won’t… don’t trust anyone!).

I guess it could hurt to try, but maybe I will. I’m not an orphan with street cred or a recent divorcee or a victim of abuse. I’m just another person who learned “the lesson” in some way or another. Maybe I can start unlearning it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Few Remarks About Life

First of all, prayer does work! Today I’ve been feeling really down. It’s been rather an off-day, or in other words, an anxiety day. But just when I thought I couldn’t feel more lonely, some of my friends? texted me. So maybe somebody does care to some extent.

Second of all, I want to talk about forgiveness. I don’t talk about forgiveness very much because I never got stabbed in the back by someone who I thought was my soulmate. However, there is this one girl whom I’ve known for a very long time who always just kind of drifts in and out of my life.

She is an enigma. I don’t know how she feels about me- she runs hot and cold. Sometimes she is very bubbly and I really believe that she genuinely likes me and wants to get closer to me. And other times, she seems bored by me, disgusted in the most subtle and unsettling way. It’s kind of a vicious cycle. She reels me in, butters me up, and then throws me back out because she gets busy with her own life, with people who are really worth her time. But she will repeat the process, and I will fall for it again, thinking that this time she is really just trying to be friendly and that she won’t ignore me again. I feel like such a tool. And maybe I take a little advantage of it too. It’s like a sick Christian charity game. She talks to me to alleviate her conscience, maybe to prove to herself that she hasn’t abandoned me. And maybe I talk to her, in turn, to prove that I am not petty and unforgiving.

Is this my imagination, or is it real? Does she know about this, or is it entirely subconscious with her? 

I would be convinced that it is my imagination, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve seen her play similar games with other people.

Why can’t we just love each other? Why do I have a hard time truly forgiving her? 

These questions really don’t have answers. It’s like the question, “Why do people hate each other?”

And here’s another question: “Why do I believe that people will only talk to me for charity?”

Why do I still have anxiety even though I know that God is with me? 

I think the answer to the last question is complicated. But let me steer myself out of this territory, and into my main point of bringing up all these entangled problems that consist of my personal life. 

Matthew 18:21-23

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Forgiveness

21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church[a] sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven[b] times.

Apparently, it’s okay to be a tool. That’s right- it goes against everything that we’ve ever been taught. It just doesn’t feel right. Let’s face it- being a tool is painful. I’m sure you all have more traumatizing experiences than the one with me and my friend. 

But this girl isn’t, in all technicality, a member of a church. I’m not really in a “church” at all. Can I be loosed from this commandment? Can I leave her a strongly worded “Screw you!” voicemail.

Okay, so that last part really wouldn’t be okay in any case, but I think you get my point. 

Well, at least my rewards are in heaven. Here on this earth I’m everybody’s fool; but at least I know the pain will end and that some good will come out of it. People go through great lengths to make their lives perfect on earth because they don’t have that same consolation.

And so, this girl is going to act like she doesn’t even know me pretty soon.  But I’ll be there when she decides to catch up over coffee again. I know I will. And hopefully next time around, my heart will at least be closer to God. 

 

 

 

 

Romans 10- The Answer to Romans 9

Yesterday, I was having a small scale panic attack in response to some verses in Romans 9.

21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; 23 and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

I was freaking out because I didn’t understand why God would create people to be destroyed. But then I read Romans 10:

6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

I suppose God anticipated my question. I really shouldn’t be all that surprised.

Romans 10:6-7 is saying, “Hey, human get off your high horse! It’s none of your business who goes to heaven and who doesn’t.”

And here’s what we were all waiting for. We’re still in Romans 10, NRSV:

9 because[b] if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”

I still don’t know all the answers. But I do know that God is merciful. I know that He saved me, and I was a sinner. I think that is the main message, and the technicalities that Paul brings up are only supposed to support that message. Just because it doesn’t make sense to me doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make sense. Apparently financial accounting doesn’t make that much sense to me either, but it is a “thing” after all.

You can call it a copout to admit ignorance. But is it really? Do you want to be responsible for the fate of souls? Do you really think you can handle that responsibility, make those judgment calls?

I am relieved that I don’t.

Newsflash! Man is not the center of the universe.

You had to hear it sooner or later.

If you didn’t do it for God, you didn’t do it for anything

I did a lot of things today. But in a sense, I did very little. I followed through with almost everything that I’d set out to do. But when the sun set, and I was alone in my room, I realized just how depressed I really was.

I followed my schedule. I hurried around, trying not to be late, showing up to places, yet my mind was no where. I drank coffee, but it did not improve my mood like it sometimes seems to do. It only made me more restless. I ate food I liked, but it did not fill the void. I ate a Chinese pastry, and I got a stomachache. I passed out flyers, but the whole time I was self conscious and embarrassed. I jacked up my voice and I moved my muscles into something like a smile, but on the inside I just felt weird.

In my effort, in my planning, the goal was to succeed, but I only succeeded in stumbling and bumbling my way through hallways, social situations. Worrying, needlessly worrying about nothing, driving myself crazy, then sensing that people could tell I was worried, which made me even more worried. Then I tried to calculate the extent to which they actually cared. It sounds so stupid when I type it out. So I was dwelling on utter nonsense, seeking approval from the world.

Doubting, mistrusting, self-depricating, dying. That is what the world has taught me to do.

What did I do wrong? I don’t understand it. I tell myself to let Christ live in me, but I don’t feel it happening. I feel like I’m still driving the car, and He’s just screaming at me to make a U-turn before I wind up in Hell. Sorry for the really bad metaphor.

Life is so funny. You can tell yourself to do things for so long, and never end up doing them. And by that I mean, I have such a hard time opening up my heart for God. 

I’m sorry this post was so negative. I was going for Ecclesiastical. My point was that nothing matters without God, and we are bound to fail one way or another without Him.