Alone Again, Naturally

A little over a year ago, when I was just on the cusp of finishing high school… that was one of the most hopeful times of my life. I thought that in only a few months my life was going to radically change for the better. I wouldn’t be alone anymore. I wouldn’t be unsure of myself anymore. I was going to blossom into some kind of normal, productive citizen. I was going to become the ideal Christian, someone whom people would think of as a “good person,” whatever that means. Yes sir, the next time my classmates would see me at our reunion, they would hardly recognize me. I would be a completely calm and functional human being. Hopefully a little stylish and charming too. 

My, was I off the mark. I am no where near that goal, and thank God for that. 

I had foolish and vain dreams of a better life back then. I still have those dreams. 

I was lonely at the time. And I am still lonely, but in a slightly different way. 

I was worried, and I am still worried.

I was a horrible sinner, and I still am. 

Then what’s different? It’s hard to say, really. The good news is that I don’t have to measure my worth with some kind of instrument. God would rather me focus on the here and now, what I can do at this moment, rather than what I was and what I have been and what I “am.” It’s the enemy who forces me to constantly look within myself for guidance.

I may still be lonely, but I have no right to be mad at God about it. I know that it’s good for me, He knows that it’s good for me, and we both know why. God gives me all that I need and more.

You want to know something? I’m not okay. Not okay. I won’t tell people that, but it’s true. And I can’t be the only one. 

But God is more than okay. God is the glory. God is the light. He is my rock and He is my Doctor. 

So it’s okay that I’m not okay. Let my dreams die, what does it matter? Let me ask the question, for once in my life, “What do you want, God?”

 

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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! 

 

 

The Renewing of the Mind?

If I am subconsciously telling you these stories about my day because I want you to think that I am a good Christian, then woe to me. If I bring them only to bring up a point, then by the grace of God, let this point be made.

Yesterday, I resolved that my life was going to change for real. I thought that actually talking to people about God might be a start. So I found a plastic crate, printed up a sign reading “Free Christian Books,” and I took my little box of free Christian books to school with me. It was easier to brave the traffic with the knowledge that my day had a worthwhile goal. So at lunch time I sat and waited. The Lord pitied my pathetic efforts. Instead of being mocked and ignored like I probably deserved, something a little different happened. 

First, two very nice and bubbly blonde girls started talking to me. They weren’t interested in the books because they were already Christian. 

Then, a presumably homeless woman entered the scene. This poor soul had a purse and about six grocery bags containing all her possessions. I didn’t know what to say to her. I even dropped a book because I was so nervous. Not because I was afraid she was going to gouge out my eyes or throw cats at me, it’s just that with social anxiety it’s hard to talk to anyone, let alone someone difficult to relate to. Eventually, she sat down with me and the two blonde girls. My, what an odd bunch we were.

I awkwardly invited her to lunch. I mean, it was really awkward. But thanks to food allergies and demons (she was afraid of going into the food court because she felt a dark presence there), that did not happen. I feel bad though, the lady deserved some food.

This woman, whom I will refer to as E, is Jewish, but she believes in Jesus. She seemed nice in a sort of quiet way, and was only a little batty. Probably much more normal than me since I was acting like an idiot a lot of the time. Some parts of our conversation were fine, but sometimes I just didn’t know what to talk about. I was so afraid of offending her, and as a result, I’m sure I did. I realized that a lot of what we talk about is sort of material and superficial. We talk about our gadgets, our favorite TV shows, our cars, homes and clothes… so what do you talk about with someone who doesn’t have any of that? Even food seemed like a touchy subject. Still, I found myself talking about my petty health problems and various little annoyances, but I realized just how trivial they seemed as I mentioned them.

I’m sure a more gifted conversationalist would have no trouble at all with a homeless person, but then again, I am not a more gifted conversationalist. I don’t know if E liked my very much. 

What is the moral of this story? The moral is that I clearly have a lot to learn. If I am letting worldly barriers get in the way of God’s will, there is something wrong. There is something wrong when I can only relate to people through the material world. 

And you know what else is wrong? My whole attitude. Like I’m doing E a big favor just by talking to her. And maybe telling people about Jesus is helping them, but it is really God who is doing the helping, and it is not our place to get all uppety. How dare I talk down to these people, my fellow creatures? “Oh, look at me, I’m talking to a homeless person.” That’s not true love. Get a clue, self! And the ironic thing is, E is probably a few sandwiches closer to a picnic than I am. 

I must admit, though, I did feel a little different today. Not necessarily better in every way, but different, not quite like myself. I was thinking more spiritually. At times, I was trying way too hard to be spiritual, but I did feel different, maybe a little less materialistic. I felt so detached from the rest of the world all day (probably because I was acting so weird and everyone could tell), and what’s more, I almost felt as if the rest of the world didn’t matter. Could this be the first stage of the renewing of the mind that I had prayed for? Or am I fooling myself again? 

Please say a prayer for E, friends. 

 

 

 

Standing Up For Yourself Doesn’t Feel Good

Despite what I’ve heard on daytime talk shows

Maybe some people find it liberating. I suppose it depends on your value system.

If I could go back in time and undo it, I would.

I did it because I made a big deal out of something that seems to represent all the things in life that I am discontented with. I was tired of not getting my way. I really thought they would understand, but they didn’t. They don’t understand me anymore than I understand them, even after all this “communication.” And why would I expect her to change? Why would I expect any mercy? She’s not even a Christian, but I am. I shouldn’t have done it.

There’s an old, kind of silly saying, “It’s better to be kind than right.” I think that saying is true. If I had been kind instead of right, I don’t think I would feel so lousy right now. 

I would rather not talk about the big problems with the world, but I think it’s safe to say that sometimes, with petty little problems that other people would dream to have, maybe it’s best to let the molehills be molehills. 

 

 

 

Satan and Society, In Bed

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“It’s your life, do what you want to do.”

“As long as you don’t want to wholeheartedly serve God; that’s just weird.”

“You can pray if you think there’s going to be an earthquake, though.”

“Financial security is the basis. What can you do without financial security, financial security…”

“Money can’t buy happiness, just things that make you happier.”

“Buy stuff, buy stuff! Don’t buy that. Eat! Don’t eat too much though, or you’ll become fat and worthless.”

“If the moon is high and the feeling’s right, don’t let any of that superstitious God crap stop you from following your Heart.”

“Love humanity, sure. Don’t talk to too many strangers, that’s just weird.”

“Heaven help you if you drive too slow.”

“Everyone needs to get totally shit-faced at some point in their life, for the experience of it.”

“Be nice to your friends, but know in your heart that they are out to get you. But forgive them if it makes you feel better.”

“Stay away from that guy! If you talk to him his strangeness will rub off on you.”

“Whatever you do, don’t make eye contact with the guy holding the sign.”

“If you’re not happy in your marriage, who is?”

“The world is such a confusing place. Glean whatever joy you can from it and die peacefully.”

“Stupid, spoiled rich kid STAY AWAY.”

“If you die poor, it’s your fault.”

“Jesus drank wine, wine is alcohol, alcohol is a drug, therefore, Jesus did drugs too.”

“You friggen junkie don’t you know when to stop? You need to stop so you can get back our there and do your duty to the Economy.”

“Never, ever change, you are perfect and sinless the way you are, and if you don’t believe that, well, then maybe you’re not so perfect because you don’t ascribe to our PHILOSOPHY.”

“All religions are the same, really- outdated.”

“As long as you’re having fun, what could you be doing wrong?”

“I don’t think God would want you to completely change your life.”

“The ‘God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob” is rather violent and intolerant.”

“Don’t touch that remote!”

“Because if you work hard, you gotta play hard.”

“Be a good person, when it’s all said and done. Love your family, give generously, and you’ll feel better, you really will.”

“But have a little fun first, by all means ;)”

“Remember, don’t forget it- always follow your heart.”

 

 

“So You Say You Want a Revolution?”

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One of the things that continually attract me to the Scriptures is, unfortunately, more literary and earthly than spiritual. 

That’s not to say that every time I open up the Bible I just get a rush of feeling. A lot of the time I read it with grudging. But you have to admit, no matter who you are, that there is a certain mystique to the Good Book. 

Things that have always fascinated me and tickled my fancy are motifs of secrecy, mystery, dissension, conspiracy, and revolution. Perhaps that is why devoured the novel 1984. I loved how Winston was hiding from Big Brother, but he wasn’t even safe in his own mind! I was on pins and needles! Now you know why my blog is called “underground voices.” I find this idea of working against society/government in secret so intoxicating! However, I’m not so much into revolutions that involve wars and riots. Once the cat’s out of the bag, I sort of lose interest in the whole thing. Like a feline, I enjoy sneaking around with my ideas. I want to covertly plant the seeds. The harvest sounds a little tiring if you asked me. 

I must admit, the End of the World also has a certain charm for me. Weird as it sounds, sometimes I hope it will happen in my lifetime. 

The Bible and 1984 are sort of on opposite ends morally, but I think you get the point. This is a Bible verse that always satisfies the secret agent inside of me:

Matthew 10:27-28

What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Of course, what is really emphasized hear is the “proclaiming” rather than the whispering. But tell that to my foolish heart!

I do not doubt that the Lord made His Word interesting. Sometimes I do find the parables rather exciting and mysterious. Especially the ones about the treasure and the pearl in Matthew 13.

But it is wrong to dwell on this stuff! Don’t I know? The Bible wasn’t written to entertain me! Jesus did not preach on this earth and die a horrible death just to be my muse, to tickle my fancy, to pump a bit of adrenaline into my mundane existence! God forbid! 

Faith is nothing unless it is put into practice. Putting it into practice is not always glamorous. I doubt it will make you rich. I doubt it will make you feel as serene as you hoped; and I doubt it will be as exciting as you would like it to be. I often focus on the parts of the Bible that I find intriguing, but that is far from the whole picture. Blogging and covert activities are a mere drop in the bucket. What I’m really saying is that following Jesus’ commands ain’t going to suit your fancy all the time. You’re spirit might enjoy it, but your flesh will not. Following his commands will be boring, embarrassing, and nearly impossible at times. 

Jesus wants people who aren’t ashamed. He wants people who aren’t just coming along for the ride. He wants you and all of you to embrace all  that God is.  It’s not just the planting, it’s the harvesting. It’s not just the whispering, it’s the shouting. Not just the thrill of avoiding persecution, it’s not all Hollywood glamor, it’s hard work, it’s everyday life. It’s perseverance. It’s going against the grain, of course, it’s revolting against Satan and mainstream society. But it is also an act of following. Clumsily and awkwardly we prattle along, looking for His footprints in the sand. It is obeying earthly authority, when possible. It is an act of trust and humility. It is not individualism. 

The Bible isn’t fiction. It’s not something we’re supposed to read on a rainy day and think “Ah, that’s sweet” and then we put it back on the shelf. The Bible isn’t all that we want it to be, but in it is the only key to salvation. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Who’s The Underdog?

Is it the atheists or the Christians? Who’s being persecuted? Who’s really going against the grain? What is the grain? These are questions that, with inspiration from a fellow blogger, I have come to ponder.

The first question I will ask: what is the grain? I suppose you could define the grain as culture, or “human nature,” if you will. What does the grain value? Words that immediately come to mind are money, power, and sex. But what about faith, hope, and love? Can we not say that people often desire higher purpose as well as the most material ones? That they desire harmony, moderation, peace, and community?

Who is really going against the grain more? Is it the Christians who are supposed to be rebelling against the ways of the world? Or is it the atheists who are supposed to be rebelling against the childish and outdated desire for worship, higher purpose and “religion.” I saw a sign the other day which said “atheists against the world” or something like that. But wouldn’t it make more sense if it said “Christians against the world?”

Maybe so.

Of course, this is a very simplistic way of looking at the issue. So far I have assumed that there are only two world views, Christianity and atheism, which of course, is not the case. At this point, let me refine my focus. I will place Christians on one side, and everyone else, whether they be atheist, Buddhist, Muslim Hindu, etc, on the other.

Now if you’re not Christian, I suppose what I will quote next will have little meaning for you. Because how can you completely trust what is, essentially, an imperfect and ancient document that has been translated and translated, butchered and battered so much that it couldn’t resemble the true “word of God” if it tried. But of course, I am speaking in the manner of unbelieving friends.

Matthew 7:13-14

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

The Narrow Gate

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy,[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few

There you have it; Christianity is the narrow gate. Not that carrying the burden of the world is easy. Not that satisfying the flesh is always a cakewalk. Because, though it brings satisfaction, it also has costs.

But Christianity is the narrow gate because it goes against all the things that Satan has taught us to enjoy over the years. We delight in pride and vanity. We can’t help but abuse our bodies in the name of “fun,” and to strive to gather more possessions and experiences to rival our neighbors. We are versed in deceit from the time we are children; and from adolescence we are inflamed with absurd passions for the opposite (or the same) sex. Sure, we may disapprove of these things from time to time, but how can we really prove that we don’t believe in them when we keep doing them; OVER AND OVER AGAIN! Why then, would we really want to follow a God who condemns all that we know and love, all that we proclaim with our actions?

I do not doubt the plight of atheists. I am sure everyone has a plight. I am sure that everyone feels out of place at times. Let me assure you, Christians are no exception. It is amazing that even when we feel the closest to our Father, we often feel farthest from those around us. Sometimes it seems like the more God loves us, the more the world despises us.

Sometimes, in my humanities class, when the professor talks about the New Testament and reads passages from it, I just want to shout out “amen” or something like that. And when we have discussions, I can’t help but try and defend the book that I am growing to love. I cringe when people deride it, yet I am often afraid to speak out. I fear these people. I fear that they know my secret- that I believe. I wonder if they despise me, if every time I speak they are thinking about how much of a hypocrite I am. I wonder why I am afraid of them. God has will humble them in due time, and the wisdom of the world will pass. Why do I guard my image? And, more importantly, why do I guard my faith? Why do I fear persecution? Persecution is nothing, but the will of God is everything.

So you see, here is one difference between Christians and the rest. We are taught that persecution is acceptable, inevitable, and that we must love those who persecute us. We cannot fight the forces that persecute us, all we can do is struggle along, continuing to do the will of God. It is not our place to defend ourselves, to cry out for our rights, but rather, it is our place to humbly accept the cross that has been laid on our shoulders.

Who’s the underdog?