Monday, December 14, 2009

Prayer Journal Revisited

Written on July 6, 2008, but very encouraging to me where I am right now. I never knew it was possible to encourage oneself.

"I'm coming to understand my 'spiritual slump' to be more of a mysterious recognition of my human limitation. I am not self-sustainable. I am weak, but He is strong. I find my hope in His love and faithfulness, and I find comfort when I have faith in that love of His. I desire strength, not for selfish gain, but so I can convey to others the love they deserve to receive, the love of Christ, which I have received.

Lord, I desire to feel secure in my faith, but at the same time, I know that by feeling uncomfortable, I am more apt to rely on you and your strength that never fails.

Asking questions is not a terrible thing to do, but sometimes I should simply trust that you are good and faithful, despite my doubts, fears and insecurities."

God's power is true power, power that no human can ever attain. Relying on anyone but God would be foolish.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

LadyBug

Lady bugs are flitting against my concrete ceiling right now, and I can't help but wonder why they are in my room. Are they seeking shelter for the coldness of the winter ahead? Are they sneaking and squeezing through the cracks between my screen and window sill because they see the warm yellow glow from my light fixture and can't help but believe where there is light there is heat? These lady bugs are of a most unusual shade of red, a rusty, burnt orangey-red, actually. They blend well into the fall landscape of changing leaves and browning grass I see so readily outside my window. Slowly they are crawling, exploring the crevices and chips in the white surfaces surrounding them.

Are they seeking a small hole in which to crawl and cuddle and cozy up for the cold weather? Are they looking for each other? Are they seeking to settle at all? Will they ever be satisfied, and will they rest even though they travel along the cold concrete vastness of my white ceiling and walls?

As I watch one beetle run into a friend and pause, I see him coerce his friend into moving out of the way, as not to interfere with whatever mission this beetle is on. The beetle continues walking fairly steadily and rapidly, while his friend stays still in one spot on the wall.

One bug has been beside me all day, not moving from the ceramic candy dish my sister made for me a few Christmases ago. Stubborn or scared, I wonder? I push him a little and he starts moving, searching for another safe place to lie. The edges and lumps he explore are limited, and he never leaves the safety of the cold white-colored underbelly of the ceramic lid turned upside down. Lady bugs can walk sideways and upside down, giving them the ability to explore in dimensions that humans cannot, but still what they explore are the things I can see, the things that are exposed and white-washed, sterile, safe and known.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Spirituality as Embracing Divinity

Today in my Historic Christian belief class we partook in a discussion about angels and demons, a topic that for a long time took no place in my belief system in light of my systematic rationalism and naturalism before I was a Christian. I always thought it was hokey to believe in angels and demons... well, actually I thought the idea of demons was thrilling. I have always been interested in ghosts, aliens, and spirits... TV shows and scary movies involving all of the above. Also, I love Tim Burton, Edgar Alan Poe, Frederic Chopin, Charles Baudelaire and other artists who on rainy days tend to look at the world through deeply tinted Ray-Bans (or at least with a hint of darkness).

While I explained my world away with science, there were always these things in the back of my mind, some spiritual presence that existed in the world. I would look to science to explore spirituality as well, which as a Christian now makes no sense in my mind. I have, instead, come to a much deeper understanding of the divinity of God, angelic beings, and demonic beings on this earth (including Satan himself), although these things are much different than aliens and ghosts.

I could tell you countless stories of friends and others who have had numerous experiences with the spiritual realm, but I want to share with you two experiences of my own that help me to understand the spiritual realm more deeply because I once was extremely and intensely dubious of God's power. I think a lot of Christians, even, though we may claim to believe in the spiritual realm, we truly struggle with acknowledging the divinity of God and the presence of evil forces in our lives.

This was a while ago so the details in my mind are quite foggy, but I remember going to Border's with a group of my high school friends. We were all working on homework, and a bald-headed, rosy-cheeked, sparkling older man approached us. I would guess he was in his sixties. He seemed a little crazy to us, as most elderly people often do having lost some ability to finish trains of thought and the like, but he spoke so joyfully that we couldn't help but listen. He started telling us his life story, about surviving cancer and about how God has blessed Him immensely. He couldn't contain the gospel; it poured freely from his mouth as if it were pure gold from heaven that was worth more than any gold or precious material found on earth. I wish I could remember his words so that they, too, could minister to your Spirit, but I will continue in saying that we listened intently, told him we were Christians and about God's presence in our lives, and then he bid us farewell, reminding us never to forget about the gospel and to pass it on until death requires our tongues to decay into the soil surrounding us.

Hebrews, which is a book that I value highly because the author describes in detail what faith is to look like, has a verse that one of my friends brought up after the man departed from us. Hebrews 1:2 says, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." My friend pointed out that he very well could have been an angel. We all agreed that it could be a possibility because of the kind of presence that man demanded of us.

On the other hand, I want to explain to you a very scary experience in my life that occurred just last Spring and changed my perspective of spiritual warfare and the dark forces in this world forever. It was a very powerful and dark experience, not dark like Burton or Poe, but intense and scary. I wouldn't say that I felt threatened, but I felt more imposed upon if anything else. I carry the light of the Holy Spirit, God's own presence, within me which reminds me that I can resist demons and their power.

One Sunday night last Spring semester, my boyfriend and I had just returned from my home for Mother's Day and we had gotten into some argument that was bigger than it needed to be, which happens sometimes. In this long discussion, I fell into a line of thinking that I was worth nothing, not good enough to be dating my boyfriend. I fell into a numbness, a deeply dark depression, and for the first time in YEARS I started having serious thoughts of suicide. (SIDE NOTE: I hesitate to share that detail in the vast chasm of cyberspace, but I know that understanding the details is very important in relaying how these evil forces work in the moments when we are vulnerable to them.)

I was supposed to be meeting one of my very good friends in the Student Union that night (we were sitting right outside the Union when we started talking), but after making me promise not to do anything to myself while he was gone, my boyfriend went in to tell her about what was happening to me (I gave him permission to tell her) and that we were going to get off campus for a while. I don't remember why we were leaving campus other than I just wanted to get away. They prayed for me, and he came back out. He told me to move to the passenger side and we started driving.

This is when I started to understand what was happening. While we were driving I felt very dizzy and weak. I kept seeing intensely terrifying dark figures on each side of the road. I didn't really understand why I was afraid of them other than the fact that they just made me feel that way. They were deceptive, too, because Joe couldn't see them, but also when we would approach them and I could see them right up next to the car, they would totally shift shapes and turn into random things like trees, posts, bushes, stumps, and other things that did not resemble the shape of them that I saw before they were so close. I could not communicate during this trip but only trembled and shook and tried to cover my eyes as I wrestled with terror.

We arrived at a covered bridge in a small town near Taylor and parked the car. He asked if I wanted to get out, and I told him no, that there were some really scary things happening out there. I explained what I saw, although I was wondering myself if that had been a hallucination and if my boyfriend would believe that I truly saw what I saw. I could not explain to him the depth of the terror those things made me feel and the terror I was still feeling. I was still seeing things outside of the car, but I suddenly grew very faint and closed my eyes. I was exhausted physically, emotionally, spiritually.

My boyfriend comforted me with Scripture, praying against Satan and his demons, directly quoting the word of God. In my exhaustion I wanted to lay down. He told me to lie in the backseat and sleep. I felt like I was able to step outside of the car without feeling threatened by any of the dark things so that I could climb into the backseat, and my boyfriend sat in the front with his hand on my back continuing to pray and quote scripture as I eventually fell asleep.

When I awoke, we headed back to school. I was like a rag that had been worn, torn, and rung out one too many times. Before we parted, my boyfriend prayed one last deeply loving and protective prayer over me and my experience with suicidal thoughts and the darkness that had surrounded me. He was worried that I might hurt myself in the night, but I explained to him not to worry and that God was releasing that desire from me. He left and I slept in the peace of God's comfort that night.

Even though this was the top terrifying experience of my life (more terrifying than the time I thought I was going to drown and more terrifying than any thrill from a scary movie) and I wouldn't wish suicidal thoughts or the darkness of Satan and demons upon anyone, I do desire to pray that God exposes us more frequently to these powerful experiences. This is not because of my obsession with the macabre and the disturbing, but because Christians can so easily doubt the power of Satan, the Holy Spirit. I want to be a witness to the fact that the spiritual realm is active and engaging in constant battle (although the war's been won, victory through the death of Christ--Hallelujah!). It is immensely important that we acknowledge these forces in the world because we must guard ourselves against the influence of Satan, demons, and other dark forces that hold us in bondage and make us forget the freedom we have from sin thanks to Christ's sacrifice.

I just want to reemphasize, again, that a large portion of my life was devoted to explaining things like angels and demons away with science and naturalism and that I subscribed to miracles and the like as chance. We are so blessed in the security offered by the fact that God has a purpose for each and every one of our lives, no matter how unimportant we think we are. He loves us all the same and desires the best for all of us, not just for Barack Obama or Bill Gates, but for the homeless and the restless, too. And that is not simply a feel-good message that the church attempts to share with people, but the gospel truth as experienced by many many people on earth throughout history and still today.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

E-mail Written to a Friend

I wrote this e-mail today to a friend, and I have been wanting to write about the happenings at Taylor this past week, but I hadn't been able to muster up enough stamina to write all that I wished. The only thing that is lacking in this e-mail is the inexplicable joy that I felt through all this stuff happening. Read with an open heart, please, and this is probably the longest post I have written so far, just so you know! :)


Last week on Taylor’s campus was a week designated “Spiritual Renewal Week,” which, to begin with, makes me already skeptical because designating a week every semester “Spiritual Renewal Week” reminds me a lot of my church back home who designates one week a year “Revival Week,” as if revival or renewal can be a structured and planned event.


Anyway, I always come into the week as a skeptic, although I am always appreciative of the speakers during the week because they always have some good things to say. The speaker this year was especially Bible literate and used a lot of different OT and NT references in his talks. His talks were sometimes basic, but great reminders and pulled from unexpected texts. He spoke in chapel, then also Monday night. When he spoke Monday night, he spoke about participating in faith through confession, prayer, worship, etc. There was a girl who came up before he spoke to talk about foolishness in faith and how sometimes she was self-conscious of other people seeing her pray and thinking she was too radical, but how God calls us at times to look extremely ridiculous when we follow Him.


After Chris, the speaker, talked and everyone was trickling out of the chapel, a boy hopped up onto the stage, picked up the mic, and started talking nervously with a quiver in his voice. He said he was going to show us something beautiful and started talking about what a blessing his roommate was to Him in helping him battle with sin. He proceeded to talk about confession and then he told everyone who was there about sexual sin in his life, losing his virginity, etc. Immediately, about 15 other people stepped up and began confessing these really crazy things.


One guy confessed that he has been having suicidal thoughts for a long time, that his girlfriend has subscribed to a lot of the same thinking, and that they have even talked about killing other people. He talked a lot about how darkness reigns so much in his life and that he feels as though God is nowhere to be found. The pastors immediately surrounded him and prayed with him to confess Jesus as Lord over darkness, and you could hear the deep reluctance in his voice to proclaim light over darkness. It was pretty scary.


Pause: THESE KINDS OF THINGS DO NOT GET TALKED ABOUT AT TAYLOR! Taylor is a pretty conservative, non-charismatic kind of place, but many people talked about such darkness in their lives and spiritual warfare. I actually experienced one night of crazy spiritual warfare one night last year where Satan was taking over my brain and I was not stopping him. I could relate to some of the things people had been saying, but I had always been a little hesitant to ever talk about it because I am normally pretty skeptical when other people talk about spiritual warfare and other things of that nature.


Anyway, the speaker started speaking at 7:30 and our campus pastor had to dissolve the meeting at 3:30am. The night consisted of informal worship, deeply sincere prayer, and constant confession. Leaders confessed their sin because they felt they could not lead the student body and make it seem like they had it all together when sin was rampant in their lives. Women confessed and united against masturbation and pornography, which has only been spoken to male circles publicly at Taylor. Men confessed to the same things, as well. People confessed abuse and eating disorders and many, many, many people experienced broken chains and freedom from these types of bondage that night. I was blessed to be a part of the service, and although I never got up and spoke on the microphone, I prayed against sexual sin in my own life and was able to share in the burdens of everyone else who did speak. I interceded for each and every one of them, and I felt so privileged to be a part of the Christian community in that kind of role. I felt everyone’s pain and declared freedom alongside of them. It truly was beautiful. God was speaking through the first guy when he hopped up on stage and said, “I am going to show you something beautiful.”


Now here comes the hard part: My life was truly changed that night and the rest of the week. The majority of campus seems to be changed as well, although a lot of people who did not experience Monday night are very, very skeptical of the change that actually took place for fear that it was only the “summer camp phenomenon” where an emotional charge directs people for one night and no change takes place. I KNOW that the Holy Spirit was there working in people’s hearts because my heart was changed and I have spoken to many people who would say the same. We are ready to do something to fight against this sin that was confessed to help one another in the struggle and actively pursue a lifestyle that glorifies God in all ways. I have felt no discomfort approaching my brothers and sisters who spoke confessions and prayers Monday night, and we truly feel as though we ARE brothers and sisters because true community was lived out that night on such a large scale.


I am struggling with the people who are skeptical because I want them so badly to participate in what the Spirit is doing. All I feel like I can do is tell them about my experience and pray for them to be sensitive to the way the Spirit works. I do not deny that Monday night was an emotional night, but I can’t simply dismiss it as such and move on because this kind of thing NEVER happens here, people have been praying for a true revival on this campus, I know my heart and the hearts of others have been changed, and the repercussions of the week are still making waves. There is group of women who are seeking to start a small group (which I imagine will actually become quite large) for women who have been hiding in sexual sin, masturbation, and pornography addiction.


Today was such an encouragement because your message was all about acknowledging the Spirit, trusting God in the things He is orchestrating, and choosing to participate in them as a believer. It bothers me that a lot of Christians say they believe in the Trinity—Father, Son, and HOLY SPIRIT—yet many deny the work of the Holy Spirit because it is usually so outside our understanding. The Spirit convicts in the heart and calls us to do things that are ridiculous to those who are outside of those things. How do we live in the Spirit, yet stand up against ridicule from people who say they are, too, walking with Christ and trust that His works are being done in us through the Holy Spirit. I love that a lot of people on our campus are asking questions and being careful not to subscribe to a phenomenon, but I wish that they could trust in what the Holy Spirit has begun on this campus.


Another reason your message today was encouraging was because “if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” I don’t have to worry that people won’t get it if it is truly from God. I will continue to speak through my witness in the situations I can speak, and I will continue to pray for this campus to be in an attitude of prayer for the Spirit to continue to move even after this week has ended.


An additional thought I have been having is that the Taylor community was so hungry for this night of confession and true community because we don’t give ourselves time for it otherwise. We are TOO BUSY, and that is an understatement, my friend. Remember how I freaked out last year with busyness? Yeah, well I was not as busy as a lot of other people are. How can we MAKE time for God if we have NO time for God. How can we pause to pray if we are running on such tight schedules? The shitty part is that they are all good opportunities, but I wish Taylor could commit to a few things and many people could then be involved in one thing with all different gifts instead of offering a ridiculous amount of opportunities and expecting that every position be filled. I would like to see a survey done on the amount of one-person jobs there are in Taylor activities and how many students are here to fill those positions. I wonder what kind of ratio that would look like—I imagine it would be close to 3:1 or something. There are just too many things or students to be able to maintain balance between physical health, mental health, emotional health, and spiritual health. I have talked to a large amount of people who agree with me but don’t know really how to fight it because the Taylor community expects you to be involved in at least 3 organizations and taking at least 15 credit hours alongside those outward commitments. Also—Taylor’s academics could definitely step up a notch in difficulty. The only reason people are failing in some of the courses offered nowadays is because they are distracted by all the other things going on, which are just as important as academics to the Taylor community.


Anyway, I feel that this is a huge issue with many facets and I am overwhelmed with understanding what my role should be in this. I want to talk to administration about reducing the amount of opportunities on campus and for a deepened love for seeking God through prayer, Bible study, etc. My friend Libby talked to her church in Upland about the events of this past week, and I want to declare the work of the Spirit to the Mercy House as well, although I feel as though many people may be skeptical. I want to quit all the meaningless things I am involved with and empower others to do the same. I want to be a part of a group of women fighting against Satan and seeking healing from sexual and other sin. I want my own life to be characterized by prayer and Scripture written upon my heart and engaging in worship with not only my heart but my mind…also with not only my mind, but also my heart! I want to empower other people to do the same. God wants us to be joyful in the grace he has shown us. It’s okay to be excited to give Him praises, it is okay to feel some remorse when we realize our sin and repent. On and on.


How can I be that change? Where is this campus going to go with this realization of the Spirit’s power? How can I help people understand God’s mysteriousness through the Spirit. How can I encourage people to trust in the Spirit and help them to allow the Spirit to live within themselves.

Again, I want to say that I am normally so cautious of over-spiritualizing life, and I understand those who are skeptical, but how do I help them understand what really happened this past week?

Man, I told you it was long…thoughts?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dreams

My dream last night was crazy awesome.

I remember some kind of Asian adventure theme, and my whole purpose was to climb this modern art, rusty metal sculpture/tower thing that was at a park or touristy looking place and figure out how the solve the mystery. I didn't know exactly what the mystery was, but I knew I would be setting someone or something free and that it would be good. Thank you Mulan airband for subconsciously rooting this storyline in my head :) For those of you who are outside the Taylor culture, airband is a lipsyching and choreographed dance competition, and my wing is doing the song "I'll Make a Man Out of You" for it.

Back to the dream:
The first time I climbed the tower, which was really tall and pretty skinny, I kept finding, at every "level" it seemed, dinner plate-sized platforms that looked like they should hold candles on them. The tower also had a couple different spires sticking up with rungs to climb, etc. It was a sweet tower.

I met different people along the way, some of which who helped me, some of which who did nothing to help me. I also remember being at Taylor, but it was a made up Taylor in my mind with really nice furniture and flat screen TVs in the study lounges on each floor. It was our first open house (just like last night was our first open house in REAL life) where guys can visit and hang out at girls' dorms, and I remember running up and down the stairwells looking for someone in particular whom I knew would help me. I have no idea who it was specifically, but it was someone.

Eventually, I met up with some Taylor hall directors and other staff who helped me to realize that not only do I need to climb the tower, but I also have to light a candle and place upon the platform at the very top of the tower. It couldn't be just any candle either, I had to find THE candle, which was hidden somewhere. The people who were helping me helped me find out where the candle was hidden, and by the time I had found it, time was running out. I remember frantically trying to find someone in the park who was lighting a cigarette so that I could light the candle and then trying so carefully to run to the tower while keeping the candle lit. My dream kind of ended there...the candle went out, but I feel like I went back to try again, and that's when I woke up.

My imagination is very enjoyable at times. I wish I remembered all the details of the story and the scenery to make it more interesting fo you to read, but this is the best I can do. I had to write it down somewhere!!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

This Little Light of Mine

What kind of light are Christians supposed to shine? What kind of witness are we supposed to bear?

I have always been told that "they will know we are Christians by our love," but are there other ways to be "noticed" as Christians that are acceptable, pleasing, even, to God?

Should this be some kind of outward appearance: she dresses like a hippie and because there is something different about her, she shines a light for the Lord? What about other kinds of things-- she doesn't curse, so she must be a Christ-follower? He doesn't smoke or drink, so people should assume that he has the high moral standards set by the Almighty? Are we supposed to try and draw attention to ourselves for other people to witness what following God looks like?
To me this is all bollocks.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Self-Control.

The days when I am feeling like I am walking closest with my God are the days when these characteristics, among other attitudes God's Word calls Christians to exhibit, are ruling in my life and when I am striving to follow Jesus's lifestyle and preaching. Although I find value in religious elements of my faith, rituals, traditions, and other physical reminders of my heritage as a Christian and the deeply rooted faith in which my forefathers and mothers lived and died, living as one who strives to be like Christ in my thoughts, prayers, words, and deeds is striving to live truly the way that Christ calls his followers to live.

I struggle so often feeling like I am not a good enough Christian and that others are of a deeper faith (or more shallow faith) because they put so much more emphasis upon the outward "signs" of a follower and the surface indications of a faith in the God of Israel. Truly, the Lord calls us away from judgment and to deeply examine only our own hearts and lives in order to live as an example to Christ-followers and non-believers alike.

The way God chooses to manifest himself in people's lives is going to look different from the outside, and only He can judge where someone's heart lies, although that doesn't excuse us from encouraging one another and addressing fellow believers when they need our support. I must trust that God's ways are higher than my own and that I cannot understand the ways he speaks to each one of us individually (inward general revelation, perhaps-- thank you Dr. Pak and Historic Christian Belief texts).

The only thing that matters for my own faith is that I seek God with all my heart, soul, and mind so that he can finish the good work he has begun in me, shaping me and molding me into someone who does, indeed, exhibit the characteristics of a woman who is following her God in that deep way. Even though I feel as though those godly characteristics are becoming more and more evident in my life as I seek to walk closer with God each day, I know that I, too, like all those I have observed, am still not perfect.

Almighty God is light. He lives in us as true light, and I'm gonna let it shine. I'm not gonna shine it, but I am gonna let it shine. 'Cause it will shine if I let it.

Have your way in me, Lord.

Amen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

With Imagination

"Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy."

The opening line of a book that I read so long ago that I can't remember when or if I ever actually read it. I bought the book off Amazon because I am working on completing my Shel Silverstein library, but this particular book has more of a story that those other cheaper used copies of the Giving Tree online. The description of this book on Amazon said that the book was in good condition, although it did have an inscription on the inside. I immediately decided I would buy the book-- a book with an inscription is clearly more interesting than one without.

The inscription reads:
"I have come to realize that you're the tree and myself-- the boy. So- I thank you and hope you do realize that there are a whole lot of soft spots in this heart for you.
-Me
P.S. Teach me to dance?"

This inscription gives the story of the Giving Tree an extra dimension, and every time I read the book, I will keep "you" and "me" in mind, rolling the inscription across the screen of my mind, always thinking about what the story behind it could be. Who were these people? Lovers? Great friends? Mother and son, father and daughter, teacher and student? What kind of story did those two people have? What kind of relationship did they share and what kinds of struggles did they face together?

I love that I don't know any of these things about "you" and "me." My mind freely wanders as my fingers turn each page and scan every illustration...

and the story is different every time I read.

You are the tree and I am the boy...teach me to dance...

Monday, August 10, 2009

People are weird. This country is weird.

Everyone is unique. All people are different. Diversity is beauty. Love all people despite their quirks and mistakes.

I feel like I have been directly taught these things since elementary school, even though I have been receiving an indirect education counter to the one I've officially received. I thought I loved people, but I have come to realize that really I choose the people I want to love, and the people I choose are the people that are honestly not that hard for me to love. I choose the easy way out. I don't condemn myself for this action because I think this is what people do. Some people are more selective about who they choose to love than others are, but ultimately, most people choose to love some and not to love others.

In working at an insurance agency, I see all kinds of people with all kinds of quirks and habits and lifestyles, to some of which I have a hard time relating. Today alone I have talked to people that don't know how to calm down and not sweat the small things, people who have a hard time putting others above their own interests, people who have speech problems, back problems, neck problems, drug problems, money problems, family problems, marriage problems, memory problems, social skill problems, etc. There are simply a lot of weird people; all people have problems, all people are failures in one area of our lives or another. We search and search for those other few areas (or area) in which we are successful so that we can hold ourselves higher than we hold other people. We see only our strengths and other people's weaknesses, and when others make a mistake, we treat it more harshly than we would treat ourselves if we had made that same mistake. What a harsh, judgmental nature we have.

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about justice lately, justice alongside mercy and grace. I don't know that I have come to any conclusions, except that the collective human idea of justice is a very flawed one. Justice is self-entitlement, not truly accepting the consequences of our actions, which is I think is at least closer to what God's definition of justice would be than our current human definition. Think about law suits, insurance claims, even our concept of customer service when we visit restaurants and other businesses that were created to serve our "needs." It's kinda sickening.

Along similar lines, I want to reflect a little on my experience with being an American today. I don't feel like I jive with America so much. America is run like a corporation, or even a small business (like the insurance agency I work for)-- always saving face. Keep the level of professionalism and customer service as a high priority, even if it is not consistent with your actions. If it were any other way, the United States would be in over her head (moreso than she already is) and spread far too thin in dealing with foreign diplomacy and all other areas the "most powerful nation in the world" dabbles.

That's another thing-- the United States being the most powerful nation in the world is an illusion, and I wonder how long we have been fooling everyone else in this facade. The only power we have is the power to advance our own national interests, which is the same power that almost all the nations in the world have. Maybe we get more credit because we are younger and bigger than some, kind of like the star running back for the Superbowl champion team, or something. (I'm trying to fool you into thinking I know anything about football-- now that's an illusion fit for the Prestige! haha)


Anyway, (sort of a blanket conclusion here) I don't like the business world or things that are business like or run like a business is run. I won't like "business" unless it is reformed extremely. I also don't like the way American politics work, and I wish that I could do something about it. I always want to tell people that complain to stop complaining and to do something about it, but politics is a huge task to tackle, especially without some kind of degree in law, political science, philospohy, business, or even international studies (which is probably closer to the route I would take). If I took matters into my own hands right now, I could start building my own platform and administration with nepotism and my various lobbyist connections, then maybe by the time I am Obama's age, I can become president and turn this nation upside down.

On the other hand, maybe I'll stick with the underground approach: continue to learn to love quirky, annoying, difficult people, join in the greatly diverse fellowship of the universal church (God's true nation), and actively pursue the revolution of the Gospel in this corrupt excuse for a world.

Time to step off the soapbox, I think. Thanks for taking the time to read my rants! I hope this makes sense to people outside of my head (not that there are people inside of it...). Please offer your comments and questions as well. I want to keep learning and shaping my own opinions as I continue to grow up and live an adult-like life. :)

PS/Disclaimer-- I am very grateful that the United States is not a dictatorship from which I have to flee as a refugee or anything like that, I just wonder sometimes if accidentally wandering permanently into a socialist country in Europe might lead me to a life more in line with my ideologies. Don't tell Obama I said that.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hollywood

"When you think about it, we actors are kind of prostitutes. We get paid to feign attraction and love. Other people are paying to watch us kissing someone, touching someone, doing things people in a normal monogamous relationship would never do with anyone who's not their partner. It's really kind of gross."

--Megan Fox, "Mikaela Banes" in Transformers

Friday, June 19, 2009

Never Posted (6/19/09)

I must admit, an oceanic wave of loneliness has recently overwhelmed me and pushed me face first into its sand banks.

I have realized that I am in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people, and am only able to exhibit an unfamiliar part of myself. I have been so used to being familiar with Taylor and the people there. Also, I have gone home for the past two summers, which is very familiar territory. Sometimes the familiarity of home is the only thing I like about it, but that's a different blog post...

I wouldn't say that I am not enjoying my time in Anderson-- I love the people I live with, I love the people I am getting to know, and I, well, like the job I have-- but I would say that it's hard. I have developed relationships with people who know me without me having to explain myself, and that still has yet to be fostered here, which is understandable because I have only been here for a few weeks. Still, that doesn't take away my cravings for friends, for people who know me and have been with me through very beautiful and very ugly times.

I am not reluctant to seek this type of relationship with those by whom I am surrounded at this time in my life, but I know that I am only going to be here for a summer, which is not the same amount of time I have spent building relationships elsewhere (i.e. Taylor and home). I want to get to know people, and I want people to know me, but it is hard to take that initiative and randomly converse with people in a completely unfamiliar setting.

Who ever said life would be easy though? Definitely not Jesus or anyone else in the Bible. Definitely not anyone I have ever known and trusted, but why do I still look for the easy way out?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

An "inconvenient truth," perhaps?

In order to uphold our personal values, we must sometimes (maybe even oftentimes) sacrifice efficiency and convenience. We are socially conditioned to feel like these things are inherently valuable in and of themselves. I do not agree!

Silly societal machine, wanting us to buy wholeheartedly into mindsets rooted in the Industrial Revolution and consumerism. I refuse to follow blindly, Mr. Machine.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

No Difference

Small as a peanut,
Big as a giant,
We're all the same size
When we turn off the light.

Rish as a sultan,
Poor as a mite,
We're all worth the same
When we turn off the light.

Red, black or orange,
Yellow or white,
We all look the same
When we turn off the light.

So maybe the way
To make everything right
Is for God to reach out
And turn off the light!

--Shel Silverstein (aka one of my favorite people)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Nonsense Nancy

Disclaimer:
This post has no intellectually stimulating thoughts or important ideas to glean.

Today I stole a sharp pencil straight out of the package at work, researched the history of insurance (actually quite interesting), and colored giant coloring book pages (101 Dalmations) with a four year-old (definitely the best part of my day).

Also, the "scissors" in my desk should be replaced with scissors. They have definitely never hung out at Mr. Sharpener's house. The two should be acquainted soon, I think.

Yep, all in a day's work at the agency.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Allstate- You're in good hands. Really, you are.

I am working the front desk at an Allstate insurance agency this summer, and we get our fair share of interesting clients, including some that will freely disclose the fact that they were recently released from prison or talk for hours about how they couldn't believe bumping into a car would split the whole bumper (both of which happened today, by the way).

Also today, a man came in with two checks wanting to know if I could do anything for him. Being the rookie I am (I've worked there for a week now), I looked up the policies under his name only to find them all canceled. I told him I would get another agent to help me figure out how to apply his payments to these canceled plans, if possible. My co-worker comes out and explains what and when he needs to pay again in order to reinstate two of the three policies. We were able to reinstate one right on the spot because it had canceled only at 12:01 this Monday morning.

As she explained this to him, he began talking about why he hasn't been able to pay his insurance. He is currently unemployed, one of many in the Anderson area that is suffering from the GM plant's decision to make cuts in their amount of employees. His wife, from what I understand, was a teacher of some sort in Anderson who lost her job as well. She will be starting a new job in the deli/bakery section at Meijer in a few weeks, which is better than nothing but definitely not a way to use her skills and training. He also said that she is working on her third degree.

He went on to explain his situation in looking for a job. He has been unemployed for about two months now, and he is about to stop receiving unemployment checks. He only recently was able to get an interview scheduled through vocational rehabilitation and to meet with people about welfare, medicaid, and food stamps. He said that all these procedures have been ridiculously delayed and slow in response. Hearing him talk more about it all, I could see that the system by which the government handles these issues is inadequate. He was in his interview for welfare and food stamps hearing them say to him that they will get back to him in a few weeks about how they can help him. Who knows if it will actually take that long or longer. Either way, he needs money now. Who's going to help him with that immediate need?

Unfortunately, Allstate can't give him money, especially after his lack of payment to them, but I saw one of my co-workers truly trying to help this man and his family. He had explained to her that he should have money in time for the next payment, but she assured him that if he could not get the money, that he should contact her a few days before the due date and she would try to put a stall on it.

This man almost came to tears a few times in talking about all the stuff going on in his life, and there was really nothing we could do about it, but my co-worker still consoled him and made sure that he knew we were caring for him in the best way that we could. I have never really seen any business like that before, and it made me feel a little more confident in small business interactions and simply the values that my agency holds. It's cool, and I'm not one who thinks things like insurance are that cool.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sudden Realization and Reminder for the Day

If we don't ask for freedom from our bonds of the flesh, we forget that we are attached. We forget that we need God. We do. We need him. We can only survive on the strength and life that he provides. We provide no stability for ourselves here on earth, despite the illusion to which we ascribe as earthy inhabitants.

See, the difference between us and God is that God is not HUMAN. He reigns over everything in creation and outside creation, and he has no sinful nature within that reign. Can you imagine what would happen if God had, long ago, still let Adam and Eve reign over God's creation in their fallenness. Yeah, I don't want to imagine that either. Instead, let's just take this moment to humble our hearts and be thankful for God's sovereignty in our human weakness and failure.

I sure am grateful for his grace. If he has no grace on me, who will? He provides hope. And now I can go on living.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two-in-One

Written in September 2008

#1
Love your neighbor as yourself. Well, if you don’t love yourself, you can’t love others. It seems selfish, but really it’s the opposite of selfish. In loving yourself, you realize that you have things to offer others through relationships, whether those things be personality traits, qualities, talents, gifts, interests, etc. Being in a relationship is never about “What can I gain from this relationship,” at least, it shouldn’t be. Relationships are exchanges between two different people that can offer one another different things that may not be present in their lives. If I am living an insecure existence, one where I am unsure of my gifts and talents and other unique qualities of mine, then I cannot function in a healthy relationship due to my inability to love. Loving ourselves, in the sense of appreciating what God has done through us and for us as people, is the only way we can learn to love others. If we are judgmental and insecure, we will carry that attitude through all of our relationships. I have experienced this. Everyone knows that the bully in elementary school only resorted to bullying because he or she was insecure in his or her identity or life. My inability to completely appreciate God’s handiwork in myself causes me to have the same judgments on others. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not fair to God, who strived to make me who I am. He is still molding me, and I know that my perception of others will mold along with that. It has in many ways already changed in direct relation to me changing.
My ultimate mission in life is to love people as God loves, and I know that through sanctification, God can change me into someone who can barely come close to loving others as He loved me. I strive for it and pray that God will do that work in me, to love myself in the interest of others.



#2
When Paul and other early apostles spoke the Word, the Message of the Gospel, they spoke it with power. It was a revolution that spoke to people’s hearts, souls, inner-most beings. What have humans done to the Gospel to make it so much less powerful in these days? How can the Word of God have lost any power and authority over people’s lives? How can we have that power over the Word? I guess it’s more about the power we have over each other. But, why would any person believe another person over the Master of the Universe? Who would, in their right mind, put their faith in humans? That’s a terrible idea.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Perspective

Why fear?
My life is a speck, a particle nothing more.
Now is not the end.
We live on, rarely remembered.
This is not the end.
It is just beginning.
The love, His love, it never ends.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Response

I am on a search...
But who am I?
If only I could understand,
If only I could stop searching.
Am I steady, consistent, like the tides?
Or am I like the changing winds, feeling, shifting, raging, whispering?
The answer seems simple, I am me.
But me changes constantly.

Monday, February 9, 2009

KABLAM

Do you ever have a week (minute, hour, day, month, year, etc.) where you feel like your head has exploded multiple times?

This has been that week for me, especially today. Exploded heads are not beneficial or fun in any way. I mean, I can't even write cohesive text messages, let alone cohesive blogs. Or interesting ones, at that. You should stop reading this.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Mystery

Written in July 0f 2008 after visiting Springfield, IL with my family for a Lincoln educational trip during Independence Day weekend. I felt like I was in a rut at the time, and studying American history of Lincoln's time led me to ponder the mysteries of death and war and faith and people.

How mysterious our world and lives are!

I feel that humans could never come to a completely numbed, unaware stage of existence without taking that mystery away. Death provides us with wonder, along with feelings that sting more as we are living someone else’s death. As long as there is death, there is human wonderment, unless we took that away by dehumanizing death, which could happen. But it is not likely that all humans could relate to death in that unnatural, dehumanized state.
Something inside of our souls longs for mystery.

I find mystery in my faith in God, which sometimes frustrates me. Religion seems to offer us all the answers, but faith really provides us with more unknowns and mystery than we bargained for when we came to it. And beauty, what mystery there is when one person may perceive something as beautiful and another perceives beauty as its opposite.

How many people do I know who want to seem mysterious, when really they reveal themselves through relationship? True, humans are complex and none but God can ever fully know one’s heart. I think we can (and should) find a new understanding of human mystery within that relationship revelation and complexity, though. As someone grows to know someone else, more things seem to present themselves as unknown. The mystery grows as one continues to seek to bring light to it. We peel the layers only to discover that one less penetrable lies beneath, so we start peeling the next one. We desire that relational revelation because we know what mystery comes with it. Successful marriages are a prime example of this; those couples that only continue to grow in love for one another understand that mystery grows as more things are revealed. It’s quite the paradox, actually.

And what about love. How much more mystery can one thing contain? Humans all long for it above all other things. Books, movies, television shows... most all media explores the mystery of love and how we can attain an understanding of it, but again, as it reveals itself, we become more perplexed.

God’s love. Back to my faith. Maybe I am feeling so disconnected from God because I have failed to recognize the mystery that is involved in my faith. This past weekend at the museums in Springfield, I gained more knowledge and only found myself more puzzled. Maybe I am trying to simplify things that I can never actually comprehend.

Questioning the mystery of my faith and the facts about the world I have absorbed is not a terrible thing, though. It’s not something that should worry me into losing faith because I am further exploring the mystery of life, humankind, and God. As I continue to explore, more will be revealed, if all the things I have talked about are true (which, judging by my own experiences and those of others, they are true). Knowing the answers and feeling secure and comfortable is not the end, but more the means to an end. In comfort, we must expect that at some point we will no longer be comfortable so that we can truly appreciate every comfortable moment of our lives for what it is worth.

All along I’ve been asking myself what I need to do to get out of this rut. Well, maybe I’m not in a rut at all. I should be appreciating and pondering this mysteriously uncomfortable time. The limit of humankind. The faithfulness of God, even when he seems yet farther in my mind. Knowledge is power, worldly power, but blind faith is a power given by God’s love to his people, which includes me.

I really desire to love all people the way that all people should be loved: abundantly, unconditionally, and equally. God give me the strength. I know that love is what all people long for and need. That need and that love are both mysterious.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Technologic

Written Nov. 2007

I’m convinced our society is turning into a completely disconnected network of faceless identities. Sure we have technology; just gimme ur # & ill txt u plz. But the industry that originally vowed to keep us more connected has really deceived us. Instant messaging and Facebook make it easier for us to confront one another, at least through those mediums. What about face-to-face contact? I find that I have a huge problem making eye contact with people when I speak to them probably thanks to my e-mail and Facebook accounts. Also, why do I send a Happy Birthday greeting on facebook to someone when she lives in the same residence hall as I do? This is proof that our society has become totally disconnected from one another. Sure, my little brother could probably quote every single episode of Latest Anime Cartoon on Channel 11, but can he carry on a conversation with someone without being obnoxiously loud or making slapstick comedic remarks? The answer, my friend, is no.

The whole thing that prompted me to write this article is actually present here on campus, and I think it is the root of many other problems concerning the state of our Christian community, specifically (the greater community, too, if one exists): I see someone that I may or may not be familiar with on the sidewalk, we pass, neither she nor I make an effort to make eye contact, smile or say “Hi.” What is the deal with that? We are on the same small Christian college campus, right? I have no excuse not to smile or nod at someone when I pass them, no matter how crumby I’m feeling or how crumby the weather is outside.

I cannot express the amount of joy I get from someone I don’t know saying “hi” to me on the sidewalk. Granted I may be needy and wanting attention, but is it really all that bad for me to feel loved by eye contact and genuine effort to acknowledge my presence? I don’t think so either.

Let me lay down a little ditty for you: I’m walking from one of my night classes to dinner and I see this girl who is in a few of my classes, to whom I have never talked, mind you. As I’m walking, she greets me with, “Hey girl! How are you?” and a big smile. I was planning on ignoring her, or maybe smiling or saying “hi,” but when she approached me with that greeting, I was so pleasantly surprised that the only thing I could say back to her was, “Oh my gosh! You are so cute!” She made my night, not even kidding. I looked like an idiot because I didn’t even answer her question, but I took so much joy in the fact that she took a slight interest in my well-being that it didn’t really matter to me.

As Christians, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our neighbors. For me not to say “hi” to a Wengatz guy or even a fellow English girl seems blatantly antithetical to the doctrine of Christ to which I hold so dearly. Even though that may seem slightly dramatic, what would we lose by practicing something so simple and sincere?

The same concept can apply to other situations as well—you are in IHOP with four of your great friends, having a ball and enjoying chocolate chip pancakes, of course. Your server comes up and tells you his name…do you take notice? Do you or any of your friends make an effort to summon his service or thank him by using his name instead of impersonally waving your hand or saying “excuse me?”

Case number three: At school, I share a living space with about 25 other girls. One of the girls goes around every single night to give hugs and kisses goodnight to every single girl on the wing. She may not even know them that well, but she insists upon sharing and showing the love that she has in her heart.

Based on these three situations, it is obviously not that hard to relate to one another on a human level. Human beings are able to relate to one another with an equal amount of love to go around. Let me say that again: we have unlimited amounts of love to give. Love never runs out. It’s not quantitative. Can you imagine having five kids but loving the first four so much that you had none left for the fourth? You and I were made for human contact and affection even though we so often neglect the senses that enable us and empower us to share that special bond with our fellow fleshy ones.

I challenge you to do something about this.

Saucy?

Posted on facebook in December of 2007...a challenge nonetheless.

I’m feelin’ a bit saucy… MMmmmm, I love breaks where I have enough time to waste on writing notes on Facebook...speaking of which, does it annoy anyone else when people post song lyrics in a note and expect (I'm assuming) people to read it? 'Cause that pretty much annoys the crap out of me. I'm much more inclined to read someone's personal interpretations of their life or circumstances rather than someone else's song written for some other occasion that is not my life or yours. But, alas, I'm a hypocrite...my last note was a poem by Robert Frost...

Anyway, I've been thinking lately. Surprised? haha. No, but seriously, I have been thinking a lot about humanity and Jesus and Christians in America, etc. This is most likely due to me reading Blue Like Jazz over Thanksgiving break and now reading The Irresistible Revolution over this break. But that aside, I have been thinking about this stuff long before I picked up those books, and I think I am passionate about it all ("Stuff" and "It all" simply referring to people in the context of faith in Christ).

If you have talked to me lately about my personal faith or religion or Christianity, whatever you want to call it, you will know that I have come to a very profound, yet simple revelation: People are the heart of the gospel.

I keep wrestling with this thought, trying to take the deepest meaning from it while keeping the simplicity of it in the forefront of my mind. I have come to this conclusion about people through a combination of exposure to Scripture, people, books, experiences (mine and those of others), and the like. I’m a reflective sort of person, so I’ve had a lot to chew on lately.

Point made here: I’m sick and tired of modern American Christianity and everything that goes along with that label, the criticism, the conservatives, the liberals, the ignorance, the lack of passion, the misunderstanding of the Bible, the meaningless debates about things that only drive nonbelievers further from the True God, the mindless Sunday services, the lack of prayer…

“On earth as it is in Heaven”

That’s not simply a lyric to a song you sing after the altar call. It’s part of Scripture; it’s something we are to pray to our Heavenly Father. It’s what Jesus has called us, as his feet and hands, to do (I love the feet and hands analogy in Scripture because we are, after all, the body of Christ). Our faith, as Shane Claiborne has so eloquently pointed out in his book The Irresistible Revolution, is not something in which we simply find satisfaction in our eternal rewards, but one that calls us to live like Jesus. Expounding on that cliché phrase: bring hope to the poor by listening to their stories and showing them the love Jesus has lavished on all his children, seeing the good in the rich celebrities, defeating legalism inside and outside the church, striving for peace, loving our enemies instead of killing them. ACTION.

Love your neighbor as yourself—Even if you aren’t a Christian you know this is the Golden Rule. I don’t know a lot of people who disagree with it, either. I do know a lot of people who live antithetically, unfortunately, especially Christians in America. Take me for example, I wake up every morning, shower (usually), eat, wear clothes that (despite my own perceptions) keep me sufficiently warm, drink uncontaminated water, pay a few bucks for a white hot chocolate or a chai, read my Bible (sometimes), go to church, hang out with friends who care deeply for me, learn from some brilliant scholars in classes, etc. The list is endless. I love myself very much, and I nourish myself quite heavily, physically and spiritually. So, do I love my neighbor as myself? Not even close. When was the last time I made a meal for someone who really needed it? How often do we go shopping for the trendiest looks (whether it be at Goodwill or J. Crew) and don’t think twice about people who are living for long periods of time in the same clothes, never washing them, and most likely never washing themselves? What about simply sharing my stories and struggles with people who need it? What about praying with dying lepers in India? Loving the seemingly unlovable?

I don’t want this note to be some whiny complaining social justice plea but something much more practical and meaningful, especially to followers of Jesus Christ. Christ calls us, in His word, to take up our cross and follow him. Let me remind you, taking up a cross is not some glamorous, effortless task we undergo to get to heaven. No, it’s actually something quite dirty and painful that we do here on earth. Why is it that Christians live (despite what we think) as a part of this world, what with the things we buy, the ways in which we live altogether. What would happen if we were to sell everything and follow Jesus in a radical way? We don’t know because we are too scared to try. Where are the risk-takers in the modern American church? Jesus was certainly a risk-taker, and if we are to take up our cross and follow Him, I’m pretty sure the same is expected of us.Granted, the title of this note explains why I am addressing this topic in a not-so-timid way, but I wholeheartedly believe everything in this note. I want to be a radical Christian, not in the sense that I want people to recognize me as a hippy pacifist or just think I’m really cool, but simply because Christ wants me “not to conform to the patterns of this world” and “to take up my cross and follow Him” and “to love my neighbor as myself.”

I’m sick of pretending to be ultra-spiritual because I attend a Christian university, or because I go to church. I want to be a Christ-follower, a disciple, one who gives her life for the sake of spreading the gospel to others. I’m sick of you doing the same things I do.

Let’s take some risks and truly love people, no matter their faults, like Jesus did and still does today. Let’s stop making excuses and start taking action. Our faith is an active one, not one of simply words.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this, whether you are a Christian or not. Please share. I want to know your heart.


I apologize if my sassiness is a bit blunt, but I feel like that’s the only thing people respond to nowadays.

Thank you for reading.

I love you.