Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Love Thy Neighbor

I'm realizing more and more that I am making my blog entries about observations I make about people, mostly through facebook.

That strange fact aside, here's my latest question:
Why do people think they have to be so opinionated?

I wish we would all just see the good in the things around us and not focus on the negative and complaining so much. I especially think this should be true for Christians, who are supposedly full of grace and mercy and love. I'm taking this with a grain of salt, remembering again (as I do in most of my blog posts) that people are so not perfect. That being said, however, people should be striving for perfection. The apostle Paul clearly states that as a purpose of our life on earth.

My main focus is on politics because it's something people talk about and form opinions about a lot. I think there is very many things wrong with American government, but I have no tolerance for people being angry with the current administration (or any administration in any time) and not doing anything about it. The crappy part is that no one person can really do anything about it (unless you have the $$$$ to influence groups of people or the government). Instead, people should be looking for ways to influence their local sphere of influence in concrete ways. Inspire kids to pursue politics for the right reasons: for change for the better, for truly representing the people of the United States, to see the needs of those around him or her, to get to know his or her neighbors and neighborhoods to better represent them.

There are bigger problems in this country than Obama or the Democrats and Republicans working in Washington. The problems lie right next door. Kids' aspirations, parents' inabilities to raise their children, the money that is being sucked out of small businesses, the money that is being poured into consumerism and big business and designer brands and prestige. This country has been established for 230 years, and you would think that with all our striving for science, technology, efficiency and logical reasoning social status would be abolished.

Sometimes things in this world just don't make sense to me. It's a constant reminder of how God has set me apart from the world because I am a Christian. He has transformed and renewed my mind and my way of thinking (and for all Christians). I am able to see the big picture, and I have a perspective that I believe is one that lines up at least in some ways with God's vision for the world. But it is so frustrating to live a life seeing brokenness and being frustrated that things are not the best that they could be. This is how God sees the world, too, though I guess.

Do we realize how much we are breaking God's heart? Do we think about that when we are judging the situations around us? Do we judge with broken hearts or pride in our own way of doing and seeing things? I know this is something from which I am not exempt. I know that my perspective is not always the right way, but I live with openness to discovering the truth and the way that God intends our lives to be. I hardly ever stop and sit on an opinion, and I try really hard not to stubbornly refuse to hear someone else's side on issues. I pray that all people would adopt open-mindedness, and I pray especially for those who represent the love and mercy of the Lord on this earth. May we be a testimony of God's love and mercy and grace through our actions and our words. May we work for his will to be done, not by force, but by love, through our demeanors, hearts, actions, and words.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Am I human?

Today, the ridiculous amount of hard work and hours I have paid thousands of dollars to participate in has come to its culmination. Today I turned in my last take-home final and finished taking my last written final in class. After being hunched over my books, computer, music, and worksheets, meeting with groups for projects, meeting with professors, sending e-mails until my account limit was used up, scheduling every hour of my day, avoiding apathy, caring about grades, tests, papers, homework, portfolios, recitals, performances, forcing myself to be motivated and to make my mind go on when I was exhausted mentally already, I felt robotic, like I was just doing the routine, putting as much of my metallic heart and soul into my work that I could, often feeling like it was ineffective.

I finished my last final this morning (in fifteen minutes, if that tells you how much I was ready to be done), and while I was walking back to my apartment I realized it was a beautiful, warm morning. I decided that I would go rollerblading. I have not done many things that are active (or fun) this year, except intramural basketball, so I was pretty wobbly, but I made it around campus. Right when I was finishing my loop and going uphill, I fell. I wasn't even going too fast; I must have tripped over a stick or something. It hurt only a little, and I was able to get right up and continue on until I got to my apartment.

It was such a perfect reminder of my humanity, though. I was bleeding. I felt pain. I felt my leg muscles aching. I felt my pride hurting because I had fallen in front of the largest boys' dorm. The great thing about it all was that I FELT. I was feeling. I was a feeling human being after living like a robot for so long. Pretty consistently for at least the past three years, although I did have moments of humanity in there.

Thinking about it more, I displayed my humanity a lot. Having to pray through most of my college experience helps bring me back to the reality that I am not, in fact, a robot. I am a person who cannot do everything by myself, despite how much independence I have gained in the past four years. I am someone with emotion, with weakness, with needs, with limits, and God takes me farther when I cannot meet my goals alone. His strength has been my own, and I thank everyone who has been praying for me during my college years. Scripture says that the prayer of righteous man is powerful and effective. I'm definitely coming to understand the reality of that verse in the Bible.

After hard times pass, I usually have a hard time remembering them. Life lessons are often hard for me to learn the first time. You can ask my friends about that one. I come to them with the same complaints and worries about my circumstances and situations. It helps me to write about them in my journal and my blog. I know I have to remember that I am weak and need help, otherwise I will just continue to go through cycles of "I can do this by myself" and "Actually, I am really not in control of my circumstances, and it is a blessing to be where I am."

I know being aware of my vulnerability will always be something I will have to be working on because I can be so independent and self-determined. Pride in those things is a sin, and God needs me to rely on Him so that my life can be used for His purposes, which are obviously more noble and good than mine. His purposes for people's lives always will be better than any good lives we try to live on this earth. We could be doing all the good in the world, and we could get to heaven's gates and God could tell us, "Yes, but you were doing it all because you wanted to feel good about yourself, not because you wanted me to get glory and for people to come to me." So challenging. I hope that you can be challenged to think about this, too.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Greatest Love

I may be naive, but I am asking a pretty pointed question lately as I have seen this happen over and over (mostly through facebook, naturally--that's a different topic to discuss) to people I know well and other I don't know that well at all.

My question is :

What is the point?

Now, I understand marriage is hard. Hasn't anyone heard especially that the first year or two of marriage is THE HARDEST? Why give up so easily? Why rush into getting married if you are just going to rush right back out of it? What are we missing in society that is not helping people understand the power of perseverence? The Disciple James (1:2-8) tells us some really good things that I cling to desperately so often:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

I understand that I can't really understand how hard marriage is until I am in it, but apparently working through that unexpected difficulty is what it's all about.

I really just don't know what the answer to this questions is when I ask it:
Do people really come into a marriage thinking that's it's going to be all sunshine and rainbows?

I hope we can stand in this ocean of our love and keep each other from drowning forever! (Gag me.)

Because it ain't. I mean, I have my fantastic views of my future life with Joe, but even in my inexperienced lifeI know that those views are faulty, and I am working to uproot them from my perspective on marriage. If you don't realize that your ideals are false and unrealistic, you probably should think a lot about it before you commit yourself to someone FOREVER. And I don't care what divorce makes us think, we are forever bound to the one we marry whether we spend daily life with them or not. Marriage is a BIG DEAL. Divorce is a BIG DEAL.

Marriage is probably the most significant sacrament that was created by God for people to practice to make God concrete to us. Marriage is all about disappointment because we disappoint God all the time. Marriage is a portrayal of Christ and the Church (the Bride)-- the Bible talks about it innumerable times. The Church betrays Christ through sin and Christ must stay with the Church and forgive. That is exactly the role that married men and women are to portray. One person might be Christ more than the other-- no one says the balance is going to be perfect-- but both people must sacrifice and not give up on one another.

Maybe that's the part we are missing. I think I can definitely draw the conclusion that so many people in this society are breaking their commitment to marriage because they have broken their commitment to loving God.

This is all very relevant to me as I have been dating my very wonderful boyfriend for almost a year and a half now. We have been talking about marriage even before we were dating, not because we are over-committed, jump-right-in crazies, but because we are dating with the future intention of settling down with whomever we date. If we don't agree (or don't know about each others' perspectives) on certain things that would be present in the context of marriage we are not being honest to one another in a very big way. I don't want to date someone (with the intention of marriage in the future) and disagree with them about the way I want to live my life.

I've thought a lot about what happens if Joe and I get married and it just isn't great. Can we fall out of love? Will we fall apart in arguments or in disagreements or in times of stress? What about our physical needs? Will I be able to live with Joe even when we have no money? Will those times be joyful despite trials and troubles?

I think these questions are very, very legitimate, and anyone who is considering marriage should think about these things! Anyone who is thinking about getting married should think about and wrestle with these things BEFORE THEY COMMIT TO BEING MARRIED. People need to talk to a lot of older married couples before going into marriage in order to have correct, realistic expectations about marriage. A lot of times inexperienced people have unrealistic expectations in most things in life, but when we consult our older and wiser resources (they are so much more than that! friends, mentors, mothers, sisters, brothers...) we can glean so much wisdom and have real expectations.

I talked to one of my mentors (he prefers that I refer to he and his wife as friends rather than the formal title of mentors) recently because I was really upset and worried about the amount of bickering and frustration that was taking place in my relationship with Joe (being in a long distance relationship is crappy and beyond tough, but you learn so much). I was questioning our relationship-- should we even be considering marriage seriously? Is this relationship built to last? My mentor/friend/professor assured me that ever since he and his wife started dating (they have been married for 20 years!) they were fighting. I sighed with relief when he told me this. We began to talk more about my personality clashing with Joe, and he went on to talk about how he and his wife clash in their personalities, too. These things were only the tip of the ice berg for our conversation, but even those small things were extremely comforting!!!!!!!

People, understand that marriage is not the end. Things are not going to be "better" when you marry the man (woman) "of your dreams." Guess what? Relationships mostly are hard because all people are sinners. If there is anything that makes sense about Christianity for me it is that fact that all people are sinners. I have experienced a lot of terrible things in my relationships with people (family, friends, boyfriends, acquaintances, etc). I like to call it brokenness.

It's behavior that can only be explained by the fact that people are sinners, and it gives me comfort to know and believe that it is always going to be like that until Christ returns and makes us all new holy and perfect beings. (Can you imagine how great that's going to be?!) It is comforting not because I am a sadist and I am excited for evil to reign and torture our lives until judgment day. No, I am comforted for quite the contrary reason. God reigns over evil and sin, and I don't have to be worried about the brokenness that exists in my life already. It's ALWAYS going to be there no matter who I commit myself to, but God is always making us better people through the hard times in life. He is mending our brokenness constantly (even though most of the time it is really hard to see how he is doing that).

Marriage, instead, is a means to an end. It is a situation that is meant to help us understand how much love God has for his people on earth and to help us understand how to practice God-like love toward other people. That is the essence of Christianity after all. Love. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. The two greatest commandments as quoted by Jesus himself. If marriages are failing, we are losing the single most important model of Christ's love and it will be really hard for people to have hope without Christ. What a sad world we are coming to.

I just wish it wasn't awkward and sort of off-limits to talk to people going through rough marriage things about their situations. I always wonder, though, if I did bring it up, could I help them salvage their marriage? Maybe not me, but God could use me. I'm really being a bad Christian by not stepping into their situations. People always want other people to stay out of their business, but so much of Christ is about reaching down to the dirty and off-limits things and people in life and restoring life. I believe in promoting true community with those that I love and care for (which, really is everyone in the world). Being in a true community is about going to places that are uncomfortable in relationships because you truly care about the people involved in those uncomfortable situations. I want to know how to be bold, but I also struggle with caring a lot about what people think of me.

We think of Jesus reaching out to those in physical need, like Ethiopians who have no running water, or sick and dying people who have no family members, or children orphaned because of AIDS. We forget though, that all people are suffering from the consequences of sin and evil. We should be seeking to minister to American young adults with the same compassion and diligence and commitment as we do with children in Africa.

I am such a coward. I am deathly afraid of what marriage brings. I am deathly afraid of confronting people who are having marital problems so soon in life. I know that Christ tells his believers that he has given them power and boldness (not fear), and it is so bad that I reject that power that Christ gives to me. I know he can work through me in any situation and give me the words to speak to anyone. He has done that many times before. Please pray (if you do) that God will use me as an instrument and a tool and that my pride and hummanness would not hinder that. I know he is the most good anything or anyone can ever be. I am nothing. He is everything. I must let him use me for his good because otherwise I just cause damage, even with my apathy and inactivity in hard situations. Lord have mercy on me and all people, all sinners.

For more reading about a view of godly marriage read this article from Relevant Magazine:

"The ultimate goal of marriage, then, is not happiness but holiness, as husband and wife spur one another along in mutual joy toward Christ-likeness."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Spring Poem- "The Rest"

“Introduction to the Rest”
The words you forget
Scrawled and Scratched upon the pages of an empty notebook
Suddenly refresh
In your mind you see they’re painted in the clouds behind your eyes…

“The Rest”
From the soil of the earth our imagination grows.
Suppose it's raining out-- the blooms deflecting drops and dodging dew.
Suppose the birds flew through the clouds,
Singing sounds the heavens sought to sing along.

We simply live to see the day when others serve their neighbors
Choosing and never losing what's been lost
In all this chaos consuming us.

On the verge of satisfaction we continue to consume,
But never reach the edge of our appetite,
Refusing to reject what we've always known.

Happiness is false, an illusion, a mirage never made concrete.
Instead the joy of things unseen and selflessness--we'll one day be complete.
Met in the air not to defeat
The one who made us to be free and seek the peace of which he speaks.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What a Waste

Sometimes I am outrightly appalled by the people that inhabit this country and by the things that those people obsess over. Number one: Entertainment.

I scratch my head and my brow furrows--WHAT? How does this even deserve the attention that American society gives to it? Look at any news station, you are bound to find at least one story about some famous celebrity scandal or celebrity humanitarian effort. What about world issues? Even CNN got in on the celeb gossip when Michael Jackson died, and they earned extremely high ratings across the world. What did he do to gain so much of our attention (not to mention the tears of mourning shed over him as if we all knew him so personally and empathized with his life)? It’s not like he’s the Dalai Lama or anything. Speaking of which, does anyone know what kind of controversy is surrounding the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people recently? Yeah, there’s probably a few of you, but not nearly enough of you in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong here, it is really hard to keep up with all the things happening in our own country, let alone the world. Not only is it hard to follow day to day changes in foreign policy and domestic policy and UN initiatives, but it is also hard to find credible sources and/or sources that don’t bombard you with less than meaningful “news”. Also, I’m the first one to admit that I don’t pay much attention to domestic and world issues, but that is simply because I am overwhelmed enough with my own issues in my own personal life (I do realize that is no excuse).

My point is that as much as we make an effort to keep up with entertainment news, we really stink at thinking about much else.

A thought:
I am one who watches no TV. None. I can’t imagine what kinds of things people could be doing (either in their own lives or the lives of others) if we eliminated just TV from our culture. What about if we eliminated People magazine, Cosmo, etc? My big question: WHY DO PEOPLE CARE SO MUCH ABOUT THE TRASH IN MEDIA? There are SO many other things to which we could be devoting our time and energy, whether you are a Christian (without works, faith is dead), naturalist humanitarian, or simply not one to respond passionately to world issues. There is more to the world than Hollywood (actually, Hollywood’s quite small in comparison to the rest of the world), no matter what else it is you are interested in. Find something else. Why do some people’s lives have to be elevated above others simply because their music has a thumping dance beat or they had a crazy action/love scene in the latest blockbuster hit? Why do we idolize this side of our culture? Why can’t we lift up the lives of those who need lifting, like girls caught up in sex trafficking (our campus’s new social justice passion)? Can you imagine what one of the girls rescued from that system would think coming over to America and seeing how Americans (and even American Christians) obsess over Miley Cyrus’s latest sex scandal?

Talk about wasting time. I lost track of time caring so much about people caring about fulfilling their entertainment obsessions. I need to go tend to time commitments that actually involve people and relationships around me.