"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" 1 Peter 3:15
I don't really understand why Christians get so angry at atheists. Sometimes I read CNN's belief blog and the comments going back and forth between believers and non-believers are so distressing that I start crying. I'm never really bothered by what atheists say...I'm more disturbed by the subtle hatefulness that believers spout back. I don't even see the point in arguing with people about believing in God. Faith is a mysterious thing that happens in the heart that is not achieved through argument or insult.
A few months ago while I was on the road with the band, we started debating whether or not this bright circle in the sky was the sun or the moon. It was behind a hazy cloud so I guess there was some confusion. I knew it was the sun while a majority of the band was convinced it was the moon. (Now obviously it was the sun because during the day, the moon is not visible behind clouds.) I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was right, but the rest of the guys were convinced otherwise. In fact, I was getting so flustered at the ridiculousness of them thinking it was the moon that I started hurling insults at them, telling them that they were stupid. That led to them hurling insults right back at me. Even though it was disguised in jest, the underlying hate was pervasive. In the end, the sun came out from behind the cloud, but the damage was already done.
Much later I wondered why it was so important for me to prove that I was right. Them being convinced that it was the moon did not change the fact that it was the sun. The same sun that keeps me warm, keeps them warm as well. It still lights up everything for me just as it lights up everything for them. The only reason I wanted to prove that I was right was to shame them and make them look stupid. When I realized that was my motivation, I was so disgusted with myself. Even though my insults were partly in jest, they reflected a deep rooted pride and arrogance.
Now as Christians, we know we are right about God while atheists are convinced there is no God. However, their unbelief doesn't change a thing about God himself. While I'm sure God desires our acknowledgement of his existence, he doesn't need it. And most of all, it does not change the fact that he loves all of us... including the people who don't believe in him.
I don't know why as believers we feel so threatened sometimes. Do we feel the need to defend God because God needs it, or are we trying to build up our own pride? Perhaps we are afraid that we might be swayed to unbelief and thus we vehemently defend our faith at all costs. Whatever the reason may be, we will never convince an unbelieving world that God exists by screaming at them and insulting their intelligence. Even when Elijah called down fire from heaven to prove God's existence, it led no one to repentance. It just made them angry and they even tried to kill him. It wasn't until a few hundred years later, when a man named Jesus came and used the power of God to demonstrate kindness, that the unbelieving started turning to him. He healed people, raised people from the dead, miraculously fed thousands, cast out demons, forgave sins and ultimately gave his life for us. It was his compassion and mercy upon a broken world that led so many to faith.
It is God's kindness that leads us to repentance. And it is through kindness that we might possibly lead others to the same place as well. We can't just preach the gospel; we must also become it. So if you want to convince someone that the glowing light in the sky is the sun, don't insult them or argue with them... take them outside so they can feel its warmth.
Today I sat down at my piano for the first time just to play for fun. Since my voice started deteriorating last year, it's become harder and harder to enjoy music and to love it like I used to. But tonight I decided not to use my voice and just play the notes I couldn't sing anymore. While I was playing, I felt my soul open up and all the heartache I felt from this past year just poured out into the piano. I couldn't stop crying while I played. I was thankful and sad at the same time. I played a bunch of hymns but just mouthed the words. I just worshipped with what I had and I knew that God was listening. I felt all the demons that have been taunting me dissipate and for a few moments, I found some refuge from the pain that has been my reality for so long.
Hope is still alive and my heart is still singing loudly
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." 2 Cor. 4:16
I was looking through some old pictures and found a picture of myself right out of college. I looked healthy, well fed, and strong. As I look at myself in the mirror now, 15 pounds lighter, and struggling to stay 120 lb, I can't help but think about how much has changed. Life is harder now. More responsibilities, more bills, more trials and less money. I can't remember the last time when I didn't feel slightly nauseous after eating or didn't feel like my voice was deteriorating. My reality is a constant state of sickness and lethargy.
I am 25 years old and in the worst health of my life. No doctors can figure out what's going on. A recently new symptom developed. I have a sharp pain in my side every time I eat. I saw the doctor yesterday and she said it could be anything from gallstones to a liver tumor. Whatever the case, nothing surprises me anymore. In some ways, it's almost ridiculous how bad things have gotten since a year and a half ago. What I had hoped would get better has become my normal day to day.
But somehow, I feel closer to God. I can't explain it really well and I suppose you're not supposed to be able to anyway. But in all the nights of crying and praying beside my bed, all the desperate moments when I would sink into despair at the feet of a silent God, every pang of loneliness and frustration has led me to a place of utter surrender. I have never felt more weak and I have never felt such an ache in my heart for Jesus.
Do I still hope for healing? Absolutely. Because my God is good, because he does not desire suffering though he may permit it for a while, because he does not operate within the logic and understanding of our timing and because he loves me. We must believe until the day we die because his Kingdom is here, because the Spirit is moving and working every moment of our lives.
"Everything is possible for him who believes." (Mark 9:23)
God, today was hard. I did my best to seek you and to find comfort in you. I told myself that you are in control and that I should not lose hope. Nevertheless, today was hard. I felt alone and that no one understood my pain and struggle. I called out your name today... I couldn't hear your answer. I know that you have a plan for me and that you ask me to trust you even when things are unclear. I'm trying my best to do that, but sometimes it's hard... like today.
I'm tired of being sick. I'm tired of fighting off worry. I'm tired of trying to resist despair. Lord, I am weak and lonely. I want this part to be over. But you are still my strength and my ever present help in time of need. Whether or not I feel it, I know the truth that you are sovereign over all things, that your mercy triumphs over judgement, that your love covers a multitude of shortcomings.
Though the days are evil, you are good. You are our good father who watches over his children in times of trouble and doubt. You hold us close and sing over us until our hearts are filled with peace. Would you grant us rest as we lay our heads down tonight and wake us up to mercy. Whisper your love into the depths of our souls and breathe your truth into our innermost being. Give us hope to endure the darkness. Light the way and lead us lest we stumble.
I was at Urban Outfitters today and they had the "Peanuts" book collection on sale for $9 (originally $55). OF COURSE I bought it. I mean I love Snoopy, but that kind of markdown is incredible! And so while flipping through one of the books, I stumbled across this page and I had to fight back the tears because normal people don't cry over comic strips. Anyway, Charles M. Schulz was a genius.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. Lamentations 3:24-28
Ever since I stopped watching movies and TV for the year of 2010 I have begun to realize how much I treat God with little reverence and patience. The reason why seemingly innocent diversions such as television are so addictive and satiating is for the very reason that the gratification is instantaneous. It provides immediate relief of boredom or distraction from sorrow and pain. And when we have had enough, we can just turn it off and forget about it until the next fix. This mentality of immediate stimulation at the press of a button has done severe damage to my faith particularly when I pray for something and it doesn't happen within my expected time frame. Having faith that God will answer a prayer is really easy, having faith that God will eventually answer a prayer over a very long period of time takes something more.
God is not a television. We don't get to turn him on or off whenever we feel like it. The pursuit of God is a constant struggle with long stretches of uncomfortable and lonely silence. His blessings come in seasons following periods of rain and darkness. In a society that values time and the efficient use of it, we have forgotten how to wait in patience for God to deliver.
This past year, I have experienced massive failure in my frail attempts to heal my body. Our medical strategies mimic our society by medicating everything to suppress symptoms but never giving things time to heal and recover naturally. Thus, I have come to the end of my human means in dealing with my health. All my tests came back inconclusive showing that there is really no reason why I have the symptoms that I have. And so, having done everything that I could from different diets to different doctors, I am at square one again: trusting God.
In obedience we submit to the Almighty because what he chooses to do is right and it is the best for us. That's easy to say, but everyday I fight to live it. I look at all the things that he's allowed to fall apart in my life and to believe that it is done out of love is often too much to bear. But the true test of faith is a test of love. Do we believe that he loves us enough that we can let him bring pain into our life and still worship him nonetheless? Do we love him enough to obey him even when his discipline looks more like wrath? Our suffering often appears much greater than the outlook, but as so many before me have said, "this too shall pass". In his time, in his way, there will be seasons of joy and restoration. We must believe it and temper our souls with patience and trust. And so I wait on Him. I will wait for his healing, for his blessings, for the fullness of his joy when this particular season of suffering comes to an end. God, I will wait for you.
Those who are always empty, always thirsty, always seeking for this or that, never satisfied, are weak, and of little use to God. It is the satisfied who are strong, and God has made provision that we should all be satisfied. He offers us such satisfaction in His Son that we are able to say, "I want nothing, I need nothing for myself." That is strength...Neither the world nor the powers of darkness can find an entry there. -Watchman Nee (Changed Into His Likeness)
A few days ago a good friend of mine gave me the courage to do something I knew needed to be done a long time go: cancel my Netflix account.
For the next year, we have committed to not watching movies or television. Why? Because I started to hate what it was turning me into. In the past year with all of my emerging health problems, I began immersing myself in the comforts of Netflix, Hulu, Fox streaming Television and free HBO. At one point I managed to watch 25 movies in a week. On average that is 3 movies and a TV show per day which calculates to about 7.14 hours a day of staring at a flickering screen. Not only that, I was becoming more irritable and antisocial by the day. It was getting so bad that I could not even articulate my thoughts clearly and the prospect of talking to people became terrifying. Some days I wouldn't even leave my apartment or see daylight. And forget about prayer. I was so successfully distracted that I was unaware of anything divine or spiritual in my life. Needless to say, I became depressed, hopeless and completely bored because I had watched every single movie in the known universe.
The very things that seem benign and harmless always find a way to infiltrate our souls, slowly occupying territory that belongs to God. They are the Trojan horses of our culture claiming to be a victory prize only to leave us wrecked, starved and pillaged in the end. We are assaulted with moving images and loud noises everywhere we turn. This barrage of light and sound is so relentless that it can convince us we need it without ever letting us know that we have become slaves to it. The world offers so many diversions that promise relief from an often painful and mundane existence, but in the end it is only a cheap replacement for what will really satiate the soul's appetite.
I think film can be an amazing expression of artistry, creativity and a whole spectrum of human experience, but like any good thing, too much of it corrupts the mind and distorts reality. Maybe I'll watch a movie at some point in the future. But for now, my soul is malnourished and needs something more than simple sugars. I guess this isn't anything really revolutionary and it's not like I was doing hard drugs, but I have been in a walking coma for too long. In trying to avoid pain, I stopped living and resigned myself to an empty reality. No more of that.
Since I didn't have much inspiration writing music over the break, I decided to dabble in some graphic design again. This is my first crack at rendering in Illustrator. It's supposed to be Kate Beckinsale. I tried...