Showing posts with label thoughts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label thoughts. Show all posts

Thursday, April 28, 2005

God Will Make a Way

I just finished the book God Will Make a Way, by Cloud and Townsend. It was a pretty quick read, I think mostly because by now I am quite familiar with most of the concepts and perspectives they bring forth. The premise of the book is to encourage the reader that when there are obstacles in our lives, there is hope because God makes a way. This book does a lot of exploring with regards to what those ways could be, over a large breadth of topics. Here are some of the points that really jumped out at me:

  • See pain as normal. As long as we keep fighting this truth, we will lose. We can continue to fight this truth and oppose God; or we can accept this truth and have room to grow.
  • Sometimes blaming can be confused with assessment, though they are quite different. Reality apportions real responsibilities to people. Refusing to recognize these responsibilities in other people for fear of the evils of "blaming" will only make true forgiveness more difficult when it is needed. The need for forgiveness itself will be difficult to recognize without investing energy into assessment.
  • When we are engaged in life, life becomes timeless. When we are disengaged however, time drags on.
  • Like nature, our situations have seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall. Each has its responsibilities and its roles — a time for resting, harvesting, preparing, discarding, etc.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Spiritual Energy

I have been thinking about the concept of spiritual energy recently. The idea of it fascinates me, especially because I seem to find myself in short supply so often. I first started to think of it a few years back when I read this:

"And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

"Who touched me?" Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you."
But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me." - Luke 8:43-36

Now of course this is a very moving story of the healing power of a woman's humble faith. The detail that struck me in this case though was the fact that Jesus felt power go out from him. Please indulge my technical side when I assert that this implies some kind of noticeable differential; in other words, there is a qualitative nature to the power that Jesus describes. (The fact that Jesus is the Son of God probably also implies that this power is replenished instantaneously, but you get the point.) Anyway I don't think I thought too much of this idea at the time, but over the years I think this idea has had an influence on the way my world fits together.

At times when when I would feel tired or lonely, one supposed explanation was that I "wasn't giving enough." That perspective typically develops from conclusions drawn from the proverb "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35) and similar verses. While at the time it sounded like sage advice, there lingered the thought that there was a kind of clumsy quality to this conclusion. Even now as I read this scripture I can sense the formulaic equation itching to express itself — "If I give, I will be blessed," which easily turns into, "If I give, irrespective of my situation, I will categorically be blessed."

Anyway. I have since revised my perspective on this and tend to think of life as managing the elusive commodity of spiritual energy. All of life is spent deciding where to invest myself: time, money, attention, focus, heart. Some things will pay great dividends in the far future; others will reward earlier but not last as long. And some things simply seem to drain me without any payoff at all. Some activities require more energy than others. Some bring greater rewards than others. Ideally I will seek the activities/people/situations that encourage and foster and cultivate energy, and carefully prune those that do not.

With that perspective in mind, the proverb "It is more blessed to give than to receive" takes on new meaning to me — that is, that giving produces greater rewards in the long run than simply receiving. I believe psychologists call this "delaying gratification." And what is the ultimate gratification but Heaven?

My conundrum then becomes this — what do I do when I don't have enough energy to find those things that replenish and restore that same energy? (Answer: sleep) As the saying goes, "It takes money to make money;" isn't same be true of spiritual energy? Certainly God's abounding grace and Jesus' example give us the "down payment" we need — but there are always challenges to seeing clearly enough to be able to experience them.

Monday, August 2, 2004

Evolution and Christianity

As a young Christian I figured that the challenge of atheism would be challenging in the beginning, but that as my faith grew and as I drew closer to God the doubts would diminish to a quiet whisper as my spiritual years accumulated. Perhaps I imagined it somewhat like hurdles in a race; as a young boy each one is a daunting obstacle that requires a focused leap with both feet. As the boy grows, the hurdles become less intimidating and become easier to cross. Eventually a good runner is able to take each hurdle in a stride that is indistinguishable from one running on flat ground.

These days I imagine it a bit more like a rugged uphill mountain course. At first the terrain is challenging, but negotiable as the boy becomes more agile. But though the runner grows in his skills, the challenges of the race grow to continue the test.

I never considered atheism a very credible idea; I subscribed closely to C. S. Lewis' idea that atheism is just too simple (from Mere Christianity, I believe). Briefly, one of his main premises is that everyone inherently knows a sense of right and wrong; therefore there must be some absolute standard that all of our moral compasses are hinting at. This idea seemed to make a lot of sense.

A conversation with my father challenged this thought though, and I did not have any reasonable response. His argument was that certainly, everyone has a sense of right and wrong, but that this is only with respect to the community. And as an illustration he noted the fact that, if a man is alone on a desert island, is there really such a thing as a "right and wrong" for this man? Um, hm. *shrug* Good point. Perhaps I am not recalling C. S. Lewis' arguments accurately. My feeling, though, is that I am left without any argument against atheism that can be gleaned simply from observation.

The other subtle leaning I have felt over the years is that towards evolution. What I mean is, the possibilty that the bible simply happens to describe those practices that promote survival of the fitest most effectively, but there really is no omnipotent benifactor. Consider the Parable of the Weeds:

Matthew 13:28-30 - "...The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
"'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "

I could be way off (it's getting late), but this sounds a little like natural selection to me.

Sunday, August 1, 2004

Understanding, and Being Understood

For a while I have really wrestled with feelings like, "Why don't people understand me?" "Am I the only one that sees these things?" "Am I going crazy?" These thoughts have been quite a source of anxiety. Recently though, I think that I have come to a change of heart regarding this issue. I realized something — people that do not understand me are not my responsibility. In other words, I should not take it personally if someone either does not understand me, and gives up trying to understand me. At first glance this may sound arrogant. And, I'm willing to consider that possibility. Here is my take on it, though.

I consider it my responsibility to do everything in my power to love people, which entails understanding them, serving them, and doing my best to grow in my capacity to do so. If I do not understand someone, it is my responsibility and burden to put forth the effort to understand that person. After all, it was Jesus who extended himself from heaven all the way to earth, all the way to death, even death on a cross, to "understand" me, to reach me. Therefore in imitation of Christ, it is my responsibility to understand others. Of course, it is also my right to decide to give up trying to understand a person, although at that point I believe I would not be imitating Christ's example. On the other hand, if a person does not understand me, I can only do my best to explain my heart and my motivation. If after that he/she still does not understand me, and ceases the pursuit of understanding me, then that is not my problem. It is tempting in such situations to feel that somehow I am to blame, I am off the map, I am crazy. And I think much of my anxiety has been tied to this idea. But this simply is not my responsibility.

A parallel idea is that of being romantically interested in someone. Imagine that I begin to have feelings for someone — believable enough, no? Now, imagine that girl finds out, but the feelings are not reciprocated (too believable, unfortunately). Now, the temptation is to feel insecure, inadequate, less than a man, not good enough, worthless, and any other diminutive adjective you can think of. But, why should I feel this way? It is not my job to get people to like/love me. As Lisa Nichols said during teen camp, "What others think of me, is not my business." All that I can do is be myself. If a person chooses not to love/understand me for who I am, it is his/her loss.

This is all wonderful theory, of course. It is certainly more difficult to actually think this way and act accordingly.


One of the things that I've been thinking about is the concept of faith. I postulate that faith is something that really everyone possesses, and not just those who profess to have it. If you were to try to limit the decisions of your life to only those things which can be experimentally proven, you would simply not be able to make any progress at all.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Memorial Day Joshua Tree Synopsis


Kristin, Ben, Caroline

Caroline, Kristin, Ben

Caroline, Kristin, Abram, Ben, Vic

Ah, so much. Joshua Tree was a blast. Of hot air that is. I mean, it was ... really hot. It was a lot of fun too. We also ended up talking about some really deep stuff. Like, really deep. Here are the (same) pictures on Ofoto.

I left San Diego on Saturday around 11:30am. It was nice to be able to play ultimate that morning for a bit. With a bit of fussing around we were on the road around 3pm after picking up Abram, convincing Caroline to go and waiting for Kristin to show up. Along the way Ben and I were mostly talking about studying out other religions. He's been studying up on Hinduism a bit, which I thought was very interesting. I am excited to get more well-versed in other religions, and not just from the "Christian" perspective. What I mean is, I've taken a cursory look at other religions before, but always with a critical eye because I was coming from a strong Christian bias. I think I really ought to give them a bit more thorough treatment, and get a chance to hear it from supportive sources rather than just critical ones.

We arrived around 7:30pm and set up camp. Everyone was really helpful so we got dinner and a fire going really quickly. Afterwards we sang songs late into the night. I felt kind of bad because the campsite was nice and cozy with respect to other campers. We must have been about 20 feet away from the next tent. They didn't seem to mind though.

On Sunday the sun came up around 6:30am. Insanity. I'm not much of a morning person, but it was much worse considering the sun turned our tent into a greenhouse instantaneously. Plus we were being kind of loud and I was feeling it for our neighbors. Anyway it worked out fine; we had breakfast and then tried to escape the sun for a while. Ben tried to setup a little lean-to with his hammock but it just wasn't cutting it. Kristin fell asleep in her tent -- it was so hot though I was honestly afraid for her health. So we decided to head into town to escape. We went ghetto and brought our picnic lunch into McDonald's, which was a lot of fun. Then we went to Starbucks to "study". Turns out they had Cranium there, which I thought was very cool. It was Caroline and me against Ben and Abram. I won't mention who won. But I did think it was interesting that Ben mentioned he hadn't lost a game in a looong time. Actually, it was about the closest game I've ever seen.

By this time we decided to head out to the actual Joshua Tree park. After some aimless driving around and finding the slowest entrance booth in creation, we made it to a nice one-mile hike. We saw rocks. And cacti. And dirt. And lizards. And one rabbit. Neat. After that we went to a place called Jumbo Rock. Ben and I managed to climb this pretty steep one. It was quite an accomplishment. Ben almost gave into fear but he battled it valiantly and overcame. That was very satisfying. On the way down we helped Caroline down because she was feeling a bit spooked too. Almost like one of those team-building exercise things. Fun.

After all that we went to another place called Key View where we had a little communion service while the sun set. It was pretty much picture perfect, except the wind was really chilly. Abram shared his thoughts from Matthew 26:69-27:5, comparing and contrasting Peter and Judas. We sang a song, prayed, and passed some bread and juice. It was very cool.

We headed home and started up a late dinner -- around 9pm. After dinner we had quite a discussion on the topic that I have been thinking about for a while -- the idea of being "chosen" or "special" from God's perspective. It was a little difficult getting through sometimes, mostly because I'm still forming a lot of what I'm feeling. The main idea is this: What does it mean to be chosen by God? And how does that relate to the concept that God loves all people equally? I think I'll dedicate another post to this exclusively, actually. Anyway, as far as the conversation went, I ended up getting a little frustrated with Abram because I felt like he was just trying to "fix" me. He backed off after I said something, but I felt bad because the whole mood after that felt a bit more somber. Anyway, this morning Abram apologized to me for not listening, which appreciated a lot.

One thing Caroline asked me was, what prompts you to think about this? And, it was a good question. And I think I just answered off the top of my head, kind of before I really thought about it. But as it was coming out I think it started to sink in.

For most of my Christian walk I have devoted myself to people in such a way that I tried very hard to treat everyone equally. In a sense I denied feeling closer to anyone over another, because in my mind that was playing favorites, and in my understanding, God didn't play favorites, so I shouldn't either.

More recently though, I've realized that it is unrealistically idealistic to feel obligated to "love" everyone equally -- that is, to devote the exact same amount of time, heart, energy, etc. to anyone that God puts in my path. And maybe some of the consequences of my way of thinking is that I never really have developed those really close friendships. Or, at least I haven't really allowed myself to invest more into people that I feel naturally closer to, especially because most of them are far away or married or both. Anyway, so I've changed my way of thinking a bit. But then, what does that mean about God's view of us? Are there people that he feels more close to than others?

The difficult part comes when I realize that, I don't have someone that cherishes me above all others, and who I feel the same way towards. It is a very special manifestation of God's love. We are supposed to say, "God is enough;" in other words, the right answer is to meet this need to feel "special" to someone with God. But the honest truth is, I have a hard time feeling that God thinks that I am "special" in that same way. Imagine someone lamenting, "No one loves me" and someone else responding, "Oh come on, your mother loves you!" Not quite the point.

Anyway, thanks Caroline, for asking. I think it was a good step in the right direction. Unfortunately the mood seemed kind of subdued afterwards. I didn't mean to bring everyone down. After that I was pretty much drained and zonked out pretty quick.

Whew. I made it home today around 4pm and I must say I was pooped. A lot of it was physical, but maybe a bit emotional too. It was quite a lot to chew on. Anyway, good times, stuff, dude, this guy, straight carrots, Ben-cakes, super-sized, grounds-where-kids-play, lizards-that-lounge -- you name it, we had it. A great Memorial Day weekend.