April 27, 2005

Lyrics

This has been my life lately ...


I'm so filthy with my sin
I carry pride like a disease
You know i'm stubborn, Lord, and I'm longing to be close
You burn me deeper than I know
And I feel lonely without hope
And I feel desperate without vision
You wrap around me like a winter coat
You come and free me like a bird
~David Crowder

So will you lead me
Beside the still waters
Where the oil, it runs over
And my cup overflows
Where You restore my soul
~Caedmon's Call

As you might notice, I need a break from life. I know it's coming soon, but before I'm allowed to rest, I have a thesis to finish (and it has to be done by Friday, no leisurely pace for me), and I have a final tuesday night. I'm feeling overwhelmed, and somehow these lyrics bring me comfort.

April 25, 2005

Decisions

So I was making myself some brunch today and I realized something: I have a hard time with decisions.

See, it suddenly dawned on me that I was having a really hard time deciding what to make for lunch. This isn't anything new - I always have a hard time making up my mind where food is concerned. A little deeper, though, I started to wonder: how does this compare to my normal decision making?

I started thinking back to bigger decisions, like where to live, if I should propose or not, if we're going to Australia, things of that nature. And I realized that I really don't seem to have any trouble with truly important decisions. I knew I was going to marry Liz. I knew that we're going to Australia, even if it often seems nearly impossible. I knew that the first apartment offer was the best one.

And yet I can't make up my mind what to have for lunch. It extends to lots of trivial areas - where should we go out to eat? What movie should we watch? What piece of music should I listen to right now? What sweater do I wear today? Should I take Rt. 332 or the Back Roads? What should I ask for for my graduation present? ... the list is endless.

For some reason, the decisions seem so terribly important at the time. Take the graduation present question. I don't even care that I'm graduating, except that it means I can stop being a student and do something normal. I just want the little piece of paper so I can go get a real job.

And yet, I found myself agonizing ... do I want a new computer gizmo? Should I ask for something that both me and my wife can use? How do I use this wonderful opportunity for material aquisition for its largest advantage?

How sad: I want to be a missionary and I make a big deal out of ... stuff. [side note: I love the word "stuff". We wanted to use it in an academic paper last semester but decided not to because we thought we might get yelled at by the professor, who happens to be the dean of the college. I think it should be accepted in the academic world as a useful tool for literary expression or something. Maybe with qualifiers, like "good stuff" and "floppy stuff".]

I keep making a big deal out of the trivial things in life - which is sort of humiliating, in a way. If I'm supposed to go and be a messenger of God, shouldn't that be something I'm over? I shouldn't be worried about what we're having for dinner (food is an especially big deal, it seems), or if I feel a little damp (i.e. uncomfortable) in the humidity. It's just stuff man! Deal!

April 19, 2005

Birthday Girl

A very happy birthday to my wonderful wife!



May God bless you many years of happy, healthy life. May you truly feel joy, may you sing loudly, may you dance well, and may your many years be fruitful.

I love you!

April 10, 2005

Sunday

I didn't go to church this weekend.

It's funny, because in your mind, the word "church" conjures up an image, and I am wondering what that image is. Is it a little white building with a steeple with cute little old ladies (whose hair matches the siding) working their way from car to building? Is it a giant auditorium filled with lots of different people, a stage, and a band singing at the top of their lungs? Is it a giant stone building with stained-glass windows, priests in elaborate robes bearing a cross regally to an altar at the front, organ music soaring over the heads of the masses?

I didn't go to church this weekend.

Church, as I've been learning, isn't any of those things. The pastor at Crosswinds has given sermons where he talked about church - and he said that church isn't really a building. The Church is a group of people. There are little churches - small groups of people - there are big churches - like Crosswinds or Willow Creek where there are lots of people - and there is The Church, which is the church of the world - every believer on the face of the Earth.

I didn't go to church this weekend.

Into what have we turned our sunday gatherings? Some churches have it right - there's a church in Pittsford that a few of my college friends go to where I couldn't have felt more welcome; people were interested in me, they wanted to know what made me tick, and they wanted to make me feel at home - and they were grateful that I came to spend a sunday with them, like I was somebody important.

I didn't go to church this weekend.

Other churches have lost their focus. Sunday, for them, is a time when some people - the paid staff - put together an event so they can try and invite their non-believer friends to be saved. Sunday, for them, is a special event, a time when people get the truth told to them. I've been to churches like that - where nobody really knows anyone else, even though there are hundreds, sometimes thousands of other people milling around, where the families are so busy getting kids from one place to another that they don't have time to say hi to their neighbor.

I didn't go to church this weekend.

Church - what our sunday gatherings are for - is for community. It's for getting together with a family of believers - a church - and worshipping God together. A gathering lets people become part of the group, and the group takes on an identity of its own - and worships God as one.

I'm going to church tonight. May God bless the offering we give.

April 9, 2005

Telepathy

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power. [1 Corinthians 2:1-5]

I feel like Paul, a lot more often these days. Not like, "I'm like Paul, the great evangelist: damn I'm awesome!" but more like what he describes about his experiences in Corinth - he was afraid. He was nervous to be proclaiming the gospel. He had a tough time saying what he knew was truth.

I'm like that. I can never say what I really mean; it always seems to come out the wrong way, or I can't think of the right words, or what I'd worked out to say in my head ends up not making sense once I say it ... the list goes on. It's a miracle that I managed to propose to my wife without stumbling over myself - though at this point, I'm pretty sure that it really was a miracle, involving speaking in tongues or something like that - because since then, I've yet to say something to my wife quite as clearly or eloquently.

I wish that I could speak the way I feel I write. When I have the chance to see my words on paper (or on e-paper, as it were), they make so much more sense. They become clearer. Somehow, the chance to edit what I say makes communication possible. For me, anyway. I wish I could speak like I'd already thought of how to say what I want to.

I wish I could talk in pictures.

I know that the sort of telepathy I'd like to have with people isn't going to happen. I mean, it didn't for Paul, and that confuses me. I mean, the guy planted about a million churches and wrote half of the new testament, and he complains that he's not eloquent enough??? I mean, either this guy had insanely high standards, or God really was speaking through his weakness.

That's what I hope happens to me. I hope I have the humility to accept my weaknesses (so far, not so well, but we're working on that), I hope I have the determination to improve, and I hope I have the stamina to continue in what God's got planned. I hope that my fear and trembling make it possible for someone to see Jesus in a way that being cool and well-spoken couldn't possibly allow.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. [Romans 8:26-28]

April 7, 2005

Water over Wine

Sometimes I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can't help but ask myself how much I let the fear
Take the wheel and steer

It's driven me before, it seems to have a vague
haunting mass appeal ...

Would you choose water over wine?

~Incubus


A set of lyrics that's been sitting in my head today as I reflect on ... well, life in general, I suppose. Would I choose water over wine? Depends on what is what, I guess. Would I choose the cool, soothing, water of life over the intoxicating, limited wine of this world? Would I choose the watered-down reality of the world over the delicious wine created by Christ at the wedding banquet? However you read the metaphor, the question is the same - this world or the kingdom of heaven? Choose, but choose wisely.

I wonder what I've chosen.

I mean, on the surface it's so easy to choose the kingdom of heaven, at least, in today's sugar-coated Christianity. I keep thinking about this - I want so badly to say that I've chosen the kingdom of heaven, because I want to go to heaven, even if it means spending eternity on a cloud playing a harp (it's better than the other descriptions of hell I've heard).

The part that I always forget is that the powers of this world are always going to be at work on me because of that choice. Because I've chosen to side with Christ, I've chosen to be an enemy, a
Deviant (thanks Laura) of this world. And that's really hard. I want it to be easy, all fun-and-games, not a war.
And so I find myself falling into sin. It's certainly easier, in this world. Why deviate from the norm when you could be comfortable? I could do all sorts of things to make myself - only myself - more comfortable in this world. And it's so easy!
Except when somebody reminds me that there's more at stake than myself. There's more to the picture than me - there's a whole world out there that's in the same boat. Even more, there's the kingdom of heaven, that has, for some reason, chosen me to be a soldier in its army. God has for some reason, chosen us as a church to be His friends and companions and children and yes, soldiers. It's a war I don't understand, and I feel like I've never had a fighting chance.
But it's there. And the kingdom of heaven is forcibly advancing. And I want to be a part, no matter what the cost. I only pray that I have the strength, by my own or by God's.

April 5, 2005

Consumerism

I've heard it said that these days, our beloved country is becoming a bit consumeristic. Pastors preach about this all the time - don't buy into the material world, all the stuff in the world won't make you happy, yadda yadda yadda. Which is not to say that it's not true - they're right, material posessions won't do squat for you - but I'm a bit worried about the pastors saying these things.

As it turns out, the church in America has adopted this materialistic view. That's right - materialism and consumerism is a huge part of Christian culture. I ran across a tract once that said "Why Christianity is Right for YOU". I thought it was funny - because at the time, I was a scientist, and so I figured everything should try to tell me why it was wrong for me, and if I couldn't find enough reasons for it to be wrong, it must be right.

Looking back, though, I think wow, it's still funny, but less of a "haha" kind of way and more of a "I'm really freaked out now" kind of funny. It's a representation of the church at large - we spent a lot of time in propeganda for our little ghetto of Christianity hoping that people will say "ah, of course, they have everything I've always wanted in a religion" and convert.

It used to be different, back in the day (circa 100 AD). It used to be that we would say "this is why you shouldn't join Christianity" and show people how hard it is to be a Christian, and how persecution sucks, and how it is that helping people is really hard on a body and why it goes against everything everyone else is saying and why that's hard. And yet the movement around Jesus grew.

Now all we do is say why Christians are hip and cool and rad and all that jazz. We talk about why people should like us because we're "really not that different" from you (true) and why they should accept us because "deep down, we're all the same". Some true things can be mixed together to sound like something else true, but it's really false - like Christians, frankly, are not all that. We're convicted sinners that know it - not cool, because it's not really great for peace of mind. We're in danger of stoning - Stephen got stoned (not the fun kind, apparently), Paul got stoned once, beaten, the forty lashings minus one a bunch of times, and lots of other brutal things. Christians have been ostricized from their countries, they've been alienated by family members simply because they believed, and yet, for some reason, they continue to proclaim what they know is the truth - Jesus has risen, and He is God.

I'm not trying to say "we should do it like it was done back then" because frankly, we're in a new age. We've entered postmodernism, we've done away with the patristic and medieval and modern periods - we're surrounded by new, unique, DIFFERENT individuals. Those people are all unique creations of God - to be treated as such. They deserve to hear the truth, not some sales pitch that we're using to make ourselves feel better (you know, the "oh I've converted TWELVE pagans today, how many did YOU get?").


Oh yeah - and Jesus isn't a good to be sold. He's a God - and a man - and I would imagine He doesn't appreciate being made into a sales pitch, but usually appreciates it when someone is really saying to another "I really, honestly believe that He'll change your life - and through you, change others - why not ask Him?"

This isn't about selling a product - it's about changing the world.

April 4, 2005