There is one thing that is necessary for someone to truly understand me, I’m a dreamer and an idealist. I believe in striving for the best, even if it might not be obtainable. I believe virtues are more than abstract morals but actually tangible qualities of living. I’ve been told to come down to reality, to see things for how they are and to accept them and move on, many times in my life. I don’t think that’s totally right though. I think there is more to the world than what we can see and that you should accept the fact of how things are, but not accept that it has to stay that way. The idea that I should bring my expectations and beliefs down to reality is impossible for me to fully comprehend. It may sound narcissistic but I believe it should be the other way around. Who decided that “X” has to be just “X” or that there is no such thing as “Y”?
Everything that is, once wasn’t. At one point there was no universe, Earth, cities, art, or people. They were fiction. They were imagination. They didn’t exist, until one by one they were made. An all-wise God had a plan and he brought it into reality. He decided to make a universe, our planet and us.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…. God created man in his own image” – Genesis 1:1, 27
He made us in his image. His image gave us the tools and traits of a creator and so like our Maker, we created things. We built cities and made art and thought of ideas. The first act of creation allowed us to build on it and continue to build upon each subsequent act of creation.
One day some group of people came up with the idea to harvest fruit. We realized it was good. Then later those groups built on that and thought to farm it. We did that and had lots of it. Then some other group entirely came up with the idea that maybe we don’t want to be ill. Then someone took that and said maybe we can stop ourselves from becoming ill. Then someone thought to take those plants we farmed and made medicine from them and eventually stopped people from being ill. At the beginning medicine was entirely unthought of, but by each step of creation they came to a point where it was able to be made tangible. By never being satisfied with the current status quo they made progress step by step. We are where we are because individuals refused to confine themselves to reality. What if more of us were willing to embrace that concept?
Look at a blank canvas. It requires imagination and motivated intent to fill it with something, to make it something else or create something new. Reality is a canvas. When we say “that’s just the way it is” or “this is all there is” we are saying that the canvas can only be blank, that it can’t be changed and that it can’t be made into something new. The fact is, that just isn’t true. We aren’t limited by our reality, reality is limited by us and our willingness to stretch our minds and dare to think of new things. It’s scary but someone must always take that first step and speak out.
Switchfoot really gets this idea well. In their song, “The War Inside”, they have these lyrics:
“Yeah, every thought or deed
Yeah, every tree or seed
The big things come from the little dreams
Every world is made by make believe”
And in their song “The World You Want”
“Is this the world you want?
Is this the world you want?
You’re making it
Every day you’re alive…
….You start to look like what you believe
You float through time like a stream
If the waters of time are made up by you and I
If you change the world for you, you change it for me”
What then? Well I’d repeat the words of Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” You in many different ways have the ability to change your world, internally and externally. When you are stuck in unfavorable circumstances that can’t be changed at the moment, you can still change how you respond. That’s probably the most important component, only you get to choose that. In this internal way, you create how you view the world and free yourself to change the world instead of the world changing you.
Which if there is a more hopeful idea, I’ve yet to hear it. Whatever life is to you right now. You are free to change it, to improve on it. To make it something beautiful and to put your own unique touch on it. Seriously what sentence is more freeing than this? Your reality is subject to you. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or that reality changes willingly. But it means that there is a choice to be made and steps to be taken.
Here’s the thing though. Too often, society buys into the state of reality. We love the status quo. It’s safe, it’s easy and it’s boring. We look at those who hold to their imagination, ideals and dreams as modern day Don Quixotes, wayward, well-meaning fools. And when they fall short, or their dreams are smashed, we laugh and say, “Welcome to the real world!”. Truth is we do that because we are afraid. We are afraid for them to succeed, afraid for them to challenge our beliefs, our ways of life. We laugh in fearful ignorance.
But when they succeed. And we are where we are today, because many have succeeded, the whole world stops laughing. And maybe they embrace it, or maybe they fight it. But once you release change into the world, there’s no going back.
I guess this is that Matrix moment. You’ve been given the choice, now you got to choose. Ignore your ability to change the world or embrace it and open your eyes to the horizon. It’s up to you. Your decision.
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” – Robert Fulghum
“I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.” – J.G. Ballard
Lately I’ve been listening to a spoken word poet and rapper who goes by Propaganda, specifically his album Excellent (Which is available legally for free via the link, I highly recommend it) He has a song called “Forgive Me For Asking” in which he calls out American Christianity for hypocritical, agenda-oriented, shallow faith. He then calls out Muslims on their faith, followed by the scientific and agnostic\atheist community. Finally he finishes on a personal level by bringing to light our tendency to a hypocritical works based faith instead of by grace through faith. It’s a deeply thought provoking song. There is one lyric though that has stuck with me for the last few months, its after he has pointed out flaws with Christians, Muslims, and Agnostics, as well as himself:
“Maybe I’m wrong, maybe you’re right.
Maybe we’ll find out the day after the world ends.
Yeah, I guess we’re all a little inconsistent,
So maybe we can just show each other some grace?”
That gets me. I know I’m inconsistent. One day, my sin is so clear to me that all I can do is beg the Lord for grace and forgiveness in that moment. The next day, I’ll some how have convinced myself that I got it all figured out. God gave me a hand up, but I did the hard work. All these sinners need to get their lives together and stop disappointing the Lord. I’m on my own level. Anyone else ever like this? Anyone else find it easy to slip into self-righteousness? I do.
The fact is I’m human. I carry the human condition. This means I am innately inconsistent. Some days, I say and do the all the right things. Others, my life looks like a train wreck. This is why we fail to be excellent. Excellence has consistency. We rely on the source of Excellence, the Christ. And that’s a beautiful, relieving moment.
See I feel I’m a generally good person, not by my nature, but only because the Spirit within me is constantly course-correcting my devious bent for wrong. I didn’t earn that Spirit, it was a gift and isn’t something I can brag about. Left to my own devices, I’ll always act on my own selfish ambitions and desires and make no amends for their consequences. With the spirit, while, still not truly consistent, I’m working towards it. Not to be saved, see that’s already been given. I’m working towards this because I’m free to work towards it, to refine myself and better myself without having to “win” anything and I can do it free of arrogance, because it wouldn’t have even been possible without the Cross giving the ability.
This is a great thing. Yet this isn’t my point. I am still so quick to point out other groups failures and issues. Yet I have just as many failures and issues! Don’t lose me here, I’m not making a statement over whose right and wrong. I’m simply saying, instead of all of the bickering (I mean look at the status quo, has it really gotten us anywhere?) why don’t we show each other some grace. Instead of labeling the president a heathen, Muslims as terrorists, Professors and scientists as liars and Christians as bigots, can we just own up to our own inconsistency and share the same grace we bestow ourselves, to others? There is a really famous thought about all this: “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”
It doesn’t mean you have to agree with someone else, it just means you show respect, and goodwill towards them. It means you stop waiting for them to misstep so you can pounce on that moment to prove your point. It means trying to get along.
Specifically to Christians, I just want to say, you are called to serve Christ by serving others. Rich, poor, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, Republican, Democrat, Anarchist, Communist, Capitalist, Pro-choicer, Pro-lifer, Pro-Guns, Anti-Guns, White, Black, KKK, Westboro. All of them. They do not serve you. You serve them, just as Christ served us (who are a wrong, ignorant and hostile people) It doesn’t matter how wrong or right they may be. The foundation of every word and action is love. Our actions are never reactions, because in all things we love and serve others. This makes life far less complicated for us too, though not necessarily easier. Whatever good or bad some person or group does to you, you already know your response. Love and service. Working that out, isn’t easy, wasn’t for Christ either, but we are called to do it. So maybe instead of spending so much time explaining why the other side is wrong, we can work on this whole love-service fundamental. Alright?
“It is this lack of love among Christians which today makes the church an insipid, lukewarm institution. People come to find affection and are turned off by our tepidity.”
“If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary’s love.”
“Assuredly there is but one way in which to achieve what is not merely difficult but utterly against human nature: to love those who hate us, to repay their evil deeds with benefits, to return blessings for reproaches. It is that we remember not to consider men’s evil intention but to look upon the image of God in them, which cancels and effaces their transgressions, and with its beauty and dignity allures us to love and embrace them.”
So. I don’t write a whole lot these days. Sorry for the 2.3 people who actually are interested in my thoughts. But I got something now!
For all but 3 hours of 2013, I’ve been sick. Whether its the flu or a cold I’m not sure. I may have had a fever at one point. Now I just have the runny nose, sore throat, congestion, chills, shakiness, all around miserable feeling. It really sucks, but I’ve also been a lot sicker before. But it’s a good opportunity to talk about something… I’m not exactly sure if it’s a common thought or not
I’ve always been thankful for unfortunate, sad, depressing, and even painful events in my life. When I’m dealing with them, i’m usually preoccupied with the existential questions of “Why me???” Almost always afterward, and occasionally while i’m in it, I’ll have this moment where I just kinda see it. It’s this realization of all the things in life and in making life, that work against me existing are innumerable and that fact that I do exist and have done so for 21 years is mind-boggling. And that’s when it hits me. I’m alive. By the grace of God, my heart is doing it’s thing. The fact that I’m sick, shows me, I’m alive right now. My body is fighting and struggling. And that’s the key. Struggle. Challenge.
It’s life’s challenges that remind us what we are after, what we are about. Its when everything is peachy and we stop struggling and stop being challenged that we fade away. It’s like being in space, without the challenge gravity presents, our bones and muscles literally fade away. Yet when I add struggle to them with say weightlifting, they build and they grow and they become more and more alive.
I love football. Its a sport that highlights this idea really well. You struggle and you challenge and its can be punishing but to those who play the game, they’ll tell you themselves, its worth it. The pain is almost pleasurable. It’s a mark of progress, it just isn’t the same without it.
The best athletes and the greatest minds will tell you: Pain, struggles, challenges aren’t obstacles, they are opportunities. And the reason they are the best is because they’ve embraced that fact. You can’t have a mountaintop moment until you’ve hiked a mountain.
I truly believe there will be struggle and challenge in heaven. Just not the way we know it. It will always lead somewhere, we will never struggle or challenge in vain. We won’t become weary, or disheartened.
So next time you have a moment or situation that is negative. Thank God for the chance to grow. Embrace the struggle and realize that against all odds, YOU’RE ALIVE.
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.” – Frederick Douglass
“There is scarcely any passion without struggle.” – Albert Camus
“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow.” – Thomas Paine
On Wednesday, April 6th, 1994, Rwanda began a series of actions that stained and darkened its history in a way nothing else could. Families turned on one another and friends betrayed each other. Arbitrary definitions of people and class deceived a nation into forgetting that they are all humans and they are all made in the image of our Creator. On that Wednesday began the Rwandan Genocide. It would continue for 100 days and by the end of it 1 million Rwandans were murdered. Women being raped, children being murdered in churches. Parents losing children and vice versa. All by people like you and me. For 18 years since, a mixture of humility and shame has been part of the mood of this country. Reconciliation has been the driving motivation. Wounds like that don’t heal quickly though, sometimes not for generations. And for many, it’s still fresh upon their minds.
God’s love isn’t easy to talk about in context with these events. Not to those who were there and those who lost people. Those who lost everything. Those whose scars still haunt them. God’s love isn’t even easy for us to talk about while watching documentaries and movies about it. Still something can, and should be said.
Christ’s death bore the sins of all humanity. God came down and took upon himself the sin of the world so that there could be rebirth. Sin is in nature, sin is our very humanity now. No part of creation was untouched. We see where nature has been touched and affected by our sinfulness in Genesis. We all know that Christ bore the grief and suffering of the entire world. That means not only our sin, but all suffering, all sorrow, all disasters, all genocides and wars. He felt and took on all that grief. He wept over every lost pet, every illness, every burned home, every dead relative and every soul on its way to hell. It nearly crushed him, but by grace he took it and conquered the grave. Can you imagine that? No you can’t, nor can I. But mediate on it long enough and you will cry, and you will hurt and you will have an understanding that God bore something that is just intangible to us; something words just can’t say.
One might ask, where was God when the terrified boy or girl watched his family be struck down with a machete?
The honest answer is, He was on the cross. He was bringing the child’s anguish upon himself. The physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual affliction. He accepted its horrors on the cross. He took it to buy a way out.
Jesus wasn’t the only one crucified, it’s not miraculous to be crucified in itself. What made the crucifixion unique, what made it beyond measure, was that he while upon the cross, he consumed the suffering of all, ever.
We brought this world upon ourselves, and God paid the price for what we had made. Our sin we accepted, demanded a price for it, and that price was death. And yes, Jesus paid it! He didn’t have to, but he did. That doesn’t rid the world of pain. It doesn’t make it any easier. It brings hope.
Where was God while that child’s family was dying?
He was making a way for him and others, to come through the shadow of death and into abundant life. Life everlasting. He opened the door to the exact opposite of the incomprehensible misery Christ took on the Cross.
We deserve genocides, murder and betrayal, but that’s the amazing thing.
The suffering and horrors we see every single day are outrageous, that’s why Jesus did the most outrageous thing.
Just like that moment on Calvary, the darkest point, when it feels like all is lost, that’s the moment hope can be found.
There is hope for Rwanda. Turn your eyes to it. His name is Jesus.
“One son God hath without sin, but none without sorrow.”
Full disclosure: This might seem eerily familiar, that’s because it’s an edited version of my post on the Tsunami\Earthquake that hit Japan. Still just as relevant, only a new context. The reason for the new context, is this summer I’m going to Rwanda and I’m raising support. I’m needing to raise 3400. To be honest, it’s really really hard and I know that literally, I personally can not raise that much. However, I know with Christ all things are possible and I know it’s extremely easy for him to bring that money forth. So if this post moves you in any way, I ask that maybe you would take a moment to give to help me get to Rwanda, so that I and others might be able to help make these truths a reality for many hurting people. Thank you.
“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be a light to me.
I will bear the indignation of the Lord
because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall look upon his vindication.
Then my enemy will see,
and shame will cover her who said to me,
“Where is the Lord your God?”
My eyes will look upon her;
now she will be trampled down
like the mire of the streets.”
A couple of things about these verses.
#1. It’s my favorite section of scripture.
#2. John Piper calls this “gutsy guilt” When you know you have sinned, you know deserve chastisement but you refuse to surrender hope. You refuse to be overtaken with a sense of hopelessness, the refusal to deny that God is bigger than your sin.
#3. I have a tattoo based on this verse. It is the Hebrew word Nits-dak. It means justified, vindicated, right, righteous, just etc. I got it in November 2010 on my right forearm. It is a reminder to myself. See I’m my biggest critic. Quick to speak mercy for others, but wrath for myself. The tattoo is reminder that no matter how many times I fall down, make mistakes, fail, there will be vindication for it. That voice in your head tells you it’s your fault. You are doomed. You should give up. The thing is though, its not about how bad I was or am, it’s not about me at all, it’s about how good Christ is. You miss that and you miss the entire gospel.
#4. Try something out for me. Next time you make a mistake or fail, instead of getting on to yourself, remind yourself how good Jesus is. I promise His joy is far more powerful than your wrath.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
“When God accepts a sinner, He is, in fact, only accepting Christ. He looks into the sinner’s eyes, and He sees His own dear Son’s image there, and He takes him in.”