At approximately 1pm EST, the doctor's office called to tell me there were matters of concern on the CT scan. So no matter how long one has resisted the reality that the journey will take this turn, the turn arrives without permission and without the agreement that I will be able to find some mental tactic to live in denial. The next chapter arrives at its own time with its own contents, and I must open it now.Like it or not, this is what I must live with, worship with, pray with, and love with today. This is my life as it comes to me from God. This is the God I know in Jesus. This is the God who gives my life significance. Whatever I am... or whatever I hope to be comes in the love of this God for me. The day is about receiving God's love; enjoying God's love; placing my many, many fears in God's love. This is today: a new turn, a new chapter, the same loving Father whom Jesus called Abba.Every word of the Gospel is written to men who will be dead but are now alive by the mercy of God. This is my life and the life of all other persons.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The main cry of one who practices the form of prayer called “lament” is, “How long?”That’s how people who live perpetually in-between think and pray. We know we can’t go back to some golden age in the past. We know we have not yet arrived at the new creation promised to us. We live in-between. We long for in-between to end. Like children in the back seat, we must be a continual annoyance to our Father—“Are we there yet?”
Thursday, November 18, 2010
My favorite line of all Sufjan Stevens songs—
“Tuesday night at the Bible study/we lift our hands and pray over your body/but nothing ever happens.”
Please continue, Sufjan…
Sing the part that goes, “Next Tuesday night at the following Bible study/we lift our hands and pray over your body one more time/and then you get healed”
Surprise! That line never comes.
But cmon surressly now, who puts a line like that in a song? No one cares about that shizz. The songs about miracles and healings and victory—those are the songs that sell.
But there’s something crazy about that one line. It’s just so… human. And I think that’s something that’s hard for some people to really admit—
We are human. It is quite unfortunate sometimes.
And we often live our lives in denial of that fact. We act like believing in Jesus somehow transfigures us into beings that are no longer human. We become so convinced that faith inevitably leads to complete and total healing, victory, deliverance, whatever you wanna call it… but it doesn’t.
No matter how many miracles we see, testimonies we hear, times we read the Bible, or prayers we have answered... our doubts will never leave us completely. We may never be fully healed of our loneliness. We will never not be broken. Sorry. These are ripples of prosperity gospel, and they simply aren’t true.
God does not pull us out of our humanity. Instead he comes into it. The moment we try so hard to be like Jesus or to live a life that is righteous enough or to move beyond our humanity, we nullify God's grace. We do not need a God if we are trying to become one. Adam and Eve learned that the hard way.
There are so many hurting people in church. They need to know that they can be fully human. It is ok that you are trying to believe in God and you still feel lost, alone, or afraid. God and brokenness are not mutually exclusive. In fact, we desperately need our brokenness. The miracles turn into testimonies and the healings make the headlines and it is easy for the very human experiences of faith to be silenced. The Christian life is not experienced through miracle after miracle. It is an everyday war. And when we win, Jesus is with us. And when we lose, Jesus is with us.
I believe in miracles and healings and all those beautiful, God-honoring things. But I honestly believe that God looks the most perfect in our lives when we look the most imperfect. Please, everyone, be human.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Every week, this Chinese lady comes and checks up on us, makes sure that we're running procedure and protocol correctly, and collects the receipts we receive from the delivery man and paperwork that we have to fill out every time we distribute lunch. I don't know her name, but I assume it's Wendy, because I think most fobby Chinese women are named Wendy (I'm serious. I know like 5 Wendys/Wendies who are really fobby. This theory is a branch off of a larger theory that fobby Chinese parents prefer female names that end in "ndy," which is a branch off of an even larger theory that fobby Chinese parents, for both genders, prefer names that end in "y"). So, every week Wendy comes around sporting her excessively large backpack, walking at a very brisk and determined pace, and she asks me with her Chinese accent if I have all the paperwork from the previous week. Usually, it's a very tedious and frustrating process for us both because we don't fill out our paperwork correctly. She gets frustrated and stands there impatiently as I fix the mistakes we've made on our lunch forms. And I swear the woman has no sense of humor. If I try to say a joke to lighten the mood/distract her from our incorrect paperwork, homegirl has no response. Straight up stoneface. Like, seriously, lighten up. I imagine going from lunchsite to lunchsite is pretty monotonous, I would expect that she'd appreciate me trying to add some fun into her job, but nooo.
Anyways, Wendy came last Thursday to watch us do lunch and make sure our protocol was correct. She also informed me that I was missing a delivery receipt from the previous week. This is bad. Wendy don't mess around. And I knew we didn't have the receipt. I knew where it was. Sitting on my desk. At home. Because I popped it in my pocket one day instead of putting it in our lunch folder where it belongs. F. So in her Christlike grace and mercy, Wendy says, "I come back to tomorrow, you have receipt." I say, "Yes maam!"
I forgot the receipt. I made the reminder on my phone. But when it went off, I was dancing. At a church dance (who has church dances? ... that's a post for another time). I forgot about it until the following morning. You know that feeling you get when you're lying in bed about to fall asleep and then realize that you forgot about that one big homework assignment due the next day? Yeah it was like that. You get that droopy feeling in your stomach and you say something like "freakin crap!!" So I tell the 5 or so people around me to pray that Wendy doesn't come. I was so scared that I'd be minding my own business, chillin with the kiddies, and then I'd see her and her oversized backpack coming up the stairs. She'd ask for the receipt and I'd look at the floor and admit that I had forgotten... And to make it worse, sometimes she comes at the very end of the day. So pretty much from 7:30am to 4pm I was on edge, asking God again and again, "Don't let Wendy come. Don't let Wendy come."
And she didn't come.
But the whole ordeal reminded me of something. I wrote about this maybe as my second or third post ever, but it came back in vivid fashion with this experience...
I don't ever want my relationship with Jesus to be like this, knowing that I'm not right and praying everyday, "God, don't let today be judgment day, don't let today be Jesus' second coming." Do it on a day where I haven't done anything wrong. Do it on a day that we do a service project or when I have Bible study, but not today, because today I was impatient with my friend or I looked at porn or I cheated on a test...
What a terrible way to live. The Bible says that it is for freedom that we have been set free. Even though I still think that that verse is redundant and confusing, it's still true. We've been set free--but that freedom can still be distorted into bondage if used incorrectly. Real freedom means that we can live without fear, be it from judgment day or from Wendy, the stone-hearted Chinatown lunch lady. God's kindness leads us to redemption, not his anger or judgment or our fear of those things. I think once I realize this, things will get easier. But for now, pray that Wendy doesn't come (I'll ask her this week what her real name is).
Friday, May 7, 2010
But I think the real reason I hated fantasy baseball is because I didn't really know much about baseball. I know some Giants players and I know that I hate the Yankees. I also know that Tim Lincecum is raw and he smokes pot and that I like him for those reasons, but that's really about it. So I updated my fantasy baseball roster for about 3 weeks until I realized that it was useless. If I really wanted to get excited about fantasy baseball the way I do about basketball, then I would have to do tons of research and study on all the baseball players so that I would know what I was doing. Needless to say, I did not put in that effort. Bottom line, fantasy baseball sucks.
And really, I sense a similar theme in my faith. It's frustrating sometimes. I look at the Scriptures and I see a very one-sided image of faith. When Jesus describes what the Kingdom is like, he is clear about how to enter: it's an all-or-nothing kind of deal. Again and again I only see that Jesus wants followers who have left everything for his sake. There is no middle ground, no indecision, no going back and forth. You cannot simply dip your toes into the water, you gotta dive into it headfirst.
And that scares the hell out of me. And maybe it's supposed to. Or maybe it's supposed to scare the heaven into me. Regardless, sometimes I wonder if my current struggles with faith are only a result of my middle-ground-ness. That as I am dipping my toes into the Living Water, I am only doing a disservice to myself. Either I dive in, or I go completely back on land. Maybe this is why Jesus gets so mad about people being lukewarm--it just doesn't do anyone any good.
I think my faith is like fantasy baseball. I simply cannot invest myself entirely into it. It is not natural for me. If I want to truly experience the real joy of fantasy baseball--the full life that Jesus promises--then I have to go all in. There is no other way.
I remind myself that it is a process. I know it is. The disciples, even after following Jesus for a couple years, were still greedy sometimes, jealous too, and a few turned their backs on Jesus at times. I find comfort in how stupid the disciples were. Yet they had one thing going for them the whole time--they had left everything behind to follow Jesus. Even if they were dumb sometimes, they had nonetheless taken that first extraordinary step of faith, leaving behind house, family, money, possessions to follow Jesus.
Sigh. Sometimes I wonder if we're doing faith all wrong. I look at the Word and see one picture of discipleship. The first step always seems to be getting rid of all or most of your possessions. That's the first step! He told his disciples to do it, he told the rich young ruler to do it, Zaccheus did it, he told the church in Laodicea to do it... sometimes I wonder if I'm only running in place because I haven't taken that first step yet. Dang that sentence was deep.
Well, I'm getting too serious now. Bottom line, fantasy baseball sucks.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
I ended up using Ryan's quote on an anthropology paper once. Got a B+. I think it's pretty true though. Christian culture forces people to think creatively on how to be social. For example, it forces us to find ways to have fun without alcohol. This is why Christians love board games and can come up with these ridiculous games like Table of Death and the "spin around and jump over a stick" game. When you really think about it, some of it is down right foolish. But they're fun. And they're generally wholesome. Everyone wins.
Likewise, when it comes to relationships, guy-girl contact in a Christian context is dangerous. Most guys play it safe. If a guy needs to release some sexual energy, he'll most likely end up massaging some other dude or getting in a wrestling match or something like that. I dunno. I'm only generalizing. This topic is just kinda awkward.
The guy in this picture is obviously not Christian...
But the truth is, Christian guys are especially gay towards one another. There's no huge attempt at being pc right now, so let's just put it all out there. Christian guys just touch each other. Not in a nasty way, but just as a "wassup, we're homeboys, I can't get too close to that cute girl right now, so imma just hold you" kinda thing. No biggie.
And if you're not a Christian and you're reading this like wtf, then I totally understand. Especially considering the American church's stance on homosexuality, this probably doesn't make much sense. Or maybe it does... because the church is also infamously hypocritical. I dunno. This post is not about the church's views on homosexuality. I don't even wanna get into that. Ok let's just get back to the important stuff. About guys touching each other.
Ok, really, I don't even really wanna talk about that anymore. It was supposed to be a segue into guy-girl relationships in the church, but I just kept rambling about church gayness. This is what I really wanted to talk about:
I've noticed something difficult about church culture and its unspoken views on romantic relationships. It's such an odd and frustrating thing... Basically, it comes down to this basic principle:
If you are a Christian in a romantic relationship and you are not spayed or neutered, you are setting yourself up for a crapload of guilt.
That's just how it is. And let's be honest here, church doesn't talk about sex very often (unless you're studying Ecclesiastes), so I think it's important that it can get acknowledged once in awhile because it's something that affects a ton of Christian people who are passionate both to their significant other and to their God. They're not mutually exclusive. But the simple fact that we have hormones means that--unfortunately--we're gonna want sex... Dang this is awkward... And it just sucks that a lot of Christians who are romantically involved see their relationships with God slowly go to the crapper because being sexually involved with someone just feels a lot more exciting than reading the Bible... Dang this post is gonna get me trouble... It just bothers me a lot that getting into a relationship seems to automatically put you in a downward slope with God... And whose fault is that? Is it our fault that we want to be physically involved? Is it the church's fault for staying silent on the subject while imposing rules and making us feel guilty when we can't keep them? Is it God's fault for making us this way and for calling us to such a high standard? It's all just confusing to me.
Do I think that there is such a thing as a genuinely Christ-centered relationship? Of course I do. But the very very honest reality is that romantic relationships for Christians is freaking difficult. And maybe this is why guy-girl contact is so frowned upon in church circles. Ahh yes, it all makes sense now. This post has indeed come full circle. There's nothing left to really say but, guys, continue only getting close to other guys. That way, we stay safe, uninhibited, and guilt-free.
Monday, January 18, 2010
"soulja boy off in this hoo, watch me crank it watch me rooolll, watch me crank that soulja boy then superman that hoo"
Oh hell no. My sister was NOT singing soulja boy. I'm pretty sure she had no idea what she was actually singing, but seriously now. And my mom is pretty clueless about these things too so I don't blame her. And I know I was definitely 100x worse than my sister in terms of my potty mouth and the music I listened to. But cmon now. This is my sister here. She's an innocent witto girl. I think she learned it from that kevjumba wannabe nigahiga. You guys know him? Thinkin he's all cool and funny with his spiky hair and weird way that he talks. He actually is pretty funny, but yo anyone who corrupts my sister's mind is a terrible terrible man!
And this, of course, got me thinking. Maybe this is how God sees us. I'll be off singing soulja boy and God will be like, "What the shizz. Nate, who taught you that?" And I'll say something like, "Yeah I just heard it somewhere and it had this hecka tight dance that went with it. It just got stuck in my head!"
The world sings a similar song. It could be analogous to the way I treat money, sex, clothes... God might ask, "Nate, who taught you that money would bring you happiness?" "Who told you that sex is the only way to have intimacy?" "Who told you that clothes give you your identity?" I'll answer, "Well, I saw it on TV and it looked like it made people happy, so I thought I'd try."
I don't love my sister any less just because she's singing soulja boy in the same way that God doesn't love us any less when we eff up. It's just not what I wanna hear her singing. Hannah Montana, maybe even that Justin Bieber haha. But not soulja boy. Anyone but soulja boy.Wow this kid looks hecka foolish haha
I guess I could go different directions with this experience. Why God gives us commandments. Why it's bad to "stumble" people. But I think in the end it's something everyone can understand. Would you want YOUR kid singing soulja boy around the house? I would hope not. God's grace is enough. But sometimes it's good for us to realize when we're singing stupid songs with our lives.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
There are two lines that popped in my head as I was talking to one of the leaders there.
- "you lookin to be the butterfly without the caterpillar" and
- "you lookin to be big willy but you still a seed boy"
But these lines came up as I listened to the speakers-- these were men and women who were doing things in the world, who you could see believed in something. Many of them lived with the poor and a lot of them shed tears as they spoke because they were so passionate about the cause of the gospel. In other words, these were spiritual giants--the Lebrons and Monta Ellises of Christianity. It eventually led me to ask, "Dang. When will I get like that?"
And that's when those lines came in... I think the more I learn about Jesus, the more I learn that I have so much more to learn. Did that make sense? Probably not. But I think I have this image of who I wanna be, but then I realize that I'm nowhere close to that. Sometimes God has to remind me, "Nate, you lookin to be big willy but you still a seed boy."
I think the Christian life is filled with rumors. And I think this is why the speakers at Urbana were so engaging and why everyone loves to hear good stories, because it opens us up to other people's experiences. I love to hear my uncles tell me about what their lives were like when they were younger because it opens up a world that I don't know and that I can never go to. But those stories will forever be rumors. I can't ever prove that my uncle did this or that. And church is the same way. I hear from the pulpit, "Jesus doesn't make life easier, but he makes it better" (my pastor loves to say that) but then why do so many people leave Jesus behind when they get to college? I hear "Jesus loves you" but why do I still feel lonely? I hear "Jesus is in the least of these" but how will I ever know? And don't get me wrong, I think these things are beautiful, but I believe that some people think that hearing rumors over and over again is the same as actually experiencing them... I think I'm reaching the point where I'm getting tired of rumors. I wanna see if they're true. If Jesus says that he is the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, then dangit I better go to those places. If Jesus says that he'll provide for me when I seek his kingdom, then I have to test that promise.
For me, it's kinda like Cheesecake Factory. Man I love that place. Every freakin summer, they get so much money outta me. But I can tell you how good it is, I can make you sing songs about their fried macaroni, and you can even read a book about their restaurant philosophy, but until I take you there on a warm summer night and let you eat on the outdoor patio overlooking the city, you will never know the goodness that is the Cheesecake Factory.
And I think that's the big difference between the speakers at Urbana and many pastors I know--the speakers at Urbana spoke out of their deep experiences whereas I might hear something from a pastor and take it as truth, but really it was just something they heard from another pastor, who heard it from another pastor, who heard it from John Piper (haha). I think it's time for me to stop talking and thinking and to finally start doing something about Jesus. And maybe hecka years from now, after God has led me into different experiences and adventures, I'll no longer be a seed, but I'll be able to say with confidence that I am big willy. Whatever the heck that means.