Saturday, November 21, 2015

Let them in: Open the Gates of Freedom

I've been debating on whether or not I would even write my thoughts out concerning the recent events.  I suspect that they will not leave me a popular individual, but then again, I never wrote to be popular.

Not here anyway.

The past week has been wrought with heartbreaking news and many angry people.  People who on the one hand mourn the events that took place in Paris and claim their solidarity and camaraderie as fellow humans through its various forms on social media; and on the other hand completely ignore the same principles of "precious life" by having nothing positive to say concerning the refugees that wish to enter our country.

I can understand to some degree.  It is easy to feel compassion for something that does not directly affect you.  When things are closer to home, fear can be a powerful hurdle to overcome.

As a Christian, however, I believe the answer is pretty simple.

Let the refugees in.

I have seen a lot of arguments over this single topic, and I can't help but think that, for a country that has been built and thrives on the diversity of its people and the culture they bring, the United States is one of the most xenophobic countries out there.  I don't just say this because of the current refugee example (though it is quite prevalent), but from the years and years of coming across bigoted notions and conversations concerning all races and cultures.

All my life I have been fed the propaganda that we (the US) are the good guys looking out for the little people, but right now I can't believe that.  The "little people" are at our doorstep and most of the country is crying out in full resistance and even hate.

And the thing I find the most amusing about this dance we are having is how resistant we are to 10,000 refugees when it is estimated that there will be almost 5 million refugees by the end of the year.

Please, read this article to get a quick understand of how bad it is for them.

I know.  It is scary to consider that among those 10,000 souls there are those who would want to harm the citizens of the US.

I know.  The events in Paris have done nothing to alleviate those fears.

I know.  We do still have plenty of problems to take care of here in the US without adding the extra stress.

But.

Can we really claim to be the good guy, when we refuse to help those who come for our aid?

We cannot let our fear get the better of us, and allow ourselves to be filled with disproportionate rage.

I have seen quite a bit of outrage at the fact that we have 50,000+ homeless veterans and the fact that people want to help these refugees.

The fact of the matter is though, they are two separate issues.

I agree that our vets should be taken care of; after all, they did put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms we enjoy and should be honored for those acts of bravery.

However, just because we have trouble fulfilling our duties to support our own, does not mean we should deny others the opportunity to live in the same freedom we so deeply cherish.

Being human, is so incredibly messy.  Let's not make it harder on ourselves and remember that all lives have value and we should do what we can to better each other not tear each other down.

Anyway, that's my two cents.  Take it or Leave it.

Grace and Peace.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Has Feminism Lost It's Touch?

It's been a while since I've posted on this blog.  I've mostly been trying to post consistently on my wordpress page for those interested in stories, video games, and storytelling in games.  But I do not want to abandon this blog just for that one.  It's more of a content management deal.  That blog is more about expressing ideas that I find interesting and that might help others while this one is my own musings about anything in general.

Today's Topic?  Feminism.


I can already feel the icy stares that come with even mentioning the word, but it has been so in my face lately that I felt a need to put my own two cents into the already large festering pot of opinions concerning feminism and what it should look like.

Now before I begin, let me start with my understanding of the word.

Feminism: the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
 By that definition anyone who holds to this doctrine can be considered a feminist.  So, please believe me when I say I am all for women being treated equal to men in their value and their rights.

I completely agree that women should be able to get a job and expect to get paid the same amount a man would make in that same position.  I completely agree that women are overly sexualized and it needs to stop.  I agree, 100%.

But.

It feels like there have been a lot of "movements" lately that aren't really about the equality and more about gaining attention, and it is such a fine line.  It's the ever constant pendulum effect that plagues humanity.  One thing is too much so we swing back to the other extreme and I feel like feminism as it is has the potential to become that extreme opposing view.

One particular facet of the feminists I have run into is this odd double standard.  They expect to be treated equally, but there is an expectation of special treatment as well.  On the one hand, these individuals want to be able to have all the same rights as men ("I'll open my own door thank you") but when men do treat them equally there are complaints about it.  It definitely sends out mixed signals.

I came across this movement recently where some of the more extreme feminists were encouraging all women to get rid of their "sexy underwear" and wear what have been termed "granny panties" for years because women should be able to wear the latter and still be seen as attractive or at the very least should not be judged on the underwear they choose to don on their bodies.

I get it.  Men and women are both people, and a woman's worth should not be based on how she dresses.

I get it.  Women have been ushered into this narrow path of what is acceptable to society and we need to break those restraints.

However, when women who don't follow a movement like that because they actually like the way the "sexy underwear" makes them feel are accused of not really being feminists, it seems a bit extreme.

Perhaps, I am showing my ignorance in all of this rambling, but it just seems to me that there has got to be a better way to break down these social barriers without leaving such a negative feeling behind.  Wouldn't it be better to fight about things a little more important than underwear choice?

If you don't believe me that feminism is turning into a bully, take a look at this website.  Hundreds of women have contributed to this website it's pretty eye opening: http://womenagainstfeminism.com/

All of them support equality, they just don't support what feminism is becoming.

Just a few thoughts.

Grace and Peace.





Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Positing on Grace

I have been thinking about grace a lot lately.  In fact, I have been meaning to write my thoughts on it about two weeks ago but I allowed other things to consume my time and attention. Naturally, I suppose it's best to start with a definition of what I mean by grace.  I looked at a few definitions but none of them really fit what I am talking about. They are not bad definitions by any means but it also isn't quite what I had in mind. So here is what I've come up with in hopes of simple clarification.

Grace - Unearned, undeserved, and unachievable favor granted to another because of a genuine love held for that other.

I kept the divine out of my definition because I do believe it is possible for someone to show this grace to another; usually it goes hand in hand with mercy but evidence does exist.  However, I am referring specifically to the divine; God's grace in regards to humanity.

Something that has occurred to me lately is that the only religion (that I am aware of) that preaches grace is Christianity.  The rest all teach good works, or some type of deed that has to be accomplished.  Do so many prayers, perform so many good deeds, give so much money and maybe, just -maybe-, it will be enough to get another life, the after-life, the heaven equivalent.  On the other end, Christianity preaches that there isn't a need for good works to reach eternal life, that we are granted this entrance by simply believing that Jesus was who he said he was and allowing him to be the Lord in our life.

Just reading over the previous description makes me feel that it is pretty obvious that this good works mindset can be pretty stressful since there really isn't even any type of guarantee of success, whereas allowing this Jesus power to do all the redeeming required to enter into that heaven is much more freeing.

I realize that previous statement is probably incredibly subjective, but the heart of the question and point remains: Do the work ourselves, or let someone else do it for us?

I'm sure that my readers know by now, but I truly believe there is nothing we can do that will ever be enough to gain the rights to an eternal life.  Just taking a look at the news on any given day and you can see how messed up humanity really is.  We constantly compare ourselves to others to justify our own lifestyle choices.  I can attest that I have had my own thoughts of "Well, at least I don't do [that]"  or "-I- would never," etc.  And if we are honest with ourselves, we've all got things we don't want others to know about because we know we aren't as good as we like to pretend we are.  In short, if we rely on our own power and goodness we fall horribly, horribly short with no hope of success.

But, that's the bad news.

The good news is the message of grace.

I'm sure you've all heard it.  Jesus, also called Christ by many, came to earth living a righteous, perfect, sinless life and acted as the end all solution for humanity so that eternal life becomes attainable.  Jesus does all the work on our behalf and through his intercession we have hope.

That is the true beauty of Grace.  We don't have to stress ourselves out trying and trying to be enough.  It will never happen.  However, God's grace through Jesus makes us enough.  When we come to understand and accept this then we find that we can do and be good because we want to.  Because, we are so changed by the grace that has saved us from a life enslave by worry and hopelessness, that we can't help but share the grace, peace, and hope that we experience.

You see, I believe there is this huge misconception about Christianity.  Many believe it is this huge list of rules and thus you can't have any fun but I find the opposite to be true.  These aren't rules I have to follow.  I -choose- to do so because it is the least I can do for the person who saved me and saves me daily.  What's more it is my pleasure to do so because it benefits not only me but those around me.

After all, Grace, peace and Love is and has always been the message.

Grace and Peace.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Abide

I know it's been a while since I've written here, but in my defense I have been pretty busy with... you know... stuff, and things.  It was important okay?!

Joking aside, it has been a while and I have had plenty of things to think over as my days have progressed.  The past few weeks I've been really diving down into a passage in John 15:1-16

These verses are filled with one word that constantly stands out, "Abide" and over these past few weeks I've been really mulling over what it means to abide.  Both by definition and how it applies in my own life.   I feel like it is often surrounded by misconceived notions of effort rather than resting.  More on that later.

But first, definition of abide:
             Abide - to remain stable or fixed in a state; to continue in a place

All throughout the passage (linked above) Jesus repeats, "abide in me, abide in me, abide in me"; call me crazy but if he repeats it so many times it must be important.  Jesus was a man who always spoke purposefully and without the fluff that many of us speak with today.  He never minced words, so for him to repeat a phrase really says something about the man as much as the message.  His repetition is indicative that he felt that this topic was incredibly important and he wanted to make sure his audience understood.

Abide in me.

Growing up in a world of skyscrapers, computers, cars, and everything city, it is hard for me to understand this discussion Jesus is sharing about vines and branches and fruit.  As I've studied these metaphors, I've tried to come up with something comparable but nothing fits quite as well as a vine and branches.  So I did a little bit of reading and tried to understand how grafting really works.

Grafting Info: I know, I know Wikipedia isn't exactly the "best" research credible resource, but it works.

Grafting is an incredibly interesting thing, and what's more it is also actually fairly simple.  Just looking up at images of grafted plants shows what kind of wide varieties of success can look like and it's quite beautiful.  But the thing that interests me the most, is that the plant that the branch is grafted into becomes the sole source of life for that branch, a successful graft will determine whether or not that branch survives at all.  It is fully reliant on the plant.

In the same way, Christ is telling his disciples that he is the sole provider of everything.  The very essence of life for those that are grafted into him.  As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is God incarnate and thus one I can put my hopes and fear, everything, into his hands trusting that he will give me what I need when I need it.  That has been a hard lesson, but a very freeing experience as well.  It is an ongoing process, but every day I see something new, understand a little more what it means to be grafted like a branch onto a vine.

Abide in me.

Which brings me back to the resting vs. effort aspect I mentioned above.  From my own experience, I have witnessed many people who carry themselves as Christians wear themselves out trying to do enough, be enough, give enough to warrant their salvation.  We tend to have this thought process that while we know Christ died so that we might live, we feel that we must do more (I'm guilty of it too at times).  But the truth of the matter is, Abiding is the complete opposite of going and doing.  It isn't about effort at all, but about resting.

To continue the grafting example, the branch that has been grafted onto the parent plant must rely solely on that parent plant for all nourishment.  But with that nourishment comes the beauty that only the branch can produce.  It is unique to all other branches on that plant.

In the same way, when we rest in Christ and let his Spirit nourish ours, we can grow and bear a beauty that is unique to us as individuals but also as a whole.  Which, in turn creates a unique beauty that could not be achieved otherwise.  Much like the tree here:




Admittedly, as I said before, I'm still trying to grasp this on a daily basis, but I also wanted to share a few thoughts as well.

The Sunday school class I attend has actually been working through a book called Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray & Bo Stevens which has been helpful in my studies of this passage and what lead to studying it in the first place.  If you're interested give it a look.

My two cents for now.

Grace and Peace.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Forgive this?

Hello readers, it's been a while.  I guess you could say I've been busy, but then maybe I just haven't felt like I've been in a good place to write anything of worth.  Who wants to read the drivel of any person's day?  Isn't that what personal journals/diaries are for?

Instead I will talk of something I've been going over and over in my mind.

Forgiveness.

It has got to be one of the hardest things to accomplish, and even writing this is hard because there are so many thoughts running around in my mind that I find it difficult to nail down that one coherent thought.

The past few weeks I've really been fighting with myself on this aspect of forgiveness, and I don't know if it is because I'm tired of dealing with other people's seemingly personal vendettas against humanity, or because I'm tired of being walked over by people who don't know how to keep their attitude in check (or feel they shouldn't have to), or even if it is simply because it is a hard thing to do.

The thing is, I feel like, for the first time in my life, that I don't want to be around people right now.  And not the "I'm tired, let's go home" kind of feeling, but rather I feel like I need a hiatus from humanity.  The entitlement, the attitudes, the selfishness, etc.  It wears on my spirit and my heart.  It hurts.

But Forgiveness.

How much peace would we get if we were more forgiving?  How many hours do we waste thinking about how things would be different if "they" would only do something?  How wasted is our energy on the bitterness that seems to overflow from the depths of our souls?  What is the point in being so angry at the world and telling the world to "just deal with it"?

Do we not see that everything we do affects another?

Jesus was so patient with us.  The sheep who wander off on our own.  And his forgiveness runs deeper than any one I know.

I would be so much worse off if God was not patient with my petty behaviors, and here I am complaining about that very thing. 

Forgiveness.

There are days when I wonder if I could ever forgive myself.  Not for the actions I've taken as much as the inaction that should not have been.  How can I forgive myself for not standing up for people when they need me to?  How can I forgive myself for my silence when words should have been spoken?  How can I accept my past?

It's a tough pill to swallow.  I think a lot of days I run from it.  I find myself still sucked into some of the same old ruts I've walked since childhood.  Never really denying the existence of my problems when asked, but living life as if I'm pretending they don't exist.

But I think, accepting these weaknesses are an important part of the human existence.  The journey of the Being.

Luckily, this isn't a journey I have to make alone.  There are those who have gone before me.  Experience and wiser individuals who have walked this path and have seen the light on the other side.

Luckily there are those who are walking through the same processes I am and can relate.

Luckily, I know this is not where it ends, it's just another beginning.

Forgiveness.

What a wonderful place to be.  Sure sucks getting there though.


Grace and Peace.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Lord, My God, My Father

Lord, my God, my Father,
How awesome and wonderful you are;
Who knows me from the inside out
Who created each and every star.

My heart is burdened,
Weighed down by what I must do.
Though I cannot see the path ahead
I know you will lead me through.

Grant your servant guidance and wisdom;
Bestow upon him your courage and peace.
Empty him of all himself
So that, in him, you may increase.

At a loss for words,
I stand before your throne.
There are no answers to my questions;
There is only you, and you alone.

Lord, my God, my Father,
Let all creation sing your praise!
May my humble voice bring you joy
Let your glory fill this place!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Paradox Complex: Good but Bad?



Christianity is full of paradoxes.  Everything that is taught seems to go against what comes natural to us.  We are told to go against the stream and be different, but so many (including myself) fall so short so often.  One of the paradoxes I wanted to touch on today was one of Humans being good, but also being bad (sinful, evil, etc.)

I think there is a common misconception that permeates around Christian culture like a plague.  People feel worthless and vile like they are worst people that have ever existed.  They can often be self-defeating and too self-demanding and I suspect a lot of it stems from what we are taught in churches more often than not nowadays.  I’m sure you’ve all heard it before.

“We are born with no goodness in us!”  “We deserve God’s wrath.” “There isn’t a day that goes by that we aren’t sinning against God somehow.”

While I won’t argue that these statements are false, I think we forget sometimes that God does not create bad things.  So we find ourselves being beaten over the head with our failures by our own selves and perceive our pastors, and other church members to be doing the same.  But we are so much more than the sum of our faults.

When God created the known universe he looked at it and saw that it was good (see the first two chapters of Genesis).  He saw it, and said it himself, “this is good.”  He created a beautiful masterpiece of art that continues to shift and change and shine to this day.

Because Humanity is good.

People are beautiful, the ability to reason, to create, and to renew is astounding.  Relationships are messy but wonderful, community is inspiring (when it’s done right).  Intimacy is vulnerable but so satisfying. 

Humanity is good, just like the rest of creation.

But then the first sin happened, and the whole world was turned upside down because of it.

Humans didn’t stop being good, but the conditions of their souls became one of death and sin.  We became “bad”.  People started to become jealous of one another, they murdered in cold blood, they proved unfaithful time and time again to their own friends and family and they turned away from the very being who created them.

I think we can all admit that we have problems.  Many people refuse to admit their problems, ignore them, or are unaware of them, but at the end of the day we all know we are a screwed up race.  People will say “I’m a pretty good person,” but really they are just comparing one small aspect of their life to someone else’s and judging subjectively if they do it better.

There is a little evil in all of us, but luckily most people know how to reign it in and keep it in check (for the most part, after all, no one is perfect right?)  But despite all of the flaws and scars and wounds that we cover up, people are still beautiful.  Granted that beauty is only a fraction of what it could be, but beautiful nonetheless.

There are still mothers who care deeply for their children, lovers who give up everything for each other, scholars and poets who reason and create and encourage that of others, and musicians who form emotions and convey a message not only in lyrics but also in the sounds produced from their instruments.  There are moments of just pure good that still exist in this world; creation hasn’t become bad, just because we have tainted it with our fingerprints.

Humanity is good, our souls are in bad shape and need help.

Two cents for the day.

Grace and Peace